Elem. – How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodbye?

Yolen, Jane and Mark Teague. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodbye? Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-36335-7. 40 p. $17.99. PreK-2.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodbye is the latest book in the How Do Dinosaurs companion series, and it has all the laughter and lessons of the other books in the series. This one shows how dinosaurs react to either their loved ones leaving, or when they have to leave to go somewhere. It shows how the dinosaurs face their fears of goodbyes and are able to tell the adults in their life how they feel.

THOUGHTS: A great addition to the How Do Dinosaurs series. The illustrations are really well done throughout the book and give the reader a lot to look at while reading. 

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Where Snow Angels Go

O’Farrell, Maggie. Where Snow Angels Go. Candlewick, 2021. 978-1-536-21937-1. 72 p. $18.99. Grades 3-6.

A magical holiday story that doesn’t focus on a particular celebration, but instead focuses on the winter season. Slyvie makes a snow angel one night and much to her surprise the angel comes to life as her protector. In a fairy tale or mythical way, the angel says that he will always watch over her because water has a memory and despite being in different forms and places, she will have her angel watching over her. The angel despises the thought of being magic, or simply scientific.

THOUGHTS: A great update to the winter collection in any elementary library. The potential tie-ins to lessons related to the water system, winter solstice, and fairy tales make this title universally appealing for the upper grades at the elementary level.

Picture Book          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – Soul Food Sunday

Bingham, Winsome. Soul Food Sunday. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-419-74771-7. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K-2.

It can’t be soul food Sunday without the macaroni and cheese, greens, and chicken, ribs, and sausage! The narrator is a young boy but old enough to join in the fun (and hard work!) in his grandmother’s kitchen. His grandmother guides him through grating cheese, rinsing greens, skinning the chicken, skinning the sausage, and even a special surprise. The hard work that goes into this meal makes the food taste that much more delicious! The beautiful story of mouthwatering family time showcases tradition and culture that goes far beyond the actual recipes–but a recipe for mac and cheese is included! An author’s note includes the importance of soul food to the author and a story of how the illustrator learned to cook from her family members.

THOUGHTS: A great addition to any elementary library to showcase culture that emphasizes the importance of food and family and how they come together.

Picture Book          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

MG – Frankie & Bug

Forman, Gayle. Frankie & Bug. Aladdin, 2021. 978-1-534-48253-1. 288 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Tired of experiencing life in 2021? Jump back to the summer of 1987, before social media, cell phones, and when summer break meant kids had an opportunity to get bored. Bug was all ready to go to the beach every day with her brother, but he was too cool for that now. While she was moping about, her upstairs neighbor informed her that his nephew would be coming to stay for the summer. Though they don’t hit it off at first, Frankie and Bug cover a lot of ground as ten and eleven year olds in Venice Beach. From sleuthing to try uncover the midnight marauder to a lesson or two in self identity, Frankie and Bug discover the importance of being true to yourself and family is who you surround yourself with.

THOUGHTS: A fantastic addition to middle level libraries. It’s a relief to read a story without the burden of current times, but one that still hits a lot of major themes. The story includes LGBTQ+ and Hispanic representation in an age appropriate manner.

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

YA – The Personal Librarian

Benedict, Marie, and Christopher Murray, Victoria. The Personal Librarian. Berkeley Books, 2021. 978-0-593-10153-7. 341 p. $27.00. Grades 11-12+.

The broad genre of historical fiction needs to specify all the long, lost stories of yore that focus on little known historical figures. The fictionalized retelling of J. P. Morgan’s personal collection of books, artwork, and other materials that eventually became the Pierpont Morgan Library through the curation of his personal librarian, Belle de Costa Greene was sensational. Belle worked as a librarian at Princetown before returning to New York City to live with her family and work for Morgan as a curator of his magnificent collection. Her position took her to foreign cities, elite parties, and other exclusive events that Black women often were not at liberty to experience during that time. Some scenes include romantic descriptions. Belle also has an abortion without her consent, which can be triggering for some readers.

THOUGHTS: Some of the character building took longer than typical YA books might. But for the student who has a love of history, arts, women’s rights, and Black rights, this is the perfect story to get lost in before doing their own research on the Pierpont Morgan Library and who Belle de Costa Greene was and how her work at the turn of the 20th century still has ripple effects today.

Historical Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

YA – One Great Lie

Caletti, Deb. One Great Lie. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-534-46317-2. 384 p. $19.99. Grades 9-12.

Caletti has a knack for writing twisty stories that feel like a mystery, mild adult thriller, and realistic young adult fiction all in one. Pulling from current events in modern culture, such as the #MeToo movement, Caletti is able to tell a story while weaving in historically accurate information about female writers from the 1500s and 1600s that are largely unknown. Set mostly in the picturesque city of Venice, Charlotte was selected for an exclusive writing retreat for students to work with a renowned author. While leaving a home that isn’t always comfortable might come as a golden opportunity, Charlotte faces her own tribulations in Venice, and the distance makes it hard for her to communicate with her nearest and dearest. That is, except for Dante. By all standards, this book has romantic elements with unexpected developments in all story lines.

THOUGHTS: All high school libraries should start a Deb Caletti shelf now. This novel will be of particular interest to those who enjoy learning about historical female writers, art preservation, or Italy.

Romance          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD
Realistic Fiction

YA – The Holiday Switch

Marcelo, Tif. The Holiday Switch. Underlined, 2021. 978-0-593-37955-4. 272 p. $9.99. Gr 9-12.

Sounds like it belongs on a Hallmark Channel countdown? It does. Just like the main character’s, Lila, holiday book blog Tinsel and Tropes, supports the existence of so many subgenres of holiday books, it’s still a rare occurrence to locate YA holiday focused novels, with Filipino American main and supporting characters nonetheless. While Lila navigates through her last year of high school in an almost perpetual Christmas town, there’s a constant air of gingerbread lattes and candy canes that make college decisions, secrets from parents, and romance seem sugar coated. Even in her most frustrated moments, she finds a cutesy-Christmasy way to convey her feelings (a la jumping jingle bells). Despite being a relatively light read, Marcelo is able to weave family, life decisions, and relationships into the plot that give the book enough weight to carry through the holiday season, like when Lila’s younger sister points out that “no one really knows what they’re doing, but I think you might know what the next step is.”

THOUGHTS: The Filipino American main character and various supporting characters who are also Filipino American make this #ownvoices novel an easy purchase for most high school libraries. Though there isn’t a ton of depth to the story, it’s a nice easy read that will broaden most reader’s experiences.

Romance          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD
Realistic Fiction

YA – If the Shoe Fits

Murphy, Julie. If the Shoe Fits. Disney-Hyperion, 2021. 978-1-368-05337-2. 304 p. $15.99. Grades 9-12.

In this charming and modern re-telling of Cinderella, Julie Murphy hits the mark again with a body positive novel that makes everyone feel included (shout out to correct nonbinary pronoun usage!). Filled to the brim with one-liners will make teens and adults alike laugh out loud (or a least grunt in appreciation), readers of all types will almost immediately feel like they are friends with Cindy, the orphaned-recent-fashion-school-grad-turned-reality-TV-star and a mutual hatred for the mean girl, Addison. In classic reality TV fashion, there are tons of side-eye glances and catty situations that mostly make the suitor, Henry, shine even brighter. The lens of fashion as art gives the book a broader reader audience as Crow mindfully says, “life feeds art and art feeds into life.”

THOUGHTS: An atypical family dynamic, with a widowed stepmom, step sisters and half-sibling triplets seems complicated, but seamlessly comes together, pun intended. If the Shoe Fits has a lot more depth than a typical love story, from fashion references to art and questions about fate, this novel can be added to the shelves of high school and public libraries with fans of Dumplin‘, reality TV, or fashion.

Romance          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Senior High School
Realistic Fiction

YA – They Better Call Me Sugar: My Journey from the Hood to the Hardwood

Rodgers, Sugar. They Better Call Me Sugar: My Journey from the Hood to the Hardwood. Black Sheep, 2021. 978-1-617-75929-1. 176 p. $14.95. Grades 7-10.

Sugar Rodgers’ journey to the WNBA was not an easy road, to say the least. Rodgers starts her tale with a desire to motivate others and share her story of the struggle to succeed by discussing her childhood in Virginia. Growing up in an over-policed neighborhood, Rodgers’ mother supported her involvement in golf and eventually basketball. The loss of her mother, brother, and father, not to mention siblings in jail, and a lot of moving from home to home, didn’t cultivate an environment for Rodgers to thrive, but through support and determination and a lot of natural skill, she found her way to the court. Although the writing style is not cohesive, it is easy to read, and many readers will find the vernacular relatable. Despite some confusing timelines, Rodgers’ story doesn’t start with a basketball in her hand at age two or a family member who helped her break into the sport, and it ends with advice that provides hope to readers who might not see a clear path to their dream. Her childhood and conflicts are ones many readers will be able to identify with and find hope in her motivation. Sugar Rodgers’ motivation model is based on being able to take constructive criticism, “someone thinks you are good enough to correct.”

THOUGHTS: This book does contain some swearing, including derogatory terms, and potentially triggering life events such as death, jail, and physical abuse. Although this book would best suit middle school readers, some caution should be taken for sensitive readers.

796.323 Basketball          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – We Laugh Alike/Juntos Nos Reimos

Bernier-Grand, Carmen. We Laugh Alike/Juntos Nos Reimos. Illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez. Charlesbridge, 2021. 978-1-623-54096-8 p. 32. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Three kids are playing at the park when three new kids arrive to play too. These new friends are unable to communicate in English, but they sure know how to have fun! We Laugh Alike/ Juntos no reimos by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand is a bilingual picture book that solidifies human connection through the eyes of young children. Even though one group of students speak English and the other speaks Spanish, the children can express their feelings and communicate through play. By watching each other, both groups learn that they are more alike than different. The children discover new words, adventure, and make new friends. The story is clever with English and Spanish dialogue, and the illustrations by Alyssa Bermudez are colorful and vibrant. 

THOUGHTS: Carmen T. Bernier-Grand is a three-time Pura Belpre Honor award winner and an author of numerous children’s books. The story is interesting because the English and Spanish dialogue do not precisely match word for word. Instead, the children express their thoughts in each of their native languages within their context. The attractive illustrations draw the readers into the story, and I believe ELL (English Language Learners) students would enjoy this picture book about friendship and acceptance very much. 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD