Elem. – Early Animal Encyclopedias (Series NF)

Early Animal Encyclopedias. Abdo Books. 2023. $32.95 each or $197.70 for set of 6. Gr. K-4.

Hinman, Bonnie. Farm Animals. 978-1-09-829042-9.
Hulick, Kathryn. Dinosaurs. 978-1-09-829040-5.
MacMillan, Kathy. Cats. 978-1-0982-9039-9.
Miller, Marie-Therese, PhD. Dogs. 978-1-09-829041-2.
Ventura, Marne. Horses. 978-1-09-829043-6.
Sharks. 978-1-09-829044-3.

The reviewer read the book Cats from the Early Animal Encyclopedia series. This book is a beginner’s guide to cats. Cats is an early reader encyclopedia brimming with cat information. The book is organized alphabetically by breed name and discusses the appearance, behavior, and history of said breed. In addition, a map is included to show from where each breed originated. Filled with information, this book is a cat-lover’s dream.

THOUGHTS: This title is a great beginner encyclopedia about cats. Each breed is outlined in the same format, making it easy for readers to find a flow with the information provided. This book is filled with nice photographs and easy-to-read text.

500s-600s Animals

Elem. – No is All I Know!

Grabenstein, Chris. No is All I Know! Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. Random House, 2023. 978-0-593-30204-0. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PK-2.

Oh, Oliver McSnow. “NO!” is his favorite word. It’s “NO!,” no matter what. His “NO!” becomes the world’s strongest NO! and takes over his life and that of his family. No baths, no sleep, no puzzles, or pizza, or even ice cream! Only mac n’ cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When cousin Jess, who loves to say “YES!” comes to visit, Oliver is too tired to say “NO!,” and follows Jess and his “YES!” Suddenly, a new world opens up to Oliver as he tries new things and discovers that “YES!” is a lot more fun than “NO!”

THOUGHTS: Leo Espinosa brings the rhythm and meaning of Chris Grabenstein’s text to life in No is All I Know! Oliver is depicted as stubborn and passionate–and his parents shocked and bewildered by his all-encompassing “NO!” While initially I thought that the book would appeal mostly to a Pre-K audience whose parents are desperate for some relief from the “NO” phase, I believe the book will have broad appeal to primary students who are looking for a fun read and a relatable story. Some younger brothers and sisters may even be treated to story time by siblings who find this book on the shelf in the library. Highly recommended for its humor, universal story, and appealing illustrations.

Picture Book 

MG – Eb & Flow

Baptist, Kelly J. Eb & Flow. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-0-593-42913-6. 212 p. $16.99. Grades 4-8.

This realistic novel in verse begins after Ebony and De’Kari (who go by the nicknames Eb and Flow) are suspended for fighting at school. First, Eb poured sauce on Flow’s sneakers, and then, Flow called her a name. A physical fight followed and was recorded by other students. Flow is ashamed he “hit a girl,” and that notion is repeated again and again by his family members. Ebony, in turn, knows her ‘joke’ of fake-pouring sauce onto Flow’s shoes went terribly wrong. The book takes place over the course of the next ten days while both seventh graders serve their out-of-school suspension. Told in verse with alternating perspectives, the story follows what happens to each student during their time out of school. While peers and even some family members fuel the ongoing fight, Eb and Flow have to overcome their frustrated, angry feelings about each other and work to get back to school. While the story ‘ebbs and flows,’ the two characters learn they have way more in common than they think.

THOUGHTS: This story opens a window to the emotions and motivations of two seventh grade students as they serve a suspension for fighting. Eb and Flow’s two families also are written with complexity, and readers get to see a window into the heart of their family dynamics. This creates an enormous amount of empathy for the two main characters, and I found myself constantly hoping Eb and Flow wouldn’t let the escalation between friend groups or family members pull them back down into a cyclical or violent fight. It took me a little bit to catch on to the constant back-and-forth between the two character perspectives, but this might be because Kelly J. Baptist includes so many parallels between their two lives. This is done purposefully and creatively to show how enemies might not be so different after all. This story touches on a number of issues such as older siblings with issues, deployed parents, poverty, and the potential impact of gang involvement on families. All characters present as BIPOC. 

Realistic Fiction

Elem. – A Head Full of Birds

Garibal, Alexandra. A Head Full of Birds. Illustrated by Sibylle Delacroix. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-0-802-85596-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

A Head Full of Birds is a simple picture book about Noah and Nanette who are in school together. Nanette is different, and the other students in her school make fun of her for it. One day Noah gets punished and has to sit next to Nanette in class. After school he sees her putting little paper boats into the gutter and he thinks to himself how pretty that looks, but he doesn’t really interact with Nanette. One day it’s raining at recess and Noah brings Nanette back under shelter so she doesn’t get soaked while his friends point and make fun of her. That causes Noah to spend some time with Nanette and get to know her a little more. By the end of the book, Noah sees Nanette in a different way, and he becomes friends with her. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and make the reader want to take some time with them as they read through this book.

THOUGHTS: Overall, this is a sweet story about friendship and accepting people who are different. The only downside is the reader never sees Noah tell his friends to stop picking on Nanette, so that is something that you might want to address with the students if using this book for a read aloud.

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – A Pig in the Palace

Bahrampour, Ali. A Pig in the Palace. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-419-74571-3. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Bobo is a little confused. He was just rolling in the mud when a note was slipped under his door. An invitation… to a dinner party… with the Queen! How could this be so? After all, he is only a pig. Bobo attends the dinner party only to do what pigs do best… make a mess out of things! With everything destroyed, the palace a mess, and lots of angry people, how can Bobo face the Queen!?

THOUGHTS: The ending of this book had me rolling with laughter! A delightful story that young readers will enjoy!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Ravi’s Roar

Percival, Tom. Ravi’s Roar. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-547-60300-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Ravi is having a bad day. Nothing is going his way! There are no seats for him on the bus, he’s too short to reach the monkey bars, and he’s too small to go on the big slide. The final straw is when the ice cream vendor runs out of ice cream, and Ravi doesn’t get any. This prompts him to lose his temper; he turns into a tiger and lets out a huge roar. He stomps around the playground roaring at others and doing whatever he wants. He soon finds, however, that his actions are only making matters worse, as no one wants to play with him. Ultimately, he apologizes and makes amends. A very relatable story about losing one’s temper, this book conveys some important messages about working through one’s feelings.

THOUGHTS: This book would make an excellent resource for anyone who teaches young children about feelings, coping mechanisms and emotional health. It is the perfect segue into a discussion about healthy methods of dealing with anger. An author’s note at the end of the book even provides questions to ask when one is mad. As an added bonus, there is a degree of diversity in this book, as the main character and his family are dark-skinned, and the only parent present in the story is the father. This is definitely a solid purchase for any collection serving young children.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member