Elem. – The New Rooster

Alexander, Rilla. The New Rooster. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-534-49345-2. $18.99. 48 p. Grades PK-2.

When Rooster parachutes into town, he is eager to start his new job in his new country. Rooster quickly runs into trouble when no one understands his Pig Latin wake up call. Confident that he is good at his job, he tries again, crowing louder and louder at his new apartment building until the neighboring animals are annoyed. Shouting back in a variety of languages, the neighbors make it clear that they do not understand Rooster. In a last ditch attempt to begin the day, Rooster stuffs posters into apartment doors. His neighbors do not understand what the posters say. By this time it is well into the afternoon, and the sun still has not risen in the sky. Dejected, Rooster makes plans to return to his home country. First, though, he will need a good breakfast. Cooking makes Rooster happy. As he whips up a huge spread of different foods, the smells of the delicious meal waft down the hall waking Rooster’s new neighbors. One by one they join in a feast. Rooster happily shares his breakfast with his new community. Though each new friend speaks a different language, all understand that food brings people together.  

THOUGHTS: Children are often surprised to learn that animal sounds are pronounced differently in different languages. Bright and bold illustrations highlight the amusing tone of this cute picture book. A wonderful invitation to discuss immigration, community, languages, and sharing. 

Picture Book          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

YA – The Lucky List

Lippincott, Rachael. The Lucky List. Simon & Schuster, 2021. 978-1-534-46853-5. $18.99. 294 p. Grades 7-12.

Shunned by her high school peers for boldly kissing an underclassman at the junior prom in full view of her well-liked boyfriend, Matt, Emily Clark faces a lonely summer in Huckabee, her small Pennsylvania town. Her best friend, Kiera, is working as a counselor at a sleep away camp; Matt is kind but confused at her actions; her dad is as distracted by work as ever leaving Emily to pack up her deceased mother’s belongings. Still nursing her grief over her mother’s passing three years prior from cancer, Emily finds a bucket list her mother penned her senior year of high school. When her parents’ best friend, Johnny Carter, moves to Huckabee from Hawaii with his daughter, Blake, the two girls spend a special summer together. Both motherless, they bond easily, and Blake is supportive when the diffident, cautious Emily challenges herself to check off the twelve points on her mother’s list. Convinced this accomplishment will reveal the new and improved Emily, she finds herself—with Blake’s encouragement and help—jumping off cliffs, sleeping under the stars, fending off others to steal forbidden apples, picking a four-leaf clover, etc. until ultimately, she is faced with the final task: kissing Matt. Rachael Lippincott’s The Lucky List is a cozy coming-of-age novel with a LBGTQ+ theme. Narrator Emily relates the questioning, the fears, the missteps of discovering whom one really is authentically and satisfyingly. The relationship between Emily and Blake is gradual and fun; the soul-searching Emily is relatable. A pleasant read for any teen, but may strike a particular chord with those grappling with their sexual identity. 

THOUGHTS: The Lucky List is a light read, heavy on friendship and caring rather than sex. The awakening of a person to her sexual identity may be helpful addition on school library shelves.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke  School District of Philadelphia

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