Elem. – The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story

Lam, Thao. The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story. Owlkids Books, 2020. 978-1-771-47363-7. 40 p. $17.95. Grades K-3.

The Paper Boat, inspired by events that happened during the author’s childhood, is a wordless picture book. The story begins with a Vietnamese family eating a meal together at the table. Throughout the course of their meal, ants invade the table in search of crumbs. The young daughter saves the ants from drowning in her soup as her parents watch tanks rumble past the windows. In the dead of night, the family travels quietly in search of the escape boat that will take them away from their war-torn country. The daughter and her mother find themselves separated from the others. To soothe her frightened child, the mother makes a boat out of paper. All seems lost until a trail of ants appears and leads them to their escape boat where they are able to join the others. The paper boat, left behind by the daughter, becomes the escape boat for the little ants as they make their way to a new world just like the family.

THOUGHTS: Because this is a wordless book, the pictures must tell the story, and they do just that. The illustrations, which look to be paper cut outs, beautifully show the emotional and physical struggle the family faces as they leave the only home they have known. This book could be appropriate for students even at the intermediate level as the illustrations can spur deep conversations about the hardships of war and the parallels between ant and refugee travels. This stunning book is a must-have for elementary and intermediate libraries.

Picture Book           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – Comparing Animal Differences (Series NF)

Comparing Animal Differences. The Child’s World, 2020. $19.95 each. $342 for a set of 12. 24 Pages. Grades K-3.

Reed, Ellis M. Alligators and Crocodiles. 978-1-503-83590-0.
—. Llamas and Alpacas. 978-1-503-83593-1.
York, M. J. Butterflies and Moths. 978-1-503-83587-0.
—. Toads and Frogs. 978-1-503-83586-3.
Pearson, Marie. Dolphins and Porpoises. 978-1-503-83589-4.
—. Leopards and Cheetahs. 978-1-503-83592-4.
—. Wasps and Bees. 978-1-503-83594-8.
Gale, Ryan. Hares and Rabbits. 978-1-503-83591-7.
—. Turtles and Tortoises. 978-1-503-83588-7.
London, Martha. Lizards and Salamanders. 978-1-503-83595-5.
Ringstad, Arnold. Puffins and Penguins. 978-1-503-83596-2.
Gendell, Megan. Spiders and Daddy Long Legs. 978-1-503-83585-6.

Do you know what makes a toad different from a frog? Or a rabbit from a hare, or a lizard from a salamander? If you are like most readers, this is an ever confusing problem, which the writers of the Comparing Animal Differences series would like to simplify. Using short chapters of readable text with gorgeous photographs, each book highlights the animals separately, and then compares how to identify the difference. For example, lizards have scales and claws and hunt during the day, while salamanders are nocturnal and have no claws or scales. With labeled photos, a glossary and index, as well as extra links and activities to extend the learning, young readers will become knowledgeable naturalists in no time.

THOUGHTS: There are twelve books in this series. I have only reviewed two, but feel that the collection as a whole would be worth purchasing for class projects and personal interests. Plus, the idea of a compare and contrast assignment would be a useful note taking lesson.

550 Animals          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Class Picture

Carlain, Noe, and Herve Le Goff. Class Picture. Kane Miller EDC Publishing, 2020. 978-1-684-64112-3. Unpaged. $12.99. Grades K-2.

The full classroom photo may be a thing of the past, especially in this day and age, but the concept of gathering students to try and pose for a picture will always be a memorable moment. So, replace squirmy Kindergarten kids with beavers, bears, monkeys, snakes, elephants, and more for a real laugh of a book! With some repetitive wording and hilarious visual gags, each class of animals arrives for their moment with the brave and mostly patient photographer. Whether the hippos are bending the bench or the beavers are eating it, there are group and individual personalities that shine, along with some cameos from other animals to keep things interesting. Young readers will enjoy saying cheese to this colorful fun read along!

THOUGHTS: With a dozen animal sets captured in this book, several research or creative writing extensions are naturally available. From adding captions or speech bubbles to the class characters to looking up habitats and group names for each page, learners will find fun ways to keep coming back to this book. Recommended.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – The Nut that Fell from the Tree

Bhadra, Sangeeta, and Crance Cormier. The Nut that Fell from the Tree. Kids Can Press. 2020. 978-1-525-30119-3. $17.99. Grades K-3

This delightful book is all about the story of the nut that fell from the tree. This acorn is taken away from animals, stolen by others, flown through the air, and even drops deep in the water! Everything that happens always continues by repeating where the acorn has been, although the story remains the same. Will this tiny acorn ever become an oak tree?

THOUGHTS: This rollicking tale is inspired by the classic rhyme “The House that Jack Built.” Readers will enjoy the sequencing of this story as they follow the tale of the acorn that fell from the tree!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Cone Cat

Howden, Sarah. Cone Cat. Owlkids Books. 2020. 978-1-77147-361-3. $19.95. Gr. K-3

One day, Jeremy woke up… and there was the cone. It was on him after he woke up at the vet. Jeremy suddenly wasn’t Jeremy anymore… he was a cone cat. Everything seemed different and more difficult. Jeremy couldn’t do what he had always done before, and that was very hard. Until magic things started happening with his cone and Jeremy figured out how to get delicious treats and items with his cone. Hopefully this cone will stay!

THOUGHTS: This book had me giggling right from the start! Readers may be able to relate if they have a pet cat or dog who has worn a cone before. A fun read for younger students!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Aaalligator!

Henderson, Judith, and Andrea Stegmaier. Aaalligator! Kids Can Press. 2020. 978-1-525-30151-3. $18.99. Grades K-3.

When a boy finds an alligator stuck in the woods, what should he do? Well, perhaps the alligator is hungry? So let’s give him food and remind him not to eat people! This alligator is stuck, so what should the boy do to help free him? Simply sing him a song to lull him to sleep, then cut the vines! This simple action is the beginning of a new friendship! And it turns out, the alligator is a great way to get rid of leftovers! Everything seems great, until the mayor of town does not like this alligator and wants to get rid of it. How do you hide an alligator? With a unique idea and lots of helping hands!

THOUGHTS: A sweet story of a strange friendship between a boy an an alligator! Readers will enjoy the development of the alligator, especially as he continues to eat all of the leftovers!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Flooded:  Requiem for Johnstown

Burg, Ann E. Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-54069-7. 313 p. $16.53. Grades 3-6.

Gertrude Quinn is a spirited young school girl, looking forward to singing at Decoration Day.  Daniel Fagan is planning a summer spent outdoors, maybe even sneaking a swim in at the private late at the top of King’s Mountain. Monica Fagan is looking forward to traveling the world, especially if it means she’ll leave Daniel and his pranks behind. Joe Dixon is waiting for the perfect moment–the perfect moment to tell his father he isn’t working at the company store but instead bought a newsstand, and the perfect moment to propose to his true love, Maggie. William James has been collecting words for a long time, and he’ll get a chance to use them when he reads an original poem at Decoration Day. George Hoffman wishes his pa would let him quit school so he can go to work to help his family of 10. In Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown, Ann E. Berg tells a tale of the lives that were being lived before the disaster on May 31, 1889, that took the lives of more than 2,200 people, including 99 entire families and 396 children. We follow six main characters as they prepare for the Decoration Day celebration, disappointed by the rain but oblivious to the calamity about to unfold. We see the flood as experienced by these characters, and we also witness the aftermath. The flood is the catalyst, but it is not the main character. Instead, Burg has chosen to tell a tale of lives lived, lost and saved.

THOUGHTS: The character development and storytelling will attract students who may not know about the Johnstown flood, and it will likely encourage students to read more about this catastrophe.

Historical Fiction        Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

Elem. – Be Your Best You (Series NF)

Olsen, Elsie. Be Your Best You (series). Abdo, 2020. $20 ea. $120 set of 6. 24 p. PreK-2.

Be Aware! A Hero’s Guide to Being Smart and Staying Safe. 978-1-532-11964-4.
Be Bold! A Hero’s Guide to Being Brave. 978-1-532-11965-1.
Be Kind! A Hero’s Guide to Beating Bullying. 978-1-532-11966-8.
Be Respectful! A Hero’s Guide to Being Courteous. 978-1-532-11967-5.
Be Strong! A Hero’s Guide to Being Resilient. 978-1-532-11968-2.
Be Well! A Hero’s Guide to a Healthy Mind and Body. 978-1-532-11969-9.

Designed for a preschool and early elementary audience, this series encourages readers to be heroes by becoming the very best version of themselves they can be. This involves actions like being brave, standing up to bullies, being respectful, exercising, eating healthy, and more. By including tips, examples, and real-life scenarios, these straightforward books are very easy to understand and perfect for very young readers.

THOUGHTS: I personally read Be Bold! A Hero’s Guide to Being Brave and was impressed with the simplicity of the book and the importance of its message. I especially liked the scenarios at the end, which provide readers with an opportunity to think critically and decide how they might display bravery in specific situations. I could absolutely see this being used with preschool and early elementary students to supplement a character education curriculum, or even in a life skills classroom to teach valuable social skills and fundamental health and wellness concepts.

302 Social Interaction          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member
613 Personal Health & Safety

Elem. – Take It Apart (Series NF)

Ringstad, Arnold. Take It Apart. The Child’s World, 2020. $20 ea. $240 set of 12. 24 p. K-3.

What’s Inside a Clock? 978-1-503-83207-7.
What’s Inside a Computer Mouse? 978-1-503-83209-1.
What’s Inside a Digital Camera? 978-1-503-83238-1.
What’s Inside a Drone? 978-1-503-83237-4.
What’s Inside a DVD Player? 978-1-503-83204-6.
What’s Inside Headphones? 978-1-503-83236-7.
What’s Inside a Keyboard? 978-1-503-83206-0.
What’s Inside a Radio? 978-1-503-83203-9.
What’s Inside a Remote Control? 978-1-503-83235-0.
What’s Inside a Remote-Controlled Car? 978-1-503-83205-3.
What’s Inside a Toaster? 978-1-503-83208-4.
What’s Inside a VCR? 978-1-503-83210-7.

By introducing the different parts of various objects and providing instructions for taking these objects apart, this series encourages students to learn how everyday household items work. Captions and labeled photographs provide additional assistance throughout the process of disassembly. Complete with a table of contents, index, glossary, and sources for further research, this series would make a great addition to any STEM collection.

THOUGHTS: I personally received What’s Inside a Computer Mouse? and What’s Inside Headphones?, and I must admit that I initially judged these books by their covers. I thought they simply described these tools and how they worked, and I was skeptical about how interesting they could possibly be. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I realized that the books actually provide instructions for taking these objects apart. What a fantastic idea for hands-on STEM learning! Disassembling these various objects would probably require some adult assistance for young elementary students, but I could totally see this being done in an elementary makerspace or science class with teacher assistance—perhaps even as a small group activity. Such an activity would be an excellent way to teach about concepts like circuit boards, switches, electromagnetism, and much more.

620 Engineering          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Woodland Dreams

Jameson, Karen. Woodland Dreams. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-17063-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2. 

In this cozy story, a young girl takes a walk through the woods on a late autumn evening. Accompanied by her dog and a notebook, the girl says goodnight to the animals she sees and encourages them to settle into their sleeping place. Each two page spread features a different forest animal. The rhyming text is written in an AA-BB sequence and describes the animal’s behavior in just a few words, like “Berry Picker” and “Honey Trickster” for the bear. Before this verse, the author includes a short phrase that begins with “Come Home,” and is followed by a two word description of the animal. For example, Jameson calls the squirrel “Bushy Tail” and the woodpecker “Strong Beak” instead of using their common names. As the night draws in, snow flurries begin to fall and the pair returns home to their cabin, where it is now the girl’s turn to go to bed. Boutavant’s charming illustrations capture the atmosphere of the season, and the reader can almost feel the chilly night wind just like the fox. On the last two pages, the illustrator displays the girl’s own drawings from her notebook, depicting the wildlife that she observed.

THOUGHTS: With its comforting text and cadence, this book makes for a wonderful bedtime story, which will surely help children settle down to sleep. It is also a good choice for fall or early winter storytimes. To make it more interactive, the librarian could ask students to guess the type of animal just by listening to the words and afterwards show the pictures. Highly recommended for all elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member