MG – The Summer of June

Sumner, Jamie. The Summer of June.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-53448-602-7. 188 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

June Delancey decides that this summer is going to be a season of change. Her goals include conquering her extreme anxiety and becoming a fierce, independent female along with her single mother.  Now that they are free from her mother’s boyfriend (to June’s relief), the two of them can tackle summer together. June’s anxiety can be overwhelming at times; to cope, she pulls whole chunks of hair from her scalp, leaving bloody, scabby patches. Her first order of business for the summer is shaving her head, and her mother follows suit in support of her daughter. At the public library, where her mother works as a librarian, June finds comfort. She meets a boy named Homer Juarez who also likes to hang out at the library. But June knows that it is only a matter of time before Homer realizes her anxiety makes her unworthy of a friendship and so she keeps her distance. June also finds comfort in starting a community garden on library property. When an event causes her anxiety to completely spin out of control and the cranky head librarian threatens to destroy her beautiful garden, June has to face her anxiety head-on before everything falls apart.

THOUGHTS: This moving story about family, friendship, and mental health is perfect for any middle grade student who worries. A sweet note from the author in the back encourages anxious students to embrace themselves as they are and know that they deserve to be seen. Sumner’s book would be a solid purchase for upper elementary and middle grade libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

MG – The Ogress and the Orphans

Barnhill, Kelly. The Ogress and the Orphans. Algonquin Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-64375-074-3. $19.99. 392 pages. Grades 4-8.

Once there was an Ogress. In her long life she had many adventures, and lived in many places, always searching for a community in which to belong. The Ogress hears of a town called Stone-in-the-Glen that used to be quite lovely and that has fallen on hard times. The Ogress has experienced grief and disconnection and believes she can help the people of the town. She creates a home for herself on the outskirts of Stone-in-the-Glen, and anonymously sets out to perform random acts of kindness for the people of the town. Stone-in-the Glen was once regarded as a friendly and kind place where people took good care of each other. The citizens adored their dragon-slaying Mayor who was charming and protective. When the town library burns to the ground, the town itself begins to unravel. More community institutions are destroyed, crops fail, and slowly the people of Stone-in-the-Glen stop taking care of their neighbors. In fact, hard times make the citizens distrustful of each other. An orphanage on the edge of Stone-in-the-Glen houses 15 orphans, cared for by an elderly couple. The 15 young children are plucky and smart, and love each other dearly. They enjoy helping and learning, but most of all they care for each other and consider each other family. When one of the children goes missing, the Mayor gleefully prods the citizens of Stone-in-the-Glen to turn on the Ogress. It is up to the orphans to save each other, their home, the Ogress, and ultimately their community.

THOUGHTS: A stunning allegory with many themes to explore. What is a neighbor? What makes a community a community? How do we live with people and ideas that are different from our own experiences and beliefs? Kindness ultimately wins the day. Strong themes of the power of libraries and reading throughout this beautiful and well-told story.

Fantasy          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem./MG – That’s Betty! The Story of Betty White

Bonsignore, Gregory. That’s Betty! The Story of Betty White. Henry Holt and Company, 2022. 978-1-250-79660-8. $18.99. 48 p. Grades PreK-3.

When Miss Cruz assigns a presentation on a “trailblazing woman” one student decides he will pick Betty White as his topic. Though his classmates do not know who Betty White is, and his teacher and two dads each try to persuade him to pick a more traditional topic, the unnamed male student sticks to his idea. He adores Betty White and wants to learn more about her life. When our young researcher enlists the assistance of a librarian, he begins to find plenty of material on his unconventional topic choice. As he pours through resources at the library, a smartly dressed woman in a large hat and sunglasses appears from behind the stacks. She knows an awful lot about Betty White and engages the student in discussions about the many trailblazing accomplishments of the pioneering television star. When the student fears his topic may be too different from his peers’ presentations, the woman in the hat encourages him to follow Betty’s example of making unconventional choices and believing in himself. The presentation is a huge success, and the lady from the library even makes a surprise appearance to cheer on the student. It isn’t until she drives away from the school that the teacher, class, and student realize the mystery woman was Betty White herself. Includes timeline and bibliography.

THOUGHTS: Very cute story that does a nice job of highlighting the many accomplishments of Betty White, while subtly championing the causes she held dear – inclusion, diversity, charitable work, and being an LGBTQIA+ ally. Wonderfully detailed illustrations by Jennifer M. Potter. Listed as K-3 this would be a wonderful read aloud for students through 8th grade.

Picture Book Biography          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – This Book is Not for You!

Hale, Shannon. This Book is Not for You! Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-984-81685-6. $18.99. 40 p. Grades PreK-3.

Stanley is excited to visit the bookmobile to find a new book. He is disappointed to find that Ms. Christine, the “bookmobile lady,” is on vacation, leaving a substitute librarian (described as a very old man) in charge. Stanley picks a mystery, but when he goes to check the book out, the librarian questions his book choice, claiming Stanley probably doesn’t want to read a book about a girl. Stanley becomes embarrassed and decides to pick a different selection. When his good friend Valeria approaches the bookmobile, she is encouraged to pick a book about a girl. Stanley likes cats, so he attempts to check out a book about cats. The sub librarian refuses to check a book about cats out to a boy, claiming only cats can read books about cats. Luckily a cat is next in line and agrees to take the cat book. Stanley’s request for a book about robots is also discouraged because he is not a robot. Coincidentally a robot happily takes the robot book. Frustrated, Stanley considers leaving without a book and never returning to the bookmobile again, but he notices the cat, robot, and Valeria are all happily reading under a nearby tree. Stanley glumly agrees to check out a book the sub librarian says is perfect for Stanley. Stanley tries to read but finds the story is not holding his interest. Valeria is equally bored with the book she checked out. The two decide to swap books. Stanley becomes immersed in the book Valeria struggled with. He is so mesmerized by the story that he doesn’t notice that the cat and robot have also exchanged books, and Valeria is laughing out loud at her new reading selection. When a confident dinosaur politely but firmly requests a book about ponies, the substitute librarian instantly fulfills the request without question. Bolstered by the dinosaur’s example, Stanley returns to the bookmobile, picks a new selection, and announces his intentions to check out a book he is interested in reading. The substitute librarian looks out at his array of patrons reading about many different subjects and agrees that Stanley should pick a book that fits his own interests. Stanley, Valeria, the cat, robot, and dinosaur all curl up on the grass to read happily. The substitute librarian even joins them. This book is illustrated by Tracy Subisak.

THOUGHTS: A fabulous selection for discussing independent reading selection, this book would make a perfect beginning of the school year read aloud during library class. Even young readers will understand the absurdity of the substitute librarian’s insistence that patrons only read books that mirror their own experience. A delightful and whimsical take on a much larger discussion about book choice, this title also is a good reminder for adults about the potential dangers of book shaming.

Picture Book          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – The Library Fish

Capucilli, Alyssa Satin. The Library Fish. Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-534-47705-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

The Library Fish by Alyssa Satin Capucilli is about Mr. Hughes, a public librarian who finds a fishbowl outside of his library one day. Mr. Hughes welcomes the fish into the library and puts her in the children’s section. The fish watches as every day Mr. Hughes reads stories, does book checkouts with children and the fish even gets to go on the Bookmobile! One day, there is a snow storm, and the library is closed. The fish takes this opportunity to go exploring in the library to see more of the books that Mr. Hughes reads out loud that she misses. When the night is over, and Library fish has read all of these wonderful books, she climbs back into her bowl and goes to sleep. In the morning when Mr. Hughes gets back, he notices that the fish may have yawned, and the last illustration shows Mr. Hughes looking at the books that are on the floor with a puzzled expression. The illustrations in this book are wonderful, and the reader will want to go back over this book merely to look at the illustrations again.

THOUGHTS: I adored this story!! There is so much diversity found within the book’s illustrations, and I really appreciated that the illustrator made that choice. The story is sweet and charming and would make a wonderful first week of school read aloud with Kindergarten students, or even a great story to share with older students and have them come up with unique pets that can be found in the library. Overall, this is a wonderful addition to any elementary school library collection. 

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Love in the Library

Tokuda-Hall, Maggie. Love in the Library. Candlewick Press, 2022. Unpaged. 978-1-5362-0430-8. Grades 2-4.  $18.99.

In 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which “relocated” Japanese-American citizens to internment camps. Inspired by a true family story, Tokuda-Hall has written a fictionalized account of her grandparents’ experience in such a camp. Tama was in college when she was abruptly placed in Minidoka Camp in Idaho. The conditions were harsh, with very cold winters and very hot summers, and an entire family was forced to live in one room. Tama’s only solace was working in the library. She loved the way books magically took her to other worlds. A camp resident named George became a daily library visitor, checking out several books and returning them the next day. One day, Tama is overwhelmed by the injustice and begins to cry. George comforts her, and Tama realizes why George comes to the library so frequently. The couple marries and has their first child in the camp, demonstrating the power of love and resilience in overcoming prejudice and hate.  The author’s note includes more of Tama and George Tokuda’s story along with a photo. Imamura’s gouache and watercolor drawings help readers understand more about this unjust time in American history. 

THOUGHTS: This text can be used as an introduction to World War II units about the home front.  Like Say’s Music for Alice or Mochizuki’s Baseball Saved Us, Love in the Library promotes discussion about prejudice, racism, and stereotyping. Highly recommended for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Historical Fiction

Elem. – Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories

Pimentel, Annette Bay. Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories. Abrams, 2021. 978-1-419-74941-4. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2. 

Born in Puerto Rico, Pura Belpré grew up listening to her aubeula’s stories. When, as an adult, Puera left the island to move to New York City, she carried the stories of her aubeula and her homeland with her. In New York, Puera found a job at the 135th Street Library working with children. Belpré loved leading storytimes at the library, but rules said she could only tell stories from printed books. This meant the wonderful stories of her youth told to her by her abuela could not be shared because they were not written down. When she makes her case to her bosses, they agree that she can share her stories. Soon Puera is conducting outreach to the surrounding community, inviting all children to the library where she regularly leads bilingual storytimes, telling cuentos, some from print books, others not. Eventually Belpré wrote her stories down in book form and they were published, reaching an even wider population. Pimentel’s lyrical retelling of Puera Belpré’s story will introduce this important figure in librarianship to new audiences. The text is primarily in English, but Spanish words and phrases are incorporated at various points throughout the story. Magaly Morales’ vibrant digital illustrations capture Belpre’s energy when storytelling and interacting with children. 

THOUGHTS: This engaging biography shines a spotlight on an important figure in librarianship. Belpre was a trailblazer who strove to make public libraries more inclusive and welcoming to all. This title would pair well with Belpre’s story Pérez y Martina, which is referenced several times in Puera’s Cuentos.

921 Biography          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – The Leather Apron Club: Benjamin Franklin, His Son Billy and America’s First Circulating Library

Yolen, Jane. The Leather Apron Club: Benjamin Franklin, His Son Billy and America’s First Circulating Library. Charlesbridge, 2021. Unpaged.  978-1-580-89719-8. $17.99. Grades 2-4.

This latest offering by Jane Yolen is a picture book biography of Ben Franklin’s oldest child, William. Told in first person by Billy, the story explores his days as an eight year old apprentice, helping his father in their print shop. Although he enjoys the work, Billy would rather be outside playing with his cousin James. Ben has enough of his son’s wild ways and hires a tutor to provide instruction to both boys. At first, they find their schooling boring, until the day the teacher begins reading Homer’s The Odyssey.  Unlike James, William is captivated by the tale and wants to hear more. Soon he begins reading the epic on his own. His father tells his son that there are many other wonderful books like this at the Leather Apron Club. The pair visit the circulating library, the first of its kind, and Billy is amazed at the number of books and their brightly colored covers. Soon he meets other members of the club and participates in discussions with them about politics, history, finance, among other topics. The young Master Franklin observes that “…Books…opened up Worlds once closed to me…” and he vows to “Do More.” to do good in the world. The text is written according to the capitalization rules of the 18th century, meaning that even most common names begin with a capital.  Sprinkled throughout the story are fitting quotations from Poor Richard’s Almanac. Wendell Minor’s watercolor illustrations are done on a large scale and bring the story to life. The back matter contains an author’s note with more information about William’s adult life, the Leather Apron Club, and Franklin’s almanac. Yolen states that she got the idea for this book after hearing a speaker discuss the Leather Apron Club and its lending library at the White House. 

THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy listening to this story of a famous American’s son, although they may be surprised to learn which side he supported during the American Revolution. It works in social studies units as an introduction to Colonial America and will be appreciated by history buffs. Yolen’s picture book is a tribute to the power of libraries and books and is a worthwhile purchase for all elementary collections.

Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
973.30922  Personal Narratives–American Revolution

Elem. – Lila Lou’s Little Library

Bergstresser, Nikki. Lila Lou’s Little Library. Cardinal Rule Press, 2021. 978-1-735-34511-6. 25 p. $16.95. Grades K – 2.

Lila Lou loves to read! Her house is overflowing with books, which causes her mother to lose her in the house due to all of Lila Lou’s books. Lila Lou has an idea, to use a stump outside of her house to create a Little Free Library. This allows Lila Lou to share her books with others, as well as for her to get some new ones. At the beginning of the book, there are tips to help the reader for before, during, and after reading. At the end of the book, there are hints on how to make a family library. There is also a glossary for the Spanish words that are found throughout the book.

THOUGHTS: This is an adorable book to read aloud with students!

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Dear Librarian

Sigwarth, Lydia M. Dear Librarian. Farrar Straus Giroux. 978-0-374-31390-6. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

When Lydia and her large family move from Colorado to Iowa, she misses many things. Most of all, she misses having a home. In Iowa, she doesn’t have a home: just houses. Her family spends some days living at an aunt’s house, some days living at a cousin’s house, and some days living at her grandmother’s house. She doesn’t feel at home anywhere, until her mother takes her to the library. The library has sunny windows, rows of books, baskets of toys, and best of all, a kind librarian. The librarian takes time to listen closely, locate perfect books, read stories, and give warm hugs. In the library, Lydia finally finds her own special home. Even when her family eventually moves into their own house, Lydia continues returning to the library to see her special friend. Her many visits even inspired her current career as a children’s librarian. An introduction by Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life, details how Lydia Sigwarth’s story originally premiered on his radio show. Listeners liked it so much that Lydia decided to write her own version of the story, which is this autobiographical picture book.

THOUGHTS: The book’s final pages include an author’s note explaining that this story is based on what really happened to the author while she and her family were homeless for six months when she was a little girl. The note also details how in 2018, the author reconnected with her childhood librarian with the help of the radio show This American Life “664 The Room of Requirement Act Three: Growing Shelf-Awareness.” This gentle story describes one little girl’s experience with homelessness while also celebrating the power libraries have to create safe, welcoming spaces for all people. This title will serve as a memorable discussion-starter during elementary morning meetings.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD