Elem. – Be a Pet Expert (Series NF)

Barder, Gemma. Be a Pet Expert (series of 6). Crabtree, 2021. 32 p. $20.75 each. $124.50 Set of 6. Grades 3-6.

Be a Cat Expert. 978-0-778-78015-1.
Be A Dog Expert. 978-0-778-78016-8.
Be a Hamster & Guinea Pig Expert. 978-0-778-78017-5.
Be a Horse & Pony Expert. 978-0-778-78018-2.
Be a Rabbit Expert. 978-0-778-78019-9.
Be a Reptile Expert. 978-0-778-78020-5.

These books provide helpful information, facts, and pet care tips for a variety of animals. Many photos, text boxes, and checklists help readers to learn more about the animals and consider them as pets. A flowchart guides readers through yes/no questions to determine what type best suits their personalities. Placing hamsters and guinea pigs in the same book will help readers to differentiate the two. Each book surprises readers with some interesting facts even on ‘well-known’ pets. For instance, no two dogs have the same noseprint; cats cannot taste sweet foods; horses and ponies have the largest eyes of any mammals on land; and rabbits can sleep with their eyes open.

THOUGHTS: These helpful books shed a positive yet truthful light on pets, which will appeal to pet-owners and animal lovers alike.

630s Domesticated Animals, Pets        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Cone Cat

Howden, Sarah. Cone Cat. Owlkids Books. 2020. 978-1-77147-361-3. $19.95. Gr. K-3

One day, Jeremy woke up… and there was the cone. It was on him after he woke up at the vet. Jeremy suddenly wasn’t Jeremy anymore… he was a cone cat. Everything seemed different and more difficult. Jeremy couldn’t do what he had always done before, and that was very hard. Until magic things started happening with his cone and Jeremy figured out how to get delicious treats and items with his cone. Hopefully this cone will stay!

THOUGHTS: This book had me giggling right from the start! Readers may be able to relate if they have a pet cat or dog who has worn a cone before. A fun read for younger students!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Cats (Series NF)

Statts, Leo. Cats. Abdo, 2020. $18.95 ea. $113.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades K-2. 

Burmilla Cats. 978-1-5321-2709-0.
Maine Coon Cats. 978-1-5321-2710-6.
Manx Cats. 978-1-5321-2711-3.
Persian Cats. 978-1-5321-2712-0.
Scottish Fold Cats. 978-1-5321-2713-7.
Siamese Cats. 978-1-5321-2714-4.

The Cat series is designed to introduce primary-aged students to six types of cats. Each title explores the unique characteristics of the breed, including information on the cat’s body, care, personality, and history of the breed. Back matter includes some quick stats on the breed, a glossary and links to online resources. The text is accompanied by numerous engaging photos that illustrate characteristics of the breed as well as photos of cats at rest and at play.

THOUGHTS: This series is guaranteed to be a hit with fans of felines! Young readers are sure to enjoy the high-quality photos and the text, while simple, is highly informative. The series contains a nice mix of familiar (Siamese) and less-familiar (Burmilla) cats. Libraries serving primary students looking to refresh or expand their cat non-fiction collections should certainly consider this series for purchase.

636.8 Cats          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

MG – Random Acts of Kittens

Mendez, Yamile Said. Random Acts of Kittens. Scholastic, 2020. 978-1-338-57492-0. 258 p. $6.99. Grades 4-6. 

Natalia finds a young cat who has just given birth to kittens in her family’s storage shed. She knows she can’t leave the cats in the freezing cold storage shed, so she brings them in the house when her abuela, mother, and sister are out. After getting them checked out by a vet, Natalia convinces her mom to let her foster the cats until the kittens are old enough to adopt. Natalia has been struggling with several issues in her life–her father has been deployed overseas, she’s gotten into some trouble at school and she’s had a falling out with one of her best friends. Maybe working with the kittens will be the positive and purposeful experience she needs at this moment in her life. Working with her friend Reuben, she sets up a social media account for the kittens in the hopes that some of her classmates will apply to adopt a kitten and give them a fur-ever home. Natalia soon discovers, however, that serving as a kitten matchmaker is a little more complicated than she first thought.

THOUGHTS: Hand this title to middle grade fans of animal stories. Readers will appreciate the details about fostering and caring for young kittens. Natalia’s experiences with friend and school drama will also ring true with many readers.

Realistic Fiction           Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Three Little Kittens

McClintock, Barbara. Three Little Kittens. Scholastic, 2020. Unpaged. $18.99 978-1-338-12587-7. Grades PreK-2. 

Do we need another version of The Three Little Kittens?  Yes, we do, if it’s this engagingly drawn beauty from Barbara McClintock. The rhyme is the one we know so well, and the anthropomorphized cats (and one mouse) are unique and distinguishable as they dirty, then wash, their mittens. Their emotions are visible: joy at play, elation at eating pie, sadness at dirty mittens and disappointed mother, and pride at having solved the problem. The ending brings a welcome addition: when they “hush… smell a mouse close by,” they offer pie to the mouse as well. Mother cat talks on a cell phone, and many speech bubbles reveal both the rhyme and the sibling-like thoughts of the kittens. Readers will be drawn to this rhyming story establishing good kitten–er, child behavior, and ask for re-reading.

THOUGHTS: A must-purchase for pre-K-Kindergarten set; be sure to share with early childhood and early elementary students and their teachers.

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elementary NF – Cool Cats; Building Rt. 66; Living & NonLiving Things

Rathburn, Betsy.  Siberians.  Bellwether Media, 2017. 9781626176287. 24 pp. $19.50. Gr. K-2.

Rathburn, Betsy. Ocicats. Bellwether Media, 2017. 9781626176287. 24 pp. $19.50. Gr. K-2.

This series on various cat breeds is designed for the primary grade reader.  With colorful photographs and simple text, these books are a good choice for libraries who need to update or add more “cat books” to their collection.  There are 26 books in the Cool Cats series, which includes breeds not found in other series, such as Siberians and RagaMuffins.  Words found in the glossary are highlighted in the text, but without a pronunciation guide. The author begins with a history of each breed and then gives a description of what the cat looks like and how it behaves.  Readers will be interested to learn that Siberians love to play in the water and that some Ocicats can open lids to get treats. An index and suggestions for further print or online reading are contained in the back matter. The photographs are appealing and show cats in different colored coats. THOUGHTS:  This series is sure to be a hit in elementary libraries, especially with children who enjoy reading about this popular pet.  

636.8 Cats                     Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Rathburn, Betsy. Cool Cats.  Bellwether, 2017. $25.95. 24pp. Gr. K-2.

Japanese Bobtails. 978-1-62617-562-4.

Selkirk Rexes. 978-1-62617-564-8.

Burmese. 978-1-62617-561-7.

These three books from the Cool Cats series offer beginning readers and researchers an attractive non-fiction text. Vibrantly colored pages showcase compelling photographs of the cats. There is minimal text per page and in large font for easy reading. Selected words are bolded, corresponding to the glossary. Each slim volume provides a table of contents, glossary, index and a “To Learn More” page with suggested reading and websites. This is the one concern with these books: they direct readers to search on www.factsurfer.com for further information. There is no attribution with the search engine to identify who is sponsoring the tool. Additionally, while two of the searches yielded three results, when searching Burmese Cats the search is returned as No Results Found. THOUGHTS:  The books are visually appealing and well organized for the young researcher with accurate information, but the problematic search engine issue is an irritant.

Cats     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District


Doudna, Kelly. Building Route 66. Abdo Publishing, 2018. 9781532111082. $17.95. 24p.

Gr. K-4.

This book, about the building of Route 66, begins by defining what a road is and a little bit of history of early cars, roads, and a short biography of the “Father of Route 66” planner, Cyrus Avery. The book is defined into three sections: Planning the Road, Building the Road, and The Road Today. Each section has bold headings, appropriate photographs to accompany the text, and large photo captions. THOUGHTS: This is a well-designed, easy-to-use nonfiction picture book that could be used for enjoyment or research. It includes a map, glossary, old photographs, a section on other famous roads of the world, and a short quiz at the end.

Transportation     Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Kurtz, Kevin. Living Things and Non-Living Things: A Compare and Contrast Book. Arbordale Publishing, 2017. 9781628559859. $17.95. 32pp. Gr. K-3

The book Living Things and Non-Living Things tries to help young people identify living and nonliving things by using thought-provoking questions and accompanying photographs. The difficulty is that there are both living and nonliving things that grow, move, change, reproduce, move, need oxygen, etc. The photographs are beautiful and are integral to helping readers see why it is difficult for scientists to come up with an accurate definition of what makes something living or nonliving.  THOUGHTS: This nonfiction book is a wonderful resource for teaching the concepts of living and non-living and comparing and contrasting skills. There is a page for creative minds, which includes a short glossary, and several pages of photographs with checklists for the reader to quiz themselves on identifying living and non-living things. This book also includes Curriculum Connections and an online Teaching Activity Guide.

NF Picture Book      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Picture Books – Big Cat, Little Cat; Leaf; Baawaa & Wooliam; Olivia the Spy

Cooper, Elisha. Big Cat, Little Cat. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 9781626723719. Unpaged.  $16.99. Gr. 2-5.

Using simple drawings with lots of white space and spare text, author-illustrator Elisha Cooper has written a quiet gem of a book that tells the story of a friendship between two cats. We first meet a single household cat who keeps busy exploring, playing, and eating.  His life changes when a kitten joins the family, and the two cats quickly becomes friends.  The older cat serves as a mentor to the kitten and shows him how to eat, rest, and play.  Time passes and the kitten grows into a cat.  The two animals continue to have fun together, until the older cat gets sick.  Using poignant text, the author tells us about the passing of the cat in a way that is accessible to young children; “He had to go…and he didn’t come back. And that was hard.”  Coming full circle, a new kitten once again appears in the house soon after, and the cycle continues of mentor and friend. The illustrations are an important part of the story.  Cooper uses a black and white color palette and artistically juxtaposes the color of the fur of the three cats. This creates a striking image as the pairs sit next to each other, white cat next to black cat.  The drawings are simply without much detail, and the human family appears on only one page, which is right after the death of the older cat. We see them as shadows on a gray page as the younger cat sits off to the side.  This double page spread paints a strong visual image of grief.  THOUGHTS:  This understated book is a real winner and will be savored by children who love cats. They will enjoy listening and reading it again and again.  Parents may wish to read this book to their children who have experienced the loss of a pet.  After reading this book aloud, it can also lead to a discussion about friendship.   Cooper’s text is a great addition to elementary collections

Picture book                Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District


Dieckmann, Sandra. Leaf. Flying Eye, 2017. 978-1-911171-31-7. Unpaged. $17.95. Gr. K-1.
In Leaf, debut author/illustrator Sandra Dieckmann tells the story of an unnamed polar bear who washes ashore on the edge of the woods. The other animal residents of the woods are quite scared; they have never encountered a polar bear before! They are also confused by the bear’s habit of collecting leaves. As the days go by, the woodland creatures debate about how they should handle their new neighbor. The situation comes to a head when they witness the polar bear cover himself in leaves and jump off a hill and a cliff before crashing back to ground. Spurred to conversation, the other animals learn that the bear drifted across the sea due to the melting of the ice. He was using the leaves in an attempt fly back home. As the story draws to a close, the animals have banded together to help the polar bear return home. THOUGHTS: This is a lovely story about the importance of friendship and inclusion that also incorporates the concept of climate change and it’s impact on animals. The color of the illustrations spring from the page and draw readers into the world of the animals. A great choice for collections serving younger readers.
Picture Book     Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District


Elliott, David. Baabwaa & Wooliam. Candlewick, 2017. 978-0-7636-6074-1. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Baabwaa & Wooliam are best friends (and sheep!). Wooliam loves to read while Baabwaa enjoys knitting. One day, they decide to go on an adventure and set off through the surrounding fields. As they are finishing lunch,  a third sheep approaches. But, as the sheep gets closer, they realize it is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing! Wooliam shouts that it must be the wolf he has read about, and he and Baabwaa take off running. They are quite surprised when the wolf stops chasing them and wants to talk about the wolf story Wooliam had mentioned. They soon quickly realize that the wolf is unfamiliar with wolf stories because he cannot read. Wooliam decides to teach the wolf to read (while Baabwaa knits him a new sweater). As the story draws to a close, a unique friendship has developed between three animals. THOUGHTS: This humorous tale of unexpected friendship would make a great read-aloud for any classroom or library. Sweet (a past Caldecott Honor honoree) enhances the text with her watercolor, gouache and mixed media illustrations that bring the personalities of sheep and wolf to life. Highly recommended for picture book collections.
Picture Book      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District


Falconer, Ian. Olivia the Spy. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-4814-5795-8. 36pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Olivia usually does her best to stand out from the crowd, but in her latest title, she has a new mission: blending in whenever possible. After overhearing her mother’s phone conversation detailing Olivia’s mishaps with the blender (blueberry smoothie all over the kitchen) and the laundry (two red socks dying all her father’s shirts pink), Olivia decides to go undercover to determine what else her family really thinks about her. While eavesdropping, she hears her father mention an ‘institution,’ and Olivia is sure he is planning on sending her to prison. The comical reality of her father’s words play out against a stark white background, allowing Falconer’s trademark pencil and charcoal illustrations to shine. Bright pops of color, including a brightly lit cityscape and an illuminated ballet theatre, add to the story’s drama.  THOUGHTS:  Olivia fans will not be disappointed with this latest addition to the series. During her eavesdropping, Olivia overhears some information and incorrectly interprets it, opening the door for teachers to discuss the ethics of listening in on other people’s conversations.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD