MG – Astronauts: Women of the Final Frontier

Ottaviani, Jim. Astronauts: Women of the Final Frontier. First Second, 2020. 978-1-626-72877-6. 157 p. $19.99. Grades 5-8.

From page one this graphic novel challenges sexist thinking showing an astronaut taking off their suit to reveal Mary Cleave, one of the first women in space. Throughout the story astronauts like Mary Cleave and Valentina Tereshkova work hard and accomplish many feats despite the sexism they face in their daily lives. At one point John Glen and other famous male astronauts laugh at the possibility of having women join men on space missions. The story explores the diverse paths that led these astronauts to their jobs at NASA and the impressive talent, work ethic, and intense training these astronauts had to be able to operate a spaceship. The illustrations are fun, and the format allows readers of all abilities to be introduced to the incredible science behind space exploration. After reading about the lives of these trailblazers, readers will be inspired to overcome obstacles, seize opportunities, and pursue their passions.

THOUGHTS: A good addition to any graphic novel collection. The story will be appreciated by readers of nonfiction and graphic novels and will encourage readers to learn more about space flight and the history of women in space.

629.45 Manned Space Flight          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Old Rock (Is Not Boring)

Pilutti, Deb. Old Rock (Is Not Boring). G.B. Putnam’s Sons, 2020. 978-0-525-51818-1. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-4. 

Old Rock happily sat at the edge of the forest “for as long as anyone could remember. And even before that” until one day friends begin to brag about their many adventures. Hummingbird’s stories of flight remind Old Rock about what it was like to sit in darkness before erupting from a volcano. Spotted Beetle’s tales of scaling trees to watch animals and ships remind Old Rock of times when dinosaurs roamed before giant glaciers covered the land. Tall Pine’s dancing in the wind inspires rock to recant what it was like to tumble down a ridge and land in a vast grassland full of mastodon. Old Rock’s friends are finally convinced that staying in one place for as long as anyone can remember might not be that bad when Old Rock shares what it has been like to watch seedlings grow into tall pine forests while listening to stories of adventure and travel from good friends. Anthropomorphic flora, fauna, and rock illustrations paired with occasional conversation bubbles add whimsy to the story. The final page consists of an illustrated timeline spanning from 18 million years ago to present day providing additional facts about Old Rock’s journey.

THOUGHTS: Connect this book to a science lesson about the rock cycle, geology, earth history, or just read it aloud for fun. I think students will enjoy the humor of this book while also appreciating the geological facts rooted in Old Rock’s stories. SEL connections can also be made with Old Rock’s contentedness to be still and live in the present.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem. – Fun STEM Challenges (Series Nonfiction)

Ventura, Marne. Fun STEM Challenges. Pebble, 2020. $20.49 ea. Set of 6 $122.94. 24 p. Grades K-3.

Building Boats that Float.  978-1-977-11297-2.
Building Marble Runs 978-1-977-11300-9.
Building Simple Traps. 
978-1-977-11298-9.
Building Strong Bridges. 978-1-977-11299-6.
Building Sunshades. 978-1-977-11301-6.
Building Tough Towers. 978-1-977-11296-5.

In this book, we learn all about Marble Runs! In text young readers can understand, this book informs us as to what a marble run is, why we can build them, how we make our own, and a review of what we learned! This book also contains a glossary for important key words, both text and Internet sites where we can obtain more information, and even some critical thinking questions. This informative book will have young readers creating their own marble runs out of a variety of materials!

THOUGHTS: This is a must have for any STEM/STEAM teacher who works with young grades! A simple book to allow students to begin thinking about his/her own marble run and how to make it work. (Title Reviewed: Building Marble Runs)

507.8 Inventions          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

MG – Unconventional Science

Unconventional Science. ABDO Books, 2020. $23.00 ea. $138.00 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-8. 

Burling, Alexis. Turning Poop Into Power. 978-1-532-11901-9.
Hand, Carol. Controlling Invasive Species with Goats. 978-1-532-11898-2.
Hustad, Douglas. Cleaning Up Plastic with Artificial Coastlines. 978-1-532-11897-5.
McCarthy, Cecilia Pinto. Capturing Carbon with Fake Trees. 978-1-532-11896-8.
—. Eating Bugs as Sustainable Food. 978-1-532-11899-9.
—. Harvesting Fog for Water. 978-1-532-11900-2

This series expertly presents new scientific ideas that many adults and students never may have considered, and aims to give some explanation about the pros and cons of each idea. In four chapters, readers learn about the environmental problem which led to the idea being considered, how well the idea could work, and problems with adopting the idea as a solution. The gross factor of Eating Bugs or Turning Poop into Power may turn off readers or prove irresistible to them.  Chapters end with either compelling deeper thinking questions, or segments linking other documents to the text, again with thoughtful questions. The end matter includes glossary, index, fast facts, and further resources, and is notable for the “Stop and Think” section and the ABDO Book Links website (readers scan QR code to access resources for each specific book).

THOUGHTS: This is a well-presented, engaging format with refreshing and unusual ideas, perfect for middle school learners. ABDO has paid attention to what young learners (and their teachers) need. Librarians may want to give more attention to the various series in ABDO’s Core Library (“nonfiction for grades 3-6”). Free teaching resources are available for download via Follett’s Titlewave. (Title reviewed: Eating Bugs as Sustainable Food.)

363; 628 Science, Engineering        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Engineering Disasters

Engineering Disasters. ABDO Books, 2020. $23.00 ea. $138.00 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-8. 

Huddleston, Emma. Ford Pinto Fuel Tanks. 978-1-532-19-072-8.
—. The Johnstown Flood. 978-1-532-19073-5.
—. The New Orleans Levee Failure. 978-1-532-19074-2.
Kortemeier, Todd. Air France Flight 447. 978-1-532-19070-4
—. Chernobyl. 978-1-532-19071-1.
—.  The Space Shuttle Challenger. 978-1-532-19075-9.

This series looks at well-intentioned concepts which ultimately failed in some way. The solid format covers the disaster, the search for the cause, and the changes enacted to avoid further disasters. The text is clear and factual, with various sidebars and charts adding meaningful supplemental perspectives. A full-page “Straight to the Source” occurs twice in the book, linking another text with useful questions for further thinking and writing, while a “Stop and Think” segment is part of the well-rounded back matter of Fast Facts, glossary, index, and ABDO’s free online resources.

THOUGHTS: This is a well-presented series on major failures and how the engineering in question has changed. (Title reviewed: The Space Shuttle Challenger.)

363 Manmade Disasters            Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention

Jones, Pip, and Sara Ogilvie. Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention. Peachtree, 2020. 978-1-682-63164-5. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-3.

Young inventor Izzy Gizmo returns for a second outing (Izzy Gizmo 2018), showcasing her creative mind and determined spirit. Izzy is delighted to receive an invitation to Technoff Isle’s Invention Convention. She arrives at Technoff Isle with grandpa and pet crow, Fixer, in tow, and meets her fierce, determined competition. With only one day to create an amazing invention, Izzy gets to work, but is quickly stymied at every turn by the ultra-aggressive Abi von Lavish. Left with limited supplies, Izzy’s frustration grows as each idea is quickly discarded. However, watching (obviously spoiled) Abi discard broken tools and supplies, Izzy becomes inspired to build a tool-recycling machine and gets to work. As the hours tick down, her temper flares when the invention fails to work, and Izzy snaps at those attempting to help her. Eventually she gets the message, and Fixer’s advice saves the machine and the day. The book is a credible entry in the STEM market, nicely emphasizing the need for trial and error when inventing. Ogilvie’s illustrations are charming, imbuing all the characters with delightful personalities and clearly, amusingly, displaying Izzy’s emotions. While the story is cute, the narration is hindered by unnecessary rhyming; a prose text would better suit the theme and message of the story (like Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing).

THOUGHTS: A fun addition to a STEM collection, introducing several themes, including recycling, creating, and accepting help. This book could generate discussion prior to starting a Maker Space unit.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor 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

Elem. – Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets; ATVs; Lowriders; Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw; The Upper Case; Kylie Jean Recipe Queen; Karl’s New Beak; True Tales of Rescue; Fearless Felines; Stuffed; Anya and the Dragon; Little Bro, Big Sis; Thinker; Rosie and Rasmus; Firefighters’ Handbook; The Superlative A. Lincoln; Good Dad Diego; Milton & Odie; Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries; Beastly Puzzles; Who Am I; Instructions Not Included

Smith, Alex T. Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets. Peachtree. 2019. 978-1-682-63130-0. $16.95. Grades 2-4.

Another Mr. Penguin adventure! This time, Mr. Penguin is finishing a very important mission, when disaster seems to strike on his return home! With every move he makes, something bad happens! His plan crashes, small rodent animals are stolen, a mysterious castle that was once quiet is now making strange sounds, and he has no fish fingers to eat! Can Mr. Penguin solve the mystery of the castle AND return his parcel back to the museum? Read to find out!

THOUGHTS: Another funny Mr. Penguin adventure is here! Elementary readers will be excited to see the crazy leaps and bounds Mr. Penguin and his trusty spider side-kick Collin take. An enjoyable chapter book read!

Fantasy          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 


Shaffer, Lindsay. ATVs. Bellwether. 2019. 978-1-626-17870-0. $19.95. Grades 3-6.

This information guide to ATVs is a great resource for elementary readers interested in active outdoor recreation. ATVs feature a wide variety of information on the history, types, gear, and fast facts all about ATVs. This intermediate read has text and pictures that are engaging and informative, well balanced between the two. Elementary readers will enjoy the pictures, all the while learning new information about this fast vehicle. The back of the book contains a glossary, index, and additional information sources, both in print and on the web.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun informational piece for young active readers, part of the Full Throttle series!

629.228 ATVs, Vehicles          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

 

 


Adamson, Thomas K. Lowriders. Bellwether. 2019. 978-1-62617-873-1. $19.95. Grades 3-6.

Other Books in the Full Throttle Series (Series total: $239.40)
Dragsters – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179318
Indy Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179325
Karts – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179332
Sport Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2019. 9781626179349
4×4 Trucks – Shaffer, Lindsay. 2018. 9781626178694
Dirt Bikes – Shaffer, Lindsay. 2018. 9781626178717
Hot Rods – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178724
Monster Trucks – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178748
Motocross Cycles – Shaffer, Lindsay.2018. 9781626178755
Stock Cars – Adamson, Thomas K. 2018. 9781626178762

Part of the Full Throttle series, Lowriders is an informational resource to the Lowrider vehicle, great for elementary readers. Full of pictures, text, fast facts, timelines, and more, this book is sure to pull in elementary readers that are interested in cars, specifically ones that seem to hop! Readers will learn a bit about competitions and the hydraulics that are used to make these lowriders bounce.

THOUGHTS: This is another fun informational read in the Full Throttle series!

629.222 Lowriders, Vehicles          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Loveless, Gina, and Andrea Bell. Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw. Andrews McMeel Publishing. 2019. 978-1-524-85548-2. $13.99. Grades 2-5.

It’s only taken a month since Robin received her diary to start writing in it, but now she is committed! Unfortunately, Day 1 isn’t the best beginning of a diary. It starts great but then ends terribly. She didn’t mean to give Marinara a bloody nose when playing basketball. She just got angry when he was being rude to her. It seems from then on, things go downhill. Mary Ann still won’t talk to her after missing her big day, and the bully keeps stealing everyone’s Bonus Bucks. Add on that Robin accidentally got the Bonus Bucks banned, everyone is mad at her, and she still can’t get Mary Ann to be her friend again… it seems that every good intention is ending badly! Can Robin, the 5th Grade Outlaw, solve these problems?

THOUGHTS: An Epic! Original story that is easy to read with large, spacious text; fun illustrations that create a graphic novel type feel; and written in a diary format. A fun read for a variety of readers who like some action that deserves a hero… or an outlaw!

Realistic Fiction           Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD


Lazar, Tara. The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-02765-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-9. 

There’s trouble in River Capital City. All the upper case letters have disappeared except for Private I. Now he’s on the case, trying to locate the missing letters in a city that, devoid of its capitals, no longer makes sense. This riotous book is filled with puns, both verbal and pictorial, with brightly colored, humorous illustrations by Ross MacDonald. As Private I moves about the city, conducting interviews and looking for clues, readers will giggle with delight. And the denouement! What a surprise! But also a subtle lesson that sometimes even the most outgoing of us need some quiet time.

THOUGHTS: This utterly delightful picture book, reminiscent of Audrey Woods’ alphabet series, begs to be read aloud at story time, as well as given a closer one-on-one reading. There are so many puns and jokes to catch, it will stand up to multiple readings. A recommended purchase for libraries serving primary grades.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Green, Gail, and Marci Peschke. Kylie Jean Recipe Queen. Picture Window Books, 2019. $20.99 ea. $83.96 set of 4. 32 p. Grades 2-4. 

Breakfast Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82850-1
Dinner Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82849-5
Lunch Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82848-8
Treat Recipe Queen. 978-1-515-82847-1

Fictional character Kylie Jean is back, this time in a non-fiction cooking series where she shares some of her favorite recipes. This reviewer had the opportunity to read the volume focusing on breakfast recipes. Recipes include smoothies, rainbow waffles, energy bars, and more–including a recipe for Fido! Designed for elementary-aged chefs, working with adult assistance, each recipe features step-by-step instructions (emphasizing points when adult assistance will be required), a full page photo of the finished product, as will as tips and creative options.

THOUGHTS: A nice addition for elementary libraries looking to update or expand their cooking collections (especially libraries that already own the Kylie Jean fiction series). Sure to hold appeal for aspiring chefs looking to try out new recipes.

641.5 Cooking            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Nargi, Lela. Karl’s New Beak: 3-D Printing Builds a Bird a Better Life. Capstone, 2019. 978-1-684-46026-7. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 1-3.

Karl, an Abyssinian ground hornbill at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, had a problem–a big problem. A large portion of his lower beak had worn away! This left him dependent on his keepers for special food, as he was not able to pinch insects or small mammals off the ground with his beak. His quality of life was impacted in other ways as well. He couldn’t engage in hunting behaviors or interact with the surrounding environment as he normally would. In order to improve Karl’s quality of life, his keepers decided to create a prosthetic beak using a 3-D printer. Author Lela Nargi relates Karl’s journey and the 3-D beak creation process in Karl’s New Beak. The text is accompanied by numerous large photos and drawings. A section including basic facts about the Abyssinian ground hornbill and a glossary are also included. As part of Capstone’s 4-D line of books, readers can access supplemental video material via an app or online.

THOUGHTS: This engaging title is a must buy for elementary library collections, especially those looking to expand their STEM-related collections. Karl’s story lends itself to lessons on engineering, 3-D printing, cooperation and innovation, just to name a few.

636.089 Veterinary medicine          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Einhorn, Kama. True Tales of Rescue. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. $14.99 ea. 143 p. Grades 3-7. 

    Go, Goats!. 978-132-876706-6
    Tiger Time. 978-132-876707-3

The purpose of the True Tales of Rescue series is to inform readers about animal sanctuaries and their mission of animal rescue, recovery, rehabilitation, and release. Go, Goats! examines the farm animal rescue efforts of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. The narrator of the book is Lucia, the oldest goat at the sanctuary. She takes readers on a tour of the facility and describes the journey of the largest group of goats the sanctuary has ever rescued. Along the way, readers learn about the steps in the animal rescue process, the services provided by the sanctuary, the daily life of the animals, and facts about goats. Tiger Time is narrated by Kamal the tiger, a resident of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. He informs readers about various aspects of wild animal rescue and how these creatures are rehabilitated and live in the sanctuary. Readers also learn many facts about tigers. The series is written in an engaging and conversational style. Readers feel like they are sitting down and having a chat with Lucia and Kamal. The text is accompanied by numerous photographs of the animals and the sanctuaries. Suggestions for supporting sanctuaries and animals are also provided.

THOUGHTS: This series is sure to be popular with animal lovers. The conversational style of the text makes the series a great non-fiction option for reluctant readers. In addition to these newest titles, librarians should also consider purchasing the prior titles in the series.

636.7, 599 Farm Animals, Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Hamilton, Kimberlie. Fearless Felines: 30 True Tales of Courageous Cats. Scholastic, 2019. 978-1-338-35583-3. $9.99. 160 p. Grades 3-7.

Fearless Felines recounts the stories of cats from around the world and throughout history who led amazing and unique lives. For example there’s Sam, who spent time onboard both German and English Naval vessels in World War II; Morris, who found fame on TV commercials; Nora, the piano playing kitty; and Snowball, the Canadian cat who helped police in an investigation. Interspersed among the cat tales are lists of various feline factoids, quizzes, and historical cat lists/information. Each single page cat profile is accompanied by a full page illustration by one of seventeen artists.

THOUGHTS: A quick and enjoyable read, this title is sure to be a hit with your school’s many cat owners and fans. The text is enhanced by the variety of illustrations, completed in various styles and mediums, which helps to bring the unique personality of each cat to life.

636.8 Cats          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Braswell, Liz. Stuffed. Disney, 2019. 978-1-368-03701-3. 244 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Clark’s mom is sure that, at 10 years old, Clark is too old to play with stuffed animals. But for Clark, it isn’t play; it’s protection from the monsters he thinks come out at night. When a new playdate friend confirms that monsters are real, and “stuffies” are the defense, Clark begins to understand what is wrong with his father, who has taken to bed and looks weaker by the day. In a last ditch effort to make Clark “grow up,” his mom sends him to Camp I Can, a camp for children to break dependencies. Luckily, Clark connects with the crafts counselor who knows all about stuffies and comes up with a plan to save his dad before it’s too late. This sweet book gives voice to what all children know: stuffed animals are real. In a trading card-like structure, stuffies are given defensive point values for various characteristics, and being home-made, with love, is a big power boost. Clark epitomizes the frustration children feel at not being taken seriously by adults, but luckily he has a fan in his goth older sister, a unique character in her own right. The story includes occasional narration from one of Clark’s stuffies, which adds a twist of suspense to the story. Author Braswell also includes instructions to make one’s own stuffies.

THOUGHTS: Any reader who has ever loved a stuffed animal will delight in Stuffed.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Pasternick, Sofiya. Anya and the Dragon. Versify, 2019. 978-0-358-00607-7. 394 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Anya’s Babulya, grandmother, always tells her to not make trouble, not to stand out. This comes from her grandmother’s lifetime of experience as a Jew in Russia. But Anya attracts attention for another reason when she bravely assaults a cruel warrior from the north who threatens the village. Her bravery is noticed by Yedsha, the Tsar’s fool, who just arrived in her small village, ostensibly on a mission to study the magical creatures that dwell there. He is really seeking a dragon, thought to be extinct, and hires Anya to guide him around the area and look for one. Anya is in need of money, as the village magistrate is in the process of evicting her family from their house unless they pay back taxes her mother owes. However, when Anya finds a young dragon and discovers what a thoughtful, caring creature the dragon is, she is torn between saving her family or saving the dragon. The story reads like a cozy Russian folk tale, full of magic, mythical creatures, ghosts, and evil soldiers. Anya is drawn into the warmth of the fool’s large family, making friends with his youngest son Ivan. But as Anya prepares for her Bat Mitzvah, her Torah readings cause her to question the morality of her work with Yedsha Ivanovitch. Is it acceptable to take one life to save many? Is an animal life as valuable as a human life? Jewish culture and history run through the story like the threads of magic the villagers use. The conclusion of the book highlights Anya’s bravery and cleverness, and leaves readers wanting more. Luckly, a sequel is on the way.

THOUGHTS: Another stellar entry in the cultural folktale/adventure genre, this time from Kwame Alexander’s imprint. The story is fast paced, with magic, a generous supply of magical creatures, and villains too. Anya is thoughtful, loyal, and quick on her feet. While she continuously rues that she alone in the village has no magic, it is obvious that she has many other gifts. This book will find a home with any reader who loves magical adventures and folk tales.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Bonilla, Rocio. Little Bro, Big Sis. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-623-54109-5. 56 p. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Big Sis is an overbearing rhinoceros according to Little Bro, but she does have some positive qualities. Little Bro is an annoying monkey who always gets in the way, according to Big Sis, but he does have some endearing moments. As Little Bro and Big Sis consider their relationship, they realize that maybe it isn’t so bad having one sibling, especially when a new baby comes into the family.

THOUGHTS: With humorous illustrations that support the development between the two siblings, Little Bro, Big Sis is a Flip-Me-Over Book that tells the same story from each sibling’s perspective.  It is a fun, funny picture book about sibling relationships and what happens when a family grows from two children to three. This is a great story for siblings to explore their own feelings towards one another and their feelings when their family changes.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Greenfield, Eloise. Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me. Ill. Ehsan Abdollahi, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2019. 978-1-492-67724-6. 32 p. $15.99. Grades PreK and up.

Jace and Thinker are both poets. When Thinker comes to live with Jace and his family, he is welcomed into the family. As Thinker and Jace share their poetry with one another, they share their thoughts and feelings, their music from their words. But, when Jace has to go to school and Thinker cannot, Thinker begins to worry that Jace is ashamed of him and his poems. He worries that he is not good enough for Jace and needs to be more of a dog in public and less of himself, the poet. When pet day comes, Thinker promises to only bark and not embarrass Jace, but he cannot limit who he is, so he takes the stage to recite poetry, and soon all of the pets are sharing their skills, singing, dancing, walking upside down, and more.  Jace is proud of Thinker for staying true to himself and sharing his poetry.

THOUGHTS: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me is a wonderful collection of poems that reminds readers always to remain true to who you are and not worry about what others think. Not only are the poems fun, sharing a story of man’s best friend and understanding of character, but the illustrations are gorgeous. Created using paper cuts, each illustration adds a brightness to the poem and connects each element of the poet’s story together.  The poems and illustrations continually remind the reader that being true to you is the key.

Poetry        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Geddes, Serena. Rosie and Rasmus. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1-4814-9874-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-12.

Rosie and Rasmus both have a wish. Rosie wishes for a friend, and Rasmus wants to fly. One day when Rosie goes out by the water, she meets Rasmus. She teaches him things that she enjoys, and he shows her lots of things that can fly. Rosie encourages Rasmus to continue trying to fly. When Rasmus finally grows his wings and learns to fly, he and Rosie must part ways. Although Rosie is sad to lose her friend, she realizes that perhaps she can do for another what Rasmus did for her.

THOUGHTS: Rosie and Rasmus is an endearing picture book about friendship, encouragement, perseverance, and loss. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and add to the beauty of this story of friendship, growth, and loss. This is a wonderful book for children who are struggling to fit in socially, who are shy, or who are just looking for a friend.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


McCarthy, Meghan. Firefighters’ Handbook. Simon & Schuster, 2019. 978-1-534-41733-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Well-known children’s non-fiction author-illustrator Megan McCarthy’s newest title introduces young readers to the career of firefighting. The physical requirements of the job, including types overall fitness activities (running, biking, etc.) as well as job-specific fitness requirements (climbing stairs, lifting equipment, etc.) are presented and discussed. Diagrams and descriptions explain firefighting gear, equipment, and vehicles. Types of firefighting situations and scenarios as well as jobs and duties carried out in the firehouse are also shown and described. Back matter includes an interview with a retired battalion chief and his answers to some questions from children.

THOUGHTS: Readers with an interest in firefighting will be sure to appreciate this title. The illustrations are appealing and engaging, and the text clearly explains all the facets of the firefighting profession to younger readers. Highly recommended.

628.9 Firefighting           Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Meyer, Eileen R. The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89937-6. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K-4.

The Superlative A. Lincoln relates key events and milestones in Abraham Lincoln’s life via 19 poems. Each poem is titled with a different superlative statement. “Best Lumberjack” relates Lincoln’s prowess with an ax, “Best Yarn Spinner” focuses on his ability to tell a tale, and “Best Use of an Accessory” is written from the point of view of Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat. Accompanying each poem is a paragraph that explains the history behind the poetry. The text is complimented by Dave Szalay’s illustrations, which accompany each poem. The illustrations, while digitally created, have a vintage vibe and feel that seem perfect for a history-related title.

THOUGHTS: These fun poems are a great way to engage students and share some important facts about our 16th President. The title could be used in various lessons, including poetry, Presidents Day, and Abraham Lincoln. Highly recommended for elementary collections.

811 Poetry          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Maloney, Brenna. Good Dad Diego. Viking, 2019. 978-0-451-48126-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.

Diego the dog is a pug who has a tough job–he is a father! In that capacity, he has to wear many hats. Sometimes he is the law of the household, focusing on preventing his puppies from misbehaving. Other roles he takes on include cook, dishwasher, nurse, and repairman. The most important hat he wears, though, is simply Dad. He loves his pups and wants to care for them and set a good example. This photographic picture book features illustrations of Diego wearing his different hats (for example, a policeman’s hat when he is the law, a chef’s hat when he is the cook). While most photos focus on Diego, the closing pages introduce readers to his adorable pups.

THOUGHTS: Sure to be a hit with dog lovers, this title would make a great read aloud and might also prompt discussion on the various jobs and roles carried out within households.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Fraser, Mary Ann. Milton & Odie and the Bigger-than-Bigmouth Bass. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-623-54098-2. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades PreK-2.

As the story opens, otters Milton and Odie have woken up in their homes with the same idea-they will spend the day ice fishing! They travel to separate areas of a lake and drop their lines in the water. However, Milton and Odie’s personalities could not be more different. Milton has a grumpy personality and a pessimistic attitude. He’s sure he is unlikely to catch anything as the lake probably doesn’t have anything worth catching. Odie, on the other hand, is cheerful and always sees the positive side of things. For example, when he reels in an abandoned fishing net rather than a fish, he views it as a great and useful find. When fate (and tangled fishing lines) bring these two polar opposites together, they learn a lesson about the power of teamwork and patience, and optimistic outlooks.

THOUGHTS: This delightful story is sure to bring a smile to the face of readers and would make an excellent read aloud, as Milton and Odie have such distinct personalities. The book could easily be incorporated into lessons and discussions on topics such as friendship, feelings, and emotions.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Hogan, Eric, and Tara Hungerford. Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries. Firefly Books, 2019. $19.95 ea. 32 p. Grades PreK-2.

The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder. 978-0-228-10189-5.
The Case of the Story Rock. 978-0-228-10191-8.
The Case of the Vanishing Caterpillar. 978-0-228-10193-2.
The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper. 978-0-228-10195-6.

The Gumboot Kids Nature Mysteries are adapted from a popular Canadian children’s television program. Each volume features main characters Scout and Daisy, mice best friends, who embark on a journey to solve a nature-related mystery (for example, “why did my caterpillar friend disappear?”). They use their prior knowledge and observations recorded in a field book to guide them as they go out into nature to investigate further. Next, they consult books in the library to verify what they have learned (or to add to their knowledge) in order to solve the mystery. With their case now closed, they return to the outdoors and take a “mindful moment” to reflect on the knowledge they have gained. Each book contains a “Field Notes” section with information, definitions, photos, diagrams, etc. about the mystery topic as well as a nature craft related to the story.

THOUGHTS: As a librarian, I really liked how these books introduced and reinforced the idea of the research process for younger readers throughout the storyline. Scout and Daisy identify a question (aka the mystery), make and record observations, and conduct research in the library in order to solve the mystery. The series encourages readers to go out into nature, explore and engage with the world around them and to be curious. (Note: Familiarity with the Gumboot Kids television program is not needed in order to understand and enjoy these titles).

500s Natural Sciences        Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD


Poliquin, Rachel. Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game. Ill. Byron Eggenschwiler. Kids Can Press, 2019. 978-1-771-38913-6. 32 p. $16.99. Grades 2-5.

Beastly Puzzles is a guessing game for readers to see how much they know, or think they know, about an animal. Each tri-fold spread begins in a monochromatic room, a study, a sewing room, a bedroom, etc., with colorful pictures of clues. The clues help readers answer the question, “What animal could you make with…”, along with a hint at the bottom of the page. After readers put their critical thinking to a test to figure out the animal represented by the clues, the page folds out into the animal and information about it.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun, challenging way to test critical thinking, animal knowledge, and learn about animals. It is a great addition to elementary libraries.

793.73 Puzzle Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 


Flach, Tim. Who Am I? A Peek-Through-Pages Book of Endangered Animals. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019. 978-1-419-73646-9. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

Who Am I? guides young readers through twelve endangered species by providing clues about each one. The clues allow readers to use their knowledge of animals to guess the endangered species. Some are obvious: the giant panda, a polar bear, and a gorilla. Others are not: the crowned sifaka, the white-bellied pangolin, and the axolotl.  Each set of clues provides information about the animal. Additional information about each animal is located in the back of the book in the “Who are we?” section. This text also includes, “Wanted! Caretakers for Planet Earth – How You Can Help,” a section about what readers and humanity can do to help endangered animals and the planet in general.

THOUGHTS: This title is a fun way for early elementary students to learn about endangered species. It rotates between those they may know and those they probably do not. It is a great source for introducing endangered animals and also elementary appropriate research (or search).

591.68 Endangered Animals          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Brown, Tami Lewis, and Debbie Loren Dunn. Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future. Ill. Chelsea Beck. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 978-1-368-01105-1. 64 p. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty all came from different backgrounds but had one thing in common: their understanding of math. Brought together during World War II, these three women were tasked to use their math skills to program ENIAC, one of the world’s earliest computers. With no instructions, the women set out to create a code for ENIAC that would prove a computer’s worth in both war and peace. But, programming a 13-ton machine with no prior knowledge, except math, was not easy. The women worked first to calculate all of the aspects needed to program ENIAC, and then they had to test it. They were on a deadline and ENIAC did not compute properly. What was wrong? How would they figure out their problem before it was too late?

THOUGHTS: Instructions Not Included is the story of three women who were computer science pioneers.  Using only their knowledge of math, they were able to program one of the earliest computers to use for war. Both Jean Jennings and Betty Snyder remained in the computer science field after the ENIAC project. Betty went on to help write both COBOL and FORTRAN computer languages with Grace Hopper and others. Jean helped develop stored-programming. The “Author’s Note” at the end of the book provides additional details about each woman. Resources for further reading are also provided. This is an informative picture book to help students recognize the importance of math and the development of computer science.

004 Computer Science; 920 Biography Compilation          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – My Papi Has A Motorcycle; The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal; The Escape of Robert Smalls; Human Habitats; Explore Your World; Daring Dozen; Teddy; Moth; You Are My Friend; Insect Superpowers

Quintero, Isabel. Illustrated by Zeke Pena. My Papi Has A Motorcycle. Kokila, 2019. 978-0-525-55341-0. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This gorgeous picture book pays homage to the bond between fathers and daughters and to the importance of communities. Daisy Ramona loves riding on the back of her papi’s motorcycle and exploring their L.A. neighborhood together. The book paints a realistic picture of a community that is tightly knit but struggling–a beloved shaved ice shop, for instance, is now boarded up and closed for business. A palette that features the muted colors of a sunset hints at history and nostalgia; yet at the same time, the movement of the motorcycle (“VROOOOM!”) gives the book a contrasting sense of immediacy and momentum. Spanish words are incorporated naturally throughout

THOUGHTS:  An evocative book, thematically rich, but also fun and appealing to read aloud or pore over. Highly recommended for lower elementary library collections. This book may be an especially worthwhile purchase because it may fill gaps in collections that need more books featuring girls who like vehicles, father/daughter books, and/or Lantinx literature.

Picture Book          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

When the workday is over, Daisy’s tired Papi still has energy enough to take his daughter on a motorcycle ride around their town. The routine is clearly beloved by both father and daughter (his hands “feel like all the love he has trouble saying”) as they pass by favorite spots and wave to family and friends (including Daisy’s librarian). Locales throughout the town recall memories of the past, or portents of the future. Papi takes Daisy to see the new houses on which he is working, but they notice with sadness the closing of the water ice store. The illustrations by Zeke Peña are gorgeously drawn, and the love between Daisy and Papi leaps off the pages. The warm terracotta color palette adds to the depth of emotion, as well as evokes the historic feel of the town Daisy imagines throughout the ride.  

THOUGHTS:  This lovely book, defining family and home, should be a first purchase.  

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Seluk, Nick. The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal. Orchard Books, 2019. 978-1-338-16700-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-4

The Brain Is Kind Of A Big Deal introduces us to all the things the brain does for us every single day! This book goes into the science behind smells, taste, sight and so many more things your body accomplishes everyday, all because of your brain! The illustrations are bright and colorful which add to the fun feel of the book. The inside of the front cover is full of colorful images with the same images throughout the book. Along with the facts that are found throughout the book, there are small little boxes full of fun facts. Each of the illustrations has the body parts saying funny or silly things related to what they do within the human body.

THOUGHTS: This is a fun picture book that is full of information that will cause the students to learn without realizing they are learning. The theme of the brain being the lead in a rock band that carries throughout is funny without coming across as too ridiculous.

612.8 Human Anatomy         Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy


Jones-Radgowski, Jehan. The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out of Slavery. Capstone Editions, 2019. 978-1-543-51281-6. 40 p. $18.95. Grades 2-5.

This is the true story of Robert Smalls, an enslaved African-American man who engineered a courageous escape from slavery by hijacking a Confederate military ship docked in Charleston Harbor in 1862. From his youth, Robert worked on ships and became a skillful sailor and wheelman on a military ship called Planter, which brought supplies and ammunition to the nearby Confederate forts. He got the idea about using the ship to flee after observing the captain pilot the ship and memorizing his mannerisms. One night, after the captain left the ship for shore leave, Smalls set his plan in motion. Family members joined him on his quest along with other crew members. The plan was a dangerous one, because Smalls had to navigate the boat past Confederate forts and ships. Smalls disguised himself by wearing the Captain’s hat and uniform and used the cover of darkness to sail out of the harbor. By the time the Confederates realized that something was wrong, the Planter had reached the Union ships and freedom. In the Afterword, more information is given about slavery, the Civil War, and Smalls’ other accomplishments during his lifetime. A glossary plus suggested readings are found in the back matter. Kang’s full bleed illustrations include a map showing the escape route.

THOUGHTS: This book is a worthwhile purchase for elementary libraries. It will work as an introduction to Civil War units or as a discussion starter for lessons on slavery. There are a number of books about Robert Smalls, but this one is made accessible by the care that the author, a US Foreign Service officer, takes to explain the historical events and vocabulary.

973.8092 History and Geography, United States          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
92, 921 Biography


Human Habitats. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. 24 p. $17.70 ea. Grades K-3.

Duhig, Holly. Life by the river. 978-0-778-76485-4
—. Life on an Island. 978-0-778-76482-3.
—. Life by the Ocean. 978-0-778-76484-7.
—. Life in the Mountains. 978-0-778-76483-0.
—. Life in the City. 978-0-778-76480-9.
—. Life in the Forest. 978-0-778-76481-6.

Duhig explores how humans live within six different habitats and how people adapt to the unique conditions and use the resources in each of these environments. Each book visits four specific locations around the world. Full color photos and illustrations in each book, with simple text for primary grades. Includes glossary and index, and a teacher’s guide that provides lesson plans for individual and collaborative work for students to explore human habitats with links to the publisher website which offer additional resources.

THOUGHTS: The advertised Student Discovery Lab materials were not accessible with the code listed in these titles.

304          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Explore Your World. Nomad Press. 2020, 2019. 90 p. $19.95. Grade 3-6.

Haney, Johannah. Natural Disasters! With 25 Science Projects for Kids.978-1-619-30862-6.
Klepeis, Alicia Explore Makerspace! With 25 Great Projects. 978-1-619-30566-3.
McKinney, Donna. Engines! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30940-1.
Swanson, Jennifer. Bridges! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30591-5.
Van Vleet, Carmella. Robotics! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30813-8.
Yasuda, Anita.  Ancient Civilizations Aztecs, Maya, Incas! With 25 Social Studies Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30834-3.
—. Canals and Dams! With 25 Science Projects for Kids. 978-1-619-30647-9.
—. Explore Greek Myths! With 25 Great Projects.
978-1-619-30450-5.

A growing set of non fiction books for students in grades 3-6. Seventeen titles are now available with more planned. Each title provides clear background information on the topic with clearly explained key terms and a timeline of developments.  Includes index, glossary, metric conversions, and lists of related YouTube videos for viewing. Each of the 25 projects listed includes a supplies list, step by step instructions, and notes if adult supervision is necessary.

THOUGHTS: Great ideas for science fair or independent or group or group projects for students.

Non Fiction          Nancy Summers, Abington SD


Slade, Suzanne. Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon. Charlesbridge, 2019. 48 p. 978-1-580-89773-0. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

In simple lyrical text, this nonfiction picture book discusses the seven Apollo lunar missions and the twelve astronauts who took part in them. The author begins by using personification to describe the moon as “all alone” and “silent” until a spacecraft (Apollo 11) appears and later as “waiting patiently” for other Apollo flights. Each flight’s unique objective is discussed, such as the use of the land rover with Apollo 15 and the discovery of origin of the moon’s craters in Apollo 16. Slade includes some interesting bits about the astronauts, such as Alan Shepherd’s playing golf on the moon and Charlie Duke’s leaving his family’s photograph on the surface. The back matter contains a note from astronaut Alan Beam, a timeline to the moon, information about various moon vehicles, as well as specific fast facts about each Apollo flight. Alan Marks uses watercolor ink to create stunning full bleed illustrations throughout the book. On the opening pages, the full moon is the main focus as part of the earth appears to look on. The drawing of Gene Cernan holding a multicolored rock made of small rocks is pictured on the page with his quote that this rock will be a “symbol of mankind: that we can live in peace and harmony.”

THOUGHTS: This is an essential purchase for elementary libraries. It is a good example of a nonfiction mentor text for figurative language and poetic style. A great read aloud, this book can serve an introduction for astronomy units, but will also have great appeal for those budding astronauts who will enjoy reading this on their own and dream as they look skyward.

629.454          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
Manned Space Flight


Sage, James. Teddy: The Remarkable Tale of a President, a Cartoonist, a Toymaker and a Bear. Kids Can Press, 2019.  978-1-771-38795-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Sage has crafted a partially fictionalized story about the origin of the teddy bear. The author describes how President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, refused to shoot a bear during a hunting expedition in Mississippi. This incident was then portrayed in a newspaper cartoon by Clifford Berryman. The cartoon was seen by many Americans, including Mr. and Mrs. Mitchtom who were New York shop owners. Mrs. Mitchtom made toys to sell in the store, and she came up with the idea of creating a toy bear in honor of the President. They called it Teddy’s Bear. Sales of the bear took off, and soon the Mitchtoms had so many orders that they formed the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, which produced millions of toy bears and accessories to go with them. The author’s note includes a photograph of one of the original bears, as well as a copy of the cartoon. The author explains the real circumstances surrounding the President’s hunting expedition (the bear was chained to a tree) and reveals which minor parts of the story were embellished. The illustrations by Lisk Feng were rendered digitally and add a whimsical touch. At the beginning of the story where the many interests of the President are listed, the illustrator places a small drawing next to each hobby. At the end, the President is seen sleeping with a teddy bear of his own.

THOUGHTS: A must-have for all elementary collections, this text is a great choice for bear themed storytimes, especially on September 9, Teddy Bear Day.

813.54, Easy          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD
688.7243, 973.911                                        


Thomas, Isabel. Moth: An Evolution Story. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1-547-60020-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.

This fascinating piece of narrative nonfiction is the story of the peppered moth and its evolution over time due to environmental factors. Told in simple text, the author begins by telling us that this is a story of “light and dark…of change and adaptation…of survival and hope.” She explains that after birth, the moth is in a struggle for survival from predators, such as bats and birds. The moths that had wings that look like salt and pepper were better able to camouflage themselves on trees than moths of that species that were pure black. As a result, the black winged moths were eaten and eventually made up a smaller percent of the population. With the Industrial Revolution, this pattern was reversed, because the trees were now black from pollution, and the moths with the peppered wings were most at risk. Then, as efforts were made to curb pollution, the population of the peppered moths increased once again. Today both black and peppered wing moths can be found on trees because they have adapted. In the afterword, the author explains the processes of natural selection, adaptation, and evolution in more detail, explaining that this tale gives us hope that a species can adapt and not die out. Daniel Egnéus uses a variety of media to create stunning illustrations that add to the narrative. The cover drawing will attract readers as it depicts a moth with silvery wings touched with black looming large against a black sky dotted with silver stars. The author and illustrator have made this narrative of the peppered moth surprisingly appealing and interesting.

THOUGHTS: This is a strong purchase, and elementary librarians will not want to miss this one. This text would be useful in evolution and ecology units and is a good choice as a read aloud, especially on Earth Day.

595.78 Butterflies, Moths          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Reid, Aimee, and Matt Phelan. You Are My Friend. Abrams Books for Young People, 2019. 978-1-419-73617-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Why the resurgence of all things Mister Rogers lately? Through popular entertainment and the media, we have renewed our journey to his friendly neighborhood. Perhaps it is the enduring need for kindness, decency, and compassion in the world. This charming picture book takes young readers who may not be familiar with Fred back to his beginnings. We learn of his illness and isolation, his emotions and how he learned to express them, and his willingness to like himself just the way he was. Freddie’s youth serves him well as he grows up and seeks to overcome his shyness and share his message with children through television. The soft and steady tone of Reid and the equally soothing, gentle watercolors from Matt Phelan make for a fitting tribute to Mr. Rogers. The color palate and message afterward will warm your spirits and make you glad that you have a friend who likes you just the way you are!

THOUGHTS: This is an accessible and highly recommended introduction for young readers to the world of Mr. Rogers. Obviously, there are many other videos, songs, and resources online to share once they hear about him. It would be interesting to get responses to the text and drawings as they read it to see how those childhood moments influenced his adult career in television.

Biography        Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


Messner, Kate, and Jillian Nickell. Insect Superpowers. Chronicle Books, 2019. 978-1-4521-3910-4. 84 pages. $17.99. Grades 2-5.

Step aside, Spider-man! The insect world is full of supersized, super-powered, and super dangerous bugs. Kate Messner takes a decidedly graphic approach to this novel look at a nonfiction text. Listing the insects by their superpowers, archenemies, aliases and trademark features, partnered with a layout and design by Jillian Nickell that is dynamic, colorful, and fact-filled, makes for an entertaining education. For example, a Texas Ironclad Beetle grows up to 29 mm with an extra hard exoskeleton that can even resist the SWOOSH! Attack from birds or reptiles. Likewise, the Asian Giant Hornet is nicknamed “The Decapitator” for its attacks on honey bee nests, but it should beware of teamwork from the hive that can surround the hornet to heat it up until it dies! Look for more insect superpowers in this action packed comic!

THOUGHTS: This is a clean and attractive graphic book, which would also be perfect for livening up an animal research project and introducing the art of comic layout. Hopefully there will be more like this to make a series.

595 Animals          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Sonny’s Bridge; Snail and Worm All Day; Tow Truck Joe; I Am Someone Else; Hum and Swish

Wittenstein, Barry. Sonny’s Bridge. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89881-2. 32 p. $21.99. Grades K-4. 

In the early 1960’s, if you were on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City at night you might have heard the sounds of Sonny Rollins’ saxophone floating through the air. Sonny’s Bridge is a poetic biography of the jazz legend and his path to recording his third album ‘The Bridge.” Born during the Harlem Renaissance, Sonny is influenced by the jazz greats. When he starts playing the saxophone, Sonny is a teeneager living through WWII and the Jim Crow movement. He hits the music scene just in time for the bebop revolution. An overnight success, Sonny Rollins even plays at Carnegie Hall, but the fame is too much and Sonny takes a two-year sabbatical where he spends his nights practicing on the bridge to avoid waking his neighbors. On the bridge Sonny plays his own way until he finally feels ready to record his famous comeback album. An author’s note and timeline at the back of the book provide more insight into Sonny’s life and notable accomplishments through 2018. A bibliography along with a list of quotes and websites for more information are also included. The digitally created illustrations add to the historical significance of the story while also embracing the legendary status of Sonny Rollins. 

THOUGHTS: An excellent picture book biography with plenty of historical connections and an introduction to jazz. This book is versatile and can serve both as a read aloud for younger audiences while also allowing room to discuss deeper historical significance with older students.  A welcome addition to any school library.  

92; Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Kugler, Tina. Snail and Worm All Day. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-06364-3. $16.99. 32 p. Grades K-2. 

Snail and Worm have three adventures to share in their second book together. Snail points out all the accomplishments of their friends when a little cheering up is needed for the day. Together the two friends barely escape a dragon (which turns out to be a turtle hiding in its shell) and then take a nap. When Snail is sleepy, Worm agrees to tell a bedtime story that isn’t too scary and includes both friends. The three short stories are excellent examples of friendship for young readers. Although the text is deceptively brief, there is plenty of humor and feeling packed into the stories. The bright acrylic, pastel and collage illustrations give the comfortable feeling of a picture book while the text is suitable for early readers. 

THOUGHTS: A lovely hybrid text for emerging readers who are ready to graduate to reading on their own. This picture book is a bridge in the gap to early readers while providing some opportunities to teach about friendship. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Sobel, June. Tow Truck Joe. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-05312-5. 32 p. $17.99. Grades Prek-1. 

A friendly red tow truck named Joe and his dog Patch spend a day in town helping their neighbors with flat tires and dead batteries. As they cruise around town Patch and Joe say hello to many other working vehicles including the grocery truck, cement mixer, and ice cream truck. When a rushing milk truck collides with the cookie cart causing a traffic jam, Patch and Joe help all of the vehicles work together and find a sweet solution to get everyone rolling again. The brightly colored illustrations of a busy small town filled with working vehicles will be a hit with very young readers. Rhyming text, lots of honking hellos, and a repeating red light/green light verse will make this a fun addition to storytime for a preschool crowd. 

THOUGHTS: Trucks are always a hit at storytime, and this is a good addition to any preschool collection. It’s a fun, engaging read aloud with many opportunities to incorporate movement. This book also can be used to teach young children about cooperation and community. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Hopkins, Lee Bennett. I Am Someone Else: Poems about Pretending. Charlesbrisdge, 2019. 978-1-580-89832-4. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-4.

Playing pretend is universal among children, and this illustrated anthology of poetry about imagining embraces that commonality. A brief introduction reminds the reader that “there is nothing better than being yourself” then goes on to explain that it is fun to think about being someone else at times. Poetry is divided into three categories, each of which features a unique heading poem. “Wish! Be a Storybook Character” features poems about fantasy role play such as wizards, pirates, and even what it might be like to be a giant’s wife, courtesy of Lois Lowry. “Support! Be a Person who Helps” includes poems about career role play such as pilot, veterinarian, and police officer. “Invent! Be a Person Who’s a Maker” is a collection of poems related to STEAM professions featuring a builder, poet, and chef. Even video game designers get a poem in this section. Ethnically diverse illustrations with each poem depict children dressing up to match their imaginary scenario. Refreshingly, the illustrations also support imaginary play as an ungendered activity by depicting both boys and girls dressing up in various costumes such as a male nurse and a female video game designer. 

THOUGHTS: This anthology is a great contemporary way to incorporate poetry into STEAM lessons in the elementary library. I would definitely add this title to update a poetry collection. A table of contents would make this title more functional, but the lack of one doesn’t distract from the overall reading experience. 

811; Picture Book        Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Myers, Matt. Hum and Swish. Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44286-7. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Waves gently crash over the sand on a perfect beach day. Jamie sits quietly humming and playing in the sand as the wind tousles her hair. Here she finds some rocks. There is a puddle left by the waves. Jamie digs, crafts, and collects, content to be in her own world by the sea. People pass by and ask questions about her project. Uninterested in visitors, Jamie keeps her focus. It seems like only the ocean truly understands her. Eventually, another artist sets up shop nearby. The artist has no questions and no answers. The two work in parallel amongst their understanding of each other and the ocean. Museum quality acrylic and oil paintings frame the story, masterfully conveying the serenity and strength of the ocean. Hum and Swish has managed to create a time capsule of a few preciously perfect  hours spent playing next to the ocean. 

THOUGHTS: A fantastic addition to any school library collection. STEAM connections can be made using Jamie’s building with sand and found objects as inspiration. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD