Elem. – Captain Cat Goes to Mars

Virjan, Emma J. Captain Cat Goes to Mars. Simon Spotlight, 2022. 978-5-344-9574-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1. 

Captain Cat (last seen in Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch) is back for a new adventure. This time he is working with Pilot Matt (a dog) to build a spaceship with the goal of traveling to Mars. When their ship is built, they put on their spacesuits and blast off, heading straight for the Red Planet. After landing, they encounter Zoof, Zeff, and Zatt, three green aliens who reside on the planet. Together, they explore the planet, make angels in the dust of Mars, and explore craters and more. When a storm moves in, the spaceship is damaged when it is blown over. Will Cat and Matt become permanently stranded? Perhaps with some help from their new friends, they will be able to find a way home.

THOUGHTS: Part of the Ready to Read series, this volume is designed for beginning readers. The text features simple words in rhyming couplets written in large font. The title is sure to hold appeal for early readers, especially those who enjoy humor, animals, and/or aliens. Recommended for libraries serving primary age students.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – If You Find a Leaf

Sicuro, Aimée. If You Find a Leaf. Random House Studio, 2022. 978-0-593-30659-8. $17.99. 40 p. Grades PK-2.

This is a delightful, rhyming tribute to the pleasures of autumn. A single leaf sends a young child on a day spent imagining scenes that could be created using colorful fall leaves. Leaves are turned into boats, hammocks, a dog bed, hot air balloons, and so much more. Beautifully illustrated in ink, charcoal, watercolor, photographs, and collage. Detailed instructions on how to preserve leaves to create art based on the illustrations are included. A picture book celebration of autumn and creativity.

THOUGHTS: A wonderful, gentle read aloud that would be a lovely companion to Ehlert’s Leaf Man.

Picture Book          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – Chicago, Baby!

Flores, Feather. Chicago, Baby! Illustrated by Kelly Leigh Miller. Chronicle Kids, 2022. Unpaged. $14.99 978-1-797-20719-3. Grades 1-3.

This series of books covering cities (New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC) seeks to highlight major attractions in a city, this time Chicago. A young biracial girl is setting out to see the sights with her parents. In rhyming text, they visit Lincoln Park Zoo, take in the beach and Air & Water show, walk (and ride) on Navy Pier, eat deep dish pizza, take a river cruise, shop the Magnificent Mile, visit Cloud Gate and the Art Institute, eat hot dogs in Grant Park, and finally, tour Adler Planetarium. Each line ends with an explanation point, and all diverse characters are both happy as well as happy to see the girl enjoying herself. Though a tourist would not realistically do all of this in one day, the book acts as a positive, colorful introduction to Chicago. Since the illustrations are bound to bring up questions (like what is that “shiny bean” at Cloud Gate? What can we ride at Navy Pier?), it would be nice if the book included notes or resources and a short description of each place or food.

THOUGHTS: A fun but light overview of the Windy City which could entice or encourage visitors. 

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem – If You Were a Garbage Truck or Other Big-Wheeled Worker!

Ohanesian, Diane C. If You Were a Garbage Truck or Other Big-Wheeled Worker! Random House Studio, 2022. 978-0-593-37515-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

Young readers get to imagine life from the perspective of ten different big-wheeled workers in this colorful rhyming story. The upbeat text puts a positive spin on the tough jobs these vehicles do each day, subtly encouraging readers to look on the sunny side too. Rather than focusing on the troubling parts of their jobs – trains traveling the same tracks day in and day out, fire trucks constantly being on-call, garbage trucks filling with smelly trash – this title’s rhyming verses put a positive spin on the important work each of these big-wheeled workers do each day. Trains are reliable transportation for many people, fire trucks always do the best work they can in emergency situations, and garbage trucks keep our towns and our planet clean. Every double-page spread features full-bleed, large-scale illustrations that capture each vehicle’s impressive size and the important work they’re built to do. In one scene, a tough-looking snow plow clears the pavement on a wintry afternoon. Another scene highlights a mail truck delivering all kinds of letters to a neighborhood. Bright colors, anthropomorphized vehicles, and a diverse cast of human characters help this title feel fresh and inclusive. 

THOUGHTS: Share this title with big truck enthusiasts and with teachers who focus on community helpers. It might also be useful for guidance counselors since it highlights themes of resilience, teamwork, and having a positive outlook. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Black Boy, Black Boy: Celebrate the Power of You

Kamanda, Ali, and Jorge Redmond. Black Boy, Black Boy: Celebrate the Power of You. Sourcebooks, 2022. 978-1-728-25064-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

Black Boy, Black Boy is a picture book that showcases many famous inspirational men in Black history. Some of them are ones the reader might be familiar with and some are a little lesser known. This book encourages black boys to dream big and become whoever they want to be. At the end of the book, there are short paragraph biographies about each person who is featured in the book. The illustrations are gorgeously done by Ken Daley who has done many other pictures.

THOUGHTS: This book is a must purchase for any elementary or public library collection. This book introduces the reader to famous people they might not be familiar with which makes this book a great starting off point for doing some further reading.

Picture Book            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

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