Elem. – A Party to Remember

Tebow, Tim, with A.J. Gregory. A Party to Remember. Illustrated by Jane Chapman. Waterbrook, 2021. Unpaged. 978-0-593-23204-0. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

Bronco is a friendly, loveable puppy who needs glasses to see clearly. He wakes one morning to his friend Squirrel chattering that “the party is tonight! Do you have your puzzle piece?” Every invitee has received a puzzle piece, but though Bronco received an invitation, he figures the party isn’t for someone nearsighted like him. But he really wants to go. He begins to search for his puzzle piece and encounters other friends with puzzle pieces who are excited to attend the party. When he tumbles into Chelsie the rabbit, who has fallen over her extra-long ears, he finds that she, too, feels inadequate to attend the party. Bronco encourages her to go with him, saying, “It’s always better together.” They add to their small group Ethan, the cardinal with a broken wing, and Alexis, the goat who sneezes too loudly and scares everyone away. But as they continue, Alexis’ sneeze reveals the party, Bronco discovers his puzzle piece, and they happily find that they all fit at this party. “Each creature is born unique. Our differences make us special. And someone special, like you, is always able to do great things,” says Colby the panda. The friends joyfully dance and enjoy party food and music. The book closes with a scripture verse, “we are God’s masterpiece” and a reminder, “You are unique. You are special. And you are wonderful.”  This is an often-shared message that kids still need to hear, and it gets expert treatment from illustrator Jane Chapman, who makes these characters feel like friends that the reader would like to join.

THOUGHTS: This is definitely a positive look at differences and feels like an inviting beginning to the series “Bronco and Friends.” This is a definite encouragement for all readers.

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – The Rock from the Sky

Klassen, Jon. The Rock from the Sky. Candlewick Press, 2021. 978-1-536-21562-5. Unpaged. $18.00. Grades PreK-3.

Told through five chapters (“The Rock,” “The Fall,”  “The Future,” “The Sunset,” and “No More Room”), Jon Klassan’s newest picture book, The Rock from the Sky uses humor to explore friendship, pride, jealousy, and the future. Turtle loves standing in his favorite spot. When Armadillo comes to see what Turtle is doing, he feels uneasy about Turtle’s favorite spot, so he decides to stand in a different spot. Since his spot is further away, Turtle and Armadillo cannot hear each other, so Turtle moves closer, and just in time. A giant rock falls from the sky right on Turtle’s spot. As Turtle explores the rock, he falls, but he is too full of pride to let Armadillo know that he fell or he needs help, so Armadillo takes a nap in the shade of the rock, while Turtle remains stuck on his back. Back on the rock, Armadillo dreams about the future, but Turtle isn’t so sure he likes Armadillo’s thoughts. At night, Armadillo and Snake watch the sunset under the rock. Turtle comes to see what they are up to, but he is too far away to be heard. As he moves closer to be heard, Turtle blocks the sunset for Armadillo and Snake. Finally, Turtle sees Armadillo and Snake napping under the rock, and with room for only two, Turtle feels left out. As he tries to make Armadillo and Snake feel bad, he gets closer to them so that he can be heard, and just in time because ANOTHER rock falls from the sky on the spot where Turtle had been!

THOUGHTS: Jon Klassan once again uses easy to follow dialogue, dry humor, and simple watercolor illustrations to bring to life a universal story of friendship, pride, jealousy, and dreams through the comedy of falling rocks from the sky. His pictures depict the story of Turtle and Armadillo and both stand alone and support the basic dialogue of these two friends. Readers need to not only read (or hear) the dialogue, but must also follow along with the illustrations to understand the story. I had to view the illustrations multiple times to understand some of the humor (classic Jon Klassen; a book for both kids and adults).  This is a must have where Klassan books are popular.

Picture Book            Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – How Big is Your Brave?

Soukup, Ruth. How Big is Your Brave? ZonderKidz, 2020. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades PreK-2. 

Zippy the bunny dreams of traveling to space one day but feels uncertain about trying Space Camp. With some gentle encouragement from her family, Zippy heads to Space Camp even though she’s scared. Mom tells her, “Being brave doesn’t mean you’re never scared…courage means taking an action, even when you feel afraid.” Zippy flourishes at camp, making friends and learning a lot. When an accident derails her plans for Launch Day, Zippy feels ready to give up. Dad reminds her that “You can choose to give up or choose to keep going. It’s all up to you.” When Launch Day arrives, Zippy’s Veggie Vrrrooom wins second place and a special award for most creative design. While the title phrase never features in the story, the message is one that all kids will understand in some way, whether it’s facing scary situations with courage or working through challenges.

THOUGHTS: Zippy’s friendly face and relatable story will win over readers.

Picture book                    Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – Quiet Down, Loud Town!

Heim, Alastair. Quiet Down, Loud Town! Clarion Books, 2020. 978-1-328-95782-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Quiet Down, Loud Town! follows an elephant who thinks the town around him is too loud, and he has no problem telling them that. As he goes through his day, the loudness of his environment keeps frustrating him until he finally snaps and yells, “Quiet down loud town!” However, the elephant learns that perhaps quiet isn’t what he needs either as he struggles to fall asleep, and then becomes the one being too loud. The illustrations are bright and colorful, with lots of added details to enjoy as the reader goes through the book.

THOUGHTS: This is an extremely fun book to read aloud with students, or for students to go through on their own. Highly recommended for an elementary school collection.

Picture Book            Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Elsie

Robert, Nadine. Elsie. Abrams, 2020. 978-1-419-74072-5. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-2. 

On nice and sunny Sundays, the seven siblings in the Filpot bunny family go fishing. Elsie doesn’t quite fit in with her older siblings–she would rather stay at home than go fishing. She’s a unique personality with her own way of doing things. This can cause conflict with her siblings, who try to convince her to do things the “right” way. Elsie would rather walk along the brook when the rest of the family wants to to walk through the woods. When Elsie wants to bait her hook with a buttercup, her siblings (who prefer traditional bait) exclaim that she shouldn’t do it and it won’t work! When the family eats their lunch, Elsie wants to feed her sandwiches to the ducklings. But when Elsie catches a large fish with her buttercup bait, her siblings realize that Elsie’s ideas, though different from their own, have merit and should be respected and valued. The text is enhanced by the detailed tempera and watercolor illustrations of Maja Kastelic. Each bunny has a unique appearance and the woodland setting is filled with flora and fauna to engage the attention of the reader.

THOUGHTS: This delightful bunny tale would make an ideal read aloud choice and could easily be integrated into lessons on respecting others opinions and viewpoints, acceptance, individuality, and more. Highly recommended.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Hotel Flamingo

Milway, Alex. Hotel Flamingo. Kane Miller, 2020. 978-1-684-64126-0. 192 p. $5.99. Grades 1-3. 

Anna has her work cut out for her when she inherits the Hotel Flamingo from her great-aunt Mathilde. The once successful hotel is now a former shell of itself, run-down with only a few employees. Anna is determined to bring the hotel back to life and make it the best hotel on Animal Boulevard. Though Anna is a young girl, the rest of the characters populating this charming book are animals! Anna soon has a complete staff helping her to get the hotel up and running including T. Bear the doorman, Madame Le Pig (chef), Stella Giraffe (handywoman) and Squeak the mouse (bellboy), among others. Their goal–to make Hotel Flamingo the sunniest and most welcoming hotel in the area. Soon, a variety of guests arrive, including a family of cockroaches, a tortoise, and even flamingoes. Anna soon realizes that running a successful hotel catering to a menagerie of guests will require staff teamwork, creative thinking and a can-do spirit. Will Hotel Flamingo succeed?

THOUGHTS: This charming story is perfect for beginning chapter book readers who will no doubt appreciate both the heart and humor present throughout the plot. As the hotel staff work to restore Hotel Flamingo, characteristics such as teamwork, cooperation, and ingenuity are woven into the storyline. What really elevates this title is the inclusion of illustrations (drawn by the author) that help to bring the animals and their unique characteristics to life. Hotel Flamingo is the first volume in a four volume series–I can’t wait to read more about these characters!

Fantasy (Animal)            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Perfect Pigeons

Battersby, Katherine. Perfect Pigeons. Simon & Schuster, 2020. 978-1-534-45781-2. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

Look up! A flock of brightly colored pigeons is in the sky! According to members of the flock, they are perfect pigeons, because they are all “perfectly the same.” While the pigeons might certainly all look the same, it is quickly apparent to readers that one pigeon is different from the rest. He sports round red glasses and doesn’t like to participate in the same activities as the rest of the flock. For example, when the flock sleeps on a lamppost, he sleeps in a hammock. While the flock eats birdseed, he can be found enjoying popcorn. The flock soon grows frustrated with their fellow pigeon, challenging his go against the grain attitude and habits. But rather than give into peer pressure, the pigeon encourages the flock to pursue their own individual interests and hobbies (which they do). By the end of the story, the flock still feels that they are perfect pigeons, but they now feel that way because they are “are all perfectly unique!”

THOUGHTS: This charming story celebrates the importance of valuing the uniqueness of others. Readers will enjoy the humorous illustrations featuring large, colorful pigeons created in pencil, watercolor and digital media by author-illustrator Katherine Battersby. A worthwhile addition to libraries serving primary age readers.

Picture Book                Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Class Picture

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

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

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

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Pugtato Finds a Thing

Corrigan, Sophie. Pugtato Finds a Thing. Zonderkidz. 2020. 978-0-310-76781-7. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Pugtato finds a thing while digging in his garden! But what is this thing? Pugtato has no idea, so he decides to go see his spuddies for help! All of his spuddies have good ideas as to what this thing could be, but none of the ideas seem to make sense! Some ideas are silly, some are scary, and some ideas make Pugtato nervous! Pugtato decides that even though he isn’t always the smartest spud around, he is the wisest when he follows his heart!

THOUGHTS: I loved this story! The puns with the animals and fruit/vegetables are absolutely adorable and great conversation pieces!

Picture Book                                        Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Thanks a Ton!

Moyle, Sabrina. Thanks a Ton! Abrams Appleseed, 2020. 978-1-419-74334-4. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-3.

Brightly colored digital illustrations with neon accents bring this book of gratitude to life. A young elephant donning blue overalls celebrates big and small moments for which he (or she) is thankful. Simple gestures like cheering up someone, making someone smile, giving a hug, and saying please will help children recognize that kindness and good manners can make a big difference in one’s day. Gifts big and small show this elephant’s gratitude, but children will laugh out loud when the little elephant presents a pair of super underwear.

THOUGHTS: Teachers will enjoy reading this silly rhyming text aloud with their students. It will be a great addition to any elementary Social Emotional Learning lesson that celebrates kindness, manners, and gratitude.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD