You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood by Aimee Reid, illustrated by Matt Phelan

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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Summary:  For those familiar with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, this book explains how Freddie Rogers’ childhood created the adult Fred Rogers that millions loved to watch on his TV show.  Freddie was a sickly child who had to learn to entertain himself during long periods indoors. He loved surrounding himself with puppets and telling them how he was feeling.  Bullied at school, Freddie appreciated the love and safety of his Grandfather McFeeley, who assured him he was special just being himself. When Fred grew up, he saw people fighting on TV and wanted to create a program that showed people helping each other.  The result was his own neighborhood where both people and puppets could express their feelings and learn how to care for one another. Includes additional biographical information, notes from both the author and the illustrator, and a bibliography. 40 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  With the new Tom Hanks movie coming out this fall, this provides an excellent introduction to Fred Rogers and all he stood for, and will serve to introduce a new generation to the neighborhood.  Matt Phelan’s gently muted illustrations provide a perfect complement to the text.

Cons:  I’m pretty sure it’s a federal offense to say anything negative about Mister Rogers.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live by Lita Judge

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Image result for homes in the wild judge

Summary:  26 animal babies and their families are profiled, grouped together by the type of home they have–underground, hidden in the trees, a nest, etc.  Large, realistic watercolors introduce each section, followed by smaller pictures with a paragraph of text about the two or three animals who inhabit that particular type of home.  The book concludes with the statement that animals are safe and sheltered in their homes, just like human children. Includes further information about each animal with a thumbnail sketch, a brief glossary, and a list of books and websites that give more information.  48 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Kids will love these adorable baby animal pictures, and there’s plenty of interesting information for them to browse.  The lists of additional resources will allow for further research.

Cons:  All 26 animals are mammals; it would have been interesting to throw in a few fish, reptiles, and birds for comparison.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Liberty Arrives! How America’s Grandest Statue Found Her Home by Robert Byrd

Published by Dial Books

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Image result for liberty arrives byrd

Summary:  The idea for the Statue of Liberty began in France in 1865 when Édouard de Laboulaye, a wealthy French judge who admired America, dreamed of presenting the United States with a gift for the 1876 centennial.  He enlisted sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi who specialized in large creations. Little did the two of them realize it would take more than two decades before their dream would finally come to fruition–and Laboulaye wouldn’t live to see it.  Part of the reason for the slowdown was the logistics of constructing a 151-foot statue and shipping it to the U.S.; the other part was money for covering the cost of creating the statue, shipping it, and building the base for her to stand on. Joseph Pulitzer finally solved the problem by challenging Americans to donate through his newspaper, the World, and approximately 121,000 people sent in $102,000.  On October 28 , 1886, Liberty Enlightening the World–more commonly known as the Statue of Liberty–was dedicated in New York Harbor.  Includes a diagram showing measurements of different parts of the statue; a timeline; a bibliography of books for adults and children and online sources; and Emma Lazarus’s poem printed on both endpapers.  40 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  This oversized book offers a wealth of fascinating, engagingly written information about the origins of the Statue of Liberty, all illustrated with Robert Byrd’s detailed watercolors.  Fun for browsing, and plenty of facts for research.

Cons:  The small, dense text may be a bit off-putting to kids.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Published by Candlewick

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Summary:  A pile of bones on the ocean floor slowly reassembles itself into a pirate with the help of some sea creatures.  “Help me find my head bone, my pillowed-on-the-bed bone, the pirate’s flag-of-dread bone–I’m scouting out my skull.”  He continues working his way down, each rhyme ending with the name of the bone he’s seeking: from mandible and clavicle all the way to tibia, fibula, and phalanges.  At last, he’s ready to don his pirate’s hat, and climb aboard his shipwrecked ship where he’s sure he’ll find treasure–”I feel it in my bones!” The endpapers show the separate bones on the front and a labeled skeleton on the back.  40 pages; ages 4-9.

Pros:  Although this has the feel of a preschool-to-primary-grade picture book, older kids would find this a humorous introduction to different bones.  The rhymes are catchy and the skeleton is oddly endearing. It could even be a nice alternative to traditional Halloween reading. Great fun!

Cons:  Back matter about the skeleton with additional resources would have been useful.

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Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Daniel Egneús

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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Summary:  Before the Industrial Revolution, most peppered moths had speckled wings.  The ones that were all black didn’t blend into tree bark as well and were more likely to get eaten.  But the smoke and soot from burning coal turned tree bark black, and before long, there were more black peppered moths than speckled ones.  After clean air laws were passed in the middle of the 20th century, the proportions started to shift again as tree bark returned to its original color. Includes additional information that explains defines evolution, natural selection, and adaptation.  48 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  How do you explain evolution and natural selection to a 7-year-old?  Isabel Thomas has done an amazing job here, ably assisted by Daniel Egneús collage-style illustrations.  The blue and silver cover is particularly eye-catching. This belongs in the science section of every elementary library.

Cons:  No photos of the real moths.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Look Again: Secrets of Animal Camouflage by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Steve Jenkins and Robin Page take a tour of different habitats–coral reefs, trees, the Arctic, etc.–and show how animals blend in to hide themselves in each one.  There are two cut-paper illustrations for each animal, one against a white background and one in which the animal is camouflaged. Each page has a couple sentences of introductory text; the rest is brief captions for the illustrations.  Additional information about each of the 36 animals is given at the end, along with thumbnail illustrations. Also includes books and websites for additional research. 40 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  As you may already know, I’m a big fan of Steve Jenkins books (I’ve only reviewed nine), and this one includes many of his beautiful trademark collage illustrations.  As usual, the information is fun and accessible for primary grade readers.

Cons:  This lacked the wow factor of some of my favorite Jenkins books like Biggest, Strongest, Fastest and  Animals By the Numbers

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita and It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni

Published by Lee and Low Books

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Image result for when aidan became a brother



Published by Henry Holt and Co.

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Summary:  Aidan is concerned about the new baby that’s coming to his house.  Suppose his parents don’t recognize the new baby’s correct gender? That’s what happened to Aidan.  His parents thought he was a girl, and it took a few years to convince them that he was really a boy.  Finally, his mom reassures him: “We made some mistakes, but you helped us fix them. And you taught us how important it is to love someone for exactly who they are.  This baby is so lucky to have you, and so are we.” The gender of the baby is never revealed, but they are fortunate to have such a loving and accepting family. Families who may be struggling with acceptance could benefit from It Feels Good to Be Yourself, which defines the terms transgender, cisgender, and non-binary, giving examples of kids who describe themselves in each of these ways.  The conclusion here: “Your feelings about your gender are real. Listen to your heart. No matter what your gender identity is, you are okay exactly the way you are.”  32 pages (Aidan) and 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Love and acceptance is good for everyone, and these two books help create more of it for kids and families who may be working through issues of gender identity.  

Cons:  There’s a certain free-to-be-you-and-me earnestness, particularly with It Feels Good to Be Yourself, which may feel dated when different gender identities become more a part of the culture.

If you would like to buy When Aidan Became a Brother, click here.

If you would like to buy It Feels Good to Be Yourself, click here.