Picture Book Reviews!

Life on Surtsey Iceland’s Upstart Island (Scientists in the Field) by Loree Griffin Burns. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. 9780544687233. 73pp. including an index, source notes, photo credits, a selected bibliography, and a list of resources to turn to for more information.

My friend and one-time book review collaborator Sarah Hunt, who used to work with me on Book Threat, loves the Scientists in the Field series, and I’ve had this on my shelf for years. Its focus is on the island of Surtsey, a new island that appeared off the coast of Iceland in 1963. And it also focuses on biologist Erling Ólafsson, who saw the forming island’s ash plume as a young teen, and who has been helping carry out studies of how life has taken root on the island since 1970. An entomologist, we get to see how he uses pitfall traps to capture terrestrial insects, and we also get a sense of how keen his eye is — apparently he can see bugs the rest of us can’t (and grabs them in the name of science). My favorite part of the book: the explanation of how scientists on Surtsey use the “bathroom,” particularly when they need to go #2. Ólafsson’s story will inspire would-be young scientists, and his photographs will make them dream of visiting the island, too.



Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 9781442406209.

I don’t often enjoy fairies or books that I’d describe as delightful, but this one is great. Bloom is a filthy fairy who helps create a large, shiny, delicate kingdom whose residents eventually do nothing but complain about her. She leaves for the heart of the forest, but then the kingdom falls apart. When they send folks out to find her and her magic, she offers them mud (which, spoiler, is what they need), and they’re mostly disgusted. (Someone finally gets it though.) Small’s illustrations are perfectly haughty and dirty and playful, and I love the brown fonts and they way big words on the page help the story along.

The Wolf The Duck & The Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Candlewick, 2017. 9780763677541.

This is one of those picture books with a ton of shelf appeal because the characters on the cover seem to be meeting your eyes. It’s about a mouse that’s swallowed by a wolf. In the wolf’s belly he meets a duck who lives there (though he has no intention of being eaten). They do a joyous dance when the mouse asks the duck if he can stay, too. When a hunter goes after the wolf, they help defend their home. It’s very odd.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.