Elem. – Sonny’s Bridge; Snail and Worm All Day; Tow Truck Joe; I Am Someone Else; Hum and Swish

Wittenstein, Barry. Sonny’s Bridge. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89881-2. 32 p. $21.99. Grades K-4. 

In the early 1960’s, if you were on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City at night you might have heard the sounds of Sonny Rollins’ saxophone floating through the air. Sonny’s Bridge is a poetic biography of the jazz legend and his path to recording his third album ‘The Bridge.” Born during the Harlem Renaissance, Sonny is influenced by the jazz greats. When he starts playing the saxophone, Sonny is a teeneager living through WWII and the Jim Crow movement. He hits the music scene just in time for the bebop revolution. An overnight success, Sonny Rollins even plays at Carnegie Hall, but the fame is too much and Sonny takes a two-year sabbatical where he spends his nights practicing on the bridge to avoid waking his neighbors. On the bridge Sonny plays his own way until he finally feels ready to record his famous comeback album. An author’s note and timeline at the back of the book provide more insight into Sonny’s life and notable accomplishments through 2018. A bibliography along with a list of quotes and websites for more information are also included. The digitally created illustrations add to the historical significance of the story while also embracing the legendary status of Sonny Rollins. 

THOUGHTS: An excellent picture book biography with plenty of historical connections and an introduction to jazz. This book is versatile and can serve both as a read aloud for younger audiences while also allowing room to discuss deeper historical significance with older students.  A welcome addition to any school library.  

92; Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Kugler, Tina. Snail and Worm All Day. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-06364-3. $16.99. 32 p. Grades K-2. 

Snail and Worm have three adventures to share in their second book together. Snail points out all the accomplishments of their friends when a little cheering up is needed for the day. Together the two friends barely escape a dragon (which turns out to be a turtle hiding in its shell) and then take a nap. When Snail is sleepy, Worm agrees to tell a bedtime story that isn’t too scary and includes both friends. The three short stories are excellent examples of friendship for young readers. Although the text is deceptively brief, there is plenty of humor and feeling packed into the stories. The bright acrylic, pastel and collage illustrations give the comfortable feeling of a picture book while the text is suitable for early readers. 

THOUGHTS: A lovely hybrid text for emerging readers who are ready to graduate to reading on their own. This picture book is a bridge in the gap to early readers while providing some opportunities to teach about friendship. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Sobel, June. Tow Truck Joe. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-05312-5. 32 p. $17.99. Grades Prek-1. 

A friendly red tow truck named Joe and his dog Patch spend a day in town helping their neighbors with flat tires and dead batteries. As they cruise around town Patch and Joe say hello to many other working vehicles including the grocery truck, cement mixer, and ice cream truck. When a rushing milk truck collides with the cookie cart causing a traffic jam, Patch and Joe help all of the vehicles work together and find a sweet solution to get everyone rolling again. The brightly colored illustrations of a busy small town filled with working vehicles will be a hit with very young readers. Rhyming text, lots of honking hellos, and a repeating red light/green light verse will make this a fun addition to storytime for a preschool crowd. 

THOUGHTS: Trucks are always a hit at storytime, and this is a good addition to any preschool collection. It’s a fun, engaging read aloud with many opportunities to incorporate movement. This book also can be used to teach young children about cooperation and community. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. I Am Someone Else: Poems about Pretending. Charlesbrisdge, 2019. 978-1-580-89832-4. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-4.

Playing pretend is universal among children, and this illustrated anthology of poetry about imagining embraces that commonality. A brief introduction reminds the reader that “there is nothing better than being yourself” then goes on to explain that it is fun to think about being someone else at times. Poetry is divided into three categories, each of which features a unique heading poem. “Wish! Be a Storybook Character” features poems about fantasy role play such as wizards, pirates, and even what it might be like to be a giant’s wife, courtesy of Lois Lowry. “Support! Be a Person who Helps” includes poems about career role play such as pilot, veterinarian, and police officer. “Invent! Be a Person Who’s a Maker” is a collection of poems related to STEAM professions featuring a builder, poet, and chef. Even video game designers get a poem in this section. Ethnically diverse illustrations with each poem depict children dressing up to match their imaginary scenario. Refreshingly, the illustrations also support imaginary play as an ungendered activity by depicting both boys and girls dressing up in various costumes such as a male nurse and a female video game designer. 

THOUGHTS: This anthology is a great contemporary way to incorporate poetry into STEAM lessons in the elementary library. I would definitely add this title to update a poetry collection. A table of contents would make this title more functional, but the lack of one doesn’t distract from the overall reading experience. 

811; Picture Book        Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Myers, Matt. Hum and Swish. Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44286-7. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Waves gently crash over the sand on a perfect beach day. Jamie sits quietly humming and playing in the sand as the wind tousles her hair. Here she finds some rocks. There is a puddle left by the waves. Jamie digs, crafts, and collects, content to be in her own world by the sea. People pass by and ask questions about her project. Uninterested in visitors, Jamie keeps her focus. It seems like only the ocean truly understands her. Eventually, another artist sets up shop nearby. The artist has no questions and no answers. The two work in parallel amongst their understanding of each other and the ocean. Museum quality acrylic and oil paintings frame the story, masterfully conveying the serenity and strength of the ocean. Hum and Swish has managed to create a time capsule of a few preciously perfect  hours spent playing next to the ocean. 

THOUGHTS: A fantastic addition to any school library collection. STEAM connections can be made using Jamie’s building with sand and found objects as inspiration. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

MG – The Poison Eaters; A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying; Lalani of the Distant Sea; Midsummer’s Mayhem

Jarrow, Gail. The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs. Calkins Creek, 2019. 978-1-629-79438-9. 157 p. $18.99. Grades 5-12 (and up).

When people moved to cities and towns and no longer grew and prepared their own foods, new industries helped supply their needs. The concern for what you put in your mouth has been around for a long time. Reading this book is educational and a bit horrifying. Did you know that before 1900 some canned and commercially prepared foods contained such “preservatives” as borax, copper sulfate, and formaldehyde? And what was in your tasty sausage – meat scraps swept off the factory floor and worse! Then there was the use of cocaine in tooth drops for teething babies (No wonder they slept so well!). The Poison Eaters tracks the “pure food” movement from the 1880’s to present day. It follows the career of Harvey Washington Wiley, born in 1844, who passionately campaigned for laws that would regulate how food and, later, medicines are prepared and sold. This was not an easy task with big business and politics blocking the way. Surprising allies including Colliers Weekly and the Ladies’ Home Journal as well as women’s clubs helped educate the public. Still the pure food and drug law did not pass until 1906, and that law almost immediately needed more stringent standards. It took tragedy to get tighter regulations. The Food and Drug Administration still has controversies in its methods, but at least it has been able to get stiffer regulations for food processing and protect the public from dangerous drugs such as thalidomide. The fight for good food continues.

THOUGHTS: Gail Jarrow grabs the reader’s attention. She makes the story readable with her biographical treatment of a Harvey Wiley and others. The book is not just historical but has relevance to today’s readers. The author has provided the reader with well researched facts and back matter that can lead to further investigation, including websites and an extensive bibliography.

344.73; Federal Drug Administration; Food law and legislation          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Armstrong, Kelley. A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying. Puffin, 2019. 978-0-735-26535-6. 268p. $16.99. Grades 5-9.

In the kingdom of Tamarel, twelve-year-old Rowan will be the queen. Her twin brother, Rhydd, will be trained as the Royal Monster Hunter. Rowan wishes that their roles were reversed, but she is the older twin.  When disaster happens and Rhydd is badly hurt and their aunt is killed by a gryphon, the most deadly of monsters, her wish comes true. There are politics involved with this change. The scheming Herward makes a challenge, saying that his children should be the heirs. A compromise is reached, but Rowan must seek training immediately from the famous Wilmot. Her trip to his home is filled with encounters that will keep the readers on the edge of their seats. She and her companions face kidnappers; ambushes; and monsters of all sorts including giant spiders, warakins, manticores, and the gryphon. The descriptions of these encounters are very vivid. These trials test Rowan’s abilities and readers will admire her ability to think things through. Rowan knows what it is to be a leader, even at a young age. When Rowan and her companions return with the gryphon, not all is resolved.  This is a good first book in the series, satisfying readers but hinting at more adventure. Rowan’s Monsters: A Field Guide at the end of the book is very helpful.

THOUGHTS: Rowan is level headed as is her mother who now is queen. She looks at things scientifically and often has to dispel the superstitions that abound with monsters. Rowan expresses a respect for individuals, both human and monster. Often she revises her plans to take feelings into account. Armstrong has created an interesting fantasy world. I hope as the series continues that the readers will get to know more about its inhabitants, both human and monster. The next book in the series, The Gryphon’s Lair is will be published in June 2020.

Fantasy, Adventure, Mythological creatures          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Kelly, Erin Entrada. Lalani of the Distant Sea. Greenwillow Books, 2019. 978-0-062-74727-3. 400 p.  $16.99.  Grades 3-7.

“There are stories of extraordinary children who are chosen from birth to complete great quests . . . . This is no such story.  Sometimes, you are an ordinary child. Sometimes, you choose yourself.” So begins Newbery-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly’s latest tour de force, Lalani of the Distant Sea, an intricately crafted magical tale inspired by Filipino folklore. The people of Sanlagita, a mythical island cursed by drought, pin their hopes for redemption on the nearby island of Isa. Tragically, every sailor who has attempted the journey, including Lalani’s father, has drowned before reaching its shores. The Sanlagitans are sure evil lurks in the waters, but what can they do but keep sending their finest in hopes that someone will eventually prevail? On an island of poverty-stricken people with little power to change their circumstances, Lalani is among the poorest and least powerful. Not only is her father dead, but her mother is dying, and the only possible cure is rumored to be available on Isa. Out of desperation and guilt as much as boldness and bravery, Leilani determines to set sail herself. Most of the book is told from a close third-person perspective. We get not only Lalani’s viewpoint, but also that of several important secondary characters. However, some chapters are told in the unusual second-person perspective, allowing readers to put themselves directly in the shoes (or, more aptly, fins, paws, or claws) of various magical creatures.

THOUGHTS:  A gorgeously written fantasy from an #ownvoices author. Lalani is an absolutely delightful heroine, a child who would rather be ordinary but is driven to take extraordinary measures to advocate for herself, her family, and her people. Kelly’s use of point of view is brilliant; it adds to the richness and complexity of the text and yet is never confusing for the reader (a difficult trick to pull off). Highly recommended for elementary and middle school libraries.

Fantasy Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland SD

LaRocca, Rajani. Midsummer’s Mayhem. Yellow Jacket, 2019. 978-1-499-80888-9 352 p. $16.99  Grades 4-8.

Shakespeare meets the Iron Chef in this madcap midsummer’s night mash-up by debut author Rajani LaRocca. 11-year-old Mimi, the daughter of an Indian-American mother and a white father, has three talented older siblings who are often in the spotlight, leaving Mimi—nicknamed “Mimi Mouse”–feeling small and unimportant. When the town’s new bakery announces a contest sponsored by a television cooking show celebrity, Mimi, who loves experimenting in the kitchen, decides her chance to shine has arrived. But the bakery’s owner is a woman shrouded in mystery, and Mimi soon realizes that some of the confections sold in her shop have an odd impact on the customers who consume them. Mimi’s attempt to reverse the enchantments affecting her father, siblings, and their friends, while simultaneously creating a winning recipe, makes for a unique, fast-paced read.   

THOUGHTS: There is a lot going on in this novel. The many threads connecting plot, characters, setting, and theme do occasionally get tangled. But it’s also a lot of fun, and older elementary and middle school students with an interest in drama, Indian mythology, or baking will eat this up.   

Fantasy Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Elem. – An Eye on Spiders; Incredible Animal Life Cycles; Paw Prints; Let’s Go; Super Structures

An Eye on Spiders. Jump! Library, 2019. $17.95 ea. $125.65 set of 7. 24 p. Grades K-2.

Gleisner, Jenna Lee. Black Widows. 978-1-62496-796-2.
—. Jumping Spiders. 978-1-62496-792-4.
—. Water Spiders. 978-1-62496-798-6.
—. Wolf Spiders. 978-1-62496-800-6.

Spanier, Kristine. Garden Spiders. 978-1-62496-790-0.
—. Tarantulas. 978-1-62496-794-8.
—. Trapdoor Spiders. 978-1-62496-796-2.

Young arachnid fans or those just curious about the world of spiders will find much to enjoy in Jump!’s An Eye on Spiders series. Designed to introduce early readers to informational text, each volume features short sentences with repetitive, simple vocabulary. The habitat, physical characteristics, and hunting habits of each spider are presented, along with a picture glossary and map showing the geographic range of the spider within the world. The text is supported by numerous close-up photographs, allowing readers to fully appreciate the characteristics and beauty of each spider species.

THOUGHTS: Great photography, a high-interest subject matter, and accessible text all help to make this series a worthwhile addition to non-fiction shelves in libraries serving early readers. 

595.4 Arachnids          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Kenney, Karen Latchana. Incredible Animal Life Cycles. Jump! Library, 2019. $18.95 ea. $132.65 set of 7. 24 p. Grades 2-5.

Life Cycle of a Butterfly. 978-1-62496-803-7.
Life Cycle of a Chicken. 978-1-62496-806-8.
Life Cycle of a Frog. 978-1-62496-809-9.
Life Cycle of a Jellyfish. 978-1-62496-812-9.
Life Cycle of a Kangaroo. 978-1-62496-815-0.
Life Cycle of a Ladybug. 978-1-62496-818-1.
Life Cycle of a Snake. 978-1-62496-821-1.

The Incredible Animal Life Cycle series explores some of the amazing life changes selected species go through during their lifetime. Each volume presents and discusses the various stages of the animal’s life cycle. Information about the animal’s diet, habitat, behaviors, and more are incorporated within the overall explanation of the life cycle. The text is supported by detailed photographs, sidebars, diagrams, and graphics. Each volume features a craft-type activity (using common household items)  that parents or educators can complete with children related to the life cycle. 

THOUGHTS: This series would be a strong addition to elementary library science collections. Each step of the animal life cycle is clearly explained and illustrated via high-quality photographs, which is sure to engage both the casual reader or the student researcher. The activity in each book offers a great way for children (with adult supervision and assistance) to further expand their understanding of an aspect of the life cycle. 

590s Animals         Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Paw Prints. Jump! Library, 2019. $17.95 ea. $215.40 set of 12. 24 p. Grades K-2.    

Duling, Kaitlyn. Beagles. 978-1-62496-764-1.
Higgins, Nadia. Boxers. 978-1-62496-766-5.
Duling, Kaitlyn. Dachshunds. 978-1-62496-768-9.
Spanier, Kristine. French Bulldogs. 978-1-62496-770-2.
Duling, Kaitlyn. German Bulldogs. 978-1-62496-772-6.
Duling, Kaitlyn. Golden Retrievers. 978-1-62496-774-0.
Higgins, Nadia. Great Danes. 978-1-62496-776-4.
Gleisner, Jenna Lee. Labrador Retrievers. 978-1-62496-778-8.
Duling, Kaitlyn. Poodles. 978-1-62496-780-1.
Duling, Kaitlyn. Pugs. 978-1-62496-782-5.
Higgins, Nadia. Rottweilers. 978-1-62496-784-9.
Higgins, Nadia. Siberian Huskies. 978-1-62496-786-3. 

Books featuring dogs are perennial favorites in most libraries (after all, approximately 40% of U.S. households own dogs!). The Paw Prints series introduces some of the most popular dog breeds to young readers. Each volume discusses the physical characteristics of the breed, along with behavioral characteristics. Most volumes also feature a short history of the breed. Designed for early readers, this series features short sentences with repetitive vocabulary. For example: “This dog is very strong. It can run very fast.” Also present in the back matter of each volume is a diagram of the dog identifying key features as well as a photo glossary and index. The text is supported by the inclusion of numerous high-quality photographs.

THOUGHTS: If you are a primary librarian looking to add to your animal/pet non-fiction collection, this series merits your consideration. Early readers will undoubtedly love the adorable, close-up photos of the dogs and will find the simple text both engaging and informative. 

636.7 Dogs          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Kenan, Tessa. Let’s go!. Jump! Library, 2019. $16.95 ea. $135.60 set of 8. 16 p. Grades PreK-1. 

Bikes. 978-1-62496-979-9.
Boats. 978-1-62496-982-9.
Buses. 978-1-62496-985-0.
Cars. 978-1-62496-988-1.
Planes. 978-1-62496-991-1.
Skateboards. 978-1-62496-994-2.
Trains. 978-1-62496-997-3.
Trucks. 978-1-64128-000-6.

Buses, trains, cars, trucks, skateboards…there are so many ways for us to go places! Lets Go! introduces early readers to some of the many transportation options available today. Through the use of simple text (example text from Buses: “It’s time for school. The bus is here. Let’s go!”) and colorful, action-packed photography, readers will learn the basics of various kinds of transport. Each volume also features a “Tools for Teachers” section which offers before and after reading suggestions to educators and parents.

THOUGHTS: Libraries looking to expand their non-fiction options for their youngest readers (PreK-Gr. 1) will want to consider this series for purchase. Recommended.

629 Transportation          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Murray, Julie. Super Structures. Abdo, 2019. $18.95 ea. $113.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades 1-4. 

Burj Khalifa. 978-1-53212-309-2.
Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge. 978-1-53212-310-8.
International Space Station. 978-1-53212-311-5.
One World Trade Center. 978-1-53212-312-2.
Space Needle. 978-1-53212-314-6.
The Shard. 978-153212-313-9. 

Did you know that Burj Khalifa has the world’s highest swimming pool (on the 76th floor)? Or that it’s 24,348 windows take 3 months for a team of workers to clean? These are just some of the facts readers will learn in the Super Structures series. Each volume shares information about the location, construction, unique features, and amenities of some of the world’s most amazing feats of engineering. Back matter includes additional facts, a glossary, and a link to online resources.

THOUGHTS: This series offers a nice mix of types of structures as well as including some structures that might be new to readers, like the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge. Appropriate for both the researcher and the casual reader, the series is a worthwhile addition to the elementary shelves. 

720 Architecture         Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – The Shortest Day; Shine; Saturday; Sofia Valdez, Future Prez; Just Like My Brother; I Am Not a Fish; Little Tigers; The Little Green Girl; Home in the Woods; No Place Like Home; Spencer’s New Pet; The Cook and the King; Motor Mouse; Max and Marla Are Flying Together; Pokko and the Drum; All in a Drop; You Loves Ewe

Cooper, Susan. The Shortest Day. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-0-763-68698-7.  Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

“So the shortest day came…and everywhere down the centuries came people…to drive the dark away.” In simple lyrical text, Cooper explains the significance of the winter solstice to humans from prehistoric through modern times. As the winter darkness descended over the land, those living in the earlier times feared it would remain and attempted to drive it away by lighting torches, putting candles in trees and hanging evergreens in their homes. They also gathered together to dance and sing to dispel the blackness. Today, this tradition continues during the Yule season, as people continue to decorate Christmas trees with lights and to assemble with friends and family to sing carols and celebrate. In the back matter, Cooper explains why not only the seasons, but especially the equinoxes and solstices, were so meaningful to early man. The author also puts all the text on one page in the back, so that the reader can read or perform it in its true poetic form. The illustrations by Ellis are done in gouache and have a folk art appearance. The sun is pictured as a giant with the sun for a head and is seen walking until he disappears behind the mountain to bring on the darkness. These drawings, which capture the winter bleakness in Northern Europe, help show how these traditions carry on today with three illustrations depicting the same scene in both past and modern times. For instance, five children who appear to be from medieval or early modern times are seen dancing and holding torches and evergreens as they exit a house. A few pages later, there is a similar image of children in modern dress posed the same way.

THOUGHTS: This title is a great addition to elementary collections. Although there are other books on the winter solstice, this one is exemplary in that it conveys the human aspect of this event, rather than just an astronomical one. A good choice for a winter themed storytime.

Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

Grabenstein, J.J., and Chris Grabenstein. Shine! Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-524-71769-8. 210 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6. 

Piper Milly is a seventh grader who believes she was meant to blend in rather than to shine. When her father lands a new teaching job at the local prep school, complete with full tuition for Piper, she leaves public school mid-year and enters a world where every student is trying to excel. When the school announces the creation of a new award that will be given to the student who most exhibits overall excellence, Piper thinks she has no shot of winning. Ultimately, she discovers there are many different ways of shining, including being kind, demonstrating empathy, and valuing friendship. 

THOUGHTS: Piper is a well-rounded character, and students will relate to her struggles with leaving her old school and friends and starting over at a new school. She also finds herself in relatable situations, such as being the target of the class “mean girl,” and doubting her own abilities. The idea that kindness and empathy outweigh material things like awards and money will prompt discussions about ways students can focus on these traits in their own lives. 

Realistic Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Mora, Oge. Saturday. Little, Brown and Company, 2019. 978-0-316-43127-9. 36 p. $18.99. Gr K-3. 

Ava and her mother look forward to Saturdays because they get to spend the whole day together. But, this Saturday, nothing goes as planned. They arrive at the library only to learn that storytime is cancelled. They get their hair done but step out of the salon just as a car splashes a huge puddle of water at them. And, they arrive at the park only to find a large crowd of like minded people also trying to take in the sunny afternoon. After each disappointment, the pair repeat their mantra: “Don’t worry. Today will be special. Today will be splendid. Today is Saturday!” But, when they arrive at their final destination – a one-night only puppet show – only to discover that mom left the tickets at home, their patience is truly tested. Mom crumples with guilt, apologizing for ruining Saturday. But it is Ava who demonstrates resilience, reflecting that the day was still special and splendid because they spent it together. 

THOUGHTS: This story about going with the flow and taking life in stride, even when plans change, will be a good fit for morning meeting discussions. It will also be a good conversation starter for students to share what routines or traditions they have with their own families on weekends. The beautiful collage illustrations will draw students back for multiple readings.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Beaty, Andrea. Sofia Valdez, Future Prez. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-4141-973704-6. Unpaged. $18.99.  Grades K-3.

Sofia Valdez is a spunky girl who always has helped others through the influence of her abuelo. The phrase, “Most people like good, but Sofia liked better” captures the essence and farseeing vision of Sofia. When she and abuelo come across a dangerous landfill, they hope to make a community park. Like the Little Red Hen story, everyone agrees with Sofia, but no one steps up to help. Sofia is on her own. She is nervous and goes to City Hall where she is shuttled from department to department.  Finally a friendly clerk takes her side and helps. Sofia gets an audience with the mayor and pleads her case. She starts a petition. The neighbors finally rally around her. Citizens’ Park is created! What a feat for a second grader! She has a bright future. Andrea Beaty’s snappy verse, and David Roberts lively pictures have a brilliant, encouraging message.

THOUGHTS: This inspirational and empowering book shows young readers the importance of their community, working together, and most importantly believing in yourself. Sofia displays a great deal of courage and determination when she approaches “City Hall”  for the benefit of her community.

Picture Book       Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Marino, Gianna. Just Like My Brother. Viking, 2019. 978-0-425-29060-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Beautiful, bright watercolor illustrations take readers on a journey to the African plains where they meet a cast of animals. Little giraffe is searching for her older brother during a game of hide and seek. Describing various features of her older brother, little giraffe asks each animal if they’ve seen him. Sometimes the other animal’s perspective shows what little giraffe cannot recognize, like when turtle says, “You’re tall.” Observant readers will notice that big brother isn’t the only animal hiding, as anticipation and excitement build throughout the story.

THOUGHTS: Young readers will delight in this picture book which can be a simple read aloud or an introduction to characteristics of animals and types of animals around the world. This book can also be used as an introduction to the concept of compare and contrast.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Raymundo, Peter. I Am Not a Fish! Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-525-55459-2. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Edgar is frustrated with being called a fish. Being a jellyfish Edgar doesn’t feel like the word fish belongs in his name (and has even been accused of “overthinking things”). After meeting a group of starfish who empathize with his frustration, Edgar is able to talk through his feelings. By identifying many other sea creatures and looking at their names, Edgar realizes he likes being himself, even if fish is in his name. This delightful, colorful underwater adventure is perfect for STEM lessons involving the ocean or ocean creatures. At one point, Edgar says, “I look more like a plastic bag than a fish” which is an opportunity to discuss the topic of ocean pollution.

THOUGHTS: There are many great lesson ideas for this fun, light-hearted text, and it would make a humorous read aloud, especially if the reader gets into Edgar’s character. From ocean connections to serving as a mentor text for starfish or sea horse parodies, this book will encourage students to think about names and identity in an age appropriate manner.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Weaver, Jo. Little Tigers. Peachtree, 2019. 978-1-682-63110-2. 32 p. $17.95. Grades K-4. 

For tiger cubs Puli and Sera, searching for a new home is an adventure but Mother Tiger is restless after hearing men and their dogs in the jungle. The little tigers provide plenty of comic relief with their kitten-like antics and tender moments.  Diversity among rainforest habitats is highlighted as the small family travels through thick old forest, waterfalls, river crossings, and caves to find just the right spot. Just before nightfall, Mother Tiger leads her little tigers into ruins for shelter. Unique charcoal and digitally colored illustrations accent the shadows of the jungle while also providing stunning two page spreads. A brief note after the story discusses the endangered status of Bengal tigers along with suggested links to wildlife organizations.

THOUGHTS: The artwork in this picture book illustrates the tiger’s coloring as camouflage in their natural environment. The playfulness of the cubs paired with captivating illustrations and familiar searching-for-home tale make this a good read aloud option. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Anchin, Lisa. The Little Green Girl. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-735-23073-6. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-4. 

Unexpectedly floating into Mr. Aster’s garden on the wind one day, the little green girl quickly takes root and thrives under his care. Her fierce curiosity about the world is fueled by tales from her garden friends. After a visit from the birds, she decides it is time to begin her own adventures. Despite urging from her caretaker to stay put in the beautiful, safe garden where she is planted, the little green girl is determined to explore beyond the gate. Her persistence finally persuades the kind gardener to venture out into the “wide world” where they discover that home can be found in even exotic new places. The illustrations are bright and hopeful, filling the page with both the cozy home garden and travel vignettes. Notes from a gardener’s journal add interest to the end paper. The Little Green Girl is a  heartwarming tale about blooming where you are planted while also encouraging a love of adventure. 

THOUGHTS: A great title to add to the school library, this book will make a great read aloud and also has potential curriculum connections to introduce lessons about plants and gardening in various habitats. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Wheeler, Eliza. Home in the Woods. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 978-0-399-16290-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-5. 

A young widow packs up her large family and carries their meager possessions to live in a ramshackle house in the woods during the Great Depression. Arriving in the summer, the family gets right to work making repairs and planning for their survival in the year to come. At first it doesn’t seem like much, but as the family settles they begin to find happiness in the abundance of the forest. As fall comes around, it’s all hands on deck to preserve enough food to make it through the winter. Even with all of their hard work, the family still struggles to make ends meet. Still, they spend their days making the best of the situation and bonding with each other even in the depths of winter. When spring finally arrives, readers will rejoice in the light airy feeling of accomplishment and hope. The watercolor illustrations stunningly convey the mood of each season. An author’s note at the end explains in further detail the historical significance of this story. 

THOUGHTS: A good book to introduce a unit on the Great Depression to upper elementary students. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Gosh, Ronojoy. No Place Like Home. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 978-0-8028-5522-0. 32 p. $17.00. Grades K-2. 

George the polar bear cannot find joy living in the city. Ice cream and butterflies don’t bring a smile to his furry face. His house is way too small, and he can’t stand being in a crowd. So, George decides to take action, traveling far and wide to find where he belongs. It turns out that the city isn’t the only place a polar bear doesn’t belong. George is also dissatisfied with life in the jungle, dessert, and in the mountains before finally finding his way to the arctic. The text is sparse but meaningful with only a sentence or two per page. The whimsical illustrations add depth and feeling to this beautiful and captivating story about finding home and happiness – perfect for younger readers.

THOUGHTS: This short and sweet story will make a great versatile addition to the school library. Not only is this book a great stand alone read-aloud for a wintry story time, it also offers opportunities for curriculum connection. George’s tale of finding just the right place to call home is a great way to introduce a unit on habitats. Discussions about mindfulness and perseverance can also be supported by this book. It’s noteworthy that while George clearly feels isolated, he is rarely alone in the illustrations, opening the door to discuss sadness, depression, and mental health to young audiences. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Sima, Jessie. Spencer’s New Pet. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-41877-6. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

When your best friend is a balloon, danger seems to be lurking around every corner. A routine visit to the vet could risk a run-in with a hedgehog. A day at the park seems like a good idea at first, but the myriad of pointy obstacles is overwhelming – and hilarious! Spencer and his pet spend their afternoon dodging teeth, talons, and tropical fruit (Not to mention other dangers!). Things get really interesting when the pair stumbles upon a birthday party and gets separated. When disaster finally strikes, a hilarious plot twist is revealed. Clever black and white illustrations with a touch of red effectively evoke the feeling of early cinema with excellent attention to detail, including a countdown, chapter headings, and credits. This book is sure to be loved by all, especially those who have loved (and lost) a prized balloon animal.

THOUGHTS: Everything about this book is fun. Students will never see the twist coming. Even older elementary audiences might enjoy the slapstick humor, especially as an intro to early cinema. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Donaldson, Julia. The Cook and the King. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73757-2. 32 p. $16.99.Grades K-3.

When the King searches for a new cook, he finally settles on Wobbly Bob who sees danger in the most mundane situations and constantly worries about ruining his attire. Eventually, the hungry king must take matters into his own hands, completing all of the tasks required to catch and prepare his own fish and chips. Turns out that Wobbly Bob isn’t too timid to join in the feast. Comical illustrations add to the humor in this tale that feels like a classic fairytale with a modern twist. 

THOUGHTS: Rhyming text, repeating verse, and many tall hats will make this book a read aloud hit. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD



Rylant, Cynthia. Motor Mouse. Beach Lane Books, 2019. 978-1-4814-9126-6. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Motor Mouse is a trio of short endearing tales about a speedy little mouse and his friends finding the bright side in a variety of situations. When there is no cake for Cake Friday, Motor Mouse and his best friend Telly bravely decide to try pie. Tired of driving others around town, Motor Mouse decides to hire a car on his day off. He takes a trip down memory lane but finds that making new friends is just as much fun as remembering old ones. Motor Mouse and brother Valentino learn a valuable lesson about compromise with a trip to the movies, featuring the biggest bucket of popcorn. Bright, cartoony watercolor illustrations add to the tales. 

THOUGHTS: Another great title from familiar, prolific author/illustrator pair Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard. Students will love this title just as much. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Boiger, Alexandra. Max and Marla Are Flying Together. Philomel Books, 2019. 978-0-525-51566-1. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Max and his best friend Marla, a young snowy owl, have a ton of fun together. But Max knows that Marla is born to fly, and he is determined to help her realize her own potential. Marla, on the other wing, is perfectly happy to have both of her feet on the ground. When Marla gets swept up in the wind on a blustery fall day, Max’s gentle coaching helps her realize that she really was made to fly. The next day, Marla is leading the charge to continue her flying lessons. A lovely, gentle tale about love and friendship. The warm watercolor illustrations bring the autumnal setting to life. 

THOUGHTS: A great book to share with students about being patient with oneself and waiting for a time to shine. A nice title for fall themed story time. Would be fun to pair with a wind unit or kite flying activities. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Forsythe, Matthew. Pokko and the Drum. Simon and SchusterBooks for Young Readers. 978-1-481-48039-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Pokko’s quiet, toadstool dwelling parents meant well when they gave her a drum, but they immediately discovered that it was a big mistake. Even bigger than the other mistakes they made before (including gifting Pokko a llama and a slingshot). Pokko immediately takes to the drum, playing day and night. To appease her parents she heads out to the forest to play quietly. But quiet doesn’t suit Pokko, and it isn’t long before her talent draws others from the woods to join in. It is clear that Pokko is a natural leader. Even the fox is put in his place by her stern (but fair) leadership. 

THOUGHTS: Every library needs a copy of this book. Spunky Pokko is such a relatable and strong female character that she is sure to become an instant favorite character with boys and girls alike. There are so many opportunities to expand on in this text including integrity, leadership, art, and marching to the beat of your own drum.  

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Alexander, Lori. All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-1-328-88420-6. 93 p. $17.99. Grades 3-5.

This fascinating chapter book biography discusses the life and accomplishments of the man known as the “Father of Microbiology.” Alexander begins with van Leeuwenhoek’s early life in Delft, Netherlands and how his occupation as a clothing vendor got him interested in lenses. Always a curious person, Antony developed superior magnifying glasses and used them to examine objects other than clothing. Alexander includes a list of all the objects that van Leeuwenhoek was “first to see” under the microscopic lens. While studying samples of water and dental plaque with his lenses, he saw small animals that were invisible to the human eye, which he called diertgens. Even though he was never trained in the sciences, this draper’s findings were published in the journal of the Royal Society in London. The author uses a narrative style to make the story more interesting and accessible. She also creates sections within the text that go into detail about certain topics, like the bubonic plague and the quality and types of lenses. The back matter contains a timeline, glossary, source notes, and recommended readings. Mildenberger’s whimsical illustrations, present on nearly every two page spread, are done in colored pencil, watercolor, and pastel. Readers will enjoy poring over the drawings for interesting details, including the Delft tiles on the endpapers.

THOUGHTS: This is a must-have for all collections. There are not many books written about this man who was the first to see microscopic life, and this is arguably the most attractive and engaging for elementary school readers.                                                        

579.092 Natural history of microorganisms, fungi, algae          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
92, 921 Biography

Bell, Cece. You Loves Ewe. Clarion, 2019. 978-1-328-52611-3. Unpaged.  $17.99. PreK-3.

Cece Bell makes learning grammar fun. If you loved her book, I Yam a Donkey (Clarion, 2015), You Loves Ewe is sure to tickle your funny bone. Like the first book, this has elements of Abbot and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First” skit. This time Yam introduces Donkey to Ewe. Donkey mistakenly thinks Yam is talking about him being cute and fluffy. Back and forth they discuss ewe and you and other homonyms. Or are they talking about “hummanums?’ So much hilarious confusion! As a read aloud it will be hysterical. Children may be confused at first, but Bell’s pictures make it all crystal clear. Children will laugh heartily once they realize that there are homonyms involved. This should lead to a lively discussion.

THOUGHTS: Older children will enjoy this wordplay as well. It is a bit reminiscent of Fred Gwynne’s books such as The King Who Rained, A Little Pigeon Toad, and A Chocolate Moose for Dinner. All of these books are a great way to introduce homonyms and homophones. Students probably will want to share more as they come across them. Perhaps they will be inspired to write a book of their own.

Picture Book          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired