Elem. – King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Library Book

Butler, Dori Hillestad. King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Library Book. Peachtree, 2022. 978-1-682-63215-4. 47 p. $14.99. Grades K-2. 

King (a dog, and the narrator of the King & Kayla series) wants to play with his owner Kayla, but she doesn’t have time. She’s busy searching the house for her missing library book. She needs it so she can participate in book exchange at the library. King loves listening to Kayla read him stories, so he decides to help her look for the book. When Kayla’s friend Jillian stops by, she joins in the search, too. Together, Kayla and Jillian create a list of things they know about the missing book and what they don’t know. (King wants to contribute to the list, but unfortunately for him, the girls don’t understand dog-speak). The girls then determine a plan of action to try to locate the book. With a little help from King, the book is found and the crisis averted. 

THOUGHTS: This delightful early chapter book will hold great appeal for readers. It serves as an excellent gateway to mystery/detective stories and could also be used in lessons about problem solving or even in a talk about locating lost library books. The book incorporates humor through the character of King, who can be somewhat excitable in his efforts to solve the mystery.

Early Chapter Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – I’d Like to be the Window for a Wise Old Dog

Stead, Philip. I’d Like to be the Window for a Wise Old Dog. Doubleday Books for Young Readers. 2022. 978-0-593-37509-9. $18.99. Grades K-3.

I wonder if I’ll ever be, I wonder if I’ll ever see are all common questions in this book. I wonder if I will be the dawdle of a penguin or the tumble of a honeybee. Throughout all of this, the reader knows that I would like to be the window for a wise old dog. The questions and wondering of things that are possible or things that are not possible are filled in this book, making the reader wonder about these impossibilities, too.

THOUGHTS: This is a book filled with the thoughts of things we can never be and wondering what it would be like to be those impossible things. It is gentle book, with colorful illustrations decorating these questions, presenting the reader with imaginary thoughts.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

MG – The Supernatural Society

Ogle, Rex. The Supernatural Society. Inkyard Press, 2022. 978-1-335-42487-7. 281 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Will moves with his mom and his dog, Fitz, from New York City to a new school in East Emerson because his parents have recently divorced, and he is not pleased. Will deals with quite a bit of culture shock as he acclimates to small-town life and realizes that East Emerson isn’t just a sleepy, boring town; his new home is also overrun with monsters! Eventually, though, he befriends Linus and Ivy, two siblings from his neighborhood who help him deal with the monsters and make him feel as though he has found a “tribe” among all the upheaval and heartbreak in his life.

THOUGHTS: Good for students who want more scary stories, those who are fans of Stranger Things and groups of smart, multicultural kids finding monsters and solving mysteries. Linus is unapologetically smart, Ivy is strong, and Will is the glue that holds the band together. Students will be waiting with excitement for future books as well! This story will also serve as an unusual but interesting way to lead students to Free Lunch, Rex Ogle’s gritty and fascinating memoir.

Mystery Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD
Supernatural Fiction

Elem. – Two Dogs

Falconer, Ian. Two Dogs. Michael DiCapua Books, 2022. 978-0-062-95447-3. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-1.

Ian Falconer of Olivia fame returns with another silly bit of fun, this time featuring dogs not pigs. Percy and Augie are two dachshunds who have been with their family since puppyhood. The family played with them a lot as puppies, but once the children were old enough to go to school and the parents went to work, the pair found themselves alone and bored. Of course, they would follow the usual indoor routines of most dogs, like chasing each other, playing with a ball and barking at squirrels. Even some unusual behaviors are not enough to amuse them, and the pooches decide they have to go outside. After figuring out how to open the lock, the dachshunds proceed to have a grand old time in the yard. They swim in the pool, play on the swings, roll in some unpleasant raccoon droppings and “water” the flowers. Then they spot a tiny hole in the lawn and cannot resist enlarging it. Suddenly the pair hear the approach of the family car, and Augie and Percy “hightail” it back inside. Will the canine duo come up with a clever way to avoid being blamed for the giant hole? Falconer has created humorous artwork that shows the animals with all their doggy characteristics, but with a slight human touch, as he did with Olivia.

THOUGHTS: This laugh out loud picture book is sure to be a hit with young readers who will ask for it to be read again and again. Highly recommended for all elementary collections.

Picture Book           Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Life in the Doghouse: Elmer and the Talent Show

Velasquez, Crystal. Life in the Doghouse: Elmer and the Talent Show. Aladdin, 2022. 978-1-534-48260-9. 140 p. $17.99. Grades 2-4. 

Elmer, a long-haired dachshund, is thrilled when a family chooses to adopt him from Danny and Ron’s Rescue. Even though he’s a senior dog who’s undergone a lot of surgeries on his eyes and jaw, he has lots of energy and love to share. When Elmer is adopted by the Cruz family, his number one job is to cheer up their son, Benny, a quiet boy who changes schools frequently since his Mom is an Army Sergeant. Benny and Elmer begin working together during agility classes at a local rec center, and the training helps build both Benny and Elmer’s confidence and cements the bond between dog and boy. This title is the first in a new series inspired by the real-life dogs at Danny and Ron’s Rescue in South Carolina. Readers may also recognize Danny and Ron from their streaming “Life in the Doghouse” show. Backmatter includes pictures and details of the real Elmer the dog who inspired this story. 

THOUGHTS: Share this title with dog lovers who are transitioning to chapter books. This is also a great pick for students who are building new friendships themselves or students who are interested in dog handling or training.

Animal Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Don’t Eat Bees (Life Lessons from Chip the Dog)

Petty, Dev. Don’t Eat Bees (Life Lessons from Chip the Dog). Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-0-593-43313-3. $23.99. Grades K-2.

Chip is a very smart dog. You see, although he is only 7 years old in people years, he is very old in dog years. Chip has learned lots of lessons along the way, most of them being about things that you can eat and things that you cannot eat. For example, you can eat shoes, or plants, or the important papers the small human being brings home. You cannot eat, however, bees. Peas are fine, but bees are not! It is very important to remember that you cannot eat bees… even if you really, really want to… at least, you should try your best to remember not to eat them more than once!

THOUGHTS: An adorable book filled with simple life lessons from a dog! After all, it is important to remember not to eat bees, even when you may really want to!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together

Assarasakorn, Michele, and Nathan Fairbairn. PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together. Razorbill, 2022. 978-0-593-35186-4. 176 pp. $12.99. Gr. 3-6.

Fifth grader Gabby and her best friends, sixth graders Mindy and Priya, absolutely love animals, but none of them can have a pet due to parental preferences, landlord policies, and allergies. Longing for some furry friends in their lives, the three girls form PAWS: Pretty Awesome Walkers, and begin walking a small group of neighborhood dogs. They face a series of obstacles in the process of building their after-school business. Some are humorous – who will pick up the dog poop? should they wear matching uniforms? – while others stem from the girls’ different goals for PAWS, varying commitment levels, and lack of communication. Gabby especially feels like she is always out-voted by her slightly older, sometimes bossier friends. All three girls learn from their mistakes and Gabby does, indeed, get it together!

THOUGHTS: PAWS is essentially a Baby-Sitters Club for animal-loving tweens; the next installment, due in November, will focus on Mindy. Sunny artwork, friend and family dynamics, and plenty of adorable pups lend broad appeal to this graphic novel series starter.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Pugs Cause Traffic Jams

McGrath, Jennifer. Pugs Cause Traffic Jams. Kids Can Press, 2022. 978-1-5253-0340-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2

Pugs Cause Traffic Jams is a funny picture book that shows how pugs are not the same as other dogs, as they can cause traffic jams! When the book starts and our main character is looking for her pug Kirby, we are getting a look into all the chaos that Kirby is causing while she is hunting for him. The conversations the main character is having with the other characters in the book are set in a different font, so the reader will easily be able to tell. The illustrations are enjoyable and add to the overall charm of the book.

THOUGHTS: This is a cute book and would make a wonderful addition to any elementary school collection.

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – My Poet

MacLachlan, Patricia. My Poet. Illustrated by Jen Hill. Harper Collins, 2022. 978-0-062-97114-2. $17.99. 32 p. Grades K-5.

The recently deceased master of subtle writing, Patricia MacLachlan, bears tribute to the late poet, Mary Oliver in My Poet. Though Oliver remains unnamed throughout the picture book, the comparison to her is undeniable. For most of her adult life, Oliver resided in Cape Cod; MacLachlan, too, was a citizen of Massachusetts and reports that she had a passing acquaintance with the poet. Covering a span of one day, a young girl, Lily, meets the poet she dubs “my poet” at a farmer’s market, and the two explore the woods and seashore and enjoy different animals together. As Lily searches to develop her writing style, the mentor poet guides her to inspirational scenes of nature. Jen Hill’s loosely drawn illustrations evoke the spray of saltwater, the busyness of the farmer’s market, the secrecy of the woods. “My poet” encourages Lily in her pursuit of the “just right” words to compose her poem and Hill’s illustrations are in perfect concert with MacLachlan’s lyrical prose. Used as a mentor text to encourage creative writing or as a calming read aloud, this nuanced book speaks to the sensitive child. Lily’s use of a notebook walking through the woods imitates Mary Oliver’s favorite pastime as a child growing up in Ohio: to escape a tumultuous home life, she would spend as much time as possible outdoors, jotting down poetry in her own notebook, even hiding pencils in tree trunks.

THOUGHTS: I don’t know if I am enraptured by this book because I appreciate the understated prose of Patricia MacLachlan or because I am in awe of the paradoxically gentle yet powerful poetry of Mary Oliver. Either way, the prose offers many openings into discussion of Oliver’s poems (she wrote of fish playing with her toes and a whole volume devoted to her beloved dogs). Even without the mention of Oliver, the book pursues the work of writing for young children or as a mentor text for older ones. The illustrations remind me of Allan Drummond (Green City) are a refreshing fit for the words. 

Poetry          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia
Juvenile Fiction

Elem. – Ciao, Sandro!

Varni, Steven. Ciao, Sandro! Abrams, 2021. 978-1-419-74390-0. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

Sandro is a small dog who accompanies his owner, Nicola, a Venetian gondolier, on his daily tours around the city. Sandro even dresses like a gondolier himself, with a striped shirt, red kerchief, and straw hat. Instead of joining Nicola on his tours, today Sandro disembarks the gondola and heads into Venice. He visits a series of friends, each of whom greet him by saying “Ciao, Sandro!” None of the individuals seem surprised to see Sandro. In fact, they almost seem to have been expecting him. Francesca the fruit seller shows Sandro some fruit; Avise, a friend of Nicola’s, reassures Sandro he hasn’t forgotten; and Giorgio the glassblower presents Sandro with a goblet and asks for his approval. When Sandro re-joins Nicola and they head home at the end of the day, it turns out that all Sandro’s visits were in preparation for a surprise birthday party for Nicola! Backmatter includes a glossary of the Italian words that are included in the text. 

THOUGHTS: Not only will readers enjoy guessing why Sandro spent the day purposefully visiting his friends, they will also gain an appreciation for the Italian city of Venice. On his journey Sandro passes through many well known landmarks, which are depicted in Luciano Lozano’s watercolor pencil, ink, and digital illustrations. Say “Ciao, Sandro!” and consider adding this title to libraries serving younger elementary readers.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD