MG – Taking Up Space

Gerber, Alyson. Taking Up Space. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-18602-4. 259 p. $17.99. Grades 5-9.

Sarah has a lot of aspects of her life she really loves: basketball, her best friends Ryan and Emilia, and detective novels. She also has aspects of her life that she wishes would change; for example, she hates that her mother has issues with eating and never has enough food in the house for Sarah to eat. In fact, sometimes her mother forgets to make meals which makes Sarah feel unimportant. How can you matter when the people in your life who are supposed to take care of you forget that you have to eat? Sarah also discovers that as her body is changing in her teen years, so are her basketball skills. She is slower lately, making more mistakes on the court. As a way to take control over her sluggish performances on the court, Sarah starts restricting what she eats, trying to lose excess weight so she can be faster and stronger. This is not a challenge at home, but it does become an issue when Sarah partners up with her crush Benny to compete for a spot on Chef Junior, a televised cooking show holding auditions at Sarah’s school. Eventually, the stress of the competition and diet restrictions catch up to her, and Sarah has to learn for herself how a person becomes physically and mentally healthy.

THOUGHTS: Taking Up Space shines a spotlight on the pressure teenage girls are under to look a certain way. A very unique aspect of this book, however, is that the character’s mother is also struggling with eating, demonstrating to young readers that sometimes adults don’t always have all the answers and have to seek help, too. This book is a must-have for middle grade libraries and could be a thoughtful option for a book club.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

YA – Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Kemp, Laekan Zea. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet. Little, Brown and Company, 2021. 978-0-316-46027-9, 343 p. $17.99. Grades 8-12.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet hits all the right notes for a young person’s fantasy romance. In alternating narratives, the reader follows the growing romance between talented Mexican-American chef, Penelope (Pen) Parado, and undocumented restaurant worker, Xander Amaro. Nachos Tacos is Pen’s father’s restaurant in Austin, Texas, and the salvation of the neighborhood, providing a handout or employment to many, despite the glaring threat of a ruthless loan shark, J.P. Martello. The restaurant is dear to Pen’s heart–not only because it is there she can express her culinary skills–but also because of the sense of family it represents. She is devastated when she is banished from the restaurant after confessing to her parents that she has not attended a full semester of nursing school. Traditional Mr. Parado expects his older son, Angel, to carry on the business despite Angel’s disinterest. New employee, Xander, enters the wait staff on Pen’s last day, and though some point out her brash, bossy manner, he is smitten. Eighteen-year old, independent Pen finds a cheap apartment with the help of bff Chloe and a wretched job at a Taco Bell-like establishment. In spite of her take-charge personality, Pen suffers from self esteem issues and the narrative alludes to some self-harming; she does take medication for her low moods. In addition to being undocumented, Xander is actively searching for his father who left the family when Xander was a toddler and has never attempted contact with either Xander or his own father, Xander’s guardian. As the narration asserts, each has their own scars. The chapters develop with Pen dealing positively with her complicated love-hate relationship with her father and Xander’s appreciation of his feelings of belonging to the ragtag Nacho crew. Their days revolve around working in their respective restaurants, hanging out with the other Nacho workers, food, and their romance until the restaurant’s future is in jeopardy from the menacing loan shark. This antagonist brings the needed friction for the story, culminating in a predictable conclusion that leaves the reader with admiration for the resiliency of Pen and Xander and their Latinx neighborhood.

THOUGHTS: There is nothing too deep here or too risky (Pen and Xander have some deep kisses and smoldering feelings, but nothing more; some foul language and drinking). Latinx author Kemp tells an old-fashioned love story with the typical tropes but with more interesting words and the addition of some mental health and immigration issues. Her major and minor characters are likeable and developed. One unexpected relationship is Xander’s friendship with the local police officers, despite his undocumented status. Younger teens wanting a romance or older ones looking for an escape novel will be hooked.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

MG – The Dream Weaver

Alegre, Reina Luz. The Dream Weaver. Simon & Schuster Publishers, 2020. $17.99. 978-1-534-46231-1. Grades 5-8.

After drifting around the country following her father’s next big idea her whole life, twelve-year-old Zoey Finolio and her college-bound brother, Jose, land at the Jersey shore living with their maternal Cuban grandfather—one of the most stable homes since their mother’s death. Though Zoey loves her father, she revels in a summer at the beach, doing things most kids her age do and embraces the dream of saving Gonzo’s, her grandfather’s rundown bowling alley, from a developer. When she gets a chance to fill in as a bowler on a local team headed for a championship, Zoey sees it as an opportunity to not only savor friendship but also rejuvenate the boardwalk business. The familial relationships and friendships are nurturing and supportive throughout the book, but this book doesn’t resort to past solutions. Even after the valiant efforts of Zoey and her new friends, Pappy decides to unload the bowling alley and just manage it; Jose still wants to pursue his dream of being an engineer at college; and Zoey’s father continues to try his luck at a different job despite sacrificing his children’s stability. Zoey shows strength of character in expressing her feelings to her father and finds solace in her supportive brother, her new friends, and her new home with her beloved Pappy.

THOUGHTS: The close familial relationships and kind friend relationships are a delight to read. Zoey’s father’s behavior is abysmal and may be a form of bibliotherapy for some readers. In Chapter One, Zoey gets her period for the first time and the narrative explains her distress and how she deals with it, so using the book as a read aloud—at least the first chapter—may be uncomfortable.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration and Cake

Singer, Marilyn. Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration and Cake. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. $16.99. 978-0-7352-2790-3. 48 p. Grades 2-5. 

An eclectic anthology of poetic recipes on a wide array of subjects. Rather than listing ingredients for a favorite dish, these recipes feature sage advice ranging in topics from success in cooking, to courage, magic, and substitution. A few of the poems stick to foodie themes. “Recipe for Adventure” is a celebration of less common produce such as kohlrabi and rambutan. Others stray far from food as the topic in favor of other concepts. In the “Recipe for Fairy Tales” well-known components of favorite tales are listed as ingredients: “a handful of magical beans\ a gathering of ramps (whatever that means).” Illustrations composed of vibrantly colored goauche, block print, and collage fill each page. 

THOUGHTS: A unique anthology with a wide range of poetic styles to add to any school library’s poetry collection. 

811 Poetry          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elementary NF – Origami; U.S. Landmarks; Kids Can Cook; Top Sports Tips

George, Anna. Super Simple Origami. Super Sandcastle, 2017. $19.00 each, $114.00 set of 6. Gr. K-3.

Origami Birds. 978-1-68078-446-6.

Origami Dinosaurs. 978-1-68078-447-3.

Origami Farm Animals. 978-1-68078-448-0.

Origami Insects. 978-1-68078-449-7.

Origami Pets. 978-1-68078-450-3.

Origami Zoo Animals. 978-1-68078-451-0.

This series is a must-have for all school libraries where origami is popular! Each title presents several projects from easy to more complex (although none are tremendously difficult). One great strength of this series is its design: clean page layout, brightly colored lettering, and well organized directions. Beginning matter reviews basic folds, origami symbols, and special folds; back matter includes a glossary. Each animal is presented using a different color paper, so it’s very easy to see where one project finishes and a new one begins. Projects in Origami Zoo Animals include basic 6 step Friendly Fox, Slithering Snake, Trumpeting Elephant, Silly Seal, Diving Dolphin, and Striped Tiger, which is the most complicated with 24 steps and two colors of paper. This series is a great choice to refresh your origami section. THOUGHTS: Purchase where origami is popular or needs an update–highly enjoyable and well designed.

736; Origami          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

 

Murray, Julie. US Landmarks. ABDO, 2017. 24 p. $19.00 ea., $114.00 set of 6. Gr. K-3.

Lincoln Memorial. 978-1-68080-911-4 .

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. 978-1-68080-912-1.

Mount Rushmore. 978-1-68080-913-8.

The Statue of Liberty. 978-1-68080-914-5.

United States Capitol. 978-1-68080-915-2.

The White House. 978-1-68080-916-9.

This basic series is solid but somewhat basic. The White House gives basic facts about the landmark, including location, basic history, and function (“The president lives in the White House,” and “It is in Washington, D.C.”). The photographs are colorful and the text includes a map showing the landmark’s location. Each book includes a Table of Contents, Index, and Glossary. This set would be excellent for use with beginning readers since there is spare text. One note: President Obama is shown as the president in many of the photographs, making the book seem a little dated for a 2017 publication date. THOUGHTS: A solid purchase.

970s, U.S. Government/History          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

 

Kids Can Cook! Capstone Press, 2017. 32 p. $21.04 ea., $84.16 set of 4. Gr. 3-6.

Ventura, Marne. Bacon Artist: Savory Bacon Recipes. 978-1-51573-814-5.

Omoth, Tyler. Campfire Chef: Mouthwatering Campfire Recipes. 978-1-51573-813-8.

Ventura, Marne. Disgusting Eats: Nasty, but Tasty Recipes. 978-1-51573-812-1.

Omoth, Tyler. Grill Master: Finger-Licking Grilled Recipes. 978-1-51573-815-2.

Kids Can Cook! just may fill a void on your cookbook shelf–after all, who doesn’t love bacon? This series features several interesting titles for budding chefs. Bacon Artist has 12 mouth-watering recipes filled with bacon, from bacon cheddar dip to bacon quiche. There are snacks, side dishes, and main courses, along with information on different kinds of bacon, bacon cooking methods, and additional resources. The recipes are fairly straightforward but would definitely be most appropriate for upper-elementary level students with some cooking experience since some of them call for chopping or using the stove and oven. Large photographs show off the finished product opposite one page of directions. THOUGHTS: A fun series for experienced kid cooks.

641.5; Cooking     Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

 

Top Sports Tips. Capstone, 2017. $20.99ea. $125.94 set of 6. 32p. Gr. 3-8.

Rissman, Rebecca. Top Basketball Tips. 978-1-5157-4719-2.

Jones, Jen. Top Dance Tips. 978-1-5157-4724-6.

Schwartz, Heather E. Top Ice Hockey Tips. 978-1-5157-4723-9.

Hammelef, Danielle S. Top Soccer Tips. 978-1-5157-4722-2.

Rissman, Rebecca. Top Softball Tips. 978-1-5157-4721-5.

Schwartz, Heather E. Top Volleyball Tips. 978-1-5157-4720-8.

Some of today’s most popular sports are examined in Capstone’s new series Top Sports Tips. Each volume presents basic information on individual sports as well as tips designed to help competitors improve their skills. This reviewer had the opportunity to examine the Top Softball Tips volume.  After reviewing the basic rules of the game, the author presented training step-by-step stretching and strength training tips, illustrated with photos. Hitting tips, as well as fielding tips (with separate chapters on infielding and outfielding) were also included. Numerous drills that athletes could use to improve their play were also included throughout the text.  THOUGHTS: Each slim volume (only 32 pages) contains a lot of valuable training information appropriate for upper elementary and middle grade readers. The training tips presented were clearly explained and the drills presented were useful and only  required basic equipment and in some cases, a partner. The text was enhanced by the presence of photos that illustrated stretches and drills. Recommend to athletes looking to improve their play.

796; Sports      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District

MS/HS Nonfiction – Cookbooks; Amish

ballparkcookbooks

Jorgensen, Katrina. Ballpark Cookbooks (Sports Illustrated for Kids series).  North Mankato, MN: Capstone. 2016. 64p. $23.49 ea.  Gr 6 and up.

Ball Park Cookbook: The American League:  Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods.  978-1-4914-8232-2.

Ball Park Cookbook: The National League: Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods.  978-1-4914-8233-9.

Ballpark Cookbooks, from Sports Illustrated Kid, teach students how to cook some of the signature dishes served at baseball stadiums throughout the country.  Each entry in the books features the team’s ballpark statistics.  When was the park built?  Where is it located?  What is the seating capacity of the stadium?  The entries also include interesting background information; the entry for PNC Park in Pittsburgh has a sidebar discussing the importance of Heinz condiments to the city.  The entry for Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia talks about the “Great Cheesesteak Debate.”  Baseball-shaped factoids talk about interesting rituals different players have and ballpark-related trivia.  As for the recipes themselves, each one features an attractive photograph of the finished product, clear directions for making the recipe, and a comprehensive ingredient list.

I would recommend these cookbooks for junior and senior high students largely because they employ cooking techniques that younger children should not try without adult supervision.  There are also a number of ingredients that most families will not have on hand including things like deveined shrimp, yeast, and exotic spices.  It is important to note that the author of these books is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, so the recipes have a level of sophistication usually not seen in children’s cookbooks.  THOUGHTS: These books are a feast for the eyes.  They are well-organized, have colorful pictures of the recipes/ballparks, and the trivia entries are engaging.  I do think that young people will need supervision while making many of the recipes, but it would be good family fun to cook a ballpark style dinner before “the big game.”  I consider these books to be a valuable addition to school libraries, especially since they will appeal to young men who might not otherwise pick up a cookbook.

641.5; Cookbook           Susan E. Fox, Washington Park School

 

amish

Nolt, Steven M. The Amish: a concise introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2016. 978-1-4214-1956-5. 141p. $16.95. Gr. 9 and up.

The Amish remain a curiosity to many Americans (especially those who do not live in communities where Amish populations are present). Many misconceptions abound about Amish life, such as all Amish teens are wild rabble-rousers or that shunning is a common occurrence within the Amish church. Professor Steven Nolt aims to clearly explain the Amish culture and beliefs in this brief  introductory text. The development and history of the Amish religion in Europe is presented as well as the group’s immigration to America. Also discussed are the basics of Amish religious beliefs and practices. Family life, schooling, work, and the role of the Amish in their greater community are also explained. A chapter on the Amish and the modern media discusses how the Amish are portrayed in film and television. The text is supplemented by photos, maps,  charts, and appendices. THOUGHTS: Though written for the adult reader, the text of this book is quite accessible and can easily be understood by high schoolers.The basics of Amish beliefs clearly explained and common misconceptions are also addressed. Also of note is the discussion of Amish use/non-use of current technologies, which is not present in older works on the Amish. Recommended for schools where the Amish may be discussed in religion or history class, or where Amish are present in the greater community.

289.73; Religion       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS