Elem. – Raj’s Rule (For the Bathroom at School)

Button, Lana. Raj’s Rule (For the Bathroom at School). Owlkid, 2020. 978-1-771-47340-8. Unpaged. $17.95. Grades PreK-1. 

Young Raj has a rule: He does not use the bathroom at school. Of course, this is a gigantic challenge, and requires a lot of strategy. But he’s happy to share his knowledge: avoid any intake of liquids; avoid the sound of running water; avoid laughing (because you KNOW what might happen then!). But one day, when Raj is desperately holding it, he is undone by an unavoidable sneeze and flees to the bathroom. To his surprise, he successfully completes his mission, and his phobia is gone. Now, his school day is so much fuller, and he gleefully partakes in all the activities he had assiduously avoided, including belly laughing at classmate Kyle’s goofy antics. The story, told via speech bubbles filled with rhyming text, is amplified by Hatem Aly’s vivid cartoon-like illustrations. Raj’s classroom is lively, and his classmates diverse, all drawn with satisfying attention to detail. The topic may address a fear felt by first time school students, but will also be sure to elicit giggles from older students who can sympathize with having to “hold it,” for whatever reason.

THOUGHTS: While not a first purchase, the book will undoubtedly be read by young students who enjoy bathroom humor.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – The Shark Report (Benny McGee and the Shark Book 1)

Anderson, Derek. The Shark Report (Benny McGee and the Shark Book 1). Penguin Workshop, 2020. 978-0-593-09338-2. 64 p. $15.99. Grades 1-3.

Benny McGee is scared of swimming in the ocean because of sharks. He knows a lot about sharks because he is learning about them for a school report. When a shark appears at his house, Benny doesn’t know what to do. His father suggests Benny invite the shark in, so he does, thus beginning his friendship with the shark. When Benny’s shark report is due and he realizes he never wrote it, he decides to take Mr. Chompers with him to school as his report. But, Benny forgot today is also the day the deep-sea fisherman is scheduled to visit his class.  When the deep-sea fisherman sees Mr. Chompers, Benny must decide which is more important: his report or his new friend.

THOUGHTS: This early chapter book is a fun, fact-filled read.  Anderson includes lots of accurate information about sharks while keeping the narrative light-hearted. Emerging readers will enjoy Mr. Chomper’s shenanigans while also connecting with Benny’s fears and how he overcomes them. Book 2 of Benny McGee and the Shark, We are Famous, is also available now.

Early Chapter Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – Tiny T. Rex and the Very Dark Dark

Stutzman, Jonathan. Tiny T. Rex and the Very Dark Dark. Ill. Jay Fleck. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-4521-7034-3. Unpaged. $15.99. Gr. PreK-1.

Tiny T. Rex and his best friend, Pointy, are ready for their first campout.  There’s just one problem; both are afraid of the dark. Inside the dark isn’t quite so dark, but outside the dark is DARK! Together, Rex and Pointy devise a plan to keep them safe from the Grumbles, Nom-bies, and Crawly-creeps that lurk in the dark. But, when their plan doesn’t go quite right, Rex and Pointy learn to open their eyes and see the light in their fear of the dark.

THOUGHTS: This second installment in the Tiny T. Rex series shares a common fear amongst children: fear of the dark. Through make-believe creatures, Rex and Pointy confront their fear and learn to be brave in the face of fear. The illustrations represent the dark well through dark backgrounds and bright characters, pjs (Pointy’s are specially made to cover his spikes), and various items when the friends are outside, and bright, light images when they are indoors devising their plan. The theme of working together to confront fear is prominent but not overshadowing of the actual fear children face in the dark. This is a great story to help children face their fears.

*Jonathan Stutzman is a PA author who lives in Palymra.

Picture Book        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

YA – Poisoned

Donnelly, Jennifer. Poisoned. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-26849-2. 307 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12.

All of her life Sophie, Princess Charlotta-Sidonia Wilhelmina Sophia, has been told that kindness will be her downfall, her heart is to soft to be a good leader. And Sophie believes every word. Fearing her stepmother’s strict ways, Sophie tucks her kind heart away, trying to hide her true self. She agrees to give her heart to a prince who is better suited to lead her kingdom. Sophie “locks away” her heart as she prepares to become Queen, but she doesn’t have the chance to fulfill this destiny. Her stepmother has other plans in mind. When Sophie awakens, following a violent event, she is greeted by seven brothers and their helpers, who have taken in Sophie and nursed her back to health in seemingly impossible ways. Not feeling completely herself, Sophie tentatively accepts her life in The Hollow. But Sophie feels like there’s more to the story, and she won’t have all of the answers until she embarks on a dangerous journey. Sophie’s character and her kind heart are tested repeatedly, as Sophie learns what it takes to be a true leader. But is her faulty heart up to the challenge, and will she survive all the evil that wishes her dead? Sophie’s story is not a romantic fairytale but instead is about one’s journey towards self discovery.

THOUGHTS: Young adult readers need Sophie in their lives. I loved this reimagined Snow White story and appreciate Donnelly’s incorporation of other themes – like how women are told what they are and are not capable of doing or being. Poisoned deserves a place in every middle or high school collection.

Fantasy          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA Realistic FIC – When I Am Through with You; Thing with Feathers; St. Death; Sunshine is Forever

Kuehn, Stephanie. When I Am Through with You. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-101-99473-3. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Unreliable from the start, Ben tells the story of what happened on the mountain in his own way, on his own terms, and apparently from his prison cell. So begins Ben’s story and how he got to be on the mountain to begin with.  Suffering from migraines and depression and being the only caregiver for his unwell mother, Ben feels trapped by his life in Teyber. He reconnects with former teacher Mr. Howe to help with the school’s orienteering (exploring) club.  Rose, Tomas, Avery, Duncan, Clay, and Archie join Ben on the first hike into the wilderness. Tense from the start, this group seems to be on a doomed trip. It’s not until the end that readers see just how doomed these adventure seekers are. THOUGHTS: Drinking, drug use, descriptions of casual sex, and violence make this a book for more mature teens.

Realistic Fiction, Adventure       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Hoyle, McCall. The Thing with Feathers. Blink, 2017. 978-0-310-75851-8. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Emilie is perfectly fine staying in the safety of her home with her mom and best friend (her seizure dog). She disagrees with her mom and her therapist: attending public school is not a good idea. She doesn’t want to be known as “that girl that has seizures.” When Emilie starts school, she makes a decision not to tell anyone about her epilepsy. As she gets closer to her friends and a boy she’s paired with her decision not to reveal her medical condition becomes more and more critical. But it’s been months since Emilie seized, so she’ll be okay, right?  THOUGHTS: Readers will fly through this light-hearted and realistic sweet novel about what it means to be different and what lengths we will go to hide our differences. With a compelling storyline – Will she or won’t she tell? Will she or won’t she seize? – readers will fall in love with Emilie as she experiences public school, friendship, and first love.

Realistic Fiction     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Sedgwick, Marcus.  Saint Death.  Roaring Brook Press, 2017 (1st American ed.).  978-1-62672-549-2. 227 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9-12.

Arturo lives in a shack on the outskirts of Juarez, a Mexican city that butts up against the American border. One day, his childhood friend, Faustino, shows up begging for Arturo’s help. It seems that Faustino has joined a gang and has stolen $1,000 from his boss to send his girlfriend and her baby to America. He must replace this money by the next day or he will be killed. Arturo, a skillful card player, agrees to try to win the money back, but soon finds himself in even more debt. Now, Arturo’s life is also on the line. He scrambles to replace the money both he and Faustino owe before they are both killed by gangsters. Fast-paced and devastatingly honest, this title by Printz award winner Sedgwick is an excellent addition to high school libraries. THOUGHTS: Focusing on taboo topics like religion, illegal immigration, human and drug trafficking, and the exploitation of foreign workers by large corporations, this title is sure to spark a great deal of discussion and debate. Because violence is addressed in such an uncomfortable and unflinching manner, this title might be better suited for older, more mature readers. Pair this title with Linda Barrett Osborne’s This Land is Our Land for a unit on immigration or with Patricia McCormick’s Sold for a unit on human trafficking.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

 

Cowan, Kyle T.  Sunshine is Forever. Inkshares, 2017. 978-1-942645-62-7. $11.99. 282 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Hunter S. Thompson spends his days smoking pot with his only friend until a tragic “incident” changes everything. Desperate for acceptance and connection and wracked with guilt, he blames anyone else for the events in his past.  When he makes a couple of suicide attempts, he is sent to Camp Sunshine for depressed teens.  After being in therapy for months and on several medications, Hunter is not optimistic about the Camp Sunshine Program.  A few of the counselors and guards on staff are cruel and clueless,  though one or two seem genuinely interested and concerned for the kids.  But Hunter finds a real friend in his bunkmate Quint and a potential girlfriend in the charismatic but manipulative Corin. These connections and the questions of his therapist are helping Hunter make progress with his mental state, but when Corin convinces Hunter and a few others to join her in an escape plan, all of their chances for recovery are threatened.  THOUGHTS:  Sunshine is Forever is a raw and darkly humorous tale that tackles adolescent depression, suicide and mental health treatment in a believable way. A fast-paced read – a good choice for reluctant readers and for those who appreciate darker realistic fiction titles.   The mature themes and make it more appropriate for older teens.
Realistic Fiction            Nancy Summers, Abington School District

Picture Books – Groovy Joe; How to Catch a Monster; Monster’s New Undies; Nothing Rhymes with Orange

Litwin, Eric. Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown. Scholastic, 2017. 9780545883795. $16.99. 40p. Gr. Pre-K-1.

Eric Litwin teams up with illustrator Tom Lichtenheld in this picture book that has some simple math and a lesson to learn (there’s always room for one more friend). Litwin’s fame as the author of Pete the Cat will make this book popular. Groovy Joe is a dog that loves to play music and dance. Joe’s motto is “the more the merrier.” As friends knock at his door, readers can follow along with simple math problems as Joe invites everyone into the party. The end of the story includes an invitation to the reader to come join in the party, too.  THOUGHTS: The illustrations make this book. Lichtenfeld’s colorful, bold illustrations will be a hit with this book’s 3 to 5 year old audience. The theme of not excluding anyone in an important lesson to learn at an early age since that can be a problem at the K-6 school level. This book also includes a website to download the song that Joe sings throughout the book.

Picture book        Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Wallace, Adam and Andy Elkerton. How to Catch a Monster. Sourcebooks, 2017. 978-1-4926-4894-9. Unpaged. $10.99. Gr. K-2.

What do you do when you get the role of a ninja in the school play?  Become one of course!  And not just any ninja; a monster catching ninja!  With the courage to trap the monster hiding in his closet, the ninja-monster-catcher meets his match.  After breaking the first few traps, ninja finally catches his monster and learns that his monster isn’t trying to scare him; he just wants to play.  As ninja and monster play, and learn about one another, a friendship between them blooms.  Wallace uses rhyme throughout (although not all pages rhyme), and Elkerton’s illustrations make the monster-in-the-closet come alive as a cuddly friend.  THOUGHTS:  This is a wonderful book to teach about friendship and how differences can be overcome.  

Picture Book     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Berger, Samantha. Monster’s New Undies. Ill. Tad Carpenter, Orchard Books, 2017. 978-0-545-87973-6. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. PreK-2.

Monster loves his undies, but they have fallen apart.  He doesn’t want new undies, but it’s too cold without them, so it is time for Monster to get new ones.  At the store Monster doesn’t like any undies until he finds ones just like his old ones.  These new undies allow Monster to be comfortable again.  THOUGHTS:  Although about underwear (which is just funny to students), Monster’s New Undies can compare to any beloved item a student has and the feelings that occur when that item can no longer be used.  This book is a great read-aloud to writing about something students love that they have lost or had to get rid of because they are growing up.

Picture Book      Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Rex, Adam. Nothing Rhymes with Orange. Chronicle Books, 2017. 978-1-4521-5443-5. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. 1-3.

Unlike most fruits, nothing does rhyme with orange, and Orange knows this.  Although Orange tries to find a place in this rhyming poem, it just doesn’t work because nothing rhymes with orange.  Fruits that Orange doesn’t even know have rhyming words, but not orange that is until the other fruits create a word to rhyme with orange in order to make Orange feel apart of the fruit group.  Photographs of fruit with hand drawings to bring the fruit alive add to the fun of this rhyming poem and creative take on friendship and fitting in.  THOUGHTS: This is a very creative way to work with students on rhymes, nonsense words, and the importance of inclusion of everyone no matter their differences (or similarities…even if nothing rhymes with orange).

Picture Book     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Picture Books – I Used to be Afraid; Christmas Wish; Click, Clack Surprise!; Goodbye Summer…

afraid

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. I Used To Be Afraid. New York: Roaring Brook, 2016. 978-1-59643-631-2. $17.99. Gr. PreK-1st.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger touches on a topic that is common throughout childhood: finding ways to overcome fear. This can be a big deal to kids. The main character goes from scary animals (like spiders) to larger, more abstract fears like being alone or moving. Using bold images and creative cut-outs, Seeger gives examples of how not to be afraid. A humorous ending about brothers will make readers smile. Perfect for the youngest audience, for whom hearing unexplained noises in the dark is a daily occurrence.  Thoughts: This book is perfect for PreKindergarten and Kindergarten! I use it as a fun read aloud, and recommend it to parents who are struggling with fearful children.

Picture Book       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

christmaswish

Yoon, Salina. Penguin’s Christmas Wish. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-68119-155-3. Unpaged. $14.95. Gr. PreK-2.

Penguin and his family are ready to celebrate Christmas, but when Pumpkin longs for a Christmas tree, Penguin decides to lead his family into the forest to find an old friend. They find Pinecone, now a beautiful evergreen tree (read Penguin and Pinecone, 2012), and decorate him with ornaments and presents under the tree. That night they all dream of something different while a blizzard rages in the forest and takes away all the decorations and ornaments. While they are disappointed, Grandpa reminds them that celebrating Christmas is “…about being with the ones you love.” They make the best of the day and all their wishes come true when Penguin makes them perfect gifts from sticks and twigs. Penguin’s wish doesn’t come true until the end of the story when the sun melts the snow and the family discovers that the blizzard spread the ornaments and gifts throughout the forest so they can celebrate with new forest friends. THOUGHTS: Salina Yoon’s sweet Penguin is sure to delight fans of the series or new readers in this simple holiday tale.

Picture book      Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

clickclack

Cronin, Doreen and Betsy Lewin. Click, Clack, Surprise! New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-1-4814-7031-5. 32pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

In the latest addition to the Click, Clack, Moo series, it’s Little Duck’s first birthday, and the whole farm is preparing for the celebration. Little Duck has never gotten ready for a party, though, and she doesn’t know quite what to do. So, she tries copying everyone else! She takes a long, hot bubble bath like Duck, shears her feathers like the sheep, licks herself like the cat, takes a dust bath like the chickens, and takes a mud bath like the pigs. By the time she ends up at her party, she’s wet, has spiky feathers, and is covered in dust and mud; it’s truly a birthday surprise for everyone! Betsy Lewin’s loose pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations perfectly capture the lighthearted spirit of the day, and young readers will enjoy seeing their favorite farm animals- and Farmer Brown too – getting ready for the party. This is a fun addition for elementary collections. THOUGHTS: This book will be a hit where other titles in the series are popular. It will also be useful as a read-aloud to complement a unit about farms and farm animals.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

goodbyesummer

Pak, Kenard. Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-415-2. 32pp. $15.34. Gr K-3.

This gentle nature story perfectly captures the transition from summer to autumn. One late summer morning, a girl leaves her house and begins walking through the forest to town. On her way, she greets the trees, animals, insects, flowers, and wind she encounters. Each time, her greeting is returned, and information about the changing season is shared. For example, when she calls, “Hello, beavers. Hello, chipmunks,” they reply, “Hello! We have no time to play because we’re making cozy nests and dens. It will be cold soon, and we want to get ready.” As she walks, the little girl is accompanied by a giant Great Dane, a blue jay, and a butterfly, and readers will enjoy spotting them on each double-page spread. On each spread, the vibrant watercolor and pencil illustrations perfectly capture the transition between seasons. As the story progresses, the colors slowly transition from mostly greens to browns, reds, and burnt oranges. Careful readers will notice subtle details in the illustrations such as animals tucking into their burrows, leaves changing color, and the girl distributing a fistful of wildflowers she’s plucked along her walk. This is a book that warrants repeated readings to fully appreciate all the subtle details. THOUGHTS: This title is a perfect addition to fall-themed story times. My kindergarten teachers were excited to add it to their units about autumn and how animals prepare for winter.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County