Elem. – The Worrysaurus

Bright, Rachel, and Chris Chatterson. The Worrysaurus. Orchard Books, 2020. 978-1-338-63408-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K – 2.

A beautiful day leads a small dinosaur to begin planning a wonderful picnic, because “Worrysaurus liked it when he knew what lay ahead.” But then the thoughts of worry and doubt creep in as he over-thinks his plans and begins to fret about hunger, thirst, storms, and other fears. Nothing has actually gone wrong, but the darkness is closing in, and the butterflies in his stomach are overtaking Worrysaurus. But then he remembers some coping skills from his mommy, including chasing away the butterflies, holding onto some happy things, and calming his busy mind. The illustrations from Chris Chatterson perfectly capture the anxiety of the dinosaur, and the gentle rhyming cadence to Rachel Bright’s words will help those who need to hear it. Letting those butterflies be free and enjoying the moment might just be the message that young readers need right now!

THOUGHTS: While not a perfect recipe for troubled young minds, this story certainly works as a discussion piece to aid families or classrooms to identify and cope with fears in their world. My advanced reader copy did not contain other resources or coping tools, but perhaps teachers or parents will have those readily available when sharing. A worthwhile purchase for emotional support collections.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Elem. – Share Your Rainbow: 18 Artists Draw Their Hope for the Future

Various Artists. Share Your Rainbow: 18 Artists Draw Their Hope for the Future. Penguin Random House, 2020. 978-0-593-37521-1. 32 pages. $7.99. Grades K – 3.

As R.J. Palacio states in the forward, “rainbows are messages of love and hope and peace.” During the Covid-19 pandemic, symbols of rainbows have appeared in windows, sidewalks, and anywhere that children needed to share some joy. This unique picture book aims to make a story of looking for hope in the everyday world and looking ahead to a better future. Each page turn brings a new artist to share their rainbow in creative and delightful ways. For example, children use this time to redesign a rainbow rocketship, imagine riding a rainbow roller coaster, playing with a beach ball, and reuniting with family and friends. Students will naturally seek the rainbows on each page, and then want to #sharemyrainbow afterwards.

THOUGHTS: Come for the hopeful message, but stay to enjoy exploring how artistic styles of many illustrators come together. Some of the featured creators are: Vasti Harrison, Adam Rex, Oge Mora, Dan Santat, Bob Shea, and Lane Smith. All proceeds of the book sales go to World Central Kitchen, which could lead to a further discussion of how to share hope with those in need. Recommended read-aloud and lesson for K – 3.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Elem. – You Matter

Robinson, Christian. You Matter. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-5344-2169-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K – 2.

Christian Robinson’s newest picture book has a straightforward message, even while delivering it through a roundabout story: You Matter! In fact, we are all matter, connected from the formation of the earth to the smallest living creatures. The flow of the story goes from a girl looking into a microscope and then off to several prehistoric creatures, before taking a galactic turn from a space station parent to a cityscape child. However, the message all along is meant to apply to all of us – despite hardships or worries or feelings of loneliness – you matter! The illustrations and their progression are delightful to connect and discuss, while the text hopefully hits home for those young readers who need those two reassuring words in a time of uncertainty.

THOUGHTS: The natural connection with this book would be for students to list things that matter to them, or ways that they matter to the world, and then share it with others. This would make for a great opportunity for building friendships and class identity at the start of a school year. Recommended for grades K – 2.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Elem. – The Very Last Leaf

Wade, Stef. The Very Last Leaf. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-684-46104-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Lance the cottonwood leaf is used to being at the top of his class. From the time school began in the spring, he was the first to blossom, the best at learning wind resistance, and he excelled at photosynthesizing. But when autumn arrives, he’s hesitant about the final test: the one that will take him off his branch and onto the ground. Lance is afraid to fall. Lance wishes he could be like his friend Doug Fir who doesn’t have to fall and can instead stay on his branch all winter long. As the time to fall draws closer, Lance makes up excuses. But soon, he’s the last leaf on his tree. His mind races with everything that could happen to him when he falls. He might land in a gutter. Or, he could get stuck to a windshield. His teacher reassures him he’ll be okay, and he feels a little better after talking to someone. And, as he looks down from his tree, he starts to notice all the other things that can happen to leaves on the ground. He sees children playing in them and collecting them for craft projects. After seeing that his friends are safe and happy, Lance decides to make the fall. With his teacher and friends cheering him on, he finally lets go.

THOUGHTS: This gentle text highlights social-emotional themes such as anxiety, perfectionism, and facing your fears in a lighthearted way. This is a perfect choice for fall morning meetings and should also be shared with guidance counselors. A final page includes nonfiction facts about deciduous leaves.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Runaway Pumpkins

Bateman, Teresa. Runaway Pumpkins. Charlesbridge, 2020. 978-1-580-89681-8. 32p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

As the leaves begin changing colors, students are ready for their field trip to the pumpkin patch. During the bus ride, they chatter about the kinds of pumpkins they plan on picking. In the field, each student selects one pumpkin to take home, and the pumpkins are loaded into the storage area under the bus. Students daydream about the ways they’ll decorate their pumpkins. But, disaster strikes during the return bus ride! The lower doors are not latched tightly, and all the pumpkins roll out! Confused townsfolk see the smashed pumpkins all over their lawns and porches, and they devise a plan for reuniting the students with their pumpkins. Meanwhile when the students arrive at school, everyone is disappointed to see the empty storage area. The only pumpkin still safely on the bus is the large one strapped to the roof, which the children proceed to decorate together. The next day, at the harvest fair, the townspeople make a surprise appearance, each bringing a different dish made from the children’s runaway pumpkins. From pumpkin cake and pumpkin ice cream to pumpkin soup and pumpkin fries, the children are excited to see the missing pumpkins in their new forms.

THOUGHTS: The upbeat, rhyming text will appeal to primary students, making this a fun fall-themed read-aloud. The story also celebrates the community spirit, as well as the idea of making the best of an unexpected situation. Students and townspeople are racially diverse. Overall, this is a fun autumn story that doesn’t center on Halloween.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – By and By: Charles Albert Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music

Weatherford, Carole Boston. By and By: Charles Albert Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-42636-8. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-2

By and By is a picture book biography that tells the story of Charles Albert Tindley who is considered “the founding father of gospel music.” This biography is told in verse, which adds a lyrical, musical quality to the book. The illustrator of this book is Bryan Collier, a Caldecott Honor recipient, and the illustrations are magnificent! This is the type of book that requires more than one read through, just to take in the different parts of the illustrations. At the end of the book, there are author’s notes, as well as an illustrator note which includes hints about the illustrations which would be great to share with students after you read the story. There is a bibliography and a resource page included. Overall, this is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography which would be a great addition to a biography collection.

THOUGHTS: I loved this picture book biography! I learned so much about Charles Albert Tindley, who I had honestly never heard of before I read this. Highly recommended!

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy
Biography

Elem. – The Biggest Story

Coyle, Sarah. The Biggest Story. Kane Miller, 2020. 978-1-684-64045-4. 32 p. $12.99. Grades K-2.

Sarah Coyle’s vibrant picture book, illustrated by Dan Taylor, reminds readers that even in a world with the iPad, Nintendo Switch, and YouTube, the best entertainment comes from the imagination of storytellers. Errol is surrounded by every toy and electronic he owns and yet, he is still bored. His mother is a fantastic storyteller, and he begs for one of her stellar stories. Unfortunately, she must complete some errands around the house first. She suggests Errol think up his own tale instead. While worrying that he doesn’t know how to come up with a story, he bumps into some insect and animal friends who give him some fun and unusual ideas for his tale. Errol also meets some time-traveling dinosaurs who want a featured spot in his first literary creation. Together, his newfound furry and scaly friends help him create a story so big, even his mother, storyteller extraordinaire, is impressed with the final result.

THOUGHTS: This book shows students the power of storytelling and how a story can be generated just by looking all around you. Teachers and librarians will especially love that Errol has an activity in the back of the book to help students find their inner storyteller. What I love most about this book, however, is that Errol is a character of color featured in a children’s book that shows him doing normal activities. Every library can benefit from books that show people of color being, well, regular people!

Picture Book         Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies

Oliver, Carmen. Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-684-46081-6. 32 p. $17.95. Grades K-4. 

When Adelaide notices that her friend Theo is struggling during writing time, she decides to pass him a note of encouragement and enlists Bear to help Theo find his unique story. Bear is a comforting figure, full of tips about proper spacing and adding sensory details. Bear also helps Theo learn to “forage for new ideas” or take a break to regroup when writing isn’t easy. Leo learns about drafting and revision with Bear’s motto “rebuild, reimagine, rework.” By the end of the story, Theo is confidently writing with his classmates while Adelaide hints at a sequel. Brightly colored illustrations fill the pages with imaginary scenes of the trio fishing for new ideas, flying in hot air balloons, and hard at working writing. Diversity among characters is represented among the primary and secondary characters. Theo and teacher Mrs. Fitz-Pea are Black; Adelaide is white. Diversity is also depicted among their classmates with a two-page spread that shows children of various gender, ability and race holding up individualized heart artwork beneath the text “There’s nothing you can’t say when it comes from your heart. Because your voice is your voice – no two are the same.” This artwork is also beautifully replicated on the end pages.

THOUGHTS: This book is a thoughtful, positive introduction to the writing process for elementary students. Bear simultaneously empowers students to find, share and hone their individual writers’ voice while also modeling desirable writing buddy behavior. This book will make a fun engaging read aloud with plenty of opportunities to discuss writing with students.

808.02 Writing          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
Picture Book

Elem. – Bike & Trike

Verdick, Elizabeth, and Brian Biggs. Bike & Trike. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-41517-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Switching to a “big kid bike” is a rite of passage for children, but what about the emotions that the vehicles go through?? Bike is new and shiny and ready to roll, while still having lots to learn. Trike is trusty and experienced, though a bit beat up and too small. When the two first meet in anthropomorphic fashion, they go through some initial reactions. Then a race challenge brings out further emotions, and eventually a Bike & Trike find mutual respect and come to a satisfying conclusion. Verdick and Biggs have hit on an emotional ride that will have reader’s ready to hop on and enjoy!

THOUGHTS: As a social emotional discussion book, there is plenty to unpack here. However, it is just as useful as an entertaining read for bike lovers. Perhaps my favorite extension would be a writing lesson to imagine what stories the rest of the things in any child’s garage (or basement or closet…) might tell if they could share and grow like Bike & Trike.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

Elem. – The Weather’s Bet

Young, Ed. The Weather’s Bet. Philomel Books, 2020. 978-0-525-51382-7. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

The Wind and the Sun may be a familiar Aesop fable to many adults but a new puzzle for young readers. Ed Young has recreated the fable into The Weather’s Bet with his usual collage and mixed media. We see a young shepherd with a red cap who becomes the unknowing target of a bet between the wind, rain, and sun above. While wind and rain seek to use forceful methods of persuasion, the sun patiently waits for its gentle warmth to win out. Young brings in an environmental note in the forward and introduces several Chinese pictograms to symbolize the competing weather. It’s a good bet that children will appreciate and discuss this fabled work with fresh voice and vision.

THOUGHTS: The story length is ideal for a short storytime, and can easily be compared with other fables and versions of the story. The moral is not overt, so a discussion with classes would be recommended. Recommended for K-2.

398 Folklore          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD