Elem. – Kitchen Trios (Series NF)

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Kitchen Trios. Super Sandcastle, 2023. 32 p. $23.00 ea. $144.00 Set of 6. Grades K-3.

Making Breakfasts with Grains, Fruit & Proteins. 978-1-532-19905-9.
Making Pastas with Noodles, Sauce & Cheese. 978-1-532-19906-6.
Making Pizzas with Crust, Sauce & Toppings. 978-1-532-19907-3.
Making Snacks that are Sweet, Salty & Crunchy. 978-1-532-19908-0.
Making Soups with Broth, Proteins & Veggies. 978-1-532-19909-7.
Making Tacos with Tortillas, Fillings & Toppings. 978-1-532-19910-3.

This title is part of the six-book “Kitchen Trio” series that challenges young chefs and their adult helpers to prepare meals using only three primary ingredients – in this reviewer’s case, noodles, sauce, and cheese. Readers are encouraged to view the kitchen as a kind of makerspace where imagination, inspiration, collaboration, and problem-solving lead to endless delicious possibilities. After learning about different kinds of noodles, exploring several kinds of sauces, and differentiating between hard, medium, and soft cheeses, several simple recipes are introduced. From fresh tomato pasta to white bean pasta, kale pesto pasta, and mac and cheese, there are possibilities for every palate. Each recipe is broken down into simple steps and includes a photograph illustration for each description. Additional kitchen prep vocabulary such as colander, cheese grater, and whisk are introduced, and colorful sidebars address kitchen safety tips, such as washing hands often and asking for an adult’s help with the stove, oven, and knives. Text features such as a Table of Contents make the book easy to navigate, and bold vocabulary words relating to ingredients and preparation instructions are defined in the Glossary. Five additional titles are included in this “Kitchen Trios” series: Making Breakfasts with Grains, Fruit, and Proteins; Making Pizzas with Crust, Sauce, and Toppings; Making Snacks that are Sweet, Salty, and Crunchy; Making Soups with Broth, Proteins, and Veggies; and Making Tacos with Tortillas, Fillings, and Toppings. 

THOUGHTS: Thanks to plenty of colorful photographs and easy-to-read chunks of text, this is an attractive title for browsing or using to prepare a meal. A note on the title page shares that the titles in this series were developed by a team of professional educators and reading specialists with phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, text comprehension, and fluency in mind. This title will also support STEM and makerspace units as well as Common Core standards. 

641.5 Cooking

Elem. – The Only Astronaut

Jain, Mahak. The Only Astronaut. Kids Can Press, 2023. 978-1-525-30736-2. $19.99. Grades PreK-2.

Avni loves that she is the only astronaut in her special space station. With it only being her, she gets to make all the decisions – what missions will she travel on, when will she leave, and what will she take with her. At times though it can be hard being the only one in your own space station, such as when your rocket ship breaks down or there are too many tasks to do. Avni makes an important decision: she needs to find an assistant! Will she be able to find an assistant up for the task?

THOUGHTS: A fun imagination story! Two heads can be better than one, leading to new missions to different places!

Picture Book

Elem. – Makerspace Trios (Series NF)

Makerspace Trios. Abdo, 2022. $22.95 ea. $137.70 set of 6. 32 p. Grades K-3. 

Felix, Rebecca. Creating with Cardboard, Crayons & Duct Tape. 978-1-532-19640-9.
Olson, Elsie. Creating with Chenille Stems, Bottles & Tissue Paper. 978-1-532-19641-6.
Olson, Elsie. Creating with Egg Cartons, String & Straws. 978-1-532-19642-3.
Felix, Rebecca. Creating with Felt, Craft Sticks & Clothespins. 978-1-532-19643-0.
Felix, Rebecca. Creating with Newspaper, Buttons & Paper Clips. 978-1-532-19644-7.
Olson, Elsie. Creating with Paper Tubes, Rubber Bands & Yarn. 978-1-532-19645-4.

Each volume in the Makerspace Trios series challenges readers to become a maker by using three common items to complete projects. The title opens with an overview of the concept of a makerspace. Next, each of the three craft items is introduced. Their characteristics and properties are presented, and various prompts are posed in order to get readers thinking about way they could use and transform the items in various projects. Readers are then encouraged to consult adults, gather maker tools, set up a makerspace area, and get to work creating and innovating. While some specific projects are presented (such as weaving plastic straws and string to create mat to use as a coaster, or making a wall hanging out of cut and painted egg cartons), readers are are also prompted to imagine and think about other ways they could use the items to create or solve problems. 

THOUGHTS: This series serves as an excellent gateway into the concept of makerspaces for young readers. Many of the materials used are common items found in most households. Some projects can be completed independently, while others will require adult assistance (cutting, etc.). A worthwhile purchase for elementary libraries looking to expand their makerspace collection. 

745.5 Crafts          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

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