Elem. – Adventures with My Daddies

Peter, Gareth. Adventures with My Daddies. Illustrated by Garry Parsons. Peachtree, 2021. 978-1-682-63281-9. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades PreK-3.

An unnamed child shares why her daddies are amazing in this sweet picture book. When they read stories together “exciting journeys start” – battling dragons, hunting dinosaurs, and exploring the moon and secret islands are just some of their fun adventures. But their favorite story is their adoption story which brought them together. The narrator talks about different types of families: “Some children have two mommies, and some a mom and a dad.” before explaining why she’s “SO glad” her “SUPER daddies” chose her. Even if they’re “not the best at everything” she knows “they’re always there.” A diverse cast of characters are featured by beautiful acrylic and pencil illustrations in this sweet, rhyming picture book.

THOUGHTS: This beautiful story will show children that all families have unique characteristics. Highly recommended for elementary schools looking to add family stories and LGBTQ representation to their picture book collections.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Room for Everyone

Khan, Naaz. Room for Everyone. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-534-43139-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Musa and Dada are off to Nungwi Beach in Zanzibar when, along the way, Dada stops the bus to pick up an old man with a broken bike. Musa argues that there’s no room for the man and his bike, but Dada insists there is plenty of space. They make room, and before long, Dada stops again to pick up a herder with two goats. Again, Musa argues there is no room, and again, they shuffle around and make space. This pattern continues throughout the book until, by the end, it’s Musa insisting that there is room for everyone. Ultimately, they reach the beach, where they all pile out to enjoy a day under the sun. Rhyming text and detailed, colorful, mixed-media illustrations make this a very lively, engaging read.

THOUGHTS: I love everything about this book! Not only does it convey the subtle message that there is always room for new friends and experiences, but it also provides readers with a glimpse of African culture. A glossary in the back explains unfamiliar words like daladala (a shared minibus), baghala (a boat used by people living near the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean), and more. This is a solid purchase for social studies classrooms and/or elementary library collections.

Picture Book           Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Aaron Slater, Illustrator

Beaty, Andrea. Aaron Slater, Illustrator. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-419-75396-1. $18.99. Grades K-4.

Aaron Slater loves stories! He loves to listen to them and draw his very own pictures. When it is time for him to go to school, he is so excited to be able to read and write his very own stories. The words, however, look like jumbled squiggles to him and don’t really make any sense. Instead of standing out like he used to, he decides to fit in and be like everyone else. When requested by a teacher to write a story, Aaron struggles until inspiration hits him and he is able to create his very own story his way. With the help and support of those around him, Aaron begins to overcome his obstacles and struggles, becoming a reader and a writer, as well as continuing his illustrating.

THOUGHTS: This is another great book by Andrea Beaty! Written in text style Dyslexie to help individuals with dyslexia, we learn of a famous illustrator’s struggles to become a storyteller, and gain inspiration along the way.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – The Story of You

Scott, Lisa Ann. The Story of You. Boyds Mills, 2021. 978-1-635-92311-7. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

For teachers or parents looking to initiate a discussion of how actions define us, this book fits the bill. With simple rhymes and vibrant artwork, it encourages young readers or listeners to consider how they are “writing the story of you.” Children are shown that their unique interests help define them, as well as their actions – sharing with a friend, being kind, bold, or brave. Choosing to be honest, or angry or struggling, it is all part of their story, and they should make it the best story they can. Children of widely varied ethnicities, abilities, and orientations populate the pages of the book. 

THOUGHTS: A lovely book for a one-on-one read aloud or as a class discussion prompt. The artwork projects caring and the text gently guides young readers to live their best life.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Little Narwhal, Not Alone

Stone, Tiffany. Little Narwhal, Not Alone. Greystone Kids, 2021. 978-1-77164-620-8. Unpaged. $17.95. Grades K-2. 

Little Narwhal, Not Alone follows a young narwhal as he explores his world, meets new friends, and has all of these new exciting adventures. However, he travels too far and ends up not finding any narwhals to spend time with, but he does find some beluga whales! But the belugas don’t understand him, and he can’t understand them. Over time the narwhal ends up fitting in with the belugas, and they even play together! The narwhal feels that he has found new friends to spend time with! At the end of this book there is a note from a marine biologist, stating how this book is rooted in some truth! That really adds to the book and makes the reader want to start at the beginning of the book all over again.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful picture book!! The illustrations add to the overall underwater feel of the story. The addition from the marine biologist at the end of the book is lovely and will make the reader want to go learn more.

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch

Virjan, Emma J. Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch. Simon Spotlight, 2021. 978-1-534-49571-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1. 

When three yellow birds land on a ship, they soon learn that it is a pirate ship captained by a cat in this short story told in rhyming verse. Two of the birds fly into the cabin with the cat. When the third bird looks in through a window, he sees the cat getting ready to cook lunch while the two birds sit and watch. Could his friends be on the menu? Worried, the third bird recruits a whale to help him rescue his friends. An end of story twist reveals that the bird has made some incorrect assumptions and misunderstood the cat’s intentions. Ultimately, a new friendship is formed between all the animals. 

THOUGHTS: This delightful story is an excellent choice for beginning readers and would also be a good selection for shared reading or read alouds. Though the story is short and the text simple, the author is able to incorporate a lesson about friendship that readers (and educators) will appreciate.

Picture Book                 Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Best Day Ever!

Singer, Marilyn. Best Day Ever! Illustrated by Leah Nixon. Clarion Books, 2021. 978-1-328-98783-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Told from the point of view of a very energetic little puppy, Best Day Ever! follows two friends through a day that starts out great and ends up with some trouble. From stealing hot dogs (not the bun) to swimming in the lake, this pup has a day full of adventure. When he makes a mess of himself, though, the best day suddenly becomes the worst day. Can sweet this duo find their way back to the best day ever? Digital illustrations bring these characters to life. The pet’s human is a boy in a wheelchair who can do a lot of the same activities that able-bodied children do. Illustrated by a paralyzed artist, this title has disability representation as a subtle message for children.

THOUGHTS: Readers will love brainstorming about their own best days and talking about things pets do. Best Day Ever! lends itself well to a writing prompt about best days or a creative writing piece about the silly things pets might be thinking. Hand this one to any pet lover.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Inside Cat

Wenzel, Brendan. Inside Cat. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-452-17319-1. 36 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Inside Cat spends its days peering through many different kinds of windows in its house. Each window is a different size or shape and presents a different view of the city. Inside Cat takes in scenes of everything from flowers to birds, towers to balloons. It sees big machines, small mice, bright traffic lights, and dark nighttime skies. The cat also uses its wild imagination to fill in gaps about what it’s seeing and to help make sense of the world. Since it spends so much time looking through windows, Inside Cat assumes it’s an expert about the world. But, when an outside door is left open, Inside Cat forms entirely new ideas. Brief, rhyming text winds its way across each double-page spread as Inside Cat moves from window to window, constantly seeing the world from different perspectives. The illustrations, composed from a variety of media including cut paper, colored pencil, oil pastels, marker, and the computer, are the true stars of the story. Careful readers will notice new details each time the story is shared. In particular, they will enjoy searching for the mice and watching what antics they are up to on each spread. 

THOUGHTS: Use this text during creative writing activities to spark ideas about seeing the world from different perspectives and using your imagination. 

Picture Book. Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Pet stories. Perspective fiction. Stories in rhyme. 

Elem. – We Give Thanks

Rylant, Cynthia. We Give Thanks. Beach Lane Books, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-422-46507-7. Grades PreK-1. $17.99.

Told in rhyming couplets, this story about gratitude is not about the Thanksgiving holiday. Each couplet begins with “We give thanks for” and Frog and Rabbit point out what they appreciate as they walk around the neighborhood. The objects of gratitude run the gamut and appear in no particular order. They include nature, the weather, activities, family, community helpers, and friends. After realizing what they are thankful for, Frog and Rabbit prepare a special feast to share with their friends, who come and partake of the treats before them. The author finishes with this: “Bless our nights and bless our days and bless all those we meet. We give thanks for everything and now it’s time to eat.” Ruzzier’s illustrations done in pen, ink, and watercolors and are whimsical and appealing. Readers will enjoy poring over the drawings for the details. There are some humorous touches such as the Dalmatian as an Italian waiter and Bear’s friend, the fish who is often out of water. The pictures help create a warm, cozy atmosphere within this delightful tale.

THOUGHTS: Young children will enjoy listening to this story, which is sure to dish up a little happiness and will have them thinking about what they are thankful for. This book is a good substitute for traditional Thanksgiving stories, especially for those children who do not celebrate holidays. A nice selection for storytimes in any season.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Jazz for Lunch!

Dapier, Jarrett. Jazz for Lunch! Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 978-1-534-45408-8. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Built on the foundations of jazz music and creative cooking, this rhyming story vividly depicts the power both music and food have to bring people together. A young boy and his aunt set out to have lunch at a jazz club where his aunt is a regular. In the club, the sounds from the kitchen mix with the sounds from the stage, creating a vibrant, animated atmosphere. But, the club is so crowded that the boy and his aunt can’t get close enough to see the performers or place an order. They leave early, stop by a produce stand, and the next day, they cook up their own jazzy lunch at home. Each dish is inspired by jazz greats, including Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, John Coltrane, and Ella Fitzgerald. End papers feature brief biographies of 20 jazz greats mentioned in the story as well one of their album titles. The lively digital illustrations capture the movement and the emotions the food and the music inspire.

THOUGHTS: Share this title with music teachers who can make curricular connections with the featured jazz musicians and the music vocabulary sprinkled in the text. Music and ELA teachers will also appreciate the use of onomatopoeia as the boy and his aunt cook up their feast. This exuberant book captures the joy of coming together to enjoy great food and great music.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD