Elem. – Memory Jars

Brosgol, Vera. Memory Jars. Roaring Book Press, 2021. 978-1-250-31487-1 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Freda is disappointed when she cannot eat all the blueberries that she picked with her grandmother. Blueberry season is over, and she has to wait an entire year to eat them again! Gran reminds her that she saves blueberries in a jar by turning them into delicious jam. What a delightful idea! Freda begins to wonder- if she can preserve blueberries in jars, why not everything else in her life that are her favorite things? Things such as warm cookies, poppies (her favorite flower), her neighbor’s beautiful singing voice, her best friend that is moving away, or the full moon. Only after she bottles everything up in mason jars does Freda realize that saving everything also means she cannot enjoy those very same things. Memory Jars, a picture book written and illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Vera Brosgol, is the perfect story to remind readers that some things are best saved as beautiful memories.

THOUGHTS: Memory Jars is written as a fable, complete with a satisfying lesson and delicious blueberry jam recipe at the end. The story is clever and charming as Freda learns that enjoying the moment is the best way to make memories. This book would be a perfect way to walk down memory lane to remember fun memories from a summer break, remember a loved one, or remember memories from a fun school year.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Mr. Complain Takes the Train

Bradford, Wade & S. Britt. Mr. Complain Takes the Train. Clarion Books. 2021. 978-0-544-82981-7. $17.99. Grades K-3

Mr. Complain is ready to take the train to his vacation in Dullsville. Unfortunately, the train is late. And loud. The train shows people that are too happy, but also too sad. Mr. Complain’s luggage won’t fit, and his seat is too lumpy. When he receives a new seat, his seat companions are just not up to par. There is nothing perfect on this train… especially when the train spirals downhill, goes in the dark, and even loop-de-loops! Is there something on the train that Mr. Complain will like?

THOUGHTS: Sometimes we need to see the positive things that are in life! We all know a Mr. Complain – this book provides readers with a chance to see the bright side of life, even when things may be a little different or crazy!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

MG – The Dream Weaver

Alegre, Reina Luz. The Dream Weaver. Simon & Schuster Publishers, 2020. $17.99. 978-1-534-46231-1. Grades 5-8.

After drifting around the country following her father’s next big idea her whole life, twelve-year-old Zoey Finolio and her college-bound brother, Jose, land at the Jersey shore living with their maternal Cuban grandfather—one of the most stable homes since their mother’s death. Though Zoey loves her father, she revels in a summer at the beach, doing things most kids her age do and embraces the dream of saving Gonzo’s, her grandfather’s rundown bowling alley, from a developer. When she gets a chance to fill in as a bowler on a local team headed for a championship, Zoey sees it as an opportunity to not only savor friendship but also rejuvenate the boardwalk business. The familial relationships and friendships are nurturing and supportive throughout the book, but this book doesn’t resort to past solutions. Even after the valiant efforts of Zoey and her new friends, Pappy decides to unload the bowling alley and just manage it; Jose still wants to pursue his dream of being an engineer at college; and Zoey’s father continues to try his luck at a different job despite sacrificing his children’s stability. Zoey shows strength of character in expressing her feelings to her father and finds solace in her supportive brother, her new friends, and her new home with her beloved Pappy.

THOUGHTS: The close familial relationships and kind friend relationships are a delight to read. Zoey’s father’s behavior is abysmal and may be a form of bibliotherapy for some readers. In Chapter One, Zoey gets her period for the first time and the narrative explains her distress and how she deals with it, so using the book as a read aloud—at least the first chapter—may be uncomfortable.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Ravi’s Roar

Percival, Tom. Ravi’s Roar. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-547-60300-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Ravi is having a bad day. Nothing is going his way! There are no seats for him on the bus, he’s too short to reach the monkey bars, and he’s too small to go on the big slide. The final straw is when the ice cream vendor runs out of ice cream, and Ravi doesn’t get any. This prompts him to lose his temper; he turns into a tiger and lets out a huge roar. He stomps around the playground roaring at others and doing whatever he wants. He soon finds, however, that his actions are only making matters worse, as no one wants to play with him. Ultimately, he apologizes and makes amends. A very relatable story about losing one’s temper, this book conveys some important messages about working through one’s feelings.

THOUGHTS: This book would make an excellent resource for anyone who teaches young children about feelings, coping mechanisms and emotional health. It is the perfect segue into a discussion about healthy methods of dealing with anger. An author’s note at the end of the book even provides questions to ask when one is mad. As an added bonus, there is a degree of diversity in this book, as the main character and his family are dark-skinned, and the only parent present in the story is the father. This is definitely a solid purchase for any collection serving young children.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – The World Needs More Purple People

Bell, Kristen & Hart, Benjamin. The World Needs More Purple People. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-593-12196-2. 40 p. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

You can hear Kristen Bell’s voice on every page in this adorable story about the importance of being an everyday hero. The moral of the story is to work hard, bring the community together, and use your voice. This book does not offer answers to some of the world’s toughest current issues, but it does offer a primer in recognizing that the world isn’t perfect and it’s hard to be angry if you’re laughing.

THOUGHTS: Although the book isn’t explicitly political, I do wonder if purple comes from combining red and blue (political party colors). A quick, silly read that can keep the attention of the youngest readers.

Picture Book          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – Can I Play Too?

Cotterill, Samantha. Can I Play Too? Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-525-55346-5. $14.81. Unpaged. Grades PreK-1. 

Two young boys build a train track, but things start to sour when one friend’s vision of a perfect train setup doesn’t include his pal’s opinions or choices. A scuffle ensues, and both friends are upset and frustrated. A helpful grown-up steps in and uses a train-themed picture book to explain, “Friends have traffic signals too.” Thoughtful discussion and role-playing help the boys learn about flexibility and social cues, and a second try at playing trains goes much smoother. Created by an author/illustrator on the spectrum, “Can I Play Too?” is part of Samantha Cotterill’s “Little Senses” series. The dust jacket says, “…Samantha wanted to make books that would allow kids to recognize themselves in a playful, fun, yet therapeutic way.” Each title in the series explores a topic that might be relatable for kids on the autism spectrum or kids with sensory issues, although “Can I Play Too?” works well on a social-emotional curriculum too.  

THOUGHTS: Pencil and ink illustrations using traffic light colors support the theme of traffic signals used by trains and friends. An excellent series for all young kids.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – My Feelings, My Choices

Arrow, Emily. My Feelings, My Choices. Cantata Learning, 2020. $25.49 each. $101.96 set of 4. 24 p. Grades K-2.

Trying Again. 978-1-684-10407-9.
Checking In. 978-1-684-10404-8.
Making It Happen. 978-1-684-10405-5.
Taking A Spin. 978-1-684-10406-2. 

This reviewer read Trying Again in the My Feelings, My Choices series. This series from Cantata Learning is as much a book as a song. Each book is meant to be sung, with music accessible on the Cantata website as well in the back of the book. Trying Again is about a young girl learning to take care of her plant. While she makes many mistakes in caring for her plant, instead of giving up, she adopts the Growth Mindset thinking of not being able to care for her plant yet.

THOUGHTS: This is a cute series for those interested in Growth Mindset and teaching kids not to give up after a mistake. Also would be excellent for those who teach by singing.

155.4 Childhood                  Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

MG – Lila and Hadley

Keplinger, Kody. Lila and Hadley. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-30609-5. 256. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Hadley has a right to be angry. Her mom is going to jail for stealing money from her boss, so Hadley has to live with the sister she hasn’t seen in three years. To make matters worse, her vision is failing due to retinitis pigmentosa, a condition meaning she will eventually become legally blind. Depressed and angry that her life is spinning out of control, Hadley reluctantly visits the animal rescue where her sister works. Despite not being a “dog-person,” she is surprised when Lila the pitbull takes a liking to her. Since she has no other plans during summer break, Hadley begrudgingly agrees to help foster and train the dog. While Hadley helps Lila, the dog also helps her with mobility training, lessons Hadley takes to learn how to use a cane, and meet a new friend. Together, the pair slowly become comfortable enough for Lila to find her forever home and Hadley to forgive her family for their faults and accept the help and love she needs.

THOUGHTS: A cute but predictable novel that young middle grade students will enjoy, especially animal lovers. The narrator’s casual language and the easy ending may be off putting to some readers, but the book will be a good addition to an upper elementary or middle grade collection needing diverse stories.

Realistic Fiction          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Sunny

Krampien, Celia. Sunny. Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 978-1-250-31660-8. 36 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Attitude is everything, and your outlook can make even the dreariest of circumstances appear in a different light. When it’s raining outside and everyone else’s spirits are down, Sunny believes it’s the perfect day to use her big yellow umbrella. She splashes happily to school until a gust of wind lifts her up and carries her above her seaside town and out over the ocean. Most people would agree blowing over an ocean during a storm is terrible, but Sunny enjoys watching the tumbling waves. The story progresses in this vein, with Sunny looking on the bright side of every obstacle she encounters, and ultimately relying on the help of some new friends to get her back where she needs to be. Bold illustrations, featuring a palette of primarily teal and yellow, are perfectly in sync with the nautical vibe of the story.

THOUGHTS: This book will be a natural fit for morning meetings focusing on the benefits of a positive outlook, and it will also prompt discussions about what to do and what you can control when a situation is looking bleak.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Tags: Emotions and Feelings. Optimism. Weather fiction.

Easy Readers – Princess Cora; Good for Nothing Button

Schlitz, Laura Amy. Princess Cora and the Crocodile. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-4822-0. $16.99. 74 p. Gr. 1-3.

Immediately upon her birth, Princess Cora’s parents, the King and Queen, began educating their daughter to one day assume the crown. Cora is subjected to thrice-daily baths, a tedious exercise regime and hours reading boring books on how to run a kingdom.  Neither her nanny nor her parents will listen to any of Cora’s objections to her daily routine. Even her request for a dog is soundly denied (dogs are dirty and time-consuming). Frustrated and at her wit’s end, Cora writes a letter to her fairy godmother asking for a pet. Due to her lack of specificity, and apparently the godmother’s wicked sense of humor, Cora is shocked to find she has been sent a crocodile. The crocodile smiles and tries to assure Cora he can eat everyone who annoys her. Cora tries to convince the crocodile that she does not wish him to eat her parents; she just wants a day off. So the crocodile dresses as Cora and takes her place, with predictably hilarious results. Beautiful illustrations throughout by Brian Floca add to the charm of the book. THOUGHTS:  A delightful story sure to charm beginning readers, and one no doubt appreciated by any child who feels over-scheduled.   

Easy Reader; Fiction       Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Harper, Charise Mericle.  The Good for Nothing Button! Hyperion Books for Children, 2017. 9781484726464. Unpaged. $9.99. Gr. K-2.

In this latest book in the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series, we meet three birds who are examining a red button that appears to have no function.  Yellow Bird declares that this button does nothing when pressed, but Blue Bird and Red Bird want to test it out for themselves.  Blue Bird feels a sense of surprise when he presses it, so states that the button does indeed do something.  Yellow Bird does not have the same experience and says that she actually feels sad.  The experimentation continues with Yellow Bird, who begins to feel angry, but the trio comes to realize that the button makes them seem funny.  This is a silly story, but one that will hold the interest of children and make them laugh out loud.  Yellow Bird shares some characteristics of Mo Willems’ Pigeon, such as his tendency to become upset easily.  Elephant and Piggie are seen reading this book on the endpapers and title page. They introduce the story and encourage us to read it as they are doing. Pigeon is harder to find, but appears on the back cover.  Harper’s illustrations of the birds are whimsical and are done in the cartoon style of Willems’ drawings.   Thoughts:  This is a must-have for all elementary collections.  Emerging readers will enjoy the story as they develop their fluency skills.  Librarians will need to decide if they will place these with Willems’ other books or classify them by the author’s name.  The other two books in this series, The Cookie Fiasco and We are Growing!, are by different authors.

Early Chapter        Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD