YA Fiction – Beast; All We Have Left

Spangler, Brie. Beast. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 978-1-10193-716-7. $17.99.  330 p. Gr. 10 -12.

A loose retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story with an LGBT twist.  The Beast in this tale is Dylan, a 15-year-old freak of nature who stands at 6’6”, with pure muscle and an overabundance of hair. Looking as he does, he has a hard time fitting in and zero luck so far with girls his age. Fortunately he is able to have some degree of social acceptance because of his friendship with one of the most popular kids in school J.P., a wealthy, manipulative golden boy who keeps Dylan close to be an enforcer for his loansharking business at school.  After a particularly bad day at school, Dylan steps out on the roof of his house and falls which lands him in a cast and in therapy for self-harming teens.  There he meets the artistic and beautiful Jamie, and they immediately click. Jamie seems to accept him just as he is. Their relationship starts off so sweetly, but before long we discover a crucial piece of information that Dylan missed when he zoned out during his therapy session; Jamie is transgendered. Though the news comes as a shock, Dylan and Jamie have a real connection, and Dylan tries to make sense of his strong feelings for her and reconcile that with the reality of her gender.  A straight forward romantic tale with the characters struggling with self-acceptance and the value of true connection. Both main characters are captivating. Dylan is smart, observant, thoughtful, funny and a bit crude at times. Jamie is strong, original, perceptive and wise. The bond between Dylan and his mother is genuine, caring, and close. THOUGHTS:  A good choice for libraries to add a title with a positive and multi-faceted trans character.  Recommended for older readers because of language a sexual themes.

Realistic Fiction            Nancy Summers, Abington Senior High School



Mills, Wendy. All We Have Left. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.  978-1-61963-343-8. 362 pp.  $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Two stories of two teenage girls whose lives are changed by the tragic events of 9/11 are presented in this alternating narrative.  Alia is a Muslim American teenager attending a creative arts high school in New York City in 2001.  When she gets in trouble at school, her parents refuse to sign her permission slip for a selective summer program for aspiring artists at NYU.  In a last-minute, desperate attempt at convincing them to let her attend the program, Alia skips school to go talk to her father at his workplace in the World Trade Center.  Fast forward 15 years. Jesse is a white American teenager whose brother, Travis, was killed in in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  After getting involved with the wrong crowd at school, she gets caught vandalizing and is ordered to complete community service hours at the Islam Peace Center, where she gains a new understanding and appreciation for the Islamic religion and Muslim culture. Convinced that she can put her life back together and bring healing to her family if she finds some answers, she begins searching for the truth about her dead brother.  Why was he at the World Trade Center on that fateful day in 2001, and what was he doing during his final moments?  Her quest for answers leads her to Alia, and she discovers that there is much more to the story than she could have imagined.  An uplifting story of healing, courage, compassion, and forgiveness, this outstanding title deserves a place in every young adult collection if only to combat the forces of hatred and fear in today’s world.  THOUGHTS: An enlightening and heartfelt read, this novel has many applications to our world today and could easily be incorporated into any social studies curriculum.  The lessons about tolerance and acceptance that run throughout the book would spark excellent discussions in classes studying various world cultures.  Information presented in the book about the Islamic religion and Muslim culture could also be useful as an introduction to the Muslim way of life.  It would be interesting to have students compare common misconceptions of Muslim culture and Islamic religion with their realities.  In addition, references to ISIS, the building of the World Trade Center, 9/11 itself, and changes in the U.S. since 9/11 are relevant to any U.S. or contemporary history course. To really make history come alive, pair this title with Jim Dwyer’s 102 Minutes, or hand it to students prior to a field trip to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  A must-have for high school libraries!

Historical/Realistic Fiction                  Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

MS Series Nonfiction – Uncovering the Past; Collective Biographies

Hyde, Natalie. Uncovering the Past Analyzing Primary Sources. New York: Crabtree Publishing Co., 2017.  $31.32 ea. 48 pp. Gr. 5-8.

Internment Camps. 978-0-7787-28603.

Black Tuesday and the Great Depression.  978-077871721.                                                               

Civil Rights.  978-0778717225.                                                                                                        

The Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  978-0778725725.                                                                                                                                                                   

The Displacement of Native Peoples.  978-0778725718.                                                                      

The Holocaust.  978-0778715481.                                                                                

Immigration. 978-0778715542.                                                                                                     

The Underground Railroad.  978-0778715511.                                                                             

Women’s Suffrage. 978-0778715535.                                                                                       

Workers’ Rights.  978-0778728634.

This series of short but information packed titles covers significant events in United States history. The focus of these titles is on examining and analyzing the evidence of primary and secondary source material to interpret and understand historic events. Internment Camps tells the story of the internment of Japanese Americans as enemy aliens during World War II and features photos, excerpts of news articles, political cartoons, government documents and more as evidence.   Each section has information about the types of sources featured, the context of the source material and the possible biases presented.  Text boxes and sidebars feature questions to inspire students to think critically about the reasons for and the effects of the U.S. policies towards Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Includes a bibliography of print and internet sources, glossary and index.   THOUGHTS: This series would be an excellent source for teachers and librarians to use in class to incorporate information literacy skills with social studies.

U.S. History       Nancy Summers, Abington Senior HS


Blohm, Craig E. Sci-Fi Directors. Collective Biographies. (series) San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2017. 978-1-68282-030-8. $29.95. 80 pp. Gr. 5-8.

A reference series from Reference Point Press, Collective Biographies offers short concise overviews of the careers of popular culture figures in a range of fields. Sci-Fi Directors features six well known directors in the Science Fiction genre: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, and J.J. Abrams, The chapters highlight the filmmakers’ personal lives, career achievements and struggles in snappy, vivid prose. The titles feature photos of the directors and scenes from their films and include side bars and text boxes with quotes and supplemental information that break up the text and provide visual interest.  With source notes, bibliography, and index. THOUGHTS: High interest independent reading selection for those who prefer non-fiction, this is a great titles for a starting point for career exploration.  Other titles include: Brand Empire Celebrities; Electronic Dance Music DJs; Great Cartoonists; Great Magicians and Illusionists; Internet Entrepreneurs; Women Scientists and Inventors; Women World Leaders; Young Adult Authors.

920 Biographies      Nancy Summers, Abington Senior HS

MS Fiction – As Brave As You; The Best Man

Reynolds, Jason. As Brave As You. New York, NY: Atheneum Books, 2016. 978-1-48141-590-3. 410 pages. $19.99. Gr. 4-8.

What does courage and bravery look like? How do families deal with hidden secrets? Questions flow out of Genie, the younger brother who is full of worries and wonder, as he and Ernie are sent to their grandparents house in rural Virginia for the summer. While their parents deal with issues in Brooklyn and go on a last ditch vacation to save their marriage, the two boys deal with new chores, no technology, and intergenerational struggles. The pull between Genie and his grandfather holds the tension in this story, but the other characters all hold a part in the relationships, secrets, and bravery that make this story remarkable.  THOUGHTS: There is plenty to unpack for the readers of Reynolds’ work, and the concept of recording a questions journal may be the perfect device to release their thoughts. The setting and dialogue are genuine and easy to picture for readers who may have never experienced this life style.

Realistic Fiction      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District



Peck, Richard. Best Man. New York: Penguin Young Readers Group, 2016. 978-0803738393. $16 .99.  240 p. Grades 5-8.

Sweet, funny, heartwarming story of family, friendship and love.  The novel starts and ends with the two weddings young Archer McGill has been in in his 11 years. The first is a remote cousin in which he meets his best friend, newcomer to town Lynette Stanley, and the last is the wedding of his beloved uncle to his fifth grade student teacher.  Over the course of his fifth grade year, Archer learns and grows, surrounded by loving family and friends including his wise and dignified grandfather, his eccentric and caring father, his stylish and proud Uncle Paul and Lynette, the smartest girl in the class with a large vocabulary and big heart. All of these people help Archer as he navigates his way into adolescence and discovers what it is to be a man in this world.  THOUGHTS: A great story that presents old-fashioned values with decidedly modern twists, proving that love is for everyone, no matter who you love.  Richard Peck still writes some of the best fiction out there for middle grades.

Realistic Fiction            Nancy Summers Abington Senior High School

Picture Books – Old Dog Baby; Little Elliot Big Fun; King Baby

Fogliano, Julie. Old Dog Baby Baby. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-59643-853-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-K.

This sweet story, told entirely in rhyming verse, portrays the relationship between an infant and the old family dog.  As the story opens, the dog is lounging lazily on the kitchen floor while an older sibling looks through family photographs.  Soon, the baby comes crawling in and begins playing with the dog.  The dog displays love and patience, and before long, the two curl up together for a nap. Beautifully simple illustrations by two-time Caldecott medalist Chris Raschka add to the story, revealing other family members besides the dog and the baby.  A delightful and relatable read for any child who has been lucky enough to experience the love and playfulness of a family dog.  THOUGHTS: Unlike some of Fogliano’s other titles which deal with the changing seasons (And Then It’s Spring (2012), When Green Becomes Tomatoes (2016)) this title is lacking obvious Common Core connections.  It is, however, charming and very relatable for young children; therefore, it should not be overlooked when making purchasing decisions.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Curato, Mike. Little Elliot Big Fun. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-0-8050-9827-3. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

In this story of friendship, fun, and overcoming one’s fears, Elliot the elephant and his friend, Mouse, head to an amusement park on Coney Island.  Once there, Elliot is too scared to go on any of the rides until Mouse convinces him to try out the Ferris wheel.  Elliot is thrilled by the view from the top, which readers experience through a four-page foldout.  After that, Elliot’s fears subside, and the pair continue to enjoy rides and games the rest of the day.  The gorgeous illustrations are indicative of an earlier time period, most likely the 1930s, and tell a story themselves.  For instance, Elliot’s imagined fears about some of the rides are pictured in black and white opposite the colorful illustrations of the actual attractions.  There is also one page made up entirely of pictures that shows how Elliot’s ice cream was snatched by a seagull and how Elliot was then frightened by a clown.  Altogether, the story and pictures give an excellent portrayal of old-time Coney Island and an even more touching portrait of the strength we gain through friendship.  THOUGHTS: This book could easily be tied into an elementary curriculum in various ways.  For instance, it could be used to introduce a unit on the history of Coney Island or a unit on 1930s fashion.  It could also be used to spark a discussion about summer vacations or about overcoming fears.  All in all, I think this book is very relatable to any child who has ever felt fear or doubt about a new experience.  It would be a great addition to any collection.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Beaton, Kate. King Baby. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016. 978-0-545-63754-1. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 1.

In this comical story, King Baby brings many blessings to his subjects (smiles, kisses,
and coos, for instance), but also has many demands for them (“FEED ME!”, “BURP ME!”).  When his faithful subjects fail to understand all of his demands, he must take matters into his own hands and learn to do some things for himself.  As he grows from a baby into a big boy, he begins to wonder who will lead his subjects now that King Baby is no longer.  That is, until he learns of the imminent arrival of his sister, Queen Baby.  The drawings of the sweet, yet devilish, baby add to the silliness of the book.  This hilarious, light-hearted read is perfect for tired new parents and for older siblings-to-be.  THOUGHTS: Perhaps best known for her Hark! A Vagrant comics, Beaton has won many awards for her humor.  As expected, this amusing title will have young children laughing at King Baby’s antics.  Beaton has also set the stage for a possible sequel, as readers can only imagine how ridiculous Queen Baby’s behavior may be.  Perhaps elementary teachers could use this title as a read-aloud and then have students write their own stories about Queen Baby.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

YA Historical Fiction – Blood Red Snow White; The Passion of Dolssa

Sedgwick, Marcus. Blood Red, Snow White . New York: Roaring Book Press, 2016. 978-1626725478. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Historical fiction novel about the experiences of author Arthur Ransome during his years in Russia at the time of the Revolution. Ransome gained fame early in life with Old Peter’s Russian Tales, his classic collection of children’s stories. Blood Red, Snow White explores Ransome’s life after he leaves his wife and child in Britain and relocates to Russia to work as a journalist as the Russian Empire under tsarist rule is about to collapse. Interwoven with elements found in his fairy tales, the story follows Ransome who finds himself as a player in the drawn out history of the rise and decline of the idealistic but fatally flawed revolutionaries. While in St. Petersburg, he meets Evgenia, Trotsky’s secretary and begins the romance of his life.  As the revolution turns darker and loyalties are questions and tested, Ransome hopes to leave his beloved adopted country with Evgenia and find their way to safety. The story starts strong with the magical quality of the fairy tale which gives way as the book continues to more harsh realities on the war and revolution. This imaginative, beautifully written and well researched tale brings life to an interesting time period in history. THOUGHTS: Not for every teen reader, but the more thoughtful fans of historical fiction and literary YA may be the best audience for this title. Adult readers with an interest in historical fiction would also enjoy it. This would make an excellent choice for supplemental reading as a literature connection to European History.

Historical Fiction                  Nancy Summers, Abington Senior High School



Berry, Julie. The Passion of Dolssa. New York: Viking, 2016. 978-0-451-46992-2. 478 p.  $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.
In 13th century France, Botille and her sisters live and work in the seaside town of Bajas; Botille as a matchmaker; Sazia as a fortune teller, and Plazensa as a tavern keeper.  In nearby Tolosa, a young girl named Dolssa is an accused heretic who is sentenced to be burned at the stake, but miraculously escapes.  When Botille and Dolssa’s paths collide, the two form an unlikely friendship, and Botille shelters Dolssa despite the dangers of becoming involved with a heretic during the Inquisition.  Throughout the novel, which is told in alternating perspectives, Friar Lucien de Saint-Honore continues to hunt Dolssa down, adding an element of suspense to the story.  Fans of historical fiction will thoroughly enjoy this title, as Berry has done an excellent job of painting a picture of day-to-day life in medieval France.  The bond between Botille and Dolssa, as well as their courageous spirits, will also inspire readers. This is a worthwhile addition to any high school collection.  THOUGHTS: Outstanding historical fiction set during the Inquisition is lacking, and this title serves to fill that gap. The extensive back matter, which includes a glossary, author’s historical note, additional readings, and bibliography, is an added bonus.  Despite its length, the short chapters, alternating perspectives, and fast-moving plot make this a relatively quick read.  This would be a wonderful supplement to any course that covers medieval Europe during the Inquisition.

Historical Fiction          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

MS – Chloe by Design; Buzzworthy 2017; Billy Wong

Gurevich, Margaret.  Chloe by Design. North Mankato: Stone Arch, 2016. $18.49ea. $73.96 set of 4. 96p. Gr. 5-8.
Back to Basics. 978-1-49653261-9.

Made to Measure. 978-1-4965-3262-6.

All or Nothing. 978-1-4965-3263-3.

The Final Cut. 978-1-4965-3264-0.

Margaret Gurevich expands her Chloe by Design series featuring aspiring teen designer Chloe Montgomery with these four volumes (vols. 9-12 in the series). Chloe has returned home to California following a successful summer internship with a New York designer. As she starts her senior year of high school, she finds it’s more stressful than she ever imagined. Her best friend gained a boyfriend and new friends while Chloe was away over the summer, and Chloe must find where she fits in within this new dynamic. In addition, college application season is quickly approaching and she must arrange visits and begin designing portfolios for the fashion schools on each coast where she plans to apply. Chloe also finds herself working with Nina, her former fashion design rival, designing dresses for their school’s upcoming Winter Formal. Will Chloe be able to successfully balance all these obligations and relationships? THOUGHTS: A perfect choice for middle school fashionistas, this series is an engaging, quick read. The plot not only features fashion-related storylines, but also storylines involving evolving friendships, as well as the complexities of applying to and choosing a college. The series is greatly enhanced by the presence of color illustrations throughout the text meant to depict Chloe’s sketches and designs.

Realistic Fiction      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


O’Brien, Cynthia, Michael Bright & Donald Summerville. Best and Buzzworthy 2017: World Records, Trending Topics, and Viral Moments. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-1-338-03912-2. $12.99. 319 p. Gr. 3-8.

The Scholastic Book of World Records has been redesigned and rebranded as Best and Buzzworthy. However, the basic concept of the series remains the same: to share high-interest trivia tidbits and world records facts/lists with readers. With facts on topics such as music, technology, animals, sports, and other pop culture topics, this title is designed to appeal to a broad range of readers. The text is greatly enhanced by inclusion of photos, charts and diagrams on every page.  THOUGHTS: Trivia and world records books remain in constant circulation in most school libraries. The the wide-ranging trivia topics in this title are sure to capture the the interest of students. Recommended for purchase in elementary and middle school libraries (high schools with trivia fans may wish to pick up a copy as well).

031.02; Trivia    Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


Scattergood, Augusta. Making Friends with Billy Wong. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-92425-2. $16.00. 209 p. Gr. 4-7.

Azalea was looking forward to the summer of 1952. She was going to spend time with her best friend and her family was talking about taking a trip to the Grand Canyon. Her plans are upended, however, when Grandma Clark hurts her foot. Azalea now finds herself in rural Paris Junction, Arkansas, for the entire summer helping her grandmother out. Her bossy grandmother has Azalea working in the garden and running errands, one of which is to the Wong family grocery store. It is there that Azalea meets Billy Wong, a boy her age who is staying with relatives in order to attend a better school. At first, Azalea is wary of Billy; would she and a Chinese-American boy really have much in common? As the summer progresses, the two develop a friendship, and Azalea also interacts with others in town, including Willis, a bully who doesn’t like Billy. Azalea learns more about her family history and develops a closer relationship with her grandmother. As the novel closes, she is looking forward to visiting again the following summer. THOUGHTS: This novel is both sensitively told and historically illuminating. While most of the story is told from Azalea’s perspective, occasional chapters feature verse from Billy’s perspective, in which he shares his enthusiasm for education and also relates the prejudice and bullying he and his family sometimes face as Chinese-Americans in the segregated south. An Author’s Note at the end of the novel shares historical information about the history of Chinese-Americans in the southern United States.

Historical Fiction (1950s)      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

YA Fiction – One Silver Summer; Moon was Ours; Still Life…

Hickman, Rachel. One Silver Summer. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-80892-7. $17.99. 263p. Gr. 7-10.

Sass’s world has fallen apart due to the recent death of her mother. She has moved from New York to England to live with an uncle she hardly knows. As a way to escape her overwhelming grief, Sass explores the countryside around the small seaside town that is her new home. It it on one of these jaunts that she stumbles across a silver horse in a pasture and Alex, who she assumes to be a stable boy. Drawn to the horse, Sass begins to take riding lessons with Alex. Over time, they form a friendship and then a romantic connection. But Sass is not the only one looking to escape problems by riding. Alex has fled the city to the rural home of his grandmother after the breakup of his parents’ marriage and the resulting publicity. But he can’t outrun publicity forever because Alex is really Alexander, son of the Prince and Princess of Wales and heir to the throne. When Sass realizes the truth and the media descend, the two teens must decide if their relationship can endure the spotlight. THOUGHTS: One Silver Summer is a gentle, romantic read with some fairy-tale like components.  Readers willing to suspend their disbelief about certain plot points (for instance, Sass not immediately recognizing the heir to the British throne in a book set in the present day, media saturated age), will find a sweet story about making connections and falling in love.

Realistic Fiction, Romance     Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS



McLemore, Anna. When the Moon was Ours. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2016. 978-1- 250-05866-9. 273 p. $18.99. Gr. 8 and up.

An intriguing romantic fantasy that follows the bond between two outsiders in a small town;  Sam a transgendered boy of  Pakistani heritage whose true past is unknown and Miel, a Latina girl who magically appears in the water spilled from the tipped over water tower.  Magical realism pervades the whole story.  Sam  paints moons that illuminate spaces and stop the fears of the school children, and Miel grows roses out of her wrists which are rumored to have romantic powers.   The two develop a genuine, caring, and protective relationship, starting as friends and growing into something much more.  The antagonists in the story are the enigmatic Bonner sisters, who have the  ability to make all the boys in town fall in love with them. This ability is lost when the eldest sister must leave town because of a secret pregnancy. When Chloe returns, the sisters hone in on Miel and her roses to recapture their power. This novel explores the themes of love, loyalty and self acceptance.  A big positive in this novel is the portrayal of diversity. Families in all forms are present, the novel reveals beautiful elements of Latina and Pakistani cultures and  the transgendered Sam, is a wonderful character whose gender is matter of fact, just another one of many intriguing character traits. Though the descriptive language is beautiful, much of the story is too ambiguous for my understanding, leaving me confused and unsatisfied at points. I found that it strained my ability to suspend disbelief. THOUGHTS: This title could be a hard sell for many teens, but for those who enjoyed McLemore’s Weight of Feathers or who have a strong preference for magical realism this tale would make a good choice.

Fantasy                 Nancy Summers, Abington Senior High School



King, A. S.  Still Life With Tornado. New York: Penguin Young Readers Group, 2016. 9781101994887. 295 p. $17.99. Grades 9 and up.

Sarah is having an existential crisis. Her older brother has been in exile from the family for six years, there’s been a major rift between Sarah and her friends and classmates, and she’s been truant from school for weeks. When her artwork is sabotaged before an exhibition, Sarah stops attending school and spends her days wandering around the streets of Philadelphia. Sarah’s living in angst and denial about her family, her friends, and her art, but three of her former and future selves are helping her put the pieces together. Ten year-old Sarah is the catalyst for 16 year-old Sarah to remember the emotional and physical abuse that tore her family apart, and her 23 year-old and 40 year-old selves are there as proof that things can work out. Accept the strange detours in this novel, as Sarah figures out her complicated family and school life and enjoy this original work.  Many of King’s novels have a decided surrealistic bend, but at the heart of all of her books is the very real anguish and search for validation of her teenage characters. THOUGHTS:  A thought provoking book that looks at the effects of domestic violence without portraying the actual abuse. The intermittent chapters narrated by Sarah mother, provide a glimpse into the rationalization of the victim who hopes for the best.  

Realistic Fiction; Fantasy               Nancy Summers, Abington Senior High School

Picture Books – Giant Squid; Billions of Bricks

Fleming, Candace & Eric Rohmann. Giant Squid. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-59643-599-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Gr. 1-4.

Meet the mysterious and little known giant squid. Fleming and Rohmann introduce this fascinating creature bit by bit teasing the reader with facts about the different body parts. Rarely seen by human eyes, the giant squid illustrations by Rohmann are sure to capture the attention of readers no matter what age (including a large four-page spread). The writing is lyrical and smooth and there is a wonderful author’s note in the back for those who want to know more.

THOUGHTS: This award* winning book is fun to read at any age. Perfect classroom book for science or library.  

*Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor

Non-Fiction Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Cyrus, Kurt. Billions of Bricks: A Counting Book About Building. New York: Henry Holt & Co, 2016. 978-1627-7927-38. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. Pre-2.

A cute story incorporating skip-counting and building with bricks. Count by 2s, 5s, and 10s, and learn how bricks are made and used. Different styles of architecture are used to show this type of building material can be used. At the end a whole city (streets and all) emerges, but watch out for that extra brick!  THOUGHTS: I liked how how the workers were diverse in all senses, race, gender, and age. It’s fun to read aloud with Kindergarteners who are learning to skip count and count in groups.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Picture Books – Water Princess; Marta; Became a Bird

Verde, Susan. The Water Princess. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016. 978-0-399-17258-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This gorgeous picture book is based on the childhood experience of fashion model and activist Georgie Badiel. A princess, named Gie Gie, has a magnificent kingdom and wonderful powers. But the one thing she wishes for, to make the water come closer, Gie Gie cannot do. Every day she and her mother walk miles to get water, “dusty, earth-colored liquid.” Gie Gie dances with her mother on the journey there and plays with her friends while her mother waits in line for their turn. When they arrive home, mother boils water for them to drink. Gie Gie cleans their clothes, and the dinner is fixed. The next morning the journey for water is to be repeated again. THOUGHTS: The pictures are beautifully done and make you feel hot and parched. This book is a gentle, positive way to introduce the struggle some societies have over water. It is also based on a true story and has pictures in the back of Georgie Badiel and how she raised money for a well in a school situated in an area with no water. A great introductory read for a service project and to help students be aware of what some children struggle with.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Arena, Jen. Marta! Big & Small. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-243-9. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. PreK-1.

Marta is a clever girl who lives in a jungle and knows Spanish. She teaches the reader descriptive words as well as animal names throughout the book. Marta shows the reader how she’s slow compared to a horse, but fast when matched with a turtle. When a snake arrives on the scene, will Marta be as tasty as she looks? She is ingeniosa and escapes with a smile.  THOUGHTS: This fun little book incorporates Spanish & English, opposites, similarities, comparisons and animals. It’s easy to follow while still having a lot of content. Perfect for Preschool through 1st Grade when introducing any of the above topics.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Chabbert, Ingrid & Guridi. The Day I Became a Bird. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2016. 978-1771-3862-10. Unpaged. $12.99. Gr. 1+.

In this sweet and unusual book, a boy falls in love with a girl for the first time. She however, only has eyes for the birds. The boy decides instead of passively waiting, to do something that will definitely catch her attention.  Whether in class or on the soccer field, he wholeheartedly makes a transformation into a large bird. Will it be enough?  THOUGHTS: I loved the spare simplicity of the illustrations and the writing. The concept of the story paired with the mostly black and white images bring something rich to the reader. A wonderful read aloud for older elementary school/middle school classes.

Picture Book    Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Upper Elementary Fiction – Lou Lou & Pea; Dara Palmer’s Major Drama

Diamond, Jill. Lou Lou & Pea and the Mural Mystery. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016. 978-0-374-30295-5. 272p. $16.99. Gr. 2-5.

Throughout this beautifully illustrated middle grade chapter mystery two best friends need to use their gardening and art skills to bring about justice. A cooking father, smatterings of Spanish (with a lovely glossary in the back), a close-knit neighborhood including beautiful murals, and a Día de los Muertos celebration bring this multicultural story to life. Follow Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl and enjoy the rich culture, and fun characters.  THOUGHTS: Great for readers who grew out of Ivy & Bean and love a little mystery. I enjoyed the funeral for the plant and the recipe for “Pinky Pan de Muerto” (Day of the Dead bread).

Mystery      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Shevah, Emma. Dara Palmer’s Major Drama. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2016. 978-1-4926-3138-5. 288 p. $16.99. Grades 4-6

This funny, middle grade chapter book walks the line between frivolous and achingly deep. The main character, Dara, feels in her soul she is an actress first and foremost. What the world sees is a girl who is adopted by an English family who comes from Cambodia. Dara wants SO BADLY to be in the school play, but she doesn’t get a part. Her mother thinks it is because of the color of Dara’s skin. Her teacher says it is because she doesn’t come to drama classes. Follow Dara as she struggles with not only questions racial bias, but where she belongs in her family.  THOUGHTS: Dara’s dramatic 5th grade viewpoint can be ditzy and grating at times, but the margin doodles and depth of topics make it a great recommendation for any 9-12 year old girl.

Realistic Fiction       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School