Jill Esbaum (Author), Keika Yamaguchi (Illustrator)
Sterling Children's Books
Barnes and Noble
" 'I'm too little,' Teeny blubbered. 'I can't do it! Not alone!' But she had to, had to, had to. Tiny Teeny, on her own."
After summoning her brothers to help rescue her mother (who has been trapped in a bucket), Teeny is pushed out of the way with the assumption that she is too little to help. When all of the brothers also find themselves trapped in the bucket, it is up to Teeny to find her courage, put her plans into action and rescue the entire family.
Teeny is cute (especially in illustration, a tiny pink toad juxtaposed with the more expected brown, lumpy toad of her brothers), BUT she's also intelligent and brave. I love that her smarts show throughout the story - "Could we lift her out somehow?" and "You need a ladder" - even if the brothers aren't hearing. She doesn't need anyone to help her find the answer once she realizes that it is up to her (a little nudge to find her own bravery, which is often a hard thing to find), and though the illustrations show her enlisting help, this just highlights more great character traits, an ability to lead, be friendly and cooperative. Her plan didn't take muscles, "just brains and clever feet."
The emotion and the message are spot on. Kids will be able to relate to this tiniest of toads, who gives us a great example of believing in yourself.
And...completely unrelated to the story, I just recently discovered that toads are frogs, in the same way that squares are rectangles (toads are frogs, but frogs aren't toads). I feel a little silly having made it this far into my life without knowing this piece of information, but...there you go. Maybe I'm not the only one?
Megan Wagner Lloyd (Author), Abigail Halpin (Illustrator)
Alfred A. Knopf
Barnes and Noble
Finding Wild is a beautiful story, made even more so by Halpin's simple but well-imagined watercolor/pencil illustrations. The illustrations follow a girl and boy on a journey from city, to wild, back to city...and back to wild. The fragile aspects of nature are counter-balanced with the dangerous side of wild, the rough with the smooth, the painful with the soothing. My favorite contrast:
"Wild roars and barks and hisses and brays. It storm-thunders and wind-whispers. Wild sings."
As the children come out of their journey and re-emerge in the city, they find themselves looking everywhere for wild (unsuccessfully), until "about to give up - There." The children find wild again, hidden away, but "still standing strong."
The lyricism of the text brings readers on a journey of our own, using all of our senses. We see wild, sometimes subtle and tricky, sometimes so large "you can't possibly miss it." We hear wild slither and sing. We breathe in its smells - mint and pine and sea. We feel wild's heat and cold, its stings and breezes. We can (almost) taste its bounty, "honey from bees and sap from trees, swift-melting snowflakes and juice-bursting blackberries."
Finding Wild is an appealing reminder that even if wild seems hidden, it is always there for those who are looking - "waiting to be discovered" again, and again, and again.
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