MG – Answers in the Pages

Levithan, David. Answers in the Pages. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2022. 176 p. 978-0-593-48468-5. Grades 4-8. $17.99.

“At that moment Rick knew just how deeply he loved Oliver, and Oliver knew just how deeply he loved Rick…” One’s interpretation of a single statement can make all the difference. The statement itself might be less noticeable depending on where it is seen or heard and the surrounding context. When the The Adventurers, a book being read by Donovan’s fifth grade class, is picked up at home by his mother, she decides it is inappropriate for him to read. It doesn’t take her long to get on the phone with Donovan’s friends’ moms either and schedule a meeting with the school. Donovan only read the first few pages in class but can’t see what his mom would think is wrong about a book where kids go on adventures. Before he returns to class without his copy of The Adventurers (because his mom hasn’t returned it), Donovan stops by the school library to get a copy so he can see what’s “so bad.” Because his mom drew so much attention to the book, several classmates have finished reading and the kids have honest, open discussions with each other and their teacher Mr. Howe who is openly gay. Told in short, alternating chapters, Donovan’s story unfolds; alongside Gideon’s, another elementary school-aged boy; and Rick and Oliver’s, the characters from the book being challenged. Readers will see what happens when a book’s content is challenged – how it impacts the teacher, the students, and families who may not agree with each other.

THOUGHTS: Timely and full of heart, Answers in the Pages is a book that should be in every upper elementary and middle school library! Highly recommended for readers who will be able to follow three separate narratives.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Donovan really enjoys his English class, mostly because of his teacher. When his teacher assigns a book called The Adventurers, Donovan is looking forward to reading it. However, after leaving it out on the kitchen counter one day, he discovers that his mother has read the book – and decides to launch a book challenge. Donovan’s mother interprets the last line of the book to mean that the two male main characters are gay, and she takes issue with this. Donovan finds himself in the middle of a fight that polarizes the school community and pits him against both his favorite English teacher and his mother. Donovan has to examine his own beliefs and decide what he thinks is right, even if it means upsetting someone he cares about. Aside from the main thread of this story, there are two other stories interwoven throughout the book. One is of Gideon and Roberto who are paired up for a school project and develop feelings for each other; the other is about Rick and Oliver, the main characters in the very book Donovan’s mom is challenging. All three stories connect together at the end.

THOUGHTS: With curricular book challenges at an all-time high, Leviathan’s timely book provides a window for students who might be facing the same complicated situations in their own homes.  Leviathan writes from experience as many of his own books have been challenged in schools across the country. All librarians, teachers, parents, politicians, and school board members should read this book. Answers in the Pages is a must-buy for all middle grade libraries.

Realistic Fiction           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Social and Emotional Learning (Series NF)

Krekelberg, Alyssa. Social and Emotional Learning. The Child’s World, 2021. $228.00 (set of 12), $18.95 (individual titles). Grades K-3.

Doing the Right Thing: Making Responsible Decisions. 978-1-503-84450-6.
Finding Solutions: Problem Solving.
978-1-503-84451-3.
Helping Friends and Family: Taking Care of Others.
978-1-503-84449-0.
Know Your Feelings: Recognizing Emotions.
978-1-503-84452-0.
Let’s Get Along: Resolving Conflict
. 978-1-503-84458-2.
No One is the Same: Appreciating Differences. 978-1-503-84456-8.
Setting Boundaries: Learning about Healthy Relationships. 978-1-503-84457-5.
Stop and Think: Learning about Self-Discipline. 978-1-503-84448-3.
We Need Each Other: Being a Good Friend. 978-1-503-84447-6.
We Work Together: Learning about Teamwork. 978-1-503-84455-1.
When Things Get Tough: Overcoming Obstacles. 978-1-503-84454-4.
Worrying Too Much: Learning How to Manage Stress. 978-1-503-84453-7.

Social situations can be difficult for children; they do not have the social experiences that allow them to develop understanding of interpersonal communication and relationships. This SEL series helps children develop understanding of situations they may have encountered or will in the future. Each text is divided into chapters that begin with a vignette that explores a realistic situation and the emotions that are involved in it. Throughout the chapter, ideas on how to respond and questions for reflection are presented. The questions help children reflect on their own experiences and consider the feelings of others in the same situation.  Each text includes a glossary (words are highlighted throughout the text) and a section to learn more about the topic.

THOUGHTS: This is an excellent series for young children to explore their feelings through very realistic situations. The series includes 12 titles. This reviewer had the opportunity to two review Let’s Get Along: Resolving Conflict and No One is the Same: Appreciating Differences. Each individual chapter can be used for character education and development and could easily be divided into short 15-20 minute lessons. This series is highly recommended for all elementary schools for use in the classroom and library especially in our current environment where students are lacking SEL and interpersonal skills due to more isolation from the pandemic.

Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem./MG – Perfectly Imperfect Stories : Meet 28 Inspiring People And Discover Their Mental Health Stories

Potion, Leo. Perfectly Imperfect Stories : Meet 28 Inspiring People And Discover Their Mental Health Stories. Lawrence King Publishing, 2021. 978-1-786-27920-0. $17.99. 58 p. Grades 3-7. 

28 famous people, both historical figures of note and pop culture icons of the last few years, are highlighted in this book as a way to normalize the conversation around mental health issues. Each brief biography covers the background, struggle, and hopeful outcome of a person who has grappled in the past with conditions like eating disorders, panic attacks, PTSD, and depression. Quirky, colorful illustrations decorate almost every page, drawing in the reader and helping to lighten the overall mood of this important book. A brief but heartwarming forward, helpful back matter, and a detailed bibliography offer opportunities for students to explore further information about mental health, suicide prevention, and the stories of famous lives that may look perfect from the outside, but contain untold struggles on the inside.

THOUGHTS: This book delivers the powerful message that no one is too rich, popular, smart, or successful to be immune from mental health struggles, and does it in an appealing package that should draw in elementary and middle school level students. Pop culture figures do come in and out of style, but there are notable people from the past mentioned as well, giving this book more potential longevity. This could be a great leaping-off book for biography studies as well.

616.89 Mental Health Stories          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

YA – One of the Good Ones

Moulite, Maika, and Maritza Moulite. One of the Good Ones. Inkyard Press, 2021. 978-1-335-14580-2. 384 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Teen YouTube activist and influencer Kezi Smith dies under police custody following her arrest at a social justice rally on her eighteenth birthday. Instantly immortalized as a martyr in the fight against police brutality, Kezi’s family is devastated by loss. While her pastor parents want to preserve and protect Kezi’s memory, sisters Happi and Genny look for a unique way to honor her. Embarking on the trip Kezi planned to take following an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book, the sisters and friends Ximena (Kezi’s girlfriend) and Derek go on a journey to reconnect with the Smith’s African American family history and remember Kezi. Tormented by her broken relationship with Kezi, the trip is an opportunity for Happi to understand her older sister, who she feels like she didn’t truly know. Together they will learn more about Kezi, each other, and their family’s history. A surprising twist won’t shock careful readers, but the alternate time periods may challenge struggling readers.

THOUGHTS: This title examines what it means to be remembered and who gets to be called “one of the good ones.” Recommended for high school collections where social justice and social issue titles are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem/MG/YA – Affecting Lives: Drugs & Addiction (Series NF)

Affecting Lives: Drugs & Addiction. Child’s World, 2021. 32 p. $21.00 Grades 5-8.

Artanne, K.A. Methamphetamines Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844957.
Ayarbe, Heidi. Tranquilizers and Depressants Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844896.
Bjornlund, Lydia. Steroids Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844964.
Ford, Jeanne. E-Cigarettes Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-84487-2.
—. Prescription Opioids Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844902.
Havemeyer, Janie. Marijuana Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844858.
London, Martha. Adderall Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844889.
MacCarald, Clara. Heroin Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844919.
Martin, Holly B. Cocaine Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844926.
Rea, Amy C. Alcohol Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844865.
—. Inhalants Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844940.
Storm, Ashley. Hallucinogens Affecting Lives. 978-1-503-844933.

This Hi-Lo series is intended for grades 3-6, and would work for middle and high school collections. Each book opens with a two-page Fast Facts about the drugs, defining them, stating how they are used, and the physical and mental effects. Four chapters each begin with a personal story of a person who used the drug, or a family member. These will draw in readers who will be introduced to or can relate to the scenarios and emotions involved. Posed stock photos help to show appropriate situations, such as worried family members or helpful medical staff. Each personal story shares the beginning of the drug use to the complications and follows through to help received through social workers, counselors, and rehabilitation. These positive outcomes communicate hope even in difficult situations. Each book closes with questions to think about, glossary, extra resources, and an index. Online resources via a ChildsWorld.com/links lead to kidshealth.org and drugabuse.gov, suitable for older children and teens. Titles seen for this review: Tranquilizers and Depressants and Prescription Opioids.

THOUGHTS: Well-done resources suitable for helping younger students to understand the dangers of addictions and options for recovery.        

610s Drug Abuse          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Grades 3-5.

Drug use, especially prescription drug use, opioids, and e-cigarettes, is prevalent in society. This set of twelve books brings awareness of the effects different addictive substances can have on a person. This reviewer had the opportunity to read Adderall: Affecting Lives. Each of the four chapters is written as a personal story and through each story, the reader learns about how adderall can affect lives in both positive and negative ways and how to get help in case of addiction. This book features bold words that are defined in the back, headings, fast facts, and back matter that includes resources for further exploration on the topic. The chapters are written in language that is easy to understand yet appropriate for a young audience.

THOUGHTS: The titles in this collection would be a good purchase for an upper elementary library or a middle grade library that includes grades five and six. 

615.5 Drug, Alcohol, and Substance Abuse           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

YA – From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: the Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement

Yoo, Paula. From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement. Norton Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-324-00287-1. $19.95. Grades 9 and up.

Journalist Paula Yoo employs the device of Jarod Lew’s connection with the brutal murder of Chinese-American Vincent Chin in 1982 Detroit to reveal the timeline and details of the landmark event. Lew discovers his mother was the grief-stricken fiancé of Chin, and Yoo uses his discovery as a way to connect the reader with the present—another time where racism against Asian-American/Pacific Islanders (AAPI) has surfaced. Lew’s narrative appears intermittently while the remainder of the narrative non-fiction work lays out the altercation, aftermath, and legal ramifications between the groom-to-be Chin and Ronald Ebens, an autoworker supervisor and his adult stepson, Michael Nitz. The only son of Chinese immigrants, twenty-seven year old Vincent Chin was a go-getter out for a bachelor party with his pals before his June wedding to Vikki Wong when he encountered Ebens and Nitz at a strip bar. The two groups exchanged heated words and engaged in a brawl that got them ejected from the bar and continued into the night. Ebens retrieved a baseball bat from the trunk of his car, searched with his stepson for the group, and eventually ambushed Chin and beat him to death. Though Ebens and Nitz were arrested and tried for second-degree murder, they received the light sentence of only a $3,000 fine and probation, shocking Chin’s widowed mother, Lily Chin, the Asian American community of Detroit, and many others. Yoo recounts the original hearings, the court proceedings, the arguments of both the defense and the prosecution, and the observations of the young police officers first on the scene. Though Ebens and Nitz could not be tried a second time for the same crime, the mishandling of justice empowered the Asian-American/Pacific Islander community to form the American Citizens for Justice (ACJ) and take a firm stand protesting for their civil rights to be upheld. Their efforts instigated a federal grand jury to indict the pair with interfering with Chin’s civil rights. Told in straight-forward style, Yoo maintains her objective view, balancing the outrage AAPI felt about what they perceived was a hate crime with the protestations of the accused to the contrary. The context of the murder is the fallout from a once prosperous city decaying chiefly because its main, lucrative industry—cars—has been usurped by Japanese companies. The particulars of the initial dispute between Ebens and Nitz and the victim, Chin, may never be known; but Yoo records all the iterations as the years go on and memories shift. Even the perpetrators admit it was a senseless act, fueled by drunkenness and intense anger. The author makes clear the murder and what followed was instrumental in making AAPI stand up for their rights, but whether or not the attack was racially motivated can be sorted out in the readers’ minds. Includes timeline, extensive notes, index, photographs.

THOUGHTS: Written in narrative non-fiction style, From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry. . .reads like a court drama. Yoo provides background on the major players, but is true to the script. She is even-handed giving both profiles of Chin, Ebens and Nitz, and the involved legal teams from both sides. The handling of the case from the beginning smacks of white privilege, but Yoo just lays out the facts and remains unbiased. The facts, too, shift depending on who tells them and what year they are told (the murder happened in 1982 but appeals lasted until 1987). This important book contains plenty of material for discussion; but for personal reading, the heavy topic may make the book more suited for more sophisticated readers.

305.895 Ethnic and National Groups           Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

On June 19, 1982, in Detroit, Michigan, Vincent Chin, an Asian American, was beaten by Ronald Ebens, a white man, with a baseball bat. Chin died from his injuries. This is a fascinating look at the time and place surrounding this event and their impact on the reactions of the people and the community involved. This book takes readers through the event and the trials following. It also describes the impact on the Asian American community and their reaction. The despair, the outrage – and ultimately, the activism that developed as the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Communities found their voice and their purpose. Wrapped around this story is the tale of Jared Lew, his discovery of the event and his connection to Vincent Chin. This is Jared’s tale of how he found out the story of the cataclysmic event that triggered the voice of the Asian American community and how this event connected him to his family and his heritage. The book presents an in-depth look at the people affected by Mr. Chin’s murder and the fallout in the community and across the nation.

THOUGHTS: This is a fascinating look at a time period and a set of events that are not well known to most people but are pivotal for the Asian America and Pacific Islanders Community. Recommended for high school libraries who want to broaden their appeal to minority groups.

305.895 Racism.  Susan Kidron, Lebanon SD

Elem. – Lubaya’s Quiet Roar

Nelson, Marilyn. Lubaya’s Quiet Roar. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-525-55555-1. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-Grade 2.

Lubaya is a young, African American introvert. She sits quietly at school, rarely ever raising her hand, and she spends most of her time at home drawing pictures behind the couch while her family watches television. She does listen to the TV, however, and writes down words and pictures that express her understanding of the news. Therefore, when it comes time to march against injustice, it is her pictures that the protestors hold. In this way, Lubaya makes her voice heard without ever having to raise it. An inspirational story about the power of quiet action, this book will encourage bashful students to use their strengths and talents for the greater good.

THOUGHTS: This is a very relevant story for this extraordinary time in our nation’s history. With protests and upheavals becoming so commonplace in our society, I think it is important to remind children and adults alike that perhaps there are ways to achieve our goals by means other than noise and violence. Additionally, it is important that we encourage our shy, introverted students to get involved in whatever capacity best suits them. Overall, this is a solid title that deserves a place on every elementary shelf.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Rise Up! The Art of Protest

Rippon, Jo. Rise Up! The Art of Protest. Charlesbridge, 2020. 978-1-623-54150-7. 60 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Human rights are important to all of us which is why when they are threatened, many artists create work that peacefully protests and raises awareness. This book is sectioned into six different topics of protest that have been around for years and are still ongoing, including climate change, gender equality, and LGBTQIA+ rights. Each section describes a bit about the history of the struggle and features artwork in various mediums that supported the cause. Captions accompany each piece of artwork to explain the powerful meaning behind it. But in many cases the artwork, the creation of which spans over the past century, speaks for itself.

THOUGHTS: Rise Up! is written in child-friendly language which makes it easy for young readers to understand the cause behind the protest. The artwork in this book is carefully and thoughtfully chosen and shows the power a paintbrush (or camera or crayon) can have. For adolescents figuring out their place in the world around them, this book can be crucial in helping them see the power young people can have. Written in collaboration with Amnesty International, this is a must-have for librarians and teachers who want to curate a collection of books that bring awareness to social issues.

322.4 Social Issues and Peaceful Protest        Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

MG – This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work

Jewell, Tiffany. This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020. 978-0-711-24521-1. 160 p. $13.09. Grades 5-8.

This handbook provides readers with the answers about racism in America that young people seek but many adults do not have the answers to. Readers will explore more about themselves, how racism came to be, why it has yet to disappear, and how to actively work against racism. A glossary of terms will help beginners understand novel vocabulary words like complicity, assimilate, neurodiverse, and  BIPoC. Graphic art colors every few pages, and activities are provided at natural stopping points to help the reader fully understand and reflect on difficult concepts. The author writes about their own experience so that those who have experienced racism feel heard and others learn about a real person’s experience with racism. Although this book teaches readers about social activism, its main purpose is for readers to help dismantle and work toward ending racism.

THOUGHTS: This book can be used as a workbook to help discover more about oneself or used in book clubs to encourage conversation with others. I recommend this book to every educator seeking to better support their students. I personally like that it is small enough to be carried in a purse, backpack, or back pocket. Any person troubled by current events will benefit from reading this book, especially the section about Taking Action and Responding to Racism.

305.8 Racism          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

MG/YA – Drugs and their Dangers (Series NF)

Erickson, Marty. Drugs and their Dangers. BrightPoint Press, 2020. $30.95 ea. $154.75 set of 5. 80 p. Grades 6-12.

E-cigarettes and their Dangers. 978-1-682-82705-5.
Heroin and Its Dangers. 1-682-82707-0.
Marijuana and Its Dangers. 978-1-682-82709-3.
Methamphetamine and Its Dangers. 978-1-682-82711-6.
Opioids and Their Dangers. 978-1-682-82713-0.

In four chapters each book in this series explores a type of drug, how the drug affects the body and society, and the treatment for drug abuse. A “Fact Sheet” introduces the reader to the topic while an introduction dives into a teenager’s personal account of being addicted to the drug, an explanation of how people can become addicted, or how the drug became popular in the United States. Each book also includes a Glossary, Source Notes, and pages with additional sources for students to research the topic further.

THOUGHTS: This series is a good addition to a middle school or high school collection. The simple sentence structure and generous amount of white space between lines of text makes each book easy for older students who may struggle with reading but are interested in the topic.

362.29 Addiction          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD