Mar 1, 2016

Previews of Spring: Monarchs, Walking Sticks, and Bugs!

As I sit down to write this post a snowstorm is swirling outside my window. 

Well, it's not quite this bad, but it has been coming down nonstop since the middle of the night and shows no signs of stopping despite the weather forecasts of only a "few inches".

As a longtime Wisconsin resident it's really no surprise to have March roar in like a lion. This winter has actually been milder than the last several, and I'm both aware of and grateful for that blessing. My dismay has to do with two recent weekends that each provided fifty-degree days with loads of sunshine. At least that provided some relief from the cabin fever of other, more relentless, winters. With the calendar page turning to March, I also take comfort in knowing that the official start of spring is just 21 days away, regardless of what my eyes tell me.

Here are three titles to tide us over until the weather cooperates. 
Sleeping Bear Press, 2016

First up, take a look at this lushly-illustrated new picture book written by Wisconsin author Linda Vander Heyden and illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen. (Learn more about Linda in this great profile  from ON THE SCENE 2016 blog.) MR. McGINTY'S MONARCHS is one of those rare picture books based on an adult character, Mr. McGinty, and his lovable (but massive) dog, Sophie. 
This is my review on Goodreads:

"It goes without saying that Monarch butterflies are one of the most familiar and beloved insects in the western hemisphere. Grandpa-like Mr. McGinty is  one of their strongest and most dedicated fans. His devotion is fully supported by his almost-larger-than-life dog, Sophie. After a stand of milkweed habitat is cut down, it's up to that determined pair to find a way to rescue the unhatched monarch eggs on their damaged plants.

Author Vander Heyden succeeded in the most difficult of tasks for picture book writers- creating an "old guy" to carry the story on his shoulders while kids play a very minor role. She also blends action with nonfiction, richly enhanced by the illustrator's detail and colorfully appealing spreads, including the endpapers.

Add this one to your TBR pile and share it with kids, soon!"

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016

GOOD TRICK, WALKING STICK, written by Sheri Mabry Bestow and illustrated by Johnny Lambert, is another 2016 release.  It spotlights a different insect that seems to be universally adored. This nonfiction book about well-camouflaged walking sticks combines a seasonal-cycle narrrative with informative passages to expand the science. Smaller-print paragraphs on many pages provide accessibly-detailed  content (including specific vocabulary) to make it a resource for research. it also supports parents and other readers in answering the many questions kids can (and do) ask. Kirkus Review praises both the lyrical language and the inclusion of accurate science information in this review.
Sleeping Bear Press has produced two winning titles to welcome spring. In my opinion they are both destined to become longterm favorites.
Grosset-Dunlap (PenguinRandom House, 2016

Not to be outdone, Grosset-Dunlap (PenguinRandomHouse-Young Readers) has released THE BUG BOOK, written by flawless-rhymer Sue Fliess. I reviewed a trio of her titles in 2013, well in advance of the gender-neutral wave of titles hitting the market since then. They continue to appeal and to offer stereotype-free encouragements to young readers. (CLICK HERE to read about them.)
Her low-word-count text bounces with energy, humor, precision, and appeal while framing photographic images that will make you want to touch the little critters (well, at least some of them). Here's just one example of toe-pleasing rhythm, pitch-perfect rhyme, and sensory engagement:

Itch bugs, 
Head bugs, 
Uh-oh, bedbugs!

Shy bugs, 
bold bugs,
Catch-and-hold bugs!

Several hours have passed since I sat down to prepare this post. The snow stopped. (Hooray!) The wind, however, increased. If anyone else is dragging themselves through the waning (or howling) days of winter, I highly recommend these three titles to transport your thoughts to warmer climes and times. 
Meanwhile, to any little buggies out in the blustery cold, here's some advice from the last pages of THE BUG BOOK:

Bugs in beds of soil deep, 
Dreamy bugs fall fast asleep. 

Reader Anna shared a link in the comments below. Check out this encouraging news about the survival of MONARCHS!


  1. Thanks Sandy -- always glad for more good science titles! Apropos of our beleaguered monarchs, there was some good news recently (yay!):

    1. Thanks for the link, Anna! It is encouraging that nature has such survival capacities- depicts what humans do to this planet. Hope you enjoy the books, and the resource. Hang in there- spring is coming!

  2. Great picks, Sandy! Im also looking forward to Bug Garden by Lisa Moser. What a wonderful year 2016 will be for picture books.

    1. Yep- Bug garden will arrive right about the same time as the actual bugs! Thanks for stopping by.


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