Elem. – Dear Librarian

Sigwarth, Lydia M. Dear Librarian. Farrar Straus Giroux. 978-0-374-31390-6. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

When Lydia and her large family move from Colorado to Iowa, she misses many things. Most of all, she misses having a home. In Iowa, she doesn’t have a home: just houses. Her family spends some days living at an aunt’s house, some days living at a cousin’s house, and some days living at her grandmother’s house. She doesn’t feel at home anywhere, until her mother takes her to the library. The library has sunny windows, rows of books, baskets of toys, and best of all, a kind librarian. The librarian takes time to listen closely, locate perfect books, read stories, and give warm hugs. In the library, Lydia finally finds her own special home. Even when her family eventually moves into their own house, Lydia continues returning to the library to see her special friend. Her many visits even inspired her current career as a children’s librarian. An introduction by Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life, details how Lydia Sigwarth’s story originally premiered on his radio show. Listeners liked it so much that Lydia decided to write her own version of the story, which is this autobiographical picture book.

THOUGHTS: The book’s final pages include an author’s note explaining that this story is based on what really happened to the author while she and her family were homeless for six months when she was a little girl. The note also details how in 2018, the author reconnected with her childhood librarian with the help of the radio show This American Life “664 The Room of Requirement Act Three: Growing Shelf-Awareness.” This gentle story describes one little girl’s experience with homelessness while also celebrating the power libraries have to create safe, welcoming spaces for all people. This title will serve as a memorable discussion-starter during elementary morning meetings.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey Pioneering Nature Activist

D’Aquino, Andrea. She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey Pioneering Nature Activist. Princeton, Architectural Press, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-648-96050-5. $18.95. Grades 1-3.

This picture book biography is the story of a woman who made a difference. Florence Merriam Bailey grew up in the late 19th century with her family who loved nature. Her mother was an astronomer and her father took the family on a summer long camping trip where she loved to observe the forest animals. Florence’s favorite creatures were birds and she studied their behavior and songs. She strongly disliked the latest fashion in hats, which were adorned with feathers and even the actual carcasses of birds. Bailey and her classmates at Smith College initiated a successful boycott of these hats. Florence became an avid ornithologist and promoted watching birds in a natural setting with binoculars in contrast to scientists who studied them in laboratories. She was the author of a field guide and other books on birds and their methods of communication. The author’s full bleed illustrations are done using hand-painted collage, oil pastel and pencil. Readers will enjoy examining the many colorful birds that are depicted.

THOUGHTS: This book is a great choice for elementary collections. It could be used during Women’s History Month, Earth Day or in science units. Children will learn about the wonder and beauty of our feathered friends and may be inspired to do some birdwatching on their own.

921 Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
598.2 Birds     

Elem. – Never Show a T.Rex a Book

Sirdeshpande, Rashmi. Never Show a T.Rex a Book. 1st American ed., Kane Miller, 2021. 978-1-684-64159-8. Unpaged. $12.99. Grades K-3.

A young girl finds that chaos ensues when she teaches her dinosaur how to read. Written in the same style as Laura Numeroff’s If You Give… series, this imaginative book portrays countless if/then scenarios that will delight young readers–and maybe even encourage them to envision some scenarios of their own. A heartwarming tale about the transformative magic of reading, kids will be begging to re-read this book over and over again.

THOUGHTS: The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and I love that they portray a multicultural cast of characters. I should note that because this was originally published in England, there are a few pages that may require some clarification for young children; for instance, one page states that the newly educated dinosaur might just become the prime minister. Fans of Laura Numeroff will adore this book, as will dinosaur lovers and avid readers.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Don’t Hug Doug: He Doesn’t Like It

Finison, Carrie. Don’t Hug Doug: He Doesn’t Like It. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021. 978-1-984-8302-2 32 p. $16.99. Grades Pre-K – 2. 

You can hug a pug. You can hug a bug or a slug. But don’t hug Doug. He doesn’t like it. Don’t take it personally – Doug still likes you! He just feels that hugs are too squeezy, too squashy, too squooshy, and too smooshy. Doug has every right to decide if he would like a hug or not. Don’t Hug Doug: He Doesn’t Like It is the perfect picture book by author Carrie Finison and illustrator Daniel Wiseman that starts a great conversation about setting personal boundaries and addressing them in a kind but practical manner. Doug explains to the reader in a cheerful tone that all you have to do is ask: Do you like hugs? And the appropriate response would be to respect the answer.

THOUGHTS: Don’t Hug Doug is effective, yet gentle when discussing consent with the reader. I have not read many children’s books that address bodily autonomy and personal boundaries with appropriate and easy-to-understand strategies. This picture book would appeal to all ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, or early elementary students. I agree with Boston Globes’ review: “Don’t Hug Doug can make kids feel better about their own boundaries and challenge them to understand the comfort of others. But really, it gives grown-ups something to consider, too.”

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks

Tsui, Bonnie, and Sophie Diao, illustrator. Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks. Henry Holt and Company, 2021. 978-1-250-23948-8. unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

Sarah Gerhardt grew up surfing little, medium, and big waves (her favorite!) on Oahu’s North Shore, which is famous for its huge waves, some of which top the height of a five-story building. As one of just a few girl surfers, Sarah struggled to find the right size surfboards and wetsuits; luckily, she found a circle of friends that included a surfboard shaper who made boards that were just right for her. She later moved to California, where her new home was near Mavericks, the famous big-wave surf break. With its monster waves, “Mount Everest meets Niagara Falls” was a dangerous place to surf, and no woman had ever done it … until Sarah! Illustrator Sophie Diao captures Sarah’s history-making ride, and its epic scale, in a made-for-storytime flip-up page. Throughout Sarah and the Big Wave, Diao’s digitally rendered artwork beautifully captures the ever-changing colors of the ocean and the power of its biggest waves. A timeline of milestones in the history of women and surfing complete this fantastic picture book biography.

THOUGHTS: This upbeat, inspiring true story is positively swell.

Picture Book Biography          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Gottesfeld, Jeff. Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Candlewick Press, 2021. 978-1-5362-0148-2 32 p. $17.99. Grades 2-5. 

Sentinel guards keep vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, protecting soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice. Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a picture book written by Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrated by Matt Tavares, perfectly captures and honors the soldiers that honor the fallen. This moving and inspiring book teaches the reader the history and significance of the memorial and how the “Unknowns” have come to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Gottesfeld and Tavares explain through enriched vocabulary and powerful illustrations that the privilege and most challenging post to earn in the army is to stand, with absolute precision in every type of weather, at every moment of the day, since July 2, 1937, when the tomb became protected by American Soldiers. This moving and informative picture book honors the past, present, and future members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

THOUGHTS: This inspirational and beautiful picture book targets grades 2-5, ages 7-10, and would make an excellent mentor text for upper elementary or even middle grades. Not only is Twenty-One Steps a moving tribute but an informative text that would fit well with a WWII or Memorial Day unit. Emotional. Beautiful. Very well done.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – The Leaf Thief

Hemming, Alice. The Leaf Thief. 1st American ed., Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021. 978-1-728-23520-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Squirrel is contently lounging in his tree watching the sun shine through the colorful autumn leaves when he suddenly realizes one of his leaves is missing. He immediately enlists Bird’s help tracking down his missing leaf. He questions Mouse to no avail. The next day, he notices that more leaves are missing! He accuses Woodpecker and even Bird of stealing his leaves, but he soon discovers that there may be another explanation to his missing leaves. A humorous story sure to delight young readers, this would be an excellent choice for a fall read aloud.

THOUGHTS: Endnotes in the book explain some of the science behind the arrival of autumn, making this the perfect introduction to life cycles and the changing seasons. As an added bonus, Squirrel’s exaggerated actions and expressions make for a comical story that is sure to grab the interest of elementary students. This is a solid choice for elementary science collections.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – The Crow and the Peacock

Fernihough, Jo. The Crow and the Peacock. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-0-802-85568-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Crow is living a perfectly happy life until he encounters a dove in the forest one day. Her beautiful, bright feathers and soft cooing cause him to question his dark feathers and loud “caw caw.” Suddenly, his self-confidence dwindles. In talking to the dove, however, he discovers that the dove actually envies the nightingale, whose singing is even more magnificent. The nightingale, in turn, envies the rooster, whose call is so famous it is heard across the land. As the crow travels from bird to bird, he discovers that they all want something another bird has. Ultimately, he meets a caged peacock, who only wishes to fly free like a crow. It is then that the crow realizes how good he has it and that the only thing that could possibly make him happier is sharing his joy with others. A thought-provoking tale complete with lively, colorful illustrations, this book would be an excellent read aloud selection.

THOUGHTS: This book would be a great introduction to self-esteem/confidence building activities. After hearing the story, young listeners could reflect on their own special traits and characteristics. Perhaps they could even share with their peers the attributes they like most about each other. The book might also prompt discussions about jealousy and the problem with comparing oneself to others. This is definitely a must-have for those looking to build social and emotional learning collections.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – The Perfect Fit

Jones, Naomi. The Perfect Fit. 1st American ed., Kane Miller, 2021. 978-1-684-64141-3. Unpaged. $14.99. Grades K-3.

Triangle loved playing with the circles, but sometimes she felt a bit different. She couldn’t roll like the circles and often felt like she was getting in their way. Therefore, she set off in search of friends who were more like her. She played with some squares, but soon realized she couldn’t stack like them. She played with the hexagons, but found that she kept messing up their pattern. Finally, Triangle discovered other triangles who were exactly like her. However, it wasn’t long before Triangle realized that it was a lot more fun for all of the shapes to play together. A cute story with a strong positive message about acceptance and inclusion, this book would be an excellent addition to any elementary collection.

THOUGHTS: I love the many ways in which this book could be used in an elementary setting. It could be used to introduce geometrical shapes and patterns, or it could be used to initiate a discussion about acceptance and inclusion. Pair it with other titles that celebrate diversity and differences, such as Lisa Mantchev’s Strictly No Elephants (2015) and Todd Parr’s It’s Okay to Be Different (2001).

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Seaside Stroll

Trevino, Charles. Seaside Stroll. Charlesbridge, 2021. 978-1-580-89932-1. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

Bundle up, and prepare for a seaside walk…in the winter! This beachy tale is even more unique because it uses only words beginning with the letter “s.” A little girl, her doll, and her mother layer on their warmest clothes for a wintery walk to the seashore. From snow on the sand to flocks of seagulls, there’s lots to look at on a wintery afternoon. But, when the little girl slips on the rocky side of a tidepool and the doll splashes in, will the day be salvaged? Trevino, the author, was inspired by American Sign Language (ASL) poetry when he created the structure for this text. In his author’s note, he describes how the story reads like a poem, and its rhythm and pace are designed to capture the wonder of exploration and discovery. Additional backmatter includes a list of things to look for if you visit a beach in the winter, including birds, wintery cloud formations, animals in tidepools, and snow and sand sculptures.

THOUGHTS: This gentle text shares a unique perspective of the beach during the off-season. It’s full of sensory words, so teachers could task students with listening carefully for them as the story unfolds. This will be an unexpected addition to wintery storytimes.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD