Elem. – The Fox and the Forest Fire

Popovici Danny. The Fox and the Forest Fire. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-797-20282-2 44 p. $17.95. Grades K-3. 

A young boy moves from the city to a house in the woods. At first, he is unsure of his new surroundings, but he begins to love his new environment with time. He loves to explore, adventure, and learn about the animals and their homes that inhabit the woods that surround his new home, especially a bright orange fox that lives nearby. In Danny Popovici’s The Fox and the Forest Fire, the reader will fall in love with the forest through the eyes of a young explorer. But when the young boy spots a fire that quickly engulfs the woods, his family is not only displaced, but his beloved home, trees, bugs, plants, and animals are forever changed. With a forest fire, so much can change quickly, but the family (and forest) can regrow and rejuvenate with time, hope, and support. In this touching story, resilience wins. 

THOUGHTS: The Fox and the Forest Fire was written and illustrated by a volunteer forest firefighter, which gives the book a unique and special perspective. The story has an uplifting message about rebuilding and resilience, not only for humans but for nature too. At the close of the book, the author’s notes and information could ignite essential conversations in the classroom about the effects of natural disasters on our environment. I love that this book can serve as a resource for coping with personal and community tragedies with a small nod to the first responders that risk their lives for others. 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship

Tomsic, Kim, and Hadley Cooper. The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-452-12783-5. unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.

Welcome to Thula Thula, a wildlife reserve in South Africa! Lawrence and Francoise are caretakers for the animals and the land, which is huge and protected and harmonious, until a desperate call comes in to adopt seven elephants. These elephants have been angry, troubled, and dangerous in their previous homes. Though Lawrence has never cared for elephants before, he willingly tries to take in the herd. What follows is a learning experience of trial and error as a relationship slowly grows with patience and practice. Lawrence and Francoise show empathy and compassion, which wins over the herd leader and subsequently the rest. With amazing and vivid illustrations and sparse but poignant text, Tomsic and Cooper tell a true tale of hope and redemption which will stick with young readers. The remarkable connection between elephants and Lawrence is fully felt when they grieve his death by migrating to his home and comforting Francoise. Endnotes and works cited will leave readers wanting more tales from Thula Thula.

THOUGHTS: This works great with other true animal and human relationship bonding books. The method of dealing with the herd’s angry behavior will also be a talking point for social emotional learning lessons. Beautiful and worthy addition to African animal collections.

333 Natural Resources          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

YA NF – Undefeated; Fetch

Sheinkin, Steve. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-59643-954-2. 280 p. $19.99. Gr. 7-12.

Known for his fast-paced and fascinating nonfiction narratives, Sheinkin delivers another well-researched, action-packed story in his newest title. In it, he ties together not only the story of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team, but also the stories of American football, Pop Warner, and Native American relations throughout U.S. history.  Sheinkin begins by providing biographical information about the early lives of Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner, as well as background information about the attitudes of white Americans towards Native Americans at that time and the founding of the Carlisle Indian School.  The lives of Thorpe and Warner ultimately intersect when Warner becomes Thorpe’s football coach at Carlisle, at which point the action really picks up.  Sheinkin moves season-by-season through Carlisle’s football history, explaining how its innovative coaches and players helped to modernize the game of football as we know it today, all while passively ignoring acts of discrimination like one-sided officiating and racist headlines.  Reading like a Hollywood underdog story, but sprinkled with factual information about the history of football and Native American relations, this title is a must-have for any school library.  THOUGHTS: Having read and enjoyed some of Sheinkin’s past award-winning titles, I was looking forward to reading this one, and he did not disappoint.  Sports fans, history buffs, and readers of biographies alike will find this book absolutely riveting.  It could be used in a classroom setting to spark discussion about racism and discrimination or paired with a fiction title like Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talker for a unit on Native American history.

796.332 Football; Native Americans      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Georges, Nicole J. Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, a Graphic Memoir. Mariner Books, 2017. 978-0-544-57783-1. 314 pp. $17.95. Gr. 10+.

At sixteen, Nicole Georges adopted a shar pei/dachshund mix puppy as a surprise for her boyfriend, Tom. Beija was meant to cement their bond and heal Tom’s childhood wounds, but the real bond formed between Nicole and her dog. A move to Portland and a break-up later, Nicole knows full well that Beija is no ordinary, well-behaved pet. She’s almost comically bent on misbehaving: baying, marking, and growling at all the wrong times and with all the wrong people. Nonetheless, she is Nicole’s beloved co-pilot through the generally painful process of growing up (and coming out), with the inevitable heartbreaking goodbye at the book’s end. Nicole’s journey through her teens and twenties is depicted in the author’s sharp, wonderfully expressive black-and-white illustrations. Beija in particular is lovingly drawn and charismatic. THOUGHTS: Equal parts soul searching and soul baring, Fetch is every bit as good as David Small’s Stitches and Ellen Forney’s Marbles, with the bonus presence of an unforgettable canine companion.

Graphic Memoir     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District