YA – Ever Cursed

Haydu, Corey Ann. Ever Cursed. Simon & Schuster, 2020. 978-1-534-43703-6. $18.99. 296 p. Grades 9-12.

Five princesses have been cursed, the queen is trapped in a glass box, and the spell is almost turning true. Jane, Alice, Nora, Grace, and Eden have all been cursed by a young witch to be without something: food, sleep, love, memory, and hope. Jane, the oldest, has been without food for five years, and the sisters finally have the opportunity to break their spell before it turns true and becomes permanent. Jane and her sisters are forced to work with the young witch, Raegan, who cursed them five years ago. To break the spell, they must collect a clock from the oldest, a tear from the saddest, a lock of hair from the most beautiful, and a crown from the richest. But, the kingdom of Ever is under a spell far more threatening than any cast by a witch, and the sisters soon discover the terrible truths about their own kingdom and the one person they thought they knew best.

THOUGHTS:  Although Ever Cursed appears to be a fairy tale, this is mainly a book about sexual assault and the abuse of power, and their patriarchal world is not so unlike our own. The beginning of the book includes a content warning for readers explaining that this book may also be triggering for anyone who is currently or previously struggling with an eating disorder. Overall, the strong, female characters in this book have to come to terms with some hard truths, but they are able to work together to expose the real evil plaguing their kingdom.

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – Cinderella is Dead

Bayron, Kalynn. Cinderella is Dead. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-547-60387-9. $16.99. 400 p. Grades 9-12.

Once upon a time, a fairy godmother gave Cinderella the opportunity to attend the royal ball, dressed in a beautiful gown with glass slippers, where she met Prince Charming. They fell in love, and she moved into the castle, escaping her evil step sisters and wicked stepmother. 200 years later, the kingdom honors Cinderella’s story by hosting an annual ball. Every girl in the kingdom is required to attend, dressed in their finest attire, where they hope to be noticed and chosen as a wife. If they are not chosen, they become outcasts. If they are chosen, they belong to their new husbands, losing what little independence they had with their families. Sixteen year old Sophia is preparing to attend her first ball, and while her parents do their best to make sure she’s noticed by a man, she’d rather run away and marry her best friend, Erin. On the night of the ball, things go horribly wrong for Sophia. Desperate for an escape, she flees and meets Constance, the last living descendant of Cinderella’s family. With Constance, Sophia feels more like herself than she ever has, and quickly discovers there is more to Cinderella’s story than the fairy tale she’s memorized. Together with Constance, Sophia decides it’s time to fight back, and they set out to destroy the patriarchy once and for all.

THOUGHTS:  Cinderella is Dead puts a new and unique twist on the classic Cinderella story. I’m a big fan of fairy tales and fractured fairy tales, and I really enjoyed reading this book. Parts of the book felt like it went really fast, but the story did wrap up nicely at the end, and I loved the many plot twists and the mystery surrounding Cinderella’s history (herstory, in this case!). This book is full of strong female characters who remind readers that it’s okay to take control of their life: Do not be silent. Raise your voice. Be a light in the dark.

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

MG – Pumpkinheads; Stepsister; My Body My Choice; Wrecking Ball; Where the Heart Is; The Strangers

Rowell, Rainbow. Pumpkinheads. First Second, 2019. 978-1-250-31285-3. 208 p. $17.99. Grades 6+.

In this charming graphic novel, perennial pumpkin patch workers and best friends Josiah and Deja realize it is their very last shift to work at their beloved fall festival before they head off to college. And though Josie is wallowing a bit about leaving a place, a time, and friends that he truly loves, Deja won’t let him spend their last night at work in a funk. And so she plans an adventurous evening for the two of them to explore all the sights and sounds at the fair, but most especially for Josie to finally talk to his cute crush at the Fudge Shoppe.  

THOUGHTS: The colorful and engaging illustrations by Faith Erin Hill and a sweet story of friendship and positivity by teen favorite Rainbow Rowell, make this title a quick and easy read that is sure to be a hit. 

Graphic Novel          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

 


Donnelly, Jennifer.  Stepsister. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-1-338-26846-1. 341 p. $17.99. Grades 6+. 

In this fantastic retelling of the Cinderella story, the focus in on the stepsister Isabelle, after she and Tavi mutilate their feet in their doomed effort to fit into the glass slipper and win the prince. Now the two girls and their failing mother are alone, derided by the townfolk, marked as outcasts, and struggling to eke out an existence in the countryside. Ella is long gone with her prince, and Isabelle is trying to put the pieces of her life back together. However, Chance and Fate have a wager on Isabelle’s future and her very soul. Can she find redemption and regain the precious pieces of herself that she lost, or is she doomed to a life of jealousy, regret, and bitterness? 

THOUGHTS: A clever and intriguing tale that brings the favorite fairytale full circle. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy of fairytale retellings.

Fantasy Fiction (Fairytales)           Nancy Summers, Abington SD   

 


Stevenson, Robin. My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights. Orca Issues, 2019. 978-1-459-81712-8. 175 p.  $19.95. Grades 7+.

Written as a response to declining access to abortion and birth control for women in the United States and across the world, this well-researched and well-written book provides readers with solid information on the history of abortion, the medical procedures available, the societal impacts of unplanned pregnancies, the history of the reproductive rights movement, the laws surrounding the issue and the anti-abortion movement. The book includes sidebars highlighting quotes from established and up-and-coming activists and color photos of protests and marches from around the world. 

THOUGHTS: A solid reference choice for secondary grades with up-to-date information, pages of citations and references, a glossary, and index.  

362.19 Social Welfare Problems and Services          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

 


Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball. Amulet, 201. 978-1-419-73903-3. 217 p. $14.99. Grades 4-8.

When Greg’s great aunt dies, the Heffley family feels pretty bad when they show up for her funeral and realize (too late, of course) that it’s the wrong funeral…especially when they learn that she’s left them a large inheritance! Everybody lobbies for his favorite way to spend the money, but Greg’s mom says that they’re putting an addition on they house. In typical Greg Heffley fashion, hilarity ensues when Greg attempts to get involved in the renovations, and every aspect of the project goes sideways. It turns out that there is a clerical error with the building permits, and Greg’s family has wasted their money on construction that can’t continue. Mom’s solution? It’s time to move to a bigger, nicer house across town and time to sell the Heffley home to a new family. With meatball subs falling into concrete buckets, hot tubs swinging from cranes, mice families running amok, and Greg’s failed attempts at gutter cleaning, this Wimpy Kid book is the funniest addition to the series in the last few years. Greg’s fear of make-believe monster “The Grout” will have you and your students laughing out loud.

THOUGHTS: Kinney is back on point with this Wimpy Kid book, a winner for avid fans and kids just starting the series.

Realistic/Humorous Fiction           Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Knowles, Jo. Where the Heart Is. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-1-536-20003-4. 292 p. $16.99. Grades 5-9.

This absorbing coming of age story explores friendship, love, and identity as well as family financial problems. Thirteen-year-old Rachel has so much on her plate. Micah, who has always been a faithful constant friend, would like their relationship to deepen. Rachel realizes that she doesn’t want this. Her parents’ financial difficulties bring tension as they lose their house and must move to an apartment. She is embarrassed that her mother must buy clothing from the thrift store. She feels awkward at parties that the new trendier girls give. There is stress from her summer job feeding the animals next door when she realizes that Lucy, the ornery pig is destined to be slaughtered for food.  Rachel is angry but introspective. Change and uncertainty about her future plague Rachel, but Knowles tempers these fears with strong family support and Micah’s friendship. The pace of the book calms down in the last chapter as Rachel realizes that for now, her family being together is more important than the house she lived in. They are beginning a new chapter in their lives. The future may not be certain, but she sees that there is hope. Jo Knowles writes with sensitivity as a young girl begins to understand her sexuality along with the anxiety of loss.  

THOUGHTS: I especially appreciated how Knowles portrays the parents and their problems. They may be angry at their circumstances, but they always consider what is best Rachel and her sister and try to make it happen. Hopefully readers who may be going through trying times will get a better understanding of adults feel when they are going through major losses.

Realistic Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers. Harper Collins, 2019. 978-0-062-83837-7. 405 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

In this dystopian middle school novel Margaret Peterson Haddix introduces the Greystone Family, Mom, Chess, Emma, and Finn who live in a quiet suburb, by choice. The mystery starts as three other children are kidnapped. Mom is in a panic. These three kids are identical to the Greystone children in looks, ages, and names. Mom leaves suddenly after telling the children that they will always have each other.  The story continues as each child sees the events from his/her unique point of view. Chess, a quiet, gangly sixth grader, remembers when his father died and how his mother uprooted the family. He feels a deep responsibility to take care of his siblings. Emma, a fourth grader, loves math. She tries to put order in everything by seeing the mathematical connection and patterns. Finn, an exuberant second grader, loves to talk and to discover new words. These individual narrations allow readers to see characters grow into stronger, more mature persons. The Greystones form an unlikely friendship with Natalie, the daughter of the woman who is watching them during Mom’s absence.  Natalie and the Greystones begin to explore Mom’s basement office to find clues. When they discover a secret passage, the story takes off into an alternate world. It looks like home, even with the same people, but it is a world of cruelty, mind, and sensory control. The citizens live in abject terror. The plot has many twists involving codes and cyphers, a resistance movement, and a search for truth. The “end” leaves the reader hanging. There will be sequels! Greystone Secrets #2, The Deceivers is coming out in April 2020.

THOUGHTS: In addition to being a page turner, this book shows clear strong family ties and teamwork. This reminded me of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and also some of the science fiction by William Sleator.  

Science Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

MG – This Promise of Change; Room 555; New Kid; Bach to the Rescue; Extraordinary Birds; The Woolly Monkey Mysteries; Get Informed–Stay Informed (series); The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise; The Stormkeeper’s Island; Today’s Hip-Hop; Pro Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Comebacks; A Win for Women; The Explosive World of Volcanoes; The Selma Marches for Civil Rights; Can You Crack the Code; George Washington’s Secret Six; The Book of Secrets; Shutout; Stolen Girl; Mirror, Mirror; Mind Drifter

Boyce, Jo Ann Allen, and Debbie Levy. This Promise of Change. Bloomsbury, 2019.  978-1-681-19852-1.  310 p.  $17.99  Grades 4-8.

Jo Ann Allen Boyce, one of the “Clinton 12” African-American teens who enrolled in an all-White Tennessee high school after the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, tells the story of her not-so-long-ago youth in this powerful nonfiction middle grade verse memoir co-written by Debbie Levy (I Dissent, 2017). The book features free verse as well as a variety of more formal poems, each well suited to the subject matter. For example, the villanelle, with its repeated phrasings, is perfect for expressing the way Jo Ann’s thoughts circle around as she ruminates about her first day in her soon-to-be integrated school in “The Night Before.” Boyce’s story focuses on the half-year she attended Clinton High School, which began relatively peacefully but quickly erupted into violence. Jo Ann’s optimism and courage in the face of hatred, and her conviction that prejudice is learned and can be unlearned, is at the heart of this moving book. Brief quotes from primary source material are sprinkled throughout the book. There is extensive backmatter, including information on the poetic forms used, a timeline, photographs, information on the collaborative writing process, and further reading.

THOUGHTS: This unusual book is standout nonfiction, a must-purchase for middle school and upper elementary libraries. Librarians will need to give some thought as to how they will catalog this important book and market it to teachers and young people, as it reads like a beautifully crafted verse novel but is scrupulously researched and written to the standards expected of a first-rate nonfiction title.

379.2 Civil Rights; Poetry          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Watson, Cristy. Room 555. Orca Book Publishers, 2019. 978-1-459-82060-9. $9.95. 116 p. Grades 7-9.

This book is about Mary’s love of hip-hop dancing and the extreme guilt and fear she feels due to her inability to visit her beloved grandmother in the nursing home. Mary, who goes by the nickname her Gram gave her – Roonie, spends most of the book practicing for a school-wide dance competition with her best friend, Kira. Also, their high school requires everyone to log community volunteer hours in order to graduate and Roonie is hoping to get assigned to do clerical work at the local dance school but because she was late handing in the paperwork, she was assigned to volunteer at the local hospital instead. Roonie is devastated about her volunteer assignment but she tries to make the best of it until she finds out she must work on the geriatric floor handing out magazines. The sights, smells, and sounds remind her of the nursing home Gram is in. Although she has severe anxiety, Roonie forces herself to follow through with the job and ends up meeting, Jasmine, the friendly woman in Room 555. Roonie learns that Jasmine belly dances, and they form a connection over their love of dance that gives Roonie the courage to keep returning to her assignment at the hospital. Roonie and Jasmine build a friendship over the next few weeks, and they help each other through some of life’s difficult challenges.  

THOUGHTS: This small book is a good addition to a middle school library’s high-low collection, and Roonie’s love of hip-hop dance may entice students with the same interest to read it.

Realistic Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Craft, Jerry. New Kid. HarperCollins, 2019. 978-0-062-69120-0. $21.99. 256 p. Grades 5-9.

Jordan Banks, an African American seventh grader, begins this graphic novel at his prestigious new school, Riverdale Academy Day School, or RAD for short, even though he’d prefer to be going to a high school that was art focused. His parents (mom especially) think that Jordan’s intelligence would be better addressed at RAD and are excited that he got accepted. Jordan and his father are concerned about the lack of diversity in the student body, and Jordan is anxious about making friends with students who are wealthier than him. Jordan’s father promises him they will revisit the idea of art school in 9th grade if he really feels like he can’t fit in at RAD. His fears come true when on his first day a classmate’s father shows up at Jordan’s apartment in an expensive car that looks out of place in the neighborhood. Jordan ducks down in the seat so his neighborhood friends don’t see him. The story portrays Jordan’s struggles with fitting in while remaining true to himself, and it does a great job of showing all of the microaggressions people of color face on a daily basis. This book makes us reflect on our preconceived ideas of race; even Jordan assumes he will immediately become friends with the handful of other African American students. There are black-and-white double-spread images of helpful life lessons that Jordan has illustrated; things like, tips for riding a city bus in a hoodie, how to do a good handshake, and judging kids by the covers of the books they read.

THOUGHTS: This is the perfect book to give to students who claim they don’t like graphic novels. I laughed-out-loud at one of the images because it was so clever. In the same vein as American Born Chinese, this book is a valuable resource for sharing what African American students experience in school and society in a non-preachy, funny way.

Graphic Novel          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Jordan Banks loves sketching cartoons of his life and dreams of art school, but for his seventh grade year, his parents have enrolled him in a well-known private school, hoping for academic opportunities and social growth (since Jordan is one of the few students of color). Jordan’s dad maintains that Jordan may choose art school in a year or two, but Jordan’s mom is convinced that Riverdale Academy Day School is the best choice. Jordan complies, and discovers stereotypes (others and his own), endures microaggression–and even finds a way to laugh at them with new friend Drew, builds a variety of friendships (of many cultures), and keeps drawing his story. The tale of his first year is full of pathos and at times laugh-out-loud humor, as Jordan tackles soccer for the first time, considers the “meaning” of secret Santa gifts, and more. He reaches a breaking point when Drew is falsely accused of hitting bigoted student Andy, and when Mrs. Rawle (who consistently mixes up the names of all of the non-white kids) reads his sketchbook and wonders why he is so “angry.” Jordan brings to mind all the advice of his parents, grandfather, and more as he adjusts and thrives at Riverdale Academy. He and his friends bring out the best in each other and grow up, a day at a time (well, except for Andy).

THOUGHTS: Jordan is one of the most honest, likable characters in middle school fiction. Many will benefit from reading his story and have their eyes opened to microaggressions, stereotypes, and how to move beyond false assumptions. This graphic novel is a work of art in more ways than one, and a must-read for all middle school students and their teachers.       

Graphic Novel          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Angleberger, Tom. Bach to the Rescue!!! How a Rich Dude Who Couldn’t Sleep Inspired the Greatest Music Ever. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-1-419-73164-8. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

This book is centered around how Bach’s music came to be. Learning about the life of the Rich Dude and his inability to sleep at night transforms Bach’s Goldberg Variations. A story that may not be completely true, we learn how Goldberg was unable to put the Rich Dude to sleep with his music, which in turn kept everyone else awake. Promised a great deal of money, Bach wrote music for Goldberg to play for the Rich Dude, who loved the music and was able to sleep. Bach, in return, received the money he was promised.

THOUGHTS: An interesting tale, that while may not be true, depicts the possible creation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a picture book format that is easy for students to understand.

786 Music          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


McGinnis, Sandy Stark. Extraordinary Birds. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-547-60100-4. 214 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

This debut novel features an eleven year old foster child, December, who believes she will one day become a bird and fly away from the foster homes that have caged her spirit. After December jumps out of a tree, she is removed from her foster home and placed with an elderly woman named Eleanor, also called the “Bird Whisperer.” December continues to feel her scar tingle and goosebumps that will turn into feathers during her stay with Eleanor while also discovering the perfect oak tree for “flying.” Eleanor treats December well, and allows her to help at a bird rehabilitation center with Henrietta, a red tailed hawk who cannot fly. But December encounters trouble at her new school – mean girls who pick on those who are different than them. December befriends one of their victims, Cheryllynn, and the two become close friends. December continues to discover who she really is, but when bad news is delivered to Eleanor, December decides that she must turn into a bird… and fast!

THOUGHTS: A great coming of age story of a girl discovering who she really is that will warm your heart. The characters are relatable, and the story moves along quickly. Multiple themes are prevalent throughout, along with a subtle reference to a transgender child. 

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Markle, Sandra. The Woolly Monkey Mysteries: The Quest to Save a Rain Forest Species. Millbrook Press, 2019. 978-1-512-45868-8. $24.14 40 p. Grades 3-6.

If you haven’t heard of woolly monkeys, you’re not alone.  These rain forest “gardeners” are both elusive and essential to the life of the rain forest. Scientists in Peru’s Manu National Park and Reserve must work tirelessly to track them, painstakingly setting up cameras in the deepest parts of the forest. Author Markle investigates several of these scientists, what they’ve learned about woolly monkeys, and how they’ve learned it. The results have built a stronger understanding of rain forest life and how rain forests could best be strengthened and preserved. “The rain forest’s health is tied to the woolly monkeys, who have to eat, travel through the rain forest canopy, and drop their seed-filled waste to continually replenish the plant life” (35). Markle’s text, combined with the colorful page spreads and color photos, brings the scientists’ concerns to life for all of us new to the species. 

THOUGHTS: Well-presented with maps, photographs, and explanations of the scientists’ work, this book will fuel career ideas of science-minded students who love animals.  

599.8 Monkeys          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Get Informed–Stay Informed (series). Crabtree, 2019. 48 p. $9.95 (paper) $14.86 (hardcover) ea. Grades 5-8.

Hudak, Heather C. #MeToo Movement. 978-0-778-74971-4
—. Climate Change. 978-0-778-74970-7
—. Digital Data Security. 978-0-778-75345-2
—. Immigration and Refugees. 978-0-778-75347-6
Hyde, Natalie. Gun Violence.  978-0-778-75346-9
—. Net Neutrality. 978-0-778-74972-1
—. Oil and Pipelines. 978-0-778-75348-3
—. Opioid Crisis. 978-0-778-74973-8

These books are designed to be informative on their stated topic, while also guiding the reader to understanding information literacy truths. The information literacy instruction is interspersed with the background on the topic, either in entire chapters or in brief sidebars. Because Hudak’s Immigration & Refugees dedicates more space to the information literacy skills, it better prepares the reader to seek out and evaluate information sources. Segments such as “Where to Look” and “Critical Review” establish strong questions to consider when faced with new material. Hyde’s Oil and Pipelines, despite speaking of alternate viewpoints (such as the government), strongly emphasizes the disadvantages of pipelines (even the cover, which shows an oil spill).  

THOUGHTS: Overall, these are helpful sources for beginning background on a topic, but more importantly, for instruction on how to think about information and ideas. Includes Glossary, Source Notes, Find Out More, Index, and Teacher’s Guide online.  Teaching Resources available for download via Follett’s Titlewave for certain titles, including Climate Change, #MeTooMovement, Net Neutrality and Opioid Crisis

Titles Reviewed: Immigration and Refugees; Oil and Pipelines. 

Current Social Issues          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Gemeinhart, Dan. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. Henry Holt & Company, 2019. 344 p. $16.99. 978-1-250-19670-5  Grades 3-6.

Five years ago, Coyote Sunrise and Rodeo (don’t call him Dad), refurbished a bus as a home and began their travels. It is Rodeo’s way of outrunning the memories of his wife and two daughters who died in a car crash. Coyote and her dad get along well, and she knows how to read him and how to behave (avoid melancholy, avoid memories, avoid the names of her mom and sisters). The love Coyote has for her dad is real and reciprocated. Then in a weekly phone call to her Grandma, Coyote learns that the public park in her old neighborhood is to be demolished. It’s the same public park where five days before the accident, she, her mom and two sisters buried a memory box and vowed to locate it in ten years. Suddenly, her need to save that box–and her need for memories–outweighs all else. She must use all her cleverness to get 3600 miles (from Florida to Poplin Springs, Washington) in just four days–without revealing the plan to Rodeo. Along the way, Coyote and Rodeo pick up others who need a ride: Lester who’s reconnecting with his girlfriend, Salvador and his mom who are looking for a new life with his aunt, Val who cannot stay with her family any longer, and Gladys….the goat. Yes, each has a part to play in Coyote’s would-be return home. As the hours–then minutes–count down, how long will it be before Rodeo puts the brakes on this terrifying idea of returning home?

THOUGHTS: A cleverly introspective and appropriately humorous look at grief, family, friendship, and belonging.     

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

For the past five years, twelve-year-old Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have spent their days criss-crossing the country on an old school bus they’ve converted into a home. They travel anywhere their hearts desire – anywhere but to their hometown in Washington state. They haven’t returned home since the car accident that killed Coyote’s mother and two sisters five years ago. But, when Coyote learns from her grandmother that a park in her hometown is going to be demolished, she concocts a plan to get back home to retrieve a memory box she buried there with her mother and sisters before their deaths. Returning home is a “no-go” for Rodeo, so Coyote must figure out a way to get him to drive to Washington without realizing what he’s doing. On their journey, they pick up several passengers, including a mother and son escaping from domestic abuse, a musician looking for love, a teen fleeing a turbulent home life, a gray kitten, and a goat.

THOUGHTS: Coyote is a relatable and perceptive protagonist, and readers will be drawn in by her conversational style of storytelling. She is also multifaceted, and she is unafraid to share her true emotions. Readers will cheer Coyote on as she races the clock to get across the country to reclaim a piece of her past before the bulldozers bury it forever. This title will generate discussions about friendships, grief and loss, and the true meaning of family.

Realistic Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Doyle, Catherine. The Storm Keeper’s Island. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 308 p. $16.99. 978-1-681-19959-7. Grades 5-8.

Fionn Boyle should feel the sea, should have the ocean behind his eyes, but instead he fears it. Even the motion of the boat that delivers him and his older sister Tara to Arranmore Island makes him ill, a fact that Tara is happy to broadcast. Tara has been to the island before, so only Fionn is stunned to meet their grandfather, a curious, eccentric old man that locals refer to as “the Stormkeeper.” Fionn is about to realize the part his family–one of five families–plays in the history of the island. Each generation, Arranmore Island itself (a living thing that responds to Fionn’s presence by growing, breathing, even speaking to him) chooses a new Storm Keeper. Tara’s “boyfriend” Bartley Beasley has been primed by his grandmother to become the Storm Keeper by any means necessary, since she believes Fionn’s grandfather actively cheated her out of the power. Bartley seethes with anger at Fionn and his grandfather, even as the dark magic of Morrigan is waking to lay claim to the island and fight the good forces of Dagda, who saved the island eons ago. Fionn struggles with the loss of his father, before Fionn was born, to the sea itself–all Fionn has ever wanted was for his father to be here. The longing is so great, and greater on the island in the face of his father’s bravery. Before his grandfather succumbs to memory loss, he is able to guide Fionn to see his own history and accept his future as the new Stormkeeper. The novel ends just as the island has chosen Fionn and Morrigan begins her desperate rise against the island and its people. “It’s not fair,” Fionn says of his grandfather’s memory loss, and his grandfather does not dispute it. But he adds, “your greatest responsibility [is] to live a life of breathless wonder, so that when it begins to fade from you, you will feel the shadow of its happiness still inside you and the blissful sense that you laughed the loudest, loved the deepest, and lived fearlessly, even as the specifics of it all melt away” (248). 

THOUGHTS: This is an enjoyable fantasy that interweaves naturally with reality and will push readers to grab the sequel: The Lost Time Warriors (2020). Strongly recommended for fantasy readers.

Fantasy          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Mortensen, Lori. Today’s Hip-Hop. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-55444-1. $21.49. 32 p. Grades 3-9.

The book includes Hip-Hop, popping, locking, free styling, and fusion. The content is divided into chapters, and vocabulary words are in bold font defined on the page and also in the glossary. Cool facts intersect in boxes like the style in Hamilton Broadway show. Colorful images add to the text and demonstrate different dance moves such as the jackhammer. 

THOUGHTS: Additional books in the Dance Today series include Today’s Ballet, Today’s Street Dance, and Today’s Tap Dancing. This books could add to an area of interest to many students that may be lacking in collections. 

793 Dance          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Lyon, Drew. Pro Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Comebacks. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-55436-6. $21.49. 32 p. Grades 3-9.

Full color images throughout concise chapters allow readers to learn about numerous athletic feats such as the 2004 Boston Red Sox, 2016 Chicago Cubs, and standout players such as Ted Williams. Important terms are placed in red font and defined at the bottom of the page. Terms include comeback, RBI, walk-off, pennant, ligament, and are also included in the glossary. Students can continue to explore at facthound.com using a password included in the book.

THOUGHTS: Other books in the All-Time Greatest Comebacks series include Pro-Hockey, Pro-Football, and Pro-Basketball. The series covers a wide range of sports and demonstrates the importance of optimism and never giving up. These are also great books to have in the collection that encourage recreational reading. 

796 Sports          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Terrell, Brandon. A Win for Women: Billie Jean King Takes Down Bobby Riggs. Illustrated by Eduardo Garcia. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-54219-6. $23.49. 32 p. Gr. 3-9. 

This book relates the lasting friendship between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs after their 1973 historic tennis match and is told in a full color graphic novel format. The battle of sexes and gender roles was put to the test and the full color graphic novel details this appropriately. The book includes the legacies of the athletes. A glossary, additional reading, critical thinking questions, Fact Hound internet site links, and an index is included. 

THOUGHTS: Other books in this Greatest moments in sports graphic library series include Defying Hitler: Jesse Owens’ Olympic Triumph, Lake Placid Miracle: When U.S. Hockey Stunned the World, Showdown in Manila: Ali and Frazier’s Epic Final Fight, Calling His Shot: Babe Ruth’s Legendary Home Run, and Soccer Shocker: U.S. Women’s Stunning 1999 World Cup Win. These books demonstrate the impact that sports can have on world events and social issues. They can be used to encourage sports enthusiasts to learn more about history and history enthusiasts to learn about the impact that sports have made. 

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Harbo, Christopher L. The Explosive World of Volcanoes. Illustrated by Tod Smith. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-52947-0. $25.99. 32 p. Grades 3-9. 

Readers are in for a fact filled graphic novel adventure with Max Axiom that includes cones, calderas, and eruptions of volcanoes. Artwork is in full color format. Back matter includes additional facts about volcanoes, a lava flow experiment with detailed steps, discussion questions, writing prompts, glossary, further readings, “super-cool stuff,” and an index.

THOUGHTS: This is part of the new 4D adventures with Max Axiom. 4D content includes videos of lava flow in Hawaii, ruins of Herculaneum, video direction for the lava flow experiment, and a quiz. These additions do enhance the reading experience and can be used in anticipatory sets with students to add additional excitement. Presently there are 24 titles in the series. 

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Otfinoski, Steven. The Selma Marches for Civil Rights We Shall Overcome. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-515-77941-4. $24.49. 112 p. Grades 5-9.

Important individuals involved with the Selma Marches for Civil Rights taking place in 1965 have their name in a purple banner with their location and time. Featured individuals include: Geroge Wallace, Lyndon Johnson, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy, Jim Clark, Lynda Blackmon, Frank Johnson, Viola Liuzzo, and Leroy Moton. The events feel like they are unfolding as you read. Backmatter includes an afterward leading up with milestones for each featured individual, a timeline, a glossary, critical thinking questions, internet sites, resources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: This book is part of the Tangled History set that currently includes 24 titles. The series presents vital events in history presented in an engaging and organized fashion. Most of the primary and individual photographs in this book are in crispy black and white colors. 

393 Social Issues          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Schwartz, Ella. Can You Crack the Code? A  Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography. Illustrated by Lily Williams. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1-681-19514-8. $21.99. 118 p. Grades 4-9.

The book introduces readers to the start of codes and ciphers leading all the way to the 2015 hack using malware known as a Trojan Horse. Illustrations, images, and special features add to the chapters. Ciphers and codes have been used by a wide range of individuals from Julius Caesar, to professional football players, classic fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, and in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Gold-Bug.” Important terms are place ind a bold font. A bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index conclude the book.

THOUGHTS: The book provides a lot of opportunities for readers to practice the codes that they learn about when reading. A lot of history is included when learning about codes. The book has connections to history, social studies, math, and computer science. 

652 Games and Activities          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Kilmeade, Brian, and Don Yaeger. George Washington’s Secret Six: the Spies Who Saved America. Viking, 2019. 978-0-425-28898-6. $17.99. 164 p. Gr. 4-9. 

Concise chapters with black and white illustrations make up this adapted version for young readers based off of the NYT bestselling book. Readers step into the conflicts facing the goal of American independence that Washington and the Patriots seek. While students will recognize the exquisite leadership skills of Washington, they may be unaware of the importance that intelligence from spies helped inform his choices. In addition, the great dangers that spies faced is detailed in the book. The “Secret Six” is also referred to as Culpher’s Ring. The book includes an afterword, appendixes that includes the pre-war lives of the spies and invisible ink, a detailed timeline, selected sources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: Can You Crack the Code? Is an excellent non-book to partner with this book, which is also featured in PSLA reviews. There are also fine fiction books to add to make a must visit display such as Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac, The Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, or The Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.                                                                                                    

973.4 United States History          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Tait, A.L. The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel. Kane Miller, 2019. 978-1-610-67827-8. $5.99. 248 p. Grades 4-8. 

Growing up as an orphan and taken care of at the monastery, Gabe has yet to leave the grounds. He feels that he has no choice but to leave when an injured man gives him a fancy book to keep secret and deliver to a persona that he has never heard of named Aiden. He has an hour to hide the manuscript, but this does not go as planned. He is helped by outlaws, but Gabe does not expect the outlaws to be women. How can Gabe repay the outlaws and also save the book from possible sinister intentions from leaders visiting the monastery? The adventure will continue with The Book of Answers.

THOUGHTS: This is the first American edition since the 2017 publication in Australia and New Zealand. The series would be perfect for fans of The False Prince series by Jennifer A. Nielsen or Rowan Hood by Nancy Springer. 

Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Ross, Jeff. Shutout.  Orca Books, 2019. 978-1-459-81876-7. $9.95. 148 p. Grades 7-12.

Alex is a skilled goalie for the hockey team. Chloe, his girlfriend, is very involved with art and acting, but attends his games. Alex is shocked when the principal wants to see him and believes that Alex is defacing the school with graffiti. The readers know that Alex is not behind the acts, but how can he prove his innocence for his reputation and chance to play hockey? 

THOUGHTS: This fast-paced mystery would also delight readers that enjoy sports or theater arts. There are currently 54 novels in the Orca Sports collection. Presently the teacher guide for this novel is not posted online at Orca Sports, but you could introduce the author using his website: http://www.jeffrossbooks.com/

Mystery          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Stolen Girl. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-23304-9. $17.99. 208 p.Gr 3-8. 

What if you were unsure of your childhood and had memories of being with members of the Nazi organization? You’ve moved to a new area with your adoptive parents, and children tease you for having blonde hair and blue eyes? What is the truth of your history? This is the struggle that Nadia faces and will finally uncover her past.

THOUGHTS: This book is powerful. The backmatter shares additional information from this time period and experiences from the family of the author. Scholastic included a book trailer for this book in the Spring 2019 fair, and the link to the video will draw interest as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRWYmfeevWU

Historical Fiction          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Calonita, Jen. Mirror, Mirror: A Twisted Tale. Disney Press, 2019. 978-136801383-3. $17.99. 344 p. Grades 5-9. 

A lovely princess makes the best of times despite the loss of both of her parents and being shuttered from the world by a mean step-mother. The princess is lucky to escape death and find the home of the miners. Danger comes in the form of a poison apple. This is a pretty familiar fairy tale for students. Some of the parts are familiar, but not most in Mirror, Mirror. In the new novel, the king is distraught over the loss of his wife, married his wife’s sister, and then finally flees the kingdom distressed. Snow White meets a prince who wishes to speak with the Queen about the trade arrangements with his kingdom, before running to eventual safety and learning the true events that happened to both of her parents and the quest that she and her friends must complete. The classic characters are further defined, and the Magic Mirror develops more giving a clear image of the back story of magic. This novel contains continual fantasy and suspense to see how this tale will unfold with perspectives alternating between Snow and The Queen.

THOUGHTS: Page turning and deeply satisfying, this read shows familiar characters with a different take on a classic fairy tale. This is the sixth book in A Twisted Tale series. Students can write their version of the class tale before beginning the novel and compare all of the renditions. 

Fairy Tale, Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Kammer, Gina. Mind Drifter: Enemy Mind. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-496-55898-5. $19.99. 128 p. Grades 3-9

The last day of seventh grade at Emdaria North Middle School is significant as students take their personality skills tests. They quickly learn their student helper role for the year 2310. While Syah was eager to become a student artist, she was surprised to see that her role would be a counselor, also known as Mind Drifters. Syah will do her job in the MindLinkLab where counselors enter the mindscape of other students. Her best friend Joden has the role to assist in the science lab. The new roles seem to cause tension in their friendship and Kreo, Joden’s lab partner, is unkind. Syah sees a chance to enter Kreo’s mindscape, but it would be against the policies, and she is presented with a conundrum. Regardless of her choices she will have to face consequences, address bullying, concerns of privacy, and explore the realms of friendship.  

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging book. Three other titles are presently in the series: Dream Monster, Wicked Stepsister, and Reject Rebound. If the book is used in a classroom setting, there are questions for discussion in “Talk it Over” and writing exercises with Think and Write” sections. The book also includes a glossary and reference guide which would be helpful to preview with classes before starting the novel. The 4D content includes an interview from the author, Gina Kammer. This adds to the content included in the about the author section of the book, which sets the background for the book. 

Science Fiction, Adventure           Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Elem – Hey-Ho to Mars We’ll Go!, Old Hat, Dear Substitute, Sometimes You Fly, The Funniest Man in Baseball, Bolivar, The Boo-boos that Changed the World, The Two Mutch Sisters, Every Month Is a New Year, Pinocchio, Rodent Rascals

Lendroth, Susan. Hey-Ho to Mars We’ll Go!: A Space Age Version of Farmer in the Dell. Charlesbridge, 2018. 978-1-580-89744-0. Unpaged. $16.99. K-3.

Lendroth has written space age lyrics to the well-known children’s song “Farmer in the Dell” in this engaging text. The book tells the story of four children who are on an exploratory trip to the planet Mars. The text consists of four lines mimicking the cadence of the original song, and it chronicles their trip from Earth until they land and explore the red planet. On each page, the song lyrics are written in a large font size, and there is accompanying smaller font which gives factual information about the topic discussed. For instance, when the spacecraft lands, the author writes, “Lock helmets into place…” and then explains about the air quality on Mars and the necessity for special equipment.  The illustrations are done on a large scale and were created using a computer. The book design adds to the understanding of the text. The text is placed sideways when traveling in space and even upside down when talking about the lack of gravity in the spacecraft. In the back matter, the author has included information about what is needed for a mission to Mars, and it is contained in a drawing of a red planet.  

THOUGHTS: While not a first purchase, this book will make a great read aloud, and children will enjoy joining in the refrain “Hey-Ho to Mars, we’ll go…” Music teachers will enjoy using this variant in their units on vocal music.

629.45  Space Flight          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Gravett, Emily. Old Hat. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018: ISBN 978-1-534-40917-0. 24 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Harbet is a dog whose favorite hat is the one his Nana knitted when he was just a pup. It’s warm and keeps his ears toasty. He proudly wears it all around until his peers mock him, taunting “Old Hat!” Harbet tries to keep up with fashion trends, purchasing the latest hat styles. But, no sooner has he donned his new headwear than something more up-to-date hits the stores. From construction cones to sailing ships to cookware, Harbet always seems to be one beat behind. Finally, Harbet gives up and does something daring – something no one has done before: Harbet takes off his hat. When his peers see what Harbet has been hiding beneath his many caps, the tables are turned, and they are the ones racing to keep pace with him. In this whimsical story about finding the courage to march to your own drum, brightly colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic illustrations pop against solid white pages, making the variety of hats Harbet tries even more visually stunning.

THOUGHTS: Young readers will enjoy examining Harbet’s many new hats, making this a perfect choice for a read-aloud. Teachers and librarians can extend the story, discussing the themes of peer pressure and also the idea of being yourself and doing what makes you happy.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Scanlon, Liz Garton, and Audrey Vernick. Dear Substitute. Disney Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-484-75022-3. 35 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Life in Room 102 is turned upside down when Mrs. Giordano calls in sick, and Miss Pelly shows up to substitute for the day. Miss Pelly mixes everything up: she mispronounces names during attendance, doesn’t collect the homework, skips library time, and doesn’t clean the turtle tank, even though it’s Tank Tuesday. Instead of reading from the chapter book they’ve started, Miss Pelly reads funny poems about crocodiles and underwear, and she laughs all the time. The day’s events are narrated by a brown-haired girl with two ponytails. Each double-page spread features an epistolary poem describing the day’s events from her perspective. By the end of the story, she’s changed her mind about Miss Pelly after realizing poetry isn’t so bad, and she comes to the conclusion that sometimes you’ve got to mix things up a little. Caldecott-winner Chris Raschka’s vibrant watercolor illustrations capture the range of emotions the narrator experiences throughout the day, and his loose, whimsical style perfectly communicates her changing feelings.

THOUGHTS: This book will be perfect to share with students before an anticipated absence, and its reassuring message that things will be alright even though the daily routine is different will resonate with young readers. This title could also be used in conjunction with poetry units as it celebrates epistolary poems as well as poetry in general.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Applegate, Katherine. Sometimes You Fly. Clarion Books, 2018: ISBN 978-0-547-63390-9. 40 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This text, composed of rhyming couplets, celebrates perseverance and resilience by reminding readers that oftentimes, the thrill of success is preceded by flops and mistakes. Each couplet begins by showing someone struggling with a new or difficult task such as baking a cake, learning to swim, trying to read, learning to drive, or studying for an exam. Page turns are used effectively to show the same person experiencing success with the task on the back side of the page. The idea that mistakes and challenges ultimately make our accomplishments even more memorable is underscored by lively ink and watercolor illustrations depicting a diverse array of children both succeeding and failing at their pursuits.

THOUGHTS: This title naturally lends itself to character trait lessons since it underscores the ideas that making mistakes is okay as long as you learn from them and use the experience to grow and persevere. It highlights the idea that nobody is perfect and celebrates that sometimes life’s greatest challenges can also lead to its sweetest moments.

Picture Book Biography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County


Vernick, Audrey. The Funniest Man in Baseball: The True Story of Max Patkin. Clarion Books, 2018: ISBN 978-0-544-81377-9. 40 p. $17.99. Gr 2-4.

As a boy growing up in Philadelphia, Max Patkin dreamed of a career in professional baseball. His goal was to become a pitcher, but while playing in the Minor Leagues, an arm injury sidelined him. Although his pitching career was over, Max found another way to make his mark on the game: as a baseball clown. For five decades, and more than 4,000 games, Max entertained crowds of fans by goofing around on the field with players, dancing around the baselines, playing hopscotch in the dirt, and doing anything he could to coax a laugh from the crowd. This picture book biography introduces readers to baseball’s most memorable clown, and the lighthearted text and whimsical illustrations spotlight some of his best-loved comic routines.

THOUGHTS: This title could accompany lessons and discussions about perseverance, since Max Patkin didn’t let his arm injury end his baseball career: instead, he embraced the different direction his career took. This will also be popular with sports fans, particularly those interested in historical tidbits.

Picture Book Biography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County


Rubin, Sean. Bolivar. Archaia, 2018. 978-1-68415-069-6. unpaged. $29.99. Grades 2-5.

Bolivar is the last dinosaur left alive anywhere! He doesn’t like attention, so he lives in New York City, where no one takes the time to notice much of anything. Only young Sybil knows that her next-door neighbor is a dinosaur (even if she can’t prove it … yet). Bolivar is perfectly happy to hide in plain sight, until a case of mistaken identity leads him to City Hall and then to the Natural History Museum to deliver a speech about the new dinosaur exhibit. Even busy New Yorkers notice the dinosaur at the podium, and the chase is on! Can Bolivar elude capture and return to his quiet life? Framed as Sybil’s assigned essay on a “person” in her neighborhood, Bolivar is a delightfully illustrated urban adventure. Sean Rubin’s crosshatched artwork rewards repeated readings as details emerge in action-packed cityscapes and expressive faces. Adult readers will especially appreciate the winks to Indiana Jones and Where’s Waldo.

THOUGHTS: This beautiful, heartfelt homage to childhood imagination (and the importance of slowing down to take in the world around us) will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Picture Book/Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Wittenstein, Barry. Illustrated by Chris Hsu. The Boo-Boos that Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention.  Charlesbridge, 2018. 978-1-580-89745-7. $16.99. Grades K-3.

Wittenstein recounts the true story  of how Earle Dickson developed the now ubiquitous BandAid to help his accident prone wife, who seemed to have injured herself at home on a daily basis. Earle, as a buyer for the Johnson and Johnson company, was in a unique position to develop this product that has become an absolute necessity of life. This humorous picture book with charming illustrations cleverly points out that necessity is truly the mother of invention, but also shows the stops and starts on the way to Earle’s and the BandAid’s success. Includes  a timeline of the inventor’s life, a timeline of important medical discoveries and links to sites with more information on the product recognized and used the whole world over.

THOUGHTS: A humorous, nonfiction choice to add to your collection on inventions.

617.1 Medical Innovations          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Brendler, Carol. Illustrated by Lisa Brown. The Two Mutch Sisters. Clarion Books. 2018. 978-0-544-43074-7. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Twin siblings, Violet and Ruby Mutch,  must absolutely have a copy of every collected item for each of them. Living together for their entire lives, the silly siblings have collected all sorts of strange objects including glockenspiels, gargoyles, snorkels, and spittoons. As the years pass, the sisters run out of room in their crowded house, and Violet decides to move out.

THOUGHTS: A lighthearted and humorous tale of how loved ones can stick together, even if everyone needs their own space.  

Picture Book          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Singer, Marilyn, and Susan Roth. Every Month Is a New Year. New York: Lee & Low Books. 2018. 978-1-630-14162-5. $20.95. Unpaged. Grades 2-5.

New years start all the time, not just on January 1st. Whether school years or sports seasons, we have traditions that go with our calendars. The informative poetry book Every Month Is a New Year takes readers around the world as the months turn to show how people celebrate their new year traditions. Singer’s short poems capture the essence of the holiday through a child’s first person viewpoint. The traditions range from water battles to fire cleansing, from food celebrations to dancing, and several ways to cleanse their souls and start anew. The detailed fabric collage that Roth weaves adds color and imagination to the mix, and the format of a full calendar that reads like it should be hung on your wall helps set the book apart. Informative text about the calendar systems through history and further descriptions, pronunciation, and sources for each new year are included toward the end. And since every end is a new beginning, readers may just want to turn the calendar and start anew!

THOUGHTS: This book would be an excellent addition to a poetry collection, and the diversity of people and places helps open the eyes of readers to unfamiliar traditions. They may be left with more questions after reading the poem and the description, so further inquiry should be expected.

811 Poetry          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Morpurgo, Michael. Pinocchio: In His Own Words. Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2018 (this edition). 266 p.  978-000835769-9 $17.99 Grades 3-6.

Pinocchio–that misunderstood puppet-boy who is somehow always compelled to choose fun over obedience–tells his story here, his way.  He’ll tell you about how poor Signor Gepetto crafted him for his sad wife, and how he should have gone to school but was repeatedly tempted away by other, more fun activities.  This is a long, winding tale of mishaps and misfortune, at times humorous and at times groan-worthy, as when Pinocchio says of himself, “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, don’t do it, Pinocchio!…Well, I’m sorry to say I believed what I wanted to believe; I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  When I look back on it now, I can’t believe how stupid I was!” (82) or “I hate work. It’s hard. It’s difficult” (172). Pinocchio encounters a variety of creatures in his travels, including a Talking Cricket, a Lame Fox and Blind Cat (swindlers who much later prove repentant), his ‘dear sister,’ the Good Fairy with sea-blue hair (who acts as his conscience) and Lampwick, a boy who entices him to go to the Land of Toys (whereupon both boys become donkeys destined to work until death).   Pinocchio always intends to return home and make his poor mother and father happy again, but something always distracts him.  Only in one story does his nose grow as he lies–and the Good Fairy is there to help–with woodpeckers.  A moralistic story where nothing truly bad happens to a boy who behaves badly but is excruciatingly slowly learning kindness.  Finally, the story comes full circle and by the end, “I’m not quite such a ‘wooden-head’ as I was–or I hope I’m not. My Good Fairy still whispers to me from time to time, drops gentle hints to remind me that everyone matters, reminds me always to be kind” (266).   

THOUGHTS: For upper elementary, this could be a humorous read-aloud. It is certainly a more interesting telling of the original Pinocchio tale, accompanied by appealing illustrations.

Fantasy, Fairy Tale          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Munro, Roxie. Rodent Rascals. Holiday House, 2018. 978-0-823-43860-0. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 2-5.

This book provides the reader with a fascinating look into the world of the rodent.  In the introduction, Munro explains that these animals are the “largest order of mammals” and discusses how they are useful to humans. Drawings are done to actual size, so the entire rodent is not shown in all cases, like the capybara. Even so, Munro plays with the book design by showing the capybara’s back leg on one page followed by a drawing of its face on the next page.  One rodent is featured per one or two page spread, except for the smaller ones like the pygmy jerboa. The animals appear in order from smallest to largest in the book. The pictures are accompanied by text that gives interesting facts unique to that creature, like how a muskrat eats on a table-like pile of mud and how one rat has been trained to find minefields. The illustrations are done in India ink and colored acrylic ink and make even the notorious Norway rat seem appealing. The endpapers contain simple line drawings of every rodent discussed in the book. In the back matter, the reader can learn more about the physical description and habitat of the animal. The author lists her sources and presents a number of websites for more information. After reading Munro’s work, even those readers who cringe at the thought of rodents might find themselves looking at these mammals in a different light.

THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy reading this text for personal interest, especially since some of the animals are well-known pets, like the guinea pig and gerbil. It is unusual to see a book entirely about rodents, so elementary libraries will want to add this unique work to their collections.

599.35  Rodents          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

New Elementary – When Green Becomes Tomatoes; Little Red

when-green-becomes-tomatoes

Fogliano, Julie. When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-59643-852-1. 56pp. $18.99. Gr K-4.

This collection of free verse seasonal poetry begins on March 20 with the vernal equinox and continues through the year, celebrating the small moments each new season brings. From welcoming spring’s first flowers to tasting summer’s sweet berries to pulling out autumn’s first sweater, young readers will relate to many of the everyday seasonal pastimes the children in this story experience. The book’s beautiful gouache and pencil illustrations feature diverse children engaging in timeless activities such as picking flowers in a field, eating sandwiches at the beach, stargazing, jumping in leaf piles, building snowmen, and reading by the fire. The poems are formatted like journal entries, and each poem begins with the date so readers can easily track the passing seasons.  THOUGHTS: This title will be a valuable addition to poetry collections. The conversational tone and relatable illustrations will hook young readers, and teachers will be able to use this as a journal-writing resource.

Poetry Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

little-red

Woollvin, Bethan. Little Red. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 2016. 978-1-56145-917-9. 28pp. $16.95. Gr K-3.

Girl power is at the core of debut picture book author and illustrator Bethan Woollvin’s retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Many details ring true from previous versions of the story: Little Red takes a basket of cakes to her sick grandmother; she meets a wolf along the way, and the wolf runs ahead to grandma’s house, eats her, and poses as grandma instead. In this retelling, however, Little Red is not fooled by the wolf’s poor disguise. When she spots the wolf in grandma’s bed, she makes a plan before going inside. Bringing along an ax that was stuck in a stump outside grandma’s door, Little Red takes care of the wolf herself. She then returns home not in her red cape but wearing a new wolf-skin and sporting a smile for the first time in the story. The text in this book is sparse, but the bold gouache illustrations pack quite a punch thanks to the tight palette of only red, black, white, and gray. THOUGHTS:  Some oversized illustrations bleed across the book’s gutter, further heightening their impact. No blood appears in this story, and Woollvin only hints at the wolf’s fate by showing an extreme close-up of Little Red’s eyes shifted in the wolf’s direction; it is up to readers to fill in the blanks.  

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

I’m looking forward to sharing this title with my third-grade teachers later this spring when they study their fairy tale unit. It will be a great title to compare and contrast against the original version.

The Princess and the Giant; Benny and Penny; Rufus the Writer

princessgiant

Hart, Carol, The Princess and the Giant. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015. 978-0-7636-8007-7. 32 p. $16.99. Gr. PK to 2.

Princess Sophie and her family have a problem. A giant is stomping in the beanstalk above their house and keeping them awake. Sophie thinks and thinks, and then sets out with a plan. When Sophie reaches the Giant’s castle, she overcomes her fears and offers him a snack to help him sleep better. And so begins Sophie’s creative and thoughtful problem solving. Rather than judge the Giant based on reputation, she bravely puts herself in the Giant’s shoes and offers her help. This charming fairy tale twist is a wonderfully different story told in charming rhyme about a brave and creative princess.  Thoughts: This would be a great addition to a fairy tale unit, and even a great example of creative problem solving. It might also be fun to use this book to do a group rewrite of another fairy tale and use creative thinking to change the ending!

Fairy Tale; Fantasy     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

benny

Hayes, Geoffrey. Benny and Penny in The Big No-No! New York: ABDO Spotlight, 2015. 978-0-9799238-9-0. 32 p. $14.75. Gr. 1 and 2.

Benny and Penny are curious about their new neighbor. When Benny’s pail goes missing, he accuses the new kid of taking it. Since taking stuff is a “big no-no”, Benny goes over the fence to get it back. However, going into someone else’s yard without being invited is also a “big no-no”. When they finally meet the new neighbor, things immediately go wrong.  Thoughts: This series is appealing since it is a simplified version of a graphic novel. There are simple sight words in word bubbles and fewer frames on a page, helping even the youngest reader navigate the world of graphic novels. Simple plot and story lines also allow the young reader to easily follow. Extra activities online include digital read aloud versions of this and others in the series and a kids cartoon maker, so readers can create their own graphic novel.

Graphic Novel     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

rufus

Bram, Elizabeth. Rufus the Writer. New York: Random House, 2015. 978-0-385-37853-6. 32 p. $17.99. Gr. K to 3.

It is summer and rather than set up his usual lemonade stand, Rufus decides to set up a story stand instead. One by one his friends offer him things in trade for a story, and Rufus uses his imagination to create a story that will be just right for each customer. The stories he creates and illustrates are then inserted in the text. Each story is unique and different. This book is imaginative, sweet, and shows early writers that ideas can be found everywhere if you just pay attention!  Thoughts: Paired with other fun beginner writer books like Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hill and Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk, this could be a fun addition to a creative writing unit.

Realistic Fiction            Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy