MS Fiction – Same But Different; Save Me a Seat; Josh Baxter


Peete, Holly Robinson, Ryan Elizabeth Peete, and RJ Peete.  Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016. 978-0545-094689. $17.99. 183 pp. Gr. 5-12.

This insightful book presents the life of twin siblings, Charlie, who has autism, and Callie, who does not.  Through their separate voices, readers learn the difficulties of labels, of being the “special” one, of being the savior, of hating having “two moms.”  The love between Charlie and Callie is real, and they repeatedly voice their understanding of one another, despite not truly understanding everything the other experiences.  This is a work of fiction based upon the lives of brother and sister Ryan and RJ Peete; their mother provides the opening and closing letters.  The statistics she gives are sobering: one in sixty-eight children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and an estimated fifty thousand of those turn eighteen annually (no pagination).  We all know and some may teach, or live with, a person with autism.  This book gives any of us a chance for greater compassion and understanding and patience for all of those involved.  Extensive resources section.  THOUGHTS: This book or excerpts from it could be used in language arts for examples of multiple perspective novels and a springboard for writing from various perspectives.  It could be used in counseling, learning support, or social sciences classes to explore societal interaction and friendship.  It may perhaps be most helpful to the siblings of those with autism, due to the unique status that autism brings to them and their families.  Pair with The Reason I Jump (2015) for another insider’s look at autism.  

Realistic Fiction (Autism)         Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



Weeks, Sarah and Gita Varadarajan. Save Me A Seat. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-84660-8. 216 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-7.

Ravi and Joe are both kids in need of a friend; Ravi is a new student who just moved to New Jersey from India, and Joe is a quiet kid whose twin best friends moved away over the summer. It might seem like they would naturally gravitate towards each other, but Ravi was top dog at his school in India, and Joe is used to being the last one picked in gym class. He’s also used to bully Dillon Samreen and his sly brand of cruelty. Ravi thinks that Dillon will be his new best friend, but Joe quickly realizes that Ravi is just the next target for Dillon’s bullying. Both boys have a tough start to their fifth grade year for different reasons, but they come together for a common purpose and realize that they’re not so different after all. This is an excellent, quick read that alternates between Ravi and Joe’s perspectives and includes a glossary for each boy (especially helpful for Ravi, who uses a lot of Indian words in describing his food, home life, etc.). THOUGHTS: Another winner from Weeks and newcomer Varadarajan; Ravi and Joe are as real as fifth graders come and your students will find themselves in the midst of a very believable elementary school tale.

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools



Brown, Gavin. Josh Baxter Levels Up. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016. 978-0-545-77294-5. 172p. $12.99. Gr. 3-7.

For the third time in two years Josh is new at school. Understandably, Josh is tired of being the new kid and having to make new friends. His mother is working extra long hours since the loss for Josh’s father. At this point Josh would rather play his video games than meet people. Poor midterm grades lead his mother to lock away all of his video games and equipment. Maya becomes his writing tutor at school, and eventually he contemplates asking her to the school dance. Having a fight with the star football player, Mittens, causes Josh the most time in punishment but takes Mittens out of the big game. During difficult moments, Josh thinks how his favorite video game characters would react to the situation. Peter, the student who sticks up for Josh in his fight with Mittens, invites Josh to play Smash Bros. with him, Taniko, and Chen. Josh joins the video competition team and leads with the newly added sports games that he loved playing with his later father. Will they be able to defeat Mittens and his team? THOUGHTS: Tie into English with types of narrative and conflict. After each chapter there is a chart of Josh’s health, lives, and new skills unlocked. At different times in the novel readers can see the heart symbol to see the level of health for Josh.  The book has real heart as Josh struggles with the loss of his father and his belief that his seemingly perfect older sister did not struggle with the loss of their father. Ideal for all gamers, sport stars and everything in between type of readers.

Realistic Fiction    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

New for Elementary – When Spring Comes; Dino Friends; Miss Mary Reporting


Henkes, Kevin. When Spring Comes. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2016. 978-0-06233-139-7. 32p. $17.99. Gr K-2.

Through spare verse and vibrant illustrations, this book celebrates all the small changes that occur as winter melts into spring. Opening pages describe trees blossoming, eggs hatching, and gardens sprouting. Additional pages depict children blowing bubbles in grassy meadows, stomping through mud puddles, flying kites, and riding bikes. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice all the animals that emerge in spring: kittens, ladybugs, butterflies, worms, bees, and rabbits. THOUGHTS:  The large font size and full-bleed acrylic illustrations draw readers in, and literary devices such as repetition and alliteration add to the cheerful mood.

Picture Book   Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Southern York County

This book is perfect for discussing information about changing seasons with the youngest readers, and I plan to share it with my kindergarten teachers. It will be a great conversation starter as students listen to the story, view the illustrations, and share seasonal changes they’ve noticed as well. Kevin Henkes fans will not be disappointed.



Yolen, Jane. How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends? New York: The Blue Sky Press, 2016. 978-0-545-82934-2. 32pp. $16.99. Gr K-2.

The tenth title in Jane Yolen and Mark Teague’s How Do Dinosaurs… series explores what makes friendships strong. The rhyming text unfolds in a large, easy-to-read font, and young readers are asked whether behaviors such as destroying a friend’s toys, pushing each other, screaming, and tattling to teachers are acceptable. Then, healthy, friendly behaviors are modeled, such as writing apology notes, sharing toys, and taking turns when playing together. The message that even though friends may sometimes fight, there’s always a way to make things right shines through clearly. THOUGHTS:  Young readers will love watching their favorite prehistoric creatures in familiar scenarios, and this book will be useful as a conversation starter about how to make and keep friends. Thanks to their large trim size and vibrant illustrations, the other titles in this series are popular with my kindergarten students, and I anticipate this one being a winner as well.

Picture Book   Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County



Macy, Sue. Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-1-4814-0120-3. $17.99. Gr. 1-4.

Mary, a tomboy who loved all sports, was looked down on for playing tackle football with the boys and writing a sports newspaper for her grandparents rather than a nice letter. When she graduated from college, Mary wanted to write for the newspaper. The only job a female reporter could get was writing about social events and fashionable parties. Mary persevered and World War II afforded her the opportunity to fill in as a sports writer. Still, though, she faced many barriers and prejudices; at some games she wasn’t allowed to sit in the Press Box. Citing Jackie Robinson as a role model, Mary didn’t let the fact that she wasn’t allowed in the locker rooms deter her. She became known for the quality and positivity of her writing. Readers, coaches and athletes came to know and respect her. For over fifty years Mary Gaber reported on sports, and made history doing it. THOUGHTS: I loved this book. Its powerful story of a pioneering woman breaking into a male-dominated field is complemented by surprisingly striking illustrations.

Biography Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Homegoing – Adult Crossover


Gyasi, Yaa. Homegoing. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 978-1-101-94713-5. 305 p. $26.95. Gr. 10 and up.

Homegoing is Yaa Gyasi’s exceptionally accomplished debut novel, published for adults but a perfect crossover choice. It follows the parallel storylines of Effia and Esi, two half-sisters in 1700s Gold Coast, Africa (now Ghana), and their descendants. Effia, the beauty, marries James Collins, the British governor of the Cape Coast Castle, a union that strengthens her Fante nation’s partnership with the British slavers. Esi, born to the same mother as Effia but into the Asante nation, is captured from her village and sold into slavery in America. Each chapter picks up a generation later, alternating between the two family lines: Effia’s in Africa, and Esi’s in America. The blunt cruelty of the slave trade, the violence of the slave experience, the uneasy existence of freed and escaped slaves, and the rippling consequences for African collaborators are all braided into this remarkable story. THOUGHTS: Gyasi has crafted a narrative that’s both intimate and sprawling, set against a backdrop of two continents, three centuries, and many generations. It’s a real literary gem and an absolute wonder to read.

Historical Fiction   Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

The very real Cape Coast Castle is at the heart of Homegoing. It may be helpful to share pictures of the building and a map of Ghana during booktalks to orient the novel’s potential readers. A recent Daily Show interview with Yaa Gyasi may also spark their interest. Finally, this novel would be a perfect companion read to two recent books: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.

New YA Fiction (Gr. 9+) – Shallow Graves; Unexpected Everything; It’s All Your Fault


Wallace, Kali. Shallow Graves. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2016. 978-0-06236-0620-7. $17.99. 360pp. Gr. 9-12.

Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave, clinging to a man who was unburying her and killing him in the process. She doesn’t remember who killed her or how she died, but she knows the man who woke her was a murderer. Now Breezy is wandering, not dead but not alive, trying to discover all she can about the year that’s passed since her unsolved murder. One thing’s for sure, Breezy can sense when someone has murdered, and she can kill them with a touch of her hand. Her mysterious peculiarity leads her to a youth ministry, where she hopes to find friends but finds only demon hunters instead. On the run, Breezy teams up with some interesting, paranormal creatures to escape the hunters. While Breezy’s murder storyline is engaging and there’s an interesting mix of paranormal with reality, Wallace doesn’t commit to any particular plot line. Readers are often confused about what’s going on and why they should care. THOUGHTS: There’s potential here for a good mystery, but the story and characters end up flat.

Paranormal Mystery; Horror      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School



Matson, Morgan. The Unexpected Everything. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016. 978-1481404549. 528 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Andi has lived her life in the public eye, always worrying about how her appearance, actions, and reactions will affect the political life of her Congressman father. She has a longtime set of friends that act more like her family, since her mother died a few years ago and Andi’s father focused even more attention on his political agenda. Now, the summer before her senior year, Andi is prepared to leave home and attend a Young Scholars Program at John Hopkins University, and she can’t get out quick enough. Suddenly, a scandal rocks her father’s world, and all of Andi’s summer plans are null and void. Desperate for a job, she interviews for a dog-walking position and soon finds herself juggling 3-4 active canines multiple times a day. She takes an interest in one young man and his dog, and a beautiful summer romance begins, but could she find something more with the shy, sweet young writer, who, of course, is dealing with his own demons? The characters are well-drawn and likeable, especially Andi’s group of fun and feisty friends. The romances can seem a bit cliche at times, but what high school romance is not fraught with angst and sighs of longing, with parties on the beach and chiseled bodies? Yet, Matson gives depth and space to Andi’s father throughout the story, and his development seems to mirror that of his daughter’s and separates this novel from the normal teen romance. THOUGHTS: This is an excellent summer romance book and would be perfect for teens who think they know what they want, but are wondering if something can be found on a distant and uncharted horizon.

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

This was a sweet yet slightly imperfect read for a summer break. The characters were fun, but the story was drawn out a bit too much at times, and might lose the attention of a more reluctant reader unable to make it through the 500+ pages. Parts do include text message exchanges between the friends, and these are hilarious and fast-paced, giving the reader a break from the heavy inner monologue going on at times. I will probably be recommending this to mostly freshman, sophomores and juniors, as it is a bit young for seniors.



Rudnick, Paul. It’s All Your Fault. New York, Scholastic Press, 2016. 978-0545464284. 304p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Rudnick’s novel reads a bit like a Disney Channel movie, with a dash of PG-13 action mixed in, which makes for a fun and easy read. Caitlin Singleberry is one of 9 siblings and has been homeschooled her whole life. She loves her knee socks and singing in her family’s group, the Singing Singleberries. She does, however, have a movie-star cousin/former best friend who their mothers decide is in need of Caitlin’s help. The aptly-named Heller is the star of a new movie based on a popular book series (think Hunger Games meets Harry Potter), and must participate in numerous public events. Due to past indiscretions, her production team and mother need someone to watch over her and keep her on the straight and narrow. Who better to do this than Caitlin, who sees herself as a good, Christian, law-abiding girl? What ensues is a fast-paced romp that might help Caitlin realize what she needed in life all along. Rudnick slowly reveals what happened between Heller and Caitlin to end their friendship, though this technique does seem a bit contrived at times. Yet, Caitlin and Heller both face inner demons, and young adults will appreciate the authentic portrayal of teen issues, even if the experiences the girls go through might not be relatable.  THOUGHTS: The plot does move fast and the writing is fresh and fun, so reluctant readers will eat this up.

Realistic Fiction   Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

Against my better judgement, I did find myself enjoying this novel. I did love Disney Channel movies as a child (and I sometimes feel nostalgic for them as an adult!), so this novel was a simple and fun read after a summer heavy with non-fiction. I found myself laughing out loud at times, and thoroughly engrossed in the antics of the two young protagonists. There is some alcohol use involved, which raises it above the level of the Disney movie, where characters sometimes never even kiss. I can see younger students enjoying this, and will probably be recommending it to my freshmen this fall.

New YA Fiction (Gr. 7-12) – Stars Above; Cure for the Common Universe; The Lie Tree; 12 Days of Dash and Lily


Meyer, Marissa. Stars Above. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2016. 978-1-25009-184-0. $17.99. 400pp. Gr. 6-12.

Just when you thought The Lunar Chronicles had come to an end, Meyer publishes this fantastic collection of short stories! A compilation of previously published and never before published stories, Stars Above brings together favorite characters from the entire Lunar Chronicles series.  Stories take place before, during, and after the series and answer questions such as: How did Cinder arrive in New Beijing? What was Wolf’s childhood like? And what happens to Wolf and Scarlet? Cress and Thorne? Cinder and Kai? The real gem of the collection is Meyer’s new story, Something Old, Something New, which will have many fans swooning. THOUGHTS: A great addition to any library where the Lunar Chronicles reigns, plus a wonderful bonus collection for fans of the series.

Fantasy; Story Collection     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School



Heidicker, Christian McKay. Cure for the Common Universe. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-1-48145-027-0. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Sixteen year old Jaxon spends a lot of time inside playing video games. So much time that he often fights about it with his dad and stepmom, who think he’s too antisocial and reclusive. One such fight has Jaxon storming off to the carwash, and while there, he meets the most amazing, incredible girl, Selena, and scores a date with her at the end of the week. But, when Jaxon gets home, he finds out his parents are sending him away to video game rehab. Determined to get out in time for his date, Jaxon is willing to lie and cheat his way out, even if it means hurting his fellow rehabbers in the process. A slew of video game references, ranging from uncommon to super popular, will appeal to readers of all ages. Jaxon and the other teens he’s in rehab with aren’t just struggling with video game addiction, but other common issues teens face on a day to day basis. THOUGHTS: A fun, refreshing read that will fit in nicely next to anything by Ernest Cline or Cory Doctorow.

Realistic Fiction     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School



Hardinge, Frances. The Lie Tree. New York: Amulet, 2016.  978-1-4197-1895-3. 377 p.  $17.95.  Gr. 7 and up.

When Faith Sunderly’s father, a renowned naturalist, is accused of faking his most famous discovery, the family flees to the fictional island of Vane to escape the rumors.  Shortly thereafter, Faith’s father is found dead, a suspected suicide, and Faith is determined to prove that he was murdered.  Her investigation leads her to her father’s most prized specimen, a mysterious tree that only bears fruit when lies are spread.  After spreading a lie of her own, Faith eats the fruit and begins hallucinating and having visions of secret truths.  Convinced that she can use the tree to discover the truth about her father, she continues spreading lies and eating the fruit.  What she doesn’t anticipate is that her quest to solve her father’s murder may put her directly on the murderer’s radar.  THOUGHTS: I had a hard time classifying this book, as it has elements of fantasy, history, science, and mystery and would therefore resonate with a variety of readers.  The book would serve as a great discussion starter on creationism vs. evolution or on customs and rituals of the late nineteenth century (the era during which the book is set).  It is also a clear portrait of the extreme sexism that prevailed during this time, for Faith is incredibly intelligent and yet society restricts her from doing much of what she desires to do.  Because the book includes philosophical themes (for instance, the way rumors can spread like wildfire and cause major repercussions), it may be better suited to stronger readers.  However, fans of historical fiction, fantasy fiction, and books with strong female characters will thoroughly enjoy this title.

Historical Fantasy          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School​



Cohn, Rachel and David Levithan. The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0-399-55380-6. $12.97. 224p. Gr. 6 and up.

The follow-up to Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is not one to miss. Life has been complicated for the teenage couple, starting with a beloved grandfather falling ill. Now, busy schedules and difficulties communicating threaten to push Dash and Lily apart. The Christmas-loving Lily isn’t even remotely in the holiday mood. Can her brother (who, adding to the chaos, is moving out to live with his boyfriend) and Dash restore Lily’s holiday cheer? Or is it gone forever? THOUGHTS: It was painful to see one of my favorite couples in trouble! If you haven’t read the first novel, this new one will still be fun to read, although you likely won’t be as invested in the outcome. This book got me laughing with Christmas puns (a pair in a partridge tree), a friendly attack dog, and glitter that seriously maims a bunch of ice skating librarians.

Realistic Fiction  Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Elementary/MS Action/Adventure – Masterminds; Mutt’s Promise


Korman, Gordon. Masterminds: Criminal Destiny. New York: Balzer & Bray, 2016. 978-0-06-230002-7. 311 p. $16.99. Gr. 4-8.

The kids of Serenity, New Mexico, are back and determined to find out the truth out the experiment that gave them life. Their “parents”—really scientists who cloned several children from criminal masterminds and then raised them in an idyllic community to settle the nature vs. nurture debate once and for all—have been lying to them their whole lives, and now they want answers. They set off on a cross-country adventure that finds them stealing vans, breaking into homes, and doing whatever they need to do to survive and stay off the grid. Eventually, they end up back in Serenity which is oddly abandoned…and a few familiar faces give them the biggest surprise yet. This is the second book of at least three (Korman tweeted that book 3 will be out in spring 2017). The first book was a bit better, but the second book keeps readers guessing and anticipating the next step in the adventure. THOUGHTS: Fans of Korman’s other adventure sets (the Titanic trilogy, the Everest triology) will enjoy this new offering.

Action/Adventure           Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools



Salamon, Julie. Mutt’s Promise. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0-525-42778-0. 231 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.

Mutt thinks that she’s found a safe home for her and her puppies. Mr. Thomas, the farmer, is nice enough and his foreman’s son, Gilbert, is a loving, wonderful friend. Life is great until the weather turns cold in Pennsylvania and Gilbert’s family must follow the farm work and move to Florida. Mr. Thomas decides he can’t take care of a whole dog family and finds homes for Mutt’s puppies. Happy and Alegre go to live with a little girl and her family, and Luna and Chief are taken by Raymond, a mean man who runs a puppy mill. There, Luna and Chief meet a whole group of new dogs who are dirty, hungry, and depressed, except for new pal Charlie who still has some of his old spunk left in him. The three of them hatch a plan to escape and bravely run away one day. Eventually, weeks later, they are rescued by a local animal society and adopted by Marty “the magician” who gives them a warm bed, lots of food, training, and most of all…hope and love. Gilbert’s family reappears in the end and everyone has a happy ending, although Salamon is clear to include information in an author’s note that not all puppy mill dogs have happy endings and that dogs are best served when we “adopt, not shop.” Living in PA, most of us are likely familiar with puppy mills and this would be a great book to open discussions with children about adopting animals. THOUGHTS: Give this heart-warming book to dog lovers or teachers who are looking for a new read-aloud.

Action/Adventure          Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

Elementary Series NF – New from ABDO


Latchana, Karen Kenney. Science in Action.  Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 32pp. $18.95.  Gr. 2-4.

The Science of Music: Discovering Sound. 978-1-62403-962-1.

The Science of Glaciers: How Temperature Works. 978-1-62403-961-4.

Music is a language that speaks across all boundaries.  There is a type of music for everyone.  So using the topic of music to introduce the often complicated science of sound is a great way to get students interested in the subject.  This series, entitled Science in Action, takes every day topics and uses them to connect to the scientific principles that make them possible.  Insets with famous scientists, graphs and charts about various statistics, bright and colorful graphics all combine to make the topic come alive for students.  The text also includes bold faced vocabulary words that are then explained in a glossary, as well as interesting connections to historical figures and even to the animal world which give depth to the topics covered. Included in the back of the book is an idea for an extension experiment as well as a link to a website that is monitored and updated by the publisher about the topics presented in the series.  THOUGHTS:  This series is a solid addition to any nonfiction collection.  The use of topics such as music, race cars, roller coasters and others catch the attention of students and make real world connections to the complex world of science.  Portions of these books could be great as a supplement or a read-aloud for a science unit.

Science    Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy



Sports Trivia. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 48 p. $22.95. Gr. 2-4.

Ervin, Phil. Basketball Trivia.  978-1-68078-0024.

Howell, Brian.  Baseball Trivia. 978-1-68078-001-7.

This series of books  written in a “Question/Answer” style will appeal to sports fans.  It uses simple text but contains lots of history, stats and action that sports fans are always looking for.  Providing a nonfiction sports book helps even some reluctant readers to master text features while engaging in a subject they love.  Each book is divided into four sections based on the level of sports knowledge; Rookie, Veteran, Champion, and Hall of Famer.  They provide both black and white and color illustrations of famous athletes, a glossary of sports terms, and even a trivia quiz that readers can use to test their new knowledge after reading! The publisher also provides a website with extension activities and more information that is updated and kept current. Sports in the series include basketball, baseball, football, hockey, soccer and an Olympic edition.  Thoughts:  This series will be popular with the sports crowd!  Providing simpler text for the early reader will help to encourage fluency while using a topic that will hold their interest. Oh, and putting Steph Curry on the cover of the basketball edition will definitely draw attention to this fun set!

Sports                 Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy



Mysteries of History. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 48 p. $22.95. Gr. 3-6.

Krasner, Barbara.  The Mystery of the Mary Celeste. 978-1-68078-024-6.

Rea, Amy C.  The Mystery of Atlantis. 978-1-68078-023-9.                            

This series is a riveting look at some of the most famous mysteries in history.  The text is simple but provides many opportunities to stop and think about the evidence presented in the story.  Students are presented with quotes from primary sources and asked to respond by showing how the details in the story or quote support the main idea.  Readers are also given clues and asked to choose which theory they feel is the answer to this mystery based on the evidence provided in the text.  Along with rich text, charts, graphs, diagrams and maps, students and teachers are given links to videos and extension materials  through a site,  The author provides multiple opportunities for students to engage and interact with the topic including writing from the perspective of someone there, researching the topic further and writing about their findings, and using the evidence to choose a theory and support it with details. Titles in this series include:  The Mystery of the Mary Celeste; The Mystery of Atlantis; The Mystery of Area 51; The Mystery of the Roanoke Colonists; The Mystery of the Sphinx; The Mystery of the Nazca Lines.  Thoughts:  The high-interest topics of these books will make them popular in any library.  The extra activities and support for Common Core Standards and critical thinking make them a valuable asset for teachers to use as a stand alone or in conjunction with a history unit.

History          Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy



Bioindicator Species. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016.  48pp. $22.95. Gr. 3-6.

Gagne, Tammy. Dragonflies Matter. 978-1-68078-010-9.

Murphy, Julie.  Coral Reefs Matter.  978-1-68078-009-3.     

This series focuses on the interrelationships of organisms in our environment and discusses threats to the ecosystems around the world.  Each book describes the organism, its purpose in the ecosystem, and the indications that they are giving to show that the ecosystem is in danger.  Full color illustrations provide a window into the world of nature being described, while graphs, charts and maps provide readers with statistics needed to synthesize the data. Throughout the text there are quotes from magazines and experts that readers can analyze and respond to.  At the conclusion of the books, there are several suggested projects and writing activities to challenge readers to think critically about the subject.  The publisher also provides extension activities and supplements for teachers through the website,, that is updated to provide current information.  Titles in this set include:  Dragonflies Matter;  Coral Reefs Matter;  Bees Matter;  Frogs Matter;  Monarch Butterflies Matter;  Polar Bears Matter.  Thoughts:  This set of books challenges readers to examine the ecosystem and the impact that we as humans are making to our environment.  Along with critical thinking skills, these books encourage students to use multiple sources to collect data and information and fully support common core standards.  These topics could be used as a stand- alone unit, or in conjunction with a unit on climate change or biomes.   An excellent resource for both students and teachers.

Science; Ecosystems        Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy



Hansen, Grace.  Sharks. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 24pp. $19.95. Gr. K-2.  

Blue Sharks. 978-1-68080151-4.

Bull Sharks.  978-1-68080152-1.

Sharks have a fascination all their own.   These beautiful photographs of sharks in their ocean habitats will pull readers in.  The simple text and large font will keep beginning reader’s attention and provide support for fluency success.  The text features including a glossary, boldfaced words and a Table of Contents thatl reinforce how to find information in a nonfiction text  .   These simple, yet attractive books are a great introduction to the world of nonfiction for the new reader.  THOUGHTS:  A nonfiction collection today must include examples like these that are simple enough for even the earliest reader to manage with success.  The cool pictures and spooky sharks will keep them coming back for more!

Sharks      Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy



Great Realistic Fiction for Upper Elementary – Strudel’s Forever Home; Summerlost


Freeman, Martha. Strudel’s Forever Home. New York: Holiday House, 2016. 978-0-8234-3534-0. 184 pages. $16.95. Gr 3-6.

It’s a big world of adventure for a little dachshund, especially while adapting to his new adopted family in Martha Freeman’s latest chapter book for upper elementary readers. Strudel needs to learn how to handle his pack, including a loving boy who has some bully struggles. A gang of cats also torments Strudel, until the brave dog with the heart of a hero forms a plan. Can the family get around the trials and tribulations to keep Strudel in his forever home? Freeman has a hit for dog-lovers and anyone looking for lessons on bravery and loyalty.  THOUGHTS: Writing from the point of view of the dog creates an entertaining perspective in this book. The reader gets to hear a voice that tells a different kind of story and think how things would look through canine eyes. The bully plot points also open the door to useful classroom/family discussions.

Realistic Fiction     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District



Condie, Ally. Summerlost. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2016. 978-0-399-18719-3. 249 pp. $17.99. Gr 4-6.

Dealing with loss and change are rarely easy, and a sense of melancholy or rebellion are both common responses. When Cedar’s brother, Ben, and her father are killed in a drunk driving accident, she and her mom and brother Miles try to pass the summer by moving back to her mother’s hometown. Cedar is lonely, until she follows an unusual neighbor boy into the world of Summerlost, a Shakespearian theater festival. This new community provides her with work, friendship, and a mystery revolving around the town’s most famous actress who died 20 years ago and may still be haunting the area. Still, Cedar has ghosts of her own to face at home. This engaging, empathetic novel will provide a meaningful outlet to the summer doldrums.  THOUGHTS: The content may feel more middle school than elementary, but there is nothing objectionable for upper elementary readers. Summerlost is especially relevant for social outcasts,  theater lovers, those with big dreams, or grieving families. There are also honest discussions about perceptions of race, relationships, and emotions in this heartfelt novel.

Realistic Fiction    Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District