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

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

Kortemeier, Todd. Harry Kane. 978-1-532-19062-9.
Decker, Michael. Chicharito. 978-1-532-19061-2.
Kortemeier, Todd. Christian Pulisic. 978-1-532-19067-4.
Nicks, Erin. Cristiano Ronaldo. 978-1-532-19068-1.
Nicks, Erin. Lionel Messi. 978-1-532-19063-6.
Decker, Michael. Luka Modric. 978-1-532-19064-3.
Nicks, Erin. Neymar. 978-1-532-19065-0.
Decker, Michael. Paul Pogba. 978-1-532-19066-7.

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 each player from their childhood through their professional career.  Includes many colorful photos, side bars with even more player information, a glossary, and an index.  Reinforced Library Bound covers.

THOUGHTS: Great addition for a library looking to update their sports biography section with current athletes.

796.33 Soccer          Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

MG – Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists

Freeman, Martha. Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 122 p. 978-1-5344-2153-0. $19.99. Grades 3-8.

Born Curious is a biography of 20 female scientists in one kid-friendly collection. A diverse collection of disciplines and scientists are covered. Each biography starts with childhood influences and follows the scientist throughout her career. A colorful, full page portrait is included for each scientist as well as a “round up” box at the end of each bio that includes her greatest achievement, a quote, and a fascinating fact. Includes an Afterword that sums up 13 traits of the scientists featured, a glossary, an index, and a thorough source list for each scientist.

THOUGHTS: This collection features scientists that are not household names presented in a friendly and accessible format. Could be read for those interested in science as a non-fiction read and can also be used for research.

509.2 Science Biographies                  Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy
Collective Biographies

YA – Almost American Girl

Ha, Robin. Almost American Girl. Balzar and Bray, 2020. 978-0-062-68509-4. 228 p. $12.99. Grades 7 – 12.

Almost American Girl is a graphic memoir that follows the author’s real life journey from Seoul, South Korea to America when she is fourteen years old. At the beginning of the book, you learn that Robin is moving with her mother to Alabama, with Robins’ mother not really telling her all the details about the move. Throughout the graphic memoir, you learn more about Robin’s life when she was living in Seoul, her family and friends who still live in Seoul, as well as how she found a way to fit into this new life that her mother basically dropped her into. On the surface, the book feels like it’s just recounting Robin’s life; however, there are moments of racial slurs that Robin deals with at school which were difficult to read about. The illustrations throughout are beautifully done and add the right touch of emotions to the different scenes through the use of color.

THOUGHTS: This graphic memoir is a must have book for any high school library. The themes that are woven throughout are extremely relevant for a wide audience. I loved the ending of this book, and the glossary found at the end was extremely helpful for terms with which I was unfamiliar.

Graphic Memoir          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy 

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

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

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

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

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

MG – When Stars are Scattered

Jamieson, Victoria, and Omar Mohamed. When Stars are Scattered. Dial, 2020. 978-0-525-55391-5. 257 p. + notes. $20.99. Grades 3-8.

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have been living in a Kenyan refugee camp since fleeing Somalia at the age of 4. Omar’s life consists of taking care of Hassan, with the assistance of Fatuma, an elderly woman who has been appointed the boys’ guardian. UN supplied food rations are meager and entertainment is what can be manufactured, such as playing soccer with a ball created from plastic bags. Omar has not gone to school, feeling responsible for Hassan. But a camp community leader encourages Omar to begin attending school, and a new world  opens to Omar. But it can be a painful world, of crushed dreams and disappointments. Brilliant student Maryam who dreams of going to university in Canada, is forced to quit school and get married. The system of choosing people for possible relocation to the United States seems random, and when Omar and Hassan are finally chosen for an emigration interview, nothing comes of it. But Omar continues to study and dream. When Omar is 18 the brothers are finally selected for resettlement. This stunning autobiography portrays, in beautiful color palettes, the reality of life in a refugee camp. Living conditions are horrific, but there are also close bonds of people who care for and support each other. Omar’s horrific backstory is revealed during his first resettlement interview, explaining how he and Hassan came to be in the  camp alone at such a young age. Author notes at the end of the story update the reader on the brothers’ story after reaching the United States, including the delightful surprise that Omar is currently living in Lancaster, PA.

THOUGHTS: This important story is a must purchase for most libraries. It carries the gravitas of Jarrett Krosocka’s Hey Kiddo, but appropriate for a younger audience.

Autobiography          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

As Omar so succinctly states in the word bubble on the back cover: “Refugee Camps are supposed to be a temporary place to stay until it’s safe to go back home. I guess no one expected the war to last so long, though, because Hassan and I have been here for 7 years.” With gorgeous colors and interesting characters, Jamieson and Mohamed take us through childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya. The monotony of daily essential routines for survival are mixed with increasing odds against finding their mother or going back home to Somalia. What remains is the effort to take care of one another, the opportunity to get schooling and seek a future, and the slightest chance to immigrate to another country for a new beginning. All of these seem unlikely for Omar, who faces tragic memories, current realities, and future possibilities with truth and sincerity that will bring young readers into his world and into their hearts. When the Stars Are Scattered is a remarkable light in the night sky which guides hope home.

THOUGHTS: Both Pennsylvania residents do an excellent job bringing the refugee experience to children. The sibling relationship with Hassan, who is nonverbal except for one word, is truly touching and real. The afterword and authors’ notes bring the story up to date, and help realize the many other refugee stories that need to be heard. Highly recommended.

Graphic Novel          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

This beautifully drawn graphic novel tells the story of Omar Mohamed, a young Somalian boy who was forced out of his country and into a refugee camp in Kenya with his young brother at the age of 4.  Omar’s younger brother, Hassan, is special needs and only says one word, Hooyo, the Somalian word for Mama. Omar and Hassan saw their father killed and were separated from their mother as the Civil War in Somalia started. With the kindness of a new foster mother, Omar and Hassan survive and grow up in the Dadaab refugee camp. Omar’s life changes when he starts school and excels, earning the right to continue to attend school as he grows up. Omar and Hassan never give up looking for their real mother, and in the Afterword we see real photos of Omar and Hassan, and learn that, years later, they are reunited with her.

THOUGHTS: A must purchase for any middle grade library collection.

Graphic Novel          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

Elem. – The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins and her New Deal for America

Krull, Kathleen. The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins and her New Deal for America. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-49151-8. 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Readers may know author Kathleen Krull from her writings on important feminist leaders, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Louisa May Alcott. This book, in that same vein, is about a woman who was instrumental in FDR’s New Deal – but rarely given any credit. Frances Perkins learned from a young age to walk through any proverbial door that opened, and she lived by those words every day of her life. As a quiet girl growing up in New England, she observed and listened to the world around her. She saw the extreme inequities between the working class and upper class, even at a young age. Perkins observed working conditions in places like textile mills and bakeries. She helped people in need by fighting for better working conditions, a fight that intensified after she watched the smoldering fire at The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory claim the lives of 146 victims. Perkins knew that in order to make a real difference, she needed to enter the all-male world of politics. Luckily, President Theodore Roosevelt heard of her wonderful work and recommended her to head a committee on workplace safety. Although she was always the only woman in the room, her hard work and compassion allowed her to climb the ranks until she became President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of labor. Finally, she had a front row seat in the president’s cabinet of advisors; however, many men who worked with her despised answering to a woman and either quit or made snide remarks behind her back. Perkins did not let this deter her – she went on to author the ground-breaking New Deal and presented it to FDR himself.

THOUGHTS: This book is a reminder that even though our textbooks often credit white males for important events in American history, the real credit often goes to other people behind the scenes. Although Frances Perkins did not like the limelight and preferred not receiving credit for her incredible deeds, it is still critical that librarians expose young readers to all facets of historical events. This biographical book reads like a story and the bright, cartoon-like illustrations will capture elementary readers from the first page.

331 Women Social Reformers            Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – The Fabled Life of Aesop

Lendler, Ian. The Fabled Life of Aesop. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-1-328-58552-3. 63 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

The Fabled Life of Aesop follows the life of Aesop, as he began his life as a slave and ended up becoming free. All throughout Aesop’s life he told stories and tales to his different masters, so you see the tales that he told as well as what happened as a result of his telling those tales. In the middle of the story, there are nine of Aesop’s more famous fables; however, they are woven into the story of Aesop’s life. The afterword by the author goes into more detail about Aesop’s life as far as what is known, as well as more about the fables and how they came to be. The illustrations are absolutely stunning and add so much detail to the story, as well as making the fables come to life. This is a wonderful addition to any elementary school library collection, and gives new life into some of Aesop’s fables that you may have heard several times before.

THOUGHTS: I loved the illustrations and feel they really added so much to the story. The afterword was informative and made me feel like I got more information, even though there isn’t a lot known about Aesop himself.

398.24 Fables          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy Charter School

YA – When They Call You a Terrorist : A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World

Khan-Cullors, Patrisse & Asha Bandele. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World. Wednesday Books, 2020. 978-1-250-19498-5. 272 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.           

Part memoir, part call to action, Khan-Cullors craftily tells her story of growing up during the drug war in LA, her personal experiences with police, untreated mental illness, and cold-hearted racism in the country she calls home. This puts the reader in such a position to question who else possibly could have created a movement as powerful as Black Lives Matter. Broken into two parts, Khan-Cullors’ family story and the reality of her childhood culminate into the first seven chapters, while a focus on the civil rights movement starting with her brother’s experience with the law and lack of access to mental health treatment resources follow during the last seven chapters. Complete with quotes from well known authors, activists, and politicians, photos, and reader questions in each chapter, this is more than the story of how Black Lives Matter came to be the movement of the century and more than Khan-Cullors own journey–this is a call to action and creates space for difficult thoughts and conversations to begin.

THOUGHTS: Buy it now and thank yourself later. This book should be on the shelves of all high school libraries for students to learn more about BLM’s beginnings and the pilgrimage of one individual discovering who she truly is. The reader questions and recommended reading and viewing alone could serve as guideposts for teachers, students, parents, and more to start the work.

323 Memoir          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

MG – Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield

Rubin, Susan Goldman. Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield. Candlewick, 2020. 978-0-763-67994-1. 48 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

The true nursing hero of the Crimean War was born in Jamaica and wanted to help others with natural remedies, kindness, and good food since she was young. Mary Seacole is an unsung hero of the nursing world, and this book tells the story of Mary’s interest in medicine from a young girl, watching her mother, the doctress, and practicing on her dolls, pets, and herself to be able to follow in her mother’s footsteps. The frequent full-page illustrations are colorful and a way for a young reader to imagine what Mary’s life was like. Although her story has a lot of focus on healthcare, this book is just as much about prejudice in various countries during the 1800s. In 48 pages, the reader can learn about the tenacity of one person and her ability to help all in any way she could. There is a brief mention of the first modern war correspondent and how Mami Seacole’s fame spread through many countries. The book includes source notes and a bibliography.

THOUGHTS: If you have any biographical books on Florence Nightingale in your library, this needs to sit right beside it on the shelf. Mary Seacole’s story of determination and perseverance is one with which all students should be familiar. This book could find a home in elementary through high school libraries.

973 Biography          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

MG – Close Calls: How Eleven US Presidents Escaped from the Brink of Death

Spradlin, Michael P. Close Calls: How Eleven US Presidents Escaped from the Brink of Death. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-5476-0023-6. 116 p. $18.99. Grades 5-8.

While many authors have told the stories of the untimely deaths of American Presidents, author Michael Spradlin has chosen to focus on the lesser known tales of Presidents who narrowly escaped death during their lifetimes in Close Calls. Each action-packed chapter focuses on an event when a President (or future President) nearly lost his life. Some examples of near misses include: George H.W. Bush being shot down and nearly captured during WWII, Andrew Jackson avoiding death when both(!) pistols an assassin shot at him misfired, and Theodore Roosevelt narrowly escaping death when an assassin shot him, only to have the bullet stopped by a folded speech Roosevelt was carrying. The text is supplemented by the inclusion of sidebars explaining historical events of the time(s) or biographical sketches of persons involved in the story. 

THOUGHTS: This engaging title is sure to be a hit with biography and history readers, as well as readers who enjoy action-packed, adventure-type stories. Highly recommended.

973 American History            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD