Elem. – Bike & Trike

Verdick, Elizabeth, and Brian Biggs. Bike & Trike. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-41517-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Switching to a “big kid bike” is a rite of passage for children, but what about the emotions that the vehicles go through?? Bike is new and shiny and ready to roll, while still having lots to learn. Trike is trusty and experienced, though a bit beat up and too small. When the two first meet in anthropomorphic fashion, they go through some initial reactions. Then a race challenge brings out further emotions, and eventually a Bike & Trike find mutual respect and come to a satisfying conclusion. Verdick and Biggs have hit on an emotional ride that will have reader’s ready to hop on and enjoy!

THOUGHTS: As a social emotional discussion book, there is plenty to unpack here. However, it is just as useful as an entertaining read for bike lovers. Perhaps my favorite extension would be a writing lesson to imagine what stories the rest of the things in any child’s garage (or basement or closet…) might tell if they could share and grow like Bike & Trike.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Elem. – The Weather’s Bet

Young, Ed. The Weather’s Bet. Philomel Books, 2020. 978-0-525-51382-7. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

The Wind and the Sun may be a familiar Aesop fable to many adults but a new puzzle for young readers. Ed Young has recreated the fable into The Weather’s Bet with his usual collage and mixed media. We see a young shepherd with a red cap who becomes the unknowing target of a bet between the wind, rain, and sun above. While wind and rain seek to use forceful methods of persuasion, the sun patiently waits for its gentle warmth to win out. Young brings in an environmental note in the forward and introduces several Chinese pictograms to symbolize the competing weather. It’s a good bet that children will appreciate and discuss this fabled work with fresh voice and vision.

THOUGHTS: The story length is ideal for a short storytime, and can easily be compared with other fables and versions of the story. The moral is not overt, so a discussion with classes would be recommended. Recommended for K-2.

398 Folklore          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Jack at Bat; Jack Goes West

Barnett, Mac, and Greg Pizzoli. Jack at Bat. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11382-0. Unpaged. $9.99. Grades K-2.
—. Jack Goes West. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11388-2. Unpaged. $9.99. Grades K-2.

Jack is a bunny with mixed behavior! Sometimes he is bad and selfish, and sometimes he is the hero. One thing is for sure: A Jack Book will be an unpredictable and fun beginning reader story! With clever words by Mac Barnett and emotive illustrations from Greg Pizzoli, readers will delight to visit and revisit this new series. In Jack Goes West, he and “The Lady” ride a train to a dude ranch… next to a bank. Some bandits, lassos, and mistaken identities ensue! Meanwhile, in Jack at Bat, The Ladies take on The Brats in a ballgame that sees Jack get yelled at, nap away the game, and chase down a snack. But can he hit the ball? With a readable layout, short sentences, and surprising plot twists, young readers are bound to become fans of Jack.

THOUGHTS: These are longer than some beginning readers, which provides a nice extended read aloud opportunity or encouragement for budding readers. Introducing this series will naturally draw students to discover the other fun and fascinating work of Barnett and Pizzoli. Recommended for K-2.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z

Latham, Irene, and Charles Waters. Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z. Carolrhoda Books, 2020. 978-1-541-55775-8. 120 p. $19.99. Grades 2-6.

Words have power, and learning how to use, absorb, and value them is one of the most important skills of adolescence. Indeed, relating words like ACCEPTANCE, GRATITUDE, JUSTICE, and VULNERABLE could help classes and young readers make a better world. Irene and Charles, the poets behind the thoughtful Can I Touch Your Hair? poetry story about race and friendship, have compiled a gorgeous collection of words that are illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Each page features a poem to match the word, and a description of the form of poetry as well. Accompanying the poem are quotations from writers or famous personalities, then a personal message from the author that children can connect with, and finally an action step to take to demonstrate the valuable word. In all, there are 50 poems from A to Z, and they should be digested and discussed thoughtfully rather than quickly. Discussions of race and friendship and hope for a brighter future should make this book an essential tool for home and classrooms.

THOUGHTS: At a time when teachers and parents are seeking ways to share inclusive, diverse, and equitable literature that leads to discussion and action, we can’t do much better than this wonderful book! Consider this for a One Book, One School selection or for a small group of empowered advocates. Highly recommended for grade 2 – 6 (though potentially useful for younger and older grades as well).

811 Poetry          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – An Ordinary Day

Arnold, Elana K. An Ordinary Day. Beach Lane Books, 2020. 978-1-481-47262-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 1-3.

This is a poignant and beautiful tale of the circle of life.  The author begins by explaining that this street appears like any other, with children playing and a woman watering her flowers. Then, two cars drive up to neighboring houses and two people get out and go into adjacent houses. Both the man and the woman are wearing stethoscopes around their necks. The man enters a house where a dog is on a bed, surrounded by a family who is crying. The woman who enters the other house meets a family whose mother is expecting another child. The veterinarian consoles the family, as the dog is put to sleep, while the midwife or obstetrician helps deliver a new child into the world. All of this is told not so much in words, but through the illustrations. The characters in the story are of various ethnicities and the author writes that both families are “surrounded by family and love.” Magnificent the Crow oversees the “extraordinary” activities on this ordinary street on an ordinary day. The Illustrator uses a variety of media, such as charcoal, watercolor, soft pastels, ink and graphite, to create a soft and muted color palette. These drawings add to the contemplative tone of the story.

THOUGHTS: This is a touching story that will appeal to a sensitive reader who may have experienced the loss of an animal.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Racism

Ganeri, Anita. Racism. Picture Window Books, 2020. 978-1-515-84542-3. 32 p. $20.54. Grades K-3. 

Racism can be a tricky topic to discuss, but this title handles the subject well and encourages conversation and reader participation. The text begins by describing how there are millions of people in the world, and they’re all different, coming from different countries, wearing different clothes, speaking different languages, and having different appearances. It goes on to describe how it is important to respect and value all people for who they are and to treat everyone fairly and equally. Racism is defined as a kind of bullying, and can include using hurtful words, intentionally leaving people out of activities, destroying a person’s property, or physically hurting someone. The authors describe how both adults and children can be racist, but racism is always wrong. They also include suggestions for combating racism, including taking time to get to know someone new, inviting people from different cultures into your classroom, and talking to teachers or other trusted adults if someone acts racist towards you. Throughout the text, italicized discussion questions are embedded. They ask things like “What makes you different?,” “How would you like people to treat you?,” “How would you feel if someone called you names?,” and “Who would you tell?” A Note for Caregivers at the end of the book includes strategies for approaching the topic of race with young readers, and a page of Group Activities offers ideas for extending the conversation. This book is part of an 8-title series called “Questions and Feelings About…”. Other titles include Adoption, Autism, Bullying, Having a Disability, When Parents Separate, When Someone Dies, and Worries.

THOUGHTS: This approachable title will work well for morning meeting conversations, particularly in primary classrooms. The built-in questions will generate authentic discussion and will prompt other social-emotional learning connections.

305.8 Ethnic and National Groups         Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Paper Planes

Helmore, Jim. Paper Planes. Peachtree Publishing Company, 2020. 978-1-682-63161-4. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Best friends Ben and Mia love flying planes together. In the fall, their planes soar with the migrating geese, and in the spring, the friends climb tall hills and watch their planes glide to the bottom. When Ben receives news that his family is moving away, the pair wonder how to keep their friendship alive. In a fit of loneliness and anger, Mia smashes her plane to the ground, splintering it into pieces. Later that night, Mia dreams of flying in a life-size version of the plane as a huge gust of wind lifts her into the air. She soars through the sky with the geese until she spots another plane up ahead. It’s Ben, and together, the friends swoop and soar through the night skies. The next morning, a package from Ben arrives. Inside the box is a plane Ben started building. Over the next few weeks, as Mia adds her own finishing touches to the plane, she realizes that she and Ben can still share their love of planes, even from a distance. Just because he lives far away doesn’t mean their friendship has to end. Colorful painted illustrations capture the love between these two friends and the loneliness they feel when they are apart.

THOUGHTS:  This quiet story will work well for morning meetings, and it gently addresses the range of emotions students might feel when a friend moves away. It could also be used for discussions about other people who may be separated from us.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – The Girl and the Dinosaur

Hughes, Hollie. The Girl and the Dinosaur. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-547-60322-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

In a town by the sea, Marianne spends her days digging for dinosaurs on the sandy beach. Nearby fisherfolk worry that the solitary girl should try to find friends instead of bones. But Marianne’s persistence pays off when bone by bone, she assembles a skeleton she dubs ‘Bony.’ As evening falls, Marianne leaves Bony on the beach, promising to return the next day. Before falling asleep, she wishes for the bones to come to life, and under the bright stars, her wish comes true. A longneck dinosaur flies through the sky, picks up Marianne, and she rides on its back as they begin an evening of adventures. From swimming in the ocean to visiting an enchanted forest filled with fairies, unicorns, and giants, it’s definitely a night to remember. Finally, the pair ascend a tall mountain and rise into the clouds, visiting an island populated by other children and their dinosaur friends. Readers will be enchanted by this world filled with gentle dinosaurs and other magical creatures. Watercolor, pencil, and collage illustrations in muted tones perfectly mirror the imagination and fantasy of the rhyming text.

THOUGHTS: This fanciful  story will be popular with dinosaur lovers, particularly girls. Marianne is a confident and imaginative protagonist who is up for any adventure the evening has in store.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Tags: Picture book. Dinosaur fiction. Friendship. Stories in rhyme.

Elem. – Sunny

Krampien, Celia. Sunny. Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 978-1-250-31660-8. 36 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Attitude is everything, and your outlook can make even the dreariest of circumstances appear in a different light. When it’s raining outside and everyone else’s spirits are down, Sunny believes it’s the perfect day to use her big yellow umbrella. She splashes happily to school until a gust of wind lifts her up and carries her above her seaside town and out over the ocean. Most people would agree blowing over an ocean during a storm is terrible, but Sunny enjoys watching the tumbling waves. The story progresses in this vein, with Sunny looking on the bright side of every obstacle she encounters, and ultimately relying on the help of some new friends to get her back where she needs to be. Bold illustrations, featuring a palette of primarily teal and yellow, are perfectly in sync with the nautical vibe of the story.

THOUGHTS: This book will be a natural fit for morning meetings focusing on the benefits of a positive outlook, and it will also prompt discussions about what to do and what you can control when a situation is looking bleak.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Tags: Emotions and Feelings. Optimism. Weather fiction.

Elem. – Packs: Strength in Numbers

Salyer, Hannah. Packs: Strength in Numbers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-1-328-57788-7. 44 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

This nonfiction title celebrates togetherness in the animal kingdom, highlighting many forms of animal cooperation. From packs and herds to huddles and pods, the author shows how animals are better together. Spotlighting animals who are at risk of losing their homes due to climate change, poaching, or habitat loss, each spread includes three descriptive sentences sharing how animals cooperate for the benefit of the group. The spread about bees explains how some of the swarm buzzes from flower to flower, while others stay home tending to the hive and making honey. Together, they work. Additional pages spotlight information about ants, bats, lions, fish, wildebeest, frogs, coral, flamingos, and mongooses. The final page features groups of humans enjoying a variety of outdoor activities, again underlining the idea that people need each other too. The cut paper, gouache, acrylic paint, and colored pencil illustrations were finished digitally and are the true stars of this book. Each full-bleed double-page spread features a single animal as well as a large group of the same animal. Seeing so many of the same creatures together in large groups echos the idea of strength in numbers and solidifies the refrain that together we are better than we are individually. An Author’s Note encourages readers to learn more about the threatened animals featured in this book by reading and researching how every creature plays an important role in our planet’s survival. The final page includes full names and diagrams of each animal included in the book.

THOUGHTS: This first-purchase title will be a beautiful addition to elementary library collections. Students will pour over the illustrations while also gleaning knowledge about cooperation in the animal kingdom.

591.5 Animal Behavior          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD