MG – It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit

Reynolds, Justin A. It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit. 978-1-338-74022-6. 304 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

Eddie is rocking summer vacation. He has managed to weasel out of doing his laundry, his agreed-upon summer chore, by methodically wearing every piece of clean clothing until he’s down to his swim trunks. This is when the plan falls apart; mom discovers the odorous closet stuffed with dirty clothes, and grounds Eddie, on the day of the big beach bash. He is home alone with a load of wet clothes in the dryer, and another load in the washing machine when the power goes out. As Eddie pokes around the deserted neighborhood, he encounters four friends and learns not only is their power out, too, but the kids seem to be the only people in their neighborhood. So what do you do when all the grownups are gone? Eat junk food!! But when no one can reach their families at the beach, a frisson of worry interrupts their unsupervised glee. The friends pool their knowledge and come up with a credible plan to stick together (it involves entering neighbors’ homes to search for useful items like flashlights, sleeping bags, food, and deodorant). Reynolds provides a lighthearted dystopian story (that’s probably an oxymoron) that will keep readers wondering what happened until the very last page and its cliffhanger ending. The kids, all Black, are an engaging group who realistically swing between joy at being on their own, and worry for their family and the long-term outlook. The one possible drawback to the book is Reynolds’ unusual choice for narration. Written in first person, from Eddie’s point of view, the story is basically a monologue, with Eddie addressing the reader. While the story feels more natural when the friends are conversing, Eddie is an entertaining, honest narrator who openly discusses his ADHD, thoughts about being in therapy and his new step-dad (whom he calls WBD – Wanna-Be Dad.) 

THOUGHTS: Some readers may be thrown by the lengthy interior monologue, but others may be captivated by the conversational tone of the writing. The lack of resolution and the cliffhanger ending will leave fans anxiously awaiting the sequel. 

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG -Rhinos in Nebraska

Stevents, Alison Pearce. Rhinos in Nebraska: The Amazing Discovery of the Ashfall Fossil Beds. Godwin Books, 2021. 978-1-250-26657-6. 135 p. $19.99 Grades 4-7.

The wildlife living in the heart of the North American continent looked very different 12 million years ago! Large herds of rhinos and three-toed horses roamed the plains, and a variety of other predators, birds, and lizards made up just part of the diverse ecosystem. Then, the lives of those creatures were destroyed by a supervolcano eruption that sent clouds of deadly ash as far east as the Atlantic Ocean. Many animals, including large herds of ancient rhinos, died from breathing the ash and were buried in the Ashfall Fossil Beds of Nebraska. In 1953, scientists discovered hundreds of fossils in those ashbeds and began the decades-long process of discovering, studying, and preserving the rhino fossils, as well as fossils of many other plants and animals preserved in the ash. Since then, these ashfall beds have been used as a way to piece together a picture of prehistoric life during that time and gain a greater understanding of life on earth today.

THOUGHTS: This book would be a wonderful read for students interested in paleontology, dinosaurs, and the scientific process of discovery. It provides a fascinating timeline for the development of a discovery that eventually became a National Natural Landmark and State Park. It would be a great curriculum tie-in for classes studying volcanic eruptions and pyrotechnic effects on an ecosystem, and also for students studying fossils and paleontology. The black and white illustrations are sometimes difficult to interpret, but the captions, text, and back matter all provide good support for readers.

560.9782 Paleontology          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

Elem./MG – The One Thing You’d Save

Park, Linda Sue. The One Thing You’d Save. Clarion Books. 978-1-328-51513-1. 65 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6. 

In this novel in verse, a teacher challenges her middle school students to think about the one thing they would save if their home was on fire. Their family and pets are already safe, but she wants to know what one thing inside their home is most important to them. It can be any size, any shape. Some students come up with answers immediately, and others ponder the assignment carefully. From cell phones and favorite books to wallets and trading cards, each student explains the reasoning behind his or her choice. Some students share sentimental stories, such as how they would save a hand-knit sweater from their grandmother or a collar from a pet who passed away. The many different voices reflect an inclusive classroom led by a caring teacher who reminds her students to always protect, affect, and respect one another as they are sharing. In her author’s note, Park shares that sijo, an ancient form of Korean poetry, was her inspiration for this book. Classic sijo have three lines of thirteen to seventeen syllables. While the poems in this collection use the sijo structure, many are longer than traditional sijo poems.

THOUGHTS: This novel in verse should spark engaging discussions between middle-grade readers. The question of what to save in a hypothetical emergency is a universal one, and students’ answers will be as varied as the ones presented in the book. This could be a valuable book to use during Morning Meetings to generate conversation and build relationships. It will provide insights into what students value most and will lead to discussions about sentimental value versus practical value. Share this title with guidance counselors as well.

Novel in Verse          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Flooded:  Requiem for Johnstown

Burg, Ann E. Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-54069-7. 313 p. $16.53. Grades 3-6.

Gertrude Quinn is a spirited young school girl, looking forward to singing at Decoration Day.  Daniel Fagan is planning a summer spent outdoors, maybe even sneaking a swim in at the private late at the top of King’s Mountain. Monica Fagan is looking forward to traveling the world, especially if it means she’ll leave Daniel and his pranks behind. Joe Dixon is waiting for the perfect moment–the perfect moment to tell his father he isn’t working at the company store but instead bought a newsstand, and the perfect moment to propose to his true love, Maggie. William James has been collecting words for a long time, and he’ll get a chance to use them when he reads an original poem at Decoration Day. George Hoffman wishes his pa would let him quit school so he can go to work to help his family of 10. In Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown, Ann E. Berg tells a tale of the lives that were being lived before the disaster on May 31, 1889, that took the lives of more than 2,200 people, including 99 entire families and 396 children. We follow six main characters as they prepare for the Decoration Day celebration, disappointed by the rain but oblivious to the calamity about to unfold. We see the flood as experienced by these characters, and we also witness the aftermath. The flood is the catalyst, but it is not the main character. Instead, Burg has chosen to tell a tale of lives lived, lost and saved.

THOUGHTS: The character development and storytelling will attract students who may not know about the Johnstown flood, and it will likely encourage students to read more about this catastrophe.

Historical Fiction        Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

New YA Nonfiction…Historical Disasters and Art


Goldsmith, Connie. Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2014. 978-14677-16123 88 p. $26.00 Gr. 7-Adult.

Post-World War II, in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the race was on to increase scientific knowledge of nuclear bombs and radiation, and to outmaneuver enemies with the knowledge.  Plans were made, locations investigated, and the Marshall Islands were deemed the ideal locale for detonations.  “Would you be willing to sacrifice your island for the welfare of all men?”  So asked a Commodore of the U.S. Navy of the Bikini Islanders in 1946.  The answer was yes, and the people left with hopes of returning.  But it was not to be.  Author Connie Goldsmith investigates these events and details in-depth how three bombs in particular were detonated, how the islands and people were affected, and how the government either knew very little or kept it hidden or both.  She presents A-bombs Able and Baker, detonated in 1946, and H-bomb Bravo, detonated in 1954.  The immediate devastation was powerful, and the long-term hazards of radiation were staggering.  In the 1980s the Marshallese were promised compensation but have received very little.  This is a powerful look at a tumultuous time, and students can weigh the moral and military, ethical and scientific.  Well-written, with engaging sidebars and purposeful black-and-white photos and an intriguing title, this book will pull in readers.  Source notes, Glossary, Selected Bibliography, Further Information, Index.

623.4; Disasters                      Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



McMullan, James. Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014. 978-161620-2522 113 p. Gr. 7-Adult.

James McMullan today is a distinguished artist, designer and children’s book award winner (for I Stink! with wife Kate), but his early life was wonderfully complex.  Born in 1934, McMullan lived the early years of his life in Cheefoo, China, as a privileged, hesitant (much to his father’s distaste) boy.  The grandson of missionaries who built a successful orphanage and resultant fabric business, his parents continued the work—and lifestyle—as esteemed foreigners.  That is, until World War II, when the Japanese took control of China.  His parents hoped to stay in the life they knew, but with increasing loss of freedoms and increasing fear, his parents opted for a dangerous leave.  In order to freely go, they left the vast majority of their material wealth and, importantly for James and his mother, any sense of stability.  While James and his mother returned to her Canadian family, but eventually skip-hopped the globe (Shanghai, San Francisco, Darjeeling, and so on), his father devoted himself to soldiering with the Allied Forces and for three years did not see his wife or son.  James artfully recalls standout memories of his life from 1934-1946 on double-page presentations, an exquisite watercolor opposite the description of the event and emotions.  He shows many ups and downs, from stability with his aunt and uncle, to the humiliation of “failing” at being the strong, sturdy son his father clearly wished him to be.  The striking artwork conveys both the preciseness and ethereal quality of a life lived learning to enjoy space and place, when neither was guaranteed.  A treat for budding artists or anyone interested in the worldwide effects of World War II.

741.6 Art; Autobiography                Melissa Scott, Shenango High School