YA – The Bright & the Pale

Rubinkowski, Jessica. The Bright & the Pale. Quill Tree Books, 2021. 978-0-063-07712-6. 328 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

When Valeria was 17 years old, her village was encased in a magical frost that froze everyone and everything in her village. She is the only survivor. Ever since that happened, she has been hiding from the Czar, who wants to throw anyone who survived, in jail. When the book starts, Valeria is working for the Thieves Guild with her best friend Alik and doing what she can to survive, which all comes crashing down when Alik is murdered. A year later, Valeria finds out that Alik is alive. Now she needs to lead a group of criminals into her home town in order to buy Alik’s freedom.

THOUGHTS: This is a great read for fans of the Grisha trilogy, as it has a similar feel in the mythology and folklore. This is also a great book to read during the winter, with the majority of the book taking place outside with snow.

Fantasy          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

MG – Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City

Heidicker, Christian McKay. Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City. Henry Holt and Company, 2021. 978-1-25018-144-2. 386 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

O-370 only knows of life on the farm. The elder foxes tell him stories about wild foxes who have adventures beyond anything he can imagine. O-370 and his cousin, R-211 dream of having their own adventures like Mia and Uly, the foxes they hear about in the stories. Even though they want to have adventures, they also know that the farm is a good place for them. All the foxes who live here get food twice a day and have a warm place to sleep. Best of all, when they are done at the farm, they get to go to The Barn, a special place where foxes eat centipedes all day and play with all the foxes that have gone before them. One night, O-370 is desperate for an adventure and slips out of his cage to explore The Barn. What he discovers sends him running into the forest and to the edge of the nearby city. After meeting a group of tough city foxes, O-370 realizes he may not have the skills to survive away from the farm. O-370 decides he must use the strategies in the stories he heard as a young kit to survive in the city.

THOUGHTS: In the follow-up novel to Scary Stories for Young Foxes, author Heidicker follows a similar format. He intersperses the story of O-370 with an older fox storyteller who is relaying O-370’s story to kits. Fans of his first novel will be happy to see previous characters Mia, Uly, Beatrix Potter, and others make appearances throughout the book. This book is a great addition to middle grade libraries, especially for young fans of horror and animal stories.

Horror/Fantasy          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – Be a Pet Expert (Series NF)

Barder, Gemma. Be a Pet Expert (series of 6). Crabtree, 2021. 32 p. $20.75 each. $124.50 Set of 6. Grades 3-6.

Be a Cat Expert. 978-0-778-78015-1.
Be A Dog Expert. 978-0-778-78016-8.
Be a Hamster & Guinea Pig Expert. 978-0-778-78017-5.
Be a Horse & Pony Expert. 978-0-778-78018-2.
Be a Rabbit Expert. 978-0-778-78019-9.
Be a Reptile Expert. 978-0-778-78020-5.

These books provide helpful information, facts, and pet care tips for a variety of animals. Many photos, text boxes, and checklists help readers to learn more about the animals and consider them as pets. A flowchart guides readers through yes/no questions to determine what type best suits their personalities. Placing hamsters and guinea pigs in the same book will help readers to differentiate the two. Each book surprises readers with some interesting facts even on ‘well-known’ pets. For instance, no two dogs have the same noseprint; cats cannot taste sweet foods; horses and ponies have the largest eyes of any mammals on land; and rabbits can sleep with their eyes open.

THOUGHTS: These helpful books shed a positive yet truthful light on pets, which will appeal to pet-owners and animal lovers alike.

630s Domesticated Animals, Pets        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Outbreak (Series NF)

Outbreak! Abdo Zoom, 2021. $20.00 ea. $120.00 set of 6. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

Aids Crisis. 978-1-098-22325-0.
Black Death. 978-1-098-22326-7.
Covid-19 Pandemic.
Ebola Outbreak. 978-1-098-22328-1.
Spanish Flu. 978-1-098-22329-8.
Typhoid Epidemic. 978-1-098-22330-4.

Covid – 19 Pandemic is a nonfiction book about the Covid 19 pandemic and features information about the beginning of the virus as well as some of the more recent information. There is nothing found within this nonfiction book about the vaccines; however, it does mention that the scientists are continuing to work on something for Covid-19. There is a glossary found in the back of the book, as well as an index. There is a QR code found in the back of the book that can be scanned to find more information about Covid-19. There are links from this QR code that go to the CDC Covid-19 website, the World Covid Case meter, and the WHO COVID timeline.

THOUGHTS: Overall, this is a great introduction to Covid-19, and is a great book to start learning about Covid-19. As the information changed, the book might become outdated quickly however, it is a good book to start with.

614.49 Diseases          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

MG – Taking Up Space

Gerber, Alyson. Taking Up Space. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-18602-4. 259 p. $17.99. Grades 5-9.

Sarah has a lot of aspects of her life she really loves: basketball, her best friends Ryan and Emilia, and detective novels. She also has aspects of her life that she wishes would change; for example, she hates that her mother has issues with eating and never has enough food in the house for Sarah to eat. In fact, sometimes her mother forgets to make meals which makes Sarah feel unimportant. How can you matter when the people in your life who are supposed to take care of you forget that you have to eat? Sarah also discovers that as her body is changing in her teen years, so are her basketball skills. She is slower lately, making more mistakes on the court. As a way to take control over her sluggish performances on the court, Sarah starts restricting what she eats, trying to lose excess weight so she can be faster and stronger. This is not a challenge at home, but it does become an issue when Sarah partners up with her crush Benny to compete for a spot on Chef Junior, a televised cooking show holding auditions at Sarah’s school. Eventually, the stress of the competition and diet restrictions catch up to her, and Sarah has to learn for herself how a person becomes physically and mentally healthy.

THOUGHTS: Taking Up Space shines a spotlight on the pressure teenage girls are under to look a certain way. A very unique aspect of this book, however, is that the character’s mother is also struggling with eating, demonstrating to young readers that sometimes adults don’t always have all the answers and have to seek help, too. This book is a must-have for middle grade libraries and could be a thoughtful option for a book club.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

2019 Lit Review

Our Lit Review team is ready to share the best books of 2019 (2020 series NF) with you. Follow along here or on Twitter @PSLA_Lit Review

Welcome to our newest reviewers: Arryn Cumpston, Jackie Fulton, Jillian Gasper, Brooke Gerlach, Brooke Huebner, Samantha Hull, Sarah Strouse, & Eva Thomas!

Welcome back to our returning reviewers: Erin, Bechdel, Maggie Bokelman, Maryalice Bond, Anne Bozievich, Rachel Burkhouse, Bridget Fox, Beth McGuire, Denise Medwick, Dustin Brackbill, Beth Henry, Lindsey Long, Nancy Nadig, Nancy Summers, Amy Pickett, Julie Ritter, Melissa Scott, Lauren Friedman-Way, & Emily Woodward!

We look forward to sharing many great titles with you this year.

Many Thanks for another Amazing Review Year!

The 2016 review year has come to an end.  Thank you to all of the publishers who provided review copies and to all of the PSLA Literature Review reviewers for reading and reviewing hundreds of 2016 titles.  This was a fabulous year for new and noteworthy books for grades K-12, and we’re looking forward to another great year in 2017 publishing.

Thanks to those who attended the “Get a Clue with Lit Review” session at the annual PSLA Conference in Hershey, PA, on March 31.  We hope you had as much fun as we did.  If you missed the session, you can access the “Best of” titles list on the conference sched or at http://schd.ws/hosted_files/2017pslaconference/3b/Lit%20Review%20Top%20Titles%202017.pdf

Again, thanks to all of the publishers and reviewers for another successful review year.  2017 reviews will be posted to the blog beginning in May.  Happy Reading in 2017!

PSLA Conference 2016

Literature Review will present their “Best of 2015” lists this Friday, May 13, 2016, during Session C.  We’re very excited out this years list and hope you are too.  The session format has changed, so be prepared for an interactive session of booktalks, book discussion, and ideas (lots of them).  Here’s a sneak peek of this year’s titles: https://animoto.com/play/6ehnohjHpRYroeJ1dG5igQ.  Happy Reading!

May 2015 BOB Fiction

Holm, Jennifer, Matthew Holm, and Jarrett J. Krosoczka, eds. Comics Squad: Recess! New York: Random House, 2014. 978-0-385-37004-2. 133 p. $14.00. Gr. 3-6.
This collection of short comics is edited by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm, of “Babymouse” and “Squish” fame, and “Lunch Lady” creator Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Each of the eight comics has its own story and style, but the book as a whole has a distinct Holm/Krozoczka feel as it features black and white illustrations with pops of one color—in this case, orange. The characters occasionally pop up in each other’s stories, and the whole book is well done.

If your students are fans of graphic novels, make sure to buy this book. Authors include Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dav Pilkey, Dan Santat, Rain Telgemier and Dave Roman, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, and Gene Luen Yang. It’s an all-star lineup for sure! This one will fly off the shelf, so you may want to consider an extra copy.
Graphic novel; 741.5                Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Barshaw, Ruth McNally.  The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Ellie for President ( Book 6 in the Ellie McDoodle Series).  New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. 978-1-61963-061-1. 170 pages.  $12.99. Grades 2-5.Ellie McDougal would rather draw than speak.  Her work on a fun “magazine” that she and her friends create brings her talents to the attention of the principal.  The principal organizes a school newspaper and Ellie is made Editor in Chief.  Their paper is a huge success until school elections are announced and the paper must interview each candidate.  Friends are encouraging Ellie to run for class president since they all feel she is fair and listens well.  But Ellie isn’t sure that she really wants the job. She isn’t really crazy about the idea of getting up in front of her peers! And then there is the fact that the boy that she really likes is running for president too! A sweet, funny look at life in upper elementary school.  Ellie has a crazy family who loves and supports her in her art and cheers her on to do whatever she decides to do.  This book will resonate with the shy artistic child who wants to stay in the background, but longs to express their feelings.  It also shows how the support of good friends and family can give us the courage to try new things, even though they might seem scary at first.  The doodles are reminiscent of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but with a bit more substance and depth.
Realistic Fiction    Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Funke, Cornelia. Emma and the Blue Genie. New York: Random House, 2014. 978-0-385-37540-5. $9.99. 90 Pages. Grades 2-4.
In this magical tale, Cornelia Funke, author of the famous Inkheart series, spins a story of a little girl named Emma.  Emma just needs some peace and quiet away from her teasing brothers.  So one night she sneaks out to sit by the ocean and stare at the stars.  When a mysterious bottle washes up at her feet, Emma is whisked into an adventure like she never imagined !  Emma and her dog, Tristan, must help the blue genie retrieve is nose ring from the evil yellow genie so that they can free the city and Emma can finally get her three wishes.  But to succeed, Emma will need all of her wits and courage.  This is a wonderful imaginative “magic carpet ride” of a read!
Fantasy     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (series) North Mankato: ABDO, 2015. 24 p. $16.95 each.
Lynch, Brian. Leonardo. 978-1-61479-339-7.
—. Michelangelo. 978-1-61479-340-3.  Gr. 4-8.
In Leonardo and Michelangelo, the readers have an opportunity to see the individual traits of the respective turtles. While Leonardo goes alone to try and rescue their father, Splinter, he relives precious memories of his family before the mutations. Leonardo fights valiantly among the numerous foot clan, but he is in need of his brothers. Michelangelo looks for a memorable New Years celebration. He does have this as he uses skills that each of his brothers possess, but he does not want to steal the diamond for the evil doers. The books Donatello and Raphael are also part of the series. Many artists work to bring the series to life including Andy Kuhn, Bill Crabtree, Shawn Lee, Ross Campbell and Jay Fotos.
741.5 Graphic Novels, Comic Strips       Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Proimos III, James. Apocalypse Bow Wow. 978-1-61963-442-8. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 219p. $13.99. Gr 3-6.
This hilarious first in a new series is sure to thrill your fans of Baby Mouse, Fashion Kitty, and Wimpy Kid books. Apollo and Brownie are doggie housemates who realize they are getting very, very hungry, the water bowl is empty, and still their people are not home. It’s an apocalypse! With the help of a deer crashing through the window, a tick who spent a lot of time between the pages of the ancient text The Art of War, a police dog and others, Apollo and Brownie face innumerable odds to get food and fight their way through the catastrophe. Most pages contain a single panel making this a quick, fun and breezy read. Lots of laughts.
Graphic Novel/Fiction/Humor     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Klimo, Kate. Dog Diaries: Sweetie (Dog Diaries series). 978-0385-39240-2. New York:  Random House, 2015. Gr 1-4.
Klimo is back with another tale told from the doggie’s mouth, this from one of George Washington’s beloved fox hounds, Sweetie. Reminiscent of Black Beauty, each Dog Diaries adventure is told through the voice of the dog. Readers learn a slice of history not just through the historical fiction in the front of the book, but also through the wonderfully informative, illustrated Appendix at the back of each. In this installment we learn that Washington was not only the father of our country but considered by the AKC to be the father of the American Fox Hound breed as well.  We learn about the history of the breed, its status today, and suitability as a pet. A beautiful black and white reproduction of William Russell Birch’s painting of fox hunting on Mt. Vernon ends the book. I love the Dog and Horse Diary series and have turned on a number of my early grade readers to both series. Highly recommended.
Historical Fiction     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Mullarkey, Lisa and John. Shakespeare Saves the Globe: The Art of Time Travel Series. Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2015. 978-1-62402-090-2. 128 pages. $18.95. Grades 3-6.
Time travel for young readers is nothing new, and this series (The Art of Time Travel) follows in the vein of Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio. For example, in this tale, two kids named Mason and Aubrey are hanging out at a theater when they are suddenly whisked away to 1598 London and must find a way to save the Globe and the work of William Shakespeare. They learn about the culture, the dangers of that time, and the joy of the theater. When the day is saved, off they go to the present with lessons in hand. What may help this series stand out are the layers of issues and themes that they experience while on their adventure. There are discussions of gender equality, public sanitation and safety, and class differences that are all appropriately discussed. Also, the other titles in the series cover Frankenstein’s Mary Shelley, Ella Fitzgerald, and Claude Monet – all of which are more advanced topics than M.T.H. and could be an excellent bridge for middle readers into other worlds and literature.
Fiction; Historical          Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Stratford, Jordan. The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency (Book 1, The Case of the Missing Moonstone). New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2015.  978-0385754408. 240p. $14. Gr. 3-7.
In a fictional tale of an alternate past, Mary (Godwin) Shelly (author of Frankenstein) and Ada (Byron) Lovelace (first computer programmer) collide during their tween years. Despite the creative license used in finagling this hypothetical friendship, the characters perfectly balance one another. One is extremely observant, noticing details overlooked by others and the other is a math genius. Together they create a Hardy Boys meet Sherlock Holmes style detective agency.
Excellent for promoting strong female characters as well as real life role models, this book is a fun mix of history, mystery and science for fans of series such as Mysterious benedict Society, Spiderwick Chronicles and Series of Unfortunate Events!
Science/Historical Fiction        Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Potter, David. The Left Behinds: The iPhone that Saved  George Washington. New York: Random House, 2015. 978-0-385-39056-9. 344p. $14. Gr.3-7.
Debut author David Potter weaves a hysterical, historical, mystery adventure of a trio of friends (Mel, Bev and Brandon) who remain at boarding school for the holidays where they attend a Christmas Day Revolutionary reenactment with one of their teachers. Things get strange when they find themselves facing what appears to be the dead body of real George Washington just BEFORE he is supposed to make his famous crossing of the Delaware! Mel, the history buff of the group discovers that a rogue phone app known as iTime, is responsible for the calamity and the group teams up with a couple colonial lads to try to correct the damage before it devastates history!
Science/Historical Fiction        Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary


Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. Paper Things. 2015. 9780763663230. 384p. $16.99. Gr. 4-6.
Greg is truly trying to take care of himself and his sister Ari. Both of their parents are deceased and Greg doesn’t want to break a promise to his mother of not keeping he and his sister together, even if that means being homeless. Arianna is the star of this realistic fiction novel that truly hits home. Homelessness is more of a reality that we truly know. At the age of 11, Ari is forced to be brave beyond her years. She is forced to bounce from house to house as her brother tries to get a job and find suitable housing for them to live. During their time of homelessness, not only do they bounce from house to house of Greg’s friends, but they also spend time in a shelter, storage unit, and a car. During all of this, Ari begins to see her grades slip, her BFF pull away, and her dreams of attending Carter, the same school her father, mother, brother, and guardian attended. Through a little faith and paper airplanes, Ari discovers that your living situation doesn’t define you and that dreams can come true and that true friends may not be who we expect them to be. This would be a great read-aloud for grades 5-7!
Realistic Fiction/Homeless                 Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial


Lord, Cynthia. A Handful of Stars. 978545700276. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 192p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.
This delightful story of 2 young girls, Tiger’Lily’ and Salma, tells how friendship, courage, imagination, and love can be found in places that you wouldn’t necessary expect it. Lily lives with her grandparents in Maine and is diligently trying to raise money to pay for eye surgery her dog Lucky needs. Lily makes a new friend, Salma, who happens to be one of the migrant workers that comes to Maine to harvest the blueberries. Lily and Salma quickly discover that they both have a love for art and animals and are willing to try anything to raise the money for Lucky’s surgery. This story will touch your heart in so many ways!
Realistic Fiction                Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial

May 2015 BOB Nonfiction


Ruurs, Margriet. Families Around the World. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2014. 978-1-894786-57-7. 40 p. $18.95. Gr. K-3.
Margriet Ruurs created a beautiful, diverse introduction to different families around the world. Ruurs interviewed real families in different countries and based each two-page spread on her interviews. She features families such as a large nomadic family in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, in which young son Baatar spends his days tending to the family’s animals and doing chores to help with daily survival; a two-mother family who lives in Amsterdam and spends the weekend together at local sites and visiting an elderly grandmother; an American family that owns a cattle ranch on which son Ryan helps raise a sheep that he will show at a fair; a Chinese family that has moved to Canada and speaks Mardarin at home but English with friends and eats lasagna with chopsticks.  Ruurs included families with single parents, same-sex parents, extended families, biracial families, family members with handicaps, and families that live on five of the seven continents (no Australia or Antarctica). The book includes a map with highlighted countries, a note for parents and teachers, and a glossary with words from other languages that are featured in the text.

This book would serve as a lovely introduction to foreign cultures, different kinds of families, or different lives of children around the world. I think that kids would love to know that the children featured in the book are real children. Jessica Rae Gordon’s colorful illustrations showcase not only the families but different cultural features such as the red double-decker bus in England and the beet soup and pierogies for Sunday dinner in Poland. Introduce this book to teachers who could use it in their classrooms for curriculum connections.
Nonfiction; 306.85           Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Schecter, Vicky Alvear. Illustrated by J.E. Larson.  Hades Speaks!: Secrets of the Ancient Gods. Honesdale, Pennsylvania: Boyds Mill Press, 2014. 978-1-620915981. 128 p. $14.46. Gr. 3-7.
Learn more about mythology by taking an underworld from a tour from Hades, the  original “He Who Must Not be Named.”  While Hades was the first born, he frequently discusses the unfairness in the realms and temples his siblings, mainly Zeus, possess. Persephone, the wife of Hades, shares several stories of previous human visitors to the Underworld during the stay at the Black Palace. In addition to learning about mythology, the culture of funeral rites and famous Greek thinkers are introduced.  At the end of the book readers can consult a guide to the Greek Gods and Heroes, a glossary of terms, sources and an index.  Hades Speaks! is ideal for readers that enjoy mythology infused series or learning more about topics covered in World History class.
292.1 Nonfiction, Mythology, History             Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


 Clay, Kathryn. Robots in Space. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2015.  978-1-4914-0585-7. $24.65. Gr. K-3.
This book begins by introducing readers to why we use robots to explore space. Readers learn that humans often use robots to learn about dangerous places that people might not be able to visit. Readers learn about a robot that sends information from the sun, one that has taken pictures of Neptune and deep, dark places in the solar system, and a rover that landed on Mars. The last few pages even explore the future of space robotics, including spider-bots and a humanlike robot that may someday travel to Mars or the Moon! The text in this book is somewhat sparse, however the simplistic information provided will be just enough for the target audience of young readers. Other titles in the Cool Robots series include Animal Robots, Robots on the Job, and Tiny Robots. Anyone interested in science, space, or robots will be an instant fan of this book, and likely the others in the series as well.
629.43 Space, Robotics        Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Lee, Sally. School Long Ago and Today. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2015.  978-1-4914-0296-2. $24.65. Gr. K-3.
Many students in today’s world are used to a certain way of learning in the classroom. Research projects using computers of all shapes and sizes, interactive technology, an ample student body, and a diverse staff to teach many different subject areas are all the norm. However, the education system in our country was not always so vibrant and modern. This book does a great job of providing a simple, brief timeline of the ways schools have evolved from the 1900s to present day, focusing on major points to keep the audience of young readers engaged. Included on each easy-to-read page are photographs, glossary words, and extra fact boxes. I particularly love the addition of the “Amazing but True” and “Hands On” pages in the back of the book. The hands on activity provides directions for creating a hornbook, which is what colonial children used to help them with their reading and writing. Other titles in the Long Ago and Today series include Communication, Food, and Transportation.
370.973 Education History, Schools                  Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Smith-Llera, Danielle-. Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece (First Facts series).  9781491402740. N. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2015.  24p. $18.49. NF Gr 2-6.

This is a beautifully organized and illustrated primer to Greek Mythology. Beginning with a map of ancient Greece showing the location of Temples for the Gods, the book tells the story of all the major characters on Mt. Olympus. Then each god from Zeus to Apollo has a spread telling their individual tale in simple, easy-to-read format with luscious photography, illustrations, and lots of sidebars for enticing nonfiction read. I’d recommend this book as a pleasure read and also as a classroom resource when teaching mythology to the younger grades. Features at the end include a family tree of the gods, glossary, index, sources for further reading and Common Core critical thinking prompts.
753 Mythology              Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Capek, Michael. Secrets of the Terracotta Army: Tomb of an Ancient Chinese Emperor (Edge Books series).  9781476599175. N. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2015.  24p. $18.49. NF Gr 3-8.
I’ve long been curious about the Terracotta Army in China. Was it a statue factory? A temple? An artist’s lair? Turns out these thousands of terracotta soldier statues inhabit the tomb of China’s first emperor who lived over 2,000 years ago. In the spirit of the Egyptian pharaohs, he wanted to go into the hereafter with all the comforts, companionship and protection he enjoyed in this world.  So far archaeologists have mapped that this tomb covers at least a 30-sq. mile area, and new discoveries are continuing to be made. This book does an excellent job of showing the artifacts, telling the historical backstory, and detailing the current archaeological science going on.  While composed in a short and easy to read format,  your older students will not find the content too young.  Fascinating! End features include glossary, index, print and online resources for further reading, and Common Core critical thinking prompts. Highly recommended.
931 China History Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School