Elem. – Friendship Goals (Series Fiction)

Reid, C.L. Friendship Goals (Emma Every Day). Picture Window Books, 2022. 978-1-515-87181-8. $16.99. 27 p. Grades K-2.

Emma is an 8 year old in third grade. She lives with her parents, has a brother named Jaden, and a best friend named Izzie. Emma is Deaf. She uses a Cochlear Implant and American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. Friendship Goals is the latest story in this 12 book Early Reader Chapter Book series. In this story Emma helps her friend Izzie practice soccer and ASL. Emma is good at soccer and is happy to help her friend work on her skills and build her confidence on the field. Each book includes a finger-spelling chart. Select words are spelled out in ASL letters (rebus style) throughout the books, and each book in the series includes a glossary of ASL signs pertaining to the story. Illustrated by Elena Aiello. 

THOUGHTS: This series of books is adorable. Emma encounters everyday childhood experiences and  situations. Sometimes Emma is able to participate alongside her peers without any assistance or accommodations. In some experiences Emma (along with her family, friends, and teachers), needs to problem solve in order to participate. A wonderfully diverse introduction to Deafness, Cochlear Implants, and American Sign Language for hearing students – and an everyday life mirror for students who are Deaf. 

Early Reader Chapter Book – Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers

Khan, Henna. One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers. Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Chronicle Books, 2022. 978-1-452-18272-8. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades K-3.

For Muslim children, One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers, is a mirror; for non-Muslim children, it is a window. Saturated in rich colors– golds, reds, turquoise–this horizontally-shaped book uses simple yet significant objects special to the Muslim community to correspond to the numbers. The story focuses on a young boy’s family and some basic precepts of the Muslim religion: kindness, generosity, and prayerfulness. This visual presentation illustrator Mehrdokht Amini’s drawings connect perfectly with the sparse text. Characters are depicted realistically with enlarged faces, full of expression; the calligraphy conveying the four-line rhymes on each page is readable and large font, also. The double-page spreads take up the entire space with vibrant paint or, in some instances, with a collage effect. Islamic motifs repeat in tablecloths, book covers, and window panes; minarets in the skyline indicate a Middle Eastern setting. The story marks an intersection of the ancient and the modern. Though the young boy dons western dress, the adults wear traditional Muslim garb as they make their pilgrimage to Mecca. Children of other faiths may find similarities, such as gathering to study the Quran, doing good works, fasting, or repetitious prayer. Though targeted for a primary grade audience, the book can inform older students as well. Includes a helpful glossary.

THOUGHTS: From end page to end page, this gorgeous picture book emanates a Middle Eastern tone. Though this book is an easy reader, the information it conveys may dispel any misconceptions young people may have about the Muslim religion. For this reason, teachers could use this book for students of higher grades, too.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Sir Ladybug

Tabor, Corey R. Sir Ladybug. Balzer + Bray, 2022. 978-0-063-06906-0. $12.99.  68 p. Grades PK-3.

This epic insect tale is constructed as an early-reader graphic novel. In four chapters, an introduction, two interludes, and an epilogue, readers will be delighted with the antics of Sir Ladybug, his Herald, Pell (an anxious pill bug), and his Trusty Squire, Sterling (a gamer snail with a penchant for cake). The three friends are on an epic quest to save a yellow caterpillar from the dreaded monster, Chickadee. Though initially tempted to hide in Sterling’s shell to avoid being eaten, the friends devise an amusing plan to befriend their nemesis. Delightful and bright comic illustrations highlight the action, which is packed with non-stop humor.

THOUGHTS: At first glance this early-reader graphic novel is pure fun. Silliness abounds in both the text and illustrations. New readers and graphic novel enthusiasts will be completely amused. Dig a little deeper, and it is clear the book is also cleverly teaching literary vocabulary and structure. A fabulous read aloud or independent reading selection.

Early Reader          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD
Graphic Novel

Elem. – The Chicken House

In this early reader adventure, The Chicken Squad is back for another adventure. Sugar, Dirt, Sweetie, and Poppy live in the triangle chicken house with their mother. Dirt likes to read by the window, Sweetie likes to draw on the walls, Poppy likes to rest in a big shoe, and mother Moosh likes when everyone is home. Home is a bit crowded though. J.J. lives in a doghouse that has a bathtub; a big, soft bed; and a table for massages. Sugar invites her siblings to the more spacious dog house, and each enjoys having a little elbow room. But Moosh misses her chicks, and J.J. notices his dog house isn’t like it used to be. Will everyone find a way to be comfortable and feel at home? This text has longer sentences with simple chapters and high-interest vocabulary words. 

THOUGHTS: A fun twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this chicken adventure will garner laughs of emerging readers.

Early Reader          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Pumpkin Heads!

Minor, Wendell. Pumpkin Heads! Charlesbridge. 2021. 978-1-58059-935-2. $11.99. Gr. PreK-2.

As fall rolls in, we start to see something all around. What are those round, orange things? Why, they are pumpkins of course! When Halloween looms closer, all of those carved pumpkins become pumpkin heads! Pumpkin heads come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of faces. Why, those silly pumpkins may even be found in the strangest of places! Happy Halloween, pumpkin heads!

THOUGHTS: This book shows the magical element of pumpkins! This picture book shows all sorts of pumpkins and gourds and makes it the highlight of the spooky season!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Jack at Bat; Jack Goes West

Barnett, Mac, and Greg Pizzoli. Jack at Bat. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11382-0. Unpaged. $9.99. Grades K-2.
—. Jack Goes West. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11388-2. Unpaged. $9.99. Grades K-2.

Jack is a bunny with mixed behavior! Sometimes he is bad and selfish, and sometimes he is the hero. One thing is for sure: A Jack Book will be an unpredictable and fun beginning reader story! With clever words by Mac Barnett and emotive illustrations from Greg Pizzoli, readers will delight to visit and revisit this new series. In Jack Goes West, he and “The Lady” ride a train to a dude ranch… next to a bank. Some bandits, lassos, and mistaken identities ensue! Meanwhile, in Jack at Bat, The Ladies take on The Brats in a ballgame that sees Jack get yelled at, nap away the game, and chase down a snack. But can he hit the ball? With a readable layout, short sentences, and surprising plot twists, young readers are bound to become fans of Jack.

THOUGHTS: These are longer than some beginning readers, which provides a nice extended read aloud opportunity or encouragement for budding readers. Introducing this series will naturally draw students to discover the other fun and fascinating work of Barnett and Pizzoli. Recommended for K-2.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Easy/Early Reader – The Great Pet Escape; Hot Rod Hamster; Minnie Hocus Bow-cus

Jamieson, Victoria. The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose Series). New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-105-2. 63 pp. $7.99. Gr. 2-5.

There has been a break out at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary!  G.W. , the second grade pet hamster has finally succeeded in breaking out of his “prison” and is now in search of his long lost friends Biter and Barry who came into this school with him.  Together they were the Furry Fiends.  But when G.W. (short for George Washington) finds his friends, they’ve changed.  They are no longer rough and tough.  Biter has changed his name to Sunflower and has learned all about feelings and sharing in his Kindergarten room.  Barry is enjoying story time in first grade.   GW is sad to find his friends so changed, but together they must team up to defeat Harriet, the evil fourth grade pet mouse and her minions.  In this fun, graphic novel style book, kids will enjoy the adventure and fun of this trio who fight to defeat the bully of the school.  Written and illustrated by the author of the award winning Roller Girl, this book is sure to “escape” from the library shelves regularly!  THOUGHTS:  A perfect choice for the reluctant reader!  The colorful graphics will rope them in, but the great vocabulary and fun antics will keep them reading and growing as readers.  This may also be a good discussion starter about bullying, since the bully of the story plays a main part as they problem solve to defeat her.

Early Reader Graphic Novel      Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Lord, Cynthia. Hot Rod Hamster Meets His Match. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-82592-4. 32 pp. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

In this episode, Hot Rod Hamster meets an adventurous girl hamster named Holly.  They work together to try to win the race down the water slide and beat the mean dogs from the park.  This early reader series by the author of Rules is perfect for the beginning reader.  The word bubbles and colorful graphics will attract the reluctant reader.  The repetition and simple sight words will give them a sense of accomplishment as they read independently.  Along the way, the reader is given choices to make “Grape pop. Fudge pop. Punch pop. Crunch pop. Which would you choose?” This adds another layer of fun and repetition to the text.  THOUGHTS:  This new early reader series will give emerging readers success as they find sight words and lots of simple sentences to help them develop a love of reading.   This series is a great addition to an early reader basket of fiction books in a kindergarten through second grade class.

Early Reader     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy


Gold, Gina. Minnie Hocus Bow-cus. New York: Hyperion, 2016. 978-1-61479-363-2. 32pp. $10.99. Gr. K-1.

Minnie’s Bow-tique is having a sale.  To bring in customers, they decide to have a magic show starring the great Penguini! Millie and Melody Mouse are going to assist him.  But when Penguini disappears, Melody and Millie try to take over the show, and things begin to go wrong.  This illustrated early reader from Disney Hyperion is a colorful and attractive selection for the emerging reader in Pre-K to Grade 1. The familiar Minnie Mouse along with a cast of some new characters will appeal to the younger set.  The simple text and work repetition will provide early readers with success.  THOUGHTS:  This early reader is a great addition to any fiction reading basket.  Students will be drawn to the fun characters and simple text and hopefully discover the magic of reading for themselves!

Early Reader Fiction   Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy