Elem. – Puppy Bus

Brockington, Drew. Puppy Bus. Abrams Books, 2022. 978-1-419-75191-2. 40 p. $17.99. Grades PK-2.

Puppy Bus begins with a young boy who reluctantly climbs on the bus for his first day at a new school after a big move. He takes his seat… and quickly realizes that he has climbed onto the wrong bus. He’s on the PUPPY BUS!  And where does the puppy bus go!? Puppy school! What to do!? Go to class! But class is strange and confusing, and the food is terrible! The boy begins to miss his old friends and family…and wants to go home–until a friendly puppy offers friendship. Puppy school might not be so bad after all! 

THOUGHTS: Unique to this book is the storyline that the main character is starting a new school after a move (rather than it being the first day of school). This welcome addition to shelves of school stories will bring smiles to young readers’ faces and make the task of going to school seem just a little less daunting (at least they serve people food at school!). Recommended, particularly for schools looking to refresh their school stories shelves and for those looking for a fun welcome for their move-ins!

Picture Book          Hannah J. Thomas, Central Bucks SD

Elem. – Acorn Was a Little Wild

Arena, Jen. Acorn Was a Little Wild. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. 978-1-5344-8315-6. 32 pp. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Acorn is a thrill-seeker who is always up for a good time! He gets the most out of whatever life throws his way. From catapulting himself off the branches of an oak tree, to tumbling down a steep hill, to feeling the rain massaging his cap, he wants to experience everything the big, wide world has to offer. When a squirrel buries him deep in the ground, Acorn worries his adventuring days are over. But, it turns out that he’s beginning the biggest adventure of all: growing into an oak tree! Vibrant, digital illustrations in fall hues capture Acorn’s big personality, and readers will enjoy spotting his many new animal friends as he experiences life in different parts of the forest. 

THOUGHTS: This story is a reminder to face life’s inevitable changes with a positive attitude and an open mind. Themes of resiliency and being open to growth also make this title a perfect selection to share during Morning Meetings. Additionally, it will fit well with science units about a tree’s life cycle. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – The Friendship Surprise

Volpe, Giorgio. The Friendship Surprise. Red Comet Press, 2022. 978-1-636-55028-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

As spring draws near, Little Red the fox can’t wait for his friend Hazel the dormouse to wake up from hibernation. He’s missed her over the long winter, but Little Red also has a secret. While Hazel has been hibernating, he’s become close friends with a badger named Brock. Little Red isn’t sure how to tell Hazel about his new friendship with Brock, so he keeps it secret. Hazel eventually notices that Little Red is acting differently, and she secretly follows him into the woods one day. She confronts Little Red about his friendship with Brock and reassures him that she’s not mad that he has a new friend; rather, she believes that all three of them can have fun together. Beautiful, nature-centered illustrations ground this story that explores the complexity of friendships in a child-friendly way. 

THOUGHTS: This title will be valuable for discussing the ideas that having more than one friend is okay and that friendships come in all shapes and sizes. It will also be useful for reinforcing the idea that just because someone makes a new friend, that doesn’t mean old friendships must end. Share this one with guidance counselors to assist with SEL lessons. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Life in the Doghouse: Elmer and the Talent Show

Velasquez, Crystal. Life in the Doghouse: Elmer and the Talent Show. Aladdin, 2022. 978-1-534-48260-9. 140 p. $17.99. Grades 2-4. 

Elmer, a long-haired dachshund, is thrilled when a family chooses to adopt him from Danny and Ron’s Rescue. Even though he’s a senior dog who’s undergone a lot of surgeries on his eyes and jaw, he has lots of energy and love to share. When Elmer is adopted by the Cruz family, his number one job is to cheer up their son, Benny, a quiet boy who changes schools frequently since his Mom is an Army Sergeant. Benny and Elmer begin working together during agility classes at a local rec center, and the training helps build both Benny and Elmer’s confidence and cements the bond between dog and boy. This title is the first in a new series inspired by the real-life dogs at Danny and Ron’s Rescue in South Carolina. Readers may also recognize Danny and Ron from their streaming “Life in the Doghouse” show. Backmatter includes pictures and details of the real Elmer the dog who inspired this story. 

THOUGHTS: Share this title with dog lovers who are transitioning to chapter books. This is also a great pick for students who are building new friendships themselves or students who are interested in dog handling or training.

Animal Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – No Bunnies Here!

Sauer, Tammi. No Bunnies Here! Illustrated by Ross Burach. Doubleday, 2022. Unpaged. 978-0-593-18135-5. Grades K-3. $17.99.

It is time for Bunnyville’s Hoppy Day Parade, and in “the land of a thousand bunnies” our narrator becomes quite nervous when he sees an excited wolf. Bunny immediately springs into action to prove to wolf how wrong he is by assuming there are bunnies in Bunnyville. By donning clever costumes, disguising bunny friends, and renaming Bunnyville, Bunny works hard to show Wolf that there are no bunnies here. Despite Bunny’s best efforts, the enthusiasm for the Bunnyville Hoppy Day Parade cannot be stopped. As Bunny tries one last time to get Wolf out of Bunnyville, he realizes Wolf may not be hungry for a bunny after all. Wolf may have an entirely different reason for coming to Bunnyville. If Bunny can learn to listen to Wolf, he may realize what Wolf’s purpose in coming to Bunnyville is. But can a predator and prey coexist? This sweet friendship story will show young readers not to judge a book – or a wolf – by its cover.

THOUGHTS: Readers will laugh out loud at Bunny’s hilarious antics as he tries to avoid the not so big bad wolf. Bold, colorful illustrations will enchant readers. Recommended for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – I’m Not Scared, YOU’RE Scared

Meyers, Seth. I’m Not Scared, YOU’RE Scared! Illustrated by Rob Sayegh, Jr. Flamingo Books, 2022. Unpaged. 978-0-593-35237-3. Grades K-3. $18.99.

Despite his size, Bear is scared of just about everything, including his own reflection. Rabbit, on the other hand, likes to read scary stories. Though they have their differences, Bear and Rabbit are friends, and when Rabbit announces that they’re going on an adventure Bear suggests a book instead because “if anything goes wrong, we can just close the book.” Bear prepares for their adventure with a bike helmet, oven mitts, and bear repellent spray, but Rabbit assures him he’ll need none of those things. As Bear and Rabbit approach a small stream, the edge of the woods, a mountain, and a long rope bridge, Bear looks for ways to avoid his fears. At each obstacle, Rabbit asks, “Bear, are you scared?” and Bear replies “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” At the long, old, rickety bridge, Bear finally acknowledges his fears and heads home. Rabbit remains, determined to prove that Bear ‘s fears are over nothing. But when Rabbit gets into trouble, he’ll need his scared friend to come to his rescue. Will Bear be able to face his fears to help save his friend, or will Bear’s fears prevent him from helping Rabbit? Sayegh’s illustrations, made with digital brushes and scanned textures and photographs, bring the characters to life and highlight the emotions they’re feeling in the various settings.

THOUGHTS: This sweet story by comedian Seth Meyers will resonate with young readers who may have “irrational” fears. Use this title to talk about fear, courage, and being a supportive friend. Recommended for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Little Narwhal, Not Alone

Stone, Tiffany. Little Narwhal, Not Alone. Greystone Kids, 2021. 978-1-77164-620-8. Unpaged. $17.95. Grades K-2. 

Little Narwhal, Not Alone follows a young narwhal as he explores his world, meets new friends, and has all of these new exciting adventures. However, he travels too far and ends up not finding any narwhals to spend time with, but he does find some beluga whales! But the belugas don’t understand him, and he can’t understand them. Over time the narwhal ends up fitting in with the belugas, and they even play together! The narwhal feels that he has found new friends to spend time with! At the end of this book there is a note from a marine biologist, stating how this book is rooted in some truth! That really adds to the book and makes the reader want to start at the beginning of the book all over again.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful picture book!! The illustrations add to the overall underwater feel of the story. The addition from the marine biologist at the end of the book is lovely and will make the reader want to go learn more.

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Perdu

Jones, Richard. Perdu. Peachtree Atlanta. 978-1-682-63248-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Perdu, a small black and brown dog with a red scarf, is all alone in the world. He trudges through grassy fields, feeling the howling wind in his fur. He eventually comes to a city and he begins exploring, his claws making tiny clicking sounds on the pavement. But everyone in the city seems to have somewhere to go or someone to meet, and Perdu feels more alone than ever. He spends the day searching for his place, but over and over again, he comes up empty. Careful readers will notice a small girl in a red knit hat. She spots Perdu wandering the city streets throughout the day. After a mishap at a cafe, she is the only one to show Perdu compassion, returning the red scarf he loses in the commotion and confusion. Painted illustrations effectively capture Perdu’s loneliness as well as the hustle and bustle of his surroundings. 

THOUGHTS: Readers will be empathetic to Perdu’s feelings of being overwhelmed, scared, and lonely as he searches for his place in the world. They will also enjoy watching the young girl as she follows Perdu from a distance, always keeping an eye on what he’s doing. This title can spark conversations about friendship, kindness, and finding one’s place in the world. 

Picture Book. Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – It’s Okay to Smell Good

Tharp, Jason. It’s Okay to Smell Good. Imprint, 2021. 978-1-250-31133-7. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Panda Cat (a skunk) lives in Smellsville, one of the stinkiest places imaginable. He begins each day by making himself as smelly as possible thanks to his garlic and onion toothpaste and rotten egg hair gel. He also smears moldy mayonnaise into his armpits, guzzles spoiled milk with his breakfast, and eats toast with toejam and rotten apples. When he arrives at school, his friends share the news that celebrity stink-scientist Smellbert Einstink will be judging their science fair. Later that afternoon, Panda Cat practices his experiment: making the stinkiest soap ever. But, something goes terribly wrong. Even though he adds the smelliest ingredients he can find, the soap somehow comes out bright pink, smelling like cotton candy and sugar cookies. And, to Panda Cat’s horror, he finds that he actually kind of loves the smell. He wonders if he secretly likes smell-good stuff, but he’s too worried about being different from everyone else and sadly flushes the soap down the toilet. The next day at the science fair, Panda Cat repeats his experiment, and this time, his concoction smells even better: like caramel apples, sugar cookies, cotton candy, and strawberries! Panda Cat is worried about looking like a failure in front of everyone, but Smellbert Einstink confides one of his biggest regrets is that his work has created a world where stinky smells replaced nice scents. He asks Panda Cat to consider how we can ever truly appreciate really stinky things without nice smells to compare them to. He also reassures Panda Cat that it’s okay to like whatever you like, even if it makes you feel different than everyone else.

THOUGHTS: This title celebrates the idea that it’s okay to have your own preferences and like what you like, even if those tastes make you stand out from the crowd. It will be a good conversation-starter during morning meetings and will also be a crowd pleaser thanks to multiple references to farts, ear-wax, and other gross-out humor.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Another Book About Bears

Bunting, Laura, and Philip Bunting. Another Book About Bears. Kane Miller, 2020. 978-1-684-64084-3. 32 p. $14.99. Grades K-3. 

Have you ever thought about how many books feature bears in starring roles? Well, the bears are sick and tired of doing all the work! Just as this story is getting started, the leading bear rebels, speaking directly to the reader, and recounting all of his unappealing characteristics. Aside from being greedy and grumpy, he reminds readers bears are also lazy, a bit ferocious, and, frankly, exhausted! The bear quits the story, agreeing to come back only if he can’t find a better animal to star in the story. He grabs his trusty phone, calling up animal after animal, but no one is quite right. The elephant is too big, the crow too noisy, the crab too pinchy, and the peacock too fancy. Eventually, the bear and the reader make a deal, and students will laugh out loud at the final page’s compromise. Large, graphic illustrations brim with personality and perfectly match the text’s sly humor.

THOUGHTS: Since this story is set up as a conversation between a bear and the reader, it could be used as a mentor text for teaching voice during writing workshops. It might also be fun to challenge students to brainstorm all the books they can think of featuring bears as main characters and have them reimagine the stories with other animals playing the bear’s leading role.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD