Exploration and curiosity

Channel the inquisitive Sharuko with the following nonfiction picture books, which encourage readers’ curiosity about the outdoors (city or country; in-person or virtually).

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner
by Janice N. Harrington; illus. by Theodore Taylor III
Primary    Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills    48 pp.
11/19    978-1-62979-558-4    $18.99

This picture-book biography of renowned African American entomologist Turner (1867–1923) begins with a signature quote: “The study of biology trains the powers of observation.” And it is that very power of observation that led the young Turner to ask questions: “questions that itched like mosquito bites, questions that tickled like spider webs, questions you couldn’t just shoo away!” Harrington aptly incorporates the scientific method as she highlights Turner’s lifelong scientific curiosity and his major entomological discoveries. What shines through is his “indefatigable” (a word used several times, and beautifully defined in context) grit as he searches to find out, for example, if bees can identify color and if spiders make intelligent choices when weaving webs. According to Turner, “biology could help people see the connections among all living things” — a belief that gave him hope as he experienced racial prejudice and violence in the early-twentieth-century South. Read this aloud to capture Harrington’s strong voice, with her powerful cadences and well-chosen repetitions. Taylor’s accompanying clean-lined digital illustrations spotlight the scientist at work, from time spent in the lab “peering through microscopes” to his experiments in nature and exploring the outdoors. Appended with an author’s note, a timeline, source notes, and a bibliography. BETTY CARTER

Whose Footprint Is THAT?
by Darrin Lunde; illus. by Kelsey Oseid
Preschool, Primary    Charlesbridge    32 pp.
10/19    978-1-58089-834-8    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-63289-721-3    $9.99

Following the format of Whose Poop Is THAT? (rev. 3/17), Lunde poses the title question seven times about seven different animals in a series of four-page sequences, inviting readers to guess the makers of various footprints and impressions. Each print, rendered in shades of black and brown on a white background, is centered prominently on the right-hand page. A clue for identification comes via the accompanying text, which emphasizes the motions or actions employed to produce the print (“It was made by running on snow”; “It was made by standing in soft mud”). Additional hints to each creature’s identity are found on left-hand pages, with glimpses of an ear, tail, nose, etc., edging into the picture. For the reveal, illustrations of mountain goats, wallaroos, snowshoe hares, snakes, flamingos, chimpanzees, and even a dinosaur are accompanied by information about what part of them made the prints (variously: feet, bodies, knuckles) and the ways their physiologies allow the animals to move or balance; the seven examples are carefully chosen to represent the relationships between morphology and function. The book ends with a look at the various prints people can make with their footwear, connecting familiar human experiences with their animal equivalents. DANIELLE J. FORD

 Not a Bean
by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez; illus. by Laura González
Preschool, Primary    Charlesbridge    32 pp.
9/19    978-1-58089-815-7    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-63289-667-4    $9.99

“Jumping beans” are not in fact beans but moth larvae that have burrowed into the seedpods of the yerba de la flecha shrubs found alongside arroyos in the northern desert mountains of Mexico. In this accessible life-cycle/counting book that organically interweaves Spanish and English, Martínez traces the metamorphosis of “una oruga — a wiggly caterpillar” as it embarks on a pupation journey, that, with the aid of many desert helpers, ends with transformation and a spreading of wings as “a majestic polilla…soars into the sky.” Martínez takes readers inside the seedpod, spotlighting its daily interactions — from the sun that warms it; to cacti (“dos saguaros”) that provide shade; to the predators (“cuatro coyotes,” “cinco cuervos”) its clicking and clacking scares away; to children (“siete amigos”) who come upon it while exploring the desert and use it to play a game. González’s digital illustrations harmonize subdued desert hues, mixing greens, russets, and blues. Capacious double-page spreads capture intricate goings-on inside the seedpod while simultaneously conveying wide-open desert expanses. Martínez (from El Paso) attends to the complexity of this desert landscape — a region politically and environmentally fraught — by tenderly centering its beautifully complex life in an engagingly child-friendly way. An appended author’s note provides additional information about jumping bean moths; a glossary and bilingual “Count to Ten” list are also included. LETTYCIA TERRONES

Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet
by April Pulley Sayre
Preschool, Primary    Greenwillow    40 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-06-289331-4    $17.99

Sayre (Warbler Wave, rev. 3/18; Being Frog, rev. 1/20) has a knack for pairing minimalist poetry with dramatic photographs. Here she turns her attention to urban settings where “science, math, art / live side by side.” Juxtaposing different buildings, bridges, sculptures, and vehicles, Sayre’s eye-catching spreads (with most photos taken by her) showcase lines, curves, angles, and shapes in striking compositions. A vertically oriented rectilinear skyscraper, for example, is positioned beside an angular shot of a different one. Both buildings function as mirrors, and they’re joined by the couplet: “Clouds paint pictures as they pass. / Reflections warp in window glass.” Here and elsewhere, personification, alliteration, and rhyme feature in Sayre’s succinct verse. Throughout the book, Sayre also plays with perspective. On one page, there’s a close-up of spiral sea fossils in a building’s rock wall. On another, viewers peer, from above, at a kayaker in a triangle-tipped vessel. Sayre hits cities on a few different continents — with the Louvre, Machu Picchu, and a Chicago Art Institute lion all making appearances. She also makes room for whimsy: case in point, a curvy Oscar Mayer Wienermobile crosses a suspension bridge. In a final “Explore the City” section, Sayre encourages viewers to get outside and look around, but they may find her “Questions to Ponder As You Wander” a bit challenging (e.g., “What is a heat island?”). TANYA D. AUGER

From the July 2020 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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