Elem. – Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls

Whipple, Annette. Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls. Reycraft Books, 2020. 978-1-478-86962-7. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 1-3. 

Children and adults have long been fascinated with owls. Likely many of our students have read a fictional story featuring an owl or heard the hoot of an owl while camping, hiking, or just relaxing in their backyard. In Whooo Knew?, readers have the opportunity to learn more about these amazing creatures. Information about owl characteristics, life cycle, and habitat are introduced by the author posing a question (for example: “Can Owls Spin Their Heads?”, “What Good Are Ear Tufts?”, and “What Do Owl Babies Do?”). Each question is answered in an informational two page spread featuring numerous photographs. The title also includes a section on what readers can do to help owls, and backmatter includes a glossary, instructions on dissecting an owl pellet, and illustrations of owl anatomy.

THOUGHTS: This engaging non-fiction title is sure to be a hit with students, who will find it useful for research as well as casual reading. The structure of the book, with each topic introduced by catchy questions, will catch the attention of readers and the numerous photos of owl species and close-up views of owl characteristics will allow readers to appreciate these amazing animals. Recommended.

*Note: This book is by a Pennsylvania author.

598.97 Owls          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Play Outside!

Moreau, Laurent. Play Outside! Norton Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-324-01547-5. Unpaged. $18.95. Grades K-2. 

It’s a common refrain uttered by parents on a regular basis – “why don’t you go play outside?” Author and illustrator Laurent Moreau puts a creative spin on this refrain in this picture book which was originally published in France in 2018 and appeared on U.S. shelves in a translated edition in 2020. The story features an unnamed brother and sister who are encouraged to play outside by their mother after their horseplay leads to a broken vase. Once outside, the pair travel through a variety of landscapes, including trekking through deserts, climbing mountains, climbing trees in the forest, and sailing on icebergs, among other locales. Each locale features a variety of animals, some common and plentiful, others endangered and facing extinction. At the conclusion of the book, readers can explore an illustrated index showing each animal the children met along their journey and identifying the endangered status of each.

THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy the challenge using the index to help them try to locate the 250 animal species hidden in Moreau’s vibrant artwork. This title could easily be incorporated into lessons involving endangered species and the importance of protecting the environment, themes which are also reinforced within the text of the storyline.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Playing Possum

Black Reinhardt, Jennifer. Playing Possum. Clarion Books. 2020. 978-1-328-78270-0. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Alfred is a possum. When possums become nervous, they tend to freeze and play dead. Unfortunately, Alfred is an extremely nervous possum, which means he often is freezing up. This can make life very difficult for him, as he does not do well in school, sports, or even making friends because of his freezing up. Sofia is an armadillo. Armadillos will often curl into a ball when nervous. Together, Alfred and Sofia slowly learn to trust each other and become friends, understanding that everyone has moments. Together they learn all of the animals cope differently, and it is okay. Friendship and trust can take time, but it is worth it!

THOUGHTS: A cute book about different animals, nerves, and anxiety! The back of the book contains information on how different animals react in different situations. A fun read that can be helpful for readers who may need help with nerves or anxiety.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Mae the Mayfly

Brennan-Nelson, Denise. Mae the Mayfly. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. 978-1-534-11051-9. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Mae the Mayfly has only a day or so to enjoy the wonderful world that is all around her! Mother cautions her to be careful as she explores, and Mae almost ended her day by being eaten by a trout! As Mae hides in a tree, the beautiful world outside calls to her. Mae realizes that she cannot stay hidden in a tree, for there are so many things out there for her to see! As Mae explores, she realizes the same trout that tried to eat her needs help. Are they so different fr other? What should Mae do!?

THOUGHTS: The message of living your life and not hiding away is a great message found throughout this sweet picture book. In addition to this sweet message, this book provides information on an insect that many read may not know about. A delightful read!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Ellie Makes a Friend

Mike, Wu. Ellie Makes a Friend. Disney Hyperion, 2020. 978-1-368-01000-9. $16.99. Grades K-2.

There is a commotion at the zoo! A new animal has joined, and it is a painter just like Ellie! Only instead of an elephant, the new animal is a Panda who came all the way from China. Ellie wonders if there is room for two painters at the zoo. Ellie decides to learn all about her new possible friend. Soon, the two are sharing stories, ideas, and painting together. They find harmony in the ways they are different, and delight in learning more about each other. Sharing can be the best way to learn about someone else and a great way to make a new friend.

THOUGHTS: A delightful book on friendship and sharing. This book is a nice beginner book for readers to look at the country of China, as it contains some brief discussion topics and ideas.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem./MG – Allergic: A Graphic Novel

Lloyd, Megan Wagner. Allergic: A Graphic Novel. Illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter. Graphix, 2020. 978-1-338-56891-2. 240 p. $24.99. Grades 3-6.

With younger twin brothers and a new baby on the way, Maggie feels alone in her loving family. She’s convinced her parents, who are preoccupied with baby names and other preparations, to let her adopt a puppy that will be her own. Maggie has been looking forward to her tenth birthday for a long time, since this is the day she gets her perfect pet. At the animal shelter, however, Maggie breaks out into a severe rash, and she learns that she’s allergic to anything with fur. So much for her puppy. Devastated, but determined to find the perfect pet, Maggie begins research, as she works her way through allergy shots and makes a new friend. Told in colorful graphic panels, readers will enjoy Maggie’s attempts at finding a perfect pet and will appreciate her frustration when things go awry with her new friend.

THOUGHTS: Readers with any allergies, but especially those allergic to pets, will felt represented in this cute graphic novel. A great addition to elementary and middle grade collections.

Graphic Novel          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Saucy

Kadohata, Cynthia. Saucy. Atheneum Books, 2020. 978-1-534-47597-7. 304 p. $17.99. Grades 3-6. 

As one of a set of quadruplets, Becca frequently worries about who she is, and what is her “thing.” Her brother Jammer is an obsessive ice hockey player. Her brother K.C. is a math and science genius, who theorizes our existence is actually a simulation designed by another life form. And other brother, Bailey, composes music. But Becca just can’t figure out what makes her unique. So when she finds a dying piglet while on a family walk one evening, she believes she has found her calling: saving Saucy, so dubbed because of her obvious attitude. But Becca quickly learns that sickly pigs require expensive veterinary care, and healthy pigs are rambunctious and destructive. And grow rapidly. But Becca, having spent her 12 years trying not to take up time and money, because Jammer’s hockey and Bailey’s medical needs (he is in a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy) take up so much of the family’s resources, feels she’s owed some leeway. Besides, everyone in the family is falling in love with Saucy. Eventually, the siblings determine Saucy escaped from a large commercial pig farm, and Saucy is sent to live at a nearby pig sanctuary. The story is lovely, slice-of-life Kadohata writing (she shows off her hockey-mom chops again), and the relationship between the four siblings is sweet and caring. As different as the four are, they support each other, a revelation that seems to surprise Becca, who is used to feeling outside and overlooked. The conditions of large pig farms are detailed when Becca and her brothers sneak into a building one night to see where Saucy came from. While the transition from sweet animal story to commercial meat producing exposé is a bit awkward, readers will no doubt be properly appalled.

THOUGHTS: A sweet story perfect for readers who love animals, or are realistic fiction fans. Any reader with siblings will sympathize with how Becca feels out-of-step with her brothers. A first choice for most libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Bedtime for Sweet Creatures

Grimes, Nikki. Bedtime for Sweet Creatures. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2020. 978-1-492-63832-2. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Grade 2.

This endearing bedtime story follows a mother and toddler through a bedtime routine that will be all too familiar to families with young children. What makes it unique, however, is the way in which the child’s stalling tactics are compared to animals in the jungle. For instance, the child roars like a lion for the mother to check under the bed for monsters, clings to the mother like a koala for one last kiss, and emerges from bed like a sly wolf in order to fill a glass of water. The illustrations add to the allure, combining realistic human figures with fantastical jungle creatures. This fresh twist on the often documented struggles of putting young children to bed will be sure to delight parents and children alike.

THOUGHTS: I think this title would make the sweetest bedtime story and/or read aloud. It could also be used in an educational setting, as it contains an abundance of similes and metaphors. After hearing the story, perhaps students could write their own tales in which they compare themselves to jungle animals using these figures of speech. This is an excellent choice for any library serving young children.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – The Superpower Field Guide

Poliquin, Rachel. The Superpower Field Guide. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018-2020. $13.76 ea. $55.04 set of 4. 95 p. Grades 3-6.

Beavers. 978-1-725-48225-8.
Eels. 978-1-725-48226-5.
Moles. 978-1-725-48227-2.
Ostriches. 978-1-725-48228-9.

What the average reader does not know about freshwater eels could fill volumes, and luckily there exists just the volume to educate us all. At a scant 96 pages, Eels, part of The Superpower Field Guide series, uses illustrations by Nicholas John Frith, diagrams, timelines, and more to accompany the story of Olenka, a freshwater eel living in a river in Russia. Readers will learn of the eel’s 10 superpowers, including wall crawling, double invisibility, and globe-spanning grit. Sections are short but high-interest and fact-filled, and the entire book could easily be read in one sitting.

THOUGHTS: A great addition to an elementary or middle school library where nonfiction circulates well.

597  Cold Blooded Vertebrates, Fishes          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

Elem. – Outdoor Adventure Guides (Series NF)

Outdoor Adventure Guides. Capstone Press, 2020. $24.04 ea. $96.16 set of 4. 48 p. Grades 3-6.

Bean, Raymond. Backpacking Hacks: Camping Tips for Outdoor Adventures. 978-1-543-59031-9.
Hoena, B.A. Campfire Cooking: Wild Eats for Outdoor Adventures. 978-1-543-59033-3.
Hoena, B.A. Wilderness Survival: Basic Safety for Outdoor Adventures. 978-1-543-59029-6.
Bean, Raymond. Wildlife Watching: Spotting Animals on Outdoor Adventures. 978-1-543-59035-7.

Part of the Outdoor Adventure Guides series, Backpacking Hacks is a valuable resource for both the novice and experienced hiker. Chapter titles include “Preparation and Planning;” “Food, Water, and Shelter;” and “Critters and Fire.” There are thoughtful tips for staying warm, staying cool, and staying dry. The book also includes information on how to pack food and what to pack, how to make your tent more comfortable, and hygiene when you are away from a bathroom. Readers who are using this guide to plan a trip will appreciate the websites listed in the back and the “Hack Your Pack” section that will make all hikers well prepared.

THOUGHTS: This is a thorough guide for planning a backpacking trip. There is so much great information packed into the scant 48 pages. Appropriate for all school libraries, this book should have broad appeal.

796.54 Camping          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD