Elem. – The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne

Cline-Ransome, Lesa. The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne. Simon and Schuster, 2020. 978-1-481-46289-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

The life of Ethel L. Payne, the “First Lady of the Black Press”, is depicted in this picture biography. Born in Chicago in 1911, Ethel loved listening to her grandparents’ stories of the cotton fields in Kentucky and her parents’ own sharecropping tales. Ethel developed a love of writing and after high school fought against racism in her community. After World War II, she left for Japan and collected stories from black American soldiers on the base, noting the unfair treatment they received from the Army. Soon Ethel’s stories from Japan were sent to American newspapers. On her return, Payne took a job as a features editor with the Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper.  Her stories progressed from local events to covering the Democratic National Convention. Eventually, Ethel moved to Washington DC and became one of three African American reporters with a White House pass. For the rest of her life, she wrote stories that focused on civil rights and the issues facing African Americans.  There is an author’s note that gives more details on Ethel L. Payne’s life. John Parra has used acrylic paint to create illustrations that feature other well-known African Americans. Readers will enjoy poring over the drawings to search for the small objects found throughout the text, including the clocks that move forward in time by the end of the story.

THOUGHTS: This text is a worthwhile addition to elementary collections. Readers will learn about the life of this famous African American woman and her important contribution to the civil rights movement.

921 Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
070.92 Journalism and Publishing

Elementary FIC – Gum Luck; Inspector Flytrap; Hilde Cracks the Case

Montijo, Rhoda with Luke Reynolds.  Gum Luck. Disney Hyperion, 2017. 9781423161172. 152 pp.

$14.99.  Gr. 1-3.

This is the second book in the illustrated novel series The Gumazing Gum Girl!  Gabby Gomez turns into Gum Girl by chewing bubble gum.  As Gum Girl, Gabby possesses superpowers and performs feats like stopping a car from careening into her school and helping a plane with a damaged wing to land. Unknown to Gabby, she has an archenemy named Robo Chef, who is determined to defeat her.  He robs a bank, and it is up to Gum Girl to save the town. This is a slight story with a limited word count, but has the humor and word play that will appeal to young and struggling readers. The characters are Hispanic and a few Spanish words are contained within the text. Robo Chef, hiding in a spatula factory, is an evil hapless character who cannot seem to catch a break.  The illustrations by Luke Reynolds are done in a cartoon style. The characters are drawn on a large scale and there is heavy use of the color pink. As if there is not enough silliness, the book has a bubble gum smell and the font style is Grilled Cheese BTN Condensed. THOUGHTS:  Even though Gum Luck is not a Newbery contender, its off the wall style will make it likely to fly off the shelves.  A suggested purchase for elementary libraries, especially if the first book is popular.

Humor, Fantasy              Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Angleberger, Tom and Cece Bell.  Inspector Flytrap in the Goat Who Chewed Too Much.  Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1-4197-0967-8. $5.99. 101 p. Gr. 1-3.

Inspector Flytrap seeks to become the World’s Greatest Detective, so he will only take the world’s Greatest Mysteries. However, detective work can be challenging when you’re a potted plant. After a multi-million dollar golden pickle paperweight is stolen, the inspector is on the case, aided by his trusty assistant Nina the Goat. But when Nina is arrested for the crime, Inspector Flytrap (movement-challenged now that Nina is in jail) must find the true criminal in order to free Nina. THOUGHTS:  Typical silliness from Origami Yoda Master Angleberger with plentiful illustrations by Bell (El Deafo). A satisfying mystery for the emerging reader.

Mystery     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District


Lysiak, Hilde and Matthew Lysiak. Hero Dog! Scholastic: 2017. 978-1-338-14155-9. $4.99. 89 p. Gr. 2-3.

Lysiak, Hilde and Matthew Lysiak. Bear on the Loose! Scholastic: 2017. 978-1-338-14158-0. $4.99. 87 p. Gr. 2-3.

Hilde, the pint-sized editor of the Orange Street News, is always on the lookout for a breaking story. In Hero Dog! she finds herself involved in a series of thefts or sabotage to entrants of the Bake-Off Bonanza. Next, Bear on the Loose! finds Hilde trying to verify reports of a bear in her hometown of Selinsgrove, PA. In both instances, Hilde’s reporting skills lead her to asking the questions that solve the mysteries. Written by the real-life reporting team of Matthew Lysiak and his daughter Hilde (who really does write the Orange Street News for Selinsgrove, PA) these entertaining Hilde Cracks the Case mysteries are both a satisfying detective story and an introduction to reporting skills and techniques. Plentiful illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (and a cute faux spiral bound notebook cover) add to the appeal of the books. THOUGHTS: Show student the website for the Orange Street News and you will quickly create reporters-in-training. A good addition to the early chapter book collection.  

Mystery     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

New for Elementary – When Spring Comes; Dino Friends; Miss Mary Reporting


Henkes, Kevin. When Spring Comes. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2016. 978-0-06233-139-7. 32p. $17.99. Gr K-2.

Through spare verse and vibrant illustrations, this book celebrates all the small changes that occur as winter melts into spring. Opening pages describe trees blossoming, eggs hatching, and gardens sprouting. Additional pages depict children blowing bubbles in grassy meadows, stomping through mud puddles, flying kites, and riding bikes. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice all the animals that emerge in spring: kittens, ladybugs, butterflies, worms, bees, and rabbits. THOUGHTS:  The large font size and full-bleed acrylic illustrations draw readers in, and literary devices such as repetition and alliteration add to the cheerful mood.

Picture Book   Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Southern York County

This book is perfect for discussing information about changing seasons with the youngest readers, and I plan to share it with my kindergarten teachers. It will be a great conversation starter as students listen to the story, view the illustrations, and share seasonal changes they’ve noticed as well. Kevin Henkes fans will not be disappointed.



Yolen, Jane. How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends? New York: The Blue Sky Press, 2016. 978-0-545-82934-2. 32pp. $16.99. Gr K-2.

The tenth title in Jane Yolen and Mark Teague’s How Do Dinosaurs… series explores what makes friendships strong. The rhyming text unfolds in a large, easy-to-read font, and young readers are asked whether behaviors such as destroying a friend’s toys, pushing each other, screaming, and tattling to teachers are acceptable. Then, healthy, friendly behaviors are modeled, such as writing apology notes, sharing toys, and taking turns when playing together. The message that even though friends may sometimes fight, there’s always a way to make things right shines through clearly. THOUGHTS:  Young readers will love watching their favorite prehistoric creatures in familiar scenarios, and this book will be useful as a conversation starter about how to make and keep friends. Thanks to their large trim size and vibrant illustrations, the other titles in this series are popular with my kindergarten students, and I anticipate this one being a winner as well.

Picture Book   Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County



Macy, Sue. Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-1-4814-0120-3. $17.99. Gr. 1-4.

Mary, a tomboy who loved all sports, was looked down on for playing tackle football with the boys and writing a sports newspaper for her grandparents rather than a nice letter. When she graduated from college, Mary wanted to write for the newspaper. The only job a female reporter could get was writing about social events and fashionable parties. Mary persevered and World War II afforded her the opportunity to fill in as a sports writer. Still, though, she faced many barriers and prejudices; at some games she wasn’t allowed to sit in the Press Box. Citing Jackie Robinson as a role model, Mary didn’t let the fact that she wasn’t allowed in the locker rooms deter her. She became known for the quality and positivity of her writing. Readers, coaches and athletes came to know and respect her. For over fifty years Mary Gaber reported on sports, and made history doing it. THOUGHTS: I loved this book. Its powerful story of a pioneering woman breaking into a male-dominated field is complemented by surprisingly striking illustrations.

Biography Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School