Montague, Liz. Maybe an Artist. Random House Studio, 2022. 978-1-668-85891-2. 159 p. $24.99. Grades 6-9.
When tragedy strikes the nation on September 11, 2001, Liz Montague decides she wants to pay more attention to what is going on in the world and venture out of the little bubble that is her mostly white neighborhood in New Jersey. In fifth grade, she decides she wants to be a journalist. There is only one problem – Liz writes her letters and sentences backwards. Not only that, she reads and speaks differently than other kids. She is, however, talented at drawing. Liz decides that she can still be a journalist – she would just be one that reports about important issues like climate change and racism through her art. As Liz moves on to middle and high school and starts feeling the pressures of growing up, she thinks that perhaps being an artist is not feasible. Liz wants to live up to her stellar sisters, make her parents proud, and save the world (one slice at a time, as she says). Could she really make any kind of a living with art? Would anyone take her artwork seriously? She has to find out. Liz takes a leap of faith and emails the New Yorker to let them know their cartoons should be more inclusive; the response changes the course of her life.
THOUGHTS: Maybe An Artist is the sweetest graphic memoir I have read in a long time. The story of author Liz Monague’s life is so personal and written with lots of emotion and humor. Her relatable stories will resonate with and inspire students.
Graphic Novel Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD
First Responders on the Scene. The Child’s World, 2022. $21.95 ea. $175.60 set of 8. 24 p. Grades 3-6.
Shaffer, Jody Jensen. 911 Dispatchers On the Call. 978-1-503-85588-5. —. Air Ambulance Crews On the Scene. 978-1-503-85584-7. Thernstrom, Amy, and Kara L. Laughlin. Air and Sea Rescue Teams On the Scene. 978-1-503-85586-1. Dolbear, Emily. Firefighters On the Scene. 978-1-503-85581-6. Shaffer, Jody Jensen. Hotshot Crews On the Scene. 978-1-503-85587-8. —. Paramedics On the Scene. 978-1-503-85583-0. Dolbear, Emily. Police Officers On the Scene. 978-1-503-85582-3. Laughlin, Kara L. Search and Rescue Teams On the Scene. 978-1-503-85585-4.
This reviewer had the opportunity to review Paramedics on the Scene from this series. Each chapter tells a short story of paramedics who were able to save a life based on training, quick thinking, and teamwork. There are large, colorful photographs, sidebars, and Think-About-It questions for each chapter. A “Fast Facts” section at the beginning of the book provides valuable background information, and an index, a glossary, and bibliography information is included in the back matter.
THOUGHTS: With very short chapters, large print, and lots of supplemental material, these books would be a welcome addition to students looking for nonfiction information about first responders. Great hi-lo reading material for students who need lots of support from text features in nonfiction books. This series is a good addition to collections where First Responder information is used in research assignments or biography projects, or where there is interest in First Responders as careers or for free choice reading.
600s First RespondersErin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 WomenJaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD