Elem. – By and By: Charles Albert Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music

Weatherford, Carole Boston. By and By: Charles Albert Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-42636-8. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-2

By and By is a picture book biography that tells the story of Charles Albert Tindley who is considered “the founding father of gospel music.” This biography is told in verse, which adds a lyrical, musical quality to the book. The illustrator of this book is Bryan Collier, a Caldecott Honor recipient, and the illustrations are magnificent! This is the type of book that requires more than one read through, just to take in the different parts of the illustrations. At the end of the book, there are author’s notes, as well as an illustrator note which includes hints about the illustrations which would be great to share with students after you read the story. There is a bibliography and a resource page included. Overall, this is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography which would be a great addition to a biography collection.

THOUGHTS: I loved this picture book biography! I learned so much about Charles Albert Tindley, who I had honestly never heard of before I read this. Highly recommended!

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy
Biography

Elem. – A Voice Named Aretha

Russell-Brown, Katheryn. A Voice Named Aretha. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-681-19850-7. 32 p. $17.99. Grades 3-5.

A Voice Named Aretha introduces readers to Aretha Franklin and follows her from growing up and singing in her father’s church, to becoming the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This book highlights all the hard work that Aretha put into her career to get the success that she had, and shows the ups as well as the downs well. The illustrations are lovely and they add to the whole book. The end of the book has more information about Aretha, going more in depth with her life story which adds to the story as everything, obviously, couldn’t be covered. There are notes from both the author and the illustrator, as well as a list of songs by Aretha Franklin, along with a source list.

THOUGHTS: I liked the overall style and illustrations in this book, and I feel this is a nice addition to an elementary library biography collection.

Biography                    Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

Elem. – Leave It to Abigail! The Revolutionary Life of Abigail Adams

Rosenstock, Barb. Leave It to Abigail! The Revolutionary Life of Abigail Adams. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-316-41571-2. 40 p. $18.99. Grades 2-5. 

From a young age, Abigail Adams was different from almost every other girl in the colony of Massachusetts. She blurted out questions, lost herself in the pages of books, and ran all around her family’s farm. Instead of marrying a prosperous minister, she insisted on marrying the man she loved: a poor lawyer named John Adams. While John built his law practice, Abigail managed their house and farm and raised their children. As John became increasingly involved with shaping the American colonies’ new system of government, Abigail took on greater responsibilities around home. She supervised farmhands, educated her children, and housed soldiers. She and John also exchanged countless letters in which she shared some of her revolutionary ideas. This lively biography chronicles some of the ways Abigail continued to surprise her contemporaries with her original ideas, strong voice, and constant courage. Baddeley’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations are interspersed with cross-stitch needlepoint samplers that pay tribute to this popular colonial past time. The book’s final spread highlights other bold women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Coretta Scott King, and Gloria Steinem who benefited from the strong foundation of Abigail’s inspirational, revolutionary ideas.

THOUGHTS: Share this with teachers and students to supplement Revolutionary War units. It will also be a good fit for President’s Day or biography projects.

Biography. Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

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

Mary Walker’s inspirational story, beautifully illustrated in this picture book biography, proves you’re never too old to learn. Born a slave in 1848, Mary never gave up on her lifelong dream of learning how to read. And, at age 116, she finally accomplished it. This book follows Mary from her childhood spent picking cotton on an Alabama plantation, through her emancipation at age 15, to her life spent working low-paying jobs and raising her three children. Mary always dreamed of learning to read, but there never seemed to be enough hours in the day. Finally, at age 114, after outliving her entire family, Mary attended her first reading class. From memorizing the alphabet and each letter’s sound to copying her name over and over again, Mary spent more than a year studying and practicing. Her dedication paid off when, at age 116, she finally learned to read. Friends and neighbors gathered around to hear her read aloud from her cherished family Bible. Oge Mora’s mixed media illustrations, composed of acrylic paint, china marker, colored pencil, patterned paper, and book clippings, bring Mary’s memorable story to life. Beautiful full-page illustrations feature a palette of primarily blues and greens and yellows. Endpapers include black and white photographs of Mary Walker celebrating some of her milestones.

THOUGHTS: Teachers will want to share this inspirational story with older students during morning meetings. It will also work well with lessons or units focusing on perseverance or the importance of working towards a goal.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Biography

MG – World’s Greatest Soccer Players (Series Nonfiction)

World’s Greatest Soccer Players. SportsZone, an imprint of Abdo Publishing, 2020. $20.95. $167.60 for 8. 32 p. Grades 3-8. 

Decker, Michael. Chicharito. 978-1-5321-9061-2.
—. Luka Modric. 978-1-5321-9064-3.
—. Paul Pogba. 978-1-5321-9066-7.
Kortemeier, Todd. Harry Kane. 978-1-5321-9062-9.
—. Christian Pulisic. 978-1-5321-9067-4.
Nicks, Erin. Cristiano Ronaldo. 978-1-5321-9068-1.
—. Lionel Messi. 978-1-5321-9063-6.
—. Neymar. 978-1-5321-9065-0.

This reviewer read Harry Kane in the World’s Greatest Soccer Players series. This series highlights some of the greatest current players in the world’s most popular game. Each book in the series tells the story of a player from their childhood through their professional career. Books include many colorful photos, side bars with even more player information, a glossary, and an index. Reinforced Library Bound covers.

THOUGHTS: This series is a great addition for a library looking to update their sports biography section with current athletes. (Title Reviewed: Harry Kane)

796.33 Football (Soccer)                 Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

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

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