YA – The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Muniz, Deya. The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Little, Brown and Company. 2023. 978-0-316-53872-5. 312 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

In the Kingdom of Fromage, a woman must be married in order to claim an inheritance. Camembert has no interest in marrying a man, so her dying father proposes that she “become” one instead. After his death, she disguises herself as a young man named Count Camembert and moves to the capital city of Fondue with her loyal servant, Feta, in tow. There she meets the beautiful and charming Princess Brie at a No Furs Ball where Cam wears a luxurious faux fur wrap. Sparks fly as the two team up to produce an event featuring cruelty-free fashion designers, but Cam can’t risk revealing her true identity … or can she? After all, as the crown princess, maybe Brie can defy both expectations and gender/sexuality norms. Deya Muniz’s artwork is rendered in lovely pastels and rich jewel tones. Muniz conveys emotion through the characters’ dramatic facial expressions and body language. This graphic novel is a romance, so a happily ever after is all but guaranteed; the fun is in the cheese puns (“vintage Cheddior”), the mouthwatering grilled cheese sandwiches, and the genuine affection that readers will feel for the characters.

THOUGHTS: Great fun from start to finish, with a sweet romance wrapped up in fabulous fashions, this will delight fans of Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker.

Graphic Novel

Elem. – Very Good Hats

Straub, Emma. Very Good Hats. Illustrated by Blanca Gómez. Rocky Pond Books, 2023. 978-0-593-52943-0. $18.99. 32 p. Grades PK-2.

Hats are everywhere! So many different things can be used as a hat. Acorns and tortellini make silly hats for our fingers, cats make warm hats for our heads, even books can be made into hats. Clouds become hats for airplanes, hats are used to serve ice cream at baseball games, and different jobs require different hats. This adorable picture book challenges the reader to think of different common objects that can take on the properties of hats of all shapes and sizes.

THOUGHTS: Absolutely adorable primary color illustrations by Blanca Gómez add to the fun in this light, humorous picture book.

Picture Book

YA – Love, Decoded

Yen, Jennifer. Love, Decoded. Razorbill, 2022. 978-0-593-11755-2. $18.99. 303 pp. Grades 7-10.

Love, Decoded by Jennifer Yen paints a world of Superbia, a Manhattan prep school, family life in a five-story brownstone with an elevator, and the fashionable and edible haunts of wealthy young New Yorkers that mixes Kevin Kwan’s Crazy, Rich Asians PG with Jane Austen’s Emma. Gigi Wong is a matchmaker-in-training with her Great-Aunt Rose in the backroom of her Chinatown shop, Rose and Jade. A computer coding whiz, sixteen-year-old Gigi convinces Auntie Rose to let her digitize some of the biodata on her clients. In first-person narration, Gigi describes her close friendship with next-door neighbor, Chinese and white, Kyle Miller; he is her confidante and go-to person, but nothing more (cue predictability). As a volunteer at the Suzuki Youth Center, the beautiful and magnanimous Gigi takes under her wing mentee, Etta, a Filipino-American scholarship student. Gigi learns to appreciate Etta’s exuberance and guilelessness and introduces her to a make over, exclusive restaurant openings, and demonstrations of privilege. In turn, Etta, an anime and video game aficionado, teaches Gigi how to use the subway, to buy clothes on a budget, and to appreciate the sacrifices Gigi’s chauffeur Fernando makes to be at the Wongs’ beck and call. Etta’s difficulty fitting in at Superbia also provides Gigi with the idea for her entry in a Junior Coding Contest. Using her novice matchmaking skills, Gigi enhances her program Quizlr into one that matches compatible friends. When former friend, Joey Kwan, returns from Singapore looking new and improved, Gigi thinks she has found a match for Etta. As the deadline for the contest approaches, Gigi has her pals try out her app only to find out that it has gone viral producing glitches in the program and serious problems for Gigi and her teacher, Ms. Harris. All gets neatly resolved with Gigi gaining new insight into what she truly wants for her future. Most readers will be treated to this world where teens wear original designers, dine at the trendiest restaurants, have their own credit cards, achieve high grades and awards, converse honestly and comfortably with their parents, and find their true love. Who wouldn’t want to escape there?

THOUGHTS: There are so many reasons this story is irritating, yet readers feel compelled to read it to the end. It fits all the stereotypes: wealthy prep school students can buy anything; the main characters are always going to the latest, best restaurants or ordering in their favorite foods; the narrator takes care to describe in detail their designer outfits and make up. Gigi knows the right things to say to maintain her sweet girl demeanor. She is supposed to be beautiful, smart, and popular, but no other girlfriends enter the story but her mentee, Etta, and through her, Gigi’s ex-friend, Anna. Perhaps Love, Decoded is an example of why we read fiction: to escape into a different world unlike our own. For that reason, Love, Decoded may become a seller among older middle school and younger high school students.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds

McCullough, Joy. Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022.  Unpaged.  978-1-534-48676-8. Grades 1-3. $17.99.

Harriet Hemenway loved hats, as did many women in Boston in 1896. At that time, millinery was decorated with all manner of bows, flowers, ribbons, feathers, and even dead birds-the more the better. One day at breakfast, Harriet was surprised to read in the newspaper that millions of birds were killed every year to supply these decorative notions. With the support of her cousin Minna, Harriet began a campaign to stop the slaying of these beautiful creatures for fashion’s sake.  The cousins invited society women to tea, where the guests were horrified to hear about the carnage. More women pledged to boycott feathered fashions and the movement to save birds gained traction. The cousins asked bird scientists to give lectures and recruited influential people to help form an organization whose mission was the protection of earth’s feathered friends. And so the Audubon Society was founded. Word spread to other states and even to Queen Victoria and President Theodore Roosevelt, who signed a bill establishing federal bird reservations. McCullough uses avian word play to make the text more engaging, with such witty phrases as “[Harriet’s] feathers were too ruffled to eat” and “great big ostrich of a problem.” Galotta’s large scale illustrations done in watercolor are soft and very appealing. The color and detail in the drawings of various birds is wonderful. The back matter contains more information about the Audubon Society and birdwatching.

THOUGHTS: This fictionalized picture book account of the accomplishments of Harriet Hemenway is a delight. It will ignite a discussion on conservation and advocacy and shows how one person can effect change. This book is a good choice for Earth Day and is a must have for elementary collections. McCullough’s middle grade novel Across the Pond, is also about birds and was inspired by a British girl who loved and wrote about birdwatching.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member 

MG – Inquire and Investigate (Series NF)

Inquire and Investigate. Nomad Press, 2021. $17.95 ea. $71.80 set of 4. 128 p. Grades 6-9.

Danneberg, Julie. The Science of Fashion. 978-1-64741-027-8.
Danneberg, Julie. The Science of Weather and Climate. 978-1-61930-850-3.
Taylor, Daian C. The Science of Natural Disasters. 978-1-61930-858-9.
Wood, Matthew Brendon. The Science of Science Fiction. 978-1-61930-470-3.

Science, especially STEM, is a hot topic in all educational institutions. This set of four books reveals the science behind topics such as fashion, science fiction, and natural disasters. This reviewer had the opportunity to read The Science of Fashion. Each chapter, six in total, is chock full of information, comics, experiments, photos, facts, and timelines. The author makes sure to include the science behind textiles, design, accessories, and even color. Another interesting feature in each chapter is the QR codes leading to primary sources on the topic discussed on the page. Throughout the book, the author prompts thinking and encourages the reader to work through the engineering design process. Perhaps the most interesting chapter explains how fast fashion causes damage to the environment but with science and engineering, sustainable, environment-friendly fashion is possible. Back matter includes a glossary, metric conversions, resources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: The titles in this collection would be a good purchase for a library serving upper middle grade students. These books also would serve as an instructional tool in a science, engineering, or even a consumer science classroom.

746.9 Engineering and Technology           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Upper Elem/MS NF – Malala; SportsZone; 1st in Fashion

Frier, Raphaële.  Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education.  Charlesbridge, 2017.  9781632895912. 45pp. $17.99.  Gr. 3-6.

This French import is the biography of Malala Yousafzai and recounts the story of the young education advocate beginning with her life as a child through young adulthood.  Frier tells the story in a factual way and includes the history of the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan in the text. The author’s voice is clear as she discusses how the Taliban used violence to silence the critics of its policies in Pakistan.   Frier focuses on the Taliban’s impact on women’s civil rights, such as access to education, early marriage, and clothing. Aurélia Fronty’s full-bleed illustrations are done in a colorful folk art style, but appear to be flat and static. The illustration of the assassination attempt shows two shadowy figures with guns, while Malala is the focal point circled with yellow rays of light.  The next drawing shows Malala rising above another gun carrying shadow as she is transported via plane to England for medical care. The final page of the story shows Malala holding a bouquet of flowers and books, as the author discusses her honors and accomplishments, including the Nobel Peace Prize. The back matter is quite extensive and includes photographs and a timeline of Malala’s life.  There is also information on the country, a map, and languages as well as more on the accomplishments of Malala, including actual inspiring quotes. As an activist for the education of girls, Malala is an inspiration to middle-grade readers and shows that one person can make a difference. Frier’s text is designed for older readers, unlike Malala’s Magic Pencil, a more literary narrative for younger readers. THOUGHTS:  This biography nicely details the life of this remarkable young women and is a useful resource to begin research for a report. This book is a long read aloud but is a great choice to highlight during Women’s History Month.  Elementary and middle school libraries will want to add this inspiring story to their collections.

92, Biography            Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


NFL’s Top 10. ABDO SportsZone, 2018. 978-1-5321-1137-2. 32 pp. $151.60 set of 8. Gr. 4-8.

NFL’s Top 10 Coaches begins with an introduction and countdowns from the 10th best coach to the first rated coach. Coaches ranked 10-2 have a one-page spread containing paragraphs of facts and at least one photograph. The top-ranked coach, Bill Belichick, has a two-page spread taking a closer look at his development and successes in the NFL. Next is a section for 6 honorable mention coaches. Additional information includes a glossary and further resources. Abdo manages a website that updates web pages to visit related to football. The book concludes with a concise index and an about the author paragraph. THOUGHTS: The book has the potential to spark a lot of conversation with readers. The fact that Chuck Noll, a beloved coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is listed as the fifth best coach will generate a lot of discussion in western PA and readers that identify with the Steeler fan base. The book is sure to find lots of readers!

Football      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


1st in Fashion (series).  ABDO, 2018.  32 p.  $18.95 ea.  Gr. 3-6.

Felix, Rebecca.  Eddie Bauer:  Down Jacket Developer.  9781532110733

Felix, Rebecca.  Louis Reard:  Bikini Designer.  9781532110764

Felix, Rebecca.  Mary Quant:  Miniskirt Maker. 9781532110757

Felix, Rebecca. Sam Foster:  Sunglasses Success.  9781532110740

Felix, Rebecca.  Chuck Taylor:  Sneaker Sensation.  9781532110788

Olson, Elsie.  Levi Strauss:  Blue Jean Genius. 9781532110771

Eddie Bauer: Down Jacket Developer provides straightforward information about outdoor enthusiast and entrepreneur Bauer. The highlight is the story of the near-fatal experience Bauer had with hypothermia that led him to invent a warmer winter jacket. While the text is merely serviceable, the book’s design is engaging, with appealing graphics and abundant photographs throughout.  A timeline, glossary, and index add to the book’s usefulness. THOUGHTS:  Recommended for elementary and middle school libraries where biographies are in demand.  

Biography          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

MS NF – Jackie Robinson; Newsmakers; Beauty Hacks; Captured Science History

Rappaport, Doreen. 42 is Just Not a Number. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-7624-7. $15.99. 119 p. Gr. 4-8.

This reading experience brings to life Jackie Robinson, the Hall-of-Fame athlete who donned the famous baseball jersey number 42. Readers will learn more about Jackie Robinson’s childhood, and his success at UCLA where he became the first student-athlete to letter in four sports. After college, readers may be shocked to learn that Jackie was drafted into the war. The segregation and racism that Jackie experienced as a child, a college student, a serviceman, and a negro league baseball player is detailed in the book. Jackie did not allow the cruelty he received to dash his dreams or those individuals that would follow. It was the moral integrity on top of his athletic skills that drew interest from manager Branch Rickey. The legacy of Robinson is clearly presented. A timeline at the end organizes the important dates and events.  Thoughts: The writing and research are solid. The addition of illustrations or photographs could have added to the reading experience for students.

Biography     Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Moritz, Rachel.  Julian Assange: Founder of Wikileaks (Newsmakers series). ABDO, 2018. 9781680789645  $23.00.  48 p.  Gr. 3-6.

This book is divided into five chapters. Supplemental information includes dates, glossary, and index. Captions are in blue font. Primary source information is included. In this book, background information about the history of computer hacking is included in a fact box as readers learn about Assange’s computer interests when growing up. Following the online link, there are common core activities that can be used in the classroom along with web links including additional information.  Additional titles in the second edition of the Newsmaker series include Fidel Castro, Hillary Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and Ivanka Trump.  THOUGHTS: These books are contemporary biographies to add to your collection. The additional features in the book can be helpful for class research or individual curiosity.

Biography      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Rissman, Rebecca. Beauty Hacks. Capstone, 2018.  978-1-5157-6835-7. 40 p. $93.36 set of 4. Gr. 4-8.

Books in this series include Makeup & Skin Hacks , Fashion Hacks, Hair Hacks and Nail, Hand, and Feet Hacks. A recipe for body scrubs is one of the many hands-on activities included in Makeup and Skin. The directions provide pictures and detailed steps. Directions for ombre dye and tie-dye leggings can be found in Fashion Hacks. Each section has clearly identified headings and engaging magazine-like layout.  THOUGHTS:  The book will appeal to students that enjoy fashion magazines like Teen Vogue or Seventeen. With the wide topics and strong binding, these books will have staying power.

600s, Fashion      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District


Captured Science History. Compass Point, 2018.  978-0-7565-5660-0.  $103.96 set of four. 64 p. Gr. 5-9.

Double Helix: How an image sparked the discovery of the secret of Life by Danielle Smith-Llera contains four chapters, a timeline, glossary, additional resources and an index. The other books in this set are Hubble Deep Field, Finding the Titanic, and Mars Rover. The layout of the book includes effective use of whitespace. The engaging writing style generates the excitement that the deoxyribonucleic acid discovery generated. Background information and contemporary questions regarding DNA are detailed. Featured individuals include biophysicist Rosalind Franklin and her important photograph “Photo 51”, and one of the first molecular biologists, Oswald Avery, The timeline includes pictures to reinforce the facts. The book concludes with a glossary, additional resources, critical thinking questions, and an index.  THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful series to add to a collection to engage students and enhance science research projects. Other Captured series from Capstone include Captured Sports History and Captured World History. All series have the same exquisite layout.

Science, Technology     Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

YA Fiction – Material Girls; Ink and Bone


Dimopoulos, Elaine. Material Girls. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 978-0-544-38850-5. 324 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Teens Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde live completely different lives, though both are very successful. Marla is a judge in the high fashion industry and helps approve or deny what trends will hit the streets. Ivy is a pop star, who helps set fashion trends by wearing these trends during her concerts and music videos. When Marla begins to disagree with some of her fellow judges, she finds that the cut throat fashion industry doesn’t need her anymore and is demoted to the lowly career as a drafter. It’s here that she finds a voice, and meets Ivy, who is also beginning to question the materialistic world her career has thrust her into. Together, this unlikely pair begins to unravel the controlling fashion industry. THOUGHTS: While lacking a bit in substance, this is a fun read for anyone with a modest interest in fashion, or in popular shows like Project Runway.

Realistic Fiction      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School



Caine, Rachel. Ink and Bone: The Great Library. New York: NAL, 2015. 978-0-451-47239-7. 368 p. $17.99. Gr 8-12.

In an alternate history, the Great Library of Alexandria never burned, and is now the owner of all information, responsible for disseminating that content to the public. Since no one is allowed to own original books, Jess and his family are successful in the black market trade, as people will pay top dollar for originals. While Jess is immensely successful in his role as bookrunner, he is in constant fear of being caught, and so it is with great apprehension that he applies to be a Library scholar under his father’s orders. Once accepted, Jess begins to question the authority of the library as well as the role he plays in the family business, as he realizes no choice he has ever made has been of his own free will.  While no timeframe is given to the plot, Ink and Bone feels a bit like Victorian steampunk. THOUGHTS: Ink and Bone is a breath of fresh air in the dystopian and fantasy heavy world of YA. The ending also leaves readers hungry for the next book in the series, due for publication in July.

Steampunk     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Sneaker Century


Keyser, Amber J.  Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes.  Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2015.  978-1-4677-2640-5. 64p.  $32.75.  Gr. 6-9.

Sneaker Century takes an in-depth look at everyone’s favorite footwear.  Whether you call them sneakers, tennies, or trainers, athletic footwear is a staple of American fashion.  Sneaker-type footwear, shoes that wrap around the foot, have been around many thousands of years.  The modern sneaker came to be in the late 19th century with Charles Goodyear’s perfection of a process for vulcanizing rubber.  Goodyear was not an astute businessman and after his death, companies began to profit by making shoes with rubber soles and lightweight cloth or leather uppers.  Some of the earliest brands (Keds, Converse, and PF Flyers) exist to this day.

If this was simply a book about the history of sneakers, it wouldn’t be anything remarkable.  However, the book discusses a number of fascinating sneaker-related topics.  The World War II intrigue behind the shoe company run by Adi and Rudolf Dassler is intriguing.  Unlike his brother, Rudolf, Adi Dassler did not support Hitler’s politics (and supplied Jesse Owens with a pair of spikes that he thought would improve Owens’ race).  Deep philosophical differences led the Dassler brothers to establish their own shoe companies after the war: Adi founded the Adidas Company, while Rudolf incorporated Puma shoes.  Sneakers are a multi-million dollar industry, so it stands to reason that controversies would abound. Today, highly-paid celebrity endorsers, the marketing of expensive sneakers to inner-city youth, and the exploitation of overseas factory workers, are all points of contention that affect the athletic footwear industry.

At a mere 64 pages, this book is too short to do justice to many of the very interesting topics it discusses.  However, its length makes it highly accessible to reluctant readers.  It has beautiful photographs of (functional and fashionable) sneakers, professional athletes, and design diagrams.  The graphics are arresting and the text is easy to understand.  Students who wish to learn more can consult the bibliography or the links included in the “For Further Information” section of the book.  There’s nothing quite as exciting as a new pair of “kicks”, and Amber Keyser has captured this feeling in Sneaker Century.

685.31 Shoes; Social Aspects            Susan Fox, Washington Jr. /Sr. High School

Series Nonfiction…Fashion, Thinking Critically, Issues in Sports,

Spilsbury, Louise. The True Cost of Fashion. New York: Crabtree Publishing, 2014. 978-0-7787-0483-6. $15.31. 48p. Gr. 5-8.
Explore the realm of fashion and what it means to be a consumer nation.  The matter covered allows readers to ponder the impact their clothing habits and purchases have on others, the problems with subcontracting and sweatshops, and how changing the way we shop can reshape the future of fashion.  The Fashion World Map shows a breakdown of the top ten exporters and importers.  Bright colored Supply and Demand callouts and text boxes add interesting facts and details.  The pages are ladened with photos while  headings and subheadings clearly label sections of the text.  Back matter includes a glossary, bibliographical references, and an index.
With a conclusive message focusing on the importance of being a responsible consumer and an awareness of poor working conditions and pitiful pay, the reader realizes consumers can play a major role in creating an alternative, favorable future.
338.4 Fashion (Consumer Nation Series)                 Christine Massey, JWP Middle School

Issues in Sports (series). Minneapolis: ABDO, 2014. 64p. $22.95 ea. Gr. 6-8.

Basen, Ryan. Injuries in Sports. 978-1-62403-123-6.

Bowker, Paul. Violence in Sports. 978-1-62403-125-0.

Hudson, Maryanne. Concussions in Sports. 978-1-62403-120-5.

Hudson, Maryanne. High-Pressure Youth Sports. 978-1-62403-122-9.

King, Tony. Performing Enhancing Drugs in Sports. 978-1-62403-124-3.

Miller, Tracy. Equality in Sports. 978-162403-121-2.

As any viewer of television knows, the nightly sports reports feature more than just a list of results.  Many controversial and challenging issues are currently facing the world of sports.  The Issues in Sports series aims to examine some of these controversial issues in-depth.  The history of each issue is presented and numerous examples from the world of sport are used to illustrate the topic(s) under discussion.  Sidebars utilize primary source accounts in order to further illuminate topics.  Overall, the series is quite readable, presenting information in a straightforward manner that would be of use to both researchers and the casual reader.

796; Sports      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS





Thinking Critically (series). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2014. 80p. $28.95 ea. Gr. 8 and up.

Dudley, William. Stem Cell Research. 978-1-60152-586-4.

Mooney, Carla. Cell Phones. 978-1-60152-580-2.

Nakaya, Andrea C. Gun Control and Violence. 978-1-60152-606-9.

Nakaya, Andrea C. Social Networking. 978-1-60152-588-8.

Reference Point Press expands their existing Thinking Critically series with the addition of these four titles.  The aim of the series to expose readers to controversial issues currently in the news and to encourage them to critically examine the topics under discussion.  Each chapter tackles a sub-topic related to the main issue under examination. An overview of the sub-topic is presented, and then a pro/con format is used to present facts, evidence, statistics, and more. Diagrams, charts/graphs, and sidebars are utilized to supplement the text.  The text is clearly written and easy to understand.  Ideal for research projects, speech assignments, etc.

Various Non-fiction         Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS