Elem. – The Great Zapfino

Barnett, Mac. The Great Zapfino. Beach Lane Books, 2022. Unpaged. 978-1-534-41154-8. Grades 1-3. $17.99.

In this nearly wordless picture book, Barnett has created a likable character named Zapfino who works as a high diving artist in the circus. As the story begins, the ringmaster announces that Zapfino will dive from a height of ten stories into a trampoline. The performer, wearing a cape monogrammed with a Z, climbs up a very tall ladder, but then seems tentative about jumping and simply disappears. Zapfino is next seen purchasing an airplane ticket to a coastal destination. He finds a job as an elevator operator in an apartment building located on a beach with palm trees. As a perk, he is given a room on the 10 ½ floor. Up and down in the elevator goes Zapfino, who finds himself very tired at the end of the day. While waiting for his toast to pop up, he falls asleep and wakes up to heavy black smoke. Fire engines arrive, and his only way out is to jump from the tenth floor into the fire rescue trampoline. Can he overcome his fear of heights and take the plunge? Marla Frazee’s charming drawings were created with black pencil. The illustrator depicts Zapfino as a small unassuming man, whose smile does not appear until the end of the story. The apartment building is drawn in the Art Moderne style, and the elevator passengers are shown in small multi-panel displays. A drawing on the back cover puts a finishing touch on the story.

THOUGHTS: This is a simple and engaging text about overcoming fears. Children will be fascinated by the tiny panels which reveal the personalities and interests of the residents. The trim size (31 cm. x 18 cm.) is a great vehicle for creating the illusion of height. Highly recommended for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – We Will Rock Our Classmates

THOUGHTS: This followup to We Don’t Eat Our Classmates is sure to be loved by fans of Higgins’ work, and children will delight with the humorous story. A must have for elementary collections, social emotional learning lessons, or read alouds. You’ll have difficulty reading this one without giggling yourself!

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Picture Books – Old Dog Baby; Little Elliot Big Fun; King Baby

Fogliano, Julie. Old Dog Baby Baby. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-59643-853-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-K.

This sweet story, told entirely in rhyming verse, portrays the relationship between an infant and the old family dog.  As the story opens, the dog is lounging lazily on the kitchen floor while an older sibling looks through family photographs.  Soon, the baby comes crawling in and begins playing with the dog.  The dog displays love and patience, and before long, the two curl up together for a nap. Beautifully simple illustrations by two-time Caldecott medalist Chris Raschka add to the story, revealing other family members besides the dog and the baby.  A delightful and relatable read for any child who has been lucky enough to experience the love and playfulness of a family dog.  THOUGHTS: Unlike some of Fogliano’s other titles which deal with the changing seasons (And Then It’s Spring (2012), When Green Becomes Tomatoes (2016)) this title is lacking obvious Common Core connections.  It is, however, charming and very relatable for young children; therefore, it should not be overlooked when making purchasing decisions.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Curato, Mike. Little Elliot Big Fun. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-0-8050-9827-3. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

In this story of friendship, fun, and overcoming one’s fears, Elliot the elephant and his friend, Mouse, head to an amusement park on Coney Island.  Once there, Elliot is too scared to go on any of the rides until Mouse convinces him to try out the Ferris wheel.  Elliot is thrilled by the view from the top, which readers experience through a four-page foldout.  After that, Elliot’s fears subside, and the pair continue to enjoy rides and games the rest of the day.  The gorgeous illustrations are indicative of an earlier time period, most likely the 1930s, and tell a story themselves.  For instance, Elliot’s imagined fears about some of the rides are pictured in black and white opposite the colorful illustrations of the actual attractions.  There is also one page made up entirely of pictures that shows how Elliot’s ice cream was snatched by a seagull and how Elliot was then frightened by a clown.  Altogether, the story and pictures give an excellent portrayal of old-time Coney Island and an even more touching portrait of the strength we gain through friendship.  THOUGHTS: This book could easily be tied into an elementary curriculum in various ways.  For instance, it could be used to introduce a unit on the history of Coney Island or a unit on 1930s fashion.  It could also be used to spark a discussion about summer vacations or about overcoming fears.  All in all, I think this book is very relatable to any child who has ever felt fear or doubt about a new experience.  It would be a great addition to any collection.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Beaton, Kate. King Baby. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016. 978-0-545-63754-1. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 1.

In this comical story, King Baby brings many blessings to his subjects (smiles, kisses,
and coos, for instance), but also has many demands for them (“FEED ME!”, “BURP ME!”).  When his faithful subjects fail to understand all of his demands, he must take matters into his own hands and learn to do some things for himself.  As he grows from a baby into a big boy, he begins to wonder who will lead his subjects now that King Baby is no longer.  That is, until he learns of the imminent arrival of his sister, Queen Baby.  The drawings of the sweet, yet devilish, baby add to the silliness of the book.  This hilarious, light-hearted read is perfect for tired new parents and for older siblings-to-be.  THOUGHTS: Perhaps best known for her Hark! A Vagrant comics, Beaton has won many awards for her humor.  As expected, this amusing title will have young children laughing at King Baby’s antics.  Beaton has also set the stage for a possible sequel, as readers can only imagine how ridiculous Queen Baby’s behavior may be.  Perhaps elementary teachers could use this title as a read-aloud and then have students write their own stories about Queen Baby.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School