Elem./MG – Amina’s Song

Khan, Hena. Amina’s Song. Saleem Reads, 2021. 978-1-534-45988-5. 275 p. $17.99. Grades 4-6.

Amina is spending some of her summer in Pakistan with a family that she doesn’t see often, and she loves it! The market, the food, the sights, as well as spending time with her extended family, it’s hard to pick a favorite thing. With the end of the summer pending, Amina is headed back home and ready to share her favorite parts of Pakistan with her friends and classmates. However, they only seem to hear the bad parts of Pakistan, which is extremely frustrating and disheartening to Amina. She wonders if she can change their minds when she gets just that opportunity! Her history teacher assigns a project which just might help Amina change her classmates’ mind about her homeland, as well as show them the Pakistan Amina knows.

THOUGHTS: Amina’s Song is an amazing sequel which showcases the bond that Amina’s family has between Pakistan and the United States wonderfully. I feel many readers will be able to relate to Amina’s thoughts and feelings, especially when Amina is struggling to share her favorite parts of Pakistan with her classmates and friends. Highly recommend this book for any elementary or middle school collection.

Realistic Fiction          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

YA NF – The Book of Chocolate; Jack London; Girl Rising; When the Sky Breaks

Winchester, Simon.  When the Sky Breaks: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and the Worst Weather in the World.  Smithsonian/Viking, 2017. 978-0451-476357  $22.99  88 pp.  Gr. 7-12.

Simon Winchester, amateur meteorologist, follows his award-winning When the Earth Shakes: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis (2016) with a second book which focuses on hurricanes (also known as cyclones or typhoons, depending upon rotation and hemisphere), tornadoes, El Nino, La Nina, and why these events occur.  He profiles Hurricane Sandy’s life and effects on New York and New Jersey in 2012; the deadliest U.S. hurricane on record, the Great Galveston Hurricane which hit Texas in 1900; a Hong Kong hurricane he experienced in 1995; one 1974 hurricane which leveled Darwin, Australia; Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines in 2013; and of course, Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans in 2005.  Through his often-suspenseful explanations, he explains meteorological instruments; the Coriolis effect (of the rotation of the earth on winds, causing circular wind patterns); the U.S. squadron of hurricane hunters; and the Walker Circulation, named after Gilbert Walker, who proved that “if something meteorological was happening on one side of the ocean, the exact opposite was happening on the other side” (53).  How to maintain public safety while not ‘crying wolf’ amid often unpredictable ferocious storms is the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS).  While hurricanes may pummel land with wind and water, tornadoes have “just” wind, but they more than make up for it with the ferocity and speed of the winds (the highest rating is EF5 at 201+ mph).  Winchester states that our world is warming, and the Pacific Ocean will “carry the world’s heat burden on its own” (77), but that “the world will eventually allow itself to come back into balance” (77).  Still, Winchester pushes for better efforts to clean up our world, for our own sake and for the future.  Recommended Reading, Index.  THOUGHTS: A solid addition to science and STEM collections.

551.5  Weather             Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Newquist, H.P. The Book of Chocolate: The Amazing Story of the World’s Favorite Candy. Viking, 2017.  978-0670-015740. $17.99. 156 pp. Gr. 5-12.

Beginning with “What is chocolate, really?” and detailing how the cocoa (cacao) tree grows, Newquist begins the absorbing story of how the chocolate industry grew (to enormous proportions) and how the chocolate we eat is influenced by continent and makers.  Chocolate has been used as a drug, as money, as aphrodisiac, and daily is used as a delicious treat.  The Mayans and the Aztecs traded cocoa; Columbus was initially unimpressed with the beans, but once Cortes understood the bitter Aztec cocoa beverage (and was treated as the god Quetzalcoatl), he seized numerous plantations and re-routed the cocoa—and the recipe for the cocoa drink—to Spain.  Its popularity grew among the wealthy.  When people tasted it, they wanted more.  Demand was huge for this drink, and fortunately, many were experimenting with flavors and pressing.  Not until 1847 was the chocolate bar born; in 1875, milk chocolate (courtesy of Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter).  Just four years later, Rodolphe Lindt created the “conch” machine that made chocolate smooth, pourable, and revolutionary; he kept his methods secret for two decades.  Milton Hershey in Pennsylvania thus created his own methods to make a smooth milk chocolate and form an empire.  The candy battles were just beginning.  Newquist brings humanity to the history of chocolate, explaining how greed and flavors, advertising and demand would influence the industry in both the United States and in Europe (where Hershey’s chocolate are sneered at as inferior).  Newquist is complete in his explanation of chocolate manufacturing today and small chocolate makers worldwide, and what chemically makes chocolate so addictive.  He does include information on the dark side of the chocolate trade: human slavery on African plantations, and how companies are trying to address the issue.  And if you’d like to know the most popular chocolate brand in the U.S today?  It’s M&M’s!  Glossary, sources, index.

THOUGHTS: Newquist has created a highly readable account of the history of chocolate, colorful and full of research and photos.  Anyone who likes chocolate or who wonders about the major producers or future of the industry will enjoy this book.  More suitable for younger readers than Kay Frydenborg’s also interesting Chocolate: Sweet Science and Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat (2015).  This could also be paired with Gillian Richardson’s Ten Plants That Shook the World (2013) or Michael O. Tunnell’s Candy Bomber: The Story of Berlin Airlift’s ‘Chocolate Pilot’” (2010) or any examination of industry and economics.

338.4; Chocolate Industry              Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Lourie, Peter. Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush.  Henry Holt & Company, 2017. 978-08050-97573  $18.99  192 pp.  Grades 5-12.

One year in the life of Jack London; one year that killed many other men; one year that gave him all the fodder he needed for his exceptional stories about the gold rush and life in the harsh outdoor conditions of the Klondike.  In 1897, London joined the hordes of men headed on a 500-mile journey to the Klondike with hopes of finding gold.  While some found gold, many more did not.  London’s youth, optimism, physical strength and ability to connect with people helped him with his group.  Lourie wisely adds London’s own words about the experience, heightening the terrible reality of lost lives and dreams.  Photographs, sidebars and illustrations by Wendell Minor provide needed visual insight into the people and the dangers.  Lourie ends with notes from the author, notable places, a timeline of London’s life, bibliography and index. THOUGHTS:  This is not biography of London’s entire life, nor is it meant to be.  Covering this year of inspiration (which ended when London developed scurvy) can easily inspire young people to seek out London’s novels and short stories.  London’s personality comes through as a persistent and optimistic man.

Biography          Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Stone, Tanya Lee. Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time. Wendy Lamb Books, 2017. 978-0553-511468  $22.99  195 pp.  Gr. 7-12.

Girl Rising began as a film featuring the stories of nine girls whose situations (arranged marriage, forced slavery, and cultures that enabled it) had kept them from getting an education.  When she saw this film, author Tanya Lee Stone felt compelled to learn more, “What are the major obstacles to education, and what causes them in the first place?  Why are these issues so much more of a problem for girls than for boys?  What can we do about what seems to be an overwhelming global problem?” (preface).  She found that in more than fifty countries, school is not free.  Most often, it is the girls who are kept from school.  Poverty, gender discrimination and cultural expectations leave many families with limited choices.  Child marriage, slavery, and human trafficking exist even in countries where they are illegal.  Stone focuses largely on two sections in her book: The Stories and The Solutions.  Girls from Cambodia to India, Peru to Nepal, their faces draw readers to read their words.  The combination of clear photography, stark stories, and the girls’ own words makes this book a powerful push for change.  Excellent bibliography shares books, articles, reports, websites and videos (which could be useful to share with students to drive home the reality of the girls’ lives).  What Stone shows us is at once heartbreaking and hopeful.  The only drawback is the lack of any map identifying countries, to illustrate the truly worldwide nature of this problem.  THOUGHTS: It is hard to stop reading this book, since the stories are so compelling and the danger so real.  And it would be so easy for these girls to be broken.  But many are standing up, speaking out, even while (in many cases) being very careful to reveal their identities for fear of revenge against themselves or their family members.  This book shows the despair, and it shows the hope for these girls and for the world to experience their intelligence, their talents, and their bravery.  This would be a wonderful complement to fiction such as Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns (Afghanistan), Staples’ Shabanu (Pakistan), or Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird (India). Also consider nonfiction: I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (2014); I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorce (2010); and Laura Scandiffio’s excellent Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School (2016), which details this worldwide problem for both genders and has proven popular among my high school students.

371.8 Girls & Education              Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Middle Grades Realistic Fiction – Allie; Dragon’s Mouth; Wimpy Kid

alliefirst

Cervantes, Angela. Allie, First At Last. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016. 978-0-545-81223-8. 200 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.

Fifth grader Allie wants to make her mark as all of her family has already done. She works diligently on her volcano project, but it does not erupt at the science fair. The new student, Victor, places his green goo project in her volcano when Allie leaves her table to cheer up her previous best friend, Sara. Since Allie did not win the fair, her family does not go out for tacos. Allie’s great-grandfather, a living legend and hero of WWII, reminds her parents to stay true to their words.  As the story progresses, Allie and Victor become good friends, but she is shocked to learn that Victor applied for the same contest as her.  Her entry about her great grandfather has advanced in the competition, but should she have included more than his achievements in war time? THOUGHTS: Many students experience changes in friends, making this book perfect for upper elementary and middle school readers. While readers might not feel the pressure to be first in something like Allie, they probably wish to succeed in a multitude of areas. Allie comes to understand that family and friendship is more important than being first in an award.

Realistic Fiction         Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

dragonsmouth

Thompson, Holly. Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth.  New York: Henry Holt, 2016. 978-1-62779-134-2. 343 p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.

Josh Parker is in sixth grade and finding his classmates in Japan are not friendly towards him. He attends an English group weekly for those living in Japan to continue using the English language. While out with Cora a fire occurs, and they wind up helping the police solve the mystery. Josh calls his school the Dragon’s Mouth since it historically was attached to the temple with that name. School is not a happy place for him due to severe bullying: physical, verbal, social, and also destruction of property. The bullying continues to get worse, but thankfully his sister is key to saving him as a result of the “choking game.” After the story, a glossary of terms is included along with a detailed explanation cultural elements and ending with resources. THOUGHTS: The novel is unique not only in writing style of free verse  but also content. Readers are reminded to speak up regarding bullying whether they are the victim, witness, or bystander.

Realistic Fiction, Novel in Verse        Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

doubledown

Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down. New York: Amulet Books, 2016. 978-1-4197-2593-7. 217 p. $14.00. Gr. 3-6.

Jeff Kinney’s done it again! Greg Heffley returns with a fresh set of middle school troubles, from his mom believing that he needs to lay off the video games to the town being home to a flock of overly aggressive geese.  Halloween is coming up and Greg wants to be invited to the best party in town hosted by a girl in the band. In order to bump up his chances of an invite, Greg decides to start playing the French horn but quickly realizes he’s no musician. His band career ends with his mom taking over the Halloween party with her Family Frolic magazine holiday games and Rowley coloring his underwear black to cover a rip in his pants which he gained trying to open the locked stage door on concert night. As always, Greg’s ridiculous exploits will earn tons of laughs, and kids and adults alike will appreciate Kinney’s excellent ability to build in elements found in every school. One of my favorites this year is Greg’s visit to the school book fair where he buys a cat poster, an animal eraser, a glow-in-the-dark calculator, and more…but no books. He finally trades it all in for a set of “Spinetinglers” books. Any school librarian can relate, and kids will too. THOUGHTS: Another hilarious offering in the life of Greg Heffley.

Realistic Fiction; Humor   Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

New MS Realistic Fiction – Chloe in India; Friends for Life; The Closer; Cassidy’s Guide…

chloeinindia

Darnton, Kate. Chloe in India. New York: Delacorte, 2016. 978-0-553-53504-4. 224p. $19.99. Gr. 6-8.

Hoping to show their daughters, 15 year old Anna, 11 year old Chloe and baby Lucy, a different way of life, the Jones family moves from Boston , Massachusetts, to New Delhi, India. Change is difficult for Chloe who is one of the few students with blonde hair.  School is different too, as students sit on the floor more often in classes and report cards are hand delivered once a month with at least 70 different grades. Chloe hopes to be friends with Anvi and be invited to do activities together. A new student, Lakshmi, is called “stinky” by Anvi. Anna, now a uniform monitor, informs the family that Lakshmi is from the EWS, emotional weaker section. While Chloe misses and Skypes her best friend from Boston, it feels like their friendship is weakening to Chloe. Outside of school, Chloe spends time with Lakshmi. Chloe is shocked to learns that families in India would never have three children due to overpopulation. At first her mother is excited to see a revolution as poorer citizens have a chance for first rate education, but her mother is repulsed by the excess wealth that many families have in the area and especially at Aniv’s over the top birthday party. As Annual Day draws closer, Chloe and Lakshmi practice frequently outside of school. Their practice leads to great dancing, and Anvi does not get the lead dance role. In the restroom Chloe tells Anvi that she is not friends with Lakshmi. Shortly later, a bathroom door opens, and Lakshmi walks out having heard the entire conversation. It is her older sister who helps make things right in her friendship with Lakshmi. The sisters learn more about housing and corruption of wealth in the process.  THOUGHTS: Many students experience the uncertainties of moving around the state or throughout the United States. Not as many students are uprooted to another country and this book allows students to see what it might be like to be an outsider experiencing a new culture.  The mother at times is worked up about her writing deadline or concerned about social justice and has a curse word-reaction, once her dad does this as well. Chloe doesn’t like when she hears either parent swear. This book offer a realistic story of a moving, friendship and standing up for social justice.

Realistic Fiction    Beth McGuire, Wendover MS

 

friendsforlife

Norriss, Andrew. Friends for Life. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-85186-2. 234p. $17.99. Gr. 6-8.

Francis is fine eating lunch alone but would prefer that others not talk about his passion of fashion and creation of doll clothes. After a year of being a ghost and having no communication with anyone, Jessica is shocked that Francis can see, hear, and communicate with her.  Then shortly after, new neighbor Andi, “Thug, Thugette,” can see Jessica. The parents of Andi and Francis are shocked that their kids get along.  Andi doesn’t find Francis’ hobby odd as a relative makes a living designing clothes, but she has a hard time being teased regarding her appearance. Previously, Andi got in a lot of fights at school and at the new school she puts a stop to Quintin teasing. Both Francis and Andi wonder how Jessica passed and when they try to learn, Jessica is gone for several days. Any time they bring it up Jessica fades away. Francis is called to motivate a boy to go to school, and he is large in stature. This boy, Roland, can also see and hear Jessica.  Roland discovers the truth that Jessica committed suicide. All of those that can see Jessica seriously contemplate(d) suicide.  At the hospital, Jessica is able to stop a suicide, and she completes her journey. THOUGHTS:  This book reminds readers not to be afraid to talk or listen to one another. Your actions can help or hurt others greatly without your knowledge.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

closer

Ripken, Carl, Jr. and Kevin Cowherd. The Closer. Los Angeles: Disney, 2016. 978-142317868-2. 200p. $16.99. Gr. 6-8.

Danny, going into eighth grade, is having a difficult time finding the correct pitches and stamina to be a consistent pitcher. Mickey, the catcher, is his best friend. His other teammate, Katelyn, confuses him as she invites the entire baseball team to her bowling birthday party. As Danny struggles to find his niche with baseball, his older brother, Joey, is a phenomenal high school senior pitcher with talent, bringing scouts from all over to watch his playing. At home, Danny accidentally breaks the window of his new and octogenarian neighbor, Mr. Spinelli. To his surprise, Mr. Spinelli offers Danny advice and teaches him a eephus pitch. Danny seems to have a handle on the pitch and posts his pitching which goes viral and gets him interviewed by local news outlets. When his special pitch, nicknamed “terminator”, stops working, Mickey asks Elmo for scientific help. Eventually Danny asks Mr. Spinelli for help about baseball and then about art. Relationships highlight the jealousy between siblings that can exist and the friendship that can be developed with others if you just try. THOUGHTS: This book is like The Pigman meets Finding Buck McHenry! Students that enjoy realistic or sport fiction will be sure to like The Closer.

Realistic Fiction; Sports     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

cassidysguide

Stauffacher, Sue. Cassidy’s Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation). New York: Knopf, 2015. 978-0-375-83097-6. 294p. $16.99. Gr. 6-8.

Eleven-year old Cassidy looks forward to summer. She enjoys spending time in nature, making pranks with Jack, and wandering like a hobo. It is just her rotten luck that when her great-grandmother passes her dying wish is for Cassidy to attend etiquette school while her older sister attends a forensic science class. Each chapter has a title and lively place settings, adding to the mood of the story. Cassidy is surprised that Delton, a smart and quiet classmate, is also enrolled in the etiquette course. They both struggle with the lessons providing humor to the readers. As the story progresses, Cassidy misses Jack and wonders why he is working so hard with lawn care and saving money. Etiquette lessons are the last place Cassidy wants to be during her summer, but it a rewarding experience for her. THOUGHTS:  This book is a fun summer read. It demonstrates that sometimes what one thinks will be terrible, such as etiquette lessons during summer, may not turn out that way.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

Elementary series NF – Cool Refashioned; Global Community; Explorers

coolrefashioned

Kuskowski, Alex.  Cool Refashioned.  Mankato, MN: ABDO, 2016. 32p. $19.95 ea. Gr. 3-6.    

Scarves & Ties Fun & Easy Projects. 978-1-62403-703-0.

Sweaters Fun & Easy Fashion Projects. 978-1-62403-704-7.

This series introduces upper elementary through middle school age readers to the world of making.  It includes step by step directions to refashion items with brightly colored photographs, a glossary, index, table of contents and list of recommended tools and materials to make making easy.  THOUGHTS:  With so many libraries adding Makerspaces, this is a welcome addition.  Students are always in need of a book to help them with crafting.  This series is highly recommended for elementary and middle school libraries.

646; Crafts     Anastasia Hanneken, School Lane Charter School

 

foods

Learning About Our Global Community (series). New York: Crabtree, 2016. 24p. $17.95 ea. Gr K-3.

Barghoorn, Linda. Foods in Different Places. 978-0-7787-2009-6.

McNiven, Lauren & Crystal Sikkens. Birthdays in Different Places. 978-0-7787-2011-9.

McNiven, Lauren. Schools in Different Places. 978-0-7787-2013-3.

Morganelli, Adrianna. Clothing in Different Places. 978-0-7787-2010-2.

Morganelli, Adrianna. Transportation in Different Places. 978-0-7787-2014-0.

O’Brien, Cynthia. Homes in Different Places. 978-0-7787-2012-6.

This is a great basic introduction to communities around the world. Each book begins with a statement that we all share this earth but have similarities and differences in the connection to our daily life. From there, the topics are covered in a manner that is understandable to young readers with logical headings and progression. The text features for nonfiction are all present for instructional purposes. Perhaps the best part is the balance of general statements with specific examples mixed in, giving the needed range of lifestyles while still making it relatable.  THOUGHTS: This is a good series to use as a research tool for 2nd grade level readers. Also great discussions for communities with a large ELL population or those who may need the exposure to other worlds.

Cultures of the World; Series NF      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District

 

 

travelexploreres

Travel with the Great Explorers (series). New York: Crabtree, 2016. 32p. $14.99 ea. Gr 3-6.

Dalrymple, Lisa. Explore with Francisco Pizarro. 978-0-7787-1700-3.

Dalrymple, Lisa. Explore with James Cook. 978-0-7787-1701-0.

O’Brien, Cynthia. Explore with James Franklin. 978-0-7787-1703-4.

O’Brien, Cynthia. Explore with John Cabot. 978-0-7787-1702-7.

As the tagline on the back of the books claim, “Pack your bags- we’re going on an incredible trip!” Readers get to see a quick, engaging synapsis of each explorer from the 14 choices available. The outline of each book is the same, with identical chapter headings and format. The text is short and full of graphics, photos, and activities, reminding readers of the DK books mixed with the You Wouldn’t Want to Be series. The downfall of this format is the storyline of the explorer gets jumbled, but a timeline, glossary, and extra resource list at the back get interested researchers to keep on traveling. THOUGHTS: These go well as a set and could be a quick lesson review on text features for older elementary classes. Also a good example for readers of how to make research interesting and engaging for the reader.

History; Exploration    Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District