Elem. – Adventures in Fosterland (Series Fiction)

Shaw, Hannah. Adventures in Fosterland. Aladdin, 2022. $17.99 ea. $44.95 set of 3. Grades 1-3.

Super Spinach. 978-665-90125-3.
Emmett and Jez. 978-1-665-90119-2.
Baby Badger. 978-1-665-92555-6. (Expected in February 2023)

Adventures in Fosterland is a new series written by Hannah Shaw, who is involved with kitten rescue. Each volume is inspired by an actual animal rescue story. Emmett and Jez tells the story of a tiny piglet named Emmett who falls off a truck and is wandering on the side of the road when he is rescued and taken to “Fosterland.” Fosterland the home of a nice lady who fosters animals until they are adopted. There, Emmett soon becomes fast friends with Jez, a kitten who is healing after surgery to remove an injured leg. As time passes, Emmett realizes that he and Jez are different in many ways from one another, and this means they might go in separate directions once they leave Fosterland. Will they find their forever homes? In Super Spinach, readers are introduced to Spinach, a kitten at an animal shelter. Spinach needs to have surgery on her ribs and is quite scared. An older cat tells her she will have to have superpowers to recover from the surgery. So when Spinach wakes up wearing a hard chest plate that will protect her while she recovers, she decides she must be a superhero with armor! Sent to Fosterland to recover, Spinach teams up with Chickpea, another kitten in Fosterland, and they soon are gaining confidence and taking on challenges they never would have dreamed of previously. When it’s time for Spinach’s chest plate to come off, she is worried that it means the end of her superpowers. But she soon discovers that you don’t need armor or a costume to be brave. 

THOUGHTS: Hand this series to fans of animal stories, particularly cat lovers (each book in the series thus far features a kitten as one of the protagonists). Readers will enjoy these stories of friendship and will also learn important lessons about kindness and bravery. Each title contains a closing chapter where Shaw shares the real stories of the animals who inspired the series and the back cover features photos of the real Emmett, Jez, Spinach, and Chickpea. Recommended.

Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Pets of Presidents (Series NF)

Hansen, Grace. Pets of Presidents. Abdo Kids, 2022. $21.95 ea. $131.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades K-2. 

Birds of Presidents. 978-1-098-20923-0.
Cats of Presidents. 978-1-098-20924-7.
Dogs of Presidents. 978-1-098-20925-4.
Farm Pest of Presidents. 978-1-098-20926-1.
Horses of Presidents. 978-1-098-20927-9.
Unusual Pets of Presidents. 978-1-098-20928-5.

This series focuses on a unique part of presidential history – the pets of presidents and their families. Each two page spread features age appropriate text identifying the president and the pet(s) owned by their family. A historical image of the president (or family) is accompanied by a contemporary photo of the pet species they owned. This reviewer had an opportunity to read Birds of Presidents. While the overall book was very informative, the spread featuring the Teddy Roosevelt family and their macaw had text that simply mentioned “The Roosevelts” and a photo showing Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. with the macaw. It would have been clearer to the reader had the text indicated that “The Roosevelts” referred specifically to the Theodore Roosevelt family (since, after all, two Roosevelts have occupied the Oval Office). Each volume also features a picture glossary and a link to additional online resources. 

THOUGHTS: An interesting angle on presidential history that will appeal to both animal fans and history fans, this series is a worthwhile additional purchase for libraries looking to add to their presidential collections. 

973 American History          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

MG – The Supernatural Society

Ogle, Rex. The Supernatural Society. Inkyard Press, 2022. 978-1-335-42487-7. 281 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Will moves with his mom and his dog, Fitz, from New York City to a new school in East Emerson because his parents have recently divorced, and he is not pleased. Will deals with quite a bit of culture shock as he acclimates to small-town life and realizes that East Emerson isn’t just a sleepy, boring town; his new home is also overrun with monsters! Eventually, though, he befriends Linus and Ivy, two siblings from his neighborhood who help him deal with the monsters and make him feel as though he has found a “tribe” among all the upheaval and heartbreak in his life.

THOUGHTS: Good for students who want more scary stories, those who are fans of Stranger Things and groups of smart, multicultural kids finding monsters and solving mysteries. Linus is unapologetically smart, Ivy is strong, and Will is the glue that holds the band together. Students will be waiting with excitement for future books as well! This story will also serve as an unusual but interesting way to lead students to Free Lunch, Rex Ogle’s gritty and fascinating memoir.

Mystery Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD
Supernatural Fiction

Elem. – Mina

Forsythe, Matthew. Mina. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. Unpaged. 978-1-481-48041-3. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Mina is a young mouse who loves solitary pursuits like reading and drawing. She and her father live in a comfortable mouse hole in a “piece of wood.” He likes to surprise her by bringing home guests, which causes Mina some anxiety. After all, the last visitors were stick insects who stole all her books. This time her dad brings home an unusual looking squirrel, and his daughter has her own idea about the identity of the animal. He tells her not to worry, but does become concerned when the creature stops eating. His solution is to bring home two more “squirrels” to keep it company. When this does not help, they call the doctor who quickly figures out that the problem is that “…these squirrels are definitely cats.” This diagnosis leads to panic and a chase. Will the assistance from a surprising source be enough to allow the trio to survive? The author also has created the whimsical drawings done in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil. Mina is simply adorable, and the illustrations are a joy to see. 

THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy this story, which is a perfect read aloud. There surely will be a lot of laughs and a chorus of “Oh, no’s” as young readers listen to this tale of a smart little mouse and her hapless father. Elementary librarians will not want to miss this one.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Two Dogs

Falconer, Ian. Two Dogs. Michael DiCapua Books, 2022. 978-0-062-95447-3. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-1.

Ian Falconer of Olivia fame returns with another silly bit of fun, this time featuring dogs not pigs. Percy and Augie are two dachshunds who have been with their family since puppyhood. The family played with them a lot as puppies, but once the children were old enough to go to school and the parents went to work, the pair found themselves alone and bored. Of course, they would follow the usual indoor routines of most dogs, like chasing each other, playing with a ball and barking at squirrels. Even some unusual behaviors are not enough to amuse them, and the pooches decide they have to go outside. After figuring out how to open the lock, the dachshunds proceed to have a grand old time in the yard. They swim in the pool, play on the swings, roll in some unpleasant raccoon droppings and “water” the flowers. Then they spot a tiny hole in the lawn and cannot resist enlarging it. Suddenly the pair hear the approach of the family car, and Augie and Percy “hightail” it back inside. Will the canine duo come up with a clever way to avoid being blamed for the giant hole? Falconer has created humorous artwork that shows the animals with all their doggy characteristics, but with a slight human touch, as he did with Olivia.

THOUGHTS: This laugh out loud picture book is sure to be a hit with young readers who will ask for it to be read again and again. Highly recommended for all elementary collections.

Picture Book           Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Negative Cat

Blackall, Sophie. Negative Cat. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021. 978-0-399-25719-3. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

After 427 days of asking, a young boy’s family finally agrees to let him adopt a cat. Part of the deal is that he has to feed it, clean up after it, keep his room neat, write to his grandmother, and read for 20 minutes every day. The boy admits he isn’t such a great reader, but he agrees to the conditions before his parents change their minds. He picks out the perfect cat at the rescue shelter, renaming his new pet Max. He’s excited to show Max his new bed, toys, and treats, but Max seems unimpressed. He also doesn’t show any reaction to being tickled, listening to jokes, or seeing his scratching post. Instead, Max stares at the wall, puts his tail in the butter, and leaves hairballs on the rug. The boy’s sister labels Max a negative cat, and his parents call the shelter to have a conversation. It’s only when the boy begins his dreaded task of reading – sounding out words slowly while reading them aloud – that Max begins to show some affection and form a bond with his new owner. An Author’s Note at the end of the book credits the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Pennsylvania for inspiring the book’s ending. Blackall describes how she read an article about the Rescue League’s Book Buddies program which encourages children to practice their fluency by reading out loud to cats. 

THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy Blackall’s spirited digital artwork, particularly the emotions displayed by Max the cat and the rest of the family members. Share this title with animal lovers and reluctant readers who may just need a little feline inspiration to jump-start their own reading. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Best Day Ever!

Singer, Marilyn. Best Day Ever! Illustrated by Leah Nixon. Clarion Books, 2021. 978-1-328-98783-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Told from the point of view of a very energetic little puppy, Best Day Ever! follows two friends through a day that starts out great and ends up with some trouble. From stealing hot dogs (not the bun) to swimming in the lake, this pup has a day full of adventure. When he makes a mess of himself, though, the best day suddenly becomes the worst day. Can sweet this duo find their way back to the best day ever? Digital illustrations bring these characters to life. The pet’s human is a boy in a wheelchair who can do a lot of the same activities that able-bodied children do. Illustrated by a paralyzed artist, this title has disability representation as a subtle message for children.

THOUGHTS: Readers will love brainstorming about their own best days and talking about things pets do. Best Day Ever! lends itself well to a writing prompt about best days or a creative writing piece about the silly things pets might be thinking. Hand this one to any pet lover.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Cat Problems

John, Jory. Cat Problems. Random House Studio, 2021. 978-0-593-30213-2. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-2.

Told from the cat’s perspective, this hilarious story chronicles a day in the life of a house cat. This particular cat has a lot of complaints about his living situation: another cat is lying in his spot, he doesn’t have any food in his dish, he wants to go outside, and a noisy monster (the vacuum) is chasing him. The list of grievances goes on. Through the window, a squirrel scolds him for being so ungrateful. This doesn’t phase the cat, however, and he continues through his day with his amusing, authentic commentary on his surroundings. Despite his attitude, readers will fall in love with the protagonist, who is so unapologetically himself that it’s comical.

THOUGHTS: Fans of Penguin Problems (2016) and Giraffe Problems (2018) will love this hilarious new addition to the Animal Problems series. Cat lovers will also find this book endearing. Have children compare and contrast the feline protagonist with their own pets at home, or have them write a story from their pet’s perspective.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Too Crowded

Podesta, Lena. Too Crowded. Sourcebooks, 2021. 978-1-728-22238-7. 32 p. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.

Gil, a goldfish, feels crowded in his bowl with a plant, a castle, and 138 pebbles (that he cleans every day all by himself).  When Gil bonks his nose on the side of his bowl, he decides he needs a new house; something bigger and roomier. He finds a bird’s nest which is nice and large, but the birds are too noisy. He finds Cat’s house which is quiet, but dangerous as Cat tries to get Gil. Finally, Gil finds Turtle’s house. Turtle questions why Gil is out in the air because fish “can’t breathe air, silly.” As Gil gulps for breath, Turtle gets help from their human to save him. Now, Gil is back in his small, cramped bowl, but it’s not so cramped anymore because it is now Turtle’s home too.

THOUGHTS: This is a delightful introduction for children to animal homes and understanding feelings of loneliness and friendship. Gil’s home is cramped because he is alone, but once Turtle joins him, their home is just right. Too Crowded may also translate for children expecting a new sibling because Gil finds joy in sharing his home and things with Turtle. The illustrations are bright and colorful. They are limited, as is the text, and utilize lots of white space. Details are especially fun throughout as Gil wears sneakers and has a bandage on his nose from where he hit the side of his bowl. One final note…Gil is not identified as he, she, or they in the text. As the reader, I identified Gil as a him, but others may identify Gil as she or they.

Picture Book        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – Dear Beast: The Pet Parade

Butler, Dori Hillestad. Dear Beast: The Pet Parade. Holiday House, 2021. 978-0-823-44493-9. 80 p. $15.99. Grades 1-3. 

Dear Beast: The Pet Parade is book # 2 in the heartwarming early chapter book series by author Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrator Kevin Atteberry. Cat and Dog lovers will love this series about a jealous cat, a lovable dog, and an owner (a young boy) that has no idea his pets are pen pals. The series is portrayed and written as letters between the two animals, and the books are perfect for young readers transitioning into chapter books. In book # 2, Simon the Cat wants to maintain his pride and avoid wearing a costume for the annual city pet parade. Simon is content to sit this one out and encourages Baxter, the dog, to wear a costume and march with Andy in the city parade. But when Baxter keeps the outfit a mystery- Simon begins to worry that Baxter is up to no good. Can he be trusted? It’s up to Simon to save the day and make sure things go off without a hitch. The adorable storyline celebrates the joy of friendship, the love of pets, and the fun of writing letters.

THOUGHTS: Dear Beast is a charming series for beginner readers. The characters are fun and lovable, and the hilarious dialogue is presented through handwritten letters with spelling mistakes between the two furry characters with fun wordplay. I especially love that the book has a special note in the back that clarifies the characters’ misspelled words. I am eager to read more books in this delightful series and will recommend the series to others!

Early/Beginning Chapter Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD