Elem. – One Girl

Beatty, Andrea. One Girl. Abrams, 2020. $16.99. 32 p. 978-1-419-71905-9. Grades K-3. 

One dejected looking little girl sits all alone on the steps of a remote porch underneath a starry sky when a glowing book falls to her feet like a comet. Immediately upon opening it, her world changes into a brightly colored  fantasyland where books grow on trees and pencils sprout from the earth. As the young girl travels through this wondrous land, she witnesses diverse women working independently as artists, scientists, and leaders. The next morning she races to school to share her treasure with an eager and diverse group of students. Shortly after, she picks up a pencil and begins writing while astonished classmates watch the magic spill from her hand. Next, boys and girls alike follow her lead and begin to read, write, and share their unique stories while elements of their stories: a tiger, a grand piano, a helicopter, and hot air balloons float overhead. Later, by the light of the moon another girl sits on the front steps and watches as several new glowing books fall from the sky. Lovely, repetitive prose “One girl glowing/shares her song” reinforces the beauty of a young girl finding her voice yet also allows the reader to be fully immersed in the opportunities she has opened with her love of books. The young girl protagonist along with her supportive teacher present as Asian with medium-beige skin and beautiful dark hair. Classmates all wear the same school uniform but represent a variety of ethnicities among skin and hair colors.

THOUGHTS: One Girl is a loving tribute to the power of reading, writing, and storytelling. In addition to being a lovely read aloud, this title would make a great introduction to a writing unit or a classroom conversation about how words and actions can affect others. Short and repetitive text surrounded by stunning art with some graphic elements make this a nice option for sharing with pre-readers or English language learners who may need a little nudge to find their reading groove. This book has a place in any school library collection, classroom libraries, and beyond.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem. – The Lady with the Books

Stinson, Kathy. The Lady with the Books. Kids Can Press, 2020. $17.99. 32 p.  978-1-525-30154-4. Grades 2-5. 

Annelise and her younger brother Peter wander aimlessly through the streets of post-World War Munich. Feeling hungry and dejected, Annelise wonders why people are attempting to clean up the rubble. Outside of a building they join a queue hoping there will be something to eat. Grey, somber streets give the reader a realistic sense of the destruction Germany was facing after the war, but a lovely green tree just outside the building is a beacon of hope. Once inside, the pair is greeted by a room filled with books. Forgetting their woes for an afternoon, the children become completely absorbed. The illustrations skillfully capture a bustling archive brimming with colorful books from around the world. The children return the next day, just in time to listen as the “lady with the books” reads aloud from The Story of Ferdinand complete with translation from English to German. This story is especially comforting to Peter and Annelise, whose father was killed during the war for “standing up to” orders. Although the children cannot borrow books from the exhibit, they are encouraged to read as many books as possible. Whimsical characters and blooming flowers creep into the pages and eventually follow the children home. Annelise is able to find hope among the destruction and vows to join the rebuilding efforts. Graphite pencil and digitally colored illustrations beautifully enhance Annelise’s mood transformation from hopelessness to regaining a childlike sense of wonder. Annelise, Peter and Mama are white with blonde hair while the story lady has the same complexion with short dark hair. Some diversity in skin and hair types is shown among the book exhibition crowds. Backmatter informs the reader that the children in this story stumbled upon an international collection of books at the Haus der Kunst art museum as curated by Jella Lepman. A Jewish refugee who returned home after the war, Lepman managed to create a traveling collection of books that had been previously banned from Germany, including The Story of Ferdinand which she translated and printed by the thousands to distribute among children. Later, she was able to raise enough money to create the International Youth Library, also known as the “Book Castle” and contributed to the formation of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).

THOUGHTS: This picture book provides a nice mix of fantasy and historical fiction for elementary readers to get a glimpse of the impact Jella Lepman and her international book collections made on children recovering from the trauma of war.

813 Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem. – I’m Going to Give You a Polar Bear Hug

Cooney, Caroline B. I’m Going to Give You a Polar Bear Hug. ZonderKidz, 2020. $17.99. 32 p. 978-0-310-76780-8. Grades PK-1. 

An inventive young girl enjoys a day of playing in the snow with a cardboard sled of stuffed animals. First, Dad helps her dress in a furry white snowsuit while she imagines he is a cuddly polar bear giving her a “shivery, quivery forty below hug.” Outside, bundled in a bright yellow coat with a fur lined hood paired with red boots, she envisions more hugging fun inspired by her sled full of plush friends. Reindeer, walrus, goose, seal, and other wintry critters are featured in unique hugging styles. Brief rhyming text is paired with full page illustrations of frolicking, cuddly animals. Back inside, the fun and hugs continue with Dad and younger brother all playing together on the floor. The whole family has Brown skin and short curly dark hair.

THOUGHTS: Great for the preschool crowd this book is a joyful celebration of childhood imagination paired with loving family fun. The animal hugs offer an opportunity to add gross motor play to a winter story time with learners reenacting the seal stands, bunny hops, and cardinal flight of the protagonist’s vivid imagination.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

Elem. – The Three Little Yogis and the Wolf Who Lost His Breath

Verde, Susan. The Three Little Yogis and the Wolf Who Lost His Breath. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. $16.99. 978-1-419-74103-6. Grades K-3. 

In this fractured fairy tale, the wolf has a habit of huffing, puffing, and blowing things down when he feels angry. Before long, the wolf realizes he feels worse when he sees how his behavior frightens others. There are so many things to huff about like sharing, trying difficult things and feeling hungry that the wolf runs out of breath. Turning his frustrations toward the three little yogis, he is met with compassion. Instead of running away, they teach him to mediate, breath, and pose. Readers are reminded that everyone gets angry sometimes. Belly breathing, butterfly breaths and supported breathing techniques help the wolf finally feel relaxed. Common terminology from sun salutation to savasana is introduced. A few yoga poses such as downward dog and half-moon are sprinkled throughout. Social emotional learning themes are present as the wolf becomes aware of his behaviors, reflects on his feelings and practices new techniques in lieu of huffing and puffing. Pencil and digitally colored illustrations fill the pages with a healthy dose of tranquil whimsy. Backmatter includes a few brief but useful tips for budding yogis.

THOUGHTS: This book is a must-have for libraries looking to develop their lower elementary collection of books about breathing, meditation, and yoga. A great picture book to pair with an interactive yoga storytime for young learners.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem. – Looking at Layers (Series NF)

Looking at Layers. The Child’s World, 2020. $20.00 ea. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

London, Martha. Looking Inside Earth. 978-1-503-83518-4.
Huddleston, Emma. Looking Inside the Human Body. 978-1-503-83519-1.
—. Looking Into Caves. 978-1-503-83522-1.
—. Looking Into Soil. 978-1-503-83520-7.
London, Martha. Looking Into the Atmosphere. 978-1-503-83516-0.
—. Looking Into the Grand Canyon. 978-1-503-83517-7.
—. Looking Into the Ocean. 978-1-503-83515-3.
Huddleton, Emma. Looking Into the Rain Forest. 978-1-503-83521-4.

An attractive nonfiction series exploring various layers of natural things, from the human body to soil to the rainforest. Straightforward text clearly explains concepts with a natural projection from outward layers in. Words from the glossary are highlighted in red which is a nice feature for readers. Sidebars focus on timely topics, such as “Creating Mountains” when text discusses tectonic plates in Looking Inside Earth. Visuals are both illustrations and photographs. Looking Inside the Human Body has fascinating illustrations of many body systems that will keep little readers absorbed. Back matter includes a helpful Fast Facts section that covers main points from the text, a glossary, “To Learn More” section, and index.

THOUGHTS: Nice collection additions if nonfiction is hot.

500s-600s          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama

Moss, Caroline. Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama (Work It, Girl). Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020. $15.99. 978-0-711-24518-1. 56 p. Grades 3-6.

A beautiful, appealing biography on Michelle Obama. The text details Michelle Obama’s life from her early years living with extended family in a tiny Chicago house to her role as First Lady and beyond. Moss’s narrative writing is easy to read and really brings Michelle to life but does, of course, take some liberties as readers follow Michelle through her days that include imagined thoughts and conversations. Interesting back matter includes a section called “Become a leader like Michelle! 10 Key Lessons from Michelle Obama’s Life” that highlight points like, “Not everyone needs to believe in you if you believe in yourself,” and “New friends can help you grow!” along with examples of these points from Michelle’s life. There are also questions to check for understanding and resources for further reading. Sinem Erkas’s illustrations, done in paper, add color and fun to the book.

THOUGHTS: Young readers will enjoy the narrative writing style and enjoy learning about Michelle Obama.

Biography          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – Rou and the Great Race

Fong, Pam. Rou and the Great Race. Reycraft Books, 2020. $17.95. 978-1-478-86952-8. Unpaged. Grades K-2. 

Rou and her grandma walk the streets of their brown and gray city, surrounded by tall buildings, metal trees, and passersby with robot pets. Grandma remembers a time when the city was alive and flowers beautified the gray surroundings but with growth came Power People who collected all the flowers for themselves. Now, children compete for a single flower in the annual Great Race. Rou is determined to win the flower for her grandma, but when she comes in last all she finds is a sad little stem with petals strewn about. Rou collects the stem, takes it home, and nurtures it into an entire garden which she shares annually at the Great Share. Fong uses colors to show the stark contrast between lively Rou, always clad in red like the flowers she grows, and the depressing brown city. Children will take away a story of kindness, both the lack of it from the Power People and the abundance shown by Rou and Grandma as they give away their flowers. Adult readers will see a more cautionary tale about power, city development, and greed mixed with Rou’s kindness.

THOUGHTS: An unusual but likeable story; readers will root for Rou.

Picture book                    Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – This Old Dog

Brockenbrough, Martha. This Old Dog. Levine Querido, 2020. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades K-2. 

Old dog is happy to see another day though his old knees hurt and his old back aches. “The speed of life since the girl was born is fast fast fast, and old dog likes to take things slow.” While the story explains that he wants plenty of time to find a just-right rock or smell each blade of grass, the illustrations show that old dog just doesn’t get that time anymore because “…the rest of the world has lots to do.” Old dog wishes for a friend who wants to take their time on walks and savor the delights of nature. Much to his delight, his family’s daughter starts to walk and toddles directly to him! Suddenly, old dog and his girl are inseparable and enjoy plenty of time together smelling the grass, finding those just-right rocks, and walking together through the world.

THOUGHTS: As a parent with two old dogs and two small kids, this book really tugged at my heartstrings. A sweet story for any dog lover.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – Game On (Series NF)

Polinsky, Paige V. Game On. ABDO, 2020. $20.00 ea. $120 set of 6. 32 p. Grades 3-6. 

Fortnite. 978-1-532-19164-0.
Just Dance. 978-1-532-19165-7.
Madden NFL. 978-1-532-19166-4.
Mario. 978-1-532-19167-1.
Minecraft. 978-1-532-19168-8.
Pokémon. 978-1-532-19169-5.

A great series for students who love gaming, this series details the history, development, features, and pop culture connections for several popular video games. Pokémon follows creator Satoshi Tajiri’s fascination with both nature and video games from a young age. His idea for Pokémon drew from memories of bug collecting as a child! This volume details Tajiri’s development of the Pokémon game for Nintendo’s Game Boy and Game Link Cable and follows the rise of Pokémon into TV, more games, a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Pokémon Go, and more. Backmatter includes a timeline, glossary, index, and online resources. The text is straightforward with colorful illustrations and photographs highlighting facts.

THOUGHTS: This is the series your young researchers crave! Perfect for use in school projects as well as pleasure reading.

794.8 Video Games          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – How Big is Your Brave?

Soukup, Ruth. How Big is Your Brave? ZonderKidz, 2020. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades PreK-2. 

Zippy the bunny dreams of traveling to space one day but feels uncertain about trying Space Camp. With some gentle encouragement from her family, Zippy heads to Space Camp even though she’s scared. Mom tells her, “Being brave doesn’t mean you’re never scared…courage means taking an action, even when you feel afraid.” Zippy flourishes at camp, making friends and learning a lot. When an accident derails her plans for Launch Day, Zippy feels ready to give up. Dad reminds her that “You can choose to give up or choose to keep going. It’s all up to you.” When Launch Day arrives, Zippy’s Veggie Vrrrooom wins second place and a special award for most creative design. While the title phrase never features in the story, the message is one that all kids will understand in some way, whether it’s facing scary situations with courage or working through challenges.

THOUGHTS: Zippy’s friendly face and relatable story will win over readers.

Picture book                    Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD