YA – Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio

Backderf, Derf. Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio. Abrams ComicArts. 2020. 978-1-4197-3484-7. 288 pp. $24.99. Gr. 10+.

For many of us, “Kent State” is synonymous with one of the most indelible images of the Vietnam War era. John Paul Filo’s influential, award-winning photograph captured the aftermath of four days of antiwar protests and National Guard presence, and more specifically thirteen seconds of gunfire. Tragically, four students were shot and killed, and nine more were wounded. In this gripping and painstakingly sourced graphic narrative, comics artist Derf Backderf turns his inimitable skill to chronicling May 1-4, 1970, from the perspectives of the four students whose lives were lost. They played music, went on dates, studied, called their parents, protested President Nixon’s escalation of the war, and uneasily observed the presence of the Ohio National Guard on campus (called in to suppress the “radicals” and agitators, who were generally not part of the student body). Backderf portrays the exhaustion, confusion, unpreparedness, muddled leadership, and dishonesty of the Guard throughout the catastrophic operation, as well as the political pressures impacting their actions.

THOUGHTS: Backderf recreates these four days with such intimate immediacy that the panels depicting the deaths of Jeff, Allison, Sandy, and Bill are gut-wrenching, even 50 years later. Distinctive artwork, ample period details, and integrated exposition set the narrative firmly within the era and provide helpful context. Simply outstanding on every level!

Michael Burgan’s 2017 juvenile nonfiction title, Death at Kent State, and Deborah Wiles’ recent novel-in-verse, Kent State, would round out a text set on this topic for a range of readers.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

YA – Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed

Anderson, Laurie Halse, and Leila Del Duca, Illustrator. Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed. DC Comics. 2020. 978-1-4012-8645-3. 207 pp. $16.99. Grades 7-10.

Themyscira, the secret island home of the Amazons, is protected by a barrier that shelters them from the outside world, although global conflict and human suffering weaken the barrier. On Princess Diana’s 16th “Born Day,” she breaks the rules to help refugees stranded at sea, and is trapped beyond the barrier. Days later, she washes ashore in Greece, now a refugee herself. Her skill with languages earns her a student visa to the United States. In New York city, “Diana Prince” learns about social justice issues (racism, income inequality, gentrification) through her feisty foster sister, Raissa. She also discovers that the square where Raissa and her friends practice parkour is an excellent makeshift training facility for an erstwhile Amazon. Through a free lunch program where the girls volunteer, Diana learns of a possible human trafficking ring, and she discovers her true purpose: protecting the most vulnerable. Sunny, high-contrast artwork in shades of turquoise, terra cotta, and blue-black perfectly frame a diverse cast, and especially Diana’s expressive face and body language.

THOUGHTS: Themes of preparing to be a warrior, fighting for what’s right, and forging a “found family” are always appealing to teen readers, and Wonder Woman finds an audience generation after generation. With Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed, Laurie Halse Anderson joins Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Matt de la Peña, and more top YA authors who are reinventing the superhero origin story. The title is a wink to Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus,” and its famous line: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

MG – Mañanaland; Nat Enough; Black Brother, Black Brother; On the Horizon

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Mañanaland. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-15786-4.  251 p. $16.53. Grades 3-6.

Maximiliano Córdoba has a lot. He has his hard-working, bridge builder father and his loving Buelo who cooks delicious dinners and tells fantastic stories. He has a best friend, Chuy, and a group of neighborhood boys with whom he plays soccer. He even has a playful dog named Lola. But it is what Max doesn’t have that occupies his thoughts. He doesn’t have the strength that Ortiz has when he throws the fútbol out of the goal, and he doesn’t have a pair of Volantes, which would ensure his success at tryouts. He doesn’t have the freedom to attend a summer clinic in Santa Inés with his friends. And most of all, he does not have a mother. He doesn’t know where she is or why she left, and his Papá will not tell Max anything about her. “When you’re older, I’ll explain more,” is what he hears from his Papá, but he wants answers now, and he may just get them sooner rather than later. The new soccer coach expects all players to have a birth certificate to try out for the team, and Max learns his mother took his documents with her when she left. With Papà out of town in search of Max’s documents, Max finds himself thrust into an adventure of a lifetime. Will the legend his Buelo has been telling him his whole life lead Max to the answers he seeks? And will Papà finally accept that he can be trusted?

THOUGHTS:  Middle school is a time for students to explore their strengths and weaknesses and also to test the boundaries of the freedoms that come with growing up. Many middle schoolers will see themselves in Max and their parents in his Papà. The folklore adds interest to this coming of age story. Pam Muñoz Ryan’s fantasy novel is a self-discovery tale for every upper elementary and middle school library.

Fantasy          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD


Scrivan, Maria. Nat Enough. Graphix, 2020. 978-1-338-53821-2. 235 p. $21.59. Grades 3-6.

Natalie Mariano is not enough. She is not cool enough, not athletic enough, not talented enough. Whatever you need to make you enough for middle school, Natalie doesn’t have it–at all. And to make matters worse, her best friend, Lily, seems to have changed her mind about wanting to be friends with Natalie, so now she is not enough for Lily either.  Add in a disastrous first day of gym class; bully Shawn Dreary, who barks at Natalie every chance he gets; and a Jell-o frog dissection debacle, and Natalie is sure that she will never have what it takes to make it in middle school. But maybe Natalie has it all wrong. Instead of focusing on what she isn’t, maybe Natalie should focus on what she is. With the help of some new friends and some old hobbies, a story contest and some new-found confidence, maybe Natalie will discover that who she is, in fact, is exactly enough.

THOUGHTS: Every middle school student has been in Natalie’s shoes at one point, whether it is a falling out with a friend, that awkward feeling when trying something new, or an embarrassing moment that everyone sees. Her epiphany is gradual, but the progression is logical, and even the bullies have evolved by the end. Maria Scrivan’s debut graphic novel is a perfect fit for upper elementary and middle school libraries.

Graphic Novel    Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD


Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Black Brother, Black Brother. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 978-0-316-49380-2. 239 p. $14.81. Grades 3-6.

Donte Ellison fit in in New York, in his multiracial neighborhood. He fit in at his old school. He does not fit in in his new white neighborhood, and he certainly does not fit in at his new school, Middlefield Prep. His brother, Trey, fits in, and everyone wants to know why Donte can’t be more like Trey. But Trey has light hair and blue eyes like their father, and Donte has dark hair and brown eyes like their mother, and this makes all the difference at Middlefield Prep, and makes Donte a target of bullies, especially Alan. When Alan throws a pencil at another student, Donte is immediately blamed. Frustration turns to anger, and Donte finds himself in handcuffs in the back of a police car. No one in his school sees him. They only see the color of his skin, and Alan has made sure that Middlefield Prep is a miserable place for Donte to be. A week of suspension gives Donte time to plan his revenge on Alan, but is revenge really what Donte needs? A mentor, some new friends, and an athletic outlet provide Donte with support, purpose, and a goal that goes far beyond Alan and revenge.

THOUGHTS:  Middle grade students, regardless of race, will understand Donte’s anger and frustration with not being seen or heard, but his story will resonate most with BIPOC students. White students will benefit from reading this novel as a window into the experiences of their BIPOC classmates.  A must-read for students and teachers alike.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD


Lowry, Lois. On the Horizon: World War II Reflections. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-12940-0. 75 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Inspired by her own personal memories, Lowry has created a wonderful contemplative work about two major events that occurred during World War II. The text, told mostly in verse, contains a single reflection per page concerning specific incidents or individuals during the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the bombing of Hiroshima. These short remembrances are about some who perished and some who survived. In Hawaii, one of the Anderson twins survives the attack on the Arizona, and his ashes are buried with his brother years later. Frank Cabiness saves his watch that is stopped at 8:15, the time of the attack. The author deftly contrasts this story with Hiroshima. Four year old Shinichi Tetsutani is riding his red tricycle when the bomb falls and is buried with his bicycle. Shinji Mikamo survives the bombing, while his father does not. All he can find in the ruins is his father’s watch that is stopped at 8:15.  It is details like this that make these stories come alive for the reader. The illustrations by Kenard Pak are done in pencil and add to the thoughtful tone. Part of the story is autobiographical. Lowry was born in Honolulu in 1937 and remembers playing on the beach with her grandmother while a giant ship passed by on the horizon. As an adult, she later realized this was the Arizona. As a child, she returned to Japan after the war and while riding her bicycle, sees a young boy that will become a famous author.

THOUGHTS: Lowry’s work is a masterpiece made powerful by the stories of real people who were impacted by these historical events. These poignant tales will linger in the reader’s mind for a long time. This is an essential purchase for all elementary and middle school libraries.

940.54 World War II          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

MG – Dragon Hoops; When Stars Are Scattered; Gold Rush Girl; Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor

Yang, Gene Luen. Dragon Hoops. First Second, 2020. 978-1-626-72079-4. 446 p. $19.99. Grades 7+.

Gene Luen Yang has always hated sports, but he loves stories, especially writing and drawing graphic novels. He’s in need of a new idea for his next book when he overhears students at Bishop O’Dowd (the Oakland, CA, high school where he teaches) talking about the biggest story on campus: the basketball team! Yang ventures across campus and gets to know Coach Lou, who graduated from Bishop O’Dowd in 1989 and played ball with the Dragons. He’s been to the state championship game once as a player and five times as a coach but has never brought home the trophy. There are two reasons this year might finally be the Dragons’ year: Ivan Rabb and Paris Austin. As Yang gets to know their stories, he realizes that they are every bit as thrilling as the comics he loves. But unlike a superhero story, in basketball there is no guarantee that the heroes will always win. Yang skillfully weaves high-energy, game-changing moments from the history of basketball with Coach Lou’s equally high-stakes 2015 season. This very successfully paces the drama and also helps readers better understand the action on the court during game scenes. Throughout Dragon Hoops, themes of breaking barriers, challenging one’s own limits, and literally changing the game (even at the risk of making a big mistake) are depicted with the motif of feet stepping and the word “STEP,” cueing the reader that a pivotal moment is at hand.

THOUGHTS: Gene Luen Yang was the 2016-2017 Library of Congress’ National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (a position currently held by Jason Reynolds). His skill as both an artist and a storyteller is fabulously showcased in Dragon Hoops. Throughout the book, Yang debates whether or not to include Mike Phelps, retired O’Dowd teacher and Dragons coach, in the story. At the risk of a spoiler, Phelps resigned following a molestation charge that was never prosecuted. The charge is not described in detail but Yang includes it in the narrative.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Jamieson, Victoria, and Omar Mohamed. When Stars are Scattered. Dial, 2020. 978-0-525-55391-5. 257 p. + notes. $20.99. Grades 3-8.

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have been living in a Kenyan refugee camp since fleeing Somalia at the age of 4. Omar’s life consists of taking care of Hassan, with the assistance of Fatuma, an elderly woman who has been appointed the boys’ guardian. UN supplied food rations are meager and entertainment is what can be manufactured, such as playing soccer with a ball created from plastic bags. Omar has not gone to school, feeling responsible for Hassan. But a camp community leader encourages Omar to begin attending school, and a new world  opens to Omar. But it can be a painful world, of crushed dreams and disappointments. Brilliant student Maryam who dreams of going to university in Canada, is forced to quit school and get married. The system of choosing people for possible relocation to the United States seems random, and when Omar and Hassan are finally chosen for an emigration interview, nothing comes of it. But Omar continues to study and dream. When Omar is 18 the brothers are finally selected for resettlement. This stunning autobiography portrays, in beautiful color palettes, the reality of life in a refugee camp. Living conditions are horrific, but there are also close bonds of people who care for and support each other. Omar’s horrific backstory is revealed during his first resettlement interview, explaining how he and Hassan came to be in the  camp alone at such a young age. Author notes at the end of the story update the reader on the brothers’ story after reaching the United States, including the delightful surprise that Omar is currently living in Lancaster, PA.

THOUGHTS: This important story is a must purchase for most libraries. It carries the gravitas of Jarrett Krosocka’s Hey Kiddo, but appropriate for a younger audience.

Autobiography          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

As Omar so succinctly states in the word bubble on the back cover: “Refugee Camps are supposed to be a temporary place to stay until it’s safe to go back home. I guess no one expected the war to last so long, though, because Hassan and I have been here for 7 years.” With gorgeous colors and interesting characters, Jamieson and Mohamed take us through childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya. The monotony of daily essential routines for survival are mixed with increasing odds against finding their mother or going back home to Somalia. What remains is the effort to take care of one another, the opportunity to get schooling and seek a future, and the slightest chance to immigrate to another country for a new beginning. All of these seem unlikely for Omar, who faces tragic memories, current realities, and future possibilities with truth and sincerity that will bring young readers into his world and into their hearts. When the Stars Are Scattered is a remarkable light in the night sky which guides hope home.

THOUGHTS: Both Pennsylvania residents do an excellent job bringing the refugee experience to children. The sibling relationship with Hassan, who is nonverbal except for one word, is truly touching and real. The afterword and authors’ notes bring the story up to date, and help realize the many other refugee stories that need to be heard. Highly recommended.

Graphic Novel          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Avi. Gold Rush Girl. Candlewick, 2020. 978-1-536-20679-1. 306 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Victoria Blaisdell finds life as a thirteen-year-old young lady in Providence, Rhode Island quite boring. She desires action, independence, and adventure. This is not how young ladies act in 1848. Her sole escape is sneaking off to the library and checking out stacks of books to read in private. She adores her younger brother, Jacob, but realizes her parents are under the control of her domineering aunt. All this changes when her father loses his job in an economic panic. While her parents dither, Tory obtains a job. Then the news comes of a gold strike in California. Tory’s father sees this as the answer to his woes and determines he and Jacob will sail for California. Tory is just as determined to go along, eventually stowing away on the ship. Life in San Francisco is not at all what the Blaisdells expected to find. Eventually Tory and Jacob are left behind in their tent home in the muddy, crude city, while their father heads to the gold fields. Resourceful Tory finds construction work and other odd jobs to support herself and Jacob, but Jacob becomes bored and dissatisfied. Is Tory too enthralled with her freedom and new friends to notice Jacob’s unhappiness? When Jacob goes missing, she knows she must find him before her father returns and their mother arrives. Tory, a memorable female character, strong, intelligent, and independent, guides the reader through gold rush in San Francisco. The sprawling, brawling town is no place for a lady, but Tory makes it her own. Avi brings the era to life, from the muddy, miserable tent cities to the brutish practice of crimping – kidnapping men to work on ships whose crews have deserted to search for gold. While some readers may find the exposition in the first half of the book a bit slow, once Tory is on the hunt for Jacob the suspense keeps you reading until the very end.

THOUGHTS:  Another meticulous book from a master. Tory is a memorable young lady, and the images of gold rush San Francisco will remain long after the book is complete.

Historical Fiction           Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD
(1849 California Gold Rush)


Carter, Ally. Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-39370-2. 322 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Carter brings the delightfully snappy writing, humor, and plot of her Gallagher Girls series to the middle grade set. April is used to moving from home to home, as she is temporarily without a parent (DON’T call her an orphan. Her mom is coming back for her. Someday. Soon.). She has experienced foster care, good and bad, as well as group homes. While on a field trip to the opening of the Winterborne Gallery, April is shocked to see the Winterborne family crest is identical to that on the one item she has from her mother, a key she wears on a chain around her neck. Everyone knows the tragic story of the wealthy Winterbornes. The perfect family was killed when their boat exploded, all except young Gabriel Winterborne. He, however, disappeared from sight on his 21st birthday, leaving the family fortune in limbo. Now the ancestral manor houses a select group of orphans, and after a small incident involving setting the museum on fire, April is invited to move to the home, joining Sadie, Violet, Tim, and Colin. April isn’t there long before she realizes someone is sneaking around the house at night. Utilizing spy skills that will surely earn her a scholarship to the Gallagher Academy, April, with the very able assistance of her new friends, begins to unravel the long buried secrets of the Winterborne family. And, along the way she discovers there are different kinds of family and home.

THOUGHTS: Young mystery fans will love this first book in a new series. Plucky characters, boo-worthy, villains and a fast moving plot will be sure to captivate readers.

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Lupin Leaps In; Emmy Noether; Astronauts Zoom; The Big Break

Dunn, Georgia. Lupin Leaps In. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019. 978-1-449-49522-0. $9.99. Grades 3-6.

It’s Cat Network, brought to you by Elvis, Lupin, and Puck! These three cats report their day-to-day lives, including all of the members of the household. Between the ceiling cats, the crazy outfits that they are forced into, and the newest addition to the household, Elvis, Lupin, and Puck are always getting into mischief and informing the world!

THOUGHTS: Honestly, this took me a bit to get into. Once captivated, each report was hilariously illustrated and explained how a cat may view the situation. A funny read that is short with each report, but full of a year’s worth of adventures.

Graphic Novel          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Becker, Helaine. Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of. Kids Can Press, 2020. 978-1-525-30059-2. 40 p. $18.99. Grades 3-5.

This picture book tells the life story of a little-known female mathematician.  Emmy Noether always excelled in math even as a young girl growing up in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century. She preferred doing puzzles to playing the piano or doing things expected of girls at that time. Emmy wanted to attend university to study math, but this was not permitted at that time. Her father was a professor there, so she was allowed to sit in on classes. Even though the male students resented her because of her intelligence, they often asked her for help with homework without giving her credit.  Eventually she was accepted into the university, but even after earning a degree, she was not permitted to teach men. About this time, Albert Einstein was developing his theories of relativity and Noether helped solve one of the problems in his theory. While working on that problem, she thought about related laws of physics and discovered that the laws of symmetry and conservation are linked. Her work on the principle of symmetry became known as Noether’s Theorem. The author does an excellent job in explaining physics in terms that are easy to understand, aided by the illustrator’s appealing drawings which are hand drawn and digitally colored. For instance, the illustrator demonstrates symmetrical motion by showing Emmy on a swing. This book works well as a read aloud and uses a checklist format to begin and end Noether’s story.

THOUGHTS: This is an excellent picture book biography that shows how one woman overcame obstacles in order to reach her goals. This text could be used to introduce basic physics in science units. Becker’s work would also be a good choice for Women’s History Month. Elementary librarians should consider adding this one to their biography or math sections.

510.92 Mathematics          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
92, 921 Biography                                                  


Rose, Deborah Lee. Astronauts Zoom! An Astronaut Alphabet. Persnickety Press, 2020. 978-1-943-97850-2. 38 p. Grades K-2. $16.95.

This is an engaging nonfiction picture book about the astronauts who live on the International Space Station. Using an alphabet format, the author explains what astronauts do while in space. Rose describes how astronauts work, play, relax, and take care of their hygiene in simple text. Featured words and their relevant letters are highlighted in the same color. The stunning colorful photographs are the winning aspect of the book. One image shows an astronaut reading near a window showing the Earth below, and readers will be amused by an astronaut who is juggling sixteen pieces of fruit at one time. The extensive back matter contains more details about each of the activities described. There is a long list of vocabulary words, but no definitions are given. Included is a section discussing how readers can make their own facsimile space station at home, in the classroom, or in the school library.

THOUGHTS: This nonfiction text works well for alphabet units or to introduce a science unit on space. Young readers will enjoy reading this book and examining the photographs on their own. Purchase where astronaut books are popular.

629.442 International Space Station          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
629.45 Astronauts


Tatulli, Mark. The Big Break. Little, Brown and Company. 2020. 978-0-316-44055-4. 248 p. $12.99. Grades 4+.

Seventh graders Andrew Fineman and Russell Kahng live near the Pine Barrens, in New Jersey. Friends since second grade, they are now hard at work on their entry for the Middle Grade Viral Video Contest: “Terror of the Jersey Devil,” a mockumentary on the legend and its many rumored sightings. But phone calls, study dates, and hand-holding with Tara Wallbuck are pulling Russell’s attention away from writing and filming crucial scenes. Frustrated and left out, Andrew fears that more than just the movie is in jeopardy. A fresh round of Jersey Devil sightings (and an overnight excursion into the woods) might provide the push they need to recover from their friendship meltdown in time for a true surprise ending.

THOUGHTS: Mark Tatulli depicted his own tween years to wonderfully universal effect in 2018’s Short & Skinny. In The Big Break he revisits the years between action figures and driver’s licenses, chronicling the friendship friction when one matures a little faster than the other. His latest has the perfect blend of realism and whimsy, in both plot and art style, to reach a wide audience. He brings an especially light touch to Andrew’s relationship with his widowed mom, who’s struggling to allow her son to grow up.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

YA – Kent State; Parachutes; The Lucky Ones; The Dark Matter of Mona Starr; A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Wiles, Deborah. Kent State. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-35628-1. 144 p. $17.99. Grades 7 and up.

May 4, 1970. Sandy Scheuer, Bill Schroeder, Jeff Miller, Allison Krause. “Four dead in Ohio.” (“Ohio” by Neil Young, Performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young). At a time when much of the nation was protesting the war in Vietnam and invasion of Cambodia, students at Kent State had had enough. Beginning with campus protests on Friday, May 1, 1970, and the burning of the ROTC building to the burning of buildings in the town of Kent on Saturday, May 2, 1970, the protests in Kent culminated with the killing of four students and wounding of nine others on Monday, May 4, 1970, by the Ohio National Guard. Where were the protectors? For a war being fought around the globe, the Kent State shootings “brought the war home to American soil” (145). Author Deborah Wiles relives this fateful time in American history in Kent State.  Shared through conversation by those who experienced this horrific event, Wiles explores the event from the perspective of student protestors, student bystanders, black students, townies, and National Guard members as they converse and share their memories of this fateful event. Each voice is unnamed and poignant as their memories and understanding of those fateful days is shared. Using different print types, readers are immersed into the conversation as a listener, another bystander, hearing history come alive by those who lived it. Wiles explains in “A Note about May 4 and This Story,” how she used primary source documents and oral histories from the archives at both Kent State University and Kent, Ohio, to create a conversation of memories, hardships, fear, and regret. “What might have happened? We have no answers for that. We have only this moment, now. We can make decisions to be informed as citizens, not accepting what we hear or see or read until we’ve dug deeper on our own, for context, for truth. We can listen. We can share. We can make commitments to the tenets of democracy that say we have freedom of speech, press, assembly, and petition in our public places” (146).

THOUGHTS: This is a must-have for all middle school and high school collections. Deborah Wiles brilliantly brings to life the tragedy of Kent State that not only engages readers in a turbulent time of American history but also forces readers to question what they know about history in order to better understand its application today. Wiles does not sugar-coat the violence of the period, nor does she ignore the various voices and experiences of those living in Kent as they experienced the protests. Much like her use of primary sources in The 60s Trilogy, Wiles’ use of primary sources to create a conversation of past experience leads to an understanding of the event while leaving the reader wanting more. This is a fabulous historical fiction novel to pair with informational texts about Vietnam and Kent State.

Historical Fiction        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

After conducting extensive research, Wiles recreates the chaos of Kent State University‘s campus on May 4, 1970, with distinct narratives (protestor, Guardsman, townie, student) to share many perspectives. An anti-war demonstration turned violent and resulted in the killing of four students and wounding of nine others. The fear and confusion, anger and sadness of those involved is portrayed through short snippets of free verse which encourages readers to approach history by considering many viewpoints. Each narrator is unnamed, and readers feel connected to their stories. Narratives are displayed in various fonts to differentiate.

THOUGHTS: This historical fiction belongs in high school libraries and would pair well with an American history reading collection of major events, especially those that may not receive as much attention.

Historical Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Yang, Kelly. Parachutes. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-94108-4. 496 p. $18.99. Grades 9 and up.

Yang begins this “story of [her] heart” with a letter to readers and a trigger warning about the book’s content (sexual harassment and rape).

Due to her posh lifestyle in Shanghai, Claire Wang may seem oblivious to many of the typical woes of being a teenager. Claire holds a lot of pressure on her seventeen year old shoulders. Her father has a not so secret mistress – she actually reached out to Claire on WeChat – and her mother, hides her dissatisfaction by spending money on fancy clothes and trips to upscale restaurants. Family pressure and preparation for the gaokao (Chinese college entrance exam) drive Claire’s life; she doesn’t understand how teens in American movies seem to have so much free time, as her days are dictated by endless hours of homework and tutoring. Despite all of these outward pressures, Claire manages to spend time with her boyfriend and a group of friends. After an unfortunate assignment result and despite Claire’s wishes, her parents decide she should be foreign educated, attending American Preparatory school in LA, where she will live with a host family. Afterwards, Claire will “stand out” upon her return to China, and as an added bonus, she’ll avoid the gaokaos, having a better shot at getting into one of the UCs. Dani lives in East Covina, CA and is a student at American Preparatory, where she participates in band and shines on the Debate Team. Like her grandmother and great grandmother before her, Dani and her mom both work as maids, and Dani does not shy away from the hard work. This helps them afford living expenses and send $500 a month to family in the Philippines. It isn’t easy being a maid to the elite students of American Preparatory, but Dani needs the money to be able to travel to the Snider Tournament for debate and to afford Yale, the college of her dreams. To help the family with increasing expenses, Dani’s mom decides to rent out their spare room to a nice girl from China who will attend school with Dani: Claire. Told in alternating narratives, Dani and Claire don’t interact much; they are from entirely different worlds. Despite drastically different circumstances, Dani and Claire must learn to live together and even learn how to understand each other.

THOUGHTS: Parachutes is a beautiful YA novel that intertwines two painful narratives. This is a must have for all high school library collections. Be sure to read the author’s note too!

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Lawson, Liz. The Lucky Ones. Delacorte Press, 2020. 978-0-593-11849-8. 352 p. $18.99. Grades 9 and up. 

“The Lucky Ones is a book about what happens after the news cameras leave and the reporters stop calling.” May McGintee is a “lucky one,” though she feels like anything but lucky. Wracked by PTSD, May is also angry. She’s the only survivor to walk out of the band room on the day when her twin brother and closest friends are killed during a school shooting. Feeling guilt, an immense amount of loss, as well as constantly fearing for her safety, no one could possibly understand how May feels – even after eleven months and therapy sessions. She finds ways to process her anger, but others see them as destructive. Zach’s life hasn’t been the same for the last eleven months either but for a very different reason. Zach is angry too. As a result of his mom’s decision, he lost everything, and his home, the only place he can be himself, is being vandalized. It doesn’t help that his mom is never home, and his dad is an absent parent, barely able to get himself out of bed or even get dressed. Zach and May each have one friend that sticks with them through everything. With their support, Zach and May just might be able to find a way to move forward.

THOUGHTS: This book tackles a heavy topic, well-covered in the young adult genre, but the fresh approach of looking at the aftermath when news cameras have moved onto the next big story gives this debut a worthy spot in high school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Gulledge, Laura Lee. The Dark Matter of Mona Starr. Amulet Books. 2020. 978-1-419-73423-6. 192 p. $22.99. Grades 8+.

High schooler Mona Starr suffers from depression, which feels like an encompassing fog of “Dark Matter” that invades every crevice of her thoughts. It makes Mona feel overwhelmed, alone, and insignificant. Her best friend Nash has recently moved to Hawaii, but at his and her parents’ urging she begins seeing Dr. Vega, a therapist who helps Mona study her Matter and forge a path toward health. After emergency surgery to correct a rare condition, Mona also learns to embrace the support of her “Artners:” her partners in Art, though not without some additional growing pains. “Maybe art can help transform embarrassment and suffering into insight,” Mona realizes, “one heartbreak at a time.” Some readers will find Mona’s progress frustratingly halting, but depression is a very frustrating disorder and that is realistically portrayed here. Laura Lee Gulledge’s pencil-shaded illustrations, with golden spot color, are so stunningly evocative that readers will catch themselves just staring at the pages. Her portrayal of Mona’s internal world is brilliant, especially the panel that captures how it feels to be an introvert.

THOUGHTS: The Dark Matter of Mona Starr is an intimate, moving depiction of Mona’s journey toward emotional and physical wellness, embracing her unique self, and accepting the loving support of people who care most about her. Gulledge even includes a Self-Care Plan template at the close of the book so her readers can implement some of the practices that guide Mona in her journey.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Jackson, Holly. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Delacorte Press. 2020. 978-1-984-89636-0. 400 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Pippa Fitz-Amobi is a good girl: high achiever, faithful friend, devoted daughter, and big sister. So it’s a bit out of character for her to solve a murder for her senior capstone project, especially because it’s one that’s already been solved. Five years ago, high school senior Andie Bell disappeared from their small town of Fairfield, Connecticut. Her body was never found, but the remains of her boyfriend, Salil “Sal” Singh, were discovered in the woods along with evidence that he had killed Andie and then committed suicide out of guilt. Pippa’s instincts, honed on true crime podcasts and documentaries, tell her that Sal is innocent. She aims to raise enough doubts about Sal’s guilt to convince the police to revisit the case. With the help of Sal’s younger brother, Ravi, Pippa susses out one lead after another, untangling clues and connections hidden within interview transcripts, journal entries, and text messages. Meanwhile someone with much to lose is watching their every move — and he (or she?) is unafraid to follow through on threats against what Pippa holds dearest when she refuses to stop digging. Holly Jackson skillfully weaves the elements of a solid mystery into her debut: suspense, red herrings, breathless amateur surveillance, and even a spooky dark alley. A huge twist, revealed just when the crimes have seemingly been solved, propels the pace right to the final page.

THOUGHTS: Mystery fans, take note: You’ll be hooked from the “Murder Map” that appears on page 29! This fast-paced whodunnit is perfect for fans of Karen M. McManus’ thrillers, especially Two Can Keep a Secret. Note that this novel’s potentially sensitive topics include suicide, sexual assault, and an animal in peril.

Mystery          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

MG – Cub; Stepping Stones; From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Copeland, Cynthia L. Cub. Algonquin Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-616-20848-6. 240 p. $12.95. Grades 4-7.

Cynthia Copeland delivers a fantastic middle grade graphic memoir! In the fall of 1972, the halls of Litchfield Junior High have something in common with Wild Kingdom: every kid is either predator or prey. Cindy has perfected the art of playing dead to get the “predators” to lose interest in her. She doesn’t have to play dead in art or English class, though, where she shines. Beloved English teacher Mrs. Schulz recommends Cindy for an internship with a female reporter at the local paper. Attending local events with Leslie, Cindy learns the ropes of recording facts, gathering quotes, and crafting an informative story with an attention-grabbing lede. “To make it into the paper,” Leslie advises her, “a story has to be great: accurate, fair, complete, concise.” The same could be said for a successful memoir! It is a joy to watch Cindy’s confidence blossom as she finds her voice through journalism. Full-color panels with a variety of layouts depict her journey of empowerment in bright, tween-friendly colors with just a tinge of nostalgia. Despite the time period specifics, Cindy’s seventh grade year – spent juggling friend drama, a nice boy who almost looks like John Denver when the lights are dim, and her new job as a “cub” reporter – is one that every preteen girl will relate to.

THOUGHTS: This heartfelt, engaging graphic memoir, complete with lovingly depicted growing pains, is a surefire recommendation for fans of Raina Telgemeier.

Graphic Memoir          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Knisley, Lucy. Stepping Stones. Random House Graphic, 2020. 978-1-984-89684-1. 224 p. $12.99. Grades 3-7.

After her parents’ divorce, Jen and her mom relocate to rustic Peapod Farm in upstate New York. Jen misses her dad, her old apartment, and the delicious food in the city. She’s also disillusioned with the farm’s constant chores, nasty geese, and especially her mom’s annoying new boyfriend Walter. Things look up with the discovery of barn kittens and mail-order chicks, but the weekend addition of Walter’s daughters, Andy and Reese, puts a damper on the fun. Andy, an insufferable know-it-all, seems to thrive on one-upping Jen and calling out her weak math skills when the girls work the Peapod table at the local Farmer’s Market. But with a little luck and extra effort, there’s hope for these part-time sisters to find their common ground. Lucy Knisley lovingly depicts Peapod Farm and the market with lush green foliage, colorful flowers, and aqua skies. Jen’s unspoken emotions are conveyed through her body language and flushed cheeks. Many readers will expect more growth (and definitely a much-needed apology or three) from bossy Walter, but they will also identify with Jen’s frustration when she feels unheard, and her perspective that the adults always (however unfairly) get the last word.

THOUGHTS: With Stepping Stones, graphic memoirist extraordinaire Lucy Knisley has created a standout middle grade graphic novel. As mentioned in the Author’s note, Knisley’s own story closely aligns with Jen’s, and we readers can only hope that she has more stories in store for this age group!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Marks, Janae. From the Desk of Zoe Washington. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-87585-3. 291 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Zoe has just had the best twelfth birthday party ever, making cupcakes with her besties at a real bakery. She’s now one step closer to fulfilling her dream of competing on the Kids Bake Challenge and becoming a professional pastry chef. She returns home to the surprise of her life: a letter from her father, Curtis, who Zoe has never met in person because he has been incarcerated for her entire life. Zoe is intrigued, but confused; after all, her father is a convicted criminal, guilty of murder. But in his letters, Curtis sounds … Nice. Supportive. Caring. With the assistance of her grandmother (and unbeknownst to her mom and stepdad), Zoe begins exchanging letters with her father. When Curtis claims his innocence, Zoe decides to investigate. With the help of her best friend, Trevor, she begins a quest to find Curtis’s alibi witness. She also awakens to the occasional injustices of our criminal justice system.

THOUGHTS:  In her debut novel, Janae Marks balances the serious with the sweet. Zoe (who is part of an upper-middle class, mixed-race family) is sometimes mature well beyond her twelve years. Still, she is an endearing heroine on a life-changing quest for the truth. Readers with an interest in the criminal justice plotline may want to pick up Just Mercy: Adapted for Young Adults by Bryan Stevenson to learn about the real people whose lives mirror Curtis’s story.

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets; ATVs; Lowriders; Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw; The Upper Case; Kylie Jean Recipe Queen; Karl’s New Beak; True Tales of Rescue; Fearless Felines; Stuffed; Anya and the Dragon; Little Bro, Big Sis; Thinker; Rosie and Rasmus; Firefighters’ Handbook; The Superlative A. Lincoln; Good Dad Diego; Milton & Odie; Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries; Beastly Puzzles; Who Am I; Instructions Not Included

Smith, Alex T. Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets. Peachtree. 2019. 978-1-682-63130-0. $16.95. Grades 2-4.

Another Mr. Penguin adventure! This time, Mr. Penguin is finishing a very important mission, when disaster seems to strike on his return home! With every move he makes, something bad happens! His plan crashes, small rodent animals are stolen, a mysterious castle that was once quiet is now making strange sounds, and he has no fish fingers to eat! Can Mr. Penguin solve the mystery of the castle AND return his parcel back to the museum? Read to find out!

THOUGHTS: Another funny Mr. Penguin adventure is here! Elementary readers will be excited to see the crazy leaps and bounds Mr. Penguin and his trusty spider side-kick Collin take. An enjoyable chapter book read!

Fantasy          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Shaffer, Lindsay. ATVs. Bellwether. 2019. 978-1-626-17870-0. $19.95. Grades 3-6.

This information guide to ATVs is a great resource for elementary readers interested in active outdoor recreation. ATVs feature a wide variety of information on the history, types, gear, and fast facts all about ATVs. This intermediate read has text and pictures that are engaging and informative, well balanced between the two. Elementary readers will enjoy the pictures, all the while learning new information about this fast vehicle. The back of the book contains a glossary, index, and additional information sources, both in print and on the web.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun informational piece for young active readers, part of the Full Throttle series!

629.228 ATVs, Vehicles          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Adamson, Thomas K. Lowriders. Bellwether. 2019. 978-1-62617-873-1. $19.95. Grades 3-6.

Other Books in the Full Throttle Series (Series total: $239.40)
Dragsters – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179318
Indy Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179325
Karts – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179332
Sport Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179349
4×4 Trucks – Shaffer, Lindsay. 2018. 9781626178694
Dirt Bikes – Shaffer, Lindsay. 2018. 9781626178717
Hot Rods – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178724
Monster Trucks – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178748
Motocross Cycles – Shaffer, Lindsay.2018. 9781626178755
Stock Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178762

Part of the Full Throttle series, Lowriders is an informational resource to the Lowrider vehicle, great for elementary readers. Full of pictures, text, fast facts, timelines, and more, this book is sure to pull in elementary readers that are interested in cars, specifically ones that seem to hop! Readers will learn a bit about competitions and the hydraulics that are used to make these lowriders bounce.

THOUGHTS: This is another fun informational read in the Full Throttle series!

629.222 Lowriders, Vehicles          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Loveless, Gina, and Andrea Bell. Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw. Andrews McMeel Publishing. 2019. 978-1-524-85548-2. $13.99. Grades 2-5.

It’s only taken a month since Robin received her diary to start writing in it, but now she is committed! Unfortunately, Day 1 isn’t the best beginning of a diary. It starts great but then ends terribly. She didn’t mean to give Marinara a bloody nose when playing basketball. She just got angry when he was being rude to her. It seems from then on, things go downhill. Mary Ann still won’t talk to her after missing her big day, and the bully keeps stealing everyone’s Bonus Bucks. Add on that Robin accidentally got the Bonus Bucks banned, everyone is mad at her, and she still can’t get Mary Ann to be her friend again… it seems that every good intention is ending badly! Can Robin, the 5th Grade Outlaw, solve these problems?

THOUGHTS: An Epic! Original story that is easy to read with large, spacious text; fun illustrations that create a graphic novel type feel; and written in a diary format. A fun read for a variety of readers who like some action that deserves a hero… or an outlaw!

Realistic Fiction           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Lazar, Tara. The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-02765-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-9. 

There’s trouble in River Capital City. All the upper case letters have disappeared except for Private I. Now he’s on the case, trying to locate the missing letters in a city that, devoid of its capitals, no longer makes sense. This riotous book is filled with puns, both verbal and pictorial, with brightly colored, humorous illustrations by Ross MacDonald. As Private I moves about the city, conducting interviews and looking for clues, readers will giggle with delight. And the denouement! What a surprise! But also a subtle lesson that sometimes even the most outgoing of us need some quiet time.

THOUGHTS: This utterly delightful picture book, reminiscent of Audrey Woods’ alphabet series, begs to be read aloud at story time, as well as given a closer one-on-one reading. There are so many puns and jokes to catch, it will stand up to multiple readings. A recommended purchase for libraries serving primary grades.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Green, Gail, and Marci Peschke. Kylie Jean Recipe Queen. Picture Window Books, 2019. $20.99 ea. $83.96 set of 4. 32 p. Grades 2-4. 

Breakfast Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82850-1
Dinner Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82849-5
Lunch Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82848-8
Treat Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82847-1

Fictional character Kylie Jean is back, this time in a non-fiction cooking series where she shares some of her favorite recipes. This reviewer had the opportunity to read the volume focusing on breakfast recipes. Recipes include smoothies, rainbow waffles, energy bars, and more–including a recipe for Fido! Designed for elementary-aged chefs, working with adult assistance, each recipe features step-by-step instructions (emphasizing points when adult assistance will be required), a full page photo of the finished product, as will as tips and creative options.

THOUGHTS: A nice addition for elementary libraries looking to update or expand their cooking collections (especially libraries that already own the Kylie Jean fiction series). Sure to hold appeal for aspiring chefs looking to try out new recipes.

641.5 Cooking            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Nargi, Lela. Karl’s New Beak: 3-D Printing Builds a Bird a Better Life. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-684-46026-7. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 1-3.

Karl, an Abyssinian ground hornbill at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, had a problem–a big problem. A large portion of his lower beak had worn away! This left him dependent on his keepers for special food, as he was not able to pinch insects or small mammals off the ground with his beak. His quality of life was impacted in other ways as well. He couldn’t engage in hunting behaviors or interact with the surrounding environment as he normally would. In order to improve Karl’s quality of life, his keepers decided to create a prosthetic beak using a 3-D printer. Author Lela Nargi relates Karl’s journey and the 3-D beak creation process in Karl’s New Beak. The text is accompanied by numerous large photos and drawings. A section including basic facts about the Abyssinian ground hornbill and a glossary are also included. As part of Capstone’s 4-D line of books, readers can access supplemental video material via an app or online.

THOUGHTS: This engaging title is a must buy for elementary library collections, especially those looking to expand their STEM-related collections. Karl’s story lends itself to lessons on engineering, 3-D printing, cooperation and innovation, just to name a few.

636.089 Veterinary medicine          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Einhorn, Kama. True Tales of Rescue. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. $14.99 ea. 143 p. Grades 3-7. 

    Go, Goats!. 978-132-876706-6
    Tiger Time. 978-132-876707-3

The purpose of the True Tales of Rescue series is to inform readers about animal sanctuaries and their mission of animal rescue, recovery, rehabilitation, and release. Go, Goats! examines the farm animal rescue efforts of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. The narrator of the book is Lucia, the oldest goat at the sanctuary. She takes readers on a tour of the facility and describes the journey of the largest group of goats the sanctuary has ever rescued. Along the way, readers learn about the steps in the animal rescue process, the services provided by the sanctuary, the daily life of the animals, and facts about goats. Tiger Time is narrated by Kamal the tiger, a resident of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. He informs readers about various aspects of wild animal rescue and how these creatures are rehabilitated and live in the sanctuary. Readers also learn many facts about tigers. The series is written in an engaging and conversational style. Readers feel like they are sitting down and having a chat with Lucia and Kamal. The text is accompanied by numerous photographs of the animals and the sanctuaries. Suggestions for supporting sanctuaries and animals are also provided.

THOUGHTS: This series is sure to be popular with animal lovers. The conversational style of the text makes the series a great non-fiction option for reluctant readers. In addition to these newest titles, librarians should also consider purchasing the prior titles in the series.

636.7, 599 Farm Animals, Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Hamilton, Kimberlie. Fearless Felines: 30 True Tales of Courageous Cats. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-35583-3. $9.99. 160 p. Grades 3-7.

Fearless Felines recounts the stories of cats from around the world and throughout history who led amazing and unique lives. For example there’s Sam, who spent time onboard both German and English Naval vessels in World War II; Morris, who found fame on TV commercials; Nora, the piano playing kitty; and Snowball, the Canadian cat who helped police in an investigation. Interspersed among the cat tales are lists of various feline factoids, quizzes, and historical cat lists/information. Each single page cat profile is accompanied by a full page illustration by one of seventeen artists.

THOUGHTS: A quick and enjoyable read, this title is sure to be a hit with your school’s many cat owners and fans. The text is enhanced by the variety of illustrations, completed in various styles and mediums, which helps to bring the unique personality of each cat to life.

636.8 Cats          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Braswell, Liz. Stuffed. Disney, 2019. 978-1-368-03701-3. 244 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Clark’s mom is sure that, at 10 years old, Clark is too old to play with stuffed animals. But for Clark, it isn’t play; it’s protection from the monsters he thinks come out at night. When a new playdate friend confirms that monsters are real, and “stuffies” are the defense, Clark begins to understand what is wrong with his father, who has taken to bed and looks weaker by the day. In a last ditch effort to make Clark “grow up,” his mom sends him to Camp I Can, a camp for children to break dependencies. Luckily, Clark connects with the crafts counselor who knows all about stuffies and comes up with a plan to save his dad before it’s too late. This sweet book gives voice to what all children know: stuffed animals are real. In a trading card-like structure, stuffies are given defensive point values for various characteristics, and being home-made, with love, is a big power boost. Clark epitomizes the frustration children feel at not being taken seriously by adults, but luckily he has a fan in his goth older sister, a unique character in her own right. The story includes occasional narration from one of Clark’s stuffies, which adds a twist of suspense to the story. Author Braswell also includes instructions to make one’s own stuffies.

THOUGHTS: Any reader who has ever loved a stuffed animal will delight in Stuffed.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Pasternick, Sofiya. Anya and the Dragon. Versify, 2019. 978-0-358-00607-7. 394 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Anya’s Babulya, grandmother, always tells her to not make trouble, not to stand out. This comes from her grandmother’s lifetime of experience as a Jew in Russia. But Anya attracts attention for another reason when she bravely assaults a cruel warrior from the north who threatens the village. Her bravery is noticed by Yedsha, the Tsar’s fool, who just arrived in her small village, ostensibly on a mission to study the magical creatures that dwell there. He is really seeking a dragon, thought to be extinct, and hires Anya to guide him around the area and look for one. Anya is in need of money, as the village magistrate is in the process of evicting her family from their house unless they pay back taxes her mother owes. However, when Anya finds a young dragon and discovers what a thoughtful, caring creature the dragon is, she is torn between saving her family or saving the dragon. The story reads like a cozy Russian folk tale, full of magic, mythical creatures, ghosts, and evil soldiers. Anya is drawn into the warmth of the fool’s large family, making friends with his youngest son Ivan. But as Anya prepares for her Bat Mitzvah, her Torah readings cause her to question the morality of her work with Yedsha Ivanovitch. Is it acceptable to take one life to save many? Is an animal life as valuable as a human life? Jewish culture and history run through the story like the threads of magic the villagers use. The conclusion of the book highlights Anya’s bravery and cleverness, and leaves readers wanting more. Luckly, a sequel is on the way.

THOUGHTS: Another stellar entry in the cultural folktale/adventure genre, this time from Kwame Alexander’s imprint. The story is fast paced, with magic, a generous supply of magical creatures, and villains too. Anya is thoughtful, loyal, and quick on her feet. While she continuously rues that she alone in the village has no magic, it is obvious that she has many other gifts. This book will find a home with any reader who loves magical adventures and folk tales.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Bonilla, Rocio. Little Bro, Big Sis. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-623-54109-5. 56 p. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Big Sis is an overbearing rhinoceros according to Little Bro, but she does have some positive qualities. Little Bro is an annoying monkey who always gets in the way, according to Big Sis, but he does have some endearing moments. As Little Bro and Big Sis consider their relationship, they realize that maybe it isn’t so bad having one sibling, especially when a new baby comes into the family.

THOUGHTS: With humorous illustrations that support the development between the two siblings, Little Bro, Big Sis is a Flip-Me-Over Book that tells the same story from each sibling’s perspective.  It is a fun, funny picture book about sibling relationships and what happens when a family grows from two children to three. This is a great story for siblings to explore their own feelings towards one another and their feelings when their family changes.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Greenfield, Eloise. Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me. Ill. Ehsan Abdollahi, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2019. 978-1-492-67724-6. 32 p. $15.99. Grades PreK and up.

Jace and Thinker are both poets. When Thinker comes to live with Jace and his family, he is welcomed into the family. As Thinker and Jace share their poetry with one another, they share their thoughts and feelings, their music from their words. But, when Jace has to go to school and Thinker cannot, Thinker begins to worry that Jace is ashamed of him and his poems. He worries that he is not good enough for Jace and needs to be more of a dog in public and less of himself, the poet. When pet day comes, Thinker promises to only bark and not embarrass Jace, but he cannot limit who he is, so he takes the stage to recite poetry, and soon all of the pets are sharing their skills, singing, dancing, walking upside down, and more.  Jace is proud of Thinker for staying true to himself and sharing his poetry.

THOUGHTS: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me is a wonderful collection of poems that reminds readers always to remain true to who you are and not worry about what others think. Not only are the poems fun, sharing a story of man’s best friend and understanding of character, but the illustrations are gorgeous. Created using paper cuts, each illustration adds a brightness to the poem and connects each element of the poet’s story together.  The poems and illustrations continually remind the reader that being true to you is the key.

Poetry        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Geddes, Serena. Rosie and Rasmus. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-4814-9874-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-12.

Rosie and Rasmus both have a wish. Rosie wishes for a friend, and Rasmus wants to fly. One day when Rosie goes out by the water, she meets Rasmus. She teaches him things that she enjoys, and he shows her lots of things that can fly. Rosie encourages Rasmus to continue trying to fly. When Rasmus finally grows his wings and learns to fly, he and Rosie must part ways. Although Rosie is sad to lose her friend, she realizes that perhaps she can do for another what Rasmus did for her.

THOUGHTS: Rosie and Rasmus is an endearing picture book about friendship, encouragement, perseverance, and loss. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and add to the beauty of this story of friendship, growth, and loss. This is a wonderful book for children who are struggling to fit in socially, who are shy, or who are just looking for a friend.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


McCarthy, Meghan. Firefighters’ Handbook. Simon & Schuster, 2019. 978-1-534-41733-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Well-known children’s non-fiction author-illustrator Megan McCarthy’s newest title introduces young readers to the career of firefighting. The physical requirements of the job, including types overall fitness activities (running, biking, etc.) as well as job-specific fitness requirements (climbing stairs, lifting equipment, etc.) are presented and discussed. Diagrams and descriptions explain firefighting gear, equipment, and vehicles. Types of firefighting situations and scenarios as well as jobs and duties carried out in the firehouse are also shown and described. Back matter includes an interview with a retired battalion chief and his answers to some questions from children.

THOUGHTS: Readers with an interest in firefighting will be sure to appreciate this title. The illustrations are appealing and engaging, and the text clearly explains all the facets of the firefighting profession to younger readers. Highly recommended.

628.9 Firefighting           Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Meyer, Eileen R. The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89937-6. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K-4.

The Superlative A. Lincoln relates key events and milestones in Abraham Lincoln’s life via 19 poems. Each poem is titled with a different superlative statement. “Best Lumberjack” relates Lincoln’s prowess with an ax, “Best Yarn Spinner” focuses on his ability to tell a tale, and “Best Use of an Accessory” is written from the point of view of Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat. Accompanying each poem is a paragraph that explains the history behind the poetry. The text is complimented by Dave Szalay’s illustrations, which accompany each poem. The illustrations, while digitally created, have a vintage vibe and feel that seem perfect for a history-related title.

THOUGHTS: These fun poems are a great way to engage students and share some important facts about our 16th President. The title could be used in various lessons, including poetry, Presidents Day, and Abraham Lincoln. Highly recommended for elementary collections.

811 Poetry          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Maloney, Brenna. Good Dad Diego. Viking, 2019. 978-0-451-48126-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.

Diego the dog is a pug who has a tough job–he is a father! In that capacity, he has to wear many hats. Sometimes he is the law of the household, focusing on preventing his puppies from misbehaving. Other roles he takes on include cook, dishwasher, nurse, and repairman. The most important hat he wears, though, is simply Dad. He loves his pups and wants to care for them and set a good example. This photographic picture book features illustrations of Diego wearing his different hats (for example, a policeman’s hat when he is the law, a chef’s hat when he is the cook). While most photos focus on Diego, the closing pages introduce readers to his adorable pups.

THOUGHTS: Sure to be a hit with dog lovers, this title would make a great read aloud and might also prompt discussion on the various jobs and roles carried out within households.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Fraser, Mary Ann. Milton & Odie and the Bigger-than-Bigmouth Bass. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-623-54098-2. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades PreK-2.

As the story opens, otters Milton and Odie have woken up in their homes with the same idea-they will spend the day ice fishing! They travel to separate areas of a lake and drop their lines in the water. However, Milton and Odie’s personalities could not be more different. Milton has a grumpy personality and a pessimistic attitude. He’s sure he is unlikely to catch anything as the lake probably doesn’t have anything worth catching. Odie, on the other hand, is cheerful and always sees the positive side of things. For example, when he reels in an abandoned fishing net rather than a fish, he views it as a great and useful find. When fate (and tangled fishing lines) bring these two polar opposites together, they learn a lesson about the power of teamwork and patience, and optimistic outlooks.

THOUGHTS: This delightful story is sure to bring a smile to the face of readers and would make an excellent read aloud, as Milton and Odie have such distinct personalities. The book could easily be incorporated into lessons and discussions on topics such as friendship, feelings, and emotions.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Hogan, Eric, and Tara Hungerford. Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries. Firefly Books, 2019. $19.95 ea. 32 p. Grades PreK-2.

The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder. 978-0-228-10189-5.
The Case of the Story Rock. 978-0-228-10191-8.
The Case of the Vanishing Caterpillar. 978-0-228-10193-2.
The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper. 978-0-228-10195-6.

The Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries are adapted from a popular Canadian children’s television program. Each volume features main characters Scout and Daisy, mice best friends, who embark on a journey to solve a nature-related mystery (for example, “why did my caterpillar friend disappear?”). They use their prior knowledge and observations recorded in a field book to guide them as they go out into nature to investigate further. Next, they consult books in the library to verify what they have learned (or to add to their knowledge) in order to solve the mystery. With their case now closed, they return to the outdoors and take a “mindful moment” to reflect on the knowledge they have gained. Each book contains a “Field Notes” section with information, definitions, photos, diagrams, etc. about the mystery topic as well as a nature craft related to the story.

THOUGHTS: As a librarian, I really liked how these books introduced and reinforced the idea of the research process for younger readers throughout the storyline. Scout and Daisy identify a question (aka the mystery), make and record observations, and conduct research in the library in order to solve the mystery. The series encourages readers to go out into nature, explore and engage with the world around them and to be curious. (Note: Familiarity with the Gumboot Kids television program is not needed in order to understand and enjoy these titles).

500s Natural Sciences        Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Poliquin, Rachel. Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game. Ill. Byron Eggenschwiler. Kids Can Press, 2019. 978-1-771-38913-6. 32 p. $16.99. Grades 2-5.

Beastly Puzzles is a guessing game for readers to see how much they know, or think they know, about an animal. Each tri-fold spread begins in a monochromatic room, a study, a sewing room, a bedroom, etc., with colorful pictures of clues. The clues help readers answer the question, “What animal could you make with…”, along with a hint at the bottom of the page. After readers put their critical thinking to a test to figure out the animal represented by the clues, the page folds out into the animal and information about it.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun, challenging way to test critical thinking, animal knowledge, and learn about animals. It is a great addition to elementary libraries.

793.73 Puzzle Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 


Flach, Tim. Who Am I? A Peek-Through-Pages Book of Endangered Animals. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73646-9. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

Who Am I? guides young readers through twelve endangered species by providing clues about each one. The clues allow readers to use their knowledge of animals to guess the endangered species. Some are obvious: the giant panda, a polar bear, and a gorilla. Others are not: the crowned sifaka, the white-bellied pangolin, and the axolotl.  Each set of clues provides information about the animal. Additional information about each animal is located in the back of the book in the “Who are we?” section. This text also includes, “Wanted! Caretakers for Planet Earth – How You Can Help,” a section about what readers and humanity can do to help endangered animals and the planet in general.

THOUGHTS: This title is a fun way for early elementary students to learn about endangered species. It rotates between those they may know and those they probably do not. It is a great source for introducing endangered animals and also elementary appropriate research (or search).

591.68 Endangered Animals          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Brown, Tami Lewis, and Debbie Loren Dunn. Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future. Ill. Chelsea Beck. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-01105-1. 64 p. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty all came from different backgrounds but had one thing in common: their understanding of math. Brought together during World War II, these three women were tasked to use their math skills to program ENIAC, one of the world’s earliest computers. With no instructions, the women set out to create a code for ENIAC that would prove a computer’s worth in both war and peace. But, programming a 13-ton machine with no prior knowledge, except math, was not easy. The women worked first to calculate all of the aspects needed to program ENIAC, and then they had to test it. They were on a deadline and ENIAC did not compute properly. What was wrong? How would they figure out their problem before it was too late?

THOUGHTS: Instructions Not Included is the story of three women who were computer science pioneers.  Using only their knowledge of math, they were able to program one of the earliest computers to use for war. Both Jean Jennings and Betty Snyder remained in the computer science field after the ENIAC project. Betty went on to help write both COBOL and FORTRAN computer languages with Grace Hopper and others. Jean helped develop stored-programming. The “Author’s Note” at the end of the book provides additional details about each woman. Resources for further reading are also provided. This is an informative picture book to help students recognize the importance of math and the development of computer science.

004 Computer Science; 920 Biography Compilation          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

MG – The Giver; Teen Guide to Mental Health; All American Muslim Girl; Loki; Feed Your Mind

Russell, P. Craig. The Giver. Based on the Novel by Lois Lowry. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-544-15788-0. 176 p. $22.99 Grades 5-8. 

A powerful adaptation of the classic YA novel. Jonas lives in a community of perfect harmony in which the people face no hardships or concerns in their daily lives, and every decision is carefully made for each citizen by the elders. At his Age Twelve ceremony, Jonas is assigned to the unique role of Receiver of Memory, chosen to take on the memories, both good and bad, of a society who is shielded from them. With every day that passes, Jonas learns and experiences more and begins to realize the harsh truths that keep the society in order. The story remains faithful to Lowry’s original dystopian tale. The panels of beautifully illustrated pictures change from muted grays to vibrant colors as Jonas’ understanding of life experiences expands.

THOUGHTS: Suggest this title to provide a struggling reader or English Language Learner support for a novel which is required reading in many schools.

Graphic Novel          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Nardo, Don. Teen Guide to Mental Health. Reference Point Press., 2020. 978-1-682-82753-6. 80 p. $30.95. Grades 6+. 

The prolific Don Nardo has another nonfiction title for the K-12 audience. This slim volume focuses on the stressors and common mental health issues facing today’s teens such as body image issues, depression, and divorce in the family. Most pages have pop out quotes from mental health professionals or people who have faced difficult issues.  The book only touches briefly on many of the mental health concerns mentioned but includes a valuable resource list of websites and mental health organizations for students, parents, or teachers seeking information or help.

THOUGHTS: An optional purchase for a junior or senior high collection.

618.92 Mental Health          Nancy Summers  Abington SD


Courtney, Nadine Jolie. All American Muslim Girl. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019. 978-0-374-30952-7.  336 p. $17.99. Grades 7+. 

Allie Abraham is the only daughter of an immigrant professor in search of a tenure track position and an American mother, who have recently settled in yet another new town just outside of Atlanta. Allie once again sets about fitting in with her new community, finding a group of friends, and even beginning a relationship with a kindhearted new boyfriend. Though her extended family from Jordan and elsewhere in the States are practicing Muslims, Allie’s parents have given up most of the practices of Islam in an effort to keep their family safe from suspicion in a post 9/11 world. Ally can easily pass as an all American girl with her light complexion; she nevertheless feels left out as she is the only one of her extended network of cousins who does not practice the faith or speak Arabic. After finding a young women’s prayer and Koran study group, she begins to explore her religion in earnest. The book follows Allie as she comes to terms with the many layers of her life as a typical American teen while trying to reconcile her American culture with her growing Islamic faith.

THOUGHTS: The book is enlightening, revealing many of the tenets and rituals of Islam and shedding a positive light on a religion which unfortunately is sometimes misunderstood and feared.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Lee, Mackenzi. Loki: Where Mischief Lies. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-544-15788-0. 176 p. $17.99 Grades 6+.  

A fun and witty origin tale for Loki, the trickster from Norse mythology and the Marvel Universe. Loki, the younger son of Odin, King of Asgard, has always felt inferior to his more favored and less quick witted elder brother Thor. The sibling rivalry between the brothers is explored, and the dialogue between the two of them is hilarious. Since Loki does not possess the physical strength of his brother, he experiments at an early age with his magic, a gift inherited from his mother which is not welcomed by his father. Loki finds a companion in his childhood friend Amora, a sorceress in training. At the Feast of Gullveig, Odin sees a prophecy in the Godseye Mirror of one his sons leading an army of the dead against Asgard. When the sacred Mirror is destroyed, Amora is banished to Midgard (Earth) where magic does not exist. Loki is left alone again, struggling to prove that the prophecy does not point to him. He gets a chance to serve his father when he is sent to Midgard to investigate a series of magic-related murders with SHARP, a secret society of mortals in Victorian London. On Midgard, Loki finds himself drawn to Theo, a key member of SHARP and encounters Amora once again. The book delves into LGBTQ issues in London, with Theo suspected and isolated as a homosexual. Theo is awed by Loki’s open gender fluidity and his descriptions of  Asgard’s open mindedness about gender and sexuality. The ending comes as Loki must choose his own path – to be a loyal prince of Asgard or the villain everyone believes him to be.

THOUGHTS: A recommended next step for fans of Rick Riordan’s mythology series. This title will also appeal to Marvel fans and for fans of Lee’s period adventures in the Montague Siblings books.

Fantasy Fiction          Nancy Summers Abington SD


Bryant, Jen. Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73653-7. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 4-6.

Bryant’s brilliant picture book biography of the African-American playwright from Pittsburgh is truly unconventional. It is written in two acts, not unlike Wilson’s plays, and is done in free verse. She concentrates more on Wilson’s early life in Pittsburgh’s Hill District rather than focusing on details of his plays and later life. Frederick August Kittel, his birth name, was able to read from age four, and this was encouraged by his mother, who said, “If you can read, you can do anything.” The author describes the boy as a good student who dropped out of school due to prejudice and bullying, not only by students, but also by a teacher who believed that August plagiarized a term paper. He then spent his days in the Carnegie Library and educated himself by reading. While working a series of service jobs, August Wilson, as he was then known, began to write poetry and soon presented them at poetry readings. In listening to people in his hometown speak about their experiences, he acquired subject matter for his works. On the urging of a friend, Wilson began writing plays, which lead to an award winning career as a playwright whose works focused on the lives of African American men in Pittsburgh. The full page illustrations by Chapman are done in a variety of media and are symbolic in some cases. There is a striking drawing of Kittel as a teenager walking between rows of books at the library. Superimposed on the rows of books are rows of corn stalks. In the text, Bryant tells us that his mother also left school and went to work in the cornfields with her family. On the back cover, young August is pictured reading at a fancy dining table on which are platters and bowls full of books, which relates to the title. The back matter contains a timeline of this famous African American’s life.

THOUGHTS: This book is a wonderful example of creative nonfiction. The author chose to write this text in a style that echoes the poetic and dramatic works of the man about whom she was writing. The book is lengthy for a picture book biography, and the text contains two instances of a pejorative word for African Americans, so students would need some background and preparation if this is used in the classroom. Readers will be inspired by the accomplishments of this self-made man and will understand how the power of books and words can change our lives.

Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Elem. – Rachel’s Roses; Art Sparks; Chapter Two is Missing; Money Sense; How Winston Delivered Christmas; Stargazing; Ants; Cooking Class; Gracie La Roo

Wolff, Ferida. Rachel’s Roses. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-44365-9. 100 p. $15.99. Grades 2-5.

Rachel Berger is a third grade girl who lives in the Lower East Side of New York City during the early 1900s with her mother, father, grandmother, and little sister Hannah.  The family struggles economically, especially since her mother quit her job to start her own dressmaking business. As the big sister, Rachel is tired of her little sister copying her and following her around. Rosh Hashanah is approaching, and Rachel is hoping she can have a new skirt for the occasion and that it will be different from her sister’s. There is no money for new clothes, but Rachel’s mother gives her money for new buttons. At the trimmings store, she spies 3 beautiful buttons with roses in them. Although she does not have enough money to pay for them, she asks the shop owner to put them aside and says she will earn the money to buy them before the holiday. Rachel is able to find a job doing errands and purchases the buttons. Her feelings for her sister are out to the test when Hannah goes missing and Rachel must decide if the buttons can be put to better use for the sake of her family. The author creates a 19th century atmosphere with her description of the street vendors and school life, and the author’s note explains more about her own family’s customs during Rosh Hashanah. Lucas’s black and white illustrations appear frequently throughout the text and help the reader visualize life in the early 20th century. 

THOUGHTS: This is a charming book that is perfect for independent readers who are not quite ready for lengthy texts but want to expand their horizons beyond series titles. Although this is not an essential purchase, it is a worthwhile addition to elementary library collections.

Historical Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Abrams, Marion, and Hilary Emerson Lay. Art Sparks. Storey Publishing, 2019. 978-1-635-86211-9. 175 p. $26.95. Grades 2 and up.

This highly appealing craft book, born of the authors’ Summer Craft Barn classes, is sure to delight crafters of all ages and interests. After an introduction to basic craft materials, the book is divided into 6 categories of crafts: painting, drawing, paper art, felt and fabric, art and nature, and sculpture. The projects run from simple to more complex, but none feel beyond the ability of tween and older crafters, or youngsters with adult assistance. Materials required for most projects are basic craft supplies, and other items are obtainable at a craft store. Each project outlines materials needed; full color photos illustrate step-by-step instructions and are so engaging you want to dive right in. There are multiple crafts inspired by a variety of international cultures, each accompanied by a brief explanation of the significance of the art to the culture. Most crafts can be wholly completed by the young crafter, but the authors advise that glue guns be used with adult supervision, and knife work completed by adults. The only questionable point is the suggested use of styrofoam meat trays, which, while the book notes they should be washed thoroughly before use, parents may prefer to avoid.

THOUGHTS: This book will be an excellent addition to a library craft section, as well as a great purchase for the young crafter in your life.

745.5 Crafts          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Lieb, Josh. Chapter Two is Missing. Razorbill, 2019. 978-1-984-83548-2. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K+.   

Chapter One opens with a bang when the panicked narrator announces that Chapter Two is missing, and this riotous story is off and running. In the meta tradition of David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs and Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, the elements of a book become the story. Milo the Janitor relocates periods (to, perhaps, create an ellipse?) and heaps pagefuls of M’s in the middle of another page. Detective McGarrigan has no news on the case, but no news is good news, right? Delightful comic illustrations by Kevin Cornell (The Chicken Squad) propel the humor along. When the who-done-it is finally revealed, readers may be too busy laughing to care.

THOUGHTS: While young readers may giggle at the drawings, the clever humor will appeal to older readers as well, and a close inspection of the illustrations will also prove rewarding.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Money Sense: An Introduction to Financial Literacy. Crabtree, 2017 and 2019. $17.70 HC. $7.95  PB. $106.20 set of 6. 24 p. Grades K–3.

Eagan, Rachel. Why Does Money Matter? 2017.  978-0-778-72666-1. 332.4
—. Why Should I Save for a Rainy Day ? 2017. 978-0-778-72663-0. 332.024
—. What Do I Want? What Do I Need? 2017. 978-0-778-72664-7. 332.024
—. Learning about Earning 2017. 978-0-778-72665-4. 331.2
—. Meeting Needs in Our Community. 2019. 978-0-778-75185-4. 338
—. Trade in Our Global Community.  2019. 978-0-778-75186-1. 382

This series makes economics accessible for younger grades. These books introduce young children to the basic concepts such as supply and demand, needs and wants, and goods and services. General statements are illustrated with child friendly examples. The two most recent books, Meeting Needs in Our Community and Trade in Our Global Community, reach out into local and global economics and the interdependence of our global community. Back matter includes books for further reading, websites, a glossary, and an index. Each book has a link to Crabtree’s secure website which has additional digital content. 

THOUGHTS: Economics should be studied even by younger students. These books can really have an impact, but I think they should be used intentionally, backed up by hands on activities. Because there are different Dewey classifications, I have included the specific number with each title above.

Financial Literacy          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Smith, Alex T. How Winston Delivered Christmas. Silver Dolphin, 2019. 978-1-68412-983-6. 175 p. Gr. 1-5. 

In delightfully retro style, Alex T. Smith tells the story of Winston, a plucky little city mouse, who finds a lost letter on Christmas Eve. The trouble? The letter is addressed to Santa Claus, and he will never receive the letter at this late hour unless Winston does something, and fast! Winston travels across the city, meeting helpful new friends like avian odd couple George and Edna who provide some intel on Santa’s location, and rat Eduardo Fromage who shows Winston the finer points of life inside a fancy department store. Winston finally makes his way to Fortesque’s Department Store where he hopes to meet up with Santa Claus, but he realizes that he’s too late. Never one to give up, Winston attempts to fly himself to the North Pole, only to crash land in a serendipitous twist that makes his life (and the life of the letter writer!) very happy, indeed. Smith tells the story in 24 ½ chapters, meant to be read as an Advent story throughout the month of December. The vintage-looking illustrations are gorgeous and evoke a vision of long-past big city holidays, bustling with men in suits and fedoras and ladies in dresses and hats, all bustling about carrying towers of packages carefully wrapped at the department store (rather than delivered by Amazon). Christmas crafts, recipes, song lyrics, and activities are peppered throughout the book, and every page is decorated with a small illustration, flourish, or bit of whimsy that generally lend the book a very festive air. It’s a beautiful book and story that deserves to be shared with a special child in your life.

THOUGHTS: Buy a copy for school and a copy for home, and enjoy sharing with Christmas-lovers young and old.

Action/Adventure          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Wang, Jen. Stargazing. First Second, 2019. 978-1-250-18387-3. 208 p. Grades 3-6.

Moon is unlike anyone Christine has ever known growing up as a Chinese American. Christine plays the violin and likes American pop music while Moon loves singing and dancing to K-Pop. Christine’s parents are very strict while Moon’s mother is very easy going. Christine’s family makes their dan dan mian with pork while Moon and her mother are vegetarians (and Buddhists). Moon also has a reputation for having a hot temper and quick fists. The girls realize quickly, however, that they really like each other…they become quick friends and expand each other’s worlds. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret, that she’s really a celestial being, and she has visions that let her see her friends in the sky. Christine struggles with her own insecurities as Moon becomes more popular, and it isn’t until Moon has a seizure at a friend’s birthday party that everyone learns the truth: Moon’s celestial visions are being caused by a brain tumor. Moon needs Christine more than ever, but Christine can’t face Moon after an unkind incident at the birthday party. In the end, Christine’s father helps her see that she needs to be herself to be happy, and she and Moon make up and face the new world together. This book is loosely based on author/illustrator Jen Wang’s own childhood and personal experience with a brain tumor. Several of my students have read and loved it! Our district has very few Chinese American students, and this book portrayed a community authentically to my students, a group of kids who likely know very little about this culture.

THOUGHTS: An excellent title for fans of realistic middle-grade graphic novels.

Graphic Novel          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Kenney, Karen Latchana. Ants: Secrets of their Cooperative Colonies, Capstone Press, 2019. 978-1-543-55553-0. 32 p. $7.95. Grades 3-4.

Did you know that there is an ant called Honeypot Ants that have abdomens the size of grapes? This book takes the reader through an ant’s life and why they live together. The text of the book is definitely for upper elementary; the pictures and models are eye catching, and there are great captions. When there are new words, they are highlighted in red and defined at the bottom of the page making following along with this book easy to do. This Fact Finder book is one in a series where readers get to learn secrets about some interesting insects and animals.

THOUGHTS: I would love to use this book in a center, teaching students how to read for information. This book is also a great example of text structures while being friendly for younger grades to follow along.

595.74 Ants          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD


Cook, Deanna F. Cooking Class: Global Feast, Storey Publishing, 2019. 9781635862300.P143. $28.95. Gr 1-5

Cooking Class: Global Feast is an awesome cookbook filled with recipes from around the world written specifically for children. The table of contents is easy to read and divided by types of meals from breakfast to dessert. Each recipe includes the flag of the country from where the food is traditionally made. There is also a table of contents by country, allowing students to  plan a fully immersive experience easily. The book also starts with lessons for students who may not be comfortable in the kitchen. Going into the book the recipes are rated from one spoon, meaning they do not involve baking or cutting, to three spoons which asks that there is an adult or older sibling helping. Each recipe also has pictures of the process. I love this part of the book because it allows children to check their work and see if it looks similar to the picture. Readers are also introduced to each child who is baking with a mini biography about them.

THOUGHTS: My daughter has not put this book down. From the moment I got it home my 9 year old daughter has been planning meals and testing her baking chops. Baking and cooking is a great way for students to be comfortable with measurement and to experience science. The lessons at the beginning helped her to know what tools she needed to get and how to read the recipe.

641.5 Cooking           Arryn Cumpston Crawford Central SD


Qualey, Marsha. Kristyna Litten. Gracie La Roo: At Training Camp. Picture Window Books, 2019. 978-1-515-83777-0. 35 p. $14.58. Grades K-2.

It is time for swim camp, and all Gracie wants to do is swim. Why then are all of her friends busy and worried about everything else. Gracie gets frustrated when practice keeps getting rescheduled for poster making, and costume designing. Gracie ends up spending the day alone. What she does not realize is that even when she is alone her other teammates depend on her and value her opinion. They keep calling her in to help with their problems. When Gracie finally has had enough and goes to her room, the rest of the team ends up in a fit. Gracie points out that they have lost focus and leaves to swim. 

THOUGHTS: The illustrations and words in this book are simple and easy to follow. This is a great beginning chapter book that could easily also be used as a social story for students. Friendships are hard, and like Gracie we don’t always agree with what friends are doing and sometimes we need to remind our friends what is important. The discussion questions and writing prompts at the end of the story would make this a great beginning of the school year read aloud for younger elementary students.

Early Chapter Book          Arryn Cumpston, Crawford Central SD