Elem. – A Life Electric: The Story of Nikola Tesla

Westergaard, Azadeh. A Life Electric: The Story of Nikola Tesla. Viking, 2021. Unpaged. 978-0-593-11460-5.  Grades 1-4. $17.99.

In this picture book biography, the author tells readers how much more Nikola Tesla contributed to science than his hair-raising Tesla coil. Born during a thunderstorm in modern day Croatia, the future scientist was interested in animals, books, and electricity as a young boy. He even designed his own inventions, like a “rotating motor powered by the fast, flapping wings of sixteen June bugs.” Tesla was a good student, excelling in many subjects, but electrical engineering was his passion. Soon he came up with an innovative way to transmit electricity over long distances by sending electric currents back and forth on a wire. Tesla traveled to the United States to share his discovery. There he met businessman George Westinghouse and they worked together to develop the electric motor. This invention was presented at the 1893 Chicago World Fair to much acclaim. Sadly, the Wizard of Electricity did not profit much from his creation due to unfortunate business decisions. Although Nikola died alone and poor in New York in 1943, over two thousand prominent scientists, businessmen, and artists attended his funeral. As one friend observed, “So far reaching is his work… should Tesla’s work be suddenly withdrawn-darkness would prevail.”  The back matter provides more biographical details, vintage photographs, and suggested readings.  Sarda’s illustrations are rendered digitally and have a folk art quality.

THOUGHTS: This is an intriguing life story of this important, but underappreciated, inventor, whose electrical discoveries are so crucial to the modern world. By revealing Tesla’s non-technical interests such as poetry and caring for hungry or injured pigeons, the author has presented a unique portrait of the man. This text works as a good introduction to electricity units and is a worthwhile purchase for elementary collections.

Biography  92, 921          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
621.3092 Electrical Engineering

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

PSLA Conference – Thank You!

It’s hard to believe that the 2015 PSLA Conference has already come and gone.  We had a blast attending sessions, seeing old friends and meeting new ones, visiting with vendors, sharing the Top 40 books of 2014 with all of you, and hearing from PYRCA winners Aaron Reynolds and Katherine Applegate, along with the awesome kids who presented the awards.  Thank you all very much for attending the Best of the Best in Children’s Literature session, the author session with Katherine Applegate and Aaron Reynolds, and the YA Top 40 session.  We hope you had as much fun at the sessions as we did.  We look forward to another great year of reviews to help with collection development and participation in the PA Young Reader’s Choice program.  Check back regularly for updates on the 25th anniversary of PYRCA and new reviews of amazing fiction and nonfiction for students grades K-12.  Remember, you can always contact us at psla.mediaselectionreview@gmail.com with questions or concerns.


Thank you all for your continued support and involvement with the PSLA Media Selection and Review committee.  We love what we do: reading books and making sure student throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have the best resources available to them.


Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your school year.

Erin Parkinson & Melissa Daugherty, co-chairs, PSLA Media Selection and Review

Lindsey Long & Kathie Jackson, coordinators, Best of the Best in Children’s Literature

Steph Gibson & Alice Cyphers, coordinators, PYRCA


P.S. – Check back soon for the start of the 2015 reviews.

March BOB Fiction


Draper, Sharon. Stella by Starlight. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2015. 9781442494978. 336 pgs. $16.99. Ages 9-12.
Stella and her brother are out late one evening and come upon a horrific scene. They don’t know what to make of the people in white hoods and the cross burning in the field. They rush home, completely scared, and report what they have seen to their parents. Thus begins many events involving the Klu Klux Klan and how a community comes together, both black and white. Sharon Draper also provides a story of how family is more important than anything. Stella learns some very difficult lessons, including how to be a good friend and student. Once again, Sharon Draper does not let her readers down. This book is not an easy read and would be best for more mature readers. The content is extremely sensitive, but would make for a spectacular literature circle.
Historical Fiction        Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial


Gurevich, Margaret. Illustrated by Brooke Hagel. Design Diva. New North Mankato, Minnesota: Stone Arch, 2014. 978-1-4342-9177-6. 91 p. $18.04. Gr. 5-8
Travel to Santa Cruz and meet Chloe Montgomery, a budding 16 year old fashion designer,. Along with her best friend, Alex, they watch the fashion reality television show “Design Diva.” Alex encourages Chloe to enter the teen contest for the show. Chloe is nervous at first and her fashion rival, Nina, is also going to try out. Throughout the novel you can see the clothing choices and color fashion designs artfully designed. At the conclusion of the novel Chloe’s designs advance her in the competition. The next book in the Chloe by Design series is The First Cut.  This series is favorite for student with an interest in design and fashion at my middle school.
Fiction, Friendship, Fashion   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Harrington, Karen. Courage for Beginners. New York: Little Brown, 2014. 978-0-316-21048-5. 289 p. $17.00 Gr. 5-8
7th grade brings numerous challenges to Mysti as she comes to grips with her best friend Anibal’s goal to become a hipster, the fact that her father is critically injured from the tree fall and the secret that her mother will not  leave the house to confront her agoraphobia. The novel is told in a compassionate tone for the struggles facing the family. Mysti embraces Anibal’s social project even though this requires his cruelty towards her at school. This also means that Mysti will need to find somewhere to sit at lunch and hopefully a new friend or two, which luckily she eventually does. As it takes longer for her father to heal at the hospital, Mysti has to endure long walks that led to nefarious situations while obtaining the family groceries. Each chapter begins with a story Mysti envisions while chapter are appropriate for a read aloud. The novel earned starred reviews from Book List and VOYA.
Fiction, Family, Friendship              Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School


Margolis, Leslie. Monkey Business (Book 4 in the Annabel Unleashed series). New York: Bloomsbury, 2014.  978-1-61963-393-3.  211 pages. $16.98. Grades 3-5.
Annabel can’t wait to show her best friends her new house.  Her family has just moved and her mom and stepdad are expecting a new baby. But Rachel, her best friend is saying mean things and Annabel can’t figure out why.  When the girls find out about a benefit concert starring all of their favorite bands, they decide to ask for permission to go.  When the parents decide that the girls must earn the money to go, they have to get creative!  The girls have some difficulty getting along, so issues of friendship and working out difficulties arise.  Annabel is also getting used to the idea of being a big sister and the changes to their family life. A fun and realistic look at the lives of twelve year olds today. Great themes of working for something and not judging someone for what they do or don’t have are great lessons for today’s kids.
Realistic Fiction      Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Matheny, Bill. Catwoman Gets Busted by the Batman. (The Batman Strikes, part of the Graphic Resolve: Common Core editions series). N. Mankato, MN: Stone Arch, 2014. 978-1434292117.  $21.27. 32p.  Gr.  3-6.
The prized Blue Novick Diamond’s just been stolen, and Catwoman was seen at the scene of the crime. But the Batman knows she’s innocent. Will they team up to catch the real crooks? Read this fun, action-packed, and beautifully illustrated graphic novel to find out!  Re-tooling the classic comic book to appeal to teachers of the Common Core, this series includes features in the back: glossary and visual questions and prompts on both the story and the graphic novel style. One of 9 books in this The Batman Strikes series, I’d highly recommend these for superhero fans, especially younger and reluctant readers.
741.5 Graphic Novel   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Stewart, Yale. Battle of the Super Heroes!   (The Amazing Adventures of Superman series). 978-1479557318. N. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2014.  $23.99. $21.27. 32p.  Gr.  K-2
This exciting episode begins with Superman investigating an explosion only to discover it’s, wait…Batman? Destroying the City? When Batman then punches his ally Superman in the nose, we know something fishy is going on! The book ends with a secret message for readers to decode and a glossary to help them decode new words they’ve encountered. Very fun. While these 5 books in The Amazing Adventures of Superman series are not graphic novels, I shelve them with my superhero graphic novels to entice my beginner and lower level readers looking for a superhero action fix.
Easy Reader   Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Sherry, Kevin. The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet. New York, NY: Scholastic Press, 2014. 978-0-545-55617-0. 122 pages. $8.99. Grades 1-3.
The introduction to this promising series of monster mythology mashed with humorous comics introduces us to a world hidden to human readers. But a yeti named Blizz Richards lets us visit the cryptids, a group of beings who have never been proven to exist, as they have a reunion at bigfoot’s lair. All should beware of the snooping cryptozoologist who could ruin the mystery and magic of these creatures as the story quickly evolves. This book has two great things going for it. For one, it is an easy sell for fans who move easily between picture books, graphic novels, and beginning chapter books looking for entertainment. Second, the diagrams, charts and tons of humorous labels to the illustrations provide a cool crossover from non-fiction text features. Sherry’s clever crossover story with  imaginative characters won’t remain undiscovered on your library shelf for very long!
Fiction; Fantasy    Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Oppel, Kenneth. The Boundless. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: New York. 2014. 9781442472884. 336 pages. $17.99. Ages 8-12.
All aboard! William Everett is on the ride of his life. Coming from a poor family in Canada that relies on the father to make a living as a brakeman on the Canadian Pacific Railway, William finds himself on adventure that could get him killed. William’s father goes from laborer to General Manager in 3 short years after saving the life of the founder of ‘The Boundless’, the longest train in the world. The families’ new lifestyle includes new houses and the best education. Not only does William now live a life of luxury, but he has to decide whether or not he follows his dream of studying to be an artist or pleasing his father and going to college to get a ‘real’ job. During his journey, William meets a young girl that is a member of a circus that is part of the 5 mile Boundless Train. She not only helps William escape the man that is trying to kill him, but she encourages William to do what he loves. Hop on board to discover the magic and mystery of The Boundless.
Fiction/Mystery/Adventure                     Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial


Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. The War that Saved My Life. Penguin Young Readers Group. 2014. 9780803740815. 320 pages. $16.99. Ages 9-12.
Ada and Jamie live in London, England during World War II. The parents of the community they live in are preparing to send their children away in order to protect them from the ‘war’ that is knocking on their door. Unfortunately for Ada, her mother treats her terribly due to her foot and tells her that she will not be sent away. Without her mother knowing, Ada taught herself how to walk and ‘escaped’ to the country with her younger brother. They are taken in by a woman that initially knew nothing about taking care of children, but quickly takes the children under her wing and provides them a home life they never knew existed. This story allows the reader to experience the successes of Ada as she learns to walk, ride a horse, read, and be loved for who she is
Historical Fiction                                                                                             Krista Goodzinski/Mars Centennial

March BOB Picture Books


Harrison, Hannah E. Extraordinary Jane. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers,  2014. 978-0-8037-3914-7. 32 p. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Jane is part of a circus dog family. Her mother dances on horseback, her “strongdog” father shows his strength, and her brothers and sisters perform similar daring feats, but Jane is “just Jane.” She wants desperately to find the thing that makes her special, but after several disastrous attempts at circus life, Jane still hasn’t found her talent. It turns out that the thing that makes Jane special is just…Jane. “Jane is a really good dog” proclaims the circus poster on the last page, and it’s so true. She is loved by all for just being herself.

This sweet, simple story is a welcome message in our highly competitive world where children feel so much pressure to be extraordinary. Aside from the positive message, the illustrations are the true highlight of this book. Harrison must be a dog owner because she perfectly captures the spirit and expressions of a small dog. Jane’s movements, facial expressions, and body are very realistic, down to her softly pink tummy. The other circus animals and ringleader have well developed personalities thanks to her illustrations, leading readers to understand that the ringleader and other animals love Jane just the way she is. Jane is a treasure who will be loved by all.
 Picture book              Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Spier, Peter. The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night. New York: Doubleday, 2014. 978-0-385-37616-7. unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

This is a rereleased version of Peter Spier’s Caldedott Honor-winning title. The words are made of the old folk song “The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night” and Spier’s illustrations beautifully compliment the song. Each picture is brightly illustrated in watercolor and depicts a sleepy, quiet New England town in which a fox is creating havoc late one night in old mother Giggle-Gaggle’s duck and goose pen.

A note from Spier in the back of the book explains his motivation in redoing the book that won a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1961. The original edition was published with a colored illustration on one page and a black and white illustration on the other side, simply to save the publisher money. Spier always felt a strong connection to this book which was inspired by a trip through Vermont that he and his wife took as newlyweds. The redone illustrations are lush and beautiful, and while the song is old fashioned and a little macabre in places, it’s a simple story of an animal feeding his family. A well-done update.
Picture book              Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools


Shea, Bob. Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2014. 978-1-59643-975-7. $17.99. Gr. K-2.
When reading this story, whether aloud or in your head, one cannot help but use an impassive southern drawl, which ends up being hilariously juxtaposed against a silly story about a town under attack by “terrible toads” (these toads being the detestable person type, not the amphibious type). It turns out that the town’s only hope against said toads might be their new sheriff, Ryan, a young fellow who knows a lot about dinosaurs and whose preferred mode of transportation is a tortoise. An unlikely candidate for taking down criminals, you might ask? Ryan’s dinosaur knowledge paired with his nonchalance are really all that is needed to complete the task. By accusing dinosaurs of all the robberies in town, the real criminals feel slighted for not receiving the credit that they so deserve for their deplorable behavior. Ryan, being the dino-lover that he is, might truly believe that a T-Rex caused the massive bank break-in, but he still manages to outsmart the crooks, bringing the town of Drywater Gulch back to its peaceful, normal, toad-free self.

Looking for a storytime hit? This book has got you covered. I recently tested the waters with a few first grade classes and they found the entire thing hysterical. What’s not to love? Our hero is a young boy and a sheriff. He rides a tortoise, convinces the mayor that dinosaurs have been robbing the town dry, and has the last laugh when he manages to trick those nasty toads into jail. Add a southern accent and silly voices when reading and your students will think you’re a rock star!
Picture Book   Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


McDonnell, Patrick. A Perfectly Messed Up Story.  New York: Little , Brown & Company, 2014. 978-0316222587. 40p. $12.00. Gr. K-2.
In this fun primary read,  cartoonist, Patrick McDonnell, brings us little Louie who excitedly begins to tell us his happy tale as he skips and jumps across the pages. Sudeenly it starts getting messed up by jelly, peanut butter and crayon. Louie gets so frustrated and horrified by the messy book that he is ready to give up! Finally he realizes that life is not perfect and neither are stories. This is also an excellent book to teach incoming Kindergarteners and First Graders about proper book care!
Picture Book        Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary School


Roscoe, Lily. The Night Parade. New York, NY: Orchard Press, an imprint of Scholastic, 2014. 978-0-545-39623-3. unpaged. $16.99. Grades Pre-K to 1.
Kids can certainly be sneaky after bedtime, but this light and lively bedtime story let’s the children roam happily through the night exploring and playing with innocence. Roscoe uses simple rhyming couplets to take the night adventurers to town while Illustrator David Walker uses warm watercolors to keep the merriment interesting. There are odes to Sendak’s work and other nocturnal tales of the night life, all of which help fill in the time gap from dusk to dawn for little dreamers. This is an enjoyable addition to that bedtime tradition.
Fiction; Picture Book   Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Fine, Edith Hope. Sleepytime Me. New York: Random House, 2014. 978-0-449-81062-0.   32 pages. $17.99. Grades PK -1
Sleepytime Me is a soft and soothing book that is perfect for winding down before bed.  The beautiful illustrations depicting family members as evening falls are captivating. The sweet rhythmic poetry and the repetitive phrases make this a wonderful bedtime book that children and parents will love.
Picture Book            Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


January 2015 BOB Picture Books – Happy New Year!


Offill, Jenny. While You Were Napping. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014.  978-0-375-86572-5. $16.99. Gr. K-3.
For many children, the thought of being left out of an adventure is just unacceptable. Maybe that is why naptime is often preceded with kicking, screaming, crying, and yelling. In While You Were Napping, this picture of missing out on something amazing while snoozing is painted so humorously. A big sister visits her brother after he awakes from his nap, telling him that he does not have to worry about missing out on anything at all. Nothing interesting has happened. That is of course, unless he thinks dirtball fights, digging for dinosaur bones, cotton candy carrying robots, french-fry sandwiches, fireworks, pirates, and an impromptu trip to the moon sound like fun. An observant reader might realize that big sis is telling a fib, using items in her brother’s room as inspiration for her fantastical tale. The poor younger brother, however, is not privy and on the last page we see his arms-crossed, pouty face reaction.


I love this story for a few reasons. One, is that I am myself a younger sibling and I can picture my older sister joking around with me in the same way. Another is how true a child’s hatred for napping is, often induced by wanting to experience everything and fear of missing out. Lastly, as an adult reading this story, I am reminded of the idea that children who hate taking naps always have to take them, but adults who would love even a short, mediocre nap never seem to have that luxury. I laugh at the idea of missing out on some sort of crazy adventure as described by the big sister and thinking, “eh, I’d rather take the nap.” I think a lot of people could relate to this story, children and adults alike.
Picture Book            Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary


Hawkes, Kevin. Remy and Lulu. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. 978-0-449-81085-9. $17.99. Gr. K-3.
When impressionist style painter Remy first encounters Lulu the dog in a countryside outside of Paris, it seems as though the two are meant for one another. Both fit the bill of “struggling artist”, Remy because he cannot seem to get others to understand his artwork and Lulu because she just lost her art studio home. The two find happiness in the company of one another. Remy explains to Lulu that because his eyesight is not very good, he paints “the essence of a person, not their likeness”, which is probably why so many of his customers who go to him for portraits of themselves are left feeling disappointed. However, with Lulu by Remy’s side during his portrait painting sessions, things begin to suddenly change. His once disgruntled customers are now happy and willing to pay more than expected for Remy’s work! They are amazed at the details and the color. What Remy does not know, but the reader quickly find out, is that it is not his details and color that is impressing the customers. Unbeknownst to Remy, each time he paints, Lulu finds a small corner of the canvas where she creates her own pieces of art. It is her work that the customers are so pleased with. As the story progresses, Remy discovers the truth and is at first extremely hurt. However, he comes to realize that he is only truly happy when he paints from the heart, even if it means that others might not understand his work. He even appreciates and praises Lulu’s work, and the story ends with the pair working as a team, each painting what makes them happy.

There are so many connections and points of discussion that emerge from Remy and Lulu, including different styles of art, Parisian culture, and learning to do what makes you happy rather than trying to please everyone around you. An audience for this story will not be hard to find as it incorporates humor, friendship, and whimsy into a well thought out, engaging story.
Picture Book            Lisa Naylor, Concord Elementary