Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

BOOK REVIEW: Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter


“The earth was naked. For me the mission was to try to cover it with green.” – Wangari Maathai

Growing up in the shadow of Mount Kenya in Africa, Wangari is surrounded by an umbrella of green trees. The trees protect the birds, provide firewood to the women of the village and help keep the soil rich for the sweet potatoes, sugarcane and maize Wangari helps to harvest.

Wangari travels to America for school but when she returns six years later the trees are gone. No crops grow, the birds are gone and the women have to travel far distances to find firewood. On World Environment Day in 1977, Wangari plants nine seedlings in her backyard and begins the Green Belt Movement which, over the next 27 years, plants thirty million trees across Africa.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: a true story from Africa is the story of one woman’s effort to return green to Africa. Told in Jeanette Winter’s simple language and blocky, colourful illustrations, Wangari’s Trees of Peace is wonderful means to introduce 3 to 7 year olds to environmentalism, the interconnected nature of ecosystems and political activitism. It also introduces some difficult subjects that may make some children and parents uncomfortable: prejudice (“Women can’t do this”), violence (“Wangari blocks their way, so they hit her with clubs”) and imprisonment (“They call her a troublemaker and put her in jail”).

While Winter’s tale simplifies Wangari’s story to a basic level, it carries within it an important message, that one person can make a difference. Wangari’s simple act of planting a tree translates to an important environmental movement and the Nobel Peace Prize. Children are innate idealists and it is never too early to foster their belief that they can achieve anything.

In keeping with the environmental nature of Wangari’s Trees of Peace, the book is printed on 100% recycled paper with 50% postconsumer waste.

ISBN10: 0152065458
ISBN13: 9780152065454

32 Pages
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: September 21, 2008


BOOK REVIEW: Sergio Makes A Splash! by Edel Rodriguez


Sergio loves water but not the deep kind. “When he’s around water, Sergio can be: relaxed, happy, funny, playful and silly.” Which makes sense because Sergio is a penguin from Argentina, down near the South Pole. His three favourite things are soccer, fish and water – especially water – but when his class goes swimming Sergio is scared because he can’t swim.

Sergio’s friends quickly hop in but Sergio holds back, despite having on his floaties. Finally Sergio jumps in “but his aim is a bit off.” He bumps and rolls into the ocean and disappears. Mrs. Waddle and his friends wait and finally Sergio pops to the surface. Sergio discovers loves the ocean and can’t wait to come back. “That was better than the rain, puddles, and a cold bath all put together,” says Sergio.

Edel Rodriguez wonderful illustrations work brilliantly with the charming text of Sergio Makes a Splash!. The illustrations, created with oil-based woodblock ink, are printed in three colours – aqua, yellow and black – ensuring the colours pop and attract children’s attention. The first illustration diagramming “Sergio” is especially captivating, pointing out his height (1 foot), weight (1 pound), his curious smile and perky “wings.” The text is printed in large letters and some are included in the illustrations as dialogue bubbles.

Sergio Makes a Splash! is perfect for children worried about trying something new, especially swimming. As Sergio says on the back cover, “This is a great book! It’s all about me!” Children are sure to agree.

ISBN10: 0316066168
ISBN13: 9780316066167

40 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: May 1, 2008

Author website:
Sergio’s website:


BOOK REVIEW: In Arctic Waters by Laura Crawford


Written for the rhyme “This is the House that Jack Built,” In Arctic Waters grew out of a science unit on the Arctic. Laura Crawford was fascinated with the animals of the region and created this fascinating story for her grade two class. Like the original rhyme, children will be delighted by the rhythm of Crawford’s story:

“This is the seal, bouncing along
That teases the narwhal, big and strong…”

Ben Hodson’s illustrations are bright, engaging, and sure to delighted children. They will enjoy looking at the pictures as much as hearing the story. This quickly became a favourite for the three year old to whom I read it and he has now memorized parts of the rhyme.

In Arctic Waters is published by Sylvan Dell Publishing, a young company committed to creating picture books to excite children’s imagination. Each book contains a compelling story supplemented by a “3 – 5 page page ‘For Creative Minds’ section that includes fun facts, crafts, vocabulary and games…to support National Science and Math Standards.” Carefully vetted by experts in the field (scientists and educators) to ensure scientific accuracy, these volumes are sure to engage your child’s creative spirit.

Certainly I had no idea that a walrus’ age is calculated by counting the rings in their teeth, the same as is done with trees. The child I read In Arctic Waters to was delighted to find out that walruses use their whiskers to touch and feel; however he was most intrigued to find out that beluga whales shed their skin in the summer by rubbing on gravel.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0976882345
ISBN13: 9780976882343

32 Pages
Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
Publication Date: February 2007

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