This Book of Mine by Sarah Stewart, pictures by David Small

Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

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Summary:  A diverse cast of characters uses books to spark their imaginations, comfort themselves, lose themselves, and to find a friend.  A baby even uses the corner of a book for teething. Only nine sentences long, the text works well with the mostly purple illustrations, with the different books providing spots of other colors.  32 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  Short, sweet, and simple, this would be a great way to generate classroom discussion about the wonders of books and reading.

Cons:  It seemed a bit too short. 

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The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo, illustrated by Mike Deas

Published by Tilbury House Publishers

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Summary:  When Miss Mellon’s class goes out to recess, many of the kids find friends to play with, but a few are left out.  As the story unfolds, we learn the various reasons: a broken leg, a stutter, old clothes with holes, being small…all are reasons why kids feel like they don’t fit in.  A post-recess conversation results in the class banding together to build a buddy bench. The other kids know when they see someone sitting on the bench, that child is looking for someone to play with.  Includes information and additional resources about buddy benches. 36 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A perfect start to discussions about how to include others.  Even if kids don’t have the know-how or resources to build a buddy bench, they can work together to find solutions to make sure everyone gets included at recess.

Cons:  The rhyming text felt a little forced.

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Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, illustrated by Federico Fabiani

Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux

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Summary:  Tallulah is like no tooth fairy you’ve ever seen.  She’s the CEO of her own company, Teeth Titans Incorporated, as well as the founder of the National Association for the Appreciation and Care of Primary Teeth (NAACP-T).  But Tallulah’s not all about work. She believes in finding a balance between the three P’s: passion, purpose, and what pays. She does yoga, chats with her therapist, and visits museums.  She recruits and trains other tooth fairies, and when night falls, off they go to collect teeth from kids around the world. One night, Tallulah encounters something unusual: a boy who’s lost his tooth and left her a note instead.  After a quick consultation with her Board of Directors, she leaves a note in return, gifting him with a tooth compartment lanyard from her company to help him keep track of his teeth in the future. The final page shows the boy with a gap-toothed grin and Tallulah watching him from the bushes outside his house.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Kids will love unconventional fairy Tallulah, and may be inspired to come up with some of their own ideas about the tooth fairy.  Tallulah is smart, savvy, and nobody’s fool…a great role model for girls and boys.

Cons:  Some of the humor will be appreciated by adults, but may go over the kids’ heads.

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Bringing Down A President: The Watergate Scandal by Dr. Andrea Balis and Elizabeth Levy, illustrated by Tim Foley

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  From the break-in at the Watergate hotel on May 25, 1972 to Richard Nixon’s resignation as U.S. President on August 9, 1974, this book covers what went on in the White House in a unique fashion.  The story is narrated by a “fly on the wall”, whose story is interspersed with quotes from many different key players in the events. There are black and white illustrations, some with cartoon bubbles that quote the people shown.  The epilogue tells what happened to those who went to jail (answer: all served ridiculously short terms and made obscene amounts of money off of their experiences when they got out), and those who put them in prison by persisting in their investigation.  Includes almost 200 sources and a three-page bibliography with a tiny font. 240 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Even though I’ve watched All the President’s Men about ten times, this added a lot to my understanding of Watergate and the depths of the corruption going on in Richard Nixon’s presidency.  Once I got through the first few chapters and figured out who was who (there are a lot of characters, and they’re almost all white men in suits), I couldn’t put it down.  Anyone from tween to adult will add to their knowledge of history pretty painlessly by reading this book.

Cons:  1. The illustrations are fun, but photos would have been a nice addition. Those who went to jail are pictured at the end, but there’s not a single photo of Nixon. 2. As one might expect from a book featuring Tricky Dick, there is plenty of salty language, either quoted directly or through #?!&* indicators.

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Storm Blown by Nick Courage

Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  As Hurricane Valerie, the “storm of the century”,  approaches the Gulf Coast, two families struggle to survive.  Emily lives in New Orleans with her brother Elliott who is recovering from cancer surgery. Her father is out on the Gulf working on an oil rig, and her mom is completely stressed out trying to deal with everything going on at home.  When Emily feels pushed away, she retreats to an island in a nearby park and hides in a tree, unaware that evacuation orders have been issued ahead of the storm. Alejo lives in Puerto Rico with his uncle, and the two of them get separated during the evacuation there.  Eventually the kids’ lives intersect, and there’s a nail-biting, race-against-time rescue as the storm moves in, even bigger and more powerful than expected. 352 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Fans of the I Survived series will enjoy the slow build-up of the first half as the storm is still approaching, and the edge-of-your-seat suspense of the second half as the group stranded in New Orleans struggles to get away.

Cons:  The females in the story seemed too passive, depending on the males to rescue them.  Emily makes a series of bad decisions, leaving it to her sick brother to risk his life to save her.  Their mom seems just about paralyzed by anxiety, and it’s up to the dad to sweep in from his oil rig job at the last minute and begin the rescue effort.

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How Do You Dance? by Thyra Heder

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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Summary:  Anyone needing to brush up on their dance moves will find inspiration in this book.  Everyone dances–kids, adults, parents, grandparents, principals, and construction workers.  Everyone, that is, except for one boy who crosses his arms and flat-out refuses. A girl (his sister?) tries to convince him, showing him different places and moods that lend themselves to dancing, and even giving him a chart with more than a dozen dance moves.  But even a two-page-spread dance party that includes robots, dinosaurs, and a giant disco ball fails to convince him. Finally, he stalks off to his room, where he reveals that his preferred style of dancing is alone, and shows his moves on the final page. 40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  So much energy!  This would make a fun dancing storytime, with plenty of inspiration in the cute illustrations.

Cons:  I wished a few of the pictures were a little bit bigger for the purpose of sharing with a group.

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Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Published by Neal Porter Books

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Summary:  “Why?” a curious rabbit asks his friend the bear.  “Because flowers need water to grow,” answers the bear as he waters his flowers.  “Because they are very far away,” he responds as the two look through a telescope.  “Wind” is the simple answer as the rabbit hangs on to a branch, and “Gravity” as he is blown off and falls into Bear’s arms.  When Rabbit asks about a dead bird, Bear says, “I don’t know why. Sometimes I just don’t know why!” As he heads for his den, Rabbit begs him to stay.  Now it’s Bear’s turn to ask “Why?” To which Rabbit responds, “Because then I would miss my friend. That’s why.” 32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  You can’t really go wrong with a Laura Vaccaro Seeger book.  This one is an ode to friendship and also parent-child relationships with adorable animal illustrations.

Cons:  All those “why’s” can get a little pesky.

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I Got Next by Daria Peoples-Riley

Published by Greenwillow Books

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Summary:  A young boy’s shadow comes to life and becomes his coach as a basketball game is about to begin.  “Show me your game face!” he says, and after a few tries, the boy finds the right face, going from scared to ferociously confident.  With ten seconds left in the game, the shadow tells the boy to show what he knows. Using his skills, he slowly closes the five-point gap to win the game.  “Work hard”, “Don’t quit”, and “Never give up” are the final words of wisdom as the boy gets ready for another game. The endpapers include a mural with pictures of famous African-Americans along the bottom of the pages. 40 pages; ages 4-9.  

Pros:  A beautiful, empowering book for sports fans with collage illustrations that the Caldecott committee might want to take a closer look at.

Cons:  I might have appreciated the story more if I knew one thing about basketball.

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Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir, illustrated by Sarah Andersen

Published by Ten Speed Press

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Summary:  Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan’s Wendy have all been in and out of institutions, diagnosed with dissociative psychosis for believing they can travel to other worlds.  They wind up together in a research lab, where Dr. Rutherford hopes to learn more about their powers. Alice, angry over her years feeling like a prisoner, steals Dorothy’s silver slippers and escapes to Oz.  The other two go after her, along with their nanny (who may or may not be Mary Poppins), and before long they are dropping in and out of Oz, Neverland, and Wonderland in an attempt to foil the Queen of Hearts, Wicked Witch of the West, and Captain Hook (the last two have a budding romance in Neverland).  Everyone is reunited back in the lab in the end, but a last page hints that there may be a sequel. 128 pages; grades 7-10.

Pros:  There’s plenty of girl power with these three, as they refuse to let anyone control their destinies or overshadow them in their adventures.  The artwork is gorgeous, and it’s great fun to see elements of the three familiar stories woven together.

Cons:  I was hoping this would find a home in my grade 4 and 5 library, but the frequent swears and sexual innuendos (there’s a great subplot where Peter Pan grows up, Alice shrinks him, and he has a thing with Tinkerbell) make it more appropriate for middle school and up.

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Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! By Cori Doerrfeld

Published by Dial Books

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Summary:  Every cloud has a silver lining in this book that traces a friendship between two girls, Stella and Charlie.  Stella says a teary goodbye to her mom as she gets on the school bus, but the goodbye leads to a hello from new friend Charlie at school.  Goodbye to snowmen means hello to puddles; goodbye to the sun means hello to the stars. The final goodbye, as Charlie moves away, seems insurmountable (“goodbye to holding tight is hello to letting go”), but by the last page a new girl has moved in, and Stella is saying “hello” just like Charlie did to her.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This would be a great book for anyone going through a transition, whether it’s starting a new school, moving, or even losing a pet (“goodbye to an empty [fish]bowl is hello to a full heart”).  Kids could enjoy brainstorming hellos and goodbyes.

Cons:  A few of the transitions, like the dead fish example above, seemed a little contrived.  Sometimes it’s okay to just be sad and not have to find that silver lining, at least not right away.

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