Elem. – Chick and Brain: Egg or Eyeball?

Bell, Cece. Chick and Brain: Egg or Eyeball? Candlewick Press, 2020. 978-1-536-20439-1. 70 p. $12.99. Grades K-3. 

When Brain makes an amazing discovery, he can’t wait to show his friend, Chick. But, upon seeing the object, the friends cannot agree about what it is. It’s small, white, and oval. Brain says it’s an eyeball. Chick says it’s an egg. Each friend loudly pleads his case, capturing the attention of their nearby friend Spot the dog and a sleeping cat. It’s only when they awaken another creature that the group discovers the object’s true identity once and for all. This second offering in the Chick and Brain series will have beginning readers laughing out loud at the friends’ silliness. Loose cartoon drawings in large graphic novel panels keep the story’s four action-packed chapters moving along quickly.

THOUGHTS: Recommend this to Elephant and Piggie fans. This book is made for read-alouds and will be perfect for storytime.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Jack at Bat; Jack Goes West

Barnett, Mac, and Greg Pizzoli. Jack at Bat. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11382-0. Unpaged. $9.99. Grades K-2.
—. Jack Goes West. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11388-2. Unpaged. $9.99. Grades K-2.

Jack is a bunny with mixed behavior! Sometimes he is bad and selfish, and sometimes he is the hero. One thing is for sure: A Jack Book will be an unpredictable and fun beginning reader story! With clever words by Mac Barnett and emotive illustrations from Greg Pizzoli, readers will delight to visit and revisit this new series. In Jack Goes West, he and “The Lady” ride a train to a dude ranch… next to a bank. Some bandits, lassos, and mistaken identities ensue! Meanwhile, in Jack at Bat, The Ladies take on The Brats in a ballgame that sees Jack get yelled at, nap away the game, and chase down a snack. But can he hit the ball? With a readable layout, short sentences, and surprising plot twists, young readers are bound to become fans of Jack.

THOUGHTS: These are longer than some beginning readers, which provides a nice extended read aloud opportunity or encouragement for budding readers. Introducing this series will naturally draw students to discover the other fun and fascinating work of Barnett and Pizzoli. Recommended for K-2.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Talkin’ Sports (Series Nonfiction)

Talkin’ Sports. The Child’s World, 2020. $20.00 ea. $160 set of 8. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

Buckley, James. Talkin’ Baseball. 978-150383-571-9.
—. Talkin’ Basketball. 978-150383-574-0.
—. Talkin’ Lacrosse. 978-150383-576-4.
—. Talkin’ Motor Sports. 978-150383-577-1.
—. Talkin’ Soccer. 978-150383-573-3.
Gigliotti, Jim. Talkin’ Football. 978-150383-572-6.
—. Talkin’ Golf & Tennis. 978-150383-578-8.
—. Talkin’ Hockey. 978-150383-575-7.

“Play sports? Watch sports? Talk sports!” That’s the tagline for this series highlighting special sports terms, insider phrases, comical or descriptive terms, and player nicknames. Fans of these sports will want to check up on their lingo–historical and modern-day–and add some understanding to their use of it as they go. They may even think of plenty more to add to the mix. For example, “The slugger ripped a frozen rope into the gap and pulled up with a two-bagger.” Baseball translation: “A powerful hitter smashed a line drive (further defined) between two outfielders (further defined) & ran to second base.” These books will cause laughter, and comments such as, “that’s right” or “I didn’t know that was why…” as fans feel a bit more at home watching, playing, and talking sports. For the uninitiated, these books can solidify the lingo.

THOUGHTS: A fun series suitable for upper elementary and middle school. ( Titles reviewed: Talkin’ Baseball and Talkin’ Football.)

796 Sports          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Three Little Kittens

McClintock, Barbara. Three Little Kittens. Scholastic, 2020. Unpaged. $18.99 978-1-338-12587-7. Grades PreK-2. 

Do we need another version of The Three Little Kittens?  Yes, we do, if it’s this engagingly drawn beauty from Barbara McClintock. The rhyme is the one we know so well, and the anthropomorphized cats (and one mouse) are unique and distinguishable as they dirty, then wash, their mittens. Their emotions are visible: joy at play, elation at eating pie, sadness at dirty mittens and disappointed mother, and pride at having solved the problem. The ending brings a welcome addition: when they “hush… smell a mouse close by,” they offer pie to the mouse as well. Mother cat talks on a cell phone, and many speech bubbles reveal both the rhyme and the sibling-like thoughts of the kittens. Readers will be drawn to this rhyming story establishing good kitten–er, child behavior, and ask for re-reading.

THOUGHTS: A must-purchase for pre-K-Kindergarten set; be sure to share with early childhood and early elementary students and their teachers.

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

YA – Kind of a Big Deal

Hale, Shannon. Kind of a Big Deal. Roaring Brook, 2020. 978-1-250-20623-7. 400 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12.

Back in high school, Josie was kind of a big deal. A talented actress, she left school early to take Broadway by storm. Only, it didn’t quite work out the way it was supposed to. Now, a Broadway failure with monumental credit card debt, she’s living in Missoula, Montana, working as a nanny and trying to recapture that magnificent life she remembers, back when she was a big deal. After impulsively purchasing a romance novel one day while taking her adorable charge, Mia, to the park, Josie opens the book (the first she’s read since The Scarlet Letter in school) and shortly finds herself experiencing the plot from inside the story. A la The Wizard of Oz, the story is peopled with individuals she passed around town: customers in the bookstore, the sales clerk, individuals in the park. Josie is both fascinated and terrified by the experience: she likes the take-charge person she is in the story, but struggles to get back to reality and make sure Mia is safe. But the adventure is addictive, and once Josie finishes reading the first book, she’s back for more. As Josie genre-jumps, the experiences work as bibliotherapy, assisting her in assessing her life, and realizing she needs to move on from high school, and let her supportive best friend and her boyfriend move on as well. But, it turns out, the creative muses are not done with Josie, and when she gets wrapped up in one book too many, she will need to rely on all the skills and knowledge she has gained to save herself, as well as others trapped in the world of stories. Hale presents a delightful YA story. Josie is an appealingly sweet character, and her journeys inside the books will be amusing to any reader. Like Josie’s book hopping episodes, the plot refuses to stand still, continually twisting in another direction until the surprise ending. While Josie is on the cusp of adulthood, the book is refreshingly free of sex, profanity, and other vices. Like on the stage, Josie is the star, and she is all the story needs. Readers will cheer for her to realize she is a big deal, in the story of her own making.

THOUGHTS:  Hale’s YA entry is a bubbly read with a deeper message. Dedicated readers will enjoy the genre spoofs (the dystopian ordeal is far and away the best segment), but it will be interesting to see if students not yet through high school can relate to Josie needing to walk away from those years and move on. I hope so! I want more Hale YA books.

Fantasy (Realistic)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor 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

Elem. – The Shortest Day; Shine; Saturday; Sofia Valdez, Future Prez; Just Like My Brother; I Am Not a Fish; Little Tigers; The Little Green Girl; Home in the Woods; No Place Like Home; Spencer’s New Pet; The Cook and the King; Motor Mouse; Max and Marla Are Flying Together; Pokko and the Drum; All in a Drop; You Loves Ewe

Cooper, Susan. The Shortest Day. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-0-763-68698-7.  Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

“So the shortest day came…and everywhere down the centuries came people…to drive the dark away.” In simple lyrical text, Cooper explains the significance of the winter solstice to humans from prehistoric through modern times. As the winter darkness descended over the land, those living in the earlier times feared it would remain and attempted to drive it away by lighting torches, putting candles in trees and hanging evergreens in their homes. They also gathered together to dance and sing to dispel the blackness. Today, this tradition continues during the Yule season, as people continue to decorate Christmas trees with lights and to assemble with friends and family to sing carols and celebrate. In the back matter, Cooper explains why not only the seasons, but especially the equinoxes and solstices, were so meaningful to early man. The author also puts all the text on one page in the back, so that the reader can read or perform it in its true poetic form. The illustrations by Ellis are done in gouache and have a folk art appearance. The sun is pictured as a giant with the sun for a head and is seen walking until he disappears behind the mountain to bring on the darkness. These drawings, which capture the winter bleakness in Northern Europe, help show how these traditions carry on today with three illustrations depicting the same scene in both past and modern times. For instance, five children who appear to be from medieval or early modern times are seen dancing and holding torches and evergreens as they exit a house. A few pages later, there is a similar image of children in modern dress posed the same way.

THOUGHTS: This title is a great addition to elementary collections. Although there are other books on the winter solstice, this one is exemplary in that it conveys the human aspect of this event, rather than just an astronomical one. A good choice for a winter themed storytime.

Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Grabenstein, J.J., and Chris Grabenstein. Shine! Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-524-71769-8. 210 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6. 

Piper Milly is a seventh grader who believes she was meant to blend in rather than to shine. When her father lands a new teaching job at the local prep school, complete with full tuition for Piper, she leaves public school mid-year and enters a world where every student is trying to excel. When the school announces the creation of a new award that will be given to the student who most exhibits overall excellence, Piper thinks she has no shot of winning. Ultimately, she discovers there are many different ways of shining, including being kind, demonstrating empathy, and valuing friendship. 

THOUGHTS: Piper is a well-rounded character, and students will relate to her struggles with leaving her old school and friends and starting over at a new school. She also finds herself in relatable situations, such as being the target of the class “mean girl,” and doubting her own abilities. The idea that kindness and empathy outweigh material things like awards and money will prompt discussions about ways students can focus on these traits in their own lives. 

Realistic Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Mora, Oge. Saturday. Little, Brown and Company, 2019. 978-0-316-43127-9. 36 p. $18.99. Gr K-3. 

Ava and her mother look forward to Saturdays because they get to spend the whole day together. But, this Saturday, nothing goes as planned. They arrive at the library only to learn that storytime is cancelled. They get their hair done but step out of the salon just as a car splashes a huge puddle of water at them. And, they arrive at the park only to find a large crowd of like minded people also trying to take in the sunny afternoon. After each disappointment, the pair repeat their mantra: “Don’t worry. Today will be special. Today will be splendid. Today is Saturday!” But, when they arrive at their final destination – a one-night only puppet show – only to discover that mom left the tickets at home, their patience is truly tested. Mom crumples with guilt, apologizing for ruining Saturday. But it is Ava who demonstrates resilience, reflecting that the day was still special and splendid because they spent it together. 

THOUGHTS: This story about going with the flow and taking life in stride, even when plans change, will be a good fit for morning meeting discussions. It will also be a good conversation starter for students to share what routines or traditions they have with their own families on weekends. The beautiful collage illustrations will draw students back for multiple readings.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Beaty, Andrea. Sofia Valdez, Future Prez. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-4141-973704-6. Unpaged. $18.99.  Grades K-3.

Sofia Valdez is a spunky girl who always has helped others through the influence of her abuelo. The phrase, “Most people like good, but Sofia liked better” captures the essence and farseeing vision of Sofia. When she and abuelo come across a dangerous landfill, they hope to make a community park. Like the Little Red Hen story, everyone agrees with Sofia, but no one steps up to help. Sofia is on her own. She is nervous and goes to City Hall where she is shuttled from department to department.  Finally a friendly clerk takes her side and helps. Sofia gets an audience with the mayor and pleads her case. She starts a petition. The neighbors finally rally around her. Citizens’ Park is created! What a feat for a second grader! She has a bright future. Andrea Beaty’s snappy verse, and David Roberts lively pictures have a brilliant, encouraging message.

THOUGHTS: This inspirational and empowering book shows young readers the importance of their community, working together, and most importantly believing in yourself. Sofia displays a great deal of courage and determination when she approaches “City Hall”  for the benefit of her community.

Picture Book       Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Marino, Gianna. Just Like My Brother. Viking, 2019. 978-0-425-29060-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Beautiful, bright watercolor illustrations take readers on a journey to the African plains where they meet a cast of animals. Little giraffe is searching for her older brother during a game of hide and seek. Describing various features of her older brother, little giraffe asks each animal if they’ve seen him. Sometimes the other animal’s perspective shows what little giraffe cannot recognize, like when turtle says, “You’re tall.” Observant readers will notice that big brother isn’t the only animal hiding, as anticipation and excitement build throughout the story.

THOUGHTS: Young readers will delight in this picture book which can be a simple read aloud or an introduction to characteristics of animals and types of animals around the world. This book can also be used as an introduction to the concept of compare and contrast.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 


Raymundo, Peter. I Am Not a Fish! Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-525-55459-2. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Edgar is frustrated with being called a fish. Being a jellyfish Edgar doesn’t feel like the word fish belongs in his name (and has even been accused of “overthinking things”). After meeting a group of starfish who empathize with his frustration, Edgar is able to talk through his feelings. By identifying many other sea creatures and looking at their names, Edgar realizes he likes being himself, even if fish is in his name. This delightful, colorful underwater adventure is perfect for STEM lessons involving the ocean or ocean creatures. At one point, Edgar says, “I look more like a plastic bag than a fish” which is an opportunity to discuss the topic of ocean pollution.

THOUGHTS: There are many great lesson ideas for this fun, light-hearted text, and it would make a humorous read aloud, especially if the reader gets into Edgar’s character. From ocean connections to serving as a mentor text for starfish or sea horse parodies, this book will encourage students to think about names and identity in an age appropriate manner.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Weaver, Jo. Little Tigers. Peachtree, 2019. 978-1-682-63110-2. 32 p. $17.95. Grades K-4. 

For tiger cubs Puli and Sera, searching for a new home is an adventure but Mother Tiger is restless after hearing men and their dogs in the jungle. The little tigers provide plenty of comic relief with their kitten-like antics and tender moments.  Diversity among rainforest habitats is highlighted as the small family travels through thick old forest, waterfalls, river crossings, and caves to find just the right spot. Just before nightfall, Mother Tiger leads her little tigers into ruins for shelter. Unique charcoal and digitally colored illustrations accent the shadows of the jungle while also providing stunning two page spreads. A brief note after the story discusses the endangered status of Bengal tigers along with suggested links to wildlife organizations.

THOUGHTS: The artwork in this picture book illustrates the tiger’s coloring as camouflage in their natural environment. The playfulness of the cubs paired with captivating illustrations and familiar searching-for-home tale make this a good read aloud option. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Anchin, Lisa. The Little Green Girl. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-735-23073-6. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-4. 

Unexpectedly floating into Mr. Aster’s garden on the wind one day, the little green girl quickly takes root and thrives under his care. Her fierce curiosity about the world is fueled by tales from her garden friends. After a visit from the birds, she decides it is time to begin her own adventures. Despite urging from her caretaker to stay put in the beautiful, safe garden where she is planted, the little green girl is determined to explore beyond the gate. Her persistence finally persuades the kind gardener to venture out into the “wide world” where they discover that home can be found in even exotic new places. The illustrations are bright and hopeful, filling the page with both the cozy home garden and travel vignettes. Notes from a gardener’s journal add interest to the end paper. The Little Green Girl is a  heartwarming tale about blooming where you are planted while also encouraging a love of adventure. 

THOUGHTS: A great title to add to the school library, this book will make a great read aloud and also has potential curriculum connections to introduce lessons about plants and gardening in various habitats. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Wheeler, Eliza. Home in the Woods. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 978-0-399-16290-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-5. 

A young widow packs up her large family and carries their meager possessions to live in a ramshackle house in the woods during the Great Depression. Arriving in the summer, the family gets right to work making repairs and planning for their survival in the year to come. At first it doesn’t seem like much, but as the family settles they begin to find happiness in the abundance of the forest. As fall comes around, it’s all hands on deck to preserve enough food to make it through the winter. Even with all of their hard work, the family still struggles to make ends meet. Still, they spend their days making the best of the situation and bonding with each other even in the depths of winter. When spring finally arrives, readers will rejoice in the light airy feeling of accomplishment and hope. The watercolor illustrations stunningly convey the mood of each season. An author’s note at the end explains in further detail the historical significance of this story. 

THOUGHTS: A good book to introduce a unit on the Great Depression to upper elementary students. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Gosh, Ronojoy. No Place Like Home. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 978-0-8028-5522-0. 32 p. $17.00. Grades K-2. 

George the polar bear cannot find joy living in the city. Ice cream and butterflies don’t bring a smile to his furry face. His house is way too small, and he can’t stand being in a crowd. So, George decides to take action, traveling far and wide to find where he belongs. It turns out that the city isn’t the only place a polar bear doesn’t belong. George is also dissatisfied with life in the jungle, dessert, and in the mountains before finally finding his way to the arctic. The text is sparse but meaningful with only a sentence or two per page. The whimsical illustrations add depth and feeling to this beautiful and captivating story about finding home and happiness – perfect for younger readers.

THOUGHTS: This short and sweet story will make a great versatile addition to the school library. Not only is this book a great stand alone read-aloud for a wintry story time, it also offers opportunities for curriculum connection. George’s tale of finding just the right place to call home is a great way to introduce a unit on habitats. Discussions about mindfulness and perseverance can also be supported by this book. It’s noteworthy that while George clearly feels isolated, he is rarely alone in the illustrations, opening the door to discuss sadness, depression, and mental health to young audiences. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Sima, Jessie. Spencer’s New Pet. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-41877-6. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

When your best friend is a balloon, danger seems to be lurking around every corner. A routine visit to the vet could risk a run-in with a hedgehog. A day at the park seems like a good idea at first, but the myriad of pointy obstacles is overwhelming – and hilarious! Spencer and his pet spend their afternoon dodging teeth, talons, and tropical fruit (Not to mention other dangers!). Things get really interesting when the pair stumbles upon a birthday party and gets separated. When disaster finally strikes, a hilarious plot twist is revealed. Clever black and white illustrations with a touch of red effectively evoke the feeling of early cinema with excellent attention to detail, including a countdown, chapter headings, and credits. This book is sure to be loved by all, especially those who have loved (and lost) a prized balloon animal.

THOUGHTS: Everything about this book is fun. Students will never see the twist coming. Even older elementary audiences might enjoy the slapstick humor, especially as an intro to early cinema. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Donaldson, Julia. The Cook and the King. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73757-2. 32 p. $16.99.Grades K-3.

When the King searches for a new cook, he finally settles on Wobbly Bob who sees danger in the most mundane situations and constantly worries about ruining his attire. Eventually, the hungry king must take matters into his own hands, completing all of the tasks required to catch and prepare his own fish and chips. Turns out that Wobbly Bob isn’t too timid to join in the feast. Comical illustrations add to the humor in this tale that feels like a classic fairytale with a modern twist. 

THOUGHTS: Rhyming text, repeating verse, and many tall hats will make this book a read aloud hit. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

 

 


Rylant, Cynthia. Motor Mouse. Beach Lane Books, 2019. 978-1-4814-9126-6. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Motor Mouse is a trio of short endearing tales about a speedy little mouse and his friends finding the bright side in a variety of situations. When there is no cake for Cake Friday, Motor Mouse and his best friend Telly bravely decide to try pie. Tired of driving others around town, Motor Mouse decides to hire a car on his day off. He takes a trip down memory lane but finds that making new friends is just as much fun as remembering old ones. Motor Mouse and brother Valentino learn a valuable lesson about compromise with a trip to the movies, featuring the biggest bucket of popcorn. Bright, cartoony watercolor illustrations add to the tales. 

THOUGHTS: Another great title from familiar, prolific author/illustrator pair Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard. Students will love this title just as much. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

 


Boiger, Alexandra. Max and Marla Are Flying Together. Philomel Books, 2019. 978-0-525-51566-1. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Max and his best friend Marla, a young snowy owl, have a ton of fun together. But Max knows that Marla is born to fly, and he is determined to help her realize her own potential. Marla, on the other wing, is perfectly happy to have both of her feet on the ground. When Marla gets swept up in the wind on a blustery fall day, Max’s gentle coaching helps her realize that she really was made to fly. The next day, Marla is leading the charge to continue her flying lessons. A lovely, gentle tale about love and friendship. The warm watercolor illustrations bring the autumnal setting to life. 

THOUGHTS: A great book to share with students about being patient with oneself and waiting for a time to shine. A nice title for fall themed story time. Would be fun to pair with a wind unit or kite flying activities. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

 


Forsythe, Matthew. Pokko and the Drum. Simon and SchusterBooks for Young Readers. 978-1-481-48039-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Pokko’s quiet, toadstool dwelling parents meant well when they gave her a drum, but they immediately discovered that it was a big mistake. Even bigger than the other mistakes they made before (including gifting Pokko a llama and a slingshot). Pokko immediately takes to the drum, playing day and night. To appease her parents she heads out to the forest to play quietly. But quiet doesn’t suit Pokko, and it isn’t long before her talent draws others from the woods to join in. It is clear that Pokko is a natural leader. Even the fox is put in his place by her stern (but fair) leadership. 

THOUGHTS: Every library needs a copy of this book. Spunky Pokko is such a relatable and strong female character that she is sure to become an instant favorite character with boys and girls alike. There are so many opportunities to expand on in this text including integrity, leadership, art, and marching to the beat of your own drum.  

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Alexander, Lori. All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-1-328-88420-6. 93 p. $17.99. Grades 3-5.

This fascinating chapter book biography discusses the life and accomplishments of the man known as the “Father of Microbiology.” Alexander begins with van Leeuwenhoek’s early life in Delft, Netherlands and how his occupation as a clothing vendor got him interested in lenses. Always a curious person, Antony developed superior magnifying glasses and used them to examine objects other than clothing. Alexander includes a list of all the objects that van Leeuwenhoek was “first to see” under the microscopic lens. While studying samples of water and dental plaque with his lenses, he saw small animals that were invisible to the human eye, which he called diertgens. Even though he was never trained in the sciences, this draper’s findings were published in the journal of the Royal Society in London. The author uses a narrative style to make the story more interesting and accessible. She also creates sections within the text that go into detail about certain topics, like the bubonic plague and the quality and types of lenses. The back matter contains a timeline, glossary, source notes, and recommended readings. Mildenberger’s whimsical illustrations, present on nearly every two page spread, are done in colored pencil, watercolor, and pastel. Readers will enjoy poring over the drawings for interesting details, including the Delft tiles on the endpapers.

THOUGHTS: This is a must-have for all collections. There are not many books written about this man who was the first to see microscopic life, and this is arguably the most attractive and engaging for elementary school readers.                                                        

579.092 Natural history of microorganisms, fungi, algae          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
92, 921 Biography


Bell, Cece. You Loves Ewe. Clarion, 2019. 978-1-328-52611-3. Unpaged.  $17.99. PreK-3.

Cece Bell makes learning grammar fun. If you loved her book, I Yam a Donkey (Clarion, 2015), You Loves Ewe is sure to tickle your funny bone. Like the first book, this has elements of Abbot and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First” skit. This time Yam introduces Donkey to Ewe. Donkey mistakenly thinks Yam is talking about him being cute and fluffy. Back and forth they discuss ewe and you and other homonyms. Or are they talking about “hummanums?’ So much hilarious confusion! As a read aloud it will be hysterical. Children may be confused at first, but Bell’s pictures make it all crystal clear. Children will laugh heartily once they realize that there are homonyms involved. This should lead to a lively discussion.

THOUGHTS: Older children will enjoy this wordplay as well. It is a bit reminiscent of Fred Gwynne’s books such as The King Who Rained, A Little Pigeon Toad, and A Chocolate Moose for Dinner. All of these books are a great way to introduce homonyms and homophones. Students probably will want to share more as they come across them. Perhaps they will be inspired to write a book of their own.

Picture Book          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

YA – Crying Laughing; Finale; Call Down the Hawk; Supernova; If I’m Being Honest

Rubin, Lance. Crying Laughing. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-525-64467-5. 336 p. $17.99 Grades 7-10.

After a disastrous attempt at stand-up at her own bat mitzvah, Winnie Friedman retired from comedy. But with a little encouragement from her best friend Leili, and cute junior Evan, she steps out of her comfort zone and joins her high school’s Improv Troupe. Winnie enjoys both developing her comedy chops and the attention from Evan, but at home her father’s increasing clumsiness is diagnosed as something much more serious: ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Although Winnie’s tight-knit family unit is unexpectedly vulnerable, her social status is on the rise: getting laughs at Improv, killing it on the morning announcements, and boys sitting at her lunch table. When her dad falls at the supermarket, fellow Improv member Fletcher is clued in to her family secret and friendship – or romance? – may bloom where she least expects it. Lance Rubin (author of Denton Little’s Deathdate, former member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, and obvious proud comedy nerd) excels at mining the tragic for comedic gold. He’s equally adept at depicting life’s most cringe-worthy moments with a gentle touch.

THOUGHTS: Crying Laughing (which, yes, will have readers doing both) is a fantastic ode to pushing beyond your perceived limits while knowing that the people who love you most will provide a soft place to land. Don’t skip over the Acknowledgments, where Rubin talks about his personal connection with ALS. 

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Garber, Stephanie. Finale. Flatiron Books, 2019. 978-1-250-15766-9. 470 p. $19.99. Grades 7-12. 

According to the first page of Finale, every story has four parts: the beginning, the middle, the almost-ending, and the true ending. Legendary was the almost-ending, and Finale, perhaps, is the true-ending to the Caraval series. Donatella gained her ultimate prize for winning Caraval – her mother was returned to her. However, she is still comatose, and Tella has no idea how to wake her. Her sister, Scarlett, has met her true love — or has she? Finale is about how the end is never the end. When the girls lose their mother shortly after she awakens, Tella vows revenge on the Fates, particularly Fallen Star. The newly freed fates are wreaking havoc, and terrorizing the countryside, but the journey to recapture them will cruelly test the sisters, requiring choices and sacrifices beyond their imagination.

THOUGHTS: Fans of the series will clamor for the final volume, but new readers will need to start with Caraval; Garber provides no back story here. 

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Stiefvater, Maggie. Call Down the Hawk. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-18832-5. 468 p. $19.99. Grades 8+.

The exquisite agony of reading a Maggie Stiefvater book: Do you put the pedal to the metal in a crazy race to the finish because the story is so darn intriguing? Or do you crawl along on the side road, knowing the journey is at least as rewarding as the destination? For Call Down the Hawk, I recommend the latter. Stiefvater’s new Dreamer Trilogy expands the world of Ronan Lynch, one of the Raven Boys from her The Raven Cycle series. Ronan can pull objects and people out of his dreams, and in Call Down the Hawk we learn there is a shadow network of dreamers – those who dream, those who hunt dreamers, and those who see the End of the World. The loose premise of CDTH follows Hennessy, a young woman who dreams copies of herself; Carmen Farooq-Lane, a hunter of dreamers trying to atone for the evil her dreamer brother caused; and Visionaries, those who identify and locate dreamers. While The Dreamers Trilogy is meant to be a standalone series, readers of The Raven Cycle will have a much richer experience with Call Down the Hawk. Ronan’s brothers, bit players in The Raven Cycle, become fascinating individuals in their own right now, as story threads weave together into an unnerving tapestry. And the reader knows that if you pull on the wrong thread, every thing, every dream, every life will unravel.

THOUGHTS:  A first purchase where fantasy is popular and ethereal writing is appreciated. 

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Meyer, Marissa. Supernova. Feiwel and Friends, 2019. 978-1-250-07838-4. 549 p. $19.99. Grades 7-12. 

Meyer pulls off a unique feat with Supernova. The third book in the Renegades trilogy may be the best one. The story picks up hours after the end of Arch Enemies, as Anarchist Nova attempts to return to her undercover role as a Renegade superhero. Now that her uncle, the infamous Ace Anarchy, has been captured, she needs to devise a plan to release him from prison and finally start the Anarchist rebellion. But, as Nova is learning, nothing is black and white when it comes to Prodigies; some use their power for good, and others for evil, and the dividing line isn’t always Renegades vs Anarchists. As she attempts to embed herself further in the Renegade organization, she finds many of the individuals to be good and kind, while her erstwhile family of Anarchists can shock her with their enthusiasm for destruction and mayhem. Meanwhile, Adrian (aka Sketch) is trying to keep his identity as Sentinel secret. When the final battle between Renegades and Anarchists begins, who will be the heroes, and who will be the villains?

THOUGHTS: Chock full of character development as well as an action filled plot, Supernova is a perfectly breathtaking conclusion (or is it??) to this brilliant series. 

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Wibberley, Emily, and Austin Siegemund-Broka. If I’m Being Honest. Viking, 2019. 978-0-451-48109-2. $17.99. 359 p. Grades 9 and up. 

Cameron Bright is one of the most popular girls in her Los Angeles prep school. She is beautiful, smart, driven, and brutally honest. She has to be in order to make the future she’s been planning for her entire life happen – a future on the opposite coast, finally spending time with her father, attending school in Philadelphia, and working to follow in his footsteps as a successful financier. However, her senior year of high school is not off to a great start. Her mother, a washed-up actress, avoids getting a job, content to live off of support from Cameron’s father, and her plan to solidify her crush Andrew as her boyfriend goes awry at a party when he witnesses her brutal honesty rear its ugly head. While reading The Taming of the Shrew in English class, Cameron comes to realize that while she finds her honesty a virtue, society views it as a vice, so she sets out to tame herself in order to at least make amends with Andrew and win back his affections. For all her list-making and planning, Cameron’s quest to tame herself takes her places she never could have imagined including an incredibly nerdy book store, a video game development competition, a live screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the arms of a lovable group of nerds including Brendan, a boy whose life she ruined in middle school by giving him a horrible nickname.

THOUGHTS: With other contemporary Shrew remakes like the film 10 Things I Hate About You to live up to, this retelling doesn’t disappoint and manages to hold its own. The family dynamic is very different – both parents are present, and their complicated relationship makes for its own strong subplot; plus,there is no Bianca/sister character. Still, it captures the essence of Shakespeare’s original themes: perceptions of women’s behavior and motivation for making changes in our lives. This novel could work well as an independent read or enrichment activity after reading the original play, or as a companion to the play in order for students to analyze how society’s views on women and feminism have changed over the centuries. 

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

MG – Pumpkinheads; Stepsister; My Body My Choice; Wrecking Ball; Where the Heart Is; The Strangers

Rowell, Rainbow. Pumpkinheads. First Second, 2019. 978-1-250-31285-3. 208 p. $17.99. Grades 6+.

In this charming graphic novel, perennial pumpkin patch workers and best friends Josiah and Deja realize it is their very last shift to work at their beloved fall festival before they head off to college. And though Josie is wallowing a bit about leaving a place, a time, and friends that he truly loves, Deja won’t let him spend their last night at work in a funk. And so she plans an adventurous evening for the two of them to explore all the sights and sounds at the fair, but most especially for Josie to finally talk to his cute crush at the Fudge Shoppe.  

THOUGHTS: The colorful and engaging illustrations by Faith Erin Hill and a sweet story of friendship and positivity by teen favorite Rainbow Rowell, make this title a quick and easy read that is sure to be a hit. 

Graphic Novel          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

 


Donnelly, Jennifer.  Stepsister. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-1-338-26846-1. 341 p. $17.99. Grades 6+. 

In this fantastic retelling of the Cinderella story, the focus in on the stepsister Isabelle, after she and Tavi mutilate their feet in their doomed effort to fit into the glass slipper and win the prince. Now the two girls and their failing mother are alone, derided by the townfolk, marked as outcasts, and struggling to eke out an existence in the countryside. Ella is long gone with her prince, and Isabelle is trying to put the pieces of her life back together. However, Chance and Fate have a wager on Isabelle’s future and her very soul. Can she find redemption and regain the precious pieces of herself that she lost, or is she doomed to a life of jealousy, regret, and bitterness? 

THOUGHTS: A clever and intriguing tale that brings the favorite fairytale full circle. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy of fairytale retellings.

Fantasy Fiction (Fairytales)           Nancy Summers, Abington SD   

 


Stevenson, Robin. My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights. Orca Issues, 2019. 978-1-459-81712-8. 175 p.  $19.95. Grades 7+.

Written as a response to declining access to abortion and birth control for women in the United States and across the world, this well-researched and well-written book provides readers with solid information on the history of abortion, the medical procedures available, the societal impacts of unplanned pregnancies, the history of the reproductive rights movement, the laws surrounding the issue and the anti-abortion movement. The book includes sidebars highlighting quotes from established and up-and-coming activists and color photos of protests and marches from around the world. 

THOUGHTS: A solid reference choice for secondary grades with up-to-date information, pages of citations and references, a glossary, and index.  

362.19 Social Welfare Problems and Services          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

 


Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball. Amulet, 201. 978-1-419-73903-3. 217 p. $14.99. Grades 4-8.

When Greg’s great aunt dies, the Heffley family feels pretty bad when they show up for her funeral and realize (too late, of course) that it’s the wrong funeral…especially when they learn that she’s left them a large inheritance! Everybody lobbies for his favorite way to spend the money, but Greg’s mom says that they’re putting an addition on they house. In typical Greg Heffley fashion, hilarity ensues when Greg attempts to get involved in the renovations, and every aspect of the project goes sideways. It turns out that there is a clerical error with the building permits, and Greg’s family has wasted their money on construction that can’t continue. Mom’s solution? It’s time to move to a bigger, nicer house across town and time to sell the Heffley home to a new family. With meatball subs falling into concrete buckets, hot tubs swinging from cranes, mice families running amok, and Greg’s failed attempts at gutter cleaning, this Wimpy Kid book is the funniest addition to the series in the last few years. Greg’s fear of make-believe monster “The Grout” will have you and your students laughing out loud.

THOUGHTS: Kinney is back on point with this Wimpy Kid book, a winner for avid fans and kids just starting the series.

Realistic/Humorous Fiction           Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Knowles, Jo. Where the Heart Is. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-1-536-20003-4. 292 p. $16.99. Grades 5-9.

This absorbing coming of age story explores friendship, love, and identity as well as family financial problems. Thirteen-year-old Rachel has so much on her plate. Micah, who has always been a faithful constant friend, would like their relationship to deepen. Rachel realizes that she doesn’t want this. Her parents’ financial difficulties bring tension as they lose their house and must move to an apartment. She is embarrassed that her mother must buy clothing from the thrift store. She feels awkward at parties that the new trendier girls give. There is stress from her summer job feeding the animals next door when she realizes that Lucy, the ornery pig is destined to be slaughtered for food.  Rachel is angry but introspective. Change and uncertainty about her future plague Rachel, but Knowles tempers these fears with strong family support and Micah’s friendship. The pace of the book calms down in the last chapter as Rachel realizes that for now, her family being together is more important than the house she lived in. They are beginning a new chapter in their lives. The future may not be certain, but she sees that there is hope. Jo Knowles writes with sensitivity as a young girl begins to understand her sexuality along with the anxiety of loss.  

THOUGHTS: I especially appreciated how Knowles portrays the parents and their problems. They may be angry at their circumstances, but they always consider what is best Rachel and her sister and try to make it happen. Hopefully readers who may be going through trying times will get a better understanding of adults feel when they are going through major losses.

Realistic Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers. Harper Collins, 2019. 978-0-062-83837-7. 405 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

In this dystopian middle school novel Margaret Peterson Haddix introduces the Greystone Family, Mom, Chess, Emma, and Finn who live in a quiet suburb, by choice. The mystery starts as three other children are kidnapped. Mom is in a panic. These three kids are identical to the Greystone children in looks, ages, and names. Mom leaves suddenly after telling the children that they will always have each other.  The story continues as each child sees the events from his/her unique point of view. Chess, a quiet, gangly sixth grader, remembers when his father died and how his mother uprooted the family. He feels a deep responsibility to take care of his siblings. Emma, a fourth grader, loves math. She tries to put order in everything by seeing the mathematical connection and patterns. Finn, an exuberant second grader, loves to talk and to discover new words. These individual narrations allow readers to see characters grow into stronger, more mature persons. The Greystones form an unlikely friendship with Natalie, the daughter of the woman who is watching them during Mom’s absence.  Natalie and the Greystones begin to explore Mom’s basement office to find clues. When they discover a secret passage, the story takes off into an alternate world. It looks like home, even with the same people, but it is a world of cruelty, mind, and sensory control. The citizens live in abject terror. The plot has many twists involving codes and cyphers, a resistance movement, and a search for truth. The “end” leaves the reader hanging. There will be sequels! Greystone Secrets #2, The Deceivers is coming out in April 2020.

THOUGHTS: In addition to being a page turner, this book shows clear strong family ties and teamwork. This reminded me of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and also some of the science fiction by William Sleator.  

Science Fiction          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

Elem – All That Trash, Kitten Construction Company, Rosetown, Baby Monkey, Dude!, The Flying Girl, Even Weirder & Cuter

McCarthy, Meghan. All That Trash: the Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff. Simon & Schuster, 2018.  978-1-481-47752-9. Grades 2-5.  $17.99.

Meghan McCarthy has created yet another creative nonfiction book with her latest offering.  In her distinctive style, she tells the story of the 1987 Islip garbage fiasco in a way that is engaging to the reader.  On the first page, she humorously sets the scene by pointing out that 1987 was known for “a speedy white car (from Miami Vice), boxy-looking computers and big hair.”  McCarthy explains it all began with Lowell Harrelson, a North Carolina waste management CEO, who had the idea to take the garbage from an overflowing New York landfill and transport it on a barge to North Carolina, where it would be allowed to decompose and create methane gas to use as energy.  This plan quickly fell apart when a reporter in a helicopter saw the barge and reported it. This led to an inspection by an environmental official who determined that toxic waste was on board. The captain was prohibited from docking there and the other locations he subsequently tried, such as New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama and Mexico.  Months later, the barge returned to Islip where the trash was incinerated, after it was found that the trash was just plain old garbage, some of which could have been recycled. McCarthy’s illustrations add an even more humorous element to this story. For instance, the barge captain is always pictured with flies buzzing around his head. There are pictures of various government officials and news personalities who comment on the crisis in speech bubbles.  A harbor police official states, “This is a pain in the neck,” while Harrelson observes, “We are trying to keep a sense of humor about this to keep from getting angry.” Although the author discusses the topic in a humorous way, it is clear that she is sending a message that trash is an environmental hazard and that we must work to find ways to reduce the amount of items that go into a landfill. Her drawings of the trash include items with which young readers can identify, such as dolls, bicycles and even a jack-o-lantern, showing them that they can help solve this problem as well. The back matter contains more information about the barge and its captain and crew and their photographs.  There are also some interesting facts about garbage and recycling and a few crafts ideas using found objects. Readers will be fascinated to learn that some of the Islip garbage was packaged and sold as a novelty item for ten dollars!

THOUGHTS: This book is a great example of narrative nonfiction and will make a great read aloud, especially for Earth Day. This can lead to a discussion of how to solve the trash problem. Even if your library already owns the equally entertaining Here Come the Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winter, librarians will want to add McCarthy’s work to their collections.

363.72 Refuse and refuse disposal or
386 Commerce, Transportation – Inland Waterway and Ferry Transportation

Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Green, John Patrick. Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens. First Second, 2018. 978-1-626-72830-1. 70 pp. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Marmalade has designed an exceptional new mansion for the Mayor of Mewburg, but unfortunately the city planner won’t approve the project because Marmalade is “just too adorable to be taken seriously.” The admittedly adorable kitten is dismayed but not deterred. She teams up with Sampson (an electrical engineer turned grudging dishwasher) and Bubbles (a plumber) to start an all-kitten construction company. They’re ready to prove that they’ve got the smarts and skills to earn respect, but what will it take to make everyone forget how darn cute they are? Maybe a competitor’s catastrophe will turn into the House Kittens’ golden opportunity, if only Bubbles can avoid distractions like laser pointers and balls of yarn!

THOUGHTS: Appealing artwork, bustling cityscapes, and friendly faces will draw elementary schoolers to this winning graphic novel. With a nod to respect and equality in the workplace, John Patrick Green has crafted a … yes, adorable addition to library shelves!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Rylant, Cynthia. Rosetown. Beach Lane Books, 2018. 978-1-534-41277-4. $16.99.149 p. Grades 2-4.

For Flora, things have just not been going well. Living in her small town of Rosetown, Indiana in 1972, things should have been okay entering her 4th grade year, but things are not well. With her parents separated, she has to live between two houses. It does not help that her dog Laurence has passed away as well, making the hole seem bigger. Despite these changes, Flora finds comfort in the reading of her favorite purple velveteen chair in Wings and a Chair Used Books where her mother works part time. It is here and in the comfort of change that Flora begins to find a new balance, learning that life has both gives and takes. As new friendships bloom and her new change begins to take a hold, Flora learns that even in the hard times of life, things can become good.

THOUGHTS: I felt as though this book had a very peaceful and content feel to it. The changes and discovering of a new balance is something that many people go through, and many children can relate to the experiences of figuring out who they are and the balance in their life. This book is about family, friendships, pets, life and death, all discussed in an age appropriate way for children.

Realistic Fiction; Historical (1972)          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Selznick, Brian, and David Serlin. Baby Monkey, Private Eye. New York: Scholastic Press. 2018. 978-1-338-18061-9. $16.99. 192 pages. Grades K-3.

The premise is as simple and adorable as the title and introduction: “He is a baby. He is a monkey. He has a job…” What follows are 5 chapters, each with a case to solve and a predictable pattern for beginning readers. Selnick brings his usual amazingly detailed pencil crosshatch drawings, enhanced by red for specific details. Every chapter has a theme with several classic references shown, such as great Italian works in the “Case of the Missing Pizza” or moon landing images connected to the “Case of the Missing Spaceship.” Each chapter also brings the humor, both subtly from the looks of the characters, and overtly when the Private Eye needs to get his pants on! This hybrid format beginning reader and comic chapter book will disappear from shelves constantly.

THOUGHTS: Did I mention how ADORABLE that baby monkey is?! The predictable pattern makes it successful for early readers and builds confidence for struggling readers. The length and format also make this a quick pleasurable fit for all ages. Obviously, for older readers it would be a great gateway into the longer narratives of Selnick’s collection.

Fiction / Early Chapter         Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD


Reynolds, Aaron, and Dan Santat. Dude! New York: Roaring Brook Press. 2018. 978-1-626-72603-1. $16.99. 40 pages. Grades K-2.

Dude! This book takes one word and brings it repeatedly to life through several beach dwellers with adventurous and humorous results. A beaver and a platypus head out surfing (Ha! Great start!!). When a lonely, shy shark comes along, they need to improvise and connect. What comes with each obstacle is a lesson in attitude and nonverbal cues, all told through one bodacious word: Dude! Reynolds and Santat bring their approachable and unique work together for the hit story of summer!

THOUGHTS:  Please connect readers who love this book with the other works of Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat, as books like Carnivores! and Are We There Yet? would make for great comparisons. Also, see how many interpretations can you and the oral readers come up with for expressing the range of emotion from saying, “Dude!”

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD


Engle, Margarita. The Flying Girl: How Aida de Acosta Learned to Soar. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2018. 978-1-481-44502-3. $17.99. unpaged. Grades 2-4.

Aida de Acosta was the kind of girl who saw a man doing something – flying for example- and believed that she could too. Overcoming family expectations and social norms for the early 1900s, that is exactly what she did. In this rarely heard tale, Aida became the first woman to fly a motorized vehicle, a balloon that was airborne in Europe months before the Wright Brothers.This tale speaks to perseverance, patience, and self confidence for girls and boys. Margarita Engle writes a free flowing poetic narrative with beauty and simplicity. The message is clear: “Sometimes,” Aida said to Alberto, “all it takes to change the whole world is one wild dreamer’s soaring example.”

THOUGHTSThe informational endnotes help see into this pioneer’s life a little better. Comparing her to other female aviators and groundbreakers would make an interesting research project. This would be an easy read aloud to inspire and discuss.

Nonfiction/ Biography          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD


Even Weirder and Cuter (series). Bearpoint Publishing. 2018. $17.95 each. set of 8. 24 pages. K – 3.

Brigham, Marilyn. Dik-Dik. 978-1-68402-466-7.
Bryant, Laura. Pangolin. 978-1-68402-465-0.
Giannini, Alex. Coconut Crab. 978-1-68402-521-3.
Merwin, E. Highland Cattle. 978-1-68402-525-1.
Merwin, E. Matamata. 978-1-68402-522-0.
Merwin, E. Orchid Mantis. 978-1-68402-520-6.
Oldfield, Dawn. Aye-Aye. 978-1-68402-526-8.
Vasilyeva, Anastasiya. Velvet Ant. 978-1-68402-519-0.

No matter how strong your animal collection and knowledge may be, chances are you have little information on these weird but fascinating animals in this Bearpoint Press series. The Pangolin, for example, is a mammal with huge claws, armored scales, and an appetite for insects. They are also, as advertised, quite cute! The Dik-Dik and Aye-Aye and Matamata are so fun and funky that you need to say their name twice! Try the large print words and easy to read nonfiction text features inside each title to learn more about the lesser know critters in our kingdom.

599 Animals          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD