MG – History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote

Messner, Kate. History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote. Random House Children’s Books, 2020. 978-0-593-12035-4. 215 p. $13.99. Grades 5-8.

Messner delivers another hit with this second History Smashers book! This History Smasher book showcases the history of women’s voting rights with a combination of storytelling, comics, sidebars, and photographs from the time period. Messner delicately tackles the inequity that women faced with voting, but also addresses the difficulties of defining “women’s voting rights” – is it a right for all or just educated white women? Messner captures the struggle that spanned decades and highlights the various accomplishments of the women who played pivotal roles in the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Besides the story of these valiant women’s struggles, Messner also clearly explains procedures for adding amendments as well as calculating the number of votes needed to pass at each government and state level. This novel provides a look at the lesser known battles that were fought to truly make “all men are created equal” to include women!

THOUGHTS: I truly enjoyed reading this nonfiction book and look forward to more in the series! History Smashers is written in a kid friendly manner and provides an easy to understand look into historical events. The format is enjoyable and perfect for middle grade students. A great novel to teach history and make learning about the past exciting!

324.6 Voting Rights          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

MG – #MOVEMENTS (Series NF)

#MOVEMENTS. ABDO Publishing, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6 (library bound). 32 p. Grades 5-9.

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. #MeToo: Unveiling Abuse. 978-1-532-11931-6.
Felix, Rebecca. #Pride: Championing LGTBQ Rights. 978-1-532-11933-0.
—. #WomensMarch: Insisting on Equality. 978-1-532-11934-7.
Rusick, Jessica. #IAmAWitness: Confronting Bullying. 978-1-532-11930-9.
Thomas, Rachel L. #BlackLivesMatter: Protesting Racism. 978-1-532-11929-3.
—. #NeverAgain: Preventing Gun Violence. 978-1-532-11932-3.

This new series takes a look at the hottest topics of 2020. The #movements series takes hashtags that are trending on social media and brings awareness to social justice issues such as bullying, racism, and more. Each title provides an overview of the topic and introduces people who are champions for social justice. The books provide a look into how these movements came into being and provide information regarding the reasons why we fight for certain rights.

THOUGHTS: This series would be a great addition to a middle school library. These titles can help the younger generation be champions for the future. The simple text is easy to read and comprehend, which would make it a great series for struggling readers who have an interest in social justice.

306.76 Culture & Institutions          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

MG – City of Secrets

Ying, Victoria. City of Secrets. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11448-3. 252 p. $22.99. Grades 5-8.

In the city of Oskar there is a switchboard that connects more than just phone calls. Ever Barnes, an orphan, hides in the switchboard building and protects a secret that not even he knows. When the owner of the switchboard brings his daughter Hannah to see how it works, she discovers Ever and is instantly intrigued. When a secret society threatens to kill Ever and take the secret for themselves, Hannah, Ever and a switchboard worker must go to great lengths to protect the secret and the city.

THOUGHTS: This graphic novel delivers a beautiful storyline and will captivate readers who love adventure and spy stories! Both of the children in the story play a vital role, and it is a breath of fresh air to see a girl protagonist. This graphic novel does not disappoint!

Graphic Novel          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

MG – Team Earth (Series NF)

Team Earth. ABDO Publishing, 2020. $22.95 ea. $137.70 set of 6 (library bound). 48 p. Grades 4-8.

Huddleston, Emma. Beneficial Insects: Bugs Helping Plants Survive. 978-1-532-19097-1.
—. Decomposers and Scavengers: Nature’s Recyclers. 978-1-532-10908-8.
—. Seed Dispersers: Poop, Fur, and Other Ways Animals Scatter Seeds. 978-1-532-19101-5.
—. Symbiotic Relationships: Animals and Plants Working Together. 978-1-532-19102-2.
London, Martha. Ecosystem Architects: Animals Building Incredible Structures. 978-1-532-19099-5.
—. Pollinators: Animals Helping Plants Thrive. 978-1-532-19100-8.

This series explores the ways in which animals and insects help each other within the ecosystems we live in. Each title explores the roles each organism plays – whether as a seed spreader, a decomposer, or a beneficial bug – within delicate ecosystems. The pages are filled with beautiful photographs, fun facts, and easy to read text. Each title provides a glimpse into the ways that humans can help protect our environment and allows readers a glimpse into parts of our world we often overlook.

THOUGHTS: A high interest series for students in grades 3-6 that have an interest in science and are looking to learn more about the relationships between animals, plants, and insects. The format of the text is student friendly and organized in an easy to read fashion. The QR codes in the back offer additional information for students looking for further information.

632.9 Plant Injuries, Diseases, & Pests          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Elem. – Macca the Alpaca

Cosgrove, Matt. Macca the Alpaca. Scholastic Press, 2020. $14.99. Pre-K. 978-1-338-60282-1. 

Loveable Macca is a happy alpaca until he meets a bully llama named Harmer. When the two face-off in a series of challenges to see who is the strongest, Macca uses wit to win each match until even Harmer has to admit that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Macca gives an excellent lesson on how to be a friend with a hug at the end of the story. Brief rhyming text and bold colorful illustrations are perfect for repetitive reading to young listeners.

THOUGHTS: Friendship, bullying, and opposites are themes that run throughout, making this an excellent selection for preschool or kindergarten.

Board Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

MG – Hidden History/Hidden in History (Series NF)

Hidden History/Hidden in History. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. $15.96 ea. $95.76 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-9.

Custance, Petrice. Women Writers. 978-0-77877309-2.
—. Women Inventors. 978-0-7787-7305-4.
Eason, Sarah. Women Rulers. 978-0-7787-7299-6.
—. Women Warriors. 978-0-7787-7308-5.
O’Brien, Cynthia. Women Scientists. 978-0-7787-7300-9.
Rodger, Ellen. Women Explorers. 978-0-7787-7304-7.

The Hidden in History series introduces middle grade readers to lesser known women inventors, writers, rulers, warriors, scientists, and explorers through informational text and full color photos. Pages brimming with historical information are enhanced with brightly colored text boxes, illustrations, and images. Each of the five chapters is divided into a theme. Chapter one focuses on the hidden aspect of women in history while the following four provide biographical information on women who lived in Asia, America, Europe, and Africa. In Women Inventors, readers will learn about the women who invented paper bags, home security systems, coffee filters, and the Wing Chun style of kung fu. Readers also will learn about the lives of extraordinary women who were business tycoons like Madam C.J. Walker along with contemporary scientists such as Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal and other women inventors who have made revolutionary advances in science. In Women Writers, readers will learn about Amelia Lanyer, the woman some think may have been the real Shakespeare. Additionally, readers will learn about feminist writers around the globe who used their pens despite all odds to speak out in favor of suffrage, to condemn systemic racism, and to tell stories of marginalized communities. Women through all periods of history from ancient times through the 21st Century are featured. An index and glossary can be found at the back of each book.

THOUGHTS: This series is a great resource for any middle or intermediate school library. The colorful pages will make these attractive to readers who are interested in learning more about women throughout history.

920 Collective Biography          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
609.2 Biography of Inventors
809 History of Literatures

YA – The Queen’s Assassin

De la Cruz, Melissa. The Queen’s Assassin. Penguin Random House, 2020. 978-0-525-51591-3. $18.99. 384p. Grades 9-12.

In the land of Renovia, Shadow of the Honey Glade longs to be an official member of the Guild in which she was raised and become an apprentice to Caledon Holt, the Queen’s Assassin like his father before him. When their paths inadvertently cross and he saves her life, she takes advantage of an opportunity to return the favor. When Cal is sent to Deersia prison to protect his identity as an assassin and await his next assignment from the queen, Shadow helps him escape and convinces him that she was sent to break him out and accompany him on his mission to infiltrate the country of Montrice to discover any plots against Renovia. Shadow is actually disobeying her aunts and mother, members of the Guild, to avoid becoming a lady of the queen’s court, but Cal believes her story, especially since her magic makes her a valuable partner as they travel to Montrice. Posing as brother and sister, Cal and Shadow are quickly swept up into Montrice society, making friends with aristocrats and the king, but as they attend hunts and balls for the sake of their mission, they can’t deny their growing attraction to each other. However, Cal’s life won’t be his own unless he can locate the missing Deian scrolls for the queen, and Shadow’s secrets are preventing her from living the life of an assassin. Will their love be enough without their freedom to choose the lives they want?

THOUGHTS: The Queen’s Assassin is perfect for anyone that enjoys fantasy and romance, and I loved this book for that very reason. The story is told from both Shadow’s and Caledon’s perspectives, and I always enjoy books that have more than one POV. Both main characters are essentially trapped in a life they wouldn’t have chosen for themselves, and that’s one of the reasons they are drawn to each other as they work together throughout the novel. The novel is split into three parts, including a prologue that contains some world building information and an epilogue that sets the scene for book two. This would be a great recommendation for readers who enjoy Throne of Glass and Serpent & Dove.

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

MG – Black Brother, Black Brother

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Black Brother, Black Brother. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 978-0-316-49380-2. 239 p. $16.99. Grades 4-8.

Donte Ellison is a biracial 7th grader at the exclusive Middlefield Prep. Treated unjustly because of his skin color, he is suspended from school for something he did not do. His older brother Trey is beloved at the school, and many wish Donte could be more like his lighter skinned brother. Looking for a place to belong, Donte joins a local youth center where he meets a former Olympic fencer, Arden Jones, who runs the programs for the kids. Donte, who has never been an athlete, starts training with Jones, and soon finds his niche as a fencer. But when Donte and his team have to compete against his school’s team, and the racist captain of the team whose family is the school’s largest donor, Donte has to confront his emotions, his bully, and the racism that surrounds his sport.

THOUGHTS: This book addresses many tough issues in a way that is completely appropriate for middle grade readers.  At times I felt the book did not delve into the topics as much as I would have liked, but I think middle grade readers would not feel the same. Parker Rhodes is becoming a must purchase middle grade author!

Realistic Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

Elem. – Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

Pincus, Meeg. Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. 978-1-534-11040-3. $17.99. Grades 2-4.

Did you ever wonder who discovered the migration pattern of monarch butterflies?  Pincus explains it all in this beautifully illustrated picture book. She begins with a discussion of how these insects have inhabited North America for centuries, but no one knew where the butterflies went in winter. The answer was revealed in 1976 through the cooperation of scientists, science teachers, gardeners, and many other people. It began with a Canadian scientist who began tagging the butterflies’ wings in order to track them. He and his wife placed ads in newspapers throughout the continent, asking people to help with both tagging and searching for them. Finally in Mexico, an American adventurer and his wife located the insects’ winter destination with the help of the local people. The author asks readers of today to help save the monarch’s food source and habitat before it is too late. Imamura’s mostly full bleed drawings are colorful and full of details. The back matter includes a page called “How to Help the Monarch” and more information about the migration discovery.

THOUGHTS:  This is a wonderful nonfiction text that will delight the reader. It is a perfect choice for butterfly or ecology units and is a great read aloud at any time. A first purchase for elementary collections.

595.789 Butterflies          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Raccoon’s Perfect Snowman

Wish, Katia. Raccoon’s Perfect Snowman. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. 978-1-534-11067-0. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

Raccoon loves building snowmen, and he takes the job very seriously. He sketches his designs in the snow before building, and all winter long he practices. He uses only the cleanest, whitest snow, the roundest, most symmetrical snowballs, and the finest decorations. Raccoon becomes such an expert snowman builder that he knows his friends will want his help and advice. But, when they start building together, Raccoon’s friends have a challenging time because Raccoon uses all the best supplies himself. When the building is complete, Raccoon admires his most perfect snowman yet. Only after seeing his friends’ creations – a mish-mash of lumpy snowballs formed from pine needle-speckled snow – does he realize that while his snowman is perfect, he feels perfectly awful. Raccoon calls his friends together to build one final snowman. They let loose, working together and having fun while creating a gigantic perfectly imperfect snowman. Wish’s wintery watercolor illustrations perfectly complement the text, expanding this story of simple snowy day fun.

THOUGHTS: When Raccoon lets go of his perfectionistic ideals, he realizes how much fun it can be to work as part of a team. He demonstrates empathy and self-awareness when he realizes how his friends feel about their creations and how he made them feel when he used all the best supplies. This story will work well for wintery Morning Meetings or social-emotional lessons about friendship, feelings, and perfectionism.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD