Elem. – The Fox and the Forest Fire

Popovici Danny. The Fox and the Forest Fire. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-797-20282-2 44 p. $17.95. Grades K-3. 

A young boy moves from the city to a house in the woods. At first, he is unsure of his new surroundings, but he begins to love his new environment with time. He loves to explore, adventure, and learn about the animals and their homes that inhabit the woods that surround his new home, especially a bright orange fox that lives nearby. In Danny Popovici’s The Fox and the Forest Fire, the reader will fall in love with the forest through the eyes of a young explorer. But when the young boy spots a fire that quickly engulfs the woods, his family is not only displaced, but his beloved home, trees, bugs, plants, and animals are forever changed. With a forest fire, so much can change quickly, but the family (and forest) can regrow and rejuvenate with time, hope, and support. In this touching story, resilience wins. 

THOUGHTS: The Fox and the Forest Fire was written and illustrated by a volunteer forest firefighter, which gives the book a unique and special perspective. The story has an uplifting message about rebuilding and resilience, not only for humans but for nature too. At the close of the book, the author’s notes and information could ignite essential conversations in the classroom about the effects of natural disasters on our environment. I love that this book can serve as a resource for coping with personal and community tragedies with a small nod to the first responders that risk their lives for others. 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Outside, Inside

Pham, LeUyen. Outside, Inside. Roaring Books Press, 2021. 978-1-250-79835-0. 48 p. $18.99. Grades Pre-K-2. 

Capturing community, perseverance, and hope, Outside, Inside by Caldecott Honor winner LeUyen Pham is a moving testimony that depicts the global Covid-19 pandemic. With encouraging words, poetic language, and gorgeous illustrations, this picture book will help young children make sense of the virus that altered their daily lives. The story begins on an unremarkable day just before the season changes. All races and ethnicities are bustling around outside when suddenly everything changes, and everyone goes inside. The outside is quieter, different, even wilder, and the inside holds laughter, tears, and growth. While the world changed outside, the people on the inside become resilient and hopeful. As the story moves forward, the author does not shy away from heartbreaking loss or skip over the unexpected good. Instead, she gently explains that we moved from the outside to the inside to protect the ones we love. Pham never downplays the seriousness of the pandemic and illustrates vivid scenes that represent upended routines, hospital stays, job loss, and even death. Yet, she also lovingly depicts loved ones on the outside protecting those that are inside. Finally, the picture book ends with a season change as hope and love blooms in the air.

THOUGHTS: Outside, Inside’s dedication is to all essential workers, first responders, and communities across the globe. It is true that author LeUyen Pham masterfully captures how all of us felt on the outside and inside as we navigated Covid-19. I believe her author’s note at the end of the picture book is just as important as the story itself. Nearly every face painted in the book is inspired by a REAL person- people who survived or succumbed to the awful virus. She also shares that the most challenging spread to illustrate was the one that explained why we sacrificed what we did because each character shown on the page gave her “both joy and pain.” In her final words, Pham notes that Outside, Inside is “a time capsule of our moment in history when the world came together as one to do the right thing.”

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Pony Girls (Set 2) Series Fiction

Mullarkey, Lisa. Pony Girls (Set 2). Abdo Publishing, 2020. 978-1-532-13646-7. $20.95 ea. $83.80 set of 4. Grades 2-5.

Charlie. 978-1-532-13646-7.
Gracie. 978-1-532 13647-4.
Paisley. 978-1-532-13648-1.
Zoey. 978-1-532-13649-8.

Charlie loves being a camper at Storm Cliff Stables, but some things just make her belly swishy swashy. She wants to be able to go on a full trail ride and jump the vaults, but she just can’t seem to do it without her belly causing troubles and her heart going thump, thump, thump. Thankfully her friends, Aunt Jane, her mom, and Dr. Bell have helped her with different strategies to keep her nerves away. She will become a full Warrior and be able to achieve her goals, if she keeps visualizing them and doing her very best!

THOUGHTS: The ability in this book to discuss anxiety issues and panic attacks is absolutely phenomenal. The coping strategies listed in here are great strategies that readers can use to help keep nerves at bay and help reduce anxiety. A great choice for a young reader who is interested in horses or animals and may be dealing with their own fears and anxieties.

Realistic Fiction         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

The Survival Guide to Bullying – MS & HS


Mayrock, Aija. The Survival Guide to Bullying, Written by a Teen. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 153 p. 978-0-545-86066-6 Grades 5-12.

Mayrock, now nineteen years old, endured bullying during middle and high school. The reasons aren’t clear, just that she was chosen to be “it.” In fact, she was told by a classmate, “It’s not personal. It’s just you.” Out of the confusion and fear and pain, when she emerged, she realized she had to write a book. Her creativity flourishing (she wrote a sceenplay (about bullying) the day of the deadline and won the Santa Barbara International Film Festival), she decided to use words to help those still struggling with bullying. She opens each chapter with a “roem”, her own term for a rap poem. The guide offers short assessments for readers to define their bullying and “six stepping stones to the real you” including: embrace your creativity, believe what you really believe, and become the real you in school. She repeatedly tells readers to talk with parents and teachers, even offering verbal and written scripts for how to approach the matter. One chapter covers tactics for smartly maneuvering difficult school scenarios (hallways, lunchroom, locker room, classroom); another chapter takes on cyberbullying with several good insights, the best—and toughest—being “go dark,” that is, take a short or long-term break from social media. The book does lack insight on how one’s faith might prove helpful or how to build a legal case against bullies, but these are not Mayrock’s emphases. She simply wants to provide a book of hope to those in the “dark tunnel.” And at this, she succeeds. The book ends with a list of online resources.  THOUGHTS: The slim size of this volume and the inviting interior make this a non-threatening way for teens to combat bullying by changing their views of themselves. Combine with Words Wound: How to Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral (2015) for greater online insight, Hey, Back Off! Tips for Stopping Teen Harassment (2011), Paige Rawl’s Positive: Surviving My Bullies, Finding Hope, and Living to Change the World and Rosen’s I Have Been Cyberbullied, Now What? (2016). Recommended for grades 5-12. Discussion Guide is available via Titlewave entry.

302.34 Bullying      Melissa Scott, Shenango High School