MG – Cub; Stepping Stones; From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Copeland, Cynthia L. Cub. Algonquin Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-616-20848-6. 240 p. $12.95. Grades 4-7.

Cynthia Copeland delivers a fantastic middle grade graphic memoir! In the fall of 1972, the halls of Litchfield Junior High have something in common with Wild Kingdom: every kid is either predator or prey. Cindy has perfected the art of playing dead to get the “predators” to lose interest in her. She doesn’t have to play dead in art or English class, though, where she shines. Beloved English teacher Mrs. Schulz recommends Cindy for an internship with a female reporter at the local paper. Attending local events with Leslie, Cindy learns the ropes of recording facts, gathering quotes, and crafting an informative story with an attention-grabbing lede. “To make it into the paper,” Leslie advises her, “a story has to be great: accurate, fair, complete, concise.” The same could be said for a successful memoir! It is a joy to watch Cindy’s confidence blossom as she finds her voice through journalism. Full-color panels with a variety of layouts depict her journey of empowerment in bright, tween-friendly colors with just a tinge of nostalgia. Despite the time period specifics, Cindy’s seventh grade year – spent juggling friend drama, a nice boy who almost looks like John Denver when the lights are dim, and her new job as a “cub” reporter – is one that every preteen girl will relate to.

THOUGHTS: This heartfelt, engaging graphic memoir, complete with lovingly depicted growing pains, is a surefire recommendation for fans of Raina Telgemeier.

Graphic Memoir          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Knisley, Lucy. Stepping Stones. Random House Graphic, 2020. 978-1-984-89684-1. 224 p. $12.99. Grades 3-7.

After her parents’ divorce, Jen and her mom relocate to rustic Peapod Farm in upstate New York. Jen misses her dad, her old apartment, and the delicious food in the city. She’s also disillusioned with the farm’s constant chores, nasty geese, and especially her mom’s annoying new boyfriend Walter. Things look up with the discovery of barn kittens and mail-order chicks, but the weekend addition of Walter’s daughters, Andy and Reese, puts a damper on the fun. Andy, an insufferable know-it-all, seems to thrive on one-upping Jen and calling out her weak math skills when the girls work the Peapod table at the local Farmer’s Market. But with a little luck and extra effort, there’s hope for these part-time sisters to find their common ground. Lucy Knisley lovingly depicts Peapod Farm and the market with lush green foliage, colorful flowers, and aqua skies. Jen’s unspoken emotions are conveyed through her body language and flushed cheeks. Many readers will expect more growth (and definitely a much-needed apology or three) from bossy Walter, but they will also identify with Jen’s frustration when she feels unheard, and her perspective that the adults always (however unfairly) get the last word.

THOUGHTS: With Stepping Stones, graphic memoirist extraordinaire Lucy Knisley has created a standout middle grade graphic novel. As mentioned in the Author’s note, Knisley’s own story closely aligns with Jen’s, and we readers can only hope that she has more stories in store for this age group!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Marks, Janae. From the Desk of Zoe Washington. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-87585-3. 291 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Zoe has just had the best twelfth birthday party ever, making cupcakes with her besties at a real bakery. She’s now one step closer to fulfilling her dream of competing on the Kids Bake Challenge and becoming a professional pastry chef. She returns home to the surprise of her life: a letter from her father, Curtis, who Zoe has never met in person because he has been incarcerated for her entire life. Zoe is intrigued, but confused; after all, her father is a convicted criminal, guilty of murder. But in his letters, Curtis sounds … Nice. Supportive. Caring. With the assistance of her grandmother (and unbeknownst to her mom and stepdad), Zoe begins exchanging letters with her father. When Curtis claims his innocence, Zoe decides to investigate. With the help of her best friend, Trevor, she begins a quest to find Curtis’s alibi witness. She also awakens to the occasional injustices of our criminal justice system.

THOUGHTS:  In her debut novel, Janae Marks balances the serious with the sweet. Zoe (who is part of an upper-middle class, mixed-race family) is sometimes mature well beyond her twelve years. Still, she is an endearing heroine on a life-changing quest for the truth. Readers with an interest in the criminal justice plotline may want to pick up Just Mercy: Adapted for Young Adults by Bryan Stevenson to learn about the real people whose lives mirror Curtis’s story.

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

YA – The Midnight Lie; Yes No Maybe So; Tweet Cute; The Inheritance Games

Rutkowski, Marie. The Midnight Lie. Farrar, Strous and Giroux, 2020. 978-0-374-30638-0. 358 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Nirrim lives in the Ward, and life there is not fun or easy. You must follow the rules or you will be forced to face the ramifications of your actions. For Nirrim who is half-caste, her life is even harder as everything she does is policed and she is forced to live very simply. Early in her life, Nirrim was taken in by Raven who she looks up to as a mother figure, even though it’s clear to the reader that Raven isn’t a good person. Enter Sid, who causes Nirrim to think about things a different way. However, Nirrim has a secret, one that she keeps very closely guarded for if it were to get out, it would be disastrous.

THOUGHTS: This is an amazing fantasy story with lush, lyrical language and a fantastic set of characters. There is a female/female romance which is wonderful to read and doesn’t take away from the rest of the story. This book is set in the world of Marie Rutkowski’s Winner’s trilogy, but you don’t need to read that series to find your way through this book. Overall, I’d highly recommend this book.

Fantasy          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy Charter


Albertalli, Becky, and Aisha Saeed. Yes No Maybe So. Balzer + Bray, 2020. 978-0-062-93704-9. 436 p. $19.99. Grades 8-12.

Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehman were friends as 6-year olds but haven’t seen each other in a decade. Suddenly they find themselves tossed into canvassing for a local state senate candidate in suburban Atlanta. Neither teen is a natural fit for canvassing. Jamie, whose mom works for another state senator, is tongue-tied and awkward (see: topping a Target display of tangelos in the book’s opening pages). Maya, who is fasting for Ramadan and whose parents are going through a painful trial separation, is motivated by the promise of a car. A bumpy start to their civic engagement (complete with plenty of foot-in-mouth moments and some outright racism directed at Maya) transitions into a true partnership between friends with shared values … and huge crushes on each other. Plenty of absorbing subplots keep the pace hopping: Jamie’s grandmother and her viral “InstaGramm” account, Maya’s falling out with her college-bound BFF, and the specter of public speaking at the upcoming bat mitzvah for Jamie’s little sister. A proposed bill that would ban religious garments (like the hijab that Maya’s mother wears) raises their personal stakes in the election.

THOUGHTS: Yes No Maybe So is both woke and thoroughly adorable, and Jamie’s and Maya’s voices are equally strong and compelling. Readers will sigh swooningly at Jamie’s and Maya’s ultra-tentative romance, giggle at the supporting characters’ antics, perhaps be inspired to find their political voices, as the co-authors did following the 2016 election.

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Lord, Emma. Tweet Cute. Wednesday Books, 2020. 978-1-250-61867-2. 368 p. $17.99. Grades 8-12.

Debut author Emma Lord puts a fresh, Gen-Z spin on You’ve Got Mail in this ultra-cute contemporary romance! Four years ago, Pepper’s mom divorced her dad and moved them to New York City to focus on growing the family’s fast food chain, Big League Burger. A classic overachiever, Pepper has done her best to fit in at her fancy private school, but she still feels like a small-town fish out of water. Her mom coaxes Pepper to oversee the company’s social media presence, which Pepper reluctantly adds to her full itinerary of swim team, baking blog with sister Paige, mostly straight A’s, and not getting lost on the subway. Jack is a NYC native, less popular twin, and heir apparent to his family’s deli, Girl Cheesing. He’s also an ace app developer who has the whole school hooked on his anonymous chat platform, Weazel. As Wolf, he enjoys refreshingly candid exchanges with Bluebird (guess who?), but would she like him IRL? Speaking of IRL, Big League Burger has a new menu item that’s suspiciously identical to Girl Cheesing’s own Grandma’s Special, and a Twitter war between them goes viral. It sounds complicated, but Lord keeps all the plates spinning with aplomb.

THOUGHTS: A strong cast of supporting characters and well-timed plot turns prevent predictability in a read that’s both savory and sweet! Emma Lord, formerly a lifestyle editor at Bustle, clearly knows NYC’s foodie-verse inside and out. With so many mouthwatering sandwiches and sweet confections, Tweet Cute is just begging to be incorporated into a potluck book club meeting!

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. The Inheritance Games. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 978-1-368-05240-5. 400 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Holy cannoli!  Jennifer Lynn Barnes is amazing! Avery Kylie Grambs lost her mother at the age of 15. Two years later she is whisked off to Texas to Tobias Hawthorne’s estate where she learns that this stranger has left her a multi-billion dollar inheritance. Leaving minimal inheritance to his children and grandchildren, Avery must live at Hawthorne House with the family for a year in order to inherit the estate. Soon Avery realizes that her inheritance is a game she must play with the Hawthorne grandsons: Nash, Grayson, Jameson, and Alexander. As clues are discovered by Avery, Grayson, and Jameson, mysteries of the past are also uncovered. Avery is determined to figure out why she was chosen by Tobias Hawthorne to inherit his estate instead of his family. Soon, Avery realizes that everything is a game and in order to stay alive, she must play and win. When the answer is revealed, Avery learns there is much more to the Hawthorne family and its past than meets the eye.

THOUGHTS: This is an amazing mystery. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a genius mystery writer. The story keeps readers mesmerized by the characters and then PUNCH right to the gut with a change this reader didn’t see coming. Words cannot express the awesomeness of The Inheritance Games and Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s ability to weave a story together flawlessly. The ending makes me need book two NOW!

Mystery          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

YA – City of Beasts; The Queen of Nothing

Wang, Corrie. City of Beasts. Freeform Books, 2019. 978-1-368-02662-8. $17.99. 374 p. Grades 9 and up.

Glori and her multi-generational group of co-habitant fees (females) are content living their lives on Grand Island outside what used to be the city of Buffalo. Nearly 17 years ago, a nuclear war killed most of civilization and left most of the planet uninhabitable. After years of natural disasters and unrest culminated with the world-wide nuclear attacks, males and females in the area around Buffalo decided to live separately. The nuclear bombings (referred to as The Night) left females unable to procreate anyway…or so they thought. Then five years ago, Glori’s mother, Majesty, gave birth to a beast (a male) they named Two Five. Mystery surrounding his birth aside, the “family” raises the male in secret… until Two Five is kidnapped and taken by beasts to Buffalo. Of course, Glori decides she must rescue her brother, against the wishes of her grandmother, the leader of the fees on Grand Island. She and Su, her best friend and co-habitant, sneak over the bridge to the city to try and rescue Two Five where they meet Sway, a beast who is nothing like the terrifying stereotype of males they were taught. Glori and Su discover there is much more to their rescue mission when they learn about the politics of this society that has been kept from them their entire lives. Not only are they trying to rescue Two Five, but they also end up fighting in a war between beasts and fees that has been 17 years in the making.

THOUGHTS: Complex world-building and relationships coupled with timely themes of politics, science, and gender stereotypes make this an intriguing read for fans of dystopia.

Dystopian          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD


Black, Holly. The Queen of Nothing (Folk of Air Book 3). Little, Brown and Company, 2019. 978-0-316-31042-0. 320 p. $19.99. Grades 9-12.

Following her exile to the mortal world by King Carden, Jude, Queen of Elfhame, is forced to return, in defiance of her exile, to Elfhame as her twin sister, Taryn, following the death of Taryn’s husband Lock.  Although only meant to be there a few hours, Jude ends up back with her father, Madoc, in his military camp. As Jude learns of Madoc’s plan to take the Blood Crown from Carden and rule Elfhame, her guise of being Taryn is also revealed.  Ending up at the court, Jude is accepted back as Queen of Elfhame by King Carden, and they begin their rule together. When Madoc challenges Carden for the crown, Carden’s actions release the spell placed upon the crown on himself. Will Jude be able to save Elfhame, Carden, and herself, or will the magic destroy all of Elfhame and all Jude has known and loved?

THOUGHTS: Black’s end of the Folk of Air trilogy develops well, but falls a bit flat with the resolution.  Conflicts are a bit too tidy with the end, although all of the rising action, climax, and falling action are excellent.  Students who enjoy fantasy and/or romance will enjoy this trilogy. The final book includes much more romance than the previous texts which was a bit awkward and led to the flat resolution.

Fantasy, Romance          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

MG – Anthem; The Skylarks’ War; The Jumbie God’s Revenge; Owling

Wiles, Deborah. Anthem (The Sixties Trilogy #3). Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-0-545-10609-2. 480 p. $19.99. Grades 4 and up.

It’s the summer of 1969. The summer of Woodstock, hippies, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Draft. After heated disagreements over Vietnam, Molly’s brother, Barry, left their home in Charleston, SC, one year ago. Now, Barry’s draft notice has arrived, and it’s up to Molly and their cousin, Norman, to find Barry and get back to Charleston in 21-days. As their adventure unwinds, Molly and Norman meet people at every stop that introduce them to life beyond their experiences. They experience music beyond their wildest dreams in Atlanta, Memphis, and LA. They help people along the way in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico that introduce them to love, heartbreak, pain, suffering, and hope. They see the changing United States through the land, the people, the music, and others’ experiences. But when they reach San Francisco, will Barry be willing to return and face life in the Army, or will their adventure lend more for Molly and Norman than either thought possible?

THOUGHTS: I have enjoyed Wiles’s Sixties Trilogy thoroughly. Wiles’s inclusion of primary source documents throughout help readers better understand this decade of change in the United States, especially in this novel. The primary sources included do not directly correlate with Molly’s and Norman’s story, but instead provide insight into the Vietnam War both in the US and in Vietnam. Wiles uses song titles with original production information at the beginning of each chapter which many students will use as a launch point into the music and figuring out the correlations between the titles and the chapters. Although written for middle grade students, this title, and trilogy, are insightful for all ages and recommended for upper elementary, middle school, and high school collections.

Historical Fiction          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Book is too small a word to describe Wiles’ third entry in her 60’s trilogy. It is a gift wrapped seminar on the 1960s, particularly the year 1969. But seminar sounds dry, and Anthem is anything but dry. It is bursting at the seams with color, texture, sound and emotion. Molly’s brother, Barry, ran away from home after an argument with his father, and the family has not heard from him in a year, when his induction notice arrives. Molly’s mother decides 14-year-old Molly and her 17-year-old cousin, Norman, must go find Barry and bring him home before his army physical date. Barry has secretly been writing to Norman, and the last letter came from San Francisco. Despite the misgivings of both teens, they pack up Norman’s school bus (a parting gift from Barry) and leave Charleston South Carolina. Norman, a drummer, stipulates that the trip must include music, and therein lies the cohesive thread of their journey, as they travel the country ingesting the culture and music of the era, meeting people vastly outside their conventional upbringings, and growing up so fast it can be heartbreaking to read. But aside from the novel, Anthem, like Wiles’ other books, is a cultural scrapbook of photos, news clipping and quotations which add richness to the story and understanding of the era. And, this may be the first book you’ve read with it’s own playlist, (the only thing that could make the book better is if there was a comprehensive list of all the songs mentioned in the story) the glorious soundtrack of the 1960s. The individuals Molly and Norman encounter along the way are richly nuanced, even if their appearances are brief. When Molly and Norman arrive in San Francisco, the conclusion of their quest is bittersweet, but a perfect ending to the book and the decade.

THOUGHTS: A literary tour de force, Anthem stunningly captures the upheaval of the era, as “nice” teens like Molly and Norman are introduced to a wider world which often contradicts what they thought they knew. A first purchase for libraries serving intermediate grades and higher.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


McKay, Hilary. The Skylarks’ War. Margaret McElderry Books, 2019. 978-1-534-46004-1. 324 p. Grades 6-8. $17.99.

Previously published under the title Love to Everyone, this work of historical fiction is set in London and is the story of Clarry Penrose, a young girl who lives with her brother and father. Ever since the death of the children’s mother in 1902, Mr. Penrose has been emotionally distant from his children. For the most part, Clarry and Peter must fend for themselves, although they get some guidance from a friendly neighbor and housekeeper. The high point of their year is summer, which they spend with their grandparents and cousin in Cornwall. Clarry wants to have the same opportunities as her brother and cousin Rupert, like going to school and learning how to swim. Peter is sent off to boarding school with his cousin and with the encouragement of her brother and some friends, Clarry happily begins school also. Life has taken a turn for the better for the children and their friends, but then World War I breaks out. After Rupert joins the army and is presumed killed in action, life for the Penrose family changes forever. McKay has written an engaging novel and takes us on a journey of Clarry’s life from infancy through young adulthood. There is a bit of a surprise ending, and readers will wish for a sequel.

THOUGHTS: Purchase for readers who enjoy books about family life with well-developed characters or for those who appreciate historical fiction.

Historical Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Baptiste, Tracey. The Jumbie God’s Revenge. Algonquin Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-616-20891-2. 263 p. $16.95. Grades 3-7.

Corrine has had enough dealings with the jumbies, the magical creatures that stir and stalk on her Caribbean island home, thank you very much. But when a storm, a monster hurricane unlike anything ever seen, strikes the island, she knows it must be the work of a powerful jumbie, but why? She and her friends first work to move their friends and family to safety, then turn their attention to things mystical and magical. Corrine talks with jumbie Mama D’Leau and realizes her own past actions may lie at fault, upsetting the great god Hurican, who now seems determined to destroy the island in revenge. Can Corrine appease the god and set things right before it is too late? This third entry in Baptiste’s Jumbies series again highlights Corrine’s love of family and friends, and loyalty to her community. She and her friends may act recklessly at times (certainly in the view of their families), but they are wise in the ways of the jumbies, trust each other implicitly, and are willing to put themselves at risk to save those they love. Baptiste lovingly depicts life on their Caribbean  island and weaves in its folklore to craft a warm story in the eye of the storm. Corrine’s firm faith in family saves the day and the island.

THOUGHTS: While the story can hold up as an independent read, having read the prior two books will vastly improve the experience. Introduce the series as a whole to lovers of Rick Riordan Presents books and other folklore and mythology fans. Corinne is a feisty, loyal girl readers will enjoy. 

Fantasy (mythology)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Wilson, Mark. Owling: Enter the World of the Mysterious Birds of the Night. Storey Publishing, 2019. 978-1-612-12962-4. 120 p. $18.95. Grades 3-8. 

Owling introduces readers to the 19 species of owls native to North America. An introductory chapter informs readers about general owl characteristics, including physical characteristics, hunting habits, mating, nesting, and the owl life cycle. Two to four page profiles of each of the 19 species of North American owls comprise the majority of the volume. Each profile includes unique identifying characteristics, geographic range, description of the owl’s hoot/vocalizations, nesting behaviors, and hunting habits and prey. Numerous photos show the owls in the wild, in flight, hunting, and nesting. Close up photos are used to show unique physical characteristics of each species. Additional chapters discuss finding owls in the wild and creating an owl friendly environment, as well as working with owls (scientists, educators, rehabilitators, etc).

THOUGHTS: This is one of the best non-fiction books I have had the opportunity to read in the past year. The author is an owl educator and photographer, and his passion and knowledge about the subject matter is readily apparent. This title is sure to be popular with students interested in animals or wildlife who will enjoy the fantastic photos and comprehensive information.

598.9 Birds          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets; ATVs; Lowriders; Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw; The Upper Case; Kylie Jean Recipe Queen; Karl’s New Beak; True Tales of Rescue; Fearless Felines; Stuffed; Anya and the Dragon; Little Bro, Big Sis; Thinker; Rosie and Rasmus; Firefighters’ Handbook; The Superlative A. Lincoln; Good Dad Diego; Milton & Odie; Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries; Beastly Puzzles; Who Am I; Instructions Not Included

Smith, Alex T. Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets. Peachtree. 2019. 978-1-682-63130-0. $16.95. Grades 2-4.

Another Mr. Penguin adventure! This time, Mr. Penguin is finishing a very important mission, when disaster seems to strike on his return home! With every move he makes, something bad happens! His plan crashes, small rodent animals are stolen, a mysterious castle that was once quiet is now making strange sounds, and he has no fish fingers to eat! Can Mr. Penguin solve the mystery of the castle AND return his parcel back to the museum? Read to find out!

THOUGHTS: Another funny Mr. Penguin adventure is here! Elementary readers will be excited to see the crazy leaps and bounds Mr. Penguin and his trusty spider side-kick Collin take. An enjoyable chapter book read!

Fantasy          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Shaffer, Lindsay. ATVs. Bellwether. 2019. 978-1-626-17870-0. $19.95. Grades 3-6.

This information guide to ATVs is a great resource for elementary readers interested in active outdoor recreation. ATVs feature a wide variety of information on the history, types, gear, and fast facts all about ATVs. This intermediate read has text and pictures that are engaging and informative, well balanced between the two. Elementary readers will enjoy the pictures, all the while learning new information about this fast vehicle. The back of the book contains a glossary, index, and additional information sources, both in print and on the web.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun informational piece for young active readers, part of the Full Throttle series!

629.228 ATVs, Vehicles          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Adamson, Thomas K. Lowriders. Bellwether. 2019. 978-1-62617-873-1. $19.95. Grades 3-6.

Other Books in the Full Throttle Series (Series total: $239.40)
Dragsters – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179318
Indy Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179325
Karts – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179332
Sport Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179349
4×4 Trucks – Shaffer, Lindsay. 2018. 9781626178694
Dirt Bikes – Shaffer, Lindsay. 2018. 9781626178717
Hot Rods – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178724
Monster Trucks – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178748
Motocross Cycles – Shaffer, Lindsay.2018. 9781626178755
Stock Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178762

Part of the Full Throttle series, Lowriders is an informational resource to the Lowrider vehicle, great for elementary readers. Full of pictures, text, fast facts, timelines, and more, this book is sure to pull in elementary readers that are interested in cars, specifically ones that seem to hop! Readers will learn a bit about competitions and the hydraulics that are used to make these lowriders bounce.

THOUGHTS: This is another fun informational read in the Full Throttle series!

629.222 Lowriders, Vehicles          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Loveless, Gina, and Andrea Bell. Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw. Andrews McMeel Publishing. 2019. 978-1-524-85548-2. $13.99. Grades 2-5.

It’s only taken a month since Robin received her diary to start writing in it, but now she is committed! Unfortunately, Day 1 isn’t the best beginning of a diary. It starts great but then ends terribly. She didn’t mean to give Marinara a bloody nose when playing basketball. She just got angry when he was being rude to her. It seems from then on, things go downhill. Mary Ann still won’t talk to her after missing her big day, and the bully keeps stealing everyone’s Bonus Bucks. Add on that Robin accidentally got the Bonus Bucks banned, everyone is mad at her, and she still can’t get Mary Ann to be her friend again… it seems that every good intention is ending badly! Can Robin, the 5th Grade Outlaw, solve these problems?

THOUGHTS: An Epic! Original story that is easy to read with large, spacious text; fun illustrations that create a graphic novel type feel; and written in a diary format. A fun read for a variety of readers who like some action that deserves a hero… or an outlaw!

Realistic Fiction           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Lazar, Tara. The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-02765-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-9. 

There’s trouble in River Capital City. All the upper case letters have disappeared except for Private I. Now he’s on the case, trying to locate the missing letters in a city that, devoid of its capitals, no longer makes sense. This riotous book is filled with puns, both verbal and pictorial, with brightly colored, humorous illustrations by Ross MacDonald. As Private I moves about the city, conducting interviews and looking for clues, readers will giggle with delight. And the denouement! What a surprise! But also a subtle lesson that sometimes even the most outgoing of us need some quiet time.

THOUGHTS: This utterly delightful picture book, reminiscent of Audrey Woods’ alphabet series, begs to be read aloud at story time, as well as given a closer one-on-one reading. There are so many puns and jokes to catch, it will stand up to multiple readings. A recommended purchase for libraries serving primary grades.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Green, Gail, and Marci Peschke. Kylie Jean Recipe Queen. Picture Window Books, 2019. $20.99 ea. $83.96 set of 4. 32 p. Grades 2-4. 

Breakfast Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82850-1
Dinner Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82849-5
Lunch Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82848-8
Treat Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82847-1

Fictional character Kylie Jean is back, this time in a non-fiction cooking series where she shares some of her favorite recipes. This reviewer had the opportunity to read the volume focusing on breakfast recipes. Recipes include smoothies, rainbow waffles, energy bars, and more–including a recipe for Fido! Designed for elementary-aged chefs, working with adult assistance, each recipe features step-by-step instructions (emphasizing points when adult assistance will be required), a full page photo of the finished product, as will as tips and creative options.

THOUGHTS: A nice addition for elementary libraries looking to update or expand their cooking collections (especially libraries that already own the Kylie Jean fiction series). Sure to hold appeal for aspiring chefs looking to try out new recipes.

641.5 Cooking            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Nargi, Lela. Karl’s New Beak: 3-D Printing Builds a Bird a Better Life. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-684-46026-7. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 1-3.

Karl, an Abyssinian ground hornbill at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, had a problem–a big problem. A large portion of his lower beak had worn away! This left him dependent on his keepers for special food, as he was not able to pinch insects or small mammals off the ground with his beak. His quality of life was impacted in other ways as well. He couldn’t engage in hunting behaviors or interact with the surrounding environment as he normally would. In order to improve Karl’s quality of life, his keepers decided to create a prosthetic beak using a 3-D printer. Author Lela Nargi relates Karl’s journey and the 3-D beak creation process in Karl’s New Beak. The text is accompanied by numerous large photos and drawings. A section including basic facts about the Abyssinian ground hornbill and a glossary are also included. As part of Capstone’s 4-D line of books, readers can access supplemental video material via an app or online.

THOUGHTS: This engaging title is a must buy for elementary library collections, especially those looking to expand their STEM-related collections. Karl’s story lends itself to lessons on engineering, 3-D printing, cooperation and innovation, just to name a few.

636.089 Veterinary medicine          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Einhorn, Kama. True Tales of Rescue. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. $14.99 ea. 143 p. Grades 3-7. 

    Go, Goats!. 978-132-876706-6
    Tiger Time. 978-132-876707-3

The purpose of the True Tales of Rescue series is to inform readers about animal sanctuaries and their mission of animal rescue, recovery, rehabilitation, and release. Go, Goats! examines the farm animal rescue efforts of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. The narrator of the book is Lucia, the oldest goat at the sanctuary. She takes readers on a tour of the facility and describes the journey of the largest group of goats the sanctuary has ever rescued. Along the way, readers learn about the steps in the animal rescue process, the services provided by the sanctuary, the daily life of the animals, and facts about goats. Tiger Time is narrated by Kamal the tiger, a resident of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. He informs readers about various aspects of wild animal rescue and how these creatures are rehabilitated and live in the sanctuary. Readers also learn many facts about tigers. The series is written in an engaging and conversational style. Readers feel like they are sitting down and having a chat with Lucia and Kamal. The text is accompanied by numerous photographs of the animals and the sanctuaries. Suggestions for supporting sanctuaries and animals are also provided.

THOUGHTS: This series is sure to be popular with animal lovers. The conversational style of the text makes the series a great non-fiction option for reluctant readers. In addition to these newest titles, librarians should also consider purchasing the prior titles in the series.

636.7, 599 Farm Animals, Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Hamilton, Kimberlie. Fearless Felines: 30 True Tales of Courageous Cats. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-35583-3. $9.99. 160 p. Grades 3-7.

Fearless Felines recounts the stories of cats from around the world and throughout history who led amazing and unique lives. For example there’s Sam, who spent time onboard both German and English Naval vessels in World War II; Morris, who found fame on TV commercials; Nora, the piano playing kitty; and Snowball, the Canadian cat who helped police in an investigation. Interspersed among the cat tales are lists of various feline factoids, quizzes, and historical cat lists/information. Each single page cat profile is accompanied by a full page illustration by one of seventeen artists.

THOUGHTS: A quick and enjoyable read, this title is sure to be a hit with your school’s many cat owners and fans. The text is enhanced by the variety of illustrations, completed in various styles and mediums, which helps to bring the unique personality of each cat to life.

636.8 Cats          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Braswell, Liz. Stuffed. Disney, 2019. 978-1-368-03701-3. 244 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Clark’s mom is sure that, at 10 years old, Clark is too old to play with stuffed animals. But for Clark, it isn’t play; it’s protection from the monsters he thinks come out at night. When a new playdate friend confirms that monsters are real, and “stuffies” are the defense, Clark begins to understand what is wrong with his father, who has taken to bed and looks weaker by the day. In a last ditch effort to make Clark “grow up,” his mom sends him to Camp I Can, a camp for children to break dependencies. Luckily, Clark connects with the crafts counselor who knows all about stuffies and comes up with a plan to save his dad before it’s too late. This sweet book gives voice to what all children know: stuffed animals are real. In a trading card-like structure, stuffies are given defensive point values for various characteristics, and being home-made, with love, is a big power boost. Clark epitomizes the frustration children feel at not being taken seriously by adults, but luckily he has a fan in his goth older sister, a unique character in her own right. The story includes occasional narration from one of Clark’s stuffies, which adds a twist of suspense to the story. Author Braswell also includes instructions to make one’s own stuffies.

THOUGHTS: Any reader who has ever loved a stuffed animal will delight in Stuffed.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Pasternick, Sofiya. Anya and the Dragon. Versify, 2019. 978-0-358-00607-7. 394 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Anya’s Babulya, grandmother, always tells her to not make trouble, not to stand out. This comes from her grandmother’s lifetime of experience as a Jew in Russia. But Anya attracts attention for another reason when she bravely assaults a cruel warrior from the north who threatens the village. Her bravery is noticed by Yedsha, the Tsar’s fool, who just arrived in her small village, ostensibly on a mission to study the magical creatures that dwell there. He is really seeking a dragon, thought to be extinct, and hires Anya to guide him around the area and look for one. Anya is in need of money, as the village magistrate is in the process of evicting her family from their house unless they pay back taxes her mother owes. However, when Anya finds a young dragon and discovers what a thoughtful, caring creature the dragon is, she is torn between saving her family or saving the dragon. The story reads like a cozy Russian folk tale, full of magic, mythical creatures, ghosts, and evil soldiers. Anya is drawn into the warmth of the fool’s large family, making friends with his youngest son Ivan. But as Anya prepares for her Bat Mitzvah, her Torah readings cause her to question the morality of her work with Yedsha Ivanovitch. Is it acceptable to take one life to save many? Is an animal life as valuable as a human life? Jewish culture and history run through the story like the threads of magic the villagers use. The conclusion of the book highlights Anya’s bravery and cleverness, and leaves readers wanting more. Luckly, a sequel is on the way.

THOUGHTS: Another stellar entry in the cultural folktale/adventure genre, this time from Kwame Alexander’s imprint. The story is fast paced, with magic, a generous supply of magical creatures, and villains too. Anya is thoughtful, loyal, and quick on her feet. While she continuously rues that she alone in the village has no magic, it is obvious that she has many other gifts. This book will find a home with any reader who loves magical adventures and folk tales.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Bonilla, Rocio. Little Bro, Big Sis. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-623-54109-5. 56 p. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Big Sis is an overbearing rhinoceros according to Little Bro, but she does have some positive qualities. Little Bro is an annoying monkey who always gets in the way, according to Big Sis, but he does have some endearing moments. As Little Bro and Big Sis consider their relationship, they realize that maybe it isn’t so bad having one sibling, especially when a new baby comes into the family.

THOUGHTS: With humorous illustrations that support the development between the two siblings, Little Bro, Big Sis is a Flip-Me-Over Book that tells the same story from each sibling’s perspective.  It is a fun, funny picture book about sibling relationships and what happens when a family grows from two children to three. This is a great story for siblings to explore their own feelings towards one another and their feelings when their family changes.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Greenfield, Eloise. Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me. Ill. Ehsan Abdollahi, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2019. 978-1-492-67724-6. 32 p. $15.99. Grades PreK and up.

Jace and Thinker are both poets. When Thinker comes to live with Jace and his family, he is welcomed into the family. As Thinker and Jace share their poetry with one another, they share their thoughts and feelings, their music from their words. But, when Jace has to go to school and Thinker cannot, Thinker begins to worry that Jace is ashamed of him and his poems. He worries that he is not good enough for Jace and needs to be more of a dog in public and less of himself, the poet. When pet day comes, Thinker promises to only bark and not embarrass Jace, but he cannot limit who he is, so he takes the stage to recite poetry, and soon all of the pets are sharing their skills, singing, dancing, walking upside down, and more.  Jace is proud of Thinker for staying true to himself and sharing his poetry.

THOUGHTS: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me is a wonderful collection of poems that reminds readers always to remain true to who you are and not worry about what others think. Not only are the poems fun, sharing a story of man’s best friend and understanding of character, but the illustrations are gorgeous. Created using paper cuts, each illustration adds a brightness to the poem and connects each element of the poet’s story together.  The poems and illustrations continually remind the reader that being true to you is the key.

Poetry        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Geddes, Serena. Rosie and Rasmus. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-4814-9874-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-12.

Rosie and Rasmus both have a wish. Rosie wishes for a friend, and Rasmus wants to fly. One day when Rosie goes out by the water, she meets Rasmus. She teaches him things that she enjoys, and he shows her lots of things that can fly. Rosie encourages Rasmus to continue trying to fly. When Rasmus finally grows his wings and learns to fly, he and Rosie must part ways. Although Rosie is sad to lose her friend, she realizes that perhaps she can do for another what Rasmus did for her.

THOUGHTS: Rosie and Rasmus is an endearing picture book about friendship, encouragement, perseverance, and loss. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and add to the beauty of this story of friendship, growth, and loss. This is a wonderful book for children who are struggling to fit in socially, who are shy, or who are just looking for a friend.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


McCarthy, Meghan. Firefighters’ Handbook. Simon & Schuster, 2019. 978-1-534-41733-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Well-known children’s non-fiction author-illustrator Megan McCarthy’s newest title introduces young readers to the career of firefighting. The physical requirements of the job, including types overall fitness activities (running, biking, etc.) as well as job-specific fitness requirements (climbing stairs, lifting equipment, etc.) are presented and discussed. Diagrams and descriptions explain firefighting gear, equipment, and vehicles. Types of firefighting situations and scenarios as well as jobs and duties carried out in the firehouse are also shown and described. Back matter includes an interview with a retired battalion chief and his answers to some questions from children.

THOUGHTS: Readers with an interest in firefighting will be sure to appreciate this title. The illustrations are appealing and engaging, and the text clearly explains all the facets of the firefighting profession to younger readers. Highly recommended.

628.9 Firefighting           Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Meyer, Eileen R. The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89937-6. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K-4.

The Superlative A. Lincoln relates key events and milestones in Abraham Lincoln’s life via 19 poems. Each poem is titled with a different superlative statement. “Best Lumberjack” relates Lincoln’s prowess with an ax, “Best Yarn Spinner” focuses on his ability to tell a tale, and “Best Use of an Accessory” is written from the point of view of Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat. Accompanying each poem is a paragraph that explains the history behind the poetry. The text is complimented by Dave Szalay’s illustrations, which accompany each poem. The illustrations, while digitally created, have a vintage vibe and feel that seem perfect for a history-related title.

THOUGHTS: These fun poems are a great way to engage students and share some important facts about our 16th President. The title could be used in various lessons, including poetry, Presidents Day, and Abraham Lincoln. Highly recommended for elementary collections.

811 Poetry          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Maloney, Brenna. Good Dad Diego. Viking, 2019. 978-0-451-48126-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.

Diego the dog is a pug who has a tough job–he is a father! In that capacity, he has to wear many hats. Sometimes he is the law of the household, focusing on preventing his puppies from misbehaving. Other roles he takes on include cook, dishwasher, nurse, and repairman. The most important hat he wears, though, is simply Dad. He loves his pups and wants to care for them and set a good example. This photographic picture book features illustrations of Diego wearing his different hats (for example, a policeman’s hat when he is the law, a chef’s hat when he is the cook). While most photos focus on Diego, the closing pages introduce readers to his adorable pups.

THOUGHTS: Sure to be a hit with dog lovers, this title would make a great read aloud and might also prompt discussion on the various jobs and roles carried out within households.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Fraser, Mary Ann. Milton & Odie and the Bigger-than-Bigmouth Bass. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-623-54098-2. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades PreK-2.

As the story opens, otters Milton and Odie have woken up in their homes with the same idea-they will spend the day ice fishing! They travel to separate areas of a lake and drop their lines in the water. However, Milton and Odie’s personalities could not be more different. Milton has a grumpy personality and a pessimistic attitude. He’s sure he is unlikely to catch anything as the lake probably doesn’t have anything worth catching. Odie, on the other hand, is cheerful and always sees the positive side of things. For example, when he reels in an abandoned fishing net rather than a fish, he views it as a great and useful find. When fate (and tangled fishing lines) bring these two polar opposites together, they learn a lesson about the power of teamwork and patience, and optimistic outlooks.

THOUGHTS: This delightful story is sure to bring a smile to the face of readers and would make an excellent read aloud, as Milton and Odie have such distinct personalities. The book could easily be incorporated into lessons and discussions on topics such as friendship, feelings, and emotions.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Hogan, Eric, and Tara Hungerford. Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries. Firefly Books, 2019. $19.95 ea. 32 p. Grades PreK-2.

The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder. 978-0-228-10189-5.
The Case of the Story Rock. 978-0-228-10191-8.
The Case of the Vanishing Caterpillar. 978-0-228-10193-2.
The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper. 978-0-228-10195-6.

The Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries are adapted from a popular Canadian children’s television program. Each volume features main characters Scout and Daisy, mice best friends, who embark on a journey to solve a nature-related mystery (for example, “why did my caterpillar friend disappear?”). They use their prior knowledge and observations recorded in a field book to guide them as they go out into nature to investigate further. Next, they consult books in the library to verify what they have learned (or to add to their knowledge) in order to solve the mystery. With their case now closed, they return to the outdoors and take a “mindful moment” to reflect on the knowledge they have gained. Each book contains a “Field Notes” section with information, definitions, photos, diagrams, etc. about the mystery topic as well as a nature craft related to the story.

THOUGHTS: As a librarian, I really liked how these books introduced and reinforced the idea of the research process for younger readers throughout the storyline. Scout and Daisy identify a question (aka the mystery), make and record observations, and conduct research in the library in order to solve the mystery. The series encourages readers to go out into nature, explore and engage with the world around them and to be curious. (Note: Familiarity with the Gumboot Kids television program is not needed in order to understand and enjoy these titles).

500s Natural Sciences        Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Poliquin, Rachel. Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game. Ill. Byron Eggenschwiler. Kids Can Press, 2019. 978-1-771-38913-6. 32 p. $16.99. Grades 2-5.

Beastly Puzzles is a guessing game for readers to see how much they know, or think they know, about an animal. Each tri-fold spread begins in a monochromatic room, a study, a sewing room, a bedroom, etc., with colorful pictures of clues. The clues help readers answer the question, “What animal could you make with…”, along with a hint at the bottom of the page. After readers put their critical thinking to a test to figure out the animal represented by the clues, the page folds out into the animal and information about it.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun, challenging way to test critical thinking, animal knowledge, and learn about animals. It is a great addition to elementary libraries.

793.73 Puzzle Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 


Flach, Tim. Who Am I? A Peek-Through-Pages Book of Endangered Animals. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73646-9. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

Who Am I? guides young readers through twelve endangered species by providing clues about each one. The clues allow readers to use their knowledge of animals to guess the endangered species. Some are obvious: the giant panda, a polar bear, and a gorilla. Others are not: the crowned sifaka, the white-bellied pangolin, and the axolotl.  Each set of clues provides information about the animal. Additional information about each animal is located in the back of the book in the “Who are we?” section. This text also includes, “Wanted! Caretakers for Planet Earth – How You Can Help,” a section about what readers and humanity can do to help endangered animals and the planet in general.

THOUGHTS: This title is a fun way for early elementary students to learn about endangered species. It rotates between those they may know and those they probably do not. It is a great source for introducing endangered animals and also elementary appropriate research (or search).

591.68 Endangered Animals          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Brown, Tami Lewis, and Debbie Loren Dunn. Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future. Ill. Chelsea Beck. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-01105-1. 64 p. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty all came from different backgrounds but had one thing in common: their understanding of math. Brought together during World War II, these three women were tasked to use their math skills to program ENIAC, one of the world’s earliest computers. With no instructions, the women set out to create a code for ENIAC that would prove a computer’s worth in both war and peace. But, programming a 13-ton machine with no prior knowledge, except math, was not easy. The women worked first to calculate all of the aspects needed to program ENIAC, and then they had to test it. They were on a deadline and ENIAC did not compute properly. What was wrong? How would they figure out their problem before it was too late?

THOUGHTS: Instructions Not Included is the story of three women who were computer science pioneers.  Using only their knowledge of math, they were able to program one of the earliest computers to use for war. Both Jean Jennings and Betty Snyder remained in the computer science field after the ENIAC project. Betty went on to help write both COBOL and FORTRAN computer languages with Grace Hopper and others. Jean helped develop stored-programming. The “Author’s Note” at the end of the book provides additional details about each woman. Resources for further reading are also provided. This is an informative picture book to help students recognize the importance of math and the development of computer science.

004 Computer Science; 920 Biography Compilation          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD