Elem. – Never Show a T.Rex a Book

Sirdeshpande, Rashmi. Never Show a T.Rex a Book. 1st American ed., Kane Miller, 2021. 978-1-684-64159-8. Unpaged. $12.99. Grades K-3.

A young girl finds that chaos ensues when she teaches her dinosaur how to read. Written in the same style as Laura Numeroff’s If You Give… series, this imaginative book portrays countless if/then scenarios that will delight young readers–and maybe even encourage them to envision some scenarios of their own. A heartwarming tale about the transformative magic of reading, kids will be begging to re-read this book over and over again.

THOUGHTS: The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and I love that they portray a multicultural cast of characters. I should note that because this was originally published in England, there are a few pages that may require some clarification for young children; for instance, one page states that the newly educated dinosaur might just become the prime minister. Fans of Laura Numeroff will adore this book, as will dinosaur lovers and avid readers.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Leif and the Fall

Grant, Allison Sweet and Adam Grant. Leif and the Fall. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-984-81549-1. $17.99. Grades K-2.

It is autumn and Leif the Leaf is worried about falling from his tree. He confesses to his friend Laurel that the fall might cause him to “bump my head” or “skin my knee.” The other leaves tell him that falling is inevitable, but Laurel suggests that Leif should think of a way to slowly lower himself as he falls. So the pair work together to invent various devices, such as a kite made of bark and moss, a parachute out of a spider web and a swing made of vines. All of these ideas fail. Then an unplanned gust of wind blows Leif and Laurel off the tree, and they have the good luck to fall on the soft cushion of the failed experiments. Liddiard’s illustrations are done with a combination of digital collage and mixed media, creating drawings that balance the whimsical appearance of the leaves with images of actual moss. This book is very similar to Wade’s The Very Last Leaf. Both are about the fear of falling, but Wade’s text deals more with facing fears and perfectionism, while the Grants’ focus is on solving problems with creative ideas and to keep on trying. However, the message in this story is a little confusing since it was actually fate and luck that caused Leif to be successful in the end.

THOUGHTS: This book is a good choice for autumn themed storytimes. It would be also useful for guidance counselors for lessons on perseverance and in the classroom for lessons on problem solving and creativity.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Boxitects

Smith, Kim. Boxitects. Clarion Books, 2020. 978-1-328-47720-0. Unpaged. $17.99. K-3.

Meg is a talented “boxitect.” She makes all sorts of things out of boxes, from houses to towers to tunnels. When her mother sends her to Maker School, she is very excited to learn all about boxitecture. However, this all changes when Simone shows up. Simone is also a boxitect, and she puts Meg’s work to shame. When Meg and Simone are forced to work together on a group project, their inability to agree results in disaster. In order to salvage their project, the two must learn to compromise and work together. An encouraging story about the power of creativity and teamwork, this book is sure to delight young artists and makers.

THOUGHTS: I absolutely love the incorporation of STEAM elements into this story, and the fact that the protagonist is a female is an added bonus. I could see this being used in the classroom to introduce a STEAM project or experiment, perhaps even one that involves creating something out of cardboard boxes. The back matter even includes an experiment that demonstrates the durability of cardboard, as well as directions for creating both a tunnel and a castle out of boxes. This book would pair nicely with Antoinette Portis’s Not A Box (2006). It would be an excellent addition to any elementary collection.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Kodi

Cullum, Jared. Kodi. Top Shelf Productions. 2020. 978-1-603-09467-2. 176 p. $14.99. Grades 2-5.

While out on a walk near her grandmother’s Alaska summer house, comics-loving Katya encounters an enormous kodiak bear with its leg pinned under a fallen tree. Working together, Katya and “Meema” free the bear and mend his wounded paw. Katya and Kodi become fast friends (and an expert fishing team), so both are crestfallen when she must return to Seattle. When Kodi sees a tourist with a Seattle t-shirt, he realizes that stowing away on a cruise ship will deliver him to Katya. But finding a small girl in a big city requires some help; enter a fisherman named Joshua, who forms his own unique bond with the bear. Jared Cullum’s gorgeous watercolors portray a range of settings, emotions, and action with evocative style. Katya’s vulnerability is evident in her big eyes and slight build; her strength shows in her artwork and steadfastness. Kodi is both comically oversized and brawny, but gentle. Joshua, disabled in a previous fishing accident, is clever and kind. Readers who fly through the pages to find out what happens next will want to re-read, pausing to admire the mountain streams, city skylines, and ocean waves.

THOUGHTS: This beautifully illustrated graphic novel for young readers is also an homage to the power of friendship and creativity. Don’t miss this one!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Picture Books – The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse; The Teacher’s Pet; Tool School; Scariest Book Ever

Barnett, Mac. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-7754-1. 40 pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

When a mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he thinks it’s the end of the line. But, it turns out, it’s just the beginning of his adventures. In the wolf’s belly, the mouse meets a duck. The duck explains that they might have been swallowed, but he has no intention of being eaten. Instead, from inside the wolf, the pair enjoy tasty home-cooked meals and dance parties, all without the ever-present fear of predators that nagged them before. Life is good until the wolf experiences a bellyache. His moans attract the attention of a hunter, and when all of their lives are in danger, the mouse and the duck decide they need to intervene.  Jon Klassen’s muted mixed-media illustrations are the perfect compliment to this subtly funny story, and readers will laugh at all the items mouse and duck find inside the wolf. Fans of this duo’s previous collaborations, including the Caldecott Honor winners Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, will eagerly devour this latest offering.  THOUGHTS:  This original pourquoi tale will be a wonderful addition to storytimes, and it will very likely fly off elementary shelves.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Rissi, Anica Mrose. The Teacher’s Pet. Disney Hyperion, 2017: ISBN 978-148474364-5. 32pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

Mr. Stricter has always dreamed of having a pet, so he’s very excited when the science projects hatch. Each student monitors the growth of one tadpole, and when they’re grown, they release all the projects into the wild: all except one. Bruno, the last one to hatch, had been the smallest, but as he devours everything in sight, he grows, and grows, and grows. The students quickly realize Bruno is a hippo, and his size is troubling, but Mr. Stricter is blinded by love and is oblivious to any problems. Even as Bruno smashes desks, chomps textbooks, and snores during silent reading, Mr. Stricter declares his love for the class pet. It isn’t until Bruno swallows Mr. Stricter whole that the class is forced into action to get their teacher back.  THOUGHTS:  This title will make a wonderful read-aloud thanks to the witty restraint the author uses. The word “hippo” never appears in the book, but students will immediately notice what Mr. Stricter does not: Bruno looks different from the other tadpoles. The bold acrylic and pencil illustrations shine, extending the text and allowing Bruno’s larger-than-life personality to take center-stage. This will be a good match for science units about watching animals hatch and grow.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Holub, Joan. Tool School. Scholastic, 2017.  978-0-545-68520-7. $16.99. Unpaged. PreK-2.

Five little tools, hammer, screwdriver, tape measure pliers and saw, head to school. Each is eager to display his or her skills but find working alone doesn’t produce very good results. Ms. Drill, their teacher, encourages them to cooperate, yielding better results. Bouncy rhyming text with bold illustrations by James Dean (Pete the Cat) make this a perfect workshop introduction for the tiny tool time set. Cool tool tips are included after the story.  THOUGHTS:  This would be a great introduction to a primary maker-space experience, promoting creativity and cooperation.  

Picture Book      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Shea, Bob.  The Scariest Book Ever. Disney, 2017. 978-148473046-1. $16.99. Unpaged. Gr. Pre K – 2.

Boo! A tiny ghost tries everything to avoid going into the scary woods, from spilling orange juice on himself (drat, he has to take his sheet off) to a bellyache, to convincing the reader that he can be scary right at home. Meanwhile, the reader is apparently reporting back what horrors lurk in the woods – bunnies! Woodland creatures! Doughnuts! Eventually the little ghost is convinced to go into the woods, where he finds a costume party. Shea’s familiar-style illustrations (Ballet Cat, Buddie and the Bunnies) add to the humor of the little ghost trying to convince us he is brave and scary. THOUGHTS:  Youngsters will giggle wildly over the silly juxtaposition of thought and image, as the little ghost tries to be brave but is so obviously afraid of the unknown in the woods.

Picture Book      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Picture Books – Goldfish Ghost; Life; Three Billy Goats; Peterrific

Snicket, Lemony. Goldfish Ghost. Roaring Brook Press, 2017: ISBN 978-1-62672-507-2. 36pp. 17.99. Gr. K-3.

Goldfish Ghost is born in a bowl in a boy’s bedroom, but after floating and staring at the ceiling for a while, he becomes bored and drifts through the air towards the room’s open window in search of some company. He floats over the town’s fishing pier, past some shops, and near the haunted lighthouse. He considers befriending a flock of seagulls, but they are too noisy and are preoccupied with the fishing boats. Everyone he passes in town already has a companion, so he drifts toward the beach. All the beachgoers are busy reading, sunbathing, digging, or swimming, and no one pays him any attention there either. He does spot the ghosts of deceased sea creatures floating over the water, but Goldfish Ghost doesn’t feel quite at home on top of the ocean either. As night falls, Goldfish Ghost hears a voice calling to him from the haunted lighthouse. The ghost of the lighthouse keeper scoops him up, each recognizing that they finally have the sort of company they’ve been searching for. This title’s India ink and watercolor illustrations are filled with fun visuals including families enjoying a day at the beach and people navigating through a seaside town, and students will likely spot new details each time the book is reread. Observant readers will also spot other ghosts, including some old-fashioned beachgoers, in the detailed illustrations.  THOUGHTS:  Although this story’s main character is a ghost, this is not the typical creepy, scary ghost story. Instead, it’s a story about finding friendship and a place to belong. It also presents a fresh perspective about dead pets and will be a winner with readers who enjoy slightly eerie yet comical stories.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Rylant, Cynthia. Life. Beach Lane Books, 2017.  978-1-4814-5162-8. 43pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This book beautifully pairs Cynthia Rylant’s lyrical text with Caldecott Honor-winner Brendan Wenzel’s stunning paintings of the natural world and its many animals. The result is striking; a concise, yet powerful tribute to life’s many twists, turns, mountains, valleys, and surprises. Each page contains only a line or two of text, letting Wenzel’s vibrant paintings shine. The book begins succinctly, noting that life begins small. Following pages depict a baby elephant and a tiny seedling growing beneath the sun’s rays and the moon’s glow. Several animals express what they love most about life, describing simple things such as sky, grass, sand, and rain. Subsequent pages depict how life might not always be easy or beautiful, showing animals braving dark skies, fierce winds, craggy mountains, and thorny underbrush. But eventually, the wilderness ends, and new roads are visible. In a beautiful spread featuring a deer watching a flock of birds fly across a moonlit sky, Rylant reminds readers that life is always changing, and it’s worth waking up each morning to see what a new day holds.  THOUGHTS: This inspirational book can be shared with guidance counselors who could perhaps use it to reassure students who are having a challenging time or who are facing some obstacle in their life. It will also be a good fit for units exploring animals and their many habitats, and it shines as an example of how to boil writing down to just the most essential words and ideas.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Pinkney, Jerry. The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Little, Brown, and Company, 2017. 978-0-316-34157-8. 40pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

With beautiful pencil and watercolor illustrations and a freshly-imagined ending, Jerry Pinkney breathes new life into this classic tale. Many original elements remain: three billy goats wish to cross a troll-guarded bridge so they can graze on the opposite river bank’s green grass. The littlest billy goat goes first, and he convinces the troll to spare him, promising a bigger billy goat will be crossing soon. His prediction is correct, and soon, a second goat attempts to cross. The troll threatens to gobble him up, but he urges the troll to wait for Big Billy Goat Gruff. Sure enough, Big Billy Goat Gruff comes crashing across the bridge, and when confronted by the troll, he lowers his head and charges, knocking the troll into the water. In the water, a giant fish demands to know who is splish-splashing in his river, and he threatens to gobble up the troll. The troll escapes and paddles back to the riverbank. He finds himself on the opposite side of the river, however, and he watches as the entire herd of billy goats crosses over the bridge to eat the green grass on the hillside. Careful readers will notice that this is not the end of the story, however. On the last page of the book, the troll begins gathering stones to build himself a new house, and the littlest billy goat races over the bridge to help him. The final endpapers depict goats traveling freely back and forth across the bridge, as well as other goats coming to assist the troll with his building, suggesting that these characters might ultimately work out a peaceful coexistence.  THOUGHTS:  This stunning retelling is destined to become a classic, and readers will pour over the artwork again and again. The reimagined ending offers readers the chance to experience bullying from a fresh point of view, and it opens the door for discussions about big ideas such as confronting adversity, forgiveness, redemption, and tolerance. This will be a valuable addition to all elementary collections.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Kann, Victoria. Peterrific. Harper, 2017.  978-0-06-256357-6. 36pp. $18.89. Gr. K-3.

Pinkalicious is back, but this time, her brother Peter is the star of the story. Peter’s goal is to build a block tower high enough to reach the stars, so while he builds, Pinkalicious borrows wagon-loads of blocks from all the neighbors. Peter’s tower grows and grows, but once he’s high in the sky, he realizes it can be lonely, and a little scary, at the top. When he spies a high-flying bird passing by, Peter brainstorms an idea for leaving his tower, and once he reaches the ground, he’s quick to imagine ideas for how to construct an even better one. There’s lots to look at in this book’s brightly colored mixed media digital illustrations, and readers will enjoy spotting trains, a slinky, crayons, binoculars, and other toys tucked in among the blocks of Peter’s growing tower.  THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for teaching elements of Design Thinking since Peter works through Asking, Imagining, Planning, Creating, and Improving as he builds his tower. He begins by asking himself how he might create a tall, tall tower. Then, he imagines designing a structure tall enough to reach the stars, and he plans by drawing pictures of his ideas. He uses blocks, tape, rope, and glue to create and hold together his tower, and he continuously adds more blocks so he can improve his design. Once he’s at the top of the tower, he also realizes the tower has some problems: there’s no way to get down, and it might be structurally unsafe. Once he’s safely on the ground again, Peter draws a plan for a new and improved tower, underscoring the ideas in the circular Design Thinking process.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD