Elem. – One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers

Khan, Henna. One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers. Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Chronicle Books, 2022. 978-1-452-18272-8. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades K-3.

For Muslim children, One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers, is a mirror; for non-Muslim children, it is a window. Saturated in rich colors– golds, reds, turquoise–this horizontally-shaped book uses simple yet significant objects special to the Muslim community to correspond to the numbers. The story focuses on a young boy’s family and some basic precepts of the Muslim religion: kindness, generosity, and prayerfulness. This visual presentation illustrator Mehrdokht Amini’s drawings connect perfectly with the sparse text. Characters are depicted realistically with enlarged faces, full of expression; the calligraphy conveying the four-line rhymes on each page is readable and large font, also. The double-page spreads take up the entire space with vibrant paint or, in some instances, with a collage effect. Islamic motifs repeat in tablecloths, book covers, and window panes; minarets in the skyline indicate a Middle Eastern setting. The story marks an intersection of the ancient and the modern. Though the young boy dons western dress, the adults wear traditional Muslim garb as they make their pilgrimage to Mecca. Children of other faiths may find similarities, such as gathering to study the Quran, doing good works, fasting, or repetitious prayer. Though targeted for a primary grade audience, the book can inform older students as well. Includes a helpful glossary.

THOUGHTS: From end page to end page, this gorgeous picture book emanates a Middle Eastern tone. Though this book is an easy reader, the information it conveys may dispel any misconceptions young people may have about the Muslim religion. For this reason, teachers could use this book for students of higher grades, too.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Room for Everyone

Khan, Naaz. Room for Everyone. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-534-43139-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Musa and Dada are off to Nungwi Beach in Zanzibar when, along the way, Dada stops the bus to pick up an old man with a broken bike. Musa argues that there’s no room for the man and his bike, but Dada insists there is plenty of space. They make room, and before long, Dada stops again to pick up a herder with two goats. Again, Musa argues there is no room, and again, they shuffle around and make space. This pattern continues throughout the book until, by the end, it’s Musa insisting that there is room for everyone. Ultimately, they reach the beach, where they all pile out to enjoy a day under the sun. Rhyming text and detailed, colorful, mixed-media illustrations make this a very lively, engaging read.

THOUGHTS: I love everything about this book! Not only does it convey the subtle message that there is always room for new friends and experiences, but it also provides readers with a glimpse of African culture. A glossary in the back explains unfamiliar words like daladala (a shared minibus), baghala (a boat used by people living near the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean), and more. This is a solid purchase for social studies classrooms and/or elementary library collections.

Picture Book           Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – 13 Ways to Eat a Fly

Heavenrich, Sue. 13 Ways to Eat a Fly. Charlesbridge. 2021. 978-1-58089-890-4. $16.99. Grades K-4.

Science and math combine to make an icky, yummy, tasty counting book filled with insects and ways they can be consumed! As a swarm of flies go by, one-by-one they are consumed in a variety of ways by a variety of animals. Don’t be sad, however, as the flies are consumed, for more will be born and the process will continue! You will laugh and be shocked at the icky ways these bugs are consumed, in ways humans may not want to know about!

THOUGHTS: This is a very fun book all about how insects are consumed! This book is filled with great details, scientific facts, and fun pictures.

595.77 Other Invertebrates            Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elementary – Hello, Spring; Sheep Won’t Sleep; Soldier Song; The Quest for Z

Rotner, Shelley. Hello Spring. Holiday House, 2017. 9780823437528. $16.95. 32p. Gr. K-2.

This book welcomes the arrival of spring with plenty of photographs on every page spread. The story progresses through early spring’s melting snow, to late spring’s arrival of dogwood blossoms, and all the way to the first day of summer and garden vegetables sprouting. Certain words are in a larger type size throughout the book (mostly verbs, but not always) and there is a small glossary on the last page. THOUGHTS: This picture book would be a nice addition to your library. It is similar to other season picture books you probably already have, but the children in the photographs in this book are diverse.

Picture Book                   Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD



Cox, Judy. Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s. Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3701-6. Unpaged. $16.95. Gr. K-3.

No matter what she tries, Clarissa can’t sleep. Why not try the old standby, counting sheep? She counts 10 sheep and before she knows it they are hanging out in her bedroom! “Try pairs of alpacas,” advise the sheep, so Clarissa counts colorful pairs of alpacas in twos. When this still doesn’t work, she tries patterned llamas in fives and groups of yaks in tens who wear “…woolly coats of many colors…like a wardrobe of winter sweaters.” With a cast of characters crowding her room, Clarissa uses basic addition and subtraction skills to “unwind” for a night of sleep (she unravels the animals into a giant ball of colorful, patterned yard). What to do with a giant ball of colorful yarn? Why get out knitting needles of course! The last pages show Clarissa peacefully sleeping under a new brightly patterned quilt. Cox’s story and illustrator Nina Cuneo’s pen and digital ink illustrations create a fun, brightly colored math-themed bedtime read. THOUGHTS: Highly versatile–use in math class, at bedtime, or with any group of animal lovers.

Picture Book       Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District


Levy, Debbie. Soldier Song. Disney Press, 2017. 9781484725986. $18.99. 80p. Gr. 2-5.

The Battle of Fredericksburg involved the largest number of soldiers of any battle during the Civil War. It was also a low point for the Union Army since more than 12,000 young men were wounded or killed with another 5,300 being wounded or killed on the Confederate side. After the battle, the soldiers camped on either side of the Rappahannock River to wait out the winter months neither side wanting to give up land. Due to the geography of the area, sounds carried very well from one side of the river to the other, especially the music that both sides used as both a time telling device (like, Reveille and dinnertime) and for entertainment. The divided armies could hear each other songs and would taunt each other by volleying back and forth between different patriotic songs. One day someone started playing the song, “Home, Sweet Home” and both sides joined in. That song and its message of home so touched the young men that they cheered for over half-an-hour. One soldier said in a letter sent home that if the river didn’t separate the two armies they would have come together after that song and settled the war right then. This story includes primary source Civil War letter snippets and song lyrics, in addition to the further information in the back of the book about The Battle of Fredericksburg and the history of the song, “Home, Sweet Home.” THOUGHTS: I loved this book. Not only did I learn facts about the Battle at Fredericksburg, but I walked away feeling hopeful about people. This book is great not just as a positive message about coming together even though we have differing opinions, but also the power of music to bridge the gaps between us. This is a great addition to any library or music teacher’s classroom library. The book includes web links to listen to the songs mentioned in the book.

Historical Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Pizzoli, Greg. The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon. Viking, 2017. 978-0-670-01653-2.  

Another nonfiction winner from the author/illustrator who brought us Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. Greg Pizzoli amazes readers with the life of Percy Fawcett, daring Amazonian explorer and man of mystery. Fawcett was born into a British family of adventurers and took on his own explorations after a military career and training with the Royal Geographical Society in London. He explored in Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru, charting then-unmapped territories and defining borders of r these nations. His South American travels met with many dangers, from aggressive anacondas to equally aggressive native groups, but Fawcett’s quick thinking and bravery usually won out and he completed several missions while making native allies along the way. It was from these people that he first heard of a legendary ancient city in the Amazon; Fawcett referred to the city as “Z” and imagined “…a paradise of grand temples and palaces carved from stone, hidden from modern man deep within the jungle.” In April 1925, Fawcett set off to find Z with only his son Jack, aged 21, Jack’s best friend Raleigh Rimell, basic provisions, a few local guides, and the financial support of several newspapers to whom he sold his story which was carried in snippets by local runners. Fawcett and his party were never seen again. Since Fawcett’s fateful trip in 1925, over 100 people have set off on quests to find Fawcett, or perhaps even Z. None have discovered his fate and some have even disappeared themselves. Pizzoli used a variety of sources including newspaper articles from 1925 and several books that have been written about Fawcett. It’s worth noting that one of Pizzoli’s sources, David Grann’s 2005 “New Yorker” article, is fascinating and would make excellent continued reading for mature readers. Pizzoli’s unusual and enjoyable illustrations provide some comic relief throughout the text. Back matter includes an Author’s Note, information on other Fawcett hunters, a glossary, and selected sources. THOUGHTS: So much more than just a biography, this book will be enjoyed by any reader who likes a little adventure.

910.92                  Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

Elementary NF – Out of this World; Shape Shift; Swallow the Leader; Green City

Deyoe, Aaron. Out of this World: Space Travel. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2016. 978-1-62403-745-0. 24 pp. $16.95. Gr. K-4.

This book is a simple look at the various forms of space travel throughout history.   It has full color illustrations, easy to understand diagrams and graphics, and short concise sentences throughout.  It covers forms of travel such as rockets, space shuttles, Saturn V rockets, satellites, and many more.  A diagram of the International Space Station describes its various components and shows how it was assembled in stages in space.  This text also includes the latest rovers and mechanized explorers that are sending back data and are much safer than sending humans to these remote locations.  THOUGHTS: This book is a great addition to a collection of books about space and planets.  Students will be encouraged to pick a type of space travel or vehicle and research more about that topic, since this is a simplistic look at each.  This is a great “jumping off point” for such a research project.

Space Exploration     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Hesselberth, Joyce. Shape Shift. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-057-4. 32pp. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

In this abstract introduction to the basic shapes of triangle, semicircle, crescent, trapezoid, rectangle, circle, oval, diamond and square, Hesselberth challenges the imagination.  First, the characters put a triangle on top of an upside down semicircle.  They imagine what that could be, and the illustrator creates a ballerina.  Then, another character imagines that the same two shapes are an elephant being carried away by balloons.  These imaginative and interesting shape shifts create many different possibilities for each combination of shapes.  At the end of the book, the author provides several combinations for the students to imagine what they could be together.  This is an interesting mash-up of learning shapes and critical and creative thinking. Each new illustration has an inset with the original two shapes to help the children see how those two shapes became the new picture. An interesting and thought provoking look at the world of shapes!  THOUGHTS:  After reading this book, the teacher could provide students with cut out shapes and have them create scenes or items using two or more shapes.  Students would need to name each shape used and then explain what it was and perhaps even generate a story to go with their shape creation.  An activity could also be created for the smart board that allows students to drag two shapes together to create a new picture or touch and identify the basic shapes presented in the book.

Shapes; Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Smith, Danna. Swallow the Leader: A Counting Book. New York: Clarion, 2016. 978-0-544-10518-8. 32pp. $16.99. Gr. Pre-K-1.

The little orange fish begins this rhyming counting book. With each number there is an action “5 fish-Follow the Leader- Play like I play. Pretend you are me. Flap like ray.” At the number ten, the fish says to open their mouth and eat a snack, and swallow the leader.  As they gulp down the fish in front of them, they count DOWN to one again.  Until only Shark is left.  But wait, Shark is about to BURP! The bright fun graphics are visually pleasing and the happy ending is a delight.  THOUGHTS: This book is sure to be a hit with the little ones.  They are able to count, act out the motions of “flapping like a ray” and other silliness, and then count down to one again.  Of course a big BURP is always funny, and the counting begins again!  

Counting Book        Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Drummond, Allan. Green City. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2016. 978-0-374-3799-5. 36pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

On May 4, 2007, a tornado destroyed the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, in just nine minutes. Everything was flattened: homes, offices, churches, stores, the water tower, and the school were completely gone. The day after the storm, townspeople gathered in a large emergency tent and began asking the big question: What do we want to be now? People started talking about how to build again. They agreed on ideas like designing tornado-proof houses and making sure the homes were energy efficient, but the word “green” popped up again and again as well. The ideas of sustainability and not using more than one needed resonated with the Midwesterners, and they decided to design not just green homes but an entirely green city. Loose watercolor illustrations depict the construction of super-strong, sustainable structures all over town. Sidebars highlight additional information about what sustainability looks like, and a special “Tips for Going Green” section shares ways students can incorporate some of these ideas into their own lives.  THOUGHTS:  This title is a great resource for students studying severe weather or energy efficiency. It would also make a nice read-aloud for Earth Day, and it leads itself to discussions about ways we can “go green” in our own lives.

Nonfiction Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

Picture Books – Annabelle at the South Pole; Mousequerade Ball; Cookie Fiasco; Pigs & a Blanket

Alley, R.W. Annabelle at the South Pole. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 978-0547907048. Unpaged. $14.99. Gr. K-3.

This book is the final book in R.W. Alley’s seasonally themed quartet about four siblings and their imaginative adventures. Annabelle just wants to read her nonfiction book about the South Pole, but her brothers and sister insist on bringing her into their play. She escapes outside to find she is in the arctic and a giant snow monster is heading straight for her! Thinking fast she defeats the snow giant, but takes pity on it and puts it back together again. The abominable snow giant is grateful and carries Annabelle to her desired destination only to find the Wizard (from Mitchell on the Moon) is already there and threatening to melt the South Pole! Annabelle saves the day by grabbing the piping hot cauldron and drinking its contents (which turn out to be chocolate). The last scene is half real life, half imagination as the reader sees Annabelle and her siblings drinking hot chocolate on the front porch, while a penguin peeks out from behind the lamppost. The illustrations are bright and vivid; perfect for bringing young imagination to life.  THOUGHTS: Each book in this series is fine as a stand-alone, but if you read the whole series you get to know the children and recognize recurring elements. I enjoyed Annabelle’s bravery and also the fact that she just wanted to read (when she’s not having adventures in the snow, of course)!

Picture Book     Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School



Mortensen, Lori. Mousequerade Ball. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-6196-3422-0. 32pp. $16.99. Gr K-3.

In this colorful counting book, mice are preparing for the evening’s main event: a Mousequerade Ball! The story opens with one mouse lighting the fire and progresses until ten mouse ladies fan themselves and gasp, “Cat!” when an unexpected visitor crashes the party. The story then counts down from ten back to one as all the mice scamper away and scramble into hiding places. One brave final mouse realizes the Cat has only come to dance, and the pair waltz around the great hall together. Betsy Lewin’s bright watercolor illustrations are the perfect match for this whimsical story.  THOUGHTS:  Hand this title to kindergarten teachers who are focusing on numbers and counting. The large, boldly-colored illustrations will be perfect for storytime sharing.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County



Santat, Dan. The Cookie Fiasco. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2016. 978-148-4726365. 50 pp. $9.99. Gr. K -2.  

Hippo, Croc and the Squirrel want to share their cookies, but how will they share them fairly?  So begins the funny adventures that subtly introduce division and fractions to the reader.  With an introduction by Mo Willems beloved Elephant and Piggy, this new series of books entitled “Elephant and Piggy Like Reading” will bring fans of Gerald and Piggy to a new set of crazy fun antics.  With the word bubbles and colorful graphics by Caldecott award winning author and illustrator, Dan Santat, the layout will attract from the beginning.  The fun and silly humor will keep kids coming back for more.  And hey, they will even learn a new vocabulary word to wow their teachers and parents. FIASCO!  THOUGHTS:  This book is a great addition to a unit or introduction to division and fractions for the early learner.  It is a fun and rather “sneaky” way to get students to divide.

Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy



Burks, James. Pigs and a Blanket. New York: Hyperion, 2016. 978-1-4847-2523-8. 32 pp. $16.99. Gr. Pre-K-1

Henry and Henrietta pig love their green blankie.  They love how it feels.  They love how it smells.  They plan on it.  They play under it.  Then one day, half a blanket just isn’t enough.  They both want it ALL!  In an argument , the blanket gets ripped.  Now brother and sister each have half.  But, they realize that they are missing something even more important.  Each other.  This sweet, highly graphic picture book by James Burks deals with the dilemma of sharing and getting along with siblings in a way that many children will relate to.  The fun illustrations and universal theme of a blankie will help most children find common ground to realize that being together is more important than the things they own.  THOUGHTS:  This is a great addition to an early learning class unit on sharing or getting along.  Students could problem solve with Henry and Henrietta for ways that they could have resolved their dilemma without ripping the blankie.

Picture Book      Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy