Elem. – Cool Paper Art

Cool Paper Art. Abdo Publishing, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6. Grades 3-6.

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Accordion Folding: Simple Paper Folding. 978-1-532-11943-9.
—. Karakuri: Paper Made to Move. 978-1-532-11944-6.
—. Papermaking: Handmade paper and Paper Products – 978-1-532-11947-7.
Thomas, Rachael L. Kirigami: Paper Cutting and Folding. 978-1-532-11945-3.
—. Origami: Classic Paper Folding. 978-1-532-11946-0.
—. 3-D Origami: Paper Building Blocks. 978-1-532-11948-4.

Karakuri: Paper Made to Move is an introductory book for readers to the Japanese art of making movement with paper. Provided with specific directions and photographs to match, readers are able to take paper and create different types of movement, including slides, levers, cranks, and cams. These simple mechanisms can be used to introduce readers to different movements and higher level ideas of physics with paper.

THOUGHTS: I am excited to provide this book to our district’s STEM teacher, who can teach many of these concepts through paper and art! This series offers a great way to bridge science and fine arts across the curriculum!

736.98 BOR                                        Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

MG – Inside Art Movements

Brooks, Susie. Inside Art Movements. Compass Point Books, 2020. $21.49 ea. $128.94 Set of 6. 48 p. Grades 6-8.

Cubism. 978-0-7565-6236-6.
Impressionism. 978-0-756-56237-3.
Pop Art. 978-0-756-56238-0.
The Renaissance. 978-0-756-56239-7.
Romanticism. 978-0-756-56240-3.
Surrealism. 978-0-756-56241-0.

In concise yet descriptive text, author Susie Brooks traces the history and aesthetic of impressionism,  the popular art movement of the mid-19th century. Each attractive double-page spread is dedicated to one of the key elements of this innovative art style. This slim volume presents information in short, labeled paragraphs accompanied by several colored illustrations from the major artists of the period. The author defines impressionism; describes the  different schools (Beaux Arts and Barbizon); provides pithy biographies of leading painters; traces the controversies, influences, advances, and legacy of the movement. be interactive. Ms. Brooks adds an interactive aspect to the text by posing a question to the reader to examine the artwork for comparisons. What raises this expository text above the typical informational book on art is Ms. Brooks’s ability to explain her subject succinctly and eloquently and to provide a well-rounded albeit condensed look at this movement from its controversial beginnings to its evolution and influence in post-Impressionism and modern art. Includes contents, index, glossary, and timeline. Artists included are: Monet, Manet, Degas, Cassatt, Cezanne, Morisot, Renoir, Pissarro, Caillebotte, Sisley, Millet, Corot, Boudin, Theodore Robinson, Turner, Seurat, Whistler, and Rousseau.

THOUGHTS: Adequate addition to art sections in elementary libraries. This selection is a brief, attractive, well-written overview. (Title Reviewed: Impressionism)

709 Art          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Women Artists A to Z

LaBarge, Melanie. Women Artists A to Z. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-593-10827-7. 32 p. $19.99. Grades PreK-5.

A coffee-table art book for the youngest readers, Women Artists A to Z provides an overview of twenty-six diverse female artists. Deceptively simple at first, each vignette features illustrations inspired by a woman’s distinct style, a simple portrait, and a brief (two-to-three sentence) explanation of her art. Alphabetic titles are assigned to describe a method, medium, or element of the depicted work, making this book easy to devour in one sitting yet fun to page through multiple times. “B is for Box” headlines Betye Saar’s assemblage celebrations of Black history and culture while “H is for Horse” introduces Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, a Native American artist whose collage often incorporates horses. “W is for Wood” introduces Polish artist Ursula Von Rydingsvard, known for cedar sculpture. Authors notes at the back of the book include birth/death dates, associated city/country, a slightly extended biography, and a question to prompt discussion or creation. In this way, readers have the opportunity to form a basic association with each artist and her style for a diverse collection of international women in modern and classical art. Colorful computer generated illustrations fill the pages and end-pages with examples of the artists and tools highlighted. The simplicity of the text makes art accessible for elementary level students while also leaving the door open for incorporating STEAM connections, research opportunities, maker activities, and writing/drawing prompts. In addition to those mentioned in this review, artists discussed include: Mirka Mora, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama, Kay Sage, Georgia O’Keefe, Agnes Martin, Elizabeth Catlett, Judith Leysterm, Carmen Herrera, Edmonia Lewis, Maya Lin, Hilma Af Klint, Maria Martinez, Gee’s Bend Collective, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Lois Mailou Jones, Alice Neel, Helen Zughaib, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Dorthea Lange, Xenobia Bailey, and Maria Sibylla Meria.

THOUGHTS: Women Artists A to Z is not a stand-alone reference. Despite the A to Z arrangement, it also is not a traditional picture book. Still, I feel it would be a great addition to an elementary library, particularly as part of  interactive display or conversation starter. At first, describing a life’s work in only a few sentences deceptively oversimplifies the artists and left me wanting more information. Yet, I found myself returning to page-through again, jumping from Maya Lin (“N is for Nature) to “K is for Kitchen” (Lenora Carrington) each time soaking in new details. A great way to build curiosity and encourage research skills for students who seek  more in-depth information.

700.8 Women Artists          Jackie Fulton, PSLA Member 

Elem. – Rachel’s Roses; Art Sparks; Chapter Two is Missing; Money Sense; How Winston Delivered Christmas; Stargazing; Ants; Cooking Class; Gracie La Roo

Wolff, Ferida. Rachel’s Roses. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-44365-9. 100 p. $15.99. Grades 2-5.

Rachel Berger is a third grade girl who lives in the Lower East Side of New York City during the early 1900s with her mother, father, grandmother, and little sister Hannah.  The family struggles economically, especially since her mother quit her job to start her own dressmaking business. As the big sister, Rachel is tired of her little sister copying her and following her around. Rosh Hashanah is approaching, and Rachel is hoping she can have a new skirt for the occasion and that it will be different from her sister’s. There is no money for new clothes, but Rachel’s mother gives her money for new buttons. At the trimmings store, she spies 3 beautiful buttons with roses in them. Although she does not have enough money to pay for them, she asks the shop owner to put them aside and says she will earn the money to buy them before the holiday. Rachel is able to find a job doing errands and purchases the buttons. Her feelings for her sister are out to the test when Hannah goes missing and Rachel must decide if the buttons can be put to better use for the sake of her family. The author creates a 19th century atmosphere with her description of the street vendors and school life, and the author’s note explains more about her own family’s customs during Rosh Hashanah. Lucas’s black and white illustrations appear frequently throughout the text and help the reader visualize life in the early 20th century. 

THOUGHTS: This is a charming book that is perfect for independent readers who are not quite ready for lengthy texts but want to expand their horizons beyond series titles. Although this is not an essential purchase, it is a worthwhile addition to elementary library collections.

Historical Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Abrams, Marion, and Hilary Emerson Lay. Art Sparks. Storey Publishing, 2019. 978-1-635-86211-9. 175 p. $26.95. Grades 2 and up.

This highly appealing craft book, born of the authors’ Summer Craft Barn classes, is sure to delight crafters of all ages and interests. After an introduction to basic craft materials, the book is divided into 6 categories of crafts: painting, drawing, paper art, felt and fabric, art and nature, and sculpture. The projects run from simple to more complex, but none feel beyond the ability of tween and older crafters, or youngsters with adult assistance. Materials required for most projects are basic craft supplies, and other items are obtainable at a craft store. Each project outlines materials needed; full color photos illustrate step-by-step instructions and are so engaging you want to dive right in. There are multiple crafts inspired by a variety of international cultures, each accompanied by a brief explanation of the significance of the art to the culture. Most crafts can be wholly completed by the young crafter, but the authors advise that glue guns be used with adult supervision, and knife work completed by adults. The only questionable point is the suggested use of styrofoam meat trays, which, while the book notes they should be washed thoroughly before use, parents may prefer to avoid.

THOUGHTS: This book will be an excellent addition to a library craft section, as well as a great purchase for the young crafter in your life.

745.5 Crafts          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Lieb, Josh. Chapter Two is Missing. Razorbill, 2019. 978-1-984-83548-2. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K+.   

Chapter One opens with a bang when the panicked narrator announces that Chapter Two is missing, and this riotous story is off and running. In the meta tradition of David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs and Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, the elements of a book become the story. Milo the Janitor relocates periods (to, perhaps, create an ellipse?) and heaps pagefuls of M’s in the middle of another page. Detective McGarrigan has no news on the case, but no news is good news, right? Delightful comic illustrations by Kevin Cornell (The Chicken Squad) propel the humor along. When the who-done-it is finally revealed, readers may be too busy laughing to care.

THOUGHTS: While young readers may giggle at the drawings, the clever humor will appeal to older readers as well, and a close inspection of the illustrations will also prove rewarding.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Money Sense: An Introduction to Financial Literacy. Crabtree, 2017 and 2019. $17.70 HC. $7.95  PB. $106.20 set of 6. 24 p. Grades K–3.

Eagan, Rachel. Why Does Money Matter? 2017.  978-0-778-72666-1. 332.4
—. Why Should I Save for a Rainy Day ? 2017. 978-0-778-72663-0. 332.024
—. What Do I Want? What Do I Need? 2017. 978-0-778-72664-7. 332.024
—. Learning about Earning 2017. 978-0-778-72665-4. 331.2
—. Meeting Needs in Our Community. 2019. 978-0-778-75185-4. 338
—. Trade in Our Global Community.  2019. 978-0-778-75186-1. 382

This series makes economics accessible for younger grades. These books introduce young children to the basic concepts such as supply and demand, needs and wants, and goods and services. General statements are illustrated with child friendly examples. The two most recent books, Meeting Needs in Our Community and Trade in Our Global Community, reach out into local and global economics and the interdependence of our global community. Back matter includes books for further reading, websites, a glossary, and an index. Each book has a link to Crabtree’s secure website which has additional digital content. 

THOUGHTS: Economics should be studied even by younger students. These books can really have an impact, but I think they should be used intentionally, backed up by hands on activities. Because there are different Dewey classifications, I have included the specific number with each title above.

Financial Literacy          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Smith, Alex T. How Winston Delivered Christmas. Silver Dolphin, 2019. 978-1-68412-983-6. 175 p. Gr. 1-5. 

In delightfully retro style, Alex T. Smith tells the story of Winston, a plucky little city mouse, who finds a lost letter on Christmas Eve. The trouble? The letter is addressed to Santa Claus, and he will never receive the letter at this late hour unless Winston does something, and fast! Winston travels across the city, meeting helpful new friends like avian odd couple George and Edna who provide some intel on Santa’s location, and rat Eduardo Fromage who shows Winston the finer points of life inside a fancy department store. Winston finally makes his way to Fortesque’s Department Store where he hopes to meet up with Santa Claus, but he realizes that he’s too late. Never one to give up, Winston attempts to fly himself to the North Pole, only to crash land in a serendipitous twist that makes his life (and the life of the letter writer!) very happy, indeed. Smith tells the story in 24 ½ chapters, meant to be read as an Advent story throughout the month of December. The vintage-looking illustrations are gorgeous and evoke a vision of long-past big city holidays, bustling with men in suits and fedoras and ladies in dresses and hats, all bustling about carrying towers of packages carefully wrapped at the department store (rather than delivered by Amazon). Christmas crafts, recipes, song lyrics, and activities are peppered throughout the book, and every page is decorated with a small illustration, flourish, or bit of whimsy that generally lend the book a very festive air. It’s a beautiful book and story that deserves to be shared with a special child in your life.

THOUGHTS: Buy a copy for school and a copy for home, and enjoy sharing with Christmas-lovers young and old.

Action/Adventure          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Wang, Jen. Stargazing. First Second, 2019. 978-1-250-18387-3. 208 p. Grades 3-6.

Moon is unlike anyone Christine has ever known growing up as a Chinese American. Christine plays the violin and likes American pop music while Moon loves singing and dancing to K-Pop. Christine’s parents are very strict while Moon’s mother is very easy going. Christine’s family makes their dan dan mian with pork while Moon and her mother are vegetarians (and Buddhists). Moon also has a reputation for having a hot temper and quick fists. The girls realize quickly, however, that they really like each other…they become quick friends and expand each other’s worlds. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret, that she’s really a celestial being, and she has visions that let her see her friends in the sky. Christine struggles with her own insecurities as Moon becomes more popular, and it isn’t until Moon has a seizure at a friend’s birthday party that everyone learns the truth: Moon’s celestial visions are being caused by a brain tumor. Moon needs Christine more than ever, but Christine can’t face Moon after an unkind incident at the birthday party. In the end, Christine’s father helps her see that she needs to be herself to be happy, and she and Moon make up and face the new world together. This book is loosely based on author/illustrator Jen Wang’s own childhood and personal experience with a brain tumor. Several of my students have read and loved it! Our district has very few Chinese American students, and this book portrayed a community authentically to my students, a group of kids who likely know very little about this culture.

THOUGHTS: An excellent title for fans of realistic middle-grade graphic novels.

Graphic Novel          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Kenney, Karen Latchana. Ants: Secrets of their Cooperative Colonies, Capstone Press, 2019. 978-1-543-55553-0. 32 p. $7.95. Grades 3-4.

Did you know that there is an ant called Honeypot Ants that have abdomens the size of grapes? This book takes the reader through an ant’s life and why they live together. The text of the book is definitely for upper elementary; the pictures and models are eye catching, and there are great captions. When there are new words, they are highlighted in red and defined at the bottom of the page making following along with this book easy to do. This Fact Finder book is one in a series where readers get to learn secrets about some interesting insects and animals.

THOUGHTS: I would love to use this book in a center, teaching students how to read for information. This book is also a great example of text structures while being friendly for younger grades to follow along.

595.74 Ants          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD


Cook, Deanna F. Cooking Class: Global Feast, Storey Publishing, 2019. 9781635862300.P143. $28.95. Gr 1-5

Cooking Class: Global Feast is an awesome cookbook filled with recipes from around the world written specifically for children. The table of contents is easy to read and divided by types of meals from breakfast to dessert. Each recipe includes the flag of the country from where the food is traditionally made. There is also a table of contents by country, allowing students to  plan a fully immersive experience easily. The book also starts with lessons for students who may not be comfortable in the kitchen. Going into the book the recipes are rated from one spoon, meaning they do not involve baking or cutting, to three spoons which asks that there is an adult or older sibling helping. Each recipe also has pictures of the process. I love this part of the book because it allows children to check their work and see if it looks similar to the picture. Readers are also introduced to each child who is baking with a mini biography about them.

THOUGHTS: My daughter has not put this book down. From the moment I got it home my 9 year old daughter has been planning meals and testing her baking chops. Baking and cooking is a great way for students to be comfortable with measurement and to experience science. The lessons at the beginning helped her to know what tools she needed to get and how to read the recipe.

641.5 Cooking           Arryn Cumpston Crawford Central SD


Qualey, Marsha. Kristyna Litten. Gracie La Roo: At Training Camp. Picture Window Books, 2019. 978-1-515-83777-0. 35 p. $14.58. Grades K-2.

It is time for swim camp, and all Gracie wants to do is swim. Why then are all of her friends busy and worried about everything else. Gracie gets frustrated when practice keeps getting rescheduled for poster making, and costume designing. Gracie ends up spending the day alone. What she does not realize is that even when she is alone her other teammates depend on her and value her opinion. They keep calling her in to help with their problems. When Gracie finally has had enough and goes to her room, the rest of the team ends up in a fit. Gracie points out that they have lost focus and leaves to swim. 

THOUGHTS: The illustrations and words in this book are simple and easy to follow. This is a great beginning chapter book that could easily also be used as a social story for students. Friendships are hard, and like Gracie we don’t always agree with what friends are doing and sometimes we need to remind our friends what is important. The discussion questions and writing prompts at the end of the story would make this a great beginning of the school year read aloud for younger elementary students.

Early Chapter Book          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD

Elem. – Colors; Snowmen Live Forever; Flubby Is Not A Good Pet; Flubby Will Not Play with That; Small in the City; The Crayon Man; The Dark Lord Clementine; Count Me In

Rotner, Shelley, and Anne Woodhull. Colors. Holiday House. 2019. 978-0-823-44063-4. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Colors, colors, all around! This informational book introduces colors with vibrant pictures and text. Focusing on your main colors, this book provides a color with a verb. Following the first page are insanely bright and beautiful photographs of items that you may find within this color. While some images are well known to all, there may be some new items for young students to learn about and discuss!

THOUGHTS: A beautifully book with stunning photographs, this simple text informs readers of the items and provides an openness to discussion.

535.6 Colors           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Dedieu, Thierry. Snowmen Live Forever. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-0-802-85526-8. $17.99. Grades K-3

Squirrel, Hedgehog, Rabbit, and Owl love visiting Snowman. Snowman always has the best stories, games, and adventures to share and perform with his friends, and his friends love hearing about the amazing places and adventures Snowman has been on. But alas! Squirrel discovers one more that Spring is soon on the way. Day by day, Snowman grows weaker until he is gone. The four animal friends learn about where water goes, and begin their own adventure to find Snowman. It isn’t until the end that they realize everything will be OK and that Snowman will return with more adventures to share.

THOUGHTS: With a bit of education thrown in, this 2019 English Translation shares a fun story of friendship and snow. A unique tale of adventure and true friendship.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Morris, J. E. Flubby: Flubby Is Not A Good Pet! Penguin Workshop. 2019. 978-1-524-78776-9. $9.99. Grades PreK-1.

Flubby is Kami’s cat. Flubby is different than all of her friends’ cats, for Flubby does…nothing? Flubby does not sing. He does not catch. He does not jump. So Flubby isn’t really a good pet after all! However, what Flubby can do, is perfect enough. Flubby needs Kami…and Kami needs Flubby.

THOUGHTS: A great addition for early readers about a girl and her cat. This is a story that will make young readers giggle with delight at the silliness of Flubby.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Morris, J. E. Flubby: Flubby Will Not Play With That! Penguin Workshop. 2019. 978-1-524-78778-3. $9.99. Grades PreK-1.

Another silly Flubby adventure. This time, Flubby has some new toys that Kami bought him! One rolls, one runs, and one is the most magnificent toy ever! However, Flubby is not interested in any of the toys that Kami brings him. Despite all of this, Flubby finds the best toy around, one that Kami has brought.

THOUGHTS: The ending of this story is sure to bring delight to young readers as they discover what toy Flubby likes best. Another cute Flubby adventure!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Smith, Sydney. Small in the City. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-44261-4.  Unpaged. Grades K-3. $18.99.

This is the touching story of a boy in a big city who appears to be in search of someone. The book begins with four pages of wordless illustrations in frames, which show someone riding on a bus during the winter. As the frames develop, it becomes clear that it is a young boy, who is requesting a stop. He gets off the bus and now the words of the story begin, told in first person. The boy has someone in mind as he relates how it feels to be “small in the city,” hearing all the loud noises and being surrounded by so many people. The little boy then goes on to advise which alleys to avoid and which areas to seek out, like a tree to climb on, a vent to nap under, and a fishmonger’s shop to get some food. As the boy continues to travel on foot, more clues about whom he is looking for are revealed, until we see him eventually hang a lost cat poster. As he arrives home, we feel his anguish when he finds out that cat has not returned and says, “You will be all right.” The last illustration leaves the reader with hope. Smith’s illustrations are done in an impressionistic style and he uses ink, watercolor, and gouache to create a wintry atmosphere in the drawings. 

THOUGHTS: This text can be used to demonstrate inference, as readers use the clues to come to the conclusion that a cat had gone missing. Young children will enjoy seeing all the different modes of transportation, and teachers could use this text in social studies units to explain the features of a city habitat. This gem of a book is a must-have for all elementary libraries.

Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

A small child navigates the city, describing its sights and sounds and offering advice to a nameless character. As the story progresses, readers discover that this nameless character is actually the child’s missing cat. The beautiful juxtaposition of artwork and text leads readers through an intimidating, bustling city all the way back to the comforting warmth of a loving home. Despite all of the scariness of the big city, the final page will leave readers hopeful that the child’s cat will return to its cozy home.

THOUGHTS: The first time I read this book, I thought it was okay. Once I figured out who the narrator was talking to, however, I read through it again. This time, it was outstanding! There are so many clues as to what’s going on that I missed the first time around. The child is hanging up pink signs everywhere. Comments such as “you could curl up below it and have a nap” and “you could perch on the window ledge” are made as the narrator describes familiar places. It would be neat to see if young students, with guidance, could piece together what’s happening. Besides encouraging such critical thinking, teachers in rural and suburban areas could use the book to introduce cities. Students could brainstorm ideas for finding a lost pet. Librarians might include it as part of a display on books about cats. No matter the use, I definitely recommend this title for purchase!

Picture Book           Julie Ritter, PSLA Member


Biebow, Natascha, and Steven Salerno. The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-1-328-86684-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Crayola Crayons are a part of most of our childhoods, but how many of us know about the man who invented them? The Crayon Man is a beautifully illustrated biography that is perfect for a read aloud to a class or for an introduction to an entrepreneur. The book tells the story of Edwin Binney in short paragraph passages with lots of color and large pictures on each page making it a wonderful read aloud. There are some small notes added to pages when students may need more information to help them understand the importance of certain events in the story. The book also includes articles a bibliography at the end to allow students to explore the topic more. 

THOUGHTS: This book would be a great start to a career unit or a biography unit. This could also be used as a part of a STEM unit to show an example of working through problems and recognizing how to use what you know to solve the problem. 

Picture Book          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD


Horowitz, Sarah Jean. The Dark Lord Clementine. Algonquin: 2019. 978-1-616-20894-3. 329 p. $17.95. Grades 3-6.

Clementine is deeply worried. Her father, Dark Lord Elithor, has been cursed by the Whittling Witch and is slowly dying (or being whittled away), and Clementine must not only try to find a way to reverse the curse, but also maintain everything around the castle (the poisonous apples need picking!). When the Council of Evil Overlords sends Clementine a letter reminding her that her father is currently lacking in evil deeds, she sets off into the woods, accompanied by a talking black sheep, to search for spell ingredients. However, it isn’t long before the Whittling Witch turns the trees of the forest on Clementine. She is helped to safety by two unlikely individuals who soon become, maybe, friends? If a future Dark Lord had friends. As the situation at the castle becomes more dire, Clementine begins to wonder if she is truly is Dark Lord material. But if she isn’t, then who, exactly, is she? Horowitz has crafted a rollicking tale that never slows down. Readers will root for determined Clementine to forge her own path and discover her true talents. The cast of characters is delightful, from the talking sheep and a magical Gricken (chicken/grimoire); to Sebastien, a village youth determined to be Lady Clementine’s knight; and Darka, a huntress with secrets of her own. They too, along with Clementine, must learn to follow their hearts.

THOUGHTS: An extremely entertaining read sure to find fans.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Bajaj, Varsha. Count Me In. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 978-0-525-51724-5. 175 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Karina has never liked her neighbor, Chris, since he made fun of her in school for being Indian. But when her beloved grandfather, Papa, begins to tutor Chris in math, he and Karina have an opportunity to start over, and Karina discovers a new friend in Chris.  One day a bigot spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric attacks the three as they walk home from school, badly injuring Papa. Karina and Chris rely on each other as they try to heal and process what happened. Karina, a budding photographer, turns to social media as an outlet for her photos and her feelings. Soon, friends and neighbors are rallying around the family, (although there are still those who mutter “go home”). To Karina’s amazement, her pictures go viral, leaving the two friends bombarded by media. Do they maintain their privacy, or use the platform for advocacy?

THOUGHTS: A well crafted middle grade look at Muslim/immigrant fear. Readers are sure to root for Karina, Chris, and Papa, and the book will leave them thinking.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Bajaj, Varsha. Count Me In. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 978-0-525-51724-5. 175 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Count Me In starts as a simple story of two middle school students who are “like separate planets orbiting in the same galaxy.” But while Chris and Karina tell alternating chapters about what each really feels, the reader sees their gravitational pull to becoming friends. Karina’s grandfather, an Indian American who just moved in with the family and loves mathematics, proves to be the connecting force. Count Me In then becomes something much more when one day out of the blue a car pulls up to the three as they walk home, and an ignorant, racist man commits a hate crime which injures Mr. Chopra (the grandfather). How should the new friends react to the monstrous actions and try to move forward? For Karina, a talented photographer, her pictures and social media become an outlet for her emotions and resolve. Count Me In ends as a story of a movement and a discussion about what it means to be an American, a citizen, and a friend. By all means, #CountMeIn!

THOUGHTS: This is a story that takes some sensitive discussion to go with it. Families or classrooms should discuss hate crimes and how to handle them. A relevant discussion about the use of social media and viral posts versus personal privacy are also important. The generational perspectives and immigrant challenges posted here make great conversation starters as well. Wonderful family book club title!

Realistic Fiction        Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Elem. NF – Dangerous Jane; Our Story Begins; American Gothic; The Girl Who Ran

Slade, Suzanne. Dangerous Jane. Peachtree, 2017. 9781561459131. Unpaged. $17.95. Gr. 2-5.
Slade’s work is a simple introduction to the life of Jane Addams, American social worker and peace activist, who founded Hull House, a settlement house for immigrants in Chicago.  Beginning with her early life, the author tells us that Jane became aware of poverty when visiting a poor part of town and vowed to help people in need when she grew up.  On a trip in Europe as a college graduate, she saw poverty in London and visited a settlement house that helped poor people acquire job and literacy skills.  This inspired Jane to return to Chicago and found Hull House.   Later we read that Jane Addams was involved in the peace movement to bring an end to World War l.   Initially, she was scorned for these efforts and was called “Dangerous Jane” by the FBI.  However, by 1931, public opinion became favorable and she earned the Nobel Peace Prize. This picture book biography does not give a lot of details about her other contributions, such as the founding of the NAACP. More information is contained in the author’s note and timeline, where some of the gaps are filled in. The illustrations by Alice Ratterree are done in soft muted watercolors.  However, Jane stands out in every drawing, because she is always pictured wearing bright green, even as a child.  There are two black and white photographs in the back matter.  THOUGHTS: This text serves as a good introduction to the life of this important figure in American history and will make for a great read aloud.  Students wishing to learn more will need to seek additional resources, which the author provides in the bibliography.  This book is a worthy addition to elementary collections.
Picture Book; Biography     Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Weissman, Elissa Brent Ed. OUR STORY BEGINS: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun. Atheneum Children’s Books, 2018. 978-1-4814-7208-1. $17.99. 192 pp. Gr. 3-6.

“Everyone’s story begins somewhere.” Authors are inherently able to reminisce about that moment when they felt the power of story start to change their lives. Sometimes it was through the received recognition or struggle or heartache that the seeds to their future careers began. Join Elissa Brent Weissman as she collects individual memories and samples from 26 authors and illustrators and revel in their variety, inspiration, and child-like gifts of bringing stories to life. Kwame Alexander shares a poem he wrote for his mom; several authors (R.J. Palacio and Kathi Appelt among them) share their love of horses and unicorns; Alex Gino shares a sci-fi short story, and Brian Selznick shares some early drawing tips. The selections show diversity of age, geography, and heritage, which provides both windows and mirrors for young readers. Plus, children will have that inspiring and relatable notion that indeed, authors were once kids too!  THOUGHTS: The insights that budding writers’ will gain from this collection cannot be measured. Seeing the editing process and imperfect samples from famous folks allows for many writing mini-lessons. Showing the variety of writing works and styles also gives classes a chance to compare and discuss. Plus, the artwork will inspire doodlers and illustrators alike to grab a pencil or paintbrush and get creating!

800; Literature     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District

 

Wood, Susan and Ross MacDonald. American Gothic: The Life of Grant Wood. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-4197-2533-3. $18.95. Unpaged. Gr. 1-4.

Even as a young Iowa farm boy, Grant Wood loved to draw. As he aged, his drawings progressed, and he explored the art culture beyond his midwestern landscape, but in the end, Grant came back to create a vision of the region that he loved. Readers will enjoy learning how Grant came to paint the classic American Gothic and represent common people during the Great Depression. The details of his life are sparse in the story, but the author’s note and timeline at the end help anyone looking to know more. Ross MacDonald provides color-coated images of Wood and his work in an inviting and stylized manner. The farm couple at the center of Grant’s masterpiece would be proud to share their story once more.  THOUGHTS: Although brief, the pages where Grant Wood contemplates his artistic style provide a primer through art history and the approaches that artists take. Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract, and Gothic styles are all depicted. It would be beneficial for budding artists to explore more images of Grant Wood’s art and compare them to the book.

Biography       Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District

 

Yee, Christina, and Frances Poletti. The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon. Compendium Inc., 2017. 9781943200474. 48 pp. $16.95. Gr. 1-5.

This biography in picture book form is accessible to all ages of readers. Bobbi Gibb could never sit still and loved to run. Even when she was discouraged from all sides–her parents and the admissions people to the Boston Marathon–she did not give up. She trained by running across the country. Ultimately Bobbi ended up sneaking onto the starting line disguised as a boy in a hoodie, her brother’s shorts, and men’s running shoes (they didn’t make women’s at the time, even though it was 1966) and joined the race! THOUGHTS: The watercolor pictures flow perfectly with the poetry verses that express Bobbi’s joy of running. This is a great book to use as a starter for women in sports and discuss which sports still haven’t admitted women yet.

Biography; Picture Book     Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

MS FIC – My Brigadista Year; Dragon Tea Society; Patina; Anne of Green Gables GN

Paterson, Katherine. My Brigadista Year. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-9508-8. 198 p. $15.99. Gr. 5 and up.

There’s no stopping the inimitable Katherine Paterson, who is back with a succinct novel about Fidel Castro’s plan to make the entire country of Cuba literate in one year. My Brigadista Year follows thirteen-year-old Lora as she volunteers to be a teacher – a Contrado Benítez Brigadista – in the Varadero region of Cuba. Most Americans probably have no idea that Fidel Castro not only set out to make his country literate, but he succeeded.  The literacy rate went from around 65% to 98% in one year, thanks to his volunteer army. Lora’s enthusiasm for her task, her deep caring for her students – ranging from six to sixty – and her determination to see them all pass their tests (there are three), is moving. While the safety of Lora and her students is constantly in jeopardy by the bandidos who support Batista, it’s not at the forefront, and is fairly subdued. This is a quiet book about the power of words, and how the ability to read can literally change a person’s life. It also makes no bones about the US involvement with the Bay of Pigs, a forgotten slice of history, and how unfavorably the people of Cuba viewed America. A well-researched, fascinating window into the lives of the Cuban people in the 1960s. THOUGHTS: This is a very accessible historical fiction novel, with an appealing and relatable protagonist, and would be a great addition to any upper elementary or middle school library.  Highly recommended!

Historical Fiction     Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

O’Neill, Katie. The Tea Dragon Society. Oni Press, 2017. 978-16-2010-4415. 72pp. $17.99. Gr. 4-8.

This lovely, full color, graphic novel will win the hearts of middle grade readers. Set in a fantastical world where most characters have at least one animal feature (horns, tails, etc.) Greta is learning blacksmithing from her mother. The art is dying out, but Greta is excited to learn. One day in the market she finds a lost little dragon. When she returns it to its owner, Greta learns that it is a tea dragon and that the art of raising, bonding, and drinking tea harvested from tea dragons is also in danger of being forgotten. Greta begins learning how to care for these creatures and in turn is accepted by three new friends. THOUGHTS: Based on a webcomic, this short and sweet graphic novel is wonderful. It treasures patience, inclusive relationships, and in this world it does not matter what you look like. A definite addition to any graphic novel collection!

Graphic Novel, Fantasy           Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Reynolds, Jason. Patina. New York: Atheneum Books, 2017. 978-1-4814-5018-8. 240 p. $17.99. Gr. 6 and up.

Jason Reynolds wins for most prolific author of the year, and his ability to transition from upper YA to middle grades is astounding. In his newest addition to his Track series, Reynolds gives us the story of the titular character. Patina lives in three worlds: her homeworld, her track world, and her school world. Patina’s home life is complicated; she lives with her aunt (“Momley”), who is white, and her uncle because her mother, who is a double-amputee due to diabetes, is too sick to care for her and her sister. School is a struggle for Patina; she attends a private school, and feels like a “raisin in a bowl of milk”. She can’t relate to her classmates, who she calls the “hair flippers” at all. Her track life is what she looks forward to the most.  She is a rising star, but needs to learn to control her emotions and connect with her teammates. This is a perfect book for middle grade readers; Patina is funny, honest, awkward, and emotional, and her story, full of emotional ups and downs, strong adult characters, and nuanced supporting characters, will resonate with every reader. Thoughts: Hand this book to any middle school student who is struggling to find their own voice and their own path. No need to have read Ghost, the first book in the series, in order to follow Patina’s story.

Contemporary Fiction; Sports      Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Marsden, Mariah. Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel. Andrews McMeel, 2017. 978-1-4494-7960-2. 230p. $10.99.  Gr. 5 and up.

This graphic adaptation of the entire Anne of Green Gables series touches on many of the stories of the original books and retains much of the feeling that I remember. Anne is an orphan who is mistakenly placed in a house that was looking for a boy.  She makes a place in the hearts of Marilla and Matthew and has many escapades while growing up.  Anne’s character shines through, as well as the brother and sister who take her in. THOUGHTS: This could be a jumping off point for young readers to indulge in reading the books, or for older generations to take a quick trip down memory lane. Either set of readers will enjoy reading about Anne’s exploits in a more simple time.

Graphic novel     Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

Picture Books – Magic for Sale; Bruce’s Big Move; Silent Days, Silent Dreams; After the Fall

Clickard, Carrie. Magic for Sale. Holiday House, 2017. 9780823435593. Unpaged. $16.95.  Gr. K-3.

Georgie McQuist is on a mission to find the ghost that is rumored to be hidden in Miss Pustula Night’s magic shop on a dare from his classmates. This shop is full of magical supplies, like “mirrors that talk back to you.”  After entering the shop, Georgie falls into the basement through a hidden trap door. There he finds the unhappy ghost, who has been banished to the basement until he completes an inventory of its contents. The boy and the ghost accomplish the task, much to the dismay of Miss Night, who demands that Georgie leave immediately.  That he does, with a friendly monster in tow. The boy takes the monster to school for Show and Tell, which scares his classmates who initiated the dare.  Clickard is very clever in her use of rhyming text, which follows an AABBA pattern throughout the text.  The placement of the text adds a creative touch on some pages. Shelley’s illustrations are done in pen, ink, and watercolor.  The full bleed images are very detailed and children will enjoy poring over them to examine the magical artifacts. The characters and objects are depicted in a whimsical style and are appropriate for young children. THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for children who like their scary monster stories on the mild side.  A good addition to elementary collections.

Picture Book, Fantasy        Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Higgins, Ryan T. Bruce’s Big Move. Disney Hyperion, 2017. 978-136800354-4. 40pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Bruce, the grumpy bear who unexpectedly became a mother to four geese and three mice who won’t move out, is back in this third edition in the series. With so many animals sharing his den, Bruce finds it’s too crowded, messy, chaotic, and loud. He tries to get rid of the mice, but they just won’t leave. So, Bruce leaves instead. He packs up his geese and heads off on his scooter in search of quieter lodgings. After finally settling on a secluded lake cabin, Bruce is happy, but the geese are mopey and missing the mice. It isn’t until the moving van pulls up and the mice begin making themselves at home that Bruce realizes some things will never change. Readers who’ve enjoyed this unconventional family’s story will find plenty to chuckle about as Bruce tries his hardest to reclaim his peaceful lifestyle before ultimately embracing his new reality of home.  THOUGHTS: Pair this title with Vera Brosgol’s Leave Me Alone! for a storytime centered around caregivers searching for sanity amongst the chaos of their crowded homes.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

 

Say, Allen. Silent Days, Silent Dreams. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017.  978-0-545-92761-1. 63pp. $21.99. Gr 3-6.

James Castle was deaf, mute, dyslexic, and autistic, but nothing got in the way of his creative genius. Born in 1899, he spent his entire life living and creating art in attics and chicken houses on Idaho farms. Castle was a self-taught, untrained artist, and more than 15,000 pieces of his artwork survive today. This fictional story, narrated by Castle’s nephew, is based on real-life information, letters, and interviews about the artist. After studying Castle’s style and researching the mediums he used, including burned matchsticks, saliva, sharpened sticks, soot, and shoe polish, Caldecott-winning illustrator Say created this book’s images using some of the same mediums and drawing on Castle’s original artwork as inspiration. The result is a unique tribute to a largely unknown American artist, one who overcame any obstacle he encountered to fulfill his innate desire to create. A lengthy author’s note describes how Say first learned about Castle, and it also discusses his own process of creating this book’s unique illustrations.  THOUGHTS:  Although lengthier than many traditional picture books, this title could be used in conjunction with other books about people overcoming disabilities or as part of a biography unit. Art teachers may be interested in highlighting the unusual mediums Castle used to create his artwork.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

 

Santat, Dan. After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-62672-682-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-5.

After his classic and well-known accident, Humpty Dumpty has a tough time getting back into his usual routine. He loves watching birds (which is, of course, why he was hanging out on a high wall in the first place) and his fear of heights now prevents him from being close to them. Even the top grocery store shelf with the most delicious cereals and his bunk bed are no longer options. One day, Humpty gets an idea to make a paper airplane bird. He knows it’s hard, but he keeps trying and trying through several failed attempts until his paper bird can fly high in the sky, close to the birds in his place. When his bird lands on top of the wall, Humpty almost gives up again, but then he thinks of all the hard work he’s put in and all the things he’s missed. He’s very scared, but he manages to climb the wall, one step at a time, “…until I was no longer afraid.” A final surprise makes this story of simple, real emotions even better. THOUGHTS: Santat’s beautiful, carefully designed illustrations help convey the range of Humpty’s emotions and struggle. Share this story with any group who could use help broadening their growth mindset.

Picture book             Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

 

Picture Books – Masterpiece Mix; Bizzy Mizz Lizzie; Bob, Not Bob!; La La La

Munro, Roxie.  Masterpiece Mix.  Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3699-6. $16.95. Unpaged. Gr. K-3.

The first person narrator gets ready to make a new painting but is at a loss as to what kind of painting to make:  still-life, portrait, landscape? The gorgeously illustrated pages show examples of each type of painting, introducing youngsters to well-known paintings by famous artists. Our artist’s resultant painting, a double-page spread at the end of the story, is a Where’s Waldo type cityscape, cleverly incorporating all the paintings in the story. The afterward pages provide a key to the 37 paintings used in the book, as well as a brief introduction to the artists responsible.  THOUGHTS: The simple, sparse text of the book is geared to a young reader, but the key at the back of the book is written for a much older reader. This is a lovely book and fine introduction to art, best used as a shared journey between adult and child.   

Picture Book        Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Shannon, David.  Bizzy Mizz Lizzie. Blue Sky Press, 2017.  978-0-545-61943-1. $16.99. Unpaged. PreK – 2.

Little Lizzie is one busy bee. She studies hard, plays hard, and crams her life full of activities, at which she strives to excel. Her best friend, Lazy Mizz Daizy, encourages Lizzy to slow down and smell the flowers, but Lizzie just can’t relax. However, Lizzie finally takes on one task too many. Striving to win the spelling bee and meet the Queen Bee, she studies and studies without break, until she falls asleep during the bee. Waking up three days later, Lizzie finally goes to the garden with Daizy, where the two little bees meet the queen, who teaches Lizzie that taking time to do nothing makes one a better bee. THOUGHTS:  A gentle tale with a message that is always good to hear, but without the rollicking humor, one expects from Shannon’s books.   

Picture Book     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

Vernick, Audrey, Elizabeth Scanlon, and Matthew Cordell. Bob, not Bob! Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-148472302-9. $17.99. Unpaged. Gr. K-2.

When the subtitle states, “To be read as though you have the worst cold ever,” the readers should know they are in for a humorous sick day. Indeed, Little Louie is feeling lousy, and all he wants is his mother. Alas, yelling for mom sounds a lot like a call to the faithful pet, a dog named Bob! The confusion continues until Louie is able to find the cure he needs and include Bob and Bob (Mom!). While the text is clever and quick, the illustrations by Matthew Cordell prove to be the perfect ink and watercolor compliment. The frustration of Louie mixed with the confusion of Bob and the exhaustion of Mom leads to plenty of real entertainment. The endpapers and the font choice (with a heart in the Bob for Mom) show details that encourage repeated reading and enjoyment for the ill and healthy alike.  THOUGHTS: Would work to compare well with Martha Speaks books, and the illustrations of William Steig or Quentin Blake. Also allows readers to practice reading with meaning, with expression, and with humor!

Picture Book     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

 

DiCamillo, Kate. La La La. Candlewick Press, 2017: ISBN 978-0-7636-5833-5. 72pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This nearly wordless picture book begins with a small girl standing in a spotlight. She sings a single note: La. She continues singing for a bit, until she realizes she’s singing all alone. Some falling autumn leaves catch her attention and draw her outside where she continues her song. She sings to the leaves, but there is no response. She also tries singing to the pond, the plants, and the trees but still receives no answer. Feeling discouraged and alone, she goes inside, but when the moon rises, she tries singing to it too. Even though she waves her arms and climbs a ladder to be closer to the moon, it doesn’t respond. The lonely girl falls asleep but is awakened by a resounding La: the moon’s triumphant answer. Under a sky full of stars, the girl and the moon call back and forth, each savoring the sense of connection with another. This simple story is brought to life through Jaime Kim’s gorgeous digitally rendered watercolor and ink illustrations. The full bleed spreads – especially the nighttime ones – are saturated with color and fully capture the joy that a sense of belonging brings.  THOUGHTS: Even the youngest readers will pick up on the idea of needing to be heard, so this book will be good for sparking discussions about self-expression. It may also work well with guidance units about loneliness and forming connections with others. Classroom teachers could also ask students to think about ways they express themselves. This could lead to discussions about singing, dancing, drawing, writing, or many other outlets.  

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

YA Nonfiction – The Shift; Judge This

theshift

Brown, Theresa.  The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives.  Chapel Hill: Algonquin. 2015. 226p.  $24.95. Gr. 9 and up.

We all know that nursing is hard; that nurses are often overlooked, underpaid, and way underappreciated.  New York Times Opinion Columnist Theresa Brown, sets out to change that perception in The Shift.  Brown gives an inside look at her day; from when she rises before the sun; to when she arrives at home after her twelve hour shift at a Pittsburgh hospital.  Her day begins with three patients, all with varying types and stages of cancer, and continues as she’s given a fourth patient with an unusual, unpredicted infection.  The reality of how busy nurses are, how little doctors respect the nurses on their floor, and how demanding some patients are, is vivid in this honest portrayal of one day in a nurse’s life.  Thoughts: This is great work of narrative nonfiction.  Although heavy with medical lingo at times, Brown makes sure to define everything for those readers not familiar with medical terms.  This is a perfect book for a student interested in a career in medicine.  

616; Health Care; Memoir          Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area High School

 


judgethis

Kidd, Chip. Judge This. New York: TED Books, 2015. 978-1-4767-8478-6. 125 p. $16.99. Gr. 7 & up.

This adorable little book presents examples of design in multiple mediums and weighs the functionality of each.  Chip Kidd is primarily a book jacket designer, but he includes examples of advertising, signs, packaging, and more.  He rates each example on its clarity vs. mystery.  “Clarity gets to the point … mystery gives us hope,” is how he sums up the difference.  Designers often strive for a balance between the two.  He notes that some mystery in design is often a good thing, but other times it’s just confusing.  On examples of poor design, Kidd offers tips to improve. Kidd’s approach is functional and humorous, easily accessible by readers who have no design experience.  THOUGHTS:  This is a great book to include in a graphic arts or design course.  I would present examples from this book and ask students to find their own examples of good and bad design to add to the collection.  Students who are familiar with Kidd’s TED talk or design work will pick this up, especially because he does a lot of work with comic books and graphic novels.  Students who don’t know who he is will still enjoy his unique perspective on our everyday visual encounters.  Reluctant readers may pick this up because of the eye-popping visuals, small size, and sparse text.

Graphic Art, Design              Kristen Rowe, Plum Senior High School