Walker, Karen Thompson. The Age of Miracles. New York: Random House, 2012. 978-0812982947. 304 p. $15.00. Gr. 9-12.

Eleven-year old Julia lives a normal life with her mother and father in southern California. She does well in school, plays soccer, and spends most of her free time with her best friend, Hanna. Yet, one Saturday morning, everything changes. While Julia and her family watch on television, the announcement is made that the rotation of the earth is slowing. In addition, the force of gravity becomes stronger. The world begins to change. Suddenly Julia and her friends can no longer kick a soccer ball as far. Birds begin dying and falling from the sky, and the tides flood houses along the shoreline. Crops start dying as days lengthen and excessive sunlight kills plants. In order to maintain a sense of normalcy and organization, the government decides that, regardless of the actual length of the days, they will continue to function on 24 hour clock time. Julia must adjust to attending school in the blackness of extended nights and fighting for sleep when the sun shines brightly in the sky. Some people, though, decide that they will live according to the sun, and these “real-timers” become the object of ridicule and disdain by the “clock-timers.” More serious consequences start occurring. People begin developing “the syndrome,” and Julia’s mother becomes ill. Julia continues to attend school and develops a relationship with a fellow classmate. It is this relationship that elevates the story from a simple disaster or apocalyptic novel to a commentary on the human response to change and our inherent need for normalcy. Julia continues to live the life of a young teen, experiencing peer-pressure at parties and bullying at school, and slowly falling in love with a boy from her class. All experiences, however, are warped by the extraordinary environment of life after the slowing. I highly recommend this novel for fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It and Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now.  

Science Fiction                                Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

This book intrigued me from the beginning. I read it after one of my more discerning and critical librarian friends gave it a five-starred review on Goodreads. Knowing of her high standards and the fact that we typically enjoy the same novels, I wanted to read it immediately. I was not disappointed. The author’s style of writing is simple and echoes the thoughts of the eleven-year-old narrator quite well. Yet, what I enjoyed the most was that the simple sentences and text provide a constant feeling of being suspended within an environment where nothing is as it seems and things could change at any moment. The entire book feels like the calm before the storm, and I absolutely loved that about Thompson’s writing.

I was glad to have picked this book up when I did, because I was recently approached by an English teacher to give book talks on the topic of change and reactions to change in her eleventh grade English classes. The classes are currently reading The Red Badge of Courage, and the teacher wanted to give her students the opportunity to hear about some more contemporary novels that offer similar themes but might be more engaging for our modern audience. After discussion, our goal became to share with students novels and nonfiction texts in which the characters are placed in extraordinary circumstances, and the qualities and characteristics that they develop and exhibit during these experiences. This book was one of the ones that I shared with students first, as it offers the perfect example of the differing responses of humans to a rapidly changing environment. And, students these days are usually responsive to apocalyptic themes. I included this title with, among others, Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory and Patricia McCormick’s Never Fall Down. I enjoy giving book talks, and I was excited to be able to include this title to share with students.


Alex Award Winner


Tartellin, Abigail. Golden Boy: A Novel. New York: Atria Books, 2013. 978-1476705804. 352 p. $24.99. Gr. 11-12.

This book is one that will linger in your mind long after you have read the final line. The story of an intersex teen living in a small village outside of London in the United Kingdom is one of the best novels I have read this year. Max Walker grew up knowing that he was different, but accepting that it was not something openly discussed by his well-known parents. His mother, a criminal lawyer, and his father, a highly successful prosecutor who is beginning his bid for a seat in Parliament, decided against any surgeries or sex changes when Max was born, thus Max grew up with both sets of sex organs. As Max exhibits the appearance of a boy and is attracted to girls, no one has suspected that he is anything but a young man, and one who is intelligent, athletic, and attractive, a literal “golden boy.” Only one couple and their son, Hunter, close friends of the Walkers’, know the truth about Max. The secret is kept sacred until one evening a drunk Hunter rapes Max in his bedroom while their parents are socializing downstairs. Max, too frightened and confused to cry out, cannot fight Hunter off. This action sets in motion a series of events that will change the lives of the Walker family forever, and force Max to question his identity and place in the world.  One of the most intriguing parts of this book is that the chapters are written from the first person point of view of a variety of characters- every member of Max’s family is heard from, as well as a local doctor and female classmate, Sylvie, who befriends Max. Most intriguing is the voice of Max’s younger brother Daniel, who understands much more than he should but whose precocious nature is a constant burden for his mother as she attempts to deal with Max’s issues and her own insecurities. Give this title to more mature readers who can handle difficult subject matter and take away the knowledge and insights that this novel provides.

Realistic                                             Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

I volunteered to read and review this book after seeing that it was one of the winners of YALSA’s Alex Award, which is given to adult books with special appeal for teens. Because of the difficult and controversial topic, I completely understand why this book is marketed as an adult novel, but also see its relevance to the current YA world. More and more books are being written that offer windows into the worlds of GLBTQ teens, but this one takes on a new topic with the discussion of an intersex teen. I have to admit that I was also not familiar with the term “intersex” prior to reading this novel. I knew of hermaphroditism and loved Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex, but like Max’s doctors in the novel I did not know much about the issue or the new terms by which it is referred. Tartellin has a very simple way of explaining the issue, and the identity crisis that the teenage Max goes through seems authentic. The voices of all characters also echo in their sincerity.

I cannot actually say how I will use this within the context of any classes, because I would not feel comfortable book talking it for a large group of students due to the sensitive nature of the topic and the graphic rape scene that is written in the first few pages. I have and will, however, suggest it to a select few of my more mature and avid readers who I feel can handle the issues and trust to take away the knowledge of how we develop our own identities throughout our various life experiences.



Richards, Natalie D. Six Months Later. Naperville: Sourcebooks Inc., 2013. 9781402285516. 336 p. $9.99. Gr. 7-11.

Chloe can’t understand what has happened! Everything was fine when she fell asleep during Study Hall. But now, 6 months later, she is learning that she is smarter than she used to be. Is dating the ‘hottest’ guy in school. And is hanging out with ‘friends’ that would have never given her the time of day. She has ‘lost’ her best friend Maggie, but seems to have crazy flashbacks when she comes in contact with the school ‘thug’. Not only does Chloe need to find out what happened, but she has to convince those closest to her that she isn’t ‘crazy’ and that something terrible has happened! Will Chloe ever find out what happened? Will she be able to trust those that know her secret? A true page turner!

Suspense/Mystery                               Krista Goodzinski, Riverside Middle School



Wein, Elizabeth. Rose Under Fire. New York: Hyperion, 2013. 9781423183099. 360 p. $17.00. Gr. 8 and up.

Rose loves to fly planes and is excited when she is sent to England to transport planes during WWII. Rose is an experienced pilot at the age of 18, and learned all of her skills at home in Pennsylvania. But not only is Rose a pilot, she is a poet, which will serve her well after she is captured in flight, and taken to a concentration camp in Germany. At first, Rose was convinced that she would be released once her captors realized that she was an American, but that was not the case. Over the next 9 months, Rose will endure some of the harshest treatments that were handed out within the concentration camps. She also learns or the horrific ‘studies’ that were done on other young women, which were to ‘benefit’ Hitler’s cause. Will Rose be able to escape these horrible conditions or will she be another victim of the holocaust? It will take a lot of courage and hope in order to survive.

Historical Fiction (WWII)                   Krista Goodzinski, Riverside Middle School



 Ross, Michael Elsohn. A World of Her Own: 24 Amazing Women Explorers and Adventurers. Chicago: Review Press. 2014. 9781613744383. $19.95. Gr. 7 and up.

This compilation of 24 amazing women provides the trials and struggles that were endured so that women of today have the opportunity to explore, hike, and navigate our big planet. It also celebrates their successes and accomplishments! The women highlighted include scientists, astronauts, environmentalists, and many more. This resource would be useful to teachers in many different subject areas.

910.92 Women Explorers                        Krista Goodzinski, Riverside Middle School


Vlahos, Len. The Scar Boys.  New York: Egmont, USA, 2014.  978-1-60684-439-7. 256p. $17.99.  Gr. 9 and Up.

Harbinger Robert Francis Jones (or “Harry”, as we come to know him) has led a life different than that of most 19 year-old boys.  He was tied to a tree by bullies when he was eight years old, suffered disfiguring burns when that that tree was hit by lightning, became addicted to the Methadone prescribed for pain relief, and joined a punk rock band.  This novel begins toward the end of Harry’s story.  Harry’s rock days seem to be over and he is filling out a college application.  This book is Harry’s grand, overgrown 250 word essay to a “Faceless Admissions Professional” at the University of Scranton.  Harry tells FAP about the bullying incident that changed his life and the way others view him.  He talks about the day he met Johnny McKenna- someone who saw past his scars- in 8th grade, and the formation of their band, “The Scar Boys”.   The Scar Boys do have some musical success, but Johnny plans to give up his musical career for a college track scholarship.  The band decides to end Johnny’s time with a blowout tour following their senior year of high school.  This tour is life-changing for Harry.  He has found his purpose in life, is finally able to stand up for himself, and in a strange turn of events, Harry becomes a savior to Johnny.

Realism                          Susan Fox, Washington JR SR HS

The Scar Boys is a great novel on many levels.  In many ways, it reminded me of R.J. Palacio’s novel, Wonder.    Both novels have an engaging, empathetic hero who finds his way past his deformity with the help of good friends.  Harry’s situation is a little more complicated; he was a victim of bullies.  He became addicted to pain medication.  His parents experience friction and guilt because of his deformities.  The “sex and drugs and rock n’ roll” theme that runs throughout the novel will be very appealing to teens (There is one mild sexual situation in the novel, as well as some alcohol/marijuana use).  The true appeal of the novel, for me, is that the characters are not one dimensional rock and rollers.  The relationship between Harry and Johnny is complicated.  Although Johnny seems like the hero for rescuing Harry from a life of loneliness, Johnny likes being able to have control over him.  The fact that Harry is the one who lifts Johnny out of his depression at the end of the novel, gives a sense of justice and completion to the book.  If I was the Faceless Admissions Professional in question, you can be sure that I would accept Harry to my University.


Kiem, Elizabeth. Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy A Novel. New York: Soho Press, Inc., 2013. 978-1-61695-263-1. 264 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Marina is born in to a life of privilege. She is a ballerina for The Bolshoi Ballet, a given since her mother, Sveta is the principal dancer for The Bolshoi. Her life is made up of school and ballet rehearsal and not much else. Marina has a vision which she does not understand. She sees the future; what she does not know, is that her mother can see the past. This becomes problematic for the Soviet Government because Marina’s father, Vitya is a bio-chemist. As Vitya speaks of his work to Sveta, she begins to “see” what actually happened in a village called Lukino. Working together, they piece together details of a huge cover-up in Lukino. Marina comes home from Ballet practice one day to find her mother gone. It is the day Leonid Brezhnev died; Vitya gets a call to let him know that Sveta has been institutionalized. Enter Gosha, the best man from Sveta and Vitya’s wedding. He dabbles in the black market, he can get things done. He gets Marina and Vitya phony passports and they flee Russia and head for the US before they can be named enemies of the state. In the United States, they attempt to find a way to get information through to The Soviet Union about Lukino in exchange for Sveta. Marina auditions for the American Ballet Theatre and gets in. Her father is sure that she will meet the Russian contact through her dancing. She ends up being partnered with another Soviet, Sergei, but who does Sergei work for and can he be trusted?

Historical Fiction (Cold War Era)              Kathryn Gilbride, North Pocono High and Middle Schools


This novel fascinated me. As a child who grew up in the 1980’s, The Cold War was a big part of my childhood. The Soviet-US battle for World Supremacy was center stage during my High School years. The ballet theme also intrigued me, and I was reading this book during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. One of the commentators said the three things Russians do well are Hockey, Ice-Skating and Ballet. Many defectors came to the US from The Soviet Union through the touring ballet companies. This book could be used to exhibit the lengths the KGB and The Soviet Union would go through to cover up secrets.

Mystery, Science Fiction, and a Little Realism – YA Fiction 2013


Christopher, Lucy. The Killing Woods. New York: Chicken House, 2013. 978-0-545-461009. 359 p. $17.99. Gr 9-12.

Emily’s father, a former soldier suffering from PTSD, is accused of murder after walking out of the woods clutching the body of a young girl. In the weeks that follow, Emily’s life is turned upside-down when her friends abandon her and her fathers sanity is put into question. As the truth unravels, Emily discovers that a group of teens, including class hunk Damon, were playing ‘The Game’ the night of the murder, which may have had destructive results.  Told in dual narratives, Damon and Emily both feel like real teens, and the frightening reality of post-war PTSD is a strong and haunting theme. Christopher writes a fast-paced story, and slowly but methodically unveils the events of the night– you’ll stay up late to find out what really happened.

Realistic, Mystery, Thriller               Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School




Searles, John.  Help for the Haunted.  New York: William Morrow, 2013.  978-0-06-077963-4. 362 p. $22.99. Gr. 11 and up.

Sylvie Mason has dealt with the mystery surrounding her parents nearly her entire life.  After all, her parents have given their lives to helping haunted souls.  Then Sylvie’s parents get a midnight call from her older sister to meet at a church and shot are fired as Sylvie waits in the car.  As the only eyewitness to her parents’ murder, Sylvie must discover the truth behind her parents’ career, the light in her basement, and the haunted souls her parents have tried to help.  An Alex Award winning for 2013, this book will appeal to mature readers with a taste for the spiritual world.

Mystery                            Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS



McMullan, Kate. Hit the Road, Helen! (Myth-O-Mania, IX). Mankato, MN: Stone Arch, 2013.  978-1-43424990-6. 223 p. $17.99. Gr.5-7.

The ninth entry in the series of fictionalized myths tells the story of Helen of Troy and the Trojan War. Hades narrates this interesting adventure, as he does each title in the series.  Students will learn Greek mythology while reading this fast paced and engaging adventure. The major events in the story agree with mythology texts. Roman numerals are used throughout the story, and are defined in a guide that includes Greek names and places mentioned in each story. Discussion questions, writing suggestions, and a brief glossary are included.
Historical, High/Low                           Michelle Hankin, Sandy Run Middle School



Scarrow, Alex. The Eternal War. (Time Riders). New York: Walker Books, 2013. (c2011). 978-0-8027-3481-5. 421 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Teens Liam, Maddy and Sal are time travelers responsible for monitoring life in September 2001, in New York City. Their mission is to assure that past history is not altered by other time travelers. They are assisted by Bob and Becks, humanoid computers.  When history is altered, the group pinpoints the cause to Abe Lincoln dying before his time. They travel back to 1831 to fix the mistake, and inadvertently bring Lincoln back to 2001. Drastic historical consequences occur throughout the world. The civil war never ended, and by 2001, New York is a devastated battleground. The group faces danger and adventure in this twisted new reality. They overcome multiple obstacles and eventually convince the exhausted American soldiers to cease fire long enough to correct history and restore the accurate timeline. This, the forth book in the Time Riders series, stands on its own. I believe it will inspire students to go back and read the previous three titles.  I now have the entire series in my middle school library.

Science Fiction                       Michelle Hankin, Sandy Run Middle School



March 2014 BOB Picture Book Reviews



Isaacs, Anne. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014. 978-0-375-86745-3.              50 p. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

One of my favorite books this year! In the tradition of Swamp Angel and Dust Devil, Anne Isaacs has created another great over the top tale. I’m planning to read this story aloud to my students as soon as possible. Kevin Hawkes’ colorful illustrations are full of fun and compliment the story.

In 1870, a rich British widow named Tulip Jones inherits a Texas ranch named By-Golly Gully. She promptly moves there with three maids and a year’s worth of tortoises (named January, February, etc.). Tulip soon discovers that things really are bigger in Texas, and everything from her tomatoes to her tortoises grow to enormous proportions.  As soon as word gets around that a rich widow is living there, suitors line up to win the widow’s hand. Tulip, however, is perfectly happy living with her maids and baker Charlie Doughpuncher (who is hired to feed all the suitors).  After several crazy contests, the widow finally outsmarts the suitors and discovers her one true love—none other than Charlie Doughpuncher.

A few of the exaggerations? Chickens laying hard-boiled eggs, tortoises the size and speed of horses, and a wedding cake to feed thousands that’s baked in a crater after the ingredients are mixed by paddling around in a canoe.

This is one of my picks for this year’s Best of the Best. A must read!

Easy Fiction                                                                                        Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School


good trade





Fullerton, Alma. A Good Trade. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2013.  978-0-9869495-9-3. 32 p. $19.95. Gr. K-3.

Kato, a young Ugandan boy, has a typical day.  He walks a long distance to fill two containers with a day’s supply of water for his family, and heads home to do the rest of his chores. He goes a bit faster than usual, however, because he saw an aid worker’s truck in the village. Before he rushes back to the village, he picks one perfect white poppy from his family’s garden to make a “good trade”—he receives a pair of new sneakers in return.

Karen Patkau’s illustrations are just lovely. She uses beautiful colors and lots of patterns to create pictures that really make Kato’s village come to life. They highlight this sweet story and help show how a new pair of shoes can mean so much to a boy like Kato.

I’m looking forward to sharing this story with my students—I think that a lot of them will be very surprised at how different their lives are from Kato’s, and I know that it will inspire some good discussion.

Easy Fiction                                                                                        Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School


exclamation mark

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse.  Exclamation Mark. New York: Scholastic Press, 2013. 978-0-545-43679-3. Unpaged.   $16.00. Gr. K-3.

I love, love, love this story! Poor exclamation mark doesn’t fit in among a crowd of periods. He knows that he’s different and starts to get down on himself until he meets a question mark. This spirited question mark is a bit overwhelming for exclamation mark until he finds his “voice” (!) and gains confidence in himself and his ability.  Not only is the writing comically perfect, the illustrations really make the story. Tom Lichtenheld uses a backdrop of notebook paper to make the punctuation marks look right at home.

This book is perfect for use in grammar lessons, language arts classrooms, or just as a fun shared story.

This is one of my picks for Best of the Best this year. It’s a winner!

Easy Fiction                                                                            Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School  


jasmine       cinderella

O’Ryan, Ellie. Jasmine: The Jewel Orchard (Disney Princess Chapter Books). Minneapolis: Spotlight, 2014.  978-1-61479-213-0.  90 p.      $16.95. Gr. K-3.

Richards, Kitty. Cinderella: The Lost Tiara (Disney Princess Chapter Books). Minneapolis: Spotlight, 2014.  978-1-61479-212-3.  93 p.      $16.05. Gr. K-3.

These easy fiction chapter books are sure to be popular with second grade girls. Both books have a reading level around low fourth grade, so they will likely be too difficult for younger students, but the short chapters and familiar characters will engage early chapter books readers who love princesses.

Jasmine: The Jewel Orchard finds Jasmine and Abu venturing to the market to find out why no fruit is available in Agrabah. They return home late that night with no answers, but Jasmine discovers that Abu has a satchel full of amethysts that look exactly like grapes. A ride over the Royal Orchard on Magic Carpet helps Jasmine and Aladdin discover that a spell has transformed all the fruit in the orchard into gemstones. Jasmine, Aladdin, and Abu help the orchard keeper reverse the spell and save the orchard.

Cinderella: The Lost Tiara sees Cinderella expecting a visit from the Prince’s grandmother. Cinderella wants to wear her wedding gift from Grandmama, a beautiful tiara, but realizes that it’s missing! After a thorough hunt of the Palace, she thinks that it’s lost forever. The ladies are sent on a wild goose chase and after lots of confusion Grandmama admits that she went to the jeweler too late for the real tiara to be ready by the wedding. The lost tiara was a fake—she has the real one in her bag. All is saved!

Easy Fiction/Fiction                                                                                     Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School


custodian      dentist

Thaler, Mike.  The Custodian from the Black Lagoon. New York: Spotlight, 2014.  978-1-61479-196-6. 32 p.       $15.95. Gr. K-3.

Thaler, Mike.  The Dentist from the Black Lagoon.  New York: Spotlight, 2014. 978-1-61479-197-3. 32 p.     $15.95. Gr. K-3.

Mike Thaler is at it again with the two newest installments in the “Black Lagoon” series. Both titles feature Jared Lee’s clever, detailed illustrations and Thaler’s usual mix of punny jokes and occupational clichés.

The Custodian from the Black Lagoon tells the tale of Fester Smudge, the school custodian, whose creepy underground office is said to house a pet dragon. The tales of his failed attempts to fix and clean the school are legendary. One day the narrator needs his locker opened, at which time the real Mr. Smudge, a kindly man with a large ring of keys, opens the jammed locker and makes a friend.

The Dentist from the Black Lagoon takes place during Dental Health Month. The school nurse tells the kids that Dr. B. N. Payne, a dentist, will visit the school to check everyone’s teeth. (I find this concept a bit far-fetched but perhaps this does happen in some areas.) Our narrator runs through a slew of dental-themed puns with accompanying illustrations, such as his Aunt Penny with a mouth full of crowns and an illustration showing an older lady with mini royal crowns atop all her teeth. Dr. Payne, of course, turns out to be a nice man who gives the boy a new toothbrush and sends him on his way.

While not my favorite books in the series, fans of Thaler’s work will surely enjoy these titles.

Easy                                                                                         Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School



Hoffman, Sarah. Jacob’s New Dress. Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman & Company, 2013. 978-0807563731. 32p. $16.99. Gr. Prek-2.
Jacob loves to dress up, as a firefighter, a knight, a princess, and a witch. When Jacob asks to wear a dress to school, mom and dad are unsure, so Jacob fashions a dress out of a towel, and gets teased by the boys at school. Jacob’s teacher is supportive and tells the other kids that Jacob should be allowed to wear what makes him comfortable, as well as informing the students that not long ago, women could not wear pants, “Can you imagine that?” Jacob convinces mom to help him sew a dress, and dad gets on board too, admitting “there are all sorts of ways to be a boy.” This is a sweet and unaffected tale that I consider a MUST READ at home and at school! As a teacher who has worked with a number of “gender fluid” children, I would love for them to all feel comfortable being who they are.
Picture Book, Gender Roles and Stereotyping        Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Pringle, Laurence. The Secret Life of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar. 978-1620910009.  Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2014. Prek-2.  $16.95 . 32p.
Gorgeously illustrated story of the life cycle of our beloved Woolly Bear Caterpillar. Younger children (preK – K) may enjoy having this read aloud however scientific vocabulary, such as mandibles and stemmata are introduced, which keeps this book relevant for your nature-loving readers up to grade 3 or beyond. Pringle is the author of 100+ children’s books, and gives us an informative section at the back that tells more about the caterpillar and gives a glossary and anatomical diagram. Highly recommended.
Picture Book / Nature          Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Helakoski, Leslie. Big Pigs. 978-1620910238. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2014. Prek-2. $16.95 . 32p.
Mama pig has to go out and tells her three boys, “Be good little pigs.” Determined to prove they are BIG pigs, not little, the three brothers get into a series of competitions that involve stuffing themselves, slopping in the mud, and other antics. This fun picture book contains fun illustrations, lots of onomatopoeia, rhyming, and sing-songy refrains that little ones are sure to enjoy.
Picture Book / Pigs / Humor          Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Reid, Aimee. Mama’s Day with Little Gray. 978-0449810835. New York: Random House, 2014. Prek-2. $16.99 . 32p.
This beautiful little book begins with Little Gray asking Mama Elephant: “When I grow up, will you grow down?” What follows are a number of wonderful imagined role reversals, as Little Gray plans what she would do if SHE were the Mama, and Mama was her calf. Any elephant lover or child who wonders what it will be like to be a grownup will love this book!
Picture Book           Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Lloyd-Jones, Sally. Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale. 978-0375869181. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2014. Prek-2. $17.99 . 40p.
Doreen the little fish is about to be caught by a fly fisherman when a Great Blue Heron snatches her from the net for a snack, Oh No! But Doreen the Ample Roundy Fish is unfailingly optimistic, and believes all the perils that befall her are part of a wonderful adventure. Very cute, whimsical story that weaves words in verse with some alphabet learning. Recommended.
Picture Book           Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Rosenstock, Barb. The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero. 978-1590789926. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2014. Grade 3+. $16.95 . 32p.
Fabulous read-aloud picture book about Joe Di Maggio’s hitting streak of 1941. Contains background on DiMaggio’s life, suspenseful summaries of the games that summer, and news clippings and player quotes. The Author’s Note at the end gives fabulous background, stats on DiMaggio and the Top Ten MLB hitting streaks, followed by a bibliography, websites and additional suggested reading. I can’t wait to use this for my grade 2 – 4 read-aloud biography lessons as well as to share this with any age sports fans.
Picture Book / Nonfiction: Sports           Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Lodding, Linda Ravin. A Gift for Mama. 978-0385753319. New York: Knopf, 2014. Prek-2. $17.99 . 32p.
Set in Vienna, Oskar wants to buy Mama the perfect gift but he only has one coin, just enough for a single, perfect yellow rose. Through a series of chance meetings Oskar trades the yellow Rose for other treasures that are to be Mama’s gift, but as the story proceeds, the reader suspects this is not going to end well. But it does! Sweet and engaging read aloud with gorgeous illustrations, you will immediately recognize the style of the artist from The Cloud Spinner.
Picture Book           Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Sheehan, Kevin. The Dandelion’s Tale.  978-0375870323. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2014. Prek-2. $16.99 . 40p.
Sparrow is flying along when she hears Dandelion crying: “A short while ago, I was so strong, and the brightest yellow you’ve ever seen. Now I’m white and fuzzy and I’ve lost most of my seedpods.” Sparrow agrees to fly Dandelion to all her friends to tell them about herself, and in so doing spreads Dandelion’s seeds far and wide. A great tale about the circle of life; I’d read this aloud to Pre-K and Kindergartners asking them to predict what will happen next.
Picture Book / Nature          Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Donofrio, Beverly. Where’s Mommy? (Mary and the Mouse series). 978-0375844232. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2014. Prek-2   .  $17.99 . 32p.
Maria and Mouse Mouse are secret friends: If Maria’s mom knew about Mouse Mouse, she’d get a cat. If Mouse Mouse’s mom knew about Maria, they would hide in a hole. So they keep their friendship secret until one night at bedtime, the mothers of both these friends disappear, and it starts to get scary! You will never guess where they are and what they are doing. Very cute story, gorgeous illustrations.
Picture Book / Mice           Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Reagan, Jean. How to Babysit a Grandma. 978-0385753845. New York: Knopf, 2014. Prek-2.  $16.99 . 32p.
Step-by-step instructions for little ones who LOVE sleepovers at Grandma’s! A loving, delightful and funny role-reversal tale of a little girl babysitting her Grandma. Highly recommended.
Picture Book / Humor          Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Offill, Jenny. Sparky!. 978-0375870231. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2014. Prek-2. $16.99 . 40p.
The girl who speaks first person in this book asks her mom for a pet. Mom says no to a bird, bunny, a seal….and finally agrees that the girl can get any pet that doesn’t need to be walked, bathed or fed. So the girl visits the school librarian (“who knows everything in the world”), who gives her the Animal Encyclopedia., and she opens to “S” and you guessed it, orders a sloth. Hilarity ensues. By the authors of one of my favorite picture books of 2012, “11 Experiments that Failed.” Highly recommended.
Picture Book / Sloths / Humor           Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Brown, Marc. In New York. 978-0375864544. New York: Knopf, 2014. Prek-2.  $17.99 . 40p.
From the author of the beloved Arthur series, this is a wonderful New York travel guide for kiddies! Brown succinctly tells about all the major attractions as well as food, culture and some history, beautifully illustrated to tempt both the little ones and the readers to visit NYC very soon. Arthur the aardvark even makes a cameo appearance as a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Highly recommended.
Picture Book           Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

March 2014 BOB fiction reviews


Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy. New York: Delacourte Press, 2014. 978-0-385-37610-5. 328 p.   $17.99. Gr. 3-6.

It’s hard to believe, but this year marks the 50th anniversary of Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy! The story is the same but the special anniversary edition includes a map of Harriet’s neighborhood and spy route, as well as tributes to Louise Fitzhugh and Harriet by many famous authors including Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, Patricia Reilly Giff, and Rebecca Stead, among others.

I’m sure that most of us know the story of Harriet, but if not, now is the time to discover it. Harriet keeps a secret notebook and spies on her friends and neighbors. She’s brutally honest in her notebook, saying things like “Pinky Whitehead will never change. Does his mother hate him? If I had him, I’d hate him.” Things go awry, however, when she loses her notebook and many of the people mentioned inside read the things that she has written about them. Harriet must find a way to mend all these broken relationships in her life.

While some kids might struggle with a few outdated references and ways of life, find those good readers who will stick with Harriet during her struggle—they will be amply rewarded.

Fiction                             Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School



Litwin, Mike. Lost in Bermooda. Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2014. 978-0-8075-8718-8. 140 p. $14.99. Gr. 2-6.

How many cow puns and plays on words can one author fit into a book? I have a feeling that Mike Litwin would get the record for Lost in Bermooda!

Chuck Porter’s cow family lives peacefully on the island of Bermooda along with lots of other animals. A shipwreck hundreds of years ago yielded enough artifacts for these animals to learn to speak, read and write, and create a society. It seems like an animal’s slice of paradise, but little Chuck is full of questions and just wants to know more about these fabled “hu’mans” that he hears about.

When he meets a young boy named Dakota who has washed up on shore, they form a quick bond, and Chuck disguises Dakota in “cowmaflauge” and takes him home. Chuck and Dakota hatch several plans to get Dakota home, and in the process discover that Wilhelm Wellington, a power-hungry cow, is trying to fool the other Bermoodians into electing him as leader. Chuck and Dakota save the day and everything is peaceful once again.

Places are named things like Cowabunga Falls, and cow puns abound, but overall it’s a quick, comical read for boys and girls alike.

Fiction                           Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School



McKay, Hilary.  Lulu and the Cat in the Bag.  Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2013.  978-0-8075-4804-2. 83p.  $10.93. Gr. 1-2
For every reader that loves animals there is a Lulu book. This book is an addition to a great series of books for those emerging readers getting ready for chapter books.  The text is double-spaced and there is white space and occasional illustrations to break up the text.  Lulu is an engaging character that has a love for all animals.  Each book takes the reader on an adventure to help save and care for the animal.  In Lulu and the Cat in the Bag, Lulu is faced with the dilemma of how to care for an animal when they already have so many.  Reader’s will fall in love with these books and want the entire series.
Some others in the series:
McKay, Hilary.  Lulu and the Dog From the Sea.  Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2013.  978-0-8075-4820-2.
__.  Lulu and the Duck in the Park. 978-0-8075-4808-0.
__.  Lulu and the Hamster in the Night.  978-1-4071-3201-3.
__.  Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain.   978-1-4071-1320-6.
Realistic Fiction                      Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary


Vanderpool, Clare. Navigating Early. New York: Delacorte, 2013. 978-0385742092. 320p. $16.99. Gr. 5+.
Awarded the Newbery for her first novel, Moon Over Manifest, Vanderpool again brings us an engaging story with rich, varied characters and more than a few plot surprises. The life of our narrator Jackie, a 13-year-old boy from Kansas, has just been turned upside down. His dad left 4 years ago to join the Navy as a WWII ship navigator, and his mother just passed away from a brain hemorrhage. Dad uproots Jackie and enrolls him a boys’ boarding school in coastal Maine, close to dad’s Naval base. Depressed, lost in this new place, and naturally shy, Jackie finds his sole friend in Early, an orphan who everyone considers odd. Early is a math savant – numbers tell him a very real story – and when Jackie and Early set out on an adventure, Navigating Early takes on many characteristics of Homer’s Odyssey. Vanderpool deftly alternates the tale from realistic, historical fiction back and forth to magical realism. While there is nothing objectionable or overly mature about this book, readers grade 7+ are likely to most appreciate the life experiences portrayed in this book. Highly recommended.
Historical Fiction/Magical Realism           Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Asquith, Ross. Letters from an alien schoolboy. New York: Sky Pony Press, 2013. 978-1-62087-536-0.
192 p. $12.95. Gr. 3-6.
Flowkwee will go to planet earth disguised as a human and be called Nigel. Their mission is to improve upon the Earthlings. Nigel needs to learn about all of the habits of children and help convince the children to enter the improving machine. From the fear or toilets and the shock at women being allowed to have the same opportunities as men, Nigel learns that he actually likes being on earth. Will the humans be improved or will those in search of spinach, the Threggs, take over? Illustrations accompany the novel.
Fiction (humorous, science fiction)        Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School 


Angus, Jennifer. In Search of Goliathus Hercules. Chicago: Albert Whitman, 2013. 978-0-8075-2990-4. 350 p. $17.99. Gr. 3-6.
Henri moves in with his Great Aunt Georgie in The United States of America as his mother searches for his missing father. While at his great Aunt’s, Henri surrounded by her collection of buttons and the unsettling neighbor Mrs. Black. Shortly later, Henri communicates with a fly and decides to join the circus and trains a successful flea show. He contacts a well-renowned entomologist and works to arrange an expedition to locate the elusive Goliathus Hercules with the hopes to also find his father.  At the same time, something is not natural with Henri’s ability to communicate with insects, being attacked by a Venus Fly-trap or his changing appearance. Will they be successful in the search for the creature and Henri’s father?
Fiction (fantasy, animals)                Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Dahl, Michael.  The trouble with Abracadabra (Hocus Pocus Hotel series).  North Mankato, MN: Stone Arch Books, 2013.  978-1-4342-4102-3. 104p.  $23.99.  Grades 3-5.Abracadabra is a famous magician who owns a hotel for other magic lovers, though he poses as a humble elevator operator named Brack.  He has made friends with two young boys who know his secret and often help him out of tough problems with their brains and a little magic.  All their skills are needed when a powerful and harsh magician named Theopolis challenges Abracadabra to replicate one of his tricks or lose the rights to the hotel.  Can the team solve the mystery and save the hotel so that Brack can retire happily?  Read and see – Presto!  Recommended for mystery and magic lovers of all ages.
Fiction; Mystery and Magic    Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Jennings, Patrick.  Odd Weird & Little.  New York: Egmont, 2014.  978-1-600684-374-1. 149p.  $15.99. Gr 2-4
Another great book by Patrick Jennings and it is sure to stimulate discussion on friendship, bullies and school behavior.  Toulouse is a new student; he is small, dresses like a grandpa, carriers a briefcase and doesn’t speak English.  He is an instant target for the bullies in the school, but a great friend for one of their past targets.  When he speaks it is insightful, his actions thoughtful and he doesn’t let others get under his skin, or feathers.  It is amazing that no one notices he is an owl.  Toulouse is an endearing character that changes the lives of those around him.  This is a great read aloud to assist with discussion in the classroom regarding bullies, and a book that stays with you long after you are finished reading it.
Fiction                            Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary

March 2014 BOB nonfiction reviews


choppers 1        pro stock

Hamilton, John. Choppers (Xtreme Motorcycles series). North Mankato: ABDO Publishing, 2014.  978-1-62403-217-2. 32 p.       $18.95. Gr. 5-8.

Hamilton, John. Pro Stock (Xtreme Motorcycles series). North Mankato: ABDO Publishing, 2014.  978-1-62403-221-9. 32 p.       $18.95. Gr. 5-8.

These titles provide a brief look at two kinds of motorcycles, choppers and pro stock. Choppers details the history of “chopped” motorcycles, from beginnings in the 1940’s and 1950’s when WWII vets (and trained mechanics) began chopping extra military motorcycles to the recent trend fueled by Discovery Channel’s American Chopper series. Typical styling is also explained.

Pro Stock focuses on the construction of these unique drag racing motorcycles, and goes on to explain the facts behind pro stock racing. There’s also a short section on top racers, both male and female.

These titles are serviceable choices for students interested in motorcycles or racing. While some comments seem unnecessary, like “It signals that the owner is cool, tough, and maybe a little crazy,” in discussing how a chopper owner’s personality is reflected by their choice of cycle, kids will like the colorful illustrations and basic information.

Each title includes a table of contents, glossary, and index.

629.227                                Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School


Smolka, Bo.  The Best MLB Catchers of All Time.  Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing, 2014.  978-1-62403-113-7. 64p.  $22.95. Gr. 3-5.
This book is part of the Major League Baseballs Best Ever Series.  It includes all the greats, all the legends and a plethora of information.    The photographs move from black and white to color when moved from past to present and they are engaging and the students are instantly drawn to all the statistics.  The Honorable Mentions, Glossary and Index at the back of the book are intuitive and thorough. A great resource for baseball fans and reluctant readers, and encourages further exploration through the For More Information section. This book and others in this series are on ABDO Publishing’s Reading level 4.  Other books in this series are also of high quality and equally engaging:
Graves, Will.  The Best MLB Hitters of All Time.  Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing, 2014.  978-1-62403-114-4. 64p.  $22.95. Gr. 3-5
–. The Best MLB Pitchers of All Time.  Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing, 2014. 978-1-62403-117-5. 64p.  $22.95. Gr. 3-5
Monnig, Alex.  The Best MLB Infielders of All Time.  Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing, 2014. 978-1-62403-115-1. 64p.  $22.95. Gr. 3-5
–. The Best MLB Teams of All Time.  Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing, 2014. 978-1-62403-118-2. 64p.  $22.95. Gr. 3-5
Smolka, Bo.  The Best MLB Outfielders of All Time.  Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing, 2014. 978-1-62403-116-8. 64p.  $22.95. Gr. 3-5
796.357: Sports/Baseball               Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary


Barry, Holly M.  Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle.  Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2013.  978-0-8075-3198-3. 32p.  $12.75. Gr. 1-2
This book provides a different look at what we know about Helen Keller and her love for animals, especially her dog Belle.  With engaging illustrations and a balance of text and white space the youngest child will quickly be drawn into the story.  By providing a connection to a dog, the character of Helen Keller provides a text-to-self connection to students with pets.   The final two pages provide a deeper story that can be shared between the adult and child, including interesting facts about other dog breeds that she had and other animals that were her companions.  The author is able to provide another perspective to a famous person that has had much written about her.
92 Biography                          Denise Naumann, Eisenhower Elementary


Phelan, Matt. Bluffton: My Summers with Buster. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2013. 978-0-7636-5079-7. 223 p. $23.00. Gr. 3-6.

I discovered Matt Phelan at last year’s PSLA Conference and I’ve been hooked on his graphic novels every since (Bluffton, Around the World, The Storm in the Barn).  Bluffton tells the story of Henry, a fictional narrator, who spends his summers playing baseball with friends in the sleepy town of Muskegon, Michigan. Things get much more exciting in 1908 when a vaudeville troupe decides to summer in the nearby community of Bluffton. Henry ventures to Bluffton and meets Buster Keaton, childhood slapstick actor, who just wants a “normal” childhood. Henry, on the other hand, is fascinated with Buster’s life in showbiz, and wants to learn more about Buster’s life. I won’t spoil the ending for you—pick it up, it’s worth it.

Phelan’s artwork is lovely and helps set the tone for the story. Many of my students have read and enjoyed this book, graphic novel lovers and history fans alike. If you’re not a fan of graphic novels, give Phelan’s work a try. He really brings history to life.

This is one of my picks for Best of the Best this year!

741.5: Graphic Novel                                                                                       Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School


pedal it

Mulder, Michelle. Pedal It! How Bicycles are Changing the World. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2013.  978-1-4598-0219-3.  48 p. $19.95. Gr. 3-6.

This book celebrates all things bicycle. Author Michelle Mulder is a bicycle lover, and it shows in the enthusiastic and interesting way she presents information. The book starts by covering the invention of the bike, and the many changes that improved it over the years, and moves on to cover bicycle mechanics, learning to ride, and how bicycles are used globally for different purposes.  I was astounded by the (many) colorful photographs that show how different people around the world use bicycles to transport huge loads of goods and people. One photo features a “bicycle bus” carrying nine preschoolers on a field trip in Amsterdam; another photo shows an Indian man posing next to a bicycle piled high with at least 20 duffel bags and suitcases. Talk about a balancing act!

Hand this book to students who love interesting and slightly unusual nonfiction, or a student who loves to ride a bicycle.

629.227                                                                                   Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School



Lawrence, Ellen. Motion (FUNdamental Experiments). New York: Bearport Publishing, 2013.  978-1-61772-739-9.    24 p. $18.00. Gr. K-3.

Motion is a great science book for students who are interested in the topic, or for teachers who want a step-by-step approach to introducing the concept through experiments. Seven questions, such as “What is friction?” and “Why do objects fall to the ground?” help demonstrate each concept. For example, friction is defined and an example is given; the pages contain a list of necessary experiment supplies, and five easy steps to complete the experiment. A section in the back of the book illustrates expected results.

I think that this could have great use in an early elementary science lesson because kids can easily (with adult help) complete each experiment. I’m definitely interested in purchasing the rest of the series!

This title includes a table of contents, glossary, index, and “Read More” section.

152.3                                                                                       Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School


priory school     red circle

Goodwin, Vincent. The Adventure of the Priory School (The Graphic Novel Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). North Mankato: Magic Wagon, 2014.         978-1-61641-973-8.  48 p. $20.95. Gr. 3-6.

Goodwin, Vincent. The Adventure of the Red Circle (The Graphic Novel Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). North Mankato: Magic Wagon, 2014.         978-1-61641-974-5.  48 p. $20.95. Gr. 3-6.

These books serve as a good introduction to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels. The graphic novel format has bright colors and easy to read dialogue. The adaptor has done a good job of selecting main points, often action-packed, to tell the story. I have a loyal pack of graphic-novel lovers at my school and I’m sure that these titles will be the next addition to their “must read” list!

In addition to the story, each title includes a table of contents, cast, “How to Draw” section, glossary, websites, and information about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the adaptors (author Vincent Goodwin, illustrator Ben Dunn).

741.5                                                                                       Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School


bowling     golf

Bussiere, Desirée. Bowling By the Numbers (Sports By the Numbers). North Mankato: ABDO Publishing,              2014.    978-1-61783-842-2. 24 p.      $15.95. Gr. K-2.

Bussiere, Desirée. Golf By the Numbers (Sports By the Numbers). North Mankato: ABDO Publishing, 2014.                978-1-61783-843-9. 24 p.       $15.95. Gr. K-2.

This series combines beginning math and number concepts with an introduction to sports. The introduction states, “Numbers are used all the time in golf. A golf course has either 9 or 18 holes,” and “There are 3 basic kinds of gold strokes. They are drive, chip, and putt.” As the book introduces the basics of a sport, math problems are included. “Logan plays on a golf team. He is playing in a tournament,” with an accompanying math problem like “There are 7 tournaments each year. Logan’s team has played in 6. How many more are there?”

I think that these books serve as a better sport introduction than math tool, but they might work well in centers or small group work with math students.

794.6: Bowling, 796.352: Golf                                                                       Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School




I Know Sports (series). Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing, 2014. 24p. (each book). Col.ill., glossary, index, and other resources listed. $95.70 set. $15.95 each, Reading Level: 1.8, Interest Level: K-3, Accelerated Reader Quizzes available. Other availability: paperback, epub, PDF, and hosted ebook.
Mattern, Joanne. I Know Baseball. 9781624313974.
__. I Know Football. 9781624313998.
__. I Know Hockey. 9781624314018.
__. I Know Soccer. 9781624314025.
Tometich, Annabelle. I Know Basketball. 9781624313981.
__. I Know Gymnastics. 9781624314001.
These six books are part of Cherry Lake’s 21st Century Basic Skills Library series. There is a public acknowledgement of the work of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in the verso. It is a very basic knowledge of the sport book with plenty of photographs to support the sport skill being discussed. For an elementary library or even learning support this series is a winner.
790’s nonfiction sports.     Lourie Stewart, Dunbar Township/Dunbar Borough Elementary Schools

Boswell, Kelly. Displaying Information (series). North Mankato: Capstone, 2014. 32 p. $21.00 Grade 1-2.
__.  Graphs, graphs, graphs! 978-1476502595.
__.  Diagrams. 978-1476533377.
__.  Maps. 978-1476533391.
__.  Timelines. 978-1476502618.
Bright colorful photos of children depicting real life examples to explain various ways of displaying information. Excellent series for primary grades uses bold, simple text. It could be used as an introduction to a unit on graphs, diagrams, maps or timelines or to offer real life examples. The book includes a Table of Contents, Glossary, and Index as well as additional  books and internet sites for further reading. For teachers, common core critical thinking questions are included as well!
513; Mathematics Information                                                            Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Questions You Never Thought you’d Ask (series). Chicago: Raintree, 2014. 32 p. $12.00ea. Gr.3-5.
            Mason, Paul. Can You Lick your own Elbow? and other questions about the human body. 978-1410952073.
            Barnham, Kay. Could a Robot make my Dinner? and other questions about technology. 978-1410952004.
Mason, Paul. Could a Walrus play a Saxophone? and other questions about animals. 978-1410952035.
Barnham, Kay. Could I sit on a Cloud? and other questions about science. 978-1410952059.
Mason, Paul. Did the Romans Eat Chips? And other questions about history. 978-1410951984.

Primarily a recreational read, this book offers amusing and fascinating facts about the human body, technology, animals, science, and history. Students will be entertained by the questions, dialog boxes, scenarios and colorful photographs of real kids exploring thought provoking questions.  Additional features include a Table of Contents, Glossary, Index and additional resources: books and websites.
612; Human Body, 600; Technology           Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary
590; Animals, 507; Science, 909; History


Baby Animals (series). Minneapolis: Sandcastle books, 2013. 24 p. $7.00 K-Grade 2.
            Kuskowski, Alex. Foals 978-1617838378.
            Doudna, Kelly. Bunnies. 978-1577651840.
            Doudna, Kelly. Calves. 978-1577651864.
            Doudna, Kelly. Kittens. 978-1577651826.
            Doudna, Kelly. Piglets. 978-1577651857.
            Kuskowski, Alex. Puppies. 978-1617838408.
Very simplistic series for primary grades. Featured sections include: Did You Know?, Further Fun Facts, a True/False Quiz and a glossary including all bolded words in the text. The text is simple, personable and clear with bold, bright photos. It includes enough information to peek the beginning reader’s interest, but is not substantial enough for research purposes.
590; Baby Animals            Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary

 War Vehicles (series). North Mankato: Capstone, 2014. 32 p. $21.00ea. Grade 3-6.
            Delmar, Pete. Civil War. 978-1429699129.
            Fishkin, Rebecca Love. Iraq War. 978-1429699143.
            Levine, Michelle. Vietnam War. 978-1429699136.
            Schaub, Michelle. World War I. 978-1429699112.
            Fein, Eric. Vehicles of World War II
. 978-1-4296-9915-0.
Includes authentic wartime photos, captions and “war facts” text boxes to describe the vehicles used by all parties in the conflict, their uses, unique advantages and pitfalls. Included is a glossary and an index. Enjoyed by the young military and wartime history buffs.
355; Military Vehicles             Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary

Information Explorer (series). Ann Arbor: Cherry Lake, 2014. 32 p. $19.95. Gr. 3-6.
Fontichiaro, Kristin. Understanding and creating infographics. 978-1-62431-126-0.
Matteson, Adrienne. Using digital maps. 978-1-62431-129-1.
Newman, Heather. Creating digital brochures. 978-1-62431-128-4.
Truesdell, Ann. How to handle cyberbullies. 978-1-62431-127-7.
Both political and physical features are detailed in the book Using digital maps. What is cyberbullying? You may not realize but the term distinguishes that cyberbullying involves two minors. The book How to handle cyberbullying suggests that students search to locate their name online and see what information they can find. “Did you know this” or “FYI” boxes are strategically scattered to give the books a hip scrapbook feel with tape holding images in place.  For all of the books you can obtain a copy of the activities online.
[note there are books in this set with copydates of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 not included in this review]
Maps (910.285), Cyberbullying (302.34); Nonfiction       Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School 

Information Explorer Junior. (series) Ann Arbor: Cherry Lake, 2014. 24 p. $19.95 each. Gr. K-3.
Fontichiaro, Kristin. Starting your own blog. 978-1-62431-133-8.
Harner, Jennifer L. Reading and learning from informational text. 978-1-62431-134-5.
Truesdell, Ann. Being respectful online. 978-1-62431-131-4.
—. Learning and sharing a wiki. 978-1-62431-132-1.
The layout of these books looks like a spiral notebook filled with colorful facts and images. When starting a blog, children are encouraged to think about layout, the url, blog body and comment section. Reading and Learning provides numerous charts and methods of organization for the reader. Try activities provided in the book and see the answers printed upside down. The activities can also be printed from
[note there are books in this series with a 2012 and 2013 publication not included in this review]
Reading (372.4), Blog (006.7); Nonfiction         Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Inside College Basketball (series)  North Mankato: ABDO, 2014. 48 p. $21.95 each. Gr 3-6.
 Gitlin, Marty. Louisville Cardinals. 978-1-61783-916-0.
 Howell, Brian. Florida Gators. 978-1-61783-914-6.
 Silvermann, Drew. Indiana Hoosiers. 978-1-61783-915-3.
 —. Syracuse Orange. 978-1-61783-917-7.
Each book is divided into five chapters. Creative banner size text boxes add additional information. A timeline is included in addition to quick stats, quotes and anecdotes, glossary, for more information including reading, web links and places to visit. The origins of the sport at the college are discussed such as 1915 starting basketball at Florida Gators or 1912 for Louisville Cardinals.
796.323; Sports/Basketball             Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

NFL’s Best Ever. (series) North Mankato: ABDO, 2014. 64 p. $22.95 each, Gr. 3-6
Graves, Will. The best NFL defense of all time. 978-1-61783-907-8.
 —. The best NFL offensives of all time. 978-1-61783-909-2.
Scheff, Matt. The best NFL running backs of all time. 978-1-61783-912-2.
—. The best NFL quarterbacks of all time. 978-1-61783-910-8.
Wilner, Barry. The best NFL receivers of all time. 978-1-61783-911-5.
—. The best NFL defensive players of all time. 978-1-61783-908-5.
Each player selected as the best of each respective football skill has a large picture of their likeness. Flashy display of facts and accomplishments are included. These players also have a profile of information including hometown, college, height, weight, birth date, team, All-Pro and Pro-Bowl statistics. Honorable mentions do not have much space but include a few key facts. The books have a glossary, a section for more information, further reading, web links and index.
796.332, Football players           Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Perspectives Library. (series) Ann Arbor: Cherry Lake, 2014. 32 p.  $19.95 each. Gr 3-6.
Bailey, Rachel. The Japanese Internment Camps: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-666-1.
Baxter, Roberta. The Battle of Gettysburg: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-415-5.
 —. The Dropping of the Atomic Bombs: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-665-4.
Brennan, Linda Crotta. The Boston Tea Party: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-492-6.
Caravantes, Peggy. The Battle of the Alamo: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-664-7.
—. The Orphan Trains: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-420-9.
Gitlin, Marty. The Montgomery bus boycott: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-418-6.
 —. The 1980 U.S. Olympic Boycott: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-663-0.
Halls, Kelly Milner. The Story of the Hoover Dam: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-668-5.
Krieg, Katherine. The Attack on Pearl Harbor: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-413-1.
Llanas, Shelia Griffin. The Underground Railroad: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-423-0.
Lusted, Marcia Amidon. The Battle of Bunker Hill: a historical perspective book. 978-1-62431-414-8.
 —. The Sinking of the Titanic: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-421-6.
Marciniak, Kristin. The Oregon Trail and westward expansion: a historical perspectives book978-1-62431-419-3.
—. The Salem Witch Trials: a historical perspective books book. 978-1-62431-667-8.
Qaiser, Annie. The Story of the Statue of Liberty: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-422-3.
                Zuchora-Walske, Christine. The Dust Bowl: a historical perspectives book. 978-1-62431-417-9.
It is one thing for a student to imagine how they would react during a major historical event and it is another to share with the students multiple perspectives during the same event. For example, with the Montgomery Bus Boycott see the events unfold through the eyes of a church leader, an opponent to the boycott and a civil rights activist. In the books terms are placed in bold font. Though boxes are spread out in each book. These boxes relate to the common core catapulting readers to think, analyze and see another source. The “Look, Look Again” section provides with thought providing questions to further thought and discussion in the classroom. For example, there is an artist’s image of Breed’s Hill during fighting. Students are asked to imagine how it would be to be a minuteman, British soldier or inn keeper in Boston during this time. While the statue of liberty was to represent the Roman goddess of freedom the struggle and varying opinions to raise money for the pedestal are detailed as the varying viewpoints during the Battle of Bunker Hill are fleshed out in a book, too.  The books include a glossary, learn more sections and index.
323.1196 Montgomery Bus Boycott, 973.3 Bunker Hill, 974.7 Statue of liberty; History/Nonfiction
Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Pro Wrestling Superstars (series) North Mankato: ABDO, 2014. 32 p. $18.95 each. Gr. 3-6
Scheff, Matt. CM Punk. 978-1-62403-135-9
—. John Cena. 978-1-62403-134-2
—. Kofi Kingston.978-1-62403-136-6
—. Randy Orton. 978-1-62403-138-0
—. Rey Mysterio. 978-1-62403-137-3
—. The Rock. 978-1-62403-139-7
—.Triple H. 978-1-62403-140-3
—.Undertaker. 978-1-62403-141-0
Shattering text through glass creates a visual layout for the books. Captions are written in a rope like box and fast facts are displayed in a neon green box. Each book has a time line, glossary and index. Readers will learn the meaning of CM Punk’s Straight Edge tattoo in addition to his famous move Go To Sleep (GTS). The signature move called the Pedigree of Triple H is detailed. A long history of characters portrayed by Triple H is recorded in addition to his competition history and current involvement with the WWE.
796.812 (Sports and recreation)/biography      Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Core Library: The Science of Life. (series) North Mankato: ABDO, 2014. 48 p. $22.95 each. Gr. 3-6
Duke, Shirley Smith. Cells. 978-1-62403-158-8.
Fretland Van Voorst, Jenny. Animal Classification. 978-1-62403-157-1.
. Ecosystems.  978-1-62403-159-5
Petersen, Christine. Genetics.  978-1-62403-161-8
Surges, Carol. Food chains. 978-1-62403-160-1
Zuchora-Walske. Photosynthesis. 978-1-62403-162-5
Four chapters make the structure of the book with colorful illustrations and diagrams. The topics are in green font colors with captions in blue font. Students are encouraged to write a blog post in response after reading a section written by Linnaeus. Questions are posed throughout the book and the answers are not provided rather students are to visit the library or search online for the answers. “Further evidence” sections prompt readers to visit a website to gather additional information and in one case benefits and concerns of stem cell research and having students analyze their viewpoint. Each book has a spread regarding scientist in the related field, stop and think section, learn more section, glossary  and index.
Animal (590.1), Cells (571.6); Nonfiction, Science and Nature              Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Core Library: The Story of The United States (series). Minneapolis: ABDO, 2014. 48 p. $22.95 each. Gr. 3-6.
                Fromowitz, Lori. World War I and Modern America: 1800-1930. 978-1-62403-177-9
                Hamen, Susan. The Great Depression and WWII: 1929-1945. 978-1-62403-178-6
                Krieg, Katherine. The Postwar era: 1945-early 1970s. 978-1-62403-179-3
                —.The United States today: 1968-present. 978-1-62403-180-9
                McCarthy, Pat. Colonization and settlement in the new world: 1585-1763. 978-1-62403-172-4
                Sepahban, Lois. A nation is born: 1754-1820s. 978-1-62403-173-1
                Terp, Gail. Worlds collide in early America: beginnings through 1620.  978-1-62403-171-7
                Van Zee, Amy. Civil war and reconstruction: 1850-1877. 978-1-62403-175-5
                —.The Rise of Industry: 1870-1900. 978-1-62403-176-2
                Yasuda, Anita. Westward expansion of the United States: 1801-1861. 978-1-62403-174-8
Large segments of American history are divided into ten volumes in this set. Each book contains five chapters, a timeline, glossary and suggestions to learn more through books and websites. Images and maps are in full color. Captions under maps encourage higher level thinking skills such as looking at the good elements of the location of the Jamestown settlement and also the drawbacks. Books have sections that have readers compare and contrast content from the book to that of the content at the specific my core library website. Primary sources are included in the “straight from the source” section, such as one from a soldier from the US Army during the Trail of Tears and then encourages students to consider viewpoints from the Cherokee’s and compose a letter.
973.5 (Westward expansion)   973.2 (Colonization) Nonfiction             Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 Short tales. Chinese myths. (series) North Mankato: Magic Wagon, 2014. 32 p. $16.95 each. Gr. K-6.
Yasuda, Anita. The dragon, the phoenix, and the beautiful pearl: a Chinese dragon spirit myth.           978-1-62402-030-8.
—. The Jade Emperor: a Chinese zodiac myth.  978-1-62402-031-5
—. The Monkey King: a Chinese monkey spirit myth.  978-1-62402-032-2.
—. Nu Gua mends the sky: a Chinese flood myth.  978-1-62402-035-3
—. Pangu separates the sky from the earth: a Chinese creation myth. 978-1-62402-034-6
—. Yu the Great conquers the flood: a Chinese nature myth.  978-1-62402-035-3
Each myth book begins with a pictorial view cast of characters and an introduction of the characters and origins of the tale. Tales are told with full color illustrations accompanied with narrative in text boxes. The books are delightful while providing the perfect springboard to explore topics of friendship and qualities of a hero with students. The series provides additional perspective for continuing to offer a wide diversity of myths for students to read and view.
398.2; Legends, Myths, Fables       Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

March 2014 – The “better late than never” Caldecott award winner reviews, BOB

A 2014 Caldecott Honor Books


Becker, Aaron. Journey. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2013. 978-0763660536. 40p. $15.99. Pre-K – Gr. 3.
Even though this book would be traditionally thought of as an early childhood choice, the older kids all the way through 6th grade at my school LOVE this book. Becker tells the story through this wordless picture book of a girl who is lonely, as her family is too busy to play with her. She discovers a red crayon on her bedroom floor and her drab, monochromatic life opens up into a world where Japanese lanterns glow where they hang in a forest, she boats on an aqueduct around a spectacular castle, and frees a whimsical purple bird. The approach and story elements very much remind the reader of the classic and wonderful Harold and the Purple crayon, but with a more sophisticated, exotic, and fine-art sensibility. If I was on the Caldelcott committee I may have voted for this to be the gold rather than the silver winner!
Wordless Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

mr wuffles

Wiesner, David. Mr. Wuffles! New York: Clarion, 2013. 978-0618756612. 32p. $17.99. Pre-K – Gr. 3.
Wiesner brings us another whimsical, creative, and beautifully drawn wordless picture book that is full of imagination! Mr. Wuffles is a cat who is very fussy about his toys; his home is littered with his cast-aways, many still bearing the price tag. But suddenly the reader realizes that what looks to be a spaceship cat toy actually has small green alien beings inside. They’re gesturing: is it safe to venture out? What are those huge eyes staring in at us? Why are we being shook and tumbled upside down? When the aliens decide the large furry aggressor is asleep, and it’s safe to make a run for it, they scamper beneath the radiator and discover the hidden lair of the insects who have also been tortured by kitty, as evidenced by their “cave paintings.” The insects and aliens break bread, find a way to communicate, and team up to come up with a plan to get the aliens back on their ship and on the way home. Funny and mesmerizing, Wiesner employs a completely different illustration style than we are used to seeing; more cartoon-like but still beautiful. As with the other silver medalist, my older students LOVE this book! Highly recommended.
Wordless Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

2014 Caldecott  Medalist:


Floca, Brian. Locomotive. New York: Atheneum, 2013. 978-1416994152. 64p. $17.99. Pre-K – Gr. 5.
Floca details the importance of the railroad to the westward expansion of our country and the monumental impact on citizen’s everyday lives. The beautiful illustrations transport us to the 1850s and we can almost see the towering “iron horses” thundering through the unspoiled landscape and hear the ear-splitting train whistle and hiss of the steam engine. We get a glimpse inside and see the jobs needed to build the rails, and run the trains, and watch as towns spring up from station to station. While children as young as 4, especially our little train lovers, may enjoy the visuals, the amount of text suggests that this book would be more popular with early grade children. This book would make an ideal in-class or at-home read aloud for 2nd and 3rd graders.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School