Elem. – The Hospital Book

Brown, Lisa. The Hospital Book. Neal Porter Books, 2023. 978-0-823-44665-0. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3.

The Hospital Book follows our main character as she navigates having appendicitis and going through the process of the emergency room, having surgery, and going through her recovery. The illustrations also showcase the different things happening in the hospital and help to engage the reader as they follow our main character. There is an author’s note at the end, which addresses the timing of when the book was written, an explanation of why she included certain illustration details, as well as a thank you to the various doctors and medical staff that helped her with her book.

THOUGHTS: This was a lovely picture book that deals well with a delicate topic of hospitals and sickness. This book would be a wonderful addition to any elementary  collection.

Picture Book

Tags: hospitals, surgery, nurses, doctors, appendicitis, feelings, families.

MG – Light Comes to Shadow Mountain

Buzzeo, Toni. Light Comes to Shadow Mountain. Holiday House, 2023. 978-0-823-45384-9. 263 p. $17.99.  Grades 4-6.

In her debut novel, Buzzeo has crafted an engaging story based on the arrival of electricity to the eastern Kentucky mountains in the 1930s. At that time, few rural areas had electricity, even though most cities did. Cora Mae Tipton lives on Shadow Mountain, one such unelectrified community. She dreams of becoming a journalist like Nellie Bly, while her best friend Ceilly wants to be an aviator. When news of the Rural Electrification Act arrives in the holler, the two girls are thrilled to learn about the formation of an electricity cooperative. Not everyone is excited about the life-changing news, including Cora’s mother, who is pregnant and still grieving for her daughter Ida, who died from the flu. Cora, always with a notebook in hand, questions her Pap, who is now working for the project. The budding journalist learns about the fees, which are prohibitive for some families and the school. Believing in the importance of electricity in the school, the friends come up with a successful plan to raise money for a subscription, but then trouble besets the Tipton family. Mrs. Tipton becomes more depressed, and there is frequent bickering between mother and daughter. One of the twins is badly burned, and the fundraising money is needed for medical bills. Cousin Glenna comes to stay to avoid an abusive father. Then Mrs. Tipton goes into premature labor at home. With no adult to help, Cora must call on  her inner strength if she is to save the baby and bring the Mountain out of the shadows. This piece of historical fiction offers an eye-opening look into rural America of the past- a world of pack horse libraries, settlement schools, and the frontier nursing service, which are all described in the back matter. The author has created well-developed characters, some who are resistant to change and some who embrace it. With its compelling plot, this deep and sensitive story will leave readers hoping for a sequel to learn what the future holds for the likeable Miss Tipton.

THOUGHTS: This outstanding book is highly recommended for middle grade libraries.

Historical Fiction

Elem./MG – Squished

Lloyd, Magan Wagner. Squished. Illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter. Graphix, 2023. 978-1-338-56894-3. 246 p. $24.99. Grades 2-5.

Welcome to Hickory Valley, Maryland. Home to Avery Lee, her SIX siblings, and their parents. All Avery wishes for is her own room where she can spread out her art supplies and have some alone time before she starts middle school. This wish doesn’t look like it’s in cards though. When her parents announce they are moving to Oregon, Avery is angry. She doesn’t want to move away from the house, school, and town she has grown up in, and most importantly she doesn’t want to move away from the only friends she has ever known. Her brother Theo feels differently. Having been bullied by Avery’s best friend’s brother, Theo is excited to start over. Will Avery make peace with her family moving across the country?

THOUGHTS: This book by the author/illustrator duo who wrote Allergic, is a must for any school library. It’s everything fans of Raina Telgemeier are looking for in a graphic novel.

Graphic Novel 

The team that brought us the middle grade graphic novel Allergic in 2021 is back with Squished! Eleven-year old Avery Lee lives with her Korean American family in beautiful Hickory Valley, Maryland, where she luxuriates in having her very own, totally amazing room … at least, that’s the dream. In reality, she and her large family are squished into their house, and Avery shares her room with one of her six siblings … make that two of her siblings when two-year old Max moves in. Avery dotes on her brothers and sisters, but she also longs for privacy, space for her artwork, and a good night’s sleep. She devises a plan to earn enough money to renovate the basement into a bedroom, but one stumbling block after another foils her efforts. Along the way, friendships and Avery’s love/hate relationship with 13-year old brother Theo evolve as a potential family move to Oregon looms large. One quibble: the print in some of the panels is tiny, even for the young eyes of the intended audience. If only it weren’t so squished!

THOUGHTS: With an endearing main character and engaging illustrations, this book’s heart is bigger than the Lee family!

Graphic Novel

Fifth grader, Avery Lee, is one of seven children in a large Korean American family. Avery loves her neighborhood, has two best friends, and can’t wait for the upcoming summer fair. But life at home is chaotic and Avery is sometimes embarrassed by her large family. Not to mention, Avery has to share a bedroom while Theo, Avery’s big brother, gets a room all to himself. It’s so unfair! Resilient as ever, Avery comes up with a plan to make money to renovate her family’s basement so she can at least have her own bedroom. But nothing ever goes as planned in the busy Lee household, especially when Avery has to take care of her younger siblings. Then Avery finds out her parents are thinking about a move across the country, her best friend finds someone else to hang out with, and she’s struggling to find time for her art entry for the summer fair. Avery expresses difficult emotions after the loss of an important friendship and several missed opportunities, but in the end, she navigates these major life changes with grace and humor.

THOUGHTS: This story addresses strong feelings, family dynamics, and the importance of belonging. Fans of Raina Telgemeier will enjoy Avery’s story; however, the challenges and responsibilities Avery faces may feel unrealistic to readers that are not from a large family. In addition, the unusually large number of siblings make this story a bit of an outlier. I prefer Lloyd and Nutter’s earlier collaboration, Allergic (Graphix, 2021).

Graphic Novel

Elem. – The Case of the Eerie Heirloom

Cooper, Brigitte Henry. The Case of the Eerie Heirloom. Cecilia Messina. ABDO Books, 2023. 978-1-098-23322-8. 48 p. $22.95. Grades 1-3. 

The Case of the Eerie Heirloom follows Abby and Theo who are known as the Phantom Finders. They are enlisted to help Anya, a local resident, figure out why this older music box has begun playing music after being silent for many years. The clues lead them to the local theater, the Kirby Theater. Can they figure out the mystery behind this music box and help bring Anya peace?

THOUGHTS: This is a cute beginning to read type chapter book. There are words that are highlighted and are different sizes, colors, and fonts from the other words to help the reader as they move through the book. There is no need to read the books in order, so a reader can jump in at any time. Overall a great addition to any elementary collection.


Elem. – This Book Is My Best Friend

Robinson, Robin. This Book Is My Best Friend. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-1-665-90681-4. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2

Sunny and Aarush love to read for different, yet similar reasons. When they both reach for the same book, what ensues is a fun look into why this book is their best friend. Sunny loves this book because it’s about a robot and she wants to be a robot when she grows up. Sunny loves it when her mom feels well enough to read this book to her, and having a best friend can help things seem less lonely. Aarush loves this book because there are mice in it, and that’s their favorite animal. Aarush needs a quiet space to go when their twin siblings are causing chaos in the house. By the end of the book they learn that this book can be both of their best friends, and best friends read together!!

THOUGHTS: I adored this book! There is great commentary on loving the same book as someone, for different reasons. The illustrations are wonderful, and I found myself continuing to go back through the book looking for things that I missed. The scene of Sunny and her mother in the hospital, while her mother gets treatment for something isn’t mentioned in the story but I wanted to note it in case you read this with students whose parents are sick. Highly recommend this book for an elementary collection, and it would make an amazing read aloud for any class, young or old!!

Picture Book

MG – Maybe an Artist

Montague, Liz. Maybe an Artist. Random House Studio, 2022. 978-1-668-85891-2. 159 p. $24.99. Grades 6-9.

When tragedy strikes the nation on September 11, 2001, Liz Montague decides she wants to pay more attention to what is going on in the world and venture out of the little bubble that is her mostly white neighborhood in New Jersey. In fifth grade, she decides she wants to be a journalist. There is only one problem – Liz writes her letters and sentences backwards. Not only that, she reads and speaks differently than other kids. She is, however, talented at drawing. Liz decides that she can still be a journalist – she would just be one that reports about important issues like climate change and racism through her art. As Liz moves on to middle and high school and starts feeling the pressures of growing up, she thinks that perhaps being an artist is not feasible. Liz wants to live up to her stellar sisters, make her parents proud, and save the world (one slice at a time, as she says). Could she really make any kind of a living with art? Would anyone take her artwork seriously? She has to find out. Liz takes a leap of faith and emails the New Yorker to let them know their cartoons should be more inclusive; the response changes the course of her life.

THOUGHTS: Maybe An Artist is the sweetest graphic memoir I have read in a long time. The story of author Liz Monague’s life is so personal and written with lots of emotion and humor. Her relatable stories will resonate with and inspire students. 

Graphic Novel          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – The Blur

Lê, Minh. The Blur. Illustrated by Dan Santat. Alfred A. Knopf, 2022. 978-0-593-37746-8. Unpaged. $18.99. PreK+.

Any parent will tell you, when you have children, the years pass so quickly. In fact, it might be said they go by in a blur. Lê’s book, illustrated by award-winning artist Dan Santat, remembers and celebrates the whirlwind that is childhood. Beginning in infancy, Lê introduces readers to his adorable superhero, The Blur. The Blur’s super powers include supersonic voice, enhanced hearing, propensity to rush into danger, and, of course, ultra-magnetism (everyone is attracted to the cute tot). In the blink of an eye, or the turn of a page, The Blur passes from toddler to youngster to teen, while proud, exhausted, loving parents trail behind, there to celebrate successes, comfort failures, and patch up bruises. Eventually, The Blur graduates from high school and dashes off to college. Santat’s sweet drawings, steeped in warm tones, power the emotional punch of the story. This sentimental book celebrates the joy of watching children grow and mature. While the book will make a fun read aloud between parent and child, its true target audience may be high school graduates (given the conclusion of the book) or new and expecting parents. Children may giggle over the idea they have super powers, but the emotional impact of the book is definitely an adult experience. The featured family is Asian. 

THOUGHTS: A delightful, charming book that may find a better fit with older and adult readers than the very young. 

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – I Color Myself Different

Kaepernick, Colin. I Color Myself Different. Kaepernick Publishing, 2022. 978-1-338-78963-8. 40 p. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

I Color Myself Different tells a true story from Colin Kaepernick’s childhood where he shared with his classmates that he was adopted. When Colin was in school, he had to draw a picture of his family and he drew his family as they were, and when he shared his picture with his classmates they had questions. Colin remembers what his mother told him when he asked her why he was different, and she explained how he was adopted into their family. Based on Colin recalling this conversation, he answers his classmates with, “I’m brown. I color myself different. I’m me, and I’m magnificent.” This prompts a discussion with his teacher about all the ways that families can share love.

THOUGHTS: This book could be a great introduction to adoption for a family to share or an inside look into Colin Kaepernick that many people might not be familiar with.

Picture book            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – What is Love?

Barnett, Mac. What is Love? Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-452-17640-6. 44 p. $17.99. Grades 2-5. 

When a young person asks their grandmother, “What is love?” she simply responds that she cannot answer that question. The narrator (the young man) must go out into the world to find the answer. The young man encounters a fisherman, an actor, a cat, a carpenter, a farmer, and a soldier just to name a few, and asks the very same question to each of them. They all answer individually, but their responses do not quite satisfy the young man. In the end, the narrator is frustrated and exhausted and heads home from his journey where he finds his grandmother. It is only then that he discovers the answer to his hard asked question. Written as a fable but reads like meditation, What is Love? by Mac Barnett is a gentle and rhythmic tale that is clever and insightful. Made for a read-aloud experience, the beautifully illustrated picture book (by Carson Ellis) will raise questions and spark conversations. The tale becomes personal, and the lesson could be interpreted in multiple ways. 

THOUGHTS: Written as a fable, this picture book is a great story filled with figurative language and metaphors. Definitely a book for upper elementary or even middle school readers, understanding the text is a journey and would most likely spark many interpretations and heavy conversations. Or maybe, the lesson in this tale is quite simple. 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Adventures with My Daddies

Peter, Gareth. Adventures with My Daddies. Illustrated by Garry Parsons. Peachtree, 2021. 978-1-682-63281-9. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades PreK-3.

An unnamed child shares why her daddies are amazing in this sweet picture book. When they read stories together “exciting journeys start” – battling dragons, hunting dinosaurs, and exploring the moon and secret islands are just some of their fun adventures. But their favorite story is their adoption story which brought them together. The narrator talks about different types of families: “Some children have two mommies, and some a mom and a dad.” before explaining why she’s “SO glad” her “SUPER daddies” chose her. Even if they’re “not the best at everything” she knows “they’re always there.” A diverse cast of characters are featured by beautiful acrylic and pencil illustrations in this sweet, rhyming picture book.

THOUGHTS: This beautiful story will show children that all families have unique characteristics. Highly recommended for elementary schools looking to add family stories and LGBTQ representation to their picture book collections.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD