YA Graphic Novels – Black Panther; Goldie Vance

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet. New York: Marvel, 2016. 978-1-302-90053-3. $16.99. Gr. 7-12.

Fresh from winning the National Book Award for Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the story of Marvel’s Black Panther. People are restless in the African nation of Wakanda. They are unhappy and angry with their long standing leader, T’Challa, Black Panther, and are rising up in revolt. He is determined to stop the ones responsible for this revolt, Zenzi and Tetu, and bring peace back to his nation. With the help of flashbacks, readers are shown the bloody history of Wakanda and the hard times Black Panther has faced as leader. Brian Stelfreeze’s incredibly vivid artwork shines as Wakanda’s history unfolds. But perhaps the best part of this graphic novel are a few other hidden gems, including variant images of Black Panther by different artists throughout the story; a detailed Black Panther chronology, and a behind the scenes glimpse into the graphic novel creation; and a recreation of the first appearance of the Black Panther from a 1966 issue of the Fantastic Four. THOUGHTS:  If graphic novels are even the least bit popular in your library, buy this. With a Marvel Black Panther movie in the works for 2018, and his recent appearance in the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie, this will fly off your shelves.

Graphic Novel     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Larson, Hope. Goldie Vance: Volume One. Boom! Box, 2016. 978-1-60886-898-8. $9.99. 112p. Gr. 6-12.

Goldie Vance splits time between her divorced parents; her mother is a mermaid at a downtown club, and her father is the manager of a first class resort hotel in Florida, The Crossed Palms. In addition to valeting cars, sixteen year old Goldie also assists the in-house Detective, Mr. Tooey. Detective work is her passion, and she hopes one day to become the head detective. When a hotel resident goes missing, Goldie must track down elusive clues and hot leads to solve the case and prove to Mr. Tooey that she can be a valuable assistant. But her love for curiosity soon gets her into trouble, and gets both she and her father fired from The Crossed Palms. Together with her best friend Cheryl, Goldie’s crush Diane, and a handful of other friends, Goldie’s sets out to solve a seemingly unsolvable mystery. THOUGHTS: An excellent addition to any middle grade or teen graphic novel collection. Goldie Vance provides a refreshing array of diverse characters in a retro style, while also offering a fun story line and engaging drawings.

Graphic Novel       Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Picture Books – They Saw a Cat; Fly Guy; Wet Cement; Elizabeth Started All…

Wenzel, Brendan. They All Saw a Cat. New York: Chronicle Books, 2016. 978-1-45215-013-0. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears, and paws…” and every being that sees the cat has a very different picture of that creature. To a child, the cat looks friendly and fluffy. To a fish, the cat looks enormous and blurry, the result of being separated by a glass bowl. To a bird, the cat is a small brown object with a red stripe (collar) as seen from a great distance above. Every animal has a different perspective so the cat becomes many different things. This book is a 2017 Caldecott Honor Medal award winner, and it is easy to see why  Each illustration displays a new style and helps readers experience a new perspective and feeling about how we all see the world differently. A note at the book’s end explains, “The illustrations in this book were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook.” THOUGHTS: Brendan Wenzel created a lovely book with lots of discussion possibilities and illustrations that will spark imaginations.

Picture book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary School


Arnold. Tedd. Fly Guy Presents the White House. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-91737-7. 32pp. $3.99. Gr. K-2.

In this nonfiction book, Buzz and his pet, Fly Guy, make a trip to Washington DC to visit the White House. On their tour, they learn a lot about the people who live and work in this famous building. From the President, First Lady, and their family, to the Secret Service agents, advisors, speech writers, chefs, butlers, maids, and gardeners, it’s a full house! The writing style and facts presented in this title are perfect for the youngest readers. Pronunciation guides are provided when new vocabulary words are introduced, and Tedd Arnold’s trademark squiggly illustrations are supplemented by captioned photographs of the White House’s many rooms, former Presidents, and pets that have lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  THOUGHTS:  My students love Fly Guy books (both the fiction and nonfiction titles), and this has been a huge hit in my library’s browsing basket. It’s also a great tie-in to units about government, American history, or discussions about our nation’s capital. The mix of cartoon-style illustrations and real photographs adds interest and makes readers feel like they are accompanying Buzz and Fly Guy on their White House tour.

Nonfiction        Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County


Raczka, Bob. Wet Cement. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-236-1. $17.99. 48 pp. Gr. K-3.

In the introduction to this collection of 21 poems, Raczka describes how he likes to think of poems as word paintings, and he believes the poet’s job is to use words to paint pictures inside the reader’s head. In his concrete poems, also known as shape poems, he arranges the words in the shape of the poem’s subject, adding an additional layer of meaning. In this collection, he also goes one step further, arranging the individual letters in the poem’s titles to paint an image with a single word. His subjects include airplanes, clocks, the Big Dipper, dominoes, fireflies, and icicles, so readers are sure to find something they can relate to. The poems are printed on uncluttered white or black backgrounds, so the arrangement of the letters and words takes center stage.  THOUGHTS:  This title is a strong addition to elementary poetry collections. While students will enjoy pouring over the poems’ unique shapes, the poems also lend themselves to teaching other skills such as metaphor, homophones, rhyme, and onomatopoeia.

Poetry     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County


Rappaport, Doreen. Elizabeth Started All the Trouble. New York: Disney/Hyperion, 2016. 978-0-7868-5142-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. 1-4.

Beginning with the signing of the Constitution (during which Abigail Adams encouraged her husband to “remember the ladies”), this title chronicles the progression of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the U.S. through the years.  It highlights significant figures and events, including the Seneca Falls convention, the abolition of slavery, the role of women during the Civil War, the 1913 Women’s Suffrage March in Washington, D.C., the imprisonment of suffragists, and the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment.  The book is organized chronologically and details events in language that is accessible even to young readers.  The illustrations give faces to reformers mentioned in the text and add context to the writing.  Brief biographies of key figures, important dates, and additional resources are provided at the end of the book.  Overall, a solid addition to any elementary history and/or biography collection. THOUGHTS: It is worth noting that the author has received several starred reviews, honors, and awards for past biographical works, including Martin’s Big Words, Abe’s Honest Words, and To Dare Mighty Things.  Like those works, this title also celebrates a noble, heroic life.  It does not, however, focus solely on Elizabeth Cady Stanton (as the title would indicate).  Rather, other female social reformers (such as Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Abigail Adams, Lucretia Mott, and Lucy Stone) are also mentioned.  This overview of the women’s movement would pair well with Tanya Lee Stone’s Elizabeth Leads the Way.  While Stone’s title provides a better biographical sketch of Elizabeth, Rappaport’s work gives a more extensive overview of this tumultuous chapter in women’s history.  An inspiring read for young girls who desire to leave their mark on the world.

Picture Book      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

YA Nonfiction – Buffalo Bill; Born a Crime; ABCs of LGBT

Fleming, Candace.  Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West.  New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016.  978-1-59643-763-0. 273 p.  $19.99.  Gr. 7 and up.

William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is perhaps the most famous figure of the “Wild West.”  In this biography, Fleming examines the legendary figure and attempts to separate fact from myth.  According to Cody’s own autobiography as well as the Wild West show he created, life on the American frontier was never dull; rather, it was full of gunfights, raids, racing horses, and skirmishes with Native Americans.  Although there was a great deal of violence in the West, this exciting image fabricated by Cody is not entirely true.  Comparing Cody’s account of the Wild West to other primary source materials, Fleming attempts to address the inaccuracies. Beginning with his childhood, Fleming presents a thorough account of Cody’s life up through his tours with his Wild West show and his death.  Complete with a bibliography, source notes, and period photographs, this compelling title gives readers an objective look at frontier life and the legendary figure known as Buffalo Bill.  THOUGHTS: This is an outstanding addition to any middle or high school U.S. history collection.  Not only does the fast-paced, story-like narrative keep the reader’s attention, but I could see the book being used in the classroom in a variety of ways.  It provides an excellent introduction to important events, issues, and establishments in U.S. history, such as the Civil War, the Pony Express, Bleeding Kansas, slavery, and Native American relations.  I could also see it being used to introduce historical research.  Fleming’s sidebars describing the inaccuracies in many of Cody’s stories are intriguing and set the stage for additional research and debate.  A definite must-have for school library collections.

978 U.S. History; 92 Buffalo Bill Cody      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Noah, Trevor. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2016. 978-0399588174. 304 pp. $28.00. Gr. 10 and up.

Trevor Noah, best known as host of The Daily Show, delivers a memoir that’s both moving and humorous. He’s a comedian, after all!  Noah was “born a crime” in 1984 to his South African mother and Swiss-German father; under apartheid, their relationship and their son’s very existence was illegal. Each chapter opens with a little background on the author’s home country, including the mechanisms of apartheid, the role of language in South Africa, and the quagmire of racial identity in a former police state. Noah then relates youthful episodes, escapades, and misadventures, with his close relationship to his mother anchoring the entire narrative. The book’s final and most gut-wrenching chapter chronicles his mother’s marriage to an abusive man, which nearly ended in her murder. THOUGHTS: Trevor Noah is a popular TV personality, but this exceptionally well-written book demonstrates that he is also a gifted author.

Memoir     Amy Pickett, Ridley High School

Trevor Noah narrates Born a Crime on audiobook, and his gift for impressions and accents makes it a must-listen. Play the excerpt in which Noah gets his hair straightened for the first time, and I guarantee there will be a holds list for this book!


Mardell, Ashley. The ABC’s of LGBT+. Mango Media, 2016. 978-1-63353-409-4. $16.95. 190 p. Gr. 6-12.

Popular blogger and YouTuber Ashley Mardell gives readers a crash course in LGBT+ terms, identities vocabulary, and labels. Designed for all, from novices to experts, Mardell starts off with a very thorough cheat sheet of terms used throughout the book which readers can refer to at any time. Readers then dive into informative and easy to understand chapters focused on spectrums, sex and gender, and sexual and romantic identities. Mardell successfully brings a voice to many LGBT+ identities that are not portrayed in mainstream media and offers personal anecdotes and drawings throughout to help engage the reader. THOUGHTS: An excellent nonfiction title that brings visibility and voices to all identities and strengthens the field of gender and sexual diversity.

306.76; Sexual Orientation; Gender identity     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Elementary/MS Graphic Novels – Margo Maloo; Ogres Awake; Snow White

Weing, Drew. The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo. New York: First Second, 2016. 978-1-62672-339-9. $15.99. Gr. 3-7.

Charles and his family just moved to Echo City. While his dad is busy fixing up their apartment building and his mom is writing grant applications, Charles begins to explore their run-down, drafty building. When he encounters a monster in his closet, he’s not sure what to do until his neighbor Kevin gives him a card for Margo Maloo, monster mediator.  Margo and Charles track down the troll in Charles’ closet, and it seems that Margo is very knowledgeable about all of the monsters in Echo City, trolls, ghosts, goblins, and ogres. As an aspiring blogger, Charles jumps at the opportunity to blog about these underground monsters, but Margo begs him to keep quiet; no one can know that monsters are real. As Charles and Margo work together, it turns out that they’re a really good team, and now they must work to rescue a boy from a ghost and find a missing ogre baby. Weing’s illustrations are excellent and readers of any age will fall in love with Charles and Margo. THOUGHTS: A wonderful addition to any library where comics and graphic novels fly off the shelves.

Graphic Novel; Fiction      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Sturm, James. Ogres Awake! New York: First Second, 2016. 978-1-59643-653-4. Unpaged. $14.99. Gr. K-2.

When Edward the horse and his knight spot some napping ogres outside the kingdom walls, they know they must alert the king. Luckily, the king isn’t worried; there’s a plan in place for ogres. The little knight is ready for battle, but the king’s plan doesn’t involve swords and armies; it involves using the king’s garden harvest to create a delicious sweet potato stew. The hungry ogres storm the castle after their naps and find a wonderful smell awaiting them. With satisfied bellies, the ogres leave the castle to head home and the little knight wishes to use super powers in his next adventure. Ogres Awake! is the newest creation from the authors of Adventures in Cartooning!, and it doesn’t disappoint.  The graphic novel styling is a great introduction to the genre and infuses subtle humor into the story through the plucky knight and hungry ogres. The endpapers include how-to guides on drawing the main characters. THOUGHTS: A delicious, fun graphic novel for young readers who want a good adventure and don’t mind a unique ending.

741.5 Graphic Novel      Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Phelan, Matt. Snow White. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2016. 978-0-7636-7233-1. 235 pp. $19.99. Gr. 3-6.

Snow White has been transplanted to the Great Depression in Matt Phelan’s mesmerizing new graphic novel retelling of the classic fairy tale. Life is hard for Snow once her mother dies, and her wealthy father finds a ruthless diva of the stage who banishes the beautiful daughter. Once alone in the dark city, a group of street urchins come to Snow’s rescue, and they quickly bond. Tragedy, drama, action, and romance all play out around the cruel Queen of the Follies and her jealous rage. Phelan’s strength comes in the sparse text mixed with emotional illustrations that capture both the story elements (huntsman, apple) with the 20’s city life (ticker tape, Macy’s and Follies). While not everything runs parallel to the fairy tale origin, this unique new take will draw in a wide range of ages to appreciate the skill of Phelan’s graphic design and artistic interpretation.  THOUGHTS: The many references to Great Depression terms like Hooverville will be lost on younger readers, but the opportunity to connect any of Phelan’s graphic novels to history make them an educational incentive. As a collection, they would make for a great course on graphic storytelling and historical fiction alike.   

Graphic Novel; Fractured Fairytale      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District

Upper Elem./MS NF – Crow Smarts; Military History

Turner, Pamela S. Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Smartest Bird. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2016. 978-0544-416192  $18.99.  73 pp. Gr. 5-9.
The latest in more than two dozen popular titles in the Scientists in the Field series, Crow Smarts follows crow scientist Gavin Hunt as he tracks and tests the crows of New Caledonia.  We meet several crows with individual personalities (Little Feather, Munin, Lefty, and even “The Crow We Never Got Around to Naming”), and we also meet a writer and researchers with a shared sense of humor.  One crow, “looks at me as though she’s attempting a Jedi mind trick.”  Combined with inviting and colorful page spreads, and beautiful photographs, this book draws readers into the story.    Author Turner has cared for baby crows until they’re ready to be released.  She observes of crows, “[Baby crows] are obsessively interested in everything. No newspaper goes unripped. No food goes unplayed with.  If one crow has something, the other crow wants it.  They are awesomely naughty” (65).  Turner believes more people should recognize the crows’ ability to use tools and to make tools, even specialized hooked tools.  This discovery has led to a re-definition of “human” (scientist Louis Leakey famously wrote that toolmaking was the “step which lifted ‘near-man’ from the purely animal level to that of human status” (8)).  Of the 1,371,500 known animal species, only five are known to make multiple kinds of tools (humans, chimps, orangutans, capuchin monkeys, and New Caledonian crows) and of those five, only two (humans and New Caledonian crows) are known to make hooked tools (39).  Turner’s writing is the perfect complement to the beautiful photographs that make the scientists’ work more clear.  THOUGHTS: Suitable for readers in grades 4-9, the entire Scientists in the Field series is excellent for promoting careers in science and an understanding of the wide variety of scientific work that is being done in the world.  Turner has a second title in the series, titled The Dolphins of Shark Bay.
598 Birds      Melissa Scott, Shenango High School  


McCarthy, Cecelia Pinto. The Science of Warriors. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2017. 978-1-68078-253-0. 48 p. $23.00. Gr. 3-6.

Hand this book to your students who can’t get enough books about weapons, battles, and the military. The Science of Warriors breaks down the history of weapons, protective devices, and vehicles to show how changing science has improved these areas within a warrior’s realm. Each section details early efforts by warriors through current practice, such as the use of armor made with animal skins to mail and plate armor through modern-day use of Kevlar, all influenced by science.  The text is interesting, factual but easy to read, and provides many sidebars with further information. There are also great photographs to enhance the text. The book contains a Table of Contents, glossary, index, and sections of Fast Facts and Stop and Think questions. THOUGHTS: This book is an interesting mix of history, science, and warfare. It will fly off the shelves.

355 Military History     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

Upper Elementary/MS – Sybil Ludington; Eureka Key; Flying Lessons; Jingle

Abbot, E.F. Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider (Based on a True Story series). New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2016. 978-1-250-06835-4. 192 p. $15.99. Gr. 3-6

Sybil Ludington is part of a spy family during the Revolutionary War. Her father, in charge of a unit of militiamen, needed help with the war effort. Sybil and her sister write notes in code to communicate with other regiments. Her mother and sisters save the house from invasion by outsmarting the British spies. When someone is needed to gather her father’s men to fight, sixteen-year-old Sybil braves numerous dangers, riding by herself through the night to sound the alarm. THOUGHTS: A very interesting book about a period in time not many know about. I love the non-fiction aspect of it! There are historical photographs and pictures throughout the book depicting scenes and items (a coal scuttle for example) so the reader is given a better sense of what it was like.

Historical Fiction     Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Thomson, Sarah L. Secrets of the Seven: The Eureka Key. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-61963-731-3. 240 p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.

Middle schooler Sam Solomon is really smart, but really bored. He uses his brains to hack the school bell to play music from his favorite video game, and to access the principal’s computer to change his best friends grades. His teachers and parents are worried that this behavior will turn into real trouble. So when Sam wins The American Dream contest and gets to spend the summer on a trip across the country, everyone is hopeful for a positive change. Sam and the other contest winners, brainy Martina and elusive Theo, set off to Death Valley, California, ready to explore seven natural wonders of America. At each stop, the trio will solve puzzles and use clues from the nation’s history to find seven piece of a powerful artifact. But at the first stop, things don’t go very well, and Sam, Martina and Theo find themselves in the middle of a very powerful mystery. They soon discover that they hold the key to unlocking a secret from America’s past, and that there are people out there that will do dangerous things to keep it a secret. THOUGHTS: A fun, approachable read for fans of any Rick Riordan book or the National Treasure movies.

Adventure     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Oh, Ellen Ed. Flying Lesson & Other Stories. New York, NY: Crown Books, 2017. 978-1-101-93459-3. 216 pp. $16.99. Gr. 4-8.

As the cry for more diverse books in children’s literature starts to see results, this collection of short stories edited by Ellen Oh, cofounder of We Need Diverse Books, should gain prominent attention as an exemplary work. The ten short stories capture important and ordinary moments of youth across the country, allowing the reader to hopefully see themselves as well as the lives of other ethnicities and viewpoints. From Matt de la Pena’s hoop obsessed teen to a poor struggling obedient son from Kelly Baptist to Tim Federle’s slightly neurotic and obsessed girl facing a secret Santa dilemma, each story is immediate, empathetic, and engaging. Other distinguished authors include Jacqueline Woodson, Kwame Alexander, and Grace Lin. As Oh says in her foreward, “… our stories are unique, just like we are.” With inspiration and a closing sample from Walter Dean Myers, we have a warm and readable look into the many lives whose stories are diverse yet connected, often through the power of books.  THOUGHTS: Great for both read alouds and ideas for writing prompts, I would recommend this book to classroom teachers who want to show perspective and point of view. Plus, hopefully, it will open the readers to new ways of understanding and valuing each other.

Realistic Fiction; Short Stories     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District


Korman, Gordon. Jingle (A Swindle Mystery). New York: Scholastic Press, 2016. 978-0-545-86142-7. $16.99. 199 pp. Gr. 3-7.

Griffin Bing, Ben Slovak, and their crew are back at it in Jingle, a Christmas themed Swindle mystery.  After receiving letters thanking them for volunteering for the Colchester family’s Santa’s Workshop Holiday Spectacular, an annual holiday event presented by the wealthy Colchester family for the town of Cedarville, Griffin, Ben, and the gang are horrified that their holiday and winter break plans have been ruined, and it’s all Logan’s fault.  Facing the daily misery of dressing like an elf and working with their nemesis, Darren Vader, the group determines this will be the worst Christmas ever; of course that is until the prize of the the spectacular, the Star of Prague, goes missing, and Griffin, Ben, and their friends become prime suspects.   Going from elf to robbery suspect doesn’t exactly make for the best break ever, but it does allow Griffin to get back to his “plans”.   Knowing that this time they aren’t to blame, the friends set out to clear their names and figure out who really stole the Star of Prague.  Of course, they get arrested and into their own trouble along the way (what’s a tiny bar fight when you’re in middle school), and have to deal with their own personal (Logan not getting into the North Star Players) and family (Hanukkah vs. Christmas) problems.  THOUGHTS:  This was my first Swindle mystery and was very easy to understand even though I hadn’t read the previous seven titles.  This is a fun, fast-paced mystery for upper elementary and middle school students.  The interaction of the friends is both a great example of friendship and a lesson in when to say no or question “the plan”.  Gordon Korman once again delivers a winner.

Mystery     Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS/HS

Picture Books – Duck, Duck, Porcupine; School’s First Day…; Chicken Lily; We are Growing

Yoon, Salina. Duck, Duck, Porcupine! New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-61963-723-8. 64pp. $9.99. Gr K-2.

This easy-reader title contains three short stories: A Perfect Day for a Picnic, I Think I Forgot Something, and The Campout. Each story features Big Duck, her brother Little Duck, and their friend Porcupine. The stories unfold through the back-and-forth dialogue between Big Duck and Porcupine. Little Duck doesn’t speak words yet, but his actions show that he is sometimes more aware of his surroundings than either of his friends. For example, in the first story, the friends prepare for a picnic. Big Duck and Porcupine are so busy gathering supplies that they don’t notice a huge cloud creeping across the sky. Little Duck has been watching the sky closely, though, and when a downpour begins, he is the one who is prepared with an umbrella. Yoon’s bright digitally-colored illustrations stand out against the story’s uncluttered backgrounds, and her heavy outlining further set off her characters.  THOUGHTS: Fans of Elephant and Piggie books will love reading about this trio and their many adventures. This title will also work well as a read-aloud or as a reader’s theatre production since all the text is already in speech bubbles.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County


Rex, Adam. School’s First Day of School. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-59643-964-1. 32pp. $15.44. Gr K-3.

As a newly built school, Frederick Douglass Elementary isn’t sure what to expect at the beginning of a new school year. It’s been just the school and the janitor all summer, but when the children arrive, everything changes. There’s noisy lockers, splashing water fountains, and spilled nose milk. There’s also brightly colored drawings, lessons about shapes, and new friends to meet. Rex’s gentle text is perfect for reassuring nervous school newcomers, and students will relate to the school’s worries about the unknown. They will also connect to the many familiar activities depicted in illustrator Christian Robinson’s vibrant pictures: exploring the playground with friends, sitting in a circle on the classroom carpet, and filing out of the building during a fire drill.  THOUGHTS: Robinson’s lively illustrations feature a diverse student body, and readers will enjoy pouring over the students’ many activities. This title makes a perfect first-day-of-school read aloud, and it will fast-become a beginning-of-the-year staple.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County


Mortensen, Lori. Chicken Lily. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-120-5. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Chicken Lily is great at many things, but being brave isn’t one of them. She’s cautious and doesn’t like to take chances. Lily’s friends ride their bikes without training wheels, try new foods, and are even excited for the class Grand-Slam Poetry Jam, so they can get up on stage in front of an audience and read their poems. Lily? “Just thinking about reciting a poem in front of everyone sent shivers down her tail feathers.” Luckily, Lily’s friends encourage her to write a poem anyway, and she finds the courage to read it onstage…only to find out that it’s not so bad. Lily may be a chicken, but not all of the time. Lily’s story is certainly not the first about a timid child, but the way Lily’s friends and teacher encourage her is wonderful and worth a read. Adult will appreciate the subtle chicken humor. THOUGHTS: Many children could see a bit of themselves in Chicken Lily, and hopefully will find their own “plucky” spirit like Lily does. Crittenden’s cute cartoon illustrates pair nicely with the story.

Picture Book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Keller, Laurie. We Are Growing! New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2016. 978-1-48472-635-8. 49pp. $9.99. Gr. K-2.

Elephant and Piggie introduce and conclude this zany easy reader, the first in their new series called Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!  Several blades of grass are growing and each declares that he or she is the tallest, curliest, crunchiest, etc. Walt, the last blade of grass, doesn’t have a clue about what he is until the blades of grass are all given haircuts from a lawnmower, and then Walt, rake in hand, realizes that he’s the neatest! This story is simple and giggle inducing. Speech bubbles highlight the ongoing dialogue that is full of repetition and (mostly) appropriate words for beginning readers. Bright illustrations also help with context clues for tough words. THOUGHTS: Winner of the Theodore Seuss Giesel Award for 2017, We Are Growing! will be a hit with Elephant & Piggie fans or any young reader who likes a good laugh.

Picture book    Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

YA Fiction – Girl on a Plane; Into White; The Underground Railroad; Noteworthy

Moss, Miriam. Girl on a Plane. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2016. 978-0544783997. $17.99. 288 p. Gr. 8 and up.

Miriam Moss’s fictional account of her own experience as a hostage is truly captivating. Set in 1970, the plot centers around teenager Anna’s flight to her boarding school in England after visiting her family in Bahrain. Due to recent events involving planes being taken hostage by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Anna worries that her plane could face the same fate. Sadly, her premonition comes to pass and her plane is taken hostage and rerouted to an airstrip in Jordan. Passengers are kept on the plane with limited food and water, used for propaganda photos, and told that their plane will be blown up if the British government does not release a Palestinian hostage. Anna’s friendship with another teen and a younger child are sweet and realistic, and Moss gives Anna strength but also moments of vulnerability. The story moves quickly and will easily keep the attention of young teens looking for an exciting read, but it has the added bonus of highlighting and describing a period in history that might not be well-known to today’s teens. THOUGHTS: Highly recommend this title for middle school and high school libraries as an engaging and memorable historical fiction.

Historical Fiction  (1970s Middle East)   Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

This was a fast and interesting read, and did make me want to research more about this time period and what was going on with Palestine and Israel in the early 1970s. This is an excellent title to pair with a nonfiction piece or account of the hostage situations. Miriam Moss includes a short chapter at the end describing her own personal memories of her time as a hostage, and this adds an important layer to a student’s understanding of the story. This is also a good read for reluctant readers, as it is short and plot-driven.


Pink, Randi. Into White. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2016. 978-1-250-07021-0. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Latoya Williams is one of the few black students in her Montgomery, Alabama, high school. After a bullying incident with another black student, devout Toya prays to be white, assuming it will fix all of her problems. As she says, “Black skin was filled with so many barriers, so many restrictions…” (77).  The next day, Toya wakes up changed with glittering blonde hair and ivory skin. With a new attitude, Toya is ready to conquer everything from the popular crowd to her bickering parents. With the help of her gifted brother Alex, Toya enters school as Katarina and begins living day to day as a white girl. At first she feels powerful in her new skin, but soon she learns that the life she desires is far from perfect. Soon, Toya finds that the time she’s focused on herself has alienated her from the people that matter most to  her, especially Alex. THOUGHTS: While at times somewhat predictable and generalized, Into White explores very important themes on race, gender, and consent that could lead to larger important discussions in the classroom.

Contemporary Fantasy      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. New York: Doubleday, 2016.  978-0385542364. 320 p. $26.95. Gr. 11 and up.

Colson Whitehead’s latest novel is a dramatic and innovative reimagining of the underground railroad system in place in the American South, leading to the North, in the 1800s. In Whitehead’s world, the underground railroad was not only an elaborate communication system between abolitionists and slavery opponents; it was an actual railroad, a mishmash of cars and locomotives rushing slaves to new points along the route and safe havens for runaways. The novel follows Cora, who escapes along with a male slave from her plantation. The novel is graphic and raw, and Cora’s story is fraught with peril and setbacks. Cora eventually comes in contact with Ridgeway, an infamous slave catcher, intent on returning as many runaways as possible. This novel will haunt readers, but hopefully also assist with understanding the many ideologies and structures in place during this awful period in American history. THOUGHTS: Give this to mature students seeking to understand more about slavery and racism in America’s past.

Historical Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

Though this is marketed as a book for adults, I thought it important to include the title in our list of books reviewed for young adults. Not only will it attract interest because it is a National Book Award Winner, but it is also a great counterpart to the much-often read and discussed book in high schools, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Some might find it a better representation of the black experience in America, much above that of the hapless Jim.  Indeed, many of the characters in Whitehead’s novel portray attitudes still in place in our society today, and can spark great conversation or discussion about race and racism in order for students to draw parallels to today’s world and events.


Redgate, Riley. Noteworthy. New York: Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1419723735. 400 p. $17.95. Gr. 9 and up.

After reading and loving Seven Ways We Lie, I was excited to receive an advanced copy of Riley Redgate’s newest novel, Noteworthy. While a strong follow-up, it is not nearly as captivating and lacks some of the spark and uniqueness of her first novel. The story follows Jordan Sun, a scholarship student attending the prestigious Kensington-Blaine boarding school for the performing arts. Her focus is theatre, but after three years she still has yet to earn a part in the musical, mainly due to her lower, more masculine range. At the beginning of her junior year she’s recovering from a breakup and again fails to get a musical spot. When she learns that the legendary Sharpshooters, an all-male acappela group, is looking for a new member, she decides that she has nothing to lose by dressing up as a boy and trying out for the group. “Julian” earns a spot, and begins rehearsals, masquerading as a boy whenever she is around the group members. Jordan is an interesting character, and her inner monologues are valuable and thought provoking (if a little too frequent towards the end of the story). Some willing suspension of disbelief is necessary (how is Jordan continually able to sneak out of her dorm room and into a boys’ dorm, how do more teachers not notice what is going on, etc.), but her relationships with the boys highlight and question numerous gender stereotypes. Redgate also does a commendable job of incorporating the musical side of things into her story; it would have been awesome to have a soundtrack with this one! THOUGHTS: Musically-inclined students as well as those interested in pushing gender stereotypes and boundaries will enjoy this title. Recommended for all high schools.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

As noted in the review above, this was a title that I was looking forward to reading and did, for the most part, enjoy. It does drag a bit at the end, but the climax is exciting and will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I did expect Redgate to bust out of the typical boy-girl relationship, and I feel like she failed a bit on this front. Following the general format of YA romances does, however, make this title more approachable for a greater number of teens. I look forward to having my students read this and hear their responses to it.

Elementary NF – Out of this World; Shape Shift; Swallow the Leader; Green City

Deyoe, Aaron. Out of this World: Space Travel. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 978-1-62403-745-0. 24 pp. $16.95. Gr. K-4.

This book is a simple look at the various forms of space travel throughout history.   It has full color illustrations, easy to understand diagrams and graphics, and short concise sentences throughout.  It covers forms of travel such as rockets, space shuttles, Saturn V rockets, satellites, and many more.  A diagram of the International Space Station describes its various components and shows how it was assembled in stages in space.  This text also includes the latest rovers and mechanized explorers that are sending back data and are much safer than sending humans to these remote locations.  THOUGHTS: This book is a great addition to a collection of books about space and planets.  Students will be encouraged to pick a type of space travel or vehicle and research more about that topic, since this is a simplistic look at each.  This is a great “jumping off point” for such a research project.

Space Exploration     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Hesselberth, Joyce. Shape Shift. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-057-4. 32pp. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

In this abstract introduction to the basic shapes of triangle, semicircle, crescent, trapezoid, rectangle, circle, oval, diamond and square, Hesselberth challenges the imagination.  First, the characters put a triangle on top of an upside down semicircle.  They imagine what that could be, and the illustrator creates a ballerina.  Then, another character imagines that the same two shapes are an elephant being carried away by balloons.  These imaginative and interesting shape shifts create many different possibilities for each combination of shapes.  At the end of the book, the author provides several combinations for the students to imagine what they could be together.  This is an interesting mash-up of learning shapes and critical and creative thinking. Each new illustration has an inset with the original two shapes to help the children see how those two shapes became the new picture. An interesting and thought provoking look at the world of shapes!  THOUGHTS:  After reading this book, the teacher could provide students with cut out shapes and have them create scenes or items using two or more shapes.  Students would need to name each shape used and then explain what it was and perhaps even generate a story to go with their shape creation.  An activity could also be created for the smart board that allows students to drag two shapes together to create a new picture or touch and identify the basic shapes presented in the book.

Shapes; Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Smith, Danna. Swallow the Leader: A Counting Book. New York: Clarion, 2016. 978-0-544-10518-8. 32pp. $16.99. Gr. Pre-K-1.

The little orange fish begins this rhyming counting book. With each number there is an action “5 fish-Follow the Leader- Play like I play. Pretend you are me. Flap like ray.” At the number ten, the fish says to open their mouth and eat a snack, and swallow the leader.  As they gulp down the fish in front of them, they count DOWN to one again.  Until only Shark is left.  But wait, Shark is about to BURP! The bright fun graphics are visually pleasing and the happy ending is a delight.  THOUGHTS: This book is sure to be a hit with the little ones.  They are able to count, act out the motions of “flapping like a ray” and other silliness, and then count down to one again.  Of course a big BURP is always funny, and the counting begins again!  

Counting Book        Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Drummond, Allan. Green City. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2016. 978-0-374-3799-5. 36pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

On May 4, 2007, a tornado destroyed the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, in just nine minutes. Everything was flattened: homes, offices, churches, stores, the water tower, and the school were completely gone. The day after the storm, townspeople gathered in a large emergency tent and began asking the big question: What do we want to be now? People started talking about how to build again. They agreed on ideas like designing tornado-proof houses and making sure the homes were energy efficient, but the word “green” popped up again and again as well. The ideas of sustainability and not using more than one needed resonated with the Midwesterners, and they decided to design not just green homes but an entirely green city. Loose watercolor illustrations depict the construction of super-strong, sustainable structures all over town. Sidebars highlight additional information about what sustainability looks like, and a special “Tips for Going Green” section shares ways students can incorporate some of these ideas into their own lives.  THOUGHTS:  This title is a great resource for students studying severe weather or energy efficiency. It would also make a nice read-aloud for Earth Day, and it leads itself to discussions about ways we can “go green” in our own lives.

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

Picture Books – Peep & Egg; Little Green Truck; Cat Nap; Let Me Finish

Gehl, Laura. Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016.   978-0-374-30121-7.  32 pp. $16.99. Gr. Pre-K-2.

Peep wants Egg to hatch so that they can have fun together!  But Egg is NOT hatching!  It is too scary out there in the big world! Peep persists and continues to remind Egg of all of the fun things that they could do if she would just hatch; watch the sunrise; ride the sheep; splash in puddles. But Egg continues to say “I’m not hatching,” after each. This cute, highly graphic yet sweet picture book will have kids repeating Egg’s refusal with you and cheering when she ultimately doesn’t want to be left behind.  THOUGHTS:  This is a fun book that gently introduces the topic of fears and how to overcome them.  It is perfect for a younger crowd who will get into the repetition of repeating, “I’m not hatching!”  Students can even create a group story and choose another creature to try to convince to come out ( a turtle;  a hibernating bear; a tadpole) and give excuses and then a solution for how to finally get them to decide to come out!

Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Schotter, Roni. Go, Little Green Truck! New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016. 978-0-374-30070-8. 32pp. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

Little Green Truck is the Farmer’s faithful helper.  Then one day, he is replaced by a Big Blue truck that is new and can haul bigger loads.  Little Green truck is forgotten and sad.  Then one day, the farmer’s daughter remembers how gently Little Green took them to town and what a nice small size he is for the narrow lanes at the Farmer’s Market.  So begins Little Green Truck’s transformation.  He is washed and painted.  The little girl paints happy flowers and fruit on his sides.  His engine is replaced with one that runs on corn and soy oil from their vegetables, and just like that Little Green gets a new life!  Little Green is used to haul all of the vegetables, pies, and preserves to the farmers market because he has a gentler ride and a fun new look that all of the customers love. This sweet transformation and repurposing tale is beautifully illustrated by Julia Kuo.  THOUGHTS:  This tale can be used to illustrate how we can repurpose and reuse things that might have otherwise gone into a landfill.  It also might be used to illustrate how we all have a unique purpose.  I loved how Little Green got a hybrid soy oil engine!  This might be a fun way to introduce alternative fuels to the younger set as well!

Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Yuly, Toni. Cat Nap. New York: Macmillan, 2016. 978-1-250-05458-6. 32 pp. $16.99. Gr. Pre-K-1.

Cat just wants to sleep.  But Kitten just wants to play.  So Cat thinks up a clever way to get some quiet time, a game of Hide and Seek! Except Kitten is very good at finding Cat.  Too good!  Readers join Kitten in the search to find Cat. Finally exhausted, Cat decides to just go take a nap and finds a surprise waiting in his bed.  THOUGHTS:  This bold graphic tale of Cat and Kitten will delight young readers and perhaps make a good going to bed (or naptime) story.

Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Le, Minh. Let Me Finish. New York: Hyperion, 2016. 978-1-4847-2173-5. 32pp. $16.99. Gr.  K-2.

The young boy has just gotten settled with his new book.  He is excited and anxious to get started.  Then, out of the tree, pop some birds who spoil the plot and tell the ending of the book.  Discouraged, the boy heads back to find another book that he wanted to read.  He sneaks off and finds a quiet spot, but again the animals spoil the book.  Why can’t they just let him finish?!? This hilarious romp to avoid the spoilers and finish the book he wants to read is a problem that many readers can relate to. The action packed illustrations are colorful and full of emotion.   Will he avoid hearing the ending?  Or should he really have listened?  THOUGHTS:  This is a great discussion starter for why students should not be “spoilers” – those who tell the ending of a book or movie and ruin it for others.  It also might be a fun way to talk about where students go to read and not be interrupted.

Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy