Elem. – Where Is My Balloon; Baby’s First Bank Heist; Sweeping up the Heart; Animal Performers; Wilma’s Way Home; Community Economics; Say Something; The Bell Rang; Sweet Dreams; Pippa’s Passover Plate; Energy Revolution; A Plan for Pops

Bernstein, Ariel. Where Is My Balloon? Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-41451-8. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-2.

When Owl asks Monkey to hold his balloon, Monkey excitedly plays with the balloon… until he accidentally pops it. When Owl returns and asks for his balloon back, Monkey tries desperately to avoid telling Owl the truth, offering him objects like a pillow, a chair, and a parachute instead of the balloon.  Finally, Monkey admits to popping the balloon. In his outrage, Owl ends up ruining one of Monkey’s belongings, and the roles are suddenly reversed. Will their friendship be ruined, or will they both learn to forgive and forget?

THOUGHTS: This book is overflowing with many important lessons for young readers. It has great potential to initiate discussions on honesty, forgiveness, and caring for another’s belongings. I could see this being used in an early elementary setting to introduce how to properly care for books and other materials borrowed from the library or classroom. The irony and humor that prevail in the story make for an entertaining way to introduce such important topics.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter

Whalley, Jim. Baby’s First Bank Heist. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-547-60062-5. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-1.

When baby Frank is unable to convince his parents to buy him a pet, he decides to take matters into his own hands. As the title suggests, Frank robs a bank in order to get the money to purchase a pet and pet supplies. He is not satisfied, however, with one pet. Things begin to get out of hand as he orders animal after animal from the Internet. When his parents discover what he’s done, Frank must pay consequences for his actions and find a way to reimburse the bank. Discover how Frank remedies the situation in this delightful read-aloud.

THOUGHTS: Gorgeous illustrations and rhyming verses that flow beautifully off the tongue make this the perfect bedtime read-aloud. This book does offer more, however. It would be a light-hearted and humorous way to introduce the very serious topic of stealing to young readers. It might also resonate with children who are planning on getting a pet in the near future, as it could initiate discussions about all of the necessities and responsibilities that come with pet ownership. Overall, this is a fun story that will definitely appeal to young readers.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter

Henkes, Kevin. Sweeping Up the Heart. Greenwillow Books, 2019. 978-0-062-85254-0. 183 p. Grades 3-6. 

Twelve-year-old Amelia is disappointed when her English professor father refuses to travel with her to Florida during spring break. But, she decides to make the best of things by spending as much time as she can in the pottery studio down the street that is like her second home. There, she meets Casey, the owner’s nephew who is visiting for the week. Casey and Amelia are each struggling: Casey’s parents’ marriage is on the rocks, and Amelia, whose mother died when she was two, is feeling more alone than ever since her best friend is spending the year in France. When the pair spot a woman who resembles Amelia’s deceased mother, their imaginations run wild. Amelia is determined to uncover her true identity, and when she does, her world opens in ways she’s never before allowed herself to imagine. 

THOUGHTS: This gentle, thoughtful novel explores themes of grief, creativity, and love while also pondering the many dynamics of family. Introspective readers will relate to the situations Casey and Amelia experience. Hand this to Kate DiCamillo and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley fans. 

Realistic Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Grades 4-6 (Maybe 6-8)

Amelia, a seventh grade student, is annoyed with her father when he will not take her to Florida on spring break. Her father is withdrawn and cranky. Amelia does have Mrs. O’Brien who has basically raised her since her mother died when she was two, but still it would be nice to have a friend her own age. She finds refuge working with clay in the local art studio, but even this is not a haven when she discovers Casey, the owner’s nephew is working there a well. As the barriers between them break down, Amelia discovers that Casey is also lonely and is worried about his parents’ impending divorce. They amuse each other by observing people and making up stories about them. One day, Casey makes a comment that really changes Amelia’s life. He claims to have seem a woman that must be Amelia’s’ mother – same red hair and nose. This woman appears to be stalking Amelia. Now she questions her father. What really happened? She dares to dream that her mother is really alive. Disappointment comes, but is soon resolved with the aid of Mrs. O’Brien and the mystery woman. Gradually the reader will realize that this is a story not only about Amelia’s loneliness, but that of her father who lost his love and wants to protect his only child.

THOUGHTS: Twelve-year-olds often appear self-centered, but they are trying to understand themselves as individuals. Amelia is looking for herself through her lost mother. Henkes sensitively guides her development to understanding her father’s feelings. This book could be used for a bit of subtle bibliotherapy.

Realistic Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Green, Sara. Animal Performers. Bellwether Media, 2019. 978-1-626-17845-8. 32 p. $20.26. Grades 3-6. 

From dogs and cats to horses, pigs, and birds, animals steal the spotlight in many major movies. This title details the auditioning, training, and rehearsing that goes on behind the scenes of some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. The book also discusses some of history’s most famous animal stars, including Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. Readers get to go behind the scenes to meet the pigs who stared in the movie Babe, the labs from Marley and Me, and the horses from Secretariat. Large-scare photographs and informative captions break down information into manageable chunks for readers, and sidebars include interesting facts about other showbiz animals, including monkeys, owls, and penguins. Backmatter includes a glossary, books and websites readers can turn to for more information, and an index.

THOUGHTS: Readers will gravitate towards this engaging book about animals and the movies they star in. Uncluttered layouts, boldfaced vocabulary words, short paragraphs, and vivid color pictures will hold readers’ attention. 

791.43. Movies          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Rappaport, Doreen. Wilma’s Way Home: The Life of Wilma Mankiller. Disney Hyperion, 2019. Unpaged. 978-1-484-74718-6. $17.99. Grades 2-5. 

“For above all else, I am a Cherokee woman.” This quotation sums up the life of Wilma Mankiller, a Native American leader and activist. Rappaport tells readers about Wilma’s early life in rural Oklahoma as the child of a Dutch Irish mother and a Cherokee father. Even though the family was poor, Wilma had a happy childhood living in this community with other members of the Cherokee nation. The community practiced Gadugi, which is the “philosophy of helping each other” and was a guiding principle throughout Wilma’s life. Mankiller’s family was forced to move to San Francisco by the government in the misguided belief that there were job opportunities there. This is where Wilma began to advocate for Native Americans. Wilma eventually returned to Oklahoma and worked for the government of the Cherokee nation. Despite a devastating car accident, Wilma stayed active in government and eventually was named Tribal Leader and Chief.  Her policies and programs helped the Cherokee people. The author includes many of Wilma’s own quotes throughout the text, which help the reader get a better understanding of this dedicated woman. The illustrator is from Oklahoma and is also Native American. In the back matter, Kukuk explains that she spoke to Mankiller’s family and friends before beginning her illustrations. Her discussion of the evolution of the last drawing is very moving. The author met with Mankiller’s husband, and he provided the background and helped edit the text.

THOUGHTS: This is an excellent and important picture book biography that deserves to be in every elementary collection. The story of Wilma Mankiller’s life is inspiring and shows how one person can make a difference despite facing adversity. This text will work well during Women’s History Month or Native American Month, but is also a valuable diverse text to be read at any time. 

92, 921 Biography                                              Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
973.04  Ethnic and National Groups 

Community Economics. Pop!, Abdo Publishing, 2019. $18.99 each, $113.70 set of 6. 24 p. Gr K-2. 

Gaertner, Meg. Spending and Saving Money. 978-1-532-16005-9
Ventura, Marne. Supply and Demand. 978-1-532-16006-6.
Ventura, Marne. Conserving Resources. 978-1-532-16001-1
Ventura, Marne. Government and Community. 978-1-532-16003-5
Ventura, Marne. Needs and Wants. 978-1-532-16004-2
Ventura, Marne.  Goods and Services. 978-1-532-16002-8

This series is a good nonfiction introduction to economics for beginning readers. Each chapter describes a single topic, such as supply, demand or price. Photographs and charts are present to illustrate the main ideas. Real-life examples examples such as  seasonal prices are explained in terms of Halloween candy to help children understand the basic concepts. Vocabulary words are bold-faced and defined in the glossary. Each chapter features a QR code that links readers to popbooksonline.com where readers can explore the topic further and watch a video. All non-fiction elements are present.

THOUGHTS: What a great tool tool teach the elements of nonfiction while also introducing students to a concept other than careers or wildlife. I especially appreciate that this series addresses economics in a relatable way for beginning readers. I would definitely add this set to any elementary library that needs to expand the social sciences collection.

332 Finance          Jackie Fulton, South Park SD

Reynolds, Peter H. Say Something! Orchard Books, 2019. 978-0-545-86503-6. 32 p. $16.99. Gr K-4. 

Say Something! Will help children understand that words, actions, and expressions have the ability to make a difference. Brightly colored pages contrasted by extra large text bubbles and illustrations featuring children allow the reader to focus on how one individual can be a catalyst of change. Diversity among the illustrations reinforces the message that every voice matters regardless of race, gender or ability. Even the endpaper of this book gives its audience an opportunity to visualize their own words by providing example speech bubbles at the beginning and leaving blank ones at the end. From the examples given in the text children learn that while words can make a big difference sometimes actions speak just as loudly. 

THOUGHTS: This is a book that all students can really see themselves in and provides a great starting point for a litany of discussions about building a classroom community, activism, expression, and more. Allowing students to create their own speech bubble would be a great follow up activity. This book is also an excellent candidate for a school-wide reading program. Definitely a must have for an elementary library. 

Picture Book                     Jackie Fulton, South Park SD

Ransome, James E. The Bell Rang. Atheneum, 2019. 978-1-442-42113-4. 32 p. $17.99. Gr. K – 2.

The main character and her family’s lives are controlled by the bell that rings every day. They are slaves and have to follow orders without question. While they eat breakfast as a family, they are then forced to separate while the adults and older children work in the fields. The brother, Ben, gives our main character a doll, and runs away that night. The family is worried, and everyone is punished. The book ends with anxiety for Ben’s safety, and hope that he made it to the North and freedom.

THOUGHTS: Introducing the topic of slavery to young children is often difficult. This book does a wonderful job of portraying the choiceless lives of the enslaved at an age-appropriate level through the eyes of a young narrator.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Kirkfield, Vivian. Sweet Dreams, Sarah. Creston Books, 2019. 978-1-939-54731-6. 32 p. $17.99. Gr. 2-5

Sarah Goode had big dreams. Starting out life as a slave, Sarah moved north after the Civil War. She started a family and ran a furniture store with her husband. But she had bigger plans than running a business! Sarah wanted to do something to help people, and most families had more kids than they did space in their homes. Sarah designed a desk that folded out into a bed. She worked on it until she was sure she got it right, then she applied for a patent. At first her application was denied, but she didn’t give up! Sarah kept working on the wording and design until she succeeded, becoming the first African-American woman to be awarded a patent in the USA.

THOUGHTS: Sarah’s story of innovation and persistence is one that everyone should hear. There is a lot of great information in the back as well, including a list of all the African-American women who have since been granted patents (such as Mary Anderson, in 1903, for windshield wipers).

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Kirkfield, Vivian. Pippa’s Passover Plate. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-44162-4. 32 p. $17.99. Gr. Pre K – 1

Pippa is a mouse who is getting ready to celebrate Passover. After cleaning her house, she must hunt for the Seder plate by asking three different predators for their help. Overcoming her fears, Pippa does eventually find her plate and is able to invite her new friends to dinner at sunset.

THOUGHTS: Familiarity with the idea of a  Seder plate and the fact that the Passover meal begins at sunset are helpful prerequisites for reading this book and the lack of explanatory context may limit the overall appeal. Some of the rhymes are a bit forced.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Energy Revolution (series). Capstone, 2019. $20.99 ea. Set of 4 $111.96. 32 p. Gr. 3-6.

Boone, Mary. Hydropower. 978-1-543-55543-1.
Eboch, M. M.  Geothermal Energy. 978-1-543-55542-4.
Eboch, M. M.  Wind Energy. 978-1-543-55541-7.
Kenny, Karen Latchana. Solar Energy. 978-1-543-55540-0.

This is an informative and well-thought out series providing up-to-date information on the hot topic of renewable energy. The books are well laid out and discuss both the energy sources and how the power plants that use each type of energy work. Each book has a “Pros and Cons” section showing students both the benefits and the drawbacks of the renewable resource. Further sections review current usage and what the future might hold.

THOUGHTS: I really liked this series for older elementary and early middle school students. It is easy to understand in an age-appropriate, non-condescending manner. The informative boxes answered questions I didn’t even know I had! 

333 Natural Resources          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

Smith, Heather, and Brooke Kerrigan. A Plan for Pops. Orca Book Publishers, 2019. 978-1-459-81614-5. 32 p. $19.95. Gr. K – up

Lou loves to spend every Saturday with Grandad and Pops, including the afternoons spent building with Grandad. He reminds Lou, “Always remember the three Ps—perseverance, persistence and patience!” One day Pops slips and falls. After his accident, Pops must use a wheelchair, but many Saturdays go by and he is too sad to get out of bed. Grandad and Lou need to come up with a plan…

THOUGHTS: This is such a wonderful and inclusive book! It doesn’t make a big deal that Grandad and Pops are a gay couple, or that Lou’s gender is never revealed… just a natural part of life. The characters are realistic in that they are happy and also vulnerable. This book provides a child’s view of adult depression, loving family, and the understanding that even if things don’t work out the first few times, there’s always the three Ps.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

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