Elem. – Book’s Big Adventure

Lehrhaupt, Adam. Book’s Big Adventure. Ill. Rahele Jomepour Bell. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-534-42183-7. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

As a new book in the library, Book goes on many adventures.  He goes on a picnic and in a car; he is read at bedtime and throughout the day. But one day, Book is no longer placed on the new books shelf. He is moved to a lower, darker shelf. His adventures are fewer and fewer; he feels forgotten and wishes for the adventures he once had. After his fall from grace (or the library shelf), he is found and boxed; all hope is lost for Book.  Until one day, when Book finds a new home. He is cherished and loved and taken on many new adventures.

THOUGHTS: Book’s Big Adventure is a fantastic introduction for children to cleaning and donation. Although the book focuses on Book being weeded from the collection and finding a new home through donation, the connection to children getting new toys and forgetting about older ones or growing out of clothing is easily drawn. The illustrations by Bell enhance the story by giving life to Book and the adventures he goes on. They start out bright and colorful, then grow darker as he is forgotten, and finally become bright and airy again when he finds his new home. This is a wonderful picture book to encourage children to clean and donate items. The author also includes a note at the end about where the idea for Book’s Big Adventure came from and where readers can donate used books. As a side note, Book is not identified as he, she, or they in the book. I identified Book as a he because I thought the illustrations lent more to a he than a she. Book’s title looks like a bowtie to me.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – Out to Sea

Kellock, Helen. Out to Sea. Thames & Hudson, 2021. Unpaged. 978-0-500-65236-7. Grades 1-3.  $17.95.

Kellock has created a beautiful story about grief and loss. Lara’s grandmother has died and she misses her terribly. The young girl thinks about how her grandmother “smelled like strawberries” and how the pair would spend time on the beach. At night, Lara is filled with sadness and begins to cry, as thoughts swirl around in her head, keeping her from sleep. The author ingeniously uses the sea as a metaphor for Lara’s grief for the rest of the story. Tears fill the child’s bedroom and carry her out to sea in a boat. She leaves behind all the things that used to give her joy and continues to drift on the water, forgetting “everything that made her feel happy or safe,” like the smell of strawberries or her grandmother’s warm hands. All she feels is the “cold swirling sea.” Then, in the deep ocean appears a glowing pearl, which gives her comfort. The young girl realizes that there are things in her life that still make her happy, like the memories of her Nana, and she rows the boat home. Through the imagery of the sea, the author has crafted a story that clearly portrays the sentiments of loss, such as feeling “out to sea,” drifting aimlessly and being down in the depths. The progression of Lara’s emotions is creatively shown in the author’s full bleed illustrations. At first, she floats down a narrow stream along her street, but then the boat continues on past the big city, arrives on the beach and heads into the wide open ocean. Initially, the boat moves under its own power, but Lara picks up the oars to steer it home after she finds the pearl. At the end, the author observes that even with the pearl, Lara still has “other sleepless nights and sad goodbyes,” but now understands that she is not alone.

THOUGHTS: This book is a wonderful and fitting story for children experiencing loss.  It is a good one to share with your guidance counselor and is a must-have for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Our Table

Reynolds, Peter H. Our Table. Orchard Books, 2021. 978-1-338-57232-2. $17.99. 48 p. Grades Pre K-3.

This sweet story is about a young girl who notices that her family is spending less time together, being pulled in various directions and being lured away from each other by technology. The dining room table represents the family being pulled apart by slowly shrinking, and eventually disappearing all together. So the little girl uses technology to bring her family together, by building a new table as a family.

THOUGHTS: Peter H. Reynolds never disappoints. This sweet story is a reminder of what is truly important.

Picture Book         Krista Fitzpatrick, Wissahickon Charter School

Elem. – My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird

Meisel, Paul. My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird. Holiday House, 2021. 978-0-823-44322-2. 36 p. Grades K-2. $17.99.

This charming picture book is told from the point of view of a hummingbird called Ruby. Written in a diary format, the humorous narrative follows the bird’s life cycle. The story begins with Ruby exiting his tiny egg and looking forward to a tasty meal of insects and nectar delivered by his mother. Soon the small bird begins to fly and finds his own source of food. Ruby needs to learn to defend himself from the other hummingbirds, who also enjoy eating at the flower-shaped feeder. With the arrival of fall, this tiny creature flies to Mexico and makes an exhausting return trip by flying 500 miles nonstop over the Gulf of Mexico. In the spring, Ruby turns his thoughts to finding a mate. The text is sparse, with one or two sentences per page, which allows the pictures to take center stage. Meisel uses watercolors, acrylics, and gouache to create his colorful large scale full bleed illustrations. He does an excellent job showing the motion of the hummingbird’s fast beating wings and its amazing aviation skills, as the birds go up, down, backwards and even upside down. The author includes facts about these feathered friends on the front endpapers and in the back matter and gives helpful comparisons to allow readers to imagine their actual size.

THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy poring over the drawings as they read about this interesting animal. They may want to check out other books in Meisel’s “A Nature Diary” series to learn about the praying mantis, the bluebird and the always popular stink bug. This book is a worthwhile addition to elementary collections as a good resource for science units, as a mentor text for point of view, and creative nonfiction and for just plain enjoyment.

598.764, Hummingbirds          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – The Little Butterfly That Could

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!

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Most Days

Leannah, Michael. Most Days. Tilbury House, 2021. 978-0-884-48727-2. 32 p. $17.96. Grades K-2. 

Little moments that make up a day are highlighted with a nod to mindfulness. A variety of children share observations while completing ordinary tasks. On his way to breakfast, a boy notices six leaves on a plant where there were five yesterday. Outside, a girl in a wheelchair notices a new spiderweb. Walking through a busy neighborhood offers opportunities to take in many sights and sounds unique to the moment with a focus on positivity and the “good things happen in the ordinary minutes of the day.” Some diversity is shown among the children and adults portrayed. Calm, pastel watercolor illustrations set the scene for an engaging read aloud reminding children to find stillness and beauty in everyday moments.

THOUGHTS: A good picture book to use in conjunction with a five senses unit or to introduce mindfulness to students.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

Elem. – Napoleon vs. The Bunnies

Fox, Jennifer. Napoleon vs. The Bunnies. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-525-30202-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades 1-4. 

Until now, Waterloo may have been considered Napoleon Bonaparte’s greatest loss. Young history buffs will giggle all the way through this zany description of another defeat suffered by the famous general to “les fluffy buneez.” After signing a treaty with Tsar Alexander in 1807, Napoleon’s chief of staff arranged a celebratory hunt in which hundreds (maybe thousands) of fluffy bunnies were released from cages. Unfortunately for Napoleon, his staff collected farm-raised bunnies that did not run from the hunters. Instead, tame bunnies charged directly towards Napoleon who inexplicably turned and fled! Ink and digitally colored illustrations paired with text bubbles will keep readers giggling. Napoleon’s retreat is framed in a kid-friendly way emphasizing that even the “bravest of the brave” have fears. Backmatter presents a list of Napoleon’s strengths and weaknesses along with historic highlights and failures encouraging the reader to decide. Some French phrases are scattered throughout the text.

THOUGHTS: A hilarious self-aware read-aloud with potential learning extensions into history and French culture. A great addition to any collection looking to expand the historical section for primary learners with a social-emotional learning twist.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
944.05 Napoleon

Elem. – Memory Jars

Brosgol, Vera. Memory Jars. Roaring Book Press, 2021. 978-1-250-31487-1 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Freda is disappointed when she cannot eat all the blueberries that she picked with her grandmother. Blueberry season is over, and she has to wait an entire year to eat them again! Gran reminds her that she saves blueberries in a jar by turning them into delicious jam. What a delightful idea! Freda begins to wonder- if she can preserve blueberries in jars, why not everything else in her life that are her favorite things? Things such as warm cookies, poppies (her favorite flower), her neighbor’s beautiful singing voice, her best friend that is moving away, or the full moon. Only after she bottles everything up in mason jars does Freda realize that saving everything also means she cannot enjoy those very same things. Memory Jars, a picture book written and illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Vera Brosgol, is the perfect story to remind readers that some things are best saved as beautiful memories.

THOUGHTS: Memory Jars is written as a fable, complete with a satisfying lesson and delicious blueberry jam recipe at the end. The story is clever and charming as Freda learns that enjoying the moment is the best way to make memories. This book would be a perfect way to walk down memory lane to remember fun memories from a summer break, remember a loved one, or remember memories from a fun school year.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – The Thingity-Jig

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!

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Starting Over in Sunset Park

Pelaez, Jose & Lynn McGee. Starting Over in Sunset Park. Tilbury House Publishers, 2021. 978-0-884-48844-6 p. 40. $17.95. Grades 1-5. 

Brooklyn, New York, can be a lonely and intimidating place for an eight-year-old girl. Especially a girl that moves to the United States for the first time and speaks very little English. Starting Over in Sunset Park is the story of an immigrant girl finding her place in a vastly different environment than what she had previously known. Jessica and her mother Camila moved from the Dominican Republic into a crowded apartment in Brooklyn to live with cousins. With the apartment feeling a bit crowded, Jessica’s mother finds work making holiday decorations in a factory so that they can afford their own place to live. Jessica also feels isolated in her new school, the playground is challenging to play in, and she cannot understand the English she hears all day long. Throughout the story, the reader feels Jessica’s intense longing for her previous home and the desire to feel accepted and comfortable in this new place. Little by little, Jessica and her mother adapt to their new home, and thanks to an incredible experience, mother and daughter are inspired to make the best of their situation. Starting Over in Sunset Park will resonate with any reader who has experienced change and begun anew.

THOUGHTS: Starting Over in Sunset Park is a lovely picture book that embraces immigration, change, and overcoming obstacles. Jessica and Camilia’s journey is compassionate and full of hope. With the inclusion of the Spanish Language, this picture book would resonate strongly with anyone who has ever made a home in a new country and learned a new language.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

A Dominican girl shares her experience moving to New York City with her mother. After her first airplane ride, the young girl is homesick and nervous about settling into their new neighborhood. Feeling at home isn’t easy while staying with family but Mama soon gets a job in a factory making seasonal decorations and a new apartment just for the two of them. Once school starts, the girl is frustrated trying to keep up with the lessons in English but makes progress thanks to help from Mama and an understanding teacher. Cat-sitting for neighbors provides the duo with a side income and a steady stream of feline friends who are also adjusting to new surroundings. Before long, she and Mama begin to settle in, make friends and start to feel at home in the city. Mother, daughter, and their immediate family are portrayed as having brown skin and dark hair. The girl wears her hair in beaded braids while mother’s is long and naturally curly. Background scenes featuring diverse individuals are included throughout detailed, brightly colored illustrations of their day-to-day lives. Spanish phrases followed by English translations are sprinkled throughout the first-person narrative text. Graphic style illustrations paired with text bubbles are scattered among immersive full page illustrations teeming with details. Although the timeline appears to be approximately a year, Halloween and Christmas decorations are featured heavily within the illustrations.

THOUGHTS: A relatable read about one family’s experience immigrating from the Dominican Republic to Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD