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Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World

Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-95907-8

Jenkins zeroes in on animal eyes in his latest merging of science and artistry. Subjects include the colossal squid (each of its eyes are “the size of a basketball—the largest of any animal”), the panther chameleon (“it can look in two directions at once”), and the tarsier, which has eyeballs larger than its brain. As usual, Jenkins carefully crafts his animals from torn and cut paper, creating an array of textures and a striking sense of detail, whether an animal is furry, feathery, or scaly. The eye, with its intricate structure and symbolic resonance, is an ideal focus for Jenkins’s inquisitive, informative narrative and multidimensional art. Ages 6–9. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog

Luis Carlos Montalván and Bret Witter, photos by Dan Dion. Roaring Brook, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-891-0

Based on Montalván and Witter’s 2012 adult title Until Tuesday, the real-life story of an Iraq veteran (Montálvan) with PTSD and his service dog is presented for young readers in intimate photographs and easy-to-grasp descriptions. Tuesday, a golden retriever, tells readers about his life with his owner, Luis: “I even sleep with him, which helps control his nightmares.” Photographs show New York City residents Luis and Tuesday during their morning routine (Tuesday brings Luis his socks and shoes), visiting a restaurant, meeting other veterans, and traveling on the subway (“Luis doesn’t like crowds. So he hugs me while we ride”), eventually arriving at Coney Island. A moving story about companionship, loyalty, and the value of service dogs. Ages 4–8. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Daytime Nighttime

William Low. Holt, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9751-1

Different nocturnal and diurnal animals are featured throughout this art-driven primer, which is divided by the simple dichotomy of day and night. “What do you see in the daytime?” asks Low, after which appear lush portraits of a grasshopper, red-tailed hawk, beaver, and other creatures, posed against shimmering summer greenery and pale blue skies. At night (“What do you see at nighttime?”), bats, frogs, raccoons, and owls take center stage, and a luminous full moon replaces the sun. Low brings a warm, honeyed sense of light to each scene, and the bare-bones narrative and up-close imagery make a strong impact. Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Swim, Duck, Swim!

Susan Lurie, photos by Murray Head. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-250-04642-0

In this jaunty read-aloud, a duckling isn’t keen on the idea of learning to swim. Head offers crisp, full-bleed photographs that show the tiny duck waddling along a dock, while Lurie playfully imagines it refusing to heed its parents’ gentle urging to hop in: “Sorry, but I cannot stay. I won’t swim. You forget./ I told you once. I told you twice. I don’t like to get wet.” Water-shy readers will identify with the duckling’s quandary, but also, perhaps, with the success it finds after diving in with a splash: “I’m in the pond! Look at me!/ Hooray! I’m not afraid.” Ages 3–7. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Nitro Battlers

Eric Kim. Inkskratch (inkskratch.storenvy.com), $.99 e-book (22p) ISBN 978-0-9865747-1-9

Kim, the illustrator of Love as a Foreign Language, tries his hand as a writer with an entertaining, thinly veiled homage to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It's been 10 years since the Nitro Battlers arrived on the crime-fighting scene, but only one, Nitro Red, remains. After getting trounced by a toothy monster that talks like a stereotypical frat boy, Nitro Red hitches a ride with a timid barfly named Ben and explains what led the Nitro Battlers to disband: the gruesome death of one of their own ("We were handed these powers and told to go save the world. It never occurred to us that we might die"). Working in black and white, Kim creates polished scenes of melancholic angst, full-throttle battle, and campy humor with equal skill. Other 1980s and '90s influences pop up, too: intrepid reporter Mary McMeal is a ringer for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' April O'Neil, and the (reunited) Nitro Battlers' vehicles combine to create a mecha that owes a bit to Wheeljack from Transformers. It's a thoroughly enjoyable, nostalgic read with some emotional heft behind it. A limited print edition is also available. Ages 12–up.

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer

Will Summerhouse. Shake-A-Leg Press (www.willsummerhouse.com), $8.99 paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-9860614-0-0

Summerhouse draws on the real-life historical mystery of Sir John Franklin's lost Arctic exploration to fuel this fast-paced middle-grade adventure. After 11-year-old Orion Poe helps a wounded stranger who appears on the beach near his grandfather's lighthouse, he winds up in possession of an old dispatch box, in which he finds a mysterious map. After taking the map to Professor Meriwether, an explorer, Orion is invited to join an expedition to the Arctic, in search of an uncharted island and Franklin's final fate. The trip is plagued by troubles, and Orion fights for his life against the hostile environment, a traitor among the crew, and a hidden society whose members are bent on maintaining their secret existence at all costs. Summerhouse delivers a rousing story filled with action and tense moments, but Orion's idiosyncratic voice lightens the overall tone. As a protagonist, Orion is a bit too good to be true—overly resourceful and resilient, and subject to enough death-defying circumstances to lay low people twice his age—but most young readers should find it easy to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. Ages 9–up.

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub

Darcy Pattison, illus. by Kitty Harvill. Mims House (www.mimshouse.com), $13.99 paper (32p) ISBN 978-1-62944-001-9

Pattison and Harvill, who collaborated on Wisdom, the Midway Albatross, return with another real-life animal survival story. This one focuses on a puma cub, born in Brazil in 2012, who was orphaned after his mother was captured by a local chicken farmer. Pattison briefly discusses the problems that human development poses for Brazil's pumas before moving on to the cub, named Abayomi ("happy meeting") by his rescuers. The writing alternates between poetic moments ("How does a puma cub survive without his mother? He must hunt") and reportorial passages, including an account of how Abayomi's mother was captured, which bogs down with extraneous detail ("Suddenly, at 2:15 a.m., on November 27, she was caught in the chicken coop trap"). Tense changes distract, and Abayomi's story ends inconclusively, drawing murky parallels between the invisibility of wild pumas to humans and scientists' need to remain out of sight while caring for the cub. Harvill's muted, realistic portraits of Brazilian fauna and flora give a strong sense of the pumas' threatened natural habitat. Endnotes provide addition information and resources. Ages 6–12.

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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