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DeAnn Melton
JOE LEAP (ISBN#978-09839781-7-6)
DeAnn Melton, author

Picture Book; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Joe Leap is a Lubber grasshopper who lives in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Joe goes about his day eating until he spies something watching him. JOE LEAP is a children's book with a poetic narrative accompanied by information about Lubbers and the Western Meadowlark. The children & Illustrations are painted by DeAnn Melton in watercolor.
Situated in the Flint Hills of Kansas, a state that’s not always as flat as its rep, Melton’s everyday story follows the experiences of a Lubber grasshopper—so-named, Melton notes, because of their seemingly slow, clumsy movement—while sharing facts about insects and animals of the Kansas prairie along the way. Joe the grasshopper lives life as normal, and is joined by another creature of the hills, the Western Meadowlark, but not one that’s looking to be a friend. Told in expressive onomatopoeia with text that moves across the page, and featuring impressionistic watercolor illustrations, Melton (FLYWAYS) delivers another engaging slice of life focused on one area of the natural world.

Melton’s affinity for atmospheric and poetic words lends another layer of depth to the narrative, allowing for a rich reading aloud experience and conjuring something of the buzz of a grassy Kansas summer. Those same words, as they appear on the page, could cause confusion for younger readers still getting used to letter shapes and recognition, due to the fanciful and colorful font choices for the main text. In contrast, the font is simple and staid for the facts shared on the bottom half of the pages, making it clear these are not part of the narrative, but also helping with legibility and clarity.

The real strength of the book is in the details rendered of Joe’s world. Readers feel fully immersed, both through text and illustrations, into the hills of Kansas, especially when looking at the full page watercolor illustrations. Even when Joe isn’t easily visible, such as when a Meadowlark lands on a branch near Joe, text and illustrations work together to put the reader in Joe’s place, depicting rolling hills with faint text that indicates the presence of Joe, and others. Melton’s world is rich with sound, texture, color, and information, providing opportunities for readers to connect with nature.

Takeaway: Nature lovers will feel at home among the hills of Kansas in this look at grasshopper life.

Great for fans of:Tatiana Ukhova’s Grasshopper, Lucinda J. Miller’s The Arrowhead.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

The Children's Book Review

Joe Leap: A Grasshopper Adventure in the Flint Hills of Kansas

Written and illustrated by DeAnn Melton

Ages 4+ | 32 Pages

Publisher: JP Ranch | ISBN-13: 9780983987176

What to Expect: Nature, Kansas, Insects, Biology

How much do you know about the Lubber Grasshopper? Joe Leap is a Lubber Grasshopper who makes his home in the tall grass and trees of the Flint Hills in Kansas. Joe likes to leap and crawl to the tops of trees and crops, where he eats and eats and eats, leaving irregular-shaped holes in the leaves. Sometimes, Joe has to hide from the Western Meadowlark, who flies through the hills, keeping crop- destroying insects like Joe under control. Later in the summer, the Lubbers will lay eggs—there’s no shortage of work for the Western Meadowlark!

Grounded in a passion for and intimate knowledge of the ecosystem of the Kansas Flint Hills, Joe Leap walks readers through the life cycle and biology of the Lubber Grasshopper. From its appearance and diet to its battles with predators, readers will see the world through Joe’s eyes, learning a lot about the biology of insects in the process. As with all of Melton’s books, this wealth of science learning is supported by stunning, hand-painted illustrations that capture the beauty of this particular ecosystem in glowing colors.

A fact sheet at the end of the book gives readers more information, while visual cues (like text size and color), sound words, and simple rhyming text throughout help learning readers navigate the story.

Joe Leap is a delightful new addition to Melton’s growing list of nature stories.