Elem. – Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery

Hogan, Eric, and Tara Hungerford. Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery. Firefly, 2021. $19.95 ea. 32 p. Grades K-2. 

The Case of the Hanging Food Catcher. 978-0-228-10337-0.
The Case of the Shrinking Friend. 978-0-228-103350-5. 

The mice Scout and Daisy (aka the Gumboot Kids) have returned to solve more nature-related mysteries! In The Case of the Hanging Food Catcher, when Scout and Daisy meet to pick pumpkins, Scout mentions nearly walking into a hanging food catcher earlier in the day. They consult Scout’s field notebook, where he recorded clues about his encounter, which lead them to a beautiful spider web. Their findings are confirmed when they consult a book about spiders. In The Case of the Shrinking Friend, while on a winter hike, Daisy notices that the snow mouse she had built the day before had shrunk! Using Daisy’s sketchbook filled with drawings from the day prior, they set off to solve the mystery. The clues, together with knowledge they gain from a book about weather, lead them to conclude that the snow mouse is shrinking because the warmth of the sun has melted the snow. Each title concludes with a mindful moment in which Scout and Daisy pause and reflect on nature and the knowledge they have gained. Back matter includes definitions of the terms in the field notes, a fact page featuring photographs, and a related nature craft that children can complete. 

THOUGHTS: I love how this series encourages readers to solve mysteries by making observations and then consult books in the library to interpret their observations and answer their questions–what a great way to introduce the basics of the scientific research process to young readers. In addition, the series encourages readers to go out into nature, explore and engage with the world around them, and to be curious. Recommended.

500s Natural Sciences          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Oh Look, a Cake!

McKee, J.C. Oh Look, a Cake! Clarion. 978-0-358-38030-6. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

Sloth and Lemur find a cake. A big, beautiful cake. Three layers. Pink icing. Sprinkles. A candle on top. This calls for a party! But whom should they invite? Elephant? Tiger? Peacock? Unicorn or the ants? Each possibility is quickly struck down, inevitably leaving only Sloth and Lemur to eat the cake. But what happens when Tiger comes looking for her birthday cake, only to find an empty plate and two slightly nauseous friends? Those familiar with Jon Klassen’s “Hat” books won’t be surprised at Tiger’s solution. Astute readers may clue in early on the mystery of who owns the cake if they notice the black and orange striped candle on the top. The delightfully whimsical illustrations make this perfect for a read aloud, and small listeners will no doubt be squirming with giggly anticipation, as they wait to see what goes wrong when Sloth and Lemur don’t share their bounty. The book could be used as a segue to a discussion on sharing, or for just plain fun.

THOUGHTS: This smile-inducing book is perfect for libraries serving young patrons.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Norman Didn’t Do It!

Higgins, Ryan T. Norman Didn’t Do it! DisneyHyperion, 2021. 978-136802623-9 p. 48. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Norman! Adorable, wide-eyed, prickly Norman is a porcupine with a tree as a best friend. Mildred is the best kind of friend that Norman could ever hope for in a tree. They have a shared history, and their friendship is a fun adventure, each day filled with love and companionship. However, Norman’s friendship with Mildred feels threatened when someone new enters their world. Norman experiences an array of big emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, impulsiveness, and fear. These big emotions lead to a reaction that Norman is not proud to admit; however, his unconditional love for his best friend may help to change his perspective about his friendship. Is it possible that Norman will be able to understand his big emotions? Will he be able to find a way to expand his friendship circle and allow more love into his life? Grab this picture book and find out! 

THOUGHTS: Norman Didn’t Do It! is exactly what you would expect from a Ryan T. Higgins picture book: belly laughs and wit. Readers will understand what Norman is experiencing with the relatable storyline and perfect illustrations. Friendships are not easy, especially when there are unexpected influences from others. Remarkably, readers witness Norman make a mistake but take proactive steps to make it right. Norman Didn’t Do It by Ryan T Higgins is a gem! 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch

Virjan, Emma J. Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch. Simon Spotlight, 2021. 978-1-534-49571-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1. 

When three yellow birds land on a ship, they soon learn that it is a pirate ship captained by a cat in this short story told in rhyming verse. Two of the birds fly into the cabin with the cat. When the third bird looks in through a window, he sees the cat getting ready to cook lunch while the two birds sit and watch. Could his friends be on the menu? Worried, the third bird recruits a whale to help him rescue his friends. An end of story twist reveals that the bird has made some incorrect assumptions and misunderstood the cat’s intentions. Ultimately, a new friendship is formed between all the animals. 

THOUGHTS: This delightful story is an excellent choice for beginning readers and would also be a good selection for shared reading or read alouds. Though the story is short and the text simple, the author is able to incorporate a lesson about friendship that readers (and educators) will appreciate.

Picture Book                 Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – We Give Thanks

Rylant, Cynthia. We Give Thanks. Beach Lane Books, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-422-46507-7. Grades PreK-1. $17.99.

Told in rhyming couplets, this story about gratitude is not about the Thanksgiving holiday. Each couplet begins with “We give thanks for” and Frog and Rabbit point out what they appreciate as they walk around the neighborhood. The objects of gratitude run the gamut and appear in no particular order. They include nature, the weather, activities, family, community helpers, and friends. After realizing what they are thankful for, Frog and Rabbit prepare a special feast to share with their friends, who come and partake of the treats before them. The author finishes with this: “Bless our nights and bless our days and bless all those we meet. We give thanks for everything and now it’s time to eat.” Ruzzier’s illustrations done in pen, ink, and watercolors and are whimsical and appealing. Readers will enjoy poring over the drawings for the details. There are some humorous touches such as the Dalmatian as an Italian waiter and Bear’s friend, the fish who is often out of water. The pictures help create a warm, cozy atmosphere within this delightful tale.

THOUGHTS: Young children will enjoy listening to this story, which is sure to dish up a little happiness and will have them thinking about what they are thankful for. This book is a good substitute for traditional Thanksgiving stories, especially for those children who do not celebrate holidays. A nice selection for storytimes in any season.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Too Many Bubbles

Peck, Christina, and Mags Deroma. Too Many Bubbles: A Story about Mindfulness. Sourcebooks, 2021. 978-1-728-23590-5. 48 p. $12.99. Grades PreK – 1.

Izzy starts with one thought, a grumpy one right above her head after a rough day, following her all day until it was time for bed. When she woke up the next morning, she had another thought bubble, and as the story goes she has more and more until they, literally, push her off the page. Izzy makes her way to her secret spot which has room for all of her bubbles. She takes a deep breath in and gently blows on the bubbles (the book encourages the reader to do the same to help Izzy). The back of the book has more information for the reader regarding mindfulness, as well as some exercises that the reader can practice. The illustrations in this book are very bright and colorful which was a nice contrast to the plot of Izzy feeling overwhelmed by all these thought bubbles.

THOUGHTS: This is a great introduction for mindfulness, as well as a great book to start a conversation with a reader about that topic. This book would be useful in any elementary library collection, or for an elementary guidance counselor or school social worker.

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

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