MG – All You Knead is Love

Guerrero, Tanya. All You Knead is Love. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-0-374-31423-1 375 p. $16.99. Grades 4-6. 

Twelve-year-old Alba does not want to leave New York City and move to Barcelona to live with a grandmother she barely knows or remembers. But her mother, a native from Spain herself, is not moving with her, nor is her alcoholic, abusive father. Alba is leaving behind a school she does not like, very few friends, and a home full of secrets and trauma. All You Knead is Love by Tanya Guerrero is a heartfelt story about finding one’s chosen family and discovering the passions stirring inside us. After arriving in a new country, Alba is surprised to find that she not only loves Barcelona but feels her most authentic self in this foreign land. She forms a close relationship with her grandmother, finds her first proper group of friends, and even experiences her first crush. Alba befriends a neighborhood baker who opens his kitchen as a haven to her; she begins to not only heal but thrive as his apprentice. Just as Alba discovers that she has a real passion and talent for baking bread, her beloved bakery faces an unexpected closure. Even more heartbreaking, her mother arrives in Barcelona after finally leaving her abusive relationship with Alba’s father. Alba becomes determined to save the bakery- and mend and heal the strained relationship with her mother.

THOUGHTS: All You Knead is Love seamlessly blends the right amount of culture, music, cooking, and the Spanish language into a vibrant setting that charms and delights. This story transported me to the streets of Barcelona and made me laugh and cheer for Alba and her chosen family. Tanya Guerrero writes with such sensitivity, and her authentic tone created a story with characters that will stick with me for a long time. This story was a gem!

Realistic Fiction          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

YA – What I Like About You

Kanter, Marisa. What I Like About You. Simon & Schuster, 2020. 978-1-534-44577-2. $18.99. 409 p. Grades 7-12.

Halle Levitt and her brother Ollie have just moved in with their grandpa. She will spend her senior year in a new small town and new school while her parents jet off to another country to film their newest documentary. Halle struggles, along with her Gramps, to be in the house without her Grams who passed away just a few years ago. It was her Grams that inspired her love of reading and baking, and when Halle isn’t studying for her SATs or applying for college at NYU, she connects with her online best friend, Nash, and updates her online blog called One True Pastry. Online, Halle is known as Kels, and she’s famous for her YA book reviews and her cupcake book cover creations. When Halle meets Nash in real life and discovers he lives in the same town as her Gramps, she decides not to tell him that she’s also his online best friend, Kels. Halle and Nash grow closer, but Halle needs to find the courage to tell him who she really is and hopes that he’ll like real-life, awkward Halle as much as he likes online, confident Kels.

THOUGHTS: What I Like About You reminds me of a YA version of the movie You’ve Got Mail. Halle’s decision to keep her Kels identity from Nash is frustrating, especially when he feels guilty about liking Halle while also keeping his crush on Kels. This book not only focuses on romantic relationships, but on family relationships as well. I love how close Halle is to her brother Ollie, and together they help their Gramps overcome the loss of their beloved Grams, and although Halle and Ollie are Jewish, their busy parents never had much time for their family to be a part of a Jewish community, like they can be with Gramps. Anyone that loves books will connect with Halle, Nash, and their online friends, and after finishing this sweet, romantic story, you might be inspired to whip a batch of cupcakes for yourself. 

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

MG – Cub; Stepping Stones; From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Copeland, Cynthia L. Cub. Algonquin Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-616-20848-6. 240 p. $12.95. Grades 4-7.

Cynthia Copeland delivers a fantastic middle grade graphic memoir! In the fall of 1972, the halls of Litchfield Junior High have something in common with Wild Kingdom: every kid is either predator or prey. Cindy has perfected the art of playing dead to get the “predators” to lose interest in her. She doesn’t have to play dead in art or English class, though, where she shines. Beloved English teacher Mrs. Schulz recommends Cindy for an internship with a female reporter at the local paper. Attending local events with Leslie, Cindy learns the ropes of recording facts, gathering quotes, and crafting an informative story with an attention-grabbing lede. “To make it into the paper,” Leslie advises her, “a story has to be great: accurate, fair, complete, concise.” The same could be said for a successful memoir! It is a joy to watch Cindy’s confidence blossom as she finds her voice through journalism. Full-color panels with a variety of layouts depict her journey of empowerment in bright, tween-friendly colors with just a tinge of nostalgia. Despite the time period specifics, Cindy’s seventh grade year – spent juggling friend drama, a nice boy who almost looks like John Denver when the lights are dim, and her new job as a “cub” reporter – is one that every preteen girl will relate to.

THOUGHTS: This heartfelt, engaging graphic memoir, complete with lovingly depicted growing pains, is a surefire recommendation for fans of Raina Telgemeier.

Graphic Memoir          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Knisley, Lucy. Stepping Stones. Random House Graphic, 2020. 978-1-984-89684-1. 224 p. $12.99. Grades 3-7.

After her parents’ divorce, Jen and her mom relocate to rustic Peapod Farm in upstate New York. Jen misses her dad, her old apartment, and the delicious food in the city. She’s also disillusioned with the farm’s constant chores, nasty geese, and especially her mom’s annoying new boyfriend Walter. Things look up with the discovery of barn kittens and mail-order chicks, but the weekend addition of Walter’s daughters, Andy and Reese, puts a damper on the fun. Andy, an insufferable know-it-all, seems to thrive on one-upping Jen and calling out her weak math skills when the girls work the Peapod table at the local Farmer’s Market. But with a little luck and extra effort, there’s hope for these part-time sisters to find their common ground. Lucy Knisley lovingly depicts Peapod Farm and the market with lush green foliage, colorful flowers, and aqua skies. Jen’s unspoken emotions are conveyed through her body language and flushed cheeks. Many readers will expect more growth (and definitely a much-needed apology or three) from bossy Walter, but they will also identify with Jen’s frustration when she feels unheard, and her perspective that the adults always (however unfairly) get the last word.

THOUGHTS: With Stepping Stones, graphic memoirist extraordinaire Lucy Knisley has created a standout middle grade graphic novel. As mentioned in the Author’s note, Knisley’s own story closely aligns with Jen’s, and we readers can only hope that she has more stories in store for this age group!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Marks, Janae. From the Desk of Zoe Washington. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-87585-3. 291 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Zoe has just had the best twelfth birthday party ever, making cupcakes with her besties at a real bakery. She’s now one step closer to fulfilling her dream of competing on the Kids Bake Challenge and becoming a professional pastry chef. She returns home to the surprise of her life: a letter from her father, Curtis, who Zoe has never met in person because he has been incarcerated for her entire life. Zoe is intrigued, but confused; after all, her father is a convicted criminal, guilty of murder. But in his letters, Curtis sounds … Nice. Supportive. Caring. With the assistance of her grandmother (and unbeknownst to her mom and stepdad), Zoe begins exchanging letters with her father. When Curtis claims his innocence, Zoe decides to investigate. With the help of her best friend, Trevor, she begins a quest to find Curtis’s alibi witness. She also awakens to the occasional injustices of our criminal justice system.

THOUGHTS:  In her debut novel, Janae Marks balances the serious with the sweet. Zoe (who is part of an upper-middle class, mixed-race family) is sometimes mature well beyond her twelve years. Still, she is an endearing heroine on a life-changing quest for the truth. Readers with an interest in the criminal justice plotline may want to pick up Just Mercy: Adapted for Young Adults by Bryan Stevenson to learn about the real people whose lives mirror Curtis’s story.

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Meet Zoe Washington: a 12 year old African American girl who loves to bake (she dreams of competing on the Kids Bake Challenge on Food Network), has a best friend Trevor (who lives next door), and has a good relationship with her parents (her step dad is white). On her 12th birthday, Zoe checks the mail to find a letter addressed to her, from her father (Marcus) who is in jail for murder! Zoe has never heard from him before, so this letter is a huge surprise.  She decides to write him back, but does not share this decision with her mom. At first their communication is awkward, but once she finds out that Marcus claims innocence, Zoe decides she is going to help free him. With the help of Trevor and her grandmother, Zoe finds his alibi for the day of the crime. Once they catch Zoe in her lies, her mom and step dad are furious that Zoe has been in contact with Marcus and ground her, but once finding out the details, eventually soften and help Zoe on her quest to free Marcus.

THOUGHTS: This a great example of an age appropriate book that deals with wrongful imprisonment and racial inequality. An impelling story, this is a must purchase for any middle school library.

Realistic Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Upper Dublin SD

Series NF for Upper Elementary and MS – Super Simple Cookies; Top Ten Science

cookies

Kuskowski, Alex. Super Simple Cookies (series). Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing, 2016. 32 p. $18.95 ea. Gr. 3-6.

Super Simple Bar Cookies. 978-1-62403-946-1.

Super Simple Classic Cookies. 978-1-62403-947-8.

Super Simple Healthy Cookies. 978-1-62403-948-5.

Super Simple Holiday Cookies. 978-1-62403-949-2.

Super Simple No-Bake Cookies. 978-1-62403-950-8.

Super Simple Specialty Cookies. 978-1-62403-951-5.

This attractive series from ABDO gives recipes on various kinds of cookies. Each recipe includes ingredients, tools, and 3-8 steps with different levels of difficulty; both bake and no-bake choices are included. The directions are clear and concise. Some illustrations show how to accomplish different steps although not every step is illustrated. Each recipe includes a full-page close-up of finished cookies. Each book includes extensive extra material including a table of contents, information about cooking basics, how to measure and measurement conversions, illustrated cooking terms, and picture glossaries of kitchen utensils and ingredients. THOUGHTS: Kids will love these colorful books splashed with delicious-looking cookies and will be able to follow the steps to create their own.

641.86; Baking     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

baseball

Chandler, Matt. Top Ten Science. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2016. 32 p. $20.49 Grades 4-8.

The Science of Baseball: The Top Ten Ways Science Affects the Game.  978-14914-82186.

The Science of Hockey: The Top Ten Ways Science Affects the Game. 978-14914-82216.

These two titles are from Top Ten Science, a set of four books produced in partnership with Sports Illustrated Kids. (The other two titles, not reviewed here, focus on football and basketball.) Both books begin with a one-page introduction, alerting readers to the intriguing scientific questions that the sport raises. Baseball asks and answers: what makes a curveball curve; and how does air affect a batter’s ability to hit a homerun? Hockey asks and answers: what makes a perfect slap shot; and how does ice quality affect the way the game is played? Both books stand out in the writing; each topic is given one-four pages rather than a quick one-page box plus obligatory sidebar photo. The writing seems to flow as one piece, not separate chapters, and the books wisely begin and end with some summary words. These are full-color, with excellent additions (Zamboni in Hockey, for instance) which prove interesting.  Each text also includes a glossary, index, “Read More” section, and useful internet sites for further exploration.  THOUGHTS: This is excellent for STEM connections, sports fans, and reluctant readers. It is easy to pick these up and read one or two chapters, but for any fan who has actually asked himself or herself these questions, the books will be hard not to read cover-to-cover.

796 Sports     Melissa Scott, Shenango High School