Significant Others II: (Luther College Student Reviews)

Tsum tsum book of haiku

2015. Tsum tsum book of haiku. Disney Book Group (Disney Press). 64pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-2925-0. Illustrated by the Disney Storybook Art Team.

This creative compilation of haikus profiles characters from the popular Tsum Tsum toys by Disney. This book could be a learning tool for teachers and parents alike. The beginning of the book includes an explanation about haikus as a poetry form and the rules they must follow in order to be classified as such. The rest of the book has a large variety of haikus based on the Tsum Tsum characters children will recognize from television and movies. Young readers will enjoy comparing these poems to the Disney stories they know and love, while simultaneously learning the art of poetry writing, specifically the haiku. The illustrations feature the style of the Tsum Tsum characters rather than the traditional artwork of Disney, which reflects a modern take on the classic Disney tales. This book is effective tool in introducing poetry to elementary school students -- creatively and enjoyably. (SW)


Star Wars: The Force awakens: The ultimate look behind the scenes.

2016. Star Wars: The Force awakens: The ultimate look behind the scenes. Lerner Publishing Group (Twenty-first Century Books). 50pp. $25.35. ISBN 9871512417913.

Have you ever wondered how a movie is made? Have you ever wondered what makes Star Wars so enduring? Star Wars: The Force Awakens answers both questions as it looks behind the scenes of the 2015 summer blockbuster movie. The book’s dramatic photos of the film and its production will appeal to younger Star Wars fans, while older fans will enjoy interviews with cast and crew-members who give insight in what it is like to be in a Star Wars film. The book is full of images of characters and creatures from the film, often captioned with some text that helpfully gives the photos some context. The book is organized with a clear table of contents with section headings such as “Creating the Creatures”, a section on how the filmmakers use puppets, animatronics, and computers to create imaginary for the film, and “From Page to Screen” where one of the film’s scriptwriters talk about the process of coming up with a really good story to tell. However, some of the strongest material in this behind-the-scenes book it the interviews with the cast of the movie. The book would be especially interesting for readers who have any interest in acting. Pretending to be a different character helps children develop their imaginations, however, as the interviews reveal, acting in a big movie is more than fun and games. It takes a lot of work and there are plenty of challenges to being a star in a science fiction movie. Challenges included having to wear uncomfortable costumes, long hours, fight training, and reacting to things that aren’t actually there. But in the interviews readers get a sense of the camaraderie of the cast and crew as they talk about working together and socializing outside of work. Throughout the book there is a tone of respect and admiration for all these different people coming together to tell a story. (BJP)

Lion lessons

Agee, J. 2016. Lion lessons. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-803-73908-6.

In the children’s story Lion Lessons, by Jon Agee, readers follow the path of a young boy attempting to earn his Lion Diploma. Once at Lion Lessons, he discovers how difficult it is to become a lion. Whether it is Looking Fierce, Roaring, Choosing What to Eat, Prowling Around, Sprinting, or Pouncing, the boy is always struggling to impress his teacher. However, the story shifts when the duo arrives at step seven: Looking Out for Your Friends. The boy has an immediate knack for this step and is quickly able to identify a friend in need: A cat being chased by an angry dog. Suddenly, he remembers his training, and the boy is able to use every single step to save the cat. Afterwards, the boy is rewarded with the approval of his teacher, his official Lion Diploma, and many new cat friends. This cleverly, simple, yet comically exciting picture book can entertain grade K-2 readers, while also contributing to their cognitive development. The language of the text includes relatable and understandable actions words, especially if the children act them out along with the young boy in the story. In terms of cognitive development, the story offers many opportunities for readers to hypothesize about what will come next for the boy or compare his actions and abilities to those of the teacher. In addition, the illustrations may develop observational skills, especially when deciphering feelings based on facial expressions. Children of this age are visual learners and concrete thinkers, so attention to the expressions enhance their reading experience and skills. The theme of friendship is dominant. Because it is the final and culminating step for the boy, readers are left with the notion of just how important Looking Out for Your Friends can be. This happens to be a very important theme, as children of this age are beginning to experience and learn about friendship. The actions of loyalty and support of the boy provide an effective model for readers when handling relationships in their own lives. Although young readers are drawn in by the enjoyable idea of a young boy taking Lion Lessons, they are also able to learn about the Life Lesson of being a good friend. (DVB)

Never insult a killer zucchini!

Amancio, Brandon and Elana Azose. 2016. Never insult a killer zucchini!. Charlebridge Publishing Inc. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-618-4.

Never insult a killer zucchini! is a clever picture book for young readers. The text is full of vivid illustrations of an incredibly advanced science fair. The illustrations would help students to practice cognitive skills, primarily observation. The plot is conveyed primarily through small details, packed on each page. While the book has a very creative style, it may be difficult for young readers to pick up these important plot points. For example the book follows a science fair judge walking down the line of science projects, it may be difficult for students to realize this and yet, this is an aspect of the book that is essential to move the plot forward. While this aspect does assist the readers in practicing their observation skills, it may also lead to confusion. The students will need to connect prior knowledge to the story in order to understand its humor. Overall, this is a creative picture storybook that will challenge young readers. (CMD)

Ocean of fire: The burning of Columbia

Anderson, Neill. 2014. Ocean of fire: The burning of Columbia. Charlesbridge. 160pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-516-3.

A series of people are followed in the events leading up to the burning of Columbia and the time during the event. This event happened at the end of the Civil War. The city surrendered to General Sherman’s Union troops, all of the troops there fled and left the city open to the enemy. Emma, a 17 year old and her family, and a potential Confederate spy, Charles Davis, are the main characters and the story surrounds their action and desperation during this time. The book shows you an in depth look at what those that lived in Columbia went through during that time. (KW)


No, no Gnome!

Anstee, Ashlynn. 2016. No, no Gnome!. Simon & Schuster. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3091-3.

As students eagerly waited at Greenthumb Elementary school to harvest their crops from their classroom garden, Gnome was especially excited. Because Gnome was so excited about the garden, he could not control his behavior and, much to the chagrin of his classmates, he destroys every item in his path. Gnome is a contrite student however, and realizes he must repair what is broken. Ashlyn Anstee’s vivid pictures fill the page with color,which are used to show the emotions of Gnome. The size of the text shows importance in the story. This story shows that heartfelt apologies are not enough to repair damages, instead one must show these feelings with actions. This is a valuable lesson for children to learn from an early age. Young readers, ages 4 – 7 will connect with Gnome because children can occasionally be thoughtless and destructive. (FJS)


Living fossils: clues to the past

Arnold, Caroline. 2016. Living fossils: clues to the past. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 9-781607348368. Illustrated by Andrew Plant.

If students are interested in dinosaurs, Living fossils: Clues to the past is a non-fiction picture book perfect for them. The book will introduce students to real dinosaurs living today, such as Coelacanths, horseshoe crabs, dragonflies, and nautiloids. Living fossils explains what a fossil is and the various ways a creature can become a fossil. The book provides examples of animals today who are like the animals on Earth thousands and thousands of years ago and calls them, “living fossils”. The book describes the animal as it appeared in the past and then on the following page describes where the animals are found today and how it survives. There are interesting facts about how the animal’s adaptation to their environment helps that animal survive. The book also includes a “Clues to the Past” timeline and a final list of all the “living fossil” examples with their scientific names. At the back of the book, interested students will find a glossary of terms. The illustrations are both beautiful and filled with action. They depict the “living fossils” as predators or prey. The illustrations will appeal to students and keep them engaged with the text as the illustrations often reflect the information in the text. The illustrator, Andrew Plant, is a zoologist interested in paleontology, and has previously illustrated children’s books. The author, Caroline Arnold, has written many books for children about science and nature. Living fossils is authentic to the nature of science and discovery and would be a useful resource for an elementary science classroom for students who want to learn more about paleontology and are ready to use new vocabulary when discussing fossils. (BJP)

Far from fair

Arnold, Elana. 2016. Far from fair. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-60227-4.

Odette Zyskoski thinks her parents’ ruined her life. They made the decision to sell their house and most of their belongings in a garage sale, and head north in an RV they named Coach. She must live in tight quarters with her parents and her brother, as well as share one cellphone among all of them. Odette is especially upset, because she had no say about moving and leaving her best friend, Mieko, as well as spending her seventh grade being “road” schooled. The family travels from Southern California to the Northwest coast to spend time with her Grandma, who is ill, sicker than their family realizes. On the way Odette meets a cute, dark-skinned boy named Harris. Some family miscommunication almost wrecks their new friendship. Arnold does a wonderful job portraying life from a teenage girl's perspective. Arnold also shows the struggle that teenagers have in showing their notions for hard, real life struggles. This contemporary realistic fiction novel is a credible story that allows children to identify with its characters and see that they are not alone in their problems. (FJS)


Alien in my pocket #5: Ohm vs. Amp

Ball, Nate. 2015. Alien in my pocket #5: Ohm vs. Amp. HarperCollins Publishers. 144pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231489-5. Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan.

Zack’s adventures with pint-sized alien Amp become interesting when Amp’s commander Ohm, arrives on Earth and crashes into Zack’s bedroom. Science fiction explores the delights of science and the importance of problem-solving skills in this charming and humorous tale written by Nate Ball and illustrated by Macky Pamintuan. The story is served well by a small cast of characters primarily Zack, Ohm and Amp, Zack’s mother, and Zack’s best friend Olivia. These characters are distinct and memorable. Zack is an engaging narrator who is admirable, kind, and helpful to fractious Ohm and Amp, even though they get him into trouble. Also, Zack tries to listen to his nutritionist Aunt Joni when she tries to lecture Zack about healthy eating, even though he finds the topic boring. While most children don’t have secret blue alien friends hiding in their bedrooms, many children can relate to having to learn about something that does not interest them. For some children that subject is science. The author’s use of humor with the Common Core aligned science concepts, will get students interested in the science behind the lever, the tool Zach uses to launch Ohm’s spaceship. The book also includes instructions to create and experiment with homemade atlatl. An atlatl, as the book explains, “was an Aztec weapon that combined a throwing device with a spear.” The device helped a person throw an object farther and faster than they would be able to on their own, and were used for fighting and hunting. The book’s instructions to make a homemade atlatl includes safety precautions and suggest a student get adult help. The suggested age range for this book is 6 - 10 years. (BJP)

Alien in my pocket #6: Forces of nature

Ball, Nate. 2015. Alien in my pocket #6: Forces of nature. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 144pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0062314901. Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan.

A fourth grade boy, his family, and his small alien friend go on a camping trip. After getting lost, the tiny alien rides in on the family’s dog to save the day. He shows the children how to make a compass so they can find their way back to camp safely. The illustrations complement the storyline through the lines and textures they mimic. Direct connections to scientific terms such as how a group of bears is called a sleuth, defining what a hypothesis is, and discussion of magnetism would lead to excellent connections to classroom learning for grades one through five. This science-fiction short novel would be best suited for readers ages 7-11 and grades 2-5 who have mastered basic reading skills and want to practice those skills on their own. The medium-sized, bold text would be easier for young readers decode and comprehend and the few illustrations would help clarify plot, characterization, and setting and hold the reader's interest. The author creates a believable setting children would be able to envision and a storyline with which they can emphasize. Both setting and theme in this book help to suspend disbelief and hold the reader’s attention. Many children are familiar through life experiences or through other books or movies with what a camping trip in the woods might look like. (LAA)

My House

Barton, Byron. 2016. My house. HarperCollins Books (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $12.14. ISBN 978-0062337030. Illustrated by Byron Barton.

In My House, children are given the chance to see through the eyes of Jim, the cat as he gives a tour of his house. Young readers are given the opportunity to see vivid images of each of the places Jim goes. Barton uses shapes and bold colors throughout his book, inviting to readers. Jim brings the readers through the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom and the litter box. Jim even introduces readers to Jane, the girl who takes care of him. Young readers will have background knowledge regarding their own homes and they will relate to Jim as he gives a tour of his home. Jim is proud of his house and the children can be inspired by Jim to be proud of what they have. My House can encourage children to write and draw about themselves to better understand their own home. (APB)


Becker, Bonnie. 2015. Cloud Country

Becker, Bonnie. 2015. Cloud Country. Disney Book Group (Disney Hyperion). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1423157328. Concept and Pictures by Noah Klocek.

Cloud Country by Bonnie Becker tells the story of a young cloud girl named Gale who is in Formation School. Throughout the book Gale struggles to try and make stormy clouds she is expected to make. Instead she makes shapes from what she sees in the world below. She fears she will fail and not meet the expectations of the rest of the cloud community. She eventually realizes she is unique and very special, as she is only one of a few Daydream Clouds. With blue tones often associated with air, calm colors, and soft lines it seems as if one can reach in and feel the soft, fluffy clouds. The blue, darker colors represent Gale’s sad feelings throughout the story, until she discovers her true calling and her feelings change. This is reflected in the light colors and bright yellows that represent happiness at the end of the book. Gale shows that being unique is a good thing and to never try to be anything else. (KAB)

Beck, W. H. 2015. Malcolm under the stars

Beck, W. H. 2015. Malcolm under the stars. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-39267-0. Illustrated by Brian Lies.

In Malcolm under the stars, W. H. Beck launches readers into the halls of Mckenna School as Malcolm and the Midnight Academy are solving another mystery. These classroom pets love their nutters (students) and lankies (teachers) by keeping them safe from what might be lurking around the corner. In this series’ installment, Malcolm has his hero brain on to find the Loaded Stash buried deep within the history of Mckenna, and to save the aging school before it closes for good. Alluring black and white line drawings by Brian Lies accompany the story throughout the book, catapulting readers to imagine Malcolm solving this conundrum. Join Malcolm, his nutters, and Mckenna’s beloved animals for a captivated mystery and learn some new vocabulary words along the way. (CAH)


Beck, W. H.. 2016. Glow

Beck, W. H.. 2016. Glow. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-41666-6.

This informational book follows the bioluminescence - the ability to glow- creatures of the darkness of the oceans.  Many of these bioluminescent creatures are only found at the bottom of the ocean because of the lack of light.  The depths of the ocean are still mostly a mystery--in fact only five percent of the ocean has been explored so far.  This book examines these creatures  hiding on the ocean floor.  The real pictures of these creatures are very dramatic and their light is hugely contrasted to the blackness of the ocean floor.  The book describes how each animal glows for a different reason. This informational book, Glow sheds light on the depths of the ocean and the creatures living there. (FJS)


Bemis, John Claude. 2016. Out of Abaton: The wooden prince

Bemis, John Claude. 2016. Out of Abaton: The wooden prince. Disney Book Group (Disney). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-148470727-2.

Bemis successfully suspends disbelief in Out of Abaton by creating a realistic society, Abaton, a magical kingdom in which Pinocchio, the automa, is struggling with his mysterious transformation. The story begins by captivating readers with Pinocchio, a wooden boy who has a new master, Geppetto. Over the course of the book, Pinocchio slowly begins to transform into a human being, perplexing Geppetto. This development of Pinocchio is startling and takes a lot of thought and testing to find the cause and solution. Geppetto is a two-faced character who is kind and helpful to some people in the community, but is also a criminal and “evil” man. At the same time, in the magical kingdom, Prester John, the ruler of the magical kingdom has been captured and his daughter Lazuli is searching for him. Bemis details the search with other credible characters and settings; yet suspends disbelief, allowing the reader to feel as though this place and these characters are real. Along her journey, Princess Lazuli realizes the only people who can save her father are Pinocchio and Geppetto. Through descriptive adjectives and use of the author’s extensive imagination, this twist on the traditional Pinocchio tale transports readers into a magical, yet credible world. (EPK)

Biedrzycki, David. 2016. Bears to the rescue

Biedrzycki, David. 2016. Bears to the rescue. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $14.62. ISBN 978-1580896245.

Two bears roaming around the city looking for their cub becomes news to reporters capturing the search and surrounding events. Captions complement the text in this whimsical tale of life in a city and a zoo. Readers will recognize a robber dressed as a clown before the police capture him because his shirt is a very bright red. The color red in this case signals danger to the reader, showing that he is a dangerous deceitful character. Also, the other robber in this story is wearing a gray and white striped costume. This detail helps the reader infer he is also someone to watch carefully. At the end of the story readers and the two bears finally find the little bear cub. Words are coming out of his mouth in sharp zigzag lines, showing the cub is in distress about being separated from his parents. Finally, in the end the parents find the cub and accidently catch the group of robbers. (AMM)

Bildner, Phil. 2015. Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the spirit of New Orleans

Bildner, Phil. 2015. Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the spirit of New Orleans. Chronicle Books. 44pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1452125787. Illustrated by John Parra.

Marvelous Cornelius in no ordinary sanitation worker. He is friendly to everyone, always says hello, and he sings, dances, and performs tricks. Everyone loves him. When Hurricane Katrina strikes, Cornelius feels overwhelmed with the amount of cleanup needed, but because he was so nice to everyone and they all care about him, the citizens chip in to help clean up their city. Even after he dies, they still continue to clean up the city he worked so hard to maintain. This true story about Cornelius Washington of New Orleans contains a lesson about being friendly to all and working together for a common good, just as all the citizens worked together to help clean New Orleans after the devastating storm of Hurricane Katrina. This story also has unique illustrations rendered in paint, so the brush strokes are visible on each page. They are also predominantly earth tones splashed with color, such as reds and yellows. The figures and buildings appear to be composed of geometric shapes, with few curves and soft edges. Marvelous Cornelius is a story reflecting the value of a positive work ethic, personalities that reach out to people and the importance of working together. (KAB)

Blackford, Cheryl. 2015. Lizzie and the lost baby

Blackford, Cheryl. 2015. Lizzie and the lost baby. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 9-780544570993.

Lizzie and her younger brother are evacuated from a warzone to the Yorkshire valley. They meet new people, have to make difficult choices, and have some life-changing experiences. One of the people they meet is Elijah, a young Gypsy boy. He and Lizzie worry about a lot of the same things, like looking after younger siblings and their fathers safety in war. Lizzie and Elijah perspectives mirror each other as point of view alternates between them by chapter. This style choice highlights the similarities of their characters. As a piece of historical fiction, it includes well placed details, such as the children carrying gas-masks on their train journey. Cheryl Blackford also uses punctuation and phonetic spelling to help the reader hear the different dialects of the village and the gypsy characters. In many ways this book is an astute revelation of culture clash. Readers see prejudice and power through the eyes of children. Lizzie notes “Grownups make decisions of children. Grownups had decided that the baby should stay with Elsie. Grownups had decided that children should be evacuated to the country to live with strangers.” However it is Lizzie who ends up asking the moral questions, “But what if the baby would rather go home than stay with Elsie? What if Lizzie and Peter would rather face the bombs than live with strangers?” And it is Elijah who is brave enough to cross cultural boundaries and approach this “Gorgio” girl in order to find his baby sister. Lizzie and the Lost Baby is a great story to help students with moral development. Lizzie and Elijah grow and are changed by the difficult circumstances they find themselves in. Children can take comfort in seeing they are not alone in facing difficulties and feeling lost at times. By the end of the story the war is still raging on in Europe, but both Lizzie and Elijah have accepted their new responsibilities and have found that they do have the ability to impact change. This story could lead to great discussions with kids about emotions, history, and what it means to do the right thing. (BJP)

Bogan, Paulette. 2016. Virgil and Owen stick together

Bogan, Paulette. 2016. Virgil and Owen stick together. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (MacMillan). 32pp. $13.72. ISBN 978-1619633735. Illustrated by Paulette Bogan.

Virgil and Owen stick together is a story of two great friends. Virgil is a penguin and Owen is a polar bear. Owen is very excited about school and takes his time in all his activities. Virgil, on the other hand, likes to rush to get done. Virgil continues to push Owen to do activities faster. Owen becomes fed up and pushes Virgil into a snowbank because he does not want to hurry anymore. In the end, Virgil and Owen both realize they made poor choices and forgive each other. Together, they take their time getting home from school. The book, for young readers, emphasizes that all students work at different speeds and have varying interests. It is important that each person is treated with respect and that conflict be solved in a positive manner. Virgil and Owen Stick Together is a lesson of true friendship for the children. The vivid illustrations bring the reader into the arctic setting through the use of blue and white color. The child can feel as if they are actually in the arctic through the realistic look of the illustrations.(APB)

Boothroyd, Jennifer. 2016. Caution in the kitchen! Germs, allergies and other health concerns

Boothroyd, Jennifer. 2016. Caution in the kitchen! Germs, allergies and other health concerns. Lerner Publishing Group. 32pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-9669-9.

This informative early learner book is an effective tool to remind children of proper food handling and safety in the kitchen. The author scatters important notes next to many of the pictures in order to remind children about a few of the key food safety rules. Children will relate to the easy-to-read large text that is in simple and age-appropriate language. The pictures are vibrant and depict children participating in various scenarios involving food safety, which young readers will be able to relate to. The pictures also include important information that children should begin to learn to understand, such as reading a food label. Teachers and parents will enjoy using this book as a teaching tool for children expressing a desire to work in the kitchen, as well as teaching other basic food safety protocols, such as alerting an adult if you feel ill after eating. The end of the book also includes a glossary of terms, which adds to this book’s effectiveness as a teaching instrument. The interesting facts and hands-on activities at the end of the book  bring all of the information together, making it a fun and easy, yet informative read. (SW)

Boothroyd, Jennifer. 2016. Why doesn’t everyone eat meat?: Vegetarianism and special diets

Boothroyd, Jennifer. 2016. Why doesn’t everyone eat meat?: Vegetarianism and special diets. Lerner Publishing Group (Lightning Bolt Books). 32pp. $25.25. ISBN 978-1-4677-9471-8. Photographers cited on page 32.

In Why doesn’t everyone eat meat?, students in the lower elementary grades are introduced to vegetarianism and unique diets. Students are encouraged to pay attention to what those around them are eating and how foods are labeled at the store. Despite a few challenging words, the book’s vocabulary is appropriate for young children. Boothroyd offers a glossary for students if they are unsure of a word. The information is presented in an appealing manner, with a limited amount of words on each page and big pictures. For the most part, the pictures are shown with a caption or textbox to further enhance the text from Boothroyd. Following the glossary at the end of the book, outside resources are listed for readers to continue their learning after finishing Why doesn’t everyone eat meat? (SMK)

Boyle, K. C. 2016. Teddy and the dog: Be your own dog

Boyle, K. C. 2016. Teddy and the dog: Be your own dog. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238238-2. Illustrated by J. Sneider

Teddy the dog is a comical book narrated by a naughty dog who likes to chew on socks, dig in the trash, and bark all night long.  Teddy feels like he is the king of the house until his life is interrupted by the arrival of a new pet cat.  Teddy tries to teach the cat how to be a dog.  The cat, Fishbreath, tries to teach Teddy how to be a cat.  In the end of the story, Teddy realizes that it is okay to have differences, and you can “be your own dog… even if it means being a cat”.  

The cartoonish illustrations, bright colors, and repetitive phrases classify this book as most appropriate for preschool age students.  Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, this book is also developmentally appropriate for this age.  

If I were using this book in the classroom, I would center the conversation around making friend, as well as simply comparing and contrasting cats and dogs.  Children at the preschool age are cognitively able to begin observing and classifying things.  Therefore, this story has the capability to stir a conversation that is stimulating the cognitive, social, and personal development of preschool students. (CS)

Braun, Sebastien. 2012. Whoosh and Chug

Braun, Sebastien. 2012. Whoosh and Chug. HarperCollins Publishers. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207754-7. Illustrated by Sebastien Braun.

Chug is a little freight engine, collecting and delivering heavy freight. Chug worked very slowly compared to the other engines. Whoosh, a passenger train, made fun of Chug because of how slow he went. One day Chug started off on his route early, making his way slowly to his destination. When Chug reached the junction, he was told to stop because there was danger on the line ahead of him. While Chug waited patiently, Whoosh sped past him, without paying attention to the potential dangers ahead. All of a sudden, Whoosh came to a hole in the bridge but couldn’t turn around because huge boulders had fallen behind him. Whoosh called for help, and Chug came to his aid. Slowly and carefully, Chug cleared the boulders from the track so Whoosh could back up and return to safety. Chug taught Whoosh a lesson about being more careful and taking your time. Whoosh and Chug became friends and appreciated both of their individual strengths as engines. (KW)

Buckley, Michael. 2016. Raging sea: Undertow trilogy book 2

Buckley, Michael. 2016. Raging sea: Undertow trilogy book 2. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 368pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0544348448.

As the second Undertow book begins, Lyric Walker is hitchhiking through Texas with her best friend, Bex, and sea creature, Arcade. Alpha have arrived on planet earth and the evil Rusalka have destroyed most of the east coast, leaving half Alpha-half human Lyric to save those she loves. To her knowledge, the good Alpha and humans associated with these sea creatures are held captive in a top secret military prison called Tempest. Lyric must find the courage in herself to save those she loves and the rest of the world from the next cataclysmic attack. Grades nine and up can jump into the Undertow series and become mesmerized by author Michael Buckley’s action packed science fiction world that feels real through the emotional, determined Lyric Walker’s attempt to save the world. (CAH)


Carbone, Elisa. 2016. Diana’s White House garden

Carbone, Elisa. 2016. Diana’s White House garden. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 44pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0670016495.

Diana is a young girl who lives in a very special place which is the White House. Her father, Harry Hopkins, is the chief advisor to the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The country is currently at war, and people everywhere are pitching in to help during these tough times. Diana wants to do something, but everything she thinks of, such as being a spy or a city official, is inappropriate for a young girl. When President Roosevelt decides to have the citizens of the U.S. use extra land space for gardens to grow food, including the area around the White House, Diana volunteers to take care of the garden as her contribution to the war efforts. She grows many kinds of different vegetables and plants to help feed people. In the end, she feels a sense of accomplishment about what she did during WWII to help out. This picture storybook based on historical events shows how all efforts, including planting and taking care of a garden for food, can help during difficult times, and every single person, young or old, can contribute to a common good. This book contains unique illustrations with soft lines and neutral colors, for example browns and blues, which remind readers of a time long past, and have an old-fashioned feel to them. The illustrations range from full page pictures to many different scenes represented on one page, which move the story forward as they cross the page. (KAB)

Carlson, Caroline. 2016. The very nearly honorable league of pirates: The Buccaneers’ code

Carlson, Caroline. 2016. The very nearly honorable league of pirates: The Buccaneers’ code. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 301pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-0-06-219439-8.

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, The Buccaneers’ Code is an interesting fantasy tale for young teenage readers. The story takes place in a fantasy world of pirates and sea side towns. The author attempts to draw readers into the world by blending the world that they know, with rules, regulations, and politeness, with the world of pirates, which is generally perceived as void of any of these characteristics. This creates a world that can be exciting for the reader, but it also it creates a world of many confusing situations and decisions. The plot is driven by these rules and is laid out early on in the story. The hero, a girl who goes by the name of “Terror of the Southlands” is going to try to overthrow the current president of the league of pirates. In this fantasy world there is a standard procedure for this and the story lays out a plot and a timeline for the whole book. This plot concludes with a narrow victory by Terrors’ rag tag group of pirates, simply due to the unveiling of a secret weapon that was in their possession for the whole story. This plot is predictable, perhaps too predictable for curious readers. It is important to note that this book is the third book in the series, and the reader may be familiar with this fantasy world and understand its customs and characters. For this reason, there is little characterization or growth of the characters within it. The lack of characterization may not be an issue for a young reader familiar with the first two books in the series, but the lack of growth within them may be disappointing. Assisting in understanding the story while creating a larger context for the events are letters or newspaper clippings placed in between the chapters. This is a unique technique that helps the reader to learn more about the fantasy world as a whole. While this fantasy story would be more enjoyable for students who have read the preceding books, the plot and characterization that occurs within this segment of the series may leave even young readers disappointed. (CMD)

Castaldo, Nancy. 2016. The story of seeds

Castaldo, Nancy. 2016. The story of seeds. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 144pp. $17.99 ISBN 978-0-544-32023-9.

The story of seeds is an informational story describing the role and importance of seeds in the world.  The text is filled with vivid real-life photographs helping students grasp an understanding of how seeds work. The book informs its readers as to where they get some of their food and the process it goes through. The book is numbered and divided into chapters that are clearly labeled. This breaks up the text and makes it easier to read. The text goes over the use of seeds not just in the United States, but in world. For example, the text talks about seeds in India. The book addresses the  lack of biodiversity in the food people eat and how this will affect the environment. The back of the book includes a list of every seed library in each state.  This allows readers so find the closest seed library to their house.  The book also includes a glossary and  an index to assist students in their learning as well as make it easier to find desired information. (FJS)


Cleary, Brian P. 2016. –Ful and –less, -er and –ness: What is a suffix?

Cleary, Brian P. 2016. –Ful and –less, -er and –ness: What is a suffix?. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1512400885. Illustrations by Martin Goneau.

Rhyming playful words will certainly aid in introducing beginning readers to suffixes. Young readers and students learning English as another language will enjoy learning common suffixes as illustrator Martin Goneau pairs memorable cartoon cats with the crazy vocabulary in the book. At the end of the book, there is also a suffix chart with meanings and examples of the words in the book. Boisterous fonts in different colors emphasize the suffixes to help readers visualize word endings. Every color of the rainbow fills the pages with life as kids are introduced to suffixes. (CAH)


Cleary, Brian P. 2016. I saw an invisible lion today: Quatrains

Cleary, Brian P. 2016. I saw an invisible lion today: Quatrains. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $6.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-9342-1. Illustrated by Richard Watson.

Through creative and engaging poetry, Cleary introduces the concept of quatrains, poems with rhyming patterns that could be one stanza or many. In quatrains, there are four common types: AAAA, AABB, ABCB, and ABAB. The pattern of the poems in I saw an invisible lion today varies, as does the topic of each poem. Children ages 7-11 will enjoy this book discussing sleepovers, mustaches, grandmothers, home, summer camp, and more because of the nonsense phrases and rhyming words. Children find enjoyment in poetry like these quatrains by Cleary because of the strange events, the energetic mood, and the rhyme and rhythm of the poems. Many of the readers of this collection of poems will be able to identify with the craziness that occurs in the poems and the happy mood that comes with it. The illustrations help convey the energetic and happy feeling the words describe. Cleary uses alliteration throughout his poems, for example, “it’s dripping dark and dangerous” and “it’s coming down with clamorous, cantankerous, and clunky”. Although many students have trouble with poetry and may not enjoy it, this book could change their attitudes about poetry. Clearly uses descriptive and nonsense words to create poems about strange and silly topics young students will find engaging. This collection of quatrains would be a fine addition to a classroom for grades 2-5 for a poetry unit and could inspire students to write their own creative poems similar to those by Cleary. (EPK)

Clements, Andrew. 2014. The map trap

Clements, Andrew. 2014. The map trap. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 144pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1416997276. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen.

Alton has had a lifelong fascination with maps of all kind. He loves to look at them, hang them in his room, and draw them. He draws maps not only of real places, but of things like his teacher Miss Wheeling's mind, the heights of kids in his class, and charts of the cafeteria food correlated with the number of bathroom trips students make! After Alton tries to impress "cool kid" Quint by showing him the map of Miss Wheeling, the whole folder goes missing. Thinking that Quint has probably taken it, Alton rides his bike to Quint's house, and the two start to investigate. Fearing that people will hate him after someone sends him a ransom note of sorts concerning the maps, Alton apologizes to a teacher whose personality he charts, and she finds the chart amusing. Amazed by this, Alton proceeds to apologize to everyone, so he doesn't have to worry about the maps finding their way to everyone. In the process, he makes friends with Quint and gets along better with his classmates. (KW)


Cole, Henry. 2016. Spot, the cat

Cole, Henry. 2016. Spot, the cat. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4225-1.

This wordless picture book invites young students to follow Spot on his day-long journey around the city. The theme is revealed through the conflicts Spot experiences when he decides to spend a day away from home. The illustrations are black and white, which creates a challenge for the readers to identify Spot in each scene with every turn of the page. The delicately drawn lines open up children’s minds and allow them to begin to dream and envision what is happening in each new part of the story. Students must practice the skill of observing in order to locate Spot on each page, as well as develop the ability to hypothesize about what they believe is happening where the illustrations alone, are not sufficient. (SMK)


Coy, John. 2016. Their great gift

Coy, John. 2016. Their great gift. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 32pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1467780544. Photographs by Wing Young Huie.

Immigration is a major social issue in the United States today and is frequently in the news. Many people and families in America bear the burden of immigration daily, and Their great gift sheds light on the complex issue in a very simplistic style by using only a few words per page. The book challenges readers to learn about their family’s immigration story and learn about their family’s experience of settling in the United States. The book helps readers appreciate their ancestors by showing and describing the many things they sacrificed in exchange for a better life. Additionally, the photographs show the many different types of immigrants and do a wonderful job illustrating not only the difficulty, but the beauty of immigration. (AMM)


Cronin, Doreen. 2016. Bloom

Cronin, Doreen. 2016. Bloom. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-0620-9. Illustrated by David Small.

An ordinary girl saves a kingdom using only mud in this cheery story, perfect for children ages 4-8. When their glass kingdom begins to crack, the king and queen are unsure what to do so they enlist the help of the mud fairy named Bloom. They decide they don’t want Bloom’s help because they are royalty so they send Genevieve, an ordinary girl to ask Bloom how to save the kingdom. The colors of the castle and kingdom are bright and welcoming, blues and pinks. When Genevieve enters the forest in search of Bloom, the colors are darker and threatening, evoking fear and curiosity in the reader, dark greens and browns. Once she finds Bloom, with the use of mud and their hands, Genevieve and Bloom build brick buildings to save the cracking glass kingdom. Genevieve develops throughout the book from a servant for the queen into the girl who saves the kingdom. In their conversations, through the size and style of the font, one can sense the volume and emotion used in the statements of Bloom and Genevieve. Big and bold when they are angry or surprised, and small and thin when they are speaking or shy. Thanks to Genevieve, young readers learn ordinary girls can save the day. (EPK)

Crowl, M. Tara. 2016. Eden’s wish

Crowl, M. Tara. 2016. Eden’s wish. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-1185-9.

The first twelve years of Eden of the Lamp’s life is spent confined between an ancient oil lamp’s gorgeously adorned walls. She lives like a princess, taken care of by the lamp’s masters: Xavier and Goldie. Eden finds her training to become a genie is more like a life sentence: her time includes granting 999 wishes before she is free from genie duties forever. Rather than granting wishes, Eden wishes she could live with mortals among the perfect Earth. The picture Eden has of Earth is perfect, beneath the bright bronze sun. When Eden finds herself outside of the lamp among mortals, she quickly learns the perfect world she imagined is much harsher than she originally thought. Readers between in grades third through seventh grades will be enchanted by the magical world of Eden as author M. Tara Crowl vividly describes the world of a young genie. Modern fantasy takes a twist on the world of genies as young Eden discovers what life is really like under the big bronze sun. (CAH)


Cummings, Lindsay. 2015. Balance keepers: The pillars of Ponderay

Cummings, Lindsay. 2015. Balance keepers: The pillars of Ponderay. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 384pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227521-9.

The second book in the Balance Keeper series begins with Albert Flynn, a young Balance Keeper, returning to the Core with his duo of friends, known to the other Balance Keepers and Pures, as Hydra. They have been summoned to the Core, the magical center of the earth, to train and compete for the chance to enter the Ponderay Realm, in hopes of saving the world from another catastrophic Imbalance. This narrative is full of adventure and challenge, both physically and mentally, as Hydra has to work together as a team to channel a balance of their strengths. Parents and teachers will appreciate the teamwork aspect evident throughout this thrilling book, as Hydra must work together to understand the Pillars and why they have become so unaligned not long after another incident of Imbalance occurred in the Core only a few months prior. Students will be enthralled by the bravery and skills of characters similar in age to their own, and will be drawn in by the capturing dialogue and fictional language that almost seems real. The cliffhanger will leave the reader craving the next book in the series. (SW)

David, Erica. 2016. How to build a dragon fort

David, Erica. 2016. How to build a dragon fort. Simon & Schuster. 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 9-781481452168.

This Ready-to-Read book adapted by Erica David features the amusing characters from the popular Dreamworks Animation movie “How to Train Your Dragon”. In this new short tale, Hiccup and his fellow Viking friends are searching for a place to build a fort for their dragons. The short story is easy for beginners to read independently and the familiar characters are intriguing enough to grab a young reader’s interest. The story has positive themes of cooperation and compromise, appropriate for the intended audience of K-2 readers. After witnessing how a species of dragon work together to scare off predators, Hiccup suggests his friends work together to build a fort everyone can appreciate and enjoy. Young students benefit in their social development when they read stories with examples of how characters find solutions to their problems and compromise. Overall this is an engaging, entertaining picture book for youngsters to gain confidence as readers. (BJP)


David, Erica. 2015. Kung Fu Panda: Po’s two dads

David, Erica. 2015. Kung Fu Panda: Po’s two dads. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-1481441070.

Po’s two dads, based on the Kung Fu Panda – 3 movie, has a substantive meaning about acceptance, compassion and equality. Mr. Ping adopted Po when he was young, but his biological father returns and tries to impress Po by bringing him to his hometown away from his adopted father. Mr. Ping gets upset because he feels as if Po will not love him anymore because he is a bird and not a Panda Bear. Throughout the story, Po’s two dads fight about which father will be a better dad to Po. The characters in the story have many humanlike characteristics and feelings with situations children can relate to. Being concerned with not fitting in is a common theme for all the characters and many children will relate to the characters complex feelings surrounding acceptance. However, in the end the characters realize they all have special gifts because they are different. The trio combine their special gifts to defeat the evil animal, Kai. This lesson will help to teach the reader that being different is okay, and if we put our unique gifts together we can accomplish anything. (AMM)

Davis, Jon. 2014. Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night

Davis, Jon. 2014. Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $8.50. ISBN 978-0544164666. Illustrated by Jon Davis.

Small Blue woke up in the middle of the night. Everything was very dark and Small Blue thought of scary, creepy, sneaky things that could be hiding in the dark. Big Brown come to Small Blue’s room and Small Blue announced that he saw gremlins and goblins in the dark. Big Brown asks Small Blue if he actually sees gremlins and goblins, when Small Blue replies no, Big Brown states asks how Small Blue knows it wasn’t a doggie unicycle convention. The book goes on with Big Brown and Small Blue discovering the likeliness of Small Blue’s scary thoughts and Big Brown’s happy thoughts about what could be hiding in the dark. Eventually, Small Blue realizes that it is just as likely that a smiley spacemen’s zero-gravity birthday party is in the dark instead of giant hairy spiders. Big Brown teaches Small Blue that positivity in unknown situations is way more comforting than negativity. (KW)

Delacre, Lulu. 2016. Olinguito, from A to Z!/¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z!

Delacre, Lulu. 2016. Olinguito, from A to Z!/¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z!. Lee & Low Books Inc. (Children’s Book Press). 40pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-0-89239-327-5. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre.

Delacre has created a unique bilingual alphabet book to introduce students to different animals they may encounter on a trip to the zoo, specifically the olinguito. The book is bilingual, written in both English and Spanish, and the phrases are well-written translations. This book is meant to help children form connections between familiar objects, letters, and sounds that they hear. Olinguito, from A to Z invites children to search through the cloud forest for an olinguito, an animal similar to a raccoon. Each page is filled with colorful illustrations accurately depicting all of the words written underneath them. On each page children are introduced to a new animal and it continues in alphabetical order from A to Z. On the page of each letter, there are a variety of nouns, adjectives, and verbs that begin with that letter, guiding children to focus that letter and the sounds it can make in both languages. The letter “ñ” only exists in Spanish, yet the author has given it a page in this book. The Spanish writing on this page emphasizes the specific letter but the English translation does not correlate to the same letter. On each of the other pages the author and translator have done a superb job of creating phrases in both English and Spanish that emphasize the same letter and can therefore be put on that letter’s page. Students who speak either language will benefit from reading this book and assist them in learning their alphabet. (EPK)

DePaola, Tomie. 1974. Michael bird-boy

DePaola, Tomie. 1974. Michael bird-boy. Simon & Schuster. 30pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4333-3.

Michael is a little boy who absolutely loves birds. He dresses like one every day to feed them. One day, a huge, black cloud came over the countryside, hurting all of the birds. Michael bird-boy decides to drive to the city to try and solve the problem. When he got there he finds Boss Lady’s huge artificial honey factory polluting the air. Michael comes up with a very sweet solution that both Boss Lady and the birds in the countryside will like. This story has a powerful underlying conflict between Michael bird-boy and society. The story also has an important theme, as the story shows the effects that factories have on the world and the importance to work together to accomplish a goal. Tomie DePaola uses color to show the effects of pollution in this story. Once the pollution spews from the plan the pictures go from being colorful to dark and lifeless to show the negative effects that pollution has on the environment. The pictures also include soft shapes to show that Michael bird-boy is a kind and friendly boy who just wants the best for his countryside. (FJS)

Dixon, Franklin. 2016. Hardy boys adventures: Book 11: Showdown at Widow Creek

Dixon, Franklin. 2016. Hardy boys adventures: Book 11: Showdown at Widow Creek. Penguin Random House LLC (Aladdin). 128pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1481438773.

Two brothers saddle up to help a ranch owner and his daughter move cattle on a cattle drive. The mystery-solving duo is faced with more challenges than just staying in the saddle as an unknown suspect tries to sabotage the cattle drive. Suspicions are raised as to which person may be guilty of the incidents during the drive. The rugged, lonely, dusty, and potentially life-threatening open range setting serves as an antagonist in the story. For example, the high levels of fast-moving water serve as a challenge for the animals and people to cross safely in order to stay on the right path. The events in the book are realistic and readers may relate to the themes and conflicts in the book. Most details surrounding issues and language involved with working with cattle and horses is accurate, keeping the story believable. The only slight flaw in accuracy of details is in regards to Harvey, the ex-cutting horse. Cutting horses are trained to act as a barrier between one cow and a herd as mentioned in the text, but the horse would not know to sidestep itself in the path of a cow running directly at it in the open range or in the middle or torrential waters. However, the detail is only a minor flaw and does not get in the way of convincing the reader that the story could really happen. Children ages 9-12 and grades 3-6 would be best suited for this book. (LAA)

Super rawr!

Doodler, Todd. H. 2016. Super rawr!. Scholastic Inc (Scholastic Press). 23pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-545-79969-0. Illustrations by Leslie Mechanic.

Super rawr! shares the story of a dinosaur depicted as a superhero, whose multiple accounts of selfless and righteous deeds deem him to indeed be labeled as “super.” This book, which is appropriate for both young boys and girls, encourages all who read it to realize there are no limitations when achieving dreams if an individual is passionate, persistent, and positive. The text inspires readers to determine what passion they hold dear and teaches them to reflect on the dinosaurs criteria needed to accomplish his feat of becoming a superhero so they may be be able to do the same with the dreams they wish to pursue. (KJN)


Draper, Sharon M. 2015. Stella by starlight

Draper, Sharon M. 2015. Stella by starlight. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 320pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-9498-5.

Sharon M. Draper descriptively details the life of her grandmother and father through convincing dialogue and an accurate background of what life was like for African Americans growing up in the early to mid-1900’s in North Carolina. When Stella and Jojo see the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross near their home in the middle of the night, they rush to tell their father what they have seen. Although the Klan has not been active in their community recently, they run to alert the neighbors. At school, Stella writes about angels and wise men. She says that the only wise men she knows are the ones that come to her house to talk to her father about avoiding the Klan. This historical fiction book, based on the lives of the author’s family, accurately discusses what life was like for blacks during this time. The setting in Bumblebee, North Carolina creates moods that will make readers feel as if they were there with Stella and Jojo watching the Klan. The moods of fear and anxiousness may turning readers’ stomachs because of the uncertainty of the future. The actions, beliefs, and values of Stella and her family are realistic to those held by the majority of blacks during that time period. They were segregated from whites although they lived in the same community, they believed they were just as good as any other group although they weren’t treated as equals, and they valued their education and their families as much as any other group of people. Although Stella and her family know their place in their community and have a respectful relationship with the other residents of Bumblebee, what will happen if the Klan threatens this community? Will Stella step up and fight to protect her community or will she be defeated? (EPK)

Duey, Kathleen, and Karen Bale. 2014. Survivors: Earthquake: San Francisco, 1906

Duey, Kathleen, and Karen Bale. 2014. Survivors: Earthquake: San Francisco, 1906. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 160pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-1481400794.

This story begins with individuals living their lives normally in the year 1906. Brendan O’Connor is a delivery man who slept in the warehouse of his employer. He is saving money and working hard to make a name for himself. He is traveling with his deliveries in the center of San Francisco. Li Dai Yue lives on the opposite side of San Francisco in Chinatown but finds herself in the city after she runs away from her uncle after an argument about her arranged marriage. Suddenly, an earthquake hits and everything becomes chaos. The streets begin to break apart and buildings begin to collapse. Everyone is panicking and in the scramble of things, Brenden and Dai Yue found one another and faced the disaster together. They began making their way to help those that were trapped in the rubble. They both returned to Chinatown to help Dai Yue’s uncle whom she had an argument with that morning. They found him trapped underneath the rubble of his shop. Their day was full of panic and uncertainty as the two find each other and lose each other multiple times. San Francisco was destroyed by the earthquake, fire broke out, buildings collapsed, trains derailed, and many people lost their lives. Brendan and Dai Yue were fortunate to have found each other in their moments of need. (KW)

Durand, Hallie. 2014. Catch that cookie!

Durand, Hallie. 2014. Catch that cookie!. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0525428350. Illustrated by David Small.

Marshall and his class had been hearing about runaway gingerbread men all week. Marshall however, did not believe that gingerbread men could run. When the class decided to make gingerbread cookies, Marshall figured the cookies would still be in the oven then they were done. When the teacher opened the oven to get the cookies out, the cookies were gone and a note was left with a riddle about where to look for them next. Marshall did not believe that the gingerbread men actually ran away themselves and he thought his teacher was playing a trick on them. The whole class thought differently. With each clue they found, Marshall found more and more evidence that he was wrong and gingerbread men could run. On the last clue, Marshall and his class had given up on finding the gingerbread men. Then Marshall had an idea on where they would be and led the class to where the gingerbread men were napping after their long day of running. Marshall was the hero and the class was able to have their gingerbread men cookies. When Marshall’s dad came to pick him up, Marshall reminded him to lock all of the doors and windows. He did not want his gingerbread man to escape again. (KW)

Durst, Sarah Beth. 2015. The girl who could not dream

Durst, Sarah Beth. 2015. The girl who could not dream. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 384pp. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-544-46497-1.

Sophie, a young girl, has been exposed to magic for many years and must be conscious about others finding out about her family’s secret powers. Through the help of friends, both real and imagined, Sophie shows persistence and overcomes many obstacles to save her family and their magic. Sophie’s character changes and grows as the book progresses and her relationships grow by becoming braver and more responsible. Familiar themes arise throughout the novel, however this book is unique in its ability to combine humor, adventure and imagination to create a plot that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. (SMK)


Eldarova, Sofia. 2016. Builder mouse

Eldarova, Sofia. 2016. Builder mouse. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-35766-2.

Builder mouse describes the friendship between Edgar, the architect mouse, and Toby, the mouse who likes to eat the leftovers Edgar uses as his construction material. Edgar ventures away from his home to find a place where others will enjoy his buildings made of food. But after he travels around, he returns home, with Toby waiting for him with a present. This story promotes the development of problem-solving skills. Readers, ages 3 – 8, are also reminded about the importance of setting goals and using motivation to help reach each objective. The conflict of person versus society propels the plot as Edgar searches to find an appreciative audience for his work. Eldarova creates this picture book, written for lower elementary-aged students, which uses bold colors and simple lines to create realistic places and familiar objects for students to recognize. (SMK)


Emerson White, Ellen. 2015. Webster: tale of an outlaw

Emerson White, Ellen. 2015. Webster: tale of an outlaw. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 256pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-2201-7. Illustrated by Petra Brown.

Webster is a black dog adopted out to three different families. The last family he lives with is abusive and ends up taking the dog to a privately owned animal shelter. Thin, bitter, and unsure of his place in the world, the dog finds a place full of other dogs and cats who want to become not only friends with the newcomer, but family. The characterization of the main character, Webster, also known as Bad Hat, struggles to decide to take a chance on letting down his guard and being loved or stay the lone ranger he tells himself he wants to be. The setting is realistic and Emerson White brings Green Meadow Farms and the surrounding community to life for her reader. The cats, dogs, and the life at the shelter are all vivid and easy to picture and connect with. The targeted audience for this novel is grades 3-7 and ages 8-12 and is appropriate for those levels and ages. Youth approaching their teenage years of figuring out themselves, their place in the world, and struggling through building relationships with people in their lives will easily be able to connect to Webster’s tale, even when he is chasing it. (LAA)

Sci-fi scenes and monster dreams: 16 comedy scenes for student actors

Ewen, Jan Peterson. 2015. Sci-fi scenes and monster dreams: 16 comedy scenes for student actors. Meriwether Publishing (Pioneer Drama Service, Inc.). 128pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1566081979.

Sci-fi scenes and monster dreams can satisfy a child’s interest in science fiction while also opening an interest for plays. Ewen introduces energetic, fun roles to emerging actors. A wide variety of characters are present including shy robots, brave superheroes, hilarious monsters and silly talking dogs. There is a role for everyone at any age to get outside their comfort zone and build an actor’s repertoire. The scenes promote skills like comedic stage timing and experimenting with accents. Each of the 16 scenes provided adapt to two to six players, and range from 5-10 minutes in length. (CAH)


Stickmen’s guide to trains and automobiles

Farndon, John. 2015. Stickmen’s guide to trains and automobiles. Lerner Publishing Group (Hungry Tomato). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN  978-1-4677-9360-5. Illustrated by John Paul de Quay.

This story follows the clever Stickmen on an exciting adventure of exploring modern cars and trains.  They explore every inch of cars and trains, inside and out, and share how these vehicles work.  They also look into the special features of each vehicle.  Some of the vehicles include, two and four combustion engines, electric and solar-powered vehicles, Formula One racing cars, high-speed maglev train, and more! Precise pictures and illustrations with clear diagrams show how each vehicle works.  The Stickmen keep readers interested with jokes and interesting facts on every page.  The table of contents helps readers clearly navigate this informational book.  A timeline of the history of trains and automobiles helps readers understand the beginning of these vehicles.  This book allows children with a passion in trains and cars to get a better understanding of what is going on under the hoods of trains and automobiles. (FJS)


Barnacle is BORED

Fenske, Jonathan. 2016. Barnacle is BORED. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 40pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-545-86504-3.

In Barnacle is BORED, children learn to embrace their own individuality and taught complaining alone cannot change an unpleasant situation. Barnacle opens the story with a very persistent unpleasant attitude about living attached to the underside of a pier. The unchanging and very predictable events which occur in his everyday life cause him to complain about his circumstances. Barnacle even becomes fairly jealous about the presumptions he makes about the life of a yellow polka dotted fish who swims by. While in his process of ranting, the author skillfully promotes the tone of Barnacles words through very well illustrated facial expressions. Fenske makes is very easy for his readers to see the emotional journey Barnacle partakes in by using incredible body and facial expressions on a creature who resembles the anatomy of a octopus. As Barnacle continues to describe the life of this yellow polka dotted fish who “flips with finbacks”, children can follow the images for clues to hypothesize and predict what the fate of both characters might be in a story of assumptions and boredom. (SSL)

I’m an alien, and I want to go home

Franklin, Jo. 2015. I’m an alien, and I want to go home. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-44295-5. Illustrated by Marty Kelley.

This story follows Daniel as he tries to figure out what planet he really is from and how he will possibly get back home. Daniel thinks he is an alien because he looks absolutely nothing like his sister and his mother has a newspaper clipping about a meteor that landed on earth from the day he was born. Daniel recruits his friends Eddie and Gordon to help him return to planet Kepler 22b. Daniel is willing to do anything it takes to get to his home planet, until he realizes his parents might be in danger. This is a story full of adventure that makes it hard for readers to put it down. This science fiction novel emphasizes adventure that goes along with traveling to a whole new world. This story allows its readers to get lost in a new world with aliens, with a conflict they can relate to. (FJS)


Mercy: The incredible story of Henry Bergh: Founder of the ASPCA and friend to animals

Furstinger, Nancy. 2016. Mercy: The incredible story of Henry Bergh: Founder of the ASPCA and friend to animals. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0544650312. Illustrated by Vincent Desjardins.

A man makes advocating for kind and fair treatment to animals his life’s work. The informational story surrounds the life of Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA. The text is difficult to follow at times and does not flow very well. The illustrations use softened, rounded lines and neutral colors to make the characters seem more like cartoons, contrasting the serious issues of abuse of animals presented in the book. Recommended age levels for the book are 10-12, but the content, vocabulary, and amount of information provided would be better suited for ages 12-14 and grades 5-7. Stories of saving animals, doing the right thing, and finding one’s calling in life would appeal to students in those ranges. (LAA)


Voices of the western frontier

Garland, Sherry. 2016. Voices of the western frontier. Pelican Publishing Company. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4556-1961-0. Illustrated by Julie Dupré Buckner.

In Voices of the Western Frontier, many significant people and places from the West are introduced. Readers are introduced to a new time period and character on each page. Through each character, a new perspective leads readers through the history of the West. The new characters briefly discuss where they lived, the struggles they faced, jobs, and family life. Sacagawea is first introduced and speaks about the Upper Missouri River in 1806. Buckner’s illustrations extend Garland’s words to provide the audience with a broader knowledge of the Western Frontier. The images give readers a look into what the setting was like, such as in the mountains, and what animals and food supply they were surrounded with. Although the vocabulary might prove to be challenging for some students, the illustrations and glossary will help readers comprehend the words. (SMK)

Lion heart: A scarlet novel

Gaughen, A.C. 2015. Lion heart: A scarlet novel. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 352pp $9.99. ISBN 978-8027-3613-1.

In this novel, Scarlet must keep her gender, as a woman, a secret from all of Nottinghamshire in order to avoid what the Thief Taker could do to her. In Lion Heart, the theme of loyalty builds throughout the story as Scarlet works to keep her gender a secret. The plot of Lion Heart follows a wildly adventurous sequence of events in order to save King Richard. Conflicts begin to emerge as Scarlet works her way back to Nottinghamshire, as her relationship with Robin Hood is tested and as she puts many lives, besides her own, in danger. Gaughen uses the characters’ language and actions as a way of portraying both the book’s historical importance as well as the importance of each character’s role in the formation of this popular tale’s new retelling. The setting of emphasizes the importance of the history behind the tale of Robin Hood, as it also takes place in Nottinghamshire. (SMK)


One big pair of underwear

Gehl, Laura. 2014. One big pair of underwear. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1442453364. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.

There are two bears but only one pair of underwear. The bears don’t like sharing so only one bear gets to wear the underwear and the other bear states it isn’t fair. There were then three yaks but only two small sacks of salty snacks, so only two yaks got the snacks and one was upset. Four seals are next with only three scooters which means three seals get the three scooters and one seal does not. The story goes on and on with this same theme. There is always one less than there are animals. However, there came a time when there were twenty pigs and only ten slides. The pigs didn’t leave any pigs out, instead they shared the ten slides with all 20 pigs. The other animals soon followed suit and all the animals shared everything together. They all realized it was fun to share and have everyone included. (KW)


Some kind of courage

Gemeinhart, Dan. 2016. Some kind of courage. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 234pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-66577-3

Readers will recognize the complex themes of love, loss, racism, and masculinity through the tale of a boy searching for his horse. The book follows Joseph and a friend he meets along the way, Ah-Kee, on a journey through canyons and over mountains. These two unlikely partners work together and build friendship despite language barriers and the racism perpetuated within the area in which they lived and traveled. Both characters demonstrate growth and development. Throughout their travels, Joseph learns to cope with the loss of his family by fully expressing his emotions though tearful stories shared with people he meets. While trying to overcome his age he demonstrates how to be a man of strong morals who treats everyone with fairness. His non-romantic love and friendships are powerful examples for readers. This book is able to assist with emotional development through the modeling of positive behavior through a relatable role model while taking the reader through a gripping and engaging plot. (CMD)



Gino, Alex. 2015. George. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). $16.99. 208pp. ISBN 978-0545812542.

Being transgender is a reality among young readers but it can be a difficult issue to address because so many people have different beliefs about gender identity. However, it is essential all gender identities are included in class discussion. George is a medium for introducing upper elementary students to a girl born in a boy’s body. She worries about a lot of the things all 10 year olds worry about. She wants to fit in, be liked, and get a part in the school play. Students will identify with George’s struggle to find the courage to express who she is, even when others don’t understand her.

  The book is written in the third person narrative point of view and this can distance the reader from the emotions in story. There are several characters such as the class bully and the not-so-understanding teacher, but the author does save some of his characters from being completely cliché. Best friend Kelly and older brother Scott’s reactions to George when she finally admits she is transgender are naturalistic, heart-warming, and inspiring. While Kelly is initially confused, she eventually supports George in her quest to express her desire to be a girl to her mother. Scott is the stereotypical teenage brother drinking orange juice from half gallon carton and playing video-games while avoiding homework, but his reaction to George admitting she is a girl is unusually moving. “...where Mom’s eyes were filled with concern and confusion, Scott looked at George as if his sibling made sense to him for the first time.” This would be a chance to discuss how acceptance can be the most powerful form of love in the world. (BJP)

The Ebola epidemic; The fight, The future

Goldsmith, Connie. 2016. The Ebola epidemic; The fight, The future. Lerner Publishing Group (Twenty-First Century Books). 112pp. $19:99 ISBN 978-1-4677-9244-8

With the images of a shanty town, and a sad girl, on the front cover, readers’ first impression may be the text is too frightening and scary to read. However, from the first page onward, it is clear this is not the case. It begins with a genuine, non-stereotyped description of the author’s arrival into Liberia. The description of this arrival is very important because the author could have displayed the small African country as many do, underdeveloped, unsanitary, and unsafe. The author does not do this, but paints a positive image of her experiences in Liberia. The book continues to focus on many aspects of Ebola: how it began, how it spread, and how it can be stopped from spreading. These explanations are simple but detailed. The writing seems to follow the progression of how the young students would ask questions, answering them before they are asked. The text is paired with helpful and descriptive graphics providing a large amount of useful information to students who may respond better to visuals. The book concludes positively and genuinely regarding the future spread of the Ebola virus. Overall, for students who are interested in the topic, or current events, this is a helpful, informative text. (CMD)

Code of honor

Gratz, Alan. 2015. Code of honor. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 278pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-69519-0.

Code of Honor follows an American high school senior as his life takes many unexpected turns. After videos surface of his brother, who is a member of the U.S. Army, leading terrorist strikes and explaining his incredible hatred for America, Kanran and his family are taken into custody by homeland security. This is a shock to Kanran because while he and his brother Darius both look middle eastern, they are not religious, and don’t know very much about the culture of their Iranian American mother. Naturally, Kamran decides to try to prove his brother's innocence. Through the development of the plot, the author brings up many important issues of race present in contemporary America. The book is full of text explaining how Darius is an American citizen, and loves his country, but it explores how one can begin to feel hatred after being mistreated and mistrusted. Among this powerful explanation of being a Middle Eastern American, are developmental lessons relating to love, friendship, courage, and anger. These lessons are expressed through deep characterizations and complex yet genuine relationships that are important for young adult readers to understand. The plot of the story is realistic and logical and it is an important read for young adults in the modern world. (CMD)

Blue Boat

Hamilton, Kersten. 2016. Blue Boat. Penguin. Random House (Viking). 26pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-451-47141-3. Illustrations by Valeria Petrone.

In Blue Boat, children are invited into an action packed day where a family finds themselves caught up in a oncoming storm. While many boats and vessels take off to rescue the family, strong waves and winds have them turning back, all except one very brave blue boat. The pages of Blue Boat are full of magnificently illustrated pages which emphasize important objects with bright vibrant colors against a dark and dull background. From the illustrations alone, children can observe a wide array of topics including: boats or ships, weather patterns, or occupations. From these observations children can compare objects within the topics, like how similar or different each boat is either from each other or from blue boat. In addition many hypotheses can be made when the reading such as those about the timeliness of blue boat and if he will make it out to the family or if unfavorable weather will send him back to shore as well. This whimsical story also has an element of language development hidden within its pages. Children will feel encouraged to join in the retelling of the text as they hear words repeated, such as: “ Seas are rough! Is Blue Boat rougher? Wind is tough! Is Blue Boat tougher?” These elements are important to the language development of young children in preschool and the younger elementary-age students. So join Blue Boat on a open sea adventure full of hidden elements of child development and a race to rescue a family before the storm arrives first. (SSL)

Now you see them, now you don’t: Poems about creatures that hide

Harrison, David. 2016. Now you see them, now you don’t: Poems about creatures that hide. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1580896108. Illustrated by Giles Laroche.

Camouflage allows animals of all kinds from crabs to mice and snakes to hide and stay safe in their environments. Colors found in nature like browns, tranquil blues and greens, and yellows create a calm feeling, complementing the poetry. The cut-in paper relief method and hand painted illustrations provide a variety of interesting textures. For example, the skin texture of the alligator seems to come to life through the texture created by the cut-away paper relief method and choice of painted colors. The illustrations of the animals in their environments with the calm colors complement the variety of poetry found in the text. Children in kindergarten through fourth grade and ages 5 – 10 would enjoy the book as either a read aloud by teachers and caregivers or independent reading in the upper grades. This collection of poetry about animal adaptations would be a useful and engaging tool in the classroom for learning about animal topics in science or to complement other non-fiction or fiction text about animals. A plethora of facts and additional information is provided at the end of the book. This information about the different animals featured in the text provides children with additional facts and is organized by different categories of animals. Exploring this last section in the text would open the doors for the older grade levels to explore animal classification in science. For example, students could discuss the differences between a reptile and a mammal. The teacher could then lead the students into the classification of other animals found in the book. (LAA)

My friend Maggie

Harrison, Hannah E. 2016. My friend Maggie. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-525-42916-6.

In My Friend Maggie, children discover the importance of friendships and the damaging effect of bullying in a medium that is appropriate for preschool to early elementary school ages. Paula, the main character, is best friends with Maggie until the other kids at school start to pick on Maggie, saying that she is big and clumsy. Paula abandons Maggie until she herself starts to be picked on. Children learn to hypothesize as they attempt to figure out who will come to the rescue. In the end, Maggie demonstrates the power of true friendship as she stands up for Paula against all odds. The eye-catching illustrations help guide readers through the story, helping them to sympathize with the characters as well as apply observational skills. Overall, My friend Maggie, can be used as a classroom tool to discuss the importance of kindness and encourage children to talk about bullying as they go through major social developments in their own lives. This tale of friendship is a thoughtful addition to any library. (EMG)

Field guide to the Grumpasaurus

Hemingway, Edward. 2016. Field guide to the Grumpasaurus. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-54665-3. Illustrations by Edward Hemingway.

In Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, a young grumpasaurus experiences many different negative emotions and often responds to difficult situations by being grumpy. As the grumpasaurus’ story progresses his grumpy emotions are affected in a positive way and he transforms out of a grumpasaurus and into a happy young boy. This book is a presentation of personality development. In the beginning of the book the grumpasaurus is grumpy but he learns to focus on the happy things in his life rather than letting bad things determine his attitude. This book encourages children to choose to be happy and stay positive even when things might not always go their way. (HC)


When spring comes

Henkes, Kevin. 2016. When spring comes. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233139-7. Illustrated by Laura Dronzek.

In When spring comes, children walk through the season of spring, looking at everything from the animals to the weather. The story begins with the end of winter, the melting of the snow, and the unveiling of brown grass. The theme of waiting and patience is introduced as readers are prepared to learn about the new growth and life that spring brings. This theme teaches children about the joy and excitement of anticipation. Once spring appears, eggs crack to become birds, seeds begin to grow, and the weather changes. Children are jumping in puddles and dancing in the rain, then riding bicycles and flying kites while enjoying the fresh spring air. This text shows children the beauty and complexity of spring while drawing connections between nature and childhood. Children can see the characters in the illustrations enjoying their time outside, encouraging the children to go out and explore themselves. The illustrations bring the text to life through vibrant colors and depictions; there are multiple examples on every page of the different joys spring has to offer. This story provides children with the excitement and anticipation for spring through rich descriptions and illustrations. (EJM)

When you give an Imp a penny

Henry, Josh, Harrison Herz, and Abigail Larson. 2016. When you give an Imp a penny. Pelican Publishing Company. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1- 4556-2144- 6

As a variation of If you give a moose a muffin, this book is slightly different because it uses the plot of the story to demonstrate important developmental lessons. The story does not follow a logical series of events, and actions may not relate to the previous episode. The haphazard plot is meant to demonstrate the random events of life, things young readers will understand. Though it is silly and clever, events the book teach students that sometimes, to put it simply, things go wrong and there is nothing an individual can do to change the course of events. The young woman in the story remains positive from the beginning to the last page because she knows the events are not her fault, and she doesn’t blame herself for them or worry about getting in trouble.

She only does what she can control -- which is showing kindness to others. This character models ideal behavior, which promotes the moral development of the reader. Students will compare these events with their own lives and be able to relate to the protagonist. The illustrations, through soft colors and expressive faces, help to keep the mood light during a day that would have otherwise been dark and sad. They also accompany the text in a way that will allow readers to fully understand the events. The text and the images of this book work together to teach young readers a helpful and important lesson, just at picture story books should. (CMD)

It’s getting hot in here: The past, present, and future of climate change

Heos, Bridget. 2015. It’s getting hot in here: The past, present, and future of climate change. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0544303478.

It’s getting hot in here shows the reader the terrible effects of Global Warming. The book uses colorful detailed pictures to help the reader understand the severity of global warming. It includes pictures of the melting of the ice caps, people searching for water during a drought and pictures from devastating natural disasters that are occurring more frequently because of the warmer weather. Although most people know what Global warming is, many people do not know the terrible side effects of the warmer weather. The author takes this complicated process and accurately breaks it down making it easy for readers to comprehend. The different issues of global warming are divided into separate chapters to help the reader understand the process. Additionally, the book encourages self-reliance as it challenges the reader to stop the terrible practices that are causing climate change by telling the students to “be the change.” This change includes, buying used furniture and clothes, which will reduce industry emissions. It also shares with the reader many important people, such as Al Gore, who are working hard to stop climate change. By giving readers the resources, ideas, and vocabulary to make a change, the text may motivate them to get politically involved to end Global Warming. After reading the book, readers may be motivated to continue reading about global warming. At the very least readers will acquire the tools to have an informed, mature discussion about Global Warming. (AMM)

Found things

Hilton, Marilyn. 2014. Found things. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). $16.99. 240pp. ISBN 978-1442460874.

This story follows the life of River, a young girl who has many difficult things going on in life. Her brother is missing, she is bullied at school for the way she talks, she is adopted and has a newfound desire to learn about her birth mother, she is deathly afraid of water, and she has strange visions of herself in a house that she doesn’t know. Then one day she meets, Meadowlark, an odd looking girl who she becomes best friends with. The girls share an interesting bond that becomes stronger when the wishes they have been sending down the river mysteriously start becoming true. River is fascinated by her new friend but becomes annoyed when Meadowlark seems to be taking her place in her home. Meadowlark moves in with River and her family when Meadowlark’s father goes away on business. Meadowlark begins to have a better relationship to River’s adopted mother than she does and River begins to think she is being replaced. (KW)


Sunny side up

Holm, Jennifer L., and Matthew Holm. 2015. Sunny side up. Scholastic Inc. (Graphix). 224pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-54-574166-8.

This coming-of-age graphic novel by the Holm siblings goes back in time to 1976 in order to share events that occurred during their childhood with readers who may be facing similar situations. The artistic details and focus throughout the panels of this novel represent the time period, such as the style of clothing, depicting a clear scene to young readers who were born long after 1976. The main protagonist, Sunny, is an enthusiastic girl who gets innocently caught in the antics and problems of the adults in her family. The realistic dialogue of a young girl trying to come to terms with a drug-addict older brother and a disorientated grandfather appeals to young readers struggling with family issues. Readers may be able to come to terms with their own situation and realize that they are not responsible for the problems their present in their own home life. The flashbacks included in the story add to the mystery, as Sunny is depicted as feeling confused and feeling a sense of responsible for her brother’s actions, until the resolution at the end which shares her confrontation with her grandfather, ultimately leading to the truth about her brother’s situation and why her parents sent her off to Florida for the summer. Parents and teachers should turn to this book when helping a child with a family member dealing with substance abuse to assist them with identifying coping mechanisms and starting on the journey towards finding the answers to questions they may be hesitant to ask. (SW)

Leaps and bounce

Hood, Susan. 2016. Leaps and bounce. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 24pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-142315234-7. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell.  

Heads up, pond, there is a new fish (well, a frog) in town. This is a story about the life cycle of frogs. The colorful pictures fill the page maintaining readers’ attention, and show the life cycle of the frog. The rhyming within the text keeps the story moving and interesting. The story includes other animals as they interact with the changing tadpoles. The use of flip out pages add a deeper understanding of the life cycle and also present an element of surprise for readers. The color in the pictures is used to promote emotions, and show how time goes by. What color? The story shows how much a frog can change and grow, allowing readers to connect. Awkward The pictures make the reader feel like they are in the pond watching the journey as an egg takes to become a big leaping frog. Unclear Life in this pond is always changing. (FJS)


Floodwaters and flames: The 1913 disaster in Dayton, Ohio

Huey, Lois Miner. 2016. Floodwaters and flames: The 1913 disaster in Dayton, Ohio. Millbrook Press. 48pp. $33.32. ISBN 978-1467794329.

Floodwaters and flames is an informational book about the famous flooding and fires in Dayton, Ohio in 1913. After several days of intense rain, the levee on the Great Miami River broke, resulting in massive flooding and fires. This book contains unique elements, including its layout and organization. Each page contains background images of newspapers from Dayton during the time. Also included are real pictures relating to the newspaper articles that contain small captions to explain the picture and the stories of different people. For example, on page 11 there is a picture from the National Cash Register Company which was owned by John Patterson. Patterson was instrumental in many relief efforts including building boats and setting up a shelter at his factory. The perspective shifts between survivors and their stories throughout the book. To prove accuracy, there are source notes at the end of the book along with bibliographies, and author’s notes, showing where to find the information in the book. Huey shares the story of this momentous situation 100 years ago in a unique and accessible way. (KAB)

Plants Vs. meats: The health, history, and ethics of what we eat

Hughes, Meredith. 2016. Plants Vs. meats: The health, history, and ethics of what we eat.Lerner Publishing Group (Twenty-First Century Books). 160pp. $34.65. ISBN 978-1467780117.

Plants Vs. Meats:  the Health, History, and Ethics of What We Eat, would be an ideal book for a 5th to 8th grade health class. Readers can learn about the foods they eat, by the way they eat foods such as being a vegetarian, or a vegan, and then how their foods are processed.  By reading this book, 10-15 year old students could learn important information about their own food and therefore become healthier in their food choices. This book is highly recommended for 5th-8th grade readers that want to learn more about their own health. (KJS)


Cricket song

Hunter, Anne. 2016. Cricket song. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 20pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-58259-0.

The illustrations paired with the poetic text portray important developmental lessons suitable for young readers, ages 3 – 7. The book begins with a young boy falling asleep to the cricket songs at sunset. Readers are then able to follow the sun as it travels from one land to another, and to view the illustrations displaying night time for many different creatures. These illustrations are all in cool, calming colors. Each picture has a combination of sunlight and moonlight, both sides are safe and the animals are resting peacefully and presents a message of the interconnections of nature, as one animal sleeping affects the next. This is likely to help young readers who may be afraid of the darkness of the night. The book concludes by showing another young child from a different land who also likes to fall asleep to cricket sounds and children who all fall asleep to the same sunset, even if they are far apart. Because of the calming night time sounds, the lessons of interconnections, the poetic text, and the soft yet cold colored images, this book is extremely useful for helping a young reader fall asleep. (CMD)

Survivors: The gathering darkness #1: A pack divided

Hunter, Erin. 2015. Survivors: The gathering darkness #1: A pack divided. HarperCollins Publishers. 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0062343338.

A young dog struggles with inner conflicts along with outer conflicts between herself and other pack members while surviving in the wilderness. Storm deals with person-against-self conflicts as she discovers her place in the pack and if she wants the responsibility of an adult or the freedom of a pup. Person-against-person issues arise among all members of the pack as they sort the issues of authority, loyalty, and teamwork. Themes of finding one’s place, friendship, trust, family, and growing up, appeal to children in grades 3 through 7. The joining of members from different packs who have different beliefs also provide opportunities for the reader to explore ideas of diversity of cultures and individual beliefs. For example, some dogs believe in different forces overseeing them and the Alpha dog addresses the fact that it is not expected that all dogs accept the same belief system but that they respect a different dog’s beliefs. Attraction and questions about changing feelings between boys and girls is lightly discussed in the novel and may appeal to children ages 11-14 who are starting to enter the development phase in which boy-girl relations are of concern. The animal-talking world in this fantasy book has a familiar, real-life setting near an ocean, abandoned town, and forest. The familiar setting and human-like emotions, concerns, and conflicts help pull the reader into a world in the genre of fantasy with their tail wagging. (LAA)


Hurley, Jorey. 2016. Hop. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3272-6.

Hop is an engaging story for early readers taking youngsters through the day of a family of cottontail bunny rabbits. There is only one word of text for every two pages so the reader must rely on the pictures to convey a large amount of information. The author uses the large two page illustrations to place the child in the environment of the rabbits. The images draw readers toward the text, and then encourages them to scan the picture for why the rabbits are behaving in a specific way. For example, when the rabbits are being “still” the falcon they are hiding from is drawn far up in the corner of the image, so the reader can understand the danger the bunny is in. The body language of the rabbits communicates their mood and emotions to the reader, exposing young readers to common social cues. Most importantly the book is able to model the importance of staying with one’s family in case of danger. The illustrations do this through the use of color. Even in situations of danger the colors are warm and safe yellows and greens. This emphasizes the rabbits are all still safe because they are with their family. Overall the illustrations and the subtlety of presented messages within this book make it very accessible and appealing for early readers. (CMD)

Specs for Rex

Ismail, Yasmeen. 2014. Specs for Rex. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 32pp. $14.35. ISBN: 978-1619637108.

The book Specs for Rex is an excellent book for children feeling self-conscious about their glasses. Rex is nervous the other children in his class will criticize his new spectacles. Throughout the day he tries to hide his glasses in various places around the room. However, the specs actually help Rex earn a gold star. This book has many interesting illustrations complementing the energetic nature of the characters in the story. Rex’s glasses and the objects he uses to hide his glasses are all red, signaling warning and a danger associated with the color red. The book also focuses on lines, making sure all of the lines in the story stand out by adding bright colors. The shapes also have very soft and curved lines making it very easy on the reader’s eyes because it reminds them of the calming ripples in water. These many elements incorporated in the illustrations help the readers to understand in the end that no one should be afraid to wear glasses. (AMM)


Fred forgets

Jarvis, Peter. (2016). Fred forgets. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 32pp. $14.00. ISBN 978-0-06-234916-3.

Children are introduced to a blue, large, humorous, and very forgetful elephant named Fred. Fred, a large, blue, humorous and very forgetful elephant who forgets what he is supposed to be doing, so he calls upon his pink monkey friend named Monkey to help him remember. Monkey starts suggesting Fred to do dangerous and humiliating tasks like riding a unicycle upside down, drinking swamp water, swimming with sharks, or even peeling a thousand bananas for Monkey. During every new suggested task, Fred eventually forgets what he is doing, so then, Monkey urges Fred to do another more dangerous or embarrassing task. After doing all these tasks, eventually at the end, Fred exclaims to Monkey he realizes what he is supposed to be doing, and Monkey becomes very shocked because Fred decides he has had enough with his commands and humorously decides to sit on Monkey. Children can benefit from the vivid and colorful illustrations in this book because it promotes observation skills which will enhance their cognitive development. While flipping through the pages of the book, the children will notice how Monkey’s expressions change as Fred listens to the tasks he is suggesting. For instance, Monkey’s expression on his face looks like he is pleased with himself as Fred continues to listen, so as children are reading this book they can describe Monkey’s and even Fred’s facial expressions change throughout the story. Another cognitive skill they can utilize while reading this story is hypothesizing. Children can predict another silly task Monkey might make Fred do which will make them involved and processing the story even more. Lastly, this story shows an important aspect of social development, and the importance of not allowing others control every move someone makes. Children in elementary school will often follow what their peers want them to do, but this story shows how sometimes how being too controlling can get out of hand and emphasizes the importance of a child following their own path like when Fred sits on Monkey in the end. (MJO)

Once upon an alphabet-short stories for all the letters

Jeffers, Oliver. 2014. Once upon an alphabet-short stories for all the letters. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel). 112pp. $26.99. ISBN 978-0399167911. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

This book is an Alphabet with a different twist. For every letter of the Alphabet there is short story along with it. The short story is centered on a main character that either has a name that starts with the letter or is associated with the letter. Each story is so unique and different and specific to the letter that the reader has an easy time remembering the letter with the story. The story also provides many different words that begin with that letter. This book could be used for younger children, mostly with adults reading the story and the children associating the letter and the words used in the story. For older children, they would be able to read the story and associate and learn different words that start with that letter. (KW)


A party for clouds: Thunderstorms (Bel the weather girl)

Jensen, Belinda. 2016. A party for clouds: Thunderstorms (Bel the weather girl). Charlesbridge. 24pp. $25.32. ISBN 978-1467779593. Illustrated by Renee Kurilla.

A girl and her dog help her cousin overcome his fear of thunderstorms through understanding what thunder and lightning are. The informational book includes many interesting facts related to thunderstorms such as lightning, clouds, sound and light. Dark grays and blues used to illustrate the thunderstorm are contrasted by soft lines, rounded edges, and square shapes. This combination takes the reader through the scary feelings often associated with thunderstorms while presenting some comforting elements. Humor is also incorporated to help contrast the scary topic. The children make a tent, have popcorn, and cuddle with a big fluffy dog. Children ages 8-10 and grades 1-4 would be an ideal audience for the content and topic of this book. Many children can relate to the idea of being scared of thunderstorms and would be able to connect to the story. The last part of the book provides an activity for simulating the sound of a thunder using a paper bag, additional facts about thunderstorms, and suggested texts to read relating to the topic. Written by a chief meteorologist suggests an assurance of accuracy of information presented in the text. This book would be very useful in the classroom for science and weather. It would also be a wonderful asset in any home to help young children understand thunderstorms as a cloud party. (LAA)

Raindrops on a roller coaster

Jensen, Belinda. 2016. Raindrops on a roller coaster. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 24pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1467797474.

Travel along with Bel and Dylan as they learn about precipitation and clouds. Throughout the story the children learn about rain and how it becomes hail. The children in the beginning of the story are scared because of the loud sounds of the hail. However, throughout the book they start to learn about the many details of hail as the author makes it easy to understand. She explains how hail forms because of the wind bringing water back up into the cloud where it is cold. The many pictures accompanying the text also help the reader understand this process. For example, pictures show the raindrops freezing together while they rise up and down in the sky to form the hail. The book also uses the colors of the sky to mirror the reader’s emotions. For instance, in the beginning the sky was dark grey and it signaled the reader to feel anxious and potentially scared as a thunderstorm is approaching. On the other hand, near the end of the story the illustrator added light blue raindrops into the dark grey sky helping turn the reader’s mood to one of hope. The change in color also encourages readers to face their fears of an approaching storm. Vocabulary words are defined in the end pages, and there is also a list of other books about the subject and science experiments with the steps to make hail. (AMM)

The last Bogler

Jinks, Catherine. 2016. The last Bogler. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 314pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0544086968. Illustrated by Sarah Watts.

Readers are transported to a strange and curious world where they find Ned hunting magical creatures to save other children. The mythical creature he is hunting is called a Bogle. It hides in small spaces and will eat any child that come in close proximity. The strange and curious world this book reveals grabs the readers’ attention and makes them feel as if they are part of the hunt of this terrible creature. Additionally, readers can relate to the character, Ned; his loyal and trust-worthy nature allows the readers to connect with Ned and feel as if he is one of their own friends. This is very important for children who want heroes as friends. The last Bogler transports readers into a new world that encourages and exercises their imagination in a wonderfully enjoyable way. (AMM)


Masters of disguise: Amazing animal tricksters

Johnson, Rebecca L. 2016. Masters of disguise: Amazing animal tricksters. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 48pp. $31.99. ISBN 978-1-5124-0087-8.

This non-fiction chapter book featuring sporadic hints of narrative writing will appeal to young readers curious about deceptive animals and their tricks. The author includes the narrative stories to spur imagination in order to parallel the facts about animals that are master of disguise in nature. The author also includes images of animals along with captions in order to spark questioning and thoughtfulness from the reader, such as a picture of an owl hiding against a tree with a caption asking the reader to find the hidden creature. Each chapter features a different animal and begins with a picture and a facts bulletin highlighting key traits about the animal, such as where they live. The author frequently adds in her own commentary and questioning throughout the text in order to provoke deeper thinking and analysis from the reader, such as her question about what makes ant corpses so effective as a disguise. The author also includes quotations from scientists, such as Londoño, who is one of few to have seen the cinereous mourner in person. The pictures include those of the scientists working, such as working in a dark room with bats. These pictures entice readers to transport themselves and take a literary field trip to visit scientists studying animals. The variation of species of animals makes this book appealing to a variety of readers and is an enjoyable and educational way to learn more about bizarre creatures living in our world. (SW)

To catch a cheat: A Jackson Greene novel

Johnson, Vivianne. 2016. To catch a cheat: A Jackson Greene novel. Arthur A. Levine Books. 256pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0545722391.

Jackson Greene is not a typical middle school boy. Jackson is a “reformed” con artist. After the first book, The great Greene heist, everything returns back to normal. Jackson even has a soon-to-be girlfriend named Gaby de la Cruz who is his best friend’s twin sister. He is spending his time finding the perfect moment for their first kiss when Jackson receives a video of his gang flooding the school. There is one problem with this video: they did not flood the school. Jackson realizes he is being framed! The kids behind the video are making Jackson and the Gang Greene come out of retirement to break into the school and steal Mrs. Clark’s infamously hard end of the year history final or they will send the video to the principal, and get them all expelled. Jackson must not only clear his name but fix his relationship with his best friend Charlie. As the plot thickens, it becomes harder and harder to put the book down. It engages its readers from start to finish. This book provides themes important to middle school children, as the theme is both revealed by changes in the characters and comes out in personal development of the characters. The book helps students understand the importance of working together with other students. (FJS)

The day mustache took over

Katz, Alan. 2015. The day mustache took over. Bloomsbury. 208pp. $13.99. ISBN 975-1-61963-558-6. Illustrated by Kris Easler.

Nathan and Daniel are two brothers who love to cause trouble for their babysitters.  They always seem to scare off them off and have had 347!  Their parents are almost ready to give up on babysitters for good because they have exhausted every agency in town.  The troublesome brothers, however, may have met their match with their new sitter, Martin Healey Discount (or Murry Poopins, as the boys call him).  Nathan and Daniel’s parents say that if Martin leaves then their family ski trip will be canceled. Martin appears to run a tight ship, setting very firm rules with the boys.  He expects them to clean their rooms, brush their teeth, and watching television is not allowed.  However, once the parents leave, Martin turns into a complete bum! The laziness of the babysitter forces the brothers to step up their responsibilities, they begin to work together and take care of themselves.  This story has a lot of silliness and mischief that is will appeal to children. With simple sentence structure is it easy for younger children to read and understand. Although parts of the story are not very realistic, readers are still able to connect event  with their own lives. (FJS)


Kearney, Meg. 2013. Trouper. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0545100410. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

Trouper was a dog that used to run the streets as a stray. He traveled with a pack of dogs who always stuck together. They encountered many harsh things that dogs should not experience. One day, all of the dogs in Trouper’s pack were lured into the back of a truck and taken to an animal shelter. All of the dogs were put in cages. They were treated nicely but Trouper couldn’t wait for the day that he was free again. Every day people would walk up and down the aisles of cages and look at the dogs. One by one all of the other dogs in Troupers pack were adopted, except for Trouper. Trouper was sad and felt hopeless, but then a boy came and stopped at Troupers cage and the immediate bond between them was astounding. The boy didn’t care that Trouper had only 3 legs, he loved him regardless. Trouper now has a home with everything he could ever hope for and a best friend who loves him unconditionally. (KW)


Kibuishi, Kazu. 2016. Firelight. Scholastic, Inc. (Graphix). $12.99. 208pp. ISBN 978-0545433167.

Firelight is book seven in the Amulet series. Readers can enjoy this graphic novel as the next in a series or as a stand-alone graphic novel. Emily, Trellis, and Vigo go to Algos Island in search of lost memories. What they find is something they did not expect: shadows are trying to control the world and take it over. They find out the shadows have even taken over Trellis’ father and the guards. Through its bold colors and lines, the illustrations in this graphic novel take readers deeper into the story and into the characters. With characters readers can relate to, and different animal-like creatures of all sorts, this novel reveals a new fantasy world and the adventures it holds. Told from a bystander point of view, readers truly get to see what is happening in an unbiased way. Readers see the struggle between good versus evil in this suspenseful fantasy story where the characters struggle with themselves and with others. (KAB)


43 old cemetery road: Greetings from the graveyard

Klise, Kate. 2014. 43 old cemetery road: Greetings from the graveyard. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 160pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0544105676. Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise.

Ignatius B. Grumply is married to a ghost Olive C. Spence, they have an adopted son named Seymour Hope. Olive is able to communicate by writing letters to her husband and son and can be seen by her glasses floating as she moves throughout the room and her eyes moving on a hand painted portrait of her in the family dining room. The couple has become wealthy thanks to their books they have written together based on their lives in their home at 43 Old Cemetery Road. Ignatius’ ex-fiancé, Nadia, learned of his newfound wealth and tries reunite with Ingatius. When Ignatius refuses, Nadia makes a trip to their town to try and sell old-love letters between Ignatius and Nadia and sell a book. When Nadia realizes she won’t make much money from her book she tries to make a plan to steal the portrait of Olive in the kitchen, which is said to be worth 5 million dollars. Nadia doesn’t know that she has competitors, an escaped convict couple, trying to steal the portrait as well. The story goes back and forth between all three stories, all in letters sent to the characters in the story. There are many twists and turns along the way, however the portrait stays in the mansion, thanks to smart thinking by Olive, Ignatius, Seymour, and some ghost friends. (KW)


Krouse Rosenthal, Amy. 2015. Friendshape. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). $16.99. 40pp. ISBN 978-0545436823. Illustrated by Tom Litchfield.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld say a lot about friendship using four simple shapes, a rectangle, a circle, a triangle, and a square. The four shapes convey meaning and enhance the text. For example when the text says “Friends may quarrel…” the shapes are irregular, conveying the anger the shapes are feeling. However on the next page they are back to their regular shapes and apologizing. Each shape has a unique personality highlighted by captions and the shape’s expressions. Each shape is a different color and sometimes that is alluded to by the captions. For example on one page the triangle says “We rolled out the red carpet for you!” referring to the red rectangle which is angled like a carpet.

            A teacher could use Friendshape in an art lesson on how artists use simple shapes to draw more complex objects like kites and rocketships. Or, a teacher could use the book during a math lesson on comparing and classifying shapes. This picture book would be an appropriate tool for teachers to use to help young students grow socially. Students will easily relate to the shapes and the shapes’ experiences and emotions. Friendship is a powerful theme to portray, but it is a difficult theme to convey in a genuine and subtle manner. Rosenthal and Lichtenheld demonstrate how subtly words and pictures can work together to make the theme of the book genuine and memorable. (BJP)

The stellar story of space travel

Lakin, Patricia. 2016. The stellar story of space travel. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5624-1. Illustrated by Scott Burroughs.

The History of fun stuff series continues with this Ready-to-Read Level 3, which allows readers to explore space travel. Readers between the ages of 6 to 8 will enjoy pursuing the history and facts of space travel. Challenging vocabulary words and sentence structures convey the story of who and what has influenced space travel. Accurate comic style drawings by Scott Burroughs bring to life the people and objects from space’s history. Children will become more of an expert in space history after they read this nonfiction title. (CAH)


Audacity Jones to the rescue

Larson, Kirby. 2016. Audacity Jones to the rescue. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 209pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-84056-9.

 Audacity Jones is living at Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls in Swayzee, Indiana, when Commodore Crutchfield comes in search of an assistant to complete a “mission”. The Commodore and Audacity travel across the United States until they reach the nation’s capital, where Audacity is thrown into a kidnapping and murdering scheme against the President and his family. Throughout the story, Audacity fights against the low expectations and unfair disadvantages she faces as an orphan. Everyone doubts her, which is why the Commodore chose her to complete the “mission”. Her name is an ideal fit for her personality and she develops as a character as well as into her name throughout the book. Audacity exhibits boldness and bravery in the face of everyone who underestimates her and stands up for her own opinions and beliefs. She lives by the phrase, “Everything will turn out splendid in the end. If it’s not splendid, it’s not the end”, which keeps her positive and her spirits high. Students ages 8-13 will identify with Audacity and her courage to do what she believes is right even in the face of people who disagree with her. Larson succeeds at captivating her audience for the entirety of Audacity’s adventure with a wonderful, audacious protagonist. (EPK)

When the sun shines on Antarctica: And other poems about the frozen continent

Latham, Irene. 2016. When the sun shines on Antarctica: And other poems about the frozen continent. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1467752169. Illustrated by Anna Wadham.

Animals living on the cold continent of Antarctica swim, crawl, and fly through a series of poems. Whales, penguins, seagulls, seals, and insects are featured in a wide variety of poems. Tranquil blues and greens are appropriately used to convey the cold and calmness of the animal’s environments. Dots and a variety of wide, soft lines create smooth and rough textures of animals’ skin and feathers of a bird. Topics of family, overcoming problems, and friendship are explored through the lives of the animals. The use of poetry, calm and engaging pictures, and additional factual information make this book inviting for children grades 3-5, and ages 8-11 to explore science. Additional facts, terms, and extensions of the topic of Antarctic life can be found in the glossary and a list of books is located in the last section of the book. (LAA)

This raging light

Laure, Estelle. 2015. This raging light. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 288pp. $10.58. ISBN 978-0544534292.

This raging light has a roller coaster plot guaranteed to involve readers emotionally. Lucille is not a normal senior in highschool. Her mother disappeared, leaving her with her 4th grade sister Wren to take care of. Just a month earlier, her father had a nervous breakdown and left his family to go to a mental institution before going off the grid entirely. In addition to her family issues, she realizes she loves her best friend’s brother, Digby. Throughout this book, she endures difficult situations, causing her to question many aspects of her life, her friends and herself. This is a story of adolescent development and is highly recommended for those who are fans of drama and love stories. (KJS)



Lee Gin, Susie. 2016. Mine. Simon & Schuster. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-2772-2.

Everyone seems to want the carrot! Themes of sharing and working together to achieve a goal dominate the story. The book provides children the opportunity to hypothesize what will happen next, keeping children interested in the story. The pictures are important because there is little text. The pictures have bright colors and texture on the different rabbits. They also provide different perspectives. There are pages with multiple pictures to show time, then there are places with just one picture on the page. The author uses the size of the words to show the importance of the text. (FJS)


Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do all the good you can

Levinson, Cynthia. 2016. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do all the good you can. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0062387295.

Levinson’s biography of Hillary Clinton is recommended for grades three through seven.  The book is 352 pages long, and includes real photographs showcasing Hillary’s life to help connect readers to Clinton. The author does a good job explaining Hillary’s childhood and her beginning work life as a lawyer in an unbiased view. This is not often mentioned today, and it would be informative to the young reader to get an overview of her life. Levinson did a more than adequate job in researching and explaining details. The writing style would be engaging for young readers exploring politics and politicians’ beginnings. (CAH)


112 Acting games

Levy, Gavin. 2015. 112 Acting games. Meriwether Publishing. 354pp. $19.95. ISBN 9-781566082006.

Drama is an artform admired for thousands of years, but it is also one young children find delightful to explore. Children enjoy using their imaginations to pretend to be something they are not. 112 acting games is full of activities that not only help young actors improve, but could be used by a classroom teacher to help students develop valuable communication and problem solving skills. Games fall under categories such as relaxation, observation, memorization, concentration and focus, spatial awareness, making choices, improvisation, and ensemble building. There are activities geared toward elementary aged students, middle school/junior high students, and high school students. However many games, such as “All Hands on Deck” which is a game similar to Simon-says, are adaptable for various age levels, and the author gives suggestions on how to adapt the games. While 112 is a large number, the book is well-organized and easy to find the type of game readers are looking for. After each description of the game the author provides discussion questions and a “Purpose” section. This makes the book effective in demonstrating how a game connects to its skill category, such as “Non-verbal Communication”, and why that skill is important. In the case of “Non-verbal Communication” readers use body language and facial expressions to express how they feel every day. Sometimes actions do speak louder than words. (BJP)

Louise and Andie: The art of friendship

Light, Kelly. 2016. Louise and Andie: The art of friendship.HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234440-3.

Two young girls have a common passion for art, especially painting and drawing. The story depicts a developing friendship over this common interest, climaxes with an argument over a drawing, and end with the two girls reconciling and becoming friends again. The illustrations in the book are colorful and depict a wide range of facial expressions. The text is simple, with a few larger vocabulary words and phrases such as “artistic differences”.

Louise and Andie highlights conflict resolution. At the end of the story, Andie realizes that she has upset Louise, and goes on an endeavor to make her feel better by creating a piece of art.

The story also promotes the shared interest of art.  This could lead to a discussion in the classroom about what hobbies students are interested in. It could even lead to a new friendship based on these interests. (CS)

The story I’ll tell

Ling, Nancy Tupper. 2015. The story I’ll tell. Lee & Low Books. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1620141601. Illustrated by Jessica Lanan.

A mother worries about when her son will start asking about his adoption, so she gives multiple possibilities about how her son joined the family, such as in a hot air balloon, or from a dragon. This picture book encourages imaginative thoughts on how this children are adopted and join loving mothers and fathers to become a family. With soft and bright illustrations, there is a sense of calmness and happiness throughout the entire story, reflecting the mother’s loving feelings about her son. The theme of adoption as is effectively portrayed as a unique gift. (KAB)


Mom, there’s a bear at the door

Lipan, Sabine and Olten Manuela. 2016. Mom, there’s a bear at the door. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 34pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8028-5460-5

The plot follows a train of thought by the main character of the story, who learns an important lesson as he is questioning and deciding why the bear might be at the door. As he places himself in the bear’s situation he begins to understand the creature more, and his discomfort for the bear being there decreases greatly. This characterization of the boy also shown through the emotions of those around him. Even at the end of the story those around the bear and the boy are still very uncomfortable with the bear, while the boy is not. This helps to cement the lesson to the readers. To befriend someone, is to understand them, and the people considered outcasts may be due to simple misunderstandings. This developmental lesson is taught through the integration of the text and the illustrations. (CMD)


Liss, David. 2015. Randoms. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). $17.99. 496pp. ISBN 978-1481417792.

Twelve-year-old Zeke Reynolds is just an average, nerdy boy living on Earth. His father died in a car accident years ago, and left him and his sick mom alone. One day, the President of the United States shows up at Zeke’s house and tells him he needs him to represent Earth on a mission. Zeke learns aliens exist, and he, along with three other genius 12-year-olds, have been chosen to represent Earth on an alien planet in hopes of showing the aliens that humans are worthy of being a part of The Confederation of United Planets. Zeke agrees, as long as his mother will be given proper treatment for her illness while he is gone. Shut out by his fellow humans, Zeke finds friendship with other species and Randoms. During their voyage, he saves the ship from destruction, but in turn destroys the rival’s ship, the Phands. This brings a lot of trouble to Zeke and he learns something more is going on in the confederation. While digging to find more, he discovers that his father, who he thought was dead, is alive and a part of a group imprisoned by the Phands. Zeke has to team up with his fellow Earth mates, along with his other Random friends, to go and save his father from these beings. In Randoms, Zeke tells his story of what happened in his year in space, which includes many exciting adventures with plenty of nerdy references to actual sci-fi shows and books. He leaves readers with the idea that anything is possible, and young adults can make friends with a variety of different people. (KAB)

The bear and the piano

Litchfield, David. 2015. The bear and the piano. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 34pp. $16.99. ISBN 9-781847807175.

As a piano player this brought back fond memories of my first attempt to play “music”. Much like the character of Bear in this book I went on a journey as I learned to play music, and my relationship with the piano grew and changed over the years. Young readers can relate to Bear because he is an adorable, sensitive, thoughtful character. In this story he faces a lot of self-conflict, like many children do as they grow up. Bear has to decide whether he should leave home to pursue his dreams of playing the piano professionally, and he has the common worry that home won’t be the same when he returns. These are conflicts recognizable to children and adults. The beautiful illustrations use color and shape to tell the story along with the text. The colors and shapes show not only the change of season and the passage of time, but also differentiate the city to the forest home Bear is used to. While readers see appeal of the vibrant city, the soft greens and pastels of the forest make the forest feel like home -- calm and safe. Caregivers and teachers should read this story to children to help them appreciate the power of music. Like Bear, caregivers and teachers want children to know they have love and support as they pursue their talents and dreams. However, Bear would also agree with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz that, “There is no place like home.” (BJP)

The key to extraordinary

Lloyd, Natalie. 2016. The key to extraordinary. Scholastic, Inc. (Scholastic Press). $16.99. 240pp. ISBN 978-0545552745.

Emma is an 11-year-old girl who lives in a cemetery. Since the death of her mother, she is taken care of by her grandmother and her brother. They own a café in the cemetery, The Boneyard Brew, which is known for its amazing hot cocoa. Emma belongs to a special family. In her family, the girls have special dreams called Destiny Dreams. These dreams show them their destiny, such as what extraordinary thing they are meant to do. When Emma has her dream, she sees the key to a treasure box, which is a box full of treasure that her family members have told her is hidden in the cemetery somewhere. The café is in trouble, and Granny Blue is about to sell, so Emma goes to search for the treasure, hoping the contents of the box will help the family keep the café going. While searching she is faced with having to decide between saving her friend or having the treasure box. Eventually, she realizes friends and family are the most important things in life. She eventually gets the box back, only to discover the story of one of her relatives and her life spent helping people in the Underground Railroad. One of the themes in the story is everyone is living an extraordinary life, even if it may not seem like it. This story reflects the language of this young girl and her story of being extraordinary. (KAB)

Super happy Magic Forest

Long, Matty. 2015. Super happy Magic Forest. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $14.94. ISBN 978-0545860598.

Super Happy Magic Forest is an interesting story with an abundance of color and animation in the illustrations for children to follow along with while reading. When someone steals the Super Happy Magic Forest’s Mystical Crystals of Life, five woodland creatures face struggles while trying to have to get across the land to get back their crystals. When they find out that it was not who they expected, they try to figure out how to get back to the forest in time. They use problem solving skills and, eventually, save the forest before it is too late. This book is highly recommended for younger children. (KJS)


Hello, my name is Octicorn

Lowe, Justin. Diller, Kevin. 2011. Hello, my name is Octicorn. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238793-6. Illustrated by Binny Talib.

In Hello, My name is Octicorn, an unusual animal is introduced as Octi. Octi is different from other animals because he is half octopus and half unicorn and has to learn to live with his differences. Octi goes through several challenges in his life as an octicorn. He does not fit in on land with all of the unicorns, he does not fit in with the octopi in the sea, and he does not get invited to birthday parties. Throughout the book Octi demonstrates the talents and abilities he has that make him unique and useful. Octi’s personality development is central to this story. When the book starts Octi is not very confident in his abilities as an octicorn. Readers see that Octi frequently becomes sad when discussing how he differs from his family. However, as Octi continues to talk about everything he is good at, such as juggling, dancing, and roasting marshmallows his confidence level rises. This subtle rise in confidence shows how Octi’s personality develops into an octicorn who is not afraid of being himself and asking for someone to be his friends. (HC)

All about Sam

Lowry, Lois. 1988. All about Sam. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers). 176pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0544582354.

All About Sam is a lovely children’s book about the life of Sam, a young boy who is learning lessons about life and growing up. The plot follows all of the problems he faces throughout his life, but also the celebrations that he gets to enjoy. This contemporary realistic fiction book not only includes real life experiences that many children face in their lives, but it also puts them in a realistic situation, where the setting is a set in our world, but the story itself never happened. Throughout the story, the author uses minimal pictures to allow the young reader to understand and picture the person v.. self conflicts that Sam usually encounters. This book would be a fantastic book to allow kids to connect with the main character. (KJS)


The place where you live/El lugar donde vives

Luna, James. 2015. The place where you live/El lugar donde vives. Arte Público Press (Piñata Books). 32 pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-55885-813-8. Illustrated by Thelma Muraida.

James Luna effectively uses both English and Spanish to portray a comforting home. The Spanish translations are accurate relative to the English text, helping both English and Spanish speaking children feel the welcoming and positive atmosphere a home provides. The bright warm greens and blues invite students to visit and feel at home in the gardens and rooms of the house. The detailed illustrations of this picture storybook are essential to help children understand the words written on the pages. Through the illustrations, the words come to life and readers are able to see the kitchen, the garden, the store across the street, the school, the library, the field, and more. The perfectly textured grass gives the feeling that readers really are looking at grass, and the hair of the characters is accurately textured, the gray scraggly hair of the grandmother, the curly brown hair of the little girl, and the smooth brown hair of the little boy. The author uses an informal, yet comforting tone to describe a typical middle-class home. Throughout the story, the theme of family and the home is evident and important. For many children, this is an important theme in their lives and they will find this book intriguing and comforting. (EPK)

Home team: The extra yard

Lupica, Mike. 2016. Home team: The extra yard. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1481410007.

A teenage boy faces challenges of making the local football team when his estranged father walks back into his life. Teddy faces person-against-self challenges while trying to figure out how to handle his father coming back into his life, and learning to play on a football team from different positions. He must decide if he is going to remain defensive and angry at his father for leaving or if he can share his success and happiness with himt. Person-against-person issues are constant as Teddy’s friends, mother, father, and coach help him develop into the person and football player he aspires to be. Person-against-society issues are also evident as Teddy’s mom and community members try to save the school’s music program and teacher. The relevance of topics such as making the team, friends, and divorce are recognizable to readers ages 11- 5. These events are relevant to teenagers and the connections made to present day people and media like Eli Manning and the Voice help convince the reader the events in this book could happen in our modern world. (LAA)

Wild ones: Observing city critters

Malnor, Carol L. 2016. Wild ones: Observing city critters. Dawn Publications. 32pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-58469-554-7. Illustrated by Cathy Morrison.

This beautifully illustrated picture book follows a lively labradoodle, Scooter, as he explores nature in his neighborhood, which is located in an active city. Readers can follow Scooter as he explores the aspects of wildlife found in the metropolis, such as spotting a pigeon crossing the road with a bag of chips in his beak. Children will be able to relate to his experiences, while finding the antics of this curious canine amusing, such as his run-in with a local squirrel. The author highlights key vocabulary words, such as notice or become aware of something, in italics so that young readers can easily identify words they would need to know as they start their own explorations. The colorful and detailed drawings help draw the reader into the scenes of nature found in a bustling city than many are unaware of, such as squirrels hiding in a blooming garden. Parents living in more urban areas could use this as a teaching tool to encourage their children to explore the world around them and find nature in places they might not originally think, such as listening to a woodpecker’s song in the middle of a busy park. This book explores an aspect of nature that is often forgotten and can unlock a whole new area of investigation for young readers. (SW)

Build, beaver, build! Life at the longest beaver dam

Markle, Sandra. 2016. Build, beaver, build! Life at the longest beaver dam. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $24.00. ISBN 978-1467749008. Illustrated by Deborah Hocking.

The informational text Build, beaver, build! Life at the longest beaver dam describes the life of a beaver. The text helps the reader make a scientific discovery about the life cycle of a beaver through watching a beaver grow up into an adult beaver. Readers discover the many animals threatening beavers and their river habitats and later the similarities and differences between animals and humans. Factual information is included in the back of the text so that students can learn more information, such as the length of a beaver dam. Readers feel as if they are experiencing the life of the beaver through the detailed pictures. The illustrator uses greens and blues in the story to suggest a calm and relaxing environment. However, when a beaver is almost attacked by a coyote, the page turns white, conveying danger and urging caution. The illustrator contributes to setting the mood through the use of color, line, and shape. (AMM)

The door by the staircase

Marsh, Katherine. The door by the staircase. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-142313499-2. Illustrated by Kelly Murphey.

The Russian fairytale about Baba Yaga returns to a new life in New York. The Door by the Staircase is an appropriate choice for readers in grades 6-8. Person versus person conflict is developed between Mary, the main character, and Baba Yaga. Mary must learn to trust others’ words and have patience with Baba Yaga. Marsh’s vivid words paint images in the minds of the readers, even without complementing illustrations. Marsh suspends the disbelief in readers by introducing magic as she builds relationships in locations familiar to children. The theme of The Door by the Staircase is revealed through the development of Mary. After escaping from the Buffalo orphanage and being thrust into a strange, mysterious, and possibly dangerous new environment, Mary is forced to cope with many challenges, and reveals the power of determination and perseverance. The suspense Marsh creates in this novel entices readers to keep turning the pages. (SMK)



MaCaulay, David. 2013. Castle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 80pp. $9.95. ISBN 978-0395329207.

Edward Longhsanks was named King Edward the I of England in 1272. In 1277 Edward had the plan of expanding his territory in Wales from purely military to building an English settlement and castles. This book goes through the progress of construction of the castle and the English settlement. In order to finance this pricey endeavor, the King rented out land and livestock on in the settlement in exchange for work done on the castle, settlement, and wall surrounding the entire plot of land. The castle was started first, along with the wall surrounding the entire plot of land. A small area of houses was built for the men working. Slowly but surely the castle and settlement was completed. The castle plan was meticulous in its structure for protection against the enemy. The reader is able to see the entire building process and thought process of the builders. Edward’s conquest in Wales was not fully complete until 200 years after the plan was set in motion. The castle built was not penetrable to outside forces and was a symbol of the hard work and dedication of the men who build it. (KW)

Emma and Julia love ballet

McClintock, B. 2016. Emma and Julia love ballet. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0439894012.

 Emma and julia love ballet is a charming picture book about a young girl, Emma, and her role model, Julia, who are both passionate about ballet. Young dancers will relate to Emma, who is just starting her journey with ballet, and her excitement to see Julia perform. The book has a parallel structure as readers see how both Emma and Julia get to dance class, where they meet their friends and how they practice. The story starts converge on the performance in which Julia is dancing and Emma is in the audience, in awe of the performance. This book would be great for young readers to practice their comparing and contrasting skills. Perhaps comparing and contrasting Emma’s life and Julia’s life will allow young readers to see they can be just like their heroes, if they develop their gifts and talents through hard work and practice. (BJP)


Teddy bear subtraction

McGrath, Barbara. 2016. Teddy bear subtraction. Charlsbridge (McGrath Math). 32pp. $17.98. ISBN 978-1-58089-426-5. Illustrated by Tim Nihoff.

This math book makes learning math interesting and exciting for young readers, as there are adorable teddy bears on every page. The book begins with a review of the colors. Then readers count the teddy bears on each page. This helps students who need a visual, tangible, recognizable manipulative when working with numbers. Readers also must decide which numbers are larger and which are smaller and they work with less than (< )and greater than (>) signs. The text also explains step by step how to subtract simple subtraction problems. It has labels for the bigger number, smaller number, minus sign and equal sign to help students understand the problem. Equations are spelled out in words so the student can see the visual representation of the problems. As the book continues, the problems become more difficult and there is a change from having the problems placed horizontally across the page, to a vertical representation on the page. The teddy bears walk through each step enabling readers to still understand how to subtract even though there is a change in how the problem is placed on the page. The teddy bears eventually are deleted from the problems because readers no longer need their support in solving the subtraction problems. The colorful pages keep the reader invested and interested in this information book about addition and subtraction. (FJS)


Messenger, Shannon. 2016. Neverseen.Penguin Random House LLC (Aladdin). 688pp. $8.99. ISBN 9-781481432306.

Sophie and her friends Dex, Fitz, Biana, and Keefe leave the Lost Cities to join a secretive organization called the Black Swan. Sophie and her friends cannot trust the leaders of the Black Swan who keep their intentions a secret from the elves. Sophie and her friends are forced make choices and take action when a mysterious plague threatens the safety of an entire species. The fourth book of Shannon Messenger’s high fantasy series, Neverseen, explores trust between friends, between teachers and students, and between parents and children. Despite her special abilities, Sophie Foster is a relatable protagonist. She has a kind and fair nature that encourages others to trust her, even though she has moments of self-doubt. She understands that all people have dark and light within. As she worries about the safety of friends, she becomes especially anxious about Keefe, who has just realized that his parents are not who he thought they were. Prior to events of this story, it has been revealed that Keefe’s mother has been working with the nefarious group, Neverseen. After years of being neglected by his father and betrayed by his mother, Keefe feels alone as he tries to decide what his future is going to be. Sophie is rewarded for her trust in Mr. Forkle, leader of the Black Swan. The more Sophie proves she has grown in wisdom and ability to take on serious responsibilities the more information she is trusted with. I would recommend this book to pre-teens and young teens, however the plot is heavily serialized so I would recommend reading the books in order. In this installment the plot takes a while to get moving, but the story does come to an action-packed and dramatic climax. The themes are substantive, and for the most part not didactic. The story emphasizes the importance of being supportive of friends even when there is nothing you can do to solve their problem. Lastly, as a future teacher I appreciated the allegory of Exillium, a poor excuse for a school for banished young elves. Sophie brings about change to the school after calling out the Council for neglecting it and in reality that is something students can aspire to do. Mr. Forkle and the leaders of the Black Swan see Sophie and her friends as agents of change, who will make their world better. (BJP)

Snowy Bear

Mitton, Tony. 2015. Snowy Bear. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 32pp. $11.92. ISBN 978-1619639058. Illustrated by Alison Brown.

Snowy Bear illustrates the desire for a warm and safe household, when it is very cold outside. The setting is a forest during a cold night and the plot follows the person versus nature conflict of a little bear trying to find shelter from a crisp stormy evening. The rhyming style complements the setting and plot and it entices readers to pay closer attention to what is going to happen next. The little bear finally finds a girl who is as lonely as he, and she welcomes him into her house with a nice big grin. The story ends with the two becoming friends as they read and play games by the fire. Although, this situation is unrealistic, the thought of a bear and human as friends enchants the reader and allows them to imagine the different possibilities of friends to have. (AMM)


Hercules on the bayou

Morgan, Connie Collins. 2016. Hercules on the bayou. Penguin Random House LLC (Pelican). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4556-2185-9. Illustrated by Herb Leonhard.

Both ancient Greece and Cajun Louisiana have their own unique oral traditions, but Connie Collins Morgan intertwines one popular mythological character in this comical twist of the story of Hercules. She incorporates French vocabulary throughout the tale, referencing the French culture apparent in Louisiana. The story also includes references to Creole folklore, such as the reason why water moccasins are now known as cottonmouths. The whimsical illustrations include allusions to Grecian and Creole art, creating a surprising and yet pleasing parallel. Parents will appreciate this amusing tale with the historical references that can spark a conversation comparing cultures with their children. Young readers will also enjoy comparing this version of Hercules to others they have read, while simultaneously gaining a sense of Cajun culture. (SW)


Please, Louise

Morrison, Toni and Slade Morrison. 2014. Please, Louise. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1416983385. Illustrated by Shadra Strickland.

Nobel Prize winner and adult novelist Toni Morrison, along with her son, Slade Morrison, delves into the world of children’s literature with Please, Louise. The world is full of sadness and fear for Louise, until she goes to the library and reads books full of beauty and wonder in new worlds. Before she gets to the library and discovers books, she is scared of every place she passes, wondering what scary thing may be in the old house or what hides in the trees. After she reads these wonderful books, she is no longer afraid, and the world becomes a bright and colorful place. The illustrations in this picture book are soft and the colors reflect the moods. They are darker in the beginning while she is fearful and colorful after her trip to the library. Each illustration offers a different perspective, such as a close up, panoramic and bird’s-eye view, to name a few. The authors use rhyme to tell the story of a young girl whose view on life is changed by the stories she reads and her imagination within the magical wall of a library. (KAB)

When mischief came to town

Nannestad, Katrina. 2015. When mischief came to town. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company). 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0544534322.

When mischief came to town by Katrina Nannestad is a book for readers ages 10-12. Set in Bornholm, Denmark in 1911, readers look into an unfamiliar time and place unfamiliar, and experience life as a small girl on an island in Denmark. The main character, Inge Maria, is an energetic, imaginative, loving girl struggling with conflicts within herself and the expectations of society. In this new place, there are different rules and norms for Igne to follow, but she ends up causing more mischief instead. In the end, she brings a new light to the town by showing people how being themselves and having fun can be important, and, even though things may change, moving forward is a part of life. However, moving on does not mean one should forget the past and the wonderful memories from the past. This mischievous, fun-loving girl gives readers an enjoyable story, with a powerful message. (KAB)


A night divided

Nielsen, Jennifer A. A night divided. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-68242-8.

This historical narrative tells a fictional account of the rise of the infamous Berlin Wall through the eyes of a quick-witted and courageous twelve-year-old girl, Gerta. Gerta’s family is divided in the literal sense – her mother and brother live on the East side, while her other brother and father are trapped on the West side of the wall. Nielsen depicts the division of power and beliefs both symbolically and literally throughout the quick moving plot, depicting the real life oppression occurring after the Second World War. The author provides a map along with historical photographs at the beginning of the book, applying context to the history that is the foundation of this novel. Nielsen also includes quotations related to the idea of freedom at the beginning of each chapter, clearly juxtaposing the element of opposition present throughout Communist Germany. The tone of the story appeals to the reader’s emotions through the events that spark fear in Gerta, as well as the moments of triumph, such as the first encounter with her brother living on the West side. The historical validity of this book, along with the relatedly flawed main character, will keep the reader turning the pages, wondering what Gerta’s fate will ultimately be. (SW)

Tru &amp; Nelle

Neri, G. 2016. Tru & Nelle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 328pp. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0544699601.

Tru and Nelle is a tale of two crime-solving children and their many adventures during their childhood. Set in Monroeville, Alabama, deep in the south in the 1930s, the town is struggling through the Great Depression. The book’s historical accuracy can be seen through Truman’s family. For example, his parents left him at his aunt’s house so they could go and find work in other places because they did not have enough money to raise him. In addition to living with his aunt, Truman also lived with all of her siblings so they could bring down the cost of living. They lived in a nice big house, where they would hold big parties for the town. This brings up another historical issue in the plot, which is the separation of black and white members of the community and the presence of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in their town. The story acknowledges that membership of the KKK was decreasing at the time, however Klan members were still present in the community and even held a rally at one of Truman’s parties. Before it got out of control members of the community stepped up and protected the black people attending the party. Demonstrating the themes of loyalty and justice, they forced the KKK members to leave the party. This is important because these are similar themes to contemporary literature and readers can relate to some of the emotions the characters in the story may have been feeling. Although, some of the adventures Nelle and Truman embark on throughout the book may be exaggerated, the plot and the setting stay true with the time period and readers learn about living in the segregated South during the Great Depression. (AMM)

Friends for life

Norriss, Andrew. 2015. Friends for life. Scholastic Inc. (David Fickling Books). 240pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0545851862.

Remember the moment that you met your best friend? The book Friends For Life by Andrew Norris encourages readers to reflect on the life – changing experience of meeting a best friend as they read about a boy named Francis. He meets a ghost named Jessica who helps him see he is not alone in the world. She helps him make friends with two other children thus transforming his life. This intriguing plot has a central main theme of not allowing society define any person. When one act as one’s true self, they will find the friends that will stick with them through anything. The author demonstrates the hardships Francis has to overcome in order to feel confident in himself and the courage it takes to open up to his new friends about past events. Francis shows how meeting a best friend is more difficult for some people than others; however, sometimes all it takes is a friendly ghost to help characters realize they are worthwhile. (AMM)


Picture this: Numbers book by judith nouvion

Nouvion, Judith. 2016. Picture this: Numbers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers). 24pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-0544512658.

Picture this: Numbers is an appropriate informational book for young children starting to learn numbers. Not only does this book inform the reader of their numbers, but it also gives them a visual on the number that is given. For a child, animals are interesting to look at and learn about. This book uses pictures of animals and also includes a fun fact about the animal.  Allowing for the reader to get more out of the book than just learning their numbers. This book is highly recommended for beginning readers, as well as children learning their numbers. (KJS)


Nancy Clancy: Soccer mania

O’Connor, Jane . 2015. Nancy Clancy: Soccer mania. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 128pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0062269676.

The sixth book in this series features Nancy Clancy, who has grown up from her Fancy Nancy picture book days and is now a fun-loving third grader looking for adventures in early chapter books. With her best friend Bree, she plays on a soccer team, the Green Goblins. She is not the best player on the team, she is just average, but she is satisfied with her skills. She wants to do her best, but does not want to be the best. She would rather spend her time on the sidelines cheering her team on with her friend Lionel. The Goblins did not win a game all season, but in the last game of the season, Nancy is able to make an incredible play, which helps the Goblins tie the game. Taking place in an average school and on the soccer field, Nancy is a relatable elementary-aged girl. This book also contains occasional black and white illustrations to help show what is happening in the story, and allows readers to paint a clear picture about the plot, conflicts and characterizations.. Told in third person this story shows the impossible may be possible, such as when Nancy helps her team to tie the game. It also shows conveys the message that having a good time with friends trumps winning or losing. (KAB)


Ohlin, Nancy. 2015. Consent. Simon & Schuster (Simon Pulse). 288pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-6490-2.

This quick-paced young adult novel by Nancy Ohlin, author of Beauty, reflects on the seemingly normal problems of a high school senior, Beatrice Kim, fumbling through college applications and rocky relationships, and a not-so-normal promiscuous relationship with her high school music teacher, Dane Rossi. The devotion to accuracy the author shows through her musical knowledge is an impressive addition to a book tailored for maturing young adults exploring their own sexual curiosities. Ohlin focuses on the obstacles teenagers face as they transition from the perks and drawbacks of being a child to the “real” life problems awaiting them in adulthood. The author pushes some boundaries through her mature themes, including a teacher’s inappropriate relationship with a minor. Young adult females will enjoy the parallels with their own dramatic lives, as well as a comforting realization that it could be worse. The open ended conclusion will leave the reader on the edge of their seat, wondering what happened to the gifted Bea and her illicit lover, Dane. (SW)


ABCs on wheels

Olivera, Ramon. 2016. ABCs on wheels. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 26pp $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3244-3. Illustrations by Ramon Olivera.

ABCs on Wheels provides young children, PK – K, with entertaining illustrations, as well creative phonemic connections between the letter of each alphabet, and the word or phrase that corresponds with the letter being presented on each page. He further stimulates the reader by providing the upper and lower case form of each letter to encourage the reader to be able to notice the two forms each letter identified in literature. Many of his illustrations provide the letter within them, which can allow the reader multiple opportunities to be exposed to each letter of the alphabet. The reader, with the proper guidance, may be able to note other objects on each page that may be suitable to connect to the letter assigned to its respective page. (KJN)



Ottley, Matt. 2016. Parachute. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5469-8. Illustrated by Danny Parker.

Children may have their own version of a safety blanket and Toby’s blanket is his parachute. The theme of Parachute is depicted through Toby’s adventures and the change in his attachment to the parachute throughout the story. Because Ottley’s text and Parker’s illustrations are designed to work together, students must be able to observe the drawings. The colors, shapes and textures in the illustrations join to create realistic drawings. Toby must climb down from bed, the kitchen chair, and bathroom sink with the assurance his parachute will be there, until he must climb down from the treehouse without it. In such illustrations, Parker uses long, vertical lines to change the perspective of the obstacles in which Toby must overcome. Toby’s problem solving abilities promote self-efficacy in students as they develop into unique individuals. (SMK)


Yaks Yak: Animal word pairs

Park, Linda Sue. 2016. Yaks Yak: Animal word pairs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $12.72. ISBN 978-0544391017.

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs is the perfect book for a young child learning the nuances of vocabulary. Filled with homophones, the book not only teaches the young reader different animals, but that there are words that are spelled the same, just with different definitions. The concept words for the children will assist them in opening their horizons to different words that they might not have already encountered, allowing their vocabulary to widen. This book is not only highly recommended for young readers, but for teachers and caregivers to reinforce homophones in an appealing unique way. (KJS)


The plan

Paul, Alison. 2015. The plan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-28333-6. Illustrated by Barbara Lehman.

A young boy and his dog discover the boy’s dad used to be a pilot when they find an old photo album. The plan is intended for readers ages four through seven and levels preschool through third grade. The one-word text of the book is appropriate for students just learning to read text and who enjoy reading books where they can demonstrate their new reading abilities. Barbara Lehman’s illustrations are done with soft lines and tranquil, calm colors like blues, greens, yellows, and browns. There are plenty of geometric shapes including squares, rectangles, and triangles and horizontal lines to suggest stability and calmness. (LAA)


Pennypacker, Sara. 2016. Pax. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0062377012. Illustrated by Jon Klassen.

Even more challenging than understanding the world through the eyes of a child is understanding the world as an animal sees it. Pax provides the reader with both views in a world like ours. A young boy is forced to release his beloved fox into the wild when his father leaves to be a soldier. Feeling a strong bond of “two but not two”, twelve year old Peter sets out on a 250 mile journey to right what has been wronged, within himself and his fox. Through research of fox life, habits, and behavior, author Sara Pennypacker takes the reader to the ground-view level of the fox and the challenges the fox and his friends face. Unique illustrations using shades of gray and various lengths and directions of lines offer the reader a clear picture of the environment the characters are seeing and offer a feeling of friendliness. Pax is a heart-string-tugging read for anyone who has ever loved an animal, lost a parent, or fought for something they believed in. Children ages 10 and above, grade levels 4 and up, will find something in this tale of struggle and love to connect with. This book is a work of fantasy that offers a setting readers can relate to and is infused with substantive research of how a fox may think, live, and act. (LAA)

This kid can fly: It’s about ability (not disability)

Philip, Aaron and Tonya Bolden. 2016. This kid can fly: It’s about ability (not disability). HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0062403544.

Aaron Philip is a fourteen-year-old boy who writes about his life and living with cerebral palsy (CP). He tells about what he has had to do throughout his life, and it is anything but normal. He moved from St. John's on Antigua in the Caribbean to the United States so he could get the best medical help and therapies. His family went through many hard times, including living and traveling between the two homes and being split apart in order for their son to get the best treatment and life he could. He continues to work to overcome many obstacles associated with having CP, including limited movement. Aaron is active on his Tumblr blog, “Aaronverse”, which tells about living with CP. He also has created a graphic novel and continues to create art. Although he has CP, he continues living his life to the fullest extent possible.. He tells his story with humor and honesty. This book also includes pictures from all stages of his life, to help clarify the statements Aaron shares about living with cerebral palsy. (KAB)


Fart Squad #2: Fartasaurus Rex

Pilger, Seamus. 2015. Fart Squad #2: Fartasaurus Rex. HarperCollins Publishers. (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 112pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236632-0. Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.

Fart Squad #2: Fartasaurus Rex is a surprisingly useful chapter book for young readers. Despite its appearance of a book with no lessons, Fartasaurus Rex surprises readers by teaching them valuable lessons. The plot of the story quickly causes readers to suspend their disbelief and to understand the logic of the events even if they are not necessarily scientifically possible. While this is the second book in the series, the author takes the time to explain how these children got their super fart powers. More importantly, as book in a series, there is still a large amount of characterization of each of the main characters. The reader learns and understands them as the text goes on. The characters are not stereotyped or stylized for humor. They each have unique personalities, causing them to be very relatable. The main character, Darren, is a good model of strong morals. The book presents current issues, such as wealthy privilege and animal rights. Darren struggles with both issues and handles them well. When the main characters learn that the Fartasaurus is a herbivore and is not going to cause any harm to them, Darren devises a new plan to stop the dinosaur from destroying cars and buildings in its fearful state without hurting it. While the book is very humorous, the fart jokes stop after a few chapters allowing the plot to unfold and the important lessons to be understood. This is a great book for young readers who are interested in humor because the book also contains many important lessons, and a strong driven plot, and characterization. (CMD)

On the ball: Unleash your imagination

Pinkney, Brian J. 2015. On the ball: Unleash your imagination. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-2329-6.

This creative book by Brian J. Pinkney takes the reader through the imagination of a young boy, Owen, exploring his own thoughts and curiosities as he chases down a rogue soccer ball. While he starts off running after a loose ball, he eventually is running after his dreams, turning into various animals such as a tiger and a bat. The development of this story encourages the reader to value a creative mind. While the story is fairly simple, with basic language aimed towards early readers, the illustrations are abstract and capture the creative ideas that he portrays through his story line. The soft and brushed lines reflects a childlike mind, pulling the reader into the escapades of a little boy who is merely chasing the ball, and falls into his own imagination. (SW)


Previn, Stacey. 2016. Aberdeen. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-451-47148-2.

Children are invited on an adventure with Aberdeen, a little curious mouse who quickly finds himself lost on his adventure. In fact, at first, Aberdeen did not mean to leave his yard or even go on this adventure, but he got very distracted because of a red balloon. He kept chasing the balloon. Eventually, the balloon found itself in his neighbor's yard and even in the sky, and of course, Aberdeen was chasing the balloon the whole time. Unfortunately, the balloon popped and he found himself playing in mud and a puddle. However, Aberdeen kept going farther away from home when he wandered into the forest and became very scared when he heard an owl. He cried for a long time because he wanted his mom. Luckily, his mother started calling for him, and Aberdeen eventually found his mother, and they embraced each other. Children are can further their cognitive skills when they observe the different illustrations throughout the story. They can look at the different bright colors and the water paint effect the illustrator uses. Furthermore, children can observe how Aberdeen’s expressions changes has he slowly realizes how far away from home he is. Also, children can hypothesize where Aberdeen will go next on his adventure as a way of getting their brains working and interested in the story. Finally, this is a story that teaches children about social development in the sense that sometimes one can be too independent, and the importance of a close relationship with one’s parents. In the story, Aberdeen is independent on his adventure, but he realizes how much he values his relationship with his mother when he is reunited with her at the end. (MJO)

Elizabeth started all the trouble

Rappaport, Doreen. 2016. Elizabeth started all the trouble. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-078685142-3. Illustrated by Matt Faulkner.

Rappaport tells the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her fight for women’s rights in the United States. It is not only the story of Stanton but also that of a variety of other early feminists beginning with Abigail Adams, continuing up to Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony, along with a few lesser-known but still incredibly influential women. The story details much of the women’s suffrage movement that led to the passing of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote (ratified August 18, 1920). Rappaport creates a balance between the historical facts of Stanton’s life and the storyline about her life and the suffrage movement. The topic of women’s suffrage is one worth talking about and introducing to students at a young age so they are aware of our country’s history of gender inequalities. Reading the story, students will become familiar with the process of the challenges women faced in order to gain this important right too many people take for granted today. Students will be introduced to the strong women that made history and realize they too are capable of making history. The drawings are historically accurate and detailed and they reflect the text on the corresponding page. The drawings bring the characters and scenes to life and create a somber mood that will help the students to feel what it would have been like had they been alive at this time. Rappaport delivers a picture-book version of the biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton complete with detailed illustrations and accurate facts allowing students to learn at a young age, about her life and role in the women’s suffrage movement. (EPK)

Robots rule! battle of the bots

Richards, C.J. 2015. Robots rule! battle of the bots. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-0544339323.

The protagonist of the Robots rule! series, George Gearing, returns in the third and final book which continues the story from the first two books, but not without a couple twists. George re-enters the story by, much to the reader’s surprise, deciding to trust the evil engineer who in the previously tried to take over their town. In this story, George faces conflicts between himself, in failing to retrieve his parents, as well as with others, who want him to be normal and live a normal life, but also with Micro, the man trying to take over all of the robots. Readers may want to read the first two books in the series, but they can easily understand the scope and sequence of the trilogy as they read this third and final book. The images illustrated in this book prompt readers to imagine the characters as the story progresses. (AMM)


Silly wonderful you

Rinker, Sherri Duskey. 2016. Silly wonderful you. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-062-27105-1. Illustrated by Patrick McDonnell.

A mother puts her young daughter to bed by telling her of the impact she has had in her life, and how she never could have imagined any of it before the daughter was around. The mother describes in detail all there is to know about her daughter: every wild action of hers, every emotion she has, and even her toys. Although some descriptions are negative, such as daughter being “maybe just a tiny bit whiny”, the overall feeling of the book is very light hearted and happy. This mood is set by the comical nature of the illustrations, as well as by the themes of love repeated by the mother as she talks of her daughter. The pace of the book slows down by the end, paralleling the end of the day for the mother and daughter. Then, after having been one of the longest of days, the mother is still able to say her daughter is the reason she knows dreams come true. The ending to the book is very peaceful and heartwarming in this way, which is why it has many elements of a bedtime story. However, the book is also written to address many areas of intellectual development for young children from Pre-K through 2nd grade. In one way, young readers can become engaged cognitively with observational skills, as the illustrations show all of the actions and emotions of both the mother and daughter. This is helpful for concrete learners, especially when they would recognize many of the same emotions and actions from their own home lives. Additionally, children can develop their language skills through the use of rhymes and rhythms, as well as familiar adjectives. To enhance the adjectives, many are given special fonts relating to what they mean. For example, the word “crashy” has a cracked and shaky font while the word “loud” is large and bold. Words written in this way become more accessible for young children and therefore more memorable. Finally, the areas of development given the most attention are the social and personality realms. On one hand, the book expresses a strong sense of what familial relationships are like for children. On the other hand, the individuality of being “silly” and “wonderful” is highlighted as being something extremely special. Both of these elements are very important for young children, as they should be able to grow up being themselves and understand there will always be others who love them because of it. Although this story specifically relates to a child’s life at home, the same ideas of love and acceptance for others and their differences can be transferred to the classroom setting as well. After seeing how special the daughter is to her mother in Silly wonderful you, children should know how important they are to others within their own lives too. (DVB)

The heroes of Olympus: Book five: The blood of Olympus

Riordan, Rick. 2014. The heroes of Olympus: Book five: The blood of Olympus. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). $19.99. 528pp. ISBN 978-1423146735.

This is the 5th book in a series written by Rick Riordan. When I started reading it, I had to research the other books because I could tell that there were more books to the series. This book follows many characters who are demigods, Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Leo, Piper, Hazel, and Frank and these are children of famous Gods of Athens. These groups of demigods are in their final quest to defeat Gaea while Nico di Angelo. These individual demigods are also trying to prevent a war between the Roman and Greek demigods. (KW)


Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The sword of summer

Riordan, Rick. 2015. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The sword of summer. Disney Book Group (Disney). 512pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-142316091-5.

Riordan begins to tell the gripping tale of Magnus Chase in the first book of this trilogy, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Perfect for ages 10-14, this book is action packed as Magnus’s clash with the Norse gods is detailed through clear descriptions and carefully chosen words. Magnus’s mother dies mysteriously, leaving Magnus on his own to navigate Boston. His mother always told Magnus about his uncle, Randolph, a dangerous man, so Magnus avoid. While he is living on the streets of Boston, Randolph hunts down Magnus and delivers the news that he is the son of a Norse god. Magnus learns that everything he ever read about in mythology books as a child is true, and the Gods of Asgard are preparing for a war and are coming to Boston. To be prepared to fight back, Magnus must travel through the Nine Worlds in search of a weapon that will be useful to him in this fight. Riordan uses vivid and intense adjectives and details to describe the settings of these “worlds” and the action propelling the plot. The reader is transported to another world as Riordan successfully suspends disbelief to create this fictional world and engaging plot. A giant attacks Boston and puts everyone’s lives in danger and Magnus is forced to make a decision, does he stay and fight? Or does he save the lives of others and die so as to start a new life for himself? (EPK)

Two friends

Robbins, Dean. 2016. Two friends. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $14.49. ISBN 978-0545399968.

Two friends, a picture storybook, is still an informational read for children, ages 6-10. The book first starts out talking about how Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony are going to meet up for tea, explaining what both civil rights activists believed in. This book would be welcome in a classroom of 1st - 5th grade to continue discussions about freedoms people don’t have or didn't have and how they accomplished getting these rights. (KJS)


The hero two doors down

Robinson, Sharon. 2016. The hero two doors down. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 208pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-80451-6.

Based on a true story, The hero two doors down takes place predominantly during the 1940s in New York. The theme is revealed through the changes in the character of Steve as his friendship with Jackie Robinson strengthens. During a time of both religious and racial unrest throughout the world, the setting is created by detailing some of the events taking place during this era. Sharon Robinson develops a plot engaging readers in the believable and inspiring friendship between the first African-American Major League Baseball player, Jackie Robinson, and his young neighbor, Steve. The two characters are able to see past their racial and religious differences, and create a friendship which brought, and has kept, their families close. (SMK)


Animal beauty

Roskifte, Kristin. 2015. Animal beauty. WM. B Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 50pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5454-4.

One zoo elephant gets a rude awakening when she finds a beauty magazine. She reads an article stating her wrinkles must go. So, while wearing face mask, this elephant is determined to share this magic magazine with a friend. Soon, the entire zoo population changes their cosmetic “flaws.” The panda removes dark circles under its eyes and lion has a sleek new hair-do. According to the information in the magazine, they are now beautiful. Readers will start making connections between real world expectations of beauty and those in this picture book. The zoo animals must choose to stay true to who they are or transform themselves based on the standards established by society. Bubbly, animated pictures of these zoo animals’ transformations fill the pages in warm colors. Readers between the ages of 5 and 9 would adore these lively animals’ discovery of beauty and acceptance. (CAH)


Prairie dog song: The key to saving North America’s grasslands

Roth, Susan L. and Cindy Trumbore. 2016. Prairie dog song: The key to saving North America’s grasslands. Lee & Low Books Inc. 40pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-245-5. Collages by Susan L. Roth.

Through prose, mixed-media illustrations and song, t.his innovative nonfiction picture book discusses the important roles of prairie dogs and how they are essential for the survival of grassland ecosystems. Each page contains a section of a prose passage related to the prairie dogs’ impact on the grasslands, a cumulative array of song and a collage of beautifully colored mixed-media artwork. The back of the book also includes a glossary and timeline of the history related to the grasslands of North America, making this book a great tool for teachers and parents looking to teach children about the history of the North American environment.

The prose begins by discussing the fact that grasslands used to cover most of the continent of North America after the shaping from the glaciers. The story goes on to include extensive details about the life of a prairie dog, such as their diet or survival instincts. The authors then discuss the destruction of the grasslands at the hand of the United States government and its relationship to the death of most of the prairie dogs in the United States. The background information about prairie dogs and the history of the grasslands in North America allows the reader to make connections and value the importance of prairie dogs in our environment.

The combination of song lyrics and multi-media illustrations allows for a deep sense of comprehension that appeals to all types of learners, visual and auditory alike. The song summarizes the key concepts of the prose, discussing the idea that prairie dogs were abundant until the impact of humans destroyed their habitat. The concise summary dictated through song is a terrific way to remind students of the key concepts without re-reading the entire book. The beautiful illustrations add another later of support to the passages included beneath the song, making this all-inclusive book appealing to a vast array of readers. (SW)

Hamster Holmes on the right track

Sadir, Albin. 2016. Hamster Holmes on the right track. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 32pp. $13.55. ISBN 978-1481420426.

As an easy-to read picture book, readers can follow the development of the plot of Hamster Holmes and Dr.Watt solving the mystery of  the theft of Springy Beavers’ tools and notebooks. Using shape, readers are shown how to use the problem solving skills. They are asked to notice differences between shapes in order to help Hamster Holmes solve the mystery. This book is highly recommended for children who are beginning to read. (KJS)


A fighting chance

Salinas, Claudia Meléndez. 2015. A fighting chance. Arte Público Press (Piñata Books). 284pp. $10.95. ISBN 978-1-55885-818-3.

A Fighting Chance details the lives of Miguel Ángel, a young Latino boy living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Salinas, California, and Britney, a young blonde girl who lives in Pebble Beach, a wealthy suburb of Salinas. Miguel Ángel and Britney begin a secret romance that is forced to remain a secret because Britney’s dad dislikes people from the “slums”. Salinas is gang ridden and dangerous so Miguel Ángel has turned to the Alisal Boxing Club as a place of stability and safety through Coach and his teammates. Miguel Ángel’s best friend Beto is deep in the gangs and continually tries to get Miguel Ángel involved. Coach has repeatedly warned Miguel Ángel about the gangs and he knows better than to get involved, but will Beto bring him into the gang life? At the same time, Britney is struggling with the aftermath of poor planning in the romantic escapades with Miguel Ángel. These various person v. person and person v. society conflicts add a mysterious element to the story of Miguel Ángel and Britney. Meléndez Salinas introduces Latino culture in the United States through detailed descriptions of the lifestyle, gang life, the pressures associated with this life, and Latino family life that Miguel Ángel faces. A wonderful book for readers ages 13-18, A Fighting Chance introduces these readers to inner-city life and the pressures and situations people living there face everyday. (EPK)

Follow me!

Sandall, Ellie. 2015. Follow me!. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 32pp. $14.52. ISBN 978-1481471473. Illustrated by Lauren Rille.

Jumping lemurs and crafty language introduce children to rhythm and patterns. This illustrated text shows how a gang of lemurs navigate through the wild while snacking and finding adventure. In their travels, the lemurs come across objects and animals to interact with. Readers, as well as the lemurs, get distracted with the interruptions during their journey. Luckily, the lead lemur at the end of each page reminds the gang to continue on and follow him. Younger children, age four to eight will enjoy following the characters through their journey while learning about rhythm and rhyming. By repeating the phrase, follow me; students are learning how repetition is used throughout language. Having students read this out loud can set a foundation for musical and rhythmic development . Upon reaching the middle of this text, the reader is suddenly halted by a ferocious crocodile looking for dinner. The fearless lemur leader ends up directing the troop out of harm’s way towards a safer path. Along with rhythm, children are invited to use a wide array of dynamics. Sandall gives the reader hints in how loud or soft the text should be read. When the lead lemur tells the gang to stop, Sandall purposefully has the entire word in all capital letters to signal that the reader should be shouting the word. Throughout the text, there is a theme of leadership. Children observe interpersonal communication skills between the lead lemur and the followers through cues in text and gestures. A narrative of leaping lemurs and their adventures through the wild on a sunny afternoon will surely ignite children’s interest in reading with rhythm and rhyme. (JMS)

Santat, Dan. 2004. The guild of geniuses.

Santat, Dan. 2004. The guild of geniuses. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 40pp. $16.24. ISBN 9780439430968.

Mr. Pip a monkey, representing a child, is very sad, and so his best friend Frederick takes him to the Guild of Geniuses to diagnose the problem. Empathetic children will connect with the story of trying to make a friend feel happy again. Human emotions are often a puzzle. This picture book invites children and adults to talk about feelings and the struggle of trying to understand behaviors associated with emotions. Young readers can practice their inference and prediction skills, by inferring why Mr. Pip is sad, and predicting if the Guild of Geniuses will be successful in making Mr. Pip happy again. The illustrations of this book enhance the theme of puzzling emotions by looking like a puzzle. Geometric shapes fit together to make humorous geniuses and an whimsical city. This is a delightful picture book for children and adults. (BJP)


Schachner, Judy. 2015. Dewey Bob

Schachner, Judy. 2015. Dewey Bob. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4120-1.

Dewey Bob is a young raccoon who moves away from home to start a life of his own. Like most raccoons, Dewey is attracted to pretty, shiny things and has a collection of buttons he keeps in jars which he brings along to his new home. Yet as Dewey settles into his new home, surrounded by all the treasures he holds dear, he is struck with a nagging feeling: he is lonely. So Dewey sets off to find friends, only to find that making friends is not as easy as collecting buttons.

Judy Schachner’s uses color and light to enhance the mood of the story. When Dewey Bob is alone it is dark outside and he is surrounded by deep blues and purples with a single spotlight shining on him, emphasizing his aloneness. When he is surrounded by friends, the colors around him are light blues, whites and yellows with the light extending over everyone. The mixed media illustrations draw readers into the story, making them feel as if they are another friend in Dewey’s collection.

Dewey Bob is a well crafted tale which will influence children's social and emotional development. It is a story which teaches them to care about the world around them, animals, and each other. Children will see how friendships are not hard to find, but require compassion and hard work to strengthen and hold on to. (HJM)

Schulz, Charles. 2015. Make a trade, CHARLIE BROWN!

Schulz, Charles. 2015. Make a trade, CHARLIE BROWN!. Simon & Schuster (Peanuts Worldwide LLC). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1- 4814-5688- 3

Once again Charlie Brown has a lesson or two for readers -- teaching readers appropriate behaviors among friends by using Charlie Brown as a model of a character who makes mistakes in his relationships. Through these mistakes the reader gets important ideas of value priorities, for example Charlie Brown chooses winning a game over his friendships. It also demonstrates that it is important to right the wrongs of mistakes through Charlie Brown’s example. The plot of the story does not follow a logical progression of events. The decisions characters make are confusing and left with little explanation. This confusion may be due to the lack of character introduction or development. This may be because this book is meant to be part of a larger series.

If students were familiar with the characters, the story may have been more logical. Illustrations are very important to the story. The simple drawings demonstrate strong emotions from the characters. This enhances the importance of the emotional lessons Charlie Brown learns. Readers will be able to relate to and understand these lessons, not with the help of the plot, but through the simple but expressive illustrations. (CMD)

Simon, Coco. 2016. Cupcake diaries: Emma raining cats and dogs… and cupcakes!

Simon, Coco. 2016. Cupcake diaries: Emma raining cats and dogs… and cupcakes!. Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Simon Spotlight). 160pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5525-1.

In Emma Raining Cats and Dogs… and Cupcakes!, a middle school girl and her cupcake-making friends embark on a journey to create cupcakes for ARF, a local dog shelter. Simultaneously, Emma’s brother, Jake, must learn about the responsibilities of getting older and having a dog. The lives of the characters in this novel are similar to those of students in today’s society. Problems arise, such as Emma’s crushes and social media, which relate to the problems children must overcome today. Emma must learn to tolerate her friends and family - despite the problems - in order to make the most out of the situations she is in. The book will further draw readers in with its familiar setting. Simon is able to create vivid pictures in her readers’ minds with the descriptions she uses of locations and events that occur throughout the story. This is book twenty-seven in the series Cupcake Diaries. (SMK)


Sisters, The Pifferson. 2016. Zach and Lucy and the Museum of Natural Wonders

Sisters, The Pifferson. 2016. Zach and Lucy and the Museum of Natural Wonders. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1481439367. Illustrated by Mark Chambers.

The Pifferson Sisters have created a new Zach and Lucy Ready-to-Read story for beginning chapter book readers with new adventures for the sometimes troublesome pair of siblings. After looking at a book about the Museum of Natural History, Zach and Lucy want to create their own museum filled with natural wonders they find in their neighborhood and from people who live in their apartment building. Mrs. Blankenship, who seems to dislike the sisters, is against the museum. Changes happen when Mrs. B finds a beautiful fan she likes at the museum and the two give it to her. She has a change of heart and suddenly welcomes the museum. This chapter book contains illustrations complementing the plot by sometimes helping to show readers insight into the thoughts of the characters. They are also bright and colorful and help young readers figure understand the plot, characters, theme, and setting. Since readers can relate to the realistic setting, characters, and plot, they can imagine the fun they can have in their backyards, or basements. (KAB)

Sklar, Marty. 2015. One little spark: Mickey’s ten commandments and the road to Imagineering

Sklar, Marty. 2015. One little spark: Mickey’s ten commandments and the road to Imagineering. Disney Book Group (Disney Editions). 228pp. $24.99. ISBN 9781484737637

One little spark is takes the reader behind the scenes of Walt Disney theme parks to meet the imagineers, the group of engineers, artists, writers, architects, and scientists who create attractions enjoyed around the world. The book is organized into two sections, “Mickey’s Ten Commandments” and “The Road to Imagineering.” The first section details examples of good attractions and attractions that failed miserably and may be interesting to a person who has actually been to Disney Parks. The second section of this book “The Road to Imagineering” could be used to inspire students to see how it takes collaboration and multiple talents to create something as magical as a theme park attraction. This section includes quotes from various imagineers that give different perspectives on ideas such as collaboration, education, mentors, and imagination. (BJP)


Smith, Greg. 2015. Borrowed time

Smith, Greg. 2015. Borrowed time. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 183pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-23711-7. Illustrated by Leigh Walls.

Borrowed Time takes readers back to prehistoric times.   Max Pierson-Takahashi and his buddy, Petra, return to the era of dinosaurs, where they must survive different attacks from dinosaurs and other deadly creatures.  Readers will be captivated from the moment they begin reading the story because the plot with multiple adventurous conflicts moves quickly. The setting establishes historical background for the story, painting a picture of a world with living dinosaurs.  Readers will also learn a great deal about different types of dinosaurs! This story keeps the readers on the edge of their seats as Max and his friends try to find a way back home because they do not want to be stuck in the time of the dinosaurs. The setting in this story reflects a time in the far distant past and contributes to a creative fantasy. (FJS)


Steig, Jeanne. 1992. Alpha beta chowder

Steig, Jeanne. 1992. Alpha beta chowder. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 48pp. $17.99. 978-1-4814-4060-8. Illustrated by William Steig.

Jeanne and William Steig work together to create poems and illustrations for young children. Although the book is a combination of many poems, Jeanne Steig uses many of the same elements of poetry throughout each poem. Children prefer poems with rhymes and alliterations, just as these poems do. Many of the poems, such as “Bellicose Brigand vs. Belligerent Bear” and “My Gruesome Gilbert,” use alliteration, repeating the initial consonants. Each poem applies a rhyme scheme. Young students also prefer narrative poems. In the case of Alpha Beta Chowder, each new poem introduces a new story for the reader. The illustrations provide readers an image to look at while reading the poem, possibly helping a student understand an unknown word in the text. The illustrations, by William Steig, are colorful and fairly realistic, allowing readers to make connections to the real world. Lastly, Alpha Beta Chowder introduces children to interesting vocabulary; words such as belligerent, deplorable, and intolerance. (SMK)

Steig, Jeanne and William Steig. 1988. Consider the lemming

Steig, Jeanne and William Steig. 1988. Consider the lemming. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-481-43963-3.

Consider the Lemming is an appealing collection of poetry for young readers. The poems are primarily lyrical poems about animals. Animals certainly fit in amongst the strong interests of young readers. The authors personify the animals by describing them in witty ways such as an elephant who wears baggy pants. Students will relate to the clever descriptions because they are often looking for new ways to describe what they know. The clever animal descriptions are portrayed in a simple poetic style. The poems have simple rhythm and rhyme, (generally ABAB) with short stanzas that are easy to follow. Teachers and caregivers could ask students to compare the animals in the poems to the animals living in their world, to find their similarities, or they could practice writing their own poems in the same unique style. This book, as poetry, helps students to see the world in a different, more creative way. Overall, this is a strong collection of poems to help readers continue to love and read poetry. (CMD)

Stine, Megan. 2015. Who was Michael Jackson?

Stine, Megan. 2015. Who was Michael Jackson?. Penguin Random House LLC (Grosset & Dunlap). 112pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-448-48410-5. Illustrated by Joseph J. M. Qiu.

This autobiography follows the life of Michael Jackson, beginning with his birth and ending with his death. The book is sectioned off into chapters that are clearly labeled and have correlative page numbers. This easy-to-read book makes learning about Michael Jackson interesting and accessible for all students. The book has labeled pictures of influential people in Michael Jackson’s life. For example, people like Bruce Springsteen, John Branca, and Stevie Wonder are all included in this autobiography. It talks about every aspect of his career, from the Jackson 5 to his hit album ‘Thriller”. In the end of the book there is a section on the current location of the other members of The Jackson 5, including pictures to show readers how they have changed over time. The back of the book also includes a timeline of Michael Jackson’s life next to a timeline of what was going on in the world at this time. (FJS)


Stroud, Jonathan. 2015. Lockwood &amp; Co. The Hollow Boy

Stroud, Jonathan. 2015. Lockwood & Co. The Hollow Boy. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 400pp. $10.36. ISBN 978-1484709689.

Lucy Carlisle and her friends, Lockwood and George, are paranormal investigators. While trying to solve a mystery of a missing man, they get themselves into trouble and end up trying stay alive for a night while stuck in a house with ghosts. Although it is the third book in a series, readers are able to understand what is happening whether or not they read the previous books. The descriptions in this book enable each reader to picture what is actually happening. Not only does this book promote imagination, but it allows readers to “get pulled into the story” and imagine they are part of the plot. This book is recommended for young adult readers with imaginations. (KJS)


Styles, Walker. 2016. Rider Woofson, something smells fishy

Styles, Walker. 2016. Rider Woofson, something smells fishy. Simon & Schuster. 119pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-4814-5742-2. Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse.

Join Rider and Pups Investigators (PI) are back in their second mystery about a fishy imposter. Rider Woofson has a very important job of protecting the city of Pawston and its residents from villains. Rider is the best of the best when it comes to highly qualified detectives. Rider and the PI are on another mission to solve a mystery about the true identity of the prince of Pawston. Illustrations complement the story, interrupting the text to create an easy-to-read tale. This story demonstrates the importance of working together with other people, as Rider and the PI work together to solve another mystery. This mystery allows students to use their critical thinking skills to try and solve the mystery as if they were a part of the Pups Investigators. (FJS)


Sylvander, Matthieu. 2013. The battle of the vegetables

Sylvander, Matthieu. 2013. The battle of the vegetables. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 48pp. $15.99. 978-0-544-35942-0. Illustrated by Perceval Barrier.

The battle of the vegetable introduces three types of vegetables as the characters: the leeks, the carrots, and the mixed vegetables. Through a combination of text boxes, speech bubbles, and a variety of perspectives, young students are introduced to humor and irony. Sylvander gives the non-human objects voices in this children’s picture book. Three short stories bring to life each group of vegetables, as they meet animals. While the illustrations are quite simple, Barrier accomplishes a significant amount with the few lines and colors he uses to depict the garden, the characters in the garden and their interactions. (SMK)


Testa, Maggie. 2015. Daniel gets scared

Testa, Maggie. 2015. Daniel gets scared. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5258- 8. Illustrated by Jason Fruchter.

This ready-to-read book, adapted from a screenplay, introduces young children to the art of reading while simultaneously teaching a familiar lesson. Parents can appreciate this story’s ability to guide children through fear and give them the tools to overcome a challenging situations. The vibrant illustrations based on the popular children’s television show, Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood, are exciting for children as they connect their familiar show to the joys of reading. The basic text is appropriate for emerging readers, but also tells a story using descriptive words and key vocabulary for young children first learning to read. (SW)


Thomas, Patricia. 2016. Green bean! Green bean!

Thomas, Patricia. 2016. Green bean! Green bean!. Dawn Publications. 32pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-1584695448. Illustrated by Trina L. Hunter.

A girl and her dog grow green bean plants. This informative story is beautifully illustrated with bright colors of spring. Bright greens, blues, and yellows complement the concept of new growth, life, fun, and happiness. The dog, hummingbird, and insects come to life through the lines and colors used to create them. The illustrations and poetry carry the reader through the life cycle of plants without seeming too educational or didactic. Additional facts about the life cycle and activity suggestions, including growing a green bean, are included in the last part of the book. Children ages 4-8, and grades preschool-3 will enjoy the animals, rhyming, easy words, and simple concepts found in this story. Gardening, plant life, life cycles, and vegetables would be topics that could easily be connected to in the classroom by using this book. (LAA)


Stine, R.L. 2015. Goosebumps – Slappy’s tales of horror.

Stine, R.L. 2015. Goosebumps – Slappy’s tales of horror. Scholastic Inc. (Graphix). 176pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-54-83595-4. Adapted and Illustrated by Dave Roamn, Gabriel Hernandez, Ted Naifeh, and Jame Tolagson.

As one in a series of Goosebumps, this story is written in four pieces, each by a different author, relating to Slappy, the dummy. The plot changes in each of the stories depending upon who, or what, the main character is up against. Because each story is written by a separate author, the illustrations differ. Colorful comic drawings fill the pages, many of which portray familiar objects or scenes, giving students the ability to relate to the text. In each of the four stories, characterization develops through believable and dependable people. The mood at Ghost Beach is created through the setting in a creepy graveyard. Students’ abilities to create text-to-self connections can be improved as well as one’s ability to observe and classify information from one comic to the next. This graphic novel, aimed at students in the upper elementary grades through middle school, allows students to enjoy the illustrations in a comic book while expanding their imaginations as they develop their reading skills. (SMK)


Trimmer, Christian. 2015. Mimi and Shu in I’ll race you!

Trimmer, Christian. 2015. Mimi and Shu in I’ll race you!. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-2330-4. Illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt.

Animals are competing to be part of the Chinese Zodiac calendar. Mimi the kitten and Shu the mouse are racing a variety of animals but only the first twelve to cross the finish line get to be in the calendar. Each animal is challenging the other in a person versus person conflict to be one of the twelve to cross the finish line first. All of the characters must pass Dragon successfully in order to complete the race. Dragon is depicted as a typical red scaly dragon with accurately textured scales and an angry red. Lion is depicted as a smiley yellow and friendly lion, while the green of the grass that they are racing through shows the tranquility of the forest. Mimi and Shu are the most important characters and therefore are included more in the illustrations, which are bright and detailed. As the animals race through the forest Mimi and Shu try their best to outsmart the other animals because Mimi wants to earn her favorite cupcake. Mimi tries to push Shu into the river because she wants to win but the act backfires and she is the one who falls in the water. Because she falls into the river, Mimi is the last animal to finish the race and. All of the cupcakes are gone and she does not get a spot in the calendar. The first twelve successful animals to finish the race became the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac: mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. (EPK)

Turner, Pamela S. 2016. Samurai rising: The epic life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Turner, Pamela S. 2016. Samurai rising: The epic life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. Charlesbridge. 256pp. $16.95. 978-1-58089-584-2. Illustrated by Gareth Hinds.

This novel, developed from a true, twelfth-century Japanese story, describes the life of a man who, for all intents and purposes, should not be a samurai. Turner uses modern language and words to make this historic story come to life for children. Written from a third-person point of view, Minamoto Yoshitsune must train extensively to become a brilliant samurai, fight off his half-brother, and honor his father’s name. Minamoto Yoshitsune learns and displays warrior characteristics, such as perseverance, bravery, and risk-taking. Amongst the black and white images by Hinds are maps that help the reader to further understand the significance of the story based on the locations of battles. The end of the novel gives an extensive, seven page-long bibliography to inform readers about the research supporting the events of this book for young adults. (SMK)


Twohy, Mike. 2016. Oops, pounce, quick, run!: An alphabet caper.

Twohy, Mike. 2016. Oops, pounce, quick, run!: An alphabet caper. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-237700-5.

In Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper, children ages 4-8 are exposed to the chronological order of the alphabet in a tale about a mouse and a dog. The story begins, as most alphabets do, with the letter “A”. While following the sequence of the english alphabet, readers continue in the story of this unexpecting mouse and the determined dog. Children, ages four to eight, will know the sequence of the alphabet and can determine which letter will come on the next page. The reader can begin to predict the series of events to improve their cognitive development. Hypothesizing what will occur page after page gives the learner a chance to use their deductive reasoning skills about the actions of dogs and mice, as well as their imagination. This short story also aids in language development in the young reader. Its alphabetical story line has children ready for the next letter and predicting the next word in the sequence. A happy tail for this children's tale is what you can expect from the ending of this book where the conflict is resolved and our two characters end their alphabet story with a combined snore from their nap. (CAF)

Urban, Linda. 2016. Weekends with Max and his dad

Urban, Linda. 2016. Weekends with Max and his dad. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children).160pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-0544598171. Illustrated by Katie Kath.

Many children suffer through the terrible reality of divorced parents. Weekends with Max and his dad has a controversial plot that helps show children they can succeed in adjusting to their parents’ divorce. Max goes through a person versus self conflict as he copes with moving from one parent’s house to another. In the beginning of the story Max’s father does not seem to know many of Max’s interests and hobbies. Over time we see Max and his father’s relationship start to grow as his father learns more about him. When children read this book they are learning that living with a parent individually may help their relationship grow. Furthermore the book ends stating, “Some days were house days and some were apartment days. But both were home.” This helps children see Max has adjusted to a new “normal.” Also, readers learn Max parents care for him, regardless of their separation from each other. (AMM)


VanDerwater, Amy. 2016. Every day birds

VanDerwater, Amy. 2016. Every day birds. Scholastic Inc. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0545699808. Illustrated by Dylan Metrano.

Every day birds is a useful informational book for young readers. Each page has an illustration of a bird, with a single line description of the bird. An example reads “Mockingbird has many voices”, paired with an image of the bird. This simple style is an effective way to present practical and factual information to young readers, ages 2 - 5. The facts are basic and unique allowing young students to recall them easily. The images paired with the facts are created through cut paper illustrations. These images are distinct and cause every detail of the birds to be noticeable. The illustrations allow the students to identify the important characteristics with ease. The entirety of the book creates one poem written at the end of the book. Reading all of the text on this one page will help the students appreciate the poetry and thoughtfulness of the information. The book concludes with a page of more information on each one of the birds for students who wish to investigate the topic further. Overall this informational book is delightful introduction to the genre for young readers who are looking for bold illustrations, and helpful facts. (CMD)

van de Vendel, Edward. 2015. The dog that Nino didn’t have

van de Vendel, Edward. 2015. The dog that Nino didn’t have. WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 34pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5451-3. Illustrated by Anton Van Hertbruggen.

Readers between the ages of 4 and 8 can imagine alongside Nino, a young boy, dreaming about a dog he doesn’t have. The illustrations paint a picture for readers to think about how reality does not have to crush one’s imagination. Mellow colors and bold lines in Anton Van Herbruggen’s illustrations set a mood of curiosity and empathy for Nino’s life. The dog that Nino didn’t have helps readers practice inference and imagination skills in young readers. (CAH)


Van Vleet, Carmella, and Kathy Sullivan. 2016. To the stars! The first American woman to walk in space

Van Vleet, Carmella, and Kathy Sullivan. 2016. To the stars! The first American woman to walk in space. Charlesbrige. 40pp. $16.95. ISBN 9781580896443. Illustrated by Nicole Wong

In “A Note from Kathy” at the end of the book Dr. Kathy Sullivan says “I hope my story helps you to figure out how to reach for your stars!” Following one’s dreams is the theme of this autobiographical picture book co-authored by astronaut Kathy Sullivan and Carmella Van Vleet. The story alternates between young Kathy and adult Kathy by page and shows how young Kathy’s dreams of exploration and experiences of flying lead her to becoming an astronaut as an adult. The book is clearly targeted toward girls and getting them to see themselves in the science and engineering fields. The picture book delivers “nothing is out of bounds just because you are a girl” message in an inspiring and authentic manner.

For any student To the Stars fosters a spirit of inquiry into space travel. Following the story there is a “More about Kathy” section which is a more detailed account of Kathy’s NASA career, and there is a “American Women Firsts in NASA History” which recounts what other women have done in space. Interestingly, several women astronauts accredit African American actress Nichelle Nichols and her role on Star Trek as an inspiration in this section. Observing a woman included in the crew of the Enterprise, allowed young girls like Kathy Sullivan to imagine the possibility of exploring space. To the Stars!, like Star Trek, speaks to the power of role models. As children are inspired they begin imagining themselves in a future career they never could imagine before. (BJP)

Vendittelli, Marie. 2016. Colors

Vendittelli, Marie. 2016. Colors. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 30pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-544-51264-1. Illustrated by Jean-Louis Klein, Marie-Luce Hubert, Sylvain Coudier, Fred Bavendam, David Tatin, Frédéric Pacorel, Loïc André, Markus Varesvuo, Wolfgang Poelzer, Theo Allofs, Thierry Montford, Oceans- Image, Martin Harvey, Brandon Cole, Chistophe Migeon, Bruno Calendini, and Kevin Schafer.

Colors introduces students not only to the different colors they see around them every day but it shows the color somewhere in nature. Children are familiar with nature and can identify with the items shown in the book. A pink flamingo, a gray elephant, a green snake, and a red frog are just a few of the animals and colors one is introduced to in this short board book. Vendittelli has provided young children with the ability to develop their intellectual capacities through a simple board book that is able to make clear connections the children are able to identify. Books for young children using basic beginning vocabulary like colors, help develop children’s vocabulary and stimulate their language. The photos in this book have been contributed by a variety of talented photographers who are helping capture locations and animals young children will be able to recognize. This recognition will aid in a child’s understanding of the book as well as in the recall of the vocabulary. Together, the photos and text provide the opportunity for youngsters to develop their cognitive skills, specifically language and memory. The pairing of text and photo allow for children to make connections between the word and the image, hopefully making it easier for readers to remember the vocabulary. Colors is a charming book for young children that will substantially contribute to their overall development. (EPK)

Vernick, Audrey. 2016. The kid from Diamond Street: The extraordinary story of baseball legend Edith Houghton.

Vernick, Audrey. 2016. The kid from Diamond Street: The extraordinary story of baseball legend Edith Houghton. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0544611634. Illustrations by Steven Salerno.

The true story about Edith Houghton, who loved to play baseball, who tries out for the Philadelphia Bobbies, a women’s professional baseball team, at ten years-old. The illustrations by Steven Salerno include full page pictures with intricate colored pencil details. The coloring of pictures is a muted tone, which complements Edith’s humble beginnings. Edith and the team emphasize how hard work and one’s skills are the key to success in baseball rather than gender. The book is recommended for preschool through grade three, so Vernick’s easy to follow writing style would appeal to the recommended ages, especially for independent readers.  At the end of the book are four real life pictures of Edith, helping children to make the real life connection, and reminding them any gender can accomplish a goal, even if society’s stereotypes don’t match. (CAH)

Viswanath, Shobha. 2016. The blue jackal

Viswanath, Shobha. 2016. The blue jackal. Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books For Young Readers). 34pp. $15.00. ISBN 978-0802854667. Illustrated by Dileep Joshi.

The Blue Jackal is a folktale adapted by Shobha Viswanath, with striking illustrations created by Dileep Joshi. The illustrator uses short and wavy lines to compel readers to study the pictures, which hold symbolic meaning in the story. For example, Dileep makes the Jackal, Juno, larger than the other animals when he is king. But when he is not the king of the forest, he is portrayed as smaller than the other animals. Additionally, the story uses different colors in the background to help the reader understand the time of day the story is taking place. When it is daytime, the color of the pages are red to signify the sunlight. At nighttime, the color of the page transforms into a deep blue showing the pitch darkness of the night. The story also establishes a rhythm through rhyme and makes readers anxious to see what happens next. Additionally, the rhyme is used to put emphasis on important words in the story. The theme argues that one does not need material items to have self-confidence; one just needs to believe is self-worth. (AMM)

Weingarten, Gene. 2014. Me &amp; Dog

Weingarten, Gene. 2014. Me & Dog. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 9781442494138. Illustrated by Eric Shansby.

Sid is just an ordinary kid, who makes mistakes like everyone else. Sid has a dog named Murphy, who is the best dog in the world, according to Sid. However, Murphy is just like every other dog, he makes mistakes and gets in trouble. Sid explains that Murphy thinks too much of him. Murphy doesn’t think that Sid is ordinary, Murphy thinks Sid is the ultimate boy who is in charge of everything. Sid knows that he not in charge and sometimes bad things happen just because. Murphy tries to be good so that Sid will be happy with him. Sid wonders what it would be like if Murphy knew that Sid was not the ultimate ruler of the world. Would Murphy be as happy, more fearful, or less friendly? Sid doesn’t want to find out. So life will remain the way it is, because it’s perfect. Murphy loves Sid, and Sid loves Murphy. Nothing else seems to matter. (KW)


Willems, Mo. 2015. ¡Hoy volaré!

Willems, Mo. 2015. ¡Hoy volaré!. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 64 pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-148472287-9. Illustrated by: Mo Willems.

¡Hoy Volaré! tells the story of a pig determined to fly but his friend the elephant tells him he can’t. The book has been translated into Spanish and there are few words with simple language for beginning readers. There are few colors, only the pink pig and gray elephant, and there are no background images to distract from the plot. The book is a conversation between the pig and elephant with speech bubbles corresponding to the color of each animal, making it easy to follow the dialogue between the pig and the elephant. The size of the font fits the tone of voice and volume each animal uses when saying something. When the elephant is frustrated his words are in capital letters and when the friends talk normally, the words are smaller. The pig keeps trying to fly but the elephant doesn’t help him and just keeps telling him he will never fly. In the end, the pig enlists the help of the duck so that he can fly and the elephant is impressed. Elephant then decides that he wants to “fly” and the pig wishes him good luck. This book demonstrates to students that if they don’t give up and try hard and in creative ways, they can achieve anything they put their minds too. (EPK)

Williems, Mo. 2015. I really like slop!

Williems, Mo. 2015. I really like slop! Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 64pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-148472262- 6.

Intended for emerging readers, features are simple yet artistic and are familiar to other works by Mo Williems. The conversational tone of this book allows children to practice their reading skills while also bringing in the social element of practicing a dialogue. The varying text sizes help the reader understand the emotions of the characters along with the dramatic facial expressions. This book teaches children a lesson in experiencing new events and showing that being uncomfortable is a key aspect of learning and maturing. The secondary commentary will have children giggling and parents enjoying the appropriate humor spread throughout this witty book. (SW)


Winter, Jeanette. 2016. Nanuk the ice bear.

Winter, Jeanette. 2016. Nanuk the ice bear. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 48pp. $15.09. ISBN 978-1481446679.

Nanuk the Ice Bear is appropriate for youngsters learning to read and need shorter sentences with pictures to understand the story. Nanuk is a polar bear living in the North Pole searching for food.  Nanuk’s environment is slowly depleting and he must survive with less land and food. Winter also uses color, such a blues, to show the mood of the setting.  Young readers can visualize the effects of global warming on animals and their habitat as teachers and caregivers share the story of Nanuk, the polar bear (KJS)


Wood, Larry. 2016. Bushwacker Belles: The sisters, wives and girlfriends of the Missouri Guerrillas

Wood, Larry. 2016. Bushwacker Belles: The sisters, wives and girlfriends of the Missouri Guerrillas. Pelican Publishing Company. 304pp. $25.00. ISBN 978-1455621569.

 Larry Woods writes about the dedication, loyalty and love of the Missouri Guerrillas’ women who endured many hardships in order to help their significant others. A collection of stories from real women who helped aid the guerrillas, it’s an important book because it shows a different perspective of the Civil War. The stories teach young adult readers that wars are fought by men and women. It is important to help show that people work together and while roles may be different, women and men were important collaborators during the Civil War. Additionally, the many illustrations in the novel help readers visualize the events that occurred. Specifically, the reader gets to see the different prisons the women were placed in as well as the homes women lived in before and after the war. The photographs include captions which help the reader to gain clarity about what is happening in the picture and how it relates to the story. Most importantly this book is set up so the reader is not influenced by the idea of Northern supremacy. This book helps readers understand the people that fought with the South were everyday people just like the soldiers in the North. As with soldiers in the North, they had wives, girlfriends, and families they left in order to fight in the war. (AMM)

Wu, Mike and Griffin, Adele. 2016 The Oodlethunks: Oona finds an egg

Wu, Mike and Griffin, Adele. 2016 The Oodlethunks: Oona finds an egg. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 133pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-545-73279-6.

The Oodlethunks: Oona finds an egg is a suitable book for students who are beginning to read chapter books. The story follows a young girl named Oona Oodlethunk. She and her family are characters in a prehistoric world of cave people. The author combines aspects of both this prehistoric time and the modern age to draw the reader into a believable yet fantastical world. The plot of the story is derived from the prehistoric world and could only be possible there, drawing the reader in. The characters also walk the delicate balanced line of relatability with the real world and the strangeness of the prehistoric one that they are living in. The story is about Oona finding an egg, unaware that it will soon hatch into a dinosaur. Through her love for the egg, the story models both positive and negative behavior in many of Oonas relationships, such as dealing positively with her own jealousy towards one of her friends, dealing with impatience of waiting for the egg to hatch, and loving the egg despite its lack of love in return. Oona also makes mistakes in her relationships with her younger brother. She occasionally mocks him for being younger than she, which ultimately provokes him to trading the egg away, the largest conflict in the story. Along with all of these well modeled lessons, the book offers an interesting place into which young readers can escape. The plot and world created by the book draw in the reader and place them right down with the characters. Because of this the book is enjoyable to read. This would be an appropriate tool for students transitioning into longer fantasy books. The book has strategically placed bright and peaceful illustrations to keep young readers moving through the text quickly, but also has chapter markers to help them feel accomplished by passing milestones. Overall, this book is a helpful resource for teachers guiding students to enjoy reading chapter books and for students to learn developmentally appropriate lessons through a captivating fantasy world. (CMD)

Yim Bridges, Shirin. 2002. Ruby’s wish

Yim Bridges, Shirin. 2002. Ruby’s wish. Chronicle Books LLC. 36pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-3490-2. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

Readers between the ages of 8 and 12 will travel back in time to young Ruby’s life in China. Ruby grows up in a time where formal education is less common for girls expected to learn about housekeeping and prepare for marriage at a young age. Readers will develop a multicultural understanding and empathy towards Ruby’s independent, warm spirit as they watch her fall in love with learning. A fiction story starts to explain to young readers the complexity of gender roles in old China. Expressive watercolor paintings by Sophie Blackall open readers’ imagination of Ruby’s story. (CAH)


Yohalem, Eve. 2015. Cast off: The strange adventures of Petra de Winder and Bram Broen

Yohalem, Eve. 2015. Cast off: The strange adventures of Petra de Winder and Bram Broen. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 0525428569.

Yohalem sets sail to adventure as she writes rich historical fiction about the lives of Bram, the son of a merchant ship carpenter, and Petra, a twelve-year-old escapee of an abusive father. Set in the seventeenth century, a Dutch merchant ship is lifting anchor for the East Indies, but they have an extra mate on board: Petra. She recognizes rapidly that she needs help to survive the months at sea, and she reaches out to Bram. Bram helps disguise Petra as a boy, even though helping a girl hide on deck could risk his home and family on the ship. Detailed and fast paced, fifth through eighth graders seeking adventure at sea will enjoy taking a peek into history. The depiction of gender roles at this time can give present day kids an opportunity to see how fortunate it is to be you. (CAH)


Yolen, Jane. 2016. How do dinosaurs stay friends?

Yolen, Jane. 2016. How do dinosaurs stay friends?. Scholastic, Inc. (The Blue Sky Press). $16.99. 40pp. ISBN 978-0545829342. Illustrated by Mark Teague.

Continuing in the Dinosaur series by Jane Yolen is a story with a valuable message about friendship. Big, scary dinosaurs know the importance of being nice to friends, even when they occasionally disagree and “fight” with them. The characters create an opportunity to imagine a world full of dinosaurs acting like youngster. Readers, ages 3 – 8, will recognize themselves and their friends in the behaviors of the dinosaurs, such as when they shove or hug. Textured, colorful illustrations convey the approachable, humanistic characteristics of the dinosaurs. The use of strong horizontal lines creates a stable, firm ground for the characters to walk on. This picture book encourages imagination while also enforcing a useful lesson for children. (KAB)


Yoo, Paula. 2014. Twenty-two cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank

Yoo, Paula. 2014. Twenty-two cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank. Lee & Low Books. 32pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1600606588. Illustrated by Jamel Akib.

Muhammad Yunus grew up in a two-story house in the port-city of Chittagong, India in the 1940’s. Chittagong was a crowded and bustling city which inhabited by many people, among them beggars and the poor. Muhammad and his siblings were fortunate to have two working parents who had the ability to provide for their children. Even though his parents were not highly educated they found education highly important for their children. They also taught their children the value of helping those in need. As a young child, Muhammad witnessed the terrible conditions of the slums where the poor people lived. As he got older he became active in advocating for the poor and promoting change in the economy. Muhammad always wondered how he could make a difference in the lives of the poor. One day he met a woman, Sufiya, who sold her crafts at the market to support her family. She did not have enough money to buy the supplies for her crafts so she had to borrow the money from moneylenders who charged way too much interest and barely left Sufiya with any money to feed her family. Women like Sufiya could not go to banks to borrow money because banks did not loan such small amounts. Muhammad decided to start a bank that would loan money to groups of women who could support each other in paying the money back. Women took classes before they received loans to ensure that they understood the aspect of borrowing money. Mohammad received the Nobel Peace Prize for his bank. He has helped almost twelve million people worldwide, ninety-four percent were women who were finally able to support their families and move out of the slums. (KW)

Yoon, Salina. 2015. Penguin’s big adventure

Yoon, Salina. 2015. Penguin’s big adventure. Bloomsbury Publishing (Bloomsbury USA). 32pp. $13.78. ISBN 978-1619637306.

Color and texture show the reader Penguin’s adventure as he tries to achieve his goal of being the first penguin to arrive at the North Pole. Penguin’s Big Adventure is a perfect book for a beginning reader. As he travels the world to get to the North Pole he encounters his old friends and makes new ones on the way and this helps build his character throughout the story. Once Penguin reaches the North Pole, he faces a conflict when he runs into an animal he has never experienced before. (KJS)


Yoon, Salina. 2016. Be a friend.

Yoon, Salina. 2016. Be a friend. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-951-5. Illustrations by Salina Yoon.

In Be a friend, children are encouraged to explore who they are as individuals and accept others for who they are. A young boy, Dennis, finds this while others enjoy things, such as bringing in items for show and tell and climbing trees, he enjoys expressing himself through miming actions and stories. As the story continues, Dennis begins to feel isolated and alone, naming a feeling that many children also experience at school at one point in their lives. A girl, Joy, relates to Dennis and becomes his friend, bringing him out of his loneliness and showing him there are people who share his feelings and interests. Through this text, children are able to relate to a character who is searching and struggling to find acceptance and friendship, while simultaneously learning how to be a good friend to someone else by finding commonality and joy in one another. The illustrations provide support in showing the emotions of the characters in the story, as well as accentuating certain words in the text that enhance the meaning of the overall plot. A great way to teach children about building relationships, this story is full of relatable characters and life lessons. (EJM)

Zuckerman, Gregory. 2016. Rising above: How 11 athletes overcame challenges in their youth to become stars

Zuckerman, Gregory. 2016. Rising above: How 11 athletes overcame challenges in their youth to become stars. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 256pp. $14.31. ISBN 978-0399173820.

Readers in grades 3 – 7 with a passion for sports will enjoy the informative stories of the miraculous achievements of 11 athletes, including Stephen Curry, Tim Howard, Lebron James, Tim Abbottt, Serge Ibaka, and Althea Gibson. The book goes through their lives, from their youth through their challenges, and finally, their professional accomplishment. The authors used interviews and biographies to gather the information used in the text. This would be extremely interesting for children to read, allowing them to feel as though they are actually talking to the athlete themselves. This book would be fantastic for boys and girls ages 7-14.  (KJS)