Hibbert, Talia. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute. Joy Revolution. 2023. 978-0-593-48233-9. $19.99. 315 p. Grades 9-12.
Senior year at a British upper school finds ex-best friends, spunky, outspoken Tik-Toker Celine Bangura and the popular, accomplished bisexual Bradley Graeme circling each other as they compete for a $30,000 scholarship senior year from the Breakspeare Enrichment Program (BEP). A human rights lawyer noted for her attention to other minority groups, Katharine Breakspeare has set up a series of weeklong outward-bound type of challenges in surrounding forests for a selected group of which academically-driven Celine and Bradley are a part. Told in monthly installments in the stream of consciousness of the two protagonists, the reader is privy to their initial barbed repartee and secret attractions, then their insecurities about each others’ ability to fall in love. Bradley comes from a tight-knit family and suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (though it seems to be a mild condition) who is struggling with his college major decision. Abandoned by her lawyer father, Celine has daddy issues making trust difficult for her. Her feelings become more complicated as a contender in the BEP because her father’s firm is one of the sponsors. Diverse and authentic minor characters enrich the story as Brad and Celine rekindle their friendship and teeter on making it more. Though the plot may be predictable, the witty exchanges of Celine and Brad are not. Author Talia Hibbert usually writes for adults but this young adult novel maintains a breezy, humorous tone throughout with minimum foul language and sexual situations. Hibbert’s adept talent to create a teen world with interesting feelings and conversations sets this book above the usual meet-cute books. Includes a glossary of Britishisms for teens who do not frequent BritBox, Acorn, or PBS.
THOUGHTS: Suitable for grade 8 readers searching for a funny romance. Nothing heavy about this story. Though Hibbert could have delved into Brad’s OCD or Celine’s feelings of abandonment, or the failure of each of them to admit their feelings, she doesn’t. That decision is more than okay; it’s refreshing. Give this book to a reader who might go for Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary.
Transler, Janee. Figgy & Boone: The Big Cheese. Simon Spotlight. 2023. 978-1-665-91452-9. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.
Figgy and Boone are at it again! First, they ran out of cheese, which they love! Thankfully, they found a big wheel of cheese for them to eat. The only problem is the wheel is too big for them to move. Boone thinks of several ways to move the cheese, but all of his plans fail. Figgy figures out a way to move the cheese and, with lots of sharing, everyone is happy.
THOUGHTS: Another great Figgy & Boone beginner graphic novel! As with the previous story, the beginning of the book informs young readers how to read graphic novels, which is incredibly helpful for someone who may not know the correct way to read this specific genre. Add in some fun rodent characters, and this book is a delight!
Higgins, Ryan T. We Don’t Lose Our Class Goldfish. Disney-Hyperion, 2023. 978-1-368-07698-2. unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.
In the latest installment featuring our T-Rex friend Penelope Rex shares her feelings about Walter, the class goldfish. This is the same Walter who bit Penelope in an earlier book, so she has every reason to be scared of him! Not looking forward to her turn to bring Walter home for the weekend, the time has come for Walter to go home with Penelope. Feeling nervous, scared, and uneasy, Penelope does her best to take care of Walter. But, she loses him! And she must find him before Monday comes. Will Penelope find Walter? Will her feelings about Walter change?
THOUGHTS: Such a great addition to the Penelope Rex series, students will love this story!
Haldar, Raj. This Book Is Banned. Illustrated by Julia Patton. Sourcebooks Explore, 2023. 978-1-728-27656-4. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.
“If we only read books that we already agreed with, we’d never learn anything new!” It begins with the hippos who don’t like how tall giraffes get all the leaves, so the giraffes are banned. Dinosaurs are more exciting, but some people think they’re make believe so dinosaurs are banned too. And so continue the antics in which avocados, beds, roller skating robots, and so many other things are banned. What then will this book be about? In a humorous manner, Haldar explains book banning to children through ridiculous scenarios. The final lesson “remember, even if a book isn’t for you, it could still be perfect for someone else.” is a perfect reminder that libraries are for all and represent all.
THOUGHTS: Preferences over what we each like is the perfect way to introduce the topic of book banning to children. With giggles guaranteed, this picture book will be a great read aloud, especially to celebrate the freedom to read during Banned Books Week.
Straub, Emma. Very Good Hats. Illustrated by Blanca Gómez. Rocky Pond Books, 2023. 978-0-593-52943-0. $18.99. 32 p. Grades PK-2.
Hats are everywhere! So many different things can be used as a hat. Acorns and tortellini make silly hats for our fingers, cats make warm hats for our heads, even books can be made into hats. Clouds become hats for airplanes, hats are used to serve ice cream at baseball games, and different jobs require different hats. This adorable picture book challenges the reader to think of different common objects that can take on the properties of hats of all shapes and sizes.
THOUGHTS: Absolutely adorable primary color illustrations by Blanca Gómez add to the fun in this light, humorous picture book.
Puppy Bus begins with a young boy who reluctantly climbs on the bus for his first day at a new school after a big move. He takes his seat… and quickly realizes that he has climbed onto the wrong bus. He’s on the PUPPY BUS! And where does the puppy bus go!? Puppy school! What to do!? Go to class! But class is strange and confusing, and the food is terrible! The boy begins to miss his old friends and family…and wants to go home–until a friendly puppy offers friendship. Puppy school might not be so bad after all!
THOUGHTS: Unique to this book is the storyline that the main character is starting a new school after a move (rather than it being the first day of school). This welcome addition to shelves of school stories will bring smiles to young readers’ faces and make the task of going to school seem just a little less daunting (at least they serve people food at school!). Recommended, particularly for schools looking to refresh their school stories shelves and for those looking for a fun welcome for their move-ins!
Bailey, Annie. Mud! Illustrated by Jen Corace. Abrams Appleseed, 2022. 978-1-419-75097-7. 36p. $17.99. Grades PK-2.
Annie Bailey entices young readers to join two siblings as they romp and rhyme their way through a day of outdoor play in… Mud! Full of imagination and mischief, this book explores mud building, mud cooking, mud fights, and plain mucking about… followed by clean-up time (and maybe a little more mud). Jen Corace’s gouache, pencil, and ink illustrations reflect the book’s spirit of play and adventure, and Annie Bailey’s use of onomatopoeia reflects the muddy world she has created for her characters to explore.
THOUGHTS: This book is pure fun and outdoor exploration… and a welcome reminder that readers can still have fun outdoors even on a soggy spring day (as long as their caretakers tolerate the mess!). Readers will enjoy the word play on the pages with both rhyme and onomatopoeia and the joy the artist portrays adds to the fun. A welcome addition to libraries looking to promote outdoor play or add to their spring collections.
Bathe the Cat is a funny rhyming picture book about a family whose grandmother is coming to visit, so they make a list of chores to do. One of those chores is to bathe the cat, which doesn’t make the cat very happy. So the cat spends the rest of the picture book messing the chore list up, so they end up doing things like mowing the floor and mopping the fishes. Finally by the end of the book the chores are done, grandma has come, and the cat escaped their bath. Throughout this book, the reader will love finding the cat and their mischievous ways they mess with the chores.
THOUGHTS: Wonderful picture book with charming illustrations. Definitely a great addition to any elementary collection.
Picture Book Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Berlin, Ethan T. How to Draw a Happy Cat. Illustrated by Jimbo Matison. Astra Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-662-64011-7. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.
With simple shapes and step-by-step directions, readers will delight in being taught how to draw a happy cat. But when cat’s frown is upside down, what can the illustrator do to make her happy? Maybe a cool t-shirt, a stuffy, or a skateboard will make cat happy. Only for a little while. What else can we try? Maybe some friends will help cat smile. When the friends go on a high flying adventure, trouble ensues, but will cat and her friends end up happy or not?
THOUGHTS: This title offers the perfect opportunity to teach students how to use simple shapes to draw a lot of fun animals and items. Use it as an introductory read aloud before teaching students how to read directions carefully or follow a multi-step process, or as a fun game of predicting what can we try next to make cat smile. Recommended for elementary collections where how to and drawing books are popular.
Arnold, Elana. Just Harriet. Walden Pond Press. 978-0-063-09204-4. 196 p. $16.99. Grades 3-5.
Third grade just ended, but summer is not beginning the way Harriet plans. When her mother is put on bed rest until Harriet’s new baby brother arrives, her parents also decide to send Harriet to live with her grandmother for the summer. Nanu lives on Marble Island where she runs a bed and breakfast. Harriet always enjoys visiting Nanu with her parents, but staying alone with her for the whole summer is an entirely different story. As Harriet struggles with adjusting to her new surroundings, she finds a mysterious key in Nanu’s shed. This discovery leads her on an adventure involving an antique dollhouse, her 100-year-old neighbor, and some items from her father’s childhood on the island. Harriet is a boisterous, stubborn narrator with a penchant for lying, and she does not enjoy changes that are out of her control. But, readers will root for her as she copes in her own way with the many unexpected twists her summer takes.
THOUGHTS: This summer adventure is perfect for readers who are just transitioning to chapter books. Short chapters include at least one black and white illustration. Readers will relate to Harriet’s conflicting emotions about being sent away for the summer but also her excitement about seeing her grandmother and trying to solve the mystery of what the old key opens.