Elem. – Pangolina

Goodall, Jane. Pangolina. Minedition. 2021. 978-1-6626-5040-6. $17.99. Gr. K-4.

Pangolina grew up with a loving mother that took care of her everyday. As Pangolina grows older, her mother takes her out to explore the world, showing her all of the things she needs to know to eat and be safe. Pangolina is curious, learning about the different animals around her, even the humans that can sometimes be scary. As Pangolina grows even older, mother tells her it is time to leave so that she can find a mate and have her own baby. One night as Pangolina sleeps in her burrow, a scary man grabs her and puts her into a cloth bag. She is put into a cage where there are other scared and crying animals. Pangolina is about to be sold away, when a young child from the village saves her, as it is illegal to hunt and sell pangolins. Pangolina is sent to a sanctuary where she is safe, able to be with other pangolins, and be cared for.

THOUGHTS: A beautiful book about pangolins, an interesting animal, as it is the only mammal with scales. Pangolins are endangered and are a protected species. This book provides a heartwarming and suspenseful story about a pangolin, all the while providing information about this unique animal. The back of the book contains more information and resources to learn more about pangolins.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem./MG – Animals Back From the Brink (Series NF)

Animals Back From the Brink. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. $14.30 ea. $290.50 set of 14. 32p. Grades 3-6.

Bringing Back the American Alligator. 978-1-549-08040-1.
Bringing Back the Black-Footed Ferret. 978-1-725-44237-5.
Bringing Back the Blue Iguana. 978-1-725-48072-8.
Bringing Back the California Condor. 978-1-725-48073-5.
Bringing Back the Giant Panda. 978-1-549-08041-8.
Bringing Back the Gray Wolf. 978-1-549-08042-5.
Bringing Back the Grizzly Bear. 978-1-549-08043-2.
Bringing Back the Humpback Whale. 978-1-549-08044-9.
Bringing Back the Island Fox. 978-1-725-48074-2.
Bringing Back the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat. 978-1-725-44238-2.
Bringing Back the Mountain Gorilla. 978-1-725-44239-9.
Bringing Back the Snow Leopard. 978-1-725-44240-5.
Bringing Back the Southern White Rhino. 978-1-725-48075-9.
Bringing Back the Whooping Crane. 978-1-549-08045-6.

Readers will discover endangered species around the world. Each book begins with facts about the featured species including its habitat and an introduction to the dangerous factors contributing to extinction. Each book explains the scientific criteria that is used to figure out the levels of threat to each species, the historical and current threat to each species, and the problems environmental groups have had trying to protect them. Each book concludes with an explanation of future protection efforts and what the reader can do to help. The “Learning More” section of each book provides books and websites for the reader to learn more about the specific species featured.

THOUGHTS: A good supplement to an existing collection of  endangered species books and for libraries with patrons interested in this topic.

590 Animals     Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

Elem. – The Great Bear Rescue: Saving the Gobi Bears

Markle, Sandra. The Great Bear Rescue: Saving the Gobi Bears. Millbrook Press, 2020. 978-1-541-58125-8. 40 p. $25.59. Grades 3-6. 

Gobi bears are the only species of bear to live entirely in a desert–the Gobi Desert, which means harsh, dry landscape in summer and bitter cold in winter. They eat mainly plants that they dig up with their claws, but the lack of availability of food and water has caused their numbers to dwindle to an estimated 31 (only 8 are female). What can conservationists do? Mongolians consider the Gobi bear to be a national treasure, and the Mongolian government has set aside large tracts of the desert as protected space for the bear, being sure to include areas with natural springs. They also established the Gobi Bear Project, which has led to tracking and accurate numbering of the remaining bears. Still, climate and humans threaten the bears.  Increasingly common droughts, as well as illegal gold mining of the desert (including protected areas) hurts the species’ chances of survival. But researchers are encouraged that the government is protecting the species, the Mongolian people are supportive, the tracked bears appear healthy, and the number of bears has increased slightly (from 22 to 31). Markle presents information about the bear and conservation efforts in a readable manner, made more accessible by numerous photos of the bears, the desert, and the people who would help or harm the future of the bears.

THOUGHTS: This book is a top example of nonfiction for young people, complete with timeline, glossary, source notes, further research, index, and note from the author. Markle has published 12 titles in the series “Sandra Markle’s Science Discoveries,” most recently The Great Penguin Rescue (2018), The Great Rhino Rescue (2019), and Follow Those Zebras (2020). Each title is expertly researched and presented for upper elementary and middle school students.

333.95 Endangered Species          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MS FIC – My Brigadista Year; Dragon Tea Society; Patina; Anne of Green Gables GN

Paterson, Katherine. My Brigadista Year. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-9508-8. 198 p. $15.99. Gr. 5 and up.

There’s no stopping the inimitable Katherine Paterson, who is back with a succinct novel about Fidel Castro’s plan to make the entire country of Cuba literate in one year. My Brigadista Year follows thirteen-year-old Lora as she volunteers to be a teacher – a Contrado Benítez Brigadista – in the Varadero region of Cuba. Most Americans probably have no idea that Fidel Castro not only set out to make his country literate, but he succeeded.  The literacy rate went from around 65% to 98% in one year, thanks to his volunteer army. Lora’s enthusiasm for her task, her deep caring for her students – ranging from six to sixty – and her determination to see them all pass their tests (there are three), is moving. While the safety of Lora and her students is constantly in jeopardy by the bandidos who support Batista, it’s not at the forefront, and is fairly subdued. This is a quiet book about the power of words, and how the ability to read can literally change a person’s life. It also makes no bones about the US involvement with the Bay of Pigs, a forgotten slice of history, and how unfavorably the people of Cuba viewed America. A well-researched, fascinating window into the lives of the Cuban people in the 1960s. THOUGHTS: This is a very accessible historical fiction novel, with an appealing and relatable protagonist, and would be a great addition to any upper elementary or middle school library.  Highly recommended!

Historical Fiction     Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School


O’Neill, Katie. The Tea Dragon Society. Oni Press, 2017. 978-16-2010-4415. 72pp. $17.99. Gr. 4-8.

This lovely, full color, graphic novel will win the hearts of middle grade readers. Set in a fantastical world where most characters have at least one animal feature (horns, tails, etc.) Greta is learning blacksmithing from her mother. The art is dying out, but Greta is excited to learn. One day in the market she finds a lost little dragon. When she returns it to its owner, Greta learns that it is a tea dragon and that the art of raising, bonding, and drinking tea harvested from tea dragons is also in danger of being forgotten. Greta begins learning how to care for these creatures and in turn is accepted by three new friends. THOUGHTS: Based on a webcomic, this short and sweet graphic novel is wonderful. It treasures patience, inclusive relationships, and in this world it does not matter what you look like. A definite addition to any graphic novel collection!

Graphic Novel, Fantasy           Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Reynolds, Jason. Patina. New York: Atheneum Books, 2017. 978-1-4814-5018-8. 240 p. $17.99. Gr. 6 and up.

Jason Reynolds wins for most prolific author of the year, and his ability to transition from upper YA to middle grades is astounding. In his newest addition to his Track series, Reynolds gives us the story of the titular character. Patina lives in three worlds: her homeworld, her track world, and her school world. Patina’s home life is complicated; she lives with her aunt (“Momley”), who is white, and her uncle because her mother, who is a double-amputee due to diabetes, is too sick to care for her and her sister. School is a struggle for Patina; she attends a private school, and feels like a “raisin in a bowl of milk”. She can’t relate to her classmates, who she calls the “hair flippers” at all. Her track life is what she looks forward to the most.  She is a rising star, but needs to learn to control her emotions and connect with her teammates. This is a perfect book for middle grade readers; Patina is funny, honest, awkward, and emotional, and her story, full of emotional ups and downs, strong adult characters, and nuanced supporting characters, will resonate with every reader. Thoughts: Hand this book to any middle school student who is struggling to find their own voice and their own path. No need to have read Ghost, the first book in the series, in order to follow Patina’s story.

Contemporary Fiction; Sports      Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School


Marsden, Mariah. Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel. Andrews McMeel, 2017. 978-1-4494-7960-2. 230p. $10.99.  Gr. 5 and up.

This graphic adaptation of the entire Anne of Green Gables series touches on many of the stories of the original books and retains much of the feeling that I remember. Anne is an orphan who is mistakenly placed in a house that was looking for a boy.  She makes a place in the hearts of Marilla and Matthew and has many escapades while growing up.  Anne’s character shines through, as well as the brother and sister who take her in. THOUGHTS: This could be a jumping off point for young readers to indulge in reading the books, or for older generations to take a quick trip down memory lane. Either set of readers will enjoy reading about Anne’s exploits in a more simple time.

Graphic novel     Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

Elementary/MS NF – Great Leopard Rescue; Shackles from the Deep; Isaac the Alchemist; Moto and Me

Markle, Sandra.  The Great Leopard Rescue: Saving the Amur Leopards.  Millbrook Press, 2017. 9781467792479. 48 pp. $23.00. Gr. 3-6.

“In 2007 only thirty Amur leopards remained in the wild” (Back cover).  Markle’s narrative on the Amur leopard is a fascinating look into the preservation efforts designed to save this endangered animal.  The author begins by presenting the dramatic story of a leopard on the hunt, and its efforts to escape from a forest fire. She then gives facts about the animal’s habitat and behavior and explains the reasons why this wild cat is facing extinction.  The stunning photographs and detailed maps aid the reader’s understanding of the issues. Markle’s main focus is on the scientists and their tactics.  She shows us how scientists, veterinarians, zookeepers and the government work together to find ways to increase the leopard population.  Some of these methods include scat analysis to identify feeding patterns, tracking collars, vaccination against disease, forest fire management and zoo breeding.  Children will enjoy reading about how young leopard cubs are taught about tiger avoidance.  This book is an excellent resource to show how scientists collaborate in order to solve problems and achieve their goals. While the topic of scientific inquiry is also covered in the Scientists in the Field series, this book is more accessible to younger readers in its book design and readability. Readers curious to learn more can follow the program’s progress on the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance website, as listed in the author’s note. The back matter includes a timeline of the preservation efforts, a glossary, source notes and suggested reading.  THOUGHTS:  Markle’s text will work well in STEM units and budding scientists and animal lovers will find this book hard to put down. A first purchase for elementary library collections.

Endangered Animals                Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Cottman, Michael. Shackles from the Deep. Penguin Random House, 2017. 978-1-42632-663-9. $17.99. 128p. Gr. 5-8.

The slave ship Henrietta Marie sunk off the coast of Florida in the early 1700s. For over 300 years it rested on the ocean floor until little was left but the cannon, ship’s bell, and iron shackles. Pulitzer prize winning journalist and scuba diver, Michael Cottman, researched the Henrietta Marie from the foundry in England where the shackles were made, to Senegal’s Goree Island and the “Door of No Return,” which was the last place slaves saw before they boarded slave ships bound for the Caribbean and the United States. He ends up in Jamaica which is where the slaves on the Henrietta Marie were shipped. At each of the places Cottman uses his journalist skills and personal interest to dig deeper into what it might have been like during the 1700s when the Henrietta Marie, her crew, and cargo were making the harrowing 3-month journey. THOUGHTS: This is a fascinating story about the history of the slave ship Henrietta Marie and all the lives that were touched by its existence. I did book clubs with Shackles from the Deep with 8th graders this past year, and this book sparked many discussions about slavery. This book is an excellent NF book to integrate into middle school Social Studies curriculum. It includes color photographs of the artifacts.

382.4409, Slave Trade      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Losure, Mary. Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton Reveal’d. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-7063-4. $19.99. 163p. Gr. 4-8.

The genius that is Isaac Newton is brought to life by Losure. Her thorough research shines throughout the book, and her gentle writing introduces the reader to the lonely, inquisitive, driven boy who developed modern physics and invented calculus. Abandoned by his mother at the age of three, Newton spent years moving between various homes. Fortunately, in his formative years he received some education and access to books, which jumpstarted his prodigious curiosity. Losure masterfully combines the facts of Newton’s life with information about the 17th century, the time period in which he lived. Superb use of images, including reproductions of Newton’s youthful journals, add to the physical delight of this book, and details like young Newton’s list of sins will engage readers. THOUGHTS: This excellent non-fiction text is wonderful leisure reading as well as a solid biography for research or introduction to primary sources.  

Biography     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Eszterhas, Suzi. Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom. Owlkids Books, 2017. 978-1-77147-242-5. 38 pp. $17.95. Gr. 2-5.

Meet the adorable serval Moto, who was orphaned in a savanna grass fire when he was just a baby. Rangers in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve acted quickly to place helpless kitten with wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas. She lovingly, patiently fostered Moto and helped him hone the skills he would need to thrive in the wild: grooming himself, hunting, and eluding predators. This wonderful memoir describes the year that they spent together before Moto successfully returned to his natural habitat. It’s touching without being overly sentimental, and the photographs of Moto are the real star of the show. Moto and Me concludes with a list of facts about servals, which will hopefully inspire readers to learn even more about them; this San Diego Zoo article is a great starting point. THOUGHTS: This must-purchase is a strong match with STEM topics and will be great fun to booktalk!

599.75; Wildlife      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District