Significant Others II: (Luther College Student Reviews)

2015. S is for Sofia. Disney Book Group (Disney Press). 26pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-1804-9. Illustrated by Character Building Studio and the Disney Storybook Art Team.

Readers, ages 3-5, will enjoy reading this alphabet book that can help children identify familiar objects as well as their corresponding letter sounds. The book includes directions on how to trace each letter so children can begin to develop the process of writing letters. Children will also enjoy how the book uses the Disney Channel character Princess Sofia to help them learn their letters by using objects that start with those letters. (TC) 

Albertalli, Becky. 2015. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens agenda. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 320 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234867-8.

Readers ages 14 and older will enjoy Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens. The author does an excellent job developing plot and characters that are relatable to modern day teenagers. The plot has two themes: primarily, it tackles a boy’s struggle with coming out as gay, and secondarily, it navigates the intricacies of coming out within the high school setting. The primary character struggles with pressures regarding who he should tell first so as not to offend others. Through this, the author makes the reader feel empathy for teenagers, regardless of the issues they are facing. The author accurately paints the befuddled world of high school, and readers will be able to relate to depiction and the characters in it. (TC) 

Alexander, Kwame. 2014. The crossover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 237pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-10771-7.

Winner of the 2015 Newberry Medal, The Crossover takes poetry and middle school literature to a new level. This basketball-themed story centers on Josh Bell and his brother, who are the stars of their basketball team. However, Josh’s mind is flowing with more than just his passion for his family and his sport. He is full of bouncing and pulsing rhymes. Each chapter (or “quarter”) is written in various styles of poetry and verse, enveloping the reader in the ebb and flow of Josh’s season, his relationship with his family, his sibling-rivalry, his brother’s trouble with his girlfriend, and the realization that life and basketball have much in common. Teachers and caregivers can use this book with middle level readers to examine styles of poetry and to emphasize the importance of relationships, sportsmanship, and fairness. This book appeals to the sports-lover, but the engaging rhythm makes it a great read and think-aloud and attracts readers of all interests. (AW) 

Aliki. 1962. My five senses. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 987-0-06-238191-0.

My Five Senses teaches children about the senses through repetitive language and colorful, hand-drawn illustrations, accompanied by a narration that shows how each sense is used. This story will help aid the cognitive development of children as they learn the differences between smelling, tasting, hearing, seeing, and touching. The author gives examples that each children can easily relate to, making this book an appropriate introduction to the five senses and an excellent tool for teaching body-awareness. (AB) 

Anderson, T. Neil. 2015. Horrors of history: Massacre of the miners. MTM Publishing (Charlesburg). 130 pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-520-0.

This book is for readers age 12 and older. The author does a wonderful job creating the setting of this story by accurately describing life in a mining camp. The author’s characters also have traits and characteristics realistic to the time period. He does an excellent job setting up the plot; he uses a real life event to create a story that is engaging. Readers will be enthralled with this dark side of American history. (TC) 

Appelt, Kathi. 2014. Mogie: The heart of the house. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8054-4. Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal.

A well-developed plot and characters are essential in creating a memorable story. As the readers follow the story of Mogie and his unique characteristics, they will observe person-against-society conflict. Mogie does not behave like other dogs; he is neither a search and rescue dog nor a show dog. Instead Mogie has his own set of unique skills in making hospitalized children feel better again. When Mogie mistakenly strolls into a hospital house he befriends a young boy, who has lost all of his passion and energy. Mogie helps him find love and positive energy once again. Even though Mogie is different than most dogs, the readers are happy when he discovers his gift of helping children. (ZJH) 

Appelt, Kathi. 2015. Counting crows. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-2327-5. Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey.

From sticks to mangos to ants and green peppers, this counting picture book follows twelve silly crows counting everything in their path. Children will enjoy following the crows dressed in red and white striped sweaters and polka dot scarves. The author’s use of rhyme and repetition, along with the illustrators use of line and color, draws attention to the crows and makes counting along enjoyable and engaging for young readers. (AT) 

Applegate, Katherine. 2014. Ivan: The remarkable true story of the shopping mall gorilla. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-25230-1. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

As a baby, Ivan the gorilla was captured and brought from the Congo to America to be put on display for customers at a shopping mall. As years passed and awareness grew about how to properly treat animals, the mall customers began to complain and petition for Ivan to be set free from his isolated cage at the mall. Finally, after 27 years, Ivan is sent to Zoo Atlanta, where he happily spent the rest of his life in a natural habitat with other gorillas. Katherine Applegate tells Ivan’s story beautifully while also teaching readers about animal welfare. A detailed biography about Ivan and a letter from his primary zookeeper conclude the book, giving readers a deeper insight into Ivan’s life and personality. The author also offers sites where readers can learn more about Ivan, gorillas, habitats, and animal welfare. (AT)

Arnold, David. 2015. Mosquitoland. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-451-47077-5.

Readers 14 and older will enjoy reading this book. The author does a superb job of developing the main character, Mim, whose struggles with love, friendship, divorce, and fitting in are relatable to any contemporary teenage reader. The author creates a plot that captures reader’s attention while retaining believability, and tackles many modern day issues such as depression, mental health issues, teenage love, abandonment, and sexual predators. Readers will have no problem attaching to the plot and characters. (TC) 

Arnold, Tedd. 2014. A pet for fly guy. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-31615-6.

This picture storybook works well for early elementary students. It follows the story of a boy, Buzz, and his pet, Fly Guy. The illustrations help move the plot along with the use of line. As Fly Guy flies around the pages, lines are used to show the reader his path. He moves from page to page trying to discover the perfect pet. This is a funny story about friendship. (MH) 

Ashdown, Rebecca. 2014. Bob and Flo. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-44430-0. Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown.

In this story about friendship, sharing, and collaboration, Bob and Flo are two penguins who become friends on their first day of preschool. The story surrounds Flo looking for her lunch bucket and on each new page, Bob is using it to do something different, but Flo doesn’t realize that it is her bucket. Flo helps Bob along the way, and by the end of the story, both penguins are playing with the bucket together. Often the last part of the sentence leads to comical connections with the illustrations, keeping the reader involved. This story engages children’s observation and application skills as they notice the bucket or how it is used in each illustration and realize that Flo misses the connection each time. Additionally, the story illustrates important social skills related to making new friends, helping others, and playing together. This book will make preschoolers laugh, and they will enjoy the quirky story of friendship between these two playful penguins. (CEC) 

Atinuke. 2015. Double trouble for Anna Hibiscus!. EDC Publishing (Kane Miller). 36pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-367-9. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia.

This book tells the story of Anna Hibiscus, a young girl who lives in Africa, as she is adjusting to the arrival of twin baby brothers. The emotions she expresses as she struggles with this event are common to many children who experience the transition to a new baby in the family as the attention shifts away from the older child. The text, especially the names of people and foods, and the colorful illustrations depict African culture in engaging ways that allow for suitable comparison and contrast to one’s own culture. The story also portrays a multi-racial family with a Caucasian mother and an African father, which illustrates a diverse perspective of families. This story teaches the normality of feelings of anger, jealousy, and abandonment are normal when they children begin to share the attention of their family with a new baby (or babies), and ultimately how to overcome them negative emotions so that they can play a positive, loving role in caring for their new brother or sister. The way in which these important lessons, prevalent to social and emotional development, are surrounded by the diversity of culture and families creates a unique story. (CEC)

Aylesworth, Jim. 2014. My grandfather’s coat. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-92545-7. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock.

My Grandfather’s Coat, a folktale retold by Jim Aylesworth and brought to life in stunning illustrations by Barbara McClintock, takes readers on a heartwarming adventure through generations of a family and the miraculous journey of a blue coat. Worn on his wedding day, Grandfather’s coat is adored and worn again and again until it wears out. Instead of discarding the tattered cloth, Grandfather tailors it into a jacket, repeating this process each time his new, slightly smaller, article of clothing is loved and worn until it becomes frayed. As the coat shrinks, the family in the story grows, and readers see the love and tenderness of a sentimental grandfather and his children. What sets this book apart is the partnership between author and illustrator. The text talks strictly about the jacket, while the illustrations tell a deeper story of friendship, family, and love, using detailed and realistic drawings. Teachers and caregivers can use this folktale to talk about conservation, as the grandfather continually reuses his tattered fabric. Lessons can also be designed around immigration, as the book begins with Grandfather immigrating to America. Readers can locate the details in illustrations without text and practice them. This heartwarming tale will surely bring a tear to the eye and, like Grandfather’s coat, will be reused again and again. (AW) 

Bahk, Jane. 2015. Juna’s jar. Lee & Low Books, Inc. 32 pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1600608537. Illustrated by Felicia Hoshino.

Juna’s jar follows Juna as she copes with her best friend’s move. Juna tries to find comfort by collecting plants and animals in a jar, just as she used to do with her friend. Each of her new pets quickly outgrows the jar, though, and she has to let them go. Juna goes on adventures with her plants and animals and eventually gains closure by saying goodbye to her old friend and meeting a new one. The illustrations of Juna’s Jar are pleasing to the eye, with soft lines and colors that create compelling images. Watercolor blues and greens as well as the soft shapes create images that will give the reader a sense of calm. Juna’s jar offers a snapshot of Korean life and creates a credible character who will entertain old and young alike. (CB) 

Baker, Chandler. 2015. Alive. Disney Book Group (Disney-Hyperion Books). 368pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-0683-1.

Readers, ages 14 and older, will enjoy this book. The author weaves the characters, plot, and theme together skillfully in this contemporary realistic fiction book. Stella, a teen in need of a heart transplant, miraculously is able to be saved. With her new heart, she throws herself into her life, but faces many difficulties with her severe side effects. She faces troubles many teens face with relating to family and friends after being drawn to the new boy in school, Levi. Stella is a refreshingly independent character who does not fall into the common damsel-in-distress trope, creating a likeable role model for many readers. The novel’s atmosphere is tense and mysterious, making it an engaging book for readers. (TC, AB) 

Baker, Keith. 2014. Little green peas: a big book of colors. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-7660-8.

Little green peas is a visually beautiful book teaching children ages 4-8 about different colors. The characterization of the little peas adds an aspect of continuity and knowledge that each time a color is presented, the little peas will follow with an activity using the color in the forefront. The different colors in the book evoke different emotions, for instance, blue is the sea, it is tranquil, and associated with swimming and boating in the summertime. Yellow is the color of the sun, it is bright, vivid, and happy. The colors correlate a lot to the season, so children can get a sense of all of the different colors they see at different times of the year. The pages illustrate the different objects and things which correlate to each color, so the child can see exactly what each color looks like with the object. The colors are written in giant letters, catching the eye of the reader. Each letter has different textures and they are the same color as the color being displayed. The shapes in the book are all very rounded and soft, giving a sense of happiness, enjoyment, and safety. The peas also have different facial expressions, which is interesting to note because it is an excellent detail to point out to children in order to have them identify what different expressions are represented. (MSH) 

Balliett, Blue. 2015. Piece and players. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-29990-9.

Thirteen valuable pieces of art have been stolen from one of the most secretive museums in the world. It is up to the players, Calder, Petra, and Tommy, to solve this mystery. In this fantastical mystery, a ghost mingles with security guards, a cat acts like a spy, and bystanders in black jackets keep popping up. Will the players catch the thief? There is only one way to find out. (EG) 

Barrett, Ron. 1989. Cats got talent. Simon & Schuster (Books for Young Readers). $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424- 9451-0.

Cats Got Talent follows the story of three cats who, through different life circumstances, end up in an alley wishing for a better life. The basic plot line would be perfect for young students; however, advanced vocabulary makes this a more appropriate choice for older readers. This story is recommended for upper elementary students who are animal lovers and are working on advancing their vocabulary. (LW) 

Barton, Byron. 2014. My bus. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $16.99. IBSN 978-0-06-228736-6.

Early elementary students and kindergarteners will enjoy following the animals in My Bus as they sail, ride, and fly away. The child-like illustrations in this counting book show the number of animals growing from one to ten in the bus before subtracting down until only Joe and his dog are left to return home at the end of their journey. (LW) 

Bauer, Joan. 2014. Tell me. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 300pp. $12.84. ISBN 978-0-451-47033-1.

Twelve year old, Anna’s life is falling apart. Her parents move her to her grandmother’s house for a while. During her time with her grandmother, she becomes wise beyond her years. She makes new friends and helps with the town’s’ annual parade. Anna also learns to stand up for what she thinks is right. Anna stands up for what she believes and ends up helping more people than she could have ever imagined.

This book can help preteen girls learn to stand up for themselves and what they believe. Preteen girls can also learn how to make new friends and deal with problems as they arise in their lives. The reader can watch Anna develop along with the action. There is also an excellent theme in this book, about learning to believe in yourself. (AS) 

Bell, Cece. 2015. I yam a donkey!. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0544087200. Illustrator Cece Bell.

I Yam a Donkey! begins with a donkey using poor pronunciation, which sparks an argument with grammarian yam. As Donkey continues to use poor grammar and pronunciation, Yam visibly becomes more and more upset. As the argument progresses, Bell uses pastel greens for the background, suggesting the situation is calm and playful, at least for Donkey, but When Yam finally reaches his breaking point, the background color changes to orange, signaling anger and high energy. However, his anger quickly disappears when Donkey realizes all the vegetables trying to teach him grammar are, in fact, vegetables. He promptly decides to eat them for lunch, and the background changes to blue to show the sudden shift in the mood. Throughout the illustrations, Bell uses simple, bold lines to make familiar shapes bring more attention to the dialogue between Donkey and Yam, which playfully teaches children correct language usage.(AB) 

Berger, Carin. 2015. Finding spring. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-225019-3.

Finding Spring is an artful depiction of a bear’s first hibernation. Maurice, a bear, explores the wonders outside his den, in search of spring. Along the way readers will meet several different animals, such as, squirrels and rabbits, as they too prepare for the winter. This conceptual book will familiarize readers with the differences between winter and spring, as well as acquainting them with hibernation routines. (MM) 

Berger, Samantha. 2015. Snoozefest. Penguin Random House LLC. 2pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4046-4. Illustrated by Kristyna Litten.

Snuggleford Cuddlebun is a very sleepy sloth who attends the annual Snoozefest reserved for the sleepy and nocturnal animals. Settling in at the Nuzzledome, a variety of activities await Snuggleford and the rest of the animals. Will Snuggleford participate in the activities or sleep her way through the annual fest? Snoozfest is perfect for preschool-young elementary readers. This picture book focuses on the importance of a good night’s sleep. Kristyna Litten draws attention to the importance of sleep using the illustrations of the various animals and of the events of the Snoozefest and inserts some extra humor for the adult readers, making it enjoyable for both audiences.

Getting ready for bed is one of the highlights of their festival. The various activities scheduled during the Snoozefest are well illustrated, with one excellent example being the scene where the Snoozefest band takes the stage during the night and plays soothing music to help the audience sleep. Dark colors during the night provide a sleepy atmosphere, making Snoozfest the perfect bedtime story for a young child. (HMB) 

Black, Peter Jay. 2014. Urban outlaws. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-400-8.

In Urban outlaws, author Peter Jay Black does a wonderful job developing characters that all readers will relate to. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse, including a sporty character, characters that love tinkering with technology, and a character that is a couch potato. The themes of good and evil, perseverance in the face of obstacles, and friendship are woven into the plot in way that will capture the reader’s attention. The plot and characters are so believable that readers 9-14 will surely want to become part of this action- packed team of kids. (TC) 

Blackwood, Sage. 2015. Jinx’s fire. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 388 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-212996-3.

Jinx’s fire, the third installment in the series, is an action packed fantasy story filled with talking werewolves and hidden portals. Readers grades three through seven will relish looking at the map illustrating areas that have been destroyed by the awful and magical Bonemaster. With a weakening lifeforce for Jinx to draw upon, readers will need to answer the question will Jinx be able to unite Urwald, rescue Simon, and defeat the Bonemaster? (EG) 

Bliss, Bryan. 2015. No parking at the end times. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 272pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227541-7.

No Parking at the End Times is a very moving story that deals with extreme sides of religion and is ideal for middle school readers. The story follows the family of a man who becomes fascinated with a mysterious figure named Brother John, who promises all of his followers a better afterlife and strongly believes in the Rapture. Soon after becoming a follower of Brother John, Abigail, the daughter, notices her father is selling all of their possessions to pay for a trip to meet Brother John in San Francisco. By the time the family reach California and meet Brother John’s followers, the Rapture does not come, leaving Abigail and her family homeless.

No Parking at the End Times will give students the opportunity to consider the effects of religious extremism. This story gives a realistic view into this way of life, showing what drives people to make certain actions that determine their lives. Students can look at themselves in a different light and see their beliefs and what drives them, but it is a subject for educators to approach with caution as it can be controversial. Knowing one’s limitations in life is essential to this story. (HMB) 

Bolger, Kevin. 2015. Gran on a Fan: Silly short vowels. HarperCollins Publishers. 40 pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-06-228596-6. Illustrated by Ben Hodson.

Gran on a Fan is a picture book for preschoolers through third graders that adequately promotes language development. It starts with a single word, adds a rhyming word, and then uses those words to create a sentence. Although this book helps with language, the sentences are somewhat hard to follow because they occasionally cover two pages, which may make this book more challenging for younger children to read on their own. (BJB) 

Bond, Michael. 1959. More about Paddington. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 171pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231220-4. Illustrated by Peggy Fortnum.

More about Paddington describes a bear who lives with the Brown family in London and is always getting into trouble. Despite his consistent punishment, Paddington’s intentions are good, but he is usually seconds away from a disaster. Paddington Bear is a young bear with an incredible imagination and always strives for more adventure and creativity in his life. He gets into laughable situations, such as the time Paddington accidentally wallpapers his door shut because he wanted it to look better. In this short story for middle elementary readers, Paddington is sure to win the hearts of many young children in this humorous, down-to-earth book. Children can practice creativity by following their own interests and trying some of Paddington’s, such as being a decorator, a photographer, and a detective. (HMB) 

Bond, Michael. 2008. Paddington at the beach. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231720-9. Illustrated by R. W. Alley.

This engaging story features pesky seagulls narrating Paddington’s visit to the beach. As detailed watercolor illustrations show the little bear digging, building, and gazing, ten seagulls entertainingly dictate the story. The sequence of events and illustrations will draw young children in and build to a climatic attempt to ruin Paddington’s lunch. As children learn about the different activities Paddington is doing at the beach, they will develop their observational skills through the observation of the seagulls’ scheming. (AB) 

Booth, Coe. 2014. Kinda like brothers. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 256pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-22496-3.

Readers 10-14 will find this book eye opening. The author develops characters that deal with emotions commonplace to typical 11 year olds, including jealousy surrounding attention from parents, anger over having to share a room, and dealing with humiliation. The plot brings to light the issues of contemporary foster families, as well as issues that young men of racial minorities must deal with in this modern day world. This book does an excellent job of broaching issues that can stimulate conversation with young readers. (TC) 

Brenning, Juli. 2014. Maggi and Milo. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3795-2. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris.

Maggi and Milo is a charming story about the relationship between a girl and her dog. The story takes the reader along on an adventure to catch frogs in the pond. Maggi learns valuable lessons along the way about patience and the value of having a border collie along to catch amphibians! The bright, appealing, and cheery illustrations bring the story and its characters to life. This story is excellent for students with pets, with an interest in animals, or who enjoy adventures and being outdoors. Especially with lower elementary students, this story can be used to enhance and build vocabulary, emphasize the importance of getting outside and exploring, and reinforce the importance of patience. (AW) 

Brett, Jan. 2014. The animals’ Santa. Penguin Random House LLC (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25784-1.

Big Snowshoe, Little Snow, and the rest of the forest animals have always wondered about their Santa. Is he a badger, a polar bear, or maybe a wolf? When the time comes for the animals’ Santa to visit the forest, Big Snowshoe develops a plan to finally discover his identity. Readers are drawn to the whimsical, snowy setting, and are captivated by the texture to convey realistic and detailed scenes. Side panel illustrations on each page also give readers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work of Santa’s hard-working elves. (AT) 

Brett, Jan. 2014. The mitten. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16981-6 (1989).

Nicki only wants mittens white as snow. After his grandmother knits him a pair she tells him they will be hard to find if lost. As Nicki goes out exploring in the snow, he loses one mitten. But with Nicki’s loss comes, a home for lots of animals who are cold and tired of the snow. Nicki finds his lost mitten and return home to his grandmother, but she cannot understand how one is now so much larger than the other. The illustrations in this book come together to help the reader understand more than what the words say. The white sky, snow and leafless trees, suggest it is a cold winter day. The horizontal line that creates the ground shows that Nicki is traveling a long distance but also gives the reader a sense of security in knowing he will return home. The illustrations also show how the mitten gets bigger and bigger as each animal climbs in. (AS) 

Brett, Jan. 2015. The first dog. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-1522-7651-5 (1988).

This imaginative story tells about the first domestication of a wild animal. Kip is a boy living at the end of the Ice Age on his way home with a bag roasted Woolly Rhino bones. On his journey home, a Paleowolf begins to follow Kip, and he discovers that the wolf can help protect him from being eaten along the way. Each scene is depicted across two pages with carvings, cave paintings, and artifacts around the border.The use of texture in the illustrations helps bring the story to life, and young readers will find themselves thrown into Pip’s journey because of the realistic drawings of the animals he encounters. Jan Brett brings to life the time after the Ice Age with her gorgeous watercolor illustrations in The first dog. (MK) 

Britt, Page. 2015. The lost track of time. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-53812-1.

Britt’s suspension of disbelief in her characters, settings, and plot will make this an interesting story for all adolescent readers, ages nine to thirteen. Britt creates a realm of magic and time while telling the story of Penelope, a young girl who does not seem to have any time for herself. Penelope’s mother has micromanaged every aspect of her summer, until Penelope finds a free day and falls into the Realm of Possibilities. Here she meets an unusual man, Dill, who befriends her and leads her on a journey to find the Great Moodler in order to save the Realm of Possibilities from Chronos, the evil villain who wants to keep track of all time. Penelope and Dill travel across the Realm and end up in the capital city where they are quickly arrested for idling, a waste of time as Chronos has degreed. Trouble breaks out as Penelope and Dill try to escape Chronos and his brain-washed Clockworkers. Penelope finds the Great Moodler, through her use of imagination, ends up saving the Dill, the Realm of Possibilities, and frees the Great Moodler from the spell that has been cast upon her. This fantasy’s theme of good vs evil with good prevailing will make all readers, of any age, excited for the resolution of this story as the Realm of Possibilities is resorted to its original beauty and as Penelope plans to confront her mother about the scheduling of her life. (LW) 

Brown, Carron and Alyssa Nassner. 2014. Secrets of the rainforest: A Shine-a-light book. EDC Publishing (Kane Miller). 36pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-325-9.

Readers, ages 3-10, will enjoy this book. The authors use a style that is easy for children to understand. The information they present is accurate and entertaining. This book gives readers a glimpse into the variety of plants and animals living in the rain forest. They also do an excellent job describing the habitats present in the rain forest. The facts, along with the creative methods of illustration used to capture readers’ attention, make this a book a must-read for all young readers. (TC) 

Brown, Jeff. 2015. Flat Stanley and the very big cookie. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-218978-3. Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan.

A level-2 “I Can Read” book, Flat Stanley will help elementary students develop their reading abilities. The illustrations contribute to the narrative as Flat Stanley and his brother help out in a bakery and can help a student with context clues as they read this story. As readers turn the pages, they will discover welcoming primary colors that will make this text more appealing to young readers. (MH) 

Brown, Jeffrey. 2014. Goodnight Darth Vader. Chronicle Books LLC. 64pp. $14.95 ISBN 978-1-4521-2830-6.

This easy -to-read bedtime story is ideal for putting those young Star Wars fans to sleep. This book outlines every influential character in the Star Wars movies and tells the reader what each character does before he or she falls asleep. The illustrations in this book include calming colors: blue, green, and shades of brown, leaving the reader with a sense of ease and tranquility. With the illustration’s calming colors and the simple vocabulary, this story not only allows kids the chance to connect with their favorite Star Wars character, it also helps them calm down after a long day. Overall this book is a good choice for any child who is excited about Star Wars. (ZJH) 

Burns, Loree Griffin. 2014. Beetle busters. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 64pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-547-79267-5. Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz.

Even for a reader uninterested in Asian longhorned beetles, Beetle Busters forms a fascinating narrative of the emotional and physical impact on communities affected by an infestation. This informational book on the spread of ALB provides accurate information in the form of interviews, statistics, charts, photographs, and research. It concludes on a positive note, letting the reader know that efforts to stop ALB require the help of people like them. This book is written for children in grades 5-9. (ALD) 

Bryant, Jen. 2014. The right word. Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. (Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers). 42pp. $17.5. ISBN 978-0-8028-5385-1. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

Young Peter Roget is fascinated with words. He is always searching for the perfect word to describe what he is thinking. Peter spends much of his life writing down all the words he can imagine, and after many years of hard work, Peter publishes his list, that others can also discovery that perfect word. In this children’s biography, Jen Bryant brilliantly captures the essence of Peter Roget, the man behind the thesaurus. Illustrator Melissa Sweet’s vintage style and use of collage adds character to this charming story about the power of words. From the very first page, The right word will mesmerize anyone who share’s Peter’s passion for reading, writing, and words. (EMC) 

Bryd, Robert. 2014. Brave little chicken. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-78616-9.

This book presents the classic children’s story about the sky falling. Brave little chicken follows a small chick who is shocked when something hits him on the head on his way to the store. Instead of finishing his journey, the chick changes direction and heads straight for the king to tell him the news. On his journey, he meets many friends who decide to go with him on his journey. Ultimately, they meet a sly fox that tricks them all into going to his house. However, the little chick is brave and ends up tricking the fox and his family instead. This book is filled with rhyming words that children who are developing language will love to play with. (LD) 

Cantor, Jillian. 2014. Searching for Sky. Bloomsbury Publishing. 288pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-351-3.

Sky is a young girl who lives in isolation on an island in the Pacific with her mother, father and her best friend River. When she is found and forced to face the truth about her life, Sky’s world is turned upside down. This book is captivating and compelling as readers follow Sky’s new life in California. This is a book for advanced readers ages 10+. Searching for Sky is beautifully written from Sky’s perspective as she works through a scary world. Older children will be forced to reflect and feel for Sky as they read along. What would happen if a person’s identity was changed in an instant? This question is looked at in this novel that older kids will love. (LD) 

Carle, Eric. 2014. Walter the baker. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 32pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-1-4814-0918-6 (1972).

The story of Walter and his baking skills will enchant beginning readers with its easy-to-read format. Walter’s struggle to make the Duke and Duchess a tasty treat leaves him desperate to please the royal family. This theme of personal development will leave readers hoping for Walter’s success. In addition, the beautifully textured collage illustrations will intrigue readers and give them clues to the happy ending, such as the recurring motif of light, which will give young readers comfort, or the prevalent use of organic shapes to convey safety. In the end, readers will cheer with Walter, the Duke, Duchess, and all the people of Duchy as they munch on Walter’s newest creation: the pretzel. (LW) 

Carle, Eric. 2015. Friends. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 24 pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17206-9.

Friends is a cute book written for early readers. Carle gives readers beautiful imagery to go along with this story of true friendship. To show the travels of the boy, Carle uses color to give the reader a sense of the setting. For example, as the boy dives into the river we see vibrant blues and greens. These soothing colors help us to understand the setting of the river and calm and serene, rather than a sense of danger. (MH) 

Carlson, Nancy and Armond Isaak. 2014. Armond goes to a party: A book about Asperger’s and friendship. Free Spirit Publishing. 27pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-57542-467-5.

This book is a narrative about a boy named Armond who has Asperger’s, a form of Autism. The illustrations convey the emotions and events as Armond leaves for a birthday party. Because this book was co-authored by a child with Asperger’s, it provides insight into his mind. This would be a helpful tool to have in an elementary classroom to teach other students about a child with high functioning autism. This book can aid children in their personal development as they learn to understand and accept people with intellectual disabilities. (MH) 

Carnavas, Peter. 2008. Jessica’s box. EDC Publishing (Kane Miller). 32pp. $11.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-347-1.

In this picture storybook, a girl named Jessica uses a box to help her make friends on the first day of school. This book is targeted to readers between the ages of 4 and 8. With the universal theme of friendship, readers will share Jessica’s emotions as she uses trial and error to make new friends. (EG) 

Casolaro, Nancy and Joanna Green. 2015. Mickey Mouse clubhouse meeska mooska tales: Board book boxed set. Disney Book Group (Disney Press). $10.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-2189-6. Illustrated by Loster, Inc.

Readers, ages 3-6, will enjoy this collection of books. Readers who are just beginning to read will enjoy learning with Mickey Mouse and friends. One book goes over the days of the week, while another expresses how different people might like to have different kinds of pets. The author includes learning experiences and a lesson on how people are different socially. Readers will enjoy the illustrations that go with each story as well. This is an excellent collection of books for the beginning reader. (TC) 

Castillo, Lauren. 2014. The troublemaker. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 987-0-547-72991-6.

This story follows a little boy and his mischievous antics during an afternoon of fun. When the boy gets bored and pretends to be a pirate by taking his little sister’s stuffed rabbit as captive and sending it off to sea, the boy is quickly labeled a troublemaker. However, when his own things go missing, everyone blames him as well. It isn’t until the next morning that the true troublemaker is revealed. It turns out that little boys aren’t the only troublemakers in the world! This book will be helpful in promoting emotional development in young children ages 3-6. This book may also be used as a tool to help promote a child’s moral development. (LD) 

Chapman, Lara. 2014. The xyzs of being wicked. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 244pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0108-1.

Eleven-year old Hallie has had trouble fitting in among her “normal” friends. She is more than ecstatic to be going to boarding school, after all, it is a magical boarding school. Hallie possesses magical powers, and The Dowling Academy School of Witchcraft is her ticket to understanding herself and have a fresh start. That new beginning starts with a blast from the past, when her old friend Kendall is Hallie’s roommate. During the rest of the novel, Hallie must determine the right choices to make with her powerful abilities, and choose the positive route. (MM) 

Kemp, Anna. 2011. Rhinos don’t eat pancakes. Simon & Schuster Publishing. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3845-2. Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie.

Readers, ages 4-9, will enjoy this book and instantly relate to the main character, Daisy. Daisy’s parents seem to ignore everything she has to say through distraction or simple disbelief. The plot moves along at a fast pace and keeps the attention of the readers. Readers will continuously wonder whether the rhino Daisy talks to is real or imaginary. Emotions are artfully conveyed through animations, and readers will enjoy watching the family breakfast unfold. (TC) 

Chernesky, Felicia Sanzari. 2013. Pick a circle, gather squares: A fall harvest of shapes. Albert Whitman & Company. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-6538-4. Illustrated by Susan Swan.

Pick a Circle, Gather Squares is about the season of fall, a father, daughter, and son. This book promotes language and cognitive development. As readers follow a father and his children to the pumpkin patch, they will see multiple colors and a variety of shapes. The rhyming text is suitable for language development of children. (DLN, ZJH) 

Clark, Emma Chichester. 2015. Bears don’t read. EDC Publishing (Kane Miller). 32pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-366-2.

Children ages 4-8 who are learning to read will enjoy hearing the story of Bear’s adventure as he searches for a person to teach him to read. Readers will be drawn to Bear initially as they share his emotions of frustration, fear, and finally satisfaction. The illustrator shows danger through the use of jagged lines when the bear first arrives to town and when the police surround him. Because Bear is drawn in a bigger shape, he will appear approachable and safe to young readers. Bear finally finds a young girl who helps him learn to read but not without some difficulty. Beginning readers will identify with Bear’s struggles and share in his elation when he triumphantly reads at the end. (TC) 

Clayton, Dallas. 2014. Lily the unicorn. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-211668-0.

Lily is a cheerful pink unicorn who loves making new friends. Roger is a penguin who fears failure and the unknown. Lily and Roger could not be any more different, but Lily is determined to make Roger her friend. Lily encourages Roger to try new things and teaches him that the world is not such a scary place. Each page of Lily the Unicorn is filled with illustrations of all the things Lily loves and all the things Roger hates. Young children will discover that they can relate to both Lily and Roger in this charming story of an unlikely friendship. (EMC)

Cleary, Brian P. 2014. –Ful and –less, -er, and –ness: What is a suffix?. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). $16.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-0610-0. Illustrated by Martin Goneau.

This book contains a fun and colorful tale on the uses and meanings of suffixes. Children will love the vivid pictures and the rhyming and silliness of the characters. This book can be used as a tool in teaching suffixes to young children. Recommended for children ages 7-10 who are semi-advanced readers. (LD) 

Cleary, Brian P. 2015. Chips and cheese and Nana’s knees: What is alliteration?. Lerner Publishing Company (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-2649-8. Illustrated by Martin Goneau.

Marked ages 7-11, this informational book on alliteration will encourage students to search for alliteration in everyday society while simultaneously providing a fun and educational way to master the skill. The alliteration concept is broken down into easily understood components, allowing students to learn the literary device step by step (Norland, 499). Beginning with the definition of alliteration, Chips and Cheese and Nana’s Knees discusses where alliteration can be found, give examples, and eventually adds more complex rules, ultimately deciding that alliteration uses sounds instead of the sole use of letters to form the rule. Many examples are given following the concrete definition, and the book ends with a chart where the author gives examples of alliteration with one to three letters that make the same sound. Each concept is gradually added for students to catch on at their own pace. Students can participate in activities where they look for alliteration around their school building, make observations at home, and work in small groups in the classroom. This will give students an opportunity to apply their knowledge in a collaborative way. (HMB) 

Cochrane, Marjorie. 2014. Bold women in Alaska history. Mountain Press Publishing Company. 224pp. $12.00. ISBN 978-0-87842-617-1.

The Alaskan frontier is wild, and for much of its history was scarcely inhabited by anyone other than the native people. That all changed when the Russians first arrived and set up villages and schools. From this time, women proved the strongholds that allowed them to persevere through the long winters and harsh climate and to create a thriving society. Follow the real-life stories of 11 strong women who have each uniquely shaped the wild frontier known today as Alaska. This book is valuable because it chronicles the stories of women who worked hard and are now being recognized for their dedication. Educators can use this book to demonstrate the important roles of men and women in our nation’s history. Recommend for advanced readers who can fully grasp and understand the biographies. (LD) 

Connolly, MarcyKate. 2015. Monstrous. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 432 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227271-3.

MarcyKate Connolly’s Monstrous tells the story of a girl’s second chance at life and her journey to understand her purpose. The tale follows Kym’s growth in her new life as she discovers who she once was and who she is now. Kym must struggle both with inner turmoil as she reconciles her differences with the rest of humanity and with external battles against an evil wizard determined to destroy the city she loves. Monstrous is full of exciting plot twists and characters, making it unpredictable and suspenseful while allowing readers to consider the implications of loyalty and love. With intense themes and violence, this thrilling novel is best suited for young adults. (CB)

Cohen, Jeff. 2014. Eva and Sadie and the worst haircut ever!. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-224906-7. Illustrated by Elanna Allen.

Eva and Sadie are sisters. One day Sadie decides the Eva’s hair is too long and decides to give her sister a haircut. Sadie realizes it was a bad idea, but Eva loves her new hair! Their parent’s are not very happy. In the end, everyone learns a lesson about hair and Eva get’s new hair!

This book would be a great tool to use with children after they go through the same things. Children can then realize that hair grow back, and everyone, including parents, makes mistakes. (AS) 

Cohen, Jeff. 2015. Eva and Sadie and the best classroom ever!. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-224938-8. Illustrated by Elanna Allen.

This book tells the story of a second grade girl preparing her younger sister for kindergarten. The older sister adores her younger sister and wants her to succeed in school. The illustrations help bring the realistic characters and objects of this story to life. Eva and Sadie is appropriate for students ages four to eight and would be great choice for a child starting kindergarten because it depicts a child going through a similar experience. (KB) 

Cooper, Elisha. 2013. Train. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-38495-7.

Readers 3-5 will enjoy going on a train trip in this book. Elisha Cooper creates a setting by interspersing panoramic views with long lines of text and opposite window views from the train with small blocks of text. She creates a feeling of safety inside the train by using two vertical lines with a horizontal line on top. The story line moves right along with the illustrations. This book is excellent for any reader interested in trains. (TC) 

Coyle, Katie. 2014. Vivian Apple at the end of the world. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 262pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-34011-4.

A book about the controversial topic of the Rapture, Vivian Apple at the End of the World is ideal for middle school readers who can connect with characters going through adolescence. Vivian Apple lives in America where a radical branch of Christianity, the Evangelical Church of America, is taking over the nation under the leadership of a man named Frick. While Vivian is not amused by this, her parents become converts, and when Vivian comes home from school one day, her parents have been taken. Meeting up with her friend Harp, Vivian travels to San Francisco to where the church is supposedly located, meeting up with acquaintances and friends along the way. Vivian finds her family and then prepares to take down the church with her friends once and for all.

This book stimulates bravery even in the darkest of times, allowing students to look at their own lives and see all they have accomplished. It also teaches students to value what they have and be thankful for everything they have been given. (HMB) 

Cronin, Doreen. 2015. Click, clack, peep!. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-2411-0. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin.

Returning to Farmer Brown’s beloved farm from Click, clack, moo: cows that type, the familiar characters of Click, clack, peep! eagerly await the arrival of a duckling who likes peeping more than sleeping. The animals work together to convince the duckling to sleep, but only the grown duck can find a solution to the problem. After hijacking Farmer Brown’s tractor and driving through the fields, both duck and duckling finally fall asleep. With a sweet plot and familiar style of illustration,click, clack, peep! will make young children giggle. The illustrations give the animals a soft quality that makes them cartoonish, yet realistic. Watercolor painting mutes the colors used to emphasize the nighttime setting. While perhaps not as original as Click, clack, moo: cows that type, the story click, clack, peep! will be familiar and comforting to young children. (CB) 

Cronin, Doreen. 2015. Smick!. Penguin Group Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-78578-0. Illustrated by Juana Medina.

Smick is a dog who loves to run and play. When Smick hears a little chick, he chases after it and frightens it, but eventually the two animals get along with one another and become friends. The text of the book is comprised of spoken commands and praises from Smick’s like “sit, Smick,” or “good, Smick.” Use of rhyme makes the otherwise banal text more engaging to read aloud to young children who are beginning to learn how to pair written text with its spoken counterpart. The crayon illustrations are simple and childlike, making it more accessible to children. Color is used to add emphasis to the white dog on the white background. An interesting visual stimulant is the use of real images, such as the real stick which Smick chases after, the flower petal that was turned into a chick which Smick befriends. The minimal plot and text make it a good book for beginning readers, but not for a classroom read-aloud. (HJM) 

Crowder, Melanie. 2015. Audacity. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 400 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16899-4.

Innovatively told in free verse, Audacity tells the story of women’s labor rights leader Clara Lemlich, a Russian Jewish immigrant who comes to New York City with her family in 1904 to escape anti-Semitism in Russia. The poetry journeys with her as she struggles with poor working conditions in a sweatshop. It inspires her dream of an getting an education so she can become a leader in creating unions for working women and picketing against the oppressive sweatshops. With raw emotion and blunt honesty, Audacity does not diminish or sugarcoat the lifestyle of immigrant workers in the early 20th century. Complete with a biography of Clara Lemlich’s experiences and interviews with her grandchildren, Audacity will show young adults the reality of lower-class life in the early 20th century as they worked to obtain labor rights. (CB)

Cuevas, Michelle. 2014. Beyond the laughing sky. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 144 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3867-6. Illustrated by Julie Morstad.

Complex and imaginative, Beyond the laughing sky contains a whimsical plot that is enhanced by beautiful rhetoric and effective characterization. Nashville, a boy with the beak of a bird and feathers on his head, will be an excellent role model for children who are embarrassed about the peculiar traits of their own bodies. Nashville, fueled by a burning desire to fly, gradually comes to love himself and his own unique characteristics. Throughout the course of the story, Nashville overcomes societal and mental strife in order to become comfortable with his differences, demonstrating significant growth as a character. Because the language of this book is very flowery and poetic, it would be best approached as a read-aloud in the upper elementary grades to spark conversations about how to learn to love what makes all people special. (CB) 

Cummings, Priscilla. 2015. Cheating for the Chicken Man. Penguin Random House LLC. 285pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-42617-2.

In Cummings’ sequel to Red Kayak (2004), the Chicken Man is back in Cheating for the Chicken Man. Thirteen-year-old Kate runs into trouble when her older brother, J.T., or the Chicken Man, so named because of their family chicken farm, comes home in Maryland from juvenile detention and faces bullying at school. The only way that Kate can protect her brother from bullying is to do homework for one of the bullies, with whom she later develops a relationship. Cummings lays out a person-against-self developing conflict in which readers will relate to Kate as she learns and grows from issues involving her family, cheating, and taking care of family business. Cummings’ style is characterized by descriptive language that paints a picture in the reader’s mind. This engaging novel depicts a theme of personal development and is aimed towards a young adult audience, ages 10 to 14. (EKF)

Dairman, Tara. 2015. The stars of summer. Penguin Random House LLC (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 328pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0399170690.

Gladys Gatsby, a 12-year-old girl, lives a secret life as a food critic. The plot of The Stars of Summer is driven by the many troubles Gladys faces as she tries to keep her secret, including finding reasons to go to New York City to sample foods and hiding checks before her oblivious parents discover her secret. Gladys faces a new challenge when she is sent to summer camp and a rivaling critic sends her on a mission to find the best hot dog in New York, posing as her editor. Gladys finds herself in conflict against her friends, her parents, and her own expectations of herself as she navigates her unique situation. Driven by the drama, the book effectively represents the struggles and adventures adolescents may face. Although the conflicts may appear overdramatized to an older reader, adolescents will relate to the struggles of relationships with friends, parents, and members of the opposite sex. Readers will be inspired by the themes of determination and innovation as they discover how Gladys faces her problems among friends and the jealous veteran critic. The Stars of Summer will convince readers that anything is possible, even for a 12-year-old. (AB) 

Davies, Jacqueline. 2014. The magic trap. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 257pp. $15,99. ISBN 978-0-544-05289-5.

The magic trap by Jacqueline Davies is a heartfelt story about the adventures of two siblings in the midst of an unexpected hurricane. Emotions will whirl alongside those of Jessie and Evan’s as they overcome a series of unfortunate events. With an enticing plot, readers will not want this eventful story to end. (EG)


De La Cruz, Melissa. 2015. The isle of the lost. Disney Book Group (Hyperion Books). 311pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-2097-4.

Readers ages 8-12 will enjoy this book. The author transports fairy tale characters into a modern setting in a way that is believable and accessible. The story follows Mal, daughter of the infamous Maleficent, as she attempts to capture the Dragon’s Eye and gain the power of true darkness with the help of notable villains’ children. These characters face many trials in their quest that cause them to question whether being evil is their sole purpose. The plot is engaging and occurs inside a familiar fairy tale world reminiscent of the stories many readers have grown up hearing and seeing. Readers of all ages will enjoy seeing the personalities of their favorite villains mirrored in teenage children, making the forces of evil much more relatable. (TC, AB)

Denise, Anika. 2014. Baking day at grandma’s. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24244-1. Illustrated by Christopher Denise.

Baking Day at Grandma’s uses rhyme to help develop language in new readers, ages 3-8. The setting is illustrated in a warm and happy way, creating a feeling that all readers will enjoy. THe book even contains a recipe at the end so that readers can create their own happy atmosphere at home. An excellent choice for new readers. (TC, AG)

Derby, Sally. 2015. Sunday shopping. Lee and Low Books. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-60060438-6. Illustrated by Shadra Strickland.

Evie and her grandmother go on imaginary shopping adventures before bed every Sunday night, looking through the newspaper to find bargains until their money runs out or until they are too tired to shop anymore. When they find something they want, Evie “buys it”, cuts it out of the newspaper, and tapes it to the wall. The more they buy, the more the pages fill with their discoveries. Each page is a collage-like scene of the items in each store. The illustrations look like pictures cut out and glued onto the page, creating a textured image. Texture is also shown throughout the illustrations through brush strokes from the overlapping of the collages, with lines from the overlapping pictures in the collage and paint brush enhancing the illustrations. After reading this story, students could enjoy doing this with their grandma or family member and making their own collage. (COD) 

Dickey, R.A. 2014. Knuckleball Ned. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4038-9. Illustrated by Tim Bowers.

Written by Toronto Blue Jays’ starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey, Knuckleball Ned appeals to the baseball lover, and provides a great theme of being accepting and proud of our differences. Ned is the only ball at school that doesn’t spin, which is true of knuckleballs in real life. In the story, this difference causes some trouble with the “Foul Ball Gang,” as Dickey takes us on a great journey to discover that differences can make people special! With lovely illustrations that show lots of ‘action,’ Knuckleball Ned can appeal to any reader in an elementary classroom. Some challenging vocabulary and potentially necessary baseball schema make this book a bit less “globally appealing,” however as a teacher read aloud with a little bit of help, all students could really enjoy this fun story. In the end, whether for the baseball lover in a class, vocabulary development, moral development, or a lesson on accepting differences, this book is a “home run!” (AW) 

Dipucchio, Kelly. 2014. Gaston. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5102-5. Illustrated by Christian Robinson.

This lovely tale follows two families who each have a puppy that looks nothing like the rest yet still fits in perfectly with the family. This is a great book for children 2 years and up who may come from a blended family or have been adopted. This book shows that families come in all different shapes and sizes.The colorful and vibrant illustrations can help to influence and enhance language development in young children. (LD) 

Doodler, Todd H. 2015. Veggies with wedgies present doin’ the wedgie. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 26pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-9351-3.

Doodler’s humorous picture storybook involves a plot that develops quickly and is sure to keep readers interested. As the plot evolves, the illustrations increase in size to emphasize the climax, and as the plot resolves, the pictures return to normal size. The plot is humorous because the veggies wear underwear, have wedgies, and then sing about their wedgies to win the best performance at the farm talent show. Although the reading level may be for early elementary, this picture storybook is more appropriate for a middle or upper elementary audience because preschoolers may not understand the social humor of “wedgies.” (MS) 

Dowell, Frances O’Roak. 2014. Anybody shining. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 228pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-3292-5.

Anybody shining follows a young girl name Arie Mae who desperately longs for one true friend, hoping to find one in her long-distant cousin Caroline. Arie writes letters to her cousin about her life in the Ozarks, and when Caroline never responds, Arie continues to write hoping someday her cousin will answer. When strangers come to visit from Baltimore, Arie must look inside herself to figure out what is truly important in life. With her new friend Thomas, Arie realizes that although her life might be a bit different, it is her knowledge of the mountains that will end up teaching the newcomers more than they could ever know. Through Arie’s eyes, readers experience a 12 year-old girl’s self-discovery and her appreciation for where she comes from. This book will be suitable for children ages 10 and older as it may help promote and strengthen a child’s self-esteem. (LD) 

Durham, Paul. 2015. The luck uglies: Fork-tongue charmers. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 401pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227153-2.

Rye O’Chanter just discovered that her father is the leader of the notorious band of outlaws, called the Luck Uglies. However, she has been declared a criminal in her own village and is forced to flee to the Isle of Pest, where her father has gone to battle with their rival, the Fork-Tongue Charmers. In the second book of the Luck Uglies series, Paul Durham shows he is a master storyteller with the creative setting, complex characters, and a thrilling plot full of twists and turns. Young readers may learn that heroes are not always as perfect as they seem and that even the heroic are faced with many different decisions that come at a surprising cost. (MK)

Elliot, David. (2015). Henry’s stars. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 40pp, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-399-17116-1. Illustrated by David Elliot.

This humorous tale follows Henry as he shows his animal friends the Great Pig up in the stars. Targeting children ages 5 to 8, Henry’s Stars encourages children to use their imaginations when looking up at the sky. Elliot’s illustrations express emotions of excitement, confusion, and sorrow when the animal characters see themselves in the stars. The dark, cool shades of blue and green set a peaceful theme in the illustrations and throughout the story. (EKF)

English, Karen. 2014. The Carver chronicles: Skateboard party. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 115pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-544-28306-0. Illustrated by Lauren Freeman.

Richard, a third grader at Carver Elementary, cannot wait to attend his friend Gregory Johnson’s skateboarding-themed birthday party and show off his newly-mastered tricks. However, when Richard procrastinates on his Howler Monkey habitat report, his teacher sends a note home to his parents. Fearing his parents might not let him go to the party, Richard hides it from them, digging himself into an even deeper hole. In this contemporary realistic-fiction story, children will relate to Richard because of his well-developed personality. The author’s use of dialogue between characters makes for a credible plot that teaches children about consequences, honesty, and goal setting. (AT)

Falconer, Ian. 2014. Olivia’s abc. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 30pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-2192-8 (2000).

This book is recommended for preschool children who are starting to build their vocabulary. The language domain is emphasized in this book because each letter of the alphabet is represented with a list of multiple common words and illustrations. Aspects of cognitive development are also emphasized, such as the process of classifying. Olivia’s ABC could act as a helpful instructional tool to help promote vocabulary growth as well as cognitive development. (MS)

Faulconer, Maria. 2014. A mom for Umande. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3762-4. Illustrated by Maria Faulconer.

Umande is a baby gorilla whose mother is unable to take care of him. As Umande grows up, the zookeepers nurture him while searching for another gorilla to serve as his surrogate mother. Based on true events, A mom for Umande illustrates the importance of nurturing bonds whether they are between family or other caregivers. (EG) 

Fox, Diane and Christyan. 2014. The cat, the dog, Little Red, the exploding eggs, the wolf, and grandma. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-69481-0.

The cat, the dog, Little Red, the exploding eggs, the wolf, and grandma tells a familiar story from a creative, comical perspective. Cat begins to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood only to be consistently interrupted by Dog’s suggestions of “improvements” to the story (such as the inclusion of things such as a kindness ray, bank robber, and exploding eggs). Reminiscent of the experience of reading a story aloud to children who interrupt to ask what will happen next or comment on the plot, this clever story will cause adults and children alike to giggle. With minimalistic illustrations of Cat and Dog that focus on dialogue, children will enjoy following along and learning how an old story can be made new (CB). 

Frost, Robert. 2014. Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening. Penguin Random House LLC (Dutton Children’s Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-46734-2 (1923). Illustrated by Susan Jeffers.

Opening the picture book Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening is like stepping into a winter wonderland. Susan Jeffers provides the illustrations for this classic winter poem by Robert Frost. Jeffers’ subtle use of color adds warmth to the story, and her attention to detail truly brings the poem to life. This magnificent work of poetry can be enjoyed by children of all ages as well as adults and will encourage readers to stop and appreciate the peacefulness and beauty of winter. (EMC) 

Frydenborg, Kay. 2015. Chocolate: Sweet science & dark secrets of the world’s favorite treat. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 252pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-544-17566-2.

In Chocolate, Frydenborg offers readers a captivating and detailed history of how chocolate came to be and it’s importance in both ancient and modern societies. Readers will learn everything from the origin of the cacao tree and its involvement in the international slave trade, to the science of why chocolate tastes good and its potential health benefits. Sidebar stories and even recipes give readers a more in depth glimpse into select topics. In addition, frequent black and white photographs, as well as 21 full color images, will enhance readers’ understanding of the text. With a subtle message on anti-slave labor in the cacao tree-framing industry, readers will learn how they can take action toward this social justice cause. Complete with a full “Chocolate Timeline” dating back to 8,000 B.C., a topic index, and a list of related websites, readers are given endless opportunities for further research and inquiry. A bibliography and list of photo sources proves the author’s credibility. While this book may be an overload of information for some young readers, each chapter can stand on its own, offering readers more flexibility in how or what they read. (AT) 

Gaiman, Neil. 2014. Chu’s first day of school. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-222397-5. Illustrated by Adam Rex.

In this book for young children,a little panda named Chu is nervous for his first day of school. He is part of a class full of all sorts of animals, each with their own personality. Chu starts out very shy, but when asked to tell the class something about himself, he turns the classroom upside down with his hilarious antics. This is a great book to read to first-year students who may be nervous about their first day of school. (LD) 

Gaiman, Neil. 2015. Chu’s day at the beach. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-222399-9. Illustrated by Adam Rex.

“When Chu sneezed, big things happened.” Chu’s day at the beach introduces us to a delightful panda boy who has more power within him than he realizes. When Chu’s parents decide to take him to the beach, something terrible happens: Chu’s sneeze causes the sea to break in half, which causes problems for the aquatic life. Through suggestions and helpful tips from his family and friends, Chu does everything possible to sneeze again. He believes this may fix the problem. Teachers and caregivers can use this book to reinforce the importance of working together to solve problems. The vibrant and plentiful illustrations are welcoming, light-hearted, and creative. All readers can enjoy this story for its intricate pictures and heart-warming story of a panda bear who learns his uniqueness can be used for good. (EW) 

Galbraith, Kathryn O. 2014. Two bunny buddies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-17652-2. Illustrated by Joe Cepeda.

Two bunnies search for lunch, and on their way they reach a fork in the road. Each one wants to go a different direction, which leads to a big fight, and they go off on their own to look for lunch. The bunnies each find food at the end of their paths, but are disappointed when they realize they are alone. Can the two bunny buddies make up and forgive each other? Two Bunny Buddies emphasizes the importance of friendship and shows that life is better when you have someone to share it with. Simple sentences paralleled by compelling illustrations make this a good book for beginning readers. (HJM) 

Gilori, Debi. 2013. Dragon’s extraordinary egg. Bloomsbury (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 32 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8027-3759-5.

“Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg” is the heart-warming tale of a dragon who, without an egg of her own, finds a lonely penguin egg to care for. While the other dragon children receive gifts and toys galore, the baby penguin’s mother gives her the best gifts of all: love and time, giving the baby penguin courage to rescue her own abandoned egg. “Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg” teaches multiple lessons about accepting differences and the value of love. The illustrations are soft and dark with colors that reflect the mood and atmosphere of the setting. This beautiful book is appropriate for a wide variety of families and situations, and would be a great addition to any library. (CB) 

Graff, Lisa. Lost in the sun. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 289pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16406-4.

For early adolescent readers, Lisa Graff’s Lost in the Sun is a novel that will stay close to the heart. Trent Zimmerman was present at a freak accident at Cedar Lake the summer after fifth grade, which left him thinking horrible thoughts after one child died. For Trent, sixth grade will be a time for change – a fresh start. He even thinks about joining the baseball team. However, the road is very bumpy during the first few months of this ‘fresh start’ until he meets a girl named Fallon Little – known for the scar on her head that she got as a young child. Friendship blossoms between the two, which gives Trent the desire to change and focus on his violent outbursts. The protagonists Trent and Fallon will give students a chance to identify with a main character, which is especially important when reading books at the upper elementary level. In this way, Lost in the Sun can also help enhance a student’s social development. (HMB) 

Green, Tim. 2015. Lost boy. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231708.

This novel details the life of a young boy named Ryder. Ryder lives alone with his mother and they struggle financially. When Ryder and his mother are coming home from a baseball game of Ryder’s everything comes to a standstill when Ryder’s mother is hit by a car and is in the hospital needing a major heart surgery to live. Ryder turns to those around him to help the search for his father, who he believes is a professional baseball player. Through his search, Ryder is faced with countless roadblocks, but that does not stop his search to find his father and help his mother recover from the life threatening accident. His perseverance and the help he received from others contribute to an ending that will make the reader smile. This contemporary realistic fiction young adult novel is an appropriate read for kids in middle grades who love action, or could be wondering how to cope with losing a parent. (ZH)

Groeneweg, Nicole. 2013. One word Pearl. Charlesbridge (Mackinac Island Books). 32 pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-934133-53-8. Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell.

Pearl loves words. She loves them so much she cuts them out and keeps them in a very special place all over her room. Until one day all the words in Pearl’s room create a word storm. She escapes with just a few, so she has to choose her words carefully. When Pearl runs out of words, and finally has to face the storm in her room, she is pleasantly surprised at all the wonderful pieces words can make. The visual elements of this book help to create the setting of the story. During the word storm, words are scattered on the pages. The pictures are brighter when Pearl is happy and has words to use, but darker when she runs out and must face her fears. The lines in these illustrations also vary and change with each page, showing how Pearl is feeling with each of the words and her self conflict. (AS) 

Gutman, Dan. 2015. Rappy the raptor. HarperCollins Publishers. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229180-6. Illustrated by Tim Bowers.

The intent of Rappy the Raptor is to teach children that it is acceptable to be themselves. The story is written in rhyme and has a musical twist that makes the readers want to sing along with the words within the book. Rappy’s personality comes to life with the unique illustrations on each page. The illustrations are bright and silly but are also realistic. Appropriate audiences for this book are students ages four to eight years. (KB) 

Gutman, Dan. 2015. The genius files: License to thrill. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 272 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-223632-6.

The fifth and final book of the series, The Genius Files: License to Thrill tells the tale of twin siblings Coke and Pepsi McDonald who are on the run from a cast of heinous villains and get caught in many sticky situations along the way. Coke and Pep find themselves abducted by aliens, trapped with a venomous snake, and pushed into a volcano. Can Coke and Pep defeat the villains and return home with their lives?The prose is simple yet clever and witty as the narrator often addresses the readers directly, further dragging them into the fictitious realm. There is minimal character development in this book because readers are expected to know the characters from previous books in the series, therefore it is recommended to read this book only after completing the previous installments. The theme of good conquering evil makes this a good read for upper elementary to middle school students who are beginning to explore more complex ideas of right and wrong. (HJM)

Hale, Bruce. 2015. Clark the shark: tooth trouble. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227908-8. Illustrated by Guy Francis.

In this clever, easy-to-read story about Clark the Shark’s visit to the dentist, beginning readers will be able to follow the plot with short sentences, and simple ideas. Readers will thoroughly enjoy reading about the adventures of Clark with the aid of detailed illustrations. With the help of friends and family, Clark overcomes his fear of the dentist and says, “I didn’t shed a tear, ‘cause there was nothing to fear!” (EG) 

Hale, Shannon. 2014. Dangerous. Bloomsbury Publishing. 408pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-59990-168-8.

Maisie Danger Brown is an intelligent and ambitious teenage girl who is not going to let the fact she has only has one arm slow her down. Shannon Hale’s Dangerous begins as Maisie enters and wins a cereal box sweepstakes to attend a three week astronaut boot camp. Little does she know, her life is about to change forever. When Maisie and her team are rewarded with a rare opportunity to travel into space, they encounter alien technology which enters their bodies and leaves them with superpowers. Now multiple people are trying to exploit her powers, and no one can be trusted. Maisie must live up to her middle name, Danger, while doing everything in her power to keep those she loves safe. This fast paced, suspenseful young adult novel will keep readers turning pages until the very end. (EMC) 

Hall, Michael. 2015. Red: A crayon’s story. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-225207-4.

Michael Hall takes readers on the charming journey of a red crayon trying to find out who he really is and where his talents lie. As readers soon discover, this crayon is actually a blue crayon with a red label! Despite the other crayons’ attempts and the Red’s best efforts, he simply cannot draw anything red. It isn’t until one of his friends asks him to help draw an ocean that he finds out his true color. The delightful narrator, a pencil, moves readers through this tale of acceptance and finding out special talents. Utilizing a number of various hues from the crayon box, this story comes to life in an entertaining and inviting way. Each page includes illustrations drawn by the crayons and text written by the pencil in an engaging and approachable style. Teachers and caregivers can use this story to reinforce the names of the colors and the notion that children are special and have things they can do that others cannot! With a classic “don’t judge a book by its cover” moral, Red: A Crayon’s Story is sure to be met with “colorful” reactions from readers of all ages. (AW) 

Hamilton, Kersten. 2013. The Mesmer menace. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books).

132p. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-90568-6. Illustrated by James Hamilton.

The Mesmer menace, the first book in Kersten Hamilton’s Gadgets and Gizmos series, tells the story tells the story of 12 year old Wally Kennewickett, a budding scientist and inventor who lives with his parents in the Amazing Automated Inn. Mr. and Mrs. Kennewickett are unexpectedly called away to assist President Theodore Roosevelt with a case, and Wally is left behind to take care of the Inn. When a group of evil hypnotists, the Mesmers, arrive, Wally recruits the help of his dog and the Inn’s staff of automatons to help save the day. Wally’s lovable dachshund, Noodle, narrates this fast paced story that brings history and science together. Filled with alliteration and a rich vocabulary, The Mesmer menace is suitable for upper elementary students and is sure to inspire any young scientist. (EMC) 

Hapka, Catherine. 2014. Marguerite Henry’s ponies of Chincoteague: Blue ribbon summer. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 208pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0340-5.

This summer, Brooke Rhodes is given the opportunity to attend Camp Pocomoke for two weeks with her pony, Foxy. She is faced with the challenge of trying to fit in with the other camp girls and the fact that Camp Pocomoke might be closing. The most notable element in this book is the theme of personal development. Blue Ribbon Summer is the story of a girl growing up, while faced with many challenges that many middle elementary readers face in the world today. Readers can identify with Brooke’s experiences throughout the story and thus better understand their own growing up. (MK) 

Harkey, Faith. 2015. Genuine sweet. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 277pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-28366-4.

The suspension of disbelief found in Genuine Sweet’s story creates a story world in which readers will wholeheartedly accept as reality. Adolescent readers, fifth through eighth grade students, will enjoy the fast paced and original plot of a “wish-fetcher” trying to solve the problems of her own small town and then trying to save the world from hunger. This novel is packed full of themes encouraging young readers to look at the world around them. Genuine helps her town, but only people who have real wishes for things they cannot live without, or so she hopes. She brilliantly figures out how to support her family as a wish-fetcher. And as Genuine’s wish-fetching business grows, she deals with the theme of personal growth as she tries to save the world from hunger. However, not everything can be perfect. When Genuine breaks the first rule of wish-fetching, she loses all her magical powers just as a massive storm hits her small hometown and leaves it flooded. Genuine must solve the problem, since the town is relying on her, but she no longer has her magic wish-fetching power. Genuine quickly solves the problem, through the help of her friends, and teaches more people to be wish-fetchers. The town is ultimately saved by Genuine and her group of wish-fetching friends. (LW) 

Harper, Charise Mericle. 2013. Just Grace and the super sleepover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 192pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-554-04584-2.

The eleventh book in the series, Just Grace and the super sleepover follows third-grader Just Grace when she gets invited to a friends sleepover birthday party. Just Grace is very excited to go to the party until she discovers that they are going to spend the night sleeping in a tent in the backyard. Can Grace get over her fear and have fun with the rest of her friends? This book is a fun read that would be great for early to middle elementary students. The language in this book is simple and witty, and accurately echoes the voice of a third-grade girl. Comic-style illustrations are funny and engaging. This book can help aid students in their emotional development as they learn to face their fears and try new things. (HJM) 

Harrington, Tim. 2015. Nose to toes, you are yummy!. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232816-8. Illustrated by Tim Harrington.

Nose to Toes, You are Yummy! tells children how much they are loved and includes a song and dance for readers to perform. The book invites children to wave their hands, stomp their feet, and touch their nose along with the colorfully illustrated animals, including an optional song as well. The rhyming and repetitive actions in the book will encourage children in preschool and early elementary to continue developing their language and cognitive abilities. The overall theme that every aspect of the child is loved will foster greater emotional and social development. (AB) 

Harris, Teresa E.. 2014. The perfect place. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 263 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-25519-4.

Treasure’s father repeatedly abandons his family until her mother sets out to track him down, leaving Treasure and her younger sister Tiffany in the care of their Great Aunt Grace. Due to poor cooking, chain smoking, and a house full of cats, Treasure and Tiffany struggle to make Grace’s house their home. The Perfect Place is a heartwarming novel following a family who is struggling to make the best out of their rocky circumstances. Author Teresa Harris takes an ordinary and somewhat cliche tale of family abandonment and turmoil and breathes new life into the story through well-developed characters and thoughtful, emotive writing. This book may act as a tool for the social and emotional development of a student as it portrays themes of independence and meaningful relationships. (HJM) 

Haskell, Merrie. 2014. The castle behind thorns. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 327pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-0-06-200819-0.

This is an engaging book for readers 10-14. The author does a superb job of creating a setting where unusual circumstances are believable. The author incorporates a theme of faith and perseverance in the face of obstacles by having Sand and Perrotte face inner turmoil. Only when they do this, will they be able to escape their predicament. The author’s main characters are very accessible to readers. Readers will enjoy the time spent getting to know the characters. (TC) 

Heltzel, Anne. Charlie, presumed dead. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 800-323-9239. 272pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-38849-9.

A good read for ages 10-14, Charlie, Presumed Dead is a twist on the classic plot where one teenage boy is dating two girls at the same time. Charlie is supposedly dead after an explosion in Paris. However, his two girlfriends who are complete strangers to one another, meet each other at the funeral and discover the horrible secret Charlie had kept from the two of them. Both girls thought he loved them dearly, only to find out that they were both being cheated on. Together, the two girls go to try to find Charlie whom they think is still alive. They want the answer to their question – What did his love mean? The two girls explore Europe and discover not only secrets about Charlie, but secrets about themselves, too. Pre-teen mystery novels may be thought of as books with little substance. However, for an upper elementary/early middle school student, this novel can enhance their cognitive development. (HMB)

Hemingway, Edward. 2014. Bad apple’s perfect day. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16036-3.

Bad Apple’s Perfect Day is about an unlikely pair of friends, Mac and Will, who set out to have the perfect day. Just like Mac and Will, readers will need a little imagination to see what the unlikely pair find out about themselves. This book may act as a great tool to teach students that not every day is going to go exactly how they want it and that a little imagination can take a day full of ups and downs and turn it into the best day ever. (MK) 

Henn, Sophie. 2015. Where bear?. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 32 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0399171581.

Where Bear? is a picture-storybook about a boy and his best friend, a bear. The boy realizes the bear is growing larger and needs to find a new home. Together the boy and the bear set out on an adventure together to find the perfect home for the bear. The illustrations on each page convey a friendly and home-like feel throughout the story. There is a recurring theme of friendship, and young readers will learn, alongside the boy and the bear, that even when best friends are apart, they can always find a way to stay together. (MK) 

Hepperman, Christine and Ron Koertge. 2015. Backyard witch: Sadie’s story. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 176pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233838-9. Illustrated by Deborah Marcero.

In this unique and quirky story about friendship and the power of the imagination, characters’ distinct personalities are brought to life through the author’s use of figurative language and vivid imagery. Eight-year-old Sadie, abandoned by her two best friends on vacation, is befriended by a wise, friendly witch who teaches her about bird watching, kindness, and embracing one’s unique identity. Sadie’s experiences, emotions, and thoughts are explained in realistic, relevant, and engaging ways. The authors cleverly include authentic, specific details in their descriptions of the setting, the characters, and their experiences naturally propel the unwinding events of Sadie’s friendship with the kind witch. The memorable characterizations and the amusing series of events develop a theme of personal development as Sadie gains a deeper understanding of herself in addition to the world around her as a result of the witch’s insightfully charming influence. The black and white drawings every four or five pages provide additional detail to help readers better visualize certain characters and events. Furthermore, small drawings correspond with creative chapter titles, which portray a glimpse of each chapter and allow readers to formulate predictions and ideas about what is going to happen next. This delightfully quirky story encompasses the hardships in addition to the thrills of being eight years old in a fantastical style, which challenges the reader to explore the power of their imagination. (CEC) 

Hernandez, Leeza. 2014. Cat napped!. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16438-5.

Oh NO! The cat has been cat-napped! This story, geared toward 2-4 year olds, will help nurture a love of sound and rhythm in language with its playful rhymes. Children may further develop their expanding vocabulary by talking about the various adjectives used to describe the cat.

Cat Napped! presents the opportunity to further a child’s cognitive development by having him or her describe the things he or she sees throughout the story. Will the cat make it home?Could this happen in real life? Children may be eager to answer these questions while reading Cat Napped! (TC, AG) 

Herrndorf, Wolfgang. 2014. Why we took the car. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine). 245pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-48180-9.

In this coming-of-age story, Mike Klingenberg and Andre Tschichatschow are by far the least popular boys in their class. They decide to go on a road trip with no parents, no map, and no destination in a stolen car after not being invited to Tatiana’s, the most popular girl in their class, party. The boys end up facing legal consequences for their joy ride, but they will never be called boring again. Mike and Tschick battle the issue of not fitting in in this bildungsroman which many readers can relate to. (Recommended for mature audiences). (EG) 

Herthel, Jessica and Jazz Jennings. 2014. I am Jazz. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4107-2. Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas.

This book about Jazz, a transgender child, teaches children many valuable lessons. In addition to explaining transgender, this book also shows children how people’s similarities outweigh their differences. Jazz’s personal story teaches young readers to embrace their differences and not be afraid to be themselves. With its gentle and realistic pictures, I Am Jazz will appeal to young children and inspire them to be confident, compassionate, and open-minded individuals. (AT) 

Hewitt, Kathryn and Kathleen Krull. 2014. Lives of the explorers: Discoveries, disasters (and what the neighbors thought). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96pp. $20.99. ISBN 978-0-15-205910-1.

Lives of the explorers: Discoveries, disasters (and what the neighbors thought), contains a series of biographies, in chronological order, detailing the lives of 20 famous explorers. Readers will learn about the motives, successes, and failures of explorers ranging from Christopher Columbus to the lesser known Ibn Battuta. Kathleen Krull’s illustrations include caricature-like portraits that bring each explorer to life and maps that help readers to contextualize where events took place. Kathryn Hewitt makes history fun for middle-grade readers by highlighting some of the bizarre details of each explorer’s journey that are seldom shared in the average non-fiction resource. (EMC) 

Hilalgo, Pablo. 2014. Star wars rebels: a new hero. Disney Book Group (Lucasfilm Press). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-148470669-5.

For upper elementary students interested in the world of Star Wars, this picture storybook will help introduce them to new characters. The use of color in computer generated imagery gives readers a better understanding of the characters in the book. When the book introduces The Inquisitor the colors of red and black are used to show the evil nature of this villain. On the other hand, one of the characters has green skin, which besides showing her alien nature, gives her a color that isn’t intimidating, showing she’s fighting for the side of good. (MH) 

Hidier, Tanuja Desai. 2014. Bombay blues. Scholastic Inc. (Push). 560pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-545-38478-0.

Ninteen-year-old Dimple Lala is an Indian-American who lives in New York and attends NYU. While her parents were born in Bombay, Dimple was born in America, and has always struggled to establish her unique identity. Dimple and her boyfriend, Karsh travel to Bombay with her family to attend her cousin’s wedding, but encounter much more along their journey. The author’s poetic style and complex development of Dimple’s personality, makes this contemporary realistic fiction engaging for its young-adult audience. Readers will be immersed into Indian culture and will experience the familiar issues of clashing generational beliefs, the hardships of love, and the process of self-discovery. (AT)

Higson, Charlie. 2015. The hunted. Disney Book Group (Hyperion Books). 464pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-6567-5.

Readers, ages 12 and older, will enjoy this book. The author develops a plot that is equally engaging and believable. The children in this book not only have to struggle to survive against the adult zombie-like creatures in this book, but they also have to survive each other while finding basic needs, including food, water, and shelter. The characters are relatable, and their inner struggles with how to cope in this apocalyptic world are woven within the book with great ease. A map is included to increase the realism of the book. This is a fast paced and engaging book that readers will find hard to put down. (TC) 

Hirsch, Rebecca E. 2015. Siberian tigers: camouflaged hunting mammals. Lerner Publishing Group. 32pp. $26.68. ISBN 978-1-4677-5878-9.

If an endangered species unit or a trip to the zoo is forthcoming in the school curriculum, Siberian Tigers: Camouflaged Hunting Mammals will provide detailed information about the Siberian Tiger while simultaneously comparing it to other mammals all around the world. The main idea of this book is to introduce mammals to students and provide them with a main example and other sub-examples to make the point concrete to provide a sufficient level of understanding. This book could be read by the teacher in the early elementary level, or could be considered a free reading book for students ages 7-9. The vocabulary is accurate for that age range, and if a student has trouble remembering a word, a glossary is at their fingertips at the back of the book. The student should be able to read the book with little to no difficulty and soak up the information about mammals, and be ready to apply what they have learned to other activities. (HMB)

Hites, Kati. 2015. Winnie and Waldorf. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231161-0.

Winnie and Waldorf tells the story of a young child and a dog who do everything together, causing mischief and breaking Winnie’s older sister’s violin the night of her concert. Following the event, the two must stay on their best behavior or the older sister Sarah will replace Waldorf with a cat. A wonderful short story for children ages 4-8, this book will catch the attention of every student.

This story portrays the humorous role of an animal in a household, ideal for an audience with loving pets to make a story connection. Winnie shows that a best friend does not need to be human – it can be an animal. The hues and soft lines in the illustrations communicate a light and humorous tone, which pairs well with the text. The illustrated facial expressions may also give both adult and child readers a laugh, especially when Sara picks up her violin and begins to play. Students can improve cognitive development with Hites’ book by hypothesizing what is going to happen next and organizing the book into main events as directed by a teacher. (HMB) 

Holczer, Tracy. 2014. The secret hum of a daisy. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 312pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16393-7.

Traveling all over California to find the perfect home, Grace and her mother have stuck together like two peas in a pod. Tragically, Grace’s mother dies, and she must move in with her grandmother whom she has never met. The two work together to overcome their differences and create a bright future together. This novel provides a great way for young readers to understand the importance of forgiveness, as well as to start discussions about dealing with grief, and discovering the true self. (MM) 

Hole, Stian. 2014. Anna’s heaven. Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. (Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers). $17.00. ISBN 978-0-8082-5441-4.

The beautiful, whimsical illustrations bring out the meaning of Anna’s heaven. This story has Anna takes her father through a world that brings light to the darkness of losing her mother. The author uses descriptive language and to share a spiritual message showing readers what may exist beyond this life. As children and parents read this, they can find a way to see good in a day that only seems dark. (MH) 

Holub, Joan. 2014. Mighty dads. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-60968-5. Illustrated by James Dean.

Readers 3-5 will enjoy visiting the construction site in this picture book. The personification of machinery in the illustrations will capture young readers’ attention. Readers will see smaller machines working with bigger ones, who encourage and praise their smaller counterparts. Through these exchanges between big and small machines, the theme of the book emerges: the importance of happy and secure moments between a parent and a child. This book also provides wonderful examples of the use of verbs. Young readers who love to help their parents or like construction equipment will enjoy this book. (TC) 

Hunter, Erin. 2014. Survivors: The endless lake. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-210272-0. Illustrated by Kelly Light.

When Lucky and his Wild Pack dog friends encounter a new body of water that they name the Endless Lake, it brings new challenges that force the dogs to work together to survive. As they brave the elements, the pack must also search for the rest of their friends while avoiding a pack of dogs they call the Fierce Dogs. When both packs are forced to meet, which pack will come out on top? Strength, skill, determination, loyalty and friendship are all put to the test. Can these dogs survive the fight? Can they make it through another ice wind while looming danger heads their way? This book promotes friendship and team building through the personification of the dogs within the book. This text can be utilized by educators to promote a collective and collaborative classroom. This book is ideal for advanced readers who are comfortable with longer books. (LD)

Hunter, Erin. 2015. Survivors: Storm of dogs. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 271pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-210276-8.

Lucky and his friends in the wolf pack are challenged by the biggest battle to date in the sixth novel of Survivors by Erin Hunter. Though they have finally created a community that can live in peace, Lucky is haunted by dreams of imminent danger for the pack. Survivors: Storm of dogs is a series for young readers to follow a storyline across several novels. The novel touches on the strength of friendship and community, and reinforces that good will always persevere in the end. (MM) 

Hurley, Jorey. 2015. Fetch. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8969-1

Fetch effectively uses pictures to display actions. The story follows a dog on a mission to retrieve his red ball. Children will be excited to examine the pages for not only the new animals, but also the dog’s ball. The colors are calming, and the objects among the pages are large and seem to have a playful intention. (MM) 

Idle, Molly. 2014. Flora and the penguin. Chronicle Books LLC. 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-452128917.

Flora and her penguin partner skate through an icy landscape in this enchanting, wordless picture book. In the beginning, the upward curving lines of Flora’s eyebrows and smile show expectation, then joy. She is further characterized when the lines curve downwards, showing her disappointment and indignance at the penguin. In the end, Flora’s gently curving eyebrows and wry smile show her happiness, so the reader knows that all is forgiven. Recommended for ages 3-5. (ALD)

Ieronimo, Christine. 2014. A thirst for home: a story of water across the world. Bloomsbury Publishing (Walker Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8027-2307-9. Illustrated by Eric Velasquez.

Alemitu lives in Ethiopia with her Emaye (mother). The two are very poor and often walk for miles and miles without shoes through dry cracked earth in order to collect water. When they run out of food, Emaye is forced to send Alemitu to an orphanage so she will no longer be hungry. She gets adopted by a white woman who brings her to the U.S. where she gets a new family. In America she has shoes and clean water, but she often thinks of her life back in Ethiopia with Emaye. A Thirst for Home depicts the interconnectedness of the world through the motifs of water and sun. This book provides an excellent introduction into the lives of people from other cultures and the hardships that they may experience and will be valuable aid in cross-cultural understanding. (HJM) 

Ismail, Yasmeen. 2013. Time for bed, Fred. Bloomsbury Publishing (Walker Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-8027-3597-3.

Fred is a dog who just does not want to go to bed. Fred’s adventures will be appeal most to children ages 3-7. Before you turning the pages, adult readers may wish to discuss with children what trouble they think Fred may get into on the next page. The book presents the opportunity to discuss good and bad behavior with children and the consequences that may occur. Will Fred go to bed? Open this book find out. (TC, AG) 

Jackson, Ellen. 2015. Beastly babies. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 29pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-0834-0. Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.

Beastly babies is a wonderful picture book encouraging youngsters, ages 2–6, to connect with all forms of life and contribute to personal growth. The realm of vibrant colors provoke feelings of excitement and keep students engaged. Children feel secure as they follow the friendly animals through the pages. What begin as scary animals on one page become warm inviting creatures on the next. Not only do the colors and lines play a significant role in the illustrations, but the playful textures and familiar shapes will entice readers to reach out and touch the animals. (RKC)

Jeffers, Oliver. 2014. The Hueys in none the number: a counting adventure. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25769-8.

In this book, there are almost no geometric shapes, prompting readers to use their imaginations. Throughout this counting book, the reader’s imagination can figure out what objects are going to be counted next. Because of the organic shapes, shapes occurring in nature, there is no consistent shape that is counted, leaving the reader trying to predict what is coming next. This book uses its illustrations and organic shapes to create an enhanced imaginative feeling throughout the entirety of the story. (ZJH)

Jennewein, Lenore. 2013. Chick-o-saurus rex. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). [email protected], 800-223-2336. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5186-5. Illustrated by Daniel Jennewein.

An early elementary level book, this is a story about a young chicken who can help teach young children that they can stick up for themselves. The illustrations paired with the text make this book suitable for young readers, ages 4-8. The characterization on Little Chick is important throughout the story. As he learns more about his ancestors, he becomes proud and able to become a leader himself. (MH) 

Jensen, Marion. 2015. Searching for super. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 256pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-06-220958-0.

A book of rich language, suspense, and self-worth, this fantasy is recommended for a middle elementary to adolescent audience. Two families of superheroes fight each other with their own technology and superpowers until almost everyone’s superpowers have been taken away by the villains. The family members lose their sense of self-worth and begin to feel as though they can no longer do anything and instead hide from the villains.

With the help of three children, the families learn to work together, regain their sense of self-value, and defeat the villains together. This science fiction story is about the value of family and friendship, as well as a compelling narrative of good vs. evil. (MS)

Jewel. 2013. Sweet dreams. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8931-8. Illustrated by Amy June Bates.

A mother’s lullaby paves way for an adventure for her sleeping child. Mother and child row through the night’s indigo hue sky and catch stars in a silver-threaded net. Clouds spill from the Big Dipper, carrying them on their journey through the night. Through the use of alliteration, rhyme, and repetition, Jewel creates a melodic and lyrical story that readers of all ages will be sure to enjoy. (EG) 

Jiménez, Francisco. 2015. Taking hold: From migrant childhood to Columbia University. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 208 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-63230-8.

Francisco Jiménez’s latest installment of his series of memoirs begins as he travels to begin his college education at Columbia University. Jiménez’s view are shaped through his experiences as a Mexican immigrant and his poor childhood. Jiménez feels lonely and excluded when he enters Columbia with experiences and perspectives very different from those of his colleagues, but as he acclimates to the college and considers his past, he is grateful for these experiences. With masterful writing that draws in the reader to this autobiography, Taking hold provides a rarely seen Latino perspective of life at an Ivy League school. (CB) 

Johnson, E.K. 2014. The story of Owen: Dragon slayer of Trondheim. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Lab). 305 pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-1066-4.

High school students may relate to the setting and characters in The story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim. Although the setting of the book is in present time, the events that occur throughout history change because of the existence of dragons. Owen is learning to slay dragons as well facing struggles of a high school student such as friendship, making tough choices, and dealing with loss. Imagery is created through the musical eyes of the narrator, which helps to relate to an even broader audience. Not only will action seekers find a story they can enjoy, but also music and history lovers can find meaning in these pages. (MH) 

Judge, Lita. (2015). Good morning to me!. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 40pp, $17.99, ISBN: 978-1481403696.

Good morning to me! introduces readers to one loud bird on a morning journey around her home. She wishes to greet all of her friends while adventuring from room to room, learning along the way that her voice is not at an appropriate volume. After getting into mischief with some of her other housemates, the little birdie learns the importance of using her inside voice. She also realizes how helpful faithful friends are. The illustrations give a certain softness to the tale, urging the reader to become friends with the creatures. The animals themselves are texturized with a paintbrush and accented with tufts of fur, making them look cuddly and cozy. Teachers and teaching associates will enjoy using this beautifully and effectively illustrated book to teach students the importance of using inside voices. Beatrix, Mouse, Kitty, Goldfish, and Gracie will steal any reader’s heart with their curious adventures. (EW) 

Kanefield, Terri. 2014. Guilty? Crime, punishment, and the changing field of justice. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 134pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-14896-3.

This thrilling informational book about the American criminal justice system doesn’t tell children how to think but instead points them towards controversial questions such as, “What is a crime?”, “How much power should the government have?”, and “When should old laws change?”. Using famous cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson, Guilty? highlights gray areas of the law, gives children the facts, and lets them form their own opinions. Guilty? Crime, punishment, and the Changing Field of Fustice is appropriate for children in grades 5-6 but is also a valuable read for older readers curious about the criminal justice system. It includes accurate and interesting information which will engage and inform readers. (ALD) 

Kann, Victoria. 2015. Aqualicious. HarperCollins Publishers. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233016-1.

This story will be appropriate for young readers who love pink and mermaids. Pinkalicious and her brother take a family trip to the beach. When they stumble on a “merminnie,” they work to help her find a way home. Kann uses mixed media illustrations to create beautiful pictures, and sh shows the emotions of the characters through the use of color. When the merminnie is frightened in the water filled with sharks, the dark greys and blacks help to visualize her fear. (MH)

Kann, Victoria. 2015. Pinkalicious cherry blossom. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-224594-6.

Pinkalicious can hardly wait for the Cherry Blossom Festival. She is excited to fly her pink kite in the park with all the beautiful, pink trees. When the day finally comes, Pinkalicious cannot get her kite to fly, but when the cherry blossoms swirl her to Japan, she meets a new friend, Sakura who lends her a hand. From dressing Pinkalicious in a traditional Japanese kimono, to celebrating the Cherry Blossom Festival while eating mochi, Pinkalicious cherry blossom effectively integrates multiple aspects of Japanese culture. Children will learn about Japanese words, traditions, and important cultural materials. Accompanied by vivid, colorful, and whimsical illustrations, this Easy-to-Read picture book will capture and engage readers from the beginning of the story. (AT) 

Karas, G. Brian. 2014. As an oak tree grows. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25233-4. Illustrated by Artie Art.

Watch the ever-changing landscape and follow the timeline as a tree grows from an acorn to a mighty oak. The oak tree does not move, but the surrounding landscape transforms from a vast forest to countryside cottages, a tiny town, and finally a modern city. Readers may take time to spot the changes in the setting and examine the people living alongside the tree. A good book for early elementary school aged students. (ALD) 

Kasdan, Mallory. 2015. Ella. Penguin Random House Group/Viking Books for Young Readers. 56pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01675-4. Illustrated by Marcos Chin.

Children in kindergarten through third grade will love this picture storybook about Ella’s life in a hotel. Much like the bright and colorful illustrations, Ella’s character is energetic and cheerful as she visits the Bell Captains, hangs out with her nanny (named Manny), and plays with her dachshund Stacie. The characterization becomes complex as more is revealed about Ella’s mysterious mother, giving the lovable Ella depth. (ALD) 

Kemp, Anna. 2011. Rhinos don’t eat pancakes. Simon & Schuster Publishing. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3845-2. Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie.

Readers, ages 4-9, will enjoy this book and instantly relate to the main character, Daisy. Daisy’s parents seem to ignore everything she has to say through distraction or simple disbelief. The plot moves along at a fast pace and keeps the attention of the readers. Readers will continuously wonder whether the rhino Daisy talks to is real or imaginary. Emotions are artfully conveyed through animations, and readers will enjoy watching the family breakfast unfold. (TC) 

Kern, Peggy. 2015. Little peach. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 190pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-226695-8.

Little peach is a gut-wrenching book for students ages 16 and up that deals with the horrifying issue of child prostitution. In the book, a girl named Michelle leaves her drug-addict mother and her mother’s boyfriend to find a new family. While looking for a new place to fit in, Michelle comes across a boy who says he has a family that will accept her and love her. This “family” ends up being a group of girls who are child prostitutes, and it is a terrifying situation for everyone involved. This book is important because it shows readers real and serious issues that happen in our society today. The book is difficult to read at times due to the strong emotions the reader experiences, but it is a powerful book that I would highly recommend it to any person ages 16 and up. (MSH) 

Kirk, Daniel. 2010. Honk honk! Beep beep!. Disney Book Group (Disney-Hyperion Books). 32pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-142318041-8.

Honk honk! Beep beep! by Daniel Kirk is a story about a little boy’s toys who come to life during the night. The boy and his father go on an adventure where they pick up the boy’s toys in their jeep. This book is appropriate for children ages three to five. Due to Kirk’s use of rhyme, rhythm, and repetition, this book encourages children’s language development. With lively and colorful pictures, children will be fascinated and eager to listen to this enjoyable and entertaining story. (EG) 

Klise, Kate. 2015. 43 Old Cemetery Road: Book seven: The Loch Ness punster. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-544-31337-8. Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise.

This book is a great story for middle to upper elementary students to read. Told through the use of letters, emails and news clipping, the reader gets to see many different perspectives throughout the book as each character writes in their voice. The characters in this story show the fantasy genre. Olive C. Spence is one of the main characters who happens to be a ghost. The spirits as well as possible sightings of the Loch Ness monster create a story that is sure to be exciting for young readers. (MH) 

Koehler, Fred. 2014. How to cheer up dad. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 32 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3922-2.

This book is appropriate to use with children, 3-4 years old, because it provides a good example of recognizing someone’s feelings and understanding how to deal with their emotions. A little boy elephant recognizes that his father is sad, so he finds activities the two can do together to improve his father’s mood. Family relationships and personal development are the emphasized in this children’s book. (MS) 

Kousky, Vern. 2015. Otto the owl who loved poetry. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16440-8.

Otto the owl who loved poetry features Otto, an owl who prefers reciting the words of famous poets to roosting in a tree and hunting mice. Otto’s love of poetry separates him from the other owls, who make fun of him and cause him to run away from home. Yet Otto finds that living away from the other owls allows him to create his own poetry. His mice friends hear his poetry and soon begin creating their own. The other owls also begin to recognize the beauty of poetry and “the forest comes alive with the glorious sounds of poetry.” Although this book is not thematically complicated or extraordinarily unique, it will expose children to works of poets such as T.S. Elliot and Emily Dickinson and teach them to appreciate poetry. (CB) 

Korman, Gordon. 2015. Masterminds. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 336 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229996-3.

The town of Serenity, New Mexico is a perfect town where there is no crime and the citizens are happy. But when best friends Eli and Randy wander to the outskirts of town, Eli, who has never left Serenity before, becomes very ill and is taken away by security guards. Only days later, Randy is sent away, barely getting a chance to say goodbye. Then Eli and his friends are left to uncover the truth about Serenity and discover that everything is not as it seems in this perfect town. Masterminds, the first book in the new series is an exciting tale full of surprising twists and turns that will keep the readers on the edge of their seats for the entire book. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character which adds depth to the characters and gives the reader a better understanding of what they are thinking and feeling. The characters are flawed which makes them relatable and credible to readers, and the setting is vividly described so readers feel as if they are alongside the characters in Serenity. Themes of friendship and sacrifice make this a good read for upper elementary and middle school readers who are forming friendships of their own. (HJM) 

Kornell, Max. 2014. Me first. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-15997-8.

Hal and his younger sister Martha compete with each other for everything. Both want to be the first to do something, to get something, or to go somewhere. On the way home from a picnic, they decide they want to take a new path they have never taken before. The path home is full of obstacles that Hal and Martha must overcome. Only by working together, and helping one another can they eventually find their way home. Vibrant watercolor illustrations complement the narrative. (HJM) 

Lai, Thanhha. 2015. Listen, slowly. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 272 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-222918-2.

Listen, slowly is a beautiful book which follows Mai and her grandmother, who travel to Vietnam to find out what happened to her grandfather in the Vietnam War. Mai was raised in California and she has no intention of leaving to see her ancestry with her grandmother. She feels that ancestry only matters for her parents and grandmother. Mai begins to learn how important family is, and she slowly becomes more interested and aware of her culture as she spends more time in Vietnam with her grandmother. The imagery in the story creates a realistic tone to the novel. The characters are well developed, leaving the readers with the impression of knowing them personally. I would recommend this to any high school student who wants a beautiful and touching read. (MSH) 

Lamar, Sharom. 2014. Western butterflies for young explorers: An A to Z guide. Mountain Press Publishing Co.. 63pp. $14.00. ISBN 978-0-87842-614-0.

Western Butterflies for Young Explorers: an A to Z Guide is an alphabetical picture book about butterfly species that gives children the opportunity to discover the unique characteristics of different types of butterflies. With soft watercolor illustrations of each butterfly and facts about larva, range, and trivia, this book would be an informative addition to any classroom library. However, readers of this book may need guidance or additional research. On each page, images are used to represent the butterfly’s wingspan, habitat, larva, or range, but the image is the same on each page and does not reflect individual facts about each butterfly. This could prove confusing to students who rely on both textual and visual support for comprehension. Overall, Western Butterflies would be a great classroom resource and a useful project starter (CB). 

Leib, Josh. 2015. Ratscalibur. Penguin Random House LLC (Razorbill). 170pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59514-242-9. Illustrated by Tom Lintern.

Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb is a dazzling tale of an adventure combining elements from popular mythologies that will spark the imagination of readers. The book follows the story of Joey, a young boy, and his encounter with the Rat Kingdom. This clever tale discusses conflicts between people and the society they are a part of. There is also a level of an internal conflict as Joey struggles with his inner self. With a strong plot and deep character development, Ratscalibur is a story any elementary or middle school student will enjoy because of its entertaining yet relevant themes of overcoming fear and believing in oneself. (RKC) 

Lerangis, Peter. 2014. Seven wonders: The curse of the king. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207049-4.

In Seven wonders: The curse of the king, author Peter Lerangis creates a realistic world and gradually moves into fantasy. The use of text messages as dialogue in parts of the book will allow teen readers to immediately relate to the lives of the characters. Themes of good versus evil, perseverance in the face of obstacles, and friendship emerge in this fantasy told by Jack, a believable narrator. Teen readers are sure to enjoy the uniquely intricate characters, plot and theme that Lerangis has created. (TC) 

Lerangis, Peter. 2014. Seven wonders: book 3: The tomb of shadows. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 338pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-20704603.

After the journey ending with the retrieval of two Loculi orbs and Marco’s betrayal, Jack McKinley and his friends have a new mission: to find Jack’s Mom. However, this may not be as easy as it seems, and the Karai Institute is in trouble! In the third book of the Seven Wonders series, meant for ages 8-12, readers will have a mind-gripping adventure ahead complete with special powers and a cast of strange characters. (ALD) 

Lester, Alison. 2012. Sophie Scott goes south. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-08895-5.

This story follows young Sophie Scott as she goes on the adventure of a lifetime to Antarctica with her father. She meets scientists and other members of the crew on her father’s ship during her journey. This book contains vivid realistic pictures of the boat and the types of ice common to the South Pole, as well as smaller drawings. The book is laid out much like a journal, with each page signifying one journal entry. This will be a wonderful read for children ages 7-10 who like exploring new places. (LD) 

Lester, Helen. 1987. Score One for the Sloths. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-544-32405-3. Illustrated by Lynn Munsiner.

It was just another day at Sleepy Valley Sloth School. Imagine learning how to yawn, sleep, and count sheep! The lines of trailing vines, sloping tree branches, and pointing teachers move the reader through the school day towards the arrival of a special sloth named Sparky. At the climax, she saves the day for the sloths, who learn that they need a mover and shaker like Sparky to help balance things out. (ALD) 

Levine, Kristin. 2014. The paper cowboy. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 333pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16328-9.

Twelve year-old Tommy lives during the Cold War in a small town in Illinois. Like many other boys of the 1950s, he idolizes the Lone Ranger and Gary Cooper, but as Tommy’s home life is falling to pieces, he becomes a bully at school. His mother begins physically abusing him, his sister is burned in an accident, and his father does nothing—leaving Tommy to fend for himself. When Tommy discovers a communist newspaper in the recycling pile and uses it to frame a neighbor as communist, the aftermath pushes Tommy to turn a new leaf and find the help his family’s needs. This book is valuable as a peek into this tense McCarthy-era and remains relevant in today’s society because of Tommy’s personal development with the themes of honor and truth. Besides some minor concerns, The Paper Cowboy is an authentic representation of the historical time-period, which will fascinate children ages 10 and up. (ALD) 

Long, Ethan. 2015. In! Over! And on! (the farm). Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 40 pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16907-6. Illustrated by Ethan Long.

In! Over! And on! (The Farm) includes three short stories about four barnyard animals experiencing various adventures on the farm. In the first story, a hen wishes that her friends would leave her home because she wants to seek shelter from the storm. The second story focuses on a goat who encourages his friends to jump over the fence. The third and final story portrays an adventurous ride the friends take on the tractor. The text demonstrates how prepositional phrases can be incorporated into everyday commands and conversations. The colorful illustrations are pleasing to the eye, and the simplistic depictions of the animals give the book a cartoon-like feel. Some pages contain interactive flaps that revealing surprises for the reader. This book is excellent for readers who enjoy texts about animals, and it will provide them with an educational lesson about prepositional phrases and encourage language development among students. (EW) 

Longshore, Katherine. 2014. Brazen. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 528pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01401-9.

Brazen, by Katherine Longshore, drops readers directly in the middle of King Henry VIII’s court and quickly becomes an addictive, historical fiction, page-turner about forbidden love. Mary Howard, the book’s protagonist, marries King Henry’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, and finds herself tossed in the harsh world of the Tudor court. Rules keep her from seeing him alone, but as in most true love stories, rules are meant to be broken. Part of a 3-book series, the love, drama, rebellion, and excitement Longshore includes is addictive. The historical period, content of the story, and writing style make this book a fit for older, upper elementary, middle school, and young adult readers. Teachers and caregivers can most effectively utilize this series in studying the reign of King Henry VIII. In addition, the book would also be an excellent study for analyzing strong historical fiction writing and style. A ‘diamond in the rough’ of a sometimes dry genre, this historical fiction is well worth the read! (AW)

Loory, Ben. 2015. The baseball player and the walrus. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3951-2. Illustrated by Alex Latimer.

Illustrations are crucial to enhancing the mood and feelings in picture story books. As readers follow the story of a baseball player struggling to find the reason for his anguish, the coloring of the pictures enhance the mood of each page. When the baseball player is melancholy, the dark greens, blues and even black in the illustrations convey those feelings. This enhances the character’s feeling, and allows the reader to empathize with the baseball player. When the baseball player later finds what makes him happy, a walrus, the color selection is comprised of happy and joyous colors. The reds, yellows, and oranges create a joyous feeling throughout the page, and the reader is overcome with feelings of happiness much like the main character. The illustrations in this book do a great job of allowing the reader to connect with the feelings of the the main character. (ZJH)

Lunde, Darrin. 2013. Hello, mama wallaroo. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $15.95. ISBN 978-1-57091-796-7. Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne.

This book is recommended for preschool or kindergarten aged children who are building their vocabulary and like to ask questions. Author Darrin Lunde uses a question-and-answer style of writing to teach children about wallaroos, a kind of kangaroo from Australia. The author uses a descriptive style of writing that helps children imagine what a wallaroo really looks like without a picture in front of them. For instance, the wallaroo is described as having a long face and tail, big ears and feet, and is three feet tall. (MS) 

Lupica, Mike. 2015. The only game. Simon & Schuster (Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0995-7.

This novel details the life and struggles of a twelve year old boy named Jack Callahan. Jack recently lost his older brother in a tragic accident. This incident in Jack’s life causes him to quit the game he loves most, baseball. This comes as a shock to the community because Jack was the star of his little league team and this was supposed to the year they made it all the way to the World Series. Halfway through this novel the reader finds out Jack quit as a punishment to himself. Jack feels he is to blame for the death of his older brother and the guilt causes him to quit. After Jack steps away from the game, he makes two new friends, Cassie, a star softball player, and Teddy a boy in Jack’s middle school class. These two help Jack to overcome his guilt and help him get back to the game he loves so much. This story is a great example of contemporary realistic fiction. The characterization creates an in depth and realistic look at Jack as he battles with his guilt and the struggles he goes through. (ZH) 

Maas, Sarah J. 2014. Heir of fire. Bloomsbury Publishing. 576pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-065-9.

A good read for early middle schoolers, Heir of Fire, the second book in the series following Crown of Midnight, describes a girl name Celaena whose only goal is to avenge for her best friend’s death by trying to assassinate the King of Adarlan, whom she happens to work for as his own assassin. The answers she seeks can only be found in the town of Wendlyn, but her darkest fears and demons reside there as well. Celaena must find her true destiny in Wendlyn and learn to fight her own battles, which may even mean fighting a war against her own people. Celaena must choose her battles carefully if she is to emerge victorious.

This story is fast-paced but lengthy and helps encourage imagination in the strange and curious worlds of Adarlan and Wendlyn. This book can encourage students to use their imagination and allow them to paint pictures in their minds about the two worlds and the characters. Students will learn to pick and choose their own battles and protect the ones they love with Heir of Fire. (HMB). 

Mabbitt, Will. 2015. The unlikely adventures of Mabel Jones. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-451-47196-3. Illustrated by Ross Collins.

Readers ages 8-12 will find it hard not to laugh and enjoy this book. The author does a wonderful job explaining how a girl named Mabel picking her nose and eating boogers results in getting kidnapped into a world filled with animal pirates. The book includes a map that helps the reader access this strange new world. Mabel is a great role model for girls as she figures out how to solve the problems that arise throughout the story. Friendship and perseverance in the face of obstacles are important themes in this book. Readers will enjoy getting lost in the world of pirates. (TC) 

MacDonald, Allison Grace, retold by H.C. Anderson. 2013. The Snow Queen. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-220950-4. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

Shards of glass from an evil mirror gets stuck in Kai’s eye and heart. The glass makes him see everything good as evil, and everything evil as good, so he leaves home and rides off with the evil Snow Queen. Kai’s best friend Gerta misses him, so she must go on a great adventure in search of him. She travels a great distance and meets many people before she finds Kai in the Snow Queen’s palace. Can Gerta melt Kai’s frozen heart and bring him back home? Illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline uses texture to create detailed, life-like images drawing readers into the storyworld. He uses many shades of blue and white to create the cold, icy world of the snow queen, and contrasts it with shades of light pink and yellow to create the safe and warm home atmosphere. The Snow Queen can aid students in personal development as they see the importance of perseverance. It also may provide an effective tool for the social development of students as it teaches them about the impact that kindness can have on other people. A good read-aloud for a mid-elementary school classroom in a fairy tale unit. (HJM) 

Madar, C. Roger. 2014. Tip Top Cat. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-14799-7.

Tip Top Cat tells the story of a cat experiencing his new home for the first time, becoming fascinated by the terrace and rooftops overlooking the city. This adorable story will be easy for young readers to follow because of the graphics that show each of the cat’s actions. The pictures have a realistic appearance, providing an authentic experience about life for the reader. (MM)

Mangan, Lucy. 2014. Inside Charlie’s chocolate factory. Penguin Random House LLC (Puffin Books). 224pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-12-751348-9.

Willy Wonka fans young and old will enjoy this inside look at Roald Dahl’s beloved story about a young boy whose life changes forever when he finds a golden ticket in his Wonka chocolate bar. Lucy Mangan takes readers on a journey that spans from Roald Dahl’s very first draft of the book to the adaption of the story for stage and screen. Interspersed images of book covers from around the world and Wonka merchandise allow readers to understand the true international sensation that this story has become as well as the tremendous impact it has had on popular culture. (ECM) 

Marino, Gianna. 2014. Following papa’s song. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01315-9.

Gianna Marino takes readers to a charming and mysterious place under the sea with her book Following Papa’s Song. This story appeals to readers interested in animals and emphasizes important themes regarding relationships and the importance of listening. Little Blue is a small whale whose father is teaching him about the summer whale migration and the adventures of the sea. Papa teaches Little Blue about the importance of growing up, while always listening for his voice, which will always be with him. Little Blue swims off to explore the deep ocean waters and realizes his father’s words are true when loses his way and must listen to find his way back. With illustrations that show the color and life of the sea, teachers and caregivers can show children realistic and fascinating pictures that bring the characters to life. This story is full of accessible vocabulary and engaging, full-page illustrations. All readers can enjoy this heartwarming “whale of a tale.” (AW) 

Matheson, Christie. 2015. Touch the brightest star. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06227447-2. Illustrated by Christie Matheson.

This interactive picture book gradually walks children through the journey of saying goodnight to the sky as they prepare to go to bed. Children play an active role in the reading of this bedtime story as the text engages them in touching the page, waving or blowing at it, whispering, counting or nodding, then seeing the effect of their gestures or actions in the subsequent illustrations. The illustrations depict the changing colors of the sky from the soft evening light to the dark of night through long, smooth horizontal brush strokes of acrylic paint. Applying a fading technique in the paintings to create an appealing blend of cool colors eludes tranquility and soothes children as they prepare to go to bed. The inclusion of some pastel colors, and soft, simple, symmetrical shapes emphasizes this feeling of familiar calmness throughout the story. The fuzzy glowing fireflies, moon, and bright white stars portray glimpses of light that stand out in the darkening sky. The inclusions of a tall, simple birch tree on the far right and a few tulips at the bottom of each page spread highlights the changing sky as the tree and the flowers stay constant. The tree is also depicts various animals and life, which change throughout the night. The illustrations provide a background for the short text on each page, as the words are cleverly included within the paintings, characteristic of a more informal design. Matheson amazingly captures the beauty of the night as she involves children in learning about nighttime changes, and also lulls them to sleep with her simple, serene illustrations and soothing, inviting words in this delightful bedtime story. (CEC) 

McCarty, Peter. 2015. First snow. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-218996-7.

Children in preschool and kindergarten will identify with this picture-storybook as they begin to explore the world around them and face their fears, just as Pedro does when he visits his cousins. Seeing snow is a new and scary experience for Pedro, but his cousins and their friends encourage him to participate in winter activities such as making snow angels, catching snowflakes on their tongues, and going sledding down a big hill. The illustrations include bright colored winter clothing and rounded edges to show the snowflakes and sleds which reassure the readers that the snow is fun and safe. Themes of personal development are present as Pedro learns that new activities can be are exciting. (MS)

McCormick, Scott. 2015. Mr. Pants: Slacks, camera, action!. Penguin Group (USA), LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 125 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4009-9. Pictures by R. H. Lazzell.

Mr. Pants decides to enter a film contest, but the deadline is in one day. He has to get all of his chores done and help throw his sister a tea party before he can start making his movie. To practice his filmmaking skills, Mr. Pants films his family around the house. Can he finish his movie in time and enter the contest? Mr. Pants: Slacks, camera, action is the second book in the Mr. Pants graphic novel series, and will be appropriate for children beginning the transition into reading chapter books. The dialogue is witty and engaging, and will have young readers laughing until the end of the story. Illustrator R.H. Lazzell not only parallels the text with his artwork, but uses visual elements to expand on the text and add new dimension to the story. This book is certainly capable of teaching children the value of literature as a source of entertainment. (HJM) 

McDougall, Sophia. 2014. Mars evacuees. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 416pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229399-2.

When earth is invaded by aliens, Alice Dare must do her part as her military parents have modeled for her. When three hundred teenagers are sent to Mars, Alice is one of them. She befriends some unlikely members of the community, and eventually her rag-tag group must escape the “big kids” as they take over the home base on Mars. Alice and her friends narrowly escape, talking Goldfish with them, before finally reuniting with their families and living in relative peace with the aliens. The plot, settings, and characterization all add together to make the suspension of disbelief in this novel believable. Adolescent readers, ages eight to twelve, will love following Alice and her friends take on the big kids, aliens, and the world as they try to save themselves from danger. (LW) 

McMann, Lisa. 2015. The Unwanteds: Island of shipwrecks. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 452pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-9331-5.

8-14 year-olds will enjoy this fantasy book that tells a story from multiple points of view and allows the reader’s imagination to take over. Aaron and Alex tell the story of the adventures in Artimé and Quill. However, the characters with them are what makes this an imaginative fantasy. This articulate animal fantasy includes a porcelain kitten, a cat named Fox, a stone cheetah, and a preposterous character named Ms. Octavia who has tentacles and an alligator head. These animals can talk like humans, although they retain some animal-like characteristics. They can also do extraordinary things such as fly, float, translate languages, and cast spells. They also show loyalty to each other as they take care of one another after a horrifying adventure down the waterfall. This fantasy will keep readers entertained with the articulate animals and the spells they cast. (MS) 

McPhail, David. Brothers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 28pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-544-30200-6.

Brothers by David McPhail is a story about brotherhood. Brothers do not always get along, and compromise is an important aspect of cooperation. There is a natural bond between brothers This book is appropriate for children ages three to six. By developing the themes that relationships are based on communication and siblings who protect each other, Brothers promotes social development among children. (EG) 

Meltzer, Brad. 2014. I am Rosa Parks. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 40pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4085-3. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos.

I am Rosa Parks will demonstrate to children the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs and the difference that a person can make in society, no matter how young. The book takes a unique approach to Rosa Parks’ story by discussing the childhood experiences that influenced her actions as an adult, especially her revolutionary bus ride. Illustrated in a comic book-like style that portrays Rosa Parks as a child, the images will entertain and empower children. This book is best suited for middle to upper elementary school students, as it uses a more advanced vocabulary. Additionally, the comic book style of the illustrations will entertain older children and allow them to draw extra information and perspectives from the speech bubbles. (CB)

Miller, Jeff. 2014. The nerdy dozen. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 292 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227262-1.

Live the life of Neil, famously known as “ManofNeil” in his favorite video game, Chameleon. Readers will grip the flight controls along with Neil as he pilots a virtual fighter jet, and goes from playing a videogame to saving the world. Experience Neil’s journey as he leaves behind his past as a normal kid and joins The Nerdy Dozen to save the world. A great read for upper elementary to middle school aged readers. (ALD) 

Minor, Wendell. 2015. Daylight starlight wildlife. Nancy Paulsen Books (an imprint of Penguin Group), 216-366-2000. 30pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24662-3. Illustrated by Wendell Minor.

In Daylight Starlight Wildlife, Minor developes a nature theme that encourages children to explore the world around them.This concept book is a perfect level of difficulty for early elementary students, most likely kindergarten and first grade students. However, it could also be used for second grade if a teacher wanted to go more into depth with the animals and the concept itself. Daylight Starlight Wildlife also fits into the category of a picture storybook. Although text is meaningful, the illustrations play a major role in learning about the concept. Minor says her mission is to inspire children to go out into the fields, woods, and mountains to see wildlife in its natural habitat and gain a positive perspective on the world’s beauty (Minor, back cover). The illustrations in this book do the theme great justice. This book promotes cognitive development by allowing children ages 5-6 learn to follow types of classification without changing the main characteristic partway through the task. Students can group and classify the animals according to diurnal and nocturnal status, either alone or with a collaborative group of people. (HMB)

Mitchell, Don. 2014. The freedom summer murders. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 250pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-545-47725-3.

In 1964, three men advocating for black voting rights in Mississippi were brutally murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. 50 years after the Freedom Summer murders, author Don Mitchell pays tribute to the lives of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner and their work during the civil rights movement. This nonfiction text, written specifically for a middle school student audience, chronicles the aftermath of the murders, highlighting the case’s national interest and the long fight for justice. Mitchell weaves authentic photographs and quotes throughout the text, making this tragic story come to life. An excellent resource for any student wishing to learn more about the civil rights movement, The freedom summer murders will spark discussion about racial issues that are still relevant in society today. (EMC)

Moore, Eva. 2013. Lucky ducklings. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $16.99. 978-0-439-44861-1. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter.

Readers 4-8 will enjoy following the duck family during their real life journey to the pond in Lucky Ducklings. The illustrator does an excellent job of allowing readers to bond with the duck family. One can almost feel the ducks. Little Joe is special because he is always shown in a brighter light than the other ducklings. Things don’t go as planned because a “duck-versus-nature” conflict arises. The illustrator does an excellent job of conveying danger by using darker colors, and the mood and colors lighten as the ducks overcome their situation and make it to their final destination unharmed. Nature lovers will certainly enjoy this book. (TC)

Muncaster, Harriet. (2015). Happy Halloween witch’s cat!. HarperCollins Publishers (HARPER). 24pp, $15.99, ISBN 987-0-06-222916-8. Illustrated by Harriet Muncaster.

Muncaster creates a variety of three-dimensional materials and used dramatic lighting to produce the creative and unique illustrations of Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat! The story is aimed towards children between the ages of 4 and 8. Children will expand in their development of language by reading the repetitive patterns of syllables, which describe each Halloween costume a little girl tries on. With the mesmerizing illustrations and the entertaining presentation of colors and repetitive patterns, readers won’t want to put this story down. (EKF) 

Murguia, Bethanie Deeney. 2013. Zoe’s room (no sisters allowed). Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 40pp. $16.99. 978-0-545-45781-1.

Preschool or kindergarten (ages 3-6) girls, are the primary audience of this children’s book. The setting of this story takes place during the night at the house of a little girl named Zoe. Zoe is a girl who, after her parents read her a story and kissed her goodnight, wanted to play at night. In the beginning of the story, white backgrounds are used to show that Zoe had begun to play. However, after Zoe’s little sister Addie moves into the same bedroom, Zoe has to play in the dark, and the white backgrounds come to represent activity as Zoe wakes the rest of her family members in the middle of the night. (MS)

Murphy, Stuart J.. 2013. Great choice, Camille!. 32pp. $6.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-477-7.

This story focuses on a student named Camille, who is faced with making decisions throughout her school day. She has trouble at first, but soon learns to ask the right questions when she needs to make decisions. This story is excellent for young readers beginning to learn how to make their own decisions may easily act as a teaching tool because of the inclusion questions at the end that will allow students to reflect on their own experiences of decision-making. (MK) 

Murphy, Stuart J.. 2013. Percy’s neighborhood. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $6.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-481-4.

In Percy’s Neighborhood, a boy named Percy discovers what it means to be a member of a community. The story follows Percy as he meets important people in his neighborhood such as a doctor, a firefighter, and a police officer. The illustrations of the book are vibrant, and the characters will entertain any young child. This book is a member of a series that utilizes visual learning to teach social, emotional, and cognitive skills in areas like safety and health. Important words in the text are bolded and lessons are reinforced through repetitive images in small boxes. This book will be most appropriate for children between the ages of 3 and 5, based on both the author’s recommendation and the focus on development of cognitive, personality, language, and social skills. Percy’s Neighborhood will be useful in developing a broader vocabulary, grouping similar careers, and providing information about frequently encountered people. (CB) 

Nelson, Kadir. 2015. If you plant a seed HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229889-8

Readers between the ages of four and eight will learn the value of sharing and generosity while reading If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson. A rabbit and a mouse meet a group of birds who want to eat their harvest. Through illustrations, readers can see the results of greed and selfishness. When the rabbit and mouse plant a seed of kindness and generosity, the birds, rabbit, and mouse share a giant feast of their harvest. (EG) 

Nelson, Theresa. 2015. The year we sailed the sun. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 432pp. $17.99. IBSN 978-0-689-85827-7.

Based on a true story, Julia Delancy’s tale will take readers to the not-so-distant past of 1912 and show them the hardships of being an orphan in the United States. Nelson’s spunky character Julia attempts to fight being forced into an Orphanage after the death of her Grandmother, when her older brother Bill shows up, she is sure her luck has changed. However, the adults convince Bill that Julia, and her sister, will be better off in the orphanage until Bill can provide for them. Julia works to survive the terrible orphanage, setting a record number of attempted escapes before finally finding happily ever after with her Aunt Cora in the waves of amber colored grass under the wide open blue skies of Montana. This historical fiction novel will entice readers, ages nine to twelve, with the hardships of real life for Julia. The world in which Ms. Nelson writes is wholeheartedly believable and researched making it an excellent selection of historical fiction for the classroom. (LW) 

Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. 2015. The book itch: Freedom, truth, and Harlem’s greatest bookstore. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 32 pp. $17.99, ISBN 978-0-7613-3943-4. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Throughout The book itch, illustrator R. Gregory Christie uses warm colors to convey the comfort the people of Harlem feel while inside of a bookstore. Other emotions are reflected through the use of color. For example, when Malcolm X is speaking, the angry and passionate speech he is giving is reflected with the dark purple color of the background. And the sadness after Malcolm X’s death is reflected with a dark colored room. All of the colors Christie uses are natural, conveying a time from the past. Additionally, the lines and shapes of everything surrounding the bookstore are organic and soft, which also represents the safe, welcoming and comforting environment of the bookstore. (BB) 

Nelson-Schmidt, Michelle. 2015. Dog and Mouse. EDC Publishing (Kane Miller). $12.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-352-5.

Many children can relate to Dog and Mouse. It begins with a dog in search of a trustworthy best friend, and a mouse helping the dog search for his new friend. Along the way the two begin to share an immense amount of time together, until one day the mouse is late. Dog then begins to realize that Mouse is his best friend. Each page provides rhymes for the reader to enjoy. Overall, the book sends the message that what one is looking for may be right in front of them. (MM) 

Nesquens, Daniel. 2011. Mister H. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 65 pp. $14.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5440-7. Illustrated by Luciano Lozano.

Mister H, a hippopotamus at the zoo, learns to talk by watching and studying humans. One day, a girl comes to the zoo on a field trip, so he asks her to let him out, which she does. We follow him on his adventure in leaving the zoo and wandering through the city as he tries to find his way back to his home in Africa. This is a longer chapter book, suitable for upper elementary aged students. Illustrator Luciano Lozano uses texture to create soft, inviting images which will engage and compel readers. Mister H can aid in the emotional development of children as they consider what makes a home a home. It also suggests issues of animal rights, inviting readers to question the morality of taking animals from their natural habitats to keep in zoos. (HJM) 

Nickerson, Sara. 2015. The secrets of blueberries, brothers, moose & me. Penguin Random House LLC (Dutton Books for Young Readers). 336 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-42654-7.

Readers ages 8-12 who grow up realizing that the world around them will change and they may not always feel like they belong will appreciate The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose, & Me. The story is propelled by conflicts among Missy and her family, such as her father’s new marriage and her brother’s girlfriend. Missy struggles as she tries to understand why she constantly feels alone even though she is surrounded by people while also trying to deal with her friends growing up and changing. Missy is also plagued by the question of what happened between the brothers who own the farm she works on. Eventually, Missy realizes that it is okay to be alone sometimes and learns that situations may not develop as planned. (BB) 

Nichols, Lori. 2014. Maple & Willow together. Penguin Group (USA) LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16283-1.

Maple & Willow together really grasps the idea of siblings and their relationships. Willow and Maple do absolutely everything together. They love to play outside through all the seasons, but it is not always rainbows and sunshine; sometimes big sisters can be bossy and sometimes little sisters can become annoying.Together Maple and Willow figure out that some siblings may need time away from each other, but soon realize that they can’t stay apart for long. The beautiful pencil illustrations impart a friendly and loving atmosphere on the story.. Young readers (3-5 years) will love this story that shows the irreplaceable bond that can form between siblings and best friends. (MK) 

Nolan, Nina. 2015. Mahalia Jackson: Walking with kings and queens. HarperCollins Publishers (Amistad). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-06-087944-0. Illustrated by John Holyfield.

Mahalia Jackson is known as the Queen of Gospel, and Nina Nolan does her justice in this story-like biography. Beginning with her childhood, Nolan depicts Jackson’s struggles to survive in New Orleans and Chicago while still keeping her faith and love of gospel music close to her heart. With perseverance, Jackson beats the odds and becomes one of the most famous gospel singers in American history, never losing her interest in singing and encouraged others to do the same.

Historical accuracy regarding Jackson’s life is unknown in this book. Nina Nolan does not provide a bibliography of resources for the teacher or student reader to consult. While an entertaining read, teachers should be wary of using this book in their classroom during a particular unit or providing it for free reading because the level of accuracy is unknown.

Reading about Mahalia Jackson might raise questions, allowing students to think in greater depth about the book and how it may relate to other areas they have been working on. Collaborative group activities can allow students to apply their knowledge and analyze other works together to demonstrate their understanding. Discussing students’ interests and struggles and how they persevere through them would be an interesting topic in which all students can participate. Motivating additional discussion and further reading can allow students to demonstrate their learning in order to provide another opportunity for formative assessment. (HMB) 

Nordling, Lee. 2015. Fish, fish, fish. Lerner Publishing Group (Three-Story Books). 35pp. $6.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-4576-5. Illustrated by Meritxell Bosch.

Fish, Fish, Fish demonstrates that a story does not need words to have meaning. Following the pages in three different columns, each section gives a distinct point of view – the yellow fish shows independence while travelling solo through the vast sea, the barracuda demonstrates consistent determination to get what he wants, and the school of fish stick together and rely on each other. Each character learns a lesson after a day of unfortunate events.

Students in preschool and kindergarten will thoroughly enjoy this book. The text in the front and back of the book gives instructions on how to read it. This format provides student the ability to view the plot visually, search the page for visual cues, and figure out the theme of the story. The facial expressions of the fish will allow the reader to examine what the fish might be feeling or thinking. Following the line concept, illustrator Meritxell Bosch’s designs show the student the pace of each fish. (HMB) 

Novak, B.J. 2014. The book with no pictures. Penguin Group (USA) LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 789-0-8037-4171-3.

This is a book where rule following is a must. Whatever is written on the page; the reader must say out loud. In this hilarious book, parents are made to look silly, and young children ages 2-5 will love hearing mom and dad say funny things. This book may be useful in language development for young children who are just learning to speak. Even though this book lacks illustrations, the variety and layout of the text will be eye-catching to young children. (LD) 

O’connor, Jane. 2014. Nancy Clancy: book 4: Secret of the silver key. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 21pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-208299-2. Illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser.

When Nancy’s class is asked to fill a time capsule, Nancy and her best friend Bree research the past with the help of their neighbor. When Nancy buys a used desk and finds a silver key hidden in a drawer, it becomes her mission to track down the story of this key. Along the way, Nancy and Bree make new friends and team up to give a good friend the surprise of a lifetime. Children who are semi-advanced readers will love this story. Recommended for children ages 7-9 that may also enjoy books similar to the Junie B. Jones series. (LD) 

Olien, Jessica. 2015. Shark detective!. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235714-4. Illustrated by Jessica Olien.

Shark has always wanted to be a detective, and he finally has the opportunity to be a sleuth and happily resolve a case in this exciting book. When Shark notices a poster hanging of a missing kitty named Watson, he decides to go on a mission to return Watson home safely. Illustrator Jessica Olien expertly uses contrasting colors to signify danger when something scary is about to happen within the text. One instance where black signifies a fearful event is when the shark is walking in a dark alley searching for Watson. Recommended for ages 4-8. (KB) 

Oliver, Lauren. 2015. Vanishing girls. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 368 pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-222410-1.

Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing girls is an edge-of-your-seat thriller which focuses on the strained relationship between sisters Dara and Nick. Like any sisters, they had arguments before, but after an accident scars Dara’s face and the two fight over a boy, they are farther apart than ever before. A young girl from Dara and Nick’s town disappears and shortly later, Dara does as well. The disappearances seem to be connected and Nick must try to reunite with her sister in this stereotypical coming-of-age novel. With inappropriate language and psychologically twisted themes, this young adult book is most appropriate for an older audience. (CB) 

Page, Robin. 2015. A chicken followed me home!. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-1028-1.

Readers, ages 5-10, will enjoy learning about chickens in this book. The author answers almost every question a young reader could imagine if a chicken followed them home. This book provides informational text regarding the life cycle of a chicken, how to take care of a chicken, how to identify the breed of your chicken, whether it is a hen or rooster, and everything else imaginable that involves chickens. The illustrations that accompany the text are realistic and helpful. The illustrations include other animals that may pose a danger to your chicken as well as different breeds to assist with identification. This is a must read for any young reader interested in animals. (TC) 

Parish, Herman. 2015. Amelia Bedelia sets sail. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 160pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233405-3. Illustrated by Lynne Avril.

Amelia Bedelia Sets Sail is an adventurous book full of humor and sarcasm. The story takes place at Aunt Mary’s beach home, where Amelia and her parents spend their summer vacation. Amelia’s cousin, Jason, keeps her busy with the daytime adventures he likes, such as surfing, sailing, berry picking, and the role of Captain on his ship. Amelia and Jason plan to ruin the town parade by bombarding beach balls full of water at the float. Instead of spoiling the parade, however, they end up saving the day by throwing the water filled beach balls and extinguishing a fire on the float. Illustrations complement the text and help readers, ages 6-10 recognize the plot, conflicts, characterizations, settings, and themes. (KB)

Pashley, Hilton. 2014. Gabriel’s clock. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 287 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-30176-4.

Jonathan Smith thinks he is just an ordinary boy, but everything changes when he finds faceless monsters in suits and bowler hats crashing into his cottage. It is quickly revealed that Jonathan Smith is no ordinary boy because he is a one of a kind half-demon and half-angel. Author Hilton Pashley crafts an inviting paranormal story for young readers. Readers will be able to imagine the strange world and preposterous situations Jonathan finds himself in. As his powers begin to take over, Jonathan wonders if he will be able to save the world from evil. (MK) 

Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. 2015. Decorated horses. Charlesbridge. 48pp. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-362-6. Illustrated by Jeannie Brett.

Throughout history, horses have been used for a variety of tasks and their owners have decorated them in many different styles. This informational picture book allows readers to learn how horses were used in battles, admire horses that perform in the circus or the Kentucky Derby, and marvel at horses who pull their owners or are in the Rose Bowl Parade. Through Patent’s descriptive language and Brett’s detailed illustrations, readers will go on a journey through time and discover why horses have been people’s beautiful companions. (EG) 

Perepeczko, Jenny. 2014. Moses: the true story of an elephant baby. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-9603-3.

Moses was an orphaned baby elephant found in Malawi, Africa who was rescued and taken to live at the Jumbo Foundation. During his time at the Jumbo foundation, Moses made many new human and animal friends. He was a very curious elephant who loved using his trunk to explore the world. Jenny Perepeczko shares many hilarious stories about Moses’s time at the Jumbo Foundation while bringing to light the pressing issue of elephant endangerment. This story also serves as an informational text, scattered with elephant facts and authentic photographs. Children with an interest in animals and animal rescue will enjoy this remarkable elephant story. (EMC) 

Perez, Monica. 2014. Curious George visits the dentist. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24pp. $13.99. ISBN 978-0-544-14611-2.

Readers, ages 2-9, will enjoy this book. All young readers have their fears and going to the dentist is one of them. The author does a wonderful job of showing Curious George’s fears through the story and illustrations. The plot is simple and easy to follow and will capture the attention of young readers. The setting is realistic, and young readers will relate when they have their first experience at the dentist. Curious George is familiar and appealing to young readers, and they will find it fascinating that he has some of the same fears as they. (TC) 

Perl, Erica S., reteller. 2014. Goatilocks and the three bears. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-0168-6. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 398.2 Folklore.

Retelling the familiar tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this clever book gives a fresh spin to an old story. Goatilocks is a very hungry kid goat who goes in search of snacks. When her neighbors, the Bears, leave for the day, she decides to visit their home. With antics typical of a goat, when Goatilocks finds porridge, a chair, or a bed that she finds satisfactory, she eats it! Goatilocks reconciles her behavior to the Bear family at the end by bringing them a large bouquet of flowers, which they eat together. This creative rendition features beautiful watercolor illustrations with soft lines that greatly add to the storyline and interest the reader. Together with the plot, the illustrations reinforce the idea of admitting one’s mistakes. (CB) 

Pizzoli, Greg. 2015. Tricky Vic: The impossibly true story of the man who sold the Eiffel tower. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-0165205.

This is the biography of the infamous con man, Robert Miller, also known as Tricky Vic. Pizzoli accurately recaptures the events that lead to Tricky Vic’s most astonishing and unbelievable con of all time, selling the Eiffel Tower. The glossary includes words familiar to the work of con artists and the early 1900s. (EG)

Prévot, Franck. 2015. Wangari Maathai: The woman who plants millions of trees. Charlesbridge. 48pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-626-9. Illustrated by Aurélia Fronty.

Environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai was born in Kenya. Girls typically did not go to school, but her mother decided that she should. Wangari went to the United States to pursue her education, but when she came back to Kenya she discovered that deforestation had become a serious issue. She decided to start the Green Belt Movement to plant trees to replace the ones that had been cut down. This biography details the life of Wangari and how she fought for land, trees, women and children. (EG) 

Promios, James. 2004. The Complete Adventures of Johnny Mutton. Houghton Milton Harcourt. 153pp. $12.99 ISBN 978-0-544-32404-6.

This graphic novel details the life of a young sheep raised by humans. Living in the human world as a sheep, Johnny Mutton was always thought to be just a little different than everyone else, but those thoughts never got the best of Johnny. The colors of the illustrations in Johnny Mutton are happy are warm. With Johnny, there is never a sad moment; throughout his life he makes the best of all situations. This graphic novel is a great demonstration of how to approach life joyfully. (ZJH) 

Rabinowitz, Alan. 2014. A boy and a jaguar. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-87507-1. Illustrated by Catia Chien.

Despite his stutter, Alan Rabinowitz has always had a gift for talking to animals. As a child, Alan whispers a promise to the jaguar at the Bronx Zoo that he will work to protect him. This autobiography chronicles Alan’s struggle to find his voice as he travels to Belize to fight for wildlife conservation. Alan must overcome his speech difficulties and self-consciousness in order to advocate for the animals that don’t have a voice. A boy and a jaguar contains the powerful message that anyone can make a difference in this world. Catia Chien’s illustrations set the mood for this heartwarming story that will inspire children and adults alike. (EMC) 

Raschka, Chris. 2014. Give and Take. Atheneum Books (Simon & Schuster). 240pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-1655-0.

“There is more to apple picking than meets the eye…or the ear.” Give and Take provides a delightful lesson on finding balance. The story follows an old apple farmer and his dog as they venture out to pick apples each day. They come across two little men, Give and Take, who each manage to ruin the farmer’s day by causing him to “give” all day or “take” all day. It is not until the farmer finds the balance between the two men that he truly makes something special. Teachers and caregivers can use this book to help reinforce the importance of sharing and the value in listening. This is an accessible and rich resource to help children realize the value of balancing the “give and take” of their lives. Full page illustrations with a “sketch-book aura” give this story a fun, lighthearted, and creative mood. The use of oranges, pinks, reds, and yellows throughout provide a warm and inviting contrast. All readers will like to “take” in this story, and might even want to “give” it to others! (AW) 

Ray, Mary Lyn. 2015. A violin for Elva. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-15-225483-4. Illustrated by Tricia Tusa.

One day Elva heard a violin, and from that day on she wants to play the violin. Her parents will not buy her one, but that does not stop her from making music in her head and practicing her imaginary violin anywhere she went. As Elva grows older and gets a job, she forgot about her dream of being a violin player, deciding that she is too old to begin learning to play the violin. Eventually she decides to buy a violin and to take lessons, following her dreams of learning to play music. A Violin for Elva can act as a good tool to foster a child’s emotional development, teaching them the importance of having dreams and following them. The illustrations expand on the story by using soft shades of light green, yellow, and pink to emphasize the dream-like state of Elva’s imagination. A good read for an early elementary school student. (HJM) 

Redder, Kim Cooley. 2014. Runaway tomato. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3694-8. Illustrated by Lincoln Agnew.

Rhymes, rhymes, and more rhymes! This kooky children’s book follows a tragic tomato that grows larger than the whole town, with the hilarious ending scene taking place in a tomato-themed town carnival. The images throughout the book are both colorful and excellently depict motion. (MM) 

Rickerty, Simon. 2013. The peanut: A nutty tale about sharing. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 40pp. ISBN 978-1-4424-8364-4.

The Peanut follows the relationship of a group of friends finding a peanut and shows how the absence of sharing can be problematic. This story encourages the use of imagination to discover different possibilities. In responding to why sharing matters, this book shows how good things come from allowing everyone a chance to participate. (MM) 

Ringwald, Whitaker. 2015. The secret cipher. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 256pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-221617-5.

Thirteen-year-old Ethan never believed in magic until him and his cousin, Jax encountered a magical urn created long ago by the Greek Gods. When opened, the urn has the power to suck hope out of everyone nearby. Ethan and Jax learn that there are two other similar urns somewhere in the world that could take away the feelings of faith and love. With help from Ethan’s brother, Tyler, the cousins embark on a spontaneous and dangerous adventure to save the rest of the world by destroying the missing urns. Alternating between the first-person point-of-view of both Ethan and Jax, readers will enjoy the humorous, action-packed narrative. The author’s blending of Greek mythology, mystery, magic, and gaming-lingo will engage readers and spark curiosity. In a shocking cliffhanger, children will be left on the edge of their seat, wondering what the fate of the cousins will be. (AT) 

Riordan, Rick. 2014. The lost hero. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 592pp. $21.99. ISBN 978-142316279-7. Adapted by Robert Venditti. Art by Nate Powel, Orpheus Collar, and Chris Dickey.

The Lost Hero, the first book of Rick Riordan’s The heroes of Olympus series is adapted into a fast paced, suspenseful, and visually enthralling graphic novel. Greek and Roman mythology collide in this follow up to Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, and the illustrations included in this graphic novel format truly bring this story to life. Teenagers Jason, Piper, and Leo embark on a quest to save Hera and stop the world from destruction. Their quest takes them on an action packed journey around the country where their skills are put to the test. The three demigods are only just beginning to understand what they are capable of. This graphic novel adaption is a quick and visual read that will be will appeal to anyone with an interest in mythology, and it will leave Rick Riordan fans hungry for more. (EMC) 

Roberts, Justin. 2014. The smallest girl in the smallest grade. Penguin Group (USA), LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25743-8. Illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Few people noticed Sally McCabe, but youngsters will cheer her on as they read this short story about a girl who is so small she is barely noticed. After noticing various acts of intimidation around her school, Sally decides to take a stand and decides to make herself heard and stand up to the bullies. Through cleverly drawn illustrations by Christian Robinson, young elementary classmates will learn a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying.

The illustration of Sally is consistent on each page, and will draw children’s attention to the main character as she is taking note of her surroundings. Important to the illustration of Sally is the frown on her face; Sally does not smile until the end of the book when the conflict is resolved. Readers may also pay attention to the other children and notice their faces as they experience bullying. Various frowns, taunting eyebrows, mean smiles, and surprised mouths are present on the childrens’ faces, showing that bullying can hurt a student’s feelings. (HMB) 

Robertson, Fiona. 2014. Cuckoo!. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16497-2.

Cuccko! tells the story of a little bird who is different from the rest of his family. He decides to leave home to try and find someone who understands him, but cannot find anyone. He even tries speaking different languages. Then one night Cuccko hears something which leads him to finally find someone who understands him. This book can be used to encourage children to accept and respect everyone’s differences. This can also be used to encourage children to keep trying even if at first they do not succeed. (AS) 

Roberton, Fiona. 2015. A tale of two beasts. EDC Publishing (Kane Miller). 32pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-361-7.

When a little girl finds a mysterious beast in the woods, she rescues him and takes him home with her. While a squirrel is hanging in a tree, a mysterious beast ambushes and kidnaps him. A tale of two beasts, written by Fiona Roberton, is a clever story told from two different perspectives. The first half of the book is written from the perspective of the little girl who thinks she is rescuing a beast from the woods. Meanwhile, the second half of the story takes readers back to the beginning, retelling the story from the perspective of a squirrel who is “kidnapped” by a beast in the woods. The reader soon deduces that the illustrations are telling the same story. Using bright, warm oranges, yellows, and pinks, the story and its pictures have a lighthearted, humorous mood and invite readers to enjoy discovering how the two “beasts” view the actions of each other. Teachers and caregivers can use this story to discuss and reinforce seeing things from others’ points of view, examining all sides of a story, being conscious of other people’s feelings, and thinking about the repercussions of one’s actions. Sure to make readers giggle, this charming tale will make children think twice before jumping to conclusions, and may make students wonder if they have ever been a part of a beastly tale like this! (AW) 

Russell-Brown, Katheryn. 2014. Little melba and her big trombone. Lee & Low Books Inc. 40pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-60060-898-8. Illustrated by Frank Morrison.

Melba Doretta Liston, a multi-talented jazz virtuoso, grows up surrounded by the soulful sounds of Jazz music. Melba learns to overcome obstacles of gender and race and soon becomes a famous trombone player, composer, and arranger. The most notable element in this book is the historical background, where race and gender tensions were high. Young readers can learn alongside little Melba as she is faced with overcoming these obstacles to become a famous jazz musician. (MK) 

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. 2015. Echo. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 585pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0439-87402-1.

Echo bridges the gap between historical fiction and contemporary realistic fiction with some traditional folktale aspects in this story centering around three sisters cursed by a witch and a harmonica that is more than meets the eye. Otto, a young boy lost in the woods, finds the sisters and carries their spirits out of the woods trapped in the harmonica. In time, the harmonica touches the lives of Friedrich, a boy living in Nazi Germany, Mike, an orphan living during the Great Depression, and Ivy, a girl in the middle of World War II. Echo retains the authenticity of historical fiction, while the characters face contemporary realistic fiction issues such as growing up and survival. Children ages 10-14 will enjoy this blend of genres as they follow the lives of the main characters. (ALD) 

Saeed, Aisha. 2015. Written in the stars. Penguin Random House LLC. 304pp. $17.99 IBSN 978-0-299-17170-3.

The heart wrenching story of Naila’s arranged marriage and loss of true love will bring forth emotions readers did not know a book could possess. This realistic fiction novel, Written in the stars, tells the story of a young girl forced into an arranged marriage by her parents as punishment for dating a boy outside of their beliefs. Naila is sent to Pakistan where she is drugged and forced into marriage with a young man she does not know. As they struggle to adjust to married life, her husband sexually assaults her, and Naila tries to run away from her new family. Naila’s story does end on a happy note when she is rescued by her high school sweetheart, Saif, who brings her home and ultimately marries her. Saeed’s novel compels readers to continue turning pages to find Naila’s ultimate fate while dealing with the theme of personal development as Naila attempts to forget her past life and accept her marriage in Pakistan. This book, because of mature content material, should not be placed in a classroom with students under the age of fourteen. (LW) 

Salerni, Dianne K.. 2015. The Inquisitor’s mark. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 352 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227218-8.

Dianne K. Salerni’s The Inquisitor’s mark juxtaposes present-day Pennsylvania with ancient family rivalries and supernatural powers. As the second book of the “Eighth Day” series, The Inquisitor’s mark simultaneously follows protagonist Jax’s discovery of family he never knew he had and his cousin Dorian’s discovery of his family’s evil plans. Although Jax is excited to find his blood relatives, he must resolve their clan’s history of battle with the clan he was raised by. As the two boys discover the secrets of the ancient rivalry and the plans for future destruction, they must work together to do what they believe is right, even if it means betraying their families. With a long history of battle and tales of spying and discoveries, The Inquisitor’s mark engages the reader in a suspenseful plot. (CB)

Salisbury, Melinda. 2015. The Sin Eater’s daughter. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 312pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-81062-3.

The Sin Eater’s daughter is a novel for young adults ages 14-16 about a girl who has been blessed by the Gods. However, Twylla’s blessing is more of a curse; her skin is poisonous to anyone who touches her. Twylla works as an executioner for the queen, killing people with the touch of her hand. Things become complicated when Twylla needs to marry a prince. No prince will marry her since they are aware of what happens when touched by her. The only person who wants to be with Twylla is one of the royal guards, a forbidden love. This story is intense and good for young adults who like a suspenseful, thrilling read. (MSH) 

Salten, Felix. 2014. The hound of Florence. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8749-9 (1923).

When Lucas Grasi sees the archduke passing through Vienna on his way to Florence, Lucas longs for an escape from his current life. He would even trade places with the archduke’s faithful dog for a taste of his luxurious life. Lucas gets his wish, but life as the archduke’s canine companion is not as wonderful as he imagined. Felix Salten’s skillful use of descriptive language and imagery will transport readers to Florence. This new edition of The hound of Florence allows a new generation of readers to enjoy this classic novel that explores what it means to be human. (EMC)

Saltzberg, Barney. 2014. Chengdu could not, would not fall asleep. Disney Book Group (Hyperion Books). 48pp. $16.99. IBSN 978-142316721-1.

In Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep readers follow Chengdu, a young panda who is desperately trying to fall asleep. The contrast in the stark black night against the white fur on Chengdu emphasizes the setting and mood as a very late, sleepless night. Chengdu tries a variety of sleeping positions, but because the organic and geometric shapes of the branches illustrate discomfort, readers four to seven will know that Chengdu needs to find a more comfortable place. After trying many different branches, Chengdu finds the perfect spot for his bed and finally falls asleep. (LW) 

Sanders, Ted. 2015. The keepers: The box and the dragonfly. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 544pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227582-0.

When curiosity and fate lead Horace F. Andrews to the House of Answers, he begins a strange double life. While still attending school and keeping up with the expectations of his parents, Horace is pursued by a sinister man and encounters a mysterious girl named Chloe. Readers will be fascinated by Horace’s new life, filled with frightening spirits and experimenting with time. Appropriate for ages 10 and up. (ALD)

Schaapman, Karina. 2014. The mouse mansion. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 64 pp. $18.99. ISBN 987-0-8037-4049-5. Photographs by Tom Bouwer.

Suitable for elementary school readers. The book is comprised of short stories in mouse mansion. The characters are brought to life through the photos. The texture of the mice and their home help to develop characterization. The fur on the mice gives the reader a soft feeling that makes the mice more approachable. Even the clothing on the mice is made of soft looking fabric. The mice seem inviting and can bring children to feel closer to the individual characters of each story. (MH) 

Schachner, Judy. 2014. Skippyjon Jones: Snow what. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3789-1.

Skippyjon Jones doesn’t want to read a “shmuzzy tale” like Snow White, but while playing in his room, he enters into his own fantasy world. The mysterious purple of the spooky trees and the bright blue, red, yellow, green, brown, and green dogs show this shift in style and show a contrast with the calmer colors of the rest of the house. The style of the writing also changes when Skippyjon Jones uses Spanish words and an accent. Read about how Skippy decides to save the princess in his own way—without tights. (ALD) 

Schertle, Alice. 2014. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-544-32041-3. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry.

This engaging picture book will teach young readers to count in an inviting way. Readers follow Little Blue Truck as it delivers Christmas trees, counting down from 5 to 1. Rhyming lines aide in the counting and develop the young reader’s language as they follow along with the story. The illustrations add to the effect, creating a wonderful counting environment for the reader. Readers will enjoy the comforting aspects of the story, following the linear movement with ease. (TC, AB) 

Schrefer, Eliot. 2014. Threatened. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 278pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-55143-4.

This book will excite any middle school or high school reader. Threatened is a plot-heavy thriller in which the main character struggles with his place in society. He also conquers his fears of the natural world around him. When he finally finds a place in nature where he belongs, he begins to question society’s values. By the end, readers will be begging for a sequel. (TC, AG)

Schmidt, Annie M. G., and David Colmer (translator). 2011. A pond full of ink. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 34pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5433-9 (1978). Illustrated by David Colmer.

This collection of translated poems that personify inanimate objects seems to speak towards the imagination of a child. Any child from 3-10 will enjoy these poems, and the illustrations are bound to catch their attention.The illustrations are vivid and rich and provide excellent stimulation to a child’s cognitive and language development. Educators can use these poems as an introduction to poetry. (LD) 

Schwartz, Corey Rosen. 2014. Ninja red riding hood. Penguin Group (USA), Inc. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 40pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-0-399-16354-8.

In this retelling of the traditional folktale Little Red Riding Hood, readers are given background into the plight of the wolf’s starving belly and the causes for his actions. From the start readers can see a cultural influence in the style of writing; the entire story is in verse. Set in a culture that values karate training, the wolf decides to learn some in order to catch his prey. The theme prevalent in traditional Little Red Riding Hood stories is not found here; Little Red is not told to be afraid of the wolf, instead she is trained in karate and challenges him. Clearly this is a story valuing self-defense. The wolf and Little Red battle it out, and like all folktales the hero, in this case heroine, wins. After his defeat, the wolf bows politely to Little Red and vows to take up yoga instead. (LW)

Sharenow, Robert. (2015). The girl in the torch. Balzer and Bray (Harper Collins Publishers). 304 pgs, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-06-222795-9.

The girl in the torch, by Robert Sharenow, begins with the journey of a mother and her daughter, Sarah. When recent attack on Sarah’s village leaves her father brutally murdered, Sarah and her mother realize that their only hope for survival rests on an attempt to immigrate to America. The characterization in this novel is brilliantly portrayed, and readers will easily make friends with Sarah. On the voyage to their new land, Sarah’s mother becomes ill and later dies in an Ellis Island hospital. After the loss of both of her parents, Sarah’s character develops substantially in her attempt to find a home in America. To her dismay, the immigration officers decide to send her back to her village because she has no one to care for her, and back on the ship, Sarah must make the biggest decision of her life. This novel presents continuing conflicts for Sarah to overcome. Readers will see the story unfold from Sarah’s point of view and learn of her internal struggles as well as the physical pains she feels from hunger and injury. In Sarah’s time on the island, she encounters an unexpected friend who takes her to the city, and the story only takes off from there. City life for Sarah presents unexpected turns that result in her gaining and almost losing the friends that she holds most dear. Stylistically, the chapters are very short, making this a book a suitable choice to share with students in a read-aloud setting. Will Sarah find a home in the city? Will her friends be unharmed? Will she be forced once again to board the ship and live with an undesirable uncle back home? Sarah will steal readers’ hearts and show them that many times…it just takes a leap of faith. (EM)

Shea, Bob. 2015. Ballet Cat: The totally secret secret. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 56pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-148471378-5. Illustrated by Bob Shea.

This picture book is about friendship and learning how to honestly express one’s feelings, likes and dislikes, to a friend. In the story, Sparkles the Pony has secret but he is afraid to tell Ballet Cat; however, Ballet Cat has a secret of her own. These animal characters exemplify how to overcome common fears of saying how they feel as well as how to be a true friend. The bright colors and animated facial expressions in the illustrations make it appealing and dramatic. Additionally, the varied size of text exclusively represented in the speech bubbles draws attention to the emotions of the characters conveyed in their speech. This is a charming book that engages young children as they develop the ability to express their feelings and show kindness to their friends. (CEC)

Sherry, Kevin. 2014. The Yeti files: Meet the Bigfeet. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 122pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-545-55617-0.

Blizz and his family are a different than a normal family; they are all cryptid, which means they are creatures that do not want to be seen by the human world, and have been hiding from the human world for years. Blizz finally gets the chance to have a family reunion, but is sad because one important member is missing. Blizz and his friends go on an adventure to find the lost family member, and still avoid being seen by humans.

This book is ideal for middle to upper elementary school students. Due to the easy sentences and multiple graphics, this book would be easy for a student who is struggling with reading. This book helps show children they can overcome problems and make friends with many different kinds of people. The illustrations in this book help move the story along, and put more details into the story, to keep the reader more interested. The shading in the illustrations helps show the mood changing. (AS) 

Sidman, Joyce. 2014. Winter bees & other poems of the cold. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-90650-8. Illustrated by Rick Allen.

Readers 6-12 will get lost in this collection of poems by Joyce Sidman. The author does a fantastic job creating visual images and using words that allow children to expand their imagination. The author uses simple stories to introduce the concept of animal survival in the cold. By introducing readers to different animals, the author encourages readers to extend comparisons, images and findings. The illustrator does an absolutely amazing job creating the animals’ habitats. Readers will enjoy these poems about the winter cold. (TC)

Simon, Fancesca. 2013. Hello, Moon!. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-64795-3. Illustrated by Ben Cort.

“Hello, Moon!” explores the curiosity and imagination of a child as bedtime approaches. The nameless boy shares his interests with the moon, suggesting that he feels lonely at night but takes comfort in the moon’s presence. With little development in terms of characterization and plot, Hello, Moon’s visual setting becomes the book’s agent of depth. Viewing rich, vibrant illustrations representative of the boy’s imagination, the audience and child can feel comforted and adventurous while reading this book. There is nearly no discernable theme in Hello, Moon, but it will make a good bedtime story for a small child. (CB) 

Slater, David Michael. 2015. The boy & the book: A wordless story. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-562-0. Illustrated by Bob Kolar.

Readers, ages 2-5, will enjoy this book. The author and illustrator do a wonderful job of creating a story of the misunderstood relationship between a boy and his library book. Young readers will enjoy creating their own words to accompany this story. The illustrator does a great job creating a sense of danger and fear by using lines that are jagged, and darker colors that suggest danger. Additionally, the illustrator uses line to show the fear, sadness, hurt, and happiness of the books. Young readers will enjoy looking at this book over and over and creating new dialogue each time through. (TC)

Sloan, Holly. 2015. Appleblossom the possum. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 275pp. $16.99. ISBN 9780803741331. Illustrated by Gary A. Rosen.

Appleblossom is an adventurous possum who has always been different from her siblings; she is not a natural actor, and she does not consider herself a solitary animal. After Mama Possum teaches her babies the main rules of being a possum (which are to go to bed promptly when the sun comes up, stay away from monsters known as cars, people, and dogs, and play dead when in trouble), she sends them out into the world on their own. Appleblossom and her two brothers Amlet and Antonio stick together. Appleblossom breaks the rules however, and befriends a little girl. She lives in the human’s house for a while, which causes chaos with the parents and dog, but she has fun with her new friend. After a while, Appleblossom starts to miss her freedom and her family. Not long after that, her family comes to help her escape and she returns to the possum world. The thoroughly developed order of events makes Appleblossom the Possum a page turner. The sketched illustrations scattered through the book add to the plot by showing a snapshot of a character’s emotions or actions. The two outstanding themes in this story are that family will always be there to help when a family member is in need and the importance of individuality. The plot, conflicts and themes of this book make it a heartwarming book for children to read. (COD) 

Spelman, Cornelia Maude. 2013. When I feel worried. Albert Whitman & Company. 24pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-8893-2. Illustrated by Kathy Parkinson.

When I Feel Worried depicts the worried and happy life of a young hamster. The hamster communicates what it feels like to be worried and also lists some of the things that make him feel anxious. The hamster makes sure readers know it is acceptable to feel worried, and the emotions will fade with time. Towards the end of the book, the hamster shares what makes him happy and how to overcome the feeling of being anxious. The story can help children to understand feelings can change with time. (DLN, ZJH)

Srinivasan, Divya. 2014. Little Owl’s day. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01650-1.

Little Owl’s Day is sure to capture the hearts of young children as they learn about the natural world. Suitable for preschool age to early elementary students, this book explores the forest from the view of a baby owl who neglects being nocturnal for a night to discover the mysteries of the day. The forest in the light becomes a whole new world which Little Owl deems beautiful and full of life. Little Owl’s Day is perfect for enriching a students’ cognitive development. This short story lends itself well to activities on classifying animals, comparing and contrasting shapes and color, and introducing the concepts of night and day and the four seasons. (HMB) 

Stewart, Briony. 2014. Here in the garden. Kane Miller EDC Publishing. 36pp. $11.99 IBSN 978-1-61067-348-8.

Here in the garden gently approaches the theme of personal development found in the loss of a pet which makes it suitable for young readers ages four to eight. The repetitive line, “and I wish that you were here” found after every new event, will be relatable to students experiencing the death of a pet or loved one. The use of bright colors in the illustrations of this picture book reassure readers that the child will be okay in the end. However, the child does have one dark gloomy day which will remind readers that it is okay to feel sad about the death of someone you cared about. In the end the child remembers all the wonderful times they had together and that they will always have the garden. (LW)

Sullivan, Jacqueline Levering. 2014. A less than perfect peace. Wm. B Eerdman’s Publishing Company (Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers). 209pp. $7.65. ISBN 978-0-8028-5431-5.

A Less than Perfect Peace will be an exciting read for any fourth through sixth grader. Readers will get a glimpse into the life of Annie Howard, a 14 year old girl living in Tacoma in the year 1950 and dealing with a father coming home from war, a mother who is moving on, and her first love. While the historical context of Annie’s life is not explained much, this story does have merit in the theme of personal development. Students will relate to Annie’s struggle to find point of view and will never want to put this book down! (LW) 

Sutherland, Tui T. and Kari Sutherland. 2015. The menagerie: Krakens and lies. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 355pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-078067-8.

Logan and Zoe are determined to find out who has been sabotaging the Menagerie. In this mystery fantasy filled with mystical and unique creatures, Logan and Zoe learn to expect the unexpected. As the third book in The Menagerie trilogy, it is action-filled and riveting as readers cheer for Logan and Zoe to solve the mystery! (EG)

Swanson, James L. 2013. “The president has been shot!”: The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 336pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-545-49007-8. 

On November 23rd, 1963, a day when the American Nation was changed forever, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Questions arose immediately as to who was responsible for the murder. President Kennedy left a legacy, and Lee Harvey Oswald left the nation wondering “why?”. This book intently details the moments of both the President and the killer’s lives until their fateful meeting that warm day in Dallas, Texas 1963. Through vivid descriptions and pictures, this book outlines the last few days of the president’s life and the strength and resilience of the American people. This book can be used in a middle school or high school classroom to provide another viewpoint of the assassination. Educators can use this text to help students to gain a deeper understanding of that fateful day. (LD) 

Sweeney, Lindsay Booth. 2015. When the wind blows. Penguin Random House LLC (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16015-8. Illustrated by Jana Christy.

Children in preschool and kindergarten (ages 3-6) will enjoy this very colorful book. In When the Wind Blows, Sweeney writes in a short, rhythmic style because the book is about gusty winds that keep recurring. In the illustrations, diagonal and curvy lines represent the wind blowing objects up, down, and around, creating scenes of chaos. However, at the end of the story, the people are inside their homes and protected from the wind. This shift in action is shown as the lines become less dramatic and change direction to horizontal lines, which provides a sense of calmness and stability compared to the chaotic winds outside. (MS) 

Tak, Bibi Dumon. 2014. Mikis and the donkey. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 89pp. $. ISBN 978-0-8028-5430-8 (2011). Illustrated by Philip Hopman.

Taking place on a Greek island, this story tells of a young boy named Mikis whose grandfather has a surprise waiting for him in the form of a new donkey. Even though his grandparents explain to Mikis that donkeys are “working animals,” they allow him to give the animal a name and spend his Sundays with him. This delightful collection of adventures, by Bibi Dumon Tak, will strike a chord with any animal lover, as both Mikis and his grandfather learn about what it means to truly care for something. Illustrations, done as graphite sketches, bring the story an earthy, joyful liveliness and are scattered throughout various chapters ranging in size and arrangement. Teachers and caregivers can use this story to reiterate the importance of caregiving and responsibility with animals. The story also lends itself to valuable global connections and an exploration of Greek culture. At the end of the day, even young readers who are as stubborn as the donkey will enjoy the delightful adventures of Mikis and his animal friend! (AW) 

Tan, Shaun. 2013. Rules of summer. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine). 48pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-545-63912-5.

Rules of Summer, while a cute story, is a mediocre children’s book. The limited text preaches its ideas rather than allowing the reader utilize their own creativity. This book lacks depth and a significant plot; it is not until a third of the way into this short story that a conflict even arises. At this point the readers are presented a very basic person-against-person plot, if one would even call it that, which is then very quickly resolved without even a conversation between the two characters in conflict. Rules of Summer then abruptly ends after the conflict is resolved. The only merit this book has is the beautiful illustrations, therefore, the only plausible reason to use this book in the classroom would be to talk about artwork. (LW) 

Thompson, Lauren. 2013. Polar bear morning. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-439-69885-6. Illustrated by Stephen Savage.

Polar bear morning is a picture book for children ages 4-8 about a polar bear cub who meets a friend on his morning walk. The story uses the color blue to portray how frigid the Arctic climate is, and blue is one of the only colors used throughout the story. The story is a simple one about friendship and exploring nature, and the illustrations effectively construct a calm and welcoming friendship between the two little polar bears. The lines create realistic, warm bears that invite the reader in. The way the book was written and illustrated really captures the climate of polar bears, and the importance of being friendly to new people. (MSH) 

Thompson, Mary G. 2014. Evil fairies love hair. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-85903-3.

Perfect for late elementary students, Evil Fairies Love Hair follows a girl named Ali and her middle school friends who raise a flock of fairies to make their wishes come true. The problem is, the fairies only eat human hair, making raising them a major tribulation for the girls. Despite this complication, Ali and her friends attempt to make the wishes they have been promised. The spells, however, go awry and soon Ali and her friends are facing hundreds of fairies who gang up against them. As a fantasy story, Evil Fairies Love Hair deals with preposterous characteristics and situations, but it can still teach a very important lesson to students.

As Ali and her friends face trials, they show true bravery and learn that it is important to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you act. The value of allowing time to think is one of the big lessons this story teaches. Evil Fairies Love Hair will help promote social development and personality development, making the story both educational and enjoyable. (HMB) 

Thong, Roseanne Greenfield. 2014. Noodle magic. Scholastic inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-52167-3. Illustrated by Meilo So.

This book draws on the imagination of the reader, asking how one can make almost anything from noodles and incorporating Asian culture with distinctions of attire and town markets along the way. This book could easily pertain to any talent a child may have, and how they can achieve their dreams if they just believe in themselves. (MM) 

Torday, Piers. 2014. The last wild. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 322pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01554-2 (2013).

This book is recommended for middle elementary school aged children who are beginning to recognize their self-worth. In this chapter book, the theme of discovering one’s own value is emphasized. The main character, Kester Jaynes, is a boy who has not been able to speak since his mother died. This resulted in him being taken to a place called Spectrum Hall Academy for Challenging Children. Here, Kester was made fun of by all of the other children who were there for behavioral issues. He becomes very lonely and has only pigeons, moths, and cockroaches to talk to. Eventually, these animals talk to Kester and help him escape from the academy. Kester finds his self-worth through the help of these “varmints.” He realizes that he is the only one who can find help for the the animals against the mysterious disease they suffer from. Although Kester cannot talk to humans, he is valuable to the animals that count on him to save their lives. (MS) 

Turner, Ann. 2015. My name is Truth: The life of Sojourner Truth. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-075898-1. Illustrated by James Ransome.

This nonfiction biography of the life of former slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth realistically portrays her struggles and victories. Written in free verse, the text of the book reveals the hardships of Sojourner’s life as a slave and her journey to become an activist for an end to slavery and the obtainment of women’s rights. Augmented by richly colored illustrations, My name is Truth: The life of Sojourner Truth allows young children to learn about how Sojourner Truth became such a well-known figure. The book reflects the well-researched biographical information in its back pages through its realistic, yet artful, presentation of Sojourner’s life. (CB) 

Underwood, Deborah. 2014. Bad bye, good bye. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 987-0-547-92852-4. Illustrated by Jonathan Bean.

Moving is always hard. This book follows a little boy and his family as they move to a new house in a new city. The little boy’s pain and sadness are palpable as his toys and things are packed up and as he says goodbye and heads out of town. His new home comes with new changes, but as he slowly adjusts to his new life, he finds it just as special as the one he left behind. This book has vivid pictures with colors that help to display the emotions and feelings of the story. Educators and parents should use this book to help young children sort out the abundance of feelings associated with moving. This book is ideal for young children who are beginning readers. (LD)

Van Lieshout, Maria. 2014. Hopper and Wilson fetch a star. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25772-8.

In this adventurous story, two best friends, Hopper and Wilson, search through space for their very own star. In the process, they end up learning a valuable lesson: that everyone and everything has its own place in the world. Accompanied by its bold and playful illustrations, this book by Maria van Lieshout will spark children’s interest in the beauty and wonder of the night sky, and remind them of the value of friendship. (AT) 

Vernick, Audrey. 2014. Edgar’s second word. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-68462-8. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris.

Hazel dreams of reading aloud to her brother when he is born. The problem is that babies aren’t interested in reading and, even worse, he starts saying “No” to everything! Anyone with with a younger sibling will relate to this sweet story of a patient and loving sister. (ALD) 

Vernick, Audrey. 2014. Screaming at the ump. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 250pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-25208-0.

As a young boy who lives at an umpiring school with his father, Casey doesn’t live a normal life. With the stress of entering the 6th grade and his mother who wants to see him more often, Casey is forced to make decisions he doesn’t want to make. In the beginning of the story, Casey is hostile towards his mother because she left him and his father for a baker named Bob. As the story progresses, however, Casey matures, and the hostility toward his mother is transformed into love. This story provides an excellent representation of characterization and how it contributes to the development of a good story. (ZJH)

Vernon, Ursula. 2015. Dragonbreath: Knight-napped!. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 208pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3849-2.

Danny Dragonbreath is a dragon who experiences multiple adventures throughout this series of books. In this tale, Danny ends up trying to save his cousin who gets kidnapped by knights. Late elementary students can engage in this adventure packed story as they delve into a world of dragons, knights, and humor. The story takes place in a fantasy world where the medieval life meets modern day. (MH) 

Villamy, Clara. 2013. Martha bunny loves school. Albert Whitman & Company. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 987-0-8075-4976-6.

Today is Martha’s first day of school, and she is very excited. As Martha gets ready for her first day of school, her little brothers become sad when they are not allowed to go with. While Martha is getting ready for school, her brothers are trying to get her to stay home and play with them. Martha makes them feel better, and reminds them that she will be home from school later, and then they can play. This can be used to help promote a child’s development, about getting ready to leave for school, or losing an older sibling to school. This will motivate kids to look forward to going to school. It will also help preschool siblings understand they must be older before attending school. (AS) 

Villareal, Ray. 2014. On the other side of the bridge. Publico Press (Piñata Books). 256 pp. $11.95. ISBN 978-1-55885-802-2.

Lonnie lives a typical life for a 13-year-old boy. He loves horror movies, a passion he shares with his father. He does not like to read, and would rather go play by the creek than attend church. One day, Lonnie’s life is turned upside down when his mother is shot and killed at the apartment complex where she worked as a security guard. Alone with his father, who struggles with unemployment and alcohol abuse, Lonnie has to rely on himself to find comfort in this trying time. On the Other Side of the Bridge may aid in the emotional development of a student as they ponder ideas of independence and begin understanding what it means to make a difference in someone’s life. The pacing in this novel is slow and the characters seem somewhat underdeveloped, but the themes of death and homelessness may resonate with middle school aged readers. (HJM) 

Wall, Laura. 2012. Goose. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 48 pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232435-1.

Goose is a book with bold illustrations catching the attention of children ages 4-8. A heartwarming plot connects the audience emotionally to the main character, Sophie, who wants a playmate on the playground. When she finds a friendly goose, they develop an unusual friendship. The colors in the book are vivid and bright and they go well with the emotions Sophie is feeling. A light purple color is the background when Sophie is sad and lonely, and when Sophie finds Goose, a bright green is the background, showing how excited she is through color. The lines are very thick, rounded, and abstract, which makes it look more childlike, making it a bit more relatable for children. The illustrations also catch the attention of the reader with bold, rounded lines, and bright colors. The pages are simplistic which is very calming. The book is not hectic or overcrowded with pictures and distractions. The plot is free to take center stage, and serves to remind students that unusual friendships can be the best, most lasting kind of friendships. (MSH) 

Wall, Laura. 2012. Goose goes to school. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 44pp, $12.99, ISBN  978-0-06-232437-5. Illustrated by Laura Wall.

Children ages 4 – 8 will relate to the imagination of the main character, Sophie, as she goes to school and plays with her friend Goose. Readers will use their cognitive skills as they pay close attention to details in the pictures, looking for Goose hiding on the pages when Sophie goes to school. This book is filled with bright, inviting colors, in the simple and bold illustrations. (EKF) 

Wallace, Brandon. 2015. Wilder boys. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3264-1.

Readers, ages 8 and older, will enjoy this realistic fiction book. The author does a marvelous job relating plot, characters, and settings to the needs of modern children. Jake and Taylor are trying to overcome an abusive home life and find the father who abandoned them as children. Readers will understand how Jake is feeling throughout the book through his viewpoint as the narrator. Readers will understand his fears, past and present, and his desire to find his father. The realistic setting allows readers to engage in the story as they become a part of the action. Readers will be invested in the story of Jake and Taylor and will read on to see their tale to the end. (TC) 

Ward, Lindsay. 2015. Henry finds his word. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-39990-1.

Baby Henry is struggling to find his first word. He looks all over his room, dumps out his toy chest, and even asks the animals in his yard for help. Finally, Henry discovers his word hidden deep inside himself and knows it is the right one. The pencil and pastel colors provide a playful and colorful visual elements, allowing readers to follow the plot and emotions of the story. The use of color also conveys a delightful and inviting environment that will captivate readers. (AT) 

Weeks, Sarah. 2015. Glamourpuss. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0545609548.

Glamourpuss is a cat who has everything. She has style, charm, and she knows how to strike a pose. She loves to be the center of attention, but she might not be for long. An unwelcome guest soon arrives, a dog, who ends up stealing the spotlight, so Glamourpuss sets out to be only one superstar in the mansion. In this sassy picture book with cute and colorful illustrations, Glamourpuss learns to look beyond herself and see that helping out others makes her even more glamorous. The story disguises the theme of friendship and rivalry into a fun and colorful story. 

Weeks, Sarah. 2015. Honey. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 152pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-46557-1.

In Honey, by Sarah Weeks, Melody and her best friend Nick work together to figure out who her dad is calling “honey”. In this heart-warming and compelling contemporary realistic fiction story, Melody digs into the past to learn about where she came from and where she is going. Melody and Nick are characters that readers will be able to relate to through their lighthearted and lively friendship. The plot examines the quandary of how to overcome loss and discover one’s true self. (EG) 

Young readers (3-5 years old) will learn that people’s outer appearances don’t always reflect who they are on the inside. 

Wegman, William. 2014. Flo & Wendell explore. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3930-7.

Tired of their family’s RV vacations, Wendell and Flo decide to embark on their very own wilderness camping trip. The dog siblings bond over fishing, canoeing, and roasting marshmallows over the fire. Their journey is not without its challenges, as Wendell and Flo struggle to pitch their tent and navigate the the woods. At the end of the day, they are happy to return home to their parents. Author and illustrator William Wegman combines painting and photography together to create the unique illustrations that bring Flo and Wendell explore to life. Young children will enjoy this story about sibling relationships and adventure. (EMC) 

White, Dianne. 2014. Blue on blue. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 48pp. $17.99. IBSN978-1-4424-1267-5. Illustrated by Beth Krommers.

This rhyming narrative poem tells the charming story of a beautiful summer day turning into a cloudy, rainy one and the fears associated with storms before the sun comes out again. The repetition of “rain on rain on rain” on multiple pages makes it seem like the sun will never come back, but the sudden “stop!” not only makes the read pause but also emphasizes the return of the sun on the next page. The use of imagery throughout this poem makes it easy to visualize, even without the beautiful illustrations. White uses colors that young readers, ages three to eight, can visually and mentally identify with such as “blue” for the sunny sky and “black” for the rainy one, she also uses active descriptive language such as “Streaming, gushing, racing, rushing” rain. This poem will interest all young readers and keep them turning page until the happy resolution of the rain storm. (LW) 

White, J.A.. 2015. The Thickety: The whispering trees. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 528pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-225729-1.

Twelve-year-old Kara and her little brother, Taff have been trapped by the Forest Demon in the Thickety – a dense forest filled with whispering trees and unfathomable darkness. In order to escape the forest and save the rest of the world from the Forest Demon, Kara, a witch, must use her powers to conquer various creatures and magical obstacles. Consistently addressing issues such as good versus evil and the value of individual lives, Kara and Taff’s adventure offers a fantastic way to engage readers in thought-provoking conversations. J.A. White’s profound use of language and characterization provides readers with extensive details for an imaginable setting and deeply established characters. Children will be absorbed in the suspenseful plot and the story’s compelling fantasy world from start to finish, and will be left with an intense cliff-hanger, sparking curiosity of what will happen next. (AT) 

Wiles, Deborah. 2014. The sixties trilogy: Book two: Revolution. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 495 pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-54-10607-8.

Taking place in 1964 Mississippi, Revolution explores 12-year-old Sunny’s experience as Northerners travel to her hometown to help black citizens register to vote. Alongside Sunny’s story is Raymond’s, a black teen also in Mississippi. As the two deal with typical coming-of-age conflicts, they also must face growing up in a region conflicted with segregation and violence. Intertwined with primary source images, quotes, and propaganda, Revolution aims to show young adults what life was like for both black and white citizens living in the South during the 1960’s. (CB) 

Willems, Mo. 2014. Waiting is not easy!. Disney Book Group (Hyperion Books for Children). 64pp. $8.99 IBSN 978-142319957-1.

Waiting is Not Easy has a plot that flows effortlessly through the use of lines and color. Large block letters invite readers experience the excitement of waiting for a surprise. As the anticipation grows, so do the speech bubbles; first covering half of the page, then three quarters, before finally consuming almost an entire page. Finally, a beautiful view of the night sky appears, conveying a comforting and safe mood with the bright warm whites of the stars against the purple cloudy background. The story finishes on a note of friendship and admiration for the dazzling display of night. (LW) 

Williams, Bonnie. 2014. Dino school: Pete can fly! Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 24pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0466-2. Illustrated by John Gordon.

Dino School: Pete Can Fly! by Bonnie Williams is an easy-to-read story featuring two dinosaurs who are best friends. Using a simple plot and dialogue, beginning readers will easily be able to follow the friendship of Teddy the T-Rex and Pete the Pterodactyl. With a familiar theme of friendship, readers between the ages of 4-6 will be eager to read about the adventures of Teddy and Pete. (EG)

Wilson, Karma. 2014. Bear sees colors. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-6536-7. Illustrated by Jane Chapman.

Bear is looking for colors with a growing group of friends. Each time Bear meets a new friend, the background of the page is white allowing the reader to focus on the animals. In the remaining pages, the author challenges the reader to look for that a particular color. Bear sees colors is a delightful read with some rhyming, charming interactions between the animals, and compelling illustrations for children. (ALD) 

Wilson, Karma. (2010). The cow loves cookies. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 29pp. $17.99. ISBN 987-1-4169-4206-1. Illustrated by Marcellus Hall.

Wilson’s The Cow Loves Cookies will leave children’s imaginations running as they read rhymes about Farmer feeding his barn animals. The illustrations come alive through the use of light, casting shadows over the images. Because of the familiarity in large and simple geometric shapes, the animals appear friendly and readers will feel comfortable. This amusing story is aimed toward children ages 4 to 8, but can be enjoyed by anyone who is a picky eater. (EKF) 

Winstead, Rosie. 2014. Sprout helps out. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3072-4.

Sprout Helps Out connects with children – and moms – about the perks and humor of helping out at home. Mostly targeted toward girls, this story explores the idea that even though a child may be small, she can help out in a variety of ways. Sprout shows this throughout the story by helping her mother around the house. Sprout Helps Out is a perfect personality development tool for early elementary students. The story encourages children to start identifying their strengths and work on less developed areas in order to improve them. Using a book such as Sprout Helps Out to show success in helping may be beneficial to girls during the time of development where they respond more negatively to failure. Seeing how Sprout always lends a helping hand around the house will allow young girls to evaluate their own lives and contemplate areas for improvement. (HMB) 

Winter, Jeanette. 2014. Mr. Cornell’s dream boxes. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-9900-3.

Jeanette Winter’s Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes is a true story that pays tribute to shadowbox artist Joseph Cornell. Mr. Cornell was not an ordinary artist. He collected tiny treasures from around town and arranged them behind glass to create hundreds of marvelous dream boxes. Mr. Cornell loved sharing his work with children and enjoyed conversing with them as they noticed the small details contained within his magical shadowbox wonderlands. Against a white backdrop, Winter creates bold and simple illustrations depicting how Mr. Cornell transformed his dreams and memories into art. Mr. Cornell’s story invites readers to dream and may even inspire budding artists to create a shadowbox masterpiece of their own. (EMC) 

Yolen, Jane. 2013. How do dinosaurs say I’m mad?. Scholastic Inc. (Sky Blue Press). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-14315-8. Illustrated by Mark Teague.

Just like children, when dinosaurs are mad, they sometimes want to yell, stomp, and throw things. But they know when it is time to calm down by counting to ten, taking a deep breath, and saying “I’m sorry.” Jane Yolen and Mark Teague team up to address an emotion commonly experienced by children and adults alike. A wonderful book for promoting emotional development, How do dinosaurs say I’m mad? offers a humorous and fun way to teach young children how to properly manage their anger and frustration. (EMC) 

Yolen, Jane. 2014. Trash mountain. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 176pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-1234-7.

Nutley is a little red squirrel who’s full of life and questions. His parents do not allow him to leave the area around their home in the willow tree. Nutley is curious about the gray squirrels that live across the farm and why they cannot be friends. Nutley decides he wants try and become friends with the gray squirrels. Unfortunately for Nutley his plan backfires and it causes his life to spin out of control. Nutley now faces days full of adventures and challenges.

This book is written for children in upper elementary school. Due to the graphic nature of certain parts of the book, this would not be appropriate for younger children. In this book Nutley faces many different challenges just like kids in upper elementary do. The challenges that Nutley faces are very different from challenges most kids face. Sacha’s illustrations in this book are placed perfectly to help the reader pick up on key events and emotions of the book. The illustrations are only done in black and white, and are shaded to show the parts of the book that have deeper meaning. This book can be used to help show children that if they work hard they can overcome any challenges in life. (AS)

Yolen, Jane. 2015. Stone angel. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16741-6. Illustrated by Katie May Green.

Stone Angel tells the tale of a young girl and her family during WWII, who are forced to flee from their home in Paris because of their Jewish faith. The story is told through the eyes of the young girl, starting with the invasion of the “brown shirts,” all the way to the end of the war and the family’s return to Paris. This book would be an excellent tool to introduce students to the difficult subjects of WWII and the Holocaust. It may aid students in social and personal development by introducing them to the struggles of other cultures and leading to an increased understanding of the world around them. Stone Angel demonstrates the power that hope and faith can have on one’s life. Illustrator Katie May Green uses texture to bring the pictures to life and draw in readers. Color is effectively used to display the shifting tones of the story, utilizing dark shades of blue, green, black, and brown to emphasize the sadness and fear when the family is in hiding, followed by soft shades of white and pink to emphasize the joy felt at the end of the war. A good book for mid-elementary aged students to introduce them to world history. (HJM) 

Young, Jessica. 2015. Spy Guy: The not-so-secret agent. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-20859-9. Illustrated by Charles Santoso.

Spy Guy: The not-so-secret agent is a charming story about a young boy who dreams of becoming a spy. He decides to sneak up on Chief, his father, to ask him what the secret to spying is, but very tactic Spy Guy’s attempt just makes him more noticeable to those around him. Spy Guy then realizes that if he lowers himself down from a tree like a spider, he will surprise Chief when he least expects it. Educators will enjoy using this story to emphasize the importance of never giving up. Students reading Spy Guy will learn perseverance, a key lesson in the personal development of a child. The book also hones in on key observational skills when students begin to notice that there is a secret agent spider in every scene. In the end, it is this very spider that gives Spy Guy the ultimate plan and reveals the true theme of this tale, “The secret to spying is never stop trying!” (EW) 

Zaboli, Giovanna. 2013. The big book of slumber. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 26pp. $16. ISBN 978-0-8028-5439-1. Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

The big book of slumber, is a bedtime story of rhyming couplets. Each page depicts a variety of animals as they begin to fall asleep. Turning the pages will reveal a variety of surprises, like a pair of camels sleeping on bunk beds or even a kitten asleep in a cupboard. The creative illustrations blend indoor furniture with the natural world in a way that will be sure to entertain youngsters. Bold patterns decorate every page, often conveying an overwhelming sense of calm. The use of the paint and collage allow for a dream like state to impart and maintain a soothing and home-like environment. (MK)