Elem. – Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine

Anderson, Beth. Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine. Kids Can Press, 2022. 978-1-525-30325-8. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

“Imagine. Discover. Create.” Throughout his childhood, these whispers call to Franz Gsellmann. The words run through his mind even as his parents rely on him to do the more practical work of helping out on the family farm. As Franz busies himself milking cows, gathering eggs, and picking apples, the whispers continue calling to him. One night, many years later, he wakes from a dream with an idea for a fantastical, magical, phantasmagorical machine. Unsure about how to make his dream machine a reality, he draws inspiration from the World’s Fair in Belgium. For the next 23 years, he visits flea markets and junkyards, filling bags and carts with odds and ends of all kinds. He hauls everything back to his workshop where he tinkers in secrecy. When he finally reveals his creation to his family and neighbors, he’s crushed when they don’t understand his vision. They want to know what the machine does, but they miss the point that sometimes, a creation doesn’t need a practical purpose. Some things can be appreciated simply for their artistic beauty, ingenuity, and creativity. Backmatter pages include a brief biography of Franz Gsellmann as well as black and white photos of him with his machine. 

THOUGHTS: This title will be a thought-provoking addition to STEAM lessons as it highlights the ideas of perseverance, experimentation, creativity, and optimism. It also draws connections between science and art and shows the value of thinking outside the box. Share this with art teachers too to kickstart units about recycled art or self-taught artists. 

621 Applied Physics          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Picture Book

YA – You Can Go Your Own Way

Smith, Eric. You Can Go Your Own Way. Inkyard Press, 2021. 978-1-335-40568-5. $18.99. 336 p. Grades 9 and up.

Adam Stillwater’s family pinball arcade, Old City Pinball, is in trouble. Since his father passed away, it’s been just Adam and his mom trying to keep the business afloat, and with the popularity of esports rising, people just aren’t interested in playing the old machines anymore. Adam still has a passion for pinball though, and he spends most of his time maintaining the machines at the arcade and continuing to build a custom Philly-themed machine his father began designing and building before he passed away. Whitney Mitchell runs the social media for an esports café – West Philly esports – owned by her father. As her father looks to expand business, there is talk of him buying Old City Pinball – which would be bad enough on its own but is doubly troubling for Adam since he and Whitney were childhood best friends. Adam’s father’s death and Whitney gravitating towards new friends in high school separated them, but when Whitney’s dad started a rival business, the two of them occasionally sparred on social media, effectively freezing what was once a warm and fuzzy relationship. Now it’s their senior year, and an incident with Whitney’s brother at Old City Pinball bring Adam and Whitney together again. Being forced to interact in the weeks that follow help to thaw their icy feelings for each other, and Whitney finds talking to Adam comforting after her boyfriend breaks up with her and she begins to drift from her toxic friends. Their banter on social media and in person is even bordering on flirtatious, which is confusing given how public their dislike of each other has been for the past several years. Adam can fix a pinball machine, and Whitney can nurse just about any plant back to health, but fixing feelings isn’t quite as simple. They can’t escape trying though as a blizzard overtakes Philadelphia leaving Adam and Whitney trapped inside Old City Pinball for a night.

THOUGHTS: Fitting that the pinball arcade is in the “Old City” section of Philly since the theme of this lighthearted romance is very much about old vs. new, letting go and moving on, and focusing on what’s most important. You can put this book in the hands of any of your regular library patrons as it involves several library-adjacent activities like gaming, makerspaces, and coffee bars, even though it doesn’t actually take place in a library. Set in Philadelphia and full of fun Philly references, this book is geographically relevant for our Pennsylvania readers and makes for a fantastic winter break read. A bonus for readers of Eric Smith’s previous YA novel, Don’t Read the Comments: its main characters make a quick cameo appearance. Final thought – author Eric Smith is also a literary agent, and his website contains some super educational tips and information on the publishing field, an area aspiring writers are often left to figure out on their own.

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD

Elem. – 10-Minute Makers (Series NF)

10-Minute Makers. Capstone Press, 2020. $23.99 ea. $239.90 set of 10. 32 p. Grades 3-6. 

Enz, Tammy. 10-Minute Game and Gadget Projects. 978-1-496-68090-7.
—. 10-Minute Upcycled Projects. 978-1-496-68091-4.
Harbo, Christopher. 10-Minute Drawing Projects. 978-1-496-68089-1.
—. 10-Minute Origami Projects. 978-1-496-68088-4.
Schuette, Sarah L. 10-Minute Art Projects. 978-1-543-59094-4.
—. 10-Minute Duct Tape Projects. 978-1-543-59098-2.
—. 10-Minute Engineering Projects. 978-1-543-59093-7.
—. 10-Minute Paper Projects. 978-1-543-59096-8.
—. 10-Minute Science Projects. 978-1-543-59095-1.
—. 10-Minute Yarn Projects. 978-1-543-59097-5.

10-Minute Engineering Projects contains thirteen different engineering projects that students can complete with simple materials from around the house. Many projects, including Parking Garage, Kickball, and Marble A-Maze-ing require simple materials such as cardboard, tape and scissors, while others require materials that might be a little more difficult to find. For example, Magnet Plane requires a craft magnet and a bar magnet to function. Each project is written in simple step-by-step numerical directions and are accompanied by pictures of each step. Also included are photographs of the final project as well as tips for using it. All of the projects range in complexity from three steps to six, but they all have one thing in common: engineering is at the core of every one. Every project shows how engineers incorporate movement, balance, and stability to solve puzzles and make work easier.

THOUGHTS: In recent years, the push for STEM has become greater in school districts around Pennsylvania. This book is perfect for elementary teachers or makerspace facilitators who may need a quick and easy project to use in their classroom. But it is also perfect for young students who have an interest in engineering. Each project is written in kid-friendly language, and full of color photographs demonstrate what the product should look like every step of the way. This book is a great nonfiction addition to any elementary library, especially in schools that are STEM-focused.

620  Engineering          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – Cool Paper Art

Cool Paper Art. Abdo Publishing, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6. Grades 3-6.

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Accordion Folding: Simple Paper Folding. 978-1-532-11943-9.
—. Karakuri: Paper Made to Move. 978-1-532-11944-6.
—. Papermaking: Handmade paper and Paper Products – 978-1-532-11947-7.
Thomas, Rachael L. Kirigami: Paper Cutting and Folding. 978-1-532-11945-3.
—. Origami: Classic Paper Folding. 978-1-532-11946-0.
—. 3-D Origami: Paper Building Blocks. 978-1-532-11948-4.

Karakuri: Paper Made to Move is an introductory book for readers to the Japanese art of making movement with paper. Provided with specific directions and photographs to match, readers are able to take paper and create different types of movement, including slides, levers, cranks, and cams. These simple mechanisms can be used to introduce readers to different movements and higher level ideas of physics with paper.

THOUGHTS: I am excited to provide this book to our district’s STEM teacher, who can teach many of these concepts through paper and art! This series offers a great way to bridge science and fine arts across the curriculum!

736.98 BOR                                        Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Fun STEM Challenges (Series Nonfiction)

Ventura, Marne. Fun STEM Challenges. Pebble, 2020. $20.49 ea. Set of 6 $122.94. 24 p. Grades K-3.

Building Boats that Float.  978-1-977-11297-2.
Building Marble Runs 978-1-977-11300-9.
Building Simple Traps. 
Building Strong Bridges. 978-1-977-11299-6.
Building Sunshades. 978-1-977-11301-6.
Building Tough Towers. 978-1-977-11296-5.

In this book, we learn all about Marble Runs! In text young readers can understand, this book informs us as to what a marble run is, why we can build them, how we make our own, and a review of what we learned! This book also contains a glossary for important key words, both text and Internet sites where we can obtain more information, and even some critical thinking questions. This informative book will have young readers creating their own marble runs out of a variety of materials!

THOUGHTS: This is a must have for any STEM/STEAM teacher who works with young grades! A simple book to allow students to begin thinking about his/her own marble run and how to make it work. (Title Reviewed: Building Marble Runs)

507.8 Inventions          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention

Jones, Pip, and Sara Ogilvie. Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention. Peachtree, 2020. 978-1-682-63164-5. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-3.

Young inventor Izzy Gizmo returns for a second outing (Izzy Gizmo 2018), showcasing her creative mind and determined spirit. Izzy is delighted to receive an invitation to Technoff Isle’s Invention Convention. She arrives at Technoff Isle with grandpa and pet crow, Fixer, in tow, and meets her fierce, determined competition. With only one day to create an amazing invention, Izzy gets to work, but is quickly stymied at every turn by the ultra-aggressive Abi von Lavish. Left with limited supplies, Izzy’s frustration grows as each idea is quickly discarded. However, watching (obviously spoiled) Abi discard broken tools and supplies, Izzy becomes inspired to build a tool-recycling machine and gets to work. As the hours tick down, her temper flares when the invention fails to work, and Izzy snaps at those attempting to help her. Eventually she gets the message, and Fixer’s advice saves the machine and the day. The book is a credible entry in the STEM market, nicely emphasizing the need for trial and error when inventing. Ogilvie’s illustrations are charming, imbuing all the characters with delightful personalities and clearly, amusingly, displaying Izzy’s emotions. While the story is cute, the narration is hindered by unnecessary rhyming; a prose text would better suit the theme and message of the story (like Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing).

THOUGHTS: A fun addition to a STEM collection, introducing several themes, including recycling, creating, and accepting help. This book could generate discussion prior to starting a Maker Space unit.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – What Could That Be?

Dalvand, Reza. What Could That Be? Orchard Books, 2020. 978-1-338-53019-3. 32 p. $18.99. Grades PreK-3.

What Could That Be? follows animals as they find an object in the forest. Each animal thinks they know what this object could be, so they run off to tell the other animals.  By the end of the story, each animal has decided what the object is; however, the author leaves the object’s identity up to the reader by the end of the story. The bright and colorful illustrations are gorgeous, and they add so much interest to the story as you read. The way the ending is written makes this book an amazing read aloud to have a discussion or use with a Makerspace type craft or activity.

THOUGHTS: I adored the illustrations of this book!! I also love the open ending and how it is all up to the reader for interpretation. Highly recommend!

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

Elem. – Women Artists A to Z

LaBarge, Melanie. Women Artists A to Z. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-593-10827-7. 32 p. $19.99. Grades PreK-5.

A coffee-table art book for the youngest readers, Women Artists A to Z provides an overview of twenty-six diverse female artists. Deceptively simple at first, each vignette features illustrations inspired by a woman’s distinct style, a simple portrait, and a brief (two-to-three sentence) explanation of her art. Alphabetic titles are assigned to describe a method, medium, or element of the depicted work, making this book easy to devour in one sitting yet fun to page through multiple times. “B is for Box” headlines Betye Saar’s assemblage celebrations of Black history and culture while “H is for Horse” introduces Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, a Native American artist whose collage often incorporates horses. “W is for Wood” introduces Polish artist Ursula Von Rydingsvard, known for cedar sculpture. Authors notes at the back of the book include birth/death dates, associated city/country, a slightly extended biography, and a question to prompt discussion or creation. In this way, readers have the opportunity to form a basic association with each artist and her style for a diverse collection of international women in modern and classical art. Colorful computer generated illustrations fill the pages and end-pages with examples of the artists and tools highlighted. The simplicity of the text makes art accessible for elementary level students while also leaving the door open for incorporating STEAM connections, research opportunities, maker activities, and writing/drawing prompts. In addition to those mentioned in this review, artists discussed include: Mirka Mora, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama, Kay Sage, Georgia O’Keefe, Agnes Martin, Elizabeth Catlett, Judith Leysterm, Carmen Herrera, Edmonia Lewis, Maya Lin, Hilma Af Klint, Maria Martinez, Gee’s Bend Collective, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Lois Mailou Jones, Alice Neel, Helen Zughaib, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Dorthea Lange, Xenobia Bailey, and Maria Sibylla Meria.

THOUGHTS: Women Artists A to Z is not a stand-alone reference. Despite the A to Z arrangement, it also is not a traditional picture book. Still, I feel it would be a great addition to an elementary library, particularly as part of  interactive display or conversation starter. At first, describing a life’s work in only a few sentences deceptively oversimplifies the artists and left me wanting more information. Yet, I found myself returning to page-through again, jumping from Maya Lin (“N is for Nature) to “K is for Kitchen” (Lenora Carrington) each time soaking in new details. A great way to build curiosity and encourage research skills for students who seek  more in-depth information.

700.8 Women Artists          Jackie Fulton, PSLA Member 

Elem. – Gloria Takes A Stand; Bruce’s Big Storm; Be a Maker; The Golden Acorn; Lottie and Walter; The Pigeon HAS to Go to School; The Amazing Idea of You; Can You See Me; Temple Grandin and Livestock Handling; What are Clouds Made of; Celebrate Memorial Day; Just Right

Rinker, Jessica. Gloria Takes a Stand. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-681-19676-3. 48 p. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

This book explains to young readers how Gloria Steinem became a well-known feminist and human rights activist. The use of action words throughout, (listened, marched, observed, wrote) both in the text and in pull-outs, is an effective way to highlight to the reader that change needs action. Gloria is described from a young age as being someone who questioned society’s definition of what being a woman meant. She thought “decisions are best made by the people affected by them.” Rinker does a great job of using Steinem’s own words to help describe her thoughts. The book includes author and illustrator notes, a timeline of important events in U.S. Women’s History, and a bibliography. The artwork is colorful and interesting, and the open layout with action words that described Steinem in bigger, bolder copy was well done.

THOUGHTS: I enjoyed this book, and I think it is an ideal way to get young readers interested in biographies. It might also inspire a young child to be like Gloria and work for equal rights for everyone.

Biography          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Higgins, Ryan T. Bruce’s Big Storm. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-02622-2. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Endearingly grumpy Bruce the bear prefers to keep a low profile in his neighborhood of Soggy Hollow, but it’s hard to do that when his four geese children and three mice housemates are so darn friendly. When a nasty storm is set to hit the Hollow, Bruce’s house becomes the central spot for friendly neighbors to wait out the storm (much to Bruce’s chagrin). Things grow hairy when a little bunny is stuck outside during the big storm and Nibbs the mouse decides to take Bruce’s favorite umbrella, march outside to the rescue, and is whisked away with the bunny. Cue Bruce, everyone’s favorite neighborhood curmudgeon, who decides he must save his umbrella (and possibly the animals)…but this wind is mighty strong! The neighborhood animals must ban together to save the day in more ways than one. Ryan T. Higgins created a winning character in Bruce, forever shown with furrowed brown and sullen manner, whose inner soft side shows up at precisely the right moments. Make sure to check out the fantastic front and back endpapers for a few funny differences!

THOUGHTS: Combine it with Bruce’s other stories or read it on it’s own; either way, readers will love crotchety Bruce and his growing community of affable animal friends. 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Howes, Katey. Be a Maker. Carolrhoda Books, 2019. 978-1-512-49802-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Maker culture inspires lots of great picture books about children creating, imagining, testing, and experimenting, but Katey Howes’ story Be a Maker pushes beyond these ideas. Our little girl wakes up in a bedroom (wonderfully decorated with posters of female astronaut Mae Jemison and Rosie the Riveter, books on Hedy Lamarr and Helen Keller, and a chalk drawing of Albert Einstein on her easel), and the story questions, “Ask yourself this question in the morning when you wake: in a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?” We see our little girl make towers, become a one-girl band, build a spaceship, make a new friend, create some food art, start a lemonade stand, and help some neighbors building a new playground. As our girl and her new friend stand on playground equipment at day’s end and look around at their diverse neighbors sharing a meal and playing at the new playground in the park, the story questions, “Ask yourself this question as the sun begins to fade: in a day of making choices, are you proud of what you made?” This simple, rhyming story prompts readers to ask themselves a basic but oh-so-important question about the way we’re shaping our life through our decisions. Did we make decisions to be kind? To help others? To share our talents? To create something new and exciting? I plan to buy this book for my 4-year-old daughter and read it with her many times over.

THOUGHTS: This simple, thought-provoking story goes beyond making with our minds and hands and extends to making decisions with our hearts. 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Hudson, Katy. The Golden Acorn. Capstone Editions, 2019. 978-1-684-46036-6. Unpaged. $17.95. Grades PreK-2. 

The Golden Acorn Hunt is just days away, and eight-year champ Squirrel plans to add another trophy to her impressive collection. The problem? This year’s race must be run with a team! Squirrel has a posse of friends ready to join her team, but she has little faith in their abilities, even after a crash course in Squirrel’s Treetop Boot Camp. The start of the race finds Squirrel speedily zooming ahead of her friends, only to double back with an annoyed attitude to help a friend in need. It’s not until Squirrel finds the Golden Acorn on her own and realizes that it’s much too large for one squirrel does she understand why this year’s race is a team event. In the end, Squirrel’s team doesn’t win, but they do finish the race together and Squirrel realizes that her friends are the true prize. Hudson’s story will be perfect for a preschool storytime about friendship, kindness, working together, or a lesson in being a gracious loser in games. Illustrations are chock-full of clever details and funny touches.

THOUGHTS: A simple, heart-warming friendship story paired with beautiful autumn illustrations worthy of pouring over with a little reader. Find a cozy spot outside and enjoy under fall foliage! 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Walker, Anna. Lottie & Walter. Clarion Books, 2019. 978-1-328-47038-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2. 

Lottie’s swim lessons are a disaster. She’s so sure that a Lottie-eating shark is lurking in the pool that she’s too scared to even dip a toe in the water. One day, Walter arrives at the pool while Lottie sits by the water. Walter heads home with Lottie and she soon learns that he’s a delightful singer, enjoys dinners of fish fingers (her favorite!), and plays hide-and-seek with the best of them. Oh, and Walter is a walrus. Swim lessons end with a pool party, and though mom, little brother, and Walter don party hats and watch from the bench, Lottie still can’t pluck up the courage to jump in…until she hears a familiar song from the deep end. Swimming with Walter gives Lottie the courage she needs to overcome her fear. The story ends with a full-page spread of Lottie’s swim class, laughing and playing, with a happy-looking Walter smack in the middle of the group. Walker uses soft, hazy watercolor illustrations that pair nicely with a story set near water. 

THOUGHTS: A gentle springboard for discussing fears and supportive friends. 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Willems, Mo. The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! Hyperion Books for Children, 2019. 978-1-368-04645-9. Unpaged. $16.00. Grades PreK-2. 

Parents, students, teachers, librarians everywhere, take note…the pigeon HAS to go to school. The well-known and highly-loved pigeon paces through the pages, dramatically agonizing over every question in his mind (“What if the teacher doesn’t like pigeons?” “What’s up with those heavy backpacks?” “What will the other birds THINK of me?”). Parents of school-aged children certainly will recognize some common concerns between elementary-aged children and the pigeon, including a tiny admission from the pigeon (“I’m…scared.”). Theatrics continue when the pigeon realizes that school might actually be a great place, and the cherry on top? He gets to take a BUS to school! Fans of the pigeon books will love his newest story, complete with Willems’ signature illustrations, but anyone starting a new year school will appreciate the pigeon’s comedic expression of fears and excitement. Check out the front and back endpapers for an added surprise.

THOUGHTS: A start-of-school winner that will be enjoyed all year long. 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Wild, Charlotte Sullivan. The Amazing Idea of You. Bloomsbury, 2019. Unpaged. 978-1-681-19183-6. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This uplifting metaphorical story is about the hidden potential in each of us. Wild begins the story with an apple and explains that the seed hiding inside will blossom and grow into a tree. She gives other examples of living objects that grow and change, such as a caterpillar to a butterfly and egg to a baby bird. Then readers see an illustration of an expectant mother, accompanied by the author’s words that “someone waited…for the promise of you curled inside…” Wild then asks, “What ideas are hidden inside of you?” The story ends with a child planting an apple seed and after time passes, a beautiful orchard develops in that place. The message here is that it takes time and work for your full potential to be realized. Lundquist’s softly colored illustrations were created with gouache, pencil, and watercolor. She uses a lot of white space for most of the art, and the muted colors lend a contemplative feel to the story.

THOUGHTS: This is a great book for character units and will help build self-esteem. Wild’s book could also be used in career units to allow children to see how goals can be achieved over time and with work. It works well as a read aloud and is a worthwhile addition to any elementary collection.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

Lantz-Simmons, Mikhala, and Mohammad Rasoulipour. Can You See Me? Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019. 978-1-524-85372-3. $17.99. Grades K-3.

A cleverly written book designed to create animals in an abstract way. The authors utilize basic shapes and designs, with a small riddle for children to figure out what animal is hidden in the picture. While some are easily identified, other creatures are slightly more difficult to identify. Try your best to solve the riddle, both with and without text, to see if you know what is hidden in the picture!

THOUGHTS: A clever book with riddles that children could solve to help identify different animals. Provides a first look at discovering realistic items in an abstract way.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Temple Grandin and Livestock Handling. Cherry Lake Publishing, 2019. 978-1-534-13234-4. $18.95. Grades 2-5.

This information text provides readers with a brief synopsis of the life of Temple Grandin and the work that she provides with livestock, as well as living with autism. After a brief introduction to who she is, readers learn that Temple Grandin grew up differently that most children. After learning that she was not dumb, Temple Grandin discovered working with animals and connecting with them. Temple Grandin helped discover and evolve humane ways to work with animals, providing a calming atmosphere for animals as they are raised for specific jobs.

THOUGHTS: A great introductory book for learning about Temple Grandin, the work she did, and living and working with autism. This could be a book used as an introduction to several different topics.

636 Agriculture & Animal Husbandry          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Vilardi, Debbie. What Are Clouds Made Of? Abdo Pop! 2019. 978-1-532-16214-5. $18.95. Grades K-3.

This young informational text takes readers through what clouds are actually made of. Each page, accompanied by Cody Koala, provides insight to readers on the water cycle, worded in a way for young readers. Additional QR Code images and scattered throughout the text to provide more information through technology, adding to the readers interest in what clouds are actually made of. This book is part of ABDO’s Cody Koala Science Questions series which includes 8 titles.

THOUGHTS: This simple text is detailed, but provided in a way for it to be simple for young readers to understand and follow. The images provided and nicely captured pictures of real clouds in different formats, providing an enriching experience for young readers.

551 Meteorology          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Ferguson, Melissa. Celebrate Memorial Day. Pebble, 2019. 978-1-977-10266-9. $19.49. Grades K-3.

An easy to read and understand book about Memorial Day, this book provides early readers with information on a holiday that they may not really understand. Additional fact pieces are provided to give students either extra information on a topic or to go into more depth on an item was discussed. This book includes photographs and illustrations of important events, providing connections to history and personal life.

THOUGHTS: A great first read for Memorial Day, this book is helpful as it can provide readers with information on something that they may not completely understand. It is done so in an age appropriate way for young readers.

394.262 Holidays          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD



Manley, Curtis. Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet. Roaring Brook Press, 2019. 978-1-250-15533-7. Unpaged. Grades 2-5. $18.99.

According to NASA.gov, an exoplanet is defined as “any planet beyond our solar system.” In this book, Manley explores the history and methodology of the discovery of exoplanets. The author explains that the idea of the existence of other planets is not new, but was espoused by philosophers and astronomers over the centuries. Since the discovery of an exoplanets in 2011, the focus now is whether these planets are inhabited like Earth. In order to be like Earth, a planet must reside in a “habitable zone” in its solar system, where conditions like temperature must be just right so that all the water does not freeze or evaporate. There is an interesting discussion of other important factors, like magnetic fields, planet size and atmosphere. The author then reviews the tools and methods that astronomers use to find exoplanets. Manley explains all technical terms and theories in language that is easy to understand. Jessica Lanan’s drawings play an important role with helping the young reader grasp the concepts, aided by the use of captions and labels. The illustrations not only show the planets and tools, but Lanan cleverly uses the illustrations to visually tell an overlying story of an African American girl who visits the planetarium with her family and shows her interacting with the concepts being discussed. For instance, on the page discussing planets that are “too hot” for life, the girl is seen reacting to the heat. At the end, there is a picture of her looking out of the window to the sky and then she receives a telescope from her parents. The back matter contains further information on detecting exoplanets and suggested resources. The endpapers have a timeline called “Discovering Our Place in the Universe.”

THOUGHTS: This is a must have for all elementary collections. Librarians will want to update their astronomy collections to include this valuable work on a relatively recent discovery. This narrative text makes for a great read aloud to complement units on the solar system. Children will enjoy reading this book on their own and perhaps like the girl in this book will find themselves dreaming of the possibilities beyond our solar system.

520 Astronomy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
523.24 Solar System
576.839 Biology, Life

Elementary NF – Money Math; Project Passion; Dropping In On; Abandoned Places; Dragonflies

Adler, David A. and Edward Miller, Ill. Money Math: Addition and Subtraction. Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-2698-9. 32 p. $17.95. Gr. 1-3

A great book to fill in that 513 Dewey section in your library that might be languishing. Cartoon kids want to buy things but need to understand how money works first. In jump the Presidents who are on the different coins and bills and talk about how to add, then subtract money. Decimal points and coins are discussed, and the math in the book gets progressively harder the further you go.  THOUGHTS: I thought it was interested that they had half dollar coins in the book, but they didn’t discuss the $1 Sacagawea coin.  Overall it’s a good addition (pun intended) to the library, but not a must read.

Math; Money       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Bolte, Mari. Project Passion (series). Capstone, 2018. 32 p. $20.99 ea. Gr. 4-6.

Bit by Bit:  Projects for Your Odds and Ends.  978-1-5157-7375-7.

Bought in Bulk:  Projects for Surplus Supplies.  978-1-5157-7376-4.

Create and Keep:  Projects to Hang On To.  978-1-5157-7373-3.

Share the Love:  Projects You’ll Love to Give.  978-1-5157-7374-0.  

Bit by Bit:  Projects for Your Odds and Ends and Bought in Bulk: Projects for Surplus Supplies are similar titles that include simple craft projects that can be made using common household objects and leftover craft supplies.  The books include photographic illustrations for nearly every project, including variations on each project, and clear, easy-to-follow directions.  Most of the projects can be completed entirely by children, although a few do require adult supervision or assistance.  THOUGHTS:  These books are useful additions to a makerspace which often include many of the supplies needed. Recommended for upper elementary and middle schools needing to update their craft book collections.

Handicraft 745.5                Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Dropping In On… Rourke Educational Media, 2017. 32 p. $23.00 each, $268.00 for set of 12. Gr. 3-6.

Barger, Jeff. Dropping In On…Atlanta. 978-1-68191-404-6.

Canasi, Brittany. Dropping In On…Boston. 978-1-68191-408-4.

Staton, Hilarie. Dropping In On…Chicago. 978-1-68191-406-0.

Greenspan, Judy. Dropping In On…Dallas. 978-1-68191-407-7.

Staton, Hilarie. Dropping In On…Denver. 978-1-68342-173-3.

Canasi, Brittany. Dropping In On…New Orleans. 978-1-68342-174-0.

Staton, Hilarie. Dropping In On…New York City. 978-1-68191-403-9.

Waxler, Melanie. Dropping In On…Orlando. 978-1-68191-402-2.

Nelson, Deb Tuttle. Dropping In On…Philadelphia. 78-1-68191-409-1.

Canasi, Brittany. Dropping In On…San Francisco. 978-1-68342-172-6.

Greenspan, Judy. Dropping In On…St. Louis. 978-1-68342-175-7.

Barger, Jeff. Dropping In On…Washington D.C. 978-1-68191-405-3.

Calling all travelers! The Dropping In On… series is ready to prepare students for their next big family vacation or city trip. Each title provides a basic historical overview of the title city, including facts on how that city was developed or discovered and information about major historical events impacting the city. For example, Dropping In On…St. Louis reviews the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark’s explorations, while Dropping In On…New Orleans details New Orleans history both before and after the Civil War and the changes in laws and life felt by African Americans like schoolgirl Ruby Bridges. Series titles also focus on each city’s landscape, parks, monuments, major sports teams, cultural history and attractions, and spots that every tourist must visit. Each book is packed full of beautifully colored photographs, often displayed in overlapping style like a traveler’s scrapbook of photographs. Illustrated children hop into some photographs to point out interesting tidbits, similar to tour guides. Each book features a table of contents, city facts section, glossary, index, and before and after reading activities for educators. THOUGHTS: Not an essential purchase but an interesting, fact-filled introduction to several major US cities.

900s     Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Abandoned Places (series). Bellwether Media, 2018. $19.95 ea. Set of 6 $119.70.  24p. Gr. 2 – 5.

Leaf, Christina. Machu Picchu: The Lost Civilization. 9781626176966.

Owings, Lisa. Craco: The Medieval Ghost Town. 9781626176959.

Owings, Lisa. Battleship Island: The Deserted Island. 9781626176935.

Owings, Lisa. Pripyat: The Chernobyl Ghost Town. 9781626176973.

Schuetz, Kari. Bodie: The Gold-Mining Ghost Town. 9781626176942.

Schuetz, Kari. Roanoke: The Lost Colony. 9781626176980.

This informative series checks all the boxes of a good non-fiction book: Table of Contents, Glossary, To Learn More, and Index. Some of the best features in this series are the maps showing where the site is located, and the timelines that are in each book. The full-color modern pictures with interspersed historical ones provide a good viewpoint for young learners. THOUGHTS: The reinforced library binding makes this series worth its cost. I liked all the features, and it’s a series that won’t be quickly outdated, so will have a long shelf life.

Nonfiction; Historical Places       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Perish, Patrick. Dragonflies. Bellwether Media, 2018. 9781626176621. $19.50. 24 p. Gr. K-3.

In this attractive early reader, Perish presents basic information about the dragonfly. Despite its length, the book is set up like a traditional nonfiction book with a table of contents, pictorial glossary, index, and bibliography.  The author gives the insect’s physical description, habitat, diet and life cycle in a succinct manner, as is typical of books in the Blastoff Readers series.  The stunning photographs complement the text and the reader sees full-page images of the insect on each two-page spread. One can see why this particular series is called Insects Up Close after examining the pictures, like the one which shows the size of the dragonfly’s eyes.  There are also some inset images, which are used to further explain such terms like nymph and molting.  Other interesting photographs include a dragonfly swimming underwater and one eating a mosquito.  Children will enjoy poring over the photos. This series includes a web resource called Factsurfer.  Readers are told to enter the term into the search box and get a list of websites.  One link from the San Diego Zoo did not have the referenced article and one site contained ads.  There are other books in the “Insects Up Close” series, which follow the same format.  Also examined were Cicadas, Grasshoppers, and Ladybugs.  THOUGHTS: This series is a great addition to any library collection serving children, despite the problem with the web resources. These texts would be useful in science units on insects and children will enjoy reading them for personal interest.  They are a good choice for emerging readers.

595.7  Science; Bugs            Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD