Elem. – Stanley’s Toolbox & Stanley’s Paint Box

Bee, William. Stanley’s Paint Box. Peachtree Publishing, 2020. 978-1-68263-186-7. Unpaged. $6.99. Grades PreK.

—. Stanley’s Toolbox. Peachtree Publishing, 2020. 978-1-68263-187-4. Unpaged. $6.99. Grades PreK.

Stanley is back in two new board books for children birth-PreK. In Stanley’s Paint Box, Stanley helps Sophie, Benjamin, and Little Woo paint a castle.  Beginning with red, yellow, blue, and white paint, Stanley helps his friends use various items for painting: rollers, sponges, and brushes, while also teaching them how to create different colors from the original four colors. As Stanley mixes colors to create orange, green, purple, and pink, readers are introduced to the combination of primary colors to create secondary colors. Color words, along with the items used for painting, are highlighted throughout the book to help children learn their colors and painting terms.

In Stanley’s Toolbox, Little Woo’s tree house is in need of repair, and Stanley is here to help. Using various tools, Stanley helps Little Woo fix the ladder, roof, and floor of his tree house, and then helps Little Woo decorate it. As with previous Stanley titles, words for specific tools used by Stanley and Little Woo are highlighted to help young children learn terms associated with tools.

THOUGHTS: In addition to teaching young children about painting and building, both titles help young children learn kindness and how to lend a helping hand. As with the previous Stanley titles, these board books include bright, colorful illustrations with plenty of white space to focus young children on the connection between illustrations and words, while also learning about colors and tools.

Board Book        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

YA – Poisoned

Donnelly, Jennifer. Poisoned. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-26849-2. 307 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12.

All of her life Sophie, Princess Charlotta-Sidonia Wilhelmina Sophia, has been told that kindness will be her downfall, her heart is to soft to be a good leader. And Sophie believes every word. Fearing her stepmother’s strict ways, Sophie tucks her kind heart away, trying to hide her true self. She agrees to give her heart to a prince who is better suited to lead her kingdom. Sophie “locks away” her heart as she prepares to become Queen, but she doesn’t have the chance to fulfill this destiny. Her stepmother has other plans in mind. When Sophie awakens, following a violent event, she is greeted by seven brothers and their helpers, who have taken in Sophie and nursed her back to health in seemingly impossible ways. Not feeling completely herself, Sophie tentatively accepts her life in The Hollow. But Sophie feels like there’s more to the story, and she won’t have all of the answers until she embarks on a dangerous journey. Sophie’s character and her kind heart are tested repeatedly, as Sophie learns what it takes to be a true leader. But is her faulty heart up to the challenge, and will she survive all the evil that wishes her dead? Sophie’s story is not a romantic fairytale but instead is about one’s journey towards self discovery.

THOUGHTS: Young adult readers need Sophie in their lives. I loved this reimagined Snow White story and appreciate Donnelly’s incorporation of other themes – like how women are told what they are and are not capable of doing or being. Poisoned deserves a place in every middle or high school collection.

Fantasy          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Thanks a Ton!

Moyle, Sabrina. Thanks a Ton! Abrams Appleseed, 2020. 978-1-419-74334-4. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-3.

Brightly colored digital illustrations with neon accents bring this book of gratitude to life. A young elephant donning blue overalls celebrates big and small moments for which he (or she) is thankful. Simple gestures like cheering up someone, making someone smile, giving a hug, and saying please will help children recognize that kindness and good manners can make a big difference in one’s day. Gifts big and small show this elephant’s gratitude, but children will laugh out loud when the little elephant presents a pair of super underwear.

THOUGHTS: Teachers will enjoy reading this silly rhyming text aloud with their students. It will be a great addition to any elementary Social Emotional Learning lesson that celebrates kindness, manners, and gratitude.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Macca the Alpaca

Cosgrove, Matt. Macca the Alpaca. Scholastic Press, 2020. $14.99. Pre-K. 978-1-338-60282-1. 

Loveable Macca is a happy alpaca until he meets a bully llama named Harmer. When the two face-off in a series of challenges to see who is the strongest, Macca uses wit to win each match until even Harmer has to admit that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Macca gives an excellent lesson on how to be a friend with a hug at the end of the story. Brief rhyming text and bold colorful illustrations are perfect for repetitive reading to young listeners.

THOUGHTS: Friendship, bullying, and opposites are themes that run throughout, making this an excellent selection for preschool or kindergarten.

Board Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

Elem. – The Heart of a Whale

Pignataro, Anna. The Heart of a Whale. Philomel Books, 2020. $17.99. 978-1-984-83627-4. 32 p. Grades K-3. 

Whale has a beautiful song that soothes, cheers and calms all of the animals in the ocean. Even though whale’s song brings joy and love to many he was lonesome, noticing “how there was no song big enough to fill his empty heart.” One day, the whale is so forlorn he lets out a sigh that is carried by the ocean to another whale who travels far and wide to accompany him. United, the whales sing in unison “of happiness and hope, magic and wonder.” Brief text accompanied by soothing watercolor illustrations of marine animals cover each spread. 

THOUGHTS: A good picture book to begin a conversation with students about loneliness, kindness and friendships. Detailed illustrations alongside a musical theme offer STEAM connections to music and marine life units. 

Picture Book         Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

Elem. – The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama. The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Kokila, 2020. Unpaged. $18.99  978-0-525-55514-5. Grades 3-6. 

This tale, directed to children, is a mix of biography and moral lesson on compassion. Known today as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he grew up as Llamo Thondup in a small agrarian village in Tibet. He credits his mother as his first teacher of compassion, sowing the seeds in him to care for others’ needs above his own. She shared with others in need, she nourished plants to grow, she mothered him well (“I was a bit spoiled!”), and demonstrated patience and “warmheartedness” to all people. The book covers his life as he was (at three years old), declared to be the new Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, through the years of his training as a monk, to the core message of this book: compassion sets humans apart from other species, and while material possessions require only the five basic senses, compassion requires the mind and shows strength, not weakness. He offers suggestions: “When someone disagrees with you, rather than think they are mistaken, you must ask, Why might they feel this way?  When someone is scowling or upset or hurt, you could busy yourself with your own concerns, or you could ask, What might I do to help them?….It takes practice.” The tone is positive and encouraging, and the practical questions will help readers to understand compassion and how they can promote it in the world.

THOUGHTS: A helpful social-emotional resource to boost World Kindness Day and more.

294.3 Religious Teachings        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elementary – King & Kayla; Last Firehawk; Mama Lion; Avengers

Butler, Dori Hillestad. King and Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse. Peachtree, 2017. 978-1-56145-879-0. $14.95. 48 p. Gr. 1-3.

King is a dog, and Kayla is his human. King is the narrator of this entry level mystery series. King loves to play fetch with his ball, but one day King ends up with a ball that looks like his, but definitely is not his ball. Determined to find his ball, King starts investigating. A stray cat tells King Mouse took the ball. King tries to imagine just exactly how a mouse could take his ball. Kayla is also trying to solve the mystery, but King can’t wait for her. He escapes, gets into the yard next door, and follows his nose right through the doggie door, where he meets a large dog named Mouse. Luckily, both dogs agree playing together is great! THOUGHTS:  Each page is liberally illustrated, including may full page illustrations. With spunky King as narrator, this book is sure to delight many a new reader who wants a “chapter book”.   

Mystery      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

Charman, Katrina. The Last Firehawk.  Scholastic, 2017. $4.99 ea. 90pp. Gr. 1-3.

The Ember Stone. 978-1-338-12213-8.

The Crystal Caverns. 978-1-338-12251-0.

Small owl Tag yearns to be an Owl of Valor and prove his braveness. While he is too small to face battle, he unexpectedly gets an opportunity to show his mettle. When Tag and his squirrel friend Skyla accidentally stray far from home, they find an unusual egg that hatches into a firehawk, a mystical bird thought to be extinct. With the land under attack from Thorn, an evil vulture, the three friends are sent on a quest to recover the scattered pieces of the magical Ember Stone, which, when reassembled, will hopefully be strong enough to defeat Thorn. THOUGHTS:  These liberally illustrated books have enough text to provide a satisfying plot for young readers not yet ready for Erin Hunter’s Warriors series.  

Fantasy      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

Muth, Jon J. Mama Lion Wins the Race. Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-85282-1. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

It is race day, and Tigey and Mama Lion are vying for the big trophy.  In order to win, they must beat other characters like the Flying Pandinis, the Knitted Monkey crew, and Bun Bun.  However, as they fly through the countryside in their vintage cars, Tigey will soon learn that winning may not be everything.  The beauty of the world, the significance of kindness, and the value of friendship can be appreciated regardless of whether they win or lose.  Gorgeous illustrations, complete with cameos by well-known characters like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Mo Willems’ Pigeon, complement this sweet story with an important message for young children.  THOUGHTS: Teaching children to be kind and compassionate towards others is a lesson that will never become obsolete.  This book, full of lovable characters, will serve as a great discussion starter for such a lesson. After reading the story, students could brainstorm acts of kindness that would be possible for them to do for others.  This pleasant story would make a great addition for any library that serves young readers.

Picture Book       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Glass, Calliope. Avengers: Ms. Marvel’s Fists of Fury. Marvel Press, 2017. 9781484781463. $17.95. 128 pp. Gr. 3-5.

Ms. Marvel has to fight bird creatures in this graphic chapter book. Kamala Khan is your average young, female Muslim girl from New Jersey. When she walked through an unusual mist she developed superpowers, like the ability to stretch her legs and super strength, that she now uses to protect the citizens of Jersey City while trying to do well in school. Ms. Marvel has a big biology test she needs to study for so, thankfully, Thor turns up to help her solve the avian crime spree led by the half-bird Super Villain, The Inventor. In the story, Kamala must deal with real-life relationship issues with her good friend, Nakia since she doesn’t know her friend is a superhero. Hijab-wearing, Nakia, doesn’t understand why Kamala blows off her texts and their Biology test study date and Kamala isn’t free to tell her the truth. Thor helps her to accept her faults and to learn to accept her friends’ help.  THOUGHTS: Ms. Marvel’s foray into chapter books for younger readers is a good way to introduce younger readers to the Marvel universe of characters and especially to the young, female, Muslim superhero, Ms. Marvel, who saves the people in Jersey City, NJ. A male Avenger superhero, Thor, shows up in this story to keep certain young male readers interested.

Juvenile Comic/Graphic Novel              Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Picture Books – William’s Winter Nap; Back to School Bigfoot; Groundhug Day; 100 Things I Love…

Ashman, Linda. William’s Winter Nap. Disney Hyperion, 2017. 978-148472282-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-2.

On a cold winter night, a boy name William is ready to settle into his warm, cozy bed when he is awakened by a tapping on the window.  It turns out to be a chipmunk who is seeking shelter from the cold, so William makes room in his bed for the chipmunk, and the two settle in. Before long, they are awakened by a porcupine knocking at the door.  The porcupine is also looking for a warm place to spend the night, so William and the chipmunk make room for the porcupine before going back to sleep.  This trend continues until the bed fills up, at which point an extremely large animal shows up at the door.  The group must decide if they can make enough room or if they are going to turn the animal away.  Beautiful illustrations and well-paced rhymes make this an endearing choice for young readers. THOUGHTS: Although this book may not have any obvious curricular connections, it could definitely serve as an introduction to many relevant topics.  For instance, because the last line reads “I’ll see you in the warm spring light,” it could be used to introduce the concept of hibernation.  Also, it would be a great discussion starter for emphasizing the importance of hospitality and generosity towards others.  Lastly, this would be a great title to read aloud and encourage young children to make predictions based on context clues.  Will they let the last animal in?  Why or why not?  If so, how will they make room?  A very delightful and engaging selection that is definitely a solid purchase for most libraries.

Picture Book      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Berger, Samantha and Martha Brockenbrough. Back to School with Bigfoot. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017. 9780545859738. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. PreK-2.

Berger and Brockenbrough have teamed up to create an amusing version of the back-to-school story. Told in first person by Bigfoot himself, the book tells the story of Bigfoot preparing for a new school year. He has a lot of worries, such as whether he can stand still for a class picture or find clothes that fit.  Just when he has made up his mind that he should not go back, he begins thinking about all that he might miss, like a school field trip and his friends.  Bigfoot happily returns and in his haste, he breaks through the front door.  The book design helps make this book a great read aloud, as some words are highlighted in a larger font and beg to be emphasized.  Dave Pressler’s illustrations are over the top funny and the drawing of Bigfoot’s family at the graduation ceremony is priceless. Children will ask for this book to be read again and again.  THOUGHTS:  This work is a great addition to elementary libraries for their back-to-school collections.

Picture Book         Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Pace, Anne Marie. Groundhug Day. Disney Book Group, 2017. 9781484753569. $17.99. 32p. Gr. PreK-2.

Moose wants to plan a Valentine’s Day party with his friends. The problem is that one of his friends is Groundhog. Moose, Squirrel, Porcupine, and Rabbit are worried that if Groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day he’ll go back to sleep for six more weeks and miss the big Valentine’s Day party. They all come up with a different idea on how they can stop Groundhog from seeing his shadow and spend all night arguing about it. Because they never get to enact one of their ideas, Groundhog sees his shadow and hurriedly goes back into his house. It turns out Groundhog is afraid of shadows, but with his friends’ help, he sees all the ways shadows can be fun. Unfortunately, he still won’t make it to the big party since it isn’t warm enough for him above ground yet. His friends understand as he goes back home to hibernate for another six weeks – and comes back out just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! But now Bunny is missing! THOUGHTS: This picture book is a nice Groundhog’s Day addition to your library for the illustrations alone, but the story will also be appreciated by young readers. And there’s a clever ending that involves the final picture of Bunny on the last page (he is painting Easter Eggs).

Picture Book      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Schwartz, Amy. 100 Things I Love to Do with You. Abrams Appleseed, 2017. 9781419722882. $16.95. 40p. Gr. PreK-1.

100 Things I Love to Do with You is literally a picture book filled with simple illustrations of one-hundred activities that young readers can do with their parents/guardians or friends.  THOUGHTS: This is a book that contains activities like make mud pies, help the sun rise, hop like bunnies. I can imagine an adult asking the child to act out some of the activities as they go through the book (although they can’t all be acted out). Some pages have only one activity listed with a big illustration and some pages have, two, three, or four activities on each page. The illustrations were average.

Picture Book    Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Picture Books – Lost Gift; Hensel & Gretel; Wonderfall

lostgift

George, Kallie. The Lost Gift. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016. 978-0-553-52481-p. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr PreK-2.

It’s Christmas Eve and four forest friends are happy to catch a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh. A gust of wind drops a package nearby and Deer, Bird, Rabbit, and Squirrel realize that it’s meant for the New Baby at a nearby farm. The friends decide to deliver the package for Santa and spend a long, cold, hungry night delivering the gift. While they have second thoughts (especially grumpy Squirrel), they realize that it was worth the effort when they see New Baby’s delight at her new rattle. The animals trudge home and find a gift from Santa waiting in the snow—a delicious treat to fill their empty bellies. When Squirrel wonders “But how did he know?” Rabbit replies “Santa always knows.” Stephanie Graegin’s simple and colorful illustrations create a real feeling of the season. THOUGHTS: This sweet, simple holiday story will be enjoyed by little kids and big kids alike.

Picture Book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

ninjachicks

Schwartz, Corey Rosen, and Rebecca J. Gomez. Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0399176265. 40pp. $17.99.  Gr. K – 3.

A companion book to The Three Ninja Pigs and Ninja Red Riding Hood, this book is just as action packed and fun! Their mother is missing, so these smart sisters decide to get some proactive ninja training at the 3 Pigs Dojo, where the motto is “Get Empowered, Not Devoured.” When their father goes missing, they follow, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind. Bad idea, but they persevere. When suddenly a tempting cornbread house is found, will Hensel and Gretel be able to escape temptation? Fortunately one of these fowls keeps their head and is able to sneak in, distracting the fox to rescue Ma. The other, after a momentary lapse of judgement picks the lock and joins the fray!  THOUGHTS: The fast pace and perfect rhymes in this book match the success of the other two books by these fabulous collaborators. Girls and boys alike will get a kick out of these powerful poultry.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

wonderfall

Hall, Michael. Wonderfall. New York: Greenwillow, 2016. 978-0-06-238298-6. Uppaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

“In this book you will discover 1 colorful tree, 2 scurrying squirrels, and 15 blended words created to celebrate the wonder of fall!” This is the description in the inside jacket, and it sets the stage for the contents that follows. With short, simple, and touching poems that are accessible to younger readers, Hall has created a very attractive autumn book. The colorful collage illustrations will call Ehlert and Carle to mind, and closer exploration shows several continuing mini-stories with the squirrels. The titles of each poem replace the suffix -ful/full with the seasonal -fall, and it makes the words more meaningful… I mean, meaningfall! Enjoy this seasonal sensation – you’ll be thankfall that you did.  THOUGHTS: This would be a fun lesson on playing with words, studying suffixes, or creating short poems. The end of the book also connects back to animals who appear in the book and describes how they survive the coming winter. Plus, there’s a page about those pesky squirrels and their protective oak tree.

Picture Book      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area