Here’s Hank: Fake Snakes and Weird Wizards

Written by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver

In Hank’s fourth book, we find him being a wonderful big brother to Emily. What she really, really wants for her birthday party is to have Ralph’s Reptile Show come to perform at her birthday party. Trouble is, Dad says Ralph is expensive. Besides, Ralph’s schedule is already booked full.

When Emily slams her bedroom door shut to go inside and cry, Hank has to think of something. So he hollers in that he could have the Westside Wizard come do a show at her party instead of Ralph. Trouble is, there is no such thing as the Westside Wizard. Hank calls an emergency meeting at the clubhouse with Frankie and Ashley. Together they work out a plan for Hank to dress in disguise and perform magic tricks. Because Emily’s very favorite animals are snakes, he even works a rubber snake into his act.

Throughout the story, Hank and his friends work very hard to make Emily’s birthday special. Readers will pick up on the importance of taking care of younger siblings and planning surprises for them.  Third grade readers will also watch Hank struggle as he practices over and over again to get the tricks to work out just right. It is very rewarding to see how hard he works to make the party special. Children will understand many skills take lots of practice to succeed.

Humor continues to play a large role in this Hank book, especially as the family dog is the first one to suspect who is inside the wizard costume.

As with all of the Hank books, this one is printed using the Dyslexie font which makes it easier for kids with reading disabilities to distinguish the letters. However, it is not in any way intended only for children with dyslexia. This font makes it easier and faster for all children to read. They will particularly enjoy the lists Hank makes for himself, like the one about the four things that happened to him when Frankie tried to teach him magic tricks.

Teachers, librarians and parents can enjoy this as a fun read aloud to share with their children and/or as a book club book to open discussions about what can or has been done to help make holidays special for siblings.

After reading this book, readers will want to go to the library and read the first three Hank books, if they haven’t read them yet.

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  • Heres HankTitle: Here’s Hank: Fake Snakes and Weird Wizards
  • Authors:  Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver
  • Illustrator: Scott Garrett
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 128 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-448-48252-1
  • Genre: realistic fiction
  • Grade level: 1 to 3

Explore the Cosmos like Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Space Science Journey

Written by CAP Saucier

From the first night he could see the stars from the roof of his Bronx apartment building, science has attracted Neil deGrasse Tyson. In this new book – part biography and part astronomy – Saucier follows Tyson from that early fascination to his status as one of the most respected scientists in the world. The result is a good representation of Tyson’s view of the universe. The author starts with a wide view of the universe and the Big Bang. The reader then learns about constellations, galaxies and how they were formed, black holes, stars, comets, different types of planets, moons, and asteroids. Along the way, the reader also hears about dark matter, dark energy, and space dust. Saucier includes Tyson’s hopes for the future of space travel and exploration and about the importance of all this knowledge to the human condition. The writer also incorporates enough details of Tyson’s life to give a sense of the man behind the science.

Most two-page spreads are highlighted by wonderful photographs of nebulae, galaxies, and planets. Kids will be drawn in by the colorful layout.

This is a very good beginning introduction for third grade and above. There is enough explanation to give kids a sense of the topics, but it leaves the reader to dig deeper. And it creates enough excitement to ensure that will happen.

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  • Explore the CosmosTitle: Explore the Cosmos like Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Space Science Journey
  • Author: CAP Saucier
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books, March 3, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 177 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, astronomy
  • ISBN: 978-1-63388-014-6
  • Extras: Table of contents, notes, glossary, bibliography, index, many full-color photographs and illustrations

Over On A Mountain

Written by  Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

Marianne Berkes continues her great series with this book that introduces 20 different animals that live on ten different mountain ranges on seven different continents of the world. This book will make teaching geography fun and easily fulfills the core curriculum standards for elementary literacy skills, math, and geography. It will be a wonderful addition to your school, classroom or home library.

Readers can count the animal babies, and read the numeral on the page, or vice versa. Likewise, they will enjoy the natural rhymes of the story and sing a song they already know with different words. Besides all that, they can identify the continents and animals that live on each. The cut paper illustrations are realistic enough to jump right into. Readers of all ages will be tempted to make their own cut paper illustrations.

This is a book that just keeps on giving.  The end pages have tips from the author as well as tips from the illustrator so readers can try out the techniques on their own. That is on top of all the added detailed information about the animals included in the book.

A particularly helpful section in the end pages deals with what parts of the book are facts and which fiction. These are decisions always difficult for young readers to distinguish on their own.

Facts about mountains and suggestions about how to compare and contrast are added benefits as well as suggestions for further reading.

While the youngest readers might not grasp everything in the end pages, older students will soak up everything this book has to offer.

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  • Over on a mountainTitle: Over On A Mountain
  • Author:  Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: paperback/32pgs
  • ISBN:  978-1584695196
  • Genre: picture book
  • Grade level: Preschool to 4
  • Extras: Tips from the author, tips from the illustrator, fact or fiction, mountain facts, compare and contrast. More books related

Henry Aaron’s Dream

Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares

Nearly everyone who knows anything about baseball knows about Hank Aaron. He did, in fact, break the all-time home run record set by Babe Ruth. But do fans know about his youth? Drawing a picture of a hard-playing youth, Tavares makes the hero even more accessible to young readers. Young Henry Aaron loved baseball so much, he would swing any stick to make any object to make it fly. He began with a broom handle and bottle caps. He started playing with real baseball diamonds, bats, and balls when he was twelve. He grew up in a Mobile that was strictly segregated. So, when he began his career, only the Negro Leagues were available to him despite Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier with the Dodgers. Eventually, he was invited to play for a farm team for the Braves. He proved himself through his willingness to listen and learn, his perseverance, and his natural talent. He was one of the best players ever and one of the most respected men in sports.

Vivid illustrations make the story come alive.

The third grade reader hears about Henry Aaron, history, civil rights, sports, and following one’s dreams and talents. This volume of Candlewick Biographies will promote literacy skills and comprehension.

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  • Henry Aarons DreamTitle: Henry Aaron’s Dream
  • Author/Illustrator: Matt Tavares
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, history, sports
  • ISBN: 978-0763658205

 

What Was Ellis Island?

Written by Patricia Brennan Demuth

Illustrated by David Groff

 

January 1, 1892 was Annie Moore’s fifteenth birthday. She celebrated by being the first immigrant to set foot on Ellis Island. A long ocean voyage brought her from Ireland to a new life in America. Officials awarded her a ten dollar gold piece for being the first person to enter.

Interspersed within the narrative of the Island’s history and development are short two page biographies of famous immigrants who passed through Ellis Island, such as Golda Meir, Andrew Carnegie, Fiorella La Guardia, and Bob Hope.  Other interesting passages include diagrams of the ships who carried the immigrants, informative article about child labor at the time, the statue of liberty, and the kissing post.

Readers will also learn about the health requirements for entering the country and what it was like to be turned away and sent back across the ocean.

Pen and ink sketches help transport the reader into the story of what is now Ellis Island National Monument. It has become one of America’s most popular historic landmarks. Two million people visit each year.

This book is an addition to the popular series of Nonfiction books called, “What Was?”

These books are well designed to fulfill core curriculum standards in the areas of history and geography specifically, though they are also very useful for teaching how to read nonfiction, charts, graphs, and diagrams. Students introduced to one of these books might naturally want to continue reading through the set. Several more are planned for the coming year.

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  • Ellis IslandTitle: What Was Ellis Island?
  • Author: Patricia Brennan Demuth
  • Illustrator: David Groff
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 113 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-448-47915-6
  • Genre: Non-Fiction
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: Bibliography, 16 pages of historic photos, timeline of the world, timeline of Ellis Island, related websites

You Call That Art?! Learn about Modern Sculpture and Make Your Own

Written by David A. Carter and James Diaz

More than one hundred years since the inception of modern art, there is still little general understanding about the discipline – what it is, what it does. In a new hands-on approach, the authors start to clear up the mystery for many readers. A brief background and history of all sculpture is followed by one- to two-page biographies of several of the giants of modern sculpture. The detailed photographs are great illustrations of the work talk about each artist. The authors are state the contributions each artist made to the art world in general and the current locations of some of their work.

Third graders and up will love the hands-on approach and creating the sculptures with their own little touches. The well-researched background provides a wealth of reference material useful to much older children. There is a lot to contribute to the readers’ comprehension of the text and of the art.

Through a review by a budding artist, we learned “the history section is fantastic. The authors have done a masterful job of providing enough information to whet kids’ appetite for learning about the history of sculpture” without overwhelming or boring young readers. Our artist “enjoyed the photographs of the different artists’ work and the ‘Did You Know’ blurbs that provided interesting tidbits about the artists.” She did wonder why there were only two female artists and why the biography spent so much time on how one dressed. She wanted to know more about Louise Nevelson’s artistic contributions. Regarding the materials for making sculptures, our artist “absolutely loved putting together the sculptures.” She proudly displayed them in her room. “Each piece took a while to put together, but the instructions and diagrams are clear and descriptive. She was able to complete the sculptures without any help.” The biggest problem was identification of individual sculpture parts after they were punched out of the cardboard. The pieces should probably be marked in some way.

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  • You Call That ArtTitle: You Call That Art?! Learn about Modern Sculpture and Make Your Own
  • Authors: David A. Carter and James Diaz
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Novelty, 48 paperback pages plus art materials
  • Genre: Art, history
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1307-1
  • Extras: Art materials and instructions for possible use, three-page glossary, list of additional artists to check out, source notes, bibliography, websites for museums mentioned, index

Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Written and illustrated by John Hendrix

Why can’t peace break out spontaneously? Well, apparently, it can. One hundred years ago, during the early days of World War I, soldiers along the trenches in Europe decided to celebrate Christmas with their own special brand of good will toward men – men on the other side of the conflict. By means of a fictional letter from a British soldier, the reader learns of the conditions endured by the men on both sides. Rain, for example, meant three-foot-deep mud that seeped into everything. On Christmas Eve, the British soldiers started hearing singing. Poking their heads up, they could see lighted Christmas trees along the German trenches. Many soldiers crossed into No Man’s Land to shake hands and exchange trinkets with men from the other side. When Christmas was over, the war resumed, but the men were reluctant to shoot at their new friends. Man shot at the stars instead.

The truce really happened. The troops were severely reprimanded for fraternizing with the enemy. And another year of heavy fighting meant that the spontaneity did not carry over to the next year. But third grade readers and above can learn a lot about history, the conditions of war, and international relations from the text. Core concepts are strengthened by this fictionalized account. The realistic and beautiful illustrations enhance the story.

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  • Shooting at the StarsTitle: Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914
  • Author/Illustrator: John Hendrix
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4424-9447-3
  • Genre: Historical fiction, social studies 
  • Grade level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: author’s note, glossary, index, bibliography

 

Charlie Bumpers vs. The Squeaking Skull

Written by Bill Harley
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Charlie Bumpers is a typical fourth grader who is afraid of scary movies, but certainly doesn’t want any of his friends to know it. His brother tries to help prepare him for a Halloween sleep over by telling him a scary story every night before bed. Each night the “practice story” becomes a little scarier.

Of course, Charlie had another purpose for wanting to go to this particular sleep over on Halloween night, too. It was so he didn’t have to take his little sister out trick or treating! Lots of young readers will relate to that problem.

So, he gets to the sleep over and goes trick or treating in a new neighborhood with really big houses and rich people. They all expect to get lots of extra candy at such big houses, but instead find themselves getting only one piece at each house. And the houses are so far apart they only get enough candy to fill the bottom of the bag.

While the story is somewhat predictable to adults, it will provide fresh excitement for the grade three readers and even the strong grade two readers. Bill Harley is able to capture the realistic voice of the fourth graders as well as of their parents. The black and white sketches by Adam Gustavson also help get the reader into the story. The pacing and vocabulary is spot on for developing independent readers. They will have great fun getting to know these characters and will enjoy reading more stories in this series.

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  • Charlie Bumpers Squeaking SkullTitle: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull
  • Author: Bill Harley
  • Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 164 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1056145-808-0
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Lexile: 490L
  • Extras: Blurbs about other books in the series

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Written by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
Illustrated by Gilbert Ford
America was preparing for the Chicago World’s Fair for 1893, and anxious to surpass France’s Eiffel Tower. But what could possibly do that? A contest was announced and engineers began sketching all manner of tower’s and novelties.
George Ferris won the contest with his idea of a giant wheel that people would ride in closed rooms furnished with velvet chairs. While the contest sponsors liked his magnificent idea, they never thought it would work. In fact, they refused to help finance the project. They seemed to sit on the sidelines watching for it to fail. However, at the conclusion of the fair, they were so amazed by its overwhelming success, they decided to name the magnificence wheel after its creator.

Kathryn Gibbs Davis has written a fascinating account of this episode in American history, including quotes and facts. The illustrations by Gilbert Ford are realistic and magical at the same time capturing the environment that was the 1893 World’s Fair. The illustration of the fair at night is especially meaningful when readers learn that this introduction of electric lights at night gave L. Frank Baum his idea for the Emerald City in his Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Grade three readers, as well as those younger and older, will be interested in the first Ferris Wheel and amazed by its size.

Core curriculum standards of American history, science, geography, and literacy skills will be met by use of this book. It is an excellent example of combining a narrative with factual paragraphs. This book is an excellent addition to every nonfiction library.

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  • Mr. FerrisTitle: Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
  • Author: Kathryn Gibbs Davis
  • Illustrator: Gilbert Ford
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-95922-1
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Grade level: K-3
  • Extras: Endpapers include a Selected Bibliography, Quote Sources and related websites.

Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

Written by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts

 

Madame Chapeau spends her days creating exquisite hats for her customers, but spends nights at home alone. Only on her birthday does she allow herself to go out for a special dinner. She dons a fancy dress and her favorite bonnet and walks the streets of Paris to the best restaurant in town (the tongue-in-cheek named Chez Snooty-Patoot).

 

On the way, a crow snatches her beloved hat off her head. As she runs after the bird, a variety of people, including a baker, policeman, and cowboy, offer up their hats. She cannot accept their kind offerings, because she knows the hats are not a perfect fit. She arrives at the restaurant feeling blue when a little girl approaches. The girl gives the lonely hatmaker a present – a fuzzy cap made from yarn. Even though it’s silly looking, it lifts Madame Chapeau’s spirits. A hat made for her with such love and care is cause enough to celebrate. She invites everyone to join her for cake and never dines alone again.

 

Educators and parents will have a ton of fun reading this aloud to young elementary school children. Beaty’s text rhythmically rolls off the tongue and bounces along in time.

Like the lady herself, all her hats were refined –
Brilliantly singular; one of a kind!
Each feather, each bauble, each bead, and each bow –
Painstakingly chosen by Madame Chapeau.

Third grade readers will love Robert’s illustrations, a feast for the eyes, as he pays homage to fashion editor Isabella Blow and milliners Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, and Elsa Schiaparelli, among others. Fashionistas, big and small, will enjoy spotting some of the famous hat designs sprinkled throughout the book, such as Charlie Chaplin’s derby, Marcel Marceau’s crumpled top hat, and the unique hat worn by Princess Beatrice to the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

 

Visit the author’s website (http://www.andreabeaty.com/happy-birthday-madame-chapeau.html) for fun links on hat making.

 

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  • Happy Birthday Madame ChapeauTitle: Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau
  • Author: Andrea Beaty
  • Illustrator: David Roberts
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1219-7
  • Genre: Picture Book / Fiction
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