Elem. – A Gift for Nana

Smith, Lane. A Gift for Nana. Random House Studio, 2022. 978-0-593-43033-0. Unpaged. $18.99. PreK-2.

Rabbit is on a quest to find the perfect gift for his Nana. He travels through the forest, across a lake, onto rocky shores, and up a mountain. Along the way, he meets other creatures who make suggestions for a perfect gift, all of which Rabbit turns down with reasons why Nana wouldn’t like them. The journey is long and arduous, but Rabbit eventually discovers the perfect gift and returns to his Nana’s house with it. An endearing story that showcases the unconditional love between grandchildren and their grandparents, this book would be perfect for a read-aloud or a heartwarming bedtime story. 

THOUGHTS: I adored this sweet story! The mixed media illustrations by award-winning illustrator Lane Smith manage to evoke a variety of feelings and emotions throughout the story. More muted tones at the beginning of Rabbit’s long journey give way to brighter, more comforting tones by the time he returns home to Nana. An element of humor is also embedded in the story, as Rabbit eats some of his gift before he even makes it back to Nana. Any library that serves young children would not be disappointed with this title.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

MG – Cress Watercress

Maguire, Gregory. Cress Watercress. Candlewick Press, 2022. 978-1-536-21100-9. $19.99. 227 p. Grades 3-8.

Cressida Watercress and her rabbit family live in a spacious and well kept burrow. Young Cress has never known a moment’s want or worry until the day Papa fails to return from foraging. Unable to care for her young children alone, Mama makes the difficult decision to move her  family to a cramped basement apartment in an animal tenement known as the Broken Arms. Cressida’s brother Kip is often sickly, and Mama must work harder than ever to feed, shelter, and support Cress and Kip. The Broken Arms is filled with animal characters of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments. Mr. Owl, the landlord, is an enigmatic figure who will often comment on the comings and goings and behavior of his tenants from high above though he is never seen by those same tenants. Manny, the building superintendent, is helpful but demanding. The pressure to make timely rent payments is difficult for Mama, especially when Kip is not well. Cress must learn to accept and understand her new neighbors, and must step-up to help Mama. Growing up is not easy, especially when dealing with childhood grief. As Cress matures, her relationship with her mother becomes strained at times, and she grapples with friendships just as many tween human children do. Eventually the Watercress family finds great comfort and companionship in the community at Broken Arms, and Cress finds herself in a position to save the day when her newly adopted community is threatened.

THOUGHTS: Beautiful illustrations by David Litchfield set the tone for this coming of age novel. The struggles Cress encounters in her relationship with her mother and her friends will be easily recognized by middle grade readers and adults alike. The depiction of childhood grief is especially well characterized in this warm and gentle story.

Animal Fiction          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD
Realistic Fiction

Elem. – Beyond the Burrow

Meserve, Jessica. Beyond the Burrow. Peachtree. 2022. 978-1-682-63375-5. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Rabbits are animals that like to be near their home called a burrow. Rabbits prefer to be safe, cozy, and to stick with what they know. They know they enjoy sleeping, hopping, carrots, and staying away from things that are dangerous or have claws, horns, scales, feathers, or hooves. When little Rabbit stretched for a carrot that was just out of reach, she tumbled and fell into a hole that wasn’t hers and continued to tumble away from her burrow. Terrified and alone, Rabbit did the only thing she knew how – she hopped away until she was even more alone, cold, and frightened. Will Rabbit be able to overcome her very not-rabbit day? Will she gain bravery and learn something new or discover her way home, or will something even more not-rabbit happen to her?

THOUGHTS: An adorable illustrated book about bravery, trying new things, and making friends along the way. Young readers will enjoy watching Rabbit as she grows into a whole new type of rabbit!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – No Bunnies Here!

Sauer, Tammi. No Bunnies Here! Illustrated by Ross Burach. Doubleday, 2022. Unpaged. 978-0-593-18135-5. Grades K-3. $17.99.

It is time for Bunnyville’s Hoppy Day Parade, and in “the land of a thousand bunnies” our narrator becomes quite nervous when he sees an excited wolf. Bunny immediately springs into action to prove to wolf how wrong he is by assuming there are bunnies in Bunnyville. By donning clever costumes, disguising bunny friends, and renaming Bunnyville, Bunny works hard to show Wolf that there are no bunnies here. Despite Bunny’s best efforts, the enthusiasm for the Bunnyville Hoppy Day Parade cannot be stopped. As Bunny tries one last time to get Wolf out of Bunnyville, he realizes Wolf may not be hungry for a bunny after all. Wolf may have an entirely different reason for coming to Bunnyville. If Bunny can learn to listen to Wolf, he may realize what Wolf’s purpose in coming to Bunnyville is. But can a predator and prey coexist? This sweet friendship story will show young readers not to judge a book – or a wolf – by its cover.

THOUGHTS: Readers will laugh out loud at Bunny’s hilarious antics as he tries to avoid the not so big bad wolf. Bold, colorful illustrations will enchant readers. Recommended for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – I’m Not Scared, YOU’RE Scared

Meyers, Seth. I’m Not Scared, YOU’RE Scared! Illustrated by Rob Sayegh, Jr. Flamingo Books, 2022. Unpaged. 978-0-593-35237-3. Grades K-3. $18.99.

Despite his size, Bear is scared of just about everything, including his own reflection. Rabbit, on the other hand, likes to read scary stories. Though they have their differences, Bear and Rabbit are friends, and when Rabbit announces that they’re going on an adventure Bear suggests a book instead because “if anything goes wrong, we can just close the book.” Bear prepares for their adventure with a bike helmet, oven mitts, and bear repellent spray, but Rabbit assures him he’ll need none of those things. As Bear and Rabbit approach a small stream, the edge of the woods, a mountain, and a long rope bridge, Bear looks for ways to avoid his fears. At each obstacle, Rabbit asks, “Bear, are you scared?” and Bear replies “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” At the long, old, rickety bridge, Bear finally acknowledges his fears and heads home. Rabbit remains, determined to prove that Bear ‘s fears are over nothing. But when Rabbit gets into trouble, he’ll need his scared friend to come to his rescue. Will Bear be able to face his fears to help save his friend, or will Bear’s fears prevent him from helping Rabbit? Sayegh’s illustrations, made with digital brushes and scanned textures and photographs, bring the characters to life and highlight the emotions they’re feeling in the various settings.

THOUGHTS: This sweet story by comedian Seth Meyers will resonate with young readers who may have “irrational” fears. Use this title to talk about fear, courage, and being a supportive friend. Recommended for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – We Give Thanks

Rylant, Cynthia. We Give Thanks. Beach Lane Books, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-422-46507-7. Grades PreK-1. $17.99.

Told in rhyming couplets, this story about gratitude is not about the Thanksgiving holiday. Each couplet begins with “We give thanks for” and Frog and Rabbit point out what they appreciate as they walk around the neighborhood. The objects of gratitude run the gamut and appear in no particular order. They include nature, the weather, activities, family, community helpers, and friends. After realizing what they are thankful for, Frog and Rabbit prepare a special feast to share with their friends, who come and partake of the treats before them. The author finishes with this: “Bless our nights and bless our days and bless all those we meet. We give thanks for everything and now it’s time to eat.” Ruzzier’s illustrations done in pen, ink, and watercolors and are whimsical and appealing. Readers will enjoy poring over the drawings for the details. There are some humorous touches such as the Dalmatian as an Italian waiter and Bear’s friend, the fish who is often out of water. The pictures help create a warm, cozy atmosphere within this delightful tale.

THOUGHTS: Young children will enjoy listening to this story, which is sure to dish up a little happiness and will have them thinking about what they are thankful for. This book is a good substitute for traditional Thanksgiving stories, especially for those children who do not celebrate holidays. A nice selection for storytimes in any season.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Be a Pet Expert (Series NF)

Barder, Gemma. Be a Pet Expert (series of 6). Crabtree, 2021. 32 p. $20.75 each. $124.50 Set of 6. Grades 3-6.

Be a Cat Expert. 978-0-778-78015-1.
Be A Dog Expert. 978-0-778-78016-8.
Be a Hamster & Guinea Pig Expert. 978-0-778-78017-5.
Be a Horse & Pony Expert. 978-0-778-78018-2.
Be a Rabbit Expert. 978-0-778-78019-9.
Be a Reptile Expert. 978-0-778-78020-5.

These books provide helpful information, facts, and pet care tips for a variety of animals. Many photos, text boxes, and checklists help readers to learn more about the animals and consider them as pets. A flowchart guides readers through yes/no questions to determine what type best suits their personalities. Placing hamsters and guinea pigs in the same book will help readers to differentiate the two. Each book surprises readers with some interesting facts even on ‘well-known’ pets. For instance, no two dogs have the same noseprint; cats cannot taste sweet foods; horses and ponies have the largest eyes of any mammals on land; and rabbits can sleep with their eyes open.

THOUGHTS: These helpful books shed a positive yet truthful light on pets, which will appeal to pet-owners and animal lovers alike.

630s Domesticated Animals, Pets        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – How Big is Your Brave?

Soukup, Ruth. How Big is Your Brave? ZonderKidz, 2020. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades PreK-2. 

Zippy the bunny dreams of traveling to space one day but feels uncertain about trying Space Camp. With some gentle encouragement from her family, Zippy heads to Space Camp even though she’s scared. Mom tells her, “Being brave doesn’t mean you’re never scared…courage means taking an action, even when you feel afraid.” Zippy flourishes at camp, making friends and learning a lot. When an accident derails her plans for Launch Day, Zippy feels ready to give up. Dad reminds her that “You can choose to give up or choose to keep going. It’s all up to you.” When Launch Day arrives, Zippy’s Veggie Vrrrooom wins second place and a special award for most creative design. While the title phrase never features in the story, the message is one that all kids will understand in some way, whether it’s facing scary situations with courage or working through challenges.

THOUGHTS: Zippy’s friendly face and relatable story will win over readers.

Picture book                    Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – Comparing Animal Differences (Series NF)

Comparing Animal Differences. The Child’s World, 2020. $19.95 each. $342 for a set of 12. 24 Pages. Grades K-3.

Reed, Ellis M. Alligators and Crocodiles. 978-1-503-83590-0.
—. Llamas and Alpacas. 978-1-503-83593-1.
York, M. J. Butterflies and Moths. 978-1-503-83587-0.
—. Toads and Frogs. 978-1-503-83586-3.
Pearson, Marie. Dolphins and Porpoises. 978-1-503-83589-4.
—. Leopards and Cheetahs. 978-1-503-83592-4.
—. Wasps and Bees. 978-1-503-83594-8.
Gale, Ryan. Hares and Rabbits. 978-1-503-83591-7.
—. Turtles and Tortoises. 978-1-503-83588-7.
London, Martha. Lizards and Salamanders. 978-1-503-83595-5.
Ringstad, Arnold. Puffins and Penguins. 978-1-503-83596-2.
Gendell, Megan. Spiders and Daddy Long Legs. 978-1-503-83585-6.

Do you know what makes a toad different from a frog? Or a rabbit from a hare, or a lizard from a salamander? If you are like most readers, this is an ever confusing problem, which the writers of the Comparing Animal Differences series would like to simplify. Using short chapters of readable text with gorgeous photographs, each book highlights the animals separately, and then compares how to identify the difference. For example, lizards have scales and claws and hunt during the day, while salamanders are nocturnal and have no claws or scales. With labeled photos, a glossary and index, as well as extra links and activities to extend the learning, young readers will become knowledgeable naturalists in no time.

THOUGHTS: There are twelve books in this series. I have only reviewed two, but feel that the collection as a whole would be worth purchasing for class projects and personal interests. Plus, the idea of a compare and contrast assignment would be a useful note taking lesson.

550 Animals          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Hat Tricks

Satoshi, Kitamura. Hat Tricks. Peachtree Publishing Company, 2020. 978-1-682-63150-8. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-3.

With only two tiny white ears showing and the question, “What do we have here?” children are introduced to Hattie, a magician who has a magical hat. A variety of artistic mediums create simple, uncluttered illustrations that accompany text that will engage students and have them asking, “What’s in the hat?” On each page spread, a new friend joins Hattie and her magical hat. Magical words like “Abracadabra katakurico” can be fun for a whole class cheer or as an opportunity to work on reading nonsense words and breaking down syllables.

THOUGHTS: This simple picture book would be a fun read aloud for primary grades and can encourage predicting and a discussion about context clues.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD