YA – Of Curses and Kisses

Menon, Sandya. Of Curses and Kisses. Simon Pulse, 2020. 978-1-534-41754-0. 361 p. $18.99. Grades 6-12. 

Princess Jaya Rao, heiress to India’s last royal family, has always put duty first. Young Indian women should conform, they should not cause a scene or do anything like fraternizing with boys or using foul language that would hurt the family’s image. When her younger sister Isha is pictured in tabloids drinking and kissing a mechanic, the family’s name is in jeopardy. Jaya and Isha leave for Aspen to an elite boarding school called St. Rosetta’s to try and let the whole thing blow over. The thing is, St. Rosetta’s is currently the school of Grey Emerson, or Lord Northcliff, of the family with which the Raos have been feuding for generations. Jaya knows that Grey leaked the photos to ruin their family, and now she knows just the way to get back at him: make him fall in love and break his heart.

THOUGHTS: An artful Beauty and the Beast retelling done only the way Sandhya Menon can. Get a glimpse into the life of the aristocracy, traditions and all, and learn how to let yourself be happy.

Fantasy (Realistic, Fairytale)          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

MG – A Thousand Questions

Faruqi, Saadia. A Thousand Questions. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2020. 978-0-062-94320-0. 225 p. $16.99. Grades 6-8. 

In this East meets West friendship story, A Thousand Questions shows the disparity in lifestyles between the United States and Pakistan told alternately by the two main characters. Eleven-year-old Mimi Scotts and her mother travel from Houston, Texas, for summer vacation to visit her wealthy grandparents, Begum Sahib and Sahiba Ji, in Karachi for the first time. She is awed by the wealth and luxury of her grandparents’ home compared with her tiny apartment and stretched budget back in the United States. While Mimi’s mother reconnects with her school chums, Mimi forms a friendship with the servant girl, Sakina Ejaz. Too poor to go to school, Sakina assists her diabetic father cooking in the Ji’s kitchen. The two girls become fast friends. With the backdrop of the campaign season for new elections, Sakina shows Mimi the sites of Karachi, and Mimi agrees to tutor to Sakina for her English examination so that she can win a school scholarship. Mimi’s narration includes secret letters she writes to Tom Scotts, the father she has never met. When Mimi discovers her freelance journalist father is living in Karachi, she is determined to meet him and Sakina is a willing accomplice. Author Saadia Faruqi captures the richness of the Asian city from the delicious dishes and its atmosphere to the inequity of the caste system as well as the authenticity of the fully-drawn main characters: Sakina, mature beyond her years, cognizant of her integral role in providing for the welfare of her family; Mimi, an ordinary American girl of modest means, getting to know her grandparents and also her own mother in her childhood home and longing to connect with father.

THOUGHTS: This book reminds the reader of When Heaven Fell  by Carolyn Marsden, a story that compares the life of  a struggling Vietnamese family with the life of an adult Vietnamese-American adoptee who visits her Vietnamese birth mother. There’s a part where Sakini asks Mimi if there are poor people in America and Mimi answers, “No,” at first until she remembers a homeless man and the kids at school who qualify for free lunch. Discussion of social justice issues, equity in education, and divorce can ensue.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

When Mimi and her mother arrive in Karachi, Pakistan for the summer, Mimi immediately misses air conditioning, soccer, and chicken nuggets, all staples of her American upbringing. Mimi is surprised to find that her grandparents live in luxury, employing servants and wearing fancy clothes, while Mimi and her mother can barely afford rent in their tiny Houston apartment. Mimi realizes there is so much she doesn’t know about her mother, her grandparents, and her father who left years ago without explanation. After learning that her father’s job brought him to Karachi, Mimi befriends a servant girl who agrees to help Mimi find him in exchange for English lessons. Sakina, a servant of Mimi’s grandparents, dreams of going to school like Mimi, but her servant status prohibits her from making her dreams a reality. After all, when would she find the time to go to school when she must keep her job to take care of her own family and ailing father? Going to school seems even more impossible when she takes a secret exam and fails the English portion, but when Sakina and Mimi strike up their deal, Sakina starts to hope for her future and a better life for her family. As their friendship blossoms, the inequities of the Pakistani class system are revealed, and the friends determine to make good in both of their worlds despite the challenges.

THOUGHTS: Instead of multiple perspectives from different time periods, this story highlights two contemporary perspectives in a country many readers will be unfamiliar with. Shining light on the class system that still exists today in Pakistan, readers may feel compelled to learn more about the living inequalities and hardships people face who live outside of the United States. This is a good #ownvoices addition to any library seeking to diversity their collection.

Realistic     Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

YA – The Similars; I Love You So Mochi; The Rest of the Story; Girl Gone Viral; The First True Thing; Heroine; Internment; Salt in My Soul; You Asked for Perfect

Hanover, Rebecca. The Similars. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-4926-6510-6. $17.99. 381 p. Gr. 8 and up.

The Similars takes place in a dystopic future, but most of the story setting is familiar enough. There’s a private boarding school in Vermont, teen romance and drama, and testing into a select group of students that ensures acceptance into any Ivy League school. However, Darkwood Academy just enrolled six clones (called The Similars), and the people they were illegally cloned from 16-years ago are all upperclassmen at the school. Students and their wealthy parents’ reactions to these newcomers is mostly opposite Darkwood’s legacy of acceptance and diversity, but soon a club is formed, and demonstrations are held to boycott the Similars’ presence at the school. Emmaline Chance, the protagonist, is in her junior year and, although she welcomes The Similars and believes they have a right to be at Darkwood, she is having a difficult year after the suicide of her best friend, and fellow student, Oliver. It doesn’t help that one of the Similars, Levi, was cloned from Oliver. Not only does she see him all around campus, but they are both inducted into the elite group of students called The Ten where she’s forced to interact with him. When someone tries to kill Emma’s friend, Pru, and Levi becomes a suspect, Emma tries to figure out who was behind the attack. The story includes a lot of sneaking out of dorms past curfew to uncover illegal experiments and breaking into a top-secret island laboratory owned by a madman. The story ends with the set-up for a sequel which will aggravate some readers.

THOUGHTS: This debut novel is a fun read, despite some formulaic characters and over-the-top espionage work done by teens. The interesting twist and the use of teens clones should make it a book that 8th grade and up will enjoy reading. The acceptance/rejection of the Similars mirrors some of what’s currently being said about immigrants.

Dystopian/Mystery          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Kuhn, Sarah. I Love You So Mochi. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-1-338-30288-2. $17.99. 308 p. Gr. 8 and up.

Kimi’s future seems bright and sure. While many high school seniors experience anxiety over future plans, Kimi has been accepted into a prestigious art academy, and her path appears clear. In reality, she hasn’t been able to paint in months and has dropped her Fine Arts class, all unbeknownst to her mother, also an artist; she has instead been “goofing off” designing and making her own clothing. In fact, she’s not even sure she wants to attend the Liu Academy anymore. When Kimi’s secrets are revealed and she feels the wrath of her mother’s silent disappointment – the worst equation in “Asian Mom Math” according to Kimi’s friends – she decides to forgo spring break plans at home in southern California and instead spend two weeks in Japan visiting the grandparents she’s never met (and who have not spoken to Kimi’s mother in 20 years) on a journey of self discovery. Though most readers will know the answer to Kimi’s problem within the first few pages (even though she doesn’t), the journey she takes to get there makes this book worth reading. In a story slightly reminiscent of Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, Kimi’s self discovery relies heavily upon learning her family history, particularly the complicated relationships between the women. Of course, a budding romantic relationship with Akira, a cute boy Kimi first meets as he is dancing in a giant mochi costume in front of his uncle’s mochi shop, also drives this plot. “What. Is this extremely handsome piece of mochi trying to flirt with me?” Kimi asks herself in Kuhn’s authentic teenage voice. Young women readers will empathize with Kimi, as she discovers the answer to this and many other questions.

THOUGHTS: Though the plot is predictable, Kuhn’s imagery and integration of Japanese culture give this story more substance than the typical YA contemporary. Readers may find themselves wanting to use “the Google” – as Kimi’s grandfather calls it – to look up Japanese words, food, landmarks, and clothing.

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD


Dessen, Sarah. The Rest of the Story. Balzer + Bray, 2019. 987-0-062-93362-1. $19.99. 440 p. Gr. 9 and up. 

Emma Saylor lost her mother when she was just 10 years old. Due to addiction Waverly was in and out of Emma’s life long before she died. Though she doesn’t remember a lot about her mom, Emma recalls the bedtime stores about life in North Lake, Waverly’s hometown. Since her mother’s death, Emma has lived a privileged life, growing up in Nana Payne’s fancy apartment with her dad who works as a dentist. Just remarried, her dad and new wife Tracy (also a dentist) are planning to honeymoon sailing around Greece. Nana is scheduled for a cruise while her apartment is renovated. Emma is an organized planner – to a fault. Due to a sudden illness in her best friend’s family, Emma’s carefully arranged summer has to change. Emma goes to stay with Mimi Calvander and her mother’s family in North Lake – family she doesn’t remember, family who calls her Saylor, and family who she hasn’t seen since she was four. Emma quickly notices the two different lakeside communities – North Lake where her mother grew up and Lake North where her father vacationed in the summer. Though only 3 miles apart, these two communities couldn’t be more different. Always known as Saylor to her mother’s family, Emma begins to see the world through a new lens. Once she breaks through the icy welcome of some of her cousins (who think she’s just there for a vacation, not to work like them), Saylor learns what it means to be a Calvander. As her time too quickly passes, Saylor tries to learn as much about her mother as she can. When her dad returns from his honeymoon, Emma Saylor has changed, and she has to decide who she wants to be. One thing is certain: She’s not the same Emma Saylor she was when she arrived in North Lake.

THOUGHTS: No one does teen romances like Dessen. This sweet story will captivate readers, transporting them to summers on North Lake as Emma learns more about her family and herself. This one will fly off the shelves. Underage drinking (to excess) and Emma’s mother’s drug use are included. Highly recommended for high school collections, especially those where romance is popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ahmadi, Arvin. Girl Gone Viral. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-425-28990-7. 384 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up. 

17 year old Opal Tal – now known as Opal Hopper – is a coding genius who is determined to learn what happened to her father, a tech guru who disappeared seven years ago. Howie Mendelsohn, her father’s business partner at the time, may know more than he admits, but he hasn’t ever responded to Opal’s emails. Now a senior at a prestigious boarding school for tech whizzes, Opal and her friends Moyo and Shane are coding their way into a WAVE competition. WAVE is a virtual reality world with incredible detail and lifelike features. Stumbling upon information that causes their channel to go viral brings its fair share of challenges, including Opal’s initial desire to be out of the limelight. As she quickly learns, though, the self you put out there on WAVE isn’t always the self you really are. Opal has to decide what she believes in and if finding out what happened to her father is worth the risk – for herself and for her friends.

THOUGHTS: There is a lot of technical jargon, so this might be a tough read for some. The mystery keeps the pace moving, but there’s a lot more than fun and games going on here, including government/police corruption and social media’s influence on politics. Hand this STEM title to students who are into VR, AR, or video gaming, as the worlds Ahmadi depicts sound incredible. A great addition to high school libraries looking to diversify their STEM offerings with a strong female lead.

Science Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Needell, Claire. The First True Thing. HarperTeen, 2019. 978-0-062-36054-0. $17.99. 256 p. Gr 10 and up. 

After riding on a dangerous path through the woods while drunk, Marcelle crashed her bike under a neighbor’s parked car. Her alcohol use finally catching up with her, Marcelle is forced to attend rehab sessions at the Center after being discharged from the hospital. Being labeled an alcoholic isn’t the easiest, especially considering her friends are into much worse things. With her parents on high alert for missteps, it seems like Marcelle can do no right. Even her peers at the Center don’t fully believe she’s giving her best effort. When Marcelle receives a text from her best friend Hannah asking her to cover, she is desperate to feel connected. Hannah disappears, though, and Marcelle is the last one to hear from her. Torn between loyalty to her friend (and her friend’s dangerous secrets) and guilt over not doing more to intervene before it came to this, Marcelle keeps her story to Hannah’s mom and the police vague. As time goes on, though, everyone’s panic levels increase, and Marcelle has to decide if it’s better to keep a friend’s secret or be honest with everyone including herself.

THOUGHTS: Drug and alcohol abuse are openly discussed, making this most suitable for mature readers. The lack of support for Marcelle both as she recovers and faces the disappearance of her friend is surprising. Readers who want to know what happened to Hannah will stick with the story. Recommended as an additional purchase where realistic mysteries are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


McGinnis, Mindy. Heroine. Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. 978-0-062-84719-5. $17.99. 432 p. Gr. 10 and up. 

Trigger Warning: Please proceed with caution, as this book discusses (in great detail) addiction, drug use, overdose, and withdrawal, among other difficult topics.

The Prologue begins with the end: “When I wake up, all of my friends are dead.” Readers are placed front and center and feel the sheer terror of this realization before being told what happened. Mickey Catalan has never felt comfortable in her own skin, unless she’s behind home plate catching for her best friend and star pitcher Carolina. Though Mickey doesn’t quite know who she is, playing catcher defines her. When Mickey is in a terrible car accident with Carolina as her passenger, their chances of playing senior season are threatened, as is Carolina’s Division I pitching scholarship. Mickey is determined to get back on the field; she too wants to earn a scholarship. What starts as pain management for a major injury quickly spirals into an addiction, as Mickey tries to make it back into shape for spring training. When her physician refuses to refill her Oxycontin prescription, saying she’s doing so well she doesn’t need it, Mickey turns to alternative methods. It’s just to get her back on the field, though, and she can stop at any time. She’s not an addict, and Mickey has some great new friends who understand her and will keep her (and her secret) safe. Mickey’s tolerance level quickly increases, and she begins to lose control of all she was fighting for.

THOUGHTS: Heroine is definitely for mature readers and should be presented with a trigger warning. That said, it serves as a great cautionary tale about how easily one can become addicted to opioids, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Check your ego and what you think you know about addiction at the door. McGinnis’s novel will take you on a terrifying roller coaster ride with some unforeseen consequences. I listened to the audiobook version and was hooked from the first minute.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ahmed, Samira. Internment. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-316-52269-4. $17.99. 387 p. Gr. 9 and up. 

In a future United States where the Presidential election has shaken up American beliefs and freedoms, 17 year old Muslim American Layla Amin is frustrated. Her parents always had been respected in their community, but with the President’s new Exclusion Act they feel compliance will keep them safe. Layla, however, breaks government mandated curfew to see her Jewish boyfriend. Though unfriendly neighbor stares bring fears to the forefront of her mind, the risk is worth the reward. Despite her parents attempts to remain safe, Layla’s family is rounded up and taken off to an interment camp, one like those used for Japanese and German Americans during World War II. They only have a few moments to gather comforts of home, not knowing if they will ever return or if their possessions will still be there. Once in the camp, Layla finds herself increasingly frustrated by her parents’ (and many of the adults’) complaisance but is fortunate to find friends who she can laugh with and share her frustrations. Together, Layla and her friends find subtle ways (at first) to rebel against the Director. Building their rebellion also increases the risks they face, and Layla has to decide if standing up for what she believes in – what is right – is worth risking her life and the lives of those she loves.

THOUGHTS: This timely diverse title will appeal to fans of historical fiction. Internment will pair well with World War II novels or memoirs, especially those relating to internment or concentration camps. I personally enjoyed reading it then reading The War Outside by Monica Hesse. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Layla and her family are American, but they also happen to be non-practicing Muslims. After the 2020 census, all Muslims are taken to internment camps for the safety of all citizens. In this all too real and near future novel, Layla and her friends inside the walls of the camp, her boyfriend outside, and one brave guard on the inside plan a revolt to end the camp once and for all. Much of this book skims the surface of many of the political, racial, and religious issues that many Americans are facing with today’s political climate. Some of Layla’s decisions seem rash, even for an angry teen, which makes parts of the story a bit difficult to rationalize. 

THOUGHTS: Although this book moved me and scared me, I wanted more. I think this book belongs on the shelves of high school libraries, if the budget allows because it will open conversations of possibilities of the future state of our country. It will only start the conversation and pique the interest of students who wonder what could happen with the next census and elected officials. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Smith, Mallory. Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life. Spiegel & Grau, 2019. 978-1-984-85542-8. $26.00. 288 p. Gr 9 and up. 

Immensely positive and determined to live her best life, even in the face of cystic fibrosis and rare bacteria B. cenocepacia, Mallory Smith is a girl everyone loved. From the beginning readers know Mallory tragically dies young; however, it is how she lived her life that will inspire readers. Her “live happy” mantra carries her through frustrating hospital stays and discharges and helps her remain focused on really living. In reading Mallory’s most personal thoughts, readers are given a glimpse into the life of someone who struggles with a chronic illness, though not always visible on the outside.

THOUGHTS: Pair this nonfiction text with the fiction Five Feet Apart which will be even more popular with the 2019 movie. Excellent addition for high school nonfiction collections where memoirs and medical stories are popular.

616.372 Diseases          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Silverman, Laura. You Asked for Perfect. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-492-65827-6. $10.99. 288 p. Gr. 9 and up. 

Seemingly perfect senior Ariel Stone has everything going for him. He’s a great student, musician, and his college application couldn’t be more well-rounded, especially since he’s expected to be valedictorian. When Ariel earns a 5/10 on his first Calculus quiz and there’s no opportunity for redemption, Ariel’s careful facade begins to crumble. Accepting help means he’s not as perfect as everyone, especially himself, thinks. With a Harvard interview to prepare for, and his top spot on the line, though, Ariel doesn’t have much choice. He finds he was wrong about Amir, who is actually nice to be around, and Amir is really great at Calculus. Among a long list of obligations, one more might just be enough to break Ariel.

THOUGHTS: This should be required reading for every high school student. The internal and external pressures on students to be perfect, to achieve the top rank, to go to the best school is unfortunate. I see many students so stressed that they don’t allow themselves room to breathe and relax. Highly recommended for high school collections.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem – Hey-Ho to Mars We’ll Go!, Old Hat, Dear Substitute, Sometimes You Fly, The Funniest Man in Baseball, Bolivar, The Boo-boos that Changed the World, The Two Mutch Sisters, Every Month Is a New Year, Pinocchio, Rodent Rascals

Lendroth, Susan. Hey-Ho to Mars We’ll Go!: A Space Age Version of Farmer in the Dell. Charlesbridge, 2018. 978-1-580-89744-0. Unpaged. $16.99. K-3.

Lendroth has written space age lyrics to the well-known children’s song “Farmer in the Dell” in this engaging text. The book tells the story of four children who are on an exploratory trip to the planet Mars. The text consists of four lines mimicking the cadence of the original song, and it chronicles their trip from Earth until they land and explore the red planet. On each page, the song lyrics are written in a large font size, and there is accompanying smaller font which gives factual information about the topic discussed. For instance, when the spacecraft lands, the author writes, “Lock helmets into place…” and then explains about the air quality on Mars and the necessity for special equipment.  The illustrations are done on a large scale and were created using a computer. The book design adds to the understanding of the text. The text is placed sideways when traveling in space and even upside down when talking about the lack of gravity in the spacecraft. In the back matter, the author has included information about what is needed for a mission to Mars, and it is contained in a drawing of a red planet.  

THOUGHTS: While not a first purchase, this book will make a great read aloud, and children will enjoy joining in the refrain “Hey-Ho to Mars, we’ll go…” Music teachers will enjoy using this variant in their units on vocal music.

629.45  Space Flight          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Gravett, Emily. Old Hat. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018: ISBN 978-1-534-40917-0. 24 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Harbet is a dog whose favorite hat is the one his Nana knitted when he was just a pup. It’s warm and keeps his ears toasty. He proudly wears it all around until his peers mock him, taunting “Old Hat!” Harbet tries to keep up with fashion trends, purchasing the latest hat styles. But, no sooner has he donned his new headwear than something more up-to-date hits the stores. From construction cones to sailing ships to cookware, Harbet always seems to be one beat behind. Finally, Harbet gives up and does something daring – something no one has done before: Harbet takes off his hat. When his peers see what Harbet has been hiding beneath his many caps, the tables are turned, and they are the ones racing to keep pace with him. In this whimsical story about finding the courage to march to your own drum, brightly colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic illustrations pop against solid white pages, making the variety of hats Harbet tries even more visually stunning.

THOUGHTS: Young readers will enjoy examining Harbet’s many new hats, making this a perfect choice for a read-aloud. Teachers and librarians can extend the story, discussing the themes of peer pressure and also the idea of being yourself and doing what makes you happy.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Scanlon, Liz Garton, and Audrey Vernick. Dear Substitute. Disney Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-484-75022-3. 35 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Life in Room 102 is turned upside down when Mrs. Giordano calls in sick, and Miss Pelly shows up to substitute for the day. Miss Pelly mixes everything up: she mispronounces names during attendance, doesn’t collect the homework, skips library time, and doesn’t clean the turtle tank, even though it’s Tank Tuesday. Instead of reading from the chapter book they’ve started, Miss Pelly reads funny poems about crocodiles and underwear, and she laughs all the time. The day’s events are narrated by a brown-haired girl with two ponytails. Each double-page spread features an epistolary poem describing the day’s events from her perspective. By the end of the story, she’s changed her mind about Miss Pelly after realizing poetry isn’t so bad, and she comes to the conclusion that sometimes you’ve got to mix things up a little. Caldecott-winner Chris Raschka’s vibrant watercolor illustrations capture the range of emotions the narrator experiences throughout the day, and his loose, whimsical style perfectly communicates her changing feelings.

THOUGHTS: This book will be perfect to share with students before an anticipated absence, and its reassuring message that things will be alright even though the daily routine is different will resonate with young readers. This title could also be used in conjunction with poetry units as it celebrates epistolary poems as well as poetry in general.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Applegate, Katherine. Sometimes You Fly. Clarion Books, 2018: ISBN 978-0-547-63390-9. 40 p. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This text, composed of rhyming couplets, celebrates perseverance and resilience by reminding readers that oftentimes, the thrill of success is preceded by flops and mistakes. Each couplet begins by showing someone struggling with a new or difficult task such as baking a cake, learning to swim, trying to read, learning to drive, or studying for an exam. Page turns are used effectively to show the same person experiencing success with the task on the back side of the page. The idea that mistakes and challenges ultimately make our accomplishments even more memorable is underscored by lively ink and watercolor illustrations depicting a diverse array of children both succeeding and failing at their pursuits.

THOUGHTS: This title naturally lends itself to character trait lessons since it underscores the ideas that making mistakes is okay as long as you learn from them and use the experience to grow and persevere. It highlights the idea that nobody is perfect and celebrates that sometimes life’s greatest challenges can also lead to its sweetest moments.

Picture Book Biography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County


Vernick, Audrey. The Funniest Man in Baseball: The True Story of Max Patkin. Clarion Books, 2018: ISBN 978-0-544-81377-9. 40 p. $17.99. Gr 2-4.

As a boy growing up in Philadelphia, Max Patkin dreamed of a career in professional baseball. His goal was to become a pitcher, but while playing in the Minor Leagues, an arm injury sidelined him. Although his pitching career was over, Max found another way to make his mark on the game: as a baseball clown. For five decades, and more than 4,000 games, Max entertained crowds of fans by goofing around on the field with players, dancing around the baselines, playing hopscotch in the dirt, and doing anything he could to coax a laugh from the crowd. This picture book biography introduces readers to baseball’s most memorable clown, and the lighthearted text and whimsical illustrations spotlight some of his best-loved comic routines.

THOUGHTS: This title could accompany lessons and discussions about perseverance, since Max Patkin didn’t let his arm injury end his baseball career: instead, he embraced the different direction his career took. This will also be popular with sports fans, particularly those interested in historical tidbits.

Picture Book Biography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County


Rubin, Sean. Bolivar. Archaia, 2018. 978-1-68415-069-6. unpaged. $29.99. Grades 2-5.

Bolivar is the last dinosaur left alive anywhere! He doesn’t like attention, so he lives in New York City, where no one takes the time to notice much of anything. Only young Sybil knows that her next-door neighbor is a dinosaur (even if she can’t prove it … yet). Bolivar is perfectly happy to hide in plain sight, until a case of mistaken identity leads him to City Hall and then to the Natural History Museum to deliver a speech about the new dinosaur exhibit. Even busy New Yorkers notice the dinosaur at the podium, and the chase is on! Can Bolivar elude capture and return to his quiet life? Framed as Sybil’s assigned essay on a “person” in her neighborhood, Bolivar is a delightfully illustrated urban adventure. Sean Rubin’s crosshatched artwork rewards repeated readings as details emerge in action-packed cityscapes and expressive faces. Adult readers will especially appreciate the winks to Indiana Jones and Where’s Waldo.

THOUGHTS: This beautiful, heartfelt homage to childhood imagination (and the importance of slowing down to take in the world around us) will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Picture Book/Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Wittenstein, Barry. Illustrated by Chris Hsu. The Boo-Boos that Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention.  Charlesbridge, 2018. 978-1-580-89745-7. $16.99. Grades K-3.

Wittenstein recounts the true story  of how Earle Dickson developed the now ubiquitous BandAid to help his accident prone wife, who seemed to have injured herself at home on a daily basis. Earle, as a buyer for the Johnson and Johnson company, was in a unique position to develop this product that has become an absolute necessity of life. This humorous picture book with charming illustrations cleverly points out that necessity is truly the mother of invention, but also shows the stops and starts on the way to Earle’s and the BandAid’s success. Includes  a timeline of the inventor’s life, a timeline of important medical discoveries and links to sites with more information on the product recognized and used the whole world over.

THOUGHTS: A humorous, nonfiction choice to add to your collection on inventions.

617.1 Medical Innovations          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Brendler, Carol. Illustrated by Lisa Brown. The Two Mutch Sisters. Clarion Books. 2018. 978-0-544-43074-7. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Twin siblings, Violet and Ruby Mutch,  must absolutely have a copy of every collected item for each of them. Living together for their entire lives, the silly siblings have collected all sorts of strange objects including glockenspiels, gargoyles, snorkels, and spittoons. As the years pass, the sisters run out of room in their crowded house, and Violet decides to move out.

THOUGHTS: A lighthearted and humorous tale of how loved ones can stick together, even if everyone needs their own space.  

Picture Book          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Singer, Marilyn, and Susan Roth. Every Month Is a New Year. New York: Lee & Low Books. 2018. 978-1-630-14162-5. $20.95. Unpaged. Grades 2-5.

New years start all the time, not just on January 1st. Whether school years or sports seasons, we have traditions that go with our calendars. The informative poetry book Every Month Is a New Year takes readers around the world as the months turn to show how people celebrate their new year traditions. Singer’s short poems capture the essence of the holiday through a child’s first person viewpoint. The traditions range from water battles to fire cleansing, from food celebrations to dancing, and several ways to cleanse their souls and start anew. The detailed fabric collage that Roth weaves adds color and imagination to the mix, and the format of a full calendar that reads like it should be hung on your wall helps set the book apart. Informative text about the calendar systems through history and further descriptions, pronunciation, and sources for each new year are included toward the end. And since every end is a new beginning, readers may just want to turn the calendar and start anew!

THOUGHTS: This book would be an excellent addition to a poetry collection, and the diversity of people and places helps open the eyes of readers to unfamiliar traditions. They may be left with more questions after reading the poem and the description, so further inquiry should be expected.

811 Poetry          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Morpurgo, Michael. Pinocchio: In His Own Words. Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2018 (this edition). 266 p.  978-000835769-9 $17.99 Grades 3-6.

Pinocchio–that misunderstood puppet-boy who is somehow always compelled to choose fun over obedience–tells his story here, his way.  He’ll tell you about how poor Signor Gepetto crafted him for his sad wife, and how he should have gone to school but was repeatedly tempted away by other, more fun activities.  This is a long, winding tale of mishaps and misfortune, at times humorous and at times groan-worthy, as when Pinocchio says of himself, “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, don’t do it, Pinocchio!…Well, I’m sorry to say I believed what I wanted to believe; I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  When I look back on it now, I can’t believe how stupid I was!” (82) or “I hate work. It’s hard. It’s difficult” (172). Pinocchio encounters a variety of creatures in his travels, including a Talking Cricket, a Lame Fox and Blind Cat (swindlers who much later prove repentant), his ‘dear sister,’ the Good Fairy with sea-blue hair (who acts as his conscience) and Lampwick, a boy who entices him to go to the Land of Toys (whereupon both boys become donkeys destined to work until death).   Pinocchio always intends to return home and make his poor mother and father happy again, but something always distracts him.  Only in one story does his nose grow as he lies–and the Good Fairy is there to help–with woodpeckers.  A moralistic story where nothing truly bad happens to a boy who behaves badly but is excruciatingly slowly learning kindness.  Finally, the story comes full circle and by the end, “I’m not quite such a ‘wooden-head’ as I was–or I hope I’m not. My Good Fairy still whispers to me from time to time, drops gentle hints to remind me that everyone matters, reminds me always to be kind” (266).   

THOUGHTS: For upper elementary, this could be a humorous read-aloud. It is certainly a more interesting telling of the original Pinocchio tale, accompanied by appealing illustrations.

Fantasy, Fairy Tale          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Munro, Roxie. Rodent Rascals. Holiday House, 2018. 978-0-823-43860-0. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 2-5.

This book provides the reader with a fascinating look into the world of the rodent.  In the introduction, Munro explains that these animals are the “largest order of mammals” and discusses how they are useful to humans. Drawings are done to actual size, so the entire rodent is not shown in all cases, like the capybara. Even so, Munro plays with the book design by showing the capybara’s back leg on one page followed by a drawing of its face on the next page.  One rodent is featured per one or two page spread, except for the smaller ones like the pygmy jerboa. The animals appear in order from smallest to largest in the book. The pictures are accompanied by text that gives interesting facts unique to that creature, like how a muskrat eats on a table-like pile of mud and how one rat has been trained to find minefields. The illustrations are done in India ink and colored acrylic ink and make even the notorious Norway rat seem appealing. The endpapers contain simple line drawings of every rodent discussed in the book. In the back matter, the reader can learn more about the physical description and habitat of the animal. The author lists her sources and presents a number of websites for more information. After reading Munro’s work, even those readers who cringe at the thought of rodents might find themselves looking at these mammals in a different light.

THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy reading this text for personal interest, especially since some of the animals are well-known pets, like the guinea pig and gerbil. It is unusual to see a book entirely about rodents, so elementary libraries will want to add this unique work to their collections.

599.35  Rodents          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD