Raccoon loves building snowmen, and he takes the job very seriously. He sketches his designs in the snow before building, and all winter long he practices. He uses only the cleanest, whitest snow, the roundest, most symmetrical snowballs, and the finest decorations. Raccoon becomes such an expert snowman builder that he knows his friends will want his help and advice. But, when they start building together, Raccoon’s friends have a challenging time because Raccoon uses all the best supplies himself. When the building is complete, Raccoon admires his most perfect snowman yet. Only after seeing his friends’ creations – a mish-mash of lumpy snowballs formed from pine needle-speckled snow – does he realize that while his snowman is perfect, he feels perfectly awful. Raccoon calls his friends together to build one final snowman. They let loose, working together and having fun while creating a gigantic perfectly imperfect snowman. Wish’s wintery watercolor illustrations perfectly complement the text, expanding this story of simple snowy day fun.
THOUGHTS: When Raccoon lets go of his perfectionistic ideals, he realizes how much fun it can be to work as part of a team. He demonstrates empathy and self-awareness when he realizes how his friends feel about their creations and how he made them feel when he used all the best supplies. This story will work well for wintery Morning Meetings or social-emotional lessons about friendship, feelings, and perfectionism.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Stutzman, Jonathan. Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse. Henry Holt and Company, 2020. 978-1-250-22285-5. 40 p. $18.99. Grades K-2.
The follow up to Llama Destroys the World finds Llama doing what he does best – eating, adventuring, and dreaming. One thing Llama does NOT do is clean up messes, so he creates The Replicator 3000, a machine which, as the name suggests, clones whatever – or whomever – is put inside. When Llama’s friend Alpaca comes over for lunch, Llama decides to clone her; after all, Alpaca loves cleaning and two alpacas can clean even faster than one. However, by dinnertime, there are millions of alpaca clones roaming the earth. They swarm playgrounds, schools, restaurants, and streets, cleaning everything in their path. The horde of alpacas causes chaos and unrest among the other animals who declare this the end of the world! Llama, however, is not concerned; after all, he is busy eating a cheese pizza with extra cheese, the smell of which lures all the alpacas back to his house. Now Llama pays attention – there is no way he is going to give up his pizza! Llama is stuck making a difficult decision. He will either have to give up his pizza to the endless parade of alpacas or find a way to reverse the cloning and save his pizza (and the world, of course).
THOUGHTS: Married author/illustrator duo Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox have once again created a silly story that is sure to delight young readers. Every child can relate to Stutzman’s Llama (after all, most children prefer eating pizza over cleaning) and Fox’s illustrations are bright and enticing, showcasing the animals’ silly expressions. Another bonus for librarians including this in their collection is that they will be supporting a local author and illustrator: Stutzman and Fox live and work in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Reynolds, Aaron. Rescuing Mrs. Birdley. Simon and Schuster. 978-1-534-42704-4. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Young Miranda Montgomery is an animal expert. She’s learned everything she knows from the Nature Joe Animal Show on television. Nature Joe is a whizz at rescuing animals and returning them to their natural habitats. So, when Miranda spots her teacher at the grocery store – out of the natural habitat of her classroom – she springs into action. Capturing Mrs. Birdley proves to be more challenging than Miranda initially anticipates. The teacher evades a leaf-covered pit and a blueberry yogurt-baited trap before Miranda ultimately captures her and returns her to the classroom where she belongs. After locking Mrs. Birdley in for the weekend, Miranda is feeling pretty proud of herself….until she spots her principal eyeing up lawn mowers at the home improvement store the next day. Vibrant digital artwork, featuring lots of jungle green, brings this story to life while also celebrating Miranda’s vivid imagination.
THOUGHTS: This book will hook students during read-aloud time. Pair it with Peter Brown’s My Teacher is a Monster for a story time featuring titles about teachers who do not belong outside their classrooms.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Tallandier, Muriel. Under My Tree. Myrick Marketing & Media, 2020. 978-1-733-12123-1. $18.95. Grades K-2.
Under My Tree is a sweet picture book that follows Suzanne, a young girl, as she discovers her tree. She has found a tree that is special to her, and she takes the time to get to know it. She feels the bark, climbs the branches, smells the fruit, and even watches as it goes through its yearly cycle of changes. Suzanne learns much about her tree and even shares some of the things she has learned about with others. Suzanne loves her tree and knows that her tree loves her.
THOUGHTS: My favorite part of this story is the little “Fun Facts!” or “Try This!” that appears in the corners. There is information about a variety of topics, including information on what the fruit feels like, to fun ‘did you know’ facts about animals and bugs that may be on trees. This small information piece added something extra that teachers will love to use within their classrooms.
Krull, Kathleen. The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins and her New Deal for America. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-49151-8. 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.
Readers may know author Kathleen Krull from her writings on important feminist leaders, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Louisa May Alcott. This book, in that same vein, is about a woman who was instrumental in FDR’s New Deal – but rarely given any credit. Frances Perkins learned from a young age to walk through any proverbial door that opened, and she lived by those words every day of her life. As a quiet girl growing up in New England, she observed and listened to the world around her. She saw the extreme inequities between the working class and upper class, even at a young age. Perkins observed working conditions in places like textile mills and bakeries. She helped people in need by fighting for better working conditions, a fight that intensified after she watched the smoldering fire at The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory claim the lives of 146 victims. Perkins knew that in order to make a real difference, she needed to enter the all-male world of politics. Luckily, President Theodore Roosevelt heard of her wonderful work and recommended her to head a committee on workplace safety. Although she was always the only woman in the room, her hard work and compassion allowed her to climb the ranks until she became President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of labor. Finally, she had a front row seat in the president’s cabinet of advisors; however, many men who worked with her despised answering to a woman and either quit or made snide remarks behind her back. Perkins did not let this deter her – she went on to author the ground-breaking New Deal and presented it to FDR himself.
THOUGHTS: This book is a reminder that even though our textbooks often credit white males for important events in American history, the real credit often goes to other people behind the scenes. Although Frances Perkins did not like the limelight and preferred not receiving credit for her incredible deeds, it is still critical that librarians expose young readers to all facets of historical events. This biographical book reads like a story and the bright, cartoon-like illustrations will capture elementary readers from the first page.
331 Women Social ReformersDanielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD
Arrow, Emily. My Feelings, My Choices. Cantata Learning, 2020. $25.49 each. $101.96 set of 4. 24 p. Grades K-2.
Trying Again. 978-1-684-10407-9. Checking In. 978-1-684-10404-8. Making It Happen. 978-1-684-10405-5. Taking A Spin. 978-1-684-10406-2.
This reviewer read Trying Again in the My Feelings, My Choices series. This series from Cantata Learning is as much a book as a song. Each book is meant to be sung, with music accessible on the Cantata website as well in the back of the book. Trying Again is about a young girl learning to take care of her plant. While she makes many mistakes in caring for her plant, instead of giving up, she adopts the Growth Mindset thinking of not being able to care for her plant yet.
THOUGHTS: This is a cute series for those interested in Growth Mindset and teaching kids not to give up after a mistake. Also would be excellent for those who teach by singing.
155.4 Childhood Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy
Lendler, Ian. The Fabled Life of Aesop. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-1-328-58552-3. 63 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.
The Fabled Life of Aesop follows the life of Aesop, as he began his life as a slave and ended up becoming free. All throughout Aesop’s life he told stories and tales to his different masters, so you see the tales that he told as well as what happened as a result of his telling those tales. In the middle of the story, there are nine of Aesop’s more famous fables; however, they are woven into the story of Aesop’s life. The afterword by the author goes into more detail about Aesop’s life as far as what is known, as well as more about the fables and how they came to be. The illustrations are absolutely stunning and add so much detail to the story, as well as making the fables come to life. This is a wonderful addition to any elementary school library collection, and gives new life into some of Aesop’s fables that you may have heard several times before.
THOUGHTS: I loved the illustrations and feel they really added so much to the story. The afterword was informative and made me feel like I got more information, even though there isn’t a lot known about Aesop himself.
398.24 Fables Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy Charter School
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!
Fleming, Candace, and Eric Rohmann. Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. Neal Porter Books, 2020. 978-0-8234-4285-0. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.
On a summer morning, a new life begins, a new honeybee emerges from her cell. With characteristically flawless prose, Fleming guides the reader day by day through the short life cycle of the honeybee. The new worker bee immediately begins tasks about the hive, from cleaning, to feeding larva, to tending the queen. At approximately four weeks, the worker transitions to a forager, seeking nectar and communicating its location to other foragers. This job will consume the honeybee for the rest of her days. Fleming’s text is gently poetic, imbuing grace and beauty to the life of the bee and the hive. Caldecott winner Rohmann’s eye-catching artwork adds another layer to the experience and is not for the faint-of-heart. Illustrations of the bee are enormous, covering entire pages. Some young readers will thrill to the extreme closeups of eyes and antenni, but other, more bug-phobic, children (and adults) may find the pictures terrifying.
THOUGHTS: This is a lovely, lyrical peek inside the hive and the life of the honeybee, but know your audience before using it as a read-aloud.
Rhyming couplets pair with full-page, vibrant illustrations in this sweet tribute to dads of all kinds. This title’s opening spread features human dads and their children enjoying a day at the park. Subsequent pages feature dads from all over the animal kingdom interacting with their young. From boosting little ones up to grab berries and playing hide-and-seek, to cozying up for an afternoon nap, animal dads share all kinds of one-on-one time. The closing spread features the same human dads and children at the park, reminding readers that “There’s a lot that dads can do, the best of all is loving you!” The back endpapers feature an illustration of each animal highlighted in the story as well as a brief description of where the animal lives and what the father does as a caretaker.
THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for read-alouds, especially ones centered around families or in celebration of Father’s Day. The text and illustrations will prompt discussions and comparisons between things humans dads do and things animal dads do to take care of their families.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD