Wade, Stef. The Very Last Leaf. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-684-46104-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Lance the cottonwood leaf is used to being at the top of his class. From the time school began in the spring, he was the first to blossom, the best at learning wind resistance, and he excelled at photosynthesizing. But when autumn arrives, he’s hesitant about the final test: the one that will take him off his branch and onto the ground. Lance is afraid to fall. Lance wishes he could be like his friend Doug Fir who doesn’t have to fall and can instead stay on his branch all winter long. As the time to fall draws closer, Lance makes up excuses. But soon, he’s the last leaf on his tree. His mind races with everything that could happen to him when he falls. He might land in a gutter. Or, he could get stuck to a windshield. His teacher reassures him he’ll be okay, and he feels a little better after talking to someone. And, as he looks down from his tree, he starts to notice all the other things that can happen to leaves on the ground. He sees children playing in them and collecting them for craft projects. After seeing that his friends are safe and happy, Lance decides to make the fall. With his teacher and friends cheering him on, he finally lets go.
THOUGHTS: This gentle text highlights social-emotional themes such as anxiety, perfectionism, and facing your fears in a lighthearted way. This is a perfect choice for fall morning meetings and should also be shared with guidance counselors. A final page includes nonfiction facts about deciduous leaves.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
As the leaves begin changing colors, students are ready for their field trip to the pumpkin patch. During the bus ride, they chatter about the kinds of pumpkins they plan on picking. In the field, each student selects one pumpkin to take home, and the pumpkins are loaded into the storage area under the bus. Students daydream about the ways they’ll decorate their pumpkins. But, disaster strikes during the return bus ride! The lower doors are not latched tightly, and all the pumpkins roll out! Confused townsfolk see the smashed pumpkins all over their lawns and porches, and they devise a plan for reuniting the students with their pumpkins. Meanwhile when the students arrive at school, everyone is disappointed to see the empty storage area. The only pumpkin still safely on the bus is the large one strapped to the roof, which the children proceed to decorate together. The next day, at the harvest fair, the townspeople make a surprise appearance, each bringing a different dish made from the children’s runaway pumpkins. From pumpkin cake and pumpkin ice cream to pumpkin soup and pumpkin fries, the children are excited to see the missing pumpkins in their new forms.
THOUGHTS: The upbeat, rhyming text will appeal to primary students, making this a fun fall-themed read-aloud. The story also celebrates the community spirit, as well as the idea of making the best of an unexpected situation. Students and townspeople are racially diverse. Overall, this is a fun autumn story that doesn’t center on Halloween.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Combat Helicopters and Tanks is a comprehensive resource filled with information on combat helicopters and tanks. Using a historical timeline approach, this book informs readers of the development of the combat helicopter or tanks through various stages of its development and updates through several wars and battles that have occurred in history. Realistic photographs show the different types of helicopters and tanks, as well as the situations in which they were used. The back of the book contains a glossary and a page listing with the helicopters or tanks mentioned in this book. This book allows readers to see the way that combat helicopters and tanks have changed the way war is strategically planned throughout history.
THOUGHTS: Readers interested in the military will love this comprehensive guide to the specific machinery listed in this book. Readers will be able to receive a snapshot of history, while learning about specific war machines.
Charlie loves being a camper at Storm Cliff Stables, but some things just make her belly swishy swashy. She wants to be able to go on a full trail ride and jump the vaults, but she just can’t seem to do it without her belly causing troubles and her heart going thump, thump, thump. Thankfully her friends, Aunt Jane, her mom, and Dr. Bell have helped her with different strategies to keep her nerves away. She will become a full Warrior and be able to achieve her goals, if she keeps visualizing them and doing her very best!
THOUGHTS: The ability in this book to discuss anxiety issues and panic attacks is absolutely phenomenal. The coping strategies listed in here are great strategies that readers can use to help keep nerves at bay and help reduce anxiety. A great choice for a young reader who is interested in horses or animals and may be dealing with their own fears and anxieties.
Toads is an introductory book to the hopping amphibian! This book is filled with information on the physical description of toads, the life cycle, eating habits, habitat, and additional materials. Beautiful photographs, infographics, bold-faced words, a glossary, and even more exploratory information is found within this exciting read. Readers will enjoy learning about toads and discovering what makes them unique!
THOUGHTS: I really liked this introductory book to toads. It was filled with a lot of great information, but it was presented in an engaging way that young readers will be able to learn a lot of information, but still have understanding of the material presented. A fun, visual read.
Cool Paper Art. Abdo Publishing, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6. Grades 3-6.
Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Accordion Folding: Simple Paper Folding. 978-1-532-11943-9.
—. Karakuri: Paper Made to Move. 978-1-532-11944-6.
—. Papermaking: Handmade paper and Paper Products – 978-1-532-11947-7.
Thomas, Rachael L. Kirigami: Paper Cutting and Folding. 978-1-532-11945-3.
—. Origami: Classic Paper Folding. 978-1-532-11946-0. —. 3-D Origami: Paper Building Blocks. 978-1-532-11948-4.
Karakuri: Paper Made to Move is an introductory book for readers to the Japanese art of making movement with paper. Provided with specific directions and photographs to match, readers are able to take paper and create different types of movement, including slides, levers, cranks, and cams. These simple mechanisms can be used to introduce readers to different movements and higher level ideas of physics with paper.
THOUGHTS: I am excited to provide this book to our district’s STEM teacher, who can teach many of these concepts through paper and art! This series offers a great way to bridge science and fine arts across the curriculum!
Sports Zone. Capstone Press. 2020. $20.99 ea. $167.92 set of 8. Grades 3-6.
Chandler, Matt. Boys’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57425-8. —. Football: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57357-2.
—. Gymnastics: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57358-9. —. Tae Kwan Do: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57431-9.
Williams, Heather. Basketball: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57356-5.
—. Girls’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57427-2.
—. Hockey: A Guide for Players and Fans 978-1-543-57359-6.
—. Soccer: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57429-6.
Girls’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans is an immersive resource filled with a wide variety of lacrosse information, specifically for girls who would want to play this sport. This book contains the history, rules, gear required, strategies, and even additional information on this subject. While there is crossover between boys and girls in this sport in terms of rules and regulations, this book specifically discusses rules and information meant for females who would play this sport. This book is a great resource for those who are interested in learning more about lacrosse!
THOUGHTS: I appreciate the great detail, photographs, captions, and glossary items found within this book. It is very visual and appealing, all the while providing information. This book was well written in discussing how the rules vary between male and female lacrosse, informing the reader that there are many similarities, but there are some differences. A great read for anyone, male or female, who may be interested in this sport.
Messner, Kate. Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem. Millbrook Press, 2020. 64 p. $24.04 978-1-541-55706-2 Grades 4-8.
Once native only to Asia, Burmese pythons have invaded Florida! Researchers speculate that animals kept as pets were released and quietly flourished undetected in the lush, protected swamps of Florida. Native animals such as alligators and mink, herons, deer, possums and more, are being affected by the insatiable appetite of the pythons. “People will ask me what pythons eat. The question should be, What don’t they eat?” says Bartoszek (44). Kate Messner follows researchers Ian Bartoszek and his colleagues from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as they explain the scope of the problem and their efforts to control it. Scientists can respond to an invasive species in four ways: prevention, eradication, containment, or control. The burmese python population in Florida, estimated to be in the tens if not hundreds of thousands, is well beyond the first three responses, and even controlling the population is proving difficult. Bartoszek and colleagues track the pythons using radio telemetry, capture them for analysis and transmitter implantation, and try to better control the population. “Another big goal is to advance snake science in general. We kind of owe it to the pythons. We have tremendous respect for this animal, so we try to gather as much scientific information as possible” (44). Each chapter includes segments on “How to Catch a Python” (some surprising stories and methods) as Messner shares lessons learned, “python CSI,” and the wonder of the undetectable python, even when standing atop one! The book includes QR codes showing python releases and telemetry flights, and extensive back matter.
THOUGHTS: A compelling look at an amazing animal and its effects on an ecosystem, this book will engage readers with an interest in animals, the environment, and scientific careers. A top example of narrative nonfiction.
597.96 Burmese Pythons Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Del Rosario, Juleah. Turtle Under Ice. Simon Pulse, 2020. 259 p. $18.99 978-15344-4295-5 Grades 9-12.
Teenage sisters Rowena and Ariana have drifted apart since the unexpected death of their mother several years ago. Rowena has thrown herself into soccer, becoming a respected top athlete on her team. Fearing change, Ariana has retreated into…nothing, and risks failing school. The sisters’ closeness has become a barrier as they both fear moving on, and as they both communicate less, and less honestly. Their father has remarried a woman they also love, and the family is incredibly hopeful about the arrival of their new half-sister. However, Maribel suffers a miscarriage, and the loss is too cruel for the sisters. “Our sister’s heart stopped beating/like our mother’s, unexpectedly/on a day that was otherwise/normal” (53). Ariana vanishes, which leaves Rowena feeling angry and abandoned. This novel in verse is narrated by both sisters as they try to come to terms with this new grief, in addition to the unending grief of losing their mother. Slowly, both sisters discover that their grief has led them to close themselves off to others. Rowena tracks down Ariana at an art exhibit, where Ariana shows a painting “Turtle Under Ice” in memory of their mother. The relief comes very slowly as both girls see hope in Ariana’s art.
THOUGHTS: Del Rosario has a way with creating beautiful images with her words: “Our family…/is a frayed string of lights/that someone needs to fix/with electrical tape./It’s the electricity/that can’t get to us/because Mom’s bulb/has burned out,/so now the whole string is dark./But without the lights turned on/does anyone even notice/that we are broken?” (43-44). Ultimately, the insightful thoughts aren’t enough to save this novel from the monotonous weight of the crushing grief and depression, and the cover does little to draw in all but the most curious of readers. Recommended where novels in verse or multiple narrators are in heavy demand.
Realistic Fiction Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Novel in Verse
Solter, Sonja. When You Know What I Know. Little, Brown & Company, 2020. 212 p. $16.99. 978-0316-53544-1 Grades 5-8.
Ten-year-old Tori is struggling with the aftermath of sexual abuse by her once-favorite uncle. She feels shame, anger, loss, sadness, and fear. She tells her mom, who is reluctant to believe her, and her grandmother takes her uncle’s side. Since her single mom relied on Tori’s grandmother and uncle for any childcare for Tori and her eight-year-old sister Taylor, the family strain increases. Their responses make Tori feel worse: “Maybe I shouldn’t have told,” and her secret is building a wedge between her and her friends as well. This novel told in verse reveals her confusion and pain without being specific about the incident. Eventually, another girl accuses her uncle of abuse, and Tori finds a freeing yet sickening feeling of vindication, along with support from her mother and grandmother. By novel’s end, she discovers she is able to forget the incident for a few hours. The memories still return, “But still./A day like today…/It’s possible./I know that now.”
THOUGHTS: Solter’s novel provides acknowledgement of sexual abuse of young people and the difficulty of not being believed when speaking up; this honesty will provide hope for survivors as well. The content, in no way explicit, is appropriate for upper elementary and middle school readers. The Author’s Note states, “My hope for this book is that readers will be encouraged to tell their own truths, and–if someone doesn’t believe them at first–to keep on telling until they get the help they need. Healing takes time…[and] is not only possible, it IS where all of our stories are going” (208).
Realistic Fiction Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Novel in Verse