Elem. – Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey

Kelly, Erin Entrada. Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey. Greenwillow Books, 2021. 978-0-062-97042-8. $16.99. 160 p. Grades 3-6.

Newbery Award winning author, Erin Entrada Kelly, delivers the first in a new series with character Marisol Rainey. Marisol is a Filipino American living in Louisiana with her family. She and her best friend Jade are enjoying the start to the summer vacation by playing lots of games, using their imagination to create their own fun, and climbing the tree in Marisol’s backyard. Except, Marisol is petrified to climb the tree. Not being brave enough to climb the tree in her backyard is just one of Marisol’s many fears. There are plentiful illustrations throughout the book, drawn by Kelly herself.

THOUGHTS: This engaging book has everything a popular series needs to be a hit with readers. Marisol’s anxieties make her very relatable and the humor laced through Kelly’s writing will entertain even the most reluctant readers.

Realistic Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, PSLA Member

MG – War and Millie McGonigle

Cushman, Karen. War and Millie McGonigle. Alfred A. Knopf, 2021. 210 p. 978-1-984-85010-2. $16.99.  Grades 4-6.

Mollie McGonigle is a twelve year old girl who lives with her family in San Diego. It is the autumn of 1941 and with war raging in Europe, Millie worries that the conflict will come to California. The young girl is grieving for her grandmother, who died on Millie’s birthday. Her grandmother’s gift was a diary, and she suggested that Millie “use [it] to remember the good things in this world…things that seem lost or dead-keep them alive and safe in your book.” Millie interprets this to mean that she should keep a list of dead things and explores the beach and neighborhood to find or hear about something to write down. When not looking after her younger asthmatic sister and energetic brother or doing chores, Millie finds time to be with her friend Rosie from Chicago, who is temporarily living with relatives. Then, Pearl Harbor is attacked, and Millie becomes even more alarmed about a possible invasion, as do others in the town. With Rosie’s help, Millie comes to terms with her anxiety about the world and the loss of her grandmother, realizing that “whatever is lost stays alive when we remember it.”

THOUGHTS: This novel explores the effects of grief and anxiety about a world turned upside down. The story is not all doom and gloom, as Cushman has included some comic relief in characters like Aunt Edna and MeToo. Millie is a likeable character and readers who enjoy books about sensitive issues and friendship will like this one.

Historical Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

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. – Leif and the Fall

Grant, Allison Sweet and Adam Grant. Leif and the Fall. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-984-81549-1. $17.99. Grades K-2.

It is autumn and Leif the Leaf is worried about falling from his tree. He confesses to his friend Laurel that the fall might cause him to “bump my head” or “skin my knee.” The other leaves tell him that falling is inevitable, but Laurel suggests that Leif should think of a way to slowly lower himself as he falls. So the pair work together to invent various devices, such as a kite made of bark and moss, a parachute out of a spider web and a swing made of vines. All of these ideas fail. Then an unplanned gust of wind blows Leif and Laurel off the tree, and they have the good luck to fall on the soft cushion of the failed experiments. Liddiard’s illustrations are done with a combination of digital collage and mixed media, creating drawings that balance the whimsical appearance of the leaves with images of actual moss. This book is very similar to Wade’s The Very Last Leaf. Both are about the fear of falling, but Wade’s text deals more with facing fears and perfectionism, while the Grants’ focus is on solving problems with creative ideas and to keep on trying. However, the message in this story is a little confusing since it was actually fate and luck that caused Leif to be successful in the end.

THOUGHTS: This book is a good choice for autumn themed storytimes. It would be also useful for guidance counselors for lessons on perseverance and in the classroom for lessons on problem solving and creativity.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

MG – The List of Things that Will Not Change

Staed, Rebecca. The List of Things that Will Not Change. Wendy Lamb Books, 2020. 978-1-101-93810-2. 218 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Bea was eight when her parents divorced and gave her a green notebook with a list of “Things that will not change” written into it.  The first two items on the list are that her mom and dad will always love her and each other. Bea has been adding to that list ever since getting her notebook. The thing is, lots of things in Bea’s life are changing, and being the worrier that she is, it’s not always easy to adjust. Seeing her therapist helps, as does having both parents love and support her. When her dad tells her that he and his boyfriend are getting married, Bea is filled with excitement, for her father and his boyfriend, and for herself as Jesse has a daughter that is her age.  Bea has always wanted a sister, but things aren’t as easy as Bea wishes. As the wedding gets closer, Bea comes to terms with her past secrets and the fact that things don’t always have to be perfect to be perfect for her.

THOUGHTS: A must purchase for any middle grade library collection.

Realistic Fiction                   Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

YA – Just Our Luck

Walton, Julia. Just Our Luck. Random House. 2020,  978-0-399-55092-8. $17.99. 272 p. Grades 9-12.

Leonidas –Leo- quirky knitter and sensitive photographer, has been successful staying under the radar for most of his high school years. Then Drake Gibbons a wise-cracking, hyperactive jock punches him, and their consequences are enduring each others’ company in the counselor’s office until they become amicable. Leo’s mother died years ago and now with his Greek grandmother Yia Yia’s death, the silence in their Greek household is deafening and the relationship between him and his father even more distant. When his father insists his gentle son take a martial arts course to improve his pugilistic skills, Leo gets scared off and signs up for a yoga master certification course. Turns out, the person taking his registration is Evey Paros, from another Greek family who just happened to have cursed Leo’s many generations ago. Though she seems aloof, Evey has her own agenda. She’s been wronged by the biggest, richest, most popular dude at school, Jordan Swansea. After their breakup, Jordan sent out nude pictures of Evey over social media. She enlists Leo as her assistant in wreaking revenge. What ensues is a light romance with a touch of humor. Leo unexpectedly finds love, friends, and self confidence. A bonus is that Evey, too, finds a powerful alternative to thwarting Jordan besides sophomoric pranks.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, SD Philadelphia

THOUGHTS: Librarians should be aware this quick read has a lot of curses and little diversity (Drake’s girlfriend Jenn seems to be Latinx). However, the characters are humorous, and the plot discusses generalized anxiety, a condition today’s teens may recognize. Both Leo and Evey also have an interest in writing, and Leo delivers his first-person narrative in journal format. Pull for reluctant readers.

Elem. – The Worrysaurus

Bright, Rachel, and Chris Chatterson. The Worrysaurus. Orchard Books, 2020. 978-1-338-63408-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K – 2.

A beautiful day leads a small dinosaur to begin planning a wonderful picnic, because “Worrysaurus liked it when he knew what lay ahead.” But then the thoughts of worry and doubt creep in as he over-thinks his plans and begins to fret about hunger, thirst, storms, and other fears. Nothing has actually gone wrong, but the darkness is closing in, and the butterflies in his stomach are overtaking Worrysaurus. But then he remembers some coping skills from his mommy, including chasing away the butterflies, holding onto some happy things, and calming his busy mind. The illustrations from Chris Chatterson perfectly capture the anxiety of the dinosaur, and the gentle rhyming cadence to Rachel Bright’s words will help those who need to hear it. Letting those butterflies be free and enjoying the moment might just be the message that young readers need right now!

THOUGHTS: While not a perfect recipe for troubled young minds, this story certainly works as a discussion piece to aid families or classrooms to identify and cope with fears in their world. My advanced reader copy did not contain other resources or coping tools, but perhaps teachers or parents will have those readily available when sharing. A worthwhile purchase for emotional support collections.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Elem. – The Very Last Leaf

Wade, Stef. The Very Last Leaf. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-684-46104-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Lance the cottonwood leaf is used to being at the top of his class. From the time school began in the spring, he was the first to blossom, the best at learning wind resistance, and he excelled at photosynthesizing. But when autumn arrives, he’s hesitant about the final test: the one that will take him off his branch and onto the ground. Lance is afraid to fall. Lance wishes he could be like his friend Doug Fir who doesn’t have to fall and can instead stay on his branch all winter long. As the time to fall draws closer, Lance makes up excuses. But soon, he’s the last leaf on his tree. His mind races with everything that could happen to him when he falls. He might land in a gutter. Or, he could get stuck to a windshield. His teacher reassures him he’ll be okay, and he feels a little better after talking to someone. And, as he looks down from his tree, he starts to notice all the other things that can happen to leaves on the ground. He sees children playing in them and collecting them for craft projects. After seeing that his friends are safe and happy, Lance decides to make the fall. With his teacher and friends cheering him on, he finally lets go.

THOUGHTS: This gentle text highlights social-emotional themes such as anxiety, perfectionism, and facing your fears in a lighthearted way. This is a perfect choice for fall morning meetings and should also be shared with guidance counselors. A final page includes nonfiction facts about deciduous leaves.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Pony Girls (Set 2) Series Fiction

Mullarkey, Lisa. Pony Girls (Set 2). Abdo Publishing, 2020. 978-1-532-13646-7. $20.95 ea. $83.80 set of 4. Grades 2-5.

Charlie. 978-1-532-13646-7.
Gracie. 978-1-532 13647-4.
Paisley. 978-1-532-13648-1.
Zoey. 978-1-532-13649-8.

Charlie loves being a camper at Storm Cliff Stables, but some things just make her belly swishy swashy. She wants to be able to go on a full trail ride and jump the vaults, but she just can’t seem to do it without her belly causing troubles and her heart going thump, thump, thump. Thankfully her friends, Aunt Jane, her mom, and Dr. Bell have helped her with different strategies to keep her nerves away. She will become a full Warrior and be able to achieve her goals, if she keeps visualizing them and doing her very best!

THOUGHTS: The ability in this book to discuss anxiety issues and panic attacks is absolutely phenomenal. The coping strategies listed in here are great strategies that readers can use to help keep nerves at bay and help reduce anxiety. A great choice for a young reader who is interested in horses or animals and may be dealing with their own fears and anxieties.

Realistic Fiction         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA – You Should See Me in a Crown

Johnson, Leah. You Should See Me in a Crown. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-50326-5. $17.99. 324 p. Grades 9 and up.

This is not your average prom court story. From Liz Lighty’s motivation to run for queen to her underdog status and even the hype surrounding this rural Indiana town’s epic prom season traditions, this prom plot is anything but trite. When Liz finds out she did not get the scholarship she needs to afford Pennington College, the school of her dreams, she does the only thing she can think of that could quickly replace that money, and it’s the last thing she ever imagined herself doing. Prom in Campbell County, Indiana is an institution, and the king and queen win $10,000 scholarships – exactly the amount of money she needs to make Pennington happen. Now, Liz – who has purposely stayed under the radar her entire high school career – throws herself into the month-long campaign for a spot on the prom court by doing volunteer work and getting as much positive attention as she can on the school’s gossipy social media app: Campbell Confidential. Being an outsider – an unpopular band kid who is one of only a few Black girls at her school – is just one of many hurdles she’ll have to overcome if she wants that crown and scholarship. Aside from her few close friends, no one at school knows that Liz is queer. When a new girl unexpectedly shows up at the first prom campaign meeting, Liz finds herself immediately crushing on this skateboard-riding underdog. Dating Mack – who is also now her competition –  is exactly the type of publicity Liz does NOT want if she’s going to win that scholarship in this very conservative town, forcing her to choose which to listen to: her head or her heart.

THOUGHTS: Leah Johson’s debut novel is laugh-out-loud funny and gosh darn adorable. Novels that tackle serious issues faced by BIPOC/LGBTQ characters are extremely important, but it’s also important to see these characters experience joy in their everyday lives. That’s not to say this book lacks serious moments because it does have them. (Liz’s brother’s health and close-minded faculty/students, for example, make for some weighty scenes). It is a feel-good story overall though with a romance full of “aww”-worthy moments, an amazing supporting cast of friends and family (Liz’s grandparents and her friend Stone are particularly fun), and it is definitely a great addition to any teen collection.

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD


Liz Lighty dreams of leaving the small town of Campbell, Indiana behind to attend her mother’s alma mater Pennington College and become a doctor. Liz has worked hard to secure financial aid and is devastated to learn that she isn’t getting it. An excellent student and musician, Liz refuses to give up on her dream and put her grandparents into financial troubles. Liz is determined to find another way to Pennington when she is reminded of the annual prom court competition (and $10,000 scholarship for the king and queen). Terrified of the added attention (Liz has anxiety), Liz decides prom court is her best opportunity. Liz isn’t openly out which has never been a problem for her close friends, but Campbell has strict rules for potential prom court members that are steeped in tradition. Adding all of the expected volunteer events to her busy schedule isn’t easy, but spending time with new girl – and fellow prom court competition – Mack is worth it. With the help of her friends, Liz is slowly climbing the Campbell Confidential (social media app) prom court rankings and might actually stand a chance. But falling for Mack might jeopardize everything Liz has worked hard to achieve. Liz knows she’ll find her place at Pennington if she can earn this scholarship, but is getting to Pennington worth not being true to herself?

THOUGHTS: This debut tackles tough topics in a way that will appeal widely to high school readers. Liz has been through a lot in her life, and readers will root for her from the beginning. Highly recommended, this one is a must have for high school collections.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD