Wonderful nonfiction picture books about nature

Three fabulous picture books about insects have been published by Sleeping Bear Press this past year. Each of them brings the wonder of nature and its animals to the attention of young readers.

“Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs” by Linda Vander Heyden and illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen is the fictional story of Mr. McGinty, a man who with his dog, Sophie, loved watching the colorful monarch butterflies that flitted from flower to flower and then laid eggs on the milkweed plants. But when the milkweed plants are cut and the monarch caterpillars are in danger, McGinty springs into action to save the precious little ones. While the story is about a fictional character, the information contained in the text gives valuable information to the readers about the life cycle and needs of monarch butterflies. The two sections at the end, “Monarchs and Milkweed” and “A Monarch’s Migration,” serve to give the reader still more information. Even adults will learn something new about America’s favorite butterfly! The illustrations are simple but filled with bright colors and joy. Ewen used black India ink, watercolor, acrylic highlights on heavy watercolor paper. The texture from the 300 pound paper shows in the illustrations. Ewen commented on Mr. McGinty, “I wanted to make him a warm personality that kids would feel comfortable talking to.” He certainly is all that!

“Good Trick, Walking Stick” by Sheri Mabry Bestor and illustrated by Jonny Lambert is half fiction and half nonfiction. It’s the story of a young female walking stick, and the large text tells her story. “Uh-oh! The young stick insect has lost a leg! That is all right. She will grow a new one when she grows a new casing. Good trick, walking stick!” On the same page, but always with a colored background, is the nonfiction text. This text serves to explain what happens in the story. “The walking stick will molt six times before she is fully grown. One form of defense for a young walking stick is the ability to lose an appendage, or leg. This is called autotomy.” The words “Good trick, walking stick!” are written in the largest text and are not black text but green and brown. Along with the bright colors of the illustrations and lots of white space, the overall look is appealing and the information is easily accessible.

“The Marsh in the Meadow” by Jeanie Mebane and illustrated by Gerals Guerlais is a story of the circle of life as it works in a freshwater marsh. It’s written in a rhyming cumulative style like “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Spider.” Each page is filled with color, and the illustrator’s use of light is lovely to see. The nouns in the story which appear at the end of the phrases stand out because bold type of a different color is used. Like any true nonfiction book for children, at the end there is more information for the readers. “The Marsh Food Chain,” “More about Marshes,” and a Glossary are included.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Sleeping Bear Press for review purposes.