Abdo, Kenny. Guidebooks to the Unexplained. Abdo Zoom. 2020. $19.95 each. $119.70 for set of 6. Gr. 2-5
Area 51. 978-1-532-12933-9. Cryptids.978-1-532-12934-6. Ghosts. 978-1-532-12937-7. Lost Lands. 978-1-532-12935-3. Men in Black. 978-1-532-12936-0. Witches. 978-1-532-12938-4.
Have you ever wondered about the mysterious places and creatures that captivate our media and folklore? Have you ever wondered if these places are actually real or if there is a creature out in the forest or mountain, lurking about? If so, then this series is for you. Guidebooks to the Unexplained takes you on a brief adventure, looking at some of the most famous places and creatures you hear about in stories and movies, providing a information and even more wonderings and questions than you started with!
THOUGHTS: This is a beginner series to these questions that many readers have. This series would be a great way to begin research on a topic!
Faruqi, Saadia. Yasmin the Gardner. Picture Window Books, 2020. 978-1-515-84641-3. $15.99. Gr K – 2.
It is spring time, and Yasmin and her Baba are going to plant a garden! Yasmin is excited to plant all sorts of different items, from vegetables to flowers. After choosing her flower seeds, Yasmin is sure to provide her plant with lots of sunlight, water, and good soil. Her flower, however, is wilting! What can Yasmin do to help her flower grow?
THOUGHTS: The culture appreciation and information provided at the end of this book is fantastic. Yasmin is from Pakistan, and she explains that she is proud of her heritage and explains different information about her country!
Howard, Martin. Extraordinary Lives. Kane Miller EDC Publishing, 2020. $5.99 ea. $35.94 set of 6. 128 p. Grades 2-5.
Neil Armstrong. 978-1-684-64073-7.
Anne Frank. 978-1-684-64072-0. Stephen Hawking. 978-1-684-64075-1.
Katherine Johnson. 978-1-684-64074-7. Rosa Parks. 978-1-684-64077-5.
Malala Yousafzai. 978-1-684-64076-8.
This reviewer read Neil Armstrong in the Extraordinary Lives series. This illustrated novel, written for grades 2-5, tells the story of Neil Armstrong from his nomadic childhood through his famous first steps on the moon, and his years after his famous moonwalk until his death in 2012. Includes quotes throughout the text, a Timeline, a Some Things to Think About section, and an Index.
THOUGHTS: This series would be an excellent addition to an elementary library. These kid friendly books will appeal to those who enjoy biographies and may just lure in those reluctant readers as well. Illustrated throughout the story, the text is presented in a very reader friendly manner.
92 BiographyKrista Fitzpatrick-Waldron Mercy Academy
Theule, Larissa. A Way With Wild Things. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-681-19039-6. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades K-2.
Beautifully written and illustrated! Poppy’s shy nature makes her want to fade into the background around people, but outside, amongst the beauty of nature, Poppy really blooms. She loves the insects and flowers and knows much about them. When a dragonfly lands on her hand at a birthday party for Grandma Phyllis, all eyes are on Poppy. Grandma Phyllis shares that “Poppy’s got a way with wild things,” and she finds the courage to tell everyone the scientific name for the dragonfly. Poppy decides that rather than being a wallflower, she’s a wildflower. Larissa Theule’s beautiful language combines with Sara Palacios’s layered illustrations to bring Poppy to life.
THOUGHTS: Shy kids will see themselves in Poppy. A lovely book overall.
Galligan, Gale. Logan Likes Mary Anne! (The Baby-Sitters Club). Graphix, 2020. 978-1-338-30455-8. $24.99. 164 p. Grades 3-6.
It’s time to start eighth grade, and Mary Anne is excited but nervous. The BSC is busier than ever, Mary Anne just might get up the nerve to ask her father for a kitten, and school is going well…enter Logan Bruno, the movie star look-alike new kid from Louisville. He’s fun, cute, and loves kids! When the BSC sends Logan and Mary Anne on a baby-sitting job together, they hit it off and Mary Anne and Logan start hanging out more often, including going to a big dance together. After some embarrassing moments and misunderstandings, Mary Anne and Logan’s relationship blossoms. Other highlights: Jessi Ramsey makes her first appearance in Stoneybrook, Mary Anne adopts kitten Tigger with her father’s blessing, and Jessi and Logan become BSC members. While I favor Raina Telgemeier’s illustration style over Gale Galligan’s, Galligan adapted Ann M. Martin’s chapter book well and gave the story and characters some great updating. Also, while the original Logan was blonde and blue-eyed, Galligan’s Logan is Black, adding a welcome and realistic diversity to the BSC.
THOUGHTS: A solid addition to a very popular series.
Grimes, Nikki. Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-46267-0. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice follows Kamala Harris from growing up as a young girl in Oakland until she ran for President of the United States in 2019. The biography of Kamala is backed by the story of a young girl named Eve who is talking with her mom about an incident that happened at school. Eve’s story helps drive the story of Kamala Harris’s life, and you easily can follow Eve’s narrative as it is in a different font compared to Kamala’s. The illustrations show Kamala’s life and mirror the story, as well as showing Eve and her mother throughout the story. The book ends right when Kamala Harris dropped out of the 2020 Presidential race, and does not include her becoming Joe Biden’s Vice President nominee. The illustrations are beautiful and give extra detail to the story as the reader goes through.
THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful addition to an elementary school biography collection that I highly recommend!
Biography Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter
MacLachlan, Patricia. Prairie Days. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020. 978-1-442-44191-0. $17.99. Grades K-3.
This beautifully illustrated picture book is an ode to carefree summer days on the prairie. Told in the voice of a young girl, this semi-autobiographical work is set in a farming community around the late 1940s. The author’s lyrical text describes how the girl and her friends spend their days playing kick the can, swimming in the farm pond, riding horses, and buying candy at the general store. MacLachlan’s verse is a delight for the senses, as she writes about the smell of “the cattle and bluegrass and hyssop,” the taste of cold drinks, the sight of prairie dogs, the feel of grain that “sneaked into our pockets,” and the sound of dogs barking as they herd sheep. The illustrations are colorful collages reminiscent of the work of Ezra Jack Keats. To make this artwork, Archer uses acrylics, ink, textured and homemade paper, stamps, origami and newsprint and even includes what appears to be real lace for the curtains. Children will enjoy poring over these imaginative drawings. The text and images work together to take the reader back to a happy-go-lucky time, when children played outside all day until their parents called them home at night.
THOUGHTS: This engaging book should be a contender for the Caldecott Award. The story will leave young listeners yearning for summer vacation and mature readers nostalgic for the summers of their childhood.
Rhee, Helena Ku. The Paper Kingdom. Random House, 2020. 978-0-525-64461-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Daniel’s parents work as janitors on night shift. One night, his usual babysitter is unable to come over and stay with him, so he must go to work with his parents. In order to keep Daniel entertained, his parents tell him they work for the Paper King, cleaning up after the messy dragons and other inhabitants of the kingdom. Daniel becomes upset that his parents have to clean up messes that were made by others, but they appease him by telling him that some day, when he becomes king, he can sit in his throne and tell the dragons to be nice and neat. They remind him, however, that he will need to be kind to the dragons, for they work hard, too. An uplifting story about hard work, family, imagination, and kindness, this title makes for a great read aloud.
THOUGHTS: Centering on a brown-skinned, black-haired, working-class family, this book is a beautiful celebration of diversity and manual labor. It is definitely relatable for all working-class families and could spark some meaningful discussions about the power of hard work and the importance of remaining humble and kind. Gorgeous illustrations accompany this moving story.
Donwerth-Chikamatsu, Annie. Beyond Me. Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-43789-9. 291 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.
This novel written in verse is about eleven year old Maya who lives in Japan with her American mother and Japanese father. Follow Maya as she lives through the events of March 11, 2011, the day a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. Maya and her family are among the lucky ones who live outside of Tokyo, far enough away from the center of the earthquake, tsunamis, and subsequent radiation leaks. As Maya sits by and watches her family do things to help, Maya feels helpless. Rescuing a cat that she finds out was abandoned after the quake, planting radiation absorbing sunflowers, and making 1,000 paper cranes with her friend Yuka help to give her a purpose as she waits for the next aftershock to hit.
THOUGHTS: This book is told from an eleven year old’s point of view and really highlights the stress and worry kids feel when a natural disaster happens. I like that Maya’s mother helps her find ways she can help in a crisis.
Woollvin, Bethan. Bo the Brave. Peachtree Publishing, . 978-1-682-63182-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
When Bo’s older brothers set off on a monster hunt, she wants to accompany them, but they refuse, telling her she’s too little. Instead of accepting their words, Bo begins her own quest. Each monster she encounters makes her pause, and she takes time to look past first impressions and gets to know each creature’s true nature. This insightfulness ultimately leads her back to her castle where she pulls off her final, most heroic act. A tight palette of orange, pink, teal, and gray provide the inspiration for this alpine world, dotted with mountains, lakes, forests, and seas. Sharp-eyed readers will notice the foreshadowing of each monster from one spread to the next.
THOUGHTS: Instead of accepting peoples’ opinions, Bo sets out to prove she’s smart and brave and strong. Her self-confidence is refreshing and will inspire readers, particularly girls, to follow their own dreams and set off on their own adventures instead of remaining on the sidelines. Themes of acceptance and not judging based solely on appearance also shine through in this medieval remix.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD