YA – Rise Up and Sing: Power, Protest, and Activism in Music

Warner, Andrea. Rise Up and Sing: Power, Protest, and Activism in Music. Greystone Kids, 2023. 978-1-77164-898-1. 299 p. $19.95. Grades 6-12.

This book is a collection of musicians as role models through highlighting the power of music to help change the world. Some of the artists featured are: Bob Dylan, Billie Elish, Beyonce, Lil Nas X, Lady Gaga, Bob Marley, and more. The book covers the social and environmental issues that each artist has brought to the attention of their fans. Climate change, the environment, decolonization, indigenous rights, civil rights, racial justice, disability rights, feminism, gender equality, nonbinary folks, anti-war movement, and human rights are all discussed through the artists’ lyrics and dedication to bring these issues to the forefront of their listeners.

THOUGHTS: An impressive collection of artists and their quest to bring awareness and justice to the world we live in are shared in this title.

781.64 Western Popular Music

YA – Plan A

Caletti, Deb. Plan A. Labyrinth Road, 2023. 978-0-593-48555-2. 416 p. $21.99. Grades 9-12.

Ivy DeVries has a lot of opinions just like the other women in her family. Living in Paris, Texas, however, her opinions do not always align with the political and religious landscape of the town. When Ivy becomes pregnant after an encounter she refers to as “The Uglies,” she is stunned to learn that abortions are illegal in Texas. But Ivy has a life and a future ahead of her, so she makes the choice to get an abortion. Her mother, brother, and boyfriend Lorenzo (who is not the father) are completely supportive of her decision even if her friends and neighbors are not. She embarks on a road trip with Lorenzo with an end destination of her grandmother’s beach house in Oregon where she can safely and legally get the healthcare she needs. Along the way, Lorenzo and Ivy decide to stop at all the places around the world within the western United States: Lima, Florence, Rome, and more. Along the way, Ivy stays with different relatives and friends of the family only to find out that every woman she knows has some kind of story about the choices (or lack of choices) they had to make regarding their bodies. Throughout her journey, Ivy realizes the strength she has within herself to do what is right for HER.

THOUGHTS: Although this topic is a bit controversial, especially for a school library, the story is one that is absolutely necessary to tell. Caletti handles the topic with sensitivity and honesty while leaving out any graphic details. This book is so powerful and should be in high school libraries with supportive communities.

Realistic Fiction

MG – Tegan and Sara: Junior High

Quin, Tegan and Sara. Tegan and Sara: Junior High. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2023. 978-1-516-05891-4. 298 p. $22.99. Grades 5-8.

Identical twins Tegan and Sara are starting 7th grade in a new school district now that they are living with their mother and stepfather. Unfortunately, middle school is not living up to the hype. The twins are in separate classes, dealing with first periods, and struggling to make new friends that they both like. The twins even start bickering for the first time in their lives. While navigating all of this, both twins are grappling with the idea that they might like girls, something they haven’t even shared with each other. Nothing seems to be going right until they discover a guitar stored in the garage and coated in dust. It belongs to their stepdad Bruce who, unbeknownst to them, was in a band back in the day. From the strum of the first chord, they are hooked. Tegan and Sara realize they have a natural gift for playing guitar and writing songs, and this closes the rift between them. They start a band and begin playing at friends’ parties. Once they realize they are stronger together, they take on junior high as a team.

THOUGHTS: Middle grade students may not know Tegan and Sara as indie rock stars that they are, but they are sure to relate to the semi-autobiographical book. Based on their adult memoir, the graphic novel version places Tegan and Sara in modern day rather than the 1990s when they actually attended high school. The illustrations are colorful and interspersed with Tegan and Sara’s inner thoughts that they only share with each other and now, the reader. This could be a great addition to middle grade libraries, especially for fans of the Sunny series and Raina Telegemeier.

Graphic Novel

Elem. – The Animal Song

Howley, Jonty. The Animal Song. Random House Studio. 2023. 978-0-593-38146-5. $18.99. Grades PreK-3.

A bear, crocodile, and a weasel. What do they have in common? They love music and are in a band together! From spring to fall, these animals play music for their forest friends. When winter hits and their forest friends go to sleep, they don’t have anyone to play for, and they aren’t ready to go to sleep! This musical animal band moves and continues playing through the winter, until finally, everyone is ready to sleep!

THOUGHTS: A fun musical story with a fun rhythm to read. The back of the book contains the lyrics and musical score for The Animal Song, allowing musical readers to play and sing along!

Picture Book

Elem. – The Case of the Eerie Heirloom

Cooper, Brigitte Henry. The Case of the Eerie Heirloom. Cecilia Messina. ABDO Books, 2023. 978-1-098-23322-8. 48 p. $22.95. Grades 1-3. 

The Case of the Eerie Heirloom follows Abby and Theo who are known as the Phantom Finders. They are enlisted to help Anya, a local resident, figure out why this older music box has begun playing music after being silent for many years. The clues lead them to the local theater, the Kirby Theater. Can they figure out the mystery behind this music box and help bring Anya peace?

THOUGHTS: This is a cute beginning to read type chapter book. There are words that are highlighted and are different sizes, colors, and fonts from the other words to help the reader as they move through the book. There is no need to read the books in order, so a reader can jump in at any time. Overall a great addition to any elementary collection.


MG – Wait! What? (Series NF)

Gutman, Dan. Wait? What? Illustrated by Allison Steinfeld. Norton Young Readers, 2023. $17.95 ea. $94.98 Set of 6 (7th title due out 9/19/23). 144 pp. Grades 4-8. 

Albert Einstein Was a Dope? 2021. 978-1-324-01558-1. 112 p.
Amelia Earhart  Is On the Moon? 2021. 978-1-324-01562-8. 112 p.
The Beatles Couldn’t Read Music? 2023. 978-1-324-05302-6.
Lucille Ball Had No Eyebrows?
2023. 978-1-324-03073-7. 112 p.

Muhammed Ali Was a Chicken? 2021. 978-1-324-01560-4. 112 p.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Couldn’t Drive? 2021.978-1-324-01560-4. 112 p.
Teddy Roosevelt Was a Moose? 2022. 978-1-324-01564-2. 112 p.

Part of the fun series on different personalities, The Beatles Couldn’t Read Music? is a jauntily illustrated and easily readable question and answer book on perhaps the most famous boy band in history, the Beatles. Author Gutman uses his usual humorous style to give each informative chapter set in Q & A format a jovial tone. Chapters entitled with each of the Beatles’s names spill over with interesting facts about the Fab Four. Dedicated fans will put their Beatlemania trivia to the test, and newfound fans will revel in uncovering well and little-known material on the talented celebrities, like the replacement of Pete Best with Ringo Starr, the origin of some of their songs, their tight friendship with the Rolling Stones, and some of their well-known quips. Includes timeline.

THOUGHTS: This book is 100% fun with its easy-to-read format. Gutman captures the light-hearted spirit of the Beatles and produces a browsing book that even struggling readers will like.

782 Vocal Music

Elem. – The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music

Flack, Roberta and Tonya Bolden. The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music. Illustrated by Hayden Goodman. Anne Schwartz Books, 2023. 978-0-593-47987-2. $18.99. Grades K-3.

The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music is an autobiographical picture book about Roberta Flack that follows her from her early childhood through her life until she finally lives her dream as an adult. There is an author’s note in the back from Roberta that goes into more detail about her life and the true story of the green piano that her father found in a junkyard. There is also a section of career highlights of Roberta’s life. As the reader goes through Roberta’s life, we can see the influence her family had on her, as well as the teachers she had along the way. The reader really can appreciate the path that she took to become a five time Grammy award winner and how she never forgot that green piano she started playing on.

THOUGHTS: This is an amazing addition to any elementary or even middle school collection, especially for use in introducing Roberta Flacks’ music to students.

Picture Book

Elem. – The Teachers I Loved Best

Mali, Taylor. The Teachers I Loved Best. Illustrated by Erica Root. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-0-593-56523-0. $18.99. Grades K-2.

The Teachers I Loved Best is a poem about how teachers that you love aren’t always the easy teachers or the ones who give easy tests. The teachers you love best are the ones who push you to be the best you can be. They are the ones who are supportive of you, or the ones who encourage you to do something even if you aren’t great or perfect at it. This poem also explores how teachers can be anyone such as a crossing guard who makes you want to work hard. Through the book, the illustrations show the different parts of the poem, showing the different teachers and the different scenarios that are described in the book.

THOUGHTS: This is a great book to give to a special teacher in your life, or to use for a teacher appreciation week read aloud. This book is also a great addition to any elementary collection.

Picture Book

MG – When Winter Robeson Came

Woods, Brenda. When Winter Robeson Came. Scholastic, 2022. 978-1-524-74158-7. $16.99. 176 p. Grades 4-7.

The Coal family from 103rd Street, just west of Figueroa, not too far from Watts, is expecting a special visitor, Winter Robeson from their old hometown, Sunflower, Mississippi. The most excited person is aspiring composer, Eden Louise Coal, who hasn’t seen her country cousin since the move to the great metropolis of Los Angeles two years ago. An affable Winter has come with an agenda and a plan: on his list is visiting the happiest place on earth, Disneyland; but his priority is finding his long-lost father, J.T. who has been gone for ten years. Eden joins him in his search, and together they spend two weeks of the summer of 1965 getting closer together and closer to the truth of Winter’s father’s disappearance. As they try to trace J.T.’s whereabouts, they dance to the vinyl records with the neighborhood kids; win the hearts of the gracious friend, Winona; and meet Miss Betty West, owner of a Steinway baby grand piano. Told in verse and narrated by Eden, When Winter Robeson Came is an uplifting story of a family reunited and a close knit community surviving on the edges of the violent Watts riots and police brutality. Eden and Winter bond in genuine friendship and concern to make each others’ lives a bit brighter. That magnanimity extends to their neighbors and even virtual strangers when the need arises. The pair offer aid to the elderly, respect their parents, and kindly tolerate even friends with irritating habits. This brief, positive book offers a comforting tale against the backdrop of a tragic historical event.

THOUGHTS: This easy to read book fits lower middle grades best with its emphasis on family and its optimistic outcomes, despite the setting of the Watts riots. Perceptive students will pick up on the discrimination and racism toward people in neighborhoods in and around Watts. However, the children in this novel are nurtured and joyful. They make connections with older people and keep focused on an important task even if it puts them in danger. Pair this book with Karen English’s It All Comes Down to This to compare and contrast the same historical event.

Historical Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – I’s the B’y

Soloy, Lauren. I’s the B’y. Greystone Kids, 2022. 978-1-771-64833-2. Unpaged. $18.95. Grades K-3.

Illustrator Lauren Soloy takes readers young and older on a rollicking exploration of a traditional Newfoundland folk song, “I’s the B’y”. A charming parade of characters, both human and animal, wander through the pages of the book as the song unfolds, revealing insight into Newfoundland culture. Readers can’t help but smile along with the exuberance reflected in the illustrations. Puffins, a fiddle-playing fish, and a cuddle Newfoundland dog mingle with joyful Newfoundlanders, participating in the fun. The book is a visual smorgasbord, with Soloy’s watercolor images radiating warmth and humor. While readers may not understand the vernacular of the song, and its many references, Soloy neatly solves the problem by including a lengthy Note From the Illustrator that walks the reader through the lyrics, explaining both terms and what the individuals are doing in each illustration. For this reader, the Notes were at least as interesting as the book, and ensure that readers do a second pass through the book, reexamining the lyrics as well as the artwork. For the musically inclined, Soloy also includes the music to the song, so an interested reader can pick out the tune. This book is a delightful exploration of a culture that should not be as alien to Americans as it is.

THOUGHTS: This book can be appreciated for Soloy’s artwork alone, but the addition of the Notes turns the experience into a merry delve into Canadian culture. The book also would have an application in music classes exploring folk songs.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD