Elem. – Up and Down and Other Stories

Ruzzier, Sergio. Up and Down and Other Stories. Chronicle, 2022. 978-1-452-18339-8. 46 p. $14.99. Grades K-2.

Fox and Chick have returned in this volume featuring three short stories. While Fox and Chick may not seem like obvious friends, they compliment each other–Chick with his enthusiasm and impulsiveness and Fox with his patience and logic. In “Up and Down,” Chick excitedly climbs a tree, only to become too frightened to climb down–will he be there forever or will the always steady Fox be able to figure out a way for him to get down? In “Seventeen Snowflakes” Chick can’t wait for it to snow so he can use his sled. He understandably is disappointed when Fox informs him that it will take more than just a few snowflakes to fall so there is enough snow to sled. In “The New Bookcase,” Fox presents Chick with a present – a book! When Chick laments that he has nowhere to store the book, Fox suggests he build a bookcase. Of course, Chick decides to build one that minute. Each story is told in graphic novel style panels, although the number of panels varies per page–some pages have one panel, others contain as many as four panels.

THOUGHTS: This collection will no doubt hold appeal for early readers who are sure to enjoy the humorous situations Chick seems to get into. Fox and Chick show readers you can be friends with people who are different from you. These stories easily could be included in lessons on friendship and accepting others.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – This Book Will Get You to Sleep

John, Jory. This Book Will Get You to Sleep. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2022. 978-0-374-31130-8. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

A charismatic, orange kangaroo narrates this story with one goal in mind: to get the reader to sleep. He tries many different tactics, most of which are outrageous and hilarious. For instance, he suggests that rumbling monster trucks, blaring car alarms, or screaming electric guitars might make the reader tired. He tries chants, magic tricks, and other strategies until he finally resorts to suggesting that the reader count sheep. There is a problem; however, these sheep are being chased by dragons! When all of the excitement fails to put the reader to sleep, the narrator suggests reading something less fun instead. Bold illustrations and colorful text add to the rowdiness of the story. A humorous tale with a refreshing take on bedtime drama, this book is sure to elicit plenty of laughs from young children. 

THOUGHTS: I love how interactive this book is, inviting readers to answer questions posed by the kangaroo (“You tired yet???” “You asleep yet???” “You dreaming yet???”).  The audience is also encouraged to participate in various chants throughout the story. Pair this with other stories about falling asleep, such as Drew Daywalt’s Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy (2018) or Dev Petty’s I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep (2018). This book quickly will become a bedtime favorite!

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Eggasaurus

Wagh, Jennifer. Eggasaurus. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-534-45006-6. Unpaged. $17.99. K-3.

When Max receives a shipment of dinosaur eggs from Eggasaurus, Inc., his dad tells him he must send them back. However, through a series of miscommunications, Max actually ends up receiving additional dinosaur eggs, gift certificates, and even dinosaur supplies. Ultimately, Max and his dad have to take an alternative approach to dealing with the newly hatched dinosaurs. Written entirely as a series of back-and-forth letters between Max and Eggasaurus, Inc., this comical story will have readers giggling and rooting for Max and his dinosaurs.

THOUGHTS: This would be a great resource to introduce kids to letter writing. Pair it with other classic stories that include letters, such as Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) or Allan Ahlberg’s The Jolly Postman (1986). Another option would be to hand this story to any dinosaur lover. The hilarious breakdown in communication throughout the story is sure to delight any young reader.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Mina

Forsythe, Matthew. Mina. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. Unpaged. 978-1-481-48041-3. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Mina is a young mouse who loves solitary pursuits like reading and drawing. She and her father live in a comfortable mouse hole in a “piece of wood.” He likes to surprise her by bringing home guests, which causes Mina some anxiety. After all, the last visitors were stick insects who stole all her books. This time her dad brings home an unusual looking squirrel, and his daughter has her own idea about the identity of the animal. He tells her not to worry, but does become concerned when the creature stops eating. His solution is to bring home two more “squirrels” to keep it company. When this does not help, they call the doctor who quickly figures out that the problem is that “…these squirrels are definitely cats.” This diagnosis leads to panic and a chase. Will the assistance from a surprising source be enough to allow the trio to survive? The author also has created the whimsical drawings done in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil. Mina is simply adorable, and the illustrations are a joy to see. 

THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy this story, which is a perfect read aloud. There surely will be a lot of laughs and a chorus of “Oh, no’s” as young readers listen to this tale of a smart little mouse and her hapless father. Elementary librarians will not want to miss this one.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Return of the Underwear Dragon

Rothman, Scott. Return of the Underwear Dragon. Random House Studio, 2021. 978-0-593-11992-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

In this sequel to Attack of the Underwear Dragon (2020), Sir Cole has determined that the Underwear Dragon only tried to destroy the kingdom because he was unable to read the signs instructing him not to. Therefore, Sir Cole makes it his mission to teach the Underwear Dragon how to read. It is a difficult process, and both parties get so frustrated they want to give up. However, that’s when Claire comes along with her fire extinguisher, which she uses to put out the dragon’s flames of frustration. Sir Cole selects another book that the Underwear Dragon finds more interesting, and together, the trio continues to work towards its goal. Portraying the value of both literacy and perseverance, this humorous book definitely will resonate with young kids who are just learning to read.

THOUGHTS: Although this was not necessarily my favorite book this year, I did appreciate the humor and subtle messages portrayed by the story. Give this book to fans of Attack of the Underwear Dragon (2020) and/or students just learning to read. 

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Have You Seen Gordon? 

Epstein, Adam Jay, and Ruth Chan. Have You Seen Gordon? Simon & Schuster, 2021. 978-1-534-47736-0. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Have You Seen Gordon is an interesting take on the concept of I Spy. The first few pages the reader is being introduced to finding Gordon; however, it becomes apparent that Gordon doesn’t want to hide. The characters are talking with the narrator throughout the second half of the book, until they come to an agreement about the ultimate direction of the book.

THOUGHTS: The fact that the characters spoke up about not wanting to fit in (or be found) is an unexpected piece of this book that I appreciated. The ending wraps the whole book up nicely and makes the reader feel like the ending came naturally.

Picture Book            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – The Chicken House

In this early reader adventure, The Chicken Squad is back for another adventure. Sugar, Dirt, Sweetie, and Poppy live in the triangle chicken house with their mother. Dirt likes to read by the window, Sweetie likes to draw on the walls, Poppy likes to rest in a big shoe, and mother Moosh likes when everyone is home. Home is a bit crowded though. J.J. lives in a doghouse that has a bathtub; a big, soft bed; and a table for massages. Sugar invites her siblings to the more spacious dog house, and each enjoys having a little elbow room. But Moosh misses her chicks, and J.J. notices his dog house isn’t like it used to be. Will everyone find a way to be comfortable and feel at home? This text has longer sentences with simple chapters and high-interest vocabulary words. 

THOUGHTS: A fun twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this chicken adventure will garner laughs of emerging readers.

Early Reader          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Cat Problems

John, Jory. Cat Problems. Random House Studio, 2021. 978-0-593-30213-2. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-2.

Told from the cat’s perspective, this hilarious story chronicles a day in the life of a house cat. This particular cat has a lot of complaints about his living situation: another cat is lying in his spot, he doesn’t have any food in his dish, he wants to go outside, and a noisy monster (the vacuum) is chasing him. The list of grievances goes on. Through the window, a squirrel scolds him for being so ungrateful. This doesn’t phase the cat, however, and he continues through his day with his amusing, authentic commentary on his surroundings. Despite his attitude, readers will fall in love with the protagonist, who is so unapologetically himself that it’s comical.

THOUGHTS: Fans of Penguin Problems (2016) and Giraffe Problems (2018) will love this hilarious new addition to the Animal Problems series. Cat lovers will also find this book endearing. Have children compare and contrast the feline protagonist with their own pets at home, or have them write a story from their pet’s perspective.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf

Wedelich, Sam. Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-35900-8. 40 p. $17.99. Grades PreK-3.

Chicken Little is known for his exaggerations, so when he meets the Big Bad Wolf and learns that he isn’t so big and bad, just misunderstood, roles change as the other chickens in the coop fear the big, bad wolf.  The chickens argue about defending their coop or flying away and decide the best thing to do is flee, but Chicken Little convinces them to stay and look at the facts.  The chickens learn about the wolf and decide to stay and welcome him to their coop instead of judging him. 

THOUGHTS:  This is an adorable fractured fairytale combination of Chicken Little and The Three Little Pigs (albeit without the pigs). The story focuses on not judging something one does not understand, but instead, learn about it, and then make a decision about what to do. This is a welcome story and lesson for all ages on kindness and misjudgement. The words and illustrations are very cartoonish with lots of white space. Speech balloons are used throughout to add banter and snarkiness from the chickens (and laughter from the reader). This is a great addition to character education lessons and fairytale units.

Picture Book        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area 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