McCanna, Tim. In a Garden. Ill. Aimée Sicuro. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-5344-1797-7. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.
Through rhyming verses and vivid watercolor illustrations, In a Garden explores how things grow. From seeds being planted to sunlight and rain nurturing the plants, readers see all of the various aspects of natural growth both in a garden and in those who nurture and care for the garden. McCanna identifies a variety of flowers and vegetables that grow in gardens, while also describing the duties of the various insects that help the garden grow. The four seasons establish how things grow unseen, and also establish the life cycle with insects laying eggs and a woman, pregnant in the beginning, holding a baby when spring returns after winter.
THOUGHTS: This is a gorgeous picture book. Sicuro’s watercolors represent each aspect of the natural world beautifully, while McCanna’s words are playful and representative of the life cycle. Many readers will see themselves in this text because the garden is in a city, and the humans are representative of the diversity in a city. This picture book is a great introduction to the life cycle, gardening, and caring for the natural world. It would pair well with growing a school garden or just planting a seed that students can take home and grow.
Picture Book Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD
Sayre, April Pulley. Feel the Fog. Beach Lane Books, 2020. 978-1-534-43760-9. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Similar to her other works Best in Snow and Raindrops Roll, Sayre has created a beautiful photographic nonfiction book on the topic of fog. The images depict this “cloud, ground level” in a variety of settings, like the mountains, forests, valleys, and iceberg laden seas. Using spare rhyming text and personification, the author explains how fog develops, how it affects visibility and sound, as well as its appearance in different seasons. The reader also learns how animals like birds and deer adapt to their habitats when this phenomenon occurs. The words and images work together to provide a treat for the senses like this phrase, “Silhouettes sing from wires and fences,” which appears on a page with images of resting birds. The back matter contains additional information.
THOUGHTS: This lyrical and sensory depiction of this weather marvel is a first purchase. It works well as an introduction to weather units and also serves as a mentor text for the use of personification. Children will be fascinated by the images. After reading this book, they will experience fog in a different way the next time it rolls in.
551.575 Rainfall Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Raschka, Chris. In the City. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-48627-9. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-2.
In The City is a rhyming picture book that focuses on friendship using pigeons to illustrate that point. The book follows pigeons as they go through a city, landing on statues and flying overhead, and the narrator points out the different ways that pigeons form friendships and relates that to the people. The illustrations are beautiful in ink and watercolor which add to the story as readers follow the pigeons and people through making their friends.
THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful addition to any elementary school collection and highly recommended!
Picture Book Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Jameson, Karen. Woodland Dreams. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-17063-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.
In this cozy story, a young girl takes a walk through the woods on a late autumn evening. Accompanied by her dog and a notebook, the girl says goodnight to the animals she sees and encourages them to settle into their sleeping place. Each two page spread features a different forest animal. The rhyming text is written in an AA-BB sequence and describes the animal’s behavior in just a few words, like “Berry Picker” and “Honey Trickster” for the bear. Before this verse, the author includes a short phrase that begins with “Come Home,” and is followed by a two word description of the animal. For example, Jameson calls the squirrel “Bushy Tail” and the woodpecker “Strong Beak” instead of using their common names. As the night draws in, snow flurries begin to fall and the pair returns home to their cabin, where it is now the girl’s turn to go to bed. Boutavant’s charming illustrations capture the atmosphere of the season, and the reader can almost feel the chilly night wind just like the fox. On the last two pages, the illustrator displays the girl’s own drawings from her notebook, depicting the wildlife that she observed.
THOUGHTS: With its comforting text and cadence, this book makes for a wonderful bedtime story, which will surely help children settle down to sleep. It is also a good choice for fall or early winter storytimes. To make it more interactive, the librarian could ask students to guess the type of animal just by listening to the words and afterwards show the pictures. Highly recommended for all elementary collections.
Picture Book Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Joosse, Barbara. Everybody’s Tree. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. 978-1-534-11058-8. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-2.
At the beginning of the story, the life of a spruce tree starts when it is planted outside of a farmhouse. Years pass until the tiny sprig of a plant is a mighty spruce. It is scouted by a group of people in a helicopter who believe it would be the perfect tree for everybody everywhere. The tree travels on a flatbed truck until it reaches its final destination: an unnamed city that could be any urban center in the United States. Workers use cranes to decorate the tree and prepare it for the big night when everyone gathers to see the tree light up and bring holiday joy to all who visit it during the season.
THOUGHTS: Many people can remember visiting the local city center near their home to watch the tree lighting ceremony. There is definitely something magical about an entire community coming together to celebrate the holiday season together. Joosse, along with illustrator Renee Graef, manage to capture that feeling within the pages of this book. The fact that the city this tree adorns could be any town or city in the USA makes it especially relatable. With singsong rhyming text and a glow-in-the-dark cover, this book will delight readers of all ages.
Picture Book Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD
Paxton, Kirsty. The Chalk Giraffe. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-684-46096-0. Unpaged. $17.95. Grades PreK-2.
A little girl draws a giraffe on the pavement in chalk, and then she imagines that he comes to life. Her giraffe, however, is unhappy, and starts asking her to draw other objects to appease him. She eventually grows frustrated and erases the giraffe, only to draw him again the next day. This time, the giraffe draws her into the picture, too, and she is finally able to see that he is simply lonely. After she draws some other animals, including another giraffe, her chalk friend finally begins to smile. A beautiful story about companionship and seeing the world through someone else’s perspective, this imaginative book is sure to convey some important messages to young readers.
THOUGHTS: Rhyming verses make this a delightful read aloud. Pair it with Fiona Roberton’s A Tale of Two Beasts (2015) for a lesson on different points of view, or use it to introduce a chalk art lesson. Have students think about what makes them happy and draw their own picture that includes all of their favorite things.
Picture Book Julie Ritter, PSLA Member
Murray, Diana. Wild about Dads. Imprint, 2020. 978-1-250-31574-8. 32pp. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Rhyming couplets pair with full-page, vibrant illustrations in this sweet tribute to dads of all kinds. This title’s opening spread features human dads and their children enjoying a day at the park. Subsequent pages feature dads from all over the animal kingdom interacting with their young. From boosting little ones up to grab berries and playing hide-and-seek, to cozying up for an afternoon nap, animal dads share all kinds of one-on-one time. The closing spread features the same human dads and children at the park, reminding readers that “There’s a lot that dads can do, the best of all is loving you!” The back endpapers feature an illustration of each animal highlighted in the story as well as a brief description of where the animal lives and what the father does as a caretaker.
THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for read-alouds, especially ones centered around families or in celebration of Father’s Day. The text and illustrations will prompt discussions and comparisons between things humans dads do and things animal dads do to take care of their families.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Prasadam-Halls, Smriti. I’m Sticking With You. Henry Holt, 2020. 978-1-250-61923-5. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.
Told in rhyming text, this is the story of two friends, Bear and Squirrel, who spend their day together, exploring, sharing a meal and playing. The story begins in Bear’s voice, as he explains how the pair is always together, even if one of them is grumpy or silly or things go wrong. Next Squirrel presents his point of view and after Bear breaks his favorite teacup, explains that sometimes he just wants to be alone. After Bear leaves disappointed, Squirrel quickly realizes that life is not as enjoyable without his friend. They reconcile and enjoy tea with the now mended teacup. The illustrations by Steve Small are done in pencil and watercolor. Both animals are anthropomorphized and are seen doing a variety of activities like riding a seesaw and taking a ride in a cab. The illustrator adds details which enhance the story, like the tea cup which has a heart painted on its side. When it breaks, the crack can be seen down the middle of the heart and when repaired, it is nearly invisible. When Bear speaks, the text is done in bold, while Squirrel’s words are in a light font.
THOUGHTS: This is an engaging story of friendship and how it sometimes has its ups and downs. This book is a good choice for reading aloud, especially when there are requests for stories in two voices. A solid choice for elementary collections.
Picture Book Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Bateman, Teresa. Runaway Pumpkins. Charlesbridge, 2020. 978-1-580-89681-8. 32p. $16.99. Grades K-3.
As the leaves begin changing colors, students are ready for their field trip to the pumpkin patch. During the bus ride, they chatter about the kinds of pumpkins they plan on picking. In the field, each student selects one pumpkin to take home, and the pumpkins are loaded into the storage area under the bus. Students daydream about the ways they’ll decorate their pumpkins. But, disaster strikes during the return bus ride! The lower doors are not latched tightly, and all the pumpkins roll out! Confused townsfolk see the smashed pumpkins all over their lawns and porches, and they devise a plan for reuniting the students with their pumpkins. Meanwhile when the students arrive at school, everyone is disappointed to see the empty storage area. The only pumpkin still safely on the bus is the large one strapped to the roof, which the children proceed to decorate together. The next day, at the harvest fair, the townspeople make a surprise appearance, each bringing a different dish made from the children’s runaway pumpkins. From pumpkin cake and pumpkin ice cream to pumpkin soup and pumpkin fries, the children are excited to see the missing pumpkins in their new forms.
THOUGHTS: The upbeat, rhyming text will appeal to primary students, making this a fun fall-themed read-aloud. The story also celebrates the community spirit, as well as the idea of making the best of an unexpected situation. Students and townspeople are racially diverse. Overall, this is a fun autumn story that doesn’t center on Halloween.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD