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

Picture Books – Pandamonia; Not Quite Narwhal; Dino-Dancing; Rolling Thunder; Pink Lion

Owen, Chris and Chris Nixon.  Pandamonia.  Kane Miller Publishing, 2017. 9781610676199. 32 pp. $12.99. Gr. PS-3.

This Australian import is an enjoyable romp through the zoo.  The reader sees and hears about the wild reactions of various zoo animals when a panda is awakened.  The author uses rhyming text to explain the ensuing chaos, and readers meet some unfamiliar animals along the way.  Occasionally the rhyme seems forced and the cadence off-balance.  This book was written to be read aloud, but it lacks a refrain for the listeners to join in.  The illustrations are wild and expressive and are better appreciated by a small group. The panda itself is calm and portrayed in a meditation type pose. Readers only see him just awaking with one eye open and don’t find out what he does to create such pandemonium or as the authors put it, “pandamonia.” This work is somewhat reminiscent of Klassen’s texts.  Thoughts:  Children will find this book enjoyable, especially where zoo stories are popular.  It is an additional purchase for elementary collections.

Picture Book                 Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

 

Sima, Jessie. Not Quite Narwhal.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-48146-909-8. 32 Pages 32. $17.95. Gr. Pre-K and up.

Kelp was born under the sea in a clamshell. He feels he is different from the other narwhals; he can’t swim as quickly (thank goodness for water wings), and he is less than enthusiastic about their squid dinners. One day he gets swept away by a current and sees a figure like himself! Pursuing the phantom, Kelp must swim for hours and learn to walk on land which is no easy feat. He eventually finds the unicorns (or land narwhals as he calls them). Kelp loves learning and tasting new things, but will he go back to his narwhal home?  THOUGHTS: I adored this book. It’s soft, pastel illustrations are inspiring, and the humor of the storyline and characters are fantastic. Not Quite Narwhal is a fantastic book for any age about acceptance, being yourself, and understanding differences can be good.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Wheeler, Lisa. Dino-Dancing. Carolrhoda Books, 2017. 978-1-5124-0316-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

In the tradition of Wheeler’s other fun-filled dinosaur sports books comes Dino-Dancing, a fast-paced twirl through the world of competitive dance. Dino dancers show off moves in various styles including ballet, acrobatic dance, jazz, swing, Latin ballroom, and a particular fierce hip-hop showdown. Wheeler smartly combines dance terminology and diverse dino species, making this book a must-read for both dance and dino lovers. Barry Gott’s illustrations are colorful and clever and do a fairly good job of accurately representing different dance moves (those dinos aren’t always very limber but they do their best!). Wheeler always teases her next dino sports book at the end, but this one is a bit different…the dino dancers are practicing the Nutcracker ballet because Christmas is coming! Perhaps the dinos are moving into holiday celebrations and away from sports. THOUGHTS: Another fun addition to the dino sports series to be read and enjoyed by long-time dino sports fans or those new to the action.

Picture book                  Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

 

Messner, Kate. Rolling Thunder. Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-47012-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

A fresh look at Memorial Day through the eyes of a boy who accompanies his biker grandpa on the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington DC. Grandpa rides for those he was with in Vietnam, and the youth rides for his Uncle who is currently enlisted and deployed. After camping out, the pair ride to the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Wall Memorial. The concepts of POWs, MIAs, and death is brought up, but not explained in depth. The poetic verse and pastel pictures provide a powerful, yet appropriate message for young and old alike. THOUGHTS: I got goosebumps when I read this book. It is a good introduction to Memorial Day, and as a read-aloud educators can elaborate about POWs or MIAs as needed. One complaint that has been brought up with this book is the lack of cultural diversity in the illustrations.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Porter, Jane. Pink Lion. Kane Miller, a division of EDC Publishing, 2017. 978-1-61067-611-3. Unpaged. $19.99. Gr. PreK-1.

Arnold is a pink lion who happily grows up thinking he’s a flamingo. When a gang of lions comes by they insist that Arnold is a lion and should come with them. The pink lion isn’t a big fan of licking himself clean, hunting, or roaring. But when he tries to go back to his flamingo family a big mean crocodile has moved into the pond. Arnold finds his inner lion and roars to scare the green enemy away. His fellow lions come to join him, and the two species live happily ever after together.  THOUGHTS: A nice book about adoption, acceptance, and families.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Elementary NF – This is How we do It; She Persisted; Skyscraper

Lamothe, Matt. This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World. Chronicle Books, 2017. 978-1-4521-5018-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This is How We Do It introduces readers to seven children from seven different countries.  The children take readers through a typical day explaining who they are, where they live, their families, what they eat, how they dress, where they go to school, and what they like to do.  Each page is divided equally for each story, while also offering a “This is…” block that both introduces what the pages will cover and can be used in a lesson by having students consider their own experience in comparison to those of children their age around the world.  The illustrations are hand drawn and represent the people, places, and colors of each nation.  Lamothe includes notes at the end about his experiences traveling and the lives of these seven real children and a glossary to further explain some of the children’s experiences.  Also included are the real pictures of each family that were illustrations earlier in the book.  THOUGHTS:  This is a wonderful book for introducing culture and different experiences around the world.  The last page with the night sky establishes that we aren’t all that different; we still sleep under one sky.  This book can also be used for further study and research about other cultures and traditions.  On a personal note, I was blown away by the time that each child eats dinner.  Only one eats around 6 pm, everyone else is much later.

305.23; Cultures of the World      Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Lamothe, Matt. This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World.  Chronicle Books, 2017.  978-1452150185. $17.99  Unpaged.  Gr. K-3.  

Author and illustrator Lamothe shows in side-by-side pictures a day in the life of ordinary kids from seven different countries.  Kei from Japan; Ribaldo from Peru; Kian from Iran; Oleg from Russia; Ananya from India; Romeo from Italy; and Daphine from Uganda.  Endpapers show their locations on a world map.  Pages show where they live, with whom (in their family), what they wear to school (uniforms for four of the seven), food eaten for each meal, after-school activities (including “how I help”), and how they get to school.   This is an amazing look at the average day lived by a variety of kids in cultures around the world.  Words underlined (such as bechamel, abwooli, or sensei) are defined in a short glossary, and an author’s note explains how Lamothe located these real families in order to show a regular day.  Photos of the families help to bring home the reality of the illustrations.  THOUGHTS: This is a strong addition to discuss geography or social customs with children.  

305.23 World Culture    Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

 

Clinton, Chelsea. She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. Ill. Alexandra Boiger, Philomel Books, 2017. 978-1-5247-4172-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

“The right way is not always the popular and easy way.  Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character,” Margaret Chase Smith, one of the thirteen women who changed the lives of women (and at times their race) through their actions.  She Persisted shares the stories of Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor, many of whom elementary (and older students) are unfamiliar.  Although each story is just a brief summary of the greatness of these women, the continual use of “She Persisted” sticks with readers as a mantra.  Clinton ends this beautifully illustrated picture book with, “They persisted and so should you.”  This simple message encouraging students to do more, achieve more, fight for what is right not only for your, but for others, is uplifting and important to teach students at a young age.  As Clinton writes, “So, if anyone ever tells you no, if anyone ever says your voice isn’t important or your dreams are too big, remember these women.  They persisted and so should you.”  THOUGHTS:  I love this book.  It highlights amazing women who many students are unfamiliar with or only recognize their names, not their accomplishments.  I like that the women are from all walks of life, young and old; black, white, and Native American; politicians and athletes; entertainers and astronauts.  It truly encompasses everything a woman can do.  This is a must have for all libraries.

One final note…Illustrator Alexandra Boiger includes a portrait of Hillary Clinton on the first page spread as the children visit a gallery of important and influential women.  Portraits and busts of those highlighted in the book are also included, along with children of all genders, cultures, and races.

Biography     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Suen, Anastasia. Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper. Ill. Ryan O’Rourke. Charlesbridge, 2017. 978-158089-7105. $16.99 Unpaged. Gr. K-3.

This book won’t take much to sell it.  The highly popular construction site topic and the in-process building on the cover will have young children eagerly opening the book.  Inside they will find more detail than usual ‘construction books’ give including labeled items (concrete pile, rebar cage, pile driver, decking and more) and two blocks of text per page, one rhyming, and one explanatory.  One four-line rhyme reads, “Pour, pour pour! / A floor down low / The higher the building / the deeper we go” with an accompanying explanation, “Every building has a foundation, but tall buildings, like our skyscraper, need very thick foundations.  We pour concrete over a rebar frame to make the foundation.”  The building suffers from simple glass panels (“where is the door?”) and lack of detail, but the focus here is on the underlying framework of the building.  Multiracial male and female construction workers make the building grow as kids in construction hats look on.  THOUGHTS:  This is a welcome addition to nonfiction picture books about construction, and it explains the how and why, not just different vehicles.  This is a good choice for elementary and public libraries.

720, Construction      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Picture Books – Nerdy Birdy Tweets; Where Oliver Fits; Town is by the Sea

Reynolds, Aaron. Nerdy Birdy Tweets. Ill. Matt Davies, Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-62672-128-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

“One real live you is worth a thousand Tweetster friends.” and so is the lesson of Nerdy Birdy Tweets, a humourous look at how society manages friendship and what true friendship truly means.  Nerdy Birdy and Vulture are best friends, but when Nerdy Birdy joins Tweetser he ignores Vulture for his hundreds of “friends”, many of whom Nerdy Birdy has never met.  When Vulture joins Tweetster everything seems okay until Nerdy Birdy shares a picture and comment about Vulture that hurts her feelings.  Now, Nerdy Birdy must figure out what to do, but none of his “friends” on Tweetster are helpful.  It’s up to Nerdy Birdy to find Vulture and make things right again because “One real live you is worth a thousand Tweetster friends.”  Thoughts:  This is a wonderful book about friendship and what true friendship is.  It teaches young children to think about your actions before putting them out there for everyone to see.  Many adults could learn from this picture book.  The illustrations, as always, are fabulous.  They are colorful and fun to interact with through both the spoken text and written text.

Picture Book      Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Atkinson, Cale. Where Oliver Fits. Tundra Books, 2017. 978-1-101-91907-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-2.

Oliver doesn’t seem to fit in.  He’s too short or not square enough; his color isn’t right, or he’s too round.  He just doesn’t fit in, but Oliver wants to fit in, so he decides to change himself in order to fit in.  He’s accepted by the purple puzzle, but he wonders, “If I have to hide and pretend I’m someone else, am I really still me?”  Then he questions, “And if I can’t be me, then what fun is it to fit in?”  When Oliver decides to just be himself, he realizes that other puzzle pieces have changed their appearances to try to fit in.  He realizes that being oneself is better than trying to fit in because in time one will find his fit.  THOUGHTS:  This is a beautifully, brightly illustrated text about staying true to one’s own character and self.  This is a lesson that everyone needs throughout life and is especially important for students developing their own personalities and character.  The symbolism of Oliver as a puzzle piece is also a great way of introducing symbolism to elementary students.  This is a great picture book not only for elementary students but for character lessons in middle and high school.

Picture Book    Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Schwartz, Joanne. Town Is By the Sea. Ill.  Sydney Smith. Groundwood Books, 2017.  978-15549-8716. $19.95. 52 pp. Gr. K-2.

This picture book follows one day in the life of a Cape Breton boy in the 1950s as he plays by the sea, visits a friend, runs an errand for his mother, and thinks of his father working in the mines deep beneath the sea.  Beautifully illustrated, this is a well-crafted mix of light and dark, seen in the sunshine on the sea vs. the deep dark of the mines and in the freedom of childhood vs. the dirt and weightiness of adulthood.  The boy loves his family and town, and his family loves him.  There is no sadness over their lives or of the change that will come from growing up.  The book matter-of-factly ends, “One day, it will be my turn. I’m a miner’s son. In my town, that’s the way it goes.” THOUGHTS: This is a frank and respectful look at hard expectations, well-written and well-illustrated.  

Picture Book      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Picture Books – Groovy Joe; How to Catch a Monster; Monster’s New Undies; Nothing Rhymes with Orange

Litwin, Eric. Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown. Scholastic, 2017. 9780545883795. $16.99. 40p. Gr. Pre-K-1.

Eric Litwin teams up with illustrator Tom Lichtenheld in this picture book that has some simple math and a lesson to learn (there’s always room for one more friend). Litwin’s fame as the author of Pete the Cat will make this book popular. Groovy Joe is a dog that loves to play music and dance. Joe’s motto is “the more the merrier.” As friends knock at his door, readers can follow along with simple math problems as Joe invites everyone into the party. The end of the story includes an invitation to the reader to come join in the party, too.  THOUGHTS: The illustrations make this book. Lichtenfeld’s colorful, bold illustrations will be a hit with this book’s 3 to 5 year old audience. The theme of not excluding anyone in an important lesson to learn at an early age since that can be a problem at the K-6 school level. This book also includes a website to download the song that Joe sings throughout the book.

Picture book        Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Wallace, Adam and Andy Elkerton. How to Catch a Monster. Sourcebooks, 2017. 978-1-4926-4894-9. Unpaged. $10.99. Gr. K-2.

What do you do when you get the role of a ninja in the school play?  Become one of course!  And not just any ninja; a monster catching ninja!  With the courage to trap the monster hiding in his closet, the ninja-monster-catcher meets his match.  After breaking the first few traps, ninja finally catches his monster and learns that his monster isn’t trying to scare him; he just wants to play.  As ninja and monster play, and learn about one another, a friendship between them blooms.  Wallace uses rhyme throughout (although not all pages rhyme), and Elkerton’s illustrations make the monster-in-the-closet come alive as a cuddly friend.  THOUGHTS:  This is a wonderful book to teach about friendship and how differences can be overcome.  

Picture Book     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Berger, Samantha. Monster’s New Undies. Ill. Tad Carpenter, Orchard Books, 2017. 978-0-545-87973-6. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. PreK-2.

Monster loves his undies, but they have fallen apart.  He doesn’t want new undies, but it’s too cold without them, so it is time for Monster to get new ones.  At the store Monster doesn’t like any undies until he finds ones just like his old ones.  These new undies allow Monster to be comfortable again.  THOUGHTS:  Although about underwear (which is just funny to students), Monster’s New Undies can compare to any beloved item a student has and the feelings that occur when that item can no longer be used.  This book is a great read-aloud to writing about something students love that they have lost or had to get rid of because they are growing up.

Picture Book      Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Rex, Adam. Nothing Rhymes with Orange. Chronicle Books, 2017. 978-1-4521-5443-5. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. 1-3.

Unlike most fruits, nothing does rhyme with orange, and Orange knows this.  Although Orange tries to find a place in this rhyming poem, it just doesn’t work because nothing rhymes with orange.  Fruits that Orange doesn’t even know have rhyming words, but not orange that is until the other fruits create a word to rhyme with orange in order to make Orange feel apart of the fruit group.  Photographs of fruit with hand drawings to bring the fruit alive add to the fun of this rhyming poem and creative take on friendship and fitting in.  THOUGHTS: This is a very creative way to work with students on rhymes, nonsense words, and the importance of inclusion of everyone no matter their differences (or similarities…even if nothing rhymes with orange).

Picture Book     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Picture Books – Big Cat, Little Cat; Leaf; Baawaa & Wooliam; Olivia the Spy

Cooper, Elisha. Big Cat, Little Cat. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 9781626723719. Unpaged.  $16.99. Gr. 2-5.

Using simple drawings with lots of white space and spare text, author-illustrator Elisha Cooper has written a quiet gem of a book that tells the story of a friendship between two cats. We first meet a single household cat who keeps busy exploring, playing, and eating.  His life changes when a kitten joins the family, and the two cats quickly becomes friends.  The older cat serves as a mentor to the kitten and shows him how to eat, rest, and play.  Time passes and the kitten grows into a cat.  The two animals continue to have fun together, until the older cat gets sick.  Using poignant text, the author tells us about the passing of the cat in a way that is accessible to young children; “He had to go…and he didn’t come back. And that was hard.”  Coming full circle, a new kitten once again appears in the house soon after, and the cycle continues of mentor and friend. The illustrations are an important part of the story.  Cooper uses a black and white color palette and artistically juxtaposes the color of the fur of the three cats. This creates a striking image as the pairs sit next to each other, white cat next to black cat.  The drawings are simply without much detail, and the human family appears on only one page, which is right after the death of the older cat. We see them as shadows on a gray page as the younger cat sits off to the side.  This double page spread paints a strong visual image of grief.  THOUGHTS:  This understated book is a real winner and will be savored by children who love cats. They will enjoy listening and reading it again and again.  Parents may wish to read this book to their children who have experienced the loss of a pet.  After reading this book aloud, it can also lead to a discussion about friendship.   Cooper’s text is a great addition to elementary collections

Picture book                Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Dieckmann, Sandra. Leaf. Flying Eye, 2017. 978-1-911171-31-7. Unpaged. $17.95. Gr. K-1.
In Leaf, debut author/illustrator Sandra Dieckmann tells the story of an unnamed polar bear who washes ashore on the edge of the woods. The other animal residents of the woods are quite scared; they have never encountered a polar bear before! They are also confused by the bear’s habit of collecting leaves. As the days go by, the woodland creatures debate about how they should handle their new neighbor. The situation comes to a head when they witness the polar bear cover himself in leaves and jump off a hill and a cliff before crashing back to ground. Spurred to conversation, the other animals learn that the bear drifted across the sea due to the melting of the ice. He was using the leaves in an attempt fly back home. As the story draws to a close, the animals have banded together to help the polar bear return home. THOUGHTS: This is a lovely story about the importance of friendship and inclusion that also incorporates the concept of climate change and it’s impact on animals. The color of the illustrations spring from the page and draw readers into the world of the animals. A great choice for collections serving younger readers.
Picture Book     Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District

 

Elliott, David. Baabwaa & Wooliam. Candlewick, 2017. 978-0-7636-6074-1. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Baabwaa & Wooliam are best friends (and sheep!). Wooliam loves to read while Baabwaa enjoys knitting. One day, they decide to go on an adventure and set off through the surrounding fields. As they are finishing lunch,  a third sheep approaches. But, as the sheep gets closer, they realize it is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing! Wooliam shouts that it must be the wolf he has read about, and he and Baabwaa take off running. They are quite surprised when the wolf stops chasing them and wants to talk about the wolf story Wooliam had mentioned. They soon quickly realize that the wolf is unfamiliar with wolf stories because he cannot read. Wooliam decides to teach the wolf to read (while Baabwaa knits him a new sweater). As the story draws to a close, a unique friendship has developed between three animals. THOUGHTS: This humorous tale of unexpected friendship would make a great read-aloud for any classroom or library. Sweet (a past Caldecott Honor honoree) enhances the text with her watercolor, gouache and mixed media illustrations that bring the personalities of sheep and wolf to life. Highly recommended for picture book collections.
Picture Book      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District

 

Falconer, Ian. Olivia the Spy. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-4814-5795-8. 36pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Olivia usually does her best to stand out from the crowd, but in her latest title, she has a new mission: blending in whenever possible. After overhearing her mother’s phone conversation detailing Olivia’s mishaps with the blender (blueberry smoothie all over the kitchen) and the laundry (two red socks dying all her father’s shirts pink), Olivia decides to go undercover to determine what else her family really thinks about her. While eavesdropping, she hears her father mention an ‘institution,’ and Olivia is sure he is planning on sending her to prison. The comical reality of her father’s words play out against a stark white background, allowing Falconer’s trademark pencil and charcoal illustrations to shine. Bright pops of color, including a brightly lit cityscape and an illuminated ballet theatre, add to the story’s drama.  THOUGHTS:  Olivia fans will not be disappointed with this latest addition to the series. During her eavesdropping, Olivia overhears some information and incorrectly interprets it, opening the door for teachers to discuss the ethics of listening in on other people’s conversations.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Picture Books – A Perfect Day; No More Bows

Smith, Lane. A Perfect Day. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-62672-536-2. 32pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

It’s a bright summer morning, and the animals are relaxing, enjoying a perfect day in Bert’s backyard. Cat is appreciating the warm sun and the colorful flowers; Dog is relaxing in the pool’s cool water; Chickadee is nibbling seeds from the freshly-filled birdfeeder, and Squirrel is snacking on a corncob. Everyone is having a perfect day….until Bear shows up. He lumbers into the yard snagging frightened Squirrel’s corncob. He also tips over Chickadee’s feeder, dumps Dog’s pool water all over himself, and rolls around in Cat’s flowerbed. Then, Bear, feeling refreshed by the water and having a full belly from the seeds and corn, settles himself into the flowerbed for a nap in the sun, making it a perfect day for Bear. Smith’s oversized textured-surface paintings perfectly complement the story’s brief text and capture each animal’s surprise at being interrupted by Bear. Young readers will laugh at how quickly the mood shifts and will enjoy seeing Bert, Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel all warily giving Bear plenty of space on the book’s final page.  THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for teaching point-of-view since each animal’s idea about how the day is going shifts so dramatically as the story progresses. Smith’s use of repetition also ensures even the youngest readers will be able to fully appreciate how Bear’s arrival affects everyone.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

 

Cotterill, Samantha. No More Bows. Harper, 2017. 978-0-06-240870-9. 32pp. 17.99. Gr K-2.

Hugo is a large yellow dog who patiently endures playing house, tea party, and dress-up with Milly all morning, knowing that his favorite part of the day, going for a walk, is coming soon. He fetches his leash and races to the door but stops short when Milly presents him with a large, red bow to wear during their outing. Hugo isn’t amused and wrestles the bow off as soon as he can. The next day, Milly has an even bigger, frillier bow for him. Hugo manages to bury this one in the dirt, but it’s the same thing every day; the bows get more sparkly, and Hugo gets more upset until he resolves that there will be no more bows! Hugo runs away to the city but misses Milly almost immediately. After noticing a happy girl and a happy bowtie-wearing dog, Hugo races home to Milly, then drags her to the pet store to show her the kind of bow he really wants. The next day, Hugo proudly debuts his new bow (and his new smile) on their walk together. Young readers will pore over this book’s vibrant digital illustrations, savoring details such as Hugo’s painted red toenails and his expressive face. THOUGHTS: This book is a perfect addition to a dog-themed storytime, and it also lends itself to discussions about the compromises friends must sometimes make. Additionally, it could be used to teach point of view since Milly and Hugo each have very different opinions about wearing bows.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

Picture Books – Old Dog Baby; Little Elliot Big Fun; King Baby

Fogliano, Julie. Old Dog Baby Baby. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-59643-853-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-K.

This sweet story, told entirely in rhyming verse, portrays the relationship between an infant and the old family dog.  As the story opens, the dog is lounging lazily on the kitchen floor while an older sibling looks through family photographs.  Soon, the baby comes crawling in and begins playing with the dog.  The dog displays love and patience, and before long, the two curl up together for a nap. Beautifully simple illustrations by two-time Caldecott medalist Chris Raschka add to the story, revealing other family members besides the dog and the baby.  A delightful and relatable read for any child who has been lucky enough to experience the love and playfulness of a family dog.  THOUGHTS: Unlike some of Fogliano’s other titles which deal with the changing seasons (And Then It’s Spring (2012), When Green Becomes Tomatoes (2016)) this title is lacking obvious Common Core connections.  It is, however, charming and very relatable for young children; therefore, it should not be overlooked when making purchasing decisions.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

 

Curato, Mike. Little Elliot Big Fun. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-0-8050-9827-3. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 2.

In this story of friendship, fun, and overcoming one’s fears, Elliot the elephant and his friend, Mouse, head to an amusement park on Coney Island.  Once there, Elliot is too scared to go on any of the rides until Mouse convinces him to try out the Ferris wheel.  Elliot is thrilled by the view from the top, which readers experience through a four-page foldout.  After that, Elliot’s fears subside, and the pair continue to enjoy rides and games the rest of the day.  The gorgeous illustrations are indicative of an earlier time period, most likely the 1930s, and tell a story themselves.  For instance, Elliot’s imagined fears about some of the rides are pictured in black and white opposite the colorful illustrations of the actual attractions.  There is also one page made up entirely of pictures that shows how Elliot’s ice cream was snatched by a seagull and how Elliot was then frightened by a clown.  Altogether, the story and pictures give an excellent portrayal of old-time Coney Island and an even more touching portrait of the strength we gain through friendship.  THOUGHTS: This book could easily be tied into an elementary curriculum in various ways.  For instance, it could be used to introduce a unit on the history of Coney Island or a unit on 1930s fashion.  It could also be used to spark a discussion about summer vacations or about overcoming fears.  All in all, I think this book is very relatable to any child who has ever felt fear or doubt about a new experience.  It would be a great addition to any collection.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

 

Beaton, Kate. King Baby. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016. 978-0-545-63754-1. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Gr. 1.

In this comical story, King Baby brings many blessings to his subjects (smiles, kisses,
and coos, for instance), but also has many demands for them (“FEED ME!”, “BURP ME!”).  When his faithful subjects fail to understand all of his demands, he must take matters into his own hands and learn to do some things for himself.  As he grows from a baby into a big boy, he begins to wonder who will lead his subjects now that King Baby is no longer.  That is, until he learns of the imminent arrival of his sister, Queen Baby.  The drawings of the sweet, yet devilish, baby add to the silliness of the book.  This hilarious, light-hearted read is perfect for tired new parents and for older siblings-to-be.  THOUGHTS: Perhaps best known for her Hark! A Vagrant comics, Beaton has won many awards for her humor.  As expected, this amusing title will have young children laughing at King Baby’s antics.  Beaton has also set the stage for a possible sequel, as readers can only imagine how ridiculous Queen Baby’s behavior may be.  Perhaps elementary teachers could use this title as a read-aloud and then have students write their own stories about Queen Baby.

Picture Book    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Picture Books – Duck, Duck, Porcupine; School’s First Day…; Chicken Lily; We are Growing

Yoon, Salina. Duck, Duck, Porcupine! New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-61963-723-8. 64pp. $9.99. Gr K-2.

This easy-reader title contains three short stories: A Perfect Day for a Picnic, I Think I Forgot Something, and The Campout. Each story features Big Duck, her brother Little Duck, and their friend Porcupine. The stories unfold through the back-and-forth dialogue between Big Duck and Porcupine. Little Duck doesn’t speak words yet, but his actions show that he is sometimes more aware of his surroundings than either of his friends. For example, in the first story, the friends prepare for a picnic. Big Duck and Porcupine are so busy gathering supplies that they don’t notice a huge cloud creeping across the sky. Little Duck has been watching the sky closely, though, and when a downpour begins, he is the one who is prepared with an umbrella. Yoon’s bright digitally-colored illustrations stand out against the story’s uncluttered backgrounds, and her heavy outlining further set off her characters.  THOUGHTS: Fans of Elephant and Piggie books will love reading about this trio and their many adventures. This title will also work well as a read-aloud or as a reader’s theatre production since all the text is already in speech bubbles.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

Rex, Adam. School’s First Day of School. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-59643-964-1. 32pp. $15.44. Gr K-3.

As a newly built school, Frederick Douglass Elementary isn’t sure what to expect at the beginning of a new school year. It’s been just the school and the janitor all summer, but when the children arrive, everything changes. There’s noisy lockers, splashing water fountains, and spilled nose milk. There’s also brightly colored drawings, lessons about shapes, and new friends to meet. Rex’s gentle text is perfect for reassuring nervous school newcomers, and students will relate to the school’s worries about the unknown. They will also connect to the many familiar activities depicted in illustrator Christian Robinson’s vibrant pictures: exploring the playground with friends, sitting in a circle on the classroom carpet, and filing out of the building during a fire drill.  THOUGHTS: Robinson’s lively illustrations feature a diverse student body, and readers will enjoy pouring over the students’ many activities. This title makes a perfect first-day-of-school read aloud, and it will fast-become a beginning-of-the-year staple.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

Mortensen, Lori. Chicken Lily. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-120-5. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Chicken Lily is great at many things, but being brave isn’t one of them. She’s cautious and doesn’t like to take chances. Lily’s friends ride their bikes without training wheels, try new foods, and are even excited for the class Grand-Slam Poetry Jam, so they can get up on stage in front of an audience and read their poems. Lily? “Just thinking about reciting a poem in front of everyone sent shivers down her tail feathers.” Luckily, Lily’s friends encourage her to write a poem anyway, and she finds the courage to read it onstage…only to find out that it’s not so bad. Lily may be a chicken, but not all of the time. Lily’s story is certainly not the first about a timid child, but the way Lily’s friends and teacher encourage her is wonderful and worth a read. Adult will appreciate the subtle chicken humor. THOUGHTS: Many children could see a bit of themselves in Chicken Lily, and hopefully will find their own “plucky” spirit like Lily does. Crittenden’s cute cartoon illustrates pair nicely with the story.

Picture Book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

Keller, Laurie. We Are Growing! New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2016. 978-1-48472-635-8. 49pp. $9.99. Gr. K-2.

Elephant and Piggie introduce and conclude this zany easy reader, the first in their new series called Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!  Several blades of grass are growing and each declares that he or she is the tallest, curliest, crunchiest, etc. Walt, the last blade of grass, doesn’t have a clue about what he is until the blades of grass are all given haircuts from a lawnmower, and then Walt, rake in hand, realizes that he’s the neatest! This story is simple and giggle inducing. Speech bubbles highlight the ongoing dialogue that is full of repetition and (mostly) appropriate words for beginning readers. Bright illustrations also help with context clues for tough words. THOUGHTS: Winner of the Theodore Seuss Giesel Award for 2017, We Are Growing! will be a hit with Elephant & Piggie fans or any young reader who likes a good laugh.

Picture book    Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools