I’ve always loved word ladder puzzles, where you start with a word and change one letter at a time, eventually arriving at a totally different word. Today’s Stack Overflow is a book ladder of kids’ books: each book overlaps with the next in some small way, whether by subject matter or a single word. I hope you’ll enjoy this journey with me!
Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barb Rosenstock and Katherine Roy
Let’s start off in the deep. This picture book recounts the story of Otis Barton and Will Beebe, who built the bathysphere and were the first humans to see deep-ocean creatures with their own eyes. The book is told with lyrical prose by Barb Rosenstock, relating the facts in a way that is fun to read. The illustrations by Katherine Roy are wonderful—a little bit cartoony but with realistic details. When the two finally look out at the depth of their first dive, the pages unfold to display a magnificent picture of the glowing bathysphere surrounded by all sorts of creatures in the dark water, and it really helps to convey the vastness of the deep ocean.
Speaking of oceans, this non-fiction book about the ocean is full of facts: about boats and navigation, about semaphore and knots, about marine life and waves. The book is printed in black and white and blue, and while it doesn’t go into anything in great depth (no pun intended), there’s a wide breadth of topics covered in this short book.
Speaking of the ocean, this theme continues in Ocean Meets Sky, about a young boy named Finn remembering stories that his grandfather told him. He builds a boat and sets out to look for the place where the “ocean meets the sky,” and comes across a variety of wonderful, weird locations and creatures. The illustrations are magical, with floating ships mingling with skybound marine life.
Speaking of the place where ocean meets the sky, there is a Hindu tale of Ganga, a goddess who “flowed through the heavens, twisting her waters through the currents of air.” These rivers in they sky eventually fell to earth, becoming seven streams, including the Ganges. This story and others are included in Everest, a book filled with both facts and folktales about the tallest mountain in the world. You’ll learn about mountain climbing and the various attempts to scale Everest, flora and fauna at the different altitudes, and about the cultural significance of the mountain ranges. And, of course, the myth of the yeti.
Speaking of the yeti, this picture book is about a young boy named Henry who loves yetis, but nobody believes they exist. he sets off on a long journey to find a yeti, and his principal expects him to bring back evidence to prove it, or else he’ll have to write lines as punishment. Well, wouldn’t you know it—Henry drops his camera on the way back, so now he has no evidence … or does he? It’s a cute, funny book with some very silly pictures.
Speaking of Henry, this book also has a character named Henri, though he’s not limited to a single hat. Henri goes to visit his Grand-Papa, who is old and shy and quiet. But in the attic, Henri discovers a trunk filled with different hats, and imagines himself on various adventures: racing in the Grand Prix, diving in the ocean, being the ringmaster in a circus. And through these hats, Henri learns a little bit more about his Grand-Papa, too. This book is from the Pixar Artist Showcase series, featuring original stories by Pixar artists.
Speaking of hats, Hats of Faith is a board book about the head coverings worn by people from various religions. A Sikh boy might wear a Patka; a Muslim woman may wear a Hijab. Each page shows an illustration of somebody wearing a hat or covering of some sort, with a simple description that names it and explains who wears it. The book closes by reminding us that learning about each other helps us understand each other, which in turn promotes love and peace.
Speaking of understanding each other, this picture book poem asks some questions about being a citizen—who can a citizen be? What can a citizen do? As it turns out, a citizen may not look just like you, or wear the same sort of hat, but every citizen can be engaged, and care about other people, and work to right wrongs. The cut-paper illustrations show a group of kids working to build a treehouse on a small island, building bridges and welcoming others into their midst. And you know what? That’s kind of deep.
Speaking of deep, have you ever heard of a bathysphere?
My Current Stack
I have to admit that I haven’t read a lot of bigger books lately—I went on a family trip for a wedding, and then went to Gen Con, and I’m only just now digging myself out of the backlog from that. Just before my trip, I did finish reading The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente, about a murder that took place at Comic-Con. Aside from being chock-full of pop culture references, it’s also a commentary on the comics industrial complex—that there are those who had a hand in creating now-famous characters who have been forgotten or left behind.
I also enjoyed the third and final installment of Faith Erin Hicks’ Nameless City series, The Divided Earth. More about this one later, but it’s a great conclusion to a great series.
Finally, I’m currently reading two books: The Lost Art of Reading by David Ulin, which argues for the importance of reading—in particular, the slow reading of books—as a way to inform us and help us think critically. It’s the sort of book that makes me aware of all of the things I haven’t read. I’m also digging Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, the third in her Wayfarer series. The book focuses on the Exodus Fleet, the vast starships that took the human race from Earth to the stars, and still home to the largest concentration of humans in galaxy.
Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.