Elem. – Bike & Trike

Verdick, Elizabeth, and Brian Biggs. Bike & Trike. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-41517-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Switching to a “big kid bike” is a rite of passage for children, but what about the emotions that the vehicles go through?? Bike is new and shiny and ready to roll, while still having lots to learn. Trike is trusty and experienced, though a bit beat up and too small. When the two first meet in anthropomorphic fashion, they go through some initial reactions. Then a race challenge brings out further emotions, and eventually a Bike & Trike find mutual respect and come to a satisfying conclusion. Verdick and Biggs have hit on an emotional ride that will have reader’s ready to hop on and enjoy!

THOUGHTS: As a social emotional discussion book, there is plenty to unpack here. However, it is just as useful as an entertaining read for bike lovers. Perhaps my favorite extension would be a writing lesson to imagine what stories the rest of the things in any child’s garage (or basement or closet…) might tell if they could share and grow like Bike & Trike.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

MG – Golden Arm

Deuker, Carl. Golden Arm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. $17.99. 978-0-358-01242-9 . Grades 5-8.

Sixteen-year-old Laz Weathers may be slow, but he sees his future baseball prospects pretty clearly. His solid pitching gets no real training and won’t get noticed in his small, poor district. His own weak academics, his stutter, and his ‘tics’ in response to anxiety don’t do him any favors, either. It’s Laz’s younger half-brother, Alberto, who people respond to, and who will speak up when Laz can’t or won’t. But this summer, Alberto’s father has returned and moved in with their mom in their trailer park, causing initial resentment and adjustment by both boys. Laz convinces Alberto to stick with the scrappy baseball team led by Coach L—, who coaxes and cajoles thirteen youths to join the team, then badgers coaches of established teams to compete. Thanks to Laz’s pitching, they often win, which gets him noticed. Laz learns that his family must move (the trailer park will be razed for a high-rise) and that his district will eliminate baseball for his senior year. This allows Laz to join another team, if they’ll have him. A coach who noticed his “golden arm” will give Laz a chance, but can he leave when Alberto is being drawn into drug dealing? Just when Laz has the perfect chance to shine in a championship game, Laz learns his brother is in serious danger from his drug-abusing friends, and it doesn’t matter if Alberto has used, sold, or not–he’s the immediate target. Laz’s choices show his character and alter everything for his future.

THOUGHTS: Deuker shines with baseball scenes and infuses each interaction with tension and a sense of doom. This is hard to put down and will pull in baseball fans and non-fans (the sports writing is that superb). Readers will root for Laz, even as they see everything stacked against him. When the novel ends, I found myself wondering about a sequel showing Laz’s choices in a tough environment over the next 5-10 years, and how his integrity will be tested. This powerful, timeless novel melds baseball with the pressures of class status, mixes dreams with hard reality, and the result is a first-choice novel not to be missed.

Sports Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Talkin’ Sports (Series Nonfiction)

Talkin’ Sports. The Child’s World, 2020. $20.00 ea. $160 set of 8. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

Buckley, James. Talkin’ Baseball. 978-150383-571-9.
—. Talkin’ Basketball. 978-150383-574-0.
—. Talkin’ Lacrosse. 978-150383-576-4.
—. Talkin’ Motor Sports. 978-150383-577-1.
—. Talkin’ Soccer. 978-150383-573-3.
Gigliotti, Jim. Talkin’ Football. 978-150383-572-6.
—. Talkin’ Golf & Tennis. 978-150383-578-8.
—. Talkin’ Hockey. 978-150383-575-7.

“Play sports? Watch sports? Talk sports!” That’s the tagline for this series highlighting special sports terms, insider phrases, comical or descriptive terms, and player nicknames. Fans of these sports will want to check up on their lingo–historical and modern-day–and add some understanding to their use of it as they go. They may even think of plenty more to add to the mix. For example, “The slugger ripped a frozen rope into the gap and pulled up with a two-bagger.” Baseball translation: “A powerful hitter smashed a line drive (further defined) between two outfielders (further defined) & ran to second base.” These books will cause laughter, and comments such as, “that’s right” or “I didn’t know that was why…” as fans feel a bit more at home watching, playing, and talking sports. For the uninitiated, these books can solidify the lingo.

THOUGHTS: A fun series suitable for upper elementary and middle school. ( Titles reviewed: Talkin’ Baseball and Talkin’ Football.)

796 Sports          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Chirp

Messner, Kate. Chirp. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-547-60281-0. 227 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Mia and her family leave Boston to move back to Vermont in order to help Mia’s Gram sell her failing cricket farm. Strange things have been happening at Gram’s cricket farm, and Mia suspects sabotage by the man interested in buying the farm. Mia joins two summer camps, Launch Camp & Warrior Camp, at her mother’s request to keep her busy during the summer. At Launch Camp, Mia meets Clover who is instantly invested in helping Mia figure out what is going on at the cricket farm and in building a business plan to help the farm. Along with Anna, the girls create a robot to harvest crickets, a social media campaign (with the #ChirpChallenge), and a plan to pitch to several local businesses to hopefully gain investors. Clover decides to join Mia at Warrior Camp where Mia’s past gymnastic experience impacts her ability to perform. Each week Mia builds her confidence and strength up in order to confront an uncomfortable situation from her past. The girls form a strong friendship and work together to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill Gram’s cricket farm.

THOUGHTS: Messner does it again! This beautifully written, coming of age story is timely and offers readers a glimpse into the struggle kids face with speaking up. The story approaches the #metoo topic with grace and is appropriate to middle grade readers. Filled with plot twists, red herrings, and other elements of mystery, this book is a quick read and sure to delight fans of Messner’s work!

Mystery          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Mia’s family moves from Boston to Vermont to be near her grandmother, and Mia is glad for the change. Since she broke her arm at gymnastics, and despite her skill and enjoyment of the sport, she is relieved to give it up. She hasn’t told anyone about Coach Phil’s uncomfortable attention. If it wasn’t all right, wouldn’t an adult have stepped in? And besides, everyone likes Phil. Mia did, too, until hugs became too tight, his texts became personal, and finally, he gave her a friendly back rub she didn’t want. Mia felt “icky” around Phil, but nothing was wrong, was it? Now in Vermont, she finds an old photograph of herself and wonders if she can ever again be the brave girl who smiled as she jumped from the rocks into Lake Champlain with friends. In the meantime, she helps with her grandma’s cricket farm, caring for the crickets, working on advertising, and more. However, as more problems occur, her grandma is worried about sabotage and keeping the business afloat. Mia knows her mom wonders about her grandma’s memory and wishes her grandma would slow down.  But as Mia learns more, she and her friends begin to look into the problems. Could an outsider be trying to put her grandma out of business? Mia has spent time lately learning to be quiet, unnoticed, and unquestioned. But finding out the truth, and sticking up for another girl, helps her to find her voice. Mia learns that it’s not about finding her way back to the brave girl she once was, but finding her way forward, and she gets to decide for herself who she will be.

THOUGHTS: Messner expertly molds the serious issue of grooming and abuse into a coming of age mystery appropriate for upper elementary and middle school readers. Mia is a likeable personality, and readers will cheer for her as she stands up for herself and others and uses her voice once more.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Mia’s family is moving back to Vermont after living in Boston for a few years. Mia, a seventh grader, is happy about this move, as she gets to spend more time with her entomologist grandmother who owns a cricket farm. Mia is recovering from a gymnastics accident, but we learn that there was more damage than a broken arm from Tumblers Gymnastics in Boston.  With her parents making her choose two camps to participate in over the summer, Mia chooses Launch, an entrepreneurship camp that helps Mia save her Gram’s farm, and Warrior Camp, a parkour camp that helps Mia come to grips with her inner athlete. In her camps she makes lasting friendships that help her solve the mystery of who is sabotaging her Gram’s cricket farm and gives her the strength to face the secret she has been hiding from her parents.

THOUGHTS: This book is a must purchase for any middle grade library. Addressing all of the controversy surrounding gymnastics recently in a very appropriate way for middle schoolers (Mia’s male coach massages her shoulders and sends “friendly” texts and is generally just a bit too friendly in a creepy way), this novel focuses on female relationships and empowerment.

Realistic Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

MG – Dragon Hoops; When Stars Are Scattered; Gold Rush Girl; Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor

Yang, Gene Luen. Dragon Hoops. First Second, 2020. 978-1-626-72079-4. 446 p. $19.99. Grades 7+.

Gene Luen Yang has always hated sports, but he loves stories, especially writing and drawing graphic novels. He’s in need of a new idea for his next book when he overhears students at Bishop O’Dowd (the Oakland, CA, high school where he teaches) talking about the biggest story on campus: the basketball team! Yang ventures across campus and gets to know Coach Lou, who graduated from Bishop O’Dowd in 1989 and played ball with the Dragons. He’s been to the state championship game once as a player and five times as a coach but has never brought home the trophy. There are two reasons this year might finally be the Dragons’ year: Ivan Rabb and Paris Austin. As Yang gets to know their stories, he realizes that they are every bit as thrilling as the comics he loves. But unlike a superhero story, in basketball there is no guarantee that the heroes will always win. Yang skillfully weaves high-energy, game-changing moments from the history of basketball with Coach Lou’s equally high-stakes 2015 season. This very successfully paces the drama and also helps readers better understand the action on the court during game scenes. Throughout Dragon Hoops, themes of breaking barriers, challenging one’s own limits, and literally changing the game (even at the risk of making a big mistake) are depicted with the motif of feet stepping and the word “STEP,” cueing the reader that a pivotal moment is at hand.

THOUGHTS: Gene Luen Yang was the 2016-2017 Library of Congress’ National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (a position currently held by Jason Reynolds). His skill as both an artist and a storyteller is fabulously showcased in Dragon Hoops. Throughout the book, Yang debates whether or not to include Mike Phelps, retired O’Dowd teacher and Dragons coach, in the story. At the risk of a spoiler, Phelps resigned following a molestation charge that was never prosecuted. The charge is not described in detail but Yang includes it in the narrative.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Jamieson, Victoria, and Omar Mohamed. When Stars are Scattered. Dial, 2020. 978-0-525-55391-5. 257 p. + notes. $20.99. Grades 3-8.

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have been living in a Kenyan refugee camp since fleeing Somalia at the age of 4. Omar’s life consists of taking care of Hassan, with the assistance of Fatuma, an elderly woman who has been appointed the boys’ guardian. UN supplied food rations are meager and entertainment is what can be manufactured, such as playing soccer with a ball created from plastic bags. Omar has not gone to school, feeling responsible for Hassan. But a camp community leader encourages Omar to begin attending school, and a new world  opens to Omar. But it can be a painful world, of crushed dreams and disappointments. Brilliant student Maryam who dreams of going to university in Canada, is forced to quit school and get married. The system of choosing people for possible relocation to the United States seems random, and when Omar and Hassan are finally chosen for an emigration interview, nothing comes of it. But Omar continues to study and dream. When Omar is 18 the brothers are finally selected for resettlement. This stunning autobiography portrays, in beautiful color palettes, the reality of life in a refugee camp. Living conditions are horrific, but there are also close bonds of people who care for and support each other. Omar’s horrific backstory is revealed during his first resettlement interview, explaining how he and Hassan came to be in the  camp alone at such a young age. Author notes at the end of the story update the reader on the brothers’ story after reaching the United States, including the delightful surprise that Omar is currently living in Lancaster, PA.

THOUGHTS: This important story is a must purchase for most libraries. It carries the gravitas of Jarrett Krosocka’s Hey Kiddo, but appropriate for a younger audience.

Autobiography          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

As Omar so succinctly states in the word bubble on the back cover: “Refugee Camps are supposed to be a temporary place to stay until it’s safe to go back home. I guess no one expected the war to last so long, though, because Hassan and I have been here for 7 years.” With gorgeous colors and interesting characters, Jamieson and Mohamed take us through childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya. The monotony of daily essential routines for survival are mixed with increasing odds against finding their mother or going back home to Somalia. What remains is the effort to take care of one another, the opportunity to get schooling and seek a future, and the slightest chance to immigrate to another country for a new beginning. All of these seem unlikely for Omar, who faces tragic memories, current realities, and future possibilities with truth and sincerity that will bring young readers into his world and into their hearts. When the Stars Are Scattered is a remarkable light in the night sky which guides hope home.

THOUGHTS: Both Pennsylvania residents do an excellent job bringing the refugee experience to children. The sibling relationship with Hassan, who is nonverbal except for one word, is truly touching and real. The afterword and authors’ notes bring the story up to date, and help realize the many other refugee stories that need to be heard. Highly recommended.

Graphic Novel          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Avi. Gold Rush Girl. Candlewick, 2020. 978-1-536-20679-1. 306 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Victoria Blaisdell finds life as a thirteen-year-old young lady in Providence, Rhode Island quite boring. She desires action, independence, and adventure. This is not how young ladies act in 1848. Her sole escape is sneaking off to the library and checking out stacks of books to read in private. She adores her younger brother, Jacob, but realizes her parents are under the control of her domineering aunt. All this changes when her father loses his job in an economic panic. While her parents dither, Tory obtains a job. Then the news comes of a gold strike in California. Tory’s father sees this as the answer to his woes and determines he and Jacob will sail for California. Tory is just as determined to go along, eventually stowing away on the ship. Life in San Francisco is not at all what the Blaisdells expected to find. Eventually Tory and Jacob are left behind in their tent home in the muddy, crude city, while their father heads to the gold fields. Resourceful Tory finds construction work and other odd jobs to support herself and Jacob, but Jacob becomes bored and dissatisfied. Is Tory too enthralled with her freedom and new friends to notice Jacob’s unhappiness? When Jacob goes missing, she knows she must find him before her father returns and their mother arrives. Tory, a memorable female character, strong, intelligent, and independent, guides the reader through gold rush in San Francisco. The sprawling, brawling town is no place for a lady, but Tory makes it her own. Avi brings the era to life, from the muddy, miserable tent cities to the brutish practice of crimping – kidnapping men to work on ships whose crews have deserted to search for gold. While some readers may find the exposition in the first half of the book a bit slow, once Tory is on the hunt for Jacob the suspense keeps you reading until the very end.

THOUGHTS:  Another meticulous book from a master. Tory is a memorable young lady, and the images of gold rush San Francisco will remain long after the book is complete.

Historical Fiction           Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD
(1849 California Gold Rush)


Carter, Ally. Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-39370-2. 322 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Carter brings the delightfully snappy writing, humor, and plot of her Gallagher Girls series to the middle grade set. April is used to moving from home to home, as she is temporarily without a parent (DON’T call her an orphan. Her mom is coming back for her. Someday. Soon.). She has experienced foster care, good and bad, as well as group homes. While on a field trip to the opening of the Winterborne Gallery, April is shocked to see the Winterborne family crest is identical to that on the one item she has from her mother, a key she wears on a chain around her neck. Everyone knows the tragic story of the wealthy Winterbornes. The perfect family was killed when their boat exploded, all except young Gabriel Winterborne. He, however, disappeared from sight on his 21st birthday, leaving the family fortune in limbo. Now the ancestral manor houses a select group of orphans, and after a small incident involving setting the museum on fire, April is invited to move to the home, joining Sadie, Violet, Tim, and Colin. April isn’t there long before she realizes someone is sneaking around the house at night. Utilizing spy skills that will surely earn her a scholarship to the Gallagher Academy, April, with the very able assistance of her new friends, begins to unravel the long buried secrets of the Winterborne family. And, along the way she discovers there are different kinds of family and home.

THOUGHTS: Young mystery fans will love this first book in a new series. Plucky characters, boo-worthy, villains and a fast moving plot will be sure to captivate readers.

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – River; Truman; What Kind of Car Does a T. Rex Drive; The Panda Problem; Hats are Not for Cats; Mini Rabbit is Not Lost; Girls with Guts; Superbuns; A Computer Called Katherine; Bilal Cooks Daal

Cooper, Elisha. River. Orchard Books, 2019. 978-1-338-31226-3. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.

“Humans are bound to water….We are connected by water, more connected than we know.” Elisha Cooper ends her author’s notes with these words, connected to a picture of a family discussing the trip. At the start of the story readers see the same scene, and in between is one woman’s solo canoe journey down the Hudson River. It becomes a 300 mile testament to this statement by Elisha Cooper. When the woman leaves her home and family one morning and turns to wave back to them, readers are none the wiser to what lay ahead, but I suspect that she knows! Ahead are various wild animals, river obstacles, weather challenges, and people and places both expected and unbelievable. Taking on the Hudson and ever moving onward, Cooper gives us short, poetic observations accompanying gorgeous detailed water colors. Readers will empathize and connect with the woman’s journey as she sees beauty and faces solitude. The pacing of the story is ideal, lulling readers along the current and then rapidly increasing around the next turn. By the end of the journey and the reunion of her family at the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the connection between humans, the environment, and the river flows through us all.

THOUGHTS: This river experience may not be something that many kids can experience, but I think they will appreciate it and pause often to consider her journey. They can follow the map, make predictions, and ask questions as they read – maybe by journaling and sketching themselves! Cooper’s other works would make for an extended author study and insight into researching and writing.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Reidy, Jean, and Lucy Ruth Cummins. Truman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-41664-2. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

The life of a sweet pet tortoise named Truman is pretty chill most days. The city down below rumbles on while Truman and Sarah stayed quietly above together. Then one day, Sarah preps a backpack, leaves extra snacks for Truman, and gets on the southbound bus. Truman waits as patiently as can be, until it is time for action so that he can reunite with Sarah. His journey seems impossible, and the perfect, colorful illustrations by Lucy Ruth Cummins give perspective to his challenges. Young readers will be surprised at what happens next and what secret lives their pets may have when they are off at school!!

THOUGHTS: As the owner of both a land turtle and water turtle who have escaped and gone on adventures, this tender story hits some sentimental notes! Pair this with other pet stories, such as Memoirs of a Goldfish, to let young readers see point of view and perspective before trying to write their own narrative pet tales!

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Lee, Mark. What Kind of Car Does a T. Rex Drive? G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. 978-1-524-74123-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Uncle Otto owns a car lot and is surprised when a number of dinosaurs come shopping for a car. One by one, each dinosaur looks for a car that will suit him or her. Stegosaurus finds an off-the road vehicle so that he can find some plants in the forest. Pterodactyl buys a convertible, so he can feel the breeze as he drives to the ocean to find some fish to eat. Triceratops purchases a delivery van, so she can get in through the back doors. Uncle Otto and the children are concerned when T. Rex appears and is not pleased with the options. Finally, the children find the answer- a monster truck! Brian Riggs’s humorous illustrations are done in brush and ink and colored digitally. The whimsically drawn dinosaurs appear on a large scale and take up most of the space on each two page spread.

THOUGHTS: This text makes for a great read aloud. Hand this one to those children who can’t get enough of dinosaurs. A good choice for elementary collections.

Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Underwood, Deborah. The Panda Problem. Dial Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-0-735-22850-4. $17.99. Grades K-2.

A simple story read by a simple narrator about a panda who has a problem. Except… he doesn’t have a problem. In fact, he is perfectly fine! But… if the panda is perfectly fine, how can the narrator read a story? Stories have to have problems, after all, that is what makes a story a story! So the panda decides to help by creating a problem… after a problem… after a problem! Panda soon realized that he does not have imaginary problems, but now he has real problems and needs the narrator to read the story and get him out of the problem! Read to discover what trouble the panda is getting himself into.

THOUGHTS: A cute read with dialect between the narrator and the main character of the story. A great piece to read aloud with two readers, each acting out the part of the character or narrator.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Rayner, Jacqueline K. Hats are Not for Cats. Clarion Books. 2019. 978-1-328-96719-0. $17.99. Grades K-2

Did you know that hats are not for cats? Not any kind of hat. Funny, serious, large, or small, cats are not supposed to wear hats. That is what dog tells cat at least. Do you think that will stop cat (and cat’s friends) from listening? It makes you wonder what dog thinks when he sees that these cats are all wearing hats. Maybe cats can wear hats, but dogs cannot. Do you think cats should be able to wear hats? Read through this story to discover your answer!

THOUGHTS: A simple read with beautiful illustrations of cat and dog having a conversation about the issue of cats wearing hats. A read that many beginning readers would be able to pick up and read independently.

Picture Book           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Bond, John. Mini Rabbit is Not Lost. Neal Porter Books. 2019. 978-0-823-44358-1. $18.99. Grades K-2

Mini Rabbit LOVES cake! While baking a cake with Mother Rabbit, they discover that there are no berries left for the cake! Mini Rabbit decides to go out to find berries but does not realize that there are berries just below his house! Mini Rabbit travels on a marvelous journey to find berries, but ends up getting lost, even if he won’t admit it. What will it take to get Mini Rabbit back home? Perhaps the smell of something delicious…

THOUGHTS: A hysterical read of a Mini Rabbit going out on a journey. This story is fantastic when read with different voices, especially for a young, hyper Mini Rabbit. A must read for students!

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Gonzales, Debbie. Girls with Guts! The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89747-1. 32 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6. 

Today, girls are free to compete in any sport they wish to pursue. Historically, this was not the case; however, and this book chronicles the history of female participation in organized athletics from ancient times to today. In Ancient Greece, females were punished for merely watching the Olympic Games. And, during the first modern Olympics in 1896, women were not allowed to compete in any events. It took athletes like basketball player Senda Berenson Abbot, swimmer Gertrude Ederle, tennis star Althea Gibson, swimmer Donna de Varona, and others to break down barriers and help level the athletic field for women. In addition to highlighting groundbreaking female athletes, this title also spotlights the women who were instrumental in campaigning for and drafting Title IX, which mandates equal treatment for competitive girls. A timeline at the back of the book chronicles milestones in the history of women’s athletics. 

THOUGHTS: This title fills a void in many library collections by exploring the history of competitive athletics for women. It also provides introductory biographical information about ground-breaking female athletes and congresswomen who fought for Title IX legislation. Vibrant acrylic paintings depict women engaged in all kinds of athletic endeavors, and both white and non-white women are included. An Author’s Note on the book’s final page explores what it truly means to “play like a girl” and discusses the state of women’s professional athletics today.

796.082 Athletic & Outdoor Sports & Games          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Kredensor, Diane. Superbuns! Kindness is Her Superpower. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-481-49068-9. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

As Superbuns and her older sister, Blossom, make their way through the city to granny’s house, Superbuns stops several times to perform random acts of kindness. She waters plants, compliments friends, feeds pets, and blows up balloons. Blossom, who is a bit of a know-it-all, repeatedly reminds Superbuns that kind is kind, but it is not a superpower. It’s only when the sisters have a surprise run-in with a fox that Blossom realizes the true power of being kind and the effect it has both on the recipient and the bestower. 

THOUGHTS: This sweet story about the power of kindness is geared toward the youngest readers, and it will be a great fit for kindergarten and first grade classrooms. It will also work for morning meetings and could be used in conjunction with guidance lessons about what kindness looks like. The vibrantly colored cartoon illustrations will draw in young readers, and comic fans will relate to Superbuns’s fascination with superheroes. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Slade, Suzanne. A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon. Little, Brown and Company, 2019. 978-0-316-43517-8. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Numbers and counting were always important parts of Katherine’s life, even when she was a young girl. At school, math came easily to her, and she skipped first and fifth grade, eventually entering college when she was fifteen. At West Virginia State, Katherine excelled in all the math classes she took, but her favorite was advanced geometry where she studied curving parabolas. Katherine believed women could have any job they wanted, and she set her sights on a mathematics job at a Virginia research center. There, she worked as a “computer,” performing advanced calculations to support airplane engineers. Katherine stood out from the other women at the facility because of her knack for asking intelligent questions, and soon, she was invited to join a team working to send the first American astronaut into space. When Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon, his Apollo 11 ship followed a flight path designed and approved by Katherine. 

THOUGHTS: This age-appropriate book will be a perfect fit for elementary STEM units, particularly ones focusing on female pioneers in the fields of math and science. Beautiful ink and watercolor illustrations have complex mathematical equations in the backgrounds, symbolizing how numbers were always on Katherine’s mind. Backmatter features primary source materials, including Katherine’s notes and calculations for the Apollo landing as well as a timeline of Katherine’s life. 

510 Mathematics          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Saeed, Aisha. Bilal Cooks Daal. Salaam Reads, 2019. 978-1-534-41810-3. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

When six-year-old Bilal’s father, Abu, calls him in from playing to help with dinner preparations, Bilal’s friends question what kind of meal must be prepared so early in the day. Bilal explains that his father is cooking daal. He describes the nutty, creamy Pakistani dish to them and invites his friends over to assist with preparations. Together, the children measure and combine the ingredients, and Abu heats everything in a large pot. While it simmers, the children return to their play. As they run, swim, hike, and skip pebbles, they wonder if the food is ready yet, but Bilal reminds his friends that the daal takes time to cook. When Abu finally calls everyone in for supper, Bilal is worried that his friends won’t like the daal. He watches his friends’ reactions carefully, but they all agree: the daal is delicious! An Author’s Note at the end of the book describes different kinds of daal and the way it is traditionally eaten as well as a recipe for cooking the daal referenced in the story. 

THOUGHTS: This story is a celebration of food, friendship, and culture, and the process of cooking the daal reminds readers that good things take time. Readers from multicultural families will relate to Bilal’s anxiety about his friends trying a traditional dish from his family’s homeland, and the story may prompt discussions about other favorite cultural foods. Lively digital illustrations depict a diverse group of children who are eager to learn about their friend’s heritage. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

YA – Michigan vs. The Boys; Fear of Missing Out; Soul of Stars

Allen, Carrie S. Michigan vs. The Boys. KCP Loft, 2019. 978-1-525-30276-3. 304 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Michigan Manning is about to have the senior year she’s always dreamed of, having been selected as Assistant Captain for her hockey team with her best friend taking the big C. But nothing gold can stay, and shortly after receiving their patches the team is defunded. Without the team, Michigan won’t be able to get a scholarship to college and is rightfully devastated. That is until someone has an idea; why not play for the boys’ team? Knowing how much work she’ll have to do, Michigan tries out for the team, landing a ranking in the top five players. The problem? The boys aren’t happy with it. As she strives to maintain her spot and hopefully play well enough to earn a scholarship, Michigan faces challenges and abuse she never expected and events take a turn she never could have imagined.

THOUGHTS: This was one of the most powerful, motivating sports stories I’ve ever read. This is a story for anyone who has ever had to be strong, who has ever tried to blaze a trail, or who has ever had to speak out. Michigan’s story will inspire readers to take charge and take what’s theirs.

Realistic Fiction, Sports         Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


McGovern, Kate. Fear of Missing Out. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2019. 978-0-374-30547-5.  312 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12.

Astrid was the girl who survived brain cancer, until it came back. Astrid’s mom is frantically researching treatment options, and lobbying to get her into a new drug trial, but Astrid faces facts. Astrid believes in science, and she knows the odds for her survival are not good. But no one else, her mom; her younger brother; her best friend, Chloe; and her boyfriend, Mohit, is willing to give her up so easily. When Astrid attends a medical symposium, however, she is intrigued by a presentation on cryopreservation. In order to scientifically research the concept of freezing her body, she convinces Chloe and Mohit to go on a cross-country road trip to the cryopreservation facility. Chloe starts a fundraising Vlog and Astrid chronicles the trip and their detours to kitschy tourist attractions. As the trip progresses Astrid, reading her body, knows her time is limited. McGovern presents a raw look at cancer, and the emotional toll it takes on the patient, as well as those who love her. There are times when Chloe and Mohit lash out at Astrid, not understanding why she seems ready to let go. Mohit states, “I don’t feel sorry for you… I feel sorry for me. And Chloe. We’re the ones left behind.” Eventually, Astrid takes control of what is left of her life and decides how she wants to die. This is not a heroic look at cancer, but 300 pages of honest emotion from all involved.

THOUGHTS: Hand this book out with a pack of tissues. It is a beautiful, soul wrenching read. Even though you know how it’s going to end, it still hurts.

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Poston, Ashley. Soul of Stars. Balzar and Bray, 2019. 978-0-062-84733-1. 424 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12.

The sequel to Heart of Iron continues the sprawling space saga without missing a beat. Six months after escaping the HIVE-instigated battle for the Ironblood crown, Anna and her cobbled together family on the spaceship Dossier are trying to find the mythical Great Dark, the evil that is overtaking the universe. She is bereft by the betrayal of Di, her Metal best friend, but still believes his original core is intact. A search for the rumored individual who brought a Metal back from the HIVE goes dangerously wrong, and Anna and the crew find themselves on a chase across galaxies to find an object, the heart, that will allow The Dark to assume complete control. However, Anna learns that destroying the heart will also destroy all the HIVE’d Metals, and she faces an unbearable choice. The pace rarely slows down, but not at the cost of character development. Each of our favorite characters, human and Metal, from Heart of Iron plays an integral part in the story as secrets are uncovered and identities revealed, for a satisfying conclusion to the story.

THOUGHTS: Purchase the book for fans of Heart of Iron, but also use it as an opportunity to reintroduce the series to fans of Star Wars

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

YA – Somewhere Only We Know; The Everlasting Rose; The Field Guide to the North American Teenager; Cold Day in the Sun; Wilder Girls; They Called Us Enemy; Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak; Love from A to Z

Goo, Maurene. Somewhere Only We Know. Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2019. 978-0-374-31057-8. 336 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Lucky, a K-pop superstar at the top of her game, has lost her spark. Somewhere in between all the performances, rehearsals, and incredibly strict rules, Lucky herself got lost. Jack is unsure of his future. He longs to be a photographer, but parental expectations push him toward banking. To fuel his passion during a boring summer internship, Jack takes on a secret side-gig working for a sleazy gossip magazine. In an attempt to break free of her K-pop cage, Lucky dons a disguise and runs to take an illicit day off. When Jack runs into her on the street, he realizes her day off is the scoop of his lifetime. Set in Hong Kong, readers will enjoy falling in love with a new city alongside Lucky. After all, the life of a star makes everything more glamorous.

THOUGHTS: Although this story has been played out time and time again, the focus on K-pop and Hong Kong adds a cultural lens that makes it worth the read. 

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Clayton, Dhonielle. The Everlasting Rose. Freeform, 2019. 978-1-484-72848-2. 342 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12. 

The Everlasting Rose is the second book in Clayton’s The Belles series. Camellia Beauregard has escaped the palace with her sisters Edel and Amber and is now hiding in the Spice Isles while the royal guards search the land for the fugitive Belles. Declared a murderer by the vile soon-to-be Queen Sophia, the disgraced favorite Camellia must risk everything she has to save not only her sisters but also the citizens of Orléans before Sophia can be crowned queen. After discovering the new queen’s horrific plans for the future of beauty and the Belles, Camellia knows the only way to stop her is to find Princess Charlotte, but first she must navigate a deep web of treason and espionage in order to do so.

THOUGHTS: In this delightful sequel to The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton once again manages to ensnare readers in the world of Orléans. The vivid imagery and unique concept make this series a must for middle and high school libraries. 

Fantasy          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

In a world where beauty is a currency and society strives to achieve the next new look, the Belles, young girls gifted with the magic to change one’s features, are its idols, especially the Belle named the favorite of the royal family. However, being close to the current royal family has become very dangerous. The Everlasting Rose picks up where The Belles left off, with Camillia and her Belle sisters on the run from the diabolical Queen Sophie. The girls, along with Camillia’s former bodyguard, Remy, need to avoid capture and locate Princess Charlotte, the rightful queen. Camillia finds aid in a most unexpected place: from a group known as the Iron Ladies, individuals who refuse any beauty treatments and are content with their natural, gray appearance. Clayton creates a fascinating new world populated with individuals absorbed in little other than their appearance. The magic, or aracana, used by the Belles in their treatments is delightfully well thought out and logical, in its world. But aside from a suspenseful plot, the book offers the opportunity to reflect on the place of beauty in today’s society.

THOUGHTS: A well-crafted sequel that will absorb readers and make them think as well.

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Philippe, Ben. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager. Balzer + Bray, 2019. 978-0-062-82411-0. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Norris, a black French Canadian student, learned everything he needs to know about Americans from television sitcoms. When his mom takes a job in Austin, Texas, Norris bides his time in America by cataloging his peers. The unrelenting heat is brutal for Norris, but his notebook full of clichéd observations helps him pass the time. He is heading back to Canada as soon as he can. As Norris finds ways to make Texas a temporary home, he also finds a few friends. Some of the Texas boys even want Norris to teach them how to play ice hockey – a task that seems impossible at first but turns out to be fun. Maybe Texas and Americans aren’t so bad. Norris’s snark catches up to him, though, and it’s either run away and leave behind all of the friends he’s made, or face his choices and try to be a better person.

THOUGHTS: Though Norris’s descriptions of many peers are clichés, teen readers will see them for what they are: judgmental opinions. Norris has a lot to learn about being a friend, and the lighthearted banter of these teens belongs in every high school library.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Biren, Sara. Cold Day in the Sun. Amulet Books, 2019. 978-1-419-73367-3. 311 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Minnesota teen Holland Delviss would rather write articles for her school paper or post about music and hockey on her anonymous blog than be the focus of the story. But as the only girl on the boys’ varsity hockey team, she’s gotten used to dealing with friendly attention along with some hecklers. She focuses on training and avoids the drama of dating a teammate, especially her arrogant captain Wes “Hot Sauce” Millard. After an announcement that Halcyon Lake will be one of Minnesota’s HockeyFest cities, in the running to have a game televised statewide, Holland is pushed even further into the (very opinionated) public eye. And Wes turns out to be a dreamboat: an only seemingly arrogant jerk who actually respects and values Holland as a teammate, a friend, and a potential girlfriend. The author’s breezy writing style allows room for Holland to deal with some serious stuff without veering into “issues novel” territory (although some conversations with Holland’s journalism teacher do feel a little contrived). In particular, one opponent rattles her with a truly deplorable comment, but her motivation to excel at the game she loves is unshakeable.

THOUGHTS: Sara Biren’s knack for depicting Holland and Wes’s intense connection with a “PG” rating makes this hockey romance a total joy to read! With just the right amount of sweetness and spice, Cold Day in the Sun is a perfect choice for anyone who enjoyed Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series or Ngozi Ukazu’s delightful Check, Please! 

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Power, Rory. Wilder Girls. Delacorte Press, 2019. 978-0-525-64558-0. 357 p. $18.99 Grades 9-12+.

Raxter School for Girls, located on a small Maine island, has been under quarantine since “the Tox” struck almost two years ago. Food, medicine, and routines are strictly regulated, and the girls cooperate with the quarantine guidelines because the Navy has promised to deliver a cure. Gun Shift girls patrol the roof day and night, while Boat Shift ventures beyond the school’s fence to meet a supply boat once a week. Meanwhile, surviving students suffer from flare-ups that result in boils, bruises, gills, and other terrifying symptoms. “Things bursting out of us, bits missing and pieces sloughing off, and then we harden and smooth over.” Hetty’s right eye was damaged in a flare-up, her eyelid fusing shut; she senses something growing underneath. The newest member of Boat Shift, Hetty becomes separated from the group on one of their outings. In the woods, she discovers a cooler with a blood sample labeled RAX009. Whose blood is it, and who is expecting it? Then Hetty’s best friend Byatt vanishes after suffering a flare-up. So this unique mystery unspools, with some genuinely unsettling scenes that will satisfy most horror fans. 

THOUGHTS: The dynamic between Hetty and her two best friends, Byatt and Reese, is at the raw beating core of this debut novel. Queer themes, plague novel elements, and female adolescence converge in a strange but beguiling narrative with a just-open-enough ending. And that cover, though!

Horror          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Takei, George. They Called Us Enemy. Top Shelf Productions, 2019. 978-1-603-09450-4. 204 p. $19.99. Grades 8+.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the military to exclude “persons” (e.g. Japanese and Japanese Americans) from designated areas, namely the entire west coast. George Takei, his parents, and his two younger siblings were among the 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who the U.S. government relocated and “interned” during World War II. This outstanding graphic memoir interweaves an adult Takei’s memories with the child’s impressions/perspective he experienced during four years spent in two internment camps. Harmony Becker’s black and white illustrations vividly evoke the emotions and anger of U.S. citizens uprooted from their homes and forced to leave behind cherished possessions, valuable property, businesses, and community. They Called Us Enemy also depicts the lighthearted fun that children can find in any situation, as young George explores his new surroundings. George’s future as a successful actor and social justice advocate are chronicled here, too. On every page, the steadfast love of his parents, most notably his father’s unshakeable belief in a people’s democracy, shines through. 

THOUGHTS: To borrow from the “About the Creators” note (and Star Trek), George Takei’s life story goes where few stories have gone before. His first person account reveals the lessons to be learned from a dark chapter in American history, so that we can do better than to repeat it over again. George’s 2014 TED talk, “Why I Love a Country that Once Betrayed Me,” is a worthy introduction to this history and his personal ideals.

Graphic Memoir          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, no one could have understood how much this decision would change the lives of so many individuals except those whose lives were uprooted. This Order called for the relocation of thousands of individuals of Japanese ancestry, even those who were born in the United States. Among the thousands was George Takei, a young boy, and his family. For the duration of World War II, George’s family lived in armed guarded interment camps. Takei reflects on his childhood memories and his family’s experiences through a child’s innocent eye, recognizing that while his parents suffered, he did not understand their struggles until he was much older. Interwoven throughout his memoir are George’s experiences as an adult which remind him of his childhood. One moving example is when George is invited to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, but his father refuses to attend.

THOUGHTS:Takei’s account of his childhood reminds readers of the innocence and resilience of children and the commitment of adults, specifically George’s parents, to keep their lives as normal as possible despite dire circumstances. Aside from one minor language trick a teen boy plays on George, this piece of history belongs in all middle and high school collections. Pair with other popular historical fiction titles like Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, and future history Internment by Samira Ahmed.

Graphic Memoir          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Alsaid, Adi. Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak. Inkyard Press, 2019. 978-1-335-01255-5. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

It’s the summer after high school, and Lu has great plans that do not include heartbreak. After her longtime boyfriend dumps her, Lu finds herself uninspired which isn’t a good thing when her NYU college scholarship depends on the love column she writes for Misonmer, an online magazine. Before Leo came into her life, Lu would eavesdrop to get inspired for her writing. Now without Leo, she once again resorts to eavesdropping which leads her to meet Cal and Iris, a couple who is in a similar position of a post-high school relationship dilemma. When Lu learns of their plan to stay together until the end of the summer, though, she becomes obsessed and wonders where she and Leo went wrong. Determined to find the answer and overcome her writer’s block, Lu becomes friends with Cal and Iris. When writing a feature column on Cal and Iris isn’t helping her writer’s block, Lu becomes entwined in distractions and puts everything else – friends, family, and writing on hold.

THOUGHTS: Alsaid highlights how easily one can be swept in love, putting many other aspects of life on hold. Teen readers will feel for Lu but may become frustrated with her inability to move on. For a seemingly intelligent girl, putting her college scholarship (and job) on the line seems very un-Lu-like. Recommended for high schools where Alsaid is popular or romance is in demand.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ali, S.K. Love from A to Z. Salaam Reads, 2019. 978-1-534-44272-6. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Being constantly told how “bad” Muslims are (when she’s the only Muslim in class) fuels Zayneb’s anger. Wrongfully suspended for confronting her racist teacher, Zayneb is sent on an early spring break to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar. On the plane ride and subsequent layover she meets Adam. Returning home from college with a secret multiple sclerosis diagnosis, Adam knows he finally needs to tell his family, but with the anniversary of his mother’s death, it never seems like a good time. Zayneb and Adam each have kept journals of marvels and oddities – things they encounter in life. Despite their differences, they help each other process challenging emotions and situations they encounter. Zayneb and Adam are from different parts of the world and have very different personalities, though, and they may not always understand exactly what the other is experiencing.

THOUGHTS: Teen readers will love Zayneb and need to “meet” her! Love from A to Z is a beautiful love story featuring Muslim characters front and center and is a must have for high school collections.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

MG – Wildheart; Soaring Earth; A Circle of Elephants; Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse; Lizzy Legend; The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA; Searching for Lottie

Bertagna, Julie, and William Goldsmith, Illustrator. Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir. Yosemite Conservancy, 2019. 978-1-930-23893-0. 128 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

As a boy in Dunbar, Scotland, John Muir was sent to school in 1841 when he was just three years old, but he longed to be outside, playing and learning amongst the wild things that he loved. Years later, after a family move to Wisconsin, an eye injury nearly robbed John of his sight but inspired his true calling: exploring and preserving nature. As part of his campaign to protect America’s forests and natural features, he co-founded the Sierra Club and helped to create our National Parks. He also went camping with President Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite for four days in 1903, inspiring “Teddy” to preserve 148 million acres of land! William Goldsmith’s rough, energetic sketches are appropriately tinted in natural shades of rust, moss green, berry, and ice-blue. The characters’ body postures imply the mood and action more distinctly than any detailed facial expressions (which are generally lacking). A handful of Scottish expressions may confuse readers (e.g., “Ta” for thanks) but ample context clues and a helpful Glossary will assist in deciphering them. 

THOUGHTS: This middle-grade graphic biography of the first modern environmentalist, told in a first-person voice, will inspire readers to cherish our precious planet, and to take action to protect it! John Muir’s legacy is a treasured reminder that “We are part of nature, and its wild heart is part of us.” Additional information for interested readers is available at the webpage for the John Muir National Historic Site

Graphic Novel / Biography          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Engle, Margarita. Soaring Earth. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-42953-6. $18.99. 192 p. Grades 7+.

Margarita’s idealism and longing to see the world are described beautifully in verse in this companion memoir to Enchanted Air. In this book Margarita is now a young adult in high school and beyond. It is set during the tumultuous Vietnam War Era, and the war and protests, Civil Rights movement, moon landing, and the Grape boycott and strike are described. Although younger readers might not have the knowledge to fully appreciate those historic events, Margarita’s struggle with fitting in and finding out who she is will resonate with everyone. Margarita finds herself at ground-zero of the hippie/free speech movement when she enrolls at UC Berkeley for college. She struggles with her fears of not being perfect, especially with her writing, and she finds out that the prestigious university turns out not to be a great fit for her which leads to her dropping out and drifting around CA and NY on a path of self-discovery. Her longing to travel the world, especially her beloved Cuba, which has been closed to her due to the Cold War, and the prejudices she experiences due to her Cuban heritage are also examined. Margarita Engle is the 2017-2019 Young People’s Poet Laureate.

THOUGHTS: It isn’t necessary to have read Enchanted Air to appreciate this beautifully written novel in verse. It would be perfect to use for a social studies book club during a 1960s unit.

Memoir; Verse          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Dinerstein, Eric. A Circle of Elephants. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-01658-2. $16.99. 260 p. Grades 4-8.

13-year old Nandu, a Tibetan, was found as a two-year old orphaned in the jungle being guarded by a pack of dhole (a type of wild dog). He was adopted by Subba-Sahib, the good man who runs the Royal Elephant Breeding Center at the edge of the Borderlands in Nepal. Nandu has a special relationship and empathy with the animals of the jungle but he considers the tusker, Hira Prishad, the bull elephant he oversees, his brother. The story of Nandu and the horrors of the Ivory Trade is described in such a beautiful and realistic way that it is easy to forget that this is a work of fiction. The earthquake at the beginning of the book is a bad omen: the harbinger of drought and the return of Maroons (poachers) who are looking for ivory in the tusks and horns of the elephants and rhinos. In addition to the mutilation of animals for their ivory, there is a side story about young girls being sold into slavery (it is not explicit sex slavery, but it is implied) which may be difficult for younger middle grade readers. The book examines the relationship between humans and other animals and as Nandu believes “that our purpose in life is to look out for each other.”

THOUGHTS: This book will enlighten the reader about the evils of poaching and how it is possible for people to have meaningful relationships with animals, especially elephants. A Circle of Elephants is the sequel to What Elephants Know but it wasn’t necessary to have read that story to enjoy this book. This beautifully written story would be a great addition to any library.

Realistic Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Vaught, Susan.  Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-534-42501-9. 309 p. $17.99. Grades 5 and up.

Jesse is not like the other kids in her middle school – she’s extremely temperamental, with a proclivity towards hitting people she dislikes; she doesn’t always bathe on a regular basis; she’s “on the spectrum”; and her mother is a Master Sergeant stationed overseas in Iraq. Needless to say, she’s not the most popular girl in school, which doesn’t bother her in the least. What does bother her, however, is the group of bullies – Rykyer (aka: Jerkface), Chris, and Trisha (aka: the cockroaches) – who harass her on a daily basis and never seem to get in trouble for it. When Jesse’s father, a teacher at the high school, is arrested and accused of stealing money for the library fund, Jesse, along with new kid, Springer, take it upon themselves to investigate. Springer is Jesse’s foil – a big, non-confrontational, soft-spoken boy who doesn’t believe in violence. They share a love of puzzles, outside the box thinking, and Sam-Sam, Jesse’s beloved Pomeranian. Jesse pushes Springer to fight for what he believes in, and Springer grounds Jesse when she goes into a panic spiral; in fact, he’s one of the only people in her life that truly seems to accept her exactly as she is. Vaught has created two very different, yet equally compelling, protagonists; it is easy to feel Jesse’s anger and frustration towards her bullies, as well as Springer’s kindness and compassion when he stands up for Jesse. Equally well-drawn are Jesse’s mother, who instills in Jesse a deep well of inner strength, and Jesse’s great-aunt Gus, who spends the majority of the book exasperating Jesse’s father. Though Jesse’s bullies come off more as caricatures than three-dimensional characters, and their antics become disturbingly malevolent in tone and action, they serve to further Jesse and Springer’s resolve, as well as their bond; their friendship is truly the grounding force in this middle-grade novel, and readers will find themselves rooting heartily for both of them.

THOUGHTS: A perfect novel for outside the box thinkers, lovers of mysteries, and literally kick-butt female protagonists. With absolutely no romance, and a beautifully crafted platonic friendship between members of the opposite sex, this is a book that you can comfortably hand to a 9 year old, as well as a 14 year old.

Realistic Fiction         Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School


Smith, Matthew Ross. Lizzy Legend. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-534-42024-3. 236 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

13-year-old Lizzy Trudeaux loves basketball and spends hours each day practicing her ball-handling and shooting skills. One day, she receives a mysterious phone call from a robot asking her what her wish is, and she wishes to never miss another shot. When this dream surprisingly comes true, she finds herself signing a contract to play for the Philadelphia Bells, a nearby professional basketball team. It’s not long before she becomes a media sensation. Will she, however, be able to continue her dominant performance when her wish is reversed? A fast-paced sports fantasy, this title will resonate particularly with young female athletes.

THOUGHTS: While the premise of this story is a bit unbelievable, the relatable characters, encouraging message, and fast pace of the story make this a solid selection for middle school collections. Lizzy may have gotten to where she is with a little help from her wish, but she is an extremely hard worker regardless. She’s also tough and courageous, putting her heart and soul out on the court even after her wish is reversed. Lizzy is definitely a role model for young girls, showing that with a little hard work and determination, they can do anything they set their minds to. The short chapters are broken up by interviews and imaginative social media posts throughout the story, making the book very accessible to young readers.

Fantasy Fiction (Sports)           Julie Ritter, PSLA


Woods, Brenda. The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 978-1-524-73709-2. 194 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Twelve-year-old Gabriel Haberlin, white resident of the small, post-WWII town of Birdsong, South Carolina, is ecstatic when he receives a brand new Schwinn bicycle for his birthday. On his very first ride, however, he runs a red light and is nearly struck by a car and killed. Luckily, Meriwether Hunter, an African American veteran, pushes him out of the way just in time. Feeling indebted to Meriwether, Gabriel convinces his father to offer Meriwether a job at his auto shop. The two soon become friends, and Meriwether teaches Gabriel to view the world through the eyes of others.  In doing so, Gabriel witnesses the unfairness and powerlessness experienced by African Americans living under Jim Crow laws in the segregated South, and for the first time in his life, he begins to question the way of the world. A realistic and thought-provoking coming-of-age story, this book has a lot to teach young readers about the post-WWII South.

THOUGHTS: Use this book in a history class to reinforce topics like segregation,  Jim Crow laws, the 761st Tank Battalion, and the KKK. History buffs will also enjoy simply comparing post-WWII life to life today, as there are plenty of references to prized possessions of the past, including a Buick Roadmaster and a Kodak camera with film. Additionally, this story will appeal to fans of Rita Williams-Garcia. Definitely consider purchasing this authentic, eye-opening work of historical fiction.

Historical Fiction          Julie Ritter, PSLA


Ross, Susan L. Searching for Lottie. Holiday House, 2019. 978-0-823-44166-2. 170 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

When twelve-year-old Charlie must research a family member for a school project, she decides to focus on her namesake, her great aunt Lottie (short for Charlotte). Lottie disappeared during the Holocaust, and because she was Jewish, her family presumes that she was killed. Through her research, Charlie discovers that she and Lottie have a lot in common. They are both sensational violin players, and they could both be described as brave and determined. The more she learns, the more adamant she is to figure out what exactly happened to Lottie. Did she perish during the Holocaust as her family always thought, or did she miraculously survive? Readers will be just as curious as Charlie to solve this puzzle and won’t be able to stop turning the pages until all of their questions are answered.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful selection for middle school readers.  Charlie is an extremely relatable character who experiences many young adolescent norms throughout the story, including sibling rivalry, close friendships, a crush on a boy, and nerves during a musical audition. This would be a great complement to any Holocaust unit, or it could be used to introduce a project on genealogical research. References to Jewish culture present even more opportunities for learning. The short chapters and fast-moving narrative make it easily accessible, and the level of suspense will most certainly make readers want to finish the book. Give this to mystery lovers, history buffs, or students who want to learn more about genealogical research or Jewish culture.

Historical Fiction          Julie Ritter, PSLA

MG – This Promise of Change; Room 555; New Kid; Bach to the Rescue; Extraordinary Birds; The Woolly Monkey Mysteries; Get Informed–Stay Informed (series); The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise; The Stormkeeper’s Island; Today’s Hip-Hop; Pro Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Comebacks; A Win for Women; The Explosive World of Volcanoes; The Selma Marches for Civil Rights; Can You Crack the Code; George Washington’s Secret Six; The Book of Secrets; Shutout; Stolen Girl; Mirror, Mirror; Mind Drifter

Boyce, Jo Ann Allen, and Debbie Levy. This Promise of Change. Bloomsbury, 2019.  978-1-681-19852-1.  310 p.  $17.99  Grades 4-8.

Jo Ann Allen Boyce, one of the “Clinton 12” African-American teens who enrolled in an all-White Tennessee high school after the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, tells the story of her not-so-long-ago youth in this powerful nonfiction middle grade verse memoir co-written by Debbie Levy (I Dissent, 2017). The book features free verse as well as a variety of more formal poems, each well suited to the subject matter. For example, the villanelle, with its repeated phrasings, is perfect for expressing the way Jo Ann’s thoughts circle around as she ruminates about her first day in her soon-to-be integrated school in “The Night Before.” Boyce’s story focuses on the half-year she attended Clinton High School, which began relatively peacefully but quickly erupted into violence. Jo Ann’s optimism and courage in the face of hatred, and her conviction that prejudice is learned and can be unlearned, is at the heart of this moving book. Brief quotes from primary source material are sprinkled throughout the book. There is extensive backmatter, including information on the poetic forms used, a timeline, photographs, information on the collaborative writing process, and further reading.

THOUGHTS: This unusual book is standout nonfiction, a must-purchase for middle school and upper elementary libraries. Librarians will need to give some thought as to how they will catalog this important book and market it to teachers and young people, as it reads like a beautifully crafted verse novel but is scrupulously researched and written to the standards expected of a first-rate nonfiction title.

379.2 Civil Rights; Poetry          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD


Watson, Cristy. Room 555. Orca Book Publishers, 2019. 978-1-459-82060-9. $9.95. 116 p. Grades 7-9.

This book is about Mary’s love of hip-hop dancing and the extreme guilt and fear she feels due to her inability to visit her beloved grandmother in the nursing home. Mary, who goes by the nickname her Gram gave her – Roonie, spends most of the book practicing for a school-wide dance competition with her best friend, Kira. Also, their high school requires everyone to log community volunteer hours in order to graduate and Roonie is hoping to get assigned to do clerical work at the local dance school but because she was late handing in the paperwork, she was assigned to volunteer at the local hospital instead. Roonie is devastated about her volunteer assignment but she tries to make the best of it until she finds out she must work on the geriatric floor handing out magazines. The sights, smells, and sounds remind her of the nursing home Gram is in. Although she has severe anxiety, Roonie forces herself to follow through with the job and ends up meeting, Jasmine, the friendly woman in Room 555. Roonie learns that Jasmine belly dances, and they form a connection over their love of dance that gives Roonie the courage to keep returning to her assignment at the hospital. Roonie and Jasmine build a friendship over the next few weeks, and they help each other through some of life’s difficult challenges.  

THOUGHTS: This small book is a good addition to a middle school library’s high-low collection, and Roonie’s love of hip-hop dance may entice students with the same interest to read it.

Realistic Fiction          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Craft, Jerry. New Kid. HarperCollins, 2019. 978-0-062-69120-0. $21.99. 256 p. Grades 5-9.

Jordan Banks, an African American seventh grader, begins this graphic novel at his prestigious new school, Riverdale Academy Day School, or RAD for short, even though he’d prefer to be going to a high school that was art focused. His parents (mom especially) think that Jordan’s intelligence would be better addressed at RAD and are excited that he got accepted. Jordan and his father are concerned about the lack of diversity in the student body, and Jordan is anxious about making friends with students who are wealthier than him. Jordan’s father promises him they will revisit the idea of art school in 9th grade if he really feels like he can’t fit in at RAD. His fears come true when on his first day a classmate’s father shows up at Jordan’s apartment in an expensive car that looks out of place in the neighborhood. Jordan ducks down in the seat so his neighborhood friends don’t see him. The story portrays Jordan’s struggles with fitting in while remaining true to himself, and it does a great job of showing all of the microaggressions people of color face on a daily basis. This book makes us reflect on our preconceived ideas of race; even Jordan assumes he will immediately become friends with the handful of other African American students. There are black-and-white double-spread images of helpful life lessons that Jordan has illustrated; things like, tips for riding a city bus in a hoodie, how to do a good handshake, and judging kids by the covers of the books they read.

THOUGHTS: This is the perfect book to give to students who claim they don’t like graphic novels. I laughed-out-loud at one of the images because it was so clever. In the same vein as American Born Chinese, this book is a valuable resource for sharing what African American students experience in school and society in a non-preachy, funny way.

Graphic Novel          Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

Jordan Banks loves sketching cartoons of his life and dreams of art school, but for his seventh grade year, his parents have enrolled him in a well-known private school, hoping for academic opportunities and social growth (since Jordan is one of the few students of color). Jordan’s dad maintains that Jordan may choose art school in a year or two, but Jordan’s mom is convinced that Riverdale Academy Day School is the best choice. Jordan complies, and discovers stereotypes (others and his own), endures microaggression–and even finds a way to laugh at them with new friend Drew, builds a variety of friendships (of many cultures), and keeps drawing his story. The tale of his first year is full of pathos and at times laugh-out-loud humor, as Jordan tackles soccer for the first time, considers the “meaning” of secret Santa gifts, and more. He reaches a breaking point when Drew is falsely accused of hitting bigoted student Andy, and when Mrs. Rawle (who consistently mixes up the names of all of the non-white kids) reads his sketchbook and wonders why he is so “angry.” Jordan brings to mind all the advice of his parents, grandfather, and more as he adjusts and thrives at Riverdale Academy. He and his friends bring out the best in each other and grow up, a day at a time (well, except for Andy).

THOUGHTS: Jordan is one of the most honest, likable characters in middle school fiction. Many will benefit from reading his story and have their eyes opened to microaggressions, stereotypes, and how to move beyond false assumptions. This graphic novel is a work of art in more ways than one, and a must-read for all middle school students and their teachers.       

Graphic Novel          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Angleberger, Tom. Bach to the Rescue!!! How a Rich Dude Who Couldn’t Sleep Inspired the Greatest Music Ever. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019. 978-1-419-73164-8. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

This book is centered around how Bach’s music came to be. Learning about the life of the Rich Dude and his inability to sleep at night transforms Bach’s Goldberg Variations. A story that may not be completely true, we learn how Goldberg was unable to put the Rich Dude to sleep with his music, which in turn kept everyone else awake. Promised a great deal of money, Bach wrote music for Goldberg to play for the Rich Dude, who loved the music and was able to sleep. Bach, in return, received the money he was promised.

THOUGHTS: An interesting tale, that while may not be true, depicts the possible creation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a picture book format that is easy for students to understand.

786 Music          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


McGinnis, Sandy Stark. Extraordinary Birds. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-547-60100-4. 214 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

This debut novel features an eleven year old foster child, December, who believes she will one day become a bird and fly away from the foster homes that have caged her spirit. After December jumps out of a tree, she is removed from her foster home and placed with an elderly woman named Eleanor, also called the “Bird Whisperer.” December continues to feel her scar tingle and goosebumps that will turn into feathers during her stay with Eleanor while also discovering the perfect oak tree for “flying.” Eleanor treats December well, and allows her to help at a bird rehabilitation center with Henrietta, a red tailed hawk who cannot fly. But December encounters trouble at her new school – mean girls who pick on those who are different than them. December befriends one of their victims, Cheryllynn, and the two become close friends. December continues to discover who she really is, but when bad news is delivered to Eleanor, December decides that she must turn into a bird… and fast!

THOUGHTS: A great coming of age story of a girl discovering who she really is that will warm your heart. The characters are relatable, and the story moves along quickly. Multiple themes are prevalent throughout, along with a subtle reference to a transgender child. 

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD


Markle, Sandra. The Woolly Monkey Mysteries: The Quest to Save a Rain Forest Species. Millbrook Press, 2019. 978-1-512-45868-8. $24.14 40 p. Grades 3-6.

If you haven’t heard of woolly monkeys, you’re not alone.  These rain forest “gardeners” are both elusive and essential to the life of the rain forest. Scientists in Peru’s Manu National Park and Reserve must work tirelessly to track them, painstakingly setting up cameras in the deepest parts of the forest. Author Markle investigates several of these scientists, what they’ve learned about woolly monkeys, and how they’ve learned it. The results have built a stronger understanding of rain forest life and how rain forests could best be strengthened and preserved. “The rain forest’s health is tied to the woolly monkeys, who have to eat, travel through the rain forest canopy, and drop their seed-filled waste to continually replenish the plant life” (35). Markle’s text, combined with the colorful page spreads and color photos, brings the scientists’ concerns to life for all of us new to the species. 

THOUGHTS: Well-presented with maps, photographs, and explanations of the scientists’ work, this book will fuel career ideas of science-minded students who love animals.  

599.8 Monkeys          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Get Informed–Stay Informed (series). Crabtree, 2019. 48 p. $9.95 (paper) $14.86 (hardcover) ea. Grades 5-8.

Hudak, Heather C. #MeToo Movement. 978-0-778-74971-4
—. Climate Change. 978-0-778-74970-7
—. Digital Data Security. 978-0-778-75345-2
—. Immigration and Refugees. 978-0-778-75347-6
Hyde, Natalie. Gun Violence.  978-0-778-75346-9
—. Net Neutrality. 978-0-778-74972-1
—. Oil and Pipelines. 978-0-778-75348-3
—. Opioid Crisis. 978-0-778-74973-8

These books are designed to be informative on their stated topic, while also guiding the reader to understanding information literacy truths. The information literacy instruction is interspersed with the background on the topic, either in entire chapters or in brief sidebars. Because Hudak’s Immigration & Refugees dedicates more space to the information literacy skills, it better prepares the reader to seek out and evaluate information sources. Segments such as “Where to Look” and “Critical Review” establish strong questions to consider when faced with new material. Hyde’s Oil and Pipelines, despite speaking of alternate viewpoints (such as the government), strongly emphasizes the disadvantages of pipelines (even the cover, which shows an oil spill).  

THOUGHTS: Overall, these are helpful sources for beginning background on a topic, but more importantly, for instruction on how to think about information and ideas. Includes Glossary, Source Notes, Find Out More, Index, and Teacher’s Guide online.  Teaching Resources available for download via Follett’s Titlewave for certain titles, including Climate Change, #MeTooMovement, Net Neutrality and Opioid Crisis

Titles Reviewed: Immigration and Refugees; Oil and Pipelines. 

Current Social Issues          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Gemeinhart, Dan. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. Henry Holt & Company, 2019. 344 p. $16.99. 978-1-250-19670-5  Grades 3-6.

Five years ago, Coyote Sunrise and Rodeo (don’t call him Dad), refurbished a bus as a home and began their travels. It is Rodeo’s way of outrunning the memories of his wife and two daughters who died in a car crash. Coyote and her dad get along well, and she knows how to read him and how to behave (avoid melancholy, avoid memories, avoid the names of her mom and sisters). The love Coyote has for her dad is real and reciprocated. Then in a weekly phone call to her Grandma, Coyote learns that the public park in her old neighborhood is to be demolished. It’s the same public park where five days before the accident, she, her mom and two sisters buried a memory box and vowed to locate it in ten years. Suddenly, her need to save that box–and her need for memories–outweighs all else. She must use all her cleverness to get 3600 miles (from Florida to Poplin Springs, Washington) in just four days–without revealing the plan to Rodeo. Along the way, Coyote and Rodeo pick up others who need a ride: Lester who’s reconnecting with his girlfriend, Salvador and his mom who are looking for a new life with his aunt, Val who cannot stay with her family any longer, and Gladys….the goat. Yes, each has a part to play in Coyote’s would-be return home. As the hours–then minutes–count down, how long will it be before Rodeo puts the brakes on this terrifying idea of returning home?

THOUGHTS: A cleverly introspective and appropriately humorous look at grief, family, friendship, and belonging.     

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

For the past five years, twelve-year-old Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have spent their days criss-crossing the country on an old school bus they’ve converted into a home. They travel anywhere their hearts desire – anywhere but to their hometown in Washington state. They haven’t returned home since the car accident that killed Coyote’s mother and two sisters five years ago. But, when Coyote learns from her grandmother that a park in her hometown is going to be demolished, she concocts a plan to get back home to retrieve a memory box she buried there with her mother and sisters before their deaths. Returning home is a “no-go” for Rodeo, so Coyote must figure out a way to get him to drive to Washington without realizing what he’s doing. On their journey, they pick up several passengers, including a mother and son escaping from domestic abuse, a musician looking for love, a teen fleeing a turbulent home life, a gray kitten, and a goat.

THOUGHTS: Coyote is a relatable and perceptive protagonist, and readers will be drawn in by her conversational style of storytelling. She is also multifaceted, and she is unafraid to share her true emotions. Readers will cheer Coyote on as she races the clock to get across the country to reclaim a piece of her past before the bulldozers bury it forever. This title will generate discussions about friendships, grief and loss, and the true meaning of family.

Realistic Fiction          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Doyle, Catherine. The Storm Keeper’s Island. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 308 p. $16.99. 978-1-681-19959-7. Grades 5-8.

Fionn Boyle should feel the sea, should have the ocean behind his eyes, but instead he fears it. Even the motion of the boat that delivers him and his older sister Tara to Arranmore Island makes him ill, a fact that Tara is happy to broadcast. Tara has been to the island before, so only Fionn is stunned to meet their grandfather, a curious, eccentric old man that locals refer to as “the Stormkeeper.” Fionn is about to realize the part his family–one of five families–plays in the history of the island. Each generation, Arranmore Island itself (a living thing that responds to Fionn’s presence by growing, breathing, even speaking to him) chooses a new Storm Keeper. Tara’s “boyfriend” Bartley Beasley has been primed by his grandmother to become the Storm Keeper by any means necessary, since she believes Fionn’s grandfather actively cheated her out of the power. Bartley seethes with anger at Fionn and his grandfather, even as the dark magic of Morrigan is waking to lay claim to the island and fight the good forces of Dagda, who saved the island eons ago. Fionn struggles with the loss of his father, before Fionn was born, to the sea itself–all Fionn has ever wanted was for his father to be here. The longing is so great, and greater on the island in the face of his father’s bravery. Before his grandfather succumbs to memory loss, he is able to guide Fionn to see his own history and accept his future as the new Stormkeeper. The novel ends just as the island has chosen Fionn and Morrigan begins her desperate rise against the island and its people. “It’s not fair,” Fionn says of his grandfather’s memory loss, and his grandfather does not dispute it. But he adds, “your greatest responsibility [is] to live a life of breathless wonder, so that when it begins to fade from you, you will feel the shadow of its happiness still inside you and the blissful sense that you laughed the loudest, loved the deepest, and lived fearlessly, even as the specifics of it all melt away” (248). 

THOUGHTS: This is an enjoyable fantasy that interweaves naturally with reality and will push readers to grab the sequel: The Lost Time Warriors (2020). Strongly recommended for fantasy readers.

Fantasy          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD


Mortensen, Lori. Today’s Hip-Hop. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-55444-1. $21.49. 32 p. Grades 3-9.

The book includes Hip-Hop, popping, locking, free styling, and fusion. The content is divided into chapters, and vocabulary words are in bold font defined on the page and also in the glossary. Cool facts intersect in boxes like the style in Hamilton Broadway show. Colorful images add to the text and demonstrate different dance moves such as the jackhammer. 

THOUGHTS: Additional books in the Dance Today series include Today’s Ballet, Today’s Street Dance, and Today’s Tap Dancing. This books could add to an area of interest to many students that may be lacking in collections. 

793 Dance          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Lyon, Drew. Pro Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Comebacks. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-55436-6. $21.49. 32 p. Grades 3-9.

Full color images throughout concise chapters allow readers to learn about numerous athletic feats such as the 2004 Boston Red Sox, 2016 Chicago Cubs, and standout players such as Ted Williams. Important terms are placed in red font and defined at the bottom of the page. Terms include comeback, RBI, walk-off, pennant, ligament, and are also included in the glossary. Students can continue to explore at facthound.com using a password included in the book.

THOUGHTS: Other books in the All-Time Greatest Comebacks series include Pro-Hockey, Pro-Football, and Pro-Basketball. The series covers a wide range of sports and demonstrates the importance of optimism and never giving up. These are also great books to have in the collection that encourage recreational reading. 

796 Sports          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Terrell, Brandon. A Win for Women: Billie Jean King Takes Down Bobby Riggs. Illustrated by Eduardo Garcia. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-54219-6. $23.49. 32 p. Gr. 3-9. 

This book relates the lasting friendship between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs after their 1973 historic tennis match and is told in a full color graphic novel format. The battle of sexes and gender roles was put to the test and the full color graphic novel details this appropriately. The book includes the legacies of the athletes. A glossary, additional reading, critical thinking questions, Fact Hound internet site links, and an index is included. 

THOUGHTS: Other books in this Greatest moments in sports graphic library series include Defying Hitler: Jesse Owens’ Olympic Triumph, Lake Placid Miracle: When U.S. Hockey Stunned the World, Showdown in Manila: Ali and Frazier’s Epic Final Fight, Calling His Shot: Babe Ruth’s Legendary Home Run, and Soccer Shocker: U.S. Women’s Stunning 1999 World Cup Win. These books demonstrate the impact that sports can have on world events and social issues. They can be used to encourage sports enthusiasts to learn more about history and history enthusiasts to learn about the impact that sports have made. 

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Harbo, Christopher L. The Explosive World of Volcanoes. Illustrated by Tod Smith. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-543-52947-0. $25.99. 32 p. Grades 3-9. 

Readers are in for a fact filled graphic novel adventure with Max Axiom that includes cones, calderas, and eruptions of volcanoes. Artwork is in full color format. Back matter includes additional facts about volcanoes, a lava flow experiment with detailed steps, discussion questions, writing prompts, glossary, further readings, “super-cool stuff,” and an index.

THOUGHTS: This is part of the new 4D adventures with Max Axiom. 4D content includes videos of lava flow in Hawaii, ruins of Herculaneum, video direction for the lava flow experiment, and a quiz. These additions do enhance the reading experience and can be used in anticipatory sets with students to add additional excitement. Presently there are 24 titles in the series. 

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Otfinoski, Steven. The Selma Marches for Civil Rights We Shall Overcome. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-515-77941-4. $24.49. 112 p. Grades 5-9.

Important individuals involved with the Selma Marches for Civil Rights taking place in 1965 have their name in a purple banner with their location and time. Featured individuals include: Geroge Wallace, Lyndon Johnson, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy, Jim Clark, Lynda Blackmon, Frank Johnson, Viola Liuzzo, and Leroy Moton. The events feel like they are unfolding as you read. Backmatter includes an afterward leading up with milestones for each featured individual, a timeline, a glossary, critical thinking questions, internet sites, resources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: This book is part of the Tangled History set that currently includes 24 titles. The series presents vital events in history presented in an engaging and organized fashion. Most of the primary and individual photographs in this book are in crispy black and white colors. 

393 Social Issues          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Schwartz, Ella. Can You Crack the Code? A  Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography. Illustrated by Lily Williams. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1-681-19514-8. $21.99. 118 p. Grades 4-9.

The book introduces readers to the start of codes and ciphers leading all the way to the 2015 hack using malware known as a Trojan Horse. Illustrations, images, and special features add to the chapters. Ciphers and codes have been used by a wide range of individuals from Julius Caesar, to professional football players, classic fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, and in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Gold-Bug.” Important terms are place ind a bold font. A bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index conclude the book.

THOUGHTS: The book provides a lot of opportunities for readers to practice the codes that they learn about when reading. A lot of history is included when learning about codes. The book has connections to history, social studies, math, and computer science. 

652 Games and Activities          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Kilmeade, Brian, and Don Yaeger. George Washington’s Secret Six: the Spies Who Saved America. Viking, 2019. 978-0-425-28898-6. $17.99. 164 p. Gr. 4-9. 

Concise chapters with black and white illustrations make up this adapted version for young readers based off of the NYT bestselling book. Readers step into the conflicts facing the goal of American independence that Washington and the Patriots seek. While students will recognize the exquisite leadership skills of Washington, they may be unaware of the importance that intelligence from spies helped inform his choices. In addition, the great dangers that spies faced is detailed in the book. The “Secret Six” is also referred to as Culpher’s Ring. The book includes an afterword, appendixes that includes the pre-war lives of the spies and invisible ink, a detailed timeline, selected sources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: Can You Crack the Code? Is an excellent non-book to partner with this book, which is also featured in PSLA reviews. There are also fine fiction books to add to make a must visit display such as Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac, The Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, or The Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.                                                                                                    

973.4 United States History          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Tait, A.L. The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel. Kane Miller, 2019. 978-1-610-67827-8. $5.99. 248 p. Grades 4-8. 

Growing up as an orphan and taken care of at the monastery, Gabe has yet to leave the grounds. He feels that he has no choice but to leave when an injured man gives him a fancy book to keep secret and deliver to a persona that he has never heard of named Aiden. He has an hour to hide the manuscript, but this does not go as planned. He is helped by outlaws, but Gabe does not expect the outlaws to be women. How can Gabe repay the outlaws and also save the book from possible sinister intentions from leaders visiting the monastery? The adventure will continue with The Book of Answers.

THOUGHTS: This is the first American edition since the 2017 publication in Australia and New Zealand. The series would be perfect for fans of The False Prince series by Jennifer A. Nielsen or Rowan Hood by Nancy Springer. 

Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Ross, Jeff. Shutout.  Orca Books, 2019. 978-1-459-81876-7. $9.95. 148 p. Grades 7-12.

Alex is a skilled goalie for the hockey team. Chloe, his girlfriend, is very involved with art and acting, but attends his games. Alex is shocked when the principal wants to see him and believes that Alex is defacing the school with graffiti. The readers know that Alex is not behind the acts, but how can he prove his innocence for his reputation and chance to play hockey? 

THOUGHTS: This fast-paced mystery would also delight readers that enjoy sports or theater arts. There are currently 54 novels in the Orca Sports collection. Presently the teacher guide for this novel is not posted online at Orca Sports, but you could introduce the author using his website: http://www.jeffrossbooks.com/

Mystery          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Stolen Girl. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-23304-9. $17.99. 208 p.Gr 3-8. 

What if you were unsure of your childhood and had memories of being with members of the Nazi organization? You’ve moved to a new area with your adoptive parents, and children tease you for having blonde hair and blue eyes? What is the truth of your history? This is the struggle that Nadia faces and will finally uncover her past.

THOUGHTS: This book is powerful. The backmatter shares additional information from this time period and experiences from the family of the author. Scholastic included a book trailer for this book in the Spring 2019 fair, and the link to the video will draw interest as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRWYmfeevWU

Historical Fiction          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Calonita, Jen. Mirror, Mirror: A Twisted Tale. Disney Press, 2019. 978-136801383-3. $17.99. 344 p. Grades 5-9. 

A lovely princess makes the best of times despite the loss of both of her parents and being shuttered from the world by a mean step-mother. The princess is lucky to escape death and find the home of the miners. Danger comes in the form of a poison apple. This is a pretty familiar fairy tale for students. Some of the parts are familiar, but not most in Mirror, Mirror. In the new novel, the king is distraught over the loss of his wife, married his wife’s sister, and then finally flees the kingdom distressed. Snow White meets a prince who wishes to speak with the Queen about the trade arrangements with his kingdom, before running to eventual safety and learning the true events that happened to both of her parents and the quest that she and her friends must complete. The classic characters are further defined, and the Magic Mirror develops more giving a clear image of the back story of magic. This novel contains continual fantasy and suspense to see how this tale will unfold with perspectives alternating between Snow and The Queen.

THOUGHTS: Page turning and deeply satisfying, this read shows familiar characters with a different take on a classic fairy tale. This is the sixth book in A Twisted Tale series. Students can write their version of the class tale before beginning the novel and compare all of the renditions. 

Fairy Tale, Adventure          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD


Kammer, Gina. Mind Drifter: Enemy Mind. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-496-55898-5. $19.99. 128 p. Grades 3-9

The last day of seventh grade at Emdaria North Middle School is significant as students take their personality skills tests. They quickly learn their student helper role for the year 2310. While Syah was eager to become a student artist, she was surprised to see that her role would be a counselor, also known as Mind Drifters. Syah will do her job in the MindLinkLab where counselors enter the mindscape of other students. Her best friend Joden has the role to assist in the science lab. The new roles seem to cause tension in their friendship and Kreo, Joden’s lab partner, is unkind. Syah sees a chance to enter Kreo’s mindscape, but it would be against the policies, and she is presented with a conundrum. Regardless of her choices she will have to face consequences, address bullying, concerns of privacy, and explore the realms of friendship.  

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging book. Three other titles are presently in the series: Dream Monster, Wicked Stepsister, and Reject Rebound. If the book is used in a classroom setting, there are questions for discussion in “Talk it Over” and writing exercises with Think and Write” sections. The book also includes a glossary and reference guide which would be helpful to preview with classes before starting the novel. The 4D content includes an interview from the author, Gina Kammer. This adds to the content included in the about the author section of the book, which sets the background for the book. 

Science Fiction, Adventure           Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD