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 https://www.mfa.org/about/riley-the-museum-dog

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

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