Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima; illustrated by Jessie Sima

Spencer's New PetSpencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima; illustrated by Jessie Sima. 2019. Illustrations rendered in Adobe Photoshop. Published Simon and Schuster.

Brief summary: A boy and his pet balloon dog do everything together being very careful to avoid  any sharp objects. The inevitable does happen, but it’s afterwards that is surprising.

Comments: The colors used for this book are black, gray, white, and red. The beginning end pages are the 3-2-1- movie countdown. The book is divided into thirds and done in the silent movie frame style. This is a story without words.

Wordless stories are one of my favorite genres. I would share the book with the students in total silence explaining that the words are happening in our minds as I turn the pages. When the book ends,  we then would go page-by-page taking turns of how the story unraveled.

For older students, I would show the book again using an ELMO this time up on the screen while they wrote the story.  We would share with a neighbor.

The Last Peach by Gus Gordon; illustrated by Gus Gordon

thelastpeachThe Last Peach by Gus Gordon; illustrated by Gus Gordon. 2019. Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Brief summary: Two bugs are sitting on a leaf in the peach tree admiring the last peach of the year and discuss how they should eat it. Another bug comes along and wonders if the peach is rotten inside. The two continue to discuss the pros and cons of eating the peach and decide it is too beautiful to eat.

Comments: This whimsical book would work well as a reader’s theater selection. Each character has a different colored font to make it easier for young readers to keep track. I like that the end pages have pictures of peaches instead of just plain white paper.

Butterflies on the First Day of School by Annie Silvestro; illustrated by Dream Chen

51SJmJSGB4L._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_Butterflies on the First Day of School by Annie Silvestro; illustrated by Dream Chen. 2019. Published by Sterling Children’s Books.

Brief summary: Rosie excitedly prepares for the first day of school. When the day arrives, she has a stomachache and tells her parents that maybe she should stay home. “”You must have butterflies in your belly,” said her mother, hugging her tight”. The bus pulls up and Rosie sits next to a girl named Violet. A butterfly comes out of Rosie’s mouth as they make friends. As Rosie goes through her day and keeps getting a random bellyache,  butterflies comes out when she shares or plays.

At recess, Rosie kindly goes over to Isabella who is rubbing her stomach now and asks if the girl would like to play. A few butterflies come out of  Isabella’s mouth. Upon coming home, Rosie shares her first day with her mother and a last butterfly flies from her mother this time.

Comments: End pages have large flowers in the front and large butterflies in the back. I always love when the ends are decorated with anything but those stark white pages.

I would share this with an anxious first day student in primary school. Great book for a school counselor to have on hand too.

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

The King of KindergartenThe King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 2019. Hand drawn; colored using Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Brief summary: It is the first day of kindergarten for a young boy. He brushes his teeth, dresses himself, and eats breakfast with his family. He is ready to be the king of kindergarten as his carriage arrives to take him to the fortress. He meets his teacher and finds his own seat while getting to know new friends.  He learns and plays with imagination throughout the day and can’t wait to go back the next day.

Comments: Royalty jargon and analogies throughout the book. This is a positive story to build a child’s self-esteem a bit before going to the first day.

The illustration are with bright colors and with happy faces. There are many two-paged layouts.

It may be necessary to remind the young reader(s)  that there are other kings and queens attending kindergarten class that day too.

Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryan; illustrated by Dapo Adeola

Rocket Says Look UpRocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryan; illustrated by Dapo Adeola. 2019. Published by Random House.

Brief summary: A young girl’s enthusiasm of seeing a meteor shower that night spreads to others in the neighborhood. As night comes, Rocket(named after a rocket that was shot into space the day she was born) goes to the park with her brother who is always looking down on his phone. He turns his phone off and looks up to see the meteor shower dart across the sky. The two share the moment with each other while drinking hot chocolate.

Comments: I thought this would be a good book of introduction for the primary students about the sky. The Farmers Almanac site has a schedule of meteor showers. Wouldn’t it be fun  to send home a note in December or winter break for the students to think of each other while looking up at the sky for a scheduled meteor shower on Dec. 13/14 or Dec. 22?


Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenhaler by Elizabeth Brown; illustrated by Aimee Sicuro

Dancing Through Field of ColorDancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenhaler by Elizabeth Brown; illustrated by Aimee Sicuro. 2019. Watercolor, ink, and charcoal pencil. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Young Helen enjoyed mixing her watercolors in nontraditional ways. In art class at school, she was able to follow the rules of how to draw and paint to please her teachers but she wished for more. She was able to follow the rules  in order to study art in college. She moved to New York where she created paintings where colors overlapped. She met the famous Jackson Pollock who was known for for his art in  the abstract expressionist movement. She began to experiment with the “soak stain” method of pouring paint onto the canvas.

Comments:  There is a quick biographical sketch, timeline, author’s note, quotes and sources, select bibliography, and poured paint/soak-stain activity. I think the activity would be perfect to do outdoors during the end-of-the-year field day or such when the students are already wet and messy.


Hildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer and Saint by Demi

Hildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer and SaintHildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer & Saint written and illustrated by Demi. 2019. Published by Wisdom Tales. 

Brief summary: Hildegard (1098-1179) was born in Mainz, Germany. As a child, she had “lights”, sometimes called visions of Heaven, at times when she closed her eyes. She was also able to predict the future. All of this gave her terrible headaches in which her parents thought it would be better for her to go the Benedictine Cloister of Mount St. Disibod where people who saw God could go and pray. As she was being educated, she proved to have an astonishing intelligence. She was able to compose the music after hearing the performance one time.

At eighteen, she became a nun and was later elected Abbess. She became  known for her visions. She told them to a nun and monk who began to  write them down in a book called Know the Ways of God. At 53, she finished her book and became famous. She and her nuns moved to a town near Bingen where she became Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard wrote five more books after age 65. She also wrote 77 symphonic songs. In her 60s and 70s, she toured around Germany organizing and reforming monasteries as she preached and healed. She was declared a saint in 2012.

Comments: This woman was amazing! I recommend this book  for sacred and secular libraries. She is an example of how one person can make  a difference. I was impressed how Hildegard started her writing career in her fifties. After researching her a bit on the internet, I was surprised and pleased to see that her teachings are still being recognized and followed.


Unicorn Day by Diana Murray; illustrated by Luke Flowers

Unicorn DayUnicorn Day by Diana Murray; illustrated by Luke Flowers. 2019. Sketched and painted in Photoshop. Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Brief summary: There is a big unicorn party celebrating Unicorn Day where there are only three rules to follow: show off your horn, fluff up your hair, and have fun. All the unicorns are dancing and singing and having fun in ways that one would think a unicorn would. Cupcakes and glitter are everywhere. In the middle of all of the celebrating, one of the party attendees  turns out to be a fake. The party momentarily stops until the unicorns decide what to do.

Comments: I can imagine this book going out so much in a library that multiple copies will be needed. The illustrations are large and colorful. The end pages are covered in cupcakes. A very silly and frivolous book.

What a fun book to read on April 9th–Unicorn Day.



The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs by Fiona Robinson; illustrated by Fiona Robinson

The Blues of BluesThe Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs by Fiona Robinson; illustrated by Fiona Robinson. 2019. “Montages of pencil drawings, watercolor paintings, vintage fabrics and wallpapers, wood veneers, and photographs.” Published by Abrams.

Brief summary: Anna and her father press flowers and collect  insects in Kent, England sometime in 1807. John Children has only one child, Anna, and is determined to give her the best education possible by home schooling her, since girls rarely went to school especially to learn about science.

Anna grew up to become a botanist often sketching her own specimens. Her father translates French scientific journals to English and needs 250  illustrations for a series he just finished called Lamarck’s Genera of Shells. Anna illustrates the various shells.

Anna marries and moves to London. Anna wants to attend the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge but women are not allowed. Her father shares the lectures with her. She wants to find a way to share her knowledge of the extensive herbarium she has collected. She is given membership to the Royal Botanic Society in London during 1839.

In 1841, Anna and her father learn how to take photographs. They visit Sir John Herschel where he shares how he has discovered the cyanotype print that does not need a camera to make a quick image in blue (due to the chemicals used). Anna decides to use this method and creates a book of her seaweed* which is completed in 1843. Her father shares her books with several of the scientific museums.

Comments: The color of this book and its pages are all done in blues. The end pages have labeled cyantypes of various plants.  In the back of the book, there is an author’s note, instructions of how to make your own cyanotype, bibliography, institutions holding Anna’s Cyanotypes, acknowledgements, illustration credits, and a detailed explanation of the mediums used for the book.

This book could be used for biography reports, a science and art class collaboration(students collecting specimens and then making their own cyanotype), and Women’s History Month in March.

Personal note: As I am reading this book, I am reminded of how unique it was for Anna to have a father who valued the intellect of his daughter and educated her to become a  botanist. Even with all of her work with creating and recording her specimens in several books of cyanotypes, she is not given due credit. She wrote a biography about her father and a book titled Photographs of British Algae. She did not use her name but her initials A.A. which were taken for many years as “anonymous author.”

I paused and thought several times during this book of how many other women with wonderful scientific minds were ignored during this time period because of the  prejudices towards women.

*Note: The author does not know for sure what the subject matter was for Anna’s first cyanotype.

Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by Don Tate

Carter Reads the NewspaperCarter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by Don Tate. 2019. Mixed media. Published by Peachtree Publishers.

Brief summary: Carter G. Woodson was born in 1875 and grew up hearing about his family’s history.  He reads the newspaper to his family and learns about the world. He works as a farmer, garbage collector, and coal miner. He opens his house to the other miners filling it with books and newspapers. He reads the newspapers aloud to those who cannot read.

After mining for three years, he moves home and starts high school finishing it in two years at age 22. He goes to college to become a teacher. He continues his formal education earning a PhD in history from Harvard University.  In 1926, he is able to create Negro History Week to be the second week of February to mark the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. He sends out pamphlets and puts notices in newspapers about it as a way to talk about and preserve African-American history. Today, we celebrate Black History Month in February thanks to Carter Woodson’s efforts.

Comments:  There are internet and print resources listed in the back along with an author’s and illustrator’s note. The back of the book also has a timeline of his life and a list of quotations. I would introduce this book at the end of January as an introduction for Black History month.