Elem. – Under My Hijab

Khan, Hena. Under My Hijab. Lee & Low, 2019. 978-1-620-14792-4. 32 p. $18.95. Gr p-3.

Under My Hijab is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book explaining in a child’s voice about what a hijab is.  The main character, a young girl, talks about the different women in her family from her grandmother to her sister, and all the different ways they wear their hijab. While the story does not explain why the women are wearing a hijab, there is back content that gives a child friendly explanation. The main character also discusses each woman as an individual, showing their different interests and how at home the women do not wear a hijab.

THOUGHTS: I love the strong females in this book, from her mother who is a doctor, to her aunt who is an artist with purple hair. This book would be great to use as an opening to a lesson about different cultures. I would use this book possibly as an introduction into research or with younger students as a lesson talking about Ramadan or other holidays.

Picture Book          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD


MG – To Night Owl from Dogfish

Sloan, Holly Goldberg. To Night Owl from Dogfish. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-525-55323-6. 293 p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.

A random email, a summer camp, and two dads in love – what could possibly go wrong? Bett discovers that her father has arranged for her to attend summer camp with the daughter of a man he has fallen in love with in the hopes they become best friends. Told through a series of emails between Bett, who lives in California, and Avery, who lives in New York, To Night Owl from Dogfish is a heartwarming tale of what family truly can be. Bett and Avery decide to plot against their fathers by not speaking to each other at camp while their fathers are off galavanting in China. However as the girls spend more time together, a friendship blossoms. With Parent Day looming (and no parents to be found for Bett and Avery), Bett reaches out to Avery’s biological mom, a playwright in New York, to come to camp. Disaster ensues and the final nail in the coffin is that their fathers are ending the relationship! Determined to bring their dads back together, Avery and Bett formulate a plan to keep this newly formed “family” together once and for all.  

THOUGHTS: This book has relatable tween characters, a fast paced plot, and a style of writing sure to hook reluctant readers. Positive messages about being yourself and loving everyone regardless of their relationship status are prevalent.

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Authors Goldberg and Wolitzer team up for this utterly charming middle grade novel with a Parent Trap vibe told entirely through emails. Carefree, California girl Bett Devlin, and nerdy, nervous New Yorker Avery Bloom are horrified when their dads fall in love and plot to send them to the same summer camp, so they can get to know each other. The girls agree to sabotage the plan, yet somehow become the best of friends. To their horror, their dads split up, and the girls start scheming to get them back together–a plot that backfires spectacularly when they introduce Bett’s dad to another man in  hopes of making Avery’s dad jealous. Along the way, Avery meets her biological mom, a playwright, who discovers that Bett’s grandmother is perfect for a lead role in one of her plays. Twists and turns abound as the families become more and more entangled. Readers will stay riveted right up to the surprise ending.

THOUGHTS:  This is an absolutely delightful romp:  a funny, fast-paced, page-turner that also includes a gentle message about the power of love and acceptance, and the real meaning of family, that belongs on the shelves of every middle school.  

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


MG – The Line Tender; Camp Average; The 12th Candle; The Bridge Home

Allen, Kate. The Line Tender. Dutton, 2019. 978-0-735-23160-3. $17.99. Gr. 4-6. 

Life for twelve year old Lucy Everhart hasn’t been easy. Her mother died suddenly while researching great white sharks when Lucy was eight. Lucy had to deal with getting her period on her own, and she doesn’t know the first thing about boys. With the love of a few neighbors like Mr. Patterson and Fred’s family, Lucy and her father have gotten by. Looking forward to summer, Lucy and Fred tackle an extra credit field guide project for school. Fred is in charge of the research, and Lucy is in charge of the art. Together, they travel around their small Rockport, MA coastal town recording specimens. When a Great White is found in the harbor, Lucy and Fred turn back to her mother’s research to learn more. Tragedy strikes Lucy’s life once again, though, and she must learn how to wade through another sudden loss. Lucy may have lost her mom years ago, but she has a lot to learn about herself and her mother’s research to help her move forward. 

THOUGHTS: This touching middle grade novel will reach a variety of readers. Hand it to fans of emotional, realistic works and students interested in science and marine life.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Lucy and Fred are best friends spending the summer together working on their extra-credit science project, a field guide to the wildlife in their coastal community. When a great white shark is caught by Sookie, a fisherman friend of Lucy’s parents, Lucy is reminded of her mother’s passion as a biologist for sea life, especially white sharks. After the white shark disappears from the dock, Lucy begins to explore more about sharks and her mother’s work. When tragedy strikes again for Lucy, she loses a bit of herself. In her need to find answers, Lucy learns about her mother’s last project proposal studying white sharks. With the help of her father, Sookie, and neighbor, Mr. Patterson, Lucy is able to find answers from her mother’s colleagues while also finding strength in loss and a voice in her memories.

THOUGHTS: The Line Tender deals with loss and trauma in very real, appropriate, and understandable ways for middle-grade students. Allen does not shy away from feelings of sorrow or loss, nor does she sugar-coat growing up in middle school, as she does address changes emotionally and physically that one goes through.  This is a great novel for students who have experienced loss as well as those who have not. It helps readers of all ages to understand, accept, and learn from their feelings in order to grow.

Realistic Fiction          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Battle, Craig. Camp Average. Owlkids Books, 2019. 978-1-771-47305-7. 240 p. $16.95. Gr. 3-6

When your whole goal for summer sports camp is to be number two, a leader who only wants to win is your worst nightmare. Eleven year old Mack returns for his Junior year at Camp Avenger expecting a relaxing summer with his friends in cabin 10. What he does not plan for is Winston, the new Junior leader, who is all about winning. Instead of swimming, rockery, and general camp fun, Mack and his friends’ lives are all about sports, including lunch and dinner on the diamond. Mack can’t take it and rounds up his friends in cabin 10 to lose in extraordinary fashion. The goal is simple, break Winston by showing how terrible they are at sports. What they do not count on is how tough Winston is to break. Instead of the losses causing him to lose faith in the boys, he becomes a drill sergeant, literally. As the students in the other cabins reach their breaking point and almost turn on cabin 10, can Mack negotiate his way into having the summer he dreamed of?

THOUGHTS: This is a great book about friendship and standing up for what you believe. This books shows how, sometimes, when things don’t go as planned it can lead to a better outcome than you ever dreamed.

Realistic Fiction          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD

Tomsic, Kim. The 12th Candle. Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. 978-0-062-65497-7. 336 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-7.

Sage’s life is far from perfect; in fact it’s cursed. Even worse, the curse isn’t her fault, but passed on to her by her mother. The conundrum curse is between the Sassafras girls and the Petty girls. When one has good luck, the other has bad, and vice versa. The catch, however, is the Pettys always seem to get the good luck. Sage is making due with her best friend Bailee and just hoping the curse doesn’t make her life too hard. That is, until her twelfth birthday when they visit a unique new store, Minerva, and are given a special magical candle with lots of rules. With this candle, Sage can make one wish every day until the winter equinox, one week away, or until the candle is gone. On her birthday, however, Sage gets 4 wishes. The biggest warning is “Remember, if you don’t do what needs to be done before the solstice, you’ll have to wait another generation.” Sage’s first four wishes take the candle down to an inch and a half. With seven more days, will Sage figure out what needs to be done before it is too late?

THOUGHTS: This book is a fun, lighthearted story about friendship and enemies. It would be a fun book to read with a small literacy circle as the foreshadowing could lead to some awesome discussions.  

Fantasy           Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD

Venkatrama, Padma. The Bridge Home. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019.  978-1-524-73811-2.  208 p.  $16.99  Gr. 5-8.

In her first middle grade novel, Padma Venkatrama (A Time to Dance) tells the heartrending story of four homeless children in Chennai, India. Fed up with her abusive father, Viji runs away with her developmentally delayed sister, Rukku. The sisters meet up with two equally destitute boys, and the children soon become a family of sorts, making their “home” near a crumbling bridge. They share their meager resources and work together in the foul, stinking trash heaps of the city, selling glass and scraps to junk dealers. Despite her disability, Rukku is determined to do her share, and time and again proves to be an asset rather than a liability. Many of the adults in the story are threatening, and, as a result, the children keep a low profile and are afraid to trust anyone. The resolution of the story is simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful.

THOUGHTS: There is a lot going on is this very slim volume: poverty, homelessness, abuse, disability, and even some interesting discussions about religion, but it all feels completely integral to the story. Although reading about children living out traumatic experiences is difficult, Venkatrama writes the story in an age-appropriate way, and the end (and the author’s note) offers hope. An important book. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

MG – Pilu of the Woods

Nguyen, Mai K. Pilu of the Woods. Oni Press, 2019. 978-1-620-10551-1. $12.99. Gr. 4-6.

Willow has heard it all recently, the whispers and the name calling. She’s trying too hard to keep her monsters bottled up, to hold up the most important promise she has made. Despite this, it seems that every time she blows up, those monsters grow and spread, and she cannot help but break the promise she made. After running off into the woods following an argument with her sister, Willow runs into Pilu, the most mysterious person she has met who is just as lost as her. Pilu confesses that she has ran away from home because she knows she is not wanted and that her mother has other saplings to take care of. Willow tells her that her mother does miss her, and she must return and she knows the way.

Together, Willow and Pilu fight their monsters, talking about the importance of realizing that we all have monsters and things we face, but we cannot ignore them. If we ignore the monsters, things only get worse, as no one wants to be ignored. Discover how Willow and Pilu battle their monsters together.

THOUGHTS: The illustrations of this graphic novel are beautifully created, with details and information on nature shown throughout the story. The moral of dealing with with your battles and struggles, among the hardships of life, is presented in a positive way for higher elementary and middle school aged students.

Graphic Novel          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Baby Bird; Wish; Awesome Dogs; North American Animals; Celebrating Holidays; Mighty Machines in Action

Gibbs, Andrew. Baby Bird. Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-786-03591-2. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

Baby bird is a little different than his brothers and sisters. One of his wings is a little bit smaller than the other. While this normally does not keep him back, it is now time for him to fly. As much as Baby tries, he is unable to fly. While practicing, he runs into a new bird – a Cooter! Cooter tries to help him fly but realizes that he will not be able to do so. Cooter takes Baby on a water ride and teaches him that it is okay if he cannot fly in the air, but there are other ways that Baby can fly.

THOUGHTS: A cute book with beautiful illustrations. Cooter helps teacher Baby that there are ways to overcome diversity and that one different thing about him can make him unique and strong in other ways.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Saunders, Chris. Wish. Quarto Publishing Group, 2019. 978-1-786-03346-8. $17.95. Gr. K-3

Once a year wishes fill the sky. If you are lucky, you may be chosen by a wish. Rabbit is extra lucky, as he was chosen by three wishes! Rabbit does not know what to do with these wishes, so he asks his friends what they would want with their wishes. Rabbit asks Mouse, Fox, and Bear what they would want with their wishes, and he wonders if these would be the wishes that he would want. Rabbit decides that he could grant their wishes to give them what they want but realizes afterwards that he no longer has a wish of his own. The three friends decide to give Rabbit his own special wish, as he has done something far more wonderful with friendship and kindness.

THOUGHTS: An extremely touching book that shows how we can help others achieve wishes and dreams with kindness and friendship. The book is beautifully designed and illustrated, allowing the reader to feel pulled into the story.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Polinksy, Paige V. Awesome Dogs. Bellwether, 2019. $17.95 ea. 24 p. Gr. K-2.

Alaskan Malamutes. 978-1-626-17791-8.
Irish Wolfhounds. 978-1-626-17792-5.
Mastiffs. 978-1-626-17793-2
Scottish Terriers. 978-1-626-17794-9.

Bellwether expands their Awesome Dogs series with the addition of four new titles sure to be of interest to young readers. Each volume focuses on a specific, well-known dog breed and includes information about the history and evolution of the breed as well details about the characteristics of the breed. Infographics, maps, and sidebars are utilized to highlight key terms and ideas. The text is supplemented by numerous large, high-quality photos, as well as a glossary, index, and links to web resources.

THOUGHTS: A worthwhile additional to the shelves of primary libraries, where animal titles are always in demand. If your dog section is in need of a refresh, consider adding these titles.

636.7 Dogs          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Sabelko, Rebecca. North American Animals. Bellwether, 2019. $17.95 ea. 24 p. Gr. 1-2.

American Badgers. 978-1-626-17795-6.
California Condors. 978-1-626-17796-3.
Gila Monsters. 978-1-626-17797-0
Long-tailed Weasels. 978-1-626-17798-7.
Pileated Woodpeckers. 978-1-626-17799-4.
Rocky Mountain Elk. 978-1-626-17800-7.

The North American Animals series introduces early readers to some of the most interesting animals on the continent. Readers will find themselves engaged by the high-quality photos that appear on each page. Numerous infographics presenting the animal’s enemies and prey, size, and unique characteristics also enhance the basic animal information presented within the text. A glossary and web links are also included.

THOUGHTS: Sure to be popular with primary readers, these titles offer a great introduction to many common animals of interest to students. The high-quality photos are sure to draw students into the information being presented, and the infographics are a great way to communicate specific information/characteristics to younger readers. If you are looking for additional animal titles for the primary level, consider this series.  

500s Animals       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Koestler-Grack, Rachel A. Celebrating Holidays. Bellwether, 2019. $17.95 ea. 24 ea. Gr. 1-2.

Holi. 978-1-626-17787-1
Juneteenth. 978-1-626-17788-8
Labor Day. 978-1-626-17789-5
Passover. 978-1-626-17790-1

The Celebrating Holidays series provides beginning readers with an introduction to major holidays as well as cultural and religious celebrations. Each title opens by informing readers that the holiday “is here!” Further chapters define the holiday, discussing the origin and historical significance of the day(s). Traditions and ways to celebrate the holiday are also discussed. A simple craft or recipe related to the holiday is also included. The layout features numerous high-quality photos as well as sidebars, maps, and timelines. A glossary and web links are also included.

THOUGHTS: This series is a great choice to introduce primary age students to major seasonal, religious, and cultural celebrations. Readers will gain an understanding of why these holidays are of importance to many. The inclusion of a craft or recipe in each title is a nice additional feature. If your holiday collection needs a refresh, consider purchasing this series.

394 Holidays         Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Bowman, Chris. Mighty Machines in Action. Bellwether, 2018. $17.95 ea. Gr. 24 ea. Gr. 1-2.

Ambulances. 978-1-626-17756-7
Motorcycles. 978-1-626-17758-1
Pickup Trucks. 978-1-626-17757-4
Race Cars. 978-1-626-17759-8

Powerful vehicles are the focus of Bellwether’s Mighty Machines in Action series. Readers will learn about the purpose and function of the machine as well as its unique characteristics. Infographics are used to help readers visualize the size of the machine as well as identify various subtypes of the vehicle. The large font and simple sentences make this series ideal for primary-aged students. Large photos of the vehicle in action are sure to be of interest to machine-loving readers.

THOUGHTS: This series offers a great introduction to non-fiction titles for younger readers. Sure to be popular with fans of trucks, construction vehicles, and other large machines, consider adding titles form this series to primary collections.

600s Machines, Transportation          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD