Elem. – The Heart of a Whale

Pignataro, Anna. The Heart of a Whale. Philomel Books, 2020. $17.99. 978-1-984-83627-4. 32 p. Grades K-3. 

Whale has a beautiful song that soothes, cheers and calms all of the animals in the ocean. Even though whale’s song brings joy and love to many he was lonesome, noticing “how there was no song big enough to fill his empty heart.” One day, the whale is so forlorn he lets out a sigh that is carried by the ocean to another whale who travels far and wide to accompany him. United, the whales sing in unison “of happiness and hope, magic and wonder.” Brief text accompanied by soothing watercolor illustrations of marine animals cover each spread. 

THOUGHTS: A good picture book to begin a conversation with students about loneliness, kindness and friendships. Detailed illustrations alongside a musical theme offer STEAM connections to music and marine life units. 

Picture Book         Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

Elem. – I’m Sticking With You

Prasadam-Halls, Smriti. I’m Sticking With You. Henry Holt, 2020. 978-1-250-61923-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

Told in rhyming text, this is the story of two friends, Bear and Squirrel, who spend their day together, exploring, sharing a meal and playing. The story begins in Bear’s voice, as he explains how the pair is always together, even if one of them is grumpy or silly or things go wrong. Next Squirrel presents his point of view and after Bear breaks his favorite teacup, explains that sometimes he just wants to be alone. After Bear leaves disappointed, Squirrel quickly realizes that life is not as enjoyable without his friend. They reconcile and enjoy tea with the now mended teacup. The illustrations by Steve Small are done in pencil and watercolor. Both animals are anthropomorphized and are seen doing a variety of activities like riding a seesaw and taking a ride in a cab. The illustrator adds details which enhance the story, like the tea cup which has a heart painted on its side. When it breaks, the crack can be seen down the middle of the heart and when repaired, it is nearly invisible. When Bear speaks, the text is done in bold, while Squirrel’s words are in a light font.

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging story of friendship and how it sometimes has its ups and downs. This book is a good choice for reading aloud, especially when there are requests for stories in two voices. A solid choice for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – An Ordinary Day

Arnold, Elana K. An Ordinary Day. Beach Lane Books, 2020. 978-1-481-47262-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 1-3.

This is a poignant and beautiful tale of the circle of life.  The author begins by explaining that this street appears like any other, with children playing and a woman watering her flowers. Then, two cars drive up to neighboring houses and two people get out and go into adjacent houses. Both the man and the woman are wearing stethoscopes around their necks. The man enters a house where a dog is on a bed, surrounded by a family who is crying. The woman who enters the other house meets a family whose mother is expecting another child. The veterinarian consoles the family, as the dog is put to sleep, while the midwife or obstetrician helps deliver a new child into the world. All of this is told not so much in words, but through the illustrations. The characters in the story are of various ethnicities and the author writes that both families are “surrounded by family and love.” Magnificent the Crow oversees the “extraordinary” activities on this ordinary street on an ordinary day. The Illustrator uses a variety of media, such as charcoal, watercolor, soft pastels, ink and graphite, to create a soft and muted color palette. These drawings add to the contemplative tone of the story.

THOUGHTS: This is a touching story that will appeal to a sensitive reader who may have experienced the loss of an animal.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – My Papi Has A Motorcycle; The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal; The Escape of Robert Smalls; Human Habitats; Explore Your World; Daring Dozen; Teddy; Moth; You Are My Friend; Insect Superpowers

Quintero, Isabel. Illustrated by Zeke Pena. My Papi Has A Motorcycle. Kokila, 2019. 978-0-525-55341-0. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This gorgeous picture book pays homage to the bond between fathers and daughters and to the importance of communities. Daisy Ramona loves riding on the back of her papi’s motorcycle and exploring their L.A. neighborhood together. The book paints a realistic picture of a community that is tightly knit but struggling–a beloved shaved ice shop, for instance, is now boarded up and closed for business. A palette that features the muted colors of a sunset hints at history and nostalgia; yet at the same time, the movement of the motorcycle (“VROOOOM!”) gives the book a contrasting sense of immediacy and momentum. Spanish words are incorporated naturally throughout

THOUGHTS:  An evocative book, thematically rich, but also fun and appealing to read aloud or pore over. Highly recommended for lower elementary library collections. This book may be an especially worthwhile purchase because it may fill gaps in collections that need more books featuring girls who like vehicles, father/daughter books, and/or Lantinx literature.

Picture Book          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

When the workday is over, Daisy’s tired Papi still has energy enough to take his daughter on a motorcycle ride around their town. The routine is clearly beloved by both father and daughter (his hands “feel like all the love he has trouble saying”) as they pass by favorite spots and wave to family and friends (including Daisy’s librarian). Locales throughout the town recall memories of the past, or portents of the future. Papi takes Daisy to see the new houses on which he is working, but they notice with sadness the closing of the water ice store. The illustrations by Zeke Peña are gorgeously drawn, and the love between Daisy and Papi leaps off the pages. The warm terracotta color palette adds to the depth of emotion, as well as evokes the historic feel of the town Daisy imagines throughout the ride.  

THOUGHTS:  This lovely book, defining family and home, should be a first purchase.  

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Seluk, Nick. The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal. Orchard Books, 2019. 978-1-338-16700-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-4

The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal introduces us to all the things the brain does for us every single day! This book goes into the science behind smells, taste, sight and so many more things your body accomplishes everyday, all because of your brain! The illustrations are bright and colorful which add to the fun feel of the book. The inside of the front cover is full of colorful images with the same images throughout the book. Along with the facts that are found throughout the book, there are small little boxes full of fun facts. Each of the illustrations has the body parts saying funny or silly things related to what they do within the human body.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun picture book that is full of information that will cause the students to learn without realizing they are learning. The theme of the brain being the lead in a rock band that carries throughout is funny without coming across as too ridiculous.

612.8 Human Anatomy         Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy


Jones-Radgowski, Jehan. The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out of Slavery. Capstone Editions, 2019. 978-1-543-51281-6. 40 p. $18.95. Grades 2-5.

This is the true story of Robert Smalls, an enslaved African-American man who engineered a courageous escape from slavery by hijacking a Confederate military ship docked in Charleston Harbor in 1862. From his youth, Robert worked on ships and became a skillful sailor and wheelman on a military ship called Planter, which brought supplies and ammunition to the nearby Confederate forts. He got the idea about using the ship to flee after observing the captain pilot the ship and memorizing his mannerisms. One night, after the captain left the ship for shore leave, Smalls set his plan in motion. Family members joined him on his quest along with other crew members. The plan was a dangerous one, because Smalls had to navigate the boat past Confederate forts and ships. Smalls disguised himself by wearing the Captain’s hat and uniform and used the cover of darkness to sail out of the harbor. By the time the Confederates realized that something was wrong, the Planter had reached the Union ships and freedom. In the Afterword, more information is given about slavery, the Civil War, and Smalls’ other accomplishments during his lifetime. A glossary plus suggested readings are found in the back matter. Kang’s full bleed illustrations include a map showing the escape route.

THOUGHTS: This book is a worthwhile purchase for elementary libraries. It will work as an introduction to Civil War units or as a discussion starter for lessons on slavery. There are a number of books about Robert Smalls, but this one is made accessible by the care that the author, a US Foreign Service officer, takes to explain the historical events and vocabulary.

973.8092 History and Geography, United States          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
92, 921 Biography


Human Habitats. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. 24 p. $17.70 ea. Grades K-3.

Duhig, Holly. Life by the river. 978-0-778-76485-4
—. Life on an Island. 978-0-778-76482-3.
—. Life by the Ocean. 978-0-778-76484-7.
—. Life in the Mountains. 978-0-778-76483-0.
—. Life in the City. 978-0-778-76480-9.
—. Life in the Forest. 978-0-778-76481-6.

Duhig explores how humans live within six different habitats and how people adapt to the unique conditions and use the resources in each of these environments. Each book visits four specific locations around the world. Full color photos and illustrations in each book, with simple text for primary grades. Includes glossary and index, and a teacher’s guide that provides lesson plans for individual and collaborative work for students to explore human habitats with links to the publisher website which offer additional resources.

THOUGHTS: The advertised Student Discovery Lab materials were not accessible with the code listed in these titles.

304          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Explore Your World. Nomad Press. 2020, 2019. 90 p. $19.95. Grade 3-6.

Haney, Johannah. Natural Disasters! With 25 Science Projects for Kids.978-1-619-30862-6.
Klepeis, Alicia Explore Makerspace! With 25 Great Projects. 978-1-619-30566-3.
McKinney, Donna. Engines! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30940-1.
Swanson, Jennifer. Bridges! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30591-5.
Van Vleet, Carmella. Robotics! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30813-8.
Yasuda, Anita.  Ancient Civilizations Aztecs, Maya, Incas! With 25 Social Studies Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30834-3.
—. Canals and Dams! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30647-9.
—. Explore Greek Myths! With 25 Great Projects.
978-1-619-30450-5.

A growing set of non fiction books for students in grades 3-6. Seventeen titles are now available with more planned. Each title provides clear background information on the topic with clearly explained key terms and a timeline of developments.  Includes index, glossary, metric conversions, and lists of related YouTube videos for viewing. Each of the 25 projects listed includes a supplies list, step by step instructions, and notes if adult supervision is necessary.

THOUGHTS: Great ideas for science fair or independent or group or group projects for students.

Non Fiction          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Slade, Suzanne. Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon. Charlesbridge, 2019. 48 p. 978-1-580-89773-0. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

In simple lyrical text, this nonfiction picture book discusses the seven Apollo lunar missions and the twelve astronauts who took part in them. The author begins by using personification to describe the moon as “all alone” and “silent” until a spacecraft (Apollo 11) appears and later as “waiting patiently” for other Apollo flights. Each flight’s unique objective is discussed, such as the use of the land rover with Apollo 15 and the discovery of origin of the moon’s craters in Apollo 16. Slade includes some interesting bits about the astronauts, such as Alan Shepherd’s playing golf on the moon and Charlie Duke’s leaving his family’s photograph on the surface. The back matter contains a note from astronaut Alan Beam, a timeline to the moon, information about various moon vehicles, as well as specific fast facts about each Apollo flight. Alan Marks uses watercolor ink to create stunning full bleed illustrations throughout the book. On the opening pages, the full moon is the main focus as part of the earth appears to look on. The drawing of Gene Cernan holding a multicolored rock made of small rocks is pictured on the page with his quote that this rock will be a “symbol of mankind: that we can live in peace and harmony.”

THOUGHTS: This is an essential purchase for elementary libraries. It is a good example of a nonfiction mentor text for figurative language and poetic style. A great read aloud, this book can serve an introduction for astronomy units, but will also have great appeal for those budding astronauts who will enjoy reading this on their own and dream as they look skyward.

629.454          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
Manned Space Flight


Sage, James. Teddy: The Remarkable Tale of a President, a Cartoonist, a Toymaker and a Bear. Kids Can Press, 2019.  978-1-771-38795-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Sage has crafted a partially fictionalized story about the origin of the teddy bear. The author describes how President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, refused to shoot a bear during a hunting expedition in Mississippi. This incident was then portrayed in a newspaper cartoon by Clifford Berryman. The cartoon was seen by many Americans, including Mr. and Mrs. Mitchtom who were New York shop owners. Mrs. Mitchtom made toys to sell in the store, and she came up with the idea of creating a toy bear in honor of the President. They called it Teddy’s Bear. Sales of the bear took off, and soon the Mitchtoms had so many orders that they formed the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, which produced millions of toy bears and accessories to go with them. The author’s note includes a photograph of one of the original bears, as well as a copy of the cartoon. The author explains the real circumstances surrounding the President’s hunting expedition (the bear was chained to a tree) and reveals which minor parts of the story were embellished. The illustrations by Lisk Feng were rendered digitally and add a whimsical touch. At the beginning of the story where the many interests of the President are listed, the illustrator places a small drawing next to each hobby. At the end, the President is seen sleeping with a teddy bear of his own.

THOUGHTS: A must-have for all elementary collections, this text is a great choice for bear themed storytimes, especially on September 9, Teddy Bear Day.

813.54, Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
688.7243, 973.911                                        


Thomas, Isabel. Moth: An Evolution Story. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-547-60020-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.

This fascinating piece of narrative nonfiction is the story of the peppered moth and its evolution over time due to environmental factors. Told in simple text, the author begins by telling us that this is a story of “light and dark…of change and adaptation…of survival and hope.” She explains that after birth, the moth is in a struggle for survival from predators, such as bats and birds. The moths that had wings that look like salt and pepper were better able to camouflage themselves on trees than moths of that species that were pure black. As a result, the black winged moths were eaten and eventually made up a smaller percent of the population. With the Industrial Revolution, this pattern was reversed, because the trees were now black from pollution, and the moths with the peppered wings were most at risk. Then, as efforts were made to curb pollution, the population of the peppered moths increased once again. Today both black and peppered wing moths can be found on trees because they have adapted. In the afterword, the author explains the processes of natural selection, adaptation, and evolution in more detail, explaining that this tale gives us hope that a species can adapt and not die out. Daniel Egnéus uses a variety of media to create stunning illustrations that add to the narrative. The cover drawing will attract readers as it depicts a moth with silvery wings touched with black looming large against a black sky dotted with silver stars. The author and illustrator have made this narrative of the peppered moth surprisingly appealing and interesting.

THOUGHTS: This is a strong purchase, and elementary librarians will not want to miss this one. This text would be useful in evolution and ecology units and is a good choice as a read aloud, especially on Earth Day.

595.78 Butterflies, Moths          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Reid, Aimee, and Matt Phelan. You Are My Friend. Abrams Books for Young People, 2019. 978-1-419-73617-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Why the resurgence of all things Mister Rogers lately? Through popular entertainment and the media, we have renewed our journey to his friendly neighborhood. Perhaps it is the enduring need for kindness, decency, and compassion in the world. This charming picture book takes young readers who may not be familiar with Fred back to his beginnings. We learn of his illness and isolation, his emotions and how he learned to express them, and his willingness to like himself just the way he was. Freddie’s youth serves him well as he grows up and seeks to overcome his shyness and share his message with children through television. The soft and steady tone of Reid and the equally soothing, gentle watercolors from Matt Phelan make for a fitting tribute to Mr. Rogers. The color palate and message afterward will warm your spirits and make you glad that you have a friend who likes you just the way you are!

THOUGHTS: This is an accessible and highly recommended introduction for young readers to the world of Mr. Rogers. Obviously, there are many other videos, songs, and resources online to share once they hear about him. It would be interesting to get responses to the text and drawings as they read it to see how those childhood moments influenced his adult career in television.

Biography        Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Messner, Kate, and Jillian Nickell. Insect Superpowers. Chronicle Books, 2019. 978-1-4521-3910-4. 84 pages. $17.99. Grades 2-5.

Step aside, Spider-man! The insect world is full of supersized, super-powered, and super dangerous bugs. Kate Messner takes a decidedly graphic approach to this novel look at a nonfiction text. Listing the insects by their superpowers, archenemies, aliases and trademark features, partnered with a layout and design by Jillian Nickell that is dynamic, colorful, and fact-filled, makes for an entertaining education. For example, a Texas Ironclad Beetle grows up to 29 mm with an extra hard exoskeleton that can even resist the SWOOSH! Attack from birds or reptiles. Likewise, the Asian Giant Hornet is nicknamed “The Decapitator” for its attacks on honey bee nests, but it should beware of teamwork from the hive that can surround the hornet to heat it up until it dies! Look for more insect superpowers in this action packed comic!

THOUGHTS: This is a clean and attractive graphic book, which would also be perfect for livening up an animal research project and introducing the art of comic layout. Hopefully there will be more like this to make a series.

595 Animals          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – US Armed Forces; Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure; Bloom Bloom; Cake; Seeds Move; The Great Indoors; How I Learned to Fall Out of Trees; Perfect; Grandpa’s Stories; Building a New Nation; The Undefeated

Abdo, Kenny. US Armed Forces. ABDO Zoom, 2019. 24 p. Gr. 1-4.

Navy Seals. 978-1-532-12549-2
United States Air Force. 978-1-532-12550-8
United States Army. 978-1-532-12551-5
United States Coast Guard. 978-1-532-12552-2
United States Marine Corps. 978-1-532-12554-6
United States Navy. 978-1-532-12553-9.

This new Hi-Lo nonfiction series from ABDO Zoom looks at the inception, history, and current United States military. United States Navy begins with the purpose of the Navy, motto, and creation of this branch of the military.  It highlights specific battles and important members of the Navy. The last section looks at the current Navy and specific roles and missions, such as submariner and NCIS. Each two-page spread includes an image or two and large print font. Specific words are highlighted in red and included in a glossary at the back. Information for online resources through ABDO’s Booklinks are included with an image of the seal of the particular military branch of focus above the text.

THOUGHTS: Although recommended by ABDO for grades 2-8, this Hi-Lo series is very basic and may bore older students. It briefly highlights a variety of information about the US Navy and then moves on, an appropriate approach for early readers and upper-elementary struggling readers. With the US military of high interest, this series is recommended for elementary schools and classrooms with Life Skills students who have a low reading level.

359 United States Military          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Smith, Alex T. Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure. Peachtree. 2019. 978-1-682-63120-1. $16.95. Gr. 2-4.

Mr. Penguin has decided to follow in the footsteps of his favorite books and become an Adventurer! He has the hat, the sandwich… and the bills to prove it! Who knew that becoming an adventurer was going to take so long to get started! When he finally gets a phone call, it is the perfect adventure to go on! Buried treasurer, an old museum, flying toilets…. Why, this adventure has everything an adventurer needs! As Mr. Penguin and his best friend, a spider named Colin, begin this adventure to solve the mystery of the buried treasure, something seems off. Away they go together, attempting to find the treasure and not be killed in the process!

THOUGHTS: This chapter book is for students who like to have illustrations accompanying them on their reading adventure! This book has a little bit of everything in it: adventure, mystery, animals, and funny happenings around every corner!

Adventure          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Sayre, April Pulley. Bloom Boom! Beach Lane Books. 2019. 978-1-481-49472-4. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This introductory book to how nature blooms in spring is artistically done beautifully. Each page is filled with a basic statement of nature beginning to spring from the earth accompanied with a gorgeous up close photograph of a variety of plants in various stages of birth. Filled with new vocabulary and plants that some readers may not have seen before, Bloom Boom! Is a great introduction to a science unit or gardening theme.

THOUGHTS: This book is absolutely beautiful with the up close and personal photographs of a variety of plants and animals. Readers will fall into the book with the simple writing and expressive photographs. A fantastic introduction for teachers wishing to explore a science unit.

581 Nature          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Hendra, Sue & Paul Linnet. Cake. Aladdin. 2019. 978-1-534-42550-7. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

Cake is so excited to be going to a party! The only problem is Cake has no idea what to wear! After help from his goldfish friend, Cake goes off to find a hat. He is amazed to find the perfect hat to look his best at the party! It has candles and lights up! Cake goes to the party and has the best of times. After all, what is a party without Cake? Things get a little strange when everyone starts singing “Happy Birthday.” Why did everything suddenly go dark? What is happening at this party?!

THOUGHTS: A cute story about how cake is needed at a party! Kids will love to listen to this story and yell for cake to realize what will happen to it as the story continues deeper and deeper into the party. A great, easy read for early elementary students.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Page, Robin. Seeds Move! Beach Lane Books, 2019. 978-1-534-40915-6. 32 p. $17.99.Gr K-4. 

From catapulting to floating and rolling to parachuting, seeds move in all kinds of different ways. Using lively verbs, this book describes how seeds move to get the things they need to thrive, including sunlight, soil, water, and a place to put down roots. Each double-page spread features a one-sentence description of a way a seeds moves, and near the bottom of the page, more details about how that movement is accomplished. For example, one spread featuring a raccoon, details how seeds hitchhike by snagging themselves on a raccoon’s fur and are transported long distances before falling off. The large, colorful illustrations, created in Photoshop, resemble textured cut-paper collages.

THOUGHTS: While this book could benefit from reference information about the scale of the seeds in relation to the animals they are depicted with, it is still an engaging, visually-appealing introduction to seeds and the ways animals aid in their transportation. 

581.4 Seeds          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Falatko, Julie. The Great Indoors. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-00083-3. 36 p. $17.99. Gr K-3. 

When a family of humans hits the road in their RV packed with fishing gear, sleeping bags, and camping equipment, they’re ready for a week in the great outdoors. They’re barely out of the driveway before the bears, beavers, skunks, and deer move in, ready for a week in the great indoors. The animals are excited to experience the simple life: indoor plumbing, electricity, and comfy furniture. The deer bring their karaoke machine, the skunks have excellent cell phone reception, and the teenage bear can finally plug in her curling iron. After a few days, however, the animals start missing the woods as the garbage and dirty dishes pile up, the toaster catches fire, and the noise gets to be unbearable. Loose watercolor illustrations brim with humorous details such as bears using hairdryers, beavers playing video games, and skunks rocking out with guitars.

THOUGHTS: This title will lend itself to compare and contrast discussions about how life is different in nature versus in civilization, and it will also spark discussions about role reversal. A natural extension would be asking students to imagine what might go on in their homes if animals moved in for a week. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Kirsch, Vincent. How I Learned to Fall Out of Trees. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73413-7. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Adelia is up a tree and announces that she has to move away. Roger is not ready – for tree climbing or losing his best friend. So, Adelia offers to teach him the valuable lesson of how to climb a tree – and how to let go and fall out. What follows are alternating pages of collecting items that hold special meaning for the friends (but could help cushion a fall) and the lessons of tree climbing. Roger worries about falling still, but Adelia says, “Falling will be easy. Letting go will be the hardest part.” Time passes from spring to summer to fall to winter. Soon enough it is time to part, and Roger gets ready to practice what he’s learned. To his delight, Adelia has indeed made the process of letting go and falling easier thanks to her thoughtfulness. Children of any age can appreciate the process of parting ways that is represented through this extended metaphor. Kirsch provides beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations to capture details worth repeated readings and the formatting and layout allow readers to make inferences about the story happening behind the main dialogue. Falling out of trees has never been sweeter!

THOUGHTS: Friends could create their own pile of memories to jump into as they look at Roger and Adelia. There are plenty of discussion starters here for writing prompts or group storytime or one on one recommendations. A very delightful book for many occasions!

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD


Amato, Max. Perfect. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-0-545-82931-1. Unpaged. $14.95. Grades K-2.

Any student who has ever held a brand new pink eraser knows two things: that it looks perfectly clean until it’s used, and that nothing stays perfect, because mistakes happen! The eraser in Max Amato’s clever debut story needs to realize that perfect never lasts when a pencil will always be around to make a mess. At first, the eraser moves from satisfied to annoyed to frustrated by the wordless actions of the playful pencil. But then it is quickly outmatched and ends up in a dark place in the book – chased and lost in a graphite world with scribbles everywhere. However, a little change of perspective soon gets the eraser to create something new and start over with a clean slate! The pencil and eraser’s new friendship becomes a reminder that sharing our imperfections, losing control and working together offer a chance to explore a fun new world.

THOUGHTS: An art teacher would love this for an example of positive and negative space, as well as a chance to show animated art supplies. Creative ideas should be flowing after reading this worthwhile story of an odd couple’s friendship.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Coelho, Joseph, and Allison Colpoys. Grandpa’s Stories. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73498-4. 36 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

In this gentle story, a young girl finds an outlet for her grief when her beloved grandfather passes away. The book opens during spring, when the girl and her grandfather take long walks and explore flowers, birds, and insects. During each season, they continue spending time together. In summer they play with race cars, in autumn grandpa makes the girl a journal for her writings and drawings, and in winter, they share stories and candy. Then, one day, grandpa’s chair is empty, and the girl helps her parents clean out grandpa’s room. In his room, she finds souvenirs of their time together: dried flowers, toy cars, leather string from her journal, candy wrappers, and colored pencils. The girl describes the relics as a kaleidoscope of memories, and when she finds a brand-new blank journal on grandpa’s chair, she fills the pages with memories of her grandfather. Vibrant primary-colored illustrations capture the wonderful times the pair shared in beautiful detail. 

THOUGHTS: This is a touching celebration of life, and it’s also a tribute to the power writing and art have for fostering healing after loss. This intergenerational story will speak to readers of all ages, and it will be a valuable addition for both librarians and guidance counselors. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Lassieur, Allison. Building a New Nation: An Interactive American Revolution Adventure. Capstone Press, 2019. 978-1-543-51539-8. 112 p. $24.54. Grades 3-6. 

This book is one of four in a new series titled “You Choose: Founding the United States.” These interactive, choose your own adventure books put readers in the middle of the action as they make choices that drive the ending of the story. With 55 different choices and 22 different endings, there are plenty of famous Americans to meet and lots of excitement to witness. Some paths lead to joining Benjamin Franklin in France as he brokers peace talks with England and France. Others put readers on the front lines during Shay’s Rebellion, and others put readers in the shoes of a young Philadelphia apprentice who has the honor of meeting George Washington. A timeline, a list of additional books and websites to explore, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index round out the backmatter.

THOUGHTS: This will be a popular addition to American Revolution curriculum, and the decisions students make will jumpstart discussions about choices colonists made to survive during this tumultuous time in American history. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Alexander, Kwame. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The Undefeated. Versify, 2019. 978-1-328-78096-6. 40 p. $17.99  Grades 3-7.

Kwame Alexander, in a picture book published by his own imprint, Versify, writes heartfelt, heartrending poetry honoring famous, lesser-known, and forgotten African-Americans that is accessible to a wide range of ages. The rhythmic text begs to be read aloud, yet is also visually striking: black font on a bright white background, with key words set even larger and bolder for emphasis. Kadir Nelson’s realistically rendered oil portraits of African-Americans from leaders like Martin Luther King to sports stars like Michael Jordan to everyday people from the past and present are also thrown in stark relief against the uncompromisingly white pages. In many instances, the gazes of Nelson’s subjects are directed straight at the reader, creating a deep sense of intimacy. However, perhaps the most arresting page is a blank one, a memorial to those lost to time and history, but whose struggles still matter.  For teachers and older readers, an afterword in which Alexander writes repeatedly that “Black. Lives. Matter.” as well as a “Historical Figures and Events” section extends the use of the book. Also included is a link to an audio version of the poem.

THOUGHTS: This collaboration between a talented poet and a gifted artist, each at the top of his game, is something special; a must-buy for elementary school libraries and highly recommended for middle school libraries.  

Picture Book/Poetry          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Elementary NF – Cool Cats; Building Rt. 66; Living & NonLiving Things

Rathburn, Betsy.  Siberians.  Bellwether Media, 2017. 9781626176287. 24 pp. $19.50. Gr. K-2.

Rathburn, Betsy. Ocicats. Bellwether Media, 2017. 9781626176287. 24 pp. $19.50. Gr. K-2.

This series on various cat breeds is designed for the primary grade reader.  With colorful photographs and simple text, these books are a good choice for libraries who need to update or add more “cat books” to their collection.  There are 26 books in the Cool Cats series, which includes breeds not found in other series, such as Siberians and RagaMuffins.  Words found in the glossary are highlighted in the text, but without a pronunciation guide. The author begins with a history of each breed and then gives a description of what the cat looks like and how it behaves.  Readers will be interested to learn that Siberians love to play in the water and that some Ocicats can open lids to get treats. An index and suggestions for further print or online reading are contained in the back matter. The photographs are appealing and show cats in different colored coats. THOUGHTS:  This series is sure to be a hit in elementary libraries, especially with children who enjoy reading about this popular pet.  

636.8 Cats                     Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Rathburn, Betsy. Cool Cats.  Bellwether, 2017. $25.95. 24pp. Gr. K-2.

Japanese Bobtails. 978-1-62617-562-4.

Selkirk Rexes. 978-1-62617-564-8.

Burmese. 978-1-62617-561-7.

These three books from the Cool Cats series offer beginning readers and researchers an attractive non-fiction text. Vibrantly colored pages showcase compelling photographs of the cats. There is minimal text per page and in large font for easy reading. Selected words are bolded, corresponding to the glossary. Each slim volume provides a table of contents, glossary, index and a “To Learn More” page with suggested reading and websites. This is the one concern with these books: they direct readers to search on www.factsurfer.com for further information. There is no attribution with the search engine to identify who is sponsoring the tool. Additionally, while two of the searches yielded three results, when searching Burmese Cats the search is returned as No Results Found. THOUGHTS:  The books are visually appealing and well organized for the young researcher with accurate information, but the problematic search engine issue is an irritant.

Cats     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

Doudna, Kelly. Building Route 66. Abdo Publishing, 2018. 9781532111082. $17.95. 24p.

Gr. K-4.

This book, about the building of Route 66, begins by defining what a road is and a little bit of history of early cars, roads, and a short biography of the “Father of Route 66” planner, Cyrus Avery. The book is defined into three sections: Planning the Road, Building the Road, and The Road Today. Each section has bold headings, appropriate photographs to accompany the text, and large photo captions. THOUGHTS: This is a well-designed, easy-to-use nonfiction picture book that could be used for enjoyment or research. It includes a map, glossary, old photographs, a section on other famous roads of the world, and a short quiz at the end.

Transportation     Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Kurtz, Kevin. Living Things and Non-Living Things: A Compare and Contrast Book. Arbordale Publishing, 2017. 9781628559859. $17.95. 32pp. Gr. K-3

The book Living Things and Non-Living Things tries to help young people identify living and nonliving things by using thought-provoking questions and accompanying photographs. The difficulty is that there are both living and nonliving things that grow, move, change, reproduce, move, need oxygen, etc. The photographs are beautiful and are integral to helping readers see why it is difficult for scientists to come up with an accurate definition of what makes something living or nonliving.  THOUGHTS: This nonfiction book is a wonderful resource for teaching the concepts of living and non-living and comparing and contrasting skills. There is a page for creative minds, which includes a short glossary, and several pages of photographs with checklists for the reader to quiz themselves on identifying living and non-living things. This book also includes Curriculum Connections and an online Teaching Activity Guide.

NF Picture Book      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Picture Books – William’s Winter Nap; Back to School Bigfoot; Groundhug Day; 100 Things I Love…

Ashman, Linda. William’s Winter Nap. Disney Hyperion, 2017. 978-148472282-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-2.

On a cold winter night, a boy name William is ready to settle into his warm, cozy bed when he is awakened by a tapping on the window.  It turns out to be a chipmunk who is seeking shelter from the cold, so William makes room in his bed for the chipmunk, and the two settle in. Before long, they are awakened by a porcupine knocking at the door.  The porcupine is also looking for a warm place to spend the night, so William and the chipmunk make room for the porcupine before going back to sleep.  This trend continues until the bed fills up, at which point an extremely large animal shows up at the door.  The group must decide if they can make enough room or if they are going to turn the animal away.  Beautiful illustrations and well-paced rhymes make this an endearing choice for young readers. THOUGHTS: Although this book may not have any obvious curricular connections, it could definitely serve as an introduction to many relevant topics.  For instance, because the last line reads “I’ll see you in the warm spring light,” it could be used to introduce the concept of hibernation.  Also, it would be a great discussion starter for emphasizing the importance of hospitality and generosity towards others.  Lastly, this would be a great title to read aloud and encourage young children to make predictions based on context clues.  Will they let the last animal in?  Why or why not?  If so, how will they make room?  A very delightful and engaging selection that is definitely a solid purchase for most libraries.

Picture Book      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Berger, Samantha and Martha Brockenbrough. Back to School with Bigfoot. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017. 9780545859738. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. PreK-2.

Berger and Brockenbrough have teamed up to create an amusing version of the back-to-school story. Told in first person by Bigfoot himself, the book tells the story of Bigfoot preparing for a new school year. He has a lot of worries, such as whether he can stand still for a class picture or find clothes that fit.  Just when he has made up his mind that he should not go back, he begins thinking about all that he might miss, like a school field trip and his friends.  Bigfoot happily returns and in his haste, he breaks through the front door.  The book design helps make this book a great read aloud, as some words are highlighted in a larger font and beg to be emphasized.  Dave Pressler’s illustrations are over the top funny and the drawing of Bigfoot’s family at the graduation ceremony is priceless. Children will ask for this book to be read again and again.  THOUGHTS:  This work is a great addition to elementary libraries for their back-to-school collections.

Picture Book         Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Pace, Anne Marie. Groundhug Day. Disney Book Group, 2017. 9781484753569. $17.99. 32p. Gr. PreK-2.

Moose wants to plan a Valentine’s Day party with his friends. The problem is that one of his friends is Groundhog. Moose, Squirrel, Porcupine, and Rabbit are worried that if Groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day he’ll go back to sleep for six more weeks and miss the big Valentine’s Day party. They all come up with a different idea on how they can stop Groundhog from seeing his shadow and spend all night arguing about it. Because they never get to enact one of their ideas, Groundhog sees his shadow and hurriedly goes back into his house. It turns out Groundhog is afraid of shadows, but with his friends’ help, he sees all the ways shadows can be fun. Unfortunately, he still won’t make it to the big party since it isn’t warm enough for him above ground yet. His friends understand as he goes back home to hibernate for another six weeks – and comes back out just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! But now Bunny is missing! THOUGHTS: This picture book is a nice Groundhog’s Day addition to your library for the illustrations alone, but the story will also be appreciated by young readers. And there’s a clever ending that involves the final picture of Bunny on the last page (he is painting Easter Eggs).

Picture Book      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Schwartz, Amy. 100 Things I Love to Do with You. Abrams Appleseed, 2017. 9781419722882. $16.95. 40p. Gr. PreK-1.

100 Things I Love to Do with You is literally a picture book filled with simple illustrations of one-hundred activities that young readers can do with their parents/guardians or friends.  THOUGHTS: This is a book that contains activities like make mud pies, help the sun rise, hop like bunnies. I can imagine an adult asking the child to act out some of the activities as they go through the book (although they can’t all be acted out). Some pages have only one activity listed with a big illustration and some pages have, two, three, or four activities on each page. The illustrations were average.

Picture Book    Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Picture Books – No Honking Allowed!; That’s My Book; The Thank You Dish; Robinson

Calmenson, Stephanie. No Honking Allowed! Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3672-9. $16.95. Unpaged. Gr. K-2.
Friends (and dinosaurs) Rex and Stego go on a driving adventure in Rex’s car in this rhyming tale from Stephanie Calmenson. Rex is very excited about his car and wants to demonstrate his favorite features: the engine (“vroom”), the brakes (“screech”), and his favorite feature on the vehicle: the horn (“honk!”). In fact, everywhere he goes in the city, Rex wants to honk the horn. But before he can stark honking, Stego points out to him the “No Honking. Except for Safety.” signs posted throughout the city. When a fire truck needs to get through the crowded street, Stego finally gives Rex permission to honk the horn, which Rex does with enthusiasm. But after the fire truck passes, Rex must try to regain control over his urge to honk. THOUGHTS: Sure to be popular with readers, this humorous, rhyming story would be a perfect read-aloud choice. Recommended for schools and classrooms serving younger readers.
Picture Book      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

 

Yoon, Salina. That’s My Book! And Other Stories. Bloomsbury, 2017. 978-1-611963-891-4. Upaged. $9.99. Gr. K-2.

Salina Yoon returns with three new stories in the newest installment of Duck, Duck, Porcupine!.  In “That’s My Book!”, Porcupine and Big Duck are bored.  They ask Little Duck to borrow his books, but instead of reading them, they play dominos, “walk fancy”, and make a stage out of books.  This bothers Little Duck, so he takes his books back.  When Porcupine and Big Duck find a left-behind book, they open it and learn that reading is fun.  Story two, “Let’s Have a Talent Show!”, showcases that everyone has talents even when they don’t know it.  Big Duck wants to have a talent show, but Porcupine doesn’t seem to have any talents.  He soon realizes, as do the others, that he too has talents they are just different from Big Duck’s talents.  In the final story, “Dress-Like-A-Pirate Day”, Porcupine gives Little Duck an eye patch for Dress-Like-A- Pirate Day, but Big Duck doesn’t know it’s that day, so he’s worried that something is wrong with Little Duck because he’s wearing an eye patch and will only say, “Arr!”  He misses all of the signs as he tries to figure out what’s wrong with Little Duck.  THOUGHTS:  All three stories are fun read alouds with elementary students.  Each story has a great theme/moral that can lead to great character and kindness discussions.  This is a great addition to elementary libraries and classrooms.

Picture Book       Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Balla, Trace. The Thank You Dish. Kane Miller, 2017. 978-1-61067-644-1. Unpaged. $9.99. Gr. K-2.

The Thank You Dish highlights all of the people and things necessary for one meal.  As Grace and her mama sit down to dinner, Mama starts by thanking rain, soil, and the sun for helping with the meal.  Grace then begins to add in all of the other animals, people, and things that helped create the meal on her plate.  Each page spread uses muted yellows, oranges, and greens and highlights the image of Grace’s thank you.  THOUGHTS:  Although not a must-have, this is a nice concept book about what it takes to create a meal and also how to show gratitude for what one has.  It would be good to read around Thanksgiving or with a kindergarten class learning about kindness.

Picture Book     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Sís, Peter. Robinson. Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-73166-9. 32 pp. $17.99. Gr. Pre-K-2.

A little boy who loves to play pirates with his friends is excited for a Halloween contest at school. His mom suggests he be the character from his favorite book, Robinson Crusoe, and he creates an elaborate costume. The boy is excited, until he gets to school and his friends laugh at him for wearing something so unusual. Upset, the boy goes home to bed and dreams of sailing to an island and living like Crusoe. In the end his friends come over to apologize and learn more about the boy’s favorite book.  THOUGHTS: An adventurous read about acceptance and being ok with one’s self. The drawings are typical of Peter Sís, beautiful and soft.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

 

 

Picture Books – Chengdu Can Do; Pick a Pine Tree

Saltzberg, Barney.  Chengdu Can Do.  Disney-Hyperion, 2017. Unpaged. 9781484758472.  $16.99. Gr. PreK-1.

This is the latest book in the series about an adorable young panda named Chengdu.  In this volume, Saltzberg tells the story of what Chengdu can do on his own when he realizes he is hungry.  He finds a tasty bamboo plant, and the reader sees how Chengdu can jump, climb and swing on the shoots.  One thing he cannot do is reach the leaves until he gets help from two other pandas.  Although we are not told, we assume it is his parents who pull the tall bamboo plant down so Chengdu can munch on the leaves.  This book will appeal to young readers, who will see themselves in Chengdu as they realize what they can do on their own and when they may need help. The illustrations are done in pencil and watercolor with digital enhancement and are full bleed with a soft color palette.  Saltzberg uses foldout pages to show the length of the bamboo plant that the panda has climbed.  The panda swings back and forth on the bamboo shoot only to be catapulted off onto the ground.  The illustrator creatively shows this action sequence through the use of a foldout page followed by one-quarter and one-half size pages, which makes this part of the story appear to be almost animated.  Thoughts: Young children will enjoy reading the adventures of this young panda bear.  This book would be a good read aloud for preschoolers and primary grade students.

Picture Book         Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Toht, Patricia. Pick a Pine Tree. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-957102. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Looking for a fresh book to add to your holiday collection? Choose this jolly new offering from Patricia Toht. Pick a Pine Tree follows a family through their day as they find a tree at the Christmas tree lot, take it home and set it up, and host a decorating day with friends and family to trim the tree. Toht’s simple rhyming text evokes true holiday joy at all the simple traditions that families value during this season, such as setting up a Christmas tree. “Find the trimmings stored within bulging boxes, rusty tins, paper bags, a wood case. Bring them to that special place, there, beside your tree.” Illustrations by Jarvis are done with pencil, chalk, and paint. The colorful, cozy-looking pictures pair perfectly with Toht’s secular story. This is my favorite new holiday book that I purchase this year! THOUGHTS: Perfect for storytime or one-on-one sharing, read this little gem to children eager to begin the holiday season and trim their own trees.

Picture book         Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

Picture Books – The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse; The Teacher’s Pet; Tool School; Scariest Book Ever

Barnett, Mac. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-7754-1. 40 pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

When a mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he thinks it’s the end of the line. But, it turns out, it’s just the beginning of his adventures. In the wolf’s belly, the mouse meets a duck. The duck explains that they might have been swallowed, but he has no intention of being eaten. Instead, from inside the wolf, the pair enjoy tasty home-cooked meals and dance parties, all without the ever-present fear of predators that nagged them before. Life is good until the wolf experiences a bellyache. His moans attract the attention of a hunter, and when all of their lives are in danger, the mouse and the duck decide they need to intervene.  Jon Klassen’s muted mixed-media illustrations are the perfect compliment to this subtly funny story, and readers will laugh at all the items mouse and duck find inside the wolf. Fans of this duo’s previous collaborations, including the Caldecott Honor winners Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, will eagerly devour this latest offering.  THOUGHTS:  This original pourquoi tale will be a wonderful addition to storytimes, and it will very likely fly off elementary shelves.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Rissi, Anica Mrose. The Teacher’s Pet. Disney Hyperion, 2017: ISBN 978-148474364-5. 32pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

Mr. Stricter has always dreamed of having a pet, so he’s very excited when the science projects hatch. Each student monitors the growth of one tadpole, and when they’re grown, they release all the projects into the wild: all except one. Bruno, the last one to hatch, had been the smallest, but as he devours everything in sight, he grows, and grows, and grows. The students quickly realize Bruno is a hippo, and his size is troubling, but Mr. Stricter is blinded by love and is oblivious to any problems. Even as Bruno smashes desks, chomps textbooks, and snores during silent reading, Mr. Stricter declares his love for the class pet. It isn’t until Bruno swallows Mr. Stricter whole that the class is forced into action to get their teacher back.  THOUGHTS:  This title will make a wonderful read-aloud thanks to the witty restraint the author uses. The word “hippo” never appears in the book, but students will immediately notice what Mr. Stricter does not: Bruno looks different from the other tadpoles. The bold acrylic and pencil illustrations shine, extending the text and allowing Bruno’s larger-than-life personality to take center-stage. This will be a good match for science units about watching animals hatch and grow.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Holub, Joan. Tool School. Scholastic, 2017.  978-0-545-68520-7. $16.99. Unpaged. PreK-2.

Five little tools, hammer, screwdriver, tape measure pliers and saw, head to school. Each is eager to display his or her skills but find working alone doesn’t produce very good results. Ms. Drill, their teacher, encourages them to cooperate, yielding better results. Bouncy rhyming text with bold illustrations by James Dean (Pete the Cat) make this a perfect workshop introduction for the tiny tool time set. Cool tool tips are included after the story.  THOUGHTS:  This would be a great introduction to a primary maker-space experience, promoting creativity and cooperation.  

Picture Book      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Shea, Bob.  The Scariest Book Ever. Disney, 2017. 978-148473046-1. $16.99. Unpaged. Gr. Pre K – 2.

Boo! A tiny ghost tries everything to avoid going into the scary woods, from spilling orange juice on himself (drat, he has to take his sheet off) to a bellyache, to convincing the reader that he can be scary right at home. Meanwhile, the reader is apparently reporting back what horrors lurk in the woods – bunnies! Woodland creatures! Doughnuts! Eventually the little ghost is convinced to go into the woods, where he finds a costume party. Shea’s familiar-style illustrations (Ballet Cat, Buddie and the Bunnies) add to the humor of the little ghost trying to convince us he is brave and scary. THOUGHTS:  Youngsters will giggle wildly over the silly juxtaposition of thought and image, as the little ghost tries to be brave but is so obviously afraid of the unknown in the woods.

Picture Book      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD