One North Star by Phyllis Root and Illustrated by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen

 I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.

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One North Star is a striking and awe-inspiring picture book that poetically counts the wonders of Minnesota’s natural beauty and wildlife.

It really is an incredible picture book.  On first glance, you’ll notice that the illustrations are gorgeous. Then you’ll see that it appears to be a fairly standard counting book and you begin with one moose and take it from there.  It isn’t until you sit down and really go through it with a child that you start to realize how well-thought-out and meticulously crafted One North Star is.

Illustrations by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen. From One North Star, University of Minnesota Press (2016).

Illustrations by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen. From One North Star, University of Minnesota Press (2016).

Each spread presents different animals, plants, and ecosystems.  38 different animals and insects, 15 different plants, and 10 different ecosystems are introduced to the readers while counting from 1 to 10.  On each spread you count down backwards from the highest number you’ve reached.  If you count each and every creature and plant that is mentioned in the book, by the end you will have counted 220 animals and plants.  This gives a lot of flexibility in how much time you want to spend on the book.  It can either be a quick bedtime story or easily take a half an hour to get through.

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Illustrations by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen. From One North Star, University of Minnesota Press (2016).

The combination of slightly abstract illustrations, various unconventional points of view (from the bottom of a cave or from the bottom of a pond looking up), and less well-known animals, insects, and plants (i.e., ruffed grouse, spring peeper, walleyes, northern prairie skink, soft-needled tamaracks, and bottle gentians) make for a very engaging impromptu seek-and-find for both the child and accompanying adult. The overall effect is the readers feel like they are discovering the animals and plants themselves.  It’s fantastic.

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Illustrations by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen. From One North Star, University of Minnesota Press (2016).

What impressed me the most about having longer and more complex names for the animals and plants — Root could have used the word frog, but instead she used spring peeper, she could have used the word fish, but instead she used brook trout — is that by the third time reading the book with my youngest, I had a two-year-old child who could point out  morels, lady’s slippers, tiger swallowtails, and mallards.  By the tenth time we read through it, both my children would enthusiastically tell me the full name of things like the red russula mushrooms, sandhill cranes, bur oaks, and ruffed grouse.  It surprised me to see how quickly and eagerly they picked up on it.

The pacing and rhythm of the story, the repetition of the phrase “under one north star”,  and the descriptive vocabulary (browses, roost, shrills, wriggle, forage, basks, and cronk, for example) make One North Star such a pleasure to read.  It is calming without being soporific and erudite without being pedantic.  It’s a beautiful way to count and learn about the wildlife of Minnesota.

In the back of the book, all of the animals, insects, plants, fungi, and ecosystems are cataloged and illustrated with more information about each presented.  One North Star is a treasure for everyone.

Recommended Ages 4 to 7. Univ Of Minnesota Press. August 2016. 36 pages. ISBN: 978-0816650637. Fiction.

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Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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