Elem. – Why Not You?

Wilson, Ciara and Russell. Why Not You? Random House, 2022. 978-0-593-37440-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

Why Not You? is a picture book that focuses on boosting a child’s confidence and self esteem by encouraging them to go for their dreams, no matter how big they may seem. This book is told through illustrations and words, showing children how they can achieve their dreams because, as the book says, “why not you?” The illustrations show a diverse range of students, as well as showing a wide range of dreams that each student has. The illustrations show the students encouraging each other’s dreams which is a wonderful addition to the story.

THOUGHTS: Overall, this was a lovely picture book with a really great message! This would be a great addition to any elementary classroom, or a great read aloud for guidance lessons. 

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Standing on Her Shoulders: A Celebration of Women

Clark-Robinson, Monica. Standing on Her Shoulders: A Celebration of Women. Illustrated by Laura Freeman. Orchard Press, 2021. 978-1-338-35800-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.

“Standing on the shoulders of giants” is an oft used term for referencing those who came before us in a given area. In this nod to female path-makers, Monica Clark-Robinson guides a young black girl and shows her some of the great leaders and trailblazers through history who helped bridge her current opportunities. As she walks through a portrait gallery, she sees some expected women figures such as Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Sacajawea, as well as modern heroes like Megan Rapinoe and Serena Williams, and less familiar names including Harriet Chalmers Adams and Nellie Bly. Through the poetic couplets, the young learner hears how important it is to recognize those giants before us in many fields and fighting for equal rights, but also to leave our mark for the next generation. Featuring mostly black and people of color through the illustrations by Laura Freeman, there are a few short notes about each historical figure at the endnotes. The message is clear to walk among the heroines and lead the way for others to stand on your shoulders next.

THOUGHTS: An inspirational, though not always obvious, celebration of female trailblazers. Those readers most familiar with the illustrated people will appreciate the themes for each path, but those wanting to know more about the heroines will need to research further. Nevertheless, the picture book is a beautiful touchpoint introduction or kick-off for Women’s History Month.

Picture Book        Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – That’s a Job? I Like Art… What Jobs Are There?

Hodge, Susie. That’s a Job? I Like Art…What Jobs Are There? Kane Miller, 2021. 47 p. 978-1-684-64168-0. $15.99. Grades 3-6. 

That’s a Job? I Like Art…What Jobs Are There? is a nonfiction book that uses the lens of art to showcase over twenty different jobs that are all related to art. There is a wide range of jobs, from ones that require working with people to jobs that are more solitary. Some of the jobs show a life in the day of the person, and some just give a smaller snapshot of what they do in a day. Each job discusses the best and worst parts of each job. At the end of the book, there is a way for the reader to try to pick out their best job, based on what they like to do/are good at.

THOUGHTS: This is an amazing book to introduce different careers to readers, and I loved how in-depth they went for the behind the scenes of each career. The illustrations show each career as well as the extra hobbies each individual has. Must have for an elementary or upper elementary school.

700 Art Careers          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Someone Builds the Dream

Wheeler, Lisa. Illustrated by Loren Long. Someone Builds the Dream. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-984-81433-3. $18.99. Grades K-3.  

Have you ever wondered how buildings, bridges, and towers come to be? Of course there is the designer or architect who engineers, plans, and directs, and of course there are the workers who ‘build the dream.’ Different abilities blend together to result in the desired end: the building, the bridge, the wind farm, the amusement park, and even the book. Long weaves beautiful creations and diverse people into the examples of dreams growing and dreams coming true. This works well to celebrate diversity, Labor Day, all types of workers, and community. The text rhymes just enough to guide the cadence, but does not seem overdone or silly.  The art and text work well together to honor the work of those who create at any stage. Repeat readers will enjoy details such as the ironworker on an early page, reading the book to a child on a later page.

THOUGHTS: Long acknowledges using 1930s WPA murals as inspiration for the tone and spirit of the work, and the reader can feel the pride of many jobs well-done. This could be helpful in introducing young people to a variety of careers.  Highly recommended.

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – I Like Sports…What jobs are there?

Martin, Steve. I Like Sports…What Jobs Are There? Kane Miller EDC Publishing, 2020. 978-1-610-67088-1. 48 p. $15.99. Grades 3-6.

Many athletes and sports fanatics out there dream of being a professional and all of the fame and glory and riches that comes with it. In truth, as we know, the odds are minute to make it to that level, but that shouldn’t discount finding a career in sports that can combine passion and talent. This useful and well designed book by Steve Martin and illustrated by Tom Woolley aims to highlight 25 different jobs that elementary students may not consider when discussing careers. Each position has a short personal introduction, then a quick day in the life outline, and a great pros and cons list. The personas shown and sports mentioned are a diverse and inclusive mix across gender and racial lines. A sample of the featured jobs range from trainers to sports journalists and photographers to sports nutritionists, mechanics, and agents. With a perfect job match infographic at the end, aspiring athletes and fanatics may just find their way into the wide world of sports!

THOUGHTS: While I’m not seeing this as a series yet, I can see other books like this helping with career ready assignments. Further research links and databases could even help create a research assignment or poster project. I like the positive nature of the book and leaving athletes open to many opportunities and other skills such as math, health, and communications. Recommended.

796 Sports          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

Messner, Kate, and Adam Rex. The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-17488-4. 42 p. $18.99. Grades 3-6.

Now that one contentious election is over, perhaps it is time to look ahead even further to The Next President. Kate Messner takes a unique look at this esteemed position by focusing less on politics and more on the timeline of where upcoming presidents were at key years through our history. Starting with 1789 and president #1, she states that there were already 9 future presidents alive; some were in politics, or law, and a few were just youth who didn’t yet know their future careers. Other benchmark years of 1841, 1897, and 1961 show a similar pattern. There are text boxes briefly highlighting a fact for each president at these moments, and Adam Rex does his splendid best with illustrations realistic and humorous to capture the historical moments. Several snapshot moments break up the narrative a bit and focus in on one particular story, such as presidential pets or Teddy Roosevelt’s adventures. The end result is an inspiring realization that the youth of today are likely among the future leaders of tomorrow, and they may be “listening, learning, and getting ready to lead” our country into a new, changing world.

THOUGHTS: Extra facts in the notes highlight the past presidents’ birthplaces, the requirements to take office, and the changing face of the office as previous barriers are broken for women and people of color. This was before the election, but makes a great discussion point about the potential of the office beyond party affiliation and within the grasp of elementary students. Could easily be paired with So You Want To Be President by Judith St. George, and then some online database sites for further inquiry. Highly recommended.

973 American History    Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

MG – Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem

Messner, Kate. Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem. Millbrook Press, 2020. 64 p. $24.04 978-1-541-55706-2 Grades 4-8.

Once native only to Asia, Burmese pythons have invaded Florida!  Researchers speculate that animals kept as pets were released and quietly flourished undetected in the lush, protected swamps of Florida. Native animals such as alligators and mink, herons, deer, possums and more, are being affected by the insatiable appetite of the pythons. “People will ask me what pythons eat. The question should be, What don’t they eat?” says Bartoszek (44). Kate Messner follows researchers Ian Bartoszek and his colleagues from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as they explain the scope of the problem and their efforts to control it. Scientists can respond to an invasive species in four ways: prevention, eradication, containment, or control. The burmese python population in Florida, estimated to be in the tens if not hundreds of thousands, is well beyond the first three responses, and even controlling the population is proving difficult.  Bartoszek and colleagues track the pythons using radio telemetry, capture them for analysis and transmitter implantation, and try to better control the population. “Another big goal is to advance snake science in general. We kind of owe it to the pythons. We have tremendous respect for this animal, so we try to gather as much scientific information as possible” (44).  Each chapter includes segments on “How to Catch a Python” (some surprising stories and methods) as Messner shares lessons learned, “python CSI,” and the wonder of the undetectable python, even when standing atop one! The book includes QR codes showing python releases and telemetry flights, and extensive back matter.

THOUGHTS: A compelling look at an amazing animal and its effects on an ecosystem, this book will engage readers with an interest in animals, the environment, and scientific careers.  A top example of narrative nonfiction.

597.96 Burmese Pythons        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World

Favilli, Elena. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World. Rebel Girls, 2020. 978-1-733-32929-3. 305. $35.00. Grades 6-8.

This collection of short stories explores the real lives of one hundred women who have immigrated to countries all over the world. Each one-page biography notes the country of origin, the country the woman resided in after immigrating, an illustration depicting the featured woman, and often a quote. Although short, each biography explains how each person has found success in the career she is passionate about. Included are a mix of historical figures like Rose Fortune, who was Canada’s first female policeman; and contemporary figures like Reyna Duong, who currently employs people with down-syndrome at the restaurant she owns. Immigrants featured have found success in the fields of finance, psychiatry, engineering, art, politics, activism, and more. After reading these biographies, readers will believe that no dream is too large and no person is too small to realize their potential.

THOUGHTS: Teachers can use this collection of stories as a daily read-aloud or writing prompt. Each story is sure to spark conversation and further research. The book will inspire readers to be brave, independent, and to overcome adversity. Display with other books in the Rebel Girls series to attract readers.

305.4 Social Groups Women          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton 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

YA NF Series – Career Discovery

Career Discovery (series).  Reference Point Press, 2018.  80 p.  $29.95 ea.  Gr. 7-12.

Allman, Toney.  Careers If You Like Animals. 978-1-68282-134-3

Kallen, Stuart A.  Careers If You Like Sports. 978-1-68282-142-8

Kallen, Stuart A.  Careers If You Like the Outdoors. 978-1-68282-140-4

Mooney, Carla.  Careers If You Like Video Games.  978-1-68282-144-2

Roberts, Laura. Careers If You Like Music. 978-1-68282-138-1

Snyder, Gail.  Careers If You Like Helping People. 978-1-68282-136-7

Careers if You Like Video Games is an appealing title that offers a variety of career options for kids who love playing video games to ponder, from video game programmer to mobile app developer. For each potential career, the author explains what the educational requirements are and what skills are needed, and offers detailed (and realistic) explanations of what the jobs typically entail. Informational sidebars, photographs, quotes from people working in the field, and sources for additional information add to the usefulness of the resource.  Source notes are included. THOUGHTS:  Recommended for middle school and high school collections where vocational guidance resources are in demand.

Vocational Guidance, Careers 331.702         Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD