This One Summer

by Mariko Tamaki

Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

There have been many coming-of-age tales about friends growing together and apart, but few have been written and illustrated as gracefully as this one. The story revolves around Rose and Windy, two girls encroaching on adolescence, during their annual family vacations at Awago Beach. The girls’ summer begins as anticipated with visits to the beach and renting horror movies from the local corner store; however, something is different this year. The girls find themselves slowly drifting apart, as Rose is interested in a local teen, or “The Dud” as Windy refers to him and his dramatic relationship his girlfriend. Meanwhile Windy’s immaturity starts shining through. Rose is also dealing with family issues as her parents’ marriage is becoming strained due to her mother’s depression. The Tamaki’s have written and illustrated a true masterpiece, one that avoids clichés and feels real enough to be biographical. The tension between Windy and Rose, as well as Rose and her parents, avoids becoming melodramatic and seems to settle naturally on a hopeful, yet poignant note. The illustrations mesh perfectly with the text and were drawn using a purple ink that fits the mood of the tale. The book is moving; brimming with subtleties and charm. It is a treasure for any collection.

Reviewer: Brandon West

Nuts to You

by Lynn Rae Perkins

Adventure and humor abound in this cautionary tale populated by squirrels and narrated by the author, as told to her by the elderly squirrel Jed. As a young squirrel Jed is snatched up by a hawk but manages to escape practicing an ancient squirrel defensive martial arts technique. While most of his community gathers to memorialize him, two of his young friends see Jed escape the hawk’s talons. They set off to find him and bring him home. Along their journey, they meet other squirrels and humans, along with misfortune, territorial conflict, and environmental disaster. TsTs, Chai, Jed, and their new friend Tchke must warn the squirrel communities of the impending disaster and convince them to move to safer parts of the forest. This is not an easy task; as one notes, “Getting squirrels to listen to reason is like getting a tree to drop its nuts at your front door.” Perkins nails the interactions between the squirrels, which is not far removed from that among humans. The friendship and environmental themes are blatant but far from overbearing. Witty asides in the form of footnotes add insight and levity to the squirrels’ predicament. That levity is evident in Perkins’ delightful sketches scattered throughout the narrative. This should have broad appeal as a read aloud, class use, and for independent reading. Its themes make it a good literature addition to a science or social studies unit. Reviewer: Peg Glisson.

Gravity

by Jason Chin

As in his stunning books, Redwoods, Coral Reefs, and Island: A Story of the Galápagos, artist Chin brings his multiple talents to bear on a scientific subject and, with a combination of fact and fantasy, makes it understandable and exciting for young explorers. Gravity is a wide, horizontal volume, which allows long, spacious spreads as well as a few divided into sections. It begins with a dark blue book falling onto a beach where a boy is playing with his space toys. He and a gull show interest in its subject: gravity. Suddenly, he is caught up in a world where gravity disappears—everything floats into space: crabs, the book, his toys, a banana, even the sand, and water. In huge capital letters, words describe, and successive pictures show, how the moon and Earth would drift away from the gravitational centers that pull them. Huge spaces and a brilliant, burning Sun illustrate mass and its relationship to gravity, keeping Earth near the Sun and our moon near its Earth. Attention shifts back to earth again as the floating objects fall and readers can marvel that the space toys (and a banana now rotten) land on astonished girls who must have been selling lemonade under a tree. A final spread tells more about gravity along with some witty explanatory pictures, while a fun surprise waits on the end page. From its space-blue endpapers to its silky pages and brilliant images, Chin’s book is extraordinary. His artistry, like gravity, pulls young scientists into a disorienting experience they will long remember. A bibliography of eight books lists more information about gravity and physics.

Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft