From the bookshelf

Books offer good reads for youth

Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2005


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  "Sitka Rose," by Shelley Gill and Illustrated by Shannon Cartwright

"Sweet Dreams Polar Bear," by Mindy Dwyer

Sweet Dreams, Polar Bear

Written and illustrated by Mindy Dwyer

Published by Alaska Northwest Books

32 pages


$15.95 (hard cover) & $8.95 (soft cover)

"In the darkness of winter or summer's bright light, northern animals drift off to sleep. Do they dream like you do? Imagine it's true. Let's see what dream secrets they keep."


"Alaska Animal Babies," Photographs by Gavriel Jegan, Written by Deb Venasse

Alaska Animal Babies

Written by Deb Vanasse; photography by Gavriel Jecan

Published by Paws IV/Sasquatch Books

32 pages


$10.95 (soft cover)

"With eyesight three times more powerful than ours, these young eagles keep a close watch over the forest. ... They'll be easier to spot when they're four years old and have grown white feathers on their heads and tails."


"Under Alaska's Midnight Sun," by Deb Vanasse, Illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell

Under Alaska's Midnight Sun

Written by Deb Vanasse; illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell

Published by Paws IV/Sasquatch Books

32 pages


$15.95 (hard cover)

"We wait all winter in the cold and dark for summer's sunlit nights. At last winter fades, and we celebrate the longest day of the year."


"Sitka Rose," by Shelley Gill and Illustrated by Shannon Cartwright

Sitka Rose

Written by Shelley Gill; illustrated by Shannon Cartwright

Published by Charlesbridge

32 pages


$7.95 (soft cover); $16.95 (hard cover)

"Sitka Rose was a big ol' gal with hair the color of flame. She was wild and wary just a little bit scary Not an inch of her was tame."


"Where Would I Be in an Evergreen Tree?," by Jennifer Blomgren, Illustrated by Andrea Gabriel

Where Would I Be in an Evergreen Tree

Written by Jennifer Blomgren; illustrated by Andrea Gabriel

Published by Sasquatch Books

32 pages


$15.95 (hard cover)

"A long time ago, on a big mossy log, on the floor of a forest all covered in fog, a seed from a cone fell onto the wood and reached for the sun just as fast as it could."

The school year is winding down, the snow is gone and the season is ideal for playing outside. But if rain falls, mosquitoes pester, vacation palls or drowsy heads nod, families and young readers can snuggle up with a good book for quiet summer fun.

Alaska inspires writers and illustrators, who have produced another crop of handsome picture books over the past year.

"Sweet Dreams, Polar Bear," by Mindy Dwyer, is set up as a perfect bedtime story. In whimsical rhymes and watercolor pictures it contrasts animals' realistic activities with fanciful, imaginary dream lives. The title polar bear, for example, dreams of dozing on a tropical beach. Preschoolers especially liked the gentle humor, with one tot cracking up over the image of a walrus in a tutu. Parents picked this title as their favorite for the very young.

"Alaska Animal Babies" speaks to children on two levels. Gavriel Jecan's photographs appeal to the very young who like to look at pictures of cute animals. Fairbanksan Deb Vanasse's text conveys easy nuggets of biological information that speak to older children's curiosity. The vocabulary can be challenging, with words like "serrated" and "keratin," but the author explains them well. The book deserves kudos for its layout and for going beyond the typical big eyes and soft fur by including unusual babies such as whales and birds.

Vanasse also wrote "Under Alaska's Midnight Sun," very different from the previous book. In exuberant first-person narrative, a little girl celebrates the summer solstice by staying up (almost) all night outdoors with her mother and baby brother. Jeremiah Trammell's pictures, combining cartoon and realistic aspects, present a charming and sunny landscape. We know it's all fantasy, because they encounter no mosquitoes. Youngsters embraced the sleepless concept and asked questions about solstice, but parents were less enthused about this book's subversion of bed time.

Homer author Shelley Gill and artist Shannon Cartwright have an impressive track record creating Alaska picture books. "Sitka Rose" differs from their previous work by emphasizing history. This tall tale outlines the life of Sitka Rose, a brassy gold-rush gal who travels the territory like a female Paul Bunyan. The tomboyish story appealed to some children more than others, but everyone praised Cartwright's colorful illustrations.

Another book that works on two levels is "Where Would I Be in an Evergreen Tree?" by Washington's Jennifer Blomgren and Andrea Gabriel. Blomgren's text traces, in compact and graceful verse, the life of a tree and the plants and animals dependent upon it, providing an ecology lesson about the Pacific Northwest rainforest. Gabriel's illustrations emphasize mossy soft textures, misty lighting and deep greens. The message about the tree goes over the head of young children. Instead, they enjoyed finding animals and flowers in the forest and focused on the little squirrel that scampers through every page.

Like most Alaska books for the very young, these emphasize wilderness and wildlife. Although some details falter, on the whole all these books are well done and appealing, suitable for both young Alaskans and their Outside cousins.

Shana Loshbaugh is a writer and former Clarion reporter who now lives near Fairbanks. Young book lovers in her neighborhood helped her evaluate this week's titles.

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