Hudson, Neesha. Turtle in a Tree. Dial Books for Young Readers. 978-0-593-32331-1. 36 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
A dog walking through a grassy meadow hears a rustling in a tree. Another dog comes along and asks what he sees. The first dog replies that he’s sure he sees a turtle in a tree. The second dog asserts that there can’t be a turtle in a tree – that just doesn’t add up. It must be a squirrel. The dogs banter back and forth, but eventually, they get caught up in a shouting match, each sure that he is correct. When what’s in the tree is ultimately revealed, both dogs realize that there is more than one side to every story. Delicate watercolor and colored pencil illustrations stand out against white backgrounds, and the sparse text leaves plenty of room for readers to add their own ideas to the book.
THOUGHTS: The overarching message of the book is about perspective and the idea that just because you don’t see eye-to-eye with someone doesn’t mean one of you is wrong. This book can be used during morning meetings to spark conversations about different perspectives and why it can be valuable to consider others’ points of view.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Chevrolet Corvette. 978-1-532-19324-8. Olson, Elsie. Dodge Charger. 978-1-532-19326-2. -. Ford Mustang. 978-1-532-19327-9. Rusick, Jessica. Chevrolet Camaro. 978-1-532-19323-1. Thomas, Rachael L. Dodge Challenger. 978-1-532-19325-5. Wilken, Scott. Pontiac Trans Am. 978-1-532-19328-6.
The reviewer read Dodge Chargers in the Mighty Muscle Cars series. This series shows off some of the most popular and historic muscle cars. Each book takes a dive into the history, models, components, and even pop culture references of the muscle car. Photographs provide a large visual for readers, complete with easy-to-read text for the car fanatic. For those interested in taking a spin in the fast lane, this is a must read series.
THOUGHTS: A great addition to an elementary library for the readers who are car lovers. This series provides quality information with photographic visuals to engage readers in the past, present, and future of these vehicles.
Adele always has been surrounded by the dark forest around her village Oakvale. It seems that the dark forest continues to creep closer and closer to her small village, despite the watchmen and guardians trying to protect the town. Adele always has felt a small calling to the woods, even though it is filled with terrifying monsters and many don’t make it out alive. Little does she know, there are other protectors of the forest, and she is one of them. Adele will need to make hard decisions between doing what is right for her or for her entire village in order to keep everyone safe.
THOUGHTS: This novel is a fun spin on the idea of Little Red Riding Hood. A charming story that will make you want more!
Dear Treefrog is a delightful book of poems about the nature of the treefrog. With incorporated facts on the sides of the pages, this book provides some wonderful poems that explain what the frog is doing. Illustrated pictures increase the serenity of the treefrog, proving a fun experience for young readers.
THOUGHTS: A fun poetry book about the treefrog. Readers will enjoy the poems, all while learning fun facts about this animal!
Page, Robin. The Beak Book. Beach Lane Books, 2021. 978-1-534-46041-6. $17.99. Grades K-3
Beaks, beaks, and more beaks! The Beak Book by Robin Page is filled with beaks from birds found all over the world. With beautiful illustrations, this book provides information to young readers about the jobs of different beaks. From a toucan to a hummingbird, stabbing to plucking, beaks are an amazing feature of birds that can do a variety of jobs!
THOUGHTS: This book provides many examples of the amazing things birds can do with their beaks. The illustrations provide a picture of the bird head, as well as a smaller illustration with what the bird can do with its beak. This book is a great, easy to understand, informational book for young readers.
Morris, Brittney. The Cost of Knowing. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-534-44545-1. 336 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.
Despite trying his best to hold things together, sixteen year old Alex Rufus is struggling. Since the death of their parents, he and his little brother Isaiah have grown apart, barely interacting with each other in their Aunt Mackie’s house. Alex has his girlfriend Talia but constantly worries that he’ll do something wrong to ruin their relationship. At work Alex would prefer to remain in the back washing dishes while wearing rubber gloves than be out front scooping ice cream and interacting with customers. At the same time, Alex and Isaiah’s neighbor Mrs. Zaccari makes initially subtle and increasingly frustrating comments about neighborhood crime and what the Shiv concert coming to the area will mean for their safety. Alex is one touch from losing his carefully constructed exterior. Since the death of his parents, Alex gets a glimpse of the future when he touches anything. Usually something simple and easily dismissed, things become complicated when Alex visualizes an unreadable expression on Talia’s face – the sign of a breakup – and unbearable when he has a vision of his brother’s death. Burdened with the knowledge that he he can’t stop the inevitable, but determined to fix his relationship with Isaiah, Alex races to reconnect with his brother and learns that the two may not be as different as he thought.
THOUGHTS: Readers will root for Alex from the beginning as he works against “his curse.” Many readers will be able to suspend reality enough to believe this mostly realistic fantasy. Recommended for high school collections where compelling, character driven titles are in demand.
Fantasy (Paranormal) Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Clark-Robinson, Monica. Standing on Her Shoulders: A Celebration of Women. Illustrated by Laura Freeman. Orchard Press, 2021. 978-1-338-35800-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.
“Standing on the shoulders of giants” is an oft used term for referencing those who came before us in a given area. In this nod to female path-makers, Monica Clark-Robinson guides a young black girl and shows her some of the great leaders and trailblazers through history who helped bridge her current opportunities. As she walks through a portrait gallery, she sees some expected women figures such as Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Sacajawea, as well as modern heroes like Megan Rapinoe and Serena Williams, and less familiar names including Harriet Chalmers Adams and Nellie Bly. Through the poetic couplets, the young learner hears how important it is to recognize those giants before us in many fields and fighting for equal rights, but also to leave our mark for the next generation. Featuring mostly black and people of color through the illustrations by Laura Freeman, there are a few short notes about each historical figure at the endnotes. The message is clear to walk among the heroines and lead the way for others to stand on your shoulders next.
THOUGHTS: An inspirational, though not always obvious, celebration of female trailblazers. Those readers most familiar with the illustrated people will appreciate the themes for each path, but those wanting to know more about the heroines will need to research further. Nevertheless, the picture book is a beautiful touchpoint introduction or kick-off for Women’s History Month.
Picture Book Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD
Bowles, David and Erik Meza. My Two Border Towns. Illustrated by Erika Meza. Kokila, 2021. 978-0-593-11104-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Life along the U.S. – Mexico border can be more similar than different, especially for a small Hispanic boy who makes weekend trips back and forth with his father. “Vamos a la otra lado.” (Let’s go to the other side.) Once they pass through customs into the Mexican town, they run chores, visit family, and eat at their favorite places. The boy is proud of the gifts and supplies that they are collecting along the way. Erik Maza illustrates the town with friendly people, peaceful streets, and colorful tones. David Bowles brings in Spanish terms and phrases with mostly English narrative to tell their routine journey. The trip ends with an important and realistic stop near the border bridge, where a large group of refugees are camped out and waiting. “The US says there’s no room, and Mexico says it can barely look after it’s own gente.” The boy seeks out his friend who is waiting, and hands over the collected toys, comics, medicine and supplies to the grateful family. The dilemma of crossing the border freely as citizens leaves the boy, and perhaps the readers, wishing for a future of compassion and friendship.
THOUGHTS: Making a complex and never ending issue such as immigration and border control work through the eyes of a child is always a lesson in empathy. In this case, the author chooses to show the connections rather than the divisions between the two countries with a stunning effect. Discussions comparing similarities and differences between students’ towns and the story may continue the conversation. Recommended.
Picture Book Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD
Moulite, Maika, and Maritza Moulite. One of the Good Ones. Inkyard Press, 2021. 978-1-335-14580-2. 384 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.
Teen YouTube activist and influencer Kezi Smith dies under police custody following her arrest at a social justice rally on her eighteenth birthday. Instantly immortalized as a martyr in the fight against police brutality, Kezi’s family is devastated by loss. While her pastor parents want to preserve and protect Kezi’s memory, sisters Happi and Genny look for a unique way to honor her. Embarking on the trip Kezi planned to take following an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book, the sisters and friends Ximena (Kezi’s girlfriend) and Derek go on a journey to reconnect with the Smith’s African American family history and remember Kezi. Tormented by her broken relationship with Kezi, the trip is an opportunity for Happi to understand her older sister, who she feels like she didn’t truly know. Together they will learn more about Kezi, each other, and their family’s history. A surprising twist won’t shock careful readers, but the alternate time periods may challenge struggling readers.
THOUGHTS: This title examines what it means to be remembered and who gets to be called “one of the good ones.” Recommended for high school collections where social justice and social issue titles are popular.
Realistic Fiction Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Yen, Jennifer. A Taste for Love. Razorbill, 2021. 978-0-593-11752-1. 304 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.
Liza is a free-spirited, Taiwanese-American teen who likes to rebel against her mother’s wishes. With a “perfect” older sister off following her dreams and a meddling mother always on Liza’s case, she doesn’t have to try too hard to go against her mother’s wishes. And dating unsuitable boys has been number one on Liza’s list. Mrs. Yang, co-owner of the Yin and Yang restaurant and bakery with her chef husband, has a plan to get Liza on the right path. Using Liza’s love of and skill for baking, Mrs. Yang convinces her to serve as a guest judge in the bakery’s annual junior competition (think Great British Baking Show). It doesn’t take long for Liza to recognize that she’s been set up by her mother. Not only is each contestant male, each also is Asian American. What follows is a fun battle between mother and daughter, as Liza also fights her feelings for one contestant specifically. Mothers might know best, but Liza is her own person, and she won’t give up easily.
THOUGHTS: As a fan of The Great British Baking Show, I adored this sweet romance. Filled with delicious descriptions, readers will be rooting for Liza from the beginning. Pairs well with other YA “food titles” such as A Pho Love Story, The Way You Make Me Feel, and so many others (just google it!). Highly recommended for middle and high school libraries looking to add representation to their romance sections.