Ted and Betsy Lewin
Lee & Low, $20, 56 pages, ages 5-10
Leopard & Silkie
Henry Holt, $17, 32 pages, ages 4 and up
Young animal lovers will return again and again to these two picture books about children protecting pufflings baby puffins and seal pups. Both stories are based on true events.
In "Puffling Patrol," Caldecott Honor winners Ted and Betsy Lewin take readers to the remote island of Heimay, off the southern coast of Iceland. It's home to a few thousand fishermen and, from April to August, hundreds of thousands of puffins.
When these small, chunky, black-and-white seabirds with orange bills get ready to fly off in August, some of their young wind up in Heimay. The chicks are confused by the city's lights, and they float down onto the streets instead of the sea. They're not strong enough to take off from a flat surface.
This is where the young heroes go to work.
Before the night of a rescue, the Lewins portray life on the volcanic island. Then they recount the stormy night they ride out with a dad and his 8-year-old twin puffling saviors. The previous year his son rescued 27 of the young birds. This night their flashlights and gentle hands pick up only one.
The next morning they learn the chick weighs enough at least 10.6 ounces to be released. They take him to the beach and hold him high before letting him flap to the sea.
The Lewins' dynamic watercolors show the birds in their rocky cliff homes and looking alone and fragile on a dark street. Their lustrous paintings shimmer with light and life. They're perfect companions to the spare text. Older readers will appreciate the extensive explanation of the birds, their life cycle and dwindling population.
In "Leopard & Silkie," author Brenda Peterson takes a page from her life as a Seal Sitter near Seattle for her compassionate story about a boy and his seal- sitting innovation. From July to September in Puget Sound, mother seals give birth on shore and then swim out to fish while their pup sleeps alone on the beach. Dangers lurk.
In her story, Peterson names a newborn seal Leopard for his spotted coat. Keeping watch over him is Miles, a young volunteer Seal Sitter. He makes sure people and dogs keep their distance while mama fishes.
One sunny day many people come to the beach. They're noisy and curious. Miles sees Leopard looking frightened, especially when a boy tries to touch Leopard. Then Miles has an idea. He gets his grandfather to help him build a platform that they can anchor offshore so seal pups can float in safety.
Peterson's true story ends with Leopard getting terribly thin before he learns to fish from another seal pup, Silkie.
Young readers will find plenty to pore over in Robin Lindsey's close-up photographs of the shore life and plenty to think about how they could make a difference as a volunteer.
Junie B. Jones alert
Random House marks the 20th year of the eternally almost-6-year-old character Junie B. Jones with publication of "Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus" and a new website. Young readers can meet author Barbara Park and check out the jokes, activities and games at www.juniebjones.com.