Elem. – Bad Apple

Jones, Huw Lewis, and Ben Sanders. Bad Apple. Thames & Hudson, 2021. 978-0-500-65243-5. unpaged. $16.95. Grades K-2.

The thing about Apple is that he’s rotten to the core. It’s not fair that he steals pear’s chair or drinks pea’s tea. Each rhyming act gets worse as Apple bullies the produce and others… until along comes snake! That turns into his big mistake, and the silly surprising moral will have fans of Jory John and Jon Klassen wanting to read it again! Jones and Sanders create an easy reading, silly sketched, rhyming bit of fun!

THOUGHTS: Those connections to the Hat trilogy by Klassen and the Bad Seed by John will be apparent to even the youngest reader, but it is different enough, and certainly good fun for those who know that style and enjoy a surprise ending! Hopefully a better discussion about respect and bullying comes from the readers than from the book itself!

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Are You a Cheeseburger?

Arnaldo, Monica. Are You a Cheeseburger? Katherine Tegen Books, 2021. 978-0-063-00394-1. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

When Grub the raccoon meets Seed the seed in a trashcan one night, an unexpected friendship is born. Grub is scavenging for food, like usual, when he discovers Seed among the trashbags. Seed isn’t sure what kind of plant she will grow into. Grub is hoping it’s one that produces cheeseburgers. He plants Seed right away, and the wait begins. The two spend lots of time together, waiting to see what Seed will become. They sing songs and share stories until one day, Seed blooms. Seed breaks the disappointing news that it appears she’s just a flower, not a cheeseburger plant. Upon reflection, Grub concludes that although cheeseburgers would have been nice, flowers, and friends, might be just as special too.

THOUGHTS: Several discussion-worthy themes surface in this story, including getting over disappointment, accepting different outcomes than anticipated, discovering one’s own potential, and valuing relationships with others over individual desires. Ideas and opinions about growth and self-discovery will also make insightful talking points for students.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – It’s Okay to Smell Good

Tharp, Jason. It’s Okay to Smell Good. Imprint, 2021. 978-1-250-31133-7. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Panda Cat (a skunk) lives in Smellsville, one of the stinkiest places imaginable. He begins each day by making himself as smelly as possible thanks to his garlic and onion toothpaste and rotten egg hair gel. He also smears moldy mayonnaise into his armpits, guzzles spoiled milk with his breakfast, and eats toast with toejam and rotten apples. When he arrives at school, his friends share the news that celebrity stink-scientist Smellbert Einstink will be judging their science fair. Later that afternoon, Panda Cat practices his experiment: making the stinkiest soap ever. But, something goes terribly wrong. Even though he adds the smelliest ingredients he can find, the soap somehow comes out bright pink, smelling like cotton candy and sugar cookies. And, to Panda Cat’s horror, he finds that he actually kind of loves the smell. He wonders if he secretly likes smell-good stuff, but he’s too worried about being different from everyone else and sadly flushes the soap down the toilet. The next day at the science fair, Panda Cat repeats his experiment, and this time, his concoction smells even better: like caramel apples, sugar cookies, cotton candy, and strawberries! Panda Cat is worried about looking like a failure in front of everyone, but Smellbert Einstink confides one of his biggest regrets is that his work has created a world where stinky smells replaced nice scents. He asks Panda Cat to consider how we can ever truly appreciate really stinky things without nice smells to compare them to. He also reassures Panda Cat that it’s okay to like whatever you like, even if it makes you feel different than everyone else.

THOUGHTS: This title celebrates the idea that it’s okay to have your own preferences and like what you like, even if those tastes make you stand out from the crowd. It will be a good conversation-starter during morning meetings and will also be a crowd pleaser thanks to multiple references to farts, ear-wax, and other gross-out humor.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Favourite Pets (Series NF)

Crumpton, Nick. Favourite Pets. Thames & Hudson. $16.95. Grades 2-8.

Why Can’t Horses Burp? 2021. 978-0-500-65230-5.
Why Do Cats Meow?
2020. 978-0-500-65238-1.
Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms? 2020. 978-0-500-65202-2.

 

Have you ever wondered why horses can’t burp? Or maybe you are curious about the different types of horses, the color of a horse’s hair, mane, or tail, or even where a horse came from. This book will answer all of those curious questions you may have about one of your favorite pets and animals: a horse! Filled with information by horse expert Dr. Nick Crumpton, many of those captivating and curious questions you have can be answered in this illustrated, yet humorous, book!

THOUGHTS: Horses are the favorite animal of many readers, and this book is an excellent choice for elementary and middle school readers. As a librarian, I learned a lot about horses that I did not know! Readers will enjoy this book and be drawn in with the curious questions about horses!

636.1 Horses          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – We Want a Dog

Cole, Lo. We Want a Dog. Sourcebooks. 2021. 978-1-7282-3817-3. $17.99. Grades K-2,

There are so many different types of dogs! Long dogs and short dogs, skinny dogs and fat dogs! There are even dogs who are sneaks, thieves, and ones who may pee on Christmas trees! There are so many different dogs to choose from, how can one decide? Maybe one needs a dog that begs, one that sheds, or one who may rip things up INTO shreds? When there are so many dogs to choose from, perhaps you decide that you do not want any of them. In fact, you may decide that you want a cat!

THOUGHTS: This book is full of adorable dogs that are all different and special! This book is sure to make young readers laugh in delight at the silly dogs, all the while enjoying the flowing rhythm and rhyme this book contains.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – A New Day

Meltzer, Brad, and Dan Santat. A New Day. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-0-525-55424-0. unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

That’s it! She quit! Just like that, Sunday decided the weekly grind was too much and she needed to leave the rotation. While she was feeling unappreciated and ready to learn new things, the rest of the crew is left to fill her void, and that means a hiring process. In Brad Meltzer’s first fiction foray, we find a hilarious mix of personalities for each day of the week (Monday is so uptight, but Saturday is soooo chill!) as they work together to replace Sunday. Dan Santat offers up his unique humor to complement the text with endless visual gags and side jokes. The tryout process brings up suggestions like FunDay, RunDay, a running gag of DogDay versus Caturday, and many zany no-way kinda days! In the end, a little thanks and appreciation and teamwork really go a long way to making someone’s day. The simple fact is that every day can be a new day with a little more kindness.

THOUGHTS: Fans of the movie Inside Out will appreciate the personification of abstract concepts like emotions and days, while those looking for silly extensions like naming your own days have a natural writing prompt here. It is tricky as a read-aloud with the many voices and gags, but worthwhile for some classroom team building.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

MG – The Traitor’s Blade

Sands, Kevin. The Traitor’s Blade. (The Blackthorn Key, 5.) Aladdin, 2021. 380 p. 978-1-5344-8456-6. $18.99 Grades 5-9.  

In book 5 of this popular series, Christopher Rowe and his friends Tom and Sally continue unraveling codes and threats, this time against Christopher and King Charles II, in 1666 London. Christopher, Tom, and Sally have only just returned from Paris, when Christopher stops in at Blackthorn’s now-dusty shop to find a threatening letter with a code leading to more information. While there, his friend Simon arrives at the door–with a knife in his back. Miraculously, Simon lives, but the similarity of his death to the recent deaths of two of the king’s servants leads Christopher to be apprenticed to the King’s spymaster. Because Christopher, Tom, and Sally had saved the life of the king’s sister Minette, King Charles extends his grateful generosity to the trio by giving each of them an annual stipend, as well as an individual gift. For Christopher, it is his apprenticeship. For Sally, it is designation as the king’s ward. And for Tom, it is a secret that he keeps from Christopher, a secret which makes him sad. Meanwhile, Simon shares news that Remi, believed to be The Raven, is dead.  Christopher should feel relieved, but questions still abound, and he is caught up in following codes in the letters from the Templars. The closer he gets, the more dangerous the group becomes, and the more convoluted the codes and suppositions. Christopher’s new master cautions him against jumping to conclusions, but Christopher recognizes he’s done exactly that. The novel ends with hand-to-hand combat, a frightening discovery, and a selfless decision by Tom that will make the reader believe in the power of friendship.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful continuation of the series that Sands promises has “one more to go.”  Purchase the entire series for grades 5-9; it has proven popular with reviewers and readers.

Historical Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

YA – Dial A for Aunties

Sutanto, Jesse Q. Dial A for Aunties. Berkley, 2021. 978-0-593-33303-7. 309 p. $16.00. Grades 10+.

When mid-20s Meddelin “Meddie” Chan reluctantly agrees to go on a blind date arranged by her mother, she figures: what’s the worst that could happen? Well, she deploys her Taser to deter his overly aggressive advances, leading to a car accident and his (very unintentional!) death. Unsure of what to do next, she stuffs him in the trunk and turns to her mother and three aunties for help. The Chans sisters, who run a wedding business, have a huge event lined up the next day (at the hotel owned by Meddie’s freshly deceased date, one of many complications). The body goes into a jumbo cooler, the cooler goes aboard a ferry to the island wedding venue, and a comedy of errors – and a couple of crimes – ensues. The real hotel owner turns out to be Nathan, Meddie’s college boyfriend and true love, which raises the question: Who is in the cooler? Dial A for Aunties is packed with near-misses and comedic twists that will have readers alternately gasping with surprise and laughing out loud. Jesse Q. Sutanto depicts Meddie and Nathan’s sweet love story in a series of flashback chapters, adding appeal for teen readers. The Chan women stick together, despite a few sisterly squabbles, adding depth to a somewhat improbable storyline. Indonesian-Chinese wedding customs are incorporated as Meddie photographs the bridal preparations, tea ceremony, and other traditions throughout the highly eventful day.

THOUGHTS: With vibes of both Crazy Rich Asians and Weekend at Bernies, this big-hearted romantic comedy will leave readers anxious for the as-yet-untitled sequel.

Fiction (Crossover)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – No Pants!

Grant, Jacob. No Pants! Viking, 2021. 978-0-593-11766-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.

It’s party day for Pablo and his father, but first, he must get ready. Pablo eats breakfast, brushes his teeth, uses the bathroom, and washes his hands; all that’s left to do is get dressed, and then Pablo and his father can go to the party, but Pablo does not want to wear pants! His father explains that everyone wears pants, and Pablo needs to wear pants to go to the party. After pushing his father to the edge, Pablo finally puts on pants, but now his father is missing his pants!

THOUGHTS: This is a humorous look at a common disagreement between parents and children: clothes and getting dressed. Readers will connect with either Pablo (not wanting to wear pants) or his father (needing to leave and having an uncooperative child). As Pablo’s father tries to get him to put his pants on and explains that everyone wears pants, Pablo pushes him to his breaking point (as many parents will understand). Jacob Grant uses bright paper, pencil, and digital illustrations to bring Pablo to life. This is a fun, universal addition to any picture book collection.

Picture Book        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – The Rock from the Sky

Klassen, Jon. The Rock from the Sky. Candlewick Press, 2021. 978-1-536-21562-5. Unpaged. $18.00. Grades PreK-3.

Told through five chapters (“The Rock,” “The Fall,”  “The Future,” “The Sunset,” and “No More Room”), Jon Klassan’s newest picture book, The Rock from the Sky uses humor to explore friendship, pride, jealousy, and the future. Turtle loves standing in his favorite spot. When Armadillo comes to see what Turtle is doing, he feels uneasy about Turtle’s favorite spot, so he decides to stand in a different spot. Since his spot is further away, Turtle and Armadillo cannot hear each other, so Turtle moves closer, and just in time. A giant rock falls from the sky right on Turtle’s spot. As Turtle explores the rock, he falls, but he is too full of pride to let Armadillo know that he fell or he needs help, so Armadillo takes a nap in the shade of the rock, while Turtle remains stuck on his back. Back on the rock, Armadillo dreams about the future, but Turtle isn’t so sure he likes Armadillo’s thoughts. At night, Armadillo and Snake watch the sunset under the rock. Turtle comes to see what they are up to, but he is too far away to be heard. As he moves closer to be heard, Turtle blocks the sunset for Armadillo and Snake. Finally, Turtle sees Armadillo and Snake napping under the rock, and with room for only two, Turtle feels left out. As he tries to make Armadillo and Snake feel bad, he gets closer to them so that he can be heard, and just in time because ANOTHER rock falls from the sky on the spot where Turtle had been!

THOUGHTS: Jon Klassan once again uses easy to follow dialogue, dry humor, and simple watercolor illustrations to bring to life a universal story of friendship, pride, jealousy, and dreams through the comedy of falling rocks from the sky. His pictures depict the story of Turtle and Armadillo and both stand alone and support the basic dialogue of these two friends. Readers need to not only read (or hear) the dialogue, but must also follow along with the illustrations to understand the story. I had to view the illustrations multiple times to understand some of the humor (classic Jon Klassen; a book for both kids and adults).  This is a must have where Klassan books are popular.

Picture Book            Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD