‘Life’

By Cynthia Rylant

Celebrate life with “Life.” This beauty by author Cynthia Rylant has gorgeous illustrations by Brendan Wenzel. It is collaboration perfection: spare, meaningful text set against a variety of scenes, ranging from desert to jungle, featuring animals in each of those environments.

A small lizard-like creature swims in a body of water surrounded by hills, stars reflect from the water’s surface. A page turn simply states, “Life begins small,” the next page adding, “Even for elephants. Then it grows.”

On the following spread, a baby elephant walks beside its mother, the sun on one page, the moon on the next, the passage of time marking the growth of the baby as sunshine gives way to darkness.

Many animals are shown in a vibrant, playful collage of heads and tails, of tigers and whales, of beasts great and small, offering young children the opportunity to point and name them, always fun for little ones.

“Life grows. Ask any animal on the Earth, what do you love about life?” This question posed to the menagerie leads to answers a hawk, camel, snake and turtle might give, their responses brief, yet meaningful.

A big change comes next, a page swept with darkness, a bluebird struggling to fly: “Life is not always easy . . . There will probably be a stretch of wilderness now and then . . . But wilderness eventually ends.”

Difficulty dissipated, the colors brighten, and the book’s message of hope rings clear, to trust in the world, in its creatures, to raise your spirits. Inspiration reigns supreme in “Life.” The book releases on June 27 and is perfect for readers of all ages.

‘The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors,’

By Drew Dayalt

Since time began, youngsters have played Rock, Paper, Scissors. Finally we have a clue to its origin with “The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors,” a crowd-pleaser by Drew Dayalt. (Though his name is Drew, he didn’t draw the illustrations —those spring from the wacky imagination of Adam Rex.)

The story begins “Long ago, in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of the Backyard.” There we meet Rock, the “strongest in all the land, but he was sad because no one could give him a worthy challenge.”

In the Kingdom of Mom’s office, Paper is introduced, “the second greatest warrior.” He battles the best, but is despondent because no one could “outwit him.”

The trio of tough guys is complete when Scissors springs from “the tiny village of junk drawer.” Scissors is the “fastest blade in all the land,” racking up victory after victory, but like Rock and Paper, he leaves his kingdom seeking a foe that will fight him to the finish.

With the set-up established, the three super opponents converge, each bringing its own brand of bravado to the fray in a book that’s totally original, completely engaging and sure to prompt a game of you-know-what. Prepare to do battle and share this book with young readers, first through fifth grade.

‘CatStronauts: Mission Moon,’

By Drew Brockington

Nearly 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon. The age of space exploration is vivid for baby boomers, but it may be considered ancient history to our grandchildren. Enter a graphic chapter book — both fun and informative —“CatStronauts: Mission Moon,” by Drew Brockington.

Four kitty space explorers, Pom Pom, Blanket, Waffles and Major Meowser, rise to the challenge of rescuing our planet. Earth is in dire straits. Energy is being depleted at an alarming rate, causing a “global energy crisis,” lights flicker off, and microwaves and toasters are rendered useless. The president is briefed, and immediately contacts the World’s Greatest Scientist, who ends up suggesting that the moon might hold the key to the earth’s problem.

The scientist knows “just the cats for the job.” Training gets underway for the fearless feline foursome, and soon they are launched into space.

“CatStronauts” offers plenty of panels with pictures to capture the interest of even the most reluctant reader, and a clever, creative narrative, with abundant play on words.

Share this book with readers in first through fifth grade, and it can serve as a segue to a talk about the golden age of space exploration. If your kiddos are captivated with “CatStronauts: Mission Moon,” follow up the fun with, “CatStronauts: Race to Mars.”