YA – Off the Record

Garrett, Camryn. Off the Record. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-984-82999-3. 320 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Josie, a high school senior, film aficionado, and journalist, has had her heart set on Spelman College since middle school. She has a great resume and is just waiting for her official early decision acceptance notice. She’s also waiting to hear if she won Deep Focus‘s (her favorite major magazine) talent contest. Josie knows winning will help launch her journalism career. In the meantime, she owes Monique, her freelance gig editor from Essence magazine, an op-ed, but Josie’s anxiety is distracting her. Josie’s parents casually mention that they worry she’s putting all of her eggs in one basket. Josie thinks they just don’t get her, especially since her mom always is pushing her to try a new diet. They try to talk about the “hard time” Josie had in middle school after which Josie switched schools, but Josie insists she’s fine. Josie proves just how fine she is when she is selected as the winner of the Deep Focus talent search. The grand prize will send her on a five city tour for a new film with interview access to the cast and crew. Her parents aren’t so sure about this and only agree if Josie’s older sister Alice – home for winter break from Spelman – can be her chaperone. Alice reluctantly agrees, and Josie leaves for an experience unlike any other. Nothing, however, could prepare Josie for the story a young actress asks her to tell or the feelings Josie develops for the film’s teen star. Is Josie the right person to tell this story, and will it do more harm than good?

THOUGHTS: Readers will empathize with Josie as she struggles to overcome her anxiety and focus on the story she was hired to write. A must purchase for high school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – The Gravity of Us

Stamper, Phil. The Gravity of Us. Bloomsbury YA, 2020. 978-1-547-60014-4. 320 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Everyone’s lives are more visible to others than they used to be. Cal Lewis knows that best because he is always live streaming news and weekend updates from his homebase in Brooklyn. His life gets viewed from a different angle when his dad is selected as the final candidate for NASA’s Mars exploration project that is highly covered by a reality television company. From leaving his best friend at a critical time to meeting other AstroKids while continuing to cultivate media communication plans for his own content and others, this sweet story is representative and hits on woes of being a 21st century teen. Stamper does a fantastic job of illustrating why Mars exploration is an important endeavor, whether publicly or privately funded.

THOUGHTS: If you have room on your coming of age shelf, this is a great addition for your space nerds, LBGTQ+ community, and anyone who is looking for a fresh take on being a teen in the roaring 2020s.

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

YA – The Incredible Nellie Bly: Journalist, Investigator, Feminist, and Philanthropist

Cimino, Luciana, and Sergio Algozzino, illustrator. Laura Garofalo, translator. The Incredible Nellie Bly: Journalist, Investigator, Feminist, and Philanthropist. Abrams ComicArts, 2021. 978-1-419-75017-5. 137 p. $24.99. Gr. 8+.

The subtitle of this wonderful graphic biography of Nellie Bly lets readers know that they are about to learn the life story of a true trailblazer! Nellie Bly is maybe most famous for going undercover in 1887 at an asylum for mentally ill women, exposing the horrible treatment patients received there. Her 1889 trip around the world in just seventy-two days is also very well-documented. Within the frame of a series of conversations between a female student at Columbia University’s Journalism School and an elderly Bly, The Incredible Nellie Bly covers these and her many other impressive accomplishments. Such achievements include reporting “in disguise” from a factory and debunking stereotypes about the “immoral” women workers there, interviewing Belva Ann Lockwood (the United States’ first female presidential candidate), and reporting from Europe’s Eastern front during World War I. Her trendsetting celebrity, and the inevitable backlash, are also depicted. Sergio Algozzino’s digitally created artwork, in appealing shades of yellow and blue as represented on the cover, evokes the times in which Nellie Bly lived and worked.

THOUGHTS: This is a – yes – incredible introduction to the extraordinary life and legacy of a woman who never accepted society’s restrictions but was “forever the author of her own destiny” (from the Introduction).

Graphic Biography          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

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

spring

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.

 

dinosaurfriends

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

 

missmary

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