Elem. – The Bear’s Garden

Colleen, Marcie. The Bear’s Garden. Imprint, 2020. 978-1-250-31481-9. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK- 2.

Where most people in the city see an empty lot, one little girl sees potential. She imagines what the lot could be–a beautiful place to grow and play. She begins to care for the delicate seedlings that grow in the lot. When the girl has to leave the city, she decides to leave her stuffed bear behind to care for the garden. Amazingly, with a little help from the community, her dreams begin to come to life, and the little lot becomes everything she imagined it could be. An inspirational story about the power of dreams, dedication, and community, this book will inspire readers to find beauty in the most ordinary places.

THOUGHTS: Because this book was inspired by the true story of a community garden in Brooklyn, New York, there are many extension activities that could be done with it. Students could research and/or take a virtual field trip to the Brooklyn Bear’s Pacific Street Community Garden. They could brainstorm projects that might be done in their own community to beautify a particular area. The book could be paired with other gardening books for a unit on gardening, or paired with Sydney Smith’s Small in the City (2019) for a display about life in the city.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – How to Be a Pirate

Fitzgerald, Isaac. How to Be a Pirate. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-681-19778-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

On the first endpages, freckle-faced and pigtailed Cece is told she can’t be a pirate. Muted colors reflect her mood as she visits her grandfather who she suspects might know a thing or two about pirates. As it turns out, Grandpa’s tattoos show Cece characteristics of a good pirate. She must be brave, be quick, have fun, be independent, and have love. With each character trait, Cece and Grandpa go on and adventure, and the story becomes more lively and colorful. With a new awareness of what it takes to be what she wants, Cece returns to the boys and their pirate treehouse – now full of confidence that she has exactly what it takes to be a pirate.

THOUGHTS: This adventurous story shows children that fitting a role is about more than what one may assume. Breaking down gender stereotypes in an age appropriate way, Fitzgerald’s How to Be a Pirate is sure to be a much loved addition to any elementary library.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration and Cake

Singer, Marilyn. Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration and Cake. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. $16.99. 978-0-7352-2790-3. 48 p. Grades 2-5. 

An eclectic anthology of poetic recipes on a wide array of subjects. Rather than listing ingredients for a favorite dish, these recipes feature sage advice ranging in topics from success in cooking, to courage, magic, and substitution. A few of the poems stick to foodie themes. “Recipe for Adventure” is a celebration of less common produce such as kohlrabi and rambutan. Others stray far from food as the topic in favor of other concepts. In the “Recipe for Fairy Tales” well-known components of favorite tales are listed as ingredients: “a handful of magical beans\ a gathering of ramps (whatever that means).” Illustrations composed of vibrantly colored goauche, block print, and collage fill each page. 

THOUGHTS: A unique anthology with a wide range of poetic styles to add to any school library’s poetry collection. 

811 Poetry          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem. – The Biggest Story

Coyle, Sarah. The Biggest Story. Kane Miller, 2020. 978-1-684-64045-4. 32 p. $12.99. Grades K-2.

Sarah Coyle’s vibrant picture book, illustrated by Dan Taylor, reminds readers that even in a world with the iPad, Nintendo Switch, and YouTube, the best entertainment comes from the imagination of storytellers. Errol is surrounded by every toy and electronic he owns and yet, he is still bored. His mother is a fantastic storyteller, and he begs for one of her stellar stories. Unfortunately, she must complete some errands around the house first. She suggests Errol think up his own tale instead. While worrying that he doesn’t know how to come up with a story, he bumps into some insect and animal friends who give him some fun and unusual ideas for his tale. Errol also meets some time-traveling dinosaurs who want a featured spot in his first literary creation. Together, his newfound furry and scaly friends help him create a story so big, even his mother, storyteller extraordinaire, is impressed with the final result.

THOUGHTS: This book shows students the power of storytelling and how a story can be generated just by looking all around you. Teachers and librarians will especially love that Errol has an activity in the back of the book to help students find their inner storyteller. What I love most about this book, however, is that Errol is a character of color featured in a children’s book that shows him doing normal activities. Every library can benefit from books that show people of color being, well, regular people!

Picture Book         Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

2017 Catch-up PreK-3 – The Too-Scary Story & Series NF – About Habitats



Murguia, Bethanie Deeney.  The Too-Scary Story.  Arthur A. Levine, 2017. 9780545732420. Unpaged. $16.99.  PreK-2.


In this charming picture book, two children request that their dad tell them a bedtime story.  Grace, the older sister, wants a scary story, while her brother seems less sure of this. Their father begins a tale about two young explorers who are walking through a forest with their dog on their way home. In the darkness, Walter, the young brother, is very worried, but cheers when the darkness is relieved by fireflies.  Next they hear a lot of breathing sounds that turn out to be sleeping animals and finally, the “evil shadow” they see is really their father sitting on the bed as he finishes the story. The illustrations are full bleed and done in watercolor, gouache pencil and tissue collage. The “scary” scenes are illustrated with dark colors, while the “non-scary” scenes use a lighter colored palette. The stuffed toys in the children’s bedroom appear in the forest as real animals.  Children will enjoy looking for the owl, which appears on each double page spread. THOUGHTS: Murguia’s text is a wonderful and reassuring bedtime story. It also serves as a great read aloud, especially around Halloween, when a non-holiday story is needed. An additional purchase for libraries that want more not “too-scary” stories for young readers.


Picture Book          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District


Sill, Cathryn.  Seashores.  Peachtree, 2017. 978-1-56145-968-1.  Unpaged. $16.95. K-3.     


Sill, Cathryn. Deserts. 978-1-56145-641-3
Sill, Cathryn. Forests. 978-1-56145-734-2
Sill, Cathryn. Grasslands. 978-1-56145-559-1
Sill, Cathryn. Mountains. 978-1-56145-469-3
Sill, Cathryn. Oceans. 978-1-56145-618-5
Sill, Cathryn. Polar Regions. 978-1-56145-968-1
Sill, Cathryn. Wetlands. 978-1-56145-432-7


Seashores is one book in a series of habitat books by Cathryn and John Sill.  In this text, the reader learns about seashore ecology around the world.  The author discusses the different types of beaches, the landforms surrounding the beach, the effect of tides and various animals that inhabit coastal areas, including some lesser known ones.  The text appears in a large font size on the left hand side of the book and is a single simple sentence. On the right side appear the muted watercolor illustrations, which are called plates. John Sill’s meticulous drawings could be displayed as wall art. More information about each plate is included in the back matter, which also contains a glossary and bibliography of books and active websites.  It might have been better to include the additional plate information in the body of the text itself, because now the reader must flip back and forth, especially if reading the book aloud. THOUGHTS: Despite this concern about book design, this text is a wonderful introductory resource for young children learning about coastal ecology. Teachers could use this as a read aloud or students could read this alone. Librarians needing books on habitats for primary grades may want to consider this series.  (The other books in this series were not available for review).


577.699, Seashore Ecology          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District



Elementary Picture Books – Lionheart; Puppy; Airport Book; Rain Fish


Collingridge, Richard. Lionheart. New York, NY: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-83321-9.  unpaged. $17.99. Gr. Pre-K – 2.

To face fears or run away is a dilemma that everyone must decide. When Richard feels a monster approaching at night, he and his stuffed toy lion chose to run. Their journey grows into an imaginary adventure of full of fear and wonder, until Richard meets his Lionheart and learns to ROAR! The shimmering lion and shadowy monster are brilliantly shown in paintings by Collingridge, and the boy himself is so relatable and emotional that students should be able to stand by him to the end. A captivating read about bravery, heart, and imagination.  THOUGHTS: This would make an interesting comparison text to Where the Wild Things Are. It could also start a writing prompt or theme around using stuffed animals to deal with problems.

Picture Book     Dustin Brackbill, Mt. Nittany Elementary



Graves, Keith. Puppy!. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-225-5. 24 pages. $16.99. Gr. K-2.

Trog is a cave kid who has cool toys (stick, rock, mud), but really wanted a pet! So, when he found a creature to keep, he called it puppy and took it home to be his. It turns out that having a pet can be difficult, especially when it eats everything and cries all the time. The humor in this cartoon picture book by Keith Graves will tickle young readers and keep them guessing. The final resolution makes sense, as does Trog’s laughable next attempt. Puppy! is a pet story that you won’t soon forget.  THOUGHTS:  Puppy! is a fine example of point of view for young readers, and also gives first time readers a sense of prediction and AHA moments!

Picture Book     Dustin Brackbill, Mt. Nittany Elementary



Brown, Lisa. The Airport Book. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-091-6. 32pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

In simple, straightforward text, Lisa Brown walks young readers through the experience of travelling to an airport and boarding an airplane. A mixed-race family’s journey begins with a taxi ride from their city apartment to a large airport. They wait in lines at the ticket counter, to check their bags, to use the restroom, and to go through security. They maneuver past the bustling airport restaurants and shops until they reach their gate where they wait some more. Eventually, they board the plane, stow their luggage, listen to the safety announcements, buckle their seatbelts, and take off. While the family enjoys the flight from the plane’s main cabin, sharp-eyed readers will want to keep a close eye on the little girl’s sock monkey who takes a parallel journey in a checked suitcase. THOUGHTS:  Readers will enjoy people-watching and following other families through the airport as well, and if they look closely, they’ll spot famous aviators like Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers. The India ink and watercolor illustrations are brimming with action and perfectly capture the harried tempo of airport life.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

This is a book to be read over and over again, and during each repeated reading, children will notice new details in the illustrations. My kindergarten teachers were excited to add it to their transportation unit since it puts a new spin on what it’s like to take a plane ride. Overall, a winner for most collections.



Ehlert, Lois. Rain Fish. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2016. 978-1-4814-6152-8. 36pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This short, rhyming tale celebrates the creative spirit as Ehlert uses her imagination to see fish shapes formed from everyday found objects. She imagines that these fish emerge when blue skies turn gray and rain falls all day. Readers must examine each collage carefully to locate all the hidden fish. Fish are formed from everyday items such as cardboard, leaves, ticket stubs, feathers, paper plates, and bottle caps. The last page showcases many of the items Ehlert used to create her collages, and it will give readers ideas for items they might collect to make collages of their own.  THOUGHTS:  This book will be well-received by Ehlert fans, and the collection of objects that she used to create collages is perfect inspiration for a crafty extension activity following a read-aloud. Share this one with your art teacher.  

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County