Elem. – The Ice Cream Vanishes

Sarcone-Roach, Julia. The Ice Cream Vanishes. Alfred A. Knopf, 2023. 978-0-593-30985-8. unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

Meet Squirrel, a magician at making snacks disappear. Finding an ice cream cone that a little girl dropped, the squirrel is determined to make this cone disappear. He places it on a hot rock in the sun while waking Bear up, and it disappears! Squirrel believes he is a magician. He is determined to show all of his friends just how his magic can make ice cream disappear. Does ransacking an ice cream truck count as magic??

THOUGHTS: This cute little book is a good end of the year read!

Picture Book 

Elem. – Evergreen

Cordell, Matthew. Evergreen. Feiwel and Friends, 2023. 978-1-250-31717-9. unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

Evergreen is not a brave squirrel. She is afraid of loud noises, heights, swimming, and thunderstorms. Buckthorn Forest, where Evergreen lives in a tall red oak tree with her mother, is full of scary things. But Evergreen’s mother needs her to deliver an acorn full of healing soup to an ailing Granny Oak. Evergreen has never traveled through Buckthorn by herself … until now. Along the way, she encounters a fluffy white rabbit trapped between two rocks, a red-tailed hawk, and an old toad and his great-grandson. Each new character needs Evergreen’s help, and she must find her courage to solve her fellow forest critters’ problems. What will happen when she meets the fiercest of all the animals in Buckthorn, a grizzly bear? Matthew Cordell’s ink and watercolor illustrations are characteristically wonderful. Evergreen’s expressive eyes and tentative posture reveal her anxiety; she practically quivers on the page! Full-page spreads featuring Buckthorn Forest’s predators add high-stakes drama to the story. A color palette of green, blue, and brown represents the natural world perfectly. 

THOUGHTS: Readers of Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen and Cordell’s own Cornbread and Poppy series will love this woodsy adventure story. The ending hints at future Evergreen excursions!

Picture Book

Elem. – Pizza My Heart

Song, Mika. Pizza My Heart. RH Graphic, 2022. 978-0-593-47972-8. $12.99. 91 p. Grades K-3.

Tired of eating only acorns, squirrels Norma and Belly set out in search of pizza. A new pizzeria has opened in town with a storefront vending machine. Norma and Belly observe a human operating the machine and decide to give it a try. The only problem is they do not have any money to insert into the machine. When Norma scrambles up the machine to try to figure it out, she is sucked in through the bill slot, and finds herself in the pizzeria, and the adventure begins. Hiding in a pizza box, Norma is accidentally packed onto a delivery bike and whisked away. Meanwhile, Belly, who has been desperately trying to break into the pizzeria, hops aboard the delivery bike in hopes of gaining access after the delivery. As it turns out, the delivery bike is headed to the home of Tomato, a mean cat wearing an eye patch. It will take brains and guts to get past Tomato and rescue Norma, but Belly prevails. 

THOUGHTS: A delightful early graphic novel, Pizza My Heart has amusing illustrations and characters that are adorably silly. A great introduction to graphic novels.

Early Graphic Novel          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – The Belonging Tree

Cocca-Leffler, Maryann. The Belonging Tree. Henry Holt and Company, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-250-30513-8. $18.99.  Grades PreK-1.

A community of happy squirrels lives on Forest Lane.  The Gray squirrel family, Ma, Pa, and Little Zeke, love their old oak tree home and enjoy eating, working and playing with their squirrel neighbors. Then in summer, some blue jays arrive and their noise disturbs Ma and Pa, but Zeke enjoys their singing. In the fall, a chipmunk family with many babies appears and gets busy gathering acorns. Zeke loves feeding the babies, while his parents are concerned about a nut shortage. All is peaceful through the winter, but in spring some busy beavers move in and start building dams. Ma and Pa fear the beavers will down all the trees, but Zeke is amazed by what they have built. The parents decide to move across the river to get away from these other animals. That night, during a storm, the squirrel family’s new home is destroyed. They are rescued through the efforts of their former animal neighbors and quickly realize that the best neighborhood is one where everyone belongs. The author has created a book that shows the value of community and how it is important to include and accept our neighbors. Lombardi’s colorful drawings were created with watercolor and Adobe Photoshop. The full bleed illustrations are charming and the squirrels are drawn with large expressive eyes. Children will love the illustration of Zeke feeding the young chipmunks with a baby bottle.

THOUGHTS: This story is a wonderful discussion starter about communities and the importance of diversity and tolerance. It is a great read aloud and a worthwhile purchase for all elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member