Herz, Henry. (Illus. Mercè López). I Am Smoke.  Tilbury House Publishers: Thomaston, ME, 2021.

Those of us who live in the Western U.S. probably associate smoke with fire season, but I Am Smoke highlights some of the many ways people have used smoke since people started using fire.  Told in poetic rhythm using the same pattern as riddles (“I cannot be sprinkled like salt, but I can flavor foods”), smoke itself tells the story of its life cycle from campfires to its various religious and practical uses, to carbon dioxide and water vapor, and back to food and water for trees.

Beautiful earth tone illustrations incorporate more meaning onto the pages and include molecules found in smoke and the messages in smoke signals. The illustrator’s note describes the interesting way the illustrator uses smoke to create the images in the book.

More detailed descriptions of the use of smoke that provide context along with information, and a list of sources rounds out this extraordinary and strangely soothing title.  Even huge range of sources listed is interesting. A note of thanks on the last page indicates the author, illustrator, and publisher sought advice to strike the right tone and exercise cultural competence in the portrayal of the many cultures and traditions mentioned throughout the book.

There aren’t many titles that can combine poetry, art, and states of matter quite like this one; add it to your elementary shelf!

Dewey: 530.4                                                                     Interest Level: Grades 1-4

Awards and Reviews: Kirkus Reviews starred; Publishers Weekly, ALA Notable Children’s Books; National Council for Social Studies Notable Trade Book for Young People.

Fiction Pairing: The California Wildfires (I Survived, Book 20) by Lauren Tarshis

On the Web: What is Smoke? From the Science Learning Hub at https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/748-what-is-smoke