Ballou Mealey, Cathy. Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-5253-0238-1 p. 32. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Teamwork. Perseverance. Flexibility. Problem Solving. Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle, a children’s book written by Cathy Ballou Mealey, shines a spotlight on all the qualities mentioned and models a growth mindset with character development. Sloth and Squirrel are loyal friends who work together to achieve a common goal; purchase a new shiny bike that they can enjoy together. However, they find a job in a pickle factory to buy the bike to earn some money. Although loyal within their friendship to each other, Sloth and Squirrel find themselves in a pickle at work when they realize they have different strengths and weaknesses, different styles of learning, and different abilities. Will they be able to work together, complete the job, and earn their wages? Or will everything fall apart, even their friendship? In this heartwarming story, two friends stumble together and remain kind to each other as they learn a few lessons along the way. Who would have thought that a squirrel and a sloth could be such a resourceful team!
THOUGHTS: This picture book would be a great addition to character education. There are hilarious moments, darling illustrations by Kelly Collier, and many opportunities within the story for educators or parents to discuss growth mindset. Perfect for a read-aloud within a classroom or school library (or even a snuggle at bedtime), young readers will love the silly duo- Sloth and Squirrel!
Muirhead, Margaret. Flip! How the Frisbee Took Flight. Charlesbridge. 978-1-580-89880-5. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Toss, glide, catch, repeat! Frisbees are some of the top-selling toys of all time, and this title explores their history. In the 1920s, east-coast college kids began flinging empty pie plates from the Frisbie bakery. The fad soon spread from campus to campus. Around the same time, in California, a high school football player named Fred Morrison began tossing a flat, tin popcorn lid with his girlfriend. They were amazed how the lid hovered, dipped, and glided through the air. When the tin lid became too dented to fly straight, the pair experimented with pie plates and cake pans. When someone offered to buy the cake pan from Fred after seeing him tossing it around on the beach, Fred was hooked with the idea of introducing the fun to others. Over the next several years, Fred tweaked the materials for the flying discs and capitalized on America’s obsession with aliens and flying saucers. Eventually, he sold his design to the Wham-O toy company who helped give the toy national recognition. Full-page retro-style gouache illustrations capture the excitement of a game of frisbee from all angles, making readers feel like they are ready to fling the flying disc themselves. An Author’s Note includes details about other colleges that claim to have invented the game of frisbee as well as additional information about Fred’s persistence and creative energy.
THOUGHTS: This title will be an asset to units about inventions, and it also highlights STEM concepts, particularly ideas about creating prototypes and perfecting designs. It also can be integrated into social-emotional discussions, particularly those centering on resilience and perseverance.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD 796.2 Activities and Games
Once a thin, stray cat, SumoKitty only earns that name after much hard work and good food. He loves spending time at the heya (training center) where he earns his keep chasing mice away. Kuma, one of the rikishi (wrestlers) is afraid of mice and the stray cat keeps the heya pest-free; he’s rewarded with many bowls of chankonabe (stew). One day, he realizes that he has grown quite large from so much chankonabe, and the mice have quickly reclaimed their territory. The cat is kicked out of the heya by it’s manager and works to regain his place inside by studying Kuma’s training and techniques. Kuma is training especially hard for an upcoming match against the yokozuna (champion). He witnesses the cat using it’s best sumo moves to dominate the mice and gives SumoKitty his name and place inside the heya. In Kuma’s own match, he achieves success by remembering SumoKitty’s perseverance when battling the mice. David Biedrzycki uses a subtle panel-on-picture style to tell the story; his illustrations, done in pencil, watercolor, and digital kitchen sink, pair nicely with the story.
THOUGHTS: Funny and heartwarming, SumoKitty and his friends at the heya show readers the importance of hard work.
Johannes, Shelli R. Theo Thesaurus: The Dinosaur Who Loved Big Words. Illustrated by Mike Moran. Philomel Books, 2021. Unpaged. 978-0-593-20551-8 $17.99 Grades K-2.
Theo and his parents are migrating, and his parents are excited, but Theo is worried about joining a new class where no one knows him. He and his parents are a special species of dinosaurs called Thesauruses–self-described ‘logo maniacs’ or word-lovers. Sure enough, Theo’s big words create a barrier between him and his new classmates. He tries to be friendly. “Salutations!” he greets them; ‘Could you lead me to the athenaeum (library)?” in class; “Care for a crudite (raw snack)?” at lunch; “want to play conceal and search (hide and seek)?” at recess. Everything leads to misconceptions and confusion. He keeps trying, even inviting them: “I request your attendance to celebrate the anniversary of my hatching.” When the birthday party arrives, but no friends do, Theo tries several words to describe his emotions but discovers he is speechless. Then the doorbell rings and his classmates arrive, shouting, “Salutations!” Theo and his parents are equally excited to party with his new friends.
THOUGHTS: This is a cute concept, but the words used require explaining to K-2 readers for them to fully understand the humor. Also, Theo’s parents want to be helpful (but seem to miss the mark), while it is unclear what changes the minds of Theo’s classmates. A glossary of Theo’s “thesaurus” style words is included. Supplemental purchase.
Burach, Ross. The Little Butterfly That Could. Scholastic, Press, 2021. 978-1-338-61500-5 p. 40. $17.99. Grades K-3.
In Ross Burach’s The Very Impatient Caterpillar, we met a very dramatic yet adorable caterpillar-turned-butterfly. The little critter learns the importance of patience in a STEM-friendly picture book that integrates facts on metamorphosis. Fabulous news! Our favorite impatient butterfly is back in Ross Burach’s companion tale titled: The Little Butterfly That Could. In this comical picture book, our adorable butterfly is distressed and anxious as ever as the realization sets in that he must migrate 200 miles away. Lucky for him, he meets a gentle and encouraging whale that helps the butterfly build confidence to start his migration journey. Armed with new tools, the butterfly learns a lesson in perseverance and resilience.
THOUGHTS: Ross Burach’s second tale of this silly caterpillar-turned-butterfly will elicit giggles and laughs with every age reader! Written through dialogue from each character, the story will appeal to Mo Willlem fans while teaching STEM-related themes in science. A great companion to any school or classroom library!
Doherty, Kathleen. The Thingity-Jig. Peachtree Publishing Company, 2021. 978-1-7972-0282-2 p. 32. $17.95. Grades K-3.
What happens when you make a curious discovery? A discovery that is springy, bouncy, and oh-so joyous to sit and jump on! It is so special that you run home to tell all of your friends that you discovered a Thingity-Thing! However, the discovery is so cumbersome to move that Bear, the main character in this story, needs help from his friends to get the exquisite piece home. So when no one in Bear’s life wants to be bothered, Bear takes matters into his own hands (or paws) and builds a Rolly-Rumpity to wheel the Thingity-Jig home. But of course, there are bumps in the road, and Bear needs to invent the Lifty-Uppity to overcome the next obstacle. Author Kathleen Doherty creates an adorable, curious, and inventive character in her picture book The Thingity-Jig and cleverly combines wordplay and STEAM into her storyline. A delightful read-aloud for young children, The Thingity-Jig is both quirky and hilarious and so fun to read!
THOUGHTS: Author Katleen Doherty is a reading specialist and former classroom teacher for over 30 years. The Illustrator, Kristyna Litten, studied art at the Edinburgh College of Art and has illustrated several children’s books. Her style, heavily influenced by animation and illustrative art, is the perfect vibe for this charming picture book. An ideal read-aloud for STEAM or growth mindset!
Spires, Ashley. Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! Kids Can Press. 2021. 978-1-525-30146-9. $12.99. Grades K-2.
Burt is a Ten-Lined June Beetle, also known as a Watermelon Beetle! Burt has amazing superhero powers. Well, at least that is what Burt believes! He discovered that he can’t lift something that is fifty times his weight like ant can, he doesn’t have ultrasonic blasts like hawk moths, he does not have a the ability to spray paralyzing venom like some termites can, and he also cannot release a bad smell to repel predators like stink bugs. In fact, Burt can’t climb up walls, fly very well, or even run fast! Is there something that makes Burt special?
THOUGHTS: This is a cute graphic novel-style informational book about insects! A cute story for young readers to learn about the super things specific bugs can do, including June bugs!
Bullaro, Angie. Breaking the Ice: The True Story of the First Woman to Play in the National Hockey League. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. $18.99. Unpaged. Grades 3-6.
Manon Rhéaume began playing backyard hockey with her brothers before the age of 5, but it wasn’t until her dad’s team needed a goalie that Manon started playing on a real team. In fact, Manon’s father told her to keep the goalie mask on before taking the ice because people weren’t ready to see a girl play on a boys’ team in 1977. By 1984, Manon’s talent spoke for itself. She was the first girl to play in the prestigious Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, and she continued to prove critics wrong as she played at higher and higher levels of boys’ and men’s hockey. In 1992 Manon became the first woman to play a game in any of the four men’s major US professional sports when she played in a preseason game with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Angie Bullaro’s picture book biography nicely details Manon’s hard work, courage, and perseverance in making her hockey dreams come true. An Afterword by Manon herself encourages readers to work hard no matter what, saying “Don’t let ‘no’ stop you.”
THOUGHTS: An interesting addition to picture book biography collections.
Grant, Allison Sweet and Adam Grant. Leif and the Fall. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-984-81549-1. $17.99. Grades K-2.
It is autumn and Leif the Leaf is worried about falling from his tree. He confesses to his friend Laurel that the fall might cause him to “bump my head” or “skin my knee.” The other leaves tell him that falling is inevitable, but Laurel suggests that Leif should think of a way to slowly lower himself as he falls. So the pair work together to invent various devices, such as a kite made of bark and moss, a parachute out of a spider web and a swing made of vines. All of these ideas fail. Then an unplanned gust of wind blows Leif and Laurel off the tree, and they have the good luck to fall on the soft cushion of the failed experiments. Liddiard’s illustrations are done with a combination of digital collage and mixed media, creating drawings that balance the whimsical appearance of the leaves with images of actual moss. This book is very similar to Wade’s The Very Last Leaf. Both are about the fear of falling, but Wade’s text deals more with facing fears and perfectionism, while the Grants’ focus is on solving problems with creative ideas and to keep on trying. However, the message in this story is a little confusing since it was actually fate and luck that caused Leif to be successful in the end.
THOUGHTS: This book is a good choice for autumn themed storytimes. It would be also useful for guidance counselors for lessons on perseverance and in the classroom for lessons on problem solving and creativity.
Rubin, Susan Goldman. Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield. Candlewick, 2020. 978-0-763-67994-1. 48 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.
The true nursing hero of the Crimean War was born in Jamaica and wanted to help others with natural remedies, kindness, and good food since she was young. Mary Seacole is an unsung hero of the nursing world, and this book tells the story of Mary’s interest in medicine from a young girl, watching her mother, the doctress, and practicing on her dolls, pets, and herself to be able to follow in her mother’s footsteps. The frequent full-page illustrations are colorful and a way for a young reader to imagine what Mary’s life was like. Although her story has a lot of focus on healthcare, this book is just as much about prejudice in various countries during the 1800s. In 48 pages, the reader can learn about the tenacity of one person and her ability to help all in any way she could. There is a brief mention of the first modern war correspondent and how Mami Seacole’s fame spread through many countries. The book includes source notes and a bibliography.
THOUGHTS: If you have any biographical books on Florence Nightingale in your library, this needs to sit right beside it on the shelf. Mary Seacole’s story of determination and perseverance is one with which all students should be familiar. This book could find a home in elementary through high school libraries.