Elem. – That’s a Job? I Like Art… What Jobs Are There?

Hodge, Susie. That’s a Job? I Like Art…What Jobs Are There? Kane Miller, 2021. 47 p. 978-1-684-64168-0. $15.99. Grades 3-6. 

That’s a Job? I Like Art…What Jobs Are There? is a nonfiction book that uses the lens of art to showcase over twenty different jobs that are all related to art. There is a wide range of jobs, from ones that require working with people to jobs that are more solitary. Some of the jobs show a life in the day of the person, and some just give a smaller snapshot of what they do in a day. Each job discusses the best and worst parts of each job. At the end of the book, there is a way for the reader to try to pick out their best job, based on what they like to do/are good at.

THOUGHTS: This is an amazing book to introduce different careers to readers, and I loved how in-depth they went for the behind the scenes of each career. The illustrations show each career as well as the extra hobbies each individual has. Must have for an elementary or upper elementary school.

700 Art Careers          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

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. – Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Marshall, Linda Elovitz. Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit. Unpaged. 978-1-499-80960-2. Little Bee Books, 2020. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This picture book biography of the beloved children’s author begins with her life as a girl growing up in London.  As a child in the city, Beatrix kept busy sketching animals, including her pet rabbit Benjamin Bouncer, but she and her brother yearned for the summer when they would go to her family’s country home and enjoy nature. Beatrix always wanted to do something important with her life and hoped to pursue a career, but this was difficult for women to do at that time. Not to be denied her dream, she self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit and its popularity led to a contract with a publisher.  Peter Rabbit became a well-known character and her collection of stories grew.  Missing the country, she bought a farm and married.  Fearing that trains and housing plans would destroy the countryside, she began buying more farms and land to preserve it. The author donated over 4000 acres to the National Trust, ensuring that the area looks the same today as it did in her time.  Children will enjoy the charming illustrations done in soft watercolors by Urbinati.  In the back matter, the author explains how a visit to the Lake District was her inspiration for this book. One quibble is that the text would benefit from a photograph of Beatrix Potter and a timeline of her life.

THOUGHTS: This is an interesting biographical portrait, because Marshall writes about Potter’s conservation efforts, an aspect of her life that is often not discussed. This picture book works well as a read aloud and could be used in ecology units or for Women’s History month.  An excellent choice for all elementary collections.

Picture Book Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
921 POTTER or 823.912

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. – Fry Bread; Who Is My Neighbor; Hi, I’m Norman; Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life; Spencer and Vincent; Moon Babies; Fly; Hey, Water; Sweep; The Bravest Man in the World; The Dinky Donkey

Maillard, Kevin Nobel. Fry Bread:  A Native American Story. Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. Roaring Brook Press, 2019.  978-1-626-72746-5. 48 p.  $18.99  Grades K-2.

This ingenious picture book weaves a story celebrating Native American culture, in all its diversity, around the deceivingly simple topic of fry bread. Warm, inviting illustrations depict children and families of varied skin tones in kitchens and hearths gathering ingredients, mixing, cooking, and enjoying variations of the traditional food. Each page spread features a heading that begins “Fry bread is . . .” and follows with a concept such as shape, time, art, and history. While the sparce text and evocative illustrations are largely affirming and joyful, young readers are also told that Native Americans’ land was stolen from them, making them “strangers in our own world.” For teachers or older readers, an author’s note provides more detailed information for each concept. The author’s recipe for fry bread is included. Also, don’t miss the endpapers: They are filled with the names of tribal nations.

THOUGHTS: Especially considering the limited number of picture books by and about Native Americans, this is an essential purchase for elementary schools. Middle and even high schools that utilize picture books will want to consider this one as well.

Picture Book          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Levine, Amy-Jill, and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Who Is My Neighbor? Illustrated by Denise Turu. Flyaway Books, 2019. 978-1-947-88807-4. Unpaged. Grades PreK – 2.

Blues live with Blues in a world full of blue water, blueberries, and blue skies. Yellows live with yellows in a world of yellow brick roads, butterscotch, and sunflowers. Both have been warned to stay away from the others, “We are better than they are. They are not our neighbors.” Then one day, Midnight Blue loses his balance and falls off his bike. Midnight Blue is hurt and needs help, but when Navy and Powder Blue pass by they are afraid to help, so they keep going. When Lemon sees Midnight Blue hurt, she also is afraid to help him but decides to ignore her fear and do the right thing and help Midnight Blue. Soon Lemon and Midnight Blue realize that perhaps they are not that different from one another. Illustrations by Denise Turu help readers understand the division between the Blues and Yellows until Lemon decides to help Midnight Blue.

THOUGHTS: This is a great picture book for character education and acceptance. It helps young readers understand that being different on the outside does not equate to being different on the inside. It also may help adults reading the book with children to see problems in their own thinking and outlook. The book is written by two religious scholars and explains the parable of “The Good Samaritan” in the Gospel of Luke on the last page which is “A Note for Parents and Educators.” I did not connect the story to the parable of “The Good Samaritan” as I read it, so that last page surprised me a bit, but this may occur dependent on your community. The authors also provide questions to consider while reading following the note to parents and educators.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Burleigh, Robert, and Wendell Minor. Hi, I’m Norman. Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-442-49670-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 2-5.

Right from the start of this pictorial biography, readers are invited into the studio and the world of iconic artist Norman Rockwell. Norman begins telling of his idyllic childhood with artistic talent and opportunity to express it. As he moved into adulthood, he faced the internal contrast of wanting to do his best always and not always knowing if he was good enough. Rockwell’s big break comes from The Saturday Evening Post, and that success let him explore the American world that he saw around him, with a focus on the positive. The illustrator, Wendell Minor, takes on the daunting challenge of portraying Norman and drawing in his style as well. The tone of the story matches those illustrations – and Rockwell’s life – of capturing a moment in America through the eyes of one of her most famous artists. The endnotes and timeline are insightful, but the five real Rockwell paintings and captions at the end are priceless.

THOUGHTS: We have the recent trend in picture book biographies to learn about many 20th century artists in a relatable way, and that is a real advantage to young artists. Gathering a collection of these for a research project in collaboration with the art teacher would be ideal. Using online research tools and creative options to share would make for a meaningful project that hits on all of the AASL Standards, Domains, and Shared Foundations.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Wallmark, Laurie, and Katy Wu. Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life. Sterling Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-454-92691-7. Unpaged. $16.95. Grades 2-5.

Who was the real Hedy Lamarr? Was she the famous, beautiful actress who always wanted to be on the stage and in the spotlight? Or was she the tinkerer and inquiring mind that tried to work through problems and help military war efforts? For young readers who likely haven’t heard the name Hedy Lamarr at all, they will be pleased and curious to see how she grew up to develop both sides. This double life story is interspersed with direct quotes from Hedy as we learn about her childhood passions which came into adult acclaim. When Hedy met George Antheil at a party and discussed torpedo guidance systems, they began a dedicated quest to develop a frequency hopping communication system. The understandable text by Laurie Wallmark and the visual aids of Katy Wu really shine as curious readers can figure out her invention process and how it is still relevant today. The timeline and additional descriptions and resources at the end will fill in the details of Hedy’s world. With this story, Hedy Lamarr becomes a shining example for pursuing passions across the ages!

THOUGHTS: Students who are familiar with the inquiry cycle would enjoy seeing this process in action. Plus, those with a military interest, inventive streak, or old Hollywood fans will all find something to learn and connect with. However, for me, the concept of the patent process and how inventions can inform new inventions caught my attention and made me want to visit the Patent Office resources and share this as one of many invention narratives.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Johnston, Tony. Spencer and Vincent, the Jellyfish Brothers. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-41208-8. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3

Spencer and Vincent follows two jellyfish brothers who live in the sea, spending their days spending time together! Everything is going fine, until a storm sweeps one of the brothers, Vincent away. Spencer is determined to find his brother, with the help of other animals in the ocean. By the end of the story the brothers are reunited. The illustrations are beautiful and make readers feel like they are underwater with the jellyfish. There are a variety of ocean creatures, other than the jellyfish, throughout the book. There is an author’s note at the end of the book, giving more information about jellyfish that will intrigue children who read this and may cause them to seek out other books about jellyfish. 

THOUGHTS: Spencer and Vincent is absolutely adorable! The relationship between the jellyfish was sweet and will make the reader smile.

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy


Jameson, Karen. Moon Babies. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. 978-0-525-51481-7. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Moon Babies is a debut picture book and tells the stories of moon babies as they wake up, eat, play, and then fall back asleep. The story is told in rhyming lines and has a dreamy quality to it. The moon babies eat breakfast from the “currents of the Milky Way,” get dressed, and even learn to walk as readers go through the story. The moon babies take a bath in a “grand celestial tub” and are read nursery rhymes as they fall asleep. The illustrations are beautifully done in tones of purples and blues, giving the reader the feel of nighttime as they read.

THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for naptime reading, or just a quiet read aloud to supplement. 

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy Charter School

 


Teague, Mark. Fly! Beach Lane Books, 2019, 978-1-534-45128-5. 36 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Although this is a wordless picture book, plenty of communication is happening between the mother robin and her baby. The baby robin hatches on the title page, and his mother begins bringing worms to the nest. Soon, though, she encourages the baby to fly out of the nest. The baby wants the catering to continue, and he flaps his wings tantrum-style. While he is expressing his unhappiness, however, he gets too close to the edge of the nest and falls ungracefully to the ground. Mom swoops down to ensure he’s okay but then urges him to fly back to the nest. The baby is uninterested in flying, though, and brainstorms many different ways of returning to the nest, including piggybacking with Mom, riding in a hot air balloon, soaring on a glider, lifting off with skis, wearing a superhero cape, and piloting an airplane. Mom is not amused by any of these ideas, and she reminds the baby that soon, they will need to migrate. Instead of flying, the baby robin imagines biking, skateboarding, driving, taking a train ride, and pogostick hopping all the way to Florida. Mom also reminds the baby of all the predators he could encounter on the ground, including owls. Readers can see that daylight is fading, and when Mom takes off back to the nest, the baby pitches another fit. All of his stomping and flapping eventually cause him to lift off, and it’s only then that he sees how much fun flying can be. He reunites with Mom in the nest, and the pair snuggle in for the night. 

THOUGHTS: Teague’s expressive acrylic illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny, and young readers will enjoy interpreting the story and turning the pages to see what wild idea the baby robin comes up with next. This book will be perfect for building reading comprehension skills as well as reviewing story elements. This title could also inspire a writing prompt, as students imagine dialogue or retell the actions they observed on the wordless pages. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Portis, Antoinette. Hey, Water! Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44155-6. 40p. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

This celebration of water helps the youngest readers understand that water is all around us, and it’s also a part of every living thing. Beautiful, bold sumi ink illustrations complement this simple, straightforward text. Each page contains an insight about water. For example, the young girl observes that water can trickle from a hose, gurgle in a stream, or rush in a river. She also notes how water can be calm, like a lake, or splashy, like a pool. Additionally, she describes water’s many forms, including steam, clouds, fog, ice, and snow. Water-related vocabulary, including dewdrop, puddle, and sprinkler are integrated in each full-page illustration. End pages provide an introductory explanation of water’s different forms and an illustrated look at the water cycle. 

THOUGHTS: This is a must-have for elementary libraries, as it will support primary grades’ study of the states of matter. It works well as a read-aloud, and it’s also perfect for close-up, one-on-one observation. Readers will be drawn to the book’s simplicity, and it is the perfect fit for elementary STEM collections. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Greig, Louise. Sweep. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-534-43908-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3. (First US edition 2019).

This British import is the story of a young child called Ed who is in a bad mood. It began with something small and then escalated. Ed is so busy being angry that he does not notice all the wonderful things around him, like an amusement park, some hot air balloons, and kites flying high in the sky. Deep down, Ed wants to get out of his bad temper, but he is not sure how. Gradually, his disposition lightens, and he puts down his rake to fly a kite.  The illustrator has cleverly shown the mood changes through the metaphor of raking leaves. As Ed’s mood darkens, he continues to make even larger piles of leaves until they engulf everything in the town. Then, a slight wind causes him to change his attitude, and eventually all the leaves blow away and the city becomes brighter as the wind grows stronger. 

THOUGHTS: The clever use of figurative language makes this an excellent mentor text. As a great read aloud, it also is a cautionary tale of how negative feelings can overwhelm us. This text explains mood psychology in terms that young children can understand and is a good discussion starter. A great choice for all elementary collections.

Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Polacco, Patricia.  The Bravest Man in the World. Simon & Schuster, 2019. Unpaged. 978-1-481-49461-8. $17.99.  Grades 3-5.

This engaging piece of historical fiction is the story of a boy who meets Wallace Hartley, the lead musician on the Titanic.  Polacco begins her tale with two characters from 1982, Jonathan and his grandfather. Jonathan is a boy who would rather play ball and be a superhero than practice piano. His grandfather, an accomplished violinist, explains how one musician named Wallace Hartley was a hero and showed his bravery on April 15, 1912, on the doomed ocean liner. His grandfather, also named Jonathan, was an accidental stowaway on the ship. He was a street busker who learned to play the violin in Queenstown, Ireland. After his mother died, he was running away from some street thugs when he found himself in the mailroom on the Titanic. He mets Wallace Hartley and Mrs. Weeks, a ship’s maid. Hartley recognized Jonathan’s potential, and the young boy plays for John Jacob Astor, who awards him a scholarship to a music academy. Then, the ocean liner meets its fate, and Mrs. Weeks and Jonathan find a place on a lifeboat. However, Wallace stays on board, playing bravely along with the orchestra until the ship has completely sunk. Jonathan is adopted by Mrs. Weeks and grows up in America.  Jonathan’s grandfather never forgets the courage of Hartley, who “played with grace… grace under fire” and thinks of him each time he plays his instrument. There is an author’s note about the recovery of Hartley’s violin, as well as a photograph of the violinist and his violin. The illustrations are in Polacco’s signature style and make the story come alive. The anguish of the ship’s final moments are captured in the expressions on the passengers.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful example of historical fiction. It puts a human face to the well-known story of the musicians who courageously played on in the face of certain death and shows that bravery can be demonstrated in many ways. This book is a good choice for those who are interested in learning more about the Titanic. Elementary librarians will not want to miss this one.

Easy Historical Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Smith, Craig. The Dinky Donkey. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-60083-4. Unpaged. $7.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

In this follow-up to The Wonky Donkey, Wonky Donkey has a daughter, and her name is Dinky Donkey. “She was so cute and small… and she had beautiful long eyelashes! She was a blinky dinky donkey.” As the narrative progresses, more and more adjectives are added to describe the Dinky Donkey. The repetition of these adjectives, as well as the hilarious antics they describe, will have readers giggling to the very end. 

THOUGHTS: I absolutely love the idea of handing this book to early readers. The rhyming and repetition throughout will help them to build confidence in their reading skills. Another excellent use for this book would be to introduce adjectives to young students. Full of potential and plenty of silliness, all libraries who serve young readers should definitely consider this book for purchase.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Frida and Diego…New in Art

fridaanddiego

Reef, Catherine.  Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life.  New York: Clarion Books, 2014.  978-0-547-82184-9.  176p.  $18.99.  Gr. 7-12.

Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera were two of Mexico’s most famous artists during the early to mid- 1900’s.  They were known individually for their great talent and, together, for their great passion.  Kahlo and Rivera had an unusual love; they were nontraditional and controversial.  Their marriage was constantly troubled by extramarital affairs, and they both were members of Mexico’s communist party.  Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life follows the couple from the time young Frida first admired Rivera’s work to their deaths.

This book is a feast for the eyes.  It is printed on glossy, colorful paper and features many archival photographs of the couple and their contemporaries.  There are a number of full-color plates of both artists’ works.  The photographs and paintings help to tell the story of Frida’s and Diego’s lives.  Rivera’s artwork reflects his communist beliefs.  He painted grand murals glorifying the worker and communist party heroes.  Kahlo’s intimate paintings give voice to her love for Rivera and the intense physical pain she lived with every day (a result of a serious streetcar accident that happened when she was younger).  There are a number of resources at the end of Frida & Diego: a listing of museums and books that feature the artists’ work, full color plates of some paintings, a timeline of their lives, author’s notes, and an index.

I do have a few concerns regarding this book.  The publisher’s recommended audience, 7th grade and above, seems low.   Frida & Diego’s frank discussion of Kahlo’s abortions, the couple’s extramarital affairs, and communist politics make it a better fit for high school students.  It simply discusses too many “hot button” issues for it to be used with junior high school students in my district.  I also would have liked to have seen Kahlo’s and Rivera’s artwork integrated into the text of the book, and not as an appendix at the end.  Kahlo’s technique changed as her physical health worsened, but it is difficult to see this progression given the book’s format.  Frida and Diego: Art, Love, Life is definitely worth having in your library if you take the above points into account.

759.972 Mexican Painting         Susan Fox, Washington Jr. /Sr. High School