Elem. – Sir Ladybug

Tabor, Corey R. Sir Ladybug. Balzer + Bray, 2022. 978-0-063-06906-0. $12.99.  68 p. Grades PK-3.

This epic insect tale is constructed as an early-reader graphic novel. In four chapters, an introduction, two interludes, and an epilogue, readers will be delighted with the antics of Sir Ladybug, his Herald, Pell (an anxious pill bug), and his Trusty Squire, Sterling (a gamer snail with a penchant for cake). The three friends are on an epic quest to save a yellow caterpillar from the dreaded monster, Chickadee. Though initially tempted to hide in Sterling’s shell to avoid being eaten, the friends devise an amusing plan to befriend their nemesis. Delightful and bright comic illustrations highlight the action, which is packed with non-stop humor.

THOUGHTS: At first glance this early-reader graphic novel is pure fun. Silliness abounds in both the text and illustrations. New readers and graphic novel enthusiasts will be completely amused. Dig a little deeper, and it is clear the book is also cleverly teaching literary vocabulary and structure. A fabulous read aloud or independent reading selection.

Early Reader          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD
Graphic Novel

Elem. – The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan

Giang, Kristen Mai. The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-0-593-12192-4. $18.99. 40 p. Grades PK-3.

Cheng Long, or Jackie Chan as he is more commonly known, was born in China to poor, hard-working parents. Jackie’s father tried to instill the values of discipline and hard work into his young son, but Jackie struggled as a student and often found himself in trouble. When his parents were forced to find work in Australia, Jackie was enrolled in the China Drama Academy where he studied martial arts, acting, singing, and acrobatics for the next ten years. The training was often brutal and other students bullied Jackie, but with hard work and persistence he became one of the Academy’s premier performers, traveling throughout China. As Chinese Opera fell out of popularity, martial arts movies became all the rage. Jackie worked as a stuntman, eventually meeting Bruce Lee. As his career took off, Jackie developed his own style of martial arts stunts infused with a great deal of physical comedy. Illustrated by Alina Chau, with amusing onomatopoeia action words scattered throughout the story. Includes a Glossary of Chinese characters with Mandarin and Cantonese pronunciations, Bibliography, and Author’s Note, which further explores Jackie Chan’s extensive career.

THOUGHTS: This delightful picture book biography has a number of wonderful messages. Hard work and persistence are important, but so are staying true to yourself and sticking up for your friends. A wonderful selection for fans of martial arts, physical comedy, and movie legend Jackie Chan.

Picture Book Biography           Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped this Country

Yang, Kelly, and various illustrators. Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped this Country. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-0-593-46305-5. unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Yes We Will, a picture book biography by acclaimed middle grade and young adult author Kelly Yang, explores the many ways that Asian Americans have found to belong and thrive in the United States. Yang opens with a little information about the Transcontinental Railroad and the Chinese Exclusion Act, establishing some essential historical context. She then transitions to spotlighting individuals and their accomplishments. Very spare text accompanies showstopping illustrations by fifteen different artists. For example, “We’ll soar to new heights” is paired with Dan Santat’s two-page illustration of NBA player Jeremy Lin flying toward the hoop. Featured individuals include I.M. Pei, Kamala Harris, Vera Wang, Sunisa Lee, Yo-Yo Ma, and many others. Each illustrator’s style is perfectly matched to their subject. An Author’s Note provides more detail on each luminary, including notable quotes, firsts, and awards.

THOUGHTS: While this inspiring book can be read in minutes, it’s worth rereading to fully appreciate the stunning and varied artwork, as well as the range of achievements. Yes We Will is also a great way to kick off biographical research on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from the past and the present.

Picture Book          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Star the Elephant

Lai, Remy. Star the Elephant. Henry Holt and Co., 2022. 978-1-250-78499-5. 112 p. $13.99. Grades 2-5.

Author/illustrator Remy Lai opens a new series, Surviving the Wild, with the tale of Star the Elephant. Five-year old Star is growing up under the watchful eyes of his mother, aunt (the matriarch), and extended herd. When food becomes scarce, Star’s mom and auntie decide to search for a new home. After a long swim they reach an island with plenty to eat but also the troubling presence of humans. While attempting to escape from two men, Star becomes separated from his family. Fortunately for Star, these humans are working diligently to make the world safer for elephants, and the story ends on a hopeful note. “The True Story Behind Star’s Adventure,” which closes out this early reader graphic novel, includes tips to help protect elephants’ habitat from deforestation. Remy Lai fills every page with colored pencil lines depicting equatorial foliage, a handful of people, and (of course) the incredible elephants!

THOUGHTS: The Surviving the Wild series continues with Rainbow the Koala and Sunny the Shark (both 2022). Between the adorable animals and their sometimes fraught adventures, readers will tear through these!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem./MG – Miss Quinces

Fajardo, Kat. Miss Quinces. Graphix, 2022. 978-1-338-53559-4. 256 p. $12.99. Grades 4-7.

Suyapa (Sue) would love to spend all summer creating comics and attending sleepaway camp with her friends. They’re even introducing LARPing to the activities this year and she’s going to miss it, because instead Sue’s family is taking a trip to Honduras to visit her mom’s relatives. With no texting, Internet, or cable to distract her, she hopes to spend her days reading and avoiding family drama (particularly with her older sister, Carmen). But despite Sue’s specific and repeated request NOT to have a quinceañera, her Mami has already sent out a hundred invitations behind her back. With the guidance of her doting abuela, Sue compromises with Mami: if she participates in the celebration without complaint, she can attend sleepaway camp with her friends in August! Can a soon-to-be “Miss Quinces” who hates the spotlight, frilly dresses, and dancing in public, possibly survive this festive family tradition … maybe even enjoy it? This incredibly appealing graphic novel debut features bright, digitally rendered artwork and a loving, boisterous extended family. Text in the speech bubbles is blue when the characters are speaking Spanish, and black when they are speaking English, which visually reflects Sue’s experiences of existing in two cultures.

THOUGHTS: This graphic novel checks all the boxes: authentic, endearing, and funny! Follow it up with Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega for another perspective on feeling like an outsider in one’s own family.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together

Assarasakorn, Michele, and Nathan Fairbairn. PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together. Razorbill, 2022. 978-0-593-35186-4. 176 pp. $12.99. Gr. 3-6.

Fifth grader Gabby and her best friends, sixth graders Mindy and Priya, absolutely love animals, but none of them can have a pet due to parental preferences, landlord policies, and allergies. Longing for some furry friends in their lives, the three girls form PAWS: Pretty Awesome Walkers, and begin walking a small group of neighborhood dogs. They face a series of obstacles in the process of building their after-school business. Some are humorous – who will pick up the dog poop? should they wear matching uniforms? – while others stem from the girls’ different goals for PAWS, varying commitment levels, and lack of communication. Gabby especially feels like she is always out-voted by her slightly older, sometimes bossier friends. All three girls learn from their mistakes and Gabby does, indeed, get it together!

THOUGHTS: PAWS is essentially a Baby-Sitters Club for animal-loving tweens; the next installment, due in November, will focus on Mindy. Sunny artwork, friend and family dynamics, and plenty of adorable pups lend broad appeal to this graphic novel series starter.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – I Color Myself Different

Kaepernick, Colin. I Color Myself Different. Kaepernick Publishing, 2022. 978-1-338-78963-8. 40 p. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

I Color Myself Different tells a true story from Colin Kaepernick’s childhood where he shared with his classmates that he was adopted. When Colin was in school, he had to draw a picture of his family and he drew his family as they were, and when he shared his picture with his classmates they had questions. Colin remembers what his mother told him when he asked her why he was different, and she explained how he was adopted into their family. Based on Colin recalling this conversation, he answers his classmates with, “I’m brown. I color myself different. I’m me, and I’m magnificent.” This prompts a discussion with his teacher about all the ways that families can share love.

THOUGHTS: This book could be a great introduction to adoption for a family to share or an inside look into Colin Kaepernick that many people might not be familiar with.

Picture book            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Pugs Cause Traffic Jams

McGrath, Jennifer. Pugs Cause Traffic Jams. Kids Can Press, 2022. 978-1-5253-0340-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2

Pugs Cause Traffic Jams is a funny picture book that shows how pugs are not the same as other dogs, as they can cause traffic jams! When the book starts and our main character is looking for her pug Kirby, we are getting a look into all the chaos that Kirby is causing while she is hunting for him. The conversations the main character is having with the other characters in the book are set in a different font, so the reader will easily be able to tell. The illustrations are enjoyable and add to the overall charm of the book.

THOUGHTS: This is a cute book and would make a wonderful addition to any elementary school collection.

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds

McCullough, Joy. Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022.  Unpaged.  978-1-534-48676-8. Grades 1-3. $17.99.

Harriet Hemenway loved hats, as did many women in Boston in 1896. At that time, millinery was decorated with all manner of bows, flowers, ribbons, feathers, and even dead birds-the more the better. One day at breakfast, Harriet was surprised to read in the newspaper that millions of birds were killed every year to supply these decorative notions. With the support of her cousin Minna, Harriet began a campaign to stop the slaying of these beautiful creatures for fashion’s sake.  The cousins invited society women to tea, where the guests were horrified to hear about the carnage. More women pledged to boycott feathered fashions and the movement to save birds gained traction. The cousins asked bird scientists to give lectures and recruited influential people to help form an organization whose mission was the protection of earth’s feathered friends. And so the Audubon Society was founded. Word spread to other states and even to Queen Victoria and President Theodore Roosevelt, who signed a bill establishing federal bird reservations. McCullough uses avian word play to make the text more engaging, with such witty phrases as “[Harriet’s] feathers were too ruffled to eat” and “great big ostrich of a problem.” Galotta’s large scale illustrations done in watercolor are soft and very appealing. The color and detail in the drawings of various birds is wonderful. The back matter contains more information about the Audubon Society and birdwatching.

THOUGHTS: This fictionalized picture book account of the accomplishments of Harriet Hemenway is a delight. It will ignite a discussion on conservation and advocacy and shows how one person can effect change. This book is a good choice for Earth Day and is a must have for elementary collections. McCullough’s middle grade novel Across the Pond, is also about birds and was inspired by a British girl who loved and wrote about birdwatching.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member 

MG – Answers in the Pages

Levithan, David. Answers in the Pages. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2022. 176 p. 978-0-593-48468-5. Grades 4-8. $17.99.

“At that moment Rick knew just how deeply he loved Oliver, and Oliver knew just how deeply he loved Rick…” One’s interpretation of a single statement can make all the difference. The statement itself might be less noticeable depending on where it is seen or heard and the surrounding context. When the The Adventurers, a book being read by Donovan’s fifth grade class, is picked up at home by his mother, she decides it is inappropriate for him to read. It doesn’t take her long to get on the phone with Donovan’s friends’ moms either and schedule a meeting with the school. Donovan only read the first few pages in class but can’t see what his mom would think is wrong about a book where kids go on adventures. Before he returns to class without his copy of The Adventurers (because his mom hasn’t returned it), Donovan stops by the school library to get a copy so he can see what’s “so bad.” Because his mom drew so much attention to the book, several classmates have finished reading and the kids have honest, open discussions with each other and their teacher Mr. Howe who is openly gay. Told in short, alternating chapters, Donovan’s story unfolds; alongside Gideon’s, another elementary school-aged boy; and Rick and Oliver’s, the characters from the book being challenged. Readers will see what happens when a book’s content is challenged – how it impacts the teacher, the students, and families who may not agree with each other.

THOUGHTS: Timely and full of heart, Answers in the Pages is a book that should be in every upper elementary and middle school library! Highly recommended for readers who will be able to follow three separate narratives.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Donovan really enjoys his English class, mostly because of his teacher. When his teacher assigns a book called The Adventurers, Donovan is looking forward to reading it. However, after leaving it out on the kitchen counter one day, he discovers that his mother has read the book – and decides to launch a book challenge. Donovan’s mother interprets the last line of the book to mean that the two male main characters are gay, and she takes issue with this. Donovan finds himself in the middle of a fight that polarizes the school community and pits him against both his favorite English teacher and his mother. Donovan has to examine his own beliefs and decide what he thinks is right, even if it means upsetting someone he cares about. Aside from the main thread of this story, there are two other stories interwoven throughout the book. One is of Gideon and Roberto who are paired up for a school project and develop feelings for each other; the other is about Rick and Oliver, the main characters in the very book Donovan’s mom is challenging. All three stories connect together at the end.

THOUGHTS: With curricular book challenges at an all-time high, Leviathan’s timely book provides a window for students who might be facing the same complicated situations in their own homes.  Leviathan writes from experience as many of his own books have been challenged in schools across the country. All librarians, teachers, parents, politicians, and school board members should read this book. Answers in the Pages is a must-buy for all middle grade libraries.

Realistic Fiction           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD