Elem. – You Might Be Special

Kokias, Kerri. You Might Be Special. Illustrated by Marcus Cutler. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-525-30333-3. $17.99. Unpaged.  K-3. 

In this playful and silly story, a quiz is given to determine whether or not the reader or listener is special. A young girl ponders these questions along with her diverse cast of classmates. The answer of course is that everyone is special. Positive message about self acceptance for young students.

THOUGHTS: This would make an excellent choice for a lively and interactive read aloud.

Picture Book          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Elem./MG – Big Shot

Kinney, Jeff. Big Shot (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). Amulet Books, 2021. 978-1-419-74915-5. 217 p. $13.99. Grades 3-6. 

Greg Heffley’s never been much of a joiner or a kid who enjoys hard work and exercise, but his middle school field day earns the winning homeroom a day off school! Student trading, super pumped lunch ladies, and disastrous trips to the gym with his dad are all part of Greg’s field day, but his mom decides afterwards that Greg could use some experience as part of a real team and encourages him to choose a sport to try. Greg, sensing he’ll easily be cut from the team, chooses basketball. Greg’s worst nightmare happens when another team is formed from all the kids who were cut, and Greg is forced to live out the rest of the basketball season on a series of teams doomed for failure. Somehow, Jeff Kinney continues to make hilarious Greg Heffley adventures.

THOUGHTS: Venturing into the sports world with Greg will be sure to give your readers some good laughs. 

Humor          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – I’m a Hare, So There!

Rowan-Zoch, Julie. I’m a Hare, So There! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021. 978-0-358-12506-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Don’t you dare call this hare a rabbit, not even a jackrabbit! He will quickly point out the key differences between species. But he may not notice the others around his desert landscape also could get confused with other related species, such as ground squirrel (not chipmunk) and tortoise (not turtle). When attacked by the approaching coyote (not jackal), the hare reaches his last straw. The story is simple yet educational, and the illustrations have plenty hidden in the Sonoran Desert for repeated viewing pleasure. There is a chart at the end showing other “similar but not the same” animals which could lead into a nice discussion (hopefully without any heated arguments!).

THOUGHTS: This would be a great opening for young students to research similar animals or animals in the desert biome. Also a simple lesson in identity and personality.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Ninja Kid: From Nerd to Ninja

Do, Anh. Ninja Kid: From Nerd to Ninja!  Scholastic, 2021. 978-1-338-58523-0. $6.99. 192 p. Grades 2-5.

This illustrated novel for younger readers tells the story of Nelson, a nerd from Duck Creek. Nelson wakes up on his tenth birthday and discovers that he’s a ninja! The last ninja on earth! With the help of his grandmother’s inventions, Nelson finds a way to save the day from giant hairy spiders invading his town. He even learns of family secrets about his father’s ninja past and disappearance. This is the first book in a new series.

THOUGHTS: This illustrated novel is action packed and will appeal to reluctant readers. The humor and common theme of not fitting in will resonate.

Early Chapter Book          Krista Fitzpatrick, Wissahickon Charter School

Elem. – Memory Jars

Brosgol, Vera. Memory Jars. Roaring Book Press, 2021. 978-1-250-31487-1 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Freda is disappointed when she cannot eat all the blueberries that she picked with her grandmother. Blueberry season is over, and she has to wait an entire year to eat them again! Gran reminds her that she saves blueberries in a jar by turning them into delicious jam. What a delightful idea! Freda begins to wonder- if she can preserve blueberries in jars, why not everything else in her life that are her favorite things? Things such as warm cookies, poppies (her favorite flower), her neighbor’s beautiful singing voice, her best friend that is moving away, or the full moon. Only after she bottles everything up in mason jars does Freda realize that saving everything also means she cannot enjoy those very same things. Memory Jars, a picture book written and illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Vera Brosgol, is the perfect story to remind readers that some things are best saved as beautiful memories.

THOUGHTS: Memory Jars is written as a fable, complete with a satisfying lesson and delicious blueberry jam recipe at the end. The story is clever and charming as Freda learns that enjoying the moment is the best way to make memories. This book would be a perfect way to walk down memory lane to remember fun memories from a summer break, remember a loved one, or remember memories from a fun school year.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Total Mayhem #1 Monday: Into the Cave of Thieves

Lazar, Ralph. Total Mayhem #1 Monday – Into the Cave of Thieves. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-77037-7. 208 p. $6.99. Grades 2-5

In Dash Candoo’s world, boring days do not happen. Before he even eats his breakfast on Monday he is attacked by “combat-ready scallywags and the two tailed Devil Cat.” When Dash gets to school he has other hilarious situations to deal with, which are shown off in funny illustrations. At the back of the book, there is an almanac which gives you more information about all the things that Dash and his friend use throughout the book.

THOUGHTS: This book is great for fans of Captain Underpants and will definitely be a favorite in any elementary library.

Humorous Fiction            Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

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