Elem. – Be Your Best You (Series NF)

Olsen, Elsie. Be Your Best You (series). Abdo, 2020. $20 ea. $120 set of 6. 24 p. PreK-2.

Be Aware! A Hero’s Guide to Being Smart and Staying Safe. 978-1-532-11964-4.
Be Bold! A Hero’s Guide to Being Brave. 978-1-532-11965-1.
Be Kind! A Hero’s Guide to Beating Bullying. 978-1-532-11966-8.
Be Respectful! A Hero’s Guide to Being Courteous. 978-1-532-11967-5.
Be Strong! A Hero’s Guide to Being Resilient. 978-1-532-11968-2.
Be Well! A Hero’s Guide to a Healthy Mind and Body. 978-1-532-11969-9.

Designed for a preschool and early elementary audience, this series encourages readers to be heroes by becoming the very best version of themselves they can be. This involves actions like being brave, standing up to bullies, being respectful, exercising, eating healthy, and more. By including tips, examples, and real-life scenarios, these straightforward books are very easy to understand and perfect for very young readers.

THOUGHTS: I personally read Be Bold! A Hero’s Guide to Being Brave and was impressed with the simplicity of the book and the importance of its message. I especially liked the scenarios at the end, which provide readers with an opportunity to think critically and decide how they might display bravery in specific situations. I could absolutely see this being used with preschool and early elementary students to supplement a character education curriculum, or even in a life skills classroom to teach valuable social skills and fundamental health and wellness concepts.

302 Social Interaction          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member
613 Personal Health & Safety

YA – Poisoned

Donnelly, Jennifer. Poisoned. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-26849-2. 307 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12.

All of her life Sophie, Princess Charlotta-Sidonia Wilhelmina Sophia, has been told that kindness will be her downfall, her heart is to soft to be a good leader. And Sophie believes every word. Fearing her stepmother’s strict ways, Sophie tucks her kind heart away, trying to hide her true self. She agrees to give her heart to a prince who is better suited to lead her kingdom. Sophie “locks away” her heart as she prepares to become Queen, but she doesn’t have the chance to fulfill this destiny. Her stepmother has other plans in mind. When Sophie awakens, following a violent event, she is greeted by seven brothers and their helpers, who have taken in Sophie and nursed her back to health in seemingly impossible ways. Not feeling completely herself, Sophie tentatively accepts her life in The Hollow. But Sophie feels like there’s more to the story, and she won’t have all of the answers until she embarks on a dangerous journey. Sophie’s character and her kind heart are tested repeatedly, as Sophie learns what it takes to be a true leader. But is her faulty heart up to the challenge, and will she survive all the evil that wishes her dead? Sophie’s story is not a romantic fairytale but instead is about one’s journey towards self discovery.

THOUGHTS: Young adult readers need Sophie in their lives. I loved this reimagined Snow White story and appreciate Donnelly’s incorporation of other themes – like how women are told what they are and are not capable of doing or being. Poisoned deserves a place in every middle or high school collection.

Fantasy          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

MG – Brave Like That

Stoddard, Lindsey. Brave Like That. HarperCollins Publisher , 2020. 978-0-062-87811-3. 272 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Cyrus’ dad has always been a hero. As a kid he was a star football player, and as an adult he is a firefighter who is not afraid of running into burning buildings. Everyone thinks Cyrus is following in his father’s footsteps, but deep inside Cyrus loves music instead of football and longs to sneak away to the rescue to walk a dog that showed up at the fire station out of the blue, just like Cyrus did eleven years ago. Maybe worse than that, Cyrus wants to ditch his football star friends and befriend the new boy, Eduardo, who is bullied but doesn’t waiver from who he truly is inside. Can Cyrus be brave and find the courage to be his true self?  With the help of a stray dog, new friends, and his family, join Cyrus on his journey to be brave and become his authentic self.

THOUGHTS: This story is a must purchase for your middle grade collection. It deals with the topic of bullying in a gentle but firm way. Brave Like That also addresses the issue of ailing grandparents (Cyrus’ grandmother had a stroke and cannot speak as she used to) and acceptance.

Realistic Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

Tags: bullying, friendship, family, aging grandparents

MG – Village of Scoundrels

Preus, Margi. Village of Scoundrels. Amulet Books, 2020. 978-1-419-70897-8. 295 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

To the people of Nazi ocupied France, every step must be calculated and every risk weighed carefully. In this powerful novel, Preus explores how the young people of France band together in order to smuggle refugees across the border into neutral Switzerland. Henni, a Jewish girl in hiding, helps to protect children by hiding them in the woods during Nazi raids on their hiding spot. Celeste bravely travels across the country to procure items necessary to continue bringing people to safety. Although these girls are brilliant in their work, they also need someone who can provide legal documents and safe travel. Jean Paul is an expert at forgery, and Philippe is knowledgeable with the terrain and how to arrange passage. This group of children will assist the extrication of hundreds of people and stand up for what is right no matter the risk and danger associated with their tasks.

THOUGHTS: This novel is based on a true story and is thoughtfully written. The pages are filled with accurate details and French and German words. The author provides a Cast of Characters (almost like a Playbill) and a pronunciation guide at the start of the book. This proves useful because there are a variety of characters to keep up with, which at times is overwhelming as they jump from person to person within a chapter. A great read for those who enjoy reading historical fiction and the World War II time period.

Historical Fiction        Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Picture Books – The Koala Who Could

Bright, Rachel and Jim Field. The Koala Who Could. Scholastic, 2017. 978-1-338-13908-2. Upaged. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

Kevin likes “sticking to what he knows best.”  Living in his tree, he doesn’t have to deal with the animals down below who are “too fast and too loud and too big and too strange.”  Kevin can always find something else to do when Wombat asks him to come down and play. But then, one day a woodpecker taps away at his tree.  Will Kevin find the courage to live on the ground with the other animals, or will he find a new home high up and safely tucked away in another tree?  THOUGHTS:  The Koala Who Could is a fun story about having courage to try something new.  Through various animal characters, Kevin, the koala, learns that perhaps playing it safe and always saying no to trying something new isn’t as much fun as he thinks it is.  This is a great story about friendship, kindness, and courage.

Picture Book       Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD