The Grudge Keeper

Written by Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

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The town of Bonnyripple is a civilized place where no one ever holds a grudge. Why? Because any and all arguments are to be immediately delivered on a scroll of paper to old man Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper.

Ruffled feathers, petty snits, minor tiffs and major huffs, insults, umbrage, squabbles, dust-ups, and imbroglios – the Grudge Keeper received them all, large and small, tucking each one carefully away in his ramshackle cottage.

Over time, though, the grudges add up. They stack so high in Cornelius’ cottage that he can barely move. Then one day, a storm blows into town and causes quite a commotion. Items are ruined, neighbors bicker, feelings are hurt, and come morning the entire town is upset with each other. They march straight to Cornelius to drop off their grievances. But what do they find? A literal mountain of grudges and complaints and backhanded compliments all tossed together in a blown-about heap. And buried underneath it all is the poor grudge keeper. The townspeople must put aside their differences and work together to save him.

Wheeler does an excellent job creating the fairy-tale town of Bonnyville with her ink-and-watercolor illustrations. Watch how the color pallet shifts with the town’s mood, especially when the storm approaches – literally and figuratively. Rockliff uses plenty of alliteration and tongue-in-cheek wordplay to make the story fun to read and fun to listen to; this would work well as a third grade read aloud and could promote discussion on getting along and resolving conflict.

For a great interview with the author and illustrator and an insider’s look into the picture book-making process, visit The Making of the Grudge Keeper on the publisher’s website:

http://peachtreepub.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-making-of-grudge-keeper.html

 

  • The Grudge KeeperTitle: The Grudge Keeper
  • Author: Mara Rockliff
  • Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-729-8
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Humor

Wind Dancer

Written by Chris Platt

If you like horsey books, or even if you don’t, this short book has a lot to offer. Ali is a well-behaved thirteen-year-old who lost her beloved horse in an accident and whose brother, Danny, comes home from Afghanistan minus one leg. Meanwhile, she is keeping an eye on a possibly senile neighbor whose two horses are obviously neglected. When her friend, Cara, talks her into sneaking out to check on the horses, they discover the horses are in very bad shape. The girls report the neglect anonymously, but Ali’s parents still figure out she sneaked out. So Ali ends up with the responsibility of nursing the horses back to health. The author includes a lot of information about the problems sick horses face. Danny and the sicker horse form a special bond, helping them both.

 

The author does a great job of showing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder from a young family member’s perspective. Ali knows her brother is not the same as when he went to war, but she’s not able to put a name to it right away. The reader will also see all the difficulties in trying to help abused and neglected animals. Where do you draw the line between being a good neighbor and interfering? Third graders who are just learning of some of the problems in the world will love to read about how Ali works out all her problems. The fascinating story will provide a lot of reinforcement for literacy skills.

 

  • Wind DancerTitle: Wind Dancer
  • Author: Chris Platt
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 126 pages
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction, horses, PTSD
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-736-6
  • Extras: Multiple resources about PTSD

Voices from the Oregon Trail

Written by Kay Winters
Illustrated by Larry Day

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The poetry created by Kay Winters breathes life into the story of the Oregon Trail and the many emigrants who traveled there in the thirty years of its use. Between 1830 and 1860 overlanders made the trek in farm wagons pulled by horses, mules or cows. Most people sought free land and riches to be made on their own terms.

They sent letters back home that helped to preserve their adventures; good and bad. People were born and died along the trail. They were married, injured or became sick or lost.

Each poem in this collection is written from the perspective of a particular individual. Women, men, children, Native Americans, and even the captain of a wagon train all have their say and give the story the feel of realism.

Third grade readers will be enthralled by the journey and the chance to think about and pretend they are along for the trip. The illustrations are colorful, active and realistic enough for readers to feel part of the square dance, the river crossing, or the hail storm.

Teachers and librarians can use this text in the core curriculum for literacy skill development in reading as well as in the areas of writing poetry and/or memoir. It would be a valuable addition to any library.

  • Voices from the Oregon TrailTitle: Voices from the Oregon Trail
  • Author: Kay Winters
  • Illustrator: Larry Day
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-8037-3775-4
  • Genre: Historical Fiction in Poetry/Oregon National Historic Trail
  • Extras: Historical Notes/Further Reading Lists

A Home for Mr. Emerson

Written by Barbara Kerley
Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

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Ralph Waldo Emerson loved his home in Concord, Massachusetts. Perhaps more than most people love a home. And yet, this book is not only about the home, but the man who lived there.

He was a little boy in Boston who wanted to go to the country and be outdoors. As a young man his family moved about a lot, but they did end up in the country. He collected books and friends. He married a woman who loved chickens and rosebushes.

Reading this biography feels like getting to know a good friend. The narration is smooth and inviting while also being full of quotes from Mr. Emerson’s writings.

The illustrations are large and draw the reader right into his office filled with books and papers and a favorite rocking chair.

Fire strikes late in the night when Mr. Emerson is sixty-nine years old. The whole town comes to help save books, papers, clothes and furniture. But it is his spirit that is hurt the most. Finally, weeks later his friends convince him to go away on a trip to rest and recover. Only while away in England and then Egypt he missed his favorite people and home more than ever. When he returned to the Concord train station the whole town was waiting to greet him. The biggest surprise was how beautifully the town had rebuilt and refurnished his beloved home.

Third grade readers will enjoy this well-told biography and learn their literacy skills of using primary sources when doing their own reports.  They will also see how possible it is to include read quotations in a new narrative.

Librarians and teachers can use this as a wonderful read aloud and satisfy the core curriculum in the areas of biography as well as American literature. Art teachers can use the variations in illustrations to highlight usage of color to distinguish distance as well as personal attributes showing emotion along with many other well done techniques.

This biography is a joy to read again and again. It is a well done transition from real life facts to real life story.  The great team work of Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham also created the books, What To Do About Alice? The Extraordinary Mark Twain, and Those Rebels, John & Tom. It is a very talented duo!

  • Home for Mr. EmersonTitle: A Home for Mr. Emerson
  • Author: Barbara Kerley
  • Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-35088-4
  • Genre: Biography, nonfiction, community
  • Level: Grades 3-7
  • Extras: Author’s Note, list of primary sources and source list for original quotations

Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog

Written by Elizabeth W. Davidson, Ph.D.
Illustrated by Michael Hagelberg

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Cheery is a Chiricahua (Cheer-a-cow-ah) Leopard Frog. In his own words, he shares his life with young readers starting at the beginning when he’s just an egg floating in a pond. As he grows from a tadpole to a full-grown frog, he swims and eats and sings songs all night long with his fellow Leopard Frog friends.

But Wise Old Frog warns Cheery of life’s dangers. Invasive crayfish and bullfrogs not only cause diseases, but often feast on Leopard Frogs. After one winter’s hibernation, Cheery wakes to find most of his friends gone. What happened? He learns that many frogs got sick or fell prey to the invasive creatures. Cheery’s loneliness turns to confusion as he is caught in a net, put in a bucket, and whisked away to a strange place. However, upon hearing the familiar call of other Leopard Frogs, he feels safe. Now at a zoo habitat, Cheery and his friends have plenty to eat and can repopulate without the threat of danger. When they are a full family again, they are moved back to their old pond to swim and eat and sing.

This book hits just the right notes for third grade readers, leaving them feeling encouraged and hopeful. The disappearance of the Chiricahua Leopard Frog is just one example of the many frog species that are endangered or extinct. The author, a research scientist at Arizona State University, provides extra information on amphibian decline and the importance of frogs to our ecosystem. A curriculum guide is also included and offers reading strategies and questions for the classroom. Additional materials can be found on the publishers website: www.littlefivestar.com.

  • CheeryTitle: Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog
  • Author: Elizabeth W. Davidson, Ph.D.
  • Illustrator: Michael Hagelberg
  • Publisher: Little Five Star / Five Star Publications
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58985-025-5
  • Genre: Picture Book / Nonfiction / Animals / Endangered Species

Beautiful Ballerinas

Written by Elizabeth Dombey
Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

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Becoming a ballerina is the dream of many little girls and this book tells them exactly how to make it happen.

It is a charming combination of cartoon like watercolor paintings of little girls and boys inter-mixed with beautiful photographs of real ballerinas at practice and in performance.

The vocabulary of ballet is explained in text and illustrations. Readers are encouraged to try what they see in the pictures on their way to becoming ballerinas. There is a lengthy explanation of pointe shoes that includes their history, their manufacture, and the length of time that they last. Readers will be surprised to learn how many different pairs of pointe shoes a professional ballerina might go through in one year.

The history of the dance is told in the last section of the book.

The book has been designed and written for second grade readers and third grade readers in mind as well as the core curriculum. Children are interested in the arts and enjoy learning more about them.

It will be a wonderful read aloud for librarians, teachers, parents and ballet teachers, too.

  • Beautiful BallerinasTitle: Beautiful Ballerinas
  • Author: Elizabeth Dombey
  • Illustrator: Shelagh McNicholas
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, January 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: paperback/unpaged
  • ISBN:  978-0-448-46714-6
  • Genre: narrative nonfiction
  • Grades: K to 3

Fortunately, the Milk

Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Skottie Young

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Middle grade readers will giggle all the way through this silly tale through time and space. Supposedly, all these adventures and time travelers happened to father on his way home from the store with the milk. The children wondered what took him so long.

It is a typical kind of story that parents often try to make up for children using what they see about the kitchen as far as labels or character ideas.

One child is quite skeptical about father’s adventure tale, but the daughter just hopes that somewhere in the story there will be ponies. So, of course, father puts in some ponies.

The one constant in the whole silly escapade is the bottle of milk carefully protected in father’s coat pocket.

Teachers and librarians will use it successfully for read aloud time.

The cartoon type pencil sketched drawings add greatly to the fun and silliness. It would be of particular interest to low readability/ high interest students. The many drawings and large amounts of dialogue make for a great deal of white space in the book that will help to encourage newly independent readers.

  • Fortunately the MilkTitle: Fortunately, the Milk
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Illustrator: Skottie Young
  • Publisher: HarperCollins, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover,128 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-06-222407-1
  • Genre: Humorous Fiction/ Science Fiction
  • Grade level: Third up

Burton and the Christmas Tree

Written by V.A. Boeholt

Illustrated by Nathaniel P. Jensen

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Firry is an evergreen who is very proud of his appearance. In fact, he’s a little too proud.  He’s more interested in being beautiful than in bringing joy. When he’s among the first chosen to be sold as a Christmas tree, that means he’s unceremoniously thrown in the bottom of the truck. All the other trees piled on top of him and a bumpy road to market leave him in a terrible state. He’s left to rot by the side of the road. Only through the efforts of a friendly scarecrow named Burton, and his animal friends, is Firry repaired and restored to glory. Firry is set up in the town square and enjoyed by the entire town. It turns out the sap that dripped on top of Firry from the other trees looks like sparkling gems in the light. This warm parable about caring and helpful creatures is sure to delight the reader. The illustrations provide a lively backdrop and add to the story.

Fourth in a series “Friendship Tales from the Farm” for the third grade reading level, this volume is loaded with life lessons and reading activities. Themes to look for and a history of the decorated Christmas tree are the first two pages after the story ends. The author then includes tips and points for connecting with the story, many ideas for activities, online resources, a glossary and information about the author, illustrator, and publication team. In addition, the author’s website (www.scarecrowstories.com) has plenty of information and a blog for busy minds.

  • Burton and the Christmas TreeTITLE: Burton and the Christmas Tree
  • AUTHOR: V.A. Boeholt
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Nathaniel P. Jensen
  • PUBLISHER: Five Star Publications, Inc.
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-1-58985-206-8
  • GENRE: Paperback, Christmas, Self acceptance
  • LEXILE: 800

Anna Was Here

Written by Jane Kurtz

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Ten year old Anna Nickel is mad at her father for moving from Colorado back to Oakwood, Kansas to be a minister in a church that is having problems. There are lots of relatives here that Anna hasn’t ever had the chance to get to know before and she isn’t really anxious to meet them now.

Anna is also not happy about living in tornado alley. She is a very cautious young lady who always likes to be prepared. She has a safety club and keeps a notebook about things to do when a hurricane strikes or a rattlesnake bites you.

In this humorous coming of age story, a family that takes God’s teachings to heart must struggle with a new house, new town, new school and all the challenges that come with it. On top of all that, her mother goes away to take care of Anna’s grandparents. Leaving her alone for a while with her preacher dad and some relatives she has never met.

This story is great fun and exciting, too. Third grade students will love the short chapters and wide margins on the pages, as will fourth and fifth grade readers. It will be a great read aloud story or can be a wonderful book club book. Readers of Katherine Paterson’s books will love this one, too.

Literacy classes can find many skills to study and reinforce throughout these pages that are all seasoned with laughter.

  • Anna Was HereTitle: Anna Was Here
  • Author: Jane Kurtz
  • Publisher: HarperCollins, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-06-056493-3
  • Genre: Realistic fiction

The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic

Written by Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin

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Dini, our young main character, is finally home from India and looking forward to spending time with her best friend Maddie. The book about her time there was called, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. Now, in the sequel, she is back in America but still a huge fan of Dolly Singh, the big star of Bollywood in India. So she goes completely wild about helping arrange a trip and tour for Dolly in America. Who could imagine all the problems involved with a lost passport? An escaped elephant? Finding a good rose petal milk shake in an American hotel?

Dini is confused by all the changes that happened while she is away. Like her best friend, getting another best friend. How is that supposed to work? She is also confused by jet lag.

This is a fun story about girlfriends trying their best to get along and make a parade, a milk shake and a cake for their favorite movie star. They also work out a dance routine for her grand opening that uses flowing ribbons and swaying dance steps. It illustrates their background as East Asian Americans and the beautiful blend of cultures that they experience.

It would make a great book club or read aloud for third graders. The literacy skills strengthened include: humor, cause and effect, dialogue and the differences between things that are real and those that are fiction. As Dini finds out, life is not always like the movies.

  • Slightly HeroicTitle: The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic
  • Author: Uma Krishnaswami
  • Illustrator: Abigail Halpin
  • Publisher: Atheneum, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Harcover, 274 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-4424-2328-2
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Grade Level 3
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