MG – Maybe He Just Likes You; Good Enough; Klawde; Viewpoints on the Sinking of the Titanic; The Okay Witch; Over the Moon; Other Words for Home; Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club; Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky; The Story Web; Dragon Pearl

Dee, Barbara. Maybe He Just Likes You. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-534-43237-6. 283 p. $17.99. Grades 4-8.

When do you decide enough is enough? Seventh grade Mila is excited to celebrate her friend Omi’s birthday after lunch with a thoughtful gift and a group hug with her other friends Max and Zara. This moment between friends is perfect – that is until the basketball boys come over and hug them too, lingering on Mila. This small moment makes Mila uncomfortable, and it doesn’t stop there. The boys find ways to bump into Mila, make comments, and invade her personal space. Afraid to tell her mom, the principal (who is also the boys basketball coach), or her guidance counselor, Mila’s emotions spiral out of control. Mila tries to tell her friends what is going on, but they shrug it off, saying that’s just how boys are. But when a friend comes to Mila with information about a “scorecard” and another friend steps forward and says it happened to her too, Mila finds the strength to speak up for herself and stop the unwanted attention.

THOUGHTS: This middle grade novel does a perfect job of exploring the #metoo movement and how harassment and innocent “jokes” can end up affecting others. The story will bring you all the feels – joy, anger, shock – and leave you feeling like you may know someone this book is perfect for. The book also explores different relationships between characters and the strength a person has to stand up for themselves.

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Petro-Roy, Jen. Good Enough. Feiwel and Friends, 2019. 978-1-250-12351-0. 261 p. $16.99. Grades 7-9.

Twelve year old Riley doesn’t think she’s good enough, fast enough, talented enough…the list goes on and on. Tired of being compared to her “golden” younger sister Julia, Riley starts running excessively, skipping meals, and having a bad attitude. And it gets worse! At school she is being picked on for what she looks like and how she eats, which leads Riley down the path to an eating disorder. Riley’s parents decide she needs to be hospitalized in order to find the path to recovery. The story is presented as a journal of Riley’s experiences while hospitalized – her struggle with anxiety, food issues, and her parents’ constant judging and disappointment. The program requires strict meal planning, therapy sessions, group activities, and even counting out loud while you go to the bathroom. Riley meets several girls in the program all while dealing with the loss of her best friend and discovers that she is more than the voice in her head telling her she’s “not enough.” Will Riley’s parents accept her for who she is and not just as someone with a problem? Does Riley have the power to be in control of herself? A must read!

THOUGHTS: Perfection. Petro-Roy does a fantastic job of approaching a delicate subject as she is someone who battled an eating disorder. The journal style of writing allows readers to feel as if they are taking the journey with Riley day by day and makes for a fast read. The story deals with so much more than recovering from an eating disorder and allows readers to see that we all have flaws that make us who we are.

Realistic Fiction         Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Marciano, Johnny, & Emily Chenoweth. Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat: The Spacedog Cometh. Book 3. Penguin Workshop, 2019. 978-1-524-78724-0. $14.99. Grades 4-8.

The third epic adventure of Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat! As Klawde continues to plot his return to his home planet and take over from the tiny evil kitten who has taken command, he is unaware that there are others looking for him: the most loyal beasts of all…dogs! Barx has been given the mission to capture and return Klawde to his home plant to pay dues for blowing up one of their most amazing plants! As Barx travels to Earth, he realizes just how wonderful it is, especially Klawde’s master Raj. While the animals fight and attempt their vengeful missions, Raj is suffering with his own problems. His parents are out of town for a few weeks for a conference vacation, so his Ajji, grandmother, is staying with him. All she cooks is weird, un-American food and decides to throw him a birthday party. How will Raj deal with Ajji, as well as dealing with Klade being…Klawde!

THOUGHTS: I was so excited to see the third book to this hilarious series! The addition of the dog characters brought forth more excitement and perspective to the “dog vs. cat” personality stereotypes. A great third book for the Klawde lovers!

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


Russo, Kristin J. Viewpoints on the Sinking of the Titanic. Orchard Books, 2019. 978-1-228-18736-6. 48 p. $25.95. Grades 5-8.

In a subseries of Part of the Perspectives Library, Viewpoints and Perspectives takes a look at how various people may have different views about some of the most known events in history. In Viewpoints on the Sinking of the Titanic readers get a look inside the Titanic through the eyes of three very different passengers. Using first person stories inset with facts about the ship and a timeline of the events, this title takes readers through what the sinking of the Titanic was like for a first, second, and third class passenger. This book is a nice mixture of pictures and stories, allowing for students not to be overwhelmed by the amount of text to read. With a mixture of historical black and white, recreated color, and pencil drawings readers get a look back in time. The simplicity of the pages and clear nonfiction text structure lends this book to be a great introduction to text structures including table of context, index, timeline, and captions. The book includes ideas for teachers in the sidebars to help lead research or a lesson on the Titanic.  

THOUGHTS: The unique look into different classes on the Titanic would allow students to see how classes were separated and the prejudice against the lower classes even while evacuating the boat. A book like this could, and others in this series, be used in middle schools to see how prejudices have changed throughout history.

910.9 History, general          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD


Steinkellner, Emma. The Okay Witch. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-534-43146-1. 271 p. $20.99. Grades 4-8.

Moth believes she is a typical Halloween loving teenager, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. After studying the history surrounding Founder’s Bluff and the persecution of witches, Moth suddenly discovers that she may have special “powers.” After an incident with the school bullies and a talking cat at home, Moth confronts her mother for the truth. Yes, Moth is from a long line of witches, and with her mother’s diary and her new found powers, she is about to discover the truth. The witches of Founder’s Bluff were real…and they are still alive. Moth learns to navigate middle school (including a new boy who keeps bumping into her), harness her powers against her mother’s wishes, and meet her very ancient grandma. Travel with Moth through past and present as she discovers her heritage and becomes an “okay” witch.

THOUGHTS: This debut graphic novel will delight middle schoolers as Moth discovers who she truly is. The illustrations are whimsical and eye-catching, while the story just flows across the frames through a series of chapters. Graphic novel readers will want to pick this novel up, especially if they enjoy the element of magic.

Graphic Novel            Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Lloyd, Natalie. Over the Moon. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-1-338-11849-0. 291 p. $14.95. Gr. 4-8.

The Dust has taken away the light from the stars in Coal Top, made the villagers feel hopeless, and forced children to work for measly wages. Mallie cleans the home of a well to do family in the “Down Below.” The work is hard and does not pay enough to help protect her brother from being taken by the Guardians and sent to the mines to work. When a mysterious flyer appears and offers an opportunity for orphan boys to earn riches, Mallie knows this is her chance to save her family. Mallie quickly discovers that the task is to tame and ride a Starbird into the Dust above in order to retrieve gold dust. Up for the challenge, she doesn’t back down and struggles with her disability as well as the others who wish she wasn’t there. With the help of her friend Adam, and her loyal Starbird Leo, Mallie finds she can be successful. But when she discovers the leader, Mortimer, is up to something dark and sinister, Mallie decides she must expose the truth. Risking her life and her family’s, Mallie races against the Dust and Mortimer to prove that the stars really do exist.

THOUGHTS: You can’t help but cheer for Mallie as she struggles to protect her family, discover the truth, and overcome obstacle after obstacle. The characters are well developed and the whimsy of flying horses and dust puppets make the story come to life. Fans of Lloyd will not be disappointed with this title that pulls at your heart strings and reminds you to shoot for the stars.

Science Fiction            Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Warga, Jasmine. Other Words for Home. Balzer and Bray, 2019. 978-0-062-74780-8. $16.99. 352 p. Grades. 4-8.

Jude, young immigrant from Syria adjusts to her new life in Ohio. She had to flee with her pregnant mother, leaving behind her father and older brother. There is so much change living with her uncle, aunt, and cousin who is in the same grade. Although her aunt and uncle are accommodating, her cousin Sarah is a bit jealous of the attention and practically ignores Jude at school. School is a challenge. She thought her English was good in Syria, but in the United States pace of life is so much faster, including the language! Life is definitely not like the American movies she used to watch with her friends. Jude is a resilient girl. She makes friends with others in ESL (English as a Second Language) and meets Layla who is also Muslim. She wants to fit in, and one of her real motivations is the musical. She works really hard to try out, perfecting her English and learning about drama. This annoys Sarah and her friends who Jude thinks of as “SarahMinaHarperStone” (They seem to lack individuality.). Jude is concerned for Amal, her new baby sister. Amal, whose name means Hope, will be an American, not an immigrant. Jude realizes that home is where the people you love and those who love you are. It is where you feel you belong, and Jude works very hard to create a place for herself.

THOUGHTS: Jude voices very real concerns about fitting in, prejudices against Muslims, and the safety of her father and older brother who are still in Syria. The reaction to a bombing in the Middle East and subsequent vandalism of Layla’s family property is both upsetting to the community and an opportunity to bond. Warga’s use of verse to tell the story makes it accessible and poignant as the succinct wording and rhythm evoke emotions and meaning.

Realistic Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Nicherson, Sara. Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club. Dutton Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-101-99442-9. 240 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Josh is starting fifth grade at a new school, a fresh start, where no one knows of Josh’s multiple invisible friends. Only Josh’s friends are not imaginary; they just can’t be seen by anyone else. But the friends are all gone, buried at his old house. Until Big Brother shows up again on Josh’s first day of school. Big Brother dispenses advice, comfort, and companionship. But Josh is not the only student in his class with an awkward friend. Lucas has an invisible friend, Maxie, and Josh can see her too. While Big Brother gently guides and encourages Josh to be brave and try new experiences, Maxie seems a bit more malevolent. When she engineers a meeting between the two boys, she may be dangerously replaying her sad history. But Lucas and Josh discover real friends are powerful also.

THOUGHTS: A unique look at processing death and maturing. Readers who feel they see the world differently than those around them will definitely relate to Josh and Lucas.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Mbalia, Kwame. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. Rick Riordan Presents, 2019. 978-1-368-03993-2. 482 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Tristan is having a difficult time recovering from the school bus accident that left his best friend Eddie dead. Frustrated, his mother sends him to spend some time with his grandparents down south in Alabama. Grandma warns Tristan to stay away from the bottle tree, a traditional structure to capture haints, or spirits, at the edge of the forest. Tristan would have gladly done so, but that night he is awoken by a small, sticky figure sneaking in his room. Gum Baby has come to steal Eddie’s journal, and Tristan chases her into the forest, attempting to reclaim his cherished memento. When Tristan punches the bottle tree in frustration, he inadvertently creates a hole in the sky and is pulled into another world, where the stories his grandma used to tell him and Eddie come alive. Another mythology/folklore based adventure from Rick Riordan’s imprint, Tristan Strong brings alive the tales of the deep south, featuring Brer Rabbit, John Henry and, of course, Tristan’s reluctant sidekick Gum Baby. Tristan is sent on a quest to find the trickster god, Anansi, who can weave the sky back together. While Tristan is convinced he cannot save anyone (he broods that he failed to save Eddie), he discovers heroes do not necessarily have to be strong, or even brave, and he is more than capable of saving the world of his new friends from destruction.

THOUGHTS: This lightning fast, rollicking tale will win many fans, as well as introduce them to Black American folklore. Tristan and Gum Baby are a new dynamic duo that provide constant laughs as they attempt to save the day.

Fantasy (Mythology)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Blakemore, Megan Frazer. The Story Web. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1-681-19525-4. 321 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7. 

When Alice was little, her magical father would regale her with wondrous stories. But now Alice’s world is broken in so many ways. She no longer socializes with friends, she quit her ice hockey team, and even nature seems out of whack, with forest creatures making their way into town. She believes everything stems back to that something she did that made her father go away. But Alice can no longer maintain her invisible persona. The animals know; Alice’s classmate, frequently bullied Melanie, knows; and her best friend, Lewis, knows. The story web, a fragile creation of spiders, spun to record the stories of man, is broken. If it is not fixed soon, the world will be in peril. Alice’s father had explained the story web to her when she was young, and now Alice must look past her grief and fear to work with Melanie, Lewis, and many caring individuals, to repair it. But when the stories Alice remembers from her father don’t rebuild the web, the children realize they must find their own stories, as painful as they may be. The plot unfolds at a leisurely pace, through various viewpoints, including several animals. Much like spinning a web, individual threads eventually weave together in a breathtaking finale. The storyline of Alice’s father, who is eventually revealed to be suffering from PTSD, also takes time to uncover, and is never explained directly, but rather through oblique comments, reminiscences, and finally a conversation between Alice and her father.

THOUGHTS:  While the climax is riveting, it will take a patient reader to navigate to that point. Hand this lovely, heartwarming story to a reader who enjoys the journey as well as the destination.  

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Lee, Yoon Ha. Dragon Pearl. Rick Riordan Presents, 2019. 978-1-368-01335-2. 320 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl, one of the first titles published under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, will delight young readers who like their fantasy informed by the trappings and tropes of science fiction. Lee imagines a world—a thousand worlds, actually—inspired by Korean mythology, and then sends it – them – spinning off into outer space. The young protagonist, Min, is a shape-shifting fox disguised as a human to avoid the persecution her species has long suffered. When her brother disappears, she sets off in search of him, planet-hopping through the universe on a grand and dangerous adventure. The plot moves at a breathless, breakneck pace as Min pilots a rocket ship and has run-ins with ghosts, dragons, and pirates.  

THOUGHTS: A top-notch #own voices entry in the sci-fi/fantasy genre that subtly addresses issues of identity and acceptance.  Highly recommended for middle schools.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Elem. – Colors; Snowmen Live Forever; Flubby Is Not A Good Pet; Flubby Will Not Play with That; Small in the City; The Crayon Man; The Dark Lord Clementine; Count Me In

Rotner, Shelley, and Anne Woodhull. Colors. Holiday House. 2019. 978-0-823-44063-4. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Colors, colors, all around! This informational book introduces colors with vibrant pictures and text. Focusing on your main colors, this book provides a color with a verb. Following the first page are insanely bright and beautiful photographs of items that you may find within this color. While some images are well known to all, there may be some new items for young students to learn about and discuss!

THOUGHTS: A beautifully book with stunning photographs, this simple text informs readers of the items and provides an openness to discussion.

535.6 Colors           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Dedieu, Thierry. Snowmen Live Forever. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-0-802-85526-8. $17.99. Grades K-3

Squirrel, Hedgehog, Rabbit, and Owl love visiting Snowman. Snowman always has the best stories, games, and adventures to share and perform with his friends, and his friends love hearing about the amazing places and adventures Snowman has been on. But alas! Squirrel discovers one more that Spring is soon on the way. Day by day, Snowman grows weaker until he is gone. The four animal friends learn about where water goes, and begin their own adventure to find Snowman. It isn’t until the end that they realize everything will be OK and that Snowman will return with more adventures to share.

THOUGHTS: With a bit of education thrown in, this 2019 English Translation shares a fun story of friendship and snow. A unique tale of adventure and true friendship.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Morris, J. E. Flubby: Flubby Is Not A Good Pet! Penguin Workshop. 2019. 978-1-524-78776-9. $9.99. Grades PreK-1.

Flubby is Kami’s cat. Flubby is different than all of her friends’ cats, for Flubby does…nothing? Flubby does not sing. He does not catch. He does not jump. So Flubby isn’t really a good pet after all! However, what Flubby can do, is perfect enough. Flubby needs Kami…and Kami needs Flubby.

THOUGHTS: A great addition for early readers about a girl and her cat. This is a story that will make young readers giggle with delight at the silliness of Flubby.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Morris, J. E. Flubby: Flubby Will Not Play With That! Penguin Workshop. 2019. 978-1-524-78778-3. $9.99. Grades PreK-1.

Another silly Flubby adventure. This time, Flubby has some new toys that Kami bought him! One rolls, one runs, and one is the most magnificent toy ever! However, Flubby is not interested in any of the toys that Kami brings him. Despite all of this, Flubby finds the best toy around, one that Kami has brought.

THOUGHTS: The ending of this story is sure to bring delight to young readers as they discover what toy Flubby likes best. Another cute Flubby adventure!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Smith, Sydney. Small in the City. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-44261-4.  Unpaged. Grades K-3. $18.99.

This is the touching story of a boy in a big city who appears to be in search of someone. The book begins with four pages of wordless illustrations in frames, which show someone riding on a bus during the winter. As the frames develop, it becomes clear that it is a young boy, who is requesting a stop. He gets off the bus and now the words of the story begin, told in first person. The boy has someone in mind as he relates how it feels to be “small in the city,” hearing all the loud noises and being surrounded by so many people. The little boy then goes on to advise which alleys to avoid and which areas to seek out, like a tree to climb on, a vent to nap under, and a fishmonger’s shop to get some food. As the boy continues to travel on foot, more clues about whom he is looking for are revealed, until we see him eventually hang a lost cat poster. As he arrives home, we feel his anguish when he finds out that cat has not returned and says, “You will be all right.” The last illustration leaves the reader with hope. Smith’s illustrations are done in an impressionistic style and he uses ink, watercolor, and gouache to create a wintry atmosphere in the drawings. 

THOUGHTS: This text can be used to demonstrate inference, as readers use the clues to come to the conclusion that a cat had gone missing. Young children will enjoy seeing all the different modes of transportation, and teachers could use this text in social studies units to explain the features of a city habitat. This gem of a book is a must-have for all elementary libraries.

Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

A small child navigates the city, describing its sights and sounds and offering advice to a nameless character. As the story progresses, readers discover that this nameless character is actually the child’s missing cat. The beautiful juxtaposition of artwork and text leads readers through an intimidating, bustling city all the way back to the comforting warmth of a loving home. Despite all of the scariness of the big city, the final page will leave readers hopeful that the child’s cat will return to its cozy home.

THOUGHTS: The first time I read this book, I thought it was okay. Once I figured out who the narrator was talking to, however, I read through it again. This time, it was outstanding! There are so many clues as to what’s going on that I missed the first time around. The child is hanging up pink signs everywhere. Comments such as “you could curl up below it and have a nap” and “you could perch on the window ledge” are made as the narrator describes familiar places. It would be neat to see if young students, with guidance, could piece together what’s happening. Besides encouraging such critical thinking, teachers in rural and suburban areas could use the book to introduce cities. Students could brainstorm ideas for finding a lost pet. Librarians might include it as part of a display on books about cats. No matter the use, I definitely recommend this title for purchase!

Picture Book           Julie Ritter, PSLA Member


Biebow, Natascha, and Steven Salerno. The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-1-328-86684-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Crayola Crayons are a part of most of our childhoods, but how many of us know about the man who invented them? The Crayon Man is a beautifully illustrated biography that is perfect for a read aloud to a class or for an introduction to an entrepreneur. The book tells the story of Edwin Binney in short paragraph passages with lots of color and large pictures on each page making it a wonderful read aloud. There are some small notes added to pages when students may need more information to help them understand the importance of certain events in the story. The book also includes articles a bibliography at the end to allow students to explore the topic more. 

THOUGHTS: This book would be a great start to a career unit or a biography unit. This could also be used as a part of a STEM unit to show an example of working through problems and recognizing how to use what you know to solve the problem. 

Picture Book          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD


Horowitz, Sarah Jean. The Dark Lord Clementine. Algonquin: 2019. 978-1-616-20894-3. 329 p. $17.95. Grades 3-6.

Clementine is deeply worried. Her father, Dark Lord Elithor, has been cursed by the Whittling Witch and is slowly dying (or being whittled away), and Clementine must not only try to find a way to reverse the curse, but also maintain everything around the castle (the poisonous apples need picking!). When the Council of Evil Overlords sends Clementine a letter reminding her that her father is currently lacking in evil deeds, she sets off into the woods, accompanied by a talking black sheep, to search for spell ingredients. However, it isn’t long before the Whittling Witch turns the trees of the forest on Clementine. She is helped to safety by two unlikely individuals who soon become, maybe, friends? If a future Dark Lord had friends. As the situation at the castle becomes more dire, Clementine begins to wonder if she is truly is Dark Lord material. But if she isn’t, then who, exactly, is she? Horowitz has crafted a rollicking tale that never slows down. Readers will root for determined Clementine to forge her own path and discover her true talents. The cast of characters is delightful, from the talking sheep and a magical Gricken (chicken/grimoire); to Sebastien, a village youth determined to be Lady Clementine’s knight; and Darka, a huntress with secrets of her own. They too, along with Clementine, must learn to follow their hearts.

THOUGHTS: An extremely entertaining read sure to find fans.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Bajaj, Varsha. Count Me In. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 978-0-525-51724-5. 175 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Karina has never liked her neighbor, Chris, since he made fun of her in school for being Indian. But when her beloved grandfather, Papa, begins to tutor Chris in math, he and Karina have an opportunity to start over, and Karina discovers a new friend in Chris.  One day a bigot spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric attacks the three as they walk home from school, badly injuring Papa. Karina and Chris rely on each other as they try to heal and process what happened. Karina, a budding photographer, turns to social media as an outlet for her photos and her feelings. Soon, friends and neighbors are rallying around the family, (although there are still those who mutter “go home”). To Karina’s amazement, her pictures go viral, leaving the two friends bombarded by media. Do they maintain their privacy, or use the platform for advocacy?

THOUGHTS: A well crafted middle grade look at Muslim/immigrant fear. Readers are sure to root for Karina, Chris, and Papa, and the book will leave them thinking.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Bajaj, Varsha. Count Me In. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 978-0-525-51724-5. 175 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Count Me In starts as a simple story of two middle school students who are “like separate planets orbiting in the same galaxy.” But while Chris and Karina tell alternating chapters about what each really feels, the reader sees their gravitational pull to becoming friends. Karina’s grandfather, an Indian American who just moved in with the family and loves mathematics, proves to be the connecting force. Count Me In then becomes something much more when one day out of the blue a car pulls up to the three as they walk home, and an ignorant, racist man commits a hate crime which injures Mr. Chopra (the grandfather). How should the new friends react to the monstrous actions and try to move forward? For Karina, a talented photographer, her pictures and social media become an outlet for her emotions and resolve. Count Me In ends as a story of a movement and a discussion about what it means to be an American, a citizen, and a friend. By all means, #CountMeIn!

THOUGHTS: This is a story that takes some sensitive discussion to go with it. Families or classrooms should discuss hate crimes and how to handle them. A relevant discussion about the use of social media and viral posts versus personal privacy are also important. The generational perspectives and immigrant challenges posted here make great conversation starters as well. Wonderful family book club title!

Realistic Fiction        Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

YA – Crying Laughing; Finale; Call Down the Hawk; Supernova; If I’m Being Honest

Rubin, Lance. Crying Laughing. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-525-64467-5. 336 p. $17.99 Grades 7-10.

After a disastrous attempt at stand-up at her own bat mitzvah, Winnie Friedman retired from comedy. But with a little encouragement from her best friend Leili, and cute junior Evan, she steps out of her comfort zone and joins her high school’s Improv Troupe. Winnie enjoys both developing her comedy chops and the attention from Evan, but at home her father’s increasing clumsiness is diagnosed as something much more serious: ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Although Winnie’s tight-knit family unit is unexpectedly vulnerable, her social status is on the rise: getting laughs at Improv, killing it on the morning announcements, and boys sitting at her lunch table. When her dad falls at the supermarket, fellow Improv member Fletcher is clued in to her family secret and friendship – or romance? – may bloom where she least expects it. Lance Rubin (author of Denton Little’s Deathdate, former member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, and obvious proud comedy nerd) excels at mining the tragic for comedic gold. He’s equally adept at depicting life’s most cringe-worthy moments with a gentle touch.

THOUGHTS: Crying Laughing (which, yes, will have readers doing both) is a fantastic ode to pushing beyond your perceived limits while knowing that the people who love you most will provide a soft place to land. Don’t skip over the Acknowledgments, where Rubin talks about his personal connection with ALS. 

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Garber, Stephanie. Finale. Flatiron Books, 2019. 978-1-250-15766-9. 470 p. $19.99. Grades 7-12. 

According to the first page of Finale, every story has four parts: the beginning, the middle, the almost-ending, and the true ending. Legendary was the almost-ending, and Finale, perhaps, is the true-ending to the Caraval series. Donatella gained her ultimate prize for winning Caraval – her mother was returned to her. However, she is still comatose, and Tella has no idea how to wake her. Her sister, Scarlett, has met her true love — or has she? Finale is about how the end is never the end. When the girls lose their mother shortly after she awakens, Tella vows revenge on the Fates, particularly Fallen Star. The newly freed fates are wreaking havoc, and terrorizing the countryside, but the journey to recapture them will cruelly test the sisters, requiring choices and sacrifices beyond their imagination.

THOUGHTS: Fans of the series will clamor for the final volume, but new readers will need to start with Caraval; Garber provides no back story here. 

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Stiefvater, Maggie. Call Down the Hawk. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-18832-5. 468 p. $19.99. Grades 8+.

The exquisite agony of reading a Maggie Stiefvater book: Do you put the pedal to the metal in a crazy race to the finish because the story is so darn intriguing? Or do you crawl along on the side road, knowing the journey is at least as rewarding as the destination? For Call Down the Hawk, I recommend the latter. Stiefvater’s new Dreamer Trilogy expands the world of Ronan Lynch, one of the Raven Boys from her The Raven Cycle series. Ronan can pull objects and people out of his dreams, and in Call Down the Hawk we learn there is a shadow network of dreamers – those who dream, those who hunt dreamers, and those who see the End of the World. The loose premise of CDTH follows Hennessy, a young woman who dreams copies of herself; Carmen Farooq-Lane, a hunter of dreamers trying to atone for the evil her dreamer brother caused; and Visionaries, those who identify and locate dreamers. While The Dreamers Trilogy is meant to be a standalone series, readers of The Raven Cycle will have a much richer experience with Call Down the Hawk. Ronan’s brothers, bit players in The Raven Cycle, become fascinating individuals in their own right now, as story threads weave together into an unnerving tapestry. And the reader knows that if you pull on the wrong thread, every thing, every dream, every life will unravel.

THOUGHTS:  A first purchase where fantasy is popular and ethereal writing is appreciated. 

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Meyer, Marissa. Supernova. Feiwel and Friends, 2019. 978-1-250-07838-4. 549 p. $19.99. Grades 7-12. 

Meyer pulls off a unique feat with Supernova. The third book in the Renegades trilogy may be the best one. The story picks up hours after the end of Arch Enemies, as Anarchist Nova attempts to return to her undercover role as a Renegade superhero. Now that her uncle, the infamous Ace Anarchy, has been captured, she needs to devise a plan to release him from prison and finally start the Anarchist rebellion. But, as Nova is learning, nothing is black and white when it comes to Prodigies; some use their power for good, and others for evil, and the dividing line isn’t always Renegades vs Anarchists. As she attempts to embed herself further in the Renegade organization, she finds many of the individuals to be good and kind, while her erstwhile family of Anarchists can shock her with their enthusiasm for destruction and mayhem. Meanwhile, Adrian (aka Sketch) is trying to keep his identity as Sentinel secret. When the final battle between Renegades and Anarchists begins, who will be the heroes, and who will be the villains?

THOUGHTS: Chock full of character development as well as an action filled plot, Supernova is a perfectly breathtaking conclusion (or is it??) to this brilliant series. 

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Wibberley, Emily, and Austin Siegemund-Broka. If I’m Being Honest. Viking, 2019. 978-0-451-48109-2. $17.99. 359 p. Grades 9 and up. 

Cameron Bright is one of the most popular girls in her Los Angeles prep school. She is beautiful, smart, driven, and brutally honest. She has to be in order to make the future she’s been planning for her entire life happen – a future on the opposite coast, finally spending time with her father, attending school in Philadelphia, and working to follow in his footsteps as a successful financier. However, her senior year of high school is not off to a great start. Her mother, a washed-up actress, avoids getting a job, content to live off of support from Cameron’s father, and her plan to solidify her crush Andrew as her boyfriend goes awry at a party when he witnesses her brutal honesty rear its ugly head. While reading The Taming of the Shrew in English class, Cameron comes to realize that while she finds her honesty a virtue, society views it as a vice, so she sets out to tame herself in order to at least make amends with Andrew and win back his affections. For all her list-making and planning, Cameron’s quest to tame herself takes her places she never could have imagined including an incredibly nerdy book store, a video game development competition, a live screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the arms of a lovable group of nerds including Brendan, a boy whose life she ruined in middle school by giving him a horrible nickname.

THOUGHTS: With other contemporary Shrew remakes like the film 10 Things I Hate About You to live up to, this retelling doesn’t disappoint and manages to hold its own. The family dynamic is very different – both parents are present, and their complicated relationship makes for its own strong subplot; plus,there is no Bianca/sister character. Still, it captures the essence of Shakespeare’s original themes: perceptions of women’s behavior and motivation for making changes in our lives. This novel could work well as an independent read or enrichment activity after reading the original play, or as a companion to the play in order for students to analyze how society’s views on women and feminism have changed over the centuries. 

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

YA – Color Outside the Lines; The Library of Lost Things; Patron Saints of Nothing; I’m Not Dying with You Tonight; Stamped; I Know You Remember; When You Ask Me Where I’m Going; Deadly Little Scandals; The Last to Die; Winterwood

Mandanna, Sangu, editor. Color Outside the Lines: Stories About Love. Soho Teen, 2019. 978-1-641-29046-3. 269 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

Color Outside the Lines is an exploration of what it means to love while you’re young, especially when something gets in the way. For some that something is race, for others it’s prejudice, and yet for others it may be superpowers. The stories are wonderfully interspersed with meet-cutes and relationships both normal and fantastical, all exploring different cultures and experiences and the dynamics and challenges that come with them. Readers will encounter mythologies and realities, villages and cities, changing families and stable relationships within the 16 stories included.

THOUGHTS: Color Outside the Lines will strike a chord with many readers who have never before seen themselves in a book. I loved the way the stories were not all what I expected, not everything was about romantic love, and not everything was rooted in reality. It’s a must add to any middle or high school collection.

Mostly Realistic, Some Fantasy Elements        Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Namey, Laura Taylor. The Library of Lost Things. Inkyard Press, 2019. 978-1-488-05135-7. 384 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

A teen literary prodigy, Darcy spends most of her spare time lost in a favorite book or working in the local independent bookstore. With best friend Marisol by her side, Darcy has found a careful balance in life, amidst her mother’s serious hoarding addiction. Darcy’s safe space has long been the one place her mother cannot set foot, Darcy’s bedroom where she is surrounded by myriad books. When a new property manager begins making cosmetic improvements around the apartment complex, Darcy worries how long she’ll be able to keep the secret of her mother’s “collections.” While her mother is able to work, she can’t control her compulsive shopping. Darcy is supplemented by her grandmother but also has learned to be self reliant. Falling for Asher Fleet isn’t part of Darcy’s plan, but something about him makes her want a real life fairy tale. Darcy is used to the comfort of her books, and real life isn’t so predictable or easy.

THOUGHTS: Avid readers will appreciate all of the literary references, and teens will enjoy the slow burning romance, friendship, and mother-daughter dynamics. Recommended for high school libraries where compelling romances are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ribay, Randy. Patron Saints of Nothing. Kokila, 2019. 978-0-525-55491-2. 323 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Half Filipino high school senior Jay spends much of his spare time lost in a video game world, not fully aware of what’s going on around the world. Though he’s been accepted to the University of Michigan, he’s only going out of obligation to his family who worked hard, so he could life their American dream. Jay doesn’t really know what he wants, and he’s just going through the motions. When Jay learns more about his cousin Jun’s death (Jun was murdered as part of Philippines President Duterte’s war on drugs), he can’t shake his guild over losing touch with Jun. Jay wonders if he had returned Jun’s letters would have become lost – surely Jun really wasn’t into drugs. But Jay doesn’t really understand life in the Philippines, and he’s determined to learn more. Passing up the new laptop he’s wanted for college (really gaming), Jay convinces his parents to let him travel to the Philippines, promising not to bring up Jun’s death, especially around his Uncle ___. With Jun’s letters in his bag, Jay is determined to learn the truth about Jun’s death and honor his cousin in the way he deserves.

THOUGHTS: Ribay’s novel encourages teens to get out of their comfort zones and become more globally aware. With many issues from family dynamics and grief to international politics, readers will be taken on a journey of healing. Highly recommende3d for high school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Jones, Kimberly, and Gilly Segal. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-492-67889-2. 249 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

From two very different worlds, Lena and Campbell are forced together inside a Friday night football game concession stand. On the outside Lena appears to be cool and confident, always wearing the “right” clothes and trying to impress her boyfriend Black. Like many girls, though, Lena isn’t as confident as she seems in herself or in her relationship. New to town after her mother takes a job abraod, Campbell is trying to find her place in school and at home with her father, who owns a local hardware store. One teen black, one teen white, Lena and Campbell must learn to work together when chaos erupts all around them. With their lives in danger, the girls must see past their differences in order to survive and get to safety.

THOUGHTS: Written by two authors, this dual narrative intertwines and comes to life. A Big Library Read selection in 2019, this title is sure to be popular with high school readers who have enjoyed other powerhouse YA titles like The Hate You Give, Long Way Down, All American Boys, Dear Martin, and more. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Reynolds, Jason, and Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-316-45369-1 320 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

Re-evaluate everything you learned or think you know about history in this text that is “NOT a history book.” Broken down by various time periods, Reynolds adapts Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning for a teen audience. Reynolds explains that everyone fits into a category – racist, antiracists, or assimilationist – often moving from one to another or being associated with one but really fitting into another. Various leaders throughout time are analyzed for their words and actions, causing readers to reconsider what they think they know about history.

THOUGHTS: Teen readers will appreciate Reynolds’ open and honest voice which asks them to question the educational system – what they have been taught, by whom, and why. Instead of accepting what they are told, readers will want to prove their history texts (and teachers) wrong. teachers should appreciate the opportunity to encourage students to rewrite history with a more open, honest, and true version. This is a must have nonfiction title for every secondary library.

305.80 Racial, ethnic, national groups          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Donaldson, Jennifer. I Know You Remember. Razorbill, 2019. 978-1-595-14854-4. 336 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

Three years ago Ruthie and her mother left Anchorage, Alaska hoping for a fresh start away from Ruthie’s alcoholic father. Ruthie tried to keep in touch with her best friend Zahra, but time and distance (not to mention Zahra’s delayed or lack of responses) meant that wasn’t always easy. After a tragic hiking accident kills her mother, Ruthie finds herself on a plane back to Anchorage to live with her now clean father and his new wife and stepdaughter. Before boarding the plane, Ruthie texts Zahra, letting her know she’ll be home soon and hoping they can reconnect. Zahra never receives the message, and Ruthie is devastated to learn that Zahra has gone missing, following an argument at a party with her boyfriend Ben. Ruthie tries to help the search for clues while connecting with Zahra’s new friends. She hopes this will help her understand how Zahra has changed since they were friends. The Zahra that Ruthie knew isn’t the same girl that’s missing, but Ruthie is determined to find her and recover their lost friendship.

THOUGHTS: This twisty mystery is unpredictable, and things aren’t always as they seem. A must have for high school collections where fast-paced dramas are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Kaur, Jasmin. When You Ask Me Where I’m Going. HarperCollins, 2019. 978-0-062-91261-9. 256 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

This debut collection of poetry, prose, and illustrations will cause readers to think and feel deeply about a variety of tough topics such as sexual assault, mental health, and undocumented immigrants, just to name a few. With a strong voice, Kaur is sure to be appreciated by poetry fans.

THOUGHTS: This title will enhance and diversity existing high school poetry collections. Recommended for libraries looking to offer new voices and update poetry pieces.

Poetry          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

 


Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. Deadly Little Scandals. Freeform, 2019. 978-1-368-01517-2. 352 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Sawyer Taft is back with another southern high society debutante drama. This time she spends her time alternating between the family home and their summer lake house. Much more comfortable among her cousin Lily and their fellow debutante friends, Sawyer is still determined to solve the puzzle of her biological father. As she becomes closer with the girls, though, Sawyer must be careful not to upset the balance they have achieved. Drama seems to follow these girls wherever they go, and pledging to a long time debutante, elite, all female secret society may give Sawyer the answers she’s been seeking. Not everyone wants Sawyer to solve the mystery, though.

THOUGHTS: A new cast of characters with some old friends will ensure readers are on the edge of their seats. A must-have for libraries where Little White Lies and mysteries are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Sawyer, Lily, Campbell, and Sadie-Grace are spending the summer trying to relax, forget, and figure out the aftermath of the past year. Together at the lake, Sawyer is trying to figure out how to tell Lily who her father is; Campbell’s family is trying to survive the humiliation of her father’s arrest and save their company; Sadie-Grace is covering up Greer’s “pregnancy,” and Lily is figuring out who she is and what she wants. Of course, a relaxing summer isn’t quite in the picture for these debs, as they pledge the elite and mysterious White Gloves, and learn more about their pasts and present. When things spiral out of control, can the debs survive the scandal and the truth?

THOUGHTS: I love Jennifer Lynn Barnes. She is one of my favorite mystery/thriller authors. Although readers should read the Debutantes series in order because of references made to events from book one, Deadly Little Scandals is easy to follow. Barnes’s use of flashback for the majority of the novel keeps readers focused without confusion and constantly guessing what possibly could come next. Highly recommended for all high school collections.  

Mystery         Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Garrett, Kelly. The Last to Die. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-492-69844-9. 240 p. $10.99. Grades 9-12. 

Seventeen year old Harper seems to live an idyllic life. She’s a star soccer player at school and on her club team, she has a boyfriend who adores her, and she’s got a great group of friends. Home life, though is a bit more complicated. her older brother is in a second stint of rehab, her mom copes with glasses of wine, and her dad can’t deal or even be bothered to learn how to sign with Maggie, Harper’s little sister who is deaf. A regular visitor to the principal’s office for voicing her mind, Harper isn’t always a star student, but she has plans on getting a soccer scholarship. To entertain themselves friend couples Harper and Gin; Paisley and Benji; and Sara, a rival soccer teammate, and Alex make a game out of burglarizing each other’s houses, with some ground rules, of course. What seems like innocent, though sometimes embarrassing, fun turns deadly. With suspicions on one of their own, the game becomes a race of cat and mouse, and the stakes couldn’t be more serious.

THOUGHTS: Fans of mysteries will enjoy this somewhat predicable read, though the quick ending may be frustrating. Purchase for high school collections where character-driven mysteries are popular. Note: This title was first published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2017 and was republished by Sourcebooks Fire in 2019.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ernshaw, Shea. Winterwood. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-46279-3. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

The Walkers, as legend says, are older than the woods themselves. The Wicker Woods, cursed and dangerous to enter unless it is a full moon. The Walker women do not fear the woods, as they know they sleep during the full moon and not to enter at any other time, for who knows what the woods will do when they are awake and watching…

Nora realizes all of these things, as she is a Walker. Although her nightshade has not yet come to her, she knows she is a witch like those before her. Nora is not afraid of the woods. And yet, one boy is missing and one boy is dead. What happens when Nora comes across the missing boy, alive in the woods 2 weeks after the terrible snow storm? What does this boy know about the boy who is dead? As the mystery unravels, Nora finds herself deeper and deeper in her struggle of learning the truth of this mysterious boy and solving the puzzle that lies within the heart of him.

THOUGHTS: An engaging fantasy that pulls you in as you learn more about Nora’s family and the mystery of the missing boy. This is a book you cannot put down as you hope to find out more about what truly happened on the fateful night when one boy went missing and the other met his death.

Fantasy/Mystery        Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Fry Bread; Who Is My Neighbor; Hi, I’m Norman; Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life; Spencer and Vincent; Moon Babies; Fly; Hey, Water; Sweep; The Bravest Man in the World; The Dinky Donkey

Maillard, Kevin Nobel. Fry Bread:  A Native American Story. Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. Roaring Brook Press, 2019.  978-1-626-72746-5. 48 p.  $18.99  Grades K-2.

This ingenious picture book weaves a story celebrating Native American culture, in all its diversity, around the deceivingly simple topic of fry bread. Warm, inviting illustrations depict children and families of varied skin tones in kitchens and hearths gathering ingredients, mixing, cooking, and enjoying variations of the traditional food. Each page spread features a heading that begins “Fry bread is . . .” and follows with a concept such as shape, time, art, and history. While the sparce text and evocative illustrations are largely affirming and joyful, young readers are also told that Native Americans’ land was stolen from them, making them “strangers in our own world.” For teachers or older readers, an author’s note provides more detailed information for each concept. The author’s recipe for fry bread is included. Also, don’t miss the endpapers: They are filled with the names of tribal nations.

THOUGHTS: Especially considering the limited number of picture books by and about Native Americans, this is an essential purchase for elementary schools. Middle and even high schools that utilize picture books will want to consider this one as well.

Picture Book          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Levine, Amy-Jill, and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Who Is My Neighbor? Illustrated by Denise Turu. Flyaway Books, 2019. 978-1-947-88807-4. Unpaged. Grades PreK – 2.

Blues live with Blues in a world full of blue water, blueberries, and blue skies. Yellows live with yellows in a world of yellow brick roads, butterscotch, and sunflowers. Both have been warned to stay away from the others, “We are better than they are. They are not our neighbors.” Then one day, Midnight Blue loses his balance and falls off his bike. Midnight Blue is hurt and needs help, but when Navy and Powder Blue pass by they are afraid to help, so they keep going. When Lemon sees Midnight Blue hurt, she also is afraid to help him but decides to ignore her fear and do the right thing and help Midnight Blue. Soon Lemon and Midnight Blue realize that perhaps they are not that different from one another. Illustrations by Denise Turu help readers understand the division between the Blues and Yellows until Lemon decides to help Midnight Blue.

THOUGHTS: This is a great picture book for character education and acceptance. It helps young readers understand that being different on the outside does not equate to being different on the inside. It also may help adults reading the book with children to see problems in their own thinking and outlook. The book is written by two religious scholars and explains the parable of “The Good Samaritan” in the Gospel of Luke on the last page which is “A Note for Parents and Educators.” I did not connect the story to the parable of “The Good Samaritan” as I read it, so that last page surprised me a bit, but this may occur dependent on your community. The authors also provide questions to consider while reading following the note to parents and educators.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Burleigh, Robert, and Wendell Minor. Hi, I’m Norman. Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-442-49670-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 2-5.

Right from the start of this pictorial biography, readers are invited into the studio and the world of iconic artist Norman Rockwell. Norman begins telling of his idyllic childhood with artistic talent and opportunity to express it. As he moved into adulthood, he faced the internal contrast of wanting to do his best always and not always knowing if he was good enough. Rockwell’s big break comes from The Saturday Evening Post, and that success let him explore the American world that he saw around him, with a focus on the positive. The illustrator, Wendell Minor, takes on the daunting challenge of portraying Norman and drawing in his style as well. The tone of the story matches those illustrations – and Rockwell’s life – of capturing a moment in America through the eyes of one of her most famous artists. The endnotes and timeline are insightful, but the five real Rockwell paintings and captions at the end are priceless.

THOUGHTS: We have the recent trend in picture book biographies to learn about many 20th century artists in a relatable way, and that is a real advantage to young artists. Gathering a collection of these for a research project in collaboration with the art teacher would be ideal. Using online research tools and creative options to share would make for a meaningful project that hits on all of the AASL Standards, Domains, and Shared Foundations.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Wallmark, Laurie, and Katy Wu. Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life. Sterling Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-454-92691-7. Unpaged. $16.95. Grades 2-5.

Who was the real Hedy Lamarr? Was she the famous, beautiful actress who always wanted to be on the stage and in the spotlight? Or was she the tinkerer and inquiring mind that tried to work through problems and help military war efforts? For young readers who likely haven’t heard the name Hedy Lamarr at all, they will be pleased and curious to see how she grew up to develop both sides. This double life story is interspersed with direct quotes from Hedy as we learn about her childhood passions which came into adult acclaim. When Hedy met George Antheil at a party and discussed torpedo guidance systems, they began a dedicated quest to develop a frequency hopping communication system. The understandable text by Laurie Wallmark and the visual aids of Katy Wu really shine as curious readers can figure out her invention process and how it is still relevant today. The timeline and additional descriptions and resources at the end will fill in the details of Hedy’s world. With this story, Hedy Lamarr becomes a shining example for pursuing passions across the ages!

THOUGHTS: Students who are familiar with the inquiry cycle would enjoy seeing this process in action. Plus, those with a military interest, inventive streak, or old Hollywood fans will all find something to learn and connect with. However, for me, the concept of the patent process and how inventions can inform new inventions caught my attention and made me want to visit the Patent Office resources and share this as one of many invention narratives.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Johnston, Tony. Spencer and Vincent, the Jellyfish Brothers. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-41208-8. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3

Spencer and Vincent follows two jellyfish brothers who live in the sea, spending their days spending time together! Everything is going fine, until a storm sweeps one of the brothers, Vincent away. Spencer is determined to find his brother, with the help of other animals in the ocean. By the end of the story the brothers are reunited. The illustrations are beautiful and make readers feel like they are underwater with the jellyfish. There are a variety of ocean creatures, other than the jellyfish, throughout the book. There is an author’s note at the end of the book, giving more information about jellyfish that will intrigue children who read this and may cause them to seek out other books about jellyfish. 

THOUGHTS: Spencer and Vincent is absolutely adorable! The relationship between the jellyfish was sweet and will make the reader smile.

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy


Jameson, Karen. Moon Babies. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. 978-0-525-51481-7. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Moon Babies is a debut picture book and tells the stories of moon babies as they wake up, eat, play, and then fall back asleep. The story is told in rhyming lines and has a dreamy quality to it. The moon babies eat breakfast from the “currents of the Milky Way,” get dressed, and even learn to walk as readers go through the story. The moon babies take a bath in a “grand celestial tub” and are read nursery rhymes as they fall asleep. The illustrations are beautifully done in tones of purples and blues, giving the reader the feel of nighttime as they read.

THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for naptime reading, or just a quiet read aloud to supplement. 

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy Charter School

 


Teague, Mark. Fly! Beach Lane Books, 2019, 978-1-534-45128-5. 36 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Although this is a wordless picture book, plenty of communication is happening between the mother robin and her baby. The baby robin hatches on the title page, and his mother begins bringing worms to the nest. Soon, though, she encourages the baby to fly out of the nest. The baby wants the catering to continue, and he flaps his wings tantrum-style. While he is expressing his unhappiness, however, he gets too close to the edge of the nest and falls ungracefully to the ground. Mom swoops down to ensure he’s okay but then urges him to fly back to the nest. The baby is uninterested in flying, though, and brainstorms many different ways of returning to the nest, including piggybacking with Mom, riding in a hot air balloon, soaring on a glider, lifting off with skis, wearing a superhero cape, and piloting an airplane. Mom is not amused by any of these ideas, and she reminds the baby that soon, they will need to migrate. Instead of flying, the baby robin imagines biking, skateboarding, driving, taking a train ride, and pogostick hopping all the way to Florida. Mom also reminds the baby of all the predators he could encounter on the ground, including owls. Readers can see that daylight is fading, and when Mom takes off back to the nest, the baby pitches another fit. All of his stomping and flapping eventually cause him to lift off, and it’s only then that he sees how much fun flying can be. He reunites with Mom in the nest, and the pair snuggle in for the night. 

THOUGHTS: Teague’s expressive acrylic illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny, and young readers will enjoy interpreting the story and turning the pages to see what wild idea the baby robin comes up with next. This book will be perfect for building reading comprehension skills as well as reviewing story elements. This title could also inspire a writing prompt, as students imagine dialogue or retell the actions they observed on the wordless pages. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Portis, Antoinette. Hey, Water! Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44155-6. 40p. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

This celebration of water helps the youngest readers understand that water is all around us, and it’s also a part of every living thing. Beautiful, bold sumi ink illustrations complement this simple, straightforward text. Each page contains an insight about water. For example, the young girl observes that water can trickle from a hose, gurgle in a stream, or rush in a river. She also notes how water can be calm, like a lake, or splashy, like a pool. Additionally, she describes water’s many forms, including steam, clouds, fog, ice, and snow. Water-related vocabulary, including dewdrop, puddle, and sprinkler are integrated in each full-page illustration. End pages provide an introductory explanation of water’s different forms and an illustrated look at the water cycle. 

THOUGHTS: This is a must-have for elementary libraries, as it will support primary grades’ study of the states of matter. It works well as a read-aloud, and it’s also perfect for close-up, one-on-one observation. Readers will be drawn to the book’s simplicity, and it is the perfect fit for elementary STEM collections. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Greig, Louise. Sweep. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-534-43908-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3. (First US edition 2019).

This British import is the story of a young child called Ed who is in a bad mood. It began with something small and then escalated. Ed is so busy being angry that he does not notice all the wonderful things around him, like an amusement park, some hot air balloons, and kites flying high in the sky. Deep down, Ed wants to get out of his bad temper, but he is not sure how. Gradually, his disposition lightens, and he puts down his rake to fly a kite.  The illustrator has cleverly shown the mood changes through the metaphor of raking leaves. As Ed’s mood darkens, he continues to make even larger piles of leaves until they engulf everything in the town. Then, a slight wind causes him to change his attitude, and eventually all the leaves blow away and the city becomes brighter as the wind grows stronger. 

THOUGHTS: The clever use of figurative language makes this an excellent mentor text. As a great read aloud, it also is a cautionary tale of how negative feelings can overwhelm us. This text explains mood psychology in terms that young children can understand and is a good discussion starter. A great choice for all elementary collections.

Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Polacco, Patricia.  The Bravest Man in the World. Simon & Schuster, 2019. Unpaged. 978-1-481-49461-8. $17.99.  Grades 3-5.

This engaging piece of historical fiction is the story of a boy who meets Wallace Hartley, the lead musician on the Titanic.  Polacco begins her tale with two characters from 1982, Jonathan and his grandfather. Jonathan is a boy who would rather play ball and be a superhero than practice piano. His grandfather, an accomplished violinist, explains how one musician named Wallace Hartley was a hero and showed his bravery on April 15, 1912, on the doomed ocean liner. His grandfather, also named Jonathan, was an accidental stowaway on the ship. He was a street busker who learned to play the violin in Queenstown, Ireland. After his mother died, he was running away from some street thugs when he found himself in the mailroom on the Titanic. He mets Wallace Hartley and Mrs. Weeks, a ship’s maid. Hartley recognized Jonathan’s potential, and the young boy plays for John Jacob Astor, who awards him a scholarship to a music academy. Then, the ocean liner meets its fate, and Mrs. Weeks and Jonathan find a place on a lifeboat. However, Wallace stays on board, playing bravely along with the orchestra until the ship has completely sunk. Jonathan is adopted by Mrs. Weeks and grows up in America.  Jonathan’s grandfather never forgets the courage of Hartley, who “played with grace… grace under fire” and thinks of him each time he plays his instrument. There is an author’s note about the recovery of Hartley’s violin, as well as a photograph of the violinist and his violin. The illustrations are in Polacco’s signature style and make the story come alive. The anguish of the ship’s final moments are captured in the expressions on the passengers.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful example of historical fiction. It puts a human face to the well-known story of the musicians who courageously played on in the face of certain death and shows that bravery can be demonstrated in many ways. This book is a good choice for those who are interested in learning more about the Titanic. Elementary librarians will not want to miss this one.

Easy Historical Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Smith, Craig. The Dinky Donkey. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-60083-4. Unpaged. $7.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

In this follow-up to The Wonky Donkey, Wonky Donkey has a daughter, and her name is Dinky Donkey. “She was so cute and small… and she had beautiful long eyelashes! She was a blinky dinky donkey.” As the narrative progresses, more and more adjectives are added to describe the Dinky Donkey. The repetition of these adjectives, as well as the hilarious antics they describe, will have readers giggling to the very end. 

THOUGHTS: I absolutely love the idea of handing this book to early readers. The rhyming and repetition throughout will help them to build confidence in their reading skills. Another excellent use for this book would be to introduce adjectives to young students. Full of potential and plenty of silliness, all libraries who serve young readers should definitely consider this book for purchase.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

MG – Dream within a Dream; My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich; Child of the Dream; Best Friends

MacLachlan, Patricia. Dream within a Dream. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2019. 978-1-534-42959-8. 119 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Thirteen year old Louisiana and her ten year old brother Theo are spending the summer on Deer Island with their grandparents. Louisa, who loves to write, would rather be with her parents on their latest bird watching expedition, but her brother wants to stay on the island forever and read books. Grandfather Jake is losing his vision and is trying to etch faces into his memory before he loses it completely. Louisa meets other inhabitants of the island, including 14 year old George and his family. She experiences her first kiss with George, and the theme of romantic love is peppered throughout the story. George’s parents say that romance helped pass the time during a severe storm, Louisa’s grandparents enjoy slow dancing without music, and George touches his fingers to Louisa’s lips and dances close to her in the water. The plot deals more with feelings than events. The only real conflict in the story occurs when the parents return to the island intending to take their children on the next expedition. The parents are surprised and somewhat saddened to learn that the siblings want to stay on the island with their grandparents.

THOUGHTS: Hand this one to readers who prefer relationship books without much plot development and to fans of MacLachlan’s other books.

Realistic Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Zoboi, Izi. My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich. Dutton, 2019. 978-0-399-18735-3. 250 p. $16.99  Grades 4-8.

Ibi Zoboi’s (American Street) historical fiction middle grade novel with a sci-fi vibe features Ebony-Grace Norfleet Freeman, or, as she likes to call herself, E-Grace Starfleet. Ebony-Grace hails from Huntsville Alabama, where she lives with her mother and, up until recently, her beloved grandfather, one of the first Black engineers at NASA. When trouble brews, Ebony-Grace is sent to Harlem for what is supposed to be a few weeks with her father. Southern girl Ebony-Grace does not take to the hustle and bustle of New York City, which she calls “No-Joke City.” Harlem in 1984 is a vibrant place, but Ebony-Grace finds hip-hop, breakdancing, and double-dutch more unfamiliar and alien than outer space. As weeks drag into an entire summer, she retreats into an imaginative world fed by her love of Star Trek, Star Wars, and NASA. The girls in the neighborhood think she is crazy: they tell her she has no “Flava,” and nickname her “ice cream sandwich.” Ebony-Grace never completely assimilates, but more importantly, she starts to appreciate people and perspectives different from her own. The story, setting, themes, and characters are all unique and compelling, but the narrative thread is often difficult to follow. There is a thin line between the bizarre stories going on in Ebony-Grace’s head and the actual goings-on of 126th St. in Harlem that results in an overarching sense of hyperreality. Some cartoon panels illustrating Ebony-Grace’s fantasies are included throughout.

THOUGHTS: A fascinating but flawed book. Many readers are likely to find My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich too frustrating to finish (even if the awesome cover draws them in), but the book may find an appreciative audience among young teens and tweens who love Star Trek and Star Wars, and, like Ebony-Grace, sometimes feel like aliens in the real world. A possible purchase for middle school libraries where science fiction is popular. 

Historical Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Ebony-Grace’s world knows no bounds. Her beloved grandfather, a pioneering black engineer with NASA, has shared his love of space with her and encouraged her dreams.  Her imagination has conjured up a universe populated with villains and heroes where she and her grandfather battle evil so good can triumph. When a hushed up crisis with her grandfather erupts, Ebony Grace is sent to New York City to spend time with her father. Harlem of 1984 is a whole different galaxy from Huntsville, Alabama. The Harlem girls are doing double-dutch, playing in the fire hydrants, rapping and breakdancing. Her New York friend, Bianca, no longer wants to act out make believe space missions, telling Ebony-Grace to grow up. Ebony longs to go home, and to talk to her granddaddy, but she is continuously redirected from contact with him. The truth of her grandfather’s trouble is needlessly mystified. There are hints of a possible scandal, amplified when Ebony learns he no longer works at NASA. Only at the end of the book does the reader discover the truth, that he is dying in the hospital. Throughout her Harlem summer, Ebony tries to balance her true self with the kids in Harlem, locking away her “imagination place,” as she attempts to figure out how to be part of a very different crew. Near the end of the book Ebony makes a friend who shares her passion for space and returns to Huntsville more knowledgeable about dealing with alien life forms in their home environment, and a more mature understanding of her imagination and dreams. 

THOUGHTS: Ebony Grace is a spunky protagonist whose lively imagination shines. Readers will identify with Ebony not knowing how to fit in and will root for her to follow her dreams. 

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich follows Ebony-Grace who lives in Alabama in 1984. When the book opens, she is headed to New York City to spend the summer with her father which she is not happy about. Ebony-Grace and her grandfather share a love of space and Star Trek, and she feels like an alien coming to New York City. This place is nothing like her hometown, and she misses her family and her grandfather especially. Ebony-Grace struggles to make friends and fit into the new life that she is forced into. It is never stated that Ebony-Grace has a disability, but there is something going on as you read through the novel. There is also something going on with her grandfather, but that is never directly addressed or even dealt with. The book mainly focuses on Ebony-Grace trying to make friends and trying to fit into New York City.

THOUGHTS: I have read the other two books published by Ibi Zoboi (Pride and American Street) and those were geared for Young Adult audiences; meanwhile, this book is clearly for middle grade readers. The main character feels like she has some form of autism, or Aspergers, but there is nothing stated within the book. The main character is extremely well created and thought out; her friendships and problems with getting friends feels realistic and true to life. I really enjoyed this book and hope that Ibi Zoboi writes more middle grade.

Realistic Fiction          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy


Robinson, Sharon. Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-1-338-33113-4. 240 p., $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Sharon Robinson tells of her coming awareness of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s when she is thirteen. After his retirement from baseball her famous father, Jackie Robinson, is active in the civil rights movement, but has sheltered his children from the harsher realities. They live very comfortably outside of New York City in mostly white suburban Stamford, Connecticut. Although her parents have their children join Jack and Jill of America, an organization which is dedicated to leadership development in young African Americans, the children feel isolated as there are few African Americans in town. When she hears the speech by George Wallace, declaring “segregation now, segregation, tomorrow, segregation forever,” Sharon begins to wonder where her place is in this struggle. Her parents realize that they need to expose their children to more. During 1963 the Robinsons host fundraisers at their home to help support the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and attend the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Shortly after this triumphant summer of activism, the four young girls were killed when a bomb blew up at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Sharon and her family were overcome with sadness but found strength to carry on.

THOUGHTS: This is a well-rounded story in that Sharon blends her activism with other teenaged concerns such as the first dances, boys, riding her horse, and getting along with her brothers. The importance of this book shows that even though she has lived a privileged life, she wants and needs to be connected with the people who are still struggling for equal rights.

973.92, 92, Autobiography, Memoir, Civil Rights         Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Hale, Shannon. Best Friends. Roaring Brook Press (First Second). 2019. 978-1-250-31745-2. 239 p. $21.99. Grades 4-7.

Shannon’s looking forward to 6th grade and is thrilled that she has become one of the popular girls but learns that navigating the social tract can be very tricky.  Today’s cool songs and TV shows can be out-of-date by tomorrow. She finds that there are traps and petty power plays as the “rules” change seemingly arbitrarily.  Shannon gets upset when her friends try to trick her, or she realizes that she is falling into some of the same habits as the “mean” girls. Shannon begins to question her so called friendships as she starts to decide what she wants. Does she really want to be nasty and hurt others? To help herself cope with different situations, Shannon is writing a fantasy about Alexandra a lonely rich girl who is going through some of the same issues. Shannon also struggles with her teacher who accuses her of not paying attention. It is another teacher who recognizes Shannon’s skills, boosting her confidence. When it is time to select courses for seventh grade, Shannon has the self-understanding and courage to choose what she wants, her own direction.

THOUGHTS: Sixth grade can be a time of growth, but it can also be very stressful as preadolescent girls (and boys) try to discover who they are. At one point being part of a group is important, but does it come at a cost? Through her own experience Shannon Hale offers insight and guidance.  

Graphic Novel          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

YA – 10 Blind Dates; Brave Face; The Institute; Let Me Hear a Rhyme; Lucky Caller

Elston, Ashley. 10 Blind Dates. Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-02749-6. 327 p. $17.99. Grades 8-12.

With the Christmas holiday fast approaching, Louisiana senior Sophie finds herself unexpectedly (and unhappily) single after her boyfriend, Griffin, breaks up with her. Her parents are away, tending to Sophie’s very pregnant older sister, so she heads to Shreveport to nurse her broken heart in the company of her grandparents and large, boisterous extended family. Nonna decides to cheer up her granddaughter by organizing family members to set Sophie up on ten blind dates. Each chapter in this delightful rom-com covers a day and a date; they range from sweet (a Festival of Lights) to embarrassing (a Nativity scene with Sophie and her date in the roles of Mary and Joseph) to very public (a Kiss Cam!) as Sophie navigates ten days and ten dudes. In the meantime, Sophie’s sister delivers her baby prematurely, Griffin wants her back, and Sophie realizes that the one date she really wants is the one she will never have … or will she? With plenty of holiday cheer and a loving, eccentric family that always provides a soft place to fall, this ultra-fresh romance will look perfect under the tree!

THOUGHTS: I fell head over heels for Ashley Elston’s remarkable (and under-rated) The Lying Woods, and I highly recommend a date with her newest novel!

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Hutchinson, Shaun David. Brave Face: A Memoir. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-43151-5. 356 p. $18.99. Grades 9+.

In his compelling memoir, Brave Face, prolific young adult author Shaun David Hutchinson recounts his teenage years and his experiences with identifying as queer, coming out, and depression. Growing up in Florida in the 1990s, Hutchinson internalized many of the stereotypes and misconceptions about gay people that were common at the time. He despised and dreaded every future he could envision for himself, all involving a terrifying combination of risky sex, AIDS, drugs, hate crimes, and a flamboyant persona. In his own words, “I was trying to see a future for myself where I could be gay without being a fag.” Lonely, frustrated, and angry, he punched walls, cut, and burned himself to vent his pain as his depression deepened, accompanied by a sharp fear of abandonment by his friends and family and he began to come out to them. As his depression whispered that this bleak existence was the one he deserved, he became suicidal. Brave Face is, indeed, a brave book. Hutchinson openly reveals the “shape and texture” of his pain. It’s also a great time capsule of a 1990s adolescence: Tori Amos CDs, dial-up, and a part-time job at Waldenbooks in the mall. 

THOUGHTS: The author deftly meshes journal entries, a frank depiction of his self-hatred, and his sly sense of humor with his vantage point “from the light at the other end of the tunnel” to create a most worthwhile read.

Memoir          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


King, Stephen. The Institute. Scribner, 2019. 978-1-982-11056-7. 561 p. $30.00. Grades 10+.

Luke Ellis is a smart kid, a really smart kid. The 12-year old student at the Broderick School for Exceptional Children in Minneapolis is ready to start two college programs … and he can move objects with his mind. This telekinetic ability brings him, through a violent turn of events, to the Institute in rural Maine, where special children like Luke are subjected to weeks of tests in Front Half before being moved to Back Half. There a mysterious but dire fate awaits the residents. No one has ever escaped the Institute; no one is quite as smart as Luke, either. Stephen King’s harrowing depiction of Luke’s and his fellow captives’ experiences, complete with sadistic medical treatments, taps into a classic horror vein. The parallel story of erstwhile police officer Tim Jamieson and his arrival in DuPray, South Carolina, eventually intertwines with Luke’s, leading to a literally ground-shaking showdown between the forces of good and evil (or so they seem).

THOUGHTS: What could make a Stephen King book even more appealing to young adults? A cast of characters made up mostly of pre-teens and adolescents! With plenty of Stephen King’s trademark self-referential Easter eggs, The Institute is a great read for budding horror fans of all ages who have the patience for a slow but highly satisfying boil.

Fiction (Crossover / Horror)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley


Jackson, Tiffany D. Let Me Hear a Rhyme. Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. 978-0-062-84032-5. 376 p. $17.99. Grades 9+.

Late 1990s. Bed-Stuy, Brooklynn, New York. Tupac is dead. Biggie Smalls is dead. Stephon Davis is dead. After the murder of their best friend, Quadir and Jarrell are determined to immortalize Steph through his music. With the help of Steph’s sister, Jasmine, the three create a rap album to promote Steph’s previously recorded songs. When a major record label contacts “The Architect,” Steph’s rap name, to set up a meeting, Quadir and Jarrell formulate a plan to promote Steph’s music without him or Jasmine. As their lies and deceit grow bigger and bigger, the two friends must face the truth and the possibility that fighting to immortalize Steph might just be what kills him again. With the continued secrets and lies, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine must face their own stories and come to terms with the Steph’s murder and their possible involvement. 

THOUGHTS: Tiffany D. Jackson once again crafts a beautiful novel of friendship, love, and what-ifs.  Each friend must grapple with their own actions and interactions that led to Steph’s death while trying to come to terms with his murder and their need for their friend. This is a must-have for all high school collections as are all of Jackson’s novels.  

Realistic Fiction          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Mills, Emma. Lucky Caller. Henry Holt and Company, 2020. 978-1-250-17965-4. $17.99. 336 p. Grades 8+. 

Nina took the radio broadcasting class for a fun “A” in her final semester at her Indianapolis-area high school. Whether she consciously realizes it or not, she is going to need something positive to keep her mind off her changing family dynamics – her mom is getting remarried, and as a result, she and her sisters will probably move to a new house with their mom and future stepdad, Dan the dentist (who they jokingly call “the Dantist”). But when childhood family friend Jamie ends up in the radio broadcasting class as well, he turns what was supposed to be a fun class into a complicated minefield of awkward interactions and bittersweet memories resurfacing. And that does not even take into consideration their group’s squabbling over everything from their show’s format to its name and their individual roles. In a desperate attempt to solve their problems and increase their listeners – and thus their grades – the group hatches a brilliant plan that involves Nina and her sort-of famous DJ dad out on the west coast. He’ll have to actually follow through for a change in order for it to work. 

THOUGHTS: When it comes to YA contemporary, Emma Mills never fails. Lucky Caller tackles all the typical coming-of-age themes and does it while evoking both emotional tears and knee-slapping laughter. Her narrator’s voice is authentic and contains the biting sometimes dark wit her readers know and love. Mills’ novels always do justice to intimate teen friendships, and this one in particular is full of nostalgia that will take readers back to their tween years when it was still ok to play and imagine, yet it also explores how difficult it is to navigate changing relationships as one moves into high school and eventual adulthood. And the 90’s music is the icing on the cake.

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

MG – The Moon Within; Build It Environmental Science; Roll with It; Deconstructing Powerful Speeches

Salazar, Aida. The Moon Within. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2019. 978-1-338-28339-6. 240 p. $17.99. Grades 3 to 7.

The Moon Within is a book in verse about, Celi, a soon-to-be twelve-year old girl and the struggles all of that entails. The main story is about the changes her body is going through and her impending “moon” (her Mima’s euphemism for her period). Mima insists on celebrating her daughter’s puberty and wants to have a moon ceremony with family and friends in her women’s group. Mima remembers the shame she felt when she first got her period, and she wants to ensure that Celi doesn’t feel shame, plus she wants to celebrate a coming-of-age ritual that might have been celebrated by their ancient ancestors. Celi’s family lives in Oakland, CA, but she is bi-cultural (Puerto Rican/Mexican) and multi-racial (Indigenous, African, and European). Celi’s best friend Magda is questioning her gender and eventually works up the courage to begin living as Marco. Marco’s parents hold an interesting ceremony where they welcome his authentic self and ask Celi for her support. Celi, who though Magda was just a tomboy, is surprised by the transformation of her best friend but is accepting. The problem begins when Celi’s crush Ivan isn’t as accepting of Marco’s transition forcing Celi to choose between the two of them.

THOUGHTS: This story reminds me of Planet Middle School. It will appeal to primarily female students due to the subject matter (puberty/periods and budding romance). The story was written primarily in English with Spanish words throughout. For non-Spanish speakers those words can be figured out easily with context clues.

Realistic Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Build It Environmental Science. Nomad Press, 2019. $17.95 ea. $71.80 set of 4. 128p. Grades 4 – 6.

Perdew, Laura. Biodiversity. 978-1-619-30751-3.
Latham, Donna. Biomes. 978-1-619-30739-1.
Latham, Donna. Garbage. 978-1619-30747-6.
Reilly, Kathleen. Planet Earth. 978-1-619-30743-8.        

Biodiversity: Explore the Diversity of Life on Earth with Environmental Science Activities for Kids is a beautifully designed book with a lot going on. Each chapter is laid out in a similar format. They begin with a comic strip (with diverse characters), an age-appropriate essential question, boxes with “words to know” which are also included in a glossary in the back of the book, call-outs with “did you know” facts, full color photographs, extra online material that can be accessed through a QR code, and several pages of activities at the end. The activities include “consider this” information and questions as an end-of activity follow-up. The QR codes that I checked all worked, but the back of the book also includes a resources page to access the online material in an alternative method. It also includes an index and a geologic time scale. This book is one of four in an environmental science set.

THOUGHTS: This is the type of book I would have loved when I was younger. It is not only a great addition to a K-6 library, but the quality of the information and the activities would make it an excellent book for elementary science teachers.

577 Ecology          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Sumner, Jamie. Roll with It. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-44255-9. 250 p. Grades 4-7. 

Twelve-year-old Ellie has cystic fibrosis, but she doesn’t let being wheelchair bound stand in the way of her dreams of becoming a world-famous baker. Ellie pours over cookbooks, looks up recipes on her iPad, and whips up all kinds of baked goods for her mother. But, when her grandfather’s dementia becomes too much for her grandmother to handle on her own, Ellie and her mother move mid-school year from Tennessee to Oklahoma. This means starting over in a new middle school, and standing out as the “new girl in the wheelchair.” Ellie also struggles with making friends, navigating cliques, and convincing her mother she doesn’t need a full-time aide. Despite facing a serious health setback, Ellie’s spunky and confident personality shine through, and readers will cheer her on as she adjusts to life in her new surroundings. 

THOUGHTS: Ellie’s realistic struggles with navigating middle school drama, fitting in at a new school, making new friends, and coming to terms with an ailing grandparent’s condition will ring true to many readers. While being in a wheelchair is definitely part of who Ellie is, she doesn’t let this reality define her. Sumner is the parent of a child with cystic fibrosis, and she has created a story that makes it clear that students with disabilities are just regular kids with the same hopes, dreams, and longings as their classmates. This should find a place in most middle-grade collections and will be popular with fans of Wonder and The War that Saved My Life

Realistic Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Sjonger, Rebecca. Deconstructing Powerful Speeches. Crabtree Publishing Company, 2019. $9.95 ea. $39.80 set of 4 (paperback). 48 p. Grades 5-9.

Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address. 978-0-778-75253-0.
James Baldwin: The Cambridge Debate Speech. 978-0-778-75254-7.
Susan B. Anthony: On a Woman’s Right to Vote. 978-0-778-75255-4.
Tecumseh: Speech at Vincennes. 978-0-778-75256-1.

Deconstructing Powerful Speeches is a series you may not realize that you need in your school library collection until you page through each volume. These books occupy a unique space at the intersection of pivotal American historical events and landmark persuasive speeches. Author Rebecca Sjonger presents a thorough case that the spoken word is a powerful tool for change. By making an effective argument (with a claim, evidence, warrants, and an appeal), a speaker can influence the thinking of his or her audience. Because there are no audio or video recordings of speeches as old as the Gettysburg Address, students and historians must employ primary source analysis skills to determine the creator, date, intended audience, purpose, and more. Plentiful, color-coded analyses of speech excerpts amply demonstrate just how to do so. Ongoing sidebar features such as “Digging Deeper” and “Deconstruct It” encourage readers to pose further questions and think more critically about rhetorical devices and the art of persuasion. Page layouts include full color artwork, photographs, and additional primary source documents. Each volume closes with modern figures, such as Barack Obama and Beyonce, who have delivered speeches meant to sway their audiences.

THOUGHTS: With engaging text and easily reproducible pages, the possibilities for classroom connections are abundant, from introductory speech classes to AP English Language and Composition.

324, Speeches and Addresses           Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – River; Truman; What Kind of Car Does a T. Rex Drive; The Panda Problem; Hats are Not for Cats; Mini Rabbit is Not Lost; Girls with Guts; Superbuns; A Computer Called Katherine; Bilal Cooks Daal

Cooper, Elisha. River. Orchard Books, 2019. 978-1-338-31226-3. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.

“Humans are bound to water….We are connected by water, more connected than we know.” Elisha Cooper ends her author’s notes with these words, connected to a picture of a family discussing the trip. At the start of the story readers see the same scene, and in between is one woman’s solo canoe journey down the Hudson River. It becomes a 300 mile testament to this statement by Elisha Cooper. When the woman leaves her home and family one morning and turns to wave back to them, readers are none the wiser to what lay ahead, but I suspect that she knows! Ahead are various wild animals, river obstacles, weather challenges, and people and places both expected and unbelievable. Taking on the Hudson and ever moving onward, Cooper gives us short, poetic observations accompanying gorgeous detailed water colors. Readers will empathize and connect with the woman’s journey as she sees beauty and faces solitude. The pacing of the story is ideal, lulling readers along the current and then rapidly increasing around the next turn. By the end of the journey and the reunion of her family at the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the connection between humans, the environment, and the river flows through us all.

THOUGHTS: This river experience may not be something that many kids can experience, but I think they will appreciate it and pause often to consider her journey. They can follow the map, make predictions, and ask questions as they read – maybe by journaling and sketching themselves! Cooper’s other works would make for an extended author study and insight into researching and writing.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Reidy, Jean, and Lucy Ruth Cummins. Truman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-41664-2. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

The life of a sweet pet tortoise named Truman is pretty chill most days. The city down below rumbles on while Truman and Sarah stayed quietly above together. Then one day, Sarah preps a backpack, leaves extra snacks for Truman, and gets on the southbound bus. Truman waits as patiently as can be, until it is time for action so that he can reunite with Sarah. His journey seems impossible, and the perfect, colorful illustrations by Lucy Ruth Cummins give perspective to his challenges. Young readers will be surprised at what happens next and what secret lives their pets may have when they are off at school!!

THOUGHTS: As the owner of both a land turtle and water turtle who have escaped and gone on adventures, this tender story hits some sentimental notes! Pair this with other pet stories, such as Memoirs of a Goldfish, to let young readers see point of view and perspective before trying to write their own narrative pet tales!

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Lee, Mark. What Kind of Car Does a T. Rex Drive? G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. 978-1-524-74123-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Uncle Otto owns a car lot and is surprised when a number of dinosaurs come shopping for a car. One by one, each dinosaur looks for a car that will suit him or her. Stegosaurus finds an off-the road vehicle so that he can find some plants in the forest. Pterodactyl buys a convertible, so he can feel the breeze as he drives to the ocean to find some fish to eat. Triceratops purchases a delivery van, so she can get in through the back doors. Uncle Otto and the children are concerned when T. Rex appears and is not pleased with the options. Finally, the children find the answer- a monster truck! Brian Riggs’s humorous illustrations are done in brush and ink and colored digitally. The whimsically drawn dinosaurs appear on a large scale and take up most of the space on each two page spread.

THOUGHTS: This text makes for a great read aloud. Hand this one to those children who can’t get enough of dinosaurs. A good choice for elementary collections.

Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Underwood, Deborah. The Panda Problem. Dial Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-0-735-22850-4. $17.99. Grades K-2.

A simple story read by a simple narrator about a panda who has a problem. Except… he doesn’t have a problem. In fact, he is perfectly fine! But… if the panda is perfectly fine, how can the narrator read a story? Stories have to have problems, after all, that is what makes a story a story! So the panda decides to help by creating a problem… after a problem… after a problem! Panda soon realized that he does not have imaginary problems, but now he has real problems and needs the narrator to read the story and get him out of the problem! Read to discover what trouble the panda is getting himself into.

THOUGHTS: A cute read with dialect between the narrator and the main character of the story. A great piece to read aloud with two readers, each acting out the part of the character or narrator.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Rayner, Jacqueline K. Hats are Not for Cats. Clarion Books. 2019. 978-1-328-96719-0. $17.99. Grades K-2

Did you know that hats are not for cats? Not any kind of hat. Funny, serious, large, or small, cats are not supposed to wear hats. That is what dog tells cat at least. Do you think that will stop cat (and cat’s friends) from listening? It makes you wonder what dog thinks when he sees that these cats are all wearing hats. Maybe cats can wear hats, but dogs cannot. Do you think cats should be able to wear hats? Read through this story to discover your answer!

THOUGHTS: A simple read with beautiful illustrations of cat and dog having a conversation about the issue of cats wearing hats. A read that many beginning readers would be able to pick up and read independently.

Picture Book           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Bond, John. Mini Rabbit is Not Lost. Neal Porter Books. 2019. 978-0-823-44358-1. $18.99. Grades K-2

Mini Rabbit LOVES cake! While baking a cake with Mother Rabbit, they discover that there are no berries left for the cake! Mini Rabbit decides to go out to find berries but does not realize that there are berries just below his house! Mini Rabbit travels on a marvelous journey to find berries, but ends up getting lost, even if he won’t admit it. What will it take to get Mini Rabbit back home? Perhaps the smell of something delicious…

THOUGHTS: A hysterical read of a Mini Rabbit going out on a journey. This story is fantastic when read with different voices, especially for a young, hyper Mini Rabbit. A must read for students!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Gonzales, Debbie. Girls with Guts! The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89747-1. 32 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6. 

Today, girls are free to compete in any sport they wish to pursue. Historically, this was not the case; however, and this book chronicles the history of female participation in organized athletics from ancient times to today. In Ancient Greece, females were punished for merely watching the Olympic Games. And, during the first modern Olympics in 1896, women were not allowed to compete in any events. It took athletes like basketball player Senda Berenson Abbot, swimmer Gertrude Ederle, tennis star Althea Gibson, swimmer Donna de Varona, and others to break down barriers and help level the athletic field for women. In addition to highlighting groundbreaking female athletes, this title also spotlights the women who were instrumental in campaigning for and drafting Title IX, which mandates equal treatment for competitive girls. A timeline at the back of the book chronicles milestones in the history of women’s athletics. 

THOUGHTS: This title fills a void in many library collections by exploring the history of competitive athletics for women. It also provides introductory biographical information about ground-breaking female athletes and congresswomen who fought for Title IX legislation. Vibrant acrylic paintings depict women engaged in all kinds of athletic endeavors, and both white and non-white women are included. An Author’s Note on the book’s final page explores what it truly means to “play like a girl” and discusses the state of women’s professional athletics today.

796.082 Athletic & Outdoor Sports & Games          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Kredensor, Diane. Superbuns! Kindness is Her Superpower. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-481-49068-9. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

As Superbuns and her older sister, Blossom, make their way through the city to granny’s house, Superbuns stops several times to perform random acts of kindness. She waters plants, compliments friends, feeds pets, and blows up balloons. Blossom, who is a bit of a know-it-all, repeatedly reminds Superbuns that kind is kind, but it is not a superpower. It’s only when the sisters have a surprise run-in with a fox that Blossom realizes the true power of being kind and the effect it has both on the recipient and the bestower. 

THOUGHTS: This sweet story about the power of kindness is geared toward the youngest readers, and it will be a great fit for kindergarten and first grade classrooms. It will also work for morning meetings and could be used in conjunction with guidance lessons about what kindness looks like. The vibrantly colored cartoon illustrations will draw in young readers, and comic fans will relate to Superbuns’s fascination with superheroes. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Slade, Suzanne. A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon. Little, Brown and Company, 2019. 978-0-316-43517-8. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Numbers and counting were always important parts of Katherine’s life, even when she was a young girl. At school, math came easily to her, and she skipped first and fifth grade, eventually entering college when she was fifteen. At West Virginia State, Katherine excelled in all the math classes she took, but her favorite was advanced geometry where she studied curving parabolas. Katherine believed women could have any job they wanted, and she set her sights on a mathematics job at a Virginia research center. There, she worked as a “computer,” performing advanced calculations to support airplane engineers. Katherine stood out from the other women at the facility because of her knack for asking intelligent questions, and soon, she was invited to join a team working to send the first American astronaut into space. When Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon, his Apollo 11 ship followed a flight path designed and approved by Katherine. 

THOUGHTS: This age-appropriate book will be a perfect fit for elementary STEM units, particularly ones focusing on female pioneers in the fields of math and science. Beautiful ink and watercolor illustrations have complex mathematical equations in the backgrounds, symbolizing how numbers were always on Katherine’s mind. Backmatter features primary source materials, including Katherine’s notes and calculations for the Apollo landing as well as a timeline of Katherine’s life. 

510 Mathematics          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Saeed, Aisha. Bilal Cooks Daal. Salaam Reads, 2019. 978-1-534-41810-3. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

When six-year-old Bilal’s father, Abu, calls him in from playing to help with dinner preparations, Bilal’s friends question what kind of meal must be prepared so early in the day. Bilal explains that his father is cooking daal. He describes the nutty, creamy Pakistani dish to them and invites his friends over to assist with preparations. Together, the children measure and combine the ingredients, and Abu heats everything in a large pot. While it simmers, the children return to their play. As they run, swim, hike, and skip pebbles, they wonder if the food is ready yet, but Bilal reminds his friends that the daal takes time to cook. When Abu finally calls everyone in for supper, Bilal is worried that his friends won’t like the daal. He watches his friends’ reactions carefully, but they all agree: the daal is delicious! An Author’s Note at the end of the book describes different kinds of daal and the way it is traditionally eaten as well as a recipe for cooking the daal referenced in the story. 

THOUGHTS: This story is a celebration of food, friendship, and culture, and the process of cooking the daal reminds readers that good things take time. Readers from multicultural families will relate to Bilal’s anxiety about his friends trying a traditional dish from his family’s homeland, and the story may prompt discussions about other favorite cultural foods. Lively digital illustrations depict a diverse group of children who are eager to learn about their friend’s heritage. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD