MG: The Magnificent Migration; Aru Shah and the Song of Death; The Clockwork Ghost; Genesis Begins Again; The Revenge of Magic; Freedom Fire; Order of the Majestic

Montgomery, Sy. The Magnificent Migration: On Safari with Africa’s Last Great Herds. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 162 p. $24.99. 978-0-544-76133-1. Grades 5-8. 

Noted nonfiction writer Montgomery joins with wildebeest expert Dr. Richard Estes and others to witness the amazing migration of the wildebeest (gnu) on Africa’s Serengeti. She narrates the entire journey, inserting the notable backgrounds, expectations and hopes of the various travelers involved. Readers learn of the life cycle of wildebeests (a life of constant migration) and their impact on other species, the ecosystem, and humans. Montgomery succeeds in communicating a sense of awe of the animals and the scenery surrounding the researchers, and shares numerous specific events and important information on other migratory animals worldwide, such as monarch butterflies, Christmas Island red crabs, and Arctic terns. This pulls in readers who may be unfamiliar with wildebeests, but certainly recognize migratory stories of other species. Notably, she highlights the North American buffalo, once so numerous that in 1871, a soldier on horseback was surrounded for six days by a single herd (59) and now hunted nearly to extinction and relegated to comparable tiny plots of land. Their demise, she maintains, impacted the species, weather, economics of the North American region for years–and serves as a warning to protect remaining wildebeest populations and migration as well. With this book, Montgomery proves the worth and beauty of this species and region, leaving us to agree, “the whole world has a stake in keeping this greatest African savanna ecosystem alive…Serengeti must not die!” (Estes, The Gnu’s World 2013). 

THOUGHTS: Beautifully photographed and shared by experts, this book invites readers to explore wonders of the world. This book is best for mature readers who can handle the life and death of various species, as well as the mating experiences described. A fine addition to animal research and understanding for middle or high school libraries.

591.56 Animal Migration          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Chokshi, Roshani. Aru Shah and the Song of Death. Rick Riordan Presents, 2019. 978-1-368-05203-0. 365 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

The second book in the Pandava series drops readers in the middle of a search for a demonic presence, complete with rampaging zombies. Aru and her Pandava sister, Mini, reincarnations of Hindu demigods, are on a mission to find the bow and arrow of the god of love. Unfortunately, the last person seen with the magical implements looked an awful lot like Aru. To prove her innocence and maintain her place among the celestial gods, Aru must locate the weapon within 10 days. Going with her is Mini; Brynne, another Pandava; and Aiden, the cute boy who lives across the street from Aru, with a few secrets of his own. After a quick shopping trip at the magical Costco, the four begin their quest. While Aru and Mini have experience working together, the addition of Brynne and Aiden requires a rocky adjustment for all of them. Will the foursome pull together in time to save Aru’s future? The nonstop action and humor are liberally sprinkled with Hindu mythology, and the spunky heroines are a welcome addition to the mythological fantasy genre.

THOUGHTS: Percy Jackson fans should flock to this funny, adventure-filled series, as well as anyone who loves wisecracking demigods.

Fantasy (mythology)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Ruby, Laura. York: The Clockwork Ghost. Walden Pond Press, 2019. 978-0-062-30696-8. 446 p. $17.99. Grades 4-8. 

Tess and Theo, the Biedermann twins, and their friend, Jaime, are back for more puzzle-packed adventures in book two of Laura Ruby’s fascinating series, York. For those who have not read the first book, Ruby succinctly recaps the story in the first chapter. The three friends attempted to keep an unscrupulous businessman from purchasing their apartment building, one of several in New York City erected by the legendary Morningstarr twins who were inventors of mechanical marvels, by solving the centuries-old Morningstarr Cipher. In this next installment, the action never stops as the intrepid trio desperately soldier on following the cipher’s clues. The mystery is compounded by numerous mysterious blonde ladies in red dresses, and when Tess’s therapy cat, Cat, is impounded when a blonde woman claims he bit her, Tess is frantic to retrieve her chimera pet. The story introduces readers to several types of codes as well as early computer programmer Ada Lovelace and other historical characters. The cryptic ending ensures there are more books to come, and readers will be impatiently waiting for the third volume.   

THOUGHTS:  A truly delightful steampunk mystery with relatable, ethnically diverse characters. The action keeps readers on the edge of their seats, and the explanation of various codes makes them feel like they are solving the Cipher right along with the three friends.

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Williams, Alicia D. Genesis Begins Again. Caitlyn Dhlouhy, 2019. 978-1-481-46580-9. 364 p. $17.99. Grades 5-9.

Genesis is thrilled to be bringing a group of girls home after school; finally, she thinks, she has been accepted by the popular clique. But delight quickly changes to mortification when Genesis sees her family’s possessions laid out on the front lawn. She knows what this means: they have been evicted, and the all-too-familiar routine begins again. Her father spends too much time drinking and gambling, and Genesis suspects it’s all her fault. She’s not pretty or light-skinned like her mother, which her father points out to her when he’s mean-drunk. Genesis decides to change herself, to become someone her father will love. But she eventually discovers it is more important to love herself. The story deftly explores self-image as well as prejudice among African Americans. Is it better to be paler, to be able to pass as white? Is straighter hair more desirable? Genesis is disturbed to hear her grandmother’s reminiscence of her own father who would not let his daughters “marry down,” or marry a darker-skinned man, stories that only increase Genesis’s desire to lighten her skin.

THOUGHTS: Besides deftly addressing the issue of self image in teen girls, this book provides an unusual insight into African American culture and deserves to be in all collections.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Riley, James. The Revenge of Magic. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-481-48577-7. 400 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

Fort Fitzgerald was having a great time seeing the sites of Washington, D.C. (except when his father insisted on embarrassing him) until everything turned crazy. The earth shook, the visitors at the monuments started walking calmly away from the mall, and then a giant fist emerged from the ground. A voice in Fort’s head is loudly urging him to RUN, but he turns back to find his father, and that’s when he sees his father grabbed by the giant fist and pulled underground. Six months later, Fort is invited to enroll in a school to learn magic, powers that emanate from a set of ancient manuscripts found 13 years ago. Magic to destroy monsters like the one Fort saw. While Fort is thrilled at the thought of hurting the monsters, it soon becomes obvious that several factions at the school do not want him there, calling him dangerous. Few students befriend him, and he is given impossible tasks to complete in the classroom. But Fort is determined to stay, by any means possible, including the assistance of a student no longer at the school, who reaches out to Fort’s mind, as well as a small band of friends with unique powers of their own. Everything he learns makes him more determined to learn enough to seek his revenge. This first book in a new series is action-packed from the first pages. Readers will enjoy Fort’s journey learning magic spells, and the secondary plot of why Fort is deemed dangerous promises more books to come.

THOUGHTS: Magic/adventure fans will find much to enjoy with this book. Lively plot and engaging characters will leave them anxious for the next book.

Fantasy (Magical Realism)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Older, Daniel José. Freedom Fire. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2019. 978-1-338-26884-3. 277 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Magdalys Roca and her friends, human and dinosaur, are back in this action-packed sequel to Dactyl Hill Squad. After a short plot recap that will assist readers new to the series, the story picks up with the Dactyl Hill Squad, refugees from the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York City, flying pterosaurs south to New Orleans, looking for Magdalys’ brother who was injured in the Civil War. After literally dropping in on the Louisiana Native Guard, an all-black unit fighting for the North, however, the group is soon forced to realize that they cannot avoid becoming involved in the war. Magdalys’ dino wrangling skills are too valuable to the Union Army. Older creatively works a Civil War history lesson into the nonstop action leading up to the Battle of Chickamauga, mixing historical figures and events into the dino action. The black soldiers of the Louisiana Native Guard talk with the youngsters about why the are fighting, and Magdalys comes to understand that no matter how high she flies on her beloved Pterosaur, Stella, she cannot rise above taking sides in this ugly war. The story is captivating, with an all-star cast of characters and dinos. The action rarely pauses, and young readers should flock to this series. Older supplies a plethora of author notes to assist readers in determining fact from fiction (“There were no dinosaurs during the Civil War era!”), including information on the Civil War, dinosaurs and weapons.

THOUGHTS: There is so much to love about this series. Students may read it for the dinos, but they will take away much more. This series should be a middle grade first purchase.

Historical/Sci-Fi          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Myklusch, Matt. Order of the Majestic. Aladdin, 2018. 978-1-534-42487-6. 421 p. $18.99. Grades 3-7.

Myklusch, author of the Jack Blank Adventures series, creates another endearing hero and intriguing world with Order of the Majestic. Joey’s innate cleverness has finally gotten him into big-time trouble. A semi-serious slacker, Joey has, nonetheless, managed to ace his standardized tests. His parents are delighted with their prodigy of a son and seek to enroll him in the elite Exemplar Academy despite Joey’s repeated pleas not to. However, Joey is left speechless when the entrance exam for the school consists of learning magic tricks and ends with him suddenly transported into a different world. Joey meets Redondo the Magnificent, an elderly magician, and learns that magic is real. He quickly becomes embroiled in a bitter battle for the future of magic. While Joey feels inadequate to be part of the fight, having no magical heritage, his quick wit and super-hero knowledge aid him as he attempts to prove to Redondo that he belongs in the magical world. While many plot points feel like they owe a good deal to Harry Potter books (particularly “the wand chooses the wizard”), the characters and setting are engaging and readers, will quickly become swept up in Joey’s adventures.

THOUGHTS: Fans of magic and wizardry, particularly those who are not ready for Harry Potter, will flock to the new series. 

Fantasy (Magical Realism)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Elem. – Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray; Gabi’s Fabulous Functions; The Good Egg; Sal and Gabi Break the Universe; ¡Vamos!; Because

Keating Jess. Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-29521-4. 277 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

When a book opens with the accidental firing of a death ray, you know you are in for a fun ride, and Jess Keating does not disappoint. Young Nikki Tesla is a mechanical whiz and scientific genius. But mom has warned her before about blowing up the house (technically it was more vaporizing), and this time there are consequences. Nikki’s mom wants her to attend a school for geniuses, where Nikki can experiment to her heart’s content and meet other prodigies her age. This is where Nikki balks. She has a bad track record with making friends; she has been home-schooled to avoid the bullying and teasing. Nikki reluctantly agrees, but is sure she is going to be sent home when the orientation activity requires her to work as a team with the other six students at the school, Al Einstein, Mary Shelley, Leo DaVinci, Charlie Darwin, Mo Mozart, and Grace O’Malley. Soon after surviving orientation, Nikki learns the true purpose of the elite group is to save the world, and their skills are immediately tested when Nikki’s Death Ray is stolen from the school’s arsenal. The seven youngsters take off on a globe trotting whirlwind, attempting to catch up to a diabolical madman who may be hitting too close to home for Nikki. This series opener hits the ground running and never lets up. While not all the characters are fleshed out yet, Nikki is well crafted. Her inability to trust her new friends, along with her damaged self esteem, almost cost the group their mission, but in the end Nikki relies on the group to save the day and the world.

THOUGHTS: An edge-of-your-seat series opener that ends with a shocker cliff-hanger. Readers will be begging for the next book.

Action Adventure          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Karanja, Caroline. Gabi’s Fabulous Functions. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-515-82743-6. Unpaged. $27.72. Grades 1-5. 

Gabi and her friend Adi are busy in the kitchen making Gabi’s father a special meal for his birthday. As they follow the recipe, the two girls notice the similarities between following a recipe and functions in coding. The girls input berries, yogurt, and granola, and the output is a parfait. The two even create a input/output machine to “create” the different dishes for dad, who happily gobbles up the “output.” The simplistic story is successful as a way to explain the challenging concept of functions in terms most students will understand. As an added bonus, it features female coders of Hispanic and African American ethnicities. 

THOUGHTS: Consider purchasing where coding is taught, or students have an interest in coding. 

005.1 Computers          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

John, Jory. The Good Egg. Harper, 2019. 978-0-062-86600-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Jory John follows his delightful book The Bad Seed with The Good Egg. Egg has always been good, as far back as when he was living in the store with his 11 siblings. But Egg was frustrated with the bad things his siblings did, and was one frazzled egg trying to fix their messes. Soon he felt like he was cracking up. So, Good Egg leaves home to get away from the pressure of having to be so good. He learns to think about what he wants and needs, and eventually decides to return home to his siblings. Given the popularity of The Bad Seed, this book will have an immediate following. Children will enjoy Pete Oswald’s illustrations, and the cautionary tale of trying to be too perfect will make for interesting discussion. 

THOUGHTS: This will be a must have where The Bad Seed was popular. 

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Hernandez, Carlos. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe. Rick Riordan Presents, 2019. 978-1-368-02282-8. 382 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Sal is having a hard time adjusting to his new Miami school for the arts. He is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days when he meets Gabi, a whirling dervish of a girl who, as student council president and editor of the school paper, knows everything about everybody. So she makes it her new mission to know Sal, and there is a lot to know about Sal. A type-1 diabetic with a passion for sleight of hand, Sal also has the unique ability to reach into other universes, even somehow conjuring his dead mother to cook Cuban food for him. Sal needs to learn how to control his ability before he permanently disturbs the Universe. Gabi is dealing with a seriously ill infant brother. Can the two precocious kids navigate friendship and family without breaking the universe? This book covers much territory, from diabetes, to magic to bullying, but ultimately, the story is about family, in all its many forms. Sal grieves his lost mother, and learns how to navigate his new family with his American Stepmom. Gabi’s family includes her multiple, unique dads (even a robot dad), as well as her baby brother. And Sal learns not all families are the safe haven they should be, and then friends become family. Filled with Cuban culture, mouth-watering food and loud, exuberant characters, this book invites every reader to become a member of the family and enjoy the cosmic ride with Sal and Gabi. 

THOUGHTS:  A must have for middle grade collections. This breathless journey through the multiverses will have readers clamoring for the next book in the series.  

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Gonzalez, Raúl. ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market. Versify, 2019. 978-1-328-55726-1. Unpaged. $14.99. Grades 1-3.

Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabé, have a lot to do today, and we are going to ¡Vamos! with them, learning Spanish as we go. This cheery story immerses readers in Spanish vocabulary as we weave our way through the busy mercado. The pages are saturated in terra cotta hued colors. Speech balloons contribute narration largely in English, while the illustrations and insets seamlessly provide Spanish vocabulary in context. Captions within the busy pictures supply additional Spanish terminology. While the plot is  minimal, children could spend hours examining the exuberant illustrations, soaking up Latino culture as well as language. However, the author does not inform the reader as to what country the story takes place. A bare bones glossary is provided at the end of the story, (without pronunciations) but does not contain all the Spanish words used in the book. Readers are urged to look up additional words in a Spanish/English dictionary.

THOUGHTS:  A clever, entertaining way to introduce Spanish language and Hispanic culture to young readers. The illustrations have a Where’s Waldo quality that will engage readers, and those interested in learning some Spanish will enjoy poring over the book again and again.

463 Spanish Language          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Willems, Mo. Because. Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-01901-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Because is a very unusual offering from the author of such perennial favorites as Elephant and Piggy and Pigeon books. Because shows readers the power of a moment, and, like the familiar cliche of a butterfly flapping its wings, how it can change a life. In this case, because a composer inspired another musician to compose, a young girl eventually is taken to the symphony and is enthralled by the world of music and beauty opened to her. Quiet illustration by Amber Ren accompany Willem’s sparse but powerful text, guiding us through the chain of events (and a little luck, too, Willems points out) leading to the heartwarming conclusion of the story. The musically inclined reader will delight in the book’s endpapers, which reproduce portions of the two musical scores which bookend the story. The book makes a lovely read-aloud, but it also begs to be used as a creative prompt with students of any age.

THOUGHTS: A thoughtful story that will surely set young imaginations soaring. Be sure to share it with classroom teachers as well as youngsters. 

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

This is a beautiful book about those unexpected events that change our lives. It follows the build up to a night at the symphony, introducing the reader to everyone who makes such the night possible, from the composer who wrote the music to the event planners, musicians, train conductors, and ushers. Each person is as important as the next, and they all come together to make this one event happen. Because all this happens, one little girl is forever changed.

THOUGHTS: This book gave me chills. I love all the people who made the event happen and how beautifully everything is portrayed. There’s also an online video about the inspiration and creative process behind the book. And be sure to look in the end pages to learn more.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

YA – Hot Dog Girl; Every Moment After; Like a Love Story; Bloom; The River; Rough Magic; Between the Water and the Woods; Cyber Nation; The Raven’s Tale; Tell Me Everything; You Must Not Miss; Never Caught; You Owe Me a Murder; Love from A to Z; Serious Moonlight

Dugan, Jennifer. Hot Dog Girl. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. 978-0-525-51625-5. $18.99. 320 p. Grades 8 and up.

The summer before senior year should be carefree and fun-filled, but Elouise (Lou) Parker’s summer is off to an awful start. Magic Castle, the amusement park she has frequented since childhood and has worked at since last year, has announced this summer will be its last. To add insult to injury, Lou gets stuck with one of the worst jobs in the park. Again. She’ll play the role of the dancing Hot Dog Girl in the food court. The unflattering, hot, vomit-inducing costume is yet another reminder that she is just not crush-worthy. Her feelings for her crush Nick – the Pirate Diver in one of the park’s shows – will never be reciprocated, especially not when he’s dating Jessa, the girl who plays the princess at Magic Castle. Lou decides to revive her summer by secretly scheming to save Magic Castle via some questionable methods and rejuvenating her best friend Seeley’s love life by fixing her up on a date with the perfect girl. Lou’s scheming goes a little far, though, when she involves Seeley in her quest to break up Nick and Jessa. Subplots with family conflicts give the plot a little more substance, as well, but ultimately, this is a solid coming-of-age tale about love and facing inevitable change.

THOUGHTS: Laugh-out-loud funny at times and written in an authentic first-person teen voice, this book will appeal primarily to female readers looking for a fun summer read. The-dying-old-business-that-holds-so-many-childhood-memories-it-must-be-saved plot feels a bit stale, but the complex relationships are what make this book a good addition to teen collections, especially where there is a high demand for LGBTQ titles. 

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

Moldover, Joseph. Every Moment After. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-1-328-54727-9. $17.99. 362 p. Grades 9 and up.

Cole Hewitt and Matt Simpson are well-known in their suburban New Jersey town, but it’s because they are some of just a few survivors of a tragic school shooting that happened in their first grade classroom when 18 of their classmates were killed. And that depends on one’s definition of “survivor;” the only reason – in Matt’s mind – that he survived is because he was home struggling with his diabetes that day. In the years since the shooting, the town has turned into a living memorial. Monuments both large and small pop up everywhere. The diner in town posts every failed gun control bill on its walls. The survivors themselves serve as living reminders, and the boys each handle it differently. Cole is reserved and awkward, not wanting people to recognize him as the boy in the viral photo from the shooting. Matt is wracked with guilt over not being there that day and constantly questions whether or not he is meant to live. Now they are graduating from high school, and a time in life that is scary enough for any teenager is exponentially more complicated for Cole and Matt. They must navigate family, love, and their friendship through the summer after high school carrying with them the after-effects of the tragedy that they will never forget. Told in alternating points of view between Cole and Matt, this book – which is Muldover’s debut novel – will appeal more to male readers, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

THOUGHTS: This book is heavy. Though not graphic, it obviously deals with matters of life and death. Additionally, just as a warning, it contains more offensive language than the average YA. However, the fact that it also deals with typical YA themes like love and friendship with MALE narrators is a huge plus for this book. Cole and Matt’s friendship is real and raw and touching, and this is one of the best male-narrated YA books I’ve read. I find it similar in style and tone to a John Corey Whaley novel. In an English or Social Studies class, this novel would pair well with a non-fiction book about a school shooting or gun control. Moldover focuses on the human element of a tragedy such as this, but still manages to touch on both sides of a deeply personal and passionate political debate without being overly political.

Realistic Fiction           Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

Nazemian, Abdi. Like a Love Story. Balzer + Bray, 2019. 978-0-06-283936-7. $17.99. 413 p. Grades 9 and up.

It’s 1989. The AIDS epidemic evokes fear in the gay community, and Madonna’s music is at peak popularity. This is the New York City in which Art, Reza, and Judy live. Reza, originally born in Iran, just moved to Manhattan from Toronto. He and his mom and sister fled from Iran during the revolution, and now his mom is remarried. When he starts school, Reza quickly befriends edgy aspiring fashion designer Judy. Her best friend Art is the only known gay student at school. At first Judy misreads Reza’s fear of Art as homophobia, but Reza’s fears have more to do with himself. Reza’s known for some time he likes boys but is afraid to come out for multiple reasons, namely fear of his Iranian family’s reaction but also of contracting AIDS – which at this time was thought to be a disease that plagued only the gay community. As Reza starts dating Judy, he gets to know Art better and develops a secret crush on him. He also gets to know Judy’s Uncle Stephen who is gay too and suffers from AIDS. Stephen is an activist for AIDS research, and Art and Judy attend meetings and protests with him; eventually, Reza joins them, despite fear of what his parents would think if they found out. Art also introduces Reza to Madonna, and they all bond over their love of her music and the ideas for which she stands. Can Reza keep hiding who he really is – and his feelings for Art? Find out in this funny and moving coming of age novel about self-expression and owning who you are no matter your age, race, gender, or orientation. 

THOUGHTS: This book is more than just an LGBTQ love story. Because of its setting and Uncle Stephen’s position in the ACT UP activist group, it serves as a history lesson on the AIDS crisis and how far gay rights have come in the last 30 years. As a lifelong fan of Madonna, I found her role in this novel and the allusions to her songs particularly enjoyable as well. Current teen readers may not understand or appreciate these references as much, though it may serve as a good education for them on the Queen of Pop (Recently, a student actually asked me if Madonna was even still alive). Excellent addition to any YA collection, and possibly a good supplementary novel for health, history, or any class studying the AIDS crisis. Appealing to not only LGBTQ readers but also anyone fighting discrimination of any kind. The hopeful message to all readers is to “Express Yourself” no matter who your “True Blue” self is!

Historical Fiction           Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

Panetta, Kevin, and Savanna Ganucheau. Bloom. First Second, 2019. 978-1-626-72641-3. 351 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Ari Kyrkos wants to move to the city with his bandmates to try and make their music career happen, but his parents want him to stay home and work full-time at their struggling Kyrkos Family Bakery. If he can find a qualified employee to replace him, maybe Ari can move without leaving his family in the lurch. Enter dreamy Hector Galeai, who has just finished his first year at culinary school and is in town to empty his Nana’s house. The boys bond over sourdough rolls, stargazing, and a road trip to the Maryland State Fair. But just when they connect physically, an accident at the bakery and misplaced blame drive them apart. Can Ari swallow his pride and reconnect with the boy he loves, delivering readers a happy-for-now ending to this sweet summer romance?

THOUGHTS: This winning graphic novel in beachy blues and greys is the perfect choice for readers seeking a romance with heart and a realistic conflict that doesn’t hinge on the characters’ sexual identity. Well-developed supporting characters, a recipe, and a playlist round out a delightful read.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Heller, Peter. The River. Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. 978-0-525-52187-7. 253 p. $25.95. Grades 10 and up.

Dartmouth students Jack and Wynn, best friends who have just wrapped up a summer working as wilderness instructors in the Adirondacks, are now taking a month-long canoe trip through the lakes leading into the Maskwa River (Canada) and eventually the Hudson Bay. After smelling smoke for two days, they observe a potentially deadly forest fire. They do their best to warn other campers about the fire, including a couple they previously overheard arguing loudly on the lakeshore. But when they find him, the man is alone, injured, and claiming his wife disappeared in the night. Jack and Wynn double back to find her, touching off a chain of events that pits them against their fellow adventurers as well as the elements. This slim novel successfully blends elements of psychological suspense, survival, and transformative journeys. The prose is beautifully austere, with Jack’s and Wynn’s backstories filling in the calm stretches between whitewater and other perils. The River is a literary achievement that’s also a pageturner; it’s as taut as a spring-loaded snare trap! 

THOUGHTS: With main characters in their very early twenties, The River is an excellent crossover selection for readers who enjoy adventure stories with a tinge of menace. Comparable crossover thrillers include Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta and Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin.

Each year, seniors in Ridley High School’s Advanced Placement English Literature class participate in an end-of-year book club during the month between their A.P. exam and graduation. Recent selections include Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann and Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. I will definitely suggest The River as an option for next year’s book club!

Fiction (Crossover)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Prior-Palmer, Lara. Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race. Catapult, 2019. 978-1-948-22619-6. 288 p. $25.00. Grades 9 and up.

When Lara Prior-Palmer was nineteen, she entered the Mongol Derby, touted as the world’s toughest horse race, on a whim, and much to everyone’s surprise, including her own, she won, becoming the first female, and the youngest rider ever to do so. It’s telling that the title of the book uses the adjective “loneliest” rather than “toughest” to describe this race; not once throughout the entire 1,000 kilometer journey does Prior-Palmer allude to the toughness of the experience, while her solitude is palpable. With little hope of winning, let alone finishing the race, Prior-Palmer sets her expectations low, and when she is in close to last place at the end of the first day, it seems like a good plan. It is just this freedom from the trappings of competition, along with her ambivalence towards riding solo, that allows her to move up the ranks. Once she realizes that she’s doing well, however, she doesn’t shy away from her (somewhat shameful) need to remain at the top of the pack. She is an unusual narrator, given to philosophical musings, and starkly honest self-reflection, and writes very much in the vein of the 1950s Beat movement. Just like the race itself, the book is a meandering, introspective, yet gripping, narrative. Peppered throughout are quotes from the Tempest (the only book she brought with her), letters to her mother, Mongolian sayings and cultural references, and poetic descriptions of the landscape. This is not an endorsement for the Derby itself, nor is it a motivational guide to risk-taking and living life to its fullest; it is a no-nonsense, strangely compelling, almost epistolary exploration of this singular moment in Prior-Palmer’s life, told without hubris, but with a dash of dry British wit.

THOUGHTS: Prior-Palmer speaks often about her inability to fit in anywhere, and especially her frustration with the rigidity of the institution of education; her story, and her narration, will speak to those students who have similar feelings of frustration, isolation, and a touch of wanderlust, which, let’s face it, is most adolescents.

Memoir          Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

Snaith, Simone. Between the Water and the Woods. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-44020-7. 311 p. $18.99. Grades 7 and up.

Magic, chivalry, monsters, secrets – these are just a few things that drive Simone Snaith’s debut novel, Between the Water and the Woods. We first meet the Bird family – Emeline, her younger brother, Dale, and Dada, their father – living a quaint country life in the small village of Equane. Their quiet lives are shattered, however, when Emeline and Dale encounter an Ithin, a monster of myth, living in the haunting woods across the moat. After reviewing the laws of the land, it is determined that the family must travel to the capital to tell the king in person about their encounter. The Birds, along with their driver, Fish, and their stowaway, Aladane (Dale’s good friend, with a serious case of FOMO), are unprepared for the ruthlessness of the world, and in short succession come across highway men, an assassin, a haughty Lash Knight, and a wealthy Sapient who is the potential heir to the throne. When they finally arrive in the capital, the villagers find themselves in the middle of a philosophical war between the Sapients – those who only believe in science and technology – and the Theurgists – those who believe deeply in magic, and the old tales. In the midst of all of this, Emeline discovers that she possesses true elemental magic, and has the ability to control water plants. She keeps it a secret, even from her family, for she knows that in the wrong hands, this knowledge could have potentially dangerous consequences for her and for her family. This is a rollicking adventure, with a courageous heroine at its heart who readers will root for. There is a sweet, chaste romance, as well, along with more serious treatment of class divisions, oligarchy, and, in a small way, the trappings of wealth. Readers will eagerly await the next installment.

THOUGHTS: A perfect book for fans of medieval tales of knights and chivalry, and for middle grade readers looking to graduate up to more complex fairy tales.

Fantasy          Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

Hulick, Kathryn. Cyber Nation: How the Digital Revolution is Changing Society. ReferencePoint Press, 2019. 978-1-682-82469-6. $29.95. 80 pg. Grades 6-12.

This stand alone title focuses on how digital technology is changing the way people interact, learn, and form their identities online. Broken into chapters focusing on relationships, society, information overload, identity dilemma, and future issues, this title is full of information and real life connections. Chapters are broken into subsections that highlight how easy it is to “hide” your true self while online – leading to cyberbullying, addiction, and overstimulation. Information is provided on how digital culture is affecting change in how people spend money and the need to have items “now.” Topics also addressed in brief detail include fake news, cybercrimes, censorship, and propaganda. The final chapter will hit home with students as it focuses on how the internet will greatly affect their future with virtual reality, AI, and how “smart” cities can help fix worldly problems. 

THOUGHTS: A great title for students researching the cause and effects of constant access to the internet and the future of digital access. A bit dry at times, the information is useful and applicable to the topic. The source notes, websites, and organizations available in the back of the book allow students to delve further into how the cyber world is shaping our lives.

302.30285 Social Interaction        Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Winters, Cat. The Raven’s Tale. Amulet Books, 2019. 368 p. $17.99. 978-1-419-73362-8.  Grades 9-12.  

1826, Richmond, Virginia. Seventeen-year-old Edgar Allan Poe longs to escape his foster father, John Allan. The Allans took in three-year-old Edgar when his parents died, and though his foster father showed some pride in Edgar for a while, that feeling has vanished in the face of Edgar’s writing, a talent in which businessman John Allan sees no future. Freedom is less than two weeks away, when Edgar leaves for college in Charlottesville. That’s if Edgar can make it that long. The situation worsens when Edgar’s muse physically appears in town, making residents fearful with her garish, increasingly raven-like appearance. Edgar–and John–know muses are real–John killed his own muse years ago by pushing her into a fire, and he’ll be damned if Edgar gives in to the same weaknesses. Edgar faces a devastating choice: obey his wealthy “Pa” and succumb to mindless business career, or follow the macabre muse he names Lenore and live penniless and shunned, unable to support himself let alone his secret love Elmira Royster. Yet Lenore is relentless: “Let them see me!” she demands. Edgar’s circumstances worsen at college as his foster father denies him adequate funds, and Edgar turns unsuccessfully to gambling. Many recognize his giftedness, including a second would-be muse, Garland O’Peale. Both O’Peale and Lenore hope for victory over Edgar’s soul, but neither will find this an easy fight. Edgar is young, tortured by death, and so very alone. 

THOUGHTS: Drawing on extensive research into Poe’s life, Winters crafts an elegantly written tale, told in alternating chapters from Edgar’s and Lenore’s points-of-view. The result is a novel appropriately suspenseful and macabre, weaving in Poe’s writing and creating an atmosphere which evokes a grim yet creative life that brings to mind the tortured Mary Shelley depicted beautifully in Lita Judge’s Mary’s Monster. Highly recommended for high school collections, this will entice many readers into a new or strengthened following of Poe’s horror writing.      

Historical Horror: Poe, Muses          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Enni, Sarah. Tell Me Everything. Scholastic, 2019. 282 p. $17.99. 978-1-338-13915-0.  Grades 7-12. 

Ivy thrives on art and photography, but people or the spotlight, not so much. She does well enough keeping to herself, though she’s just endured a boring summer without her best friend since fourth grade, Harold, by her side. Harold is an intelligent go-getter whose summer was spent at an Ivy League prep camp, an experience both exhilarating and sobering. Now Harold is diving into any class or club that he can, determined to impact the world, while Ivy prefers the newly minted anonymous art-sharing app VEIL. VEIL has made headlines nationwide, but it stays local, and wipes itself clean every Sunday. Though Ivy never posts any of her own artwork, she follows the posts eagerly, feeling curious about the artists and so inspired that she wishes to thank artists for the connection she feels. This desire to help and encourage others is Ivy’s strength, and she gives gifts, anonymously, then openly, to various people she has identified by their posts. But the pressure is high for Harold, and so, when Ivy discovers what she thinks is his secret, she decides to throw him a party. However, her assumptions about Harold, and her disregard for the “anonymous” label, create some horrible breakdowns in friendships. Meanwhile, a hateful anti-gay VEIL post has parents concerned and suing the creator, who unexpectedly folds the app. Where can Ivy go now?

THOUGHTS: Ivy is a likable character with a huge heart and talent, and thankfully, a strong friend in Harold.  Several adult characters, including Ivy’s art teacher and refreshingly, her parents, counsel her wisely and with compassion. Enni has a knack for current slang and a feel for how teenagers relate on and offline. The novel uses social media and art as a clever way to investigate anonymity, bravery, and character change. Though Ivy and Harold are sophomores, the novel feels written for junior high, and will work for grades 7-12.      

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Leno, Katrina. You Must Not Miss.  Little, Brown & Company, 2019. 294 p. $17.99. 978-0-316-44977-9. Grades 10-12.  

Six months ago, sophomore Margaret “Magpie” Lewis had a decent life. Normal family, close best friend Allison, and reasonable grades. But in one night, everything collapsed. She and Allison walked in on Magpie’s naked dad and aunt having sex, her mom retreated into alcohol, and her college sister Eryn kept her promise to leave if her mom ever got drunk again. To add to the pain, Magpie got drunk and was sexually assaulted by Allison’s boyfriend Brandon, and popular Allison immediately decimated Magpie’s social life. Now, a very depressed Magpie attends school, does no schoolwork, sits at the outcast lunch table, and is in danger of repeating her sophomore year. She holds her new social circle at arm’s length–Clare, whose father committed suicide; bisexual Luke; trans Ben; and Brianna, who is not allowed to live down a humiliating school incident. In a yellow notebook, Magpie creates Near, a place where her former life never fell apart, where everything is perfect, and she feels no pain, only happiness.  She believes in Near so strongly that she brings it to life, accessible via the shed in her backyard. It becomes not only a refuge, but a plan of revenge. Magpie introduces Clare to Near but quickly sees the difficulties. She instead uses Near to exact revenge on those who have hurt her–her father, her sister, Brandon, Allison (who escapes), and oddly, her teacher but not her mother. This is a slow read of an interesting premise whose details are not fleshed out well. Her alter-ego “Hither” warns her of consequences, but nothing more than exhaustion and migraines affect Magpie.  Magpie disappears into Near, but her teacher and her father return (with no memories), though they were all eaten by monsters like Brandon (who does not return). Then Allison herself chooses Near.

THOUGHTS: This is a dull read of a girl who gets temporary revenge that changes only Allison’s opinion of her, but Magpie never gets the help she needs to face reality.   

Fantasy          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Dunbar, Erica Armstrong, and Kathleen Van Cleve. Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away. Simon and Schuster, 2019. 254 p. $18.99. 978-1-534-41617-8. Grades 5-12.

Ona “Oney” Judge was born into slavery on George and Martha Washington’s estate.  At ten years old, she became Martha’s personal attendant, working to smooth all the details of Martha’s wardrobe, comfort, and volatile personality. But times were changing, and many in the country were pushing for laws to free slaves, whether immediately, gradually, or at the owner’s death. As evidenced by their letters, George’s views conflicted, but Martha’s did not; she clung to the life she had been born to expect, and slaves were part of that world. As a teenager, Oney accompanied Martha to Philadelphia, seeing a completely different world: a largely free black society, white servants, and making friends in the free black community. Upon learning that Martha planned to give Oney as a wedding gift to her granddaughter–a spoiled girl who grew into an incorrigible woman–Oney decided to escape. On March 21, 1796, at twenty-two years old, Oney chose the one time of day she was least needed, during dinner, and escape by walking from the estate onto a ship bound for Portsmouth. Enraged at the humiliation by a girl “brought up and treated more like a child than a servant,” (177) the Washingtons maintained that Oney “ought not to escape with impunity” (177). What follows is a pursuit thwarted by Oney’s stalwart resolution not to return to Mount Vernon to be freed: “I am free now and choose to remain so.” It was also thwarted by abolitionists: New Hampshire Governor Langdon, who tipped off Oney to a pursuer’s second attempt to take her by force, and by customs officer Joseph Whipple, who after meeting Ona communicated clearly to George Washington to consider abandoning slavery nationwide, follow the established laws (which Washington was sidestepping) and acknowledge the changing tide of opinion on slavery. Due to political changes and to George Washington’s death in December 1799, Oney was no longer pursued, but neither was she technically “free” unless freed by Martha or Martha’s descendants (she never was). Her life in New Hampshire was one of her own making–she chose to marry a free black sailor and raised three children–it was also a life of great poverty and hardship (she outlived her husband and children, and never learned of her Mount Vernon relatives again).

THOUGHTS: A little-known story of a young woman whose “audacity” to live free astonished leaders of our nation and certainly helped to push for anti-slavery laws. Many “supposed” thoughts are inserted into Oney’s (and others’) actions, “Maybe she closed her eyes and imagined her mother…maybe she thought about the new black church that was forming just a few blocks away…” (97). This is an uncomfortable interpretation on history that is more than overdone in the book, but it could serve to make these characters feel more real to young readers. A solid addition to middle and high school collections.               

Biography          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Cook, Eileen. You Owe Me a Murder. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 9781328519023. 346 p. $17.99. Grades 7-10. 

Kim is on her way to Europe, but rather than being excited, she is miserable. Her ex-boyfriend is also on the trip, with his new girlfriend. When a friendly girl named Nikki starts talking to Kim on the plane, they find they have many interests in common, including being so mad at someone they could just kill them. Nikki proposes that she will kill Connor, Kim’s ex, if Kim kills Nikki’s mother. After the flight lands in London, Kim doesn’t give the conversation another thought, until Connor dies. Was it an accident? Or did Nikki really kill him? All doubts are erased when Kim receives a note: You owe me a murder. At first she shrugs it off; how can Nikki make her commit murder? But it soon becomes evident that Nikki has plotted this well, and Kim will have to out-think Nikki to be free of her control. The tension is high throughout the book, with red herrings and plot twists to keep readers guessing until the very end.

THOUGHTS: A taut psychological thriller that will captivate fans of One of Us is Lying.

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Ali, S.K. Love from A to Z. Salaam Reads, 2019. 978-1-5344-4272-6. 335 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12.

Oddity: When Zayneb gets suspended from school for (once again) defending her Muslim faith to her Islamaphobic teacher, her frustrated mother decides to send her to Doha, Qatar, to visit her aunt. Oddity: Adam, coming to terms with a diagnosis of MS, the disease that killed his mother, decides to drop out of college and return home to Doha, Qatar. Marvel: They notice each other in the London airport. Marvel: They speak on the plane to Qatar. Marvel: Her aunt works with his dad. They meet. There is attraction. But Zayneb is on her best behavior, trying to develop a more mellow personality than her outspoken activist self. Adam has yet to reveal his medical prognosis to his father. Can true love flourish under these conditions? This journal-style narrative switches viewpoints between Zaynab and Adam, slowly revealing the layers of their personalities. Intertwined is their devotion to their faith, which gently allows Ali to discuss Islamophobia, cultural appropriation and Muslim culture, including wearing the hijab and dating mores. Readers may be attracted by the plot but will be all the richer for having read the book.

THOUGHTS: A first purchase where romances are popular and an excellent addition to multi-cultural collections. 

Romance          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Bennett, Jenn.  Serious Moonlight. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-42514-9. 425 p. $18.99. Grades 9 and up.

Birdie Lindbergh, mystery lover extraordinaire, is in something of a pickle. The boy she had both a wonderful and disastrous one night stand with just happens to be working at the same hotel where she has landed her first job. Daniel is everything Birdie is not – gregarious, charming, friends with everyone, and in Birdie’s estimation, uncomplicated. Despite their obvious attraction to each other, and Daniel’s solicitous behavior towards her, Birdie is floundering, unsure of her own feelings. Birdie, whose mother passed away when she was young, has lived under her grandmother’s conservative and overprotective thumb for so long, isolated from peers who her own age because of homeschooling, that she second guesses every interaction. When Daniel suggests they work together – strictly as friends – to solve a mystery at the hotel involving a hyper-famous mystery writer, she can’t resist. Jenn Bennett, just like magic-loving Daniel, masterfully utilizes misdirection throughout the novel; just when the reader thinks they know exactly what path Birdie and Daniel are going down, she veers off into an unexpected, but wholly welcome, direction. The secondary characters, particularly Birdie’s sweet natured grandfather, and her outrageous, larger-than-life auntie, are well developed and play vital roles in Birdie’s life. While Birdie is our main protagonist, it is actually Daniel who steals the spotlight over and over again – Birdie often comes off as a bit one dimensional. Daniel, on the other hand, with his outgoing, witty, and disarmingly nerdy personality draw readers in right away. A breezy, fun, and heartfelt romance novel.

THOUGHTS: This is a decidedly mature book, peppered throughout with cursing, and fairly graphic intimacy – recommended for an older YA audience.

Realistic Fiction          Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

MG – This Promise of Change; Room 555; New Kid; Bach to the Rescue; Extraordinary Birds; The Woolly Monkey Mysteries; Get Informed–Stay Informed (series); The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise; The Stormkeeper’s Island; Today’s Hip-Hop; Pro Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Comebacks; A Win for Women; The Explosive World of Volcanoes; The Selma Marches for Civil Rights; Can You Crack the Code; George Washington’s Secret Six; The Book of Secrets; Shutout; Stolen Girl; Mirror, Mirror; Mind Drifter

Boyce, Jo Ann Allen, and Debbie Levy. This Promise of Change. Bloomsbury, 2019.  978-1-681-19852-1.  310 p.  $17.99  Grades 4-8.

Jo Ann Allen Boyce, one of the “Clinton 12” African-American teens who enrolled in an all-White Tennessee high school after the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, tells the story of her not-so-long-ago youth in this powerful nonfiction middle grade verse memoir co-written by Debbie Levy (I Dissent, 2017). The book features free verse as well as a variety of more formal poems, each well suited to the subject matter. For example, the villanelle, with its repeated phrasings, is perfect for expressing the way Jo Ann’s thoughts circle around as she ruminates about her first day in her soon-to-be integrated school in “The Night Before.” Boyce’s story focuses on the half-year she attended Clinton High School, which began relatively peacefully but quickly erupted into violence. Jo Ann’s optimism and courage in the face of hatred, and her conviction that prejudice is learned and can be unlearned, is at the heart of this moving book. Brief quotes from primary source material are sprinkled throughout the book. There is extensive backmatter, including information on the poetic forms used, a timeline, photographs, information on the collaborative writing process, and further reading.

THOUGHTS: This unusual book is standout nonfiction, a must-purchase for middle school and upper elementary libraries. Librarians will need to give some thought as to how they will catalog this important book and market it to teachers and young people, as it reads like a beautifully crafted verse novel but is scrupulously researched and written to the standards expected of a first-rate nonfiction title.

379.2 Civil Rights; Poetry          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Watson, Cristy. Room 555. Orca Book Publishers, 2019. 978-1-459-82060-9. $9.95. 116 p. Grades 7-9.

This book is about Mary’s love of hip-hop dancing and the extreme guilt and fear she feels due to her inability to visit her beloved grandmother in the nursing home. Mary, who goes by the nickname her Gram gave her – Roonie, spends most of the book practicing for a school-wide dance competition with her best friend, Kira. Also, their high school requires everyone to log community volunteer hours in order to graduate and Roonie is hoping to get assigned to do clerical work at the local dance school but because she was late handing in the paperwork, she was assigned to volunteer at the local hospital instead. Roonie is devastated about her volunteer assignment but she tries to make the best of it until she finds out she must work on the geriatric floor handing out magazines. The sights, smells, and sounds remind her of the nursing home Gram is in. Although she has severe anxiety, Roonie forces herself to follow through with the job and ends up meeting, Jasmine, the friendly woman in Room 555. Roonie learns that Jasmine belly dances, and they form a connection over their love of dance that gives Roonie the courage to keep returning to her assignment at the hospital. Roonie and Jasmine build a friendship over the next few weeks, and they help each other through some of life’s difficult challenges.  

THOUGHTS: This small book is a good addition to a middle school library’s high-low collection, and Roonie’s love of hip-hop dance may entice students with the same interest to read it.

Realistic Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Craft, Jerry. New Kid. HarperCollins, 2019. 978-0-062-69120-0. $21.99. 256 p. Grades 5-9.

Jordan Banks, an African American seventh grader, begins this graphic novel at his prestigious new school, Riverdale Academy Day School, or RAD for short, even though he’d prefer to be going to a high school that was art focused. His parents (mom especially) think that Jordan’s intelligence would be better addressed at RAD and are excited that he got accepted. Jordan and his father are concerned about the lack of diversity in the student body, and Jordan is anxious about making friends with students who are wealthier than him. Jordan’s father promises him they will revisit the idea of art school in 9th grade if he really feels like he can’t fit in at RAD. His fears come true when on his first day a classmate’s father shows up at Jordan’s apartment in an expensive car that looks out of place in the neighborhood. Jordan ducks down in the seat so his neighborhood friends don’t see him. The story portrays Jordan’s struggles with fitting in while remaining true to himself, and it does a great job of showing all of the microaggressions people of color face on a daily basis. This book makes us reflect on our preconceived ideas of race; even Jordan assumes he will immediately become friends with the handful of other African American students. There are black-and-white double-spread images of helpful life lessons that Jordan has illustrated; things like, tips for riding a city bus in a hoodie, how to do a good handshake, and judging kids by the covers of the books they read.

THOUGHTS: This is the perfect book to give to students who claim they don’t like graphic novels. I laughed-out-loud at one of the images because it was so clever. In the same vein as American Born Chinese, this book is a valuable resource for sharing what African American students experience in school and society in a non-preachy, funny way.

Graphic Novel          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Jordan Banks loves sketching cartoons of his life and dreams of art school, but for his seventh grade year, his parents have enrolled him in a well-known private school, hoping for academic opportunities and social growth (since Jordan is one of the few students of color). Jordan’s dad maintains that Jordan may choose art school in a year or two, but Jordan’s mom is convinced that Riverdale Academy Day School is the best choice. Jordan complies, and discovers stereotypes (others and his own), endures microaggression–and even finds a way to laugh at them with new friend Drew, builds a variety of friendships (of many cultures), and keeps drawing his story. The tale of his first year is full of pathos and at times laugh-out-loud humor, as Jordan tackles soccer for the first time, considers the “meaning” of secret Santa gifts, and more. He reaches a breaking point when Drew is falsely accused of hitting bigoted student Andy, and when Mrs. Rawle (who consistently mixes up the names of all of the non-white kids) reads his sketchbook and wonders why he is so “angry.” Jordan brings to mind all the advice of his parents, grandfather, and more as he adjusts and thrives at Riverdale Academy. He and his friends bring out the best in each other and grow up, a day at a time (well, except for Andy).

THOUGHTS: Jordan is one of the most honest, likable characters in middle school fiction. Many will benefit from reading his story and have their eyes opened to microaggressions, stereotypes, and how to move beyond false assumptions. This graphic novel is a work of art in more ways than one, and a must-read for all middle school students and their teachers.       

Graphic Novel          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Angleberger, Tom. Bach to the Rescue!!! How a Rich Dude Who Couldn’t Sleep Inspired the Greatest Music Ever. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-1-419-73164-8. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

This book is centered around how Bach’s music came to be. Learning about the life of the Rich Dude and his inability to sleep at night transforms Bach’s Goldberg Variations. A story that may not be completely true, we learn how Goldberg was unable to put the Rich Dude to sleep with his music, which in turn kept everyone else awake. Promised a great deal of money, Bach wrote music for Goldberg to play for the Rich Dude, who loved the music and was able to sleep. Bach, in return, received the money he was promised.

THOUGHTS: An interesting tale, that while may not be true, depicts the possible creation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a picture book format that is easy for students to understand.

786 Music          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

McGinnis, Sandy Stark. Extraordinary Birds. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-547-60100-4. 214 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

This debut novel features an eleven year old foster child, December, who believes she will one day become a bird and fly away from the foster homes that have caged her spirit. After December jumps out of a tree, she is removed from her foster home and placed with an elderly woman named Eleanor, also called the “Bird Whisperer.” December continues to feel her scar tingle and goosebumps that will turn into feathers during her stay with Eleanor while also discovering the perfect oak tree for “flying.” Eleanor treats December well, and allows her to help at a bird rehabilitation center with Henrietta, a red tailed hawk who cannot fly. But December encounters trouble at her new school – mean girls who pick on those who are different than them. December befriends one of their victims, Cheryllynn, and the two become close friends. December continues to discover who she really is, but when bad news is delivered to Eleanor, December decides that she must turn into a bird… and fast!

THOUGHTS: A great coming of age story of a girl discovering who she really is that will warm your heart. The characters are relatable, and the story moves along quickly. Multiple themes are prevalent throughout, along with a subtle reference to a transgender child. 

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Markle, Sandra. The Woolly Monkey Mysteries: The Quest to Save a Rain Forest Species. Millbrook Press, 2019. 978-1-512-45868-8. $24.14 40 p. Grades 3-6.

If you haven’t heard of woolly monkeys, you’re not alone.  These rain forest “gardeners” are both elusive and essential to the life of the rain forest. Scientists in Peru’s Manu National Park and Reserve must work tirelessly to track them, painstakingly setting up cameras in the deepest parts of the forest. Author Markle investigates several of these scientists, what they’ve learned about woolly monkeys, and how they’ve learned it. The results have built a stronger understanding of rain forest life and how rain forests could best be strengthened and preserved. “The rain forest’s health is tied to the woolly monkeys, who have to eat, travel through the rain forest canopy, and drop their seed-filled waste to continually replenish the plant life” (35). Markle’s text, combined with the colorful page spreads and color photos, brings the scientists’ concerns to life for all of us new to the species. 

THOUGHTS: Well-presented with maps, photographs, and explanations of the scientists’ work, this book will fuel career ideas of science-minded students who love animals.  

599.8 Monkeys          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Get Informed–Stay Informed (series). Crabtree, 2019. 48 p. $9.95 (paper) $14.86 (hardcover) ea. Grades 5-8.

Hudak, Heather C. #MeToo Movement. 978-0-778-74971-4
—. Climate Change. 978-0-778-74970-7
—. Digital Data Security. 978-0-778-75345-2
—. Immigration and Refugees. 978-0-778-75347-6
Hyde, Natalie. Gun Violence.  978-0-778-75346-9
—. Net Neutrality. 978-0-778-74972-1
—. Oil and Pipelines. 978-0-778-75348-3
—. Opioid Crisis. 978-0-778-74973-8

These books are designed to be informative on their stated topic, while also guiding the reader to understanding information literacy truths. The information literacy instruction is interspersed with the background on the topic, either in entire chapters or in brief sidebars. Because Hudak’s Immigration & Refugees dedicates more space to the information literacy skills, it better prepares the reader to seek out and evaluate information sources. Segments such as “Where to Look” and “Critical Review” establish strong questions to consider when faced with new material. Hyde’s Oil and Pipelines, despite speaking of alternate viewpoints (such as the government), strongly emphasizes the disadvantages of pipelines (even the cover, which shows an oil spill).  

THOUGHTS: Overall, these are helpful sources for beginning background on a topic, but more importantly, for instruction on how to think about information and ideas. Includes Glossary, Source Notes, Find Out More, Index, and Teacher’s Guide online.  Teaching Resources available for download via Follett’s Titlewave for certain titles, including Climate Change, #MeTooMovement, Net Neutrality and Opioid Crisis

Titles Reviewed: Immigration and Refugees; Oil and Pipelines. 

Current Social Issues          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Gemeinhart, Dan. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. Henry Holt & Company, 2019. 344 p. $16.99. 978-1-250-19670-5  Grades 3-6.

Five years ago, Coyote Sunrise and Rodeo (don’t call him Dad), refurbished a bus as a home and began their travels. It is Rodeo’s way of outrunning the memories of his wife and two daughters who died in a car crash. Coyote and her dad get along well, and she knows how to read him and how to behave (avoid melancholy, avoid memories, avoid the names of her mom and sisters). The love Coyote has for her dad is real and reciprocated. Then in a weekly phone call to her Grandma, Coyote learns that the public park in her old neighborhood is to be demolished. It’s the same public park where five days before the accident, she, her mom and two sisters buried a memory box and vowed to locate it in ten years. Suddenly, her need to save that box–and her need for memories–outweighs all else. She must use all her cleverness to get 3600 miles (from Florida to Poplin Springs, Washington) in just four days–without revealing the plan to Rodeo. Along the way, Coyote and Rodeo pick up others who need a ride: Lester who’s reconnecting with his girlfriend, Salvador and his mom who are looking for a new life with his aunt, Val who cannot stay with her family any longer, and Gladys….the goat. Yes, each has a part to play in Coyote’s would-be return home. As the hours–then minutes–count down, how long will it be before Rodeo puts the brakes on this terrifying idea of returning home?

THOUGHTS: A cleverly introspective and appropriately humorous look at grief, family, friendship, and belonging.     

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

For the past five years, twelve-year-old Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have spent their days criss-crossing the country on an old school bus they’ve converted into a home. They travel anywhere their hearts desire – anywhere but to their hometown in Washington state. They haven’t returned home since the car accident that killed Coyote’s mother and two sisters five years ago. But, when Coyote learns from her grandmother that a park in her hometown is going to be demolished, she concocts a plan to get back home to retrieve a memory box she buried there with her mother and sisters before their deaths. Returning home is a “no-go” for Rodeo, so Coyote must figure out a way to get him to drive to Washington without realizing what he’s doing. On their journey, they pick up several passengers, including a mother and son escaping from domestic abuse, a musician looking for love, a teen fleeing a turbulent home life, a gray kitten, and a goat.

THOUGHTS: Coyote is a relatable and perceptive protagonist, and readers will be drawn in by her conversational style of storytelling. She is also multifaceted, and she is unafraid to share her true emotions. Readers will cheer Coyote on as she races the clock to get across the country to reclaim a piece of her past before the bulldozers bury it forever. This title will generate discussions about friendships, grief and loss, and the true meaning of family.

Realistic Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Doyle, Catherine. The Storm Keeper’s Island. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 308 p. $16.99. 978-1-681-19959-7. Grades 5-8.

Fionn Boyle should feel the sea, should have the ocean behind his eyes, but instead he fears it. Even the motion of the boat that delivers him and his older sister Tara to Arranmore Island makes him ill, a fact that Tara is happy to broadcast. Tara has been to the island before, so only Fionn is stunned to meet their grandfather, a curious, eccentric old man that locals refer to as “the Stormkeeper.” Fionn is about to realize the part his family–one of five families–plays in the history of the island. Each generation, Arranmore Island itself (a living thing that responds to Fionn’s presence by growing, breathing, even speaking to him) chooses a new Storm Keeper. Tara’s “boyfriend” Bartley Beasley has been primed by his grandmother to become the Storm Keeper by any means necessary, since she believes Fionn’s grandfather actively cheated her out of the power. Bartley seethes with anger at Fionn and his grandfather, even as the dark magic of Morrigan is waking to lay claim to the island and fight the good forces of Dagda, who saved the island eons ago. Fionn struggles with the loss of his father, before Fionn was born, to the sea itself–all Fionn has ever wanted was for his father to be here. The longing is so great, and greater on the island in the face of his father’s bravery. Before his grandfather succumbs to memory loss, he is able to guide Fionn to see his own history and accept his future as the new Stormkeeper. The novel ends just as the island has chosen Fionn and Morrigan begins her desperate rise against the island and its people. “It’s not fair,” Fionn says of his grandfather’s memory loss, and his grandfather does not dispute it. But he adds, “your greatest responsibility [is] to live a life of breathless wonder, so that when it begins to fade from you, you will feel the shadow of its happiness still inside you and the blissful sense that you laughed the loudest, loved the deepest, and lived fearlessly, even as the specifics of it all melt away” (248). 

THOUGHTS: This is an enjoyable fantasy that interweaves naturally with reality and will push readers to grab the sequel: The Lost Time Warriors (2020). Strongly recommended for fantasy readers.

Fantasy          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Mortensen, Lori. Today’s Hip-Hop. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-55444-1. $21.49. 32 p. Grades 3-9.

The book includes Hip-Hop, popping, locking, free styling, and fusion. The content is divided into chapters, and vocabulary words are in bold font defined on the page and also in the glossary. Cool facts intersect in boxes like the style in Hamilton Broadway show. Colorful images add to the text and demonstrate different dance moves such as the jackhammer. 

THOUGHTS: Additional books in the Dance Today series include Today’s Ballet, Today’s Street Dance, and Today’s Tap Dancing. This books could add to an area of interest to many students that may be lacking in collections. 

793 Dance          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Lyon, Drew. Pro Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Comebacks. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-55436-6. $21.49. 32 p. Grades 3-9.

Full color images throughout concise chapters allow readers to learn about numerous athletic feats such as the 2004 Boston Red Sox, 2016 Chicago Cubs, and standout players such as Ted Williams. Important terms are placed in red font and defined at the bottom of the page. Terms include comeback, RBI, walk-off, pennant, ligament, and are also included in the glossary. Students can continue to explore at using a password included in the book.

THOUGHTS: Other books in the All-Time Greatest Comebacks series include Pro-Hockey, Pro-Football, and Pro-Basketball. The series covers a wide range of sports and demonstrates the importance of optimism and never giving up. These are also great books to have in the collection that encourage recreational reading. 

796 Sports          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Terrell, Brandon. A Win for Women: Billie Jean King Takes Down Bobby Riggs. Illustrated by Eduardo Garcia. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-54219-6. $23.49. 32 p. Gr. 3-9. 

This book relates the lasting friendship between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs after their 1973 historic tennis match and is told in a full color graphic novel format. The battle of sexes and gender roles was put to the test and the full color graphic novel details this appropriately. The book includes the legacies of the athletes. A glossary, additional reading, critical thinking questions, Fact Hound internet site links, and an index is included. 

THOUGHTS: Other books in this Greatest moments in sports graphic library series include Defying Hitler: Jesse Owens’ Olympic Triumph, Lake Placid Miracle: When U.S. Hockey Stunned the World, Showdown in Manila: Ali and Frazier’s Epic Final Fight, Calling His Shot: Babe Ruth’s Legendary Home Run, and Soccer Shocker: U.S. Women’s Stunning 1999 World Cup Win. These books demonstrate the impact that sports can have on world events and social issues. They can be used to encourage sports enthusiasts to learn more about history and history enthusiasts to learn about the impact that sports have made. 

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Harbo, Christopher L. The Explosive World of Volcanoes. Illustrated by Tod Smith. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-52947-0. $25.99. 32 p. Grades 3-9. 

Readers are in for a fact filled graphic novel adventure with Max Axiom that includes cones, calderas, and eruptions of volcanoes. Artwork is in full color format. Back matter includes additional facts about volcanoes, a lava flow experiment with detailed steps, discussion questions, writing prompts, glossary, further readings, “super-cool stuff,” and an index.

THOUGHTS: This is part of the new 4D adventures with Max Axiom. 4D content includes videos of lava flow in Hawaii, ruins of Herculaneum, video direction for the lava flow experiment, and a quiz. These additions do enhance the reading experience and can be used in anticipatory sets with students to add additional excitement. Presently there are 24 titles in the series. 

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Otfinoski, Steven. The Selma Marches for Civil Rights We Shall Overcome. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-515-77941-4. $24.49. 112 p. Grades 5-9.

Important individuals involved with the Selma Marches for Civil Rights taking place in 1965 have their name in a purple banner with their location and time. Featured individuals include: Geroge Wallace, Lyndon Johnson, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy, Jim Clark, Lynda Blackmon, Frank Johnson, Viola Liuzzo, and Leroy Moton. The events feel like they are unfolding as you read. Backmatter includes an afterward leading up with milestones for each featured individual, a timeline, a glossary, critical thinking questions, internet sites, resources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: This book is part of the Tangled History set that currently includes 24 titles. The series presents vital events in history presented in an engaging and organized fashion. Most of the primary and individual photographs in this book are in crispy black and white colors. 

393 Social Issues          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Schwartz, Ella. Can You Crack the Code? A  Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography. Illustrated by Lily Williams. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1-681-19514-8. $21.99. 118 p. Grades 4-9.

The book introduces readers to the start of codes and ciphers leading all the way to the 2015 hack using malware known as a Trojan Horse. Illustrations, images, and special features add to the chapters. Ciphers and codes have been used by a wide range of individuals from Julius Caesar, to professional football players, classic fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, and in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Gold-Bug.” Important terms are place ind a bold font. A bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index conclude the book.

THOUGHTS: The book provides a lot of opportunities for readers to practice the codes that they learn about when reading. A lot of history is included when learning about codes. The book has connections to history, social studies, math, and computer science. 

652 Games and Activities          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Kilmeade, Brian, and Don Yaeger. George Washington’s Secret Six: the Spies Who Saved America. Viking, 2019. 978-0-425-28898-6. $17.99. 164 p. Gr. 4-9. 

Concise chapters with black and white illustrations make up this adapted version for young readers based off of the NYT bestselling book. Readers step into the conflicts facing the goal of American independence that Washington and the Patriots seek. While students will recognize the exquisite leadership skills of Washington, they may be unaware of the importance that intelligence from spies helped inform his choices. In addition, the great dangers that spies faced is detailed in the book. The “Secret Six” is also referred to as Culpher’s Ring. The book includes an afterword, appendixes that includes the pre-war lives of the spies and invisible ink, a detailed timeline, selected sources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: Can You Crack the Code? Is an excellent non-book to partner with this book, which is also featured in PSLA reviews. There are also fine fiction books to add to make a must visit display such as Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac, The Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, or The Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.                                                                                                    

973.4 United States History          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Tait, A.L. The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel. Kane Miller, 2019. 978-1-610-67827-8. $5.99. 248 p. Grades 4-8. 

Growing up as an orphan and taken care of at the monastery, Gabe has yet to leave the grounds. He feels that he has no choice but to leave when an injured man gives him a fancy book to keep secret and deliver to a persona that he has never heard of named Aiden. He has an hour to hide the manuscript, but this does not go as planned. He is helped by outlaws, but Gabe does not expect the outlaws to be women. How can Gabe repay the outlaws and also save the book from possible sinister intentions from leaders visiting the monastery? The adventure will continue with The Book of Answers.

THOUGHTS: This is the first American edition since the 2017 publication in Australia and New Zealand. The series would be perfect for fans of The False Prince series by Jennifer A. Nielsen or Rowan Hood by Nancy Springer. 

Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Ross, Jeff. Shutout.  Orca Books, 2019. 978-1-459-81876-7. $9.95. 148 p. Grades 7-12.

Alex is a skilled goalie for the hockey team. Chloe, his girlfriend, is very involved with art and acting, but attends his games. Alex is shocked when the principal wants to see him and believes that Alex is defacing the school with graffiti. The readers know that Alex is not behind the acts, but how can he prove his innocence for his reputation and chance to play hockey? 

THOUGHTS: This fast-paced mystery would also delight readers that enjoy sports or theater arts. There are currently 54 novels in the Orca Sports collection. Presently the teacher guide for this novel is not posted online at Orca Sports, but you could introduce the author using his website:

Mystery          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Stolen Girl. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-23304-9. $17.99. 208 p.Gr 3-8. 

What if you were unsure of your childhood and had memories of being with members of the Nazi organization? You’ve moved to a new area with your adoptive parents, and children tease you for having blonde hair and blue eyes? What is the truth of your history? This is the struggle that Nadia faces and will finally uncover her past.

THOUGHTS: This book is powerful. The backmatter shares additional information from this time period and experiences from the family of the author. Scholastic included a book trailer for this book in the Spring 2019 fair, and the link to the video will draw interest as well:

Historical Fiction          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Calonita, Jen. Mirror, Mirror: A Twisted Tale. Disney Press, 2019. 978-136801383-3. $17.99. 344 p. Grades 5-9. 

A lovely princess makes the best of times despite the loss of both of her parents and being shuttered from the world by a mean step-mother. The princess is lucky to escape death and find the home of the miners. Danger comes in the form of a poison apple. This is a pretty familiar fairy tale for students. Some of the parts are familiar, but not most in Mirror, Mirror. In the new novel, the king is distraught over the loss of his wife, married his wife’s sister, and then finally flees the kingdom distressed. Snow White meets a prince who wishes to speak with the Queen about the trade arrangements with his kingdom, before running to eventual safety and learning the true events that happened to both of her parents and the quest that she and her friends must complete. The classic characters are further defined, and the Magic Mirror develops more giving a clear image of the back story of magic. This novel contains continual fantasy and suspense to see how this tale will unfold with perspectives alternating between Snow and The Queen.

THOUGHTS: Page turning and deeply satisfying, this read shows familiar characters with a different take on a classic fairy tale. This is the sixth book in A Twisted Tale series. Students can write their version of the class tale before beginning the novel and compare all of the renditions. 

Fairy Tale, Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Kammer, Gina. Mind Drifter: Enemy Mind. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-496-55898-5. $19.99. 128 p. Grades 3-9

The last day of seventh grade at Emdaria North Middle School is significant as students take their personality skills tests. They quickly learn their student helper role for the year 2310. While Syah was eager to become a student artist, she was surprised to see that her role would be a counselor, also known as Mind Drifters. Syah will do her job in the MindLinkLab where counselors enter the mindscape of other students. Her best friend Joden has the role to assist in the science lab. The new roles seem to cause tension in their friendship and Kreo, Joden’s lab partner, is unkind. Syah sees a chance to enter Kreo’s mindscape, but it would be against the policies, and she is presented with a conundrum. Regardless of her choices she will have to face consequences, address bullying, concerns of privacy, and explore the realms of friendship.  

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging book. Three other titles are presently in the series: Dream Monster, Wicked Stepsister, and Reject Rebound. If the book is used in a classroom setting, there are questions for discussion in “Talk it Over” and writing exercises with Think and Write” sections. The book also includes a glossary and reference guide which would be helpful to preview with classes before starting the novel. The 4D content includes an interview from the author, Gina Kammer. This adds to the content included in the about the author section of the book, which sets the background for the book. 

Science Fiction, Adventure           Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Elem. – The Adventures of Riley; Kitten Construction Company; Carl and the Meaning of Life; The Donkey Egg; Ninita’s Big World; The Hideout; The Lost Book; How Is Maple Syrup Made; Trains; Born to Ride; O Captain, My Captain; Thomas Jefferson and the Mammoth Hunt; ResQ and the Baby Orangutan

First, Devra, and Ryan Huddle, Illustrator. The Adventures of Riley, the Museum Dog. Muddy Boots, 2019. 978-1-630-76360-2. 37 p. $16.95. Grades K-2.

Riley is a working dog whose job is sniffing out pests (namely insects and mice) at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. He meets Wiley, a tiny moth with a big appetite for ancient treasures and priceless paintings. Riley pursues Wiley throughout the museum, passing many influential works of art along the way. When Riley finally catches up with the little moth, he suggests that she live outside in the Japanese garden. That way, they can play together outdoors on nice days and admire the art inside the museum on rainy days … and a beautiful friendship is formed!

THOUGHTS: This charming picture book doubles as a kid-friendly virtual tour of the MFA, and best of all Riley is real (and even cuter than his illustrated alter ego)! It connects to further exploration of museums, art, service dogs, and the art of compromise. Check out the guide to Artwork at the end of the book to learn more about the specific works featured in The Adventures of Riley, and read up on Riley’s story at

Picture Book          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Green, John Patrick. Kitten Construction Company: A Bridge Too Fur. First Second, 2019. 978-1-626-72831-8. 70 p. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Marmalade and her team, House Kittens Construction, have just completed Mewburg Stadium and are looking for their next project. Designing a new bridge to replace Mewburg’s old one is outside Marmalade’s comfort zone as an architect, but that makes it an exciting new challenge! The mayor greenlights the project, and Marmalade is ready to begin catstruction when she remembers … all that water. Falling behind schedule, she must contemplate the unthinkable: hiring Carl Barks and his Demo Doggos (who conveniently love water)! Can Marmalade swallow her pride, save her company, and prevent a construction catastrophe? The House Kittens and the Demo Doggos will have to work paw-in-paw to finish the Mewburg Bridge successfully!

THOUGHTS: With plenty of puns referencing Marmalade’s fear of water, keeping the project “afloat,” and dogs staying on the ball, A Bridge Too Fur rewards both read-alouds and re-readings. The first book in the series tipped its hat to equality in the workplace, and this installment promotes cooperation, teamwork, and giving others a fair shake. A final page on how to draw Marmalade and her hardhat provides a perfect extension activity. Another ultra-cute addition to elementary graphic novel shelves!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Freedman, Deborah. Carl and the Meaning of Life. Viking, 2019. 978-0-451-47498-8. 44 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Carl is an earthworm who spends all his time underground burrowing and tunneling and turning dirt into soft soil. He is content to do his work until one day when a field mouse asks him why he does what he does. Carl does not know how to reply, so he stops his work and begins seeking an answer. He talks with a rabbit, a fox, a squirrel, and many other woodland animals, but they each only know what their own purpose is – they cannot say why he does what he does. As Carl grows increasingly frustrated and continues seeking an answer, the earth around him changes. The soil is no longer fluffy, and nothing can thrive in the hard, packed earth. Animals move away, and soon Carl is alone. Only when a ground beetle complains that he cannot find any grubs does Carl realize his true purpose. He returns to munching, digesting, and tunneling through the dirt, and the soil turns rich once more. Plants grow, animals return, and the woodlands become a vibrant habitat once again, all thanks to Carl. Loose, full-page pencil and watercolor illustrations capture the delicate balance between all living things, and readers will enjoy scanning the pages, trying to see how many forest creatures they can find. An author’s note at the end of the story reminds readers that every animal has its place in the world, and everything in our ecosystem is connected. 

THOUGHTS: This title will prompt discussions about how every person, plant, and animal on the planet is connected, and all living things rely on one another for survival. It also celebrates the idea that even the smallest creatures have important roles to play. This will shine during an Earth Day storytime, and it will also fit well with units about soil or invertebrates. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Stevens, Janet, and Susan Stevens Crummel. The Donkey Egg. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-547-32767-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Bear and Hare, first introduced in the Caldecott-winning Tops and Bottoms, are back in this traditional trickster tale. This time, fast-talking Fox is the trickster. He knows how rundown Bear’s farm is and how little motivation Bear has to fix it up, so he sells him a $20 donkey egg, promising once the egg hatches, Bear will have a donkey to help with all the work. Readers will immediately recognize the donkey egg as a watermelon, but Bear is slow on the uptake. He takes his new parenting responsibilities very seriously, working hard to keep the egg warm, safe, and happy. Hare tries to explain to Bear that donkeys do not come from eggs, but Bear is unconvinced and continues sitting on the egg, waiting for it to hatch. Minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months pass before Bear accidentally falls asleep and the egg rolls away, smacking into a tree and revealing its true identity. Instead of feeling taken advantage of, however, Bear and Hare make the best of the situation and hatch a plan to get a real donkey once and for all. Janet Stevens’ mixed media illustrations brim with personality, from Bear’s untied oxfords and checkered blanket to Hare’s vibrant carrot-patterned button-down. Her exaggerated style capitalizes on the silliness of the story, and students will enjoy looking for details, like Hare’s rival Tortoise, in the artwork.  

THOUGHTS: Throughout the text are several “Did You Know?” spotlight boxes that help readers understand how much time is passing as Bear is waiting for his egg to hatch. Facts like “1 hour = 60 minutes = 3,600 seconds” are accompanied by trivia, such as “you blink your eye over 1,000 times in an hour!” These boxes will make a nice connection to STEM storytimes and to math units. Pair this with Tops and Bottoms and the Anansi the Spider stories Janet Stevens illustrated for a well-rounded unit of trickster tales. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Marsh, Sarah Glenn. Ninita’s Big World: The True Story of a Deaf Pygmy Marmoset. Clarion Books, 2019. Unpaged. 978-1-328-77001-1. $17.00. Grades K-3. 

Marsh has written an engaging nonfiction account of a pygmy marmoset who was rescued by the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation after she was abandoned by her parents due to her deafness. The author describes the little monkey’s life before the rescue as lonely and that Ninita, whose name means “little girl” in Spanish, did not know how to take care of herself because of her disability. After being taken in by the organization, the marmoset was given the best of care and enjoyed being brushed by a toothbrush, eating yogurt and whipped cream, and exploring her environment like other curious monkeys. Eventually Ninita is paired with another pygmy marmoset named Mr. Big, who becomes her companion and fellow explorer. Coleman’s digital full bleed illustrations depict the animal’s range of emotions throughout the story. The marmoset’s face is very expressive, as we see the sadness on her face when she was lonely, her delight in being groomed by the toothbrush and her contentment at finding a companion. The back matter includes facts about the marmoset and the Foundation’s work.

THOUGHTS: This narrative will make for a great read aloud, but children will also enjoy reading the story of this adorable monkey on their own. The art alone make this a surefire winner. This work is a worthwhile addition to any elementary collection.

599.84 Tamarins and Marmosets          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

Mattiangeli, Susanna. The Hideout. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-1-419-73416-8. $16.99. Grades K-3.

Hannah was being called, but she was nowhere to be found. For Hannah, it was too late to turn back now. She could live anywhere, do anything… even wear a raccoon hat if she wanted! So, she decided to make herself a hideout. She had everything she needed, including the Odd Furry Creature. She decided to stay and live with the Odd Furry Creature, and they could take care of each other. They could do whatever they wanted together in the quiet of the hideout. But Hannah wondered, was anyone looking for her? Should she venture back out? Deciding, Hannah held the hand of the Odd Furry Monster, and took a step out…

THOUGHTS: A delightful picture book with a twist of an ending! Students will love imagining what it would be like to have their own secret hideout and what the Odd Furry Monster is and what it looks like.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Surnaite, Margarita. The Lost Book. Margaret K. McElderry Books. 2019. 978-1-534-43818-7. $17.99. Grades K-3.

All of the rabbits loved books where Henry lived. Everywhere he went, rabbits seemed to be reading. Henry could not quite figure it out. Why read about an adventure when he could GO on an adventure? Henry thought this until he came across the Lost Book. It wasn’t a rabbit book, so Henry decided to see where it came from. The creatures he found in this new place did not seem to care about the Lost Book. It wasn’t until a little creature helped Henry, that Henry was able to give the Lost Book back, all the while finding a little bit of himself.

THOUGHTS: A cute picture book about the enjoyment of reading and how sometimes you just need to find that missing piece of the puzzle.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Hansen, Grace. How Is Maple Syrup Made? Abdo Kids, 2019. 978-1-532-18195-5. $19.95 ea. $119.70 set of 6. Grades K-3.

—. How Is a Firework Made? 978-1-5321-8191-7
—. How Is a Pencil Made? 978-1-5321-8192-4
—. How is Cotton Candy Made? 978-1-5321-8193-1
—. How is Honey Made? 978-1-5321-8194-8
—. How is Root Beer Made? 978-1-5321-8196-2

This easy read explains to young students what maple syrup is and how it is made! This book takes students step by step through the maple syrup making process, including where it comes from, how farmers or collectors obtain the sap, and what the process looks once the sap is collected. Proper terminology is incorporated and explained both in the text and in the glossary. Real photographs provide students with visual images to help explain the text and show the maple syrup making process.

THOUGHTS: Students will be engaged and informed as to how maple syrup is made. A great addition for students who may not have maple trees around or any location in which maple syrup is made.

664 Food          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Meister, Cari. Trains. Pebble. 2019. 978-1-977-10685-8. $20.99 ea. $125.94 set of 6. Grades PreK-2.

—. Airplanes. 978-1-977-10249-2
—. Boats and Ships. 978-1-977-10250-8
—. Buses. 978-1-977-10681-0
—. Cars. 978-1-977-10248-5
—. Trucks. 978-1-977-10247-8

This easy read for young students shows a variety of trains and their components. With large photographs and easy to see and read text, Trains provides a visual that is informative and up to date with the most recent trains around the world. Readers will be able to see components of the trains through large labels and arrows pointing at different parts of the train. From fast moving trains to monorails at amusement parks, this is a great book for young train lovers.

THOUGHTS: A great, easy read book about trains for young readers who just can’t get enough!

385 Trains          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Theule, Larissa.  Born to Ride: A Story about Bicycle Face. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. Unpaged.  978-1-419-73412-0. Grades 2-5. $17.99.

Louisa Belinda Bellflower is a young girl who wants to learn how to ride a bicycle. However, this is the 1890s, and women and girls are not supposed to ride bicycles for fear that they would develop “bicycle face,” a condition that leads to bulging eyes and “scrunched up faces” according to popular belief. Louisa is determined to ride, so she puts on her brother’s short pants and keeps trying until she is successful. When her mother learns of Louisa’s adventure, she sews herself a pair of pants and rides her husband’s bicycle with her daughter. This story of the late 19th century bicycle craze is juxtaposed on another important story from that era- the women’s suffragist movement. This book discusses this effort not so much through the text, but through Garrity-Riley’s illustrations. In the scenes where Louisa is practicing riding, the reader sees a suffragette meeting at her home, where a diverse group of people, including a man, are busy making signs about the right to vote. Later the illustrator includes a picture of the town where women are holding these signs. To show the effect of change, the illustrator has a drawing of only boys and men riding bicycles at the beginning of the story, while this same illustration at the end shows women and girls on bikes, while a voting meeting is taking place at the gazebo. The back matter includes information on bicycles and women’s suffrage. In this work of historical fiction, the author deftly shows that the bicycle craze forged a path toward the right for vote for women.

THOUGHTS: This is an interesting take on a women’s rights issue and is a great choice to read during Women’s History Month or in a social studies unit discussing these topics.

Easy Fiction, Historical         Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

Burleigh, Robert, and Sterling Hundley. O Captain, My Captain: Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73358-1. 64 pages. $19.99. Grades 3-6.

The famous historical poem “O Captain, My Captain” is Walt Whitman’s tragic ode to the fallen President Lincoln at the end of the Civil War. However, the focus of this book by Robert Burleigh appropriately reflects on the events and time that drew Whitman to liken Lincoln to a ship captain. Looking much like an old sea captain himself, Walt served during the bloody war as a nurse, compatriot, and witness. Providing relief to the wounded and hope to the troops brought a new perspective to Whitman’s writing. Burleigh uses short observations mixed with direct quotes to narrate; meanwhile, Sterling Hundley provides enhanced full page watercolors to set the mood and reality of the wartime era. With valuable endpages about each man (who never actually met!) and the full famous poem, “O Captain, My Captain” is fearful trip that many young history buffs may never forget.

THOUGHTS: Though this doesn’t count as a biography or a poetry book, it would hopefully lead readers to explore both for more about Whitman and Lincoln’s fascinating lives. The text was also honest in the fact that neither man was perfect and held beliefs of the time toward slavery and equality, while also pushing these ideals forward. In some small group settings, this would make for an excellent conversation starter or opinion writing piece.

973 American History          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Clickard, Carrie, and Nancy Carpenter. Thomas Jefferson and the Mammoth Hunt: The True Story of the Quest for American’s Biggest Bones. Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-481-44268-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 2-5.

Most folks know that Thomas Jefferson was a man of many skills and talents and a patriot who was passionate about this new country of America. But his ardor went much deeper, including scientific pursuits using fossils to demonstrate the valuable resources and animals which existed in the New World and were waiting to be discovered. What follows is part inquiry, expedition, problem solving, and grandstanding as Jefferson and the French scientist banter across the Atlantic. Clickard’s poetic form paired with Carpenter’s lively illustrations provides entertainment and drives the debate with humor and passion. The author’s notes and primary sources pages help flesh out the full story, and interested readers might be on the hunt for other unusual presidential stories.

Thanks – I forgot to go back in to add that. Here is the extra thoughts part:

THOUGHTS: The Who’s Who list at the end would make a good starting point for further connections to the era. I recommend reading George Washington’s Teeth by Deborah Chandra and Ben Franklin’s Big Splash by Barb Rosenstock (both are past PA Young Reader’s Choice nominees) as connected read alouds. Discuss the phrase “necessity is the mother of all invention (or discovery!)” as part of the mini-unit!

973 American History          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Pell, Eva. ResQ and the Baby Orangutan. Tumblehome Books, 2019. 978-1-943-43148-9. 142 pages. $13.95. Grades 3-6.

When lives of baby orangutans are at stake, turn to the ResQ for help! ResQ is an endangered animal rescue organization, lead by a passionate scientist named Ariella and assisted by her talented grandchildren Weaton and Stowe. The current mission involves heading to Borneo in search of captured orangutan babies before poachers harm or sell them. There is plenty of danger to navigate for Weaton, an inventor of amazing futuristic tech devices, and Stowe, a naturalist and athlete. As they journey, we read excerpts of Stowe’s log to learn the natural and cultural history of the area and grapple with the environmental consequences for deforestation versus conservation. With each new wrinkle and danger, the cousins need all of their skills to get out alive and complete the mission! This new series by Eva Pell will encourage inquiry and open imagination as science and technology mesh with mystery and adventure, saving one animal at a time!

THOUGHTS: This new series is from a local author with high qualifications. Eva Pell is a Retired Undersecretary for Science at the Smithsonian Institution as well as Emeritus Sr. Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School, Penn State University. I am excited to have her into my school to work with students and families on this book! There are STEAM connections throughout the book, and ample writing and discussion opportunities that could enhance the story experience.

Adventure Fiction          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

MG – The Light Jar; An Invisible Thread; Pay Attention, Carter Jones; How to Win a Nobel Prize; The Lost Girl; Click; Klawde (books 1 and 2); U.S. Government Behind the Scenes; Art Skills Lab; Legendary Goddesses; Operatic; Behind the Scenes with the Pros; The Tornado Scientist

Thompson, Lisa. The Light Jar. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-21630-1. 240 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Nate and his mother escape in the middle of the night from his abusive stepfather Gary.  Due to an argument between his mother and grandmother, and because Gary would look for them at Nate’s grandmother’s house, Nate’s mom takes them to an old cottage of a friend. They hope they have found quiet refuge, but the cottage is in filthy condition and a bitterly cold climate. Just as Nate realizes this is nothing like what he’d hoped, his mother leaves to get them some much-needed food. And she doesn’t return. Fears old and new close in on Nate. Is he completely alone? Can he trust anyone? What if his mom has returned to Gary? Then Nate’s old friend Sam reappears. Seriously, he thought his imaginary friend was gone! How could he be such a baby? Nate wants to be brave, but Sam is comfortable, and it sure is nice to have someone to talk to. Then a young girl named Kitty appears, from the adjacent estate, and pulls him into a local treasure hunt unsolved by a girl who died years ago. Again, he’s torn. Companionship helps, but his fears are huge and his questions unanswered. As he helps Kitty and waits for his mom, Nate remembers his anger at how his own father left, how Gary seemed so nice, and how slowly he and his mom became subject to Gary’s anger and abuse.  The story concludes as Nate finds strength to survive and make hard decisions…and says goodbye to Sam and Kitty.

THOUGHTS: An unusual and well-meaning story, with uneven character development. Nate’s past seems real, but his present reality is marred by his own contradictory responses. In the early chapters he seems to be an 8 or 9-year old unaware of why his mom is leaving and why she is afraid, while a week later he seems to be the 12-year-old who fully understands the dynamics and is ready to forge ahead. The return of Nate’s mom, and his dad, the restoration of their relationship with his grandma, and amazingly, the vanishing of Gary make for a happy, if unbelievable, ending. Best for upper elementary.

Suspense          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Schroff, Laura, and Alex Tresniowski. An Invisible Thread. A Young Readers’ Edition. Simon & Schuster, 2019.  978-1-534-43727-2. 212 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.  

This title is the young reader’s edition of the 2011 An Invisible Thread. It details the early life of 11-year-old Maurice, essentially homeless in Manhattan in the mid-1980s, who often goes for days without food and must beg for change in hopes of a meal. He is always between temporary homes with his grandma, two sisters, mom (when not jailed for fighting), and a rotating group of up to a dozen family and friends. On the street one day, Laura Schroff, USA Today advertising executive, declines to give him money, then returns and offers to buy him lunch at McDonald’s. Maurice is grateful for a full stomach but wary when she offers to meet regularly on Mondays; he’s been taught that no one does something for nothing. Trust no one. His hunger wins out, and a friendship with Miss Laura begins. They meet regularly for four years, Maurice learning various life skills and Laura learning compassion and how to keep a promise. What Maurice says he loves the most is “the big table”–that is, Laura’s Thanksgiving family meal that goes on for two hours, with family talking and laughing. For the first time in his life, he makes a goal for the future: “Someday, when I grow up, I’m gonna have a big table like that for me and my family. And we’re all gonna sit around and talk and laugh just like your sister’s family does” (120). The story is told largely from the point of view of Maurice, with good results. Readers see his confusion about social expectations, his awe of huge meals, and his growing confidence as he takes in not only food but also helpful lessons all new to him.  

THOUGHTS: An inspiring and eye-opening tale for young people who may never have imagined a homeless life or what it takes to change one life. Perhaps the strongest message comes from Maurice’s teacher, when she meets Miss Laura at a parent-teacher night: “Children like Maurice are always disappointed. Every day someone else lets them down. I hope you realize that you can’t just come in and out of Maurice’s life. If you are going to be there for him, you have to really be there for him. You can’t just wake up one day and abandon this boy” (101). That message of resilience–in the face of need, lies, difficulties, or let-downs–is a necessary one for would-be helpers to hear. Recommended.

Biography          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Schmidt, Gary. Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Clarion Books, 2019. 978-0-544-79085-8. 217 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.  

Carter Jones’ first day of sixth grade is memorable for the mayhem of his family–he and three younger sisters under the care of their overburdened mother. And it is memorable for the arrival of the butler–Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, former employee of their grandfather, willed to the family after his grandfather’s death. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick drives a purple Bentley (dubbed “the Eggplant” by Carter) and preaches proper decorum while having an appropriate, timely solution for just about everything and remaining impeccably neat. The humor is palpable as he chafes at American slang, dress, food, and more. His arrival is perfectly timed, for Carter’s father is deployed to Afghanistan, and the family is struggling with a loss slowly revealed by Carter. As Carter rightfully struggles with anger and grief, the butler teaches him and his classmates cricket, which improbably becomes wildly popular at their school. The school is led by Principal Sweiteck–the novel is thus linked to Schmidt’s Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. The butler also teaches Carter how to handle his overwhelming emotions–with proper decorum befitting a young man on either side of the pond.  

THOUGHTS: Gary Schmidt understands growing up and gets to the heart of how to do so in the midst of devastating pain. This fantastic novel will make many wish for a Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick of their own and is highly recommended for every middle school library.   

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Marshall, Barry, and Lorna Hendry. How to Win a Nobel Prize. Kane Miller, 2019. 978-1-610-67829-2. 178 p. $6.99. Grades 3-6.

Mary is an aspiring scientist who dreams of one day winning the Nobel Prize for something that she contributes to the world of science. As the tale begins, she is waiting to meet a real Nobel winner named Barry Marshall, but he is late, so she starts to snoop around. Somehow she stumbles into a room full of winners from across and space and time, and Mary bargains with the group to see their moments in history and gather advice from each member. What follows is a series of short, informative chapters which introduce discoveries and Nobel Prize winners familiar (Einstein, Curie, Fleming) with many unfamiliar voices. In fact, the travels wonderfully highlight the diversity and varied backgrounds and countries that the selected winners represent, including commentary about equal rights for women in their fields. The book also does a great job of taking concepts that are complex and explaining them into an understandable scientific terms. To assist, there is an activity associated with each chapter which allow for the readers to experiment, observe, and try it yourself. Extra notes and illustrations accompany each chapter and keep the tone and information appropriate for readers looking for an introduction to this unique world of world-changers!

THOUGHTS: As the author is himself a Nobel Prize winner and main character in the story, there is a sense of both relatability and authority to the nonfiction story. Though some subplots and patterns are inconsistent during the story, it is a fine example of how to merge fiction (science fiction time travel) in with nonfiction and biography. It could compare well with the Kid Series (Kid Athletes, Kid Scientists) by Quirk Books.

Science Fiction          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

Ursu, Anne. The Lost Girl. Walden Pond Press, 2019. 978-0-062-27509-7. 368 p. $16.99  Grades 4-7.

Twins Iris and Lark are “identical, but not the same.”  Practical, responsible Iris has always looked out for Lark, who has a big imagination but is introverted and a worrier. They’ve always been inseparable–until fifth grade, when they are placed in separate classrooms for the first time, and forced to join different after-school clubs as well. Both girls struggle. Lark does not like her teacher, who encourages her to participate when she would rather stay in the background. Iris feels bereft, and worries that Lark is falling apart without her. Meanwhile, things are going missing: everything from Lark’s favorite bracelet to a famous painting in a city museum. Iris is sure something is amiss, something she can’t quite name but that terrifies her all the same. As she starts spending more time in a local antique shop with a very peculiar owner, Iris finds herself drawn into a full-blown magical mystery. The sometimes-intrusive narrator’s identity is not revealed until the end of the novel.

THOUGHTS:  The Lost Girl is a beautifully written story, rooted in reality for the most part, but interwoven with hints of folk- and fairy-tales, and a fantastical ending. This is a complex, thought provoking novel that, among other things, offers a positive portrayal of different ways girls can be strong and powerful, and can give and ask for help. Highly recommended for middle school libraries.

Fantasy Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Miller, Kayla. Click. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2019. 978-1-328-70735-2. $24.99. Gr. 4-6.

Olive has the ability to be friends with everyone; she just naturally clicks! The 5th grade is going to be hosting their annual Variety Show which is great, except for the fact that not one specific person wants Olive to be in their act. Olive feels pulled in every direction and can’t see why she doesn’t have just one best friend or just one person who would want her in her group. How can she find her own place and her own person, rather than just being friends with everyone? It isn’t until she has a sleepover with her eccentric Aunt Molly that she finds a way to work with everyone…a way to make everything click!

THOUGHTS: The idea of finding that one special friend that you are best friends with can be hard, especially for someone who gets along with everyone! This story is told in a graphic novel format, allowing for an easy read for students, especially girls, who may be struggling to find their own clique in school.

Graphic Novel          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Marciano, Johnny, and Emily Chenoweth. Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat. Book 1. Penguin Workshop. 2019. 978-1-524-78720-2. $14.99. Grades 4-8.

For an evil warlord cat, what could be worse than being banished to the worst possible place in the galaxy? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Which is exactly what happens to former Lord High Emperor Wyss-Kuzz. Thankfully, there is something that comes even sweeter after being banished… revenge! After being banished to Earth, Wyss-Kuzz decides to force his way into one of the ogre’s dwellings and create a device to return back to his home planet for his sweet revenge.

At the same time, Raj is bored. His family has just moved from New York City to the middle of nowhere. Not only that, his mother has signed him up for Survival Camp! When a green flash appears in the night and the doorbell rings, Raj is delighted to see a cat on his doorstep! After convincing his mom to let him keep the cat, Raj has no idea what he has let into his house or his new pet’s plan…until newly named Klawde begins to talk to him about his plans. Can Raj help Klawde return to his home planet? Or even more important, can Raj survive Survival Camp?

THOUGHTS: The first in a series, Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat holds a lot of inside jokes that older elementary and middle school students would greatly appreciate. The double-sided story of both Klawde and Raj are captivating, making the reader feel as though they are diving into two different worlds. The illustrations accompanying the story are funny yet allow readers to still their imaginations. A great story for reluctant readers that can continue as the series grows.

Adventure/Action/Fantasy           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Marciano, Johnny and Emily Chenoweth. Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat: Enemies. Book 2. Penguin Workshop. 2019. 978-1-5247-8722-6. $14.99. Grades 4-8.

After being sent back to Earth, Klawde is furious! Not only has he been sent back, but his number one loyal subject has taken his job and is now the ruler of his previous homeland! This is absolutely ludicrous. The only that that could be worse has happened; his number one enemy Ffang has been banished to Earth as well. It is up to Klawde to show Ffang who is the number one most evil ruler of them all.

Meanwhile, Raj is facing his own enemy. After starting school and really enjoying his new robotics class, his enemy from Brooklyn has joined him. How can Raj stay friends when Cameron seems to take them all away from him? Everyone things Cameron is so cool since his mom is a famous comic book writer. Raj decides to take a note from Klawde and perform sweet, sweet revenge…

 THOUGHTS: A great second book to the Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat series!  This books lets us dive further into real life and alien life trouble with two completely different characters. Readers will enjoy the growth and depth as they continue to read about Raj and Klawde.

Adventure/Action/Fantasy         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

U.S. Government Behind the Scenes. Capstone Press, 2019. $26.49 ea. $105.96 set of 4 (hardcover). 64 p. Grades 6-8.

*Burgan, Michael. The Department of Justice. 978-0-7565-5903-8
Burgan, Michael. The Department of Energy. 978-0-7565-5900-7
Kenney, Karen Latchana. The Department of Homeland Security. 978-0-7565-5901-4
Rechner, Amy. The Department of Education. 978-0-7565-5902-1

This series takes readers on a behind the scenes tour of several government departments. The title I reviewed, The Department of Justice, does a wonderful job of explaining the role, function and make up of the justice department. The title includes pictures of current individuals in the government, a timeline, charts, and even a section on how kids can find lawmakers in their area and get involved. There is also a comprehensive bibliography and source notes which provide a perfect example of how to cite sources for students. 

THOUGHTS: This book will appeal to students who are interested in becoming involved in making change in our government. With easy to read chapters and valuable resources included, this title and series would be an upgrade to your government collection. The series would provide an in depth look into several government departments that have been in the news recently.

347.73 Civil Procedure & Courts          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Art Skills Lab. Crabtree Publishing, 2019. $8.95 ea. (paperback). 32 p. Grades 4-7.

* Ewasiuk, Sandee. Drawing Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5234-9
Ewasiuk, Sandee. Mixed Media Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5235-6
Ewasiuk, Sandee. Painting Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5236-3
Hodgson, Sarah. Collage Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5233-2
Hodgson, Sarah. Printmaking Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5237-0
Yates, Jane. 3-D Art Skills Lab. 978-0-7787-5225-7

This series provides a hands-on approach to assist students in building their art repertoire. Each book provides techniques, tools, and skills that can be used to hone students’ skills in various mediums and methods of art. Each book provides tips, a “try this” section, and examples of different art pieces. Each title also provides inserts on famous artists and what they became famous for (including a picture of their work) that relates to the skill being presented. The projects allow readers a chance to apply the techniques discussed in each title to create their own amazing art. The titles in the series highlight various types of art from pencil and paper to 3D art.

THOUGHTS: This series is easy to read and full of excellent tips and strategies that can make anyone feel like an artist! The information regarding a skill can be found on a single spread in the title, making it easy to follow all directions and to be able to see the final product. This series is a valuable asset to any school looking to provide a positive experience when it comes to creating your own artwork.

741.2 Drawing          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Legendary Goddesses. Capstone Press, 2019. $21.49 ea. $85.96 set of 4 (hardcover). 32 p. Grades 3-9.

Gagne, Tammy. Aphrodite: Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty. 978-1-543-55451-9
* Gagne, Tammy. Hera: Queen of the Greek Gods. 978-1-5435-5453-3
Leavitt, Amie Jane. Persephone: Greek Goddess of the Underworld. 978-1-543-55454-0
Schwartz, Heather . Athena: Greek Goddess of Wisdom and War. 978-1-543-55452-6

Legendary Goddesses focuses on the women deities of Greek mythology. The series explores several well known goddesses and the stories that made them famous. Each title is divided into chapters with distinct focus on their powers and skills and how they played a role in history as well as modern culture. There is a glossary, a list of titles to read more about the goddesses, and internet sites related to the title provided through FactHound. The layout of the text is reader friendly with pictures and captions, challenging words with their definitions, and Goddess Facts. 

THOUGHTS: This series would be a welcome addition to a library collection that is Greek God heavy (Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, Apollo, etc.) and provide a look into the power and cunningness of the Greek Goddesses. There are little known facts and interesting stories about the goddesses that will leave readers impressed with the women of mythology.

292.2 Classical (Greek & Roman) Religion          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Maclear, Kyo. Illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler. Operatic, 2019. 978-1-554-98972-0. 160 p. $19.95  Grades 5-8.

Maclear’s spare text paired with Eggenschweiler’s lush, broadstroke monochromatic illustrations are the perfect vehicle to deliver a story exploring the perennial issues facing middle schoolers. Charlie, one of three Asian girls in her middle school, knows that you should always “look bored” (32) and never let anyone know you care about anything . . . or anyone. Yet, she’s fascinated by the enthusiasm of her music teacher, Mr. K., who challenges his students to find a song that speaks to their souls. When Mr. K. introduces the class to opera, Charlie is entranced, and decides to learn more about Maria Callas, a woman who was not satisfied to be quiet and stay in the shadows. Meanwhile, she’s also entranced by her crush, Emile . . . who can’t return her romantic feelings, but turns out to be just what she needs in a friend. Without being preachy or coming to simple, tidy conclusions, Maclear and Eggenschweiler show their characters wrestling with taking risks when it comes to standing out and reaching out. Separate storylines and time periods are indicated by color: yellow for the current, end-of-school springtime; blue for the previous fall; and red for Maria Callas’s biography as told by Charlie.

THOUGHTS:  This nuanced portrayal of the deep emotional lives of middle school students infused with music history (there’s more than opera here) will be a big hit with the intended audience. Highly recommended for middle school libraries; a solid purchase for high school libraries. 

Graphic Novel          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Behind the Scenes with the Pros. Capstone Press, 2019. $21.49 ea. $85.96 set of 4 (hardcover). 32 p. Grades 3-9.

Koehn, Rebecca. Behind the Scenes of Pro Football. 978-1-543-55525-0
Nicks, Erin. Behind the Scenes of Pro Hockey. 978-1-543-55426-7
Velasco, Catherine Ann. Behind the Scenes of Pro Baseball. 978-1-543-55427-4
*Velasco, Catherine Ann. Behind the Scenes of Pro Basketball. 978-1-543-55424-3

This series gives insight into the way a sport is run behind the scenes. Readers will learn how players train to keep their bodies healthy, how they recover after games, get endorsements, and how players are traded between teams. The text is easy to read, and each section is displayed on a two page spread. The challenging words are in boldface type and explained at the bottom of each page. The title has photographs of current players as well as intriguing fast facts. The series covers a variety of sports and uses FactHound to allow readers to access other websites related to the content of the book.

THOUGHTS: This series is great for kids who are interested in learning more about what goes into becoming a major league sports player. There is decent content connected to famous players to keep readers interested. Definitely for upper elementary to lower middle school even though it is for grades 3-9.

796.323 Basketball          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Carson, Mary Kay. The Tornado Scientist: Seeing Inside Severe Storms. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-544-96582-9. $18.99. 75 pg. Grades 4-6.

This narrative nonfiction title on storm hunting is sure to grab the attention of any student that has a passion for meteorology. The title chronicles the life of Robin Tanamachi and her passion for studying tornadoes and supercells across the nation. Broken into seven chapters that focus on topics from where tornadoes are prevalent to the science behind the formation, this title has it all. Each chapter supplies stunning photographs of tornadoes, damage caused by tornadoes, and the scientists in action. The text provides graphics to explain tornado devastation and is the perfect balance between science and storytelling. There is a detailed collection of words and acronyms storm chasers use which is helpful to decoding parts of the more “sciency” chapters. Links at the back of the title provide further information on tornado safety, the Vortex Southeast team, as well as Robin’s blog. 

THOUGHTS: For avid storm chasers, this title is a must! This book reads quickly and provides jaw dropping photographs of just how powerful a tornado can be. Will surely inspire students to want to know more!

551.55 Meteorology          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Elem. – US Armed Forces; Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure; Bloom Bloom; Cake; Seeds Move; The Great Indoors; How I Learned to Fall Out of Trees; Perfect; Grandpa’s Stories; Building a New Nation; The Undefeated

Abdo, Kenny. US Armed Forces. ABDO Zoom, 2019. 24 p. Gr. 1-4.

Navy Seals. 978-1-532-12549-2
United States Air Force. 978-1-532-12550-8
United States Army. 978-1-532-12551-5
United States Coast Guard. 978-1-532-12552-2
United States Marine Corps. 978-1-532-12554-6
United States Navy. 978-1-532-12553-9.

This new Hi-Lo nonfiction series from ABDO Zoom looks at the inception, history, and current United States military. United States Navy begins with the purpose of the Navy, motto, and creation of this branch of the military.  It highlights specific battles and important members of the Navy. The last section looks at the current Navy and specific roles and missions, such as submariner and NCIS. Each two-page spread includes an image or two and large print font. Specific words are highlighted in red and included in a glossary at the back. Information for online resources through ABDO’s Booklinks are included with an image of the seal of the particular military branch of focus above the text.

THOUGHTS: Although recommended by ABDO for grades 2-8, this Hi-Lo series is very basic and may bore older students. It briefly highlights a variety of information about the US Navy and then moves on, an appropriate approach for early readers and upper-elementary struggling readers. With the US military of high interest, this series is recommended for elementary schools and classrooms with Life Skills students who have a low reading level.

359 United States Military          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Smith, Alex T. Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure. Peachtree. 2019. 978-1-682-63120-1. $16.95. Gr. 2-4.

Mr. Penguin has decided to follow in the footsteps of his favorite books and become an Adventurer! He has the hat, the sandwich… and the bills to prove it! Who knew that becoming an adventurer was going to take so long to get started! When he finally gets a phone call, it is the perfect adventure to go on! Buried treasurer, an old museum, flying toilets…. Why, this adventure has everything an adventurer needs! As Mr. Penguin and his best friend, a spider named Colin, begin this adventure to solve the mystery of the buried treasure, something seems off. Away they go together, attempting to find the treasure and not be killed in the process!

THOUGHTS: This chapter book is for students who like to have illustrations accompanying them on their reading adventure! This book has a little bit of everything in it: adventure, mystery, animals, and funny happenings around every corner!

Adventure          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Sayre, April Pulley. Bloom Boom! Beach Lane Books. 2019. 978-1-481-49472-4. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This introductory book to how nature blooms in spring is artistically done beautifully. Each page is filled with a basic statement of nature beginning to spring from the earth accompanied with a gorgeous up close photograph of a variety of plants in various stages of birth. Filled with new vocabulary and plants that some readers may not have seen before, Bloom Boom! Is a great introduction to a science unit or gardening theme.

THOUGHTS: This book is absolutely beautiful with the up close and personal photographs of a variety of plants and animals. Readers will fall into the book with the simple writing and expressive photographs. A fantastic introduction for teachers wishing to explore a science unit.

581 Nature          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Hendra, Sue & Paul Linnet. Cake. Aladdin. 2019. 978-1-534-42550-7. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

Cake is so excited to be going to a party! The only problem is Cake has no idea what to wear! After help from his goldfish friend, Cake goes off to find a hat. He is amazed to find the perfect hat to look his best at the party! It has candles and lights up! Cake goes to the party and has the best of times. After all, what is a party without Cake? Things get a little strange when everyone starts singing “Happy Birthday.” Why did everything suddenly go dark? What is happening at this party?!

THOUGHTS: A cute story about how cake is needed at a party! Kids will love to listen to this story and yell for cake to realize what will happen to it as the story continues deeper and deeper into the party. A great, easy read for early elementary students.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Page, Robin. Seeds Move! Beach Lane Books, 2019. 978-1-534-40915-6. 32 p. $17.99.Gr K-4. 

From catapulting to floating and rolling to parachuting, seeds move in all kinds of different ways. Using lively verbs, this book describes how seeds move to get the things they need to thrive, including sunlight, soil, water, and a place to put down roots. Each double-page spread features a one-sentence description of a way a seeds moves, and near the bottom of the page, more details about how that movement is accomplished. For example, one spread featuring a raccoon, details how seeds hitchhike by snagging themselves on a raccoon’s fur and are transported long distances before falling off. The large, colorful illustrations, created in Photoshop, resemble textured cut-paper collages.

THOUGHTS: While this book could benefit from reference information about the scale of the seeds in relation to the animals they are depicted with, it is still an engaging, visually-appealing introduction to seeds and the ways animals aid in their transportation. 

581.4 Seeds          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Falatko, Julie. The Great Indoors. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-00083-3. 36 p. $17.99. Gr K-3. 

When a family of humans hits the road in their RV packed with fishing gear, sleeping bags, and camping equipment, they’re ready for a week in the great outdoors. They’re barely out of the driveway before the bears, beavers, skunks, and deer move in, ready for a week in the great indoors. The animals are excited to experience the simple life: indoor plumbing, electricity, and comfy furniture. The deer bring their karaoke machine, the skunks have excellent cell phone reception, and the teenage bear can finally plug in her curling iron. After a few days, however, the animals start missing the woods as the garbage and dirty dishes pile up, the toaster catches fire, and the noise gets to be unbearable. Loose watercolor illustrations brim with humorous details such as bears using hairdryers, beavers playing video games, and skunks rocking out with guitars.

THOUGHTS: This title will lend itself to compare and contrast discussions about how life is different in nature versus in civilization, and it will also spark discussions about role reversal. A natural extension would be asking students to imagine what might go on in their homes if animals moved in for a week. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Kirsch, Vincent. How I Learned to Fall Out of Trees. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73413-7. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Adelia is up a tree and announces that she has to move away. Roger is not ready – for tree climbing or losing his best friend. So, Adelia offers to teach him the valuable lesson of how to climb a tree – and how to let go and fall out. What follows are alternating pages of collecting items that hold special meaning for the friends (but could help cushion a fall) and the lessons of tree climbing. Roger worries about falling still, but Adelia says, “Falling will be easy. Letting go will be the hardest part.” Time passes from spring to summer to fall to winter. Soon enough it is time to part, and Roger gets ready to practice what he’s learned. To his delight, Adelia has indeed made the process of letting go and falling easier thanks to her thoughtfulness. Children of any age can appreciate the process of parting ways that is represented through this extended metaphor. Kirsch provides beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations to capture details worth repeated readings and the formatting and layout allow readers to make inferences about the story happening behind the main dialogue. Falling out of trees has never been sweeter!

THOUGHTS: Friends could create their own pile of memories to jump into as they look at Roger and Adelia. There are plenty of discussion starters here for writing prompts or group storytime or one on one recommendations. A very delightful book for many occasions!

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

Amato, Max. Perfect. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-0-545-82931-1. Unpaged. $14.95. Grades K-2.

Any student who has ever held a brand new pink eraser knows two things: that it looks perfectly clean until it’s used, and that nothing stays perfect, because mistakes happen! The eraser in Max Amato’s clever debut story needs to realize that perfect never lasts when a pencil will always be around to make a mess. At first, the eraser moves from satisfied to annoyed to frustrated by the wordless actions of the playful pencil. But then it is quickly outmatched and ends up in a dark place in the book – chased and lost in a graphite world with scribbles everywhere. However, a little change of perspective soon gets the eraser to create something new and start over with a clean slate! The pencil and eraser’s new friendship becomes a reminder that sharing our imperfections, losing control and working together offer a chance to explore a fun new world.

THOUGHTS: An art teacher would love this for an example of positive and negative space, as well as a chance to show animated art supplies. Creative ideas should be flowing after reading this worthwhile story of an odd couple’s friendship.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Coelho, Joseph, and Allison Colpoys. Grandpa’s Stories. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73498-4. 36 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

In this gentle story, a young girl finds an outlet for her grief when her beloved grandfather passes away. The book opens during spring, when the girl and her grandfather take long walks and explore flowers, birds, and insects. During each season, they continue spending time together. In summer they play with race cars, in autumn grandpa makes the girl a journal for her writings and drawings, and in winter, they share stories and candy. Then, one day, grandpa’s chair is empty, and the girl helps her parents clean out grandpa’s room. In his room, she finds souvenirs of their time together: dried flowers, toy cars, leather string from her journal, candy wrappers, and colored pencils. The girl describes the relics as a kaleidoscope of memories, and when she finds a brand-new blank journal on grandpa’s chair, she fills the pages with memories of her grandfather. Vibrant primary-colored illustrations capture the wonderful times the pair shared in beautiful detail. 

THOUGHTS: This is a touching celebration of life, and it’s also a tribute to the power writing and art have for fostering healing after loss. This intergenerational story will speak to readers of all ages, and it will be a valuable addition for both librarians and guidance counselors. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Lassieur, Allison. Building a New Nation: An Interactive American Revolution Adventure. Capstone Press, 2019. 978-1-543-51539-8. 112 p. $24.54. Grades 3-6. 

This book is one of four in a new series titled “You Choose: Founding the United States.” These interactive, choose your own adventure books put readers in the middle of the action as they make choices that drive the ending of the story. With 55 different choices and 22 different endings, there are plenty of famous Americans to meet and lots of excitement to witness. Some paths lead to joining Benjamin Franklin in France as he brokers peace talks with England and France. Others put readers on the front lines during Shay’s Rebellion, and others put readers in the shoes of a young Philadelphia apprentice who has the honor of meeting George Washington. A timeline, a list of additional books and websites to explore, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index round out the backmatter.

THOUGHTS: This will be a popular addition to American Revolution curriculum, and the decisions students make will jumpstart discussions about choices colonists made to survive during this tumultuous time in American history. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Alexander, Kwame. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The Undefeated. Versify, 2019. 978-1-328-78096-6. 40 p. $17.99  Grades 3-7.

Kwame Alexander, in a picture book published by his own imprint, Versify, writes heartfelt, heartrending poetry honoring famous, lesser-known, and forgotten African-Americans that is accessible to a wide range of ages. The rhythmic text begs to be read aloud, yet is also visually striking: black font on a bright white background, with key words set even larger and bolder for emphasis. Kadir Nelson’s realistically rendered oil portraits of African-Americans from leaders like Martin Luther King to sports stars like Michael Jordan to everyday people from the past and present are also thrown in stark relief against the uncompromisingly white pages. In many instances, the gazes of Nelson’s subjects are directed straight at the reader, creating a deep sense of intimacy. However, perhaps the most arresting page is a blank one, a memorial to those lost to time and history, but whose struggles still matter.  For teachers and older readers, an afterword in which Alexander writes repeatedly that “Black. Lives. Matter.” as well as a “Historical Figures and Events” section extends the use of the book. Also included is a link to an audio version of the poem.

THOUGHTS: This collaboration between a talented poet and a gifted artist, each at the top of his game, is something special; a must-buy for elementary school libraries and highly recommended for middle school libraries.  

Picture Book/Poetry          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD