Elem. – Chicago, Baby!

Flores, Feather. Chicago, Baby! Illustrated by Kelly Leigh Miller. Chronicle Kids, 2022. Unpaged. $14.99 978-1-797-20719-3. Grades 1-3.

This series of books covering cities (New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC) seeks to highlight major attractions in a city, this time Chicago. A young biracial girl is setting out to see the sights with her parents. In rhyming text, they visit Lincoln Park Zoo, take in the beach and Air & Water show, walk (and ride) on Navy Pier, eat deep dish pizza, take a river cruise, shop the Magnificent Mile, visit Cloud Gate and the Art Institute, eat hot dogs in Grant Park, and finally, tour Adler Planetarium. Each line ends with an explanation point, and all diverse characters are both happy as well as happy to see the girl enjoying herself. Though a tourist would not realistically do all of this in one day, the book acts as a positive, colorful introduction to Chicago. Since the illustrations are bound to bring up questions (like what is that “shiny bean” at Cloud Gate? What can we ride at Navy Pier?), it would be nice if the book included notes or resources and a short description of each place or food.

THOUGHTS: A fun but light overview of the Windy City which could entice or encourage visitors. 

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem./MG – The Lost Things Club

Puller, J. S. The Lost Things Club. Little, Brown and Company, 2021. 978-0-759-55613-3. $16.99. 219 p. Grades 4-7.

Leah is looking forward to spending summer vacation in Chicago with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, just like she does every year. When she arrives at their apartment, however, she notices something is different; her younger cousin, TJ, affectionately known as “hedgehog,” is not his normal self. He isn’t talking. As Leah spends time with her aunt and uncle and some kids from the neighborhood, she begins to realize the reason that TJ isn’t talking is the terrible shooting that happened in the spring at TJ’s elementary school. Even though Leah doesn’t completely understand why TJ is struggling, she vows to help him face his feelings and come back to himself and his family. Through Leah’s summer adventures with TJ, she begins to understand that stories can be much more than silly make-believe. Stories can be a way to heal after trauma, as well as a way to communicate the experiences of others and help everyone practice empathy and understanding.

THOUGHTS: This book deals with the sensitive topics of school shootings, survivor guilt, and PTSD in a way that older elementary and middle school students can understand. It illustrates the terrible toll that such events can take on young survivors, their families, and the surrounding school community, while also portraying those that are struggling with dignity and hopefulness. Ultimately, this book highlights the essential empathy-building benefits everyone can reap from coming together and sharing stories.

Realistic Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD