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Kids Book Review – The Night Flower for National Garden Month



The Blooming of the Saguaro Cactus
By Lara Hawthorne
(Big Picture Press; $16.99, Ages 3-7)


The Night Flower by Lara Hawthorne book cover art



The Sonoran desert is busy with all sorts of activity. Lara Hawthorne’s 32-page nonfiction picture book, The Night Flower: The Blooming of the Saguaro Cactus invites the reader to explore this lively world. The book’s rhyming lines are upbeat and evocative: “Around the saguaro, in the shining moonlight, the desert is festive and thriving tonight.”

Facts bookend the text, deepening a reader’s understanding about the wonderful saguaro cactus’s spectacular bloom which occurs only one night each year. “During this short period, their strong scent and brilliant white petals attract rare pollinators, including bats, moths, and doves.” For a few hours in the morning, the pollen’s shared with day creatures such as birds and bees.


interior artwork from The Night Flower by Lara Hawthorne
THE NIGHT FLOWER. Copyright © 2018 by Lara Hawthorne. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


Kids will like the “Did you spot . . .?” section at the end which encourages them to connect the descriptions of ten animals back to the story. The colorfully illustrated saguaro life cycle and glossary are in kid-friendly language to engage even the youngest child. I enjoyed the fresh perspective on animals such as the grasshopper mouse, a “fierce, furry hunter” which is “known to stand on its hind legs and howl at night.”



The Night Flower by Lara Hawthorne interior artwork
THE NIGHT FLOWER. Copyright © 2018 by Lara Hawthorne. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


Hawthorne’s watercolor images introduce whimsy and beauty. This glimpse at something rare is educational and fun. I may have missed the saguaro’s amazing bloom, but, if our travels take us to the desert, I’ll keep a lookout for the gorgeous rainbow grasshopper.






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All That Slithers

15798718I was so eager to read Python ($15.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 5-8) because I am fascinated with the pythons that have invaded the Florida Everglades near my home. In fact, my husband even participated in the 2013 Python Challenge hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (though he did not catch any snakes). These reptiles, which are not natural to Florida, have become a real threat to our native species as they have multiplied in large numbers and prey upon baby alligators, birds and many other species. Most are a result of people releasing their pet snakes into the wild when they can no longer care for them.


A photo I took several years ago in the Everglades. This time it was the gator who got the python, as he was protecting his (partially eaten) catch.

Now about the book . . .

Python author, Christopher Cheng, created a zoo mobile near his home in Sydney, Australia so native Australian animals could be transported to schools. What a wonderful way for students to learn about the species endemic to their region. Cheng also taught at a zoo for eight years, so it’s no wonder that Python is a most informative book.

In this story about how a female Australian Diamond Python spends her day, we learn about her habitat, diet, how she molts, lays eggs and so much more. Did you know that pythons do not crush their prey? They suffocate it, because it would be difficult for them to eat an animal with broken bones.

I was pleasantly surprised that the book even shows how a python catches and eats a rat. Although the targeted audience for the book is as young as age five, I think it’s important for readers to understand how animals in the wild survive even when it’s a bit unpleasant.

The watercolor illustrations by Mark Jackson are terrific. And in the back of the book is a page of fascinating facts about these snakes. There’s even an index.  I love the fact that readers are introduced to so many words they’ve probably never seen before like: ectothermic; keratin; hatchlings and ambush.

Python is so informative as well as interesting to read and look at with its wonderful pictures. I am sure this book will get many kids interested in learning more about snakes in general and other critters that lurk in the wild.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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