Elem. – Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z

Latham, Irene, and Charles Waters. Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z. Carolrhoda Books, 2020. 978-1-541-55775-8. 120 p. $19.99. Grades 2-6.

Words have power, and learning how to use, absorb, and value them is one of the most important skills of adolescence. Indeed, relating words like ACCEPTANCE, GRATITUDE, JUSTICE, and VULNERABLE could help classes and young readers make a better world. Irene and Charles, the poets behind the thoughtful Can I Touch Your Hair? poetry story about race and friendship, have compiled a gorgeous collection of words that are illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Each page features a poem to match the word, and a description of the form of poetry as well. Accompanying the poem are quotations from writers or famous personalities, then a personal message from the author that children can connect with, and finally an action step to take to demonstrate the valuable word. In all, there are 50 poems from A to Z, and they should be digested and discussed thoughtfully rather than quickly. Discussions of race and friendship and hope for a brighter future should make this book an essential tool for home and classrooms.

THOUGHTS: At a time when teachers and parents are seeking ways to share inclusive, diverse, and equitable literature that leads to discussion and action, we can’t do much better than this wonderful book! Consider this for a One Book, One School selection or for a small group of empowered advocates. Highly recommended for grade 2 – 6 (though potentially useful for younger and older grades as well).

811 Poetry          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem – Oil; The Oldest Student; Emily Writes

Winter, Jonah.  Oil.  Beach Lane, 2019. 978-1-534-43077-8. Unpaged.  $17.99. Grades K-3.

In a departure from his picture book biographies, Winter tackles the issue of environmental disasters in this recounting of the Exxon Valdez tanker oil spill.  First, Winter explains how oil is removed from the earth by machines and then transported via pipelines to ships which carry it away. On March 24, 1989, a ship called the Exxon Valdez ran aground and millions of gallons of oil were released into the sea, covering 11,000 square miles of ocean and affecting 1,300 miles of Alaskan coastline in the Prince William Sound. Winter discusses its devastating effects primarily on animals, many of which died despite the massive cleanup. The author’s mother Jeanette Winter has created colorful illustrations, which have an almost folk art quality. Most of the drawings feature animals who appear to be observing all that is taking place, like the caribou and bears who stand by the pipeline. The illustrator adds the right touch of anticipation as she portrays just the giant hull of the ship approaching the sound, as a happy group of otters swims in the ocean and an eagle looks on with apparent concern. The illustration of the accident is dramatic, with a wordless two page spread image of the tanker releasing its oil into the sea. There is an author’s note and some suggested readings in the back matter.

THOUGHTS: This text tells the story of the Exxon disaster in terms that are accessible to young children, who will learn about both the short and long term effects on the wildlife and the landscape. This book works well as a read aloud and would be perfect for environmental units and to promote discussion about the environment.  A first purchase.

363.7382 Water Pollution          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
Environmental Problems, Oil spills


Hubbard, Rita Lorraine. The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020. 978-1-5247-6828-7. $17.99. 40 p. Grades K-3.

As a child born into slavery, Mary Walker admires the freedom of birds that pass over the plantation. She spends her days toiling in the fields picking cotton, which leaves no time for schooling of any kind. After the Emancipation Proclamation sets her free at the age of 15, Mary works as a nanny and a maid to keep her family afloat. One day, she meets a group of evangelists who gifts her a Bible. Mary vows that she will read it one day, but today is not that day. Work consumes the next six decades of her life until she moves to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Having outlived her entire family, her life changes when she moves to a retirement home, and, at 116 years old, takes a reading class. Caldecott Honor illustrator Oge Mora uses paper, including sheet music and pages from books, to create beautiful collages in shades of brown, green, yellow, and blue. Readers should take care to notice how Mary’s dress changes throughout the book, especially once she learns to read.

THOUGHTS: Even though The Oldest Student is geared towards K-3 students, ALL students can take away the very important message of the book: No one is ever too old to learn. This inspiring book is a gentle way to ease into difficult conversations about slavery, race, and education in our society. With the current emphasis on growth mindset in the classroom, this is the perfect book to show that learning and growing continue long after school is over.

Picture Book          Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD
921 WAL Biography


Yolen, Jane. Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings. Christy Ottaviano Books, 2020. 978-1-250-12808-9.  Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 1-5.

This picture book is a fictionalized account of Emily Dickinson’s early life in Amherst, Massachusetts. As a young child, Emily was interested in rhyming words and enjoyed listening to poems that her brother recited. The author uses poetic license to explain the origins of some of Dickinson’s later poetic works. Mrs. Mack, who also lives in the house, helps by telling young Emily that “frog” and “bog” rhyme, words which later appear in “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” She also supplies the word “hope” as a rhyme for “envelope.”  As an adult, Dickinson writes “The Way Hope Builds His House” on an envelope, which when opened, simulates a house with a peaked roof. The drawings by Christine Davenier are done in colored ink and she uses a palette of bright colors throughout the text. Little Emily is portrayed as an active, curious child who loves being outside in nature. There is an author’s note giving details about Dickinson’s life, and the back matter also contains three of her poems, including the two mentioned above.

THOUGHTS: This is an intriguing look at an iconic American poet. Although children in the target audience may not be very familiar with her poetry, this book might encourage them to seek out her works or to write some poetry on their own.

Easy Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

Elem. – Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets; ATVs; Lowriders; Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw; The Upper Case; Kylie Jean Recipe Queen; Karl’s New Beak; True Tales of Rescue; Fearless Felines; Stuffed; Anya and the Dragon; Little Bro, Big Sis; Thinker; Rosie and Rasmus; Firefighters’ Handbook; The Superlative A. Lincoln; Good Dad Diego; Milton & Odie; Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries; Beastly Puzzles; Who Am I; Instructions Not Included

Smith, Alex T. Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets. Peachtree. 2019. 978-1-682-63130-0. $16.95. Grades 2-4.

Another Mr. Penguin adventure! This time, Mr. Penguin is finishing a very important mission, when disaster seems to strike on his return home! With every move he makes, something bad happens! His plan crashes, small rodent animals are stolen, a mysterious castle that was once quiet is now making strange sounds, and he has no fish fingers to eat! Can Mr. Penguin solve the mystery of the castle AND return his parcel back to the museum? Read to find out!

THOUGHTS: Another funny Mr. Penguin adventure is here! Elementary readers will be excited to see the crazy leaps and bounds Mr. Penguin and his trusty spider side-kick Collin take. An enjoyable chapter book read!

Fantasy          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Shaffer, Lindsay. ATVs. Bellwether. 2019. 978-1-626-17870-0. $19.95. Grades 3-6.

This information guide to ATVs is a great resource for elementary readers interested in active outdoor recreation. ATVs feature a wide variety of information on the history, types, gear, and fast facts all about ATVs. This intermediate read has text and pictures that are engaging and informative, well balanced between the two. Elementary readers will enjoy the pictures, all the while learning new information about this fast vehicle. The back of the book contains a glossary, index, and additional information sources, both in print and on the web.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun informational piece for young active readers, part of the Full Throttle series!

629.228 ATVs, Vehicles          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Adamson, Thomas K. Lowriders. Bellwether. 2019. 978-1-62617-873-1. $19.95. Grades 3-6.

Other Books in the Full Throttle Series (Series total: $239.40)
Dragsters – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179318
Indy Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179325
Karts – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179332
Sport Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179349
4×4 Trucks – Shaffer, Lindsay. 2018. 9781626178694
Dirt Bikes – Shaffer, Lindsay. 2018. 9781626178717
Hot Rods – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178724
Monster Trucks – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178748
Motocross Cycles – Shaffer, Lindsay.2018. 9781626178755
Stock Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178762

Part of the Full Throttle series, Lowriders is an informational resource to the Lowrider vehicle, great for elementary readers. Full of pictures, text, fast facts, timelines, and more, this book is sure to pull in elementary readers that are interested in cars, specifically ones that seem to hop! Readers will learn a bit about competitions and the hydraulics that are used to make these lowriders bounce.

THOUGHTS: This is another fun informational read in the Full Throttle series!

629.222 Lowriders, Vehicles          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Loveless, Gina, and Andrea Bell. Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw. Andrews McMeel Publishing. 2019. 978-1-524-85548-2. $13.99. Grades 2-5.

It’s only taken a month since Robin received her diary to start writing in it, but now she is committed! Unfortunately, Day 1 isn’t the best beginning of a diary. It starts great but then ends terribly. She didn’t mean to give Marinara a bloody nose when playing basketball. She just got angry when he was being rude to her. It seems from then on, things go downhill. Mary Ann still won’t talk to her after missing her big day, and the bully keeps stealing everyone’s Bonus Bucks. Add on that Robin accidentally got the Bonus Bucks banned, everyone is mad at her, and she still can’t get Mary Ann to be her friend again… it seems that every good intention is ending badly! Can Robin, the 5th Grade Outlaw, solve these problems?

THOUGHTS: An Epic! Original story that is easy to read with large, spacious text; fun illustrations that create a graphic novel type feel; and written in a diary format. A fun read for a variety of readers who like some action that deserves a hero… or an outlaw!

Realistic Fiction           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Lazar, Tara. The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-02765-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-9. 

There’s trouble in River Capital City. All the upper case letters have disappeared except for Private I. Now he’s on the case, trying to locate the missing letters in a city that, devoid of its capitals, no longer makes sense. This riotous book is filled with puns, both verbal and pictorial, with brightly colored, humorous illustrations by Ross MacDonald. As Private I moves about the city, conducting interviews and looking for clues, readers will giggle with delight. And the denouement! What a surprise! But also a subtle lesson that sometimes even the most outgoing of us need some quiet time.

THOUGHTS: This utterly delightful picture book, reminiscent of Audrey Woods’ alphabet series, begs to be read aloud at story time, as well as given a closer one-on-one reading. There are so many puns and jokes to catch, it will stand up to multiple readings. A recommended purchase for libraries serving primary grades.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Green, Gail, and Marci Peschke. Kylie Jean Recipe Queen. Picture Window Books, 2019. $20.99 ea. $83.96 set of 4. 32 p. Grades 2-4. 

Breakfast Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82850-1
Dinner Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82849-5
Lunch Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82848-8
Treat Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82847-1

Fictional character Kylie Jean is back, this time in a non-fiction cooking series where she shares some of her favorite recipes. This reviewer had the opportunity to read the volume focusing on breakfast recipes. Recipes include smoothies, rainbow waffles, energy bars, and more–including a recipe for Fido! Designed for elementary-aged chefs, working with adult assistance, each recipe features step-by-step instructions (emphasizing points when adult assistance will be required), a full page photo of the finished product, as will as tips and creative options.

THOUGHTS: A nice addition for elementary libraries looking to update or expand their cooking collections (especially libraries that already own the Kylie Jean fiction series). Sure to hold appeal for aspiring chefs looking to try out new recipes.

641.5 Cooking            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Nargi, Lela. Karl’s New Beak: 3-D Printing Builds a Bird a Better Life. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-684-46026-7. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 1-3.

Karl, an Abyssinian ground hornbill at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, had a problem–a big problem. A large portion of his lower beak had worn away! This left him dependent on his keepers for special food, as he was not able to pinch insects or small mammals off the ground with his beak. His quality of life was impacted in other ways as well. He couldn’t engage in hunting behaviors or interact with the surrounding environment as he normally would. In order to improve Karl’s quality of life, his keepers decided to create a prosthetic beak using a 3-D printer. Author Lela Nargi relates Karl’s journey and the 3-D beak creation process in Karl’s New Beak. The text is accompanied by numerous large photos and drawings. A section including basic facts about the Abyssinian ground hornbill and a glossary are also included. As part of Capstone’s 4-D line of books, readers can access supplemental video material via an app or online.

THOUGHTS: This engaging title is a must buy for elementary library collections, especially those looking to expand their STEM-related collections. Karl’s story lends itself to lessons on engineering, 3-D printing, cooperation and innovation, just to name a few.

636.089 Veterinary medicine          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Einhorn, Kama. True Tales of Rescue. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. $14.99 ea. 143 p. Grades 3-7. 

    Go, Goats!. 978-132-876706-6
    Tiger Time. 978-132-876707-3

The purpose of the True Tales of Rescue series is to inform readers about animal sanctuaries and their mission of animal rescue, recovery, rehabilitation, and release. Go, Goats! examines the farm animal rescue efforts of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. The narrator of the book is Lucia, the oldest goat at the sanctuary. She takes readers on a tour of the facility and describes the journey of the largest group of goats the sanctuary has ever rescued. Along the way, readers learn about the steps in the animal rescue process, the services provided by the sanctuary, the daily life of the animals, and facts about goats. Tiger Time is narrated by Kamal the tiger, a resident of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. He informs readers about various aspects of wild animal rescue and how these creatures are rehabilitated and live in the sanctuary. Readers also learn many facts about tigers. The series is written in an engaging and conversational style. Readers feel like they are sitting down and having a chat with Lucia and Kamal. The text is accompanied by numerous photographs of the animals and the sanctuaries. Suggestions for supporting sanctuaries and animals are also provided.

THOUGHTS: This series is sure to be popular with animal lovers. The conversational style of the text makes the series a great non-fiction option for reluctant readers. In addition to these newest titles, librarians should also consider purchasing the prior titles in the series.

636.7, 599 Farm Animals, Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Hamilton, Kimberlie. Fearless Felines: 30 True Tales of Courageous Cats. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-35583-3. $9.99. 160 p. Grades 3-7.

Fearless Felines recounts the stories of cats from around the world and throughout history who led amazing and unique lives. For example there’s Sam, who spent time onboard both German and English Naval vessels in World War II; Morris, who found fame on TV commercials; Nora, the piano playing kitty; and Snowball, the Canadian cat who helped police in an investigation. Interspersed among the cat tales are lists of various feline factoids, quizzes, and historical cat lists/information. Each single page cat profile is accompanied by a full page illustration by one of seventeen artists.

THOUGHTS: A quick and enjoyable read, this title is sure to be a hit with your school’s many cat owners and fans. The text is enhanced by the variety of illustrations, completed in various styles and mediums, which helps to bring the unique personality of each cat to life.

636.8 Cats          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Braswell, Liz. Stuffed. Disney, 2019. 978-1-368-03701-3. 244 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Clark’s mom is sure that, at 10 years old, Clark is too old to play with stuffed animals. But for Clark, it isn’t play; it’s protection from the monsters he thinks come out at night. When a new playdate friend confirms that monsters are real, and “stuffies” are the defense, Clark begins to understand what is wrong with his father, who has taken to bed and looks weaker by the day. In a last ditch effort to make Clark “grow up,” his mom sends him to Camp I Can, a camp for children to break dependencies. Luckily, Clark connects with the crafts counselor who knows all about stuffies and comes up with a plan to save his dad before it’s too late. This sweet book gives voice to what all children know: stuffed animals are real. In a trading card-like structure, stuffies are given defensive point values for various characteristics, and being home-made, with love, is a big power boost. Clark epitomizes the frustration children feel at not being taken seriously by adults, but luckily he has a fan in his goth older sister, a unique character in her own right. The story includes occasional narration from one of Clark’s stuffies, which adds a twist of suspense to the story. Author Braswell also includes instructions to make one’s own stuffies.

THOUGHTS: Any reader who has ever loved a stuffed animal will delight in Stuffed.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Pasternick, Sofiya. Anya and the Dragon. Versify, 2019. 978-0-358-00607-7. 394 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Anya’s Babulya, grandmother, always tells her to not make trouble, not to stand out. This comes from her grandmother’s lifetime of experience as a Jew in Russia. But Anya attracts attention for another reason when she bravely assaults a cruel warrior from the north who threatens the village. Her bravery is noticed by Yedsha, the Tsar’s fool, who just arrived in her small village, ostensibly on a mission to study the magical creatures that dwell there. He is really seeking a dragon, thought to be extinct, and hires Anya to guide him around the area and look for one. Anya is in need of money, as the village magistrate is in the process of evicting her family from their house unless they pay back taxes her mother owes. However, when Anya finds a young dragon and discovers what a thoughtful, caring creature the dragon is, she is torn between saving her family or saving the dragon. The story reads like a cozy Russian folk tale, full of magic, mythical creatures, ghosts, and evil soldiers. Anya is drawn into the warmth of the fool’s large family, making friends with his youngest son Ivan. But as Anya prepares for her Bat Mitzvah, her Torah readings cause her to question the morality of her work with Yedsha Ivanovitch. Is it acceptable to take one life to save many? Is an animal life as valuable as a human life? Jewish culture and history run through the story like the threads of magic the villagers use. The conclusion of the book highlights Anya’s bravery and cleverness, and leaves readers wanting more. Luckly, a sequel is on the way.

THOUGHTS: Another stellar entry in the cultural folktale/adventure genre, this time from Kwame Alexander’s imprint. The story is fast paced, with magic, a generous supply of magical creatures, and villains too. Anya is thoughtful, loyal, and quick on her feet. While she continuously rues that she alone in the village has no magic, it is obvious that she has many other gifts. This book will find a home with any reader who loves magical adventures and folk tales.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Bonilla, Rocio. Little Bro, Big Sis. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-623-54109-5. 56 p. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Big Sis is an overbearing rhinoceros according to Little Bro, but she does have some positive qualities. Little Bro is an annoying monkey who always gets in the way, according to Big Sis, but he does have some endearing moments. As Little Bro and Big Sis consider their relationship, they realize that maybe it isn’t so bad having one sibling, especially when a new baby comes into the family.

THOUGHTS: With humorous illustrations that support the development between the two siblings, Little Bro, Big Sis is a Flip-Me-Over Book that tells the same story from each sibling’s perspective.  It is a fun, funny picture book about sibling relationships and what happens when a family grows from two children to three. This is a great story for siblings to explore their own feelings towards one another and their feelings when their family changes.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Greenfield, Eloise. Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me. Ill. Ehsan Abdollahi, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2019. 978-1-492-67724-6. 32 p. $15.99. Grades PreK and up.

Jace and Thinker are both poets. When Thinker comes to live with Jace and his family, he is welcomed into the family. As Thinker and Jace share their poetry with one another, they share their thoughts and feelings, their music from their words. But, when Jace has to go to school and Thinker cannot, Thinker begins to worry that Jace is ashamed of him and his poems. He worries that he is not good enough for Jace and needs to be more of a dog in public and less of himself, the poet. When pet day comes, Thinker promises to only bark and not embarrass Jace, but he cannot limit who he is, so he takes the stage to recite poetry, and soon all of the pets are sharing their skills, singing, dancing, walking upside down, and more.  Jace is proud of Thinker for staying true to himself and sharing his poetry.

THOUGHTS: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me is a wonderful collection of poems that reminds readers always to remain true to who you are and not worry about what others think. Not only are the poems fun, sharing a story of man’s best friend and understanding of character, but the illustrations are gorgeous. Created using paper cuts, each illustration adds a brightness to the poem and connects each element of the poet’s story together.  The poems and illustrations continually remind the reader that being true to you is the key.

Poetry        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Geddes, Serena. Rosie and Rasmus. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-4814-9874-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-12.

Rosie and Rasmus both have a wish. Rosie wishes for a friend, and Rasmus wants to fly. One day when Rosie goes out by the water, she meets Rasmus. She teaches him things that she enjoys, and he shows her lots of things that can fly. Rosie encourages Rasmus to continue trying to fly. When Rasmus finally grows his wings and learns to fly, he and Rosie must part ways. Although Rosie is sad to lose her friend, she realizes that perhaps she can do for another what Rasmus did for her.

THOUGHTS: Rosie and Rasmus is an endearing picture book about friendship, encouragement, perseverance, and loss. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and add to the beauty of this story of friendship, growth, and loss. This is a wonderful book for children who are struggling to fit in socially, who are shy, or who are just looking for a friend.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


McCarthy, Meghan. Firefighters’ Handbook. Simon & Schuster, 2019. 978-1-534-41733-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Well-known children’s non-fiction author-illustrator Megan McCarthy’s newest title introduces young readers to the career of firefighting. The physical requirements of the job, including types overall fitness activities (running, biking, etc.) as well as job-specific fitness requirements (climbing stairs, lifting equipment, etc.) are presented and discussed. Diagrams and descriptions explain firefighting gear, equipment, and vehicles. Types of firefighting situations and scenarios as well as jobs and duties carried out in the firehouse are also shown and described. Back matter includes an interview with a retired battalion chief and his answers to some questions from children.

THOUGHTS: Readers with an interest in firefighting will be sure to appreciate this title. The illustrations are appealing and engaging, and the text clearly explains all the facets of the firefighting profession to younger readers. Highly recommended.

628.9 Firefighting           Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Meyer, Eileen R. The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89937-6. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K-4.

The Superlative A. Lincoln relates key events and milestones in Abraham Lincoln’s life via 19 poems. Each poem is titled with a different superlative statement. “Best Lumberjack” relates Lincoln’s prowess with an ax, “Best Yarn Spinner” focuses on his ability to tell a tale, and “Best Use of an Accessory” is written from the point of view of Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat. Accompanying each poem is a paragraph that explains the history behind the poetry. The text is complimented by Dave Szalay’s illustrations, which accompany each poem. The illustrations, while digitally created, have a vintage vibe and feel that seem perfect for a history-related title.

THOUGHTS: These fun poems are a great way to engage students and share some important facts about our 16th President. The title could be used in various lessons, including poetry, Presidents Day, and Abraham Lincoln. Highly recommended for elementary collections.

811 Poetry          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Maloney, Brenna. Good Dad Diego. Viking, 2019. 978-0-451-48126-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.

Diego the dog is a pug who has a tough job–he is a father! In that capacity, he has to wear many hats. Sometimes he is the law of the household, focusing on preventing his puppies from misbehaving. Other roles he takes on include cook, dishwasher, nurse, and repairman. The most important hat he wears, though, is simply Dad. He loves his pups and wants to care for them and set a good example. This photographic picture book features illustrations of Diego wearing his different hats (for example, a policeman’s hat when he is the law, a chef’s hat when he is the cook). While most photos focus on Diego, the closing pages introduce readers to his adorable pups.

THOUGHTS: Sure to be a hit with dog lovers, this title would make a great read aloud and might also prompt discussion on the various jobs and roles carried out within households.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Fraser, Mary Ann. Milton & Odie and the Bigger-than-Bigmouth Bass. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-623-54098-2. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades PreK-2.

As the story opens, otters Milton and Odie have woken up in their homes with the same idea-they will spend the day ice fishing! They travel to separate areas of a lake and drop their lines in the water. However, Milton and Odie’s personalities could not be more different. Milton has a grumpy personality and a pessimistic attitude. He’s sure he is unlikely to catch anything as the lake probably doesn’t have anything worth catching. Odie, on the other hand, is cheerful and always sees the positive side of things. For example, when he reels in an abandoned fishing net rather than a fish, he views it as a great and useful find. When fate (and tangled fishing lines) bring these two polar opposites together, they learn a lesson about the power of teamwork and patience, and optimistic outlooks.

THOUGHTS: This delightful story is sure to bring a smile to the face of readers and would make an excellent read aloud, as Milton and Odie have such distinct personalities. The book could easily be incorporated into lessons and discussions on topics such as friendship, feelings, and emotions.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Hogan, Eric, and Tara Hungerford. Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries. Firefly Books, 2019. $19.95 ea. 32 p. Grades PreK-2.

The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder. 978-0-228-10189-5.
The Case of the Story Rock. 978-0-228-10191-8.
The Case of the Vanishing Caterpillar. 978-0-228-10193-2.
The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper. 978-0-228-10195-6.

The Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries are adapted from a popular Canadian children’s television program. Each volume features main characters Scout and Daisy, mice best friends, who embark on a journey to solve a nature-related mystery (for example, “why did my caterpillar friend disappear?”). They use their prior knowledge and observations recorded in a field book to guide them as they go out into nature to investigate further. Next, they consult books in the library to verify what they have learned (or to add to their knowledge) in order to solve the mystery. With their case now closed, they return to the outdoors and take a “mindful moment” to reflect on the knowledge they have gained. Each book contains a “Field Notes” section with information, definitions, photos, diagrams, etc. about the mystery topic as well as a nature craft related to the story.

THOUGHTS: As a librarian, I really liked how these books introduced and reinforced the idea of the research process for younger readers throughout the storyline. Scout and Daisy identify a question (aka the mystery), make and record observations, and conduct research in the library in order to solve the mystery. The series encourages readers to go out into nature, explore and engage with the world around them and to be curious. (Note: Familiarity with the Gumboot Kids television program is not needed in order to understand and enjoy these titles).

500s Natural Sciences        Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Poliquin, Rachel. Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game. Ill. Byron Eggenschwiler. Kids Can Press, 2019. 978-1-771-38913-6. 32 p. $16.99. Grades 2-5.

Beastly Puzzles is a guessing game for readers to see how much they know, or think they know, about an animal. Each tri-fold spread begins in a monochromatic room, a study, a sewing room, a bedroom, etc., with colorful pictures of clues. The clues help readers answer the question, “What animal could you make with…”, along with a hint at the bottom of the page. After readers put their critical thinking to a test to figure out the animal represented by the clues, the page folds out into the animal and information about it.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun, challenging way to test critical thinking, animal knowledge, and learn about animals. It is a great addition to elementary libraries.

793.73 Puzzle Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 


Flach, Tim. Who Am I? A Peek-Through-Pages Book of Endangered Animals. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73646-9. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

Who Am I? guides young readers through twelve endangered species by providing clues about each one. The clues allow readers to use their knowledge of animals to guess the endangered species. Some are obvious: the giant panda, a polar bear, and a gorilla. Others are not: the crowned sifaka, the white-bellied pangolin, and the axolotl.  Each set of clues provides information about the animal. Additional information about each animal is located in the back of the book in the “Who are we?” section. This text also includes, “Wanted! Caretakers for Planet Earth – How You Can Help,” a section about what readers and humanity can do to help endangered animals and the planet in general.

THOUGHTS: This title is a fun way for early elementary students to learn about endangered species. It rotates between those they may know and those they probably do not. It is a great source for introducing endangered animals and also elementary appropriate research (or search).

591.68 Endangered Animals          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Brown, Tami Lewis, and Debbie Loren Dunn. Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future. Ill. Chelsea Beck. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-01105-1. 64 p. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty all came from different backgrounds but had one thing in common: their understanding of math. Brought together during World War II, these three women were tasked to use their math skills to program ENIAC, one of the world’s earliest computers. With no instructions, the women set out to create a code for ENIAC that would prove a computer’s worth in both war and peace. But, programming a 13-ton machine with no prior knowledge, except math, was not easy. The women worked first to calculate all of the aspects needed to program ENIAC, and then they had to test it. They were on a deadline and ENIAC did not compute properly. What was wrong? How would they figure out their problem before it was too late?

THOUGHTS: Instructions Not Included is the story of three women who were computer science pioneers.  Using only their knowledge of math, they were able to program one of the earliest computers to use for war. Both Jean Jennings and Betty Snyder remained in the computer science field after the ENIAC project. Betty went on to help write both COBOL and FORTRAN computer languages with Grace Hopper and others. Jean helped develop stored-programming. The “Author’s Note” at the end of the book provides additional details about each woman. Resources for further reading are also provided. This is an informative picture book to help students recognize the importance of math and the development of computer science.

004 Computer Science; 920 Biography Compilation          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – Sonny’s Bridge; Snail and Worm All Day; Tow Truck Joe; I Am Someone Else; Hum and Swish

Wittenstein, Barry. Sonny’s Bridge. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89881-2. 32 p. $21.99. Grades K-4. 

In the early 1960’s, if you were on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City at night you might have heard the sounds of Sonny Rollins’ saxophone floating through the air. Sonny’s Bridge is a poetic biography of the jazz legend and his path to recording his third album ‘The Bridge.” Born during the Harlem Renaissance, Sonny is influenced by the jazz greats. When he starts playing the saxophone, Sonny is a teeneager living through WWII and the Jim Crow movement. He hits the music scene just in time for the bebop revolution. An overnight success, Sonny Rollins even plays at Carnegie Hall, but the fame is too much and Sonny takes a two-year sabbatical where he spends his nights practicing on the bridge to avoid waking his neighbors. On the bridge Sonny plays his own way until he finally feels ready to record his famous comeback album. An author’s note and timeline at the back of the book provide more insight into Sonny’s life and notable accomplishments through 2018. A bibliography along with a list of quotes and websites for more information are also included. The digitally created illustrations add to the historical significance of the story while also embracing the legendary status of Sonny Rollins. 

THOUGHTS: An excellent picture book biography with plenty of historical connections and an introduction to jazz. This book is versatile and can serve both as a read aloud for younger audiences while also allowing room to discuss deeper historical significance with older students.  A welcome addition to any school library.  

92; Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Kugler, Tina. Snail and Worm All Day. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-06364-3. $16.99. 32 p. Grades K-2. 

Snail and Worm have three adventures to share in their second book together. Snail points out all the accomplishments of their friends when a little cheering up is needed for the day. Together the two friends barely escape a dragon (which turns out to be a turtle hiding in its shell) and then take a nap. When Snail is sleepy, Worm agrees to tell a bedtime story that isn’t too scary and includes both friends. The three short stories are excellent examples of friendship for young readers. Although the text is deceptively brief, there is plenty of humor and feeling packed into the stories. The bright acrylic, pastel and collage illustrations give the comfortable feeling of a picture book while the text is suitable for early readers. 

THOUGHTS: A lovely hybrid text for emerging readers who are ready to graduate to reading on their own. This picture book is a bridge in the gap to early readers while providing some opportunities to teach about friendship. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Sobel, June. Tow Truck Joe. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-05312-5. 32 p. $17.99. Grades Prek-1. 

A friendly red tow truck named Joe and his dog Patch spend a day in town helping their neighbors with flat tires and dead batteries. As they cruise around town Patch and Joe say hello to many other working vehicles including the grocery truck, cement mixer, and ice cream truck. When a rushing milk truck collides with the cookie cart causing a traffic jam, Patch and Joe help all of the vehicles work together and find a sweet solution to get everyone rolling again. The brightly colored illustrations of a busy small town filled with working vehicles will be a hit with very young readers. Rhyming text, lots of honking hellos, and a repeating red light/green light verse will make this a fun addition to storytime for a preschool crowd. 

THOUGHTS: Trucks are always a hit at storytime, and this is a good addition to any preschool collection. It’s a fun, engaging read aloud with many opportunities to incorporate movement. This book also can be used to teach young children about cooperation and community. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Hopkins, Lee Bennett. I Am Someone Else: Poems about Pretending. Charlesbrisdge, 2019. 978-1-580-89832-4. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-4.

Playing pretend is universal among children, and this illustrated anthology of poetry about imagining embraces that commonality. A brief introduction reminds the reader that “there is nothing better than being yourself” then goes on to explain that it is fun to think about being someone else at times. Poetry is divided into three categories, each of which features a unique heading poem. “Wish! Be a Storybook Character” features poems about fantasy role play such as wizards, pirates, and even what it might be like to be a giant’s wife, courtesy of Lois Lowry. “Support! Be a Person who Helps” includes poems about career role play such as pilot, veterinarian, and police officer. “Invent! Be a Person Who’s a Maker” is a collection of poems related to STEAM professions featuring a builder, poet, and chef. Even video game designers get a poem in this section. Ethnically diverse illustrations with each poem depict children dressing up to match their imaginary scenario. Refreshingly, the illustrations also support imaginary play as an ungendered activity by depicting both boys and girls dressing up in various costumes such as a male nurse and a female video game designer. 

THOUGHTS: This anthology is a great contemporary way to incorporate poetry into STEAM lessons in the elementary library. I would definitely add this title to update a poetry collection. A table of contents would make this title more functional, but the lack of one doesn’t distract from the overall reading experience. 

811; Picture Book        Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Myers, Matt. Hum and Swish. Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44286-7. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Waves gently crash over the sand on a perfect beach day. Jamie sits quietly humming and playing in the sand as the wind tousles her hair. Here she finds some rocks. There is a puddle left by the waves. Jamie digs, crafts, and collects, content to be in her own world by the sea. People pass by and ask questions about her project. Uninterested in visitors, Jamie keeps her focus. It seems like only the ocean truly understands her. Eventually, another artist sets up shop nearby. The artist has no questions and no answers. The two work in parallel amongst their understanding of each other and the ocean. Museum quality acrylic and oil paintings frame the story, masterfully conveying the serenity and strength of the ocean. Hum and Swish has managed to create a time capsule of a few preciously perfect  hours spent playing next to the ocean. 

THOUGHTS: A fantastic addition to any school library collection. STEAM connections can be made using Jamie’s building with sand and found objects as inspiration. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

YA – Color Outside the Lines; The Library of Lost Things; Patron Saints of Nothing; I’m Not Dying with You Tonight; Stamped; I Know You Remember; When You Ask Me Where I’m Going; Deadly Little Scandals; The Last to Die; Winterwood

Mandanna, Sangu, editor. Color Outside the Lines: Stories About Love. Soho Teen, 2019. 978-1-641-29046-3. 269 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

Color Outside the Lines is an exploration of what it means to love while you’re young, especially when something gets in the way. For some that something is race, for others it’s prejudice, and yet for others it may be superpowers. The stories are wonderfully interspersed with meet-cutes and relationships both normal and fantastical, all exploring different cultures and experiences and the dynamics and challenges that come with them. Readers will encounter mythologies and realities, villages and cities, changing families and stable relationships within the 16 stories included.

THOUGHTS: Color Outside the Lines will strike a chord with many readers who have never before seen themselves in a book. I loved the way the stories were not all what I expected, not everything was about romantic love, and not everything was rooted in reality. It’s a must add to any middle or high school collection.

Mostly Realistic, Some Fantasy Elements        Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Namey, Laura Taylor. The Library of Lost Things. Inkyard Press, 2019. 978-1-488-05135-7. 384 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

A teen literary prodigy, Darcy spends most of her spare time lost in a favorite book or working in the local independent bookstore. With best friend Marisol by her side, Darcy has found a careful balance in life, amidst her mother’s serious hoarding addiction. Darcy’s safe space has long been the one place her mother cannot set foot, Darcy’s bedroom where she is surrounded by myriad books. When a new property manager begins making cosmetic improvements around the apartment complex, Darcy worries how long she’ll be able to keep the secret of her mother’s “collections.” While her mother is able to work, she can’t control her compulsive shopping. Darcy is supplemented by her grandmother but also has learned to be self reliant. Falling for Asher Fleet isn’t part of Darcy’s plan, but something about him makes her want a real life fairy tale. Darcy is used to the comfort of her books, and real life isn’t so predictable or easy.

THOUGHTS: Avid readers will appreciate all of the literary references, and teens will enjoy the slow burning romance, friendship, and mother-daughter dynamics. Recommended for high school libraries where compelling romances are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ribay, Randy. Patron Saints of Nothing. Kokila, 2019. 978-0-525-55491-2. 323 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Half Filipino high school senior Jay spends much of his spare time lost in a video game world, not fully aware of what’s going on around the world. Though he’s been accepted to the University of Michigan, he’s only going out of obligation to his family who worked hard, so he could life their American dream. Jay doesn’t really know what he wants, and he’s just going through the motions. When Jay learns more about his cousin Jun’s death (Jun was murdered as part of Philippines President Duterte’s war on drugs), he can’t shake his guild over losing touch with Jun. Jay wonders if he had returned Jun’s letters would have become lost – surely Jun really wasn’t into drugs. But Jay doesn’t really understand life in the Philippines, and he’s determined to learn more. Passing up the new laptop he’s wanted for college (really gaming), Jay convinces his parents to let him travel to the Philippines, promising not to bring up Jun’s death, especially around his Uncle ___. With Jun’s letters in his bag, Jay is determined to learn the truth about Jun’s death and honor his cousin in the way he deserves.

THOUGHTS: Ribay’s novel encourages teens to get out of their comfort zones and become more globally aware. With many issues from family dynamics and grief to international politics, readers will be taken on a journey of healing. Highly recommende3d for high school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Jones, Kimberly, and Gilly Segal. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-492-67889-2. 249 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

From two very different worlds, Lena and Campbell are forced together inside a Friday night football game concession stand. On the outside Lena appears to be cool and confident, always wearing the “right” clothes and trying to impress her boyfriend Black. Like many girls, though, Lena isn’t as confident as she seems in herself or in her relationship. New to town after her mother takes a job abraod, Campbell is trying to find her place in school and at home with her father, who owns a local hardware store. One teen black, one teen white, Lena and Campbell must learn to work together when chaos erupts all around them. With their lives in danger, the girls must see past their differences in order to survive and get to safety.

THOUGHTS: Written by two authors, this dual narrative intertwines and comes to life. A Big Library Read selection in 2019, this title is sure to be popular with high school readers who have enjoyed other powerhouse YA titles like The Hate You Give, Long Way Down, All American Boys, Dear Martin, and more. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Reynolds, Jason, and Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-316-45369-1 320 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

Re-evaluate everything you learned or think you know about history in this text that is “NOT a history book.” Broken down by various time periods, Reynolds adapts Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning for a teen audience. Reynolds explains that everyone fits into a category – racist, antiracists, or assimilationist – often moving from one to another or being associated with one but really fitting into another. Various leaders throughout time are analyzed for their words and actions, causing readers to reconsider what they think they know about history.

THOUGHTS: Teen readers will appreciate Reynolds’ open and honest voice which asks them to question the educational system – what they have been taught, by whom, and why. Instead of accepting what they are told, readers will want to prove their history texts (and teachers) wrong. teachers should appreciate the opportunity to encourage students to rewrite history with a more open, honest, and true version. This is a must have nonfiction title for every secondary library.

305.80 Racial, ethnic, national groups          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Donaldson, Jennifer. I Know You Remember. Razorbill, 2019. 978-1-595-14854-4. 336 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

Three years ago Ruthie and her mother left Anchorage, Alaska hoping for a fresh start away from Ruthie’s alcoholic father. Ruthie tried to keep in touch with her best friend Zahra, but time and distance (not to mention Zahra’s delayed or lack of responses) meant that wasn’t always easy. After a tragic hiking accident kills her mother, Ruthie finds herself on a plane back to Anchorage to live with her now clean father and his new wife and stepdaughter. Before boarding the plane, Ruthie texts Zahra, letting her know she’ll be home soon and hoping they can reconnect. Zahra never receives the message, and Ruthie is devastated to learn that Zahra has gone missing, following an argument at a party with her boyfriend Ben. Ruthie tries to help the search for clues while connecting with Zahra’s new friends. She hopes this will help her understand how Zahra has changed since they were friends. The Zahra that Ruthie knew isn’t the same girl that’s missing, but Ruthie is determined to find her and recover their lost friendship.

THOUGHTS: This twisty mystery is unpredictable, and things aren’t always as they seem. A must have for high school collections where fast-paced dramas are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Kaur, Jasmin. When You Ask Me Where I’m Going. HarperCollins, 2019. 978-0-062-91261-9. 256 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

This debut collection of poetry, prose, and illustrations will cause readers to think and feel deeply about a variety of tough topics such as sexual assault, mental health, and undocumented immigrants, just to name a few. With a strong voice, Kaur is sure to be appreciated by poetry fans.

THOUGHTS: This title will enhance and diversity existing high school poetry collections. Recommended for libraries looking to offer new voices and update poetry pieces.

Poetry          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

 


Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. Deadly Little Scandals. Freeform, 2019. 978-1-368-01517-2. 352 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Sawyer Taft is back with another southern high society debutante drama. This time she spends her time alternating between the family home and their summer lake house. Much more comfortable among her cousin Lily and their fellow debutante friends, Sawyer is still determined to solve the puzzle of her biological father. As she becomes closer with the girls, though, Sawyer must be careful not to upset the balance they have achieved. Drama seems to follow these girls wherever they go, and pledging to a long time debutante, elite, all female secret society may give Sawyer the answers she’s been seeking. Not everyone wants Sawyer to solve the mystery, though.

THOUGHTS: A new cast of characters with some old friends will ensure readers are on the edge of their seats. A must-have for libraries where Little White Lies and mysteries are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Sawyer, Lily, Campbell, and Sadie-Grace are spending the summer trying to relax, forget, and figure out the aftermath of the past year. Together at the lake, Sawyer is trying to figure out how to tell Lily who her father is; Campbell’s family is trying to survive the humiliation of her father’s arrest and save their company; Sadie-Grace is covering up Greer’s “pregnancy,” and Lily is figuring out who she is and what she wants. Of course, a relaxing summer isn’t quite in the picture for these debs, as they pledge the elite and mysterious White Gloves, and learn more about their pasts and present. When things spiral out of control, can the debs survive the scandal and the truth?

THOUGHTS: I love Jennifer Lynn Barnes. She is one of my favorite mystery/thriller authors. Although readers should read the Debutantes series in order because of references made to events from book one, Deadly Little Scandals is easy to follow. Barnes’s use of flashback for the majority of the novel keeps readers focused without confusion and constantly guessing what possibly could come next. Highly recommended for all high school collections.  

Mystery         Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Garrett, Kelly. The Last to Die. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-492-69844-9. 240 p. $10.99. Grades 9-12. 

Seventeen year old Harper seems to live an idyllic life. She’s a star soccer player at school and on her club team, she has a boyfriend who adores her, and she’s got a great group of friends. Home life, though is a bit more complicated. her older brother is in a second stint of rehab, her mom copes with glasses of wine, and her dad can’t deal or even be bothered to learn how to sign with Maggie, Harper’s little sister who is deaf. A regular visitor to the principal’s office for voicing her mind, Harper isn’t always a star student, but she has plans on getting a soccer scholarship. To entertain themselves friend couples Harper and Gin; Paisley and Benji; and Sara, a rival soccer teammate, and Alex make a game out of burglarizing each other’s houses, with some ground rules, of course. What seems like innocent, though sometimes embarrassing, fun turns deadly. With suspicions on one of their own, the game becomes a race of cat and mouse, and the stakes couldn’t be more serious.

THOUGHTS: Fans of mysteries will enjoy this somewhat predicable read, though the quick ending may be frustrating. Purchase for high school collections where character-driven mysteries are popular. Note: This title was first published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2017 and was republished by Sourcebooks Fire in 2019.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ernshaw, Shea. Winterwood. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-46279-3. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

The Walkers, as legend says, are older than the woods themselves. The Wicker Woods, cursed and dangerous to enter unless it is a full moon. The Walker women do not fear the woods, as they know they sleep during the full moon and not to enter at any other time, for who knows what the woods will do when they are awake and watching…

Nora realizes all of these things, as she is a Walker. Although her nightshade has not yet come to her, she knows she is a witch like those before her. Nora is not afraid of the woods. And yet, one boy is missing and one boy is dead. What happens when Nora comes across the missing boy, alive in the woods 2 weeks after the terrible snow storm? What does this boy know about the boy who is dead? As the mystery unravels, Nora finds herself deeper and deeper in her struggle of learning the truth of this mysterious boy and solving the puzzle that lies within the heart of him.

THOUGHTS: An engaging fantasy that pulls you in as you learn more about Nora’s family and the mystery of the missing boy. This is a book you cannot put down as you hope to find out more about what truly happened on the fateful night when one boy went missing and the other met his death.

Fantasy/Mystery        Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA – The Nickel Boys; Don’t Date Rosa Santos; The Babysitter’s Coven; The Grace Year; How it Feels to Float; Dig; Inside Out; Ordinary Hazards

Whitehead, Colson. The Nickel Boys. Doubleday, 2019. 978-0-385-53707-0. 213 pp. $24.95. Grades 10+.

As a young black man in Tallahassee, Florida, in the early 1960s, Elwood Curtis has a vision for his life. The album Martin Luther King at Zion Hill (the best gift he ever received from his grandmother and guardian, Harriet) instilled his belief in King’s message of progress through peace, and he plans to join the Civil Rights movement. An ambitious high school student, Elwood enrolls in a college course, but in an almost absurdly tragic turn of events, he hitches a ride in a stolen car. Thus begins his time at Nickel Academy, a Florida reform school. Though he endures terrible abuse at Nickel, the friendship of another boy named Turner sustains him. Likewise, Turner trusts and confides in Elwood. Interspersed chapters from Elwood’s adult life in New York City provide glimpses of the lasting impact of the trauma suffered all those years before. Just as Elwood tries “without success to figure out why his life had bent to this wretched avenue,” so will readers of this virtuosic novel.

THOUGHTS: It’s difficult to find words that haven’t already been used to praise Colson Whitehead’s unique body of work, but The Nickel Boys is truly something special. An author of rare caliber, telling an essential story in spare and chilling prose. It’s adolescent characters make it a fine crossover selection. Elizabeth A. Murray’s recently published nonfiction title, The Dozier School for Boys, would be a fitting companion piece.

The Dozier School, which closed in 2011, inspired this story. For more information and footage of the school grounds, watch a YouTube video or two, starting with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY2Oh9fRSn4&t=4s.

Historical Fiction (Crossover)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

In the middle of the 1900s, there was not a lot of equality, especially in the south. The Nickel Boys is set both in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and in modern day. Based on true events, the tale centers around Elwood and Turner’s stay at Nickel Academy, a reformatory center for boys of all races in Florida. Although both boys ended up at the academy for different reasons, they become friends and supports for each other in a place that is brimming with abuse, racism, and corruption. Just as Elwood strived to participate in the Civil Rights movement before his placement, he tries to find a way to follow in Dr. King’s footsteps from afar, despite Turner’s hesitance. There are flashforwards to present day featuring a former student at the academy. 

THOUGHTS: This book did not read as fast as I thought it would, but the ending shocked the foundation of what I thought I understood about this horrible piece of history. It’s worth reading until the end, just for that feeling. The Nickel Boys is a good addition to any library looking to enhance their collection with a fictionalized specific story during the Civil Rights movement in 20th century America.

Historical Fiction.                 Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


Moreno, Nina. Don’t Date Rosa Santos. Hyperion, 2019. 978–136803970-3. $17.99. 325 p. Grades 8 and up. 

The Santos women are cursed… or at least that’s what they and their community of Port Coral, FL believes based on their pasts. The curse? Any man they love will perish in the sea. Rosa’s grandfather died at sea in a storm as he and her pregnant grandmother escaped Cuba, and Rosa’s father who also loved the sea perished in a storm when Rosa’s mother was pregnant with her. For this reason, as Rosa explains in the book’s opening line, “The Santos women never go to the sea.” But as Rosa prepares to graduate high school and tries to make a college decision, the curse is the least of her worries… at least until she meets Alex, a super cute and mysterious boy who – of course – is a sailor. Avoiding Alex is difficult as Rosa is paired with him on a mission to save the port and its annual Spring Festival. While Rosa works on projects for the Spring Festival – and navigates her feelings for Alex – her college decision deadline looms in the back of her mind. She longs to take advantage of one school’s study abroad program to see her family’s homeland in Cuba, but she knows that would upset her grandmother who left Cuba for a reason and does not want to see her granddaughter go back. As Rosa’s primary parental caretaker (since her photographer mother is constantly traveling the country), her grandmother’s opinion matters a lot. Throw in a missing golden turtle that’s part of a school tradition, and that rounds out this novel’s array of conflicts. 

THOUGHTS: A cute tattooed sailor boy who bakes? (Can you say “unicorn?”) Still, Don’t Date Rosa Santos manages to be fluffy and feel-good yet complex and even surprising with a satisfying ending. The conflicts between these three Santos women become primary for most of the book, and female readers of any age can relate to their familial relationship struggles. Readers may find the characters’ Cuban culture and history engaging, though there are many times when the characters speak a line or two in Spanish, and readers who have any less than rudimentary knowledge of the Spanish language might find they need to look up words. Overall, highly recommended for fans of YA Contemporary. 

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD


Williams, Kate. The Babysitter’s Coven. Delacorte Press, 2019. 978-0-525-70737-0. 368 p. $18.99. Grades 7 and up. 

Esme Pearl has a babysitter’s club. Okay, so it’s not like THE Babysitter’s Club, it only has two members, but it still counts. Together with her friend Janis, the club offers babysitting services around town. One night, things start to get weird, and someone that resembles The Goblin King from Labyrinth shows up and attempts to kidnap the child Esme is watching. Deciding that can’t possibly have actually happened, Esme resolves to put the event behind her and tries not to let it freak her out of a job. Events begin to snowball when a new girl appears at school and wants to join the club right around the same time Esme begins to notice that she is able to move things with her mind. The two find they have supernatural powers in common and work to learn their abilities while trying to keep the kids safe. But when an inter-dimensional demon shows up, who’s going to do the same for them? 

THOUGHTS: This was an exciting new take on a classic club. Author Kate Williams wrote a book that is not only imaginative but also culturally relevant by including many references that today’s teens will automatically understand and enjoy.

Fantasy (Paranormal)         Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Liggett, Kim. The Grace Year. Wednesday Books, 2019. 978-1-250-14544-4. 416 p. $16.99. Grades 9 and up. 

At 16 girls become dangerous. They are told they have magic, magic that turns them into sirens disrupting the very fabric of society. In order to continue to live in Garner County, 16 year old girls must be sent away for that year, the grace year. They must rid themselves of their magic in order to return as non-disruptive members of society, young women ready for marriage. Tierney James knows her grace year is coming but knows almost nothing about it given that women are forbidden to speak about what happens during that year. All she knows is that each year fewer and fewer girls return. Banished to an encampment, preyed upon by poachers, the girls must attempt to survive a whole year exposed to the elements with a finite food supply and powerful magic that threatens the sanity of every girl involved. All she has to go on are the few words she was warned with “Trust no one… Not even yourself” (Liggett 56).

THOUGHTS: Nothing is what it seems in this extraordinary tale. This is an incredible story of fantasy, adventure, and survival with underlying currents of feminism. The Grace Year kept me engrossed from cover to cover.

Action/Adventure, Fantasy (survival)          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Fox, Helena. How It Feels to Float. Penguin Young Readers Group, 2019. 978-0-525-55429-5. 384 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

This book makes my heart hurt for Biz, the main character who often talks to her late father as she struggles through life as a teenager. Set in Australia, this novel deals with grief, mental illness, and sexuality all written by someone who lives with mental illness. Biz doesn’t feel particularly attached to anyone or anything after a mis-kiss with her best friend and a sexual assault incident on the beach. A new, mysterious boy at school saves her in so many ways by the end of this book. 

THOUGHTS: This is a strong representation of so much of what young adults are going through in today’s world. The clear truth of Biz’s situation make her easy to relate to and the writing flows so effortlessly and beautifully. Another must have on any contemporary school library shelf.

Realistic Fiction         Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD


King, A. S. Dig. Penguin Young Readers Group, 2019. 978-1-101-99491-7. 400 p. $17.99. Grades 11-12.

What do fleas, a shovel, pot, cancer, and a freak have in common? You won’t know until the end of this twisty family saga. King makes weird choices throughout this book that constantly make you question what you just read and then make you question what you believe in your soul. Dig is told from the point of view of five teenagers that don’t seem to have much in common, and they really don’t have much in common except potatoes.

THOUGHTS: This book made me squirm and made me think about things in a way that books haven’t done in a long time. It’s gritty and difficult to keep characters straight at times, but well worth the brilliance of what it will do to your soul. Recommended for hearty readers who can handle multiple points of view and difficult subjects including racism, murder, and abuse.

Realistic Fiction                Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

A.S. King has written another interesting, metaphor-filled story about a multi-generational family trying to understand themselves, the choices they’ve made, life, and how they fit in their families and the wider world. The surrealistic elements King includes add to the feelings of confusion and despair that the teen protagonists and their parents and grandparents wrestle with. Although the story seems to focus on five teens it also examines the grandparents, Marla and Gottfried, and how their choices affected not only their children, but also their grandchildren. (The middle generation only plays a supporting role in the story.) Some of the teens go by labels like: The Shoveler, CanIHelpYou, The Freak (who is the most surreal), and The Ring Mistress (who takes delight in her Flea Circus). This story addresses many topics, like sexual assault, drug use, dysfunctional families, mental illness, cancer, and white privilege/racism and how each of those things can reverberate through generations. Every generation needs to dig their way out of the toxic blight caused by the generations that proceeded them. The overarching message is to love each other more.

THOUGHTS: I have read every book A.S. King has written and have enjoyed almost every one, but I really enjoyed reading Dig. Because it was told from so many points-of-view, I found it more challenging to get to know the characters initially, but I found myself still thinking about them days after finishing the story. I read it over the course of two days, and I didn’t want to put it down. I can’t wait to book talk this to my 9th grade students.

Realistic Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Maddox, Marjorie. Inside Out:  Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises. Daffydowndilly Press, 2020. 978-1-950-46245-5. 61 p. Grades 7-12.

Pennsylvania author Marjorie Maddox’s ingenious little book of poems is chock-full of mentor texts that will not only educate, but also delight, budding tween and teen poets.  Most of the poems explain a poetic form or concept while at the same time serving as an example of it. “Couplet,” for instance, is a couplet describing a couplet: “Poet twins all dressed in rhymes / stroll side-by-side in two straight lines.”  Maddox’s poetry is easy to understand and yet full of clever wordplay and delightful images. Also included in the book are creative and fun poetry exercises with clear, detailed instructions, as well as a glossary of poetic terms. 

THOUGHTS: This is a unique, useful, and flat-out charming book. Aspiring young poets will love it, and so will teachers looking for resources for poetry units in middle and high school language arts classes. Highly recommended for middle and high school libraries.

 811  Poetry          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Grimes, Nikki. Ordinary Hazards. Wordsong, 2019. 978-1-629-79881-3 325 p. $19.99  Grades 7-12.

 “It’s a long story, but I’m a poet, /  I can cut it short,” Nikki Grimes promises in the prologue of her memoir-in-verse, Ordinary Hazards. She’s not kidding. In this heartrending but ultimately hopeful story of her formative years, Grimes evokes in a few words what would take most writers paragraphs to explain. Her story is not always easy to read. The daughter of a schizophrenic mother, Grimes endured abusive babysitters, horrific foster homes, and sexual assault. The memoir also has a meta-biographic aspect, as Grimes addresses the damage trauma does to memory:  she is left with “scraps of knowing / wedged between blank spaces.” Grimes shares how she reaches out to old friends and family members to fill in some of the gaps, and reconstructs her childhood journal as she imagines the rest. Despite the tough subject matter, the book is sprinkled with wry wit that will appeal to teen readers.  Ultimately, a portrait of a talented young woman who learns to rely primarily on her faith, a few trusted friends, and her own ingenuity, and eager to give back to a world that has given little to her, emerges. The book ends on a hopeful note, with Grimes meeting her soon-to-be first mentor, James Baldwin.

THOUGHTS: The subject matter of the book lends itself to more mature readers; however, Grimes writes sensitively and with as much decorum as ugly topics allow, with the result that the book is accessible to middle as well as high school students. The writing here is really unparalleled. Grimes, the 2017 winner of the Children’s Legacy Award, may have just published her best work to date. An essential purchase, as important a work as Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming.

Biography          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley 

Elem. – Rotten; Ernestine’s Milky Way; Me and the Sky; Little Robin’s Christmas; The Bear and the Star; The Great Santa Stakeout; Dasher; Santa’s Story; Pick a Pumpkin; William Wakes Up; Pony Poems for Little Pony Lovers; Our Flag Was Still There; It’s a Digital World

Sanchez, Anita. Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-1-328-84165-0. 83 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

What do dung beetles, vultures, fungi, and earthworms have in common?  They all contribute to decomposition in nature, which is a vital part of our ecosystem.  In this highly informative and engaging text, Sanchez discusses the “rotten world” in eight chapters. Each chapter is dedicated to a different aspect of decomposition and is comprised of several text boxes of information. Readers will be amazed to learn that dung beetles can bury a ton of poop per acre every day and will see how the lowly earthworm can move a boulder. The text does not get bogged down in technical terms and is accompanied by entertaining illustrations by Gilbert Ford. These comical drawings help the reader easily visualize the concepts. For instance, in the chapter called “Welcome to the Rotten Log Hotel,” Ford has drawn insects carrying suitcases and other insects using keys to get into their rooms. This helps carry home the point that a downed tree is teeming with life and becomes compost and new soil over time, thanks to these insects. In the chapter called “Rotten People,” the author begins with a discussion of mummies, but then goes off into a bit of the macabre when she tells us how sailors drank brandy from the same barrel where Lord Nelson’s body was kept to preserve it. Another story called “Having Lee for Lunch” is about a man who willed that his ashes be spread over his vegetable garden, with the intention that the produce be enjoyed by the neighbors. The book ends with instructions on creating your own compost pile. There is a glossary, index, and source notes in the back matter.

THOUGHTS: This engaging text is sure to draw browsers who wish to learn more about the circle of life or who just enjoy being grossed out. Although the CIP information lists this as being suitable for K-3, the discussion seems geared to upper elementary. Librarians needing to fill this gap in their collections should consider this one.

581.714          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
Botany- Physiologic and Structural
Specific Topics in Natural History


Madden-Lunsford, Kerry, and Emily Sutton. Ernestine’s Milky Way. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2019. 978-1-524-71484-0. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Growing up in a valley of the Great Smoky Mountains, Ernestine was proud to holler out to the world that she was “five years old and a big girl!” Her mama soon put that bold bravery to test, as she sent Ernestine by herself to deliver some fresh milk to the neighbor family down yonder. The path was filled with obstacles and challenges, but Ernestine feels ready. Along the way, she proves to be a helpful big girl, until she drops one of the milk jars. Lessons and grace from Kerry Madden-Lunsford fill this clever story, as the flowing watercolor illustrations of Emily Sutton give the characters a long ago feel. Indeed, since their men are off to war, the characters look to the night sky to connect time and place between Europe and North Carolina. Young readers may be able to do the same, and feel like big children with responsibilities, too. 

THOUGHTS: The recipe and description of the real Ernestine in the end notes will help give an activity and context for the readers. Knowing that this takes place during WWII, groups also may want to compare other jobs and tasks that women stepped into on the homefront.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD


Bass, Beverly, and Joanie Stone. Me and the Sky: Captain Beverly Bass, Pioneering Pilot. Alfred A Knopf, 2019. 978-0-525-64549-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades 2-4.

Pioneers in any endeavor always need passion and determination to make their dreams come true. Beverly Bass undoubtedly had both, as she sought to be a female airline pilot. Starting as a dream when she was little and moving into her young adult occupation, Beverly took to the skies whenever she could. Once inside the cockpit, she learned and practiced and began to make her dreams into reality. Even when told that women can’t be large airline pilots, she took jobs that lead her to make progress toward her goal. The words are from Bass herself and ring the right balance between inspirational and educational. The stylized artwork from Joanie Stone puts young readers into the scene, whether a bird’s eye view or firmly on the ground. With the biographical information and story of her actions on 9/11, in the end notes, young readers will be inspired to pursue their dreams.

THOUGHTS: Female aviation pioneers are unique in many of the challenges that they face, but the story of Beverly serves to open the world of airline pilots and inspire a new generation of young girls to reach for their dreams. Students who look to Betsy Coleman, Amelia Earhart, and Sally Ride would appreciate the story of Bass as well. They could even reach out to her on Twitter at @jetsflygirl for more!

Biography        Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD


Fearnley, Jan. Little Robin’s Christmas. Nose Crow, 2019. 978-1-536-20825-2. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades PreK-2. 

Little Robin’s collection of seven colorful vests will keep him warm through the chilly winter days, and certainly look lovely against his plain brown feathers, but by the end of a cold week he has no vests left after he gives them all away to friends in need of warmth. While they don’t fit all of his friends very well (Rabbit wears his as a hat!), they are all so grateful to kind Little Robin who selflessly puts his friends first. After giving away his last vest to a mouse, Little Robin realizes that he’s very chilly himself and he’s far, far from home. Santa Claus finds Little Robin and takes him home to Mrs. Claus. Santa tells Little Robin, “You gave away all your warm clothes to help others. You are full of the spirit of Christmas. Now it’s time for your present.’” Mrs. Claus knits Little Robin his signature red “vest,” a gift he will wear forever, and says “…when other people see you, it will make them feel warm, too.” Such a sweet pourquoi story with a Christmas twist!

THOUGHTS: Little Robin shows what Christmas spirit is all about. 

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Schaefer, Lola. The Bear and the Star. Greenwillow Books, 2019. 978-0-062-66037-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2. 

Bethanne Andersen’s beautiful oil paintings pair nicely with Lola Schaefer’s peaceful December story. A bear sees a bright star one December morning and realizes, “It was time.” He searches for a tree that can serve as a gathering spot and roars far and wide for animals and people alike to join together under “…a star larger and brighter than any before, because it was time…for peace.” The story is not religious in nature, although the December time period and mention of the bright star certainly could put readers in mind of Christmas, but it conveys such a lovely feeling of togetherness and peace that it could easily be read as a holiday story or simply a wintertime call for everyone to be together in love and peace.

THOUGHTS: Consider for a December storytime or quiet sharing with a special child. 

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Bird, Betsy. The Great Santa Stakeout. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2019. 978-1-338-116998-0. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

Freddy Melcher loves Santa Claus. Really, really, REALLY loves Santa Claus. He gives out Christmas tree-shaped Valentines, dresses as Santa for his birthday party, and decorates his bedroom with wall-to-wall Santa gear. Freddy’s biggest wish is to snap a selfie with Santa on Christmas Eve–what an addition to his collection! His plan involves cans on the roof, motion-sensitive cameras, and a whole lot of luck. Christmas Eve arrives and Freddy hears a clatter on the roof, throws up the sash…and sees Santa fall past his window to the ground below! Oh no! Did Freddy break Santa? Turns out that Santa is too smart for this plan, and he leaves a note instead, which Freddy jubilantly adds to his collection of Santa memorabilia before he gets to work on next year’s plan. In typical Dan Santat fashion, the illustrations are packed with funny details and lots of color.

THOUGHTS: A modern day Christmas story for any kid (big or little) who adores the jolly man in red. 

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Tavares, Matt. Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-1-536-20137-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

My favorite new Christmas book of 2019. Dasher and her reindeer family live with J.P. Finnegan’s Traveling Circus and Menagerie where they serve double duty–animal attraction by day and wagon-pullers by night. Dasher loves the children who visit the circus and feed her carrots, but life is hot and cramped and Mr. Finnegan is unkind. One thing that brings Dasher joy is her mother’s stories about the North Pole, a place where the North Star is directly overhead and snow covers the ground. One night, Dasher escapes when wind blows her pen’s gate open, and she follows the North Star for many hours. She finds herself lost and unsure what to do. She wishes on the North Star and hears soft jingle bells in the distance. Dasher meets Santa and horse Silverbell, a beautiful white horse who is solely responsible for pulling Santa’s sleigh, and offers to help Silverbell pull the sleigh so she can make children happy on Christmas morning. The run is a success, and Dasher makes another wish for her whole family to join her at the North Pole. Santa is happy to grant this wish, and eventually Silverbell happily steps aside so Dasher and her family can serve as Santa’s full time sleigh team and live at the North Pole. Matt Tavares wrote and illustrated a beautiful tale from yesteryear, and as the front note says, “…it never would have happened if it weren’t for a brave young doe named Dasher.”

THOUGHTS: Gorgeous illustrations highlight this heartwarming story about Santa’s first reindeer. 

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Hillenbrand, Will. Santa’s Story. Two Lions, 2019. 978-1-542-04338-0. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.  

Santa is ready to begin his Christmas Eve deliveries, but the reindeer have gone missing. Santa searches high and low for his crew, and “Santa decided to play the all-call on his horn. Toot, toot, toot…” Still no reindeer! Several pages show each deer enjoying himself in some fun way, whether it’s singing some Christmas tunes, dancing, or taking a nap. After a noisy display of jingle bell ringing, there are still no reindeer at the sleigh and Santa is stumped. Suddenly, he sees Comet in the distance reading a book, and he remembers their Christmas Eve tradition. Calling the crew to story time, Santa begins, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…” The deer enjoy the story and feel ready to spread Christmas cheer. Hillenbrand’s special blend of funny illustrated details and simple text create an enjoyable new Christmas story.

THOUGHTS: Kids will enjoy the reindeers’ antics and the simple, satisfying ending.  

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Toht, Patricia. Pick a Pumpkin. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-1-536-20764-4. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades PreK-2. 

The team behind Pick a Pine Tree is back with another holiday tradition! Pick a Pumpkin follows mother and children through a pumpkin patch where they choose the best pumpkins before pausing for a fall treat (“Stop for mugs of spicy punch, toffee apples, sweet to crunch”). At home, the family prepares the pumpkins for carving, and dad and baby join the fun. Just like the family preparing their Christmas tree in Pick a Pine Tree, this family invites friends and neighbors to join in and adults and children carve jack-o-lanterns before decorating the house, donning costumes for trick-or-treat, and lighting the jack-o-lanterns (“Its red-hot eyes will gaze and flicker. Its fiery grin will blaze and snicker, to guard your house while you have fun.”). Toht’s descriptive rhyming text begs readers to move through the pages as many verses end with the beginning of the next verse (“Homeward from the pumpkin patch, all your goodies stack in back. Now…”). Jarvis uses pencil, chalk, paint, and digitally added color to create whimsical illustrations with all the trimmings of autumn: vibrantly colored fall leaves, a full moon covered by dark flecks (birds? witches on broomsticks?), and the family black cat dotting the pages.

THOUGHTS: In a sea of mediocre Halloween books, this one stands out with winning text and illustrations. Perfect for a class read-aloud to celebrate the traditions of the holiday! 

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Ashman, Linda. William Wakes Up. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-487-42283-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2. 

William wakes up from his winter slumber (William’s Winter Nap) with animal friends still snoozing in bed. He realizes that his friend will soon arrive and asks his friends to wake up and help make a cake to welcome the guest. Similar to the one-by-one arrival of each animal in William’s first story, the animals rise one-by-one to help with springtime chores, although sleepy Raccoon stays in bed, only waking when William’s friend Bluebird arrives and the cake is presented. The other animals feel that Raccoon isn’t deserving of cake since he didn’t share in the work, which feels very much like The Little Red Hen, but Raccoon gets another chance to help when Bluebird needs a building crew for a new nest. Ashman’s stories about William pair nicely with similar rhyming styles and lovely old-fashioned illustrations by Chuck Groenik, but William’s springtime story would also make a great stand-alone read.

THOUGHTS: A great choice for story time with preschoolers/kindergarteners, especially if the kids know William from a winter storytime! 

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Meister, Cari. Pony Poems for Little Pony Lovers. Beach Lane Books, 2019. 978-1-481-49814-2. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Cari Meister’s Pony Poems for Little Pony Lovers will certainly find an audience with your horse and pony fans. The poems are short and sweet, mostly rhyming, and clearly full of pony love. Several of the poems sound similar and adopted styles from familiar nursery rhymes to tell about ponies of all kinds. The children and ponies shown pictured in illustrations by Sara Rhys are adorable and a tad whimsical, full of soft colors and rosy cheeks. Front and back endpapers picture each horse in a cameo-style portrait surrounded by vines and flowers. 

THOUGHTS: A nice addition to easy poetry collections that will find its biggest fans with pony lovers. 

811 Poetry          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

 


Hartland, Jessie. Our Flag Was Still There: The True Story of Mary Pickersgill and the Star-Spangled Banner. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-5344-0233-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-4. 

Jessie Hartland’s signature, somewhat unusual illustration style feels endearingly jolly when paired with a historical narrative on Mary Pickersgill’s giant flag that inspired Francis Scott Key’s writing of the poem turned national anthem. The War of 1812 prompted Major George Armistead to hire Pickersgill and her team of female seamstresses to create a giant flag to fly over Fort McHenry (“George wanted to send a big message to the British: This land belongs to America!”). Pickersgill and her all-female team created the giant thirty by forty-two foot flag in her Baltimore shop (and the local brewery, when they needed more space!) in just six weeks. It flew over Fort McHenry as the US soldiers defended our country from the British. Over the last 200 years, the flag survived through several owners (and moths!) and was donated to and restored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History  in Washington, D.C. where it can be seen today. End matter includes a helpful Author’s Note, source notes, bibliography, further reading suggestions, and a timeline of events. Front and back endpapers feature a collection of period items on a patriotic-looking background, similar to Hartland’s endpapers in Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child. A few favorites: a can of Blubber King whale oil, a pint of Brown’s beer from the Baltimore brewery where Pickersgill worked on the flag, and giant sewing scissors. 

THOUGHTS: An excellent topical account of Mary Pickersgill and the famous flag. 

929.9 Flags         Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


It’s a Digital World! Checkerboard Library, 2019. $20 each, $120 set of 6. 32 p. Grades 3-6.

Hudak, Heather C. Amazing App Developers. 978-1-53211-530-1
—. Creative Podcast Procedures. 978-1-53211-531-8
—. Dynamic Website Developers. 978-1-53211-532-5
—. Gifted Game Designers. 978-1-53211-533-2
—. Helpful Hackers. 978-1-53211-534-9
Balsley, Christine E. Master Computer Programmers. 978-1-53211-535-6

Please note that this review was written based on Helpful Hackers, not the entire series. Helpful Hackers provides an excellent introduction on the history, terminology, and pros and cons of computer hacking. Hudak’s straightforward text details both sides of hacking (black hat vs. white hat) and the ways that both have become big business in recent years as corporations, universities, banks, and more depend on hackers working in cybersecurity to protect sensitive information from hackers looking to profit from scams and security breaches. The layout is clean with lots of white space and brightly colored headers and footers, and end matter includes a well-done timeline, glossary, index, and reference to Abdo’s Booklinks nonfiction network for links and further resources.

THOUGHTS: A timely, visually appealing introduction to hacking, see the rest of the series for other offerings in STEM careers. 

Computer Science          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – Leyla; Mr. Lemoncello’s All-Star Breakout Game; Why; Ginny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster For a Pet; Camp; Boy-Crazy Stacey; Find Momo Across Europe; A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Bernstein, Galia. Leyla. Abrams, 2019. 978-1-419-73543-1. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

Leyla is a little baboon with a big family. Her troop includes not only her mother and father but also nine aunts and twenty-three cousins! Since she has such a large family, there is always someone around. Someone to hug her, kiss her, and groom her. And, there’s always someone talking – even when it’s her naptime. One day, Leyla can’t take it anymore, and she runs away from all the noise and all the commotion. She runs until she finds total peace and quiet. In the quiet place, she befriends a lizard who shows her how to simply “be.” The meditation does Leyla good, but it also makes her realize that she misses her boisterous family. Promising to visit the lizard again when she needs some peace and quiet, Leyla returns to her family. They welcome her with open arms and lots of kisses. When life gets noisy again, Leyla remembers her afternoon with the lizard and their strategy for finding inner peace. 

THOUGHTS: This title would be a good fit for elementary morning meetings since it focuses on what to do when one is feeling overwhelmed. It also validates the idea of taking a break from life’s chaos and doing nothing for a while. Leyla’s cool-down strategies can easily be replicated in the classroom, and her dilemma of how to deal with her feelings of life sometimes being too much will be relatable for many children. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Grabeinstein, Chris. Mr. Lemoncello’s All-Star Breakout Game. Random House: 2019. 978-0-525-64644-0. 261 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Kyle and his friends at Alexandriaville Middle School are excited for the newest challenge from game mogul Luigi Lemoncello. The All-Star Breakout Game is limited to two teams from the middle school, and once again Kyle is pitted against arch-enemy Charles Chiltington, along with a team of stars from the Kidzapalooza TV network, in a contest to play their way out of Mr. Lemoncello’s fabulous library. The game features the library’s new Fictionasium, an interactive Virtual Reality world that allows the teams to create their own story as they collect clues to unlock five locks and be the first to escape the library. While much about this fourth entry in the entertaining Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series is familiar territory, Grabenstein also focuses on character development. As Kyle’s friend Sierra says, quoting Atticus Finch, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Kyle learns why Charles is driven to succeed at all costs, as well as gaining some insight into the lives of kid TV personalities. As always, Kyle’s loyalty to his friends and his innate fairness, contribute to the conclusion of the game. Grabenstein includes a game for readers as well: can you find the over 70 book titles mentioned throughout the novel? A complete list is at the end of the story and may lead readers to many other books.

THOUGHTS:  A high-energy ode to libraries and books. Purchase where other titles are popular. While this book works as a stand-alone, readers of the complete series will enjoy reconnecting with the characters.  

Adventure          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Why? Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44173-0. Unpaged. $18.00. Grades PreK-2. 

Laura Vaccaro Seeger is well known to many of us, but this book’s illustrations stray from her typical fare as she uses lovely watercolors to show a curious rabbit with a never-ending stream of “Why?” questions. Friend bear patiently provides answers to rabbit’s questions focused on growing plants, beautiful summer weather, falling leaves, migrating birds, and other signs that seasons are changing in the forest. As snow starts falling and a sleepy bear reaches the end of his answers (and perhaps his patience!), rabbit begs bear not to go. “Why?” questions the bear, and roles reverse as rabbit explains that he will miss his friend. This story will surely resonate with parents of toddlers and curious kids with their own never-ending streams of why questions.

THOUGHTS: A simple friendship story with lots of discussion/prediction possibilities in a preschool or young elementary classroom. 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Goodner, David. Ginny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster For a Pet. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-544-76416-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2. 

Ginny Goblin wants a pet. The problem? She loves goats. The narrator explains to readers that goats are smelly and perhaps we readers can help Ginny Goblin find a different pet. The new problem? Ginny employs her powers of cunning and creativity to take each search to the extreme, turning a beachside hunt for a hermit crab into a deep sea dive to find a giant kraken and birdwatching during a forest stroll into a haunted forest basilisk hunt. After several failed attempts to bring a monster home, Ginny Goblin suggests a smaller, cuter option. A goat, of course! Children will delight in Ginny’s silly antics during pet hunting and will certainly giggle at Ginny’s final bit of trickery.

THOUGHTS: Read this to some kindergarteners in need of a good giggle. 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Miller, Kayla. Camp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-1-725-42526-2. 213 p. $24.99. Grades 3-5. 

Fans of Kayla Miller’s Click and readers new to the series will love Olive’s new adventure in Camp. Olive and pal Willow head to Camp Acorn Lake for two weeks in the bunny bunk, and Olive brings her typical enthusiasm for new friends and diverse activities, from jewelry making to softball to video. Willow is more of an “indoor-kid,” camp speak for kids who aren’t so into sports and nature activities. Olive dives into camp life and makes lots of new friends while Willow is homesick and clings tighter and tighter to Olive as the days pass. Olive is torn between being a good friend to Willow and wanting to branch out and enjoy her own time and interests that might not include Willow. After an eruption at the Halfway Day dance, Olive and Willow spend a few days apart. Without Olive to cling to, Willow finds her own niche (the drums–who knew!) and actually enjoys her last few days at camp, and Olive gets to try out some new activities like skateboarding. Ultimately, however, they patch things up after an honest heart-to-heart. Miller excels at realistic friendship stories and upper elementary/early middle school students will surely find something relatable at Camp Acorn Lake. Bonus–extra pages in the back of the book show a map of Camp Acorn Lake and how-to’s for some of Olive and Willow’s favorite camp activities.

THOUGHTS: An excellent new graphic novel series, hand Camp to fans of the first book or readers who like Gale Galligan’s Baby-Sitters Club series for a surefire hit.  

Graphic Novel          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Galligan, Gale. Boy-Crazy Stacey (The Baby-Sitters Club). Graphix, 2019. 978-1-544-43492-6. 159 p. $25.00. Grades 3-6. 

Stacey and Mary Anne can’t wait to visit Sea City. They’re baby-sitting the Pike kids for two weeks while the family vacations in New Jersey, and that will mean fun on the beach, the boardwalk, and crazy days with lots of kids running around. It’s a baby-sitter’s dream! Unfortunately for Mary Anne, Stacey spies a cute lifeguard early in their trip and spends most of her time hanging around the stand talking to cute, older lifeguard Scott, leaving Mary Anne to do double baby-sitting duty. Two weeks fly by in a blur of Burger Garden dinners, boardwalk nights, sibling woes, and tension between the baby-sitters, but after Stacey spots Scott with another girl she snaps back to reality and realizes she’s been slacking. The baby-sitters patch things up and enjoy their last few days in Sea City with the kids and a few special new friends. Like the other books in the graphic novel series, Boy-Crazy Stacey holds true to Ann M. Martin’s original BSC book that many of us remember and love from years past, down to Stacey’s heart-topped i’s. Small updates make the book current–when Mary Anne gets terribly sunburned, the Pike kids bring items to help soothe her discomfort and Claire brings peanut butter (“It’s yummy”) rather than butter, an old-fashioned remedy for regular burns, which wouldn’t make much sense to kids in 2019. A solid addition to the series!

THOUGHTS: BSC fans will gobble up Galligan’s latest offering. 

Graphic Novel          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Knapp, Andrew. Find Momo Across Europe. Quirk Books, 2019. 978-1-683-69106-8. 134 p. $14.95. Grades 3+.

Andrew Knapp and his excellent-at-hiding border collie, Momo, are back! This time, their adventures take them on an extended road trip across Europe. Knapp documents their travels with hide-and-seek photographs of Momo in and amongst some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery and iconic tourist attractions. Every chapter in their “Road Map” (each featuring two or three countries) opens with some background and dog-friendly highlights from their time in that region. Their stops include Portugal, Italy, Albania, Croatia, Wales, and more. Readers will delight in spotting Momo as he peeks out from behind bushes, boulders, and bicycles!

THOUGHTS: The Find Momo books are a delight for all ages. They are a great choice for struggling readers and avid readers alike. They work especially well as a breather in between more text-heavy selections, or as a book club option for groups with varying reading levels. There are even more interactive hide-and-seek photographs at letsfindmomo.com.

793 Picture Puzzles, Dogs          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Rogers, Fred.  A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers. Quick Books, 2019. 141 p.  978-1-683-69113-6. $19.99.  Grades PreK-1.

This work is a collection of 75 songs that were performed on the TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as seen on PBS.  Although the title names them poems, they are actually songs written by either Fred Rogers or Josie Carey, a host of children’s shows and another Pittsburgh native. Per the index, the songs cover such topics as self-esteem, curiosity, fears and worries, feelings, making mistakes, and being special. Mister Rogers strove to reassure young children that each one of us is special in our own way. Each poem is accompanied by colorful illustrations by Luke Flowers. Sometimes the rhymes seem forced, but that is probably because they are better sung. The book itself might have been even more impressive if a CD recording of Rogers’ singing these songs himself was part of the package.  With the coming of the Mister Rogers’ movie starring Tom Hanks, this text will be of more interest.

THOUGHTS: This collections of songs/poems will be useful to preschool and kindergarten teachers who can use them in their lessons and activities.

811.6 21st Century Poetry          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

Elem. – Far Away; Smell My Foot; Who Is the Mystery Reader; I Survived The Great Molasses Flood; Ojiichan’s Gift; Poetree

Graff, Lisa. Far Away. Philomel Books, 2019. 978-1-524-73859-4. 266 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Twelve year old Caraway June (CJ) Ames lives with her Aunt Nic, a medium who travels around California using her gift to reach the spirits of loved ones who have passed on. CJ’s deceased mother sends messages to CJ though Aunt Nic. One day, Aunt Nic makes two important announcements. CJ will be going to boarding school and Aunt Nic will no longer be able to communicate with CJ’s mother, because she is now in the realm of Far Away where spirits cannot be reached. CJ believes that if she finds a personal object belonging to her mother, this “tether” will pull her mom back from Far Away. CJ enlists the help of sixteen year old Jax, who is a cameraman for Aunt Nic’s shows. In an eventful day, CJ and Jax locate the home where her mother and aunt grew up and find some of her mother’s artwork. However, CJ also finds more than she anticipated, and this changes her life forever. CJ is a likeable character, and readers will admire her strength as she seeks out to learn the truth about her life. Yet she has her moments as she makes a deal with an unscrupulous magician whose agenda is to expose Aunt Nic as a fraud.

THOUGHTS: This story takes readers on a roller coaster ride of emotion – from joy to sadness and from anger to acceptance. Graff has created a novel that explores the meaning of loss, love, and family. A fabulous choice for all elementary and middle school collections.

Realistic Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Bell, Cece. Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot. Candlewick Press, 2019. 978-0-763-67936-1. 70 p. $12.99. Grades K-2.

Step aside, Dick and Jane, and make room for the zany Chick and Brain! With repetition and limited vocabulary, two friends try to outwit and outgross a dog named (appropriately) Spot. Chick is a smart but trusting yellow bird, who focuses on etiquette and correcting manners; while Brain is more laid back and silly with his heart boxers and two large feet with differing powers! Bell uses plenty of speech bubbles and panels to keep the dialogue moving, and readers easily will get the sight gags and emotional cues as they progress. The gross title, exaggerated characters, and witty plot will have beginning readers engaged and begging for more. Hopefully this is the start of a Chick and Brain series!

THOUGHTS: Slightly longer and more advanced than the Elephant and Piggie stories, this has great opportunity for young readers to practice pacing, voice, fluency, and reading with emotion. My uncorrected proof edition was divided into 4 chapters, but it is easily digested in one sitting. I am sure that budding cartoonists will be drawing their own versions in no time!

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD


Willems, Mo. Who Is The Mystery Reader? Hyperion Books for Children, 2019. 978-1-368-04686-2. 96 p. $12.99. Grades K-2.

The Unlimited Squirrels are back in action in Mo Willems’ latest multi-feature beginning reader, containing pages of a story, inquiry and information, jokes, and plenty of crazy dialogue! The big story revolves around the critters learning the art of reading, especially with the skilled aid of a masked mystery reader (with underpants!) who leaps onto the scene just in time to save the day! Sounding out letters and using context clues are two of the powers that they practice, but keen readers will also seek the true identity of the mystery reader. Later in the book, the squirrels explore the earliest writing forms, including photographs and captions to help visualize the answers. The final chunk of the book goes through Mo’s writing process and briefly highlights how a book is made. All in all, there is no mystery about whether this latest edition of the Unlimited Squirrels will be a HUGE hit with readers of all ages! (wink-wink – the answer is YES!!)

THOUGHTS: By going to a page count of 96, Mo has managed to enhance his stories with more value and reason to re-read. Book buddies and classroom mystery readers would be wise to share this book with younger classes and then allow younger readers to follow up with practice and inquiry of their own. Highly recommended for all libraries.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD


Tarshis, Lauren. I Survived The Great Molasses Flood, 1919. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-31741-1. 94 p. $5.99. Grades 3-5.

With an I survived book, you can always guarantee an interesting historical event and a lot of action. But what I’ve always liked the most in these books are the close friendships; and this book is no exception.  Carmen and Tony are great friends – so close they feel like brother and sister. They look out for each other at every turn; and they know each other well. Tony has a large family, Carmen only has her Papa, and her Nonna back in Italy. They live in the North End of Boston in 1919.  At the start of the book, a terrible influenza is going around and unfortunately, Carmen’s Papa catches it and passes away. Carmen is sad and feels alone, but Tony’s family takes her in like one of their own. The North End houses a very large steel tank that holds 2 million gallons of mollases that is sent to factories.  The tank is very unstable and can be heard snapping, creaking and popping all the time. One fateful day when Carmen and Tony are nearby, the tank explodes, spilling all 2 million galllons of thick, sticky goo into the streats. Carmen and Tony are separated by the flow and soon, Carmen is injured and fighting for her life. Carmen does survive (hence the title!) and remains with Tony’s family who have a big surprise for her.  They have brought her Nonna from Italy to be with her while she recuperates.

THOUGHTS: The I Survived books have really reached a lot of reluctant readers, and I love how excited my students are with each new one.  This one was a little different. There was a lot more personal story and a little less disaster, but it was compelling just the same.

Historical Fiction          Eva Thomas, Unionville-Chadds Ford SD


Uegaki, Chieri. Ojiichan’s Gift. Kids Can Press, 2019. 978-1-771-38963-1. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-5.

Mayumi and her Grandfather Ojiichan have a special relationship. When she was born, Ojiichan made her a beautiful garden in his backyard. Every summer when Mayumi visits, they work the garden together. She learns to plant and to tend, to weed and to rake. They spend many summers creating this beauty and bonding, and during the year, Mayumi collects treasures in a special tin to take to the garden the next summer. Then one summer, everything changes.  Ojiichang cannot live by himself anymore, so Mayumi and her parents have to help him pack up his house. Mayumi is sad but sees that the garden needs tending and decides to do it one last time. As she is weeding and raking, and idea comes to her. She makes Ojiichan a small Zen garden in a Bento box, one that he can tend in his wheelchair. She has included special pieces from their garden. When Mayumi unpacks her suitcase at home readers see that she has also brought some special pieces of the garden home for herself as well. She makes herself a small zen garden so she can feel closer to her Grandfather Ojiichan.

THOUGHTS: This is a special relationship between grandfather and granddaughter and although things have to change, they find a way to keep hold of their special garden. This is a sad and sweet story that makes me want to make miniature zen gardens with my students!

Picture Book           Eva Thomas, Unionville-Chadds Ford SD


Reynolds, Shauna LaVoy. Poetree. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-0-399-53912-1. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Sylvia loves expressing herself through poetry, and on the first day of spring, she celebrates the new season by tying a poem to a birch tree in the park. When she passes by the tree the next day, her poem is gone, and a new poem hangs in its place. Sylvia is astonished that the tree wrote back to her, and she can’t wait to visit again. She shares a haiku, as well as several other poems, all the while dreaming of ways she and her new tree friend will pass the time. It’s only as she’s composing a poem in sidewalk chalk near the tree that Sylvia finally discovers the truth: her classmate, Walt, has been visiting the tree too. Once the initial shock wears off, the pair compose a new poem together and sit beneath the tree, taking in the setting sun and quietly enjoying nature. 

THOUGHTS: Shy students will relate to Sylvia’s quiet, reflective nature. Several nature-inspired poems appear throughout the book, making this a perfect tie-in with poetry units or a natural read-aloud choice for Poetry Month in April. At school, Sylvia and Walt do not initially hit it off in class, so this title can also spark discussions about kindness, making new friends, and discovering commonalities with classmates. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

MG – This Promise of Change; Room 555; New Kid; Bach to the Rescue; Extraordinary Birds; The Woolly Monkey Mysteries; Get Informed–Stay Informed (series); The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise; The Stormkeeper’s Island; Today’s Hip-Hop; Pro Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Comebacks; A Win for Women; The Explosive World of Volcanoes; The Selma Marches for Civil Rights; Can You Crack the Code; George Washington’s Secret Six; The Book of Secrets; Shutout; Stolen Girl; Mirror, Mirror; Mind Drifter

Boyce, Jo Ann Allen, and Debbie Levy. This Promise of Change. Bloomsbury, 2019.  978-1-681-19852-1.  310 p.  $17.99  Grades 4-8.

Jo Ann Allen Boyce, one of the “Clinton 12” African-American teens who enrolled in an all-White Tennessee high school after the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, tells the story of her not-so-long-ago youth in this powerful nonfiction middle grade verse memoir co-written by Debbie Levy (I Dissent, 2017). The book features free verse as well as a variety of more formal poems, each well suited to the subject matter. For example, the villanelle, with its repeated phrasings, is perfect for expressing the way Jo Ann’s thoughts circle around as she ruminates about her first day in her soon-to-be integrated school in “The Night Before.” Boyce’s story focuses on the half-year she attended Clinton High School, which began relatively peacefully but quickly erupted into violence. Jo Ann’s optimism and courage in the face of hatred, and her conviction that prejudice is learned and can be unlearned, is at the heart of this moving book. Brief quotes from primary source material are sprinkled throughout the book. There is extensive backmatter, including information on the poetic forms used, a timeline, photographs, information on the collaborative writing process, and further reading.

THOUGHTS: This unusual book is standout nonfiction, a must-purchase for middle school and upper elementary libraries. Librarians will need to give some thought as to how they will catalog this important book and market it to teachers and young people, as it reads like a beautifully crafted verse novel but is scrupulously researched and written to the standards expected of a first-rate nonfiction title.

379.2 Civil Rights; Poetry          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Watson, Cristy. Room 555. Orca Book Publishers, 2019. 978-1-459-82060-9. $9.95. 116 p. Grades 7-9.

This book is about Mary’s love of hip-hop dancing and the extreme guilt and fear she feels due to her inability to visit her beloved grandmother in the nursing home. Mary, who goes by the nickname her Gram gave her – Roonie, spends most of the book practicing for a school-wide dance competition with her best friend, Kira. Also, their high school requires everyone to log community volunteer hours in order to graduate and Roonie is hoping to get assigned to do clerical work at the local dance school but because she was late handing in the paperwork, she was assigned to volunteer at the local hospital instead. Roonie is devastated about her volunteer assignment but she tries to make the best of it until she finds out she must work on the geriatric floor handing out magazines. The sights, smells, and sounds remind her of the nursing home Gram is in. Although she has severe anxiety, Roonie forces herself to follow through with the job and ends up meeting, Jasmine, the friendly woman in Room 555. Roonie learns that Jasmine belly dances, and they form a connection over their love of dance that gives Roonie the courage to keep returning to her assignment at the hospital. Roonie and Jasmine build a friendship over the next few weeks, and they help each other through some of life’s difficult challenges.  

THOUGHTS: This small book is a good addition to a middle school library’s high-low collection, and Roonie’s love of hip-hop dance may entice students with the same interest to read it.

Realistic Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Craft, Jerry. New Kid. HarperCollins, 2019. 978-0-062-69120-0. $21.99. 256 p. Grades 5-9.

Jordan Banks, an African American seventh grader, begins this graphic novel at his prestigious new school, Riverdale Academy Day School, or RAD for short, even though he’d prefer to be going to a high school that was art focused. His parents (mom especially) think that Jordan’s intelligence would be better addressed at RAD and are excited that he got accepted. Jordan and his father are concerned about the lack of diversity in the student body, and Jordan is anxious about making friends with students who are wealthier than him. Jordan’s father promises him they will revisit the idea of art school in 9th grade if he really feels like he can’t fit in at RAD. His fears come true when on his first day a classmate’s father shows up at Jordan’s apartment in an expensive car that looks out of place in the neighborhood. Jordan ducks down in the seat so his neighborhood friends don’t see him. The story portrays Jordan’s struggles with fitting in while remaining true to himself, and it does a great job of showing all of the microaggressions people of color face on a daily basis. This book makes us reflect on our preconceived ideas of race; even Jordan assumes he will immediately become friends with the handful of other African American students. There are black-and-white double-spread images of helpful life lessons that Jordan has illustrated; things like, tips for riding a city bus in a hoodie, how to do a good handshake, and judging kids by the covers of the books they read.

THOUGHTS: This is the perfect book to give to students who claim they don’t like graphic novels. I laughed-out-loud at one of the images because it was so clever. In the same vein as American Born Chinese, this book is a valuable resource for sharing what African American students experience in school and society in a non-preachy, funny way.

Graphic Novel          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Jordan Banks loves sketching cartoons of his life and dreams of art school, but for his seventh grade year, his parents have enrolled him in a well-known private school, hoping for academic opportunities and social growth (since Jordan is one of the few students of color). Jordan’s dad maintains that Jordan may choose art school in a year or two, but Jordan’s mom is convinced that Riverdale Academy Day School is the best choice. Jordan complies, and discovers stereotypes (others and his own), endures microaggression–and even finds a way to laugh at them with new friend Drew, builds a variety of friendships (of many cultures), and keeps drawing his story. The tale of his first year is full of pathos and at times laugh-out-loud humor, as Jordan tackles soccer for the first time, considers the “meaning” of secret Santa gifts, and more. He reaches a breaking point when Drew is falsely accused of hitting bigoted student Andy, and when Mrs. Rawle (who consistently mixes up the names of all of the non-white kids) reads his sketchbook and wonders why he is so “angry.” Jordan brings to mind all the advice of his parents, grandfather, and more as he adjusts and thrives at Riverdale Academy. He and his friends bring out the best in each other and grow up, a day at a time (well, except for Andy).

THOUGHTS: Jordan is one of the most honest, likable characters in middle school fiction. Many will benefit from reading his story and have their eyes opened to microaggressions, stereotypes, and how to move beyond false assumptions. This graphic novel is a work of art in more ways than one, and a must-read for all middle school students and their teachers.       

Graphic Novel          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Angleberger, Tom. Bach to the Rescue!!! How a Rich Dude Who Couldn’t Sleep Inspired the Greatest Music Ever. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-1-419-73164-8. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

This book is centered around how Bach’s music came to be. Learning about the life of the Rich Dude and his inability to sleep at night transforms Bach’s Goldberg Variations. A story that may not be completely true, we learn how Goldberg was unable to put the Rich Dude to sleep with his music, which in turn kept everyone else awake. Promised a great deal of money, Bach wrote music for Goldberg to play for the Rich Dude, who loved the music and was able to sleep. Bach, in return, received the money he was promised.

THOUGHTS: An interesting tale, that while may not be true, depicts the possible creation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a picture book format that is easy for students to understand.

786 Music          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


McGinnis, Sandy Stark. Extraordinary Birds. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-547-60100-4. 214 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

This debut novel features an eleven year old foster child, December, who believes she will one day become a bird and fly away from the foster homes that have caged her spirit. After December jumps out of a tree, she is removed from her foster home and placed with an elderly woman named Eleanor, also called the “Bird Whisperer.” December continues to feel her scar tingle and goosebumps that will turn into feathers during her stay with Eleanor while also discovering the perfect oak tree for “flying.” Eleanor treats December well, and allows her to help at a bird rehabilitation center with Henrietta, a red tailed hawk who cannot fly. But December encounters trouble at her new school – mean girls who pick on those who are different than them. December befriends one of their victims, Cheryllynn, and the two become close friends. December continues to discover who she really is, but when bad news is delivered to Eleanor, December decides that she must turn into a bird… and fast!

THOUGHTS: A great coming of age story of a girl discovering who she really is that will warm your heart. The characters are relatable, and the story moves along quickly. Multiple themes are prevalent throughout, along with a subtle reference to a transgender child. 

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Markle, Sandra. The Woolly Monkey Mysteries: The Quest to Save a Rain Forest Species. Millbrook Press, 2019. 978-1-512-45868-8. $24.14 40 p. Grades 3-6.

If you haven’t heard of woolly monkeys, you’re not alone.  These rain forest “gardeners” are both elusive and essential to the life of the rain forest. Scientists in Peru’s Manu National Park and Reserve must work tirelessly to track them, painstakingly setting up cameras in the deepest parts of the forest. Author Markle investigates several of these scientists, what they’ve learned about woolly monkeys, and how they’ve learned it. The results have built a stronger understanding of rain forest life and how rain forests could best be strengthened and preserved. “The rain forest’s health is tied to the woolly monkeys, who have to eat, travel through the rain forest canopy, and drop their seed-filled waste to continually replenish the plant life” (35). Markle’s text, combined with the colorful page spreads and color photos, brings the scientists’ concerns to life for all of us new to the species. 

THOUGHTS: Well-presented with maps, photographs, and explanations of the scientists’ work, this book will fuel career ideas of science-minded students who love animals.  

599.8 Monkeys          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Get Informed–Stay Informed (series). Crabtree, 2019. 48 p. $9.95 (paper) $14.86 (hardcover) ea. Grades 5-8.

Hudak, Heather C. #MeToo Movement. 978-0-778-74971-4
—. Climate Change. 978-0-778-74970-7
—. Digital Data Security. 978-0-778-75345-2
—. Immigration and Refugees. 978-0-778-75347-6
Hyde, Natalie. Gun Violence.  978-0-778-75346-9
—. Net Neutrality. 978-0-778-74972-1
—. Oil and Pipelines. 978-0-778-75348-3
—. Opioid Crisis. 978-0-778-74973-8

These books are designed to be informative on their stated topic, while also guiding the reader to understanding information literacy truths. The information literacy instruction is interspersed with the background on the topic, either in entire chapters or in brief sidebars. Because Hudak’s Immigration & Refugees dedicates more space to the information literacy skills, it better prepares the reader to seek out and evaluate information sources. Segments such as “Where to Look” and “Critical Review” establish strong questions to consider when faced with new material. Hyde’s Oil and Pipelines, despite speaking of alternate viewpoints (such as the government), strongly emphasizes the disadvantages of pipelines (even the cover, which shows an oil spill).  

THOUGHTS: Overall, these are helpful sources for beginning background on a topic, but more importantly, for instruction on how to think about information and ideas. Includes Glossary, Source Notes, Find Out More, Index, and Teacher’s Guide online.  Teaching Resources available for download via Follett’s Titlewave for certain titles, including Climate Change, #MeTooMovement, Net Neutrality and Opioid Crisis

Titles Reviewed: Immigration and Refugees; Oil and Pipelines. 

Current Social Issues          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Gemeinhart, Dan. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. Henry Holt & Company, 2019. 344 p. $16.99. 978-1-250-19670-5  Grades 3-6.

Five years ago, Coyote Sunrise and Rodeo (don’t call him Dad), refurbished a bus as a home and began their travels. It is Rodeo’s way of outrunning the memories of his wife and two daughters who died in a car crash. Coyote and her dad get along well, and she knows how to read him and how to behave (avoid melancholy, avoid memories, avoid the names of her mom and sisters). The love Coyote has for her dad is real and reciprocated. Then in a weekly phone call to her Grandma, Coyote learns that the public park in her old neighborhood is to be demolished. It’s the same public park where five days before the accident, she, her mom and two sisters buried a memory box and vowed to locate it in ten years. Suddenly, her need to save that box–and her need for memories–outweighs all else. She must use all her cleverness to get 3600 miles (from Florida to Poplin Springs, Washington) in just four days–without revealing the plan to Rodeo. Along the way, Coyote and Rodeo pick up others who need a ride: Lester who’s reconnecting with his girlfriend, Salvador and his mom who are looking for a new life with his aunt, Val who cannot stay with her family any longer, and Gladys….the goat. Yes, each has a part to play in Coyote’s would-be return home. As the hours–then minutes–count down, how long will it be before Rodeo puts the brakes on this terrifying idea of returning home?

THOUGHTS: A cleverly introspective and appropriately humorous look at grief, family, friendship, and belonging.     

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

For the past five years, twelve-year-old Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have spent their days criss-crossing the country on an old school bus they’ve converted into a home. They travel anywhere their hearts desire – anywhere but to their hometown in Washington state. They haven’t returned home since the car accident that killed Coyote’s mother and two sisters five years ago. But, when Coyote learns from her grandmother that a park in her hometown is going to be demolished, she concocts a plan to get back home to retrieve a memory box she buried there with her mother and sisters before their deaths. Returning home is a “no-go” for Rodeo, so Coyote must figure out a way to get him to drive to Washington without realizing what he’s doing. On their journey, they pick up several passengers, including a mother and son escaping from domestic abuse, a musician looking for love, a teen fleeing a turbulent home life, a gray kitten, and a goat.

THOUGHTS: Coyote is a relatable and perceptive protagonist, and readers will be drawn in by her conversational style of storytelling. She is also multifaceted, and she is unafraid to share her true emotions. Readers will cheer Coyote on as she races the clock to get across the country to reclaim a piece of her past before the bulldozers bury it forever. This title will generate discussions about friendships, grief and loss, and the true meaning of family.

Realistic Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Doyle, Catherine. The Storm Keeper’s Island. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 308 p. $16.99. 978-1-681-19959-7. Grades 5-8.

Fionn Boyle should feel the sea, should have the ocean behind his eyes, but instead he fears it. Even the motion of the boat that delivers him and his older sister Tara to Arranmore Island makes him ill, a fact that Tara is happy to broadcast. Tara has been to the island before, so only Fionn is stunned to meet their grandfather, a curious, eccentric old man that locals refer to as “the Stormkeeper.” Fionn is about to realize the part his family–one of five families–plays in the history of the island. Each generation, Arranmore Island itself (a living thing that responds to Fionn’s presence by growing, breathing, even speaking to him) chooses a new Storm Keeper. Tara’s “boyfriend” Bartley Beasley has been primed by his grandmother to become the Storm Keeper by any means necessary, since she believes Fionn’s grandfather actively cheated her out of the power. Bartley seethes with anger at Fionn and his grandfather, even as the dark magic of Morrigan is waking to lay claim to the island and fight the good forces of Dagda, who saved the island eons ago. Fionn struggles with the loss of his father, before Fionn was born, to the sea itself–all Fionn has ever wanted was for his father to be here. The longing is so great, and greater on the island in the face of his father’s bravery. Before his grandfather succumbs to memory loss, he is able to guide Fionn to see his own history and accept his future as the new Stormkeeper. The novel ends just as the island has chosen Fionn and Morrigan begins her desperate rise against the island and its people. “It’s not fair,” Fionn says of his grandfather’s memory loss, and his grandfather does not dispute it. But he adds, “your greatest responsibility [is] to live a life of breathless wonder, so that when it begins to fade from you, you will feel the shadow of its happiness still inside you and the blissful sense that you laughed the loudest, loved the deepest, and lived fearlessly, even as the specifics of it all melt away” (248). 

THOUGHTS: This is an enjoyable fantasy that interweaves naturally with reality and will push readers to grab the sequel: The Lost Time Warriors (2020). Strongly recommended for fantasy readers.

Fantasy          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Mortensen, Lori. Today’s Hip-Hop. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-55444-1. $21.49. 32 p. Grades 3-9.

The book includes Hip-Hop, popping, locking, free styling, and fusion. The content is divided into chapters, and vocabulary words are in bold font defined on the page and also in the glossary. Cool facts intersect in boxes like the style in Hamilton Broadway show. Colorful images add to the text and demonstrate different dance moves such as the jackhammer. 

THOUGHTS: Additional books in the Dance Today series include Today’s Ballet, Today’s Street Dance, and Today’s Tap Dancing. This books could add to an area of interest to many students that may be lacking in collections. 

793 Dance          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Lyon, Drew. Pro Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Comebacks. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-55436-6. $21.49. 32 p. Grades 3-9.

Full color images throughout concise chapters allow readers to learn about numerous athletic feats such as the 2004 Boston Red Sox, 2016 Chicago Cubs, and standout players such as Ted Williams. Important terms are placed in red font and defined at the bottom of the page. Terms include comeback, RBI, walk-off, pennant, ligament, and are also included in the glossary. Students can continue to explore at facthound.com using a password included in the book.

THOUGHTS: Other books in the All-Time Greatest Comebacks series include Pro-Hockey, Pro-Football, and Pro-Basketball. The series covers a wide range of sports and demonstrates the importance of optimism and never giving up. These are also great books to have in the collection that encourage recreational reading. 

796 Sports          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Terrell, Brandon. A Win for Women: Billie Jean King Takes Down Bobby Riggs. Illustrated by Eduardo Garcia. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-54219-6. $23.49. 32 p. Gr. 3-9. 

This book relates the lasting friendship between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs after their 1973 historic tennis match and is told in a full color graphic novel format. The battle of sexes and gender roles was put to the test and the full color graphic novel details this appropriately. The book includes the legacies of the athletes. A glossary, additional reading, critical thinking questions, Fact Hound internet site links, and an index is included. 

THOUGHTS: Other books in this Greatest moments in sports graphic library series include Defying Hitler: Jesse Owens’ Olympic Triumph, Lake Placid Miracle: When U.S. Hockey Stunned the World, Showdown in Manila: Ali and Frazier’s Epic Final Fight, Calling His Shot: Babe Ruth’s Legendary Home Run, and Soccer Shocker: U.S. Women’s Stunning 1999 World Cup Win. These books demonstrate the impact that sports can have on world events and social issues. They can be used to encourage sports enthusiasts to learn more about history and history enthusiasts to learn about the impact that sports have made. 

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Harbo, Christopher L. The Explosive World of Volcanoes. Illustrated by Tod Smith. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-52947-0. $25.99. 32 p. Grades 3-9. 

Readers are in for a fact filled graphic novel adventure with Max Axiom that includes cones, calderas, and eruptions of volcanoes. Artwork is in full color format. Back matter includes additional facts about volcanoes, a lava flow experiment with detailed steps, discussion questions, writing prompts, glossary, further readings, “super-cool stuff,” and an index.

THOUGHTS: This is part of the new 4D adventures with Max Axiom. 4D content includes videos of lava flow in Hawaii, ruins of Herculaneum, video direction for the lava flow experiment, and a quiz. These additions do enhance the reading experience and can be used in anticipatory sets with students to add additional excitement. Presently there are 24 titles in the series. 

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Otfinoski, Steven. The Selma Marches for Civil Rights We Shall Overcome. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-515-77941-4. $24.49. 112 p. Grades 5-9.

Important individuals involved with the Selma Marches for Civil Rights taking place in 1965 have their name in a purple banner with their location and time. Featured individuals include: Geroge Wallace, Lyndon Johnson, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy, Jim Clark, Lynda Blackmon, Frank Johnson, Viola Liuzzo, and Leroy Moton. The events feel like they are unfolding as you read. Backmatter includes an afterward leading up with milestones for each featured individual, a timeline, a glossary, critical thinking questions, internet sites, resources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: This book is part of the Tangled History set that currently includes 24 titles. The series presents vital events in history presented in an engaging and organized fashion. Most of the primary and individual photographs in this book are in crispy black and white colors. 

393 Social Issues          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Schwartz, Ella. Can You Crack the Code? A  Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography. Illustrated by Lily Williams. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1-681-19514-8. $21.99. 118 p. Grades 4-9.

The book introduces readers to the start of codes and ciphers leading all the way to the 2015 hack using malware known as a Trojan Horse. Illustrations, images, and special features add to the chapters. Ciphers and codes have been used by a wide range of individuals from Julius Caesar, to professional football players, classic fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, and in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Gold-Bug.” Important terms are place ind a bold font. A bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index conclude the book.

THOUGHTS: The book provides a lot of opportunities for readers to practice the codes that they learn about when reading. A lot of history is included when learning about codes. The book has connections to history, social studies, math, and computer science. 

652 Games and Activities          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Kilmeade, Brian, and Don Yaeger. George Washington’s Secret Six: the Spies Who Saved America. Viking, 2019. 978-0-425-28898-6. $17.99. 164 p. Gr. 4-9. 

Concise chapters with black and white illustrations make up this adapted version for young readers based off of the NYT bestselling book. Readers step into the conflicts facing the goal of American independence that Washington and the Patriots seek. While students will recognize the exquisite leadership skills of Washington, they may be unaware of the importance that intelligence from spies helped inform his choices. In addition, the great dangers that spies faced is detailed in the book. The “Secret Six” is also referred to as Culpher’s Ring. The book includes an afterword, appendixes that includes the pre-war lives of the spies and invisible ink, a detailed timeline, selected sources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: Can You Crack the Code? Is an excellent non-book to partner with this book, which is also featured in PSLA reviews. There are also fine fiction books to add to make a must visit display such as Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac, The Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, or The Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.                                                                                                    

973.4 United States History          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Tait, A.L. The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel. Kane Miller, 2019. 978-1-610-67827-8. $5.99. 248 p. Grades 4-8. 

Growing up as an orphan and taken care of at the monastery, Gabe has yet to leave the grounds. He feels that he has no choice but to leave when an injured man gives him a fancy book to keep secret and deliver to a persona that he has never heard of named Aiden. He has an hour to hide the manuscript, but this does not go as planned. He is helped by outlaws, but Gabe does not expect the outlaws to be women. How can Gabe repay the outlaws and also save the book from possible sinister intentions from leaders visiting the monastery? The adventure will continue with The Book of Answers.

THOUGHTS: This is the first American edition since the 2017 publication in Australia and New Zealand. The series would be perfect for fans of The False Prince series by Jennifer A. Nielsen or Rowan Hood by Nancy Springer. 

Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Ross, Jeff. Shutout.  Orca Books, 2019. 978-1-459-81876-7. $9.95. 148 p. Grades 7-12.

Alex is a skilled goalie for the hockey team. Chloe, his girlfriend, is very involved with art and acting, but attends his games. Alex is shocked when the principal wants to see him and believes that Alex is defacing the school with graffiti. The readers know that Alex is not behind the acts, but how can he prove his innocence for his reputation and chance to play hockey? 

THOUGHTS: This fast-paced mystery would also delight readers that enjoy sports or theater arts. There are currently 54 novels in the Orca Sports collection. Presently the teacher guide for this novel is not posted online at Orca Sports, but you could introduce the author using his website: http://www.jeffrossbooks.com/

Mystery          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Stolen Girl. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-23304-9. $17.99. 208 p.Gr 3-8. 

What if you were unsure of your childhood and had memories of being with members of the Nazi organization? You’ve moved to a new area with your adoptive parents, and children tease you for having blonde hair and blue eyes? What is the truth of your history? This is the struggle that Nadia faces and will finally uncover her past.

THOUGHTS: This book is powerful. The backmatter shares additional information from this time period and experiences from the family of the author. Scholastic included a book trailer for this book in the Spring 2019 fair, and the link to the video will draw interest as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRWYmfeevWU

Historical Fiction          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Calonita, Jen. Mirror, Mirror: A Twisted Tale. Disney Press, 2019. 978-136801383-3. $17.99. 344 p. Grades 5-9. 

A lovely princess makes the best of times despite the loss of both of her parents and being shuttered from the world by a mean step-mother. The princess is lucky to escape death and find the home of the miners. Danger comes in the form of a poison apple. This is a pretty familiar fairy tale for students. Some of the parts are familiar, but not most in Mirror, Mirror. In the new novel, the king is distraught over the loss of his wife, married his wife’s sister, and then finally flees the kingdom distressed. Snow White meets a prince who wishes to speak with the Queen about the trade arrangements with his kingdom, before running to eventual safety and learning the true events that happened to both of her parents and the quest that she and her friends must complete. The classic characters are further defined, and the Magic Mirror develops more giving a clear image of the back story of magic. This novel contains continual fantasy and suspense to see how this tale will unfold with perspectives alternating between Snow and The Queen.

THOUGHTS: Page turning and deeply satisfying, this read shows familiar characters with a different take on a classic fairy tale. This is the sixth book in A Twisted Tale series. Students can write their version of the class tale before beginning the novel and compare all of the renditions. 

Fairy Tale, Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Kammer, Gina. Mind Drifter: Enemy Mind. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-496-55898-5. $19.99. 128 p. Grades 3-9

The last day of seventh grade at Emdaria North Middle School is significant as students take their personality skills tests. They quickly learn their student helper role for the year 2310. While Syah was eager to become a student artist, she was surprised to see that her role would be a counselor, also known as Mind Drifters. Syah will do her job in the MindLinkLab where counselors enter the mindscape of other students. Her best friend Joden has the role to assist in the science lab. The new roles seem to cause tension in their friendship and Kreo, Joden’s lab partner, is unkind. Syah sees a chance to enter Kreo’s mindscape, but it would be against the policies, and she is presented with a conundrum. Regardless of her choices she will have to face consequences, address bullying, concerns of privacy, and explore the realms of friendship.  

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging book. Three other titles are presently in the series: Dream Monster, Wicked Stepsister, and Reject Rebound. If the book is used in a classroom setting, there are questions for discussion in “Talk it Over” and writing exercises with Think and Write” sections. The book also includes a glossary and reference guide which would be helpful to preview with classes before starting the novel. The 4D content includes an interview from the author, Gina Kammer. This adds to the content included in the about the author section of the book, which sets the background for the book. 

Science Fiction, Adventure           Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD