Elem. – No is All I Know!

Grabenstein, Chris. No is All I Know! Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. Random House, 2023. 978-0-593-30204-0. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PK-2.

Oh, Oliver McSnow. “NO!” is his favorite word. It’s “NO!,” no matter what. His “NO!” becomes the world’s strongest NO! and takes over his life and that of his family. No baths, no sleep, no puzzles, or pizza, or even ice cream! Only mac n’ cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When cousin Jess, who loves to say “YES!” comes to visit, Oliver is too tired to say “NO!,” and follows Jess and his “YES!” Suddenly, a new world opens up to Oliver as he tries new things and discovers that “YES!” is a lot more fun than “NO!”

THOUGHTS: Leo Espinosa brings the rhythm and meaning of Chris Grabenstein’s text to life in No is All I Know! Oliver is depicted as stubborn and passionate–and his parents shocked and bewildered by his all-encompassing “NO!” While initially I thought that the book would appeal mostly to a Pre-K audience whose parents are desperate for some relief from the “NO” phase, I believe the book will have broad appeal to primary students who are looking for a fun read and a relatable story. Some younger brothers and sisters may even be treated to story time by siblings who find this book on the shelf in the library. Highly recommended for its humor, universal story, and appealing illustrations.

Picture Book 

Elem. – Bears Are Best!

HoLub, Joan. Bears Are Best! Illustrated by Laurie Keller. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-0-525-64533-7. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Bears Are Best! is a picture book that follows a brown bear as he tells readers all about himself, as well as how he is the only bear in this book. However, spoiler alert, he is not the only bear in this book. What the reader finds out is that the brown bear is not the only bear in this book and what follows is each species of bear being introduced. There are several funny conversations had between the bears and even a special appearance from another species of animal.

THOUGHTS: This was a super enjoyable and interesting way to learn simple facts about different species of bears. The reader definitely will want to pay attention to the illustrations and the conversations that the bears are having with each other as it really adds to the book.

Picture Book

Elem. – Woo Hoo! You’re Doing Great!

Boynton, Sandra. Woo Hoo! You’re Doing Great! Little, Brown and Company, 2023. 978-0-316-48679-8. Unpaged. $17.99.  Grades K-3.

Woo Hoo! You’re Doing Great! is a motivational book that features a chicken who follows you and screams about how you are doing great at whatever you are trying to do. The book starts with asking if you have ever felt low or down? Maybe what you need is a chicken to wave and cheer. As the book goes on, the chicken cheers for multiple animals until finally they cheer for a sleeping bear which does not go well. The chicken has made a mistake and learns that everyone makes mistakes. A mouse steps in and teaches the reader what the best woohoo is that you can do.

THOUGHTS: This is such a fun book to read aloud and will be a great addition to any elementary collection. This book would also make a great read aloud for any elementary guidance counselor lessons.

Picture Book

YA – The Love Match

Taslim, Priyanka. The Love Match. Simon & Schuster, 2023. 978-1-665-90110-9 388 p. $19.99. Grades 7-12. 

Zahra Khan lives with her Bangladeshi family in Paterson, New Jersey, a family that includes her mother (Amma), a younger brother and sister, grandmother, and innumerable ‘aunties.’ Her father’s death two years ago has left its mark; they grieve him deeply while also feeling the economic toll. Amma has necessarily changed from housewife to self-employed seamstress, but the bills are always due, and Zahra has accepted the reality that college will have to wait. Zahra helps by having a job at tea shop Chai Ho, working with her best friends, twin daughters of the owner. Zahra’s mother has her heart set on ‘a good match’ for Zahra, and soon Zahra is meeting handsome, wealthy Harun Emon. But Zahra’s convinced Harun is a bad match, nothing like Nayim Aktar, Chai Ho’s new guitar-playing, dream-filled orphan dishwasher. Since both Zahra and Harun are uninterested in being matched, they agree to sabotage their parents’ plans by proving their match to be horrible over several required dates. Meanwhile, Zahra can secretly date Nayim. But soon, planning with Harun brings the two closer, and Zahra’s feeling pulled in two directions.

THOUGHTS: Zahra is an independent young woman with a strong commitment to her family; she realizes how vital each of her family–and friends–are to her.  Knowledge of Bangladeshi culture would help readers, but is not necessary to follow the storyline (though a glossary picturing all of the fantastic Bangladeshi dishes would be fabulous). What is Zahra’s best choice in love–and in her future? Does it have to come down to family security vs. her dreams? Will her antics leave her with no choices at all?  This is a humorous romance with strong, realistic characters, heartbreak, and a surprise twist no one sees coming. Zahra’s friends face realistic issues, as well, including college and relationship choices (one female couple is included), and they all find ways to support each other. This rom-com celebrates family, friendship and love, and is suitable for middle and high school collections.


Romance; Humor; Bangladeshi culture; Asian Americans; Bengali Americans; Muslim practices; Arranged marriages; Friendships; Mother-daughter relationships; Dating; Family.

Elem. – Gustav is Missing! A Tale of Friendship and Bravery

Zuill, Andrea. Gustav is Missing! A Tale of Friendship and Bravery. Random House Studio. 2023. 978-0-593-48747-1. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Little Cap lived with his best friend, Gustav, in a safe, cozy home. Little Cap needs to have a  safe place because the world is full of very scary things. Unfortunately, someone left the gate open and Gustav goes missing! Little Cap must be brave to find his best friend. He may meet dangerous people and places along the way, but Gustav needs to be found. Little Cap sets out to find Gustav, so they can come home and be safe!

THOUGHTS: This adorable mushroom book about bravery, courage, and facing your fears is fantastic. Despite the scariness of Little Cap’s world, being brave can lead to a new adventure and friendships.

Picture Book

Elem. – Butt or Face?

Lavelle, Kari. Butt or Face? Sourcebooks Explore, 2023. 978-1-728-27117-0. 40 p. $14.99. Grades K-5.

Is it a butt or a face (insert uncontrollable giggles)? Through a series of 13 close-up photos, readers are asked to determine if each picture displays a butt or a face. And they will be surprised by some of the answers. In addition to correctly identifying which body part is shown, readers are given each creature’s name and some facts about it. Though the creatures may be unfamiliar (Cuyaba dwarf frog), each likely is related to a more common animal. The end of the book includes an author’s note, about the author, and map with accompanying table describing where each critter rests their butts and what goes in their faces. Useful for a science lesson, an introduction to animal research, or a hilarious read aloud, young learners will have fun guessing butt or face while the reader has a hard time keeping a straight face. Put this one in a featured display, but be prepared to replace it often.

THOUGHTS: If the title doesn’t catch the attention of young readers, the cover is sure to do the trick. Highly recommended for elementary collections.

Picture Book
571.31 Animal Anatomy

Elem. – Oslo Learns to Swim

Cushman, Doug. Oslo Learns to Swim. Simon Spotlight, 2023. 978-1-665-92648-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 1-3.

Oslo Learns to Swim follows two best friends Oslo a bird and Rex a warthog on a hot summer day Rex is going swimming. Oslo has a lot of questions such as, are there sharks or giant squid?  Eventually it comes out that Oslo doesn’t know how to swim, so Rex teaches him. At the end of the story there are two crocodiles headed to go swimming as well.  One crocodile tells the other he is afraid of warthogs.

THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for fans of Elephant and Piggie or just funny easy readers. Must have for any elementary library collection.

Beginning Reader

Elem. – This Book Is Banned

Haldar, Raj. This Book Is Banned. Illustrated by Julia Patton. Sourcebooks Explore, 2023. 978-1-728-27656-4. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

“If we only read books that we already agreed with, we’d never learn anything new!” It begins with the hippos who don’t like how tall giraffes get all the leaves, so the giraffes are banned. Dinosaurs are more exciting, but some people think they’re make believe so dinosaurs are banned too. And so continue the antics in which avocados, beds, roller skating robots, and so many other things are banned. What then will this book be about? In a humorous manner, Haldar explains book banning to children through ridiculous scenarios. The final lesson “remember, even if a book isn’t for you, it could still be perfect for someone else.” is a perfect reminder that libraries are for all and represent all.

THOUGHTS: Preferences over what we each like is the perfect way to introduce the topic of book banning to children. With giggles guaranteed, this picture book will be a great read aloud, especially to celebrate the freedom to read during Banned Books Week.

Picture Book

Elem./MG – The Curious Vanishing of Beatrice Willoughby

Schmidt, G.Z. The Curious Vanishing of Beatrice Willoughby. Holiday House/Peachtree, 2023. $17.99. 267 p. Grades 3-6.

The quirky town of Nevermore’s most auspicious couple, Maribelle and Mort Amadeus, host a grand party at their mansion every All Hallow’s Eve. Thirteen years ago, the despotic Mayor Willoughby’s six-year-old daughter, Beatrice, vanished during the party, and Mort Amadeus was accused of the crime and arrested. The parties have ceased until now. Selective citizens of the town have been invited to convene before the statute of limitations on the crime is up at midnight. Joining them are drifters, Chaucer O’Conner and his inquisitive eleven-year-old son, Dewey. With his trusty notebook and copper goggles, Dewey follows the odd guests from clue to clue to unravel who really took Beatrice and to exonerate the imprisoned Mort Amadeus. Each guest draws on their unique specialty, like Dr. Frankenstein Foozle makes a phantom dog from a vial of ground bone that can sniff out the essence of a person. Intermittently in their investigations, Chaucer interjects a story he collected in his travels that sounds strangely familiar to well-known fairy tales. Author G.Z. Schmidt couples fast-paced narration with creepy descriptions and a dash of subtle humor. The reader’s mind will do double-duty matching up the clues with the townsfolk’s characteristics and Chaucer’s tales until the epilogue that starts the search all over again.

THOUGHTS: What middle schooler doesn’t enjoy a light-hearted, creepy book? The characters have multiple quirks, and Dewey exhibits sufficient charm to sustain interest. Give this book to students who enjoy Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society series or Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm or Michael Buckley’s The Sisters Grimm. This book also made me think of Ronald L. Smith’s Gloom Town, and there are elements in both that can be compared.  I think Gloom Town is more character-driven and has a stronger plot. What The Curious Vanishing of Beatrice Willoughby lacks in craft, it makes up for in a captivating story and its ability to maintain high interest to its targeted audience.


Elem. – Very Good Hats

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

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

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

Picture Book