Bonsignore, Gregory. That’s Betty! The Story of Betty White. Henry Holt and Company, 2022. 978-1-250-79660-8. $18.99. 48 p. Grades PreK-3.
When Miss Cruz assigns a presentation on a “trailblazing woman” one student decides he will pick Betty White as his topic. Though his classmates do not know who Betty White is, and his teacher and two dads each try to persuade him to pick a more traditional topic, the unnamed male student sticks to his idea. He adores Betty White and wants to learn more about her life. When our young researcher enlists the assistance of a librarian, he begins to find plenty of material on his unconventional topic choice. As he pours through resources at the library, a smartly dressed woman in a large hat and sunglasses appears from behind the stacks. She knows an awful lot about Betty White and engages the student in discussions about the many trailblazing accomplishments of the pioneering television star. When the student fears his topic may be too different from his peers’ presentations, the woman in the hat encourages him to follow Betty’s example of making unconventional choices and believing in himself. The presentation is a huge success, and the lady from the library even makes a surprise appearance to cheer on the student. It isn’t until she drives away from the school that the teacher, class, and student realize the mystery woman was Betty White herself. Includes timeline and bibliography.
THOUGHTS: Very cute story that does a nice job of highlighting the many accomplishments of Betty White, while subtly championing the causes she held dear – inclusion, diversity, charitable work, and being an LGBTQIA+ ally. Wonderfully detailed illustrations by Jennifer M. Potter. Listed as K-3 this would be a wonderful read aloud for students through 8th grade.
Picture Book Biography Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD
Potion, Leo. Perfectly Imperfect Stories : Meet 28 Inspiring People And Discover Their Mental Health Stories. Lawrence King Publishing, 2021. 978-1-786-27920-0. $17.99. 58 p. Grades 3-7.
28 famous people, both historical figures of note and pop culture icons of the last few years, are highlighted in this book as a way to normalize the conversation around mental health issues. Each brief biography covers the background, struggle, and hopeful outcome of a person who has grappled in the past with conditions like eating disorders, panic attacks, PTSD, and depression. Quirky, colorful illustrations decorate almost every page, drawing in the reader and helping to lighten the overall mood of this important book. A brief but heartwarming forward, helpful back matter, and a detailed bibliography offer opportunities for students to explore further information about mental health, suicide prevention, and the stories of famous lives that may look perfect from the outside, but contain untold struggles on the inside.
THOUGHTS: This book delivers the powerful message that no one is too rich, popular, smart, or successful to be immune from mental health struggles, and does it in an appealing package that should draw in elementary and middle school level students. Pop culture figures do come in and out of style, but there are notable people from the past mentioned as well, giving this book more potential longevity. This could be a great leaping-off book for biography studies as well.
616.89 Mental Health StoriesErin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD
Caletti, Deb. Girl, Unframed. Simon Pulse, 2020. 978-1-534-42697-9. 368 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.
Can you imagine if your mom was famous? Like moviestar-famous? Sydney doesn’t usually have to deal with her mom and her drama, but she’s going to visit her for the summer. Before setting eyes on her mom, the newest man in Lila’s life picks Sydney up from the airport, and it’s all downhill from there. From shady art dealings to rejected credit cards, Sydney misses her friends from home. Luckily, she befriends a guy working construction next door because shady art dealings quickly become the least of their worries. It’s as if Lila’s movie script has come to life, but crimes of passion are still crimes.
THOUGHTS: There is a lot of heaviness to unpack in this story, from women who prioritize beauty over motherhood and men treating women like objects, not to mention murder. A good addition for high school libraries looking for YA thrillers that are also coming of age stories.
Poston, Ashley. Bookish and the Beast. Quirk, 2020. 978-6-836-9193-8. 283 p. $18.99. Grades 6-10.
Poston continues her delightful, fairy tale based Once Upon a Con series with a reworking of Beauty and the Beast to which Belle would give her stamp of approval. In the “no good deed goes unpunished” category, high school senior Rosie Thorne attempts to return a run-away dog with disastrous results. Following the dog into an apparently vacant house, she discovers a swoon–worthy library, filled with the books of the Starfield space saga universe, the very books her recently deceased mother read to her growing up. When Rosie is startled by another individual in the house she attempts to flee, accidentally dropping a rare first-edition in the pool. Sopping wet, Rosie learns the house is currently occupied by Starfield bad-boy actor Vance Reigns, serving a parental imposed timeout from his celebrity antics. She is now on the hook to organize the library, with the assistance of the self-absorbed star, to work off her debt. As if Vance Reigns would deign to dirty his hands working with books. But as any bibliophile knows, books have a magic all their own, and surely some magic will happen between the book-loving beauty with the mousy brown hair and the gorgeous guy hiding behind a beastly bad-boy persona. The book is populated with an appealing supporting cast of diverse characters, including Rosie’s bisexual librarian father and a gender-fluid best friend, and in a sop to series fans, Poston offers a few brief appearances by characters from the previous two novels. The Gaston plotline does double duty emphasizing that in the relationship world No should always mean No. While the plot is grounded in the Starfield Excelsi-Con world of the previous two books, the Con plays only a minor role this time, which should open the book to a wider romance audience.
THOUGHTS: A thoroughly delightfully romp through Beauty and the Beast. Rosie is independent, feisty, and sweet, and while she deserves her happily-ever-after, she would have been OK without it. A solid purchase for collections where romance and fairy tale rewrites are popular, as well as an addition to LGBTQ+ collections.