Elem. – The Great Dictionary Caper, drawn together, Mommy’s Khimar

Sierra, Judy. The Great Dictionary Caper. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-481-48004-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

When words in the dictionary get bored, they escape from the dictionary and have a little fun.  Onomatopoeias form a marching band and parade across the page; antonyms play hide and seek. Action verbs jump, bounce, run, and somersault across the page. Even palindromes get in on the action and have a family reunion. However, things begin to spiral out of control as words without rhymes feel left out, interjections begin interrupting, and conjunctions fail to hold things together. Ultimately, Noah Webster himself restores order by commanding the words to get back in the dictionary. A hilarious play on words and linguistic concepts, this book is both educational and fun, and it comes complete with a glossary of linguistic terms in the back.

THOUGHTS: This title is an elementary English teacher’s dream! It would serve as an excellent supplemental resource for teaching concepts like onomatopoeias, contractions, interjections, homophones, palindromes and more. It would be especially useful for visual learners struggling to grasp these concepts. Definitely a must-have for every elementary school English collection.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Lê, Minh. drawn together.  Disney- Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-484-76760-3. Pages 32. $17.90. Gr. K – up.

A kid and his grandfather spend time together, but don’t speak the same language. Their differences stand out through the food they eat (boy- hotdog; grandfather- asian noodles) and the TV grandfather watches. Their facial features express their feelings of unhappiness and boredom… until the boy gets out his markers and begins drawing. The grandfather’s face lights up, and he gets his own drawing utensils, a sketch book, ink, and brushes. The realization that they can communicate with each other is heartwarming. Things go well, and even when they hit a bump in the road, they don’t give up. Finally embracing and knowing each other, the story ends with the kid waving goodbye from the car holding one of grandfather’s brushes. The grandfather smiles back holding a marker aloft.

THOUGHTS: This is my new favorite book. The progression of the characters from unhappiness to complete communication, all without words, gives me goosebumps. Younger kids enjoy the story for what it is, the older ones point out symbolism, societal differences, and enjoy the comic like panels in the beginning and end.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Thompkins-Bigelow, Jamilah. Mommy’s Khimar. Salaam Reads, 2018. 978-1-534-40059-7. Pages 32. $17.99. Gr. Pre K – 1.

“Mommy’s Khimar” is told from the point of view of a small child in a loving family. Her mommy wears khimars during the day and when she goes out of the house. This head-covering symbolizes safety and love for the little girl. She loves going into her mother’s khimar closet, and when she is allowed to wear her favorite, her imagination overflows. She is a princess, a bird keeping her baby brother warm in his nest, a superhero! Her grandmother is not the same religion as her parents, but they love each other and are family. After the day is done and the khimars are put away, the girl imagines she is still wearing it while she falls asleep, smelling her mother’s scent and feeling safe and loved.

THOUGHTS: This book should be a must for any Preschool – Kindergarten library. It does the dual job of introducing children in a positive way to the Muslim religion as well as reaffirming any children who are part of that community. Children will relate to the world of pretend and wanting the safety and love of their parents.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

MG/YA – Rebound; From Twinkle, with Love; Martin Rising: Requiem for a King

Alexander, Kwame. Rebound. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 978-0-544-86813-7. 414 p. $16.99. Gr. 6-9.

It’s 1988, and Charlie Bell is spending the summer with his grandparents in Washington, D.C. after the death of his father.  Wanting only to get lost in his comics, Charlie (Chuck according to his grandfather) is put to work around the house, woken up early to go on walks to the lake and taken to the Boys & Girls club where Granddaddy works.  Having lost his love of the game, Chuck works with his cousin, Roxie, to strengthen his basketball skills which in turn allows him to come to terms with his grief. When Chuck makes a poor choice, he realizes the importance of love, friendship, and family.  

THOUGHTS: Receiving four starred reviews, Rebound follows the Bell family before Josh and Jordan.  Alexander’s novel-in-verse once again explores the human experience of grief, loss, love, friendship, and family that readers loved in The Crossover.  This is a must-have for all middle school libraries.  It will fly off the shelves.

Realistic Fiction; Sports          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

In Rebound, Alexander returns to the Bell family, featured in his Newbery-award-winning book The Crossover, providing readers with the backstory of dad, Chuck. In the summer of 1988 Charlie Bell is a tormented 12-year-old. His father had suddenly died of heart failure, and he cannot find a way through his grief. He starts skipping school and acting out. His mother finally dispares and sends him off to his grandparents for the summer. Granddaddy provides the tough love Charlie desperately needs, and cousin Roxie starts shaping up his basketball game as well. As Charlie (now Chuck) reminisces, this was the summer he learned to rebound on and off the court. While the poetry is not as dynamic as The Crossover, the story is well-plotted and familiar characters are introduced, including mom C.J. The book stands well on its own, although readers familiar with The Crossover will enjoy watching the relationship between Chuck and Crystal develop.

THOUGHTS: A must purchase where Alexander’s other books are popular.

Realistic Fiction; Sports          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

Menon, Sandhya. From Twinkle, with Love. New York: Simon Pulse, 2018. 978-1481495400. 336 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Sandhya Menon’s sophomore novel, From Twinkle, with Love, features another charming female protagonist looking to escape from the box her classmates, parents, and society at large has put her in. Meet Twinkle Mehra, aspiring filmmaker, and “groundling,” (aka: social outcast), who dreams of getting her best friend, Maddie Tanaka, back from the “silk feathered hats” (aka: popular click). She thinks she’s hit upon the perfect scheme when Sahil Roy (twin of Neil Roy, Twinkle’s long time, and long-shot, crush) asks if she wants to team up with him to make a film for their school’s Midsummer Night arts festival. Twinkle is naturally shy and non-confrontational – two things about herself she wishes she could change – and she decides that putting herself out there in such a spectacular fashion is the only way for her to rise up from groundling status. Unbeknownst to Twinkle, this is all part of Sahil’s masterplan to finally get Twinkle to notice him, and to steal the limelight from his superstar twin. The two hit it off immediately, but Twinkle won’t allow herself to give in to her growing feelings for Sahil until she can uncover who her secret admirer is – the mysterious “N,” who has been emailing her for several weeks. Obviously, drama, romantic tension, and other teenage shenanigans ensue, leaving Twinkle teetering on the edge of a potentially disastrous decision. This is a breezy novel, with sitcom-like problems and tidy resolutions, and often unrealistically mature explorations of feelings. However, if you’re a fan of rom-coms, slapstick comedy, and sweet first time love, this is a perfect book for you.

Thoughts: While some of the supporting characters can come off as fairly one dimensional, Twinkle’s grandmother, Dadi, is possibly the most dynamic character of the bunch. A fanatical new ager, who support Twinkle in all of her endeavors, she offers insightful and/or fanciful advice, and is a wonderful counterpoint to Twinkle’s absentee parents.  

Realistic Fiction          Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

Pinkney, Andrea Davis, and Brian Pinkney.  Martin Rising: Requiem for a King.  Scholastic, 2018. 9780545702546.  128 pages. $19.99. Grades 4-7.

Pinkney takes us on a lyrical journey through the weeks preceding and the days following the death of Martin Luther King in a series of what she calls “docu-poems.”  The book begins with a prelude about Henny-Penny of fairy tale fame who plays the role of the Greek Chorus, as explained by Pinkney in her author’s note. Henny Penny appears throughout the text and in one poem tries to stop time in an effort to prevent the fatal events that will occur. This tribute focuses on the events surrounding the Memphis sanitation worker strike and the protest marches and speeches that King undertook in their support.  She makes use of the strike’s phrase “I am a Man” in several poems. On April 3, King returned to Memphis to further help the workers’ cause and gave his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. He was assassinated the following day. The poems before Martin’s death have chapter headings of “Dawn” and “Daylight,” while those that discuss events after the assassination are labeled “Darkness.” These serve as metaphors of the fight for civil rights. The title of each poem includes the date and events are presented chronologically. The final series of poems are presented under the heading “Dawn” once again and include a poem on the creation of Martin Luther King Day, which keeps his spirit and dreams alive. Pinkney includes a timeline of MLK’s entire life in the back matter with a more detailed listing of the events that took place in 1968, which are the main focus of this book. In the author’s note, Pinkney suggests that these poems could be performed out loud or read silently. Brian Pinkney’s expressionist illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache, and India ink. In the Illustrator’s note, he explains that he wanted them to convey the emotions of the events, rather than just a realistic portrait. The back matter includes a brief synopsis of King’s life in prose, accompanied by photographs. This will help those unfamiliar with all the details of his life and the sanitation strike to understand this text better. Source notes are also included.

Thoughts:  This is an excellent example of creative nonfiction, but is more importantly a moving and fitting eulogy of a famous American. This book should be a part of every library’s collection.

811.6   Poetry          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Elem. – Rhyme Crime, Sometimes You Fly, Happy Veggies, Mr. Pack Rat Really Wants That, Yellow Kayak, The Boy and the Blue Moon, Seeing into Tomorrow, The Princess and the Pit Stop, All the Animals Where I Live, Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words, Mighty Tug,

Burgerman, Jon. Rhyme Crime. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-0-7352-2884-9. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

Filled with bright, bold colors and a shadowy hand, Rhyme Crime is the tale of a thief who, “Once upon a time, / a thief / committed a crime. / Everything he stole / was replaced with / a rhyme” (2).  Gumpop’s lovely head became bread. Tootle’s dog was replaced with a log. That is until the thief steals Tumble’s orange. What rhymes with orange?  Through fun, bright colored, alien characters, children will easily pick up the rhyme and complete it before the page is turned.

THOUGHTS: This is a fabulous read aloud that introduces readers to rhyme scheme.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Applegate, Katherine. Sometimes You Fly. Ill. Jennifer Black Reinhardt. Clarion Books, 2018. 978-0-547-63390-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-2.

“What matters most / is what you take / from all you learn / before the cake.”  Thus ends Katherine Applegate’s newest picture book, Sometimes You Fly. Each right-hand page begins with “Before…” and reveals the after through a beautiful watercolor illustration on the following page. From beginning with a first birthday through graduation, Applegate highlights the ups and downs of growing up. With the help of family and friends, children learn and grow. By trying new things, they learn what they enjoy and their strengths; something every reader can relate to.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful picture book for the first day of Kindergarten to help ease any jitters; it explains the “bad” that happens before the good occurs.  

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area School District

Oda, Mayumi. Happy Veggies. Plum Blossom Books. 2018. 978-1-946-76406-5. $12.95. Unpaged. Gr. PreK-2.

Open the doors to a lush and gorgeous garden. What might you see there? Perhaps some butterflies or bees buzzing about, busy at work. What are these insects working on? They are pollinating the different plants which make way to a variety of yummy garden treats! Cabbages, carrots, potatoes, asparagus, pumpkins, and a whole market growing in the ground of Mother Earth. Take a stroll through a delightful garden of happy veggies growing, created with beautiful watercolor illustrations that make readers want to jump into the garden and pick some vegetables right off the page!

THOUGHTS: The illustrations are stunning, created through watercolor paints. The variety of vegetables allows readers to see some items they already know and perhaps learn about a few new ones. This is a wonderful introduction to types of vegetables and how they grow for young children.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Ewert, Marcus. Mr. Pack Rat Really Wants That. Parallax Press: Plum Blossom. 2018. 978-1-946764-25-6. $14.95. Unpaged. Gr. K-2.

Mr. Pack Rat adores his brown midden – his brown nest that he made all on his own. Mr. Pack Rat is happy – until he goes outside and sees how beautiful the colors of the flowers are! In fact, these colors are so beautiful that he NEEDS them in his midden! Using his handy magical magnet, Mr. Pack Rat collects all of the flowers for his midden. But… he still isn’t happy. So Mr. Pack Rat adds some shells from the sea to his midden. However, he still isn’t happy. Item after item, big and small, crowd into his midden, yet he still isn’t happy. Finally, Mr. Pack Rat sees the one thing that will make him happy – the night sky and all that belong in it! As Mr. Pack Rat uses his magical magnet to collect the night sky, he realizes his mistake! He pleads for the sky not to come into his midden; he does not want to be squashed by the night sky! After he pleads and sobs into the night, Mr. Pack Rat awakes with a new mindset. After all, he is happy, and there is nothing around him that he feels like he needs! With this new happiness, he returns all of the items he collected in his midden and returns to sleep, happy with his life.

THOUGHTS: This is a good story to teach to children about hoarding and the idea that having a lot of things in your life isn’t what makes you happy. The illustrations are beautifully done, adding the color schemes that assist the flow of Mr. Pack Rat’s story. All around, a beautiful book with an important lesson inside.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Laden, Nina. Yellow Kayak. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018: ISBN 978-1-534-40194-5. 32 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This sea story begins with a boy and his giraffe friend launching their yellow kayak, ready for a day of fun on the water. They watch fish jumping and loons floating as they glide through tranquil waters. However, as they enter the open sea, the winds and waves strengthen, and a storm is soon upon them. Gusty winds and pounding surf steal the paddle, and the pair is left bobbing on the open water. After the storm abates, a pod of unlikely friends gently guides their little boat back safely to shore. This story is told in sparse four-word rhyming verses, and the real stars are the digitally colored pencil illustrations. Featuring a palette of pink, yellow, blue, and green, there is much to look at on each spread. From swirling waves to swaying tentacles, the ocean is brimming with life and movement, and readers will notice new details during repeated readings.

THOUGHTS: This book celebrates the subtle themes of courage, keeping calm in the face of danger, and the strong bond of friendship. The rhyming text lends itself to a read-aloud, and students will enjoy searching for all the sea creatures woven into the illustrations. It would also be a good addition to any poetry unit.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

O’Leary, Sara. The Boy and the Blue Moon. Godwin Books: Henry Holt and Company, 2018: ISBN 978-1-627-79774-0. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Anything can happen on a night when there’s a blue moon, and in this enchanting bedtime story, a boy and his cat experience some amazing adventures when they go walking in the moonlight. As they journey down a moonlit forest path, they hear bluebells ringing and imagine they hear dragons singing in the treetops. After rowing across a magical lake, the boy wishes he could travel to the moon. A sudden swirl envelopes them, and they are deposited softly on the surface of the moon. The moon is as perfect as the boy imagined it would be, and he and his cat frolic together until they feel a pang of longing for their cozy home back on Earth. A variety of mediums, including gouache, graphite sticks, pastels, colored pencils, and Photoshop, ensure the mixed media illustrations shine. The many shades of blue glow on the double-page spreads, heightening the magical, other-worldly tone of the story.

THOUGHTS: This story of adventure, longing, and discovery feels similar to Where the Wild Things Are, and the pair would be perfect for a magical, wonder-filled story time.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Wright, Richard, and Nina Crews. Seeing into Tomorrow. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press. 2018. 978-1-512-41865-1. $19.99. Unpaged. Grades K-3.

A haiku poem is both simple and often profound, capturing a moment and a thought in three short lines. This collection takes a dozen of the more than four thousand written by Richard Wright and makes them visually accessible to children. Traditional topics such as seasons, nature, and relationships come into sparkling reality with the photo collage craft of Nina Crews. She focuses the art on African American boys to represent Wright’s youth, and the introduction and end notes provide excellent background into his life. Seeing Into Tomorrow offers promise and reflection between its pages, making it a worthwhile addition to your poetry collection.

THOUGHTS: The selections in this poetry book are geared toward younger readers, but could be reread differently for older youth as well as adults, which could be an interesting exercise. Also, interpreting the relationship between the photos Crews chose and the words allow for discussion and perhaps an extension project to capture more haikus through pictures.

811 / Poetry          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Angleberger, Tom and Dan Santat. The Princess and the Pit Stop. New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2018. 978-1-4197-2848-8. $16.99. Unpaged. Grades K-2.

“Once upon a time, there was a princess who made a pit stop.” So begins a race through fairytale land with a princess straight out of Speed Racer! With action packed, colorful images and humorous extra details, star picture book creators Angleberger and Santat deliver an entertaining, fast paced story. A frog serves as the announcer who gives play by play details of the princess’ run from last to first. Her rainbow streaking turbo race car zooms past characters such as the gingerbread man, the tortoise and the hare, and even the big bad wolf. The celebratory ball at the end will make sure that this is a happily ever after tale worth reading again and again!

THOUGHTS:  Readers hopefully will find their imagination revved up through the story. What do other fairy tale characters do when they compete or interact? This could also provide a nice bridge or comparison to those graphic novel novices.

Picture Book           Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Stead, Philip. C. All the Animals Where I Live. Roaring Brook Press, 2018. 978-1-626-72656-7. Unpaged. K-3. $18.99.

In this beautifully crafted book, Stead takes us on a visit to his house in the country. The reader meets a variety of animals that live there, including his pet dog Wednesday and his stuffed bear called Frederick. The author shares his memories and impressions of this place by moving back and forth between a description of his own and his grandmother’s home, which is just down the dirt road. This book is a feast for the senses as he describes how a room smells (like maple syrup), what he saw (a knitted wool blanket with chickens on it) and what he heard (dragonflies buzzing and coyotes howling). Some of the pages discuss a memory of his visits to his grandmother, while other parts of the story take us through the seasons with his dog. Stead gives readers a tranquil look into his surroundings through his observations of the sights and sounds of animals that are found right in his backyard. Readers might feel inspired to put down those electronic devices and take a look outside. The illustrations are full bleed with a double page spread, and Stead uses a soft muted color palette that contributes to a feeling of peace. There is not much story here, but just a gentle contemplation on the natural wonders close to us.

THOUGHTS: A quiet contemplative book that will work well as a read aloud. Hand this to children who enjoy reading about nature.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Bowman, Donna Janell.  Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words. Peachtree, 2018. Unpaged. 978-1-561-45852-3. $17.95.  Grades 3-5.

Bowman’s text is the little-known anecdote of the sixteenth president’s duel with an Illinois lawyer named James Shields.  In 1842, Lincoln wrote a letter to the newspaper under the pseudonym “Aunt Rebecca” and which attacked Shields’ views on the payment of taxes. In this letter, Lincoln called Shields a liar and a “conceity dunce.”  Others, including Mary Todd, Lincoln’s future wife, followed Lincoln’s lead and wrote letters poking fun at Shields. Shields became incensed over the letters and soon Lincoln revealed that he was to blame. A flurry of letters went back and forth with each man feeling he was the injured party.  Lincoln refused to apologize until Shields withdrew his accusation that Lincoln wrote all the letters, while Shields felt his reputation was damaged. Shields then challenged Lincoln to a duel, which was illegal in Illinois. Nevertheless, the men set off to duel with swords and the “almost-duel” ended peacefully. Schindler uses watercolor and ink to create the illustrations, which are especially helpful when the conditions of the duel are explained.  Bowman’s text shows us that mudslinging can lead to serious consequences. In the back matter, the author tells us that Lincoln changed after this event and promised never to write a “hurtful word or use another man for political gain.”

THOUGHTS: Bowman’s book will be useful when explaining the difference between fact and opinion and the harmful effects of abusive language in the media, including social media. A timely and relevant work.

921 Biography          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD
973.7092  History                                     

Capucilli, Alyssa Satin. Mighty Tug. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-4814-7681-2. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

Mighty Tug might be small compared to the other boats in the harbor, but he has an important job to do. This book follows Mighty Tug throughout the day as he completes his work, pulling a cargo ship, a barge, rafts, and more. Just as the day is winding down, another boat catches on fire, and Mighty Tug once again comes to the rescue. Digitally composed watercolor and gouache illustrations and rhyming text accompany this charming tale about a small but mighty hero.

THOUGHTS: There is an important lesson to be learned from this story: no matter how small you are, you can make a difference. This message, along with the personification of the boats and the use of multiple onomatopoeias, is reminiscent of Alice Schertle’s Little Blue Truck.  Young fans of Little Blue Truck and Thomas the Train will delight in this title.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

Wallace, Sandra Neil. Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-481-44387-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. 2-4.

Ernie Barnes grew up in the segregated South in the 1940s. He loved art and longed to paint for a living, but art didn’t pay the bills. Therefore, he became a professional football player instead. He continued to follow his dreams, sketching on the sidelines during games and painting football scenes from memory after his games. Eventually, his hard work paid off, and his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country. This biography, which recounts the life of Ernie Barnes, shows how dedication, hard work, and perseverance always pay off – an excellent lesson for young readers.

THOUGHTS: An unusual blend of sports, art, and African American history should appeal to a wide variety of readers. The historical note and additional resources provided at the end of the book are perfect for delving deeper into the subject and creating extension activities. A well-researched and well-written story, this is a must-have for any elementary biography collection.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School