Elem. – Chick and Brain: Egg or Eyeball?

Bell, Cece. Chick and Brain: Egg or Eyeball? Candlewick Press, 2020. 978-1-536-20439-1. 70 p. $12.99. Grades K-3. 

When Brain makes an amazing discovery, he can’t wait to show his friend, Chick. But, upon seeing the object, the friends cannot agree about what it is. It’s small, white, and oval. Brain says it’s an eyeball. Chick says it’s an egg. Each friend loudly pleads his case, capturing the attention of their nearby friend Spot the dog and a sleeping cat. It’s only when they awaken another creature that the group discovers the object’s true identity once and for all. This second offering in the Chick and Brain series will have beginning readers laughing out loud at the friends’ silliness. Loose cartoon drawings in large graphic novel panels keep the story’s four action-packed chapters moving along quickly.

THOUGHTS: Recommend this to Elephant and Piggie fans. This book is made for read-alouds and will be perfect for storytime.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies

Oliver, Carmen. Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-684-46081-6. 32 p. $17.95. Grades K-4. 

When Adelaide notices that her friend Theo is struggling during writing time, she decides to pass him a note of encouragement and enlists Bear to help Theo find his unique story. Bear is a comforting figure, full of tips about proper spacing and adding sensory details. Bear also helps Theo learn to “forage for new ideas” or take a break to regroup when writing isn’t easy. Leo learns about drafting and revision with Bear’s motto “rebuild, reimagine, rework.” By the end of the story, Theo is confidently writing with his classmates while Adelaide hints at a sequel. Brightly colored illustrations fill the pages with imaginary scenes of the trio fishing for new ideas, flying in hot air balloons, and hard at working writing. Diversity among characters is represented among the primary and secondary characters. Theo and teacher Mrs. Fitz-Pea are Black; Adelaide is white. Diversity is also depicted among their classmates with a two-page spread that shows children of various gender, ability and race holding up individualized heart artwork beneath the text “There’s nothing you can’t say when it comes from your heart. Because your voice is your voice – no two are the same.” This artwork is also beautifully replicated on the end pages.

THOUGHTS: This book is a thoughtful, positive introduction to the writing process for elementary students. Bear simultaneously empowers students to find, share and hone their individual writers’ voice while also modeling desirable writing buddy behavior. This book will make a fun engaging read aloud with plenty of opportunities to discuss writing with students.

808.02 Writing          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
Picture Book

Elem. – Jack at Bat; Jack Goes West

Barnett, Mac, and Greg Pizzoli. Jack at Bat. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11382-0. Unpaged. $9.99. Grades K-2.
—. Jack Goes West. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11388-2. Unpaged. $9.99. Grades K-2.

Jack is a bunny with mixed behavior! Sometimes he is bad and selfish, and sometimes he is the hero. One thing is for sure: A Jack Book will be an unpredictable and fun beginning reader story! With clever words by Mac Barnett and emotive illustrations from Greg Pizzoli, readers will delight to visit and revisit this new series. In Jack Goes West, he and “The Lady” ride a train to a dude ranch… next to a bank. Some bandits, lassos, and mistaken identities ensue! Meanwhile, in Jack at Bat, The Ladies take on The Brats in a ballgame that sees Jack get yelled at, nap away the game, and chase down a snack. But can he hit the ball? With a readable layout, short sentences, and surprising plot twists, young readers are bound to become fans of Jack.

THOUGHTS: These are longer than some beginning readers, which provides a nice extended read aloud opportunity or encouragement for budding readers. Introducing this series will naturally draw students to discover the other fun and fascinating work of Barnett and Pizzoli. Recommended for K-2.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – The President of the Jungle

Rodrigues, Andre with Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desgualdo, and Pedro Markun. The President of the Jungle. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020. 978-1-984-81474-6. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Lion has always been king of the jungle, but when he abuses his power by rerouting a river to create his own private swimming pool, the other animals decide it’s time for a change. Owl suggests becoming a democracy and holding an election where each animal has the chance to become a candidate and campaign with new leadership ideas. All jungle animals have the opportunity to vote and elect a president. Everyone agrees to the idea, and Monkey, Sloth, Snake, and Lion kick off their campaigns. They make posters, speak on tv, distribute pamphlets, debate issues, and hold rallies. On election day, each animal casts a secret ballot, and the first president is elected. This accessible title introduces young readers to the democratic process using straightforward language and easily understood descriptions. A glossary of election terms on the final page includes boldfaced words from the text such as campaign, debate, democracy, government, rally, and vote. Originally published in 2018 and translated from Portuguese, the book’s vibrant illustrations were created by mixing hundreds of paper cutouts with pencil and charcoal drawings and coloring everything digitally.

THOUGHTS: This lively jungle title spotlights the basic elements of democratic elections and will be a perfect fit for elementary classrooms looking for tie-ins to the 2020 presidential election. The text is geared towards the youngest readers, and the glossary includes child-friendly political definitions.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Southern York County SD

Elem. – The Box Turtle

Roeder, Vanessa. The Box Turtle.  Dial Books, 2020. Unpaged. $17.99 978-07352-3050-7  Grades K-2.

When Terrance the turtle is born without a shell, his parents provide a shell and a name, “both of which fit just right.”  Terrance grows and finds his shell keeps him dry, safe, and able to share space with a friendly hermit crab. But one day, three turtles pronounce his shell “weird,” and Terrance begins a search for a substitute. He finds–and discards–a mailbox (it “showed to much cheek”), a hat box, a jack-in-the-box, a boom box, a lunch box, a flower box, a treasure chest, and a kitty litter box (which “stunk”). It is then that his unnamed crab friend offers his own shell, and Terrance realizes that the crab is “so much more than just a shell,” and a turtle is, too! He seeks out his original shell and after refurbishing it, walks proudly once more, this time easily dismissing the bully turtles’ “weird” claim.

THOUGHTS: This title works for social-emotional learning about the concepts of friendship and accepting oneself (and others) for who they are.

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Three Little Kittens

McClintock, Barbara. Three Little Kittens. Scholastic, 2020. Unpaged. $18.99 978-1-338-12587-7. Grades PreK-2. 

Do we need another version of The Three Little Kittens?  Yes, we do, if it’s this engagingly drawn beauty from Barbara McClintock. The rhyme is the one we know so well, and the anthropomorphized cats (and one mouse) are unique and distinguishable as they dirty, then wash, their mittens. Their emotions are visible: joy at play, elation at eating pie, sadness at dirty mittens and disappointed mother, and pride at having solved the problem. The ending brings a welcome addition: when they “hush… smell a mouse close by,” they offer pie to the mouse as well. Mother cat talks on a cell phone, and many speech bubbles reveal both the rhyme and the sibling-like thoughts of the kittens. Readers will be drawn to this rhyming story establishing good kitten–er, child behavior, and ask for re-reading.

THOUGHTS: A must-purchase for pre-K-Kindergarten set; be sure to share with early childhood and early elementary students and their teachers.

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – When You Trap a Tiger

Keller, Tae. When You Trap a Tiger. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-524-71570-0. 287 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Lily, known as Lily Bean to her mom, and Eggi in her Halmoni’s stories, and her family suddenly pack up and move to Washington one rain soaked evening. They are moving in with her Halmoni, a storyteller, and the story she shares with Lily from many years ago is about how she stole the stars from the sky and bottled up the bad stories which angered a tiger. Lily is intrigued by her story, and when a tiger suddenly appears in the middle of the road one rainy night, Lily is convinced everything is real. But time is of the essence, as Halmoni is showing signs of illness – could it be a consequence of her stealing the stars? With the help of Ricky, a boy Lily meets at the library across the street, the two devise a “hypothetical” tiger trap. Little did Lily know that the Tiger would make her an offer that can help her Halmoni, but with consequences. Lily wants answers and to find a way to help her Halmoni before it’s too late. But can a QAG, short for quiet Asian girl, really find the truth? Can she rescue her family before it’s too late?

THOUGHTS: Readers will not be disappointed with the characters in this book – they are full of heart, determination, love, and curiosity, even if one of them is a tiger. This title is perfect to add to your collection of diverse books, as it shows the struggle of an Asian family and how their history and heritage affect their lives today. I truly enjoyed reading this story and believe it is the perfect story to capture how storytelling and reading books can truly be art.

Fantasy          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Change is happening in Lily’s life. With little notice, her mother has uprooted her daughters from their California home to their halmoni’s (grandmother’s) home in Sunbeam, Washington. Lily does her best to be the invisible, accommodating, “QAG” (quiet Asian girl) while her older sister, Sam, finds every reason to voice her displeasure to their mother and often rebukes Lily. Lily both chafes under and finds comfort in her invisibility. Lily’s many worries worsen when she (and only she) sees a tiger in the road as they approach their halmoni’s home. Her grandmother has shared countless Korean folktales with Lily and Sam, often with a dangerous tiger involved. When Lily discovers that her grandmother is ill and facing death, she’s determined to convince the tiger to use its magic to cure her grandmother, despite admonitions from her mother and sister that dissuade her from believing the “silly” stories have any power in their lives. The library across the street provides hope and friendship for Lily, who teams up with Ricky to build a tiger trap in her grandmother’s basement. Can she convince the tiger to help, and can she convince her family that the stories are real and useful?  Will the stories save her grandmother and her family?

THOUGHTS: This is a tale of a young girl growing up and deciding who she will be, while she comes to terms with death. The targeted age level seems to increase through the story as Lily matures, and this may not quite work for readers. The grief, anger at moving, and the sister difficulties between Lily and Sam smooth a bit too perfectly by the story’s end. I found myself wishing for more scenes with the interesting, enigmatic tiger.

Magical Realism          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Korean Folktales

Elem. – The Three Billy Goats Buenos

Elya, Susan Middleton, and Miguel Ordóñez. The Three Billy Goats Buenos. G.P. Putnam’s  Sons, 2020. 978-0-399-54739-3. Unpaged. $16.99. Prek-2.

Middleton gives a familiar folk tale a fascinating new twist, while incorporating Spanish language vocabulary. The three goats need to cross the bridge guarded by the grumpy gigante. Each of the first two goats manages to convince the troll that the next goat would be better to eat. But it’s Número Tres who turns the book, and the story, on its head. The third goat wonders why the troll is so angry. Taking a look, he notices she has a large thorn lodged in her toe. He empathizes with the troll and enlists his siblings in gathering hierbas to make a healing poultice, which he applies after gently pulling out the offending thorn. The grateful troll then allows her new amigos to pass. After finishing the book, readers will wonder why they themselves never considered what made the troll so mean in the original story. The text is composed in rhyming couplets, with Spanish words bolded so readers can refer to the glossary conveniently placed at the front of the book, rather than the back. Illustrations are sparse and bold, reminiscent of cut paper, yet emotions are clearly defined through expressive eyes. Young readers will delight in this unique approach to the story, and will sympathize with the hurting gigante.  

THOUGHTS: This understated book will be a wonderful selection at story time. It pairs with twisted fairy tale units, as well as discussions about empathy.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat

Raúl the Third. ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat. Versify, 2020. 978-1-328-55704-9. Unpaged. $14.99. Grades K-2.

Little Lobo and his friends, from the Pura Belpré Honor Book ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market, return for more rollicking fun. This time, Little Lobo is asked to deliver lunch to the professional wrestlers in town for a big show. Little Lobo, his dog Bernabé, and his friend Kooky Dooky the rooster proceed to guide readers through a colorful marketplace of food carts where each delicious offering sounds better than the last. The food carts themselves are examined and explored, as well as the myriad of offerings. As in the first book, Spanish language terms are used extensively, sometimes translated in text, other times readers will go searching for the extensive glossary in the back of the book. The illustrations, in a rainbow of dusky colors, are lively and full of action, begging to be pored over. The text is never simplistic or overly explanatory, relying on readers to explore the Spanish language terms on their own. Unfortunately, the admittedly non-inclusive glossary frequently omits words specifically used in speech bubbles or pull out comments, assuming the reader will have the initiative (and ability) to locate a Spanish/English dictionary or look up the term on the internet.  Nevertheless, it is a marvelously fun introduction to Mexican food and culture.

THOUGHTS:  A must purchase for elementary libraries. The brilliant illustrations by Elaine Bay will enthrall readers, encouraging  multiple readings and the litany of Mexican foods will leave readers very hungry!

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Lupin Leaps In; Emmy Noether; Astronauts Zoom; The Big Break

Dunn, Georgia. Lupin Leaps In. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019. 978-1-449-49522-0. $9.99. Grades 3-6.

It’s Cat Network, brought to you by Elvis, Lupin, and Puck! These three cats report their day-to-day lives, including all of the members of the household. Between the ceiling cats, the crazy outfits that they are forced into, and the newest addition to the household, Elvis, Lupin, and Puck are always getting into mischief and informing the world!

THOUGHTS: Honestly, this took me a bit to get into. Once captivated, each report was hilariously illustrated and explained how a cat may view the situation. A funny read that is short with each report, but full of a year’s worth of adventures.

Graphic Novel          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Becker, Helaine. Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of. Kids Can Press, 2020. 978-1-525-30059-2. 40 p. $18.99. Grades 3-5.

This picture book tells the life story of a little-known female mathematician.  Emmy Noether always excelled in math even as a young girl growing up in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century. She preferred doing puzzles to playing the piano or doing things expected of girls at that time. Emmy wanted to attend university to study math, but this was not permitted at that time. Her father was a professor there, so she was allowed to sit in on classes. Even though the male students resented her because of her intelligence, they often asked her for help with homework without giving her credit.  Eventually she was accepted into the university, but even after earning a degree, she was not permitted to teach men. About this time, Albert Einstein was developing his theories of relativity and Noether helped solve one of the problems in his theory. While working on that problem, she thought about related laws of physics and discovered that the laws of symmetry and conservation are linked. Her work on the principle of symmetry became known as Noether’s Theorem. The author does an excellent job in explaining physics in terms that are easy to understand, aided by the illustrator’s appealing drawings which are hand drawn and digitally colored. For instance, the illustrator demonstrates symmetrical motion by showing Emmy on a swing. This book works well as a read aloud and uses a checklist format to begin and end Noether’s story.

THOUGHTS: This is an excellent picture book biography that shows how one woman overcame obstacles in order to reach her goals. This text could be used to introduce basic physics in science units. Becker’s work would also be a good choice for Women’s History Month. Elementary librarians should consider adding this one to their biography or math sections.

510.92 Mathematics          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
92, 921 Biography                                                  


Rose, Deborah Lee. Astronauts Zoom! An Astronaut Alphabet. Persnickety Press, 2020. 978-1-943-97850-2. 38 p. Grades K-2. $16.95.

This is an engaging nonfiction picture book about the astronauts who live on the International Space Station. Using an alphabet format, the author explains what astronauts do while in space. Rose describes how astronauts work, play, relax, and take care of their hygiene in simple text. Featured words and their relevant letters are highlighted in the same color. The stunning colorful photographs are the winning aspect of the book. One image shows an astronaut reading near a window showing the Earth below, and readers will be amused by an astronaut who is juggling sixteen pieces of fruit at one time. The extensive back matter contains more details about each of the activities described. There is a long list of vocabulary words, but no definitions are given. Included is a section discussing how readers can make their own facsimile space station at home, in the classroom, or in the school library.

THOUGHTS: This nonfiction text works well for alphabet units or to introduce a science unit on space. Young readers will enjoy reading this book and examining the photographs on their own. Purchase where astronaut books are popular.

629.442 International Space Station          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
629.45 Astronauts


Tatulli, Mark. The Big Break. Little, Brown and Company. 2020. 978-0-316-44055-4. 248 p. $12.99. Grades 4+.

Seventh graders Andrew Fineman and Russell Kahng live near the Pine Barrens, in New Jersey. Friends since second grade, they are now hard at work on their entry for the Middle Grade Viral Video Contest: “Terror of the Jersey Devil,” a mockumentary on the legend and its many rumored sightings. But phone calls, study dates, and hand-holding with Tara Wallbuck are pulling Russell’s attention away from writing and filming crucial scenes. Frustrated and left out, Andrew fears that more than just the movie is in jeopardy. A fresh round of Jersey Devil sightings (and an overnight excursion into the woods) might provide the push they need to recover from their friendship meltdown in time for a true surprise ending.

THOUGHTS: Mark Tatulli depicted his own tween years to wonderfully universal effect in 2018’s Short & Skinny. In The Big Break he revisits the years between action figures and driver’s licenses, chronicling the friendship friction when one matures a little faster than the other. His latest has the perfect blend of realism and whimsy, in both plot and art style, to reach a wide audience. He brings an especially light touch to Andrew’s relationship with his widowed mom, who’s struggling to allow her son to grow up.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD