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The Picture Book Buzz

Rare & Blue: Finding Nature's Treasures - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Have I got a special treat for everyone for #PPBF this week!

A sneak peek at a special nonfiction picture book, which releases on September 1st, that combines two things I love - the color blue and nature.

This gorgeously illustrated, brilliantly written book sneaks ecological exploration into a treasure hunt for things both rare & blue that exist throughout our world.

Rare & Blue: Finding Nature's Treasures

Author: Constance Van Hoven

Illustrator: Alan Marks

Publisher: Charlesbridge (2020)

Ages: 7-10



Nature, rare blue species, ecology, exploration, and STEM.


A variety of rare blue species—from the blue lobster to the blue black bear—are rare and unique for a reason. Travel across Earth to discover eight species that are blue in color and are either naturally rare, threatened, or endangered. Panoramic illustrations and a playful main text prompt a search for the blue species at hand, while the page-turn and informative sidebars zoom in to reveal a closer look at the species. There's a lot to uncover about the Karner blue butterfly, blue black bear, blue whale, Quitobacquito pupfish, Cerulean warbler, blue lobster, Eastern Indigo snake, and big bluestem grass. A surprise ending celebrates that planet Earth is the rarest and bluest and must be protected for the sake of all.

Opening Lines:

How do you find nature’s treasures,

both rare and blue? Set off on a hunt!

To find silvery blue,

circle a patch of lupine.

Keep your eyes close to the ground . . .

What I LOVED about this book:

With a wonderful second-person tone of voice, this stunning book invites the reader on a treasure hunt to find rare and blue items on Earth. In her interview on Monday, Constance Van Hoven reminded us that "rare" can mean " 'few in quantity,' but it can also mean 'exceptionally beautiful'.” Speaking of exceptional beauty, many of these spreads, which provide lush details of the habitats and the featured species, would make superb paintings I'd enjoy hanging on my walls.

Text © Constance Van Hoven, 2020. Image © Alan Marks, 2020.

I love how Alan Mark's illustrations embrace the tones of blue throughout the book, how he interprets the very spare text into a journey of discovery by multiple families, and how he adds a hint of the animal or plant to be showcased on the subsequent full page spread. (Do you see the butterfly in the lower right corner? Now turn the page . . .)

Text © Constance Van Hoven, 2020. Image © Alan Marks, 2020.

Constance invites the reader to share the hunt for species based on their tone of blue - silvery blue (Karner blue butterflies), iridescent blue (Quitobaquito pupfish), electric blue (cerulean warbler), sapphire blue (blue lobster), midnight blue (eastern indigo snake), steely blue (bluestem prairie grass), pearly blue . . .

Text © Constance Van Hoven, 2020. Image © Alan Marks, 2020.

. . . and a few other shades of blue. The ending blue is a true jewel and the perfect way to wrap up this book. Intrigued? You won't be disappointed.

Craft note: This is a marvelous mentor text for narrative nonfiction. Not only for the concise, engaging text, but the unique subtle use of a second person voice and the underlying format of a treasure hunt. The hints in the text, such as "go to where bison roam. Cast your eyes across an endless field . . .", and within the illustrations, excite the reader and encourage them to keep turning the pages to discover more blue treasures. It's also a great example of how conversational sidebars and the fun use of text (in blue, of course) add to the narrative nonfiction experience. Almost making us forget we are learning, as well as being entertained.

Additionally, the excellent back matter includes categories of species, words to know, more facts on the rare and blue treasures (such as size, habitat, status, & where to look), intriguing sources, and information of responsible viewing. This is a amazing book for anyone interested in the wonders of our world, nonfiction, and a teaser of the many beautiful blue things that exist on Earth. Be sure to check out Constance's Facebook page for additional "blues" that she had to leave out ( I would definitely recommend this for every home, school, or public library.


- do you know of any blue species or items (shells, rocks, etc.) not in the book? Write a list or draw a picture of your favorites.

* This is one of my favorites - the cheeky Steller's jay - who's bright blue "eyebrow" feathers are rare.*

- what's your favorite color(s)? Do you know of animals, plants, or natural items (like red spire rocks in Bryce National Park) in your favorite color? Draw or make a collage(s) of these items or write a list(s) of them.

- check out the Activity Guides on Constance's website (

© Maria Marshall

If you missed it, check out my interview with Constance Van Hoven on Monday (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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