WIRED. By Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Paul Carrick. Charlesbridge, $6.95. This book, now out in paperback, is an excellent insight into how electricity works, particularly as it pertains to the energy dancing beneath our fingertips as they tap along a computer keyboard, and as it flows or, just as importantly, pauses, at the outlet under our desk. Ostensibly Wired is a learning tool for the elementary school student, but anyone of any age could benefit from it, for who among us outside of M.I.T. professors can adequately explain the basics outlined in this book: What is electricity? How do the power plants create and harness the energy? How does it get from the plant to our homes? And so on.
Ms. Suen, a former teacher now living in Plano, Tex., has an excellent grasp of the subject. Mr. Carrick, a Vineyard native, has genes heavily fortified with creative talent: His late father, Donald Carrick, was an award-winning illustrator, and his mother, Carol Carrick, of West Tisbury, has written numerous children’s books, two of them with artist son, Paul.
The text is plain and accessible, a fine primer for the classroom or an engrossing project for a grammar school child and a parent to tackle together in order to help the latter feel a little less idiotic in the face of (gasp!) 20th century technology, never mind 21st. Mr. Carrick’s drawings have a photo-realistic crispness to them that helps the struggling reader’s mind to “click! On it goes and the power flows!”
OLD BEAR ON MARTHA’S VINEYARD. Written and illustrated by Ruth Adams. Treehouse Studios (West Tisbury), $12. A beguiling little book printed on marbled cream-colored cardstock with red-plastic spiral binding, Old Bear takes us on a picaresque one-week Vineyard vacation. It touches all the usual bases that Vineyard kids’ books typically cover — Island geography, fun in the sun, and all the key spots both scenically and historically — but along the way it performs a much more important function which is to key the reader, of whatever age, into the soft, creature comfort joy of the moment.
From cuddly seagulls flitting around Old Bear’s head, to the view out his bed-and-breakfast window of a sailboat framed by a vase of wildflowers and wind-ruffled drapes, Ms. Adams’s sepia-toned etchings convey a passing dream of childhood pleasure.
A color photograph on the cover depicts a teddy bear clad in a red beret and favorite sweater, a visitor to Martha’s Vineyard, according to Ms. Adams, for the past 40-plus years. Stuffed dolls maintained in a family for so long a time assume a personality that positively animates them, and it is this quality of realness that the creator brings to her fictional Old Bear.
CHICKADEE & THE WHALE. Written and illustrated by Catherine E. Clark. Schiffer Publishing, $16.95. Cape Cod wildlife illustrator and whale watch naturalist Clark has come out with an engaging book for the elementary school crowd about a fresh-out-of-the-nest baby songbird named Chickadee and his day of getting lost at the beach and playing with the big boys. The biggest boy proves to be a baby humpback whale who ultimately helps to ferry Chickadee back to shore. Luckily for the teensy songbird, the other bigger food chain personalities he encounters have either recently dined or are otherwise distracted from the plump little nougat of a fledgling, or Chickadee’s day away from the nest would have been his only one ever. The pictures are lovingly wrought, from the transparent wings of a forest insect to the red beak dot and beady yellow eye of a black-backed gull. The best thing about Chickadee’s story is that a child reading it during a day at the beach will consequently be able to identify all the key players, from a flock of Wilson’s storm petrels to the crab scuttling along the sands. Of course, the biggest prize would be to spot a whale, not entirely out of the realm of possibilities in these parts.
THE CAPE COD WITCH AND THE PIRATE’S TREASURE. By J. Bean Palmer, illustrated by Melanie Therrien. Holly Hill Press, $9.99. There’s something for everyone in this charming chapter book — witches, fairies and other enchantments, plus ferocious pirate ghosts, especially one Billy Bowlegs who reappears every 50 years, cutlass in hand, to fend off any thieving numbskulls who’ve happened on his hidden treasure. Second grader ElsBeth Amelia Thistle, who happens be the littlest witch on Cape Cod, and whose familiar, a black cat named Sylvanus, presides over his mistress’s class from the window sill, has her hands full when a passel of second grade boys goes missing. Graced with colorful watercolors evoking an olde New England, this children’s romp is a sure bet for young readers who might occasionally prefer to imbibe their Harry Potter-style adventures closer to home. Author Palmer lives on the Cape, artist Therrien in Maine.