Elem. – On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring

Silverman, Buffy. On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring. Millbrook Press, 2020. $20.99. 978-1-541-58118-0. 32 p. Grades PK-1.

This nonfiction picture book features stunning full-color photographs that perfectly capture the spectacular changes taking place in nature when snow begins to melt. Poetic rhyming text has a predictable noun-verb pattern. Phrases like “Snowmen droop / Cardinals swoop / Rabbits bounce / Foxes pounce” are captured in crisp images. Playful word combinations like “Plink-plonking / Marsh-mucking / Duck-dabbling day” add joyful humor while allowing the reader to focus on the science of Spring. Fun and fascinating, this in-depth look at nature in Spring will captivate young readers.

THOUGHTS: This book would be a great starting point for a lower elementary lesson about the seasons or a lovely book to read before a nature-walk to spot signs of Spring.

508.2 Seasons                         Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

Elem. – My Friend Earth

MacLachlan, Patricia. My Friend Earth. Chronicle Books, 2020. Unpaged. 978-0-811-87910-1. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This engaging picture book is a tribute to Earth, which is portrayed as a young girl of color. Using lyrical text, MacLachlan takes the reader on a journey through the seasons as well as a trip around the world. The story begins with Friend Earth waking up from a winter slumber and hearing the sounds of insects, birds, and a farmer busy at work. Next she is in Africa helping a zebra find its mother and a chimpanzee find a place to sleep. Friend Earth is also caretaker of all sea creatures and polar bears and reindeer on the tundra. Fall gives way to winter where once again Earth rests. The illustrations by Sanna, which are done in pencil, ink, and digital painting, are really the star of the show. Children will enjoy searching for the die-cuts that can be found on every double page spread. On the first page, Earth is sleeping and after turning the small flap, she is now awake on the opposite page. The edges of some pages are trimmed in a scalloped design, which mimic a stream of fall leaves in the wind and the rolling slopes of the distant mountains. With heavy use, there is some concern that some of the die-cuts might tear. The author’s hope is that children will appreciate the wonders of our planet and work to “be a good friend in return.”

THOUGHTS: This is a beautiful book that is a perfect read aloud for Earth Day. A strong purchase for all elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Tags:  Earth, Nature, Seasons, Picture Books, Earth Day, Toy and Movable Books

Elem. – A Year of Everyday Wonders

Klein, Cheryl B. A Year of Everyday Wonders. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-419-74208-8. Unpaged. $16.99. PreK-2.

Beginning on the first day of a new year, this story follows a young girl through all of a child’s “firsts” within the course of the year. There’s the first snowfall, the first green, the first beach trip, the first new teacher, the first Christmas gift–and much more in between. Not all of the experiences are positive; for instance, there are colds, storms, and many sibling fights. However, it is these everyday moments that ultimately make up a year’s worth of memories. This is an endearing story about living in the present and cherishing the small moments, good and bad.

THOUGHTS: This book would be a great story to read with beginning readers, as the text is very succinct and somewhat repetitive, and the illustrations provide wonderful context clues. It would also make an excellent introduction to the four seasons in a preschool or kindergarten classroom. Have students bring in photographs of their “firsts” throughout the year and create scrapbooks. This book provides many possibilities for learning and connecting with students and should therefore be a strong consideration for purchase by preschool and elementary teachers and librarians.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Nesting

Cole, Henry. Nesting. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-88592-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

From the branches of an apple tree, a male robin calls out to his mate on an early spring morning. After scoping out the perfect spot, the pair gather twigs and grasses, building a nest in the crook of the tree. The mother robin settles in quietly, and soon, four smooth, blue eggs appear. One week later, the eggs hatch, and the parents begin gathering food for their defenseless babies. The young family weathers a spring storm, as well as an unwelcome snake visitor, before the baby birds flap their small wings and leave the nest for the first time. As spring gives way to summer, then autumn, the family fills up on berries to tide them over during the approaching winter. Snow covers the nest, and the world is quiet, waiting for spring to return, along with the robin’s first call. The story unfolds through simple, straightforward text as well as a brief author’s note sharing additional information about robins. The illustrations are the stars of the story. Cole uses Micron pens and acrylic paints to create beautifully detailed crosshatch illustrations that perfectly capture both the depth and the simplicity found in the natural world.  

THOUGHTS: Students who love nature, and especially bird-watching, will gravitate towards this book. It will also be a nice tie-in for primary grade teachers who discuss the changing seasons, since readers can follow the robin family throughout the year. Pair with Mark Teague’s Fly or Denise Fleming’s This is the Nest that Robin Built with a Little Help from Her Friends for a robin-themed story time. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County 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 Very Last Leaf

Wade, Stef. The Very Last Leaf. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-684-46104-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Lance the cottonwood leaf is used to being at the top of his class. From the time school began in the spring, he was the first to blossom, the best at learning wind resistance, and he excelled at photosynthesizing. But when autumn arrives, he’s hesitant about the final test: the one that will take him off his branch and onto the ground. Lance is afraid to fall. Lance wishes he could be like his friend Doug Fir who doesn’t have to fall and can instead stay on his branch all winter long. As the time to fall draws closer, Lance makes up excuses. But soon, he’s the last leaf on his tree. His mind races with everything that could happen to him when he falls. He might land in a gutter. Or, he could get stuck to a windshield. His teacher reassures him he’ll be okay, and he feels a little better after talking to someone. And, as he looks down from his tree, he starts to notice all the other things that can happen to leaves on the ground. He sees children playing in them and collecting them for craft projects. After seeing that his friends are safe and happy, Lance decides to make the fall. With his teacher and friends cheering him on, he finally lets go.

THOUGHTS: This gentle text highlights social-emotional themes such as anxiety, perfectionism, and facing your fears in a lighthearted way. This is a perfect choice for fall morning meetings and should also be shared with guidance counselors. A final page includes nonfiction facts about deciduous leaves.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Green on Green

White, Dianne. Green on Green. Beach Lane Books, 2020. 978-1-481-46278-5. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Dianne White’s beautifully designed book, illustrated by award-winning Felicita Sala, is an ode to seasons and the colors they bring to the world. The most prominent color, however, is green, which makes an appearance in every season. Sometimes the color green is bold like in spring when the flowers are blooming and the grass is sparkling from a recent rainstorm; other times it is subtle like the snow-covered pines in winter or the color of a sweater in fall. White’s book celebrates the beauty of a year in nature while also showing the beauty of a year in the life of a family. As the seasons change, the family in the book spends time together, enjoying the different events each season brings – flower picking in the spring, seaside bathing in the summer, pumpkin picking in the fall, and wood chopping in the winter. The changes brought on in life are also punctuated by the mother, whose pregnant belly grows with each season until a sibling is born, and the older brother sees the beauty of sharing those seasonal family moments with him.

THOUGHTS: Green on Green is an interesting addition to other children’s books about seasons as it shows how changes in human life can parallel the changing seasons of nature. Children will enjoy searching for the lighthouse, featured on many pages as a permanent symbol of stability while everything else changes around it. With rhyming, musical prose paired with vibrant, detailed illustrations, readers of all ages can find joy reading about the changes each year brings in nature, family, and life.

Picture Book          Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

Picture Books – The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes; Snowflake in my Pocket; Miguel & the Grand Harmony

Compestine, Ying Chang, The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-4197-2542-5. 32pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This variation on the traditional Hans Christian Anderson tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes features nine-year-old boy emperor Ming Da. Ming Da’s corrupt advisors think he is too young to rule, so they take advantage of him, stealing silks, rice, jewels, and gold. When he looks outside the palace windows, Ming Da sees poor, hungry children begging in the streets. He longs to help them, but it isn’t until his tailors come with his new robes for the Chinese New Year parade that Ming Da hatches his plan. Instead of wearing the ornate robes they initially present, Ming Da enlists the tailors’ help in sewing together old rice sacks decorated with vegetable juices. When he appears in front of his advisors wearing these sacks, he explains that they are magical and that only honest people will be able to see their true splendor. Wanting to mask their corruption, the advisors gush about the rice sacks and agree to have the tailors design magical robes for them as well. One by one, the advisors try on their new robes, and they each want to look more splendid than the others. They bring back the silks, rice, jewels, and gold to finance the creation of the supposedly elaborate robes. Ming Da uses the rice, silks, and gold to feed and dress the poor, and on the morning of the New Year’s Day parade, the advisors march behind the young emperor wearing their own rice sack robes. Amongst themselves, they keep up the charade of complementing each other on the clothing’s splendor, but a young boy in the crowd points and laughs at their rice sacks, and the embarrassed advisors flee the country. Ming Da replaces them with honest ministers and rules wisely and fairly for many years. David Roberts’s vibrant pen and ink and watercolor illustrations feature intricate details such as Chinese scrolls and latticework, and the ornate details pop against plain white backgrounds. Careful readers will also enjoy searching for the emperor’s pet cricket and mouse who appear in almost every spread. A note on the final pages describes the author’s personal history with this fairytale and her childhood in China that inspired this retelling.  THOUGHTS:  This retelling will fit nicely with fairytale units and activities where students compare an original fairytale and a variation. Also use it for Chinese New Year celebrations and storytimes.

Picture Book    Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Bright, Rachel. Snowflake in My Pocket. Kane Miller, A Division of EDC Publishing: 2017. 978-1-61067-551-2. 32pp. $12.99. Gr K-2.

This is the gentle story of a wise old bear who has seen many seasons and a young squirrel who has seen only three. Together, the pair explore every corner of their forest home, and one night, Bear declares that the snow is on its way. Squirrel has never seen snow before, and he is overjoyed when he sees a wintery wonderland outside his tree the next morning. He can’t wait to play outside with Bear, but Bear has come down with a cold and must rest in bed. Squirrel promises to have fun for both of them and heads outside for a day of rolling, making snow angels, and building snow bears. Even though Squirrel has fun, he still misses his friend and decides to catch a snowflake to take home to Bear. He finds the perfect one, puts it in his pocket, and heads home. But, when he tries to show Bear the snowflake, there is nothing in his pocket. Bear tenderly explains that snow comes and goes, but other things, like their love for one another, last forever. Snowy scenes pop in Yu Rong’s papercut art, and her detailed illustrations ensure children will notice subtle details with each repeated reading. THOUGHTS: This title is perfect for snowy storytimes, and it could also be used to jumpstart discussions of students’ favorite snowy day activities. Pair this with Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County

 

De la Pena, Matt.  Miguel and the Grand Harmony.  Disney Press, 2017. 978148478149. Unpaged. $17.99.  Gr. K-4.

This beautifully crafted book tells the story of a boy called Miguel who lives in a Mexican village and yearns to play music.  Inspired by the Disney Pixar film Coco, it is told in first person by the muse of music called La Música, who is depicted as a fairy by illustrator Ana Ramírez, an artist at the Pixar studios. De la Pena begins this story by telling the reader how music shapes and is a part of people’s lives in a wedding, quinceañera or a funeral and keeps “gray at bay.”  Músicos play in the village, where we meet the boy watching the musicians, but who are shooed away by his abuelita who states that their music will upset “Madame Coco,” an old woman in a wheelchair.  Unknown to his family, the boy has an attic room where he “plays” a broomstick guitar to recorded music.  Músicos again perform in the village and the boy is enraptured with the sound. Once again his abuelita chases them away.  The boy finds a guitar and begins to teach himself how to play.  The music he creates appears to bring happiness to Madame Coco as she smiles with delight at the boy’s music.  Ramirez’s drawings depict a Mexican village and are done in bright colors with lots of details.  On several pages, she has placed vibrantly colored flowers and music notes, which are small in the beginning of the story, but are huge by the end when the boy plays the guitar.  This lavishly illustrated book is a delight to the eyes. De la Pena has created a book that shows us the importance of music in our world and how it colors and brings harmony to our lives.  This book stands alone for the most part, but there are some questions left unanswered that might be answered in the film. Why is the boy’s abuelita concerned about the music upsetting Madame Coco?  Who is Madame Coco?  Who is the man that played music to “his little girl”? THOUGHTS: This book will be popular with readers who have seen the film.  It will also be useful for music teachers as a read aloud and will inspire young musicians.  The art in this book may make it a Caldecott contender.  De la Pena’s book is a worthwhile purchase and will add diversity to elementary collections.

Picture Book     Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

Elementary – Hello, Spring; Sheep Won’t Sleep; Soldier Song; The Quest for Z

Rotner, Shelley. Hello Spring. Holiday House, 2017. 9780823437528. $16.95. 32p. Gr. K-2.

This book welcomes the arrival of spring with plenty of photographs on every page spread. The story progresses through early spring’s melting snow, to late spring’s arrival of dogwood blossoms, and all the way to the first day of summer and garden vegetables sprouting. Certain words are in a larger type size throughout the book (mostly verbs, but not always) and there is a small glossary on the last page. THOUGHTS: This picture book would be a nice addition to your library. It is similar to other season picture books you probably already have, but the children in the photographs in this book are diverse.

Picture Book                   Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

 

Cox, Judy. Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s. Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3701-6. Unpaged. $16.95. Gr. K-3.

No matter what she tries, Clarissa can’t sleep. Why not try the old standby, counting sheep? She counts 10 sheep and before she knows it they are hanging out in her bedroom! “Try pairs of alpacas,” advise the sheep, so Clarissa counts colorful pairs of alpacas in twos. When this still doesn’t work, she tries patterned llamas in fives and groups of yaks in tens who wear “…woolly coats of many colors…like a wardrobe of winter sweaters.” With a cast of characters crowding her room, Clarissa uses basic addition and subtraction skills to “unwind” for a night of sleep (she unravels the animals into a giant ball of colorful, patterned yard). What to do with a giant ball of colorful yarn? Why get out knitting needles of course! The last pages show Clarissa peacefully sleeping under a new brightly patterned quilt. Cox’s story and illustrator Nina Cuneo’s pen and digital ink illustrations create a fun, brightly colored math-themed bedtime read. THOUGHTS: Highly versatile–use in math class, at bedtime, or with any group of animal lovers.

Picture Book       Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

 

Levy, Debbie. Soldier Song. Disney Press, 2017. 9781484725986. $18.99. 80p. Gr. 2-5.

The Battle of Fredericksburg involved the largest number of soldiers of any battle during the Civil War. It was also a low point for the Union Army since more than 12,000 young men were wounded or killed with another 5,300 being wounded or killed on the Confederate side. After the battle, the soldiers camped on either side of the Rappahannock River to wait out the winter months neither side wanting to give up land. Due to the geography of the area, sounds carried very well from one side of the river to the other, especially the music that both sides used as both a time telling device (like, Reveille and dinnertime) and for entertainment. The divided armies could hear each other songs and would taunt each other by volleying back and forth between different patriotic songs. One day someone started playing the song, “Home, Sweet Home” and both sides joined in. That song and its message of home so touched the young men that they cheered for over half-an-hour. One soldier said in a letter sent home that if the river didn’t separate the two armies they would have come together after that song and settled the war right then. This story includes primary source Civil War letter snippets and song lyrics, in addition to the further information in the back of the book about The Battle of Fredericksburg and the history of the song, “Home, Sweet Home.” THOUGHTS: I loved this book. Not only did I learn facts about the Battle at Fredericksburg, but I walked away feeling hopeful about people. This book is great not just as a positive message about coming together even though we have differing opinions, but also the power of music to bridge the gaps between us. This is a great addition to any library or music teacher’s classroom library. The book includes web links to listen to the songs mentioned in the book.

Historical Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Pizzoli, Greg. The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon. Viking, 2017. 978-0-670-01653-2.  

Another nonfiction winner from the author/illustrator who brought us Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. Greg Pizzoli amazes readers with the life of Percy Fawcett, daring Amazonian explorer and man of mystery. Fawcett was born into a British family of adventurers and took on his own explorations after a military career and training with the Royal Geographical Society in London. He explored in Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru, charting then-unmapped territories and defining borders of r these nations. His South American travels met with many dangers, from aggressive anacondas to equally aggressive native groups, but Fawcett’s quick thinking and bravery usually won out and he completed several missions while making native allies along the way. It was from these people that he first heard of a legendary ancient city in the Amazon; Fawcett referred to the city as “Z” and imagined “…a paradise of grand temples and palaces carved from stone, hidden from modern man deep within the jungle.” In April 1925, Fawcett set off to find Z with only his son Jack, aged 21, Jack’s best friend Raleigh Rimell, basic provisions, a few local guides, and the financial support of several newspapers to whom he sold his story which was carried in snippets by local runners. Fawcett and his party were never seen again. Since Fawcett’s fateful trip in 1925, over 100 people have set off on quests to find Fawcett, or perhaps even Z. None have discovered his fate and some have even disappeared themselves. Pizzoli used a variety of sources including newspaper articles from 1925 and several books that have been written about Fawcett. It’s worth noting that one of Pizzoli’s sources, David Grann’s 2005 “New Yorker” article, is fascinating and would make excellent continued reading for mature readers. Pizzoli’s unusual and enjoyable illustrations provide some comic relief throughout the text. Back matter includes an Author’s Note, information on other Fawcett hunters, a glossary, and selected sources. THOUGHTS: So much more than just a biography, this book will be enjoyed by any reader who likes a little adventure.

910.92                  Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

Picture Books – Annabelle at the South Pole; Mousequerade Ball; Cookie Fiasco; Pigs & a Blanket

Alley, R.W. Annabelle at the South Pole. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 978-0547907048. Unpaged. $14.99. Gr. K-3.

This book is the final book in R.W. Alley’s seasonally themed quartet about four siblings and their imaginative adventures. Annabelle just wants to read her nonfiction book about the South Pole, but her brothers and sister insist on bringing her into their play. She escapes outside to find she is in the arctic and a giant snow monster is heading straight for her! Thinking fast she defeats the snow giant, but takes pity on it and puts it back together again. The abominable snow giant is grateful and carries Annabelle to her desired destination only to find the Wizard (from Mitchell on the Moon) is already there and threatening to melt the South Pole! Annabelle saves the day by grabbing the piping hot cauldron and drinking its contents (which turn out to be chocolate). The last scene is half real life, half imagination as the reader sees Annabelle and her siblings drinking hot chocolate on the front porch, while a penguin peeks out from behind the lamppost. The illustrations are bright and vivid; perfect for bringing young imagination to life.  THOUGHTS: Each book in this series is fine as a stand-alone, but if you read the whole series you get to know the children and recognize recurring elements. I enjoyed Annabelle’s bravery and also the fact that she just wanted to read (when she’s not having adventures in the snow, of course)!

Picture Book     Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

 

Mortensen, Lori. Mousequerade Ball. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-6196-3422-0. 32pp. $16.99. Gr K-3.

In this colorful counting book, mice are preparing for the evening’s main event: a Mousequerade Ball! The story opens with one mouse lighting the fire and progresses until ten mouse ladies fan themselves and gasp, “Cat!” when an unexpected visitor crashes the party. The story then counts down from ten back to one as all the mice scamper away and scramble into hiding places. One brave final mouse realizes the Cat has only come to dance, and the pair waltz around the great hall together. Betsy Lewin’s bright watercolor illustrations are the perfect match for this whimsical story.  THOUGHTS:  Hand this title to kindergarten teachers who are focusing on numbers and counting. The large, boldly-colored illustrations will be perfect for storytime sharing.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

 

Santat, Dan. The Cookie Fiasco. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2016. 978-148-4726365. 50 pp. $9.99. Gr. K -2.  

Hippo, Croc and the Squirrel want to share their cookies, but how will they share them fairly?  So begins the funny adventures that subtly introduce division and fractions to the reader.  With an introduction by Mo Willems beloved Elephant and Piggy, this new series of books entitled “Elephant and Piggy Like Reading” will bring fans of Gerald and Piggy to a new set of crazy fun antics.  With the word bubbles and colorful graphics by Caldecott award winning author and illustrator, Dan Santat, the layout will attract from the beginning.  The fun and silly humor will keep kids coming back for more.  And hey, they will even learn a new vocabulary word to wow their teachers and parents. FIASCO!  THOUGHTS:  This book is a great addition to a unit or introduction to division and fractions for the early learner.  It is a fun and rather “sneaky” way to get students to divide.

Picture Book     Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy

 

 

Burks, James. Pigs and a Blanket. New York: Hyperion, 2016. 978-1-4847-2523-8. 32 pp. $16.99. Gr. Pre-K-1

Henry and Henrietta pig love their green blankie.  They love how it feels.  They love how it smells.  They plan on it.  They play under it.  Then one day, half a blanket just isn’t enough.  They both want it ALL!  In an argument , the blanket gets ripped.  Now brother and sister each have half.  But, they realize that they are missing something even more important.  Each other.  This sweet, highly graphic picture book by James Burks deals with the dilemma of sharing and getting along with siblings in a way that many children will relate to.  The fun illustrations and universal theme of a blankie will help most children find common ground to realize that being together is more important than the things they own.  THOUGHTS:  This is a great addition to an early learning class unit on sharing or getting along.  Students could problem solve with Henry and Henrietta for ways that they could have resolved their dilemma without ripping the blankie.

Picture Book      Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy