Elem. – Jazz for Lunch!

Dapier, Jarrett. Jazz for Lunch! Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 978-1-534-45408-8. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Built on the foundations of jazz music and creative cooking, this rhyming story vividly depicts the power both music and food have to bring people together. A young boy and his aunt set out to have lunch at a jazz club where his aunt is a regular. In the club, the sounds from the kitchen mix with the sounds from the stage, creating a vibrant, animated atmosphere. But, the club is so crowded that the boy and his aunt can’t get close enough to see the performers or place an order. They leave early, stop by a produce stand, and the next day, they cook up their own jazzy lunch at home. Each dish is inspired by jazz greats, including Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, John Coltrane, and Ella Fitzgerald. End papers feature brief biographies of 20 jazz greats mentioned in the story as well one of their album titles. The lively digital illustrations capture the movement and the emotions the food and the music inspire.

THOUGHTS: Share this title with music teachers who can make curricular connections with the featured jazz musicians and the music vocabulary sprinkled in the text. Music and ELA teachers will also appreciate the use of onomatopoeia as the boy and his aunt cook up their feast. This exuberant book captures the joy of coming together to enjoy great food and great music.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Sometimes It’s Bright

Ruygt, Annie. Sometimes It’s Bright. Boyd’s Mill Press, 2021. 978-1-68437-982-8 p. 32. $17.99. Grades K-2.

“What is that magic, sparkling and sheer?”

A very observant little girl and her mother spend the day together. The main character notices the flow in the notes of a street musician, noise from billboards, and flying from the dancers on a stage. Where is this beauty coming from, and how does it shine so bright? The curious little girl learns that there is magic all around her and that when she digs deep, she can find this brilliant magic within herself as well. She can dance, draw, and paint to share art with the world, using everyday magic as glorious inspiration. Sometimes It’s Bright explores our most creative selves and shares the magic and happiness it can bring to others.

THOUGHTS: There is magic inside each child’s imagination, and Sometimes It’s Bright sparks the creative side in each reader. Annie Ruygt, the author, said, “I wish for you to be your whole self because this world is better when we’re all shining bright.” Gentle and straightforward text, with bright and vibrant illustrations- the story is a winner!

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – If You Miss Me

Li Langrano, Jocelyn. If You Miss Me. Orchard Books, 2021. 978-1-338-68069-0. 40 p. $18.99. Grades PreK-3.

“If you miss me. Look at the moon. I will do the same.” 

The picture book If You Miss Me by Jocelyn Li Langrano is a breath-taking story about love and loss. Charlie, a young girl who loves to dance, has a strong relationship with her grandmother. Charlie and Grandma dance through life, and even when they are not together, they seem to be connected. Grandma often reminds Charlie that when they are apart, looking at the same moon will help them feel as if they are together. As the season changes, Grandma’s unexpected death brings so much pain to Charlie’s life. Dancing does not feel the same, and indeed, she misses the most important person in her life. Will Charlie be able to heal? Will dancing become a part of her life again? This beautiful picture book explores grief in simple words and sweet illustrations– with love depicted on every page.

THOUGHTS: This lovely picture book will be available in December of 2021. Charlie’s story speaks to the heart and explores the idea that those who have died are truly not lost. This book could validate and explain complicated feelings in a gentle and heartwarming manner for children who have lost a loved one.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

MG – The Chance to Fly

Stroker, Ali, and Davidowitz, Stacy. The Chance to Fly. Amulet Books, 2021. 978-1-419-74393-1. 279 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

After moving across the country and leaving her best friend Chloe behind, Natalie Beacon feels a little lost. She finds some solace in belting Broadway showtunes and hanging with her dog, Warbucks. Her father believes that getting her back on a wheelchair racing team will make her feel better, and it might have…until Nat sees a flyer advertising open auditions for a teenage production of Wicked! Without her parents’ permission or knowledge, Nat auditions with the hope of playing Nessarose, the only Broadway character that is in a wheelchair. Yet even if she makes it into the show, Nat knows she will constantly worry about how her wheelchair might get in the way: what if backstage isn’t wheelchair accessible? What if the dance moves are too complicated for her? What if her parents don’t think she is capable of doing something on her own without their help? Determined and eager, Nat sets out to prove to everyone that she is not defined by her wheelchair.

THOUGHTS: Ali Stroker, co-author of this book, knows firsthand about Nat’s predicament. She is the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage AND win a Tony Award, Broadway’s highest honor. This middle grade novel is packed with show tune lyrics and Broadway references. Readers will be charmed by (and also relate to) Nat and her friends. Her story is proof that no one should give up on their dreams.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno, Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!

Denise, Anika Aldamuy. A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno, Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! Harper, 2020. 978-0-062-87770-3. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Rosita Alverio lives between a mountain and a rainforest in Puerto Rico. But soon after turning five, she and her mother board a steamship bound for America and a new life. In order to make ends meet, her mother works as a sweatshop seamstress. It is not a lot of money, but there is enough to spare so Rosita can take dance lessons. With her perfect twirls and her charismatic charm, Rosita quickly becomes a minor celebrity. She dances for the troops, acts on the radio, and even records Spanish versions of hit Hollywood movies. But soon, Rosita’s life changes when she meets with Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM film studios. Shortly after, she becomes Rita Moreno and goes on to become one of the most famous Latinx stars in the world.

THOUGHTS: Fans of Rita Moreno will love this book as it gives a glimpse into the star’s life before fame. However, even readers who do not know of Moreno will appreciate her journey: a real life rags-to-riches story with a Latinx person at the center of it all. Leo Espinosa’s stunning illustrations make it seem as though Moreno is twirling off the page. This is a must-have for elementary librarians looking to expand their biography section.

921 Rita Moreno          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Upper Elementary/MS Series Fiction – Curious Cat Spy Club; The Quirks; Dance Divas

curiouscat

Singleton, Linda Joy. The Curious Cat Spy Club. Chicago: Albert Whitman, 2015. 978-0-8075-13767. 245 p. $14.99. Gr. 3-6.

Becca lives at the Wild Oaks Animal Sanctuary and has a group of friends known as Sparklers. When Becca is chasing their zorse, Kelsey helps to stop the creature from fleeing by sharing her father’s homemade cookies. Becca is grateful for her help and makes sure that her mother calls Kelsey’s parents so they understand why the cookies did not make it to the Veteran’s Hall.  It is the unlikely sound of cats in a dumpster that ties the crew of Kelsey, Becca and then Leo, an aloof boy from their class that loves robots, together. It seems that too many pets are missing. Their club meets in secret at the Skunk Shack. Their friendship will be challenged and also grow as the mystery becomes more intense. Thoughts: This book is the perfect start to a series for upper elementary and middle school readers in need of a detective story that is not overly scary.

Realistic Fiction; Mystery   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

 

quirks

Soderberg, Erin. The Quirks and the Quirkalicious Birthday. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 978-1-61963-370-4. 199 p. $13.99. Gr. 3-6.

Join the next installment in the series as the twins prepare for their tenth birthday. For the first time, they will have a party and can each invite ten guests since they have been living in Normal, Michigan, for a few weeks. Who will they invite and how will they agree on the location and special events for the party? In their quest to solve the Quikalicius Birthday Hunt from their grandfather, the two will learn how to work together and  when to tell  a joke.  In a way, the series reminds you of Savvy by Ingrid Law as most of the family members have certain powers. Full page and smaller black and white illustrations advance the narrative. Thoughts: With a family and mixed special abilities, I think of this book as a perfect read for students who have older sibling devouring Ingrid Law’s Savvy. With powerful abilities, students could also relate the characters to various comic book characters.

Realistic Fiction       Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

 

dancedivas

Berk, Sheryl. Dance Divas: Showstopper. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 127 p. 978-1-61963-575-3. $15.99. Gr. 3-6.

Enter the sixth novel in the series as Miss Toni decided that the dancers will have time off during the week of President’s Day. While used to having the finest costumes available, this time the dancers will have to make their own costumes based upon the card they select. Gracie selected the joker card and has difficulty narrowing down her costume. To fuel her dream, Anya and her mother live thousands of miles away from her father and brother. Rochelle and her family invited them over for Christmas, but it  wasn’t the same. They are preparing for the dance competition in Las Vegas. Anya and her mother fly out to LAX and learn that her brother passed his driver’s test. During her week, the teacher is practicing merging ballet and hip-hop. At what could be her last performance in Las Vegas with her dance troupe, she learns that her brother was seriously injured when driving. What will happen next? Thoughts: While a sixth in the series, I think a student could read the books in any order and take delight reading the books.

Realistic Fiction    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

lifemotion

Copeland, Misty. Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. New York: Touchstone, 2014. 978-1-476737-980. 288 p. $24.99  Gr. 9-12.


“This is for the little brown girls.”
Misty Copeland has worked her way from a “shuffled” sort of childhood to ballet stardom and, through her writing and affiliation with Under Armor, Prince, and more is nearly a household name.  All this from a young woman who first took a ballet class at 13 (far beyond the usual 3 and 4-year-old beginning age) and who didn’t have the right “build” or the right skin color for ballet.  What did she have?  A seemingly innate ability to know and perform the moves, and soon, a love of ballet which fueled her drive to learn and to be the best.  As evidenced in her memoir, she also has writing ability that pulls the reader in, and a kind, forgiving, no-grudges-held attitude.  “This is for the little brown girls.”  It is a line she repeats and a role she takes seriously.  She sees herself as helping to open the body- and race-specific world of ballet to boys and girls of various sizes and races.  This is an uplifting and inspiring biography of a woman to admire not only for her ballet accomplishments, but also for her strong, open-to-life character.  This book fills a gaping need for biographies of contemporary dancers, and will be much in demand by young dancers in your school.  Highly recommended.
792.8 Ballet; Memoir   Melissa Scott, Shenango High School