Elem./MG – The Science of Song: How and Why We Make Music

Cross, Alan, Emme Cross, and Nicole Mortillaro. The Science of Song: How and Why We Make Music. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-771-38787-3. 48 p. $17.99. Grades 4-8.

A concise and colorful historical and psychological foundation of sound that starts with the origin of music over 40,000 years ago and how we hear to digital and artificial music makes this book a great addition to intermediate and middle school libraries. The content is broken into 19 one page chapters that summarizes the topic at hand. Each section also has engaging images and a three song playlist to accompany it. The book ends with a timeline, glossary, and index that can be helpful for curious young minds. 

THOUGHTS: A fun and low stakes way to introduce younger minds to the psychology and importance behind the music we all hear on a daily basis. This title would be a great addition to an elementary, intermediate, or middle school library looking to refresh their nonfiction collection.

780 Music          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

Elem./MG – The Lost Things Club

Puller, J. S. The Lost Things Club. Little, Brown and Company, 2021. 978-0-759-55613-3. $16.99. 219 p. Grades 4-7.

Leah is looking forward to spending summer vacation in Chicago with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, just like she does every year. When she arrives at their apartment, however, she notices something is different; her younger cousin, TJ, affectionately known as “hedgehog,” is not his normal self. He isn’t talking. As Leah spends time with her aunt and uncle and some kids from the neighborhood, she begins to realize the reason that TJ isn’t talking is the terrible shooting that happened in the spring at TJ’s elementary school. Even though Leah doesn’t completely understand why TJ is struggling, she vows to help him face his feelings and come back to himself and his family. Through Leah’s summer adventures with TJ, she begins to understand that stories can be much more than silly make-believe. Stories can be a way to heal after trauma, as well as a way to communicate the experiences of others and help everyone practice empathy and understanding.

THOUGHTS: This book deals with the sensitive topics of school shootings, survivor guilt, and PTSD in a way that older elementary and middle school students can understand. It illustrates the terrible toll that such events can take on young survivors, their families, and the surrounding school community, while also portraying those that are struggling with dignity and hopefulness. Ultimately, this book highlights the essential empathy-building benefits everyone can reap from coming together and sharing stories.

Realistic Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

YA FIC – The Special Ones; Children of Blood & Bone; List of Cages

Bailey, Em.  The Special Ones.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.  978-0-544-91229-8. 297 p. $17.99.  Gr. 9-12.

For the past few years, Esther has been living in an old farmhouse with Harry, Lucille, and Felicity.  They have all been brainwashed to believe that they are the “Special Ones” who “he” (their captor) has saved from the atrocities of the modern world.  They have no electricity and running water, and they are forced to follow very strict behavioral guidelines. Because he is always watching them, failure to follow these guidelines often results in punishment or, even worse, renewal. When a “Special One” is renewed, they leave the house and are replaced by someone else who has been kidnapped and must be brainwashed. Although Esther has begun to question the entire process – especially what really happens to those who are renewed – she must continue to play her part if she wants to survive.  This gripping page-turner full of surprising twists will have readers rooting for Esther and the others until the very end. THOUGHTS: This would be an interesting book to analyze in a psychology class.  Students could discuss the mentality of the kidnapper (and what made him that way), and/or they could discuss the difficulty the victims have assimilating back into society after the ordeal.  Real-life examples, such as the Elizabeth Smart case, could be compared. Fans of kidnapping stories like Emma Donoghue’s Room or Lucy Christopher’s Stolen would enjoy this title, as would fans of psychological thrillers like Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train or Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

Psychological Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area School District


Adeyemi, Tomi. Children of Blood and Bone. Henry Holt, 2018. 978-1-250-17097-2 532p. $18.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Ademi witnessed her mother’s brutal murder by soldiers on the night magic disappeared throughout Orisha.  When Ademi and the princess meet in a marketplace, a strange partnership and a long string of events lead to great change.  Magic is being reawakened. Romances, betrayals, and plot twists lead to an enjoyable storyline. THOUGHTS: This fresh new fantasy world has some interesting parallels with our very real world.  Readers with dark skin will see themselves in this book as people who can take power into themselves and perhaps make some change. I really enjoyed reading this, but had to set it aside for a while when the violence got to be too much for me.  I will keep reading the series, in spite of all of the bloodshed.

Fantasy      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School


Roe, Robin. A List of Cages. Hyperion, 2017. 978-1-148476380-3. 310 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Adam and Julian’s paths keep crossing. First, Adam was assigned as a reading buddy to mentor Julian when the boys were in 5th and 2nd grade. Then, after Julian’s parents were killed in an accident, Adam’s single mom fostered Julian for about a year. Now, Adam is a popular high school senior assigned to escort quiet, withdrawn Julian to his twice-weekly school counseling appointments. The two quickly reconnect, and Adam’s tight circle of friends expands (sometimes grudgingly) to allow room for the younger boy. But Julian is hiding a terrible secret: his guardian, an uncle by marriage, has been physically abusing him for years. When Uncle Russell finds out that his nephew has newfound friends, he withdraws Julian from school and the abuse escalates over some extremely difficult-to-read chapters. Throughout the book’s final fifty pages, it’s almost impossible not to read ahead just to find out what happens to each character. THOUGHTS: This is a well-paced, affecting, terribly sad, and somehow still uplifting story of what too many young people face when they go home at the end of each school day. It’s also an homage to friendship, courage, and kindness that still manages to be a gripping page-turner. At the novel’s heart is the lesson that “Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”

Realistic Fiction    Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

Informational Texts – February 2014


Understanding Mental Health (series of 6) New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2013, 2014.
      Tournemille, Harry. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  978-0778700692 48             p. $23.95
       Iorizzo, Carrie. Anxiety and Phobias.  978-0778700821 48 p. $23.95
Two books from the six-book series focusing on mental health problems.  The books open with, and often include, personal experiences with the disorders, defining and giving causes for these issues.  Various therapies and drugs are discussed in sections on diagnosis and treatment.  Importantly, how to deal with stigma, managing behavior, and even making friends, are all covered in a short space.  Both books end with a “Coping Toolbox” of tips to try and self-care tips, offering ideas like keeping a journal; meditation; distraction; or visualization.  Fine, helpful additions for middle school and above, these books are informative without being threatening.  Glossary, index, other web resources included.  Also part of the series: Autism Spectrum Disorder; Depression and Other Mood Disorders; Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; and Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders.
616; Mental Health              Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



Essential Library of Social Change (series of 6), ABDO Publishing Company, 2013.
       Anderson, Jennifer Jolene. Women’s Rights Movement. Minneapolis, MN:                    ABDO Publishing Company, 2014. 112 p. 978-1617838897 $23.95
       Eboch, Chris. Green Movement. Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Publishing Company,             2014. 112 p. 978-1617838880 $23.95
Two books from the six-book series presenting the stories behind the rise of social movements.  Both books detail the movements from earliest beginnings to today.  The unfortunate “retro” color scheme of yellows and greens over black and white photos will do little to attract readers; and dismal covers lack any overview of the movement or indication of each books individual contents, when students often need a description to be drawn to the topic.  Readers who do venture into the books will find the comprehensive and interesting stories behind these movements.  Women’s Rights Movement chronologically details major proponents Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, and others, with the Temperance Movement, the Nineteenth Amendment, Title IX and more.  Green Movement discusses environmental issues like population growth, climate change, Love Canal, and environmentalists John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, on to present-day conservationists.  Timeline, Essential Facts, Glossary, Index, Resources (updated at abdopublishing.com) and extensive Source Notes.  Also part of the series: Animal Rights Movement; Civil Rights Movement; Disability Rights Movement; and Gay Rights Movement.
Social Sciences              Melissa Scott, Shenango HS


Wiseman, Rosalind. Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World.  New York: Harmony Books, 2013. 378 p. 978-0307986658  $25.00
Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes which spurred national thinking about girls’ inner lives and relationships (and the movie Mean Girls), now turns her attention to the usually overlooked world of boys’ social problems.  Beginning with sobering statistics on the state of boys, she declares, “we often make the mistake of believing that if a boy doesn’t come to us with problems, then he doesn’t have them.”  Not so, she declares, sharing insights from over 200 boys nationwide, of all socio-economic classes, who opened up to her about expectations, letdowns, insecurities, and misunderstood behavior.  “The reality,” she states, “is that most boys’ days are filled with many of the same social challenges that girls face, and what they learn from those experiences matters…. boys’ problems can look deceptively simple and we can’t interpret the signs when they’re calling out to use for help.” Wiseman goes on to identify those signs, from the slacker attitude, to lying, parenting styles that further alienate, and a host of problems and technologies that create new, troublesome worlds our boys desire to conquer, but need guidance to do so.  According to Wiseman, they will listen to adults who listen to them without hypocrisy and without lecture, willing to show them how to be real men.  Wiseman means her lengthy book to be read as needed, focusing on the area of need.  Throughout, she refers to SEAL, the strategy she teaches boys for dealing with conflict: STOP and SET it up (think about the best way to confront); EXPLAIN (the problem needs to be stated); AFFIRM and ACKNOWLEDGE (the right for both sides to be treated with dignity); and LOCK (in or out, decide how or whether to continue the relationship).  Judging from the boys’ responses and a ton of “aha, so that’s why they do that” from readers here, the book has hit some powerful thinking, namely that our boys are not simple, and they need us.  Highly recommended for parents and anyone who works with boys and teenagers.
649; Psychology; Teenage Boys             Melissa Scott, Shenango High School