Elem. – The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama. The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Kokila, 2020. Unpaged. $18.99  978-0-525-55514-5. Grades 3-6. 

This tale, directed to children, is a mix of biography and moral lesson on compassion. Known today as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he grew up as Llamo Thondup in a small agrarian village in Tibet. He credits his mother as his first teacher of compassion, sowing the seeds in him to care for others’ needs above his own. She shared with others in need, she nourished plants to grow, she mothered him well (“I was a bit spoiled!”), and demonstrated patience and “warmheartedness” to all people. The book covers his life as he was (at three years old), declared to be the new Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, through the years of his training as a monk, to the core message of this book: compassion sets humans apart from other species, and while material possessions require only the five basic senses, compassion requires the mind and shows strength, not weakness. He offers suggestions: “When someone disagrees with you, rather than think they are mistaken, you must ask, Why might they feel this way?  When someone is scowling or upset or hurt, you could busy yourself with your own concerns, or you could ask, What might I do to help them?….It takes practice.” The tone is positive and encouraging, and the practical questions will help readers to understand compassion and how they can promote it in the world.

THOUGHTS: A helpful social-emotional resource to boost World Kindness Day and more.

294.3 Religious Teachings        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne

Cline-Ransome, Lesa. The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne. Simon and Schuster, 2020. 978-1-481-46289-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

The life of Ethel L. Payne, the “First Lady of the Black Press”, is depicted in this picture biography. Born in Chicago in 1911, Ethel loved listening to her grandparents’ stories of the cotton fields in Kentucky and her parents’ own sharecropping tales. Ethel developed a love of writing and after high school fought against racism in her community. After World War II, she left for Japan and collected stories from black American soldiers on the base, noting the unfair treatment they received from the Army. Soon Ethel’s stories from Japan were sent to American newspapers. On her return, Payne took a job as a features editor with the Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper.  Her stories progressed from local events to covering the Democratic National Convention. Eventually, Ethel moved to Washington DC and became one of three African American reporters with a White House pass. For the rest of her life, she wrote stories that focused on civil rights and the issues facing African Americans.  There is an author’s note that gives more details on Ethel L. Payne’s life. John Parra has used acrylic paint to create illustrations that feature other well-known African Americans. Readers will enjoy poring over the drawings to search for the small objects found throughout the text, including the clocks that move forward in time by the end of the story.

THOUGHTS: This text is a worthwhile addition to elementary collections. Readers will learn about the life of this famous African American woman and her important contribution to the civil rights movement.

921 Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
070.92 Journalism and Publishing

YA – Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Kolker, Robert. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family. Doubleday, 2020. 978-0-385-54376-7. 377 pp. $29.99. Gr. 10+.

From the outside looking in, the Galvin family embodied the American Dream. After serving in World War II, Don Galvin took a job at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. There he and his wife Mimi began a family that would grow to include ten boys and two girls, spanning the Baby Boom generation. But deep within the minds of six of their children, something was terribly wrong. One by one, six of the boys fell ill with schizophrenia, most late in adolescence; they suffered from hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and an array of debilitating symptoms. As the boys cycled between mental institutions and the family home on Hidden Valley Road, Don and especially Mimi did their best to both care for their sick children and maintain outward appearances. The life of every child, well and sick alike, was touched by mental illness, particularly the two youngest, Margaret and Mary. Author Robert Kolker deftly blends the heart-wrenching story of the Galvin family with chapters on the medical side of the story: could a “multiplex” family like the Galvins, with so many cases of the disease, help scientists resolve the nature versus nurture debate that had always dominated schizophrenia research?

THOUGHTS: This is not a quick or easy read, but it is a propulsive one. Kolker’s ability to stitch extensive research into such a personal story, complete with details cementing the Galvins’ lives in a distinctive place and time, is a master class in nonfiction writing. Note the presence of scenes of abuse and trauma, which are very sensitively depicted.

616.89 Schizophrenia          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem – Oil; The Oldest Student; Emily Writes

Winter, Jonah.  Oil.  Beach Lane, 2019. 978-1-534-43077-8. Unpaged.  $17.99. Grades K-3.

In a departure from his picture book biographies, Winter tackles the issue of environmental disasters in this recounting of the Exxon Valdez tanker oil spill.  First, Winter explains how oil is removed from the earth by machines and then transported via pipelines to ships which carry it away. On March 24, 1989, a ship called the Exxon Valdez ran aground and millions of gallons of oil were released into the sea, covering 11,000 square miles of ocean and affecting 1,300 miles of Alaskan coastline in the Prince William Sound. Winter discusses its devastating effects primarily on animals, many of which died despite the massive cleanup. The author’s mother Jeanette Winter has created colorful illustrations, which have an almost folk art quality. Most of the drawings feature animals who appear to be observing all that is taking place, like the caribou and bears who stand by the pipeline. The illustrator adds the right touch of anticipation as she portrays just the giant hull of the ship approaching the sound, as a happy group of otters swims in the ocean and an eagle looks on with apparent concern. The illustration of the accident is dramatic, with a wordless two page spread image of the tanker releasing its oil into the sea. There is an author’s note and some suggested readings in the back matter.

THOUGHTS: This text tells the story of the Exxon disaster in terms that are accessible to young children, who will learn about both the short and long term effects on the wildlife and the landscape. This book works well as a read aloud and would be perfect for environmental units and to promote discussion about the environment.  A first purchase.

363.7382 Water Pollution          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
Environmental Problems, Oil spills


Hubbard, Rita Lorraine. The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020. 978-1-5247-6828-7. $17.99. 40 p. Grades K-3.

As a child born into slavery, Mary Walker admires the freedom of birds that pass over the plantation. She spends her days toiling in the fields picking cotton, which leaves no time for schooling of any kind. After the Emancipation Proclamation sets her free at the age of 15, Mary works as a nanny and a maid to keep her family afloat. One day, she meets a group of evangelists who gifts her a Bible. Mary vows that she will read it one day, but today is not that day. Work consumes the next six decades of her life until she moves to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Having outlived her entire family, her life changes when she moves to a retirement home, and, at 116 years old, takes a reading class. Caldecott Honor illustrator Oge Mora uses paper, including sheet music and pages from books, to create beautiful collages in shades of brown, green, yellow, and blue. Readers should take care to notice how Mary’s dress changes throughout the book, especially once she learns to read.

THOUGHTS: Even though The Oldest Student is geared towards K-3 students, ALL students can take away the very important message of the book: No one is ever too old to learn. This inspiring book is a gentle way to ease into difficult conversations about slavery, race, and education in our society. With the current emphasis on growth mindset in the classroom, this is the perfect book to show that learning and growing continue long after school is over.

Picture Book          Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD
921 WAL Biography


Yolen, Jane. Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings. Christy Ottaviano Books, 2020. 978-1-250-12808-9.  Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 1-5.

This picture book is a fictionalized account of Emily Dickinson’s early life in Amherst, Massachusetts. As a young child, Emily was interested in rhyming words and enjoyed listening to poems that her brother recited. The author uses poetic license to explain the origins of some of Dickinson’s later poetic works. Mrs. Mack, who also lives in the house, helps by telling young Emily that “frog” and “bog” rhyme, words which later appear in “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” She also supplies the word “hope” as a rhyme for “envelope.”  As an adult, Dickinson writes “The Way Hope Builds His House” on an envelope, which when opened, simulates a house with a peaked roof. The drawings by Christine Davenier are done in colored ink and she uses a palette of bright colors throughout the text. Little Emily is portrayed as an active, curious child who loves being outside in nature. There is an author’s note giving details about Dickinson’s life, and the back matter also contains three of her poems, including the two mentioned above.

THOUGHTS: This is an intriguing look at an iconic American poet. Although children in the target audience may not be very familiar with her poetry, this book might encourage them to seek out her works or to write some poetry on their own.

Easy Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

MG – Mañanaland; Nat Enough; Black Brother, Black Brother; On the Horizon

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Mañanaland. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-15786-4.  251 p. $16.53. Grades 3-6.

Maximiliano Córdoba has a lot. He has his hard-working, bridge builder father and his loving Buelo who cooks delicious dinners and tells fantastic stories. He has a best friend, Chuy, and a group of neighborhood boys with whom he plays soccer. He even has a playful dog named Lola. But it is what Max doesn’t have that occupies his thoughts. He doesn’t have the strength that Ortiz has when he throws the fútbol out of the goal, and he doesn’t have a pair of Volantes, which would ensure his success at tryouts. He doesn’t have the freedom to attend a summer clinic in Santa Inés with his friends. And most of all, he does not have a mother. He doesn’t know where she is or why she left, and his Papá will not tell Max anything about her. “When you’re older, I’ll explain more,” is what he hears from his Papá, but he wants answers now, and he may just get them sooner rather than later. The new soccer coach expects all players to have a birth certificate to try out for the team, and Max learns his mother took his documents with her when she left. With Papà out of town in search of Max’s documents, Max finds himself thrust into an adventure of a lifetime. Will the legend his Buelo has been telling him his whole life lead Max to the answers he seeks? And will Papà finally accept that he can be trusted?

THOUGHTS:  Middle school is a time for students to explore their strengths and weaknesses and also to test the boundaries of the freedoms that come with growing up. Many middle schoolers will see themselves in Max and their parents in his Papà. The folklore adds interest to this coming of age story. Pam Muñoz Ryan’s fantasy novel is a self-discovery tale for every upper elementary and middle school library.

Fantasy          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD


Scrivan, Maria. Nat Enough. Graphix, 2020. 978-1-338-53821-2. 235 p. $21.59. Grades 3-6.

Natalie Mariano is not enough. She is not cool enough, not athletic enough, not talented enough. Whatever you need to make you enough for middle school, Natalie doesn’t have it–at all. And to make matters worse, her best friend, Lily, seems to have changed her mind about wanting to be friends with Natalie, so now she is not enough for Lily either.  Add in a disastrous first day of gym class; bully Shawn Dreary, who barks at Natalie every chance he gets; and a Jell-o frog dissection debacle, and Natalie is sure that she will never have what it takes to make it in middle school. But maybe Natalie has it all wrong. Instead of focusing on what she isn’t, maybe Natalie should focus on what she is. With the help of some new friends and some old hobbies, a story contest and some new-found confidence, maybe Natalie will discover that who she is, in fact, is exactly enough.

THOUGHTS: Every middle school student has been in Natalie’s shoes at one point, whether it is a falling out with a friend, that awkward feeling when trying something new, or an embarrassing moment that everyone sees. Her epiphany is gradual, but the progression is logical, and even the bullies have evolved by the end. Maria Scrivan’s debut graphic novel is a perfect fit for upper elementary and middle school libraries.

Graphic Novel    Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD


Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Black Brother, Black Brother. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 978-0-316-49380-2. 239 p. $14.81. Grades 3-6.

Donte Ellison fit in in New York, in his multiracial neighborhood. He fit in at his old school. He does not fit in in his new white neighborhood, and he certainly does not fit in at his new school, Middlefield Prep. His brother, Trey, fits in, and everyone wants to know why Donte can’t be more like Trey. But Trey has light hair and blue eyes like their father, and Donte has dark hair and brown eyes like their mother, and this makes all the difference at Middlefield Prep, and makes Donte a target of bullies, especially Alan. When Alan throws a pencil at another student, Donte is immediately blamed. Frustration turns to anger, and Donte finds himself in handcuffs in the back of a police car. No one in his school sees him. They only see the color of his skin, and Alan has made sure that Middlefield Prep is a miserable place for Donte to be. A week of suspension gives Donte time to plan his revenge on Alan, but is revenge really what Donte needs? A mentor, some new friends, and an athletic outlet provide Donte with support, purpose, and a goal that goes far beyond Alan and revenge.

THOUGHTS:  Middle grade students, regardless of race, will understand Donte’s anger and frustration with not being seen or heard, but his story will resonate most with BIPOC students. White students will benefit from reading this novel as a window into the experiences of their BIPOC classmates.  A must-read for students and teachers alike.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD


Lowry, Lois. On the Horizon: World War II Reflections. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-12940-0. 75 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Inspired by her own personal memories, Lowry has created a wonderful contemplative work about two major events that occurred during World War II. The text, told mostly in verse, contains a single reflection per page concerning specific incidents or individuals during the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the bombing of Hiroshima. These short remembrances are about some who perished and some who survived. In Hawaii, one of the Anderson twins survives the attack on the Arizona, and his ashes are buried with his brother years later. Frank Cabiness saves his watch that is stopped at 8:15, the time of the attack. The author deftly contrasts this story with Hiroshima. Four year old Shinichi Tetsutani is riding his red tricycle when the bomb falls and is buried with his bicycle. Shinji Mikamo survives the bombing, while his father does not. All he can find in the ruins is his father’s watch that is stopped at 8:15.  It is details like this that make these stories come alive for the reader. The illustrations by Kenard Pak are done in pencil and add to the thoughtful tone. Part of the story is autobiographical. Lowry was born in Honolulu in 1937 and remembers playing on the beach with her grandmother while a giant ship passed by on the horizon. As an adult, she later realized this was the Arizona. As a child, she returned to Japan after the war and while riding her bicycle, sees a young boy that will become a famous author.

THOUGHTS: Lowry’s work is a masterpiece made powerful by the stories of real people who were impacted by these historical events. These poignant tales will linger in the reader’s mind for a long time. This is an essential purchase for all elementary and middle school libraries.

940.54 World War II          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

Elem. – Lupin Leaps In; Emmy Noether; Astronauts Zoom; The Big Break

Dunn, Georgia. Lupin Leaps In. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019. 978-1-449-49522-0. $9.99. Grades 3-6.

It’s Cat Network, brought to you by Elvis, Lupin, and Puck! These three cats report their day-to-day lives, including all of the members of the household. Between the ceiling cats, the crazy outfits that they are forced into, and the newest addition to the household, Elvis, Lupin, and Puck are always getting into mischief and informing the world!

THOUGHTS: Honestly, this took me a bit to get into. Once captivated, each report was hilariously illustrated and explained how a cat may view the situation. A funny read that is short with each report, but full of a year’s worth of adventures.

Graphic Novel          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Becker, Helaine. Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of. Kids Can Press, 2020. 978-1-525-30059-2. 40 p. $18.99. Grades 3-5.

This picture book tells the life story of a little-known female mathematician.  Emmy Noether always excelled in math even as a young girl growing up in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century. She preferred doing puzzles to playing the piano or doing things expected of girls at that time. Emmy wanted to attend university to study math, but this was not permitted at that time. Her father was a professor there, so she was allowed to sit in on classes. Even though the male students resented her because of her intelligence, they often asked her for help with homework without giving her credit.  Eventually she was accepted into the university, but even after earning a degree, she was not permitted to teach men. About this time, Albert Einstein was developing his theories of relativity and Noether helped solve one of the problems in his theory. While working on that problem, she thought about related laws of physics and discovered that the laws of symmetry and conservation are linked. Her work on the principle of symmetry became known as Noether’s Theorem. The author does an excellent job in explaining physics in terms that are easy to understand, aided by the illustrator’s appealing drawings which are hand drawn and digitally colored. For instance, the illustrator demonstrates symmetrical motion by showing Emmy on a swing. This book works well as a read aloud and uses a checklist format to begin and end Noether’s story.

THOUGHTS: This is an excellent picture book biography that shows how one woman overcame obstacles in order to reach her goals. This text could be used to introduce basic physics in science units. Becker’s work would also be a good choice for Women’s History Month. Elementary librarians should consider adding this one to their biography or math sections.

510.92 Mathematics          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
92, 921 Biography                                                  


Rose, Deborah Lee. Astronauts Zoom! An Astronaut Alphabet. Persnickety Press, 2020. 978-1-943-97850-2. 38 p. Grades K-2. $16.95.

This is an engaging nonfiction picture book about the astronauts who live on the International Space Station. Using an alphabet format, the author explains what astronauts do while in space. Rose describes how astronauts work, play, relax, and take care of their hygiene in simple text. Featured words and their relevant letters are highlighted in the same color. The stunning colorful photographs are the winning aspect of the book. One image shows an astronaut reading near a window showing the Earth below, and readers will be amused by an astronaut who is juggling sixteen pieces of fruit at one time. The extensive back matter contains more details about each of the activities described. There is a long list of vocabulary words, but no definitions are given. Included is a section discussing how readers can make their own facsimile space station at home, in the classroom, or in the school library.

THOUGHTS: This nonfiction text works well for alphabet units or to introduce a science unit on space. Young readers will enjoy reading this book and examining the photographs on their own. Purchase where astronaut books are popular.

629.442 International Space Station          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
629.45 Astronauts


Tatulli, Mark. The Big Break. Little, Brown and Company. 2020. 978-0-316-44055-4. 248 p. $12.99. Grades 4+.

Seventh graders Andrew Fineman and Russell Kahng live near the Pine Barrens, in New Jersey. Friends since second grade, they are now hard at work on their entry for the Middle Grade Viral Video Contest: “Terror of the Jersey Devil,” a mockumentary on the legend and its many rumored sightings. But phone calls, study dates, and hand-holding with Tara Wallbuck are pulling Russell’s attention away from writing and filming crucial scenes. Frustrated and left out, Andrew fears that more than just the movie is in jeopardy. A fresh round of Jersey Devil sightings (and an overnight excursion into the woods) might provide the push they need to recover from their friendship meltdown in time for a true surprise ending.

THOUGHTS: Mark Tatulli depicted his own tween years to wonderfully universal effect in 2018’s Short & Skinny. In The Big Break he revisits the years between action figures and driver’s licenses, chronicling the friendship friction when one matures a little faster than the other. His latest has the perfect blend of realism and whimsy, in both plot and art style, to reach a wide audience. He brings an especially light touch to Andrew’s relationship with his widowed mom, who’s struggling to allow her son to grow up.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

MG – The Giver; Teen Guide to Mental Health; All American Muslim Girl; Loki; Feed Your Mind

Russell, P. Craig. The Giver. Based on the Novel by Lois Lowry. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-544-15788-0. 176 p. $22.99 Grades 5-8. 

A powerful adaptation of the classic YA novel. Jonas lives in a community of perfect harmony in which the people face no hardships or concerns in their daily lives, and every decision is carefully made for each citizen by the elders. At his Age Twelve ceremony, Jonas is assigned to the unique role of Receiver of Memory, chosen to take on the memories, both good and bad, of a society who is shielded from them. With every day that passes, Jonas learns and experiences more and begins to realize the harsh truths that keep the society in order. The story remains faithful to Lowry’s original dystopian tale. The panels of beautifully illustrated pictures change from muted grays to vibrant colors as Jonas’ understanding of life experiences expands.

THOUGHTS: Suggest this title to provide a struggling reader or English Language Learner support for a novel which is required reading in many schools.

Graphic Novel          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Nardo, Don. Teen Guide to Mental Health. Reference Point Press., 2020. 978-1-682-82753-6. 80 p. $30.95. Grades 6+. 

The prolific Don Nardo has another nonfiction title for the K-12 audience. This slim volume focuses on the stressors and common mental health issues facing today’s teens such as body image issues, depression, and divorce in the family. Most pages have pop out quotes from mental health professionals or people who have faced difficult issues.  The book only touches briefly on many of the mental health concerns mentioned but includes a valuable resource list of websites and mental health organizations for students, parents, or teachers seeking information or help.

THOUGHTS: An optional purchase for a junior or senior high collection.

618.92 Mental Health          Nancy Summers  Abington SD


Courtney, Nadine Jolie. All American Muslim Girl. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019. 978-0-374-30952-7.  336 p. $17.99. Grades 7+. 

Allie Abraham is the only daughter of an immigrant professor in search of a tenure track position and an American mother, who have recently settled in yet another new town just outside of Atlanta. Allie once again sets about fitting in with her new community, finding a group of friends, and even beginning a relationship with a kindhearted new boyfriend. Though her extended family from Jordan and elsewhere in the States are practicing Muslims, Allie’s parents have given up most of the practices of Islam in an effort to keep their family safe from suspicion in a post 9/11 world. Ally can easily pass as an all American girl with her light complexion; she nevertheless feels left out as she is the only one of her extended network of cousins who does not practice the faith or speak Arabic. After finding a young women’s prayer and Koran study group, she begins to explore her religion in earnest. The book follows Allie as she comes to terms with the many layers of her life as a typical American teen while trying to reconcile her American culture with her growing Islamic faith.

THOUGHTS: The book is enlightening, revealing many of the tenets and rituals of Islam and shedding a positive light on a religion which unfortunately is sometimes misunderstood and feared.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Lee, Mackenzi. Loki: Where Mischief Lies. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-544-15788-0. 176 p. $17.99 Grades 6+.  

A fun and witty origin tale for Loki, the trickster from Norse mythology and the Marvel Universe. Loki, the younger son of Odin, King of Asgard, has always felt inferior to his more favored and less quick witted elder brother Thor. The sibling rivalry between the brothers is explored, and the dialogue between the two of them is hilarious. Since Loki does not possess the physical strength of his brother, he experiments at an early age with his magic, a gift inherited from his mother which is not welcomed by his father. Loki finds a companion in his childhood friend Amora, a sorceress in training. At the Feast of Gullveig, Odin sees a prophecy in the Godseye Mirror of one his sons leading an army of the dead against Asgard. When the sacred Mirror is destroyed, Amora is banished to Midgard (Earth) where magic does not exist. Loki is left alone again, struggling to prove that the prophecy does not point to him. He gets a chance to serve his father when he is sent to Midgard to investigate a series of magic-related murders with SHARP, a secret society of mortals in Victorian London. On Midgard, Loki finds himself drawn to Theo, a key member of SHARP and encounters Amora once again. The book delves into LGBTQ issues in London, with Theo suspected and isolated as a homosexual. Theo is awed by Loki’s open gender fluidity and his descriptions of  Asgard’s open mindedness about gender and sexuality. The ending comes as Loki must choose his own path – to be a loyal prince of Asgard or the villain everyone believes him to be.

THOUGHTS: A recommended next step for fans of Rick Riordan’s mythology series. This title will also appeal to Marvel fans and for fans of Lee’s period adventures in the Montague Siblings books.

Fantasy Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Bryant, Jen. Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73653-7. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 4-6.

Bryant’s brilliant picture book biography of the African-American playwright from Pittsburgh is truly unconventional. It is written in two acts, not unlike Wilson’s plays, and is done in free verse. She concentrates more on Wilson’s early life in Pittsburgh’s Hill District rather than focusing on details of his plays and later life. Frederick August Kittel, his birth name, was able to read from age four, and this was encouraged by his mother, who said, “If you can read, you can do anything.” The author describes the boy as a good student who dropped out of school due to prejudice and bullying, not only by students, but also by a teacher who believed that August plagiarized a term paper. He then spent his days in the Carnegie Library and educated himself by reading. While working a series of service jobs, August Wilson, as he was then known, began to write poetry and soon presented them at poetry readings. In listening to people in his hometown speak about their experiences, he acquired subject matter for his works. On the urging of a friend, Wilson began writing plays, which lead to an award winning career as a playwright whose works focused on the lives of African American men in Pittsburgh. The full page illustrations by Chapman are done in a variety of media and are symbolic in some cases. There is a striking drawing of Kittel as a teenager walking between rows of books at the library. Superimposed on the rows of books are rows of corn stalks. In the text, Bryant tells us that his mother also left school and went to work in the cornfields with her family. On the back cover, young August is pictured reading at a fancy dining table on which are platters and bowls full of books, which relates to the title. The back matter contains a timeline of this famous African American’s life.

THOUGHTS: This book is a wonderful example of creative nonfiction. The author chose to write this text in a style that echoes the poetic and dramatic works of the man about whom she was writing. The book is lengthy for a picture book biography, and the text contains two instances of a pejorative word for African Americans, so students would need some background and preparation if this is used in the classroom. Readers will be inspired by the accomplishments of this self-made man and will understand how the power of books and words can change our lives.

Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


MG – Song for a Whale; Infinite Hope; Malamander; Becoming RBG; White Bird

Kelly, Lynne. Song for a Whale. Delacorte Press, 2019. 978-1-524-77023-5. 303 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

When 12-year-old Iris learns about Blue 55, she feels a special kinship with him. Blue cannot communicate with other whales because he “sings” at a different decibel level than other whales. Iris, who is Deaf, can relate. Her parents want her to attend a mainstream school, but Iris longs for the companionship of other Deaf people with whom she can communicate using sign language. Iris is good with technology, and she comes up with a plan to create a special song for Blue so that he will not feel so alone. But making the song turns out to be one thing, while finding Blue is something else altogether. Iris’s journey to help Blue will require her to collaborate, communicate, and to speak up not only for Blue, but for herself.

THOUGHTS  An original and gripping story centering a complex, nuanced Deaf protagonist. Highly recommended for middle school libraries. 

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Twelve year old Iris is different from most kids. Born deaf and named after a whale who may have also been deaf, Iris longs for understanding. Both of Iris’ grandparents are deaf, and with the recent passing of her grandfather life has changed – a lot. Her grandmother has become distant, her father couldn’t be bothered with learning sign language, and school causes more struggles for Iris than it should. One day during science class Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale that does not belong to a pod because it cannot sing at the same hertz level as other whales like him. Determined to help the whale, Iris works with her music teacher to create a unique song for Blue in order to help the scientists trying to tag the whale. But when writing the song doesn’t seem like she’s helped enough, Iris sells her most prized possession and teams up with her grandmother to take a trip of a lifetime. Together the two will journey to Alaska in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Blue 55, but along the way end up discovering more about themselves than either thought possible. 

THOUGHTS: A perfect book to include in your collection that perfectly demonstrates the windows and mirrors philosophy of literature. Iris is a relatable character with a disability and her need to “do good” to help a creature of the Earth is heartwarming. The story unfolds beautifully and pulls at your heartstrings at just the right moments. This book has many themes that could be related to various aspects of life. 

Realistic Fiction         Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Bryan, Ashley. Infinite Hope: A Black Artists’ Journey from World War II to Peace. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-40490-8. 107 p. $21.99. Grades 5-8.

Infinite Hope, a 2020 Caldecott Illustrator Honor book, features the sketches, letters, and paintings of author and illustrator Ashley Bryan’s experience of being in the Army during World War II. Bryan writes about being drafted for World War II while attending The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the hard labor of being a stevedore, and the segregation issues during the war itself. Beautifully illustrated with Bryan’s pencil sketches and photographs from the time period, this title does a wonderful job of telling the story of WWII without the graphic details. Bryan uses his art to recount the storming of Normandy beach and to show the struggle to get home after the war ended. Letters written to Eva show Bryan’s struggles, victories, and worries throughout the three years he was deployed. Upon arriving back in America, Bryan locked away the art he created during the war and instead went to Columbia University to study philosophy while still creating art. 

THOUGHTS: This beautifully illustrated book allows readers to visualize the difficulties of serving and segregation in the army and how one man used his art to get through challenging times. The mix of drawings, handwritten letters, and photographs provide deeper connection to Bryan’s story. This title did not overwhelm the reader with dates, figures, or historical facts, but instead painted a picture of what life was like for a Black soldier during World War II.

92          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Taylor, Thomas. Malamander. Walker Books, 2019. 978-1-536-20722-4. 289 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Eerie-on-the-Sea definitely lives up to its name. Winter, especially, is a time of dire darkness, storms, and tremendous tides. In the harbor lies the wreck of the battleship HMS Leviathan ominous and looming. It is the source of the local legend of the dangerous part fish, part –human Malamander, a beast who appears once a year looking for a mate (tremble at the idea). At that time it lays an egg which has powers to grant wishes, but at a cost. Herbert Lemon is a small boy who happens to be the Lost-and-Founder at the Grande Nautilus Hotel. His job is to find owners of the lost items, but how can he find the owner of a girl, Violet Parma? Somehow her parents mysteriously disappeared when she was a baby, and she has come for help. As Herbert and Violet search for answers, others are doing the same. With characters like Mr. Mollusc, Lady Kraken, the Boat Hook Man, and Sebastian Eels the reader will suspect everything is not as it seems. There will be great fantastical adventure filled with mystery and a monster. Taylor keeps the action going in this series opener. The unanswered questions will ensure that students will want to continue the series (What did really happen to Violet’s parents?). The next adventure in the Eerie-on-the-Sea series will involve the ancient Gargantis looking for her missing treasure.   

THOUGHTS: Malamander lends itself to discussion of literary devices such as the author’s use of setting, tone, and characters to create interest. Even with all the twists and turns, this would be a good book for students to make predictions. Taylor uses very clever descriptive names for his characters. This might be a challenge for students to come up their own names for characters in this book or other books.

Fantasy          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Levy, Debbie. Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice. Simon and Schuster Books, 2019. 978-1-534-42456-2. 207 p. $19.99. Grades 5-8.

One of the most iconic Supreme Court justice members has her life chronicled in a biographical graphic novel. In Becoming RBG readers experience Ruth’s life during the Nazi occupation, her college studies, then her early career aspirations while working toward becoming a revered judge. In each chapter readers learn more about Ruth’s passion for equal treatment of all individuals. When Ruth’s mother passes away, she is determined to go to Cornell University (her mother’s dream) and finds inspiration in the professors she studied under. After noticing segregation occurring beyond the dorm walls, Ruth went on to study law and advocate for those struggling with being mistreated by society. With each chapter we discover Ruth’s passion for the law and her successes in the political world. Readers will also experience Ruth’s marriage, watch her daughter Jane grow, and experience the highs and lows of her career. Gardner’s illustrations use red highlights to showcase important moments and bold text to focus readers on key takeaways. 

THOUGHTS: As far as graphic novels go, this is a well done title that allows readers to know girls can do anything they want to in life! The life story of Ginsburg unfolds with each chapter and shows the passion and fire that Ruth had for equal rights in the workplace. The illustrated panels provide a format that allows readers to connect with the heart and brain of Ginsburg and are not overwhelmingly distracting. A great nonfiction graphic novel!

347.73 Civil Procedures & Courts/Graphic Novel          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Palacio, R.J. White Bird: A Wonder Story. Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. 978-0-525-64553-5. 220 p. $21.00. Grades 5-8.

In a powerful lesson touching on the themes of Wonder and Choose Kind, R. J. Palacio has created a graphic novel tale of life as a Jew during WWII. Julian, a former classmate of Auggie during Wonder, has an assignment to interview someone about their story. He chooses his grandmother, Sara, who was in Nazi occupied France during the war, and she reluctantly agrees to recount her travails. Through a graphic format, Palacio moves between the beauty and kindness of Sara’s youth and the horror, fear, and cruelty that surrounded her light. Only from the grace and goodness of a polio-stricken boy named Julien does she live to tell the tale. The gorgeous coloring and layout pull readers quickly through a tough and touching narrative, which will make sure that young readers Never Forget.

THOUGHTS: There are similarities enough between this book and Anne Frank’s tale and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry to give middle grade readers a lesson in comparing texts and living in a world of fear and hope. Those who already know Auggie and Julian’s relationship may also be able to discuss the behaviors and choices involved in both stories.

Graphic Novel          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – My Papi Has A Motorcycle; The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal; The Escape of Robert Smalls; Human Habitats; Explore Your World; Daring Dozen; Teddy; Moth; You Are My Friend; Insect Superpowers

Quintero, Isabel. Illustrated by Zeke Pena. My Papi Has A Motorcycle. Kokila, 2019. 978-0-525-55341-0. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This gorgeous picture book pays homage to the bond between fathers and daughters and to the importance of communities. Daisy Ramona loves riding on the back of her papi’s motorcycle and exploring their L.A. neighborhood together. The book paints a realistic picture of a community that is tightly knit but struggling–a beloved shaved ice shop, for instance, is now boarded up and closed for business. A palette that features the muted colors of a sunset hints at history and nostalgia; yet at the same time, the movement of the motorcycle (“VROOOOM!”) gives the book a contrasting sense of immediacy and momentum. Spanish words are incorporated naturally throughout

THOUGHTS:  An evocative book, thematically rich, but also fun and appealing to read aloud or pore over. Highly recommended for lower elementary library collections. This book may be an especially worthwhile purchase because it may fill gaps in collections that need more books featuring girls who like vehicles, father/daughter books, and/or Lantinx literature.

Picture Book          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

When the workday is over, Daisy’s tired Papi still has energy enough to take his daughter on a motorcycle ride around their town. The routine is clearly beloved by both father and daughter (his hands “feel like all the love he has trouble saying”) as they pass by favorite spots and wave to family and friends (including Daisy’s librarian). Locales throughout the town recall memories of the past, or portents of the future. Papi takes Daisy to see the new houses on which he is working, but they notice with sadness the closing of the water ice store. The illustrations by Zeke Peña are gorgeously drawn, and the love between Daisy and Papi leaps off the pages. The warm terracotta color palette adds to the depth of emotion, as well as evokes the historic feel of the town Daisy imagines throughout the ride.  

THOUGHTS:  This lovely book, defining family and home, should be a first purchase.  

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Seluk, Nick. The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal. Orchard Books, 2019. 978-1-338-16700-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-4

The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal introduces us to all the things the brain does for us every single day! This book goes into the science behind smells, taste, sight and so many more things your body accomplishes everyday, all because of your brain! The illustrations are bright and colorful which add to the fun feel of the book. The inside of the front cover is full of colorful images with the same images throughout the book. Along with the facts that are found throughout the book, there are small little boxes full of fun facts. Each of the illustrations has the body parts saying funny or silly things related to what they do within the human body.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun picture book that is full of information that will cause the students to learn without realizing they are learning. The theme of the brain being the lead in a rock band that carries throughout is funny without coming across as too ridiculous.

612.8 Human Anatomy         Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy


Jones-Radgowski, Jehan. The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out of Slavery. Capstone Editions, 2019. 978-1-543-51281-6. 40 p. $18.95. Grades 2-5.

This is the true story of Robert Smalls, an enslaved African-American man who engineered a courageous escape from slavery by hijacking a Confederate military ship docked in Charleston Harbor in 1862. From his youth, Robert worked on ships and became a skillful sailor and wheelman on a military ship called Planter, which brought supplies and ammunition to the nearby Confederate forts. He got the idea about using the ship to flee after observing the captain pilot the ship and memorizing his mannerisms. One night, after the captain left the ship for shore leave, Smalls set his plan in motion. Family members joined him on his quest along with other crew members. The plan was a dangerous one, because Smalls had to navigate the boat past Confederate forts and ships. Smalls disguised himself by wearing the Captain’s hat and uniform and used the cover of darkness to sail out of the harbor. By the time the Confederates realized that something was wrong, the Planter had reached the Union ships and freedom. In the Afterword, more information is given about slavery, the Civil War, and Smalls’ other accomplishments during his lifetime. A glossary plus suggested readings are found in the back matter. Kang’s full bleed illustrations include a map showing the escape route.

THOUGHTS: This book is a worthwhile purchase for elementary libraries. It will work as an introduction to Civil War units or as a discussion starter for lessons on slavery. There are a number of books about Robert Smalls, but this one is made accessible by the care that the author, a US Foreign Service officer, takes to explain the historical events and vocabulary.

973.8092 History and Geography, United States          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
92, 921 Biography


Human Habitats. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. 24 p. $17.70 ea. Grades K-3.

Duhig, Holly. Life by the river. 978-0-778-76485-4
—. Life on an Island. 978-0-778-76482-3.
—. Life by the Ocean. 978-0-778-76484-7.
—. Life in the Mountains. 978-0-778-76483-0.
—. Life in the City. 978-0-778-76480-9.
—. Life in the Forest. 978-0-778-76481-6.

Duhig explores how humans live within six different habitats and how people adapt to the unique conditions and use the resources in each of these environments. Each book visits four specific locations around the world. Full color photos and illustrations in each book, with simple text for primary grades. Includes glossary and index, and a teacher’s guide that provides lesson plans for individual and collaborative work for students to explore human habitats with links to the publisher website which offer additional resources.

THOUGHTS: The advertised Student Discovery Lab materials were not accessible with the code listed in these titles.

304          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Explore Your World. Nomad Press. 2020, 2019. 90 p. $19.95. Grade 3-6.

Haney, Johannah. Natural Disasters! With 25 Science Projects for Kids.978-1-619-30862-6.
Klepeis, Alicia Explore Makerspace! With 25 Great Projects. 978-1-619-30566-3.
McKinney, Donna. Engines! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30940-1.
Swanson, Jennifer. Bridges! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30591-5.
Van Vleet, Carmella. Robotics! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30813-8.
Yasuda, Anita.  Ancient Civilizations Aztecs, Maya, Incas! With 25 Social Studies Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30834-3.
—. Canals and Dams! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30647-9.
—. Explore Greek Myths! With 25 Great Projects.
978-1-619-30450-5.

A growing set of non fiction books for students in grades 3-6. Seventeen titles are now available with more planned. Each title provides clear background information on the topic with clearly explained key terms and a timeline of developments.  Includes index, glossary, metric conversions, and lists of related YouTube videos for viewing. Each of the 25 projects listed includes a supplies list, step by step instructions, and notes if adult supervision is necessary.

THOUGHTS: Great ideas for science fair or independent or group or group projects for students.

Non Fiction          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Slade, Suzanne. Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon. Charlesbridge, 2019. 48 p. 978-1-580-89773-0. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

In simple lyrical text, this nonfiction picture book discusses the seven Apollo lunar missions and the twelve astronauts who took part in them. The author begins by using personification to describe the moon as “all alone” and “silent” until a spacecraft (Apollo 11) appears and later as “waiting patiently” for other Apollo flights. Each flight’s unique objective is discussed, such as the use of the land rover with Apollo 15 and the discovery of origin of the moon’s craters in Apollo 16. Slade includes some interesting bits about the astronauts, such as Alan Shepherd’s playing golf on the moon and Charlie Duke’s leaving his family’s photograph on the surface. The back matter contains a note from astronaut Alan Beam, a timeline to the moon, information about various moon vehicles, as well as specific fast facts about each Apollo flight. Alan Marks uses watercolor ink to create stunning full bleed illustrations throughout the book. On the opening pages, the full moon is the main focus as part of the earth appears to look on. The drawing of Gene Cernan holding a multicolored rock made of small rocks is pictured on the page with his quote that this rock will be a “symbol of mankind: that we can live in peace and harmony.”

THOUGHTS: This is an essential purchase for elementary libraries. It is a good example of a nonfiction mentor text for figurative language and poetic style. A great read aloud, this book can serve an introduction for astronomy units, but will also have great appeal for those budding astronauts who will enjoy reading this on their own and dream as they look skyward.

629.454          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
Manned Space Flight


Sage, James. Teddy: The Remarkable Tale of a President, a Cartoonist, a Toymaker and a Bear. Kids Can Press, 2019.  978-1-771-38795-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Sage has crafted a partially fictionalized story about the origin of the teddy bear. The author describes how President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, refused to shoot a bear during a hunting expedition in Mississippi. This incident was then portrayed in a newspaper cartoon by Clifford Berryman. The cartoon was seen by many Americans, including Mr. and Mrs. Mitchtom who were New York shop owners. Mrs. Mitchtom made toys to sell in the store, and she came up with the idea of creating a toy bear in honor of the President. They called it Teddy’s Bear. Sales of the bear took off, and soon the Mitchtoms had so many orders that they formed the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, which produced millions of toy bears and accessories to go with them. The author’s note includes a photograph of one of the original bears, as well as a copy of the cartoon. The author explains the real circumstances surrounding the President’s hunting expedition (the bear was chained to a tree) and reveals which minor parts of the story were embellished. The illustrations by Lisk Feng were rendered digitally and add a whimsical touch. At the beginning of the story where the many interests of the President are listed, the illustrator places a small drawing next to each hobby. At the end, the President is seen sleeping with a teddy bear of his own.

THOUGHTS: A must-have for all elementary collections, this text is a great choice for bear themed storytimes, especially on September 9, Teddy Bear Day.

813.54, Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
688.7243, 973.911                                        


Thomas, Isabel. Moth: An Evolution Story. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-547-60020-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.

This fascinating piece of narrative nonfiction is the story of the peppered moth and its evolution over time due to environmental factors. Told in simple text, the author begins by telling us that this is a story of “light and dark…of change and adaptation…of survival and hope.” She explains that after birth, the moth is in a struggle for survival from predators, such as bats and birds. The moths that had wings that look like salt and pepper were better able to camouflage themselves on trees than moths of that species that were pure black. As a result, the black winged moths were eaten and eventually made up a smaller percent of the population. With the Industrial Revolution, this pattern was reversed, because the trees were now black from pollution, and the moths with the peppered wings were most at risk. Then, as efforts were made to curb pollution, the population of the peppered moths increased once again. Today both black and peppered wing moths can be found on trees because they have adapted. In the afterword, the author explains the processes of natural selection, adaptation, and evolution in more detail, explaining that this tale gives us hope that a species can adapt and not die out. Daniel Egnéus uses a variety of media to create stunning illustrations that add to the narrative. The cover drawing will attract readers as it depicts a moth with silvery wings touched with black looming large against a black sky dotted with silver stars. The author and illustrator have made this narrative of the peppered moth surprisingly appealing and interesting.

THOUGHTS: This is a strong purchase, and elementary librarians will not want to miss this one. This text would be useful in evolution and ecology units and is a good choice as a read aloud, especially on Earth Day.

595.78 Butterflies, Moths          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Reid, Aimee, and Matt Phelan. You Are My Friend. Abrams Books for Young People, 2019. 978-1-419-73617-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Why the resurgence of all things Mister Rogers lately? Through popular entertainment and the media, we have renewed our journey to his friendly neighborhood. Perhaps it is the enduring need for kindness, decency, and compassion in the world. This charming picture book takes young readers who may not be familiar with Fred back to his beginnings. We learn of his illness and isolation, his emotions and how he learned to express them, and his willingness to like himself just the way he was. Freddie’s youth serves him well as he grows up and seeks to overcome his shyness and share his message with children through television. The soft and steady tone of Reid and the equally soothing, gentle watercolors from Matt Phelan make for a fitting tribute to Mr. Rogers. The color palate and message afterward will warm your spirits and make you glad that you have a friend who likes you just the way you are!

THOUGHTS: This is an accessible and highly recommended introduction for young readers to the world of Mr. Rogers. Obviously, there are many other videos, songs, and resources online to share once they hear about him. It would be interesting to get responses to the text and drawings as they read it to see how those childhood moments influenced his adult career in television.

Biography        Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Messner, Kate, and Jillian Nickell. Insect Superpowers. Chronicle Books, 2019. 978-1-4521-3910-4. 84 pages. $17.99. Grades 2-5.

Step aside, Spider-man! The insect world is full of supersized, super-powered, and super dangerous bugs. Kate Messner takes a decidedly graphic approach to this novel look at a nonfiction text. Listing the insects by their superpowers, archenemies, aliases and trademark features, partnered with a layout and design by Jillian Nickell that is dynamic, colorful, and fact-filled, makes for an entertaining education. For example, a Texas Ironclad Beetle grows up to 29 mm with an extra hard exoskeleton that can even resist the SWOOSH! Attack from birds or reptiles. Likewise, the Asian Giant Hornet is nicknamed “The Decapitator” for its attacks on honey bee nests, but it should beware of teamwork from the hive that can surround the hornet to heat it up until it dies! Look for more insect superpowers in this action packed comic!

THOUGHTS: This is a clean and attractive graphic book, which would also be perfect for livening up an animal research project and introducing the art of comic layout. Hopefully there will be more like this to make a series.

595 Animals          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Sonny’s Bridge; Snail and Worm All Day; Tow Truck Joe; I Am Someone Else; Hum and Swish

Wittenstein, Barry. Sonny’s Bridge. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89881-2. 32 p. $21.99. Grades K-4. 

In the early 1960’s, if you were on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City at night you might have heard the sounds of Sonny Rollins’ saxophone floating through the air. Sonny’s Bridge is a poetic biography of the jazz legend and his path to recording his third album ‘The Bridge.” Born during the Harlem Renaissance, Sonny is influenced by the jazz greats. When he starts playing the saxophone, Sonny is a teeneager living through WWII and the Jim Crow movement. He hits the music scene just in time for the bebop revolution. An overnight success, Sonny Rollins even plays at Carnegie Hall, but the fame is too much and Sonny takes a two-year sabbatical where he spends his nights practicing on the bridge to avoid waking his neighbors. On the bridge Sonny plays his own way until he finally feels ready to record his famous comeback album. An author’s note and timeline at the back of the book provide more insight into Sonny’s life and notable accomplishments through 2018. A bibliography along with a list of quotes and websites for more information are also included. The digitally created illustrations add to the historical significance of the story while also embracing the legendary status of Sonny Rollins. 

THOUGHTS: An excellent picture book biography with plenty of historical connections and an introduction to jazz. This book is versatile and can serve both as a read aloud for younger audiences while also allowing room to discuss deeper historical significance with older students.  A welcome addition to any school library.  

92; Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Kugler, Tina. Snail and Worm All Day. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-06364-3. $16.99. 32 p. Grades K-2. 

Snail and Worm have three adventures to share in their second book together. Snail points out all the accomplishments of their friends when a little cheering up is needed for the day. Together the two friends barely escape a dragon (which turns out to be a turtle hiding in its shell) and then take a nap. When Snail is sleepy, Worm agrees to tell a bedtime story that isn’t too scary and includes both friends. The three short stories are excellent examples of friendship for young readers. Although the text is deceptively brief, there is plenty of humor and feeling packed into the stories. The bright acrylic, pastel and collage illustrations give the comfortable feeling of a picture book while the text is suitable for early readers. 

THOUGHTS: A lovely hybrid text for emerging readers who are ready to graduate to reading on their own. This picture book is a bridge in the gap to early readers while providing some opportunities to teach about friendship. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Sobel, June. Tow Truck Joe. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-05312-5. 32 p. $17.99. Grades Prek-1. 

A friendly red tow truck named Joe and his dog Patch spend a day in town helping their neighbors with flat tires and dead batteries. As they cruise around town Patch and Joe say hello to many other working vehicles including the grocery truck, cement mixer, and ice cream truck. When a rushing milk truck collides with the cookie cart causing a traffic jam, Patch and Joe help all of the vehicles work together and find a sweet solution to get everyone rolling again. The brightly colored illustrations of a busy small town filled with working vehicles will be a hit with very young readers. Rhyming text, lots of honking hellos, and a repeating red light/green light verse will make this a fun addition to storytime for a preschool crowd. 

THOUGHTS: Trucks are always a hit at storytime, and this is a good addition to any preschool collection. It’s a fun, engaging read aloud with many opportunities to incorporate movement. This book also can be used to teach young children about cooperation and community. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Hopkins, Lee Bennett. I Am Someone Else: Poems about Pretending. Charlesbrisdge, 2019. 978-1-580-89832-4. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-4.

Playing pretend is universal among children, and this illustrated anthology of poetry about imagining embraces that commonality. A brief introduction reminds the reader that “there is nothing better than being yourself” then goes on to explain that it is fun to think about being someone else at times. Poetry is divided into three categories, each of which features a unique heading poem. “Wish! Be a Storybook Character” features poems about fantasy role play such as wizards, pirates, and even what it might be like to be a giant’s wife, courtesy of Lois Lowry. “Support! Be a Person who Helps” includes poems about career role play such as pilot, veterinarian, and police officer. “Invent! Be a Person Who’s a Maker” is a collection of poems related to STEAM professions featuring a builder, poet, and chef. Even video game designers get a poem in this section. Ethnically diverse illustrations with each poem depict children dressing up to match their imaginary scenario. Refreshingly, the illustrations also support imaginary play as an ungendered activity by depicting both boys and girls dressing up in various costumes such as a male nurse and a female video game designer. 

THOUGHTS: This anthology is a great contemporary way to incorporate poetry into STEAM lessons in the elementary library. I would definitely add this title to update a poetry collection. A table of contents would make this title more functional, but the lack of one doesn’t distract from the overall reading experience. 

811; Picture Book        Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Myers, Matt. Hum and Swish. Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44286-7. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Waves gently crash over the sand on a perfect beach day. Jamie sits quietly humming and playing in the sand as the wind tousles her hair. Here she finds some rocks. There is a puddle left by the waves. Jamie digs, crafts, and collects, content to be in her own world by the sea. People pass by and ask questions about her project. Uninterested in visitors, Jamie keeps her focus. It seems like only the ocean truly understands her. Eventually, another artist sets up shop nearby. The artist has no questions and no answers. The two work in parallel amongst their understanding of each other and the ocean. Museum quality acrylic and oil paintings frame the story, masterfully conveying the serenity and strength of the ocean. Hum and Swish has managed to create a time capsule of a few preciously perfect  hours spent playing next to the ocean. 

THOUGHTS: A fantastic addition to any school library collection. STEAM connections can be made using Jamie’s building with sand and found objects as inspiration. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD