Elem. – Wonder Walkers

Archer, Micha. Wonder Walkers. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021. 978-0-593-10964-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

When two children head outside for a walk, there’s no shortage of things to wonder about. The more they explore, the more questions they have. “Is the sun the world’s light bulb?” “Are branches trees’ arms?” “Are roots the plant’s toes?” The simple text consists mainly of the children’s questions, and the straightforward writing encourages contemplation and discussion. The illustrations are the stars of this book. Stunning double page spreads were created with inks and collage using tissue paper and patterned papers. Archer also uses homemade stamps to create different textures and layers. From green patterned ribbons of grass to swirling underground root networks to patchworks of sunset sky, students will pore over the pages, noting new details with each repeated read.

THOUGHTS: Use this title to encourage students to become more observant and appreciative of the wide world around them. This is the perfect story to share after a nature walk, as students will make connections to things they noticed and things the children in the story encounter. Whether inspired by fields of wildflowers, changing leaves, or a burbling brook, students will have no trouble coming up with “wonders” of their own as they let their imagination soar.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – The Leaf Thief

Hemming, Alice. The Leaf Thief. 1st American ed., Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021. 978-1-728-23520-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Squirrel is contently lounging in his tree watching the sun shine through the colorful autumn leaves when he suddenly realizes one of his leaves is missing. He immediately enlists Bird’s help tracking down his missing leaf. He questions Mouse to no avail. The next day, he notices that more leaves are missing! He accuses Woodpecker and even Bird of stealing his leaves, but he soon discovers that there may be another explanation to his missing leaves. A humorous story sure to delight young readers, this would be an excellent choice for a fall read aloud.

THOUGHTS: Endnotes in the book explain some of the science behind the arrival of autumn, making this the perfect introduction to life cycles and the changing seasons. As an added bonus, Squirrel’s exaggerated actions and expressions make for a comical story that is sure to grab the interest of elementary students. This is a solid choice for elementary science collections.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Nerdycorn

Root, Andrew. Nerdycorn. Beach Lane Books, 2021. 978-1-534-46005-8. 32 p. $17.99 Grades K-2. 

Nerdycorn follows a unicorn named Fern who loves science, experiments, and coding her computer. However the other unicorns love rainbows, glitter, and parties.  They tease Fern and don’t include her in their parties; however, they all ask for her help when something breaks. Fern doesn’t mind being a good friend and helping, until one day she does mind. The big Sparkle Dance Party needs her to help fix things, and she initially refuses. However, she changes her mind and ends up helping. This causes the other unicorns to apologize and then end up learning some things from Fern. The illustrations in this book fit perfectly with the story as they are bright, colorful, and full of sparkle (just like the unicorns).

THOUGHTS: This is a great addition to an elementary school library collection and would be a great read aloud for a career week or empathy focused lesson.

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

MG – We Dream of Space

Kelly, Erin Entrada. We Dream of Space. Greenwillow Books, 2020. 978-0-062-74730-3. 391 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

This story, told in multiple points of view, follows the Nelson Thomas kids (Cash, Fitch, and Bird) as they navigate life through 7th grade in the mid 1980s. Cash, the oldest sibling, is repeating 7th grade and is in danger of having to repeat it again if he doesn’t get his act together! Fitch spends all day trying to keep his temper in check and every afternoon in the arcade, and Bird, Fitch’s twin, just wants to be an astronaut. With their parents constantly arguing and emotionally distant from their children, Bird just wants someone to notice her. Spending her days dreaming of becoming the first shuttle commander, while following every step of the coming Challenger launch, has left Bird wanting. Wanting to be noticed, wanting to belong, and wanting to be in space. This book contains a section about the Challenger Disaster and a page of resources to learn more.

THOUGHTS: A must purchase for any middle grade library collection. Kelly does it again with her captivating writing. Will be in my Top 5 for 2020.

Realistic Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

Elem. – Over and Under the Rainforest

Messner, Kate. Over and Under the Rainforest. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-16940-8. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Following up Over and Under the Snow and Over and Under the Pond Messner explores the rainforest both high and low. Christopher Silas Neal’s artwork, overwhelming the pages in luscious saturated shades of green, draws the reader into the forest along with the young narrator and her guide. Above is a world of monkeys, insects, and birds. Colorful toucans, flit among the branches. Capuchin and howler monkeys and sloths move through the leafy growth. Below are critters and creatures, both cute and deadly: agoutis and crocodiles, anteaters and spiders. As the day wanes, the rainforest fades to purples, creatures of the night emerge, and the young narrator heads for home, Abuelita and supper. Messner’s informative text never overwhelms the reader. Facts are lovingly wrapped in description to evoke life in the rainforest.

THOUGHTS: Messner never disappoints, and this book will be a solid addition to any elementary collection, useful as a read-aloud or with a classroom curriculum.

Picture Book         Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Geology Rocks! Set 2 (Series NF)

Hansen, Grace. Geology Rocks! (Set 2) Abdo, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6. 24 p. Gr. K-2. 

Crystals. 978-1-532-18556-4.
Igneous Rocks. 978-1-532-18557-1.
Metamorphic Rocks. 978-1-532-18558-8.
Mineraloids. 978-1-532-18559-5.
Organic Gems. 978-1-532-18560-1.
Sedimentary Rocks. 978-1-532-18561-8.

Adbo has expanded their Geology Rocks! series for young readers with the addition of these six titles. Sure to be of interest to students with an interest in rocks and/or minerals, each title features simple text that explains the science behind geology. This reviewer had the opportunity to read the Igneous Rocks volume. The text broke down and described the steps in the igneous rock cycle in an easy to understand manner aimed at primary students. Numerous photos as well as charts accompanied the text in order to illustrate the formation and composition of the rocks. Back matter included a glossary, a chart that shows different types of igneous rocks and a link to Abdo’s extension activities and materials for the volume.

THOUGHTS: This series is an excellent choice for primary libraries looking to update or expand their geology-related collections. The titles offer a great way to introduce the topic of geology to young readers and the oversize books with high-quality photos will hold great curb appeal to browsers. As always, Abdo’s online supplemental content is a cut above what is provided by many publishers and could easily be incorporated into classroom lessons.

549-553 Minerals and Geology          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Season to Season (Series NF)

Gardeski, Christina Mia. Season to Season. Pebble Plus, 2020. $20.54 ea. $82.16 set of 4. 24 p. Grades PreK-2.

A Year in the City. 978-1-977112-87-3.
A Year on the Farm. 978-1-9771-1293-4.
A Year in the Forest. 978-1-977112-89-7.
A Year at the Pond. 978-1-977112-91-0.

Readers can explore the four seasons as seen on a farm or in a city, forest, or pond. Large color photographs compliment simple, factual text that covers the basics of changing seasons in each setting. Spring on the farm finds farmers plowing, planting, and welcoming newborn animals; in summer, “Crops grow in the warm sun. Tomatoes ripen. Cornstalks stretch from the earth.” Pebble Plus continues to produce high quality, high interest nonfiction for early readers. Each book includes a table of contents, glossary, index, and resources for students interested in learning more about the topic.

THOUGHTS: An attractive addition for collections looking to update their offerings on the four seasons or any reader who enjoys learning something new.

577 Nature of Life         Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – The Ocean : Exploring Our Blue Planet

Krestovnikoff, Miranda. The Ocean: Exploring Our Blue Planet. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-547-60335-0. $23.99. Grades K-3.

The Ocean is a non-fiction book that focuses on different parts of the ocean, both underwater and above water areas. Each section is broken down into different parts of the ocean. For example there is a section about coastlines, shipwrecks, the polar seas and more. Each section has beautiful illustrations that definitely give an underwater feel to the book as you read. There is a table of contents page; however, there is no index or a glossary in the book, so the reader may need something additional to help them as they read if they are using this book for research.

THOUGHTS: Overall, this is a beautifully illustrated book that gives some more information about the oceans and different animals who live in and around the ocean. This book could not be the only book someone could use for research, but it does make a nice companion as well as a great book for those students who are always interested in learning more. This book makes a nice jumping off point.

551.46 Ocean          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

MG – My Life in the Fish Tank

Dee, Barbara. My Life In the Fish Tank. Aladdin, 2020. 978-1-534-43233-8. $17.99. Grades 6-8.

Zinny Manning’s family is known for being noisy and tightknit. She has a nurturing older brother, Gabriel; a moody sister in high school, Scarlett; and a younger, inquisitive brother, Aiden; and two longtime best friends, Kailani and Maisie. At the beginning of seventh grade, though, her world comes crashing down when Gabe steals and crashes his college roommate’s car. His impulsive behavior and hospitalization uncover Gabe’s bipolar disease. Now, a cloud hangs over the whole family as they strive to keep Gabe’s mental illness a secret from classmates, teachers, and neighbors. Zinny’s voice alternates from the present to the recent past. While she drifts further and further away from her concerned friends, Zinny recalls the fun times she has had with Gabe and dissects occasions when signs of his mental illness appeared. Zinny finds some solace in the predictable, controlled world of science. Her favorite teacher, Ms. Molina, has recommended her for a coveted spot as part of a middle school research team for the summer. Zinny gets respite from her friends’ constant questioning by helping Ms. Molina set up the crayfish tanks for the class’s animal unit. Zinny proves herself a resilient girl, helping her younger brother with his “how-to” project, shopping for groceries for the family, and sparking her beleaguered mother’s interest with an herb garden. When Zinny receives an invitation to the counselor’s Lunch Club, she at first throws it in the trash; but eventually, she starts to appreciate the opportunity to align with others who are also suffering from family concerns: divorce, stepfamilies, grief, or sick parents. Although it takes quite a while for Zinny to feel comfortable sharing, the group supports her and makes her feel she is not alone. At a therapy session at Gabe’s residential treatment center, Zinny confesses the anger she feels keeping the family secret. That small confession spurs a huge release that eases Gabe’s return home and allows the family to accept Gabe with a chronic illness just like cancer or diabetes. My Life in the Fish Tank is a story of a family in crisis and the shame and guilt they struggle with trying to deal with insurance, disruption, and worry. Author Barbara Dee has excelled in presenting an important topic with sensitivity and honesty. The Manning family seems to be white; the author integrates the diversity of other characters organically into the plot.

THOUGHTS: Though there are some fine books dealing with mental illness (Crazy by Han Nolan and All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker), My Life in the Fish Tank is a welcome addition. The dialogue captures the main character’s frame of mind well and depicts a likeable, relatable person. Zinny’s love of science and the crayfish experiment act as metaphors for her family situation Even though the plot flipped back and forth, the chapters were short and the writing fluent, making the story easy to follow. I could not put down this book.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret

Keating, Jess. Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret. Tundra Books, 2020. 978-0-735-26508-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

From the time she was a young girl, Marie loved being outdoors. From feeling waves splash on her toes to discovering boulders, trees, and bird calls, she was fascinated by the world around her. But, girls were not supposed to have outdoor jobs involving rocks, mountains, and sunshine, and they weren’t supposed to dream of becoming explorers or scientists. When men enlisted during World War I, women like Marie had their chance to study science. Marie learned as much as she could about earth science and geology, and she secured a job in a New York laboratory. When men returned from War, they were sent on ocean research trips, but Marie had to stay behind. As her male colleagues sent back box after box of measurements, Marie used the data to create a map of the ocean floor. She’d found a way to be an explorer, even if she had to stay in her small office. After weeks of plotting data, Marie discovered a giant rift valley on the bottom of the ocean floor: a long crack with mountains on both sides. Her colleagues made her redo the map, and even then, no one believed her work was accurate. Jacques Cousteau sent cameras to the bottom of the ocean to prove her wrong, but instead, the cameras captured the evidence revealing Marie was actually correct. Today, she’s credited with mapping the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge, and her maps have been displayed at the Library of Congress. Katie Hickey’s watercolor and pencil illustrations, featuring a palette of primarily blues, yellows, and greens, gorgeously capture the spirit and perseverance of this unsung scientist. Two pages of Author’s Notes and Questions and Answers provide further insights about Marie Tharp and her legacy.

THOUGHTS: Share this story of female resilience and determination as part of STEM units or during elementary morning meetings. Also a great choice to recommend to girls who are interested in outdoor pursuits such as rock collecting, bird watching, and exploring.

526 Mathematical Geography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD