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Book Review: Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake

Badger is a badger who does Important Rock Work. He likes quiet, order, and no interruptions. Skunk is a skunk who needs a place to stay. He likes chickens, preparing (and eating!) big, delicious breakfasts, and gazing at the moon. So, when Aunt Lula, who owns the brownstone where Badger does his Important Rock Work, learns that Skunk is a skunk without a home, it seems obvious – Badger will be getting a roommate.

When Skunk shows up at the brownstone, Badger (who has not yet taken the time to read Aunt Lula’s letter about his new roommate) is Not Pleased. When it seems obvious Skunk is not a sales skunk, and is not going anywhere, he offers Skunk his special Guest Closet for the night – the second floor bedroom is occupied by his collection of empty boxes of all sizes – and is sure things will sort themselves out. Skunk, however, is determined to make things work with his new roommate, no matter how prickly he might be (or how noisy the rock tumbler is) and sets out with great enthusiasm to win Badger over.

Newbery honor author Amy Timberlake pairs up with Caldecott medalist Jon Klassen for a marvelous tale of friendship, found family, a Rocket Potato, and a large assortment of chickens. Funny, heartwarming, and just the right size to savor in one sitting, Skunk and Badger is a perfect for reading aloud, reading on your own, and sharing with friends and family of all ages!

Book Review: One Summer Up North by John Owens

Sometimes, you discover a book that is all kinds of serendipity! This lovely, wordless picture book follows one girl’s trip to the Boundary Waters with her parents. Adventure with them through Minnesota’s own unique wilderness area as they paddle, portage, camp, fish, forage (mmmmm… wild blueberries!), and stargaze. Watch for wildlife too – there are all sorts of hidden surprises on each page!

Having just returned from a week up north in the BWCA, Minnesota author illustrator John Owens’s book felt just as perfect and peaceful as an evening spent watching the sun go down and the stars come out in all that inky vastness of sky. Each page took me right back to one of my favorite places in the world – that lo-o-o-ng portage, those funny mergansers, and those soft, misty mornings on the water. For anyone who dreams of pines and aspen, loon calls echoing over the water, and a warm campfire and a good meal at the end of a long paddle, One Summer Up North is a must-savor by adventurers of all ages!

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Iris is having a tough year.  The only Deaf kid in her school, the only person she really has to talk to during the day is her interpreter, Mr. Charles, despite her classmate Nina’s extra-annoying attempts to show off her fake sign language (and her teacher’s even more annoying refusal to acknowledge that Nina is a faker).  Iris really wants to go to Bridgewood, a school with a big Deaf education program across town, but her parents don’t seem to understand why she would want to be with other kids like her.  And, to make everything worse, her grandpa recently passed away, and Iris misses him like crazy – but her grandma misses him even more.  Lately, it seems like Grandma is sad and lonely all the time – kind of like how Iris feels about school, but worse.  And, to top it all off, after a lunch time disaster with Nina, now Iris is grounded from her beloved antique radio repair business.

So, when Iris learns about Blue 55 in science class, she knows she has to figure out a way to help him.  A hybrid blue and fin whale, Blue 55 sings at a different, completely unique frequency than the other whales in the ocean, which means no one can understand him – no matter how often, or how loud, he sings his song, the other whales can’t send it back to him.  After she reads a blog post about a failed attempt to attach a tracker to Blue 55 by a nature sanctuary in Alaska, Iris starts to talk with one of the scientists working to track the lonely whale.  With her knowledge of frequencies, radios, computers, and a little help from her school’s music class, she designs a song for Blue 55 to let him know he’s not alone in the ocean.  Iris knows she has to play it for him – but how can one twelve-year-old girl get herself, and her song, from Texas to Alaska, especially during the school year?

With a little ingenuity, a lot of determination, and one wily grandma, Iris sets out on a journey to show a whale he’s not alone in the dark – and, along the way, she discovers that she might not be so alone either.

Based on a real whale, 52 Blue, Song for a Whale is a gem of a novel.  Fierce, smart, and very stubborn Iris is still trying to figure out how to navigate her world and communicate with a world that often seems to be vibrating on a very different frequency than she is.  With her good friend Wendell, loyal big brother Tristan, and sign language karaoke queen grandma by her side, though, she’s a force to be reckoned with.  With tons of science (and whales!), this story about family, friendship, and finding your place in the world is sure to strike a chord with tech and animal lovers alike.  Check it out!