MG – Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean

Newman, Patricia. Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean. Photographs by Annie Crawley. Millbrook Press, 2021. 64 p. 978-1-541-58121-0. $31.99. Grades 5-8.

Writer Newman and diver Crawley team up for a second book, after the success of their first collaboration Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014). Their excitement over the beauty of the ocean is evident and contagious as they visit three distinct areas of ocean: the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Since Earth is about 70% ocean and 30% land, they contend that a better name for it would be Planet Ocean. The facts they share about the importance and wonder of the ocean and its creatures make it seem amazing that much of the ocean is yet unexplored because of its size and depth. In each location they highlight young people who are working to improve the health of the oceans. Examples include a group of children who regularly meet to clean their Indonesian beach of plastic and garbage that washes ashore daily, and Inupiat teen Eben Hopson, who started his own film company and has traveled the world to show his films and educate about the changing climate in his own town. Crawley states, “I know how important the ocean is to our daily lives, how fragile it is, and how much we’re changing it. I want kids and teens to speak up for our oceans” (7).

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging look at why our oceans matter, and it encourages young people to take action. Free teaching resources are available via Titlewave.

551.56 Oceans          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Greta Thunberg (Little People, Big Dreams)

Vegara, Maria Isabel Sanchez. Greta Thunberg. Illustrated by Anke Weckmann. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2020. 978-0-711-25645-3. $15.99. Grades 3-6.

Like many environmentally conscious families, Greta Thunberg’s family took care of Earth as best they could. But when Greta learned even more about climate change in a class video, she can’t forget about the destruction and develops selective mutism. Doctors also diagnosed her with Asperger’s syndrome. While to some these diagnoses may have been seen as a curse, they allowed Greta to focus on matters of importance to her like climate change. Greta started at home by convincing her family to make small changes, but she felt that she could do more. By taking a stand publicly with her “School Strike for Climate,” other children learned more about climate change from Greta, and the world soon recognized the name Greta Thunberg.

THOUGHTS: This picture book biography should be included in all elementary (and maybe middle school) collections. Children will be inspired to learn more about those featured throughout the Little People, Big Dreams series.

Biography          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Picture Book

YA – Six Angry Girls

Kisner, Adrienne. Six Angry Girls. Feiwel and Friends. 2020. 978-1-250-25342-2. $17.99. 262 p. Grades 9-12.

Raina Petree got dumped by big crush boyfriend, Brandon. Emilia Goodwin got dumped by the pompous all-male Mock Trial Team. They join forces to salvage their senior year by forming an all-female Mock Trial Team in their Pittsburgh suburban high school of Steelton drawing on Raina’s drama skills and Millie’s knowledge of the law and research. Adapting the title of the 1950’s movie, Twelve Angry Men, these six angry girls (all but one Caucasian)–overcome heartbreak and self-esteem issues to create a strong challenge to their male counterparts and a serious threat to other Mock Trial Teams as they compete for Nationals. Told in alternating chapters narrated by either Raina or Millie, the book develops a girl power story with the message that people need to stand up for what is right and, especially, stand up for oneself. Author Adrienne Kisner also manages to weave in a subplot involving knitting. Raina searches for an outlet for her grief and joins the knitting group at The Dropped Stitch, a local yarn store. Not only does she learn to cast on and purl, she finds herself involved with activists trying to stop the election of a local magistrate because of his history letting off misogynists and blocking legislation for reproductive rights. Their rebellion manifests itself in yarn-bombing the courthouse with knitted female genitalia. In a twist, the targeted judge turns up volunteering in Mock Trial. At the knitting shop, Raina meets new student Grace who is happy to join an extracurricular activity. Millie falls for Grace and begins to value herself and her time, separating her needs from her helpless father who expects Millie to be chief cook and bottlewasher after her mother moves to Ohio. Though told in a light-hearted manner, the book addresses serious topics, contains a full-range of LBGTQ+ characters, and models the strengths and weaknesses of adults in young people’s lives. What begins as a revenge against the boys story builds with each club meeting, practice, and competition to a triumph of self-identity and self-worth.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

THOUGHTS: The cover illustration depicts a diverse group of girls, but the two main characters are white. Author Adrienne Kisner is emphasizing gender identity: Millie and Grace form a romantic relationship; Izzy, a minor character, is transgender; the Mock Trial court case for the win centers on gender discrimination. Some parts to be aware of: The Dropped Stitch crew are not shy about using anatomically correct terms, and a smattering of curses appear throughout the dialogue, making it more a high school choice than middle grade. This book has the same feminist fight tone of Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu; and if this suburban, western Pennsylvanian high school resembles yours, Six Angry Girls is an attractive purchase.

YA – 10 Things I Hate About Pinky

Menon, Sandhya. 10 Things I Hate About Pinky. Simon Pulse, 2020. 978-1-534-41681-9. 354 p. $18.99. Grades 6-12. 

Pinky Kumar is a whirlwind force to be reckoned with, a unique individual in every sense of the word. She cares tremendously about those less fortunate than her (both human and animal) and strikes up causes that most wouldn’t ever think about (hello racoon hospital). Her unconventional and wild ways don’t do much to please her traditional mother, who is as corporate lawyer-ey as can be. Samir Jha is buttoned up tight. Dressed to the nines, Samir is as practical and planned as he is neat. Every minute of his life is carefully scheduled and orderly, just the way he needs it to be to survive. When an unexpected opportunity arises to spend the summer together fake-dating, the two come together for a fiery clash that doesn’t end how either expected.

THOUGHTS: Delightful as always, Sandhya Menon’s latest addition to the When Dimple Met Rishi universe lives up to all expectations.

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

MG – Dress Coded

Firestone, Carrie. Dress Coded. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020. 978-1-984816-43-6. 303 p. $14.81. Grades 3-6.

Every middle school girl knows what it means when another girl would risk getting pulled over for a dress code violation in order to tie her sweatshirt around the waist of her new white jeans, so when Molly Frost sees her friend, Olivia, crying in the Kindness Garden in front of the principal, it’s the last straw. Why is Dr. Couchman obsessed with the dress code? Why is the identical outfit a violation on Liza but not on Molly? Has any adult at the school ever tried to buy shorts that are longer than fingertip length? Molly starts a podcast so girls in her middle school and even some in high school, can tell their dress code horror stories. Soon the podcast grows into a movement, with Molly and her friends ultimately bringing their fight to the school board. Told in prose, lists, letters, and podcasts, readers will sympathize with the female students of Fisher Middle School and cheer for their determination.

THOUGHTS: A friendship story with a side of activism, Dress Coded is an absolute must for middle school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD