Elem. – Acorn Was a Little Wild

Arena, Jen. Acorn Was a Little Wild. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. 978-1-5344-8315-6. 32 pp. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Acorn is a thrill-seeker who is always up for a good time! He gets the most out of whatever life throws his way. From catapulting himself off the branches of an oak tree, to tumbling down a steep hill, to feeling the rain massaging his cap, he wants to experience everything the big, wide world has to offer. When a squirrel buries him deep in the ground, Acorn worries his adventuring days are over. But, it turns out that he’s beginning the biggest adventure of all: growing into an oak tree! Vibrant, digital illustrations in fall hues capture Acorn’s big personality, and readers will enjoy spotting his many new animal friends as he experiences life in different parts of the forest. 

THOUGHTS: This story is a reminder to face life’s inevitable changes with a positive attitude and an open mind. Themes of resiliency and being open to growth also make this title a perfect selection to share during Morning Meetings. Additionally, it will fit well with science units about a tree’s life cycle. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Somewhere in the Bayou

Pumphrey, Jarrett, and Jerome Pumphrey. Somewhere in the Bayou. Norton Young Readers. 978-1-324-01593-2. 48 p. $17.95. Grades K-3. 

One day, an opossum, a squirrel, a rabbit, and a mouse are out for a walk in the bayou. They’re looking for a place to cross the river when they spot a tail poking up out of the water near a floating log. Rabbit notes that it’s a scary tail, but opossum isn’t deterred. He tiptoes across the log, but the tail sweeps him into the river. Then, the animals note it’s a scary tail. Squirrel tries to show his bravery and cross, but he too is swept into the current. Rabbit decides it is a mean tail and pokes it with a stick before he is knocked in the water too. Only Mouse is left, and he tries a different approach. He asks whose tail it is, and these polite words, combined with a kind deed, lead to an unexpected outcome. The entire story is depicted in animals’ speech bubbles and bold, graphic block print illustrations. 

THOUGHTS: This laugh-out-loud title bursts with creativity, but the underlying message about not jumping to conclusions or making snap judgements will be an important conversation starter. In their author biography, the brothers and co-authors note that the idea for this story began with a conversation about assumptions and implicit bias, so these may be topics to touch on as well, perhaps if this title is shared during a classroom Morning Meeting. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

MG – ¡¡Manu!!

Fernandez, Kelly. ¡¡Manu!! Graphix, 2021. 978-1-338-26419-7. $24.99. 192 p. Grades 4-7.

Manu is a young girl who was given over by her family at a young age to live at a convent that is known for raising girls who have magical powers. The headmistress of the school believes Manu has very strong powers that could be used to help many, but Manu just wants to have fun with her magic. Fun often turns into mischief as Manu has trouble controlling her incredibly powerful magic. One of her pranks goes seriously wrong, and her friend, Josefina, wishes for Manu’s powers to disappear. They do disappear, and the girls attempt a dangerous spell to have Manu’s powers restored. Will Manu be able to control her magic before it destroys the people Manu loves?  

THOUGHTS: This graphic novel would be a great read for kids who love fantasy and stories about magic. There is an underlying theme of Manu figuring out who she is and if her friendship with Josephina is more than just friendship.  

Graphic Novel          Krista Fitzpatrick, Abington SD

MG – Lila and Hadley

Keplinger, Kody. Lila and Hadley. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-30609-5. 256. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Hadley has a right to be angry. Her mom is going to jail for stealing money from her boss, so Hadley has to live with the sister she hasn’t seen in three years. To make matters worse, her vision is failing due to retinitis pigmentosa, a condition meaning she will eventually become legally blind. Depressed and angry that her life is spinning out of control, Hadley reluctantly visits the animal rescue where her sister works. Despite not being a “dog-person,” she is surprised when Lila the pitbull takes a liking to her. Since she has no other plans during summer break, Hadley begrudgingly agrees to help foster and train the dog. While Hadley helps Lila, the dog also helps her with mobility training, lessons Hadley takes to learn how to use a cane, and meet a new friend. Together, the pair slowly become comfortable enough for Lila to find her forever home and Hadley to forgive her family for their faults and accept the help and love she needs.

THOUGHTS: A cute but predictable novel that young middle grade students will enjoy, especially animal lovers. The narrator’s casual language and the easy ending may be off putting to some readers, but the book will be a good addition to an upper elementary or middle grade collection needing diverse stories.

Realistic Fiction          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD