Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown by Ann E. Burg

Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown by Ann E. Burg. Scholastic, 2020. 9781338540697

Format: ARC (10/20 pub date)

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Historical fiction/novel in verse

What did you like about the book? This is historical fiction at its finest. Through the voices of six young people, the devastating flood of May 1889 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania is brought to life. Achingly personal tales of hope, struggle, loss and grief describe what was the largest loss of civilian life at the time – over 2,200 people died. Burg based the voices on actual survivors, while fictionalizing their experience. Readers learn about the poverty of the working class community which was situated in a valley below an elite club for fishing and hunting. The club was on the shore of a lake with an old, deteriorating dam, which the Johnstown residents had pleaded to have repaired. Spring rains caused the dam to collapse. Issues of class, the environment and injustice come to bear, as the ultra rich barons of industry who owned the club abrogated responsibility for the disaster. Although they gave millions to help the city rebuild, the loss of life was incalculable.

The voices belong to six people, from toddler age through teenage. The entries are interspersed and interrelated, and lend a deeply personal viewpoint to the disaster. Equally effecting are the entries at the end by the unnamed dead, immigrants, homeless, working class people struggling to live the American dream. An author’s note at the end adds historical context. A deeply moving look at a forgotten tragedy from history.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  For fans of novels in verse, historical fiction, ages 10 and up. Appropriate for inclusion in units on post Civil War history. Also useful as a hi/lo reading choice.

Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle and high school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: September 22, 2020

Posted in *Book Review, *Starred Review, Disasters | Tagged | Leave a comment

No Reading Allowed: The Worst Read-Aloud Book Ever by Raj Haldar & Chris Carpenter, pictures by Bryce Gladfelter

No Reading Allowed: The Worst Read-Aloud Book Ever by Raj Haldar & Chris Carpenter, pictures by Bryce Gladfelter. Sourcebooks Explore, 2020. 9781728206592

Format: ARC (11/20 pub date)

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

What did you like about the book? Most kids’ books on homonyms contain the words with a funny illustration. This book contains whole homonymic sentences, and the result is sometimes quite funny, sometimes gross-out, but always entertaining. A few examples: The hair came forth/The hare came fourth; Sir Francis Bacon/Sir, France is Bakin’! Some terms may not be familiar to children, such as queue or quay, but there is a handy glossary in the back. Hand drawn art in ink with digital color comes across as graphic, and portrays characters with a wide variety of skin tones and nationalities. The style reminds me of Ron Barrett’s illustrations in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Even if some of the word uses are a bit far fetched, it is always in the service of humor, and the meaning is clear.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would be a fun browsing book for third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? 428

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: September 22, 2020

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Bryce Gladfelter, Chris Carpenter, English Language, Raj Haldar | Tagged | Leave a comment

My Very First Cookbook: Joyful Recipes to Make Together! by Danielle Kartes, pictures by Annie Wilkinson

My Very First Cookbook: Joyful Recipes to Make Together! by Danielle Kartes, pictures by Annie Wilkinson. Sourcebooks Explore, 2020. 9781728214191

Format: ARC (10/20 pub date)

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

What did you like about the book? I remember looking for children’s cookbooks that had recipes that my adult palate would savor, but that my kids would also like. This cheerful cookbook fits the bill. It’s filled with simple staple breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes, as well as easy snacks, beverages, sides and desserts. Clear lists for equipment, ingredients and alterations abound. The recipes I tried resulted in solid, tasty eats, and I can imagine kids expanding their food repertoire by having the experience of making the Sheet Pan Fajitas or Superstar Guacamole. Each opening is accompanied by art showing an animal grownup and young working together happily. The art is very sweet, using gentle mid range hues. After the recipes are several sections designed to add humor and love to the cooking experience: puns, activities, family talking points, and pages on which to write your own recipes.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Most recipes require most of the work to be done by the adult. Also, all dinner entrees are meat-based, so vegetarians might look for alternative sources.

To whom would you recommend this book? For families of young children, ages 4-10, who enjoy cooking together.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries. This would also make a lovely gift.

Where would you shelve it ? 641

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: September 22, 2020

Posted in *Book Review, Annie Wilkinson, Cooking, Danielle Kartes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Out and About with Mitchell & Dad by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Tony Fucile

Out and About with Mitchell & Dad by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Tony Fucile. Candlewick, 2020. 9781536213041

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? The two previously published stories about Mitchell and his dad are combined in one volume. In “Mitchell Goes Driving” (previously titled Mitchell’s License), three year old Mitchell never wanted to go to bed, until his dad said he could drive there – and Dad is the car! Kids will delight in all the ways that Mitchell is in control of his car, from cleaning the windshield (dad’s glasses), to taking hairpin turns around the sofa, to trying to fill up the gas (with cookies). Mom looks on with amusement, but it’s clearly a dad and kid activity. In “Mitchell Goes Bowling”, now four year old Mitchell is introduced to bowling, since he loves to knock things down. Dad shows Mitchell how bowling works, but Mitchell is frustrated by missing most of the pins most of the time. Dad comes through once again by suggesting that they play on the same team, and they both win.

Fucile’s digital art seems hand drawn, and is playful, retro and very affectionate in portraying a kid and his white dad and brown skinned mom. He combines panels with full spreads, and adds lots of dramatic embellishments to show the action. These are lovely, warm stories that are equally good for story time and family enjoyment.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? For ages 3-5, for readers who enjoy warm, humorous realistic stories.

Who should buy this book? Day cares and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: September 21, 2020

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Family, Hallie Durand, Tony Fucile | Tagged | Leave a comment

Nick and Nack Fly a Kite / Nick and Nack Build a Birdhouse by Brandon Budzi, art by Adam Record

Nick and Nack Fly a Kite (9781644721117) / Nick and Nack Build a Birdhouse (9781684379842) by Brandon Budzi, art by Adam Record. Highlights Press, 2020.

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre:  Beginning reader

What did you like about the book? These “Highlights Puzzle Readers” combine a fun, simple story with seek and find, and a craft activity at the end. Nick, a brown-skinned lad, likes construction projects made with things he finds. In Build a Birdhouse, he has the idea to build a birdhouse out of popsicle sticks; in Fly a Kite, he decides to make a kite out of sticks he finds. Nack is a friendly green robot who is his sidekick/alter ego. While Nick has the ideas, Nack helps find what they need to complete the project. Readers “help” Nack by finding the objects hidden in the illustrations. The stories follow a reassuringly predictable sequence, with sight words, repetition and visual puzzles. Each book ends with wry humor: in Build a Birdhouse, when the birdhouse is completed there are no birds to be found; in Fly a Kite, as soon as they finish constructing the kite it begins to rain.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? For beginning readers who know sight words and who enjoy visual puzzles, ages 5-7.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Easy readers

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: September 21, 2020

Posted in *Book Review, Adam Record, Beginning Reader, Brandon Budzi, Construction, Illustrator, Interactive | Tagged | Leave a comment

Eek! A Noisy Journey from A to Z – by Julie Larios, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

    Eek! A Noisy Journey from A to Z – by Julie Larios, illustrated by Julie Paschkis, Peachtree, 9781682631690, 2020

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre:  Alphabet book

What did you like about the book? The India ink and gouache illustrations provide a vibrant and engaging backdrop for this introductory book featuring onomatopoeia for younger readers. Many of the entries are particularly charming because they feature words that aren’t typically offered up to illustrate the concept. Achoo, sis-boom-bah, and ta-da!  are but a few of the more interesting sounds presented for exploration.

Anything you didn’t like about it? While the book is beautifully illustrated and presents a figure of speech in an accessible way, it misses the opportunity to explain it to children. A simple endpaper would have sufficed to do the job and invite children to think of their own variants.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would be a fun read-aloud for younger children, and a great mentor text for teachers introducing the concept.

Who should buy this book? Elementary or public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books or language collection

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street School, Northboro, MA

Date of review: 9/20/2020

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Alphabet, Julie Larios, Julie Paschkis, Language, Onomatopoeia | Tagged | Leave a comment

Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper – written and illustrated by Miri Leshem-Pelly

   Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper – written and illustrated by Miri Leshem-Pelly, Philomel Books, 9781984812728, 2020

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Picture book

What did you like about the book? Penny, the “doodle-person”, lives alone on a plain piece of paper and she’s not happy about it. So, she decides to do something! She walks off the paper to a map, newspaper, graph paper, wrapping paper, and a coloring book looking for some adventure. She quickly realizes that the grass isn’t always greener because all the other papers have a set of norms and rules, and they aren’t fun either. She returns home to her plain piece of paper where there are no rules, just opportunity. She uses the paper to send her friends an invitation to collaborate and make their own rules. And, they happily join in!

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? This book complements Peter Reynolds’s collection of inspirational picture books and is a solid entry into the growing genre of books that are encouraging youngsters to have a positive mindset and be creative.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street Elementary School, Northboro, MA

Date of review: 9/20/2020

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Miri Leshem-Pelly | Tagged | Leave a comment

Now You See Me Now You Don’t – by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Jonny Lambert

    Now You See Me Now You Don’t – by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Jonny Lambert, Tiger Tales, 9781680102109, 2020

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Picture book

What did you like about the book? This delightful rhyming romp presents a playfully pranking chameleon in his glory. After multiple episodes of hiding and playing tricks on all of the animals, a frog plays a trick on him, and the chameleon realizes it isn’t as fun to cause mischief and mayhem as he thought it was. Young readers will enjoy finding the hidden chameleon and frog on each colorfully vibrant two-page spread. Although lighthearted, this story teaches a valuable lesson about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? This book would pair nicely with Eric Carle’s The Mixed-Up Chameleon providing an opportunity for children to compare the main characters’ varied feelings and opinions about their color-changing abilities.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? It is delightful, but not necessarily a “must buy”.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street Elementary School, Northboro, MA

Date of review: 9/20/2020

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Jonny Lambert, Patricia Hegarty | Tagged | Leave a comment

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley, illustrated by Xavier Bonet

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley, illustrated by Xavier Bonet. Viking, 2020. 9780593202906

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre:  Mystery/ghosts

What did you like about the book? Eccentric millionaire Mr. Barclay has died, and five guests have been invited to his famous haunted hotel for an all-expenses-paid weekend. JJ goes with his mom, Jackie. Penny goes with her granddad, Detective Walker. The other guests are an actress, a children’s librarian, and a cowboy. When they arrive, Mr. Clark, the butler, announces that one of them killed Mr. Barclay, and that this weekend the killer would be discovered. JJ and Penny meet Emma, who is there with her uncle, the chef, and the three of them do lots of sneaking around after dark, exploring creepy places, and glimpsing ghosts out of the corner of the eye. The pace is fast, and the kids waste no time developing theories, as they try to discover the secrets that each of the adults may be harboring. The author is a mystery lover, and imbues the story with terms and conventions that will please young readers who enjoy the genre. The who in this whodunit is a complete surprise. Black and white illustrations flesh out the setting and action, and break up the chapters in this early grade mystery.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It’s unclear what the adults are doing while the kids are trying to solve the mystery.

To whom would you recommend this book?  For readers ages 8-12 who like gently spooky stories.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: September 19, 2020

Posted in *Book Review, Fleur Bradley, Mystery, Xavier Bonet | Tagged | Leave a comment

Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper – Miri Leshem-Pelly

   Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper – Miri Leshem-Pelly. Philomel Books, 2020. 9781984812728

Format: hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

 What did you like about the book?   Colorful, squiggly Penny lives all alone on a plain piece of paper.  But she’s bored, and lonely too, so she sets out to find a new paper home.  First she tries a newspaper, where she meets Mr. Important in a photograph.  He tells her she needs to stand still and hold her head up, which is just not in Penny’s nature.  Mr. Important tells her she must be serious: “That’s the rule of Newspaper.”  Undeterred, she then sets off to explore other types of paper, only to find she doesn’t really like their rules either:  she is not on the legend of Map; she doesn’t fit within the lines on Graph Paper; she gets confused by the pattern on the Wrapping Paper; and is too colorful for the Coloring Book.  She heads home to her plain piece of paper, which is still pretty dull – until she invites all her new friends over to make new rules.  

Penny’s adventure is enjoyable on different levels.  The illustrations are delightful as the style and the media change in every new setting.  Three dimensional effects (folds in the newspaper and map, spiral binding on the graph paper) add to the eye appeal.  Penny’s exuberant crayon-scribble body stands out against each backdrop, even when forced into a triangle shape on the Graph Paper or when she becomes a black-and-white coloring book figure.  It’s a nice story about being your own person, making your own fun, and finding ways to fit in, that might also provide a spark for an imaginative art project.  

Anything you did not like about the book?  no

 To whom would you recommend this book? Art teachers in grades 1-3 would definitely love this as a readaloud!  Young readers will find Penny a lovable heroine, and it would pair well with other creativity-themed picture books such as Red: A Crayon’s Story.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 9/17/2020

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Art | Tagged | Leave a comment