Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Written by Kate diCamillo
Illustrated by K.G. Campbell

Flora is a cynic. Who reads comic books about superheroes. And can’t figure out her parents. Her mother spends all her time writing bad romance novels on an old typewriter and doting on a lamp named Mary Ann. Her father greets everyone with, “George Buckman. How do you do?’ Even people he already knows.

Flora’s neighbor, Tootie Tickham, gets a new vacuum cleaner so powerful that it drags her into the yard and sucks up a squirrel. The squirrel is transformed by the experience and is dubbed Ulysses, after the name of the vacuum. Thus begins Flora’s quest to prove Ulysses’ worth and discover the rest of his talents. He’s strong. He flies. He types. Poetry. And he loves Flora. Add to this Tootie’s great-nephew, William Spiver, who is temporarily hysterically blind, and Dr. Meerscham, Mr. Buckman’s neighbor who grew up in Germany and talks about her deceased husband, the other Dr. Meerscham. Most of the world is unwilling to believe in a squirrel with super powers.

Silly and full of running gags, this award-winning book is surprisingly deep and emotional. The characters and warm and deep. The third grade reader will learn about love in all its many forms and about doing the impossible. Kids will love and read this book again and again.

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  • Flora and UlyssesTitle: Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
  • Author: Kate diCamillo
  • Illustrator: K.G. Campbell
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 234 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Fiction
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7671-1

Little Rhino: My New Team

Written by Ryan Howard and Krystle Howard

Baseball and bullies is the theme of book one in a new series called, Little Rhino, written by the husband- wife team of Ryan and Krystle Howard. Ryan plays Major League Baseball. Krystle is a former elementary reading teacher. They write authentic dialogue as well as exciting and realistic play-by-play baseball. Both are interested in literacy as well as sports.

Team members represent a diversity of children and the main character, Ryan known as Rhino, is taken care of by a single grandparent. But none of that interferes with this great story of being on your first baseball team. Learning how to play together and get along with others solves a bullying problem in a light and realistic manner.

Third grade readers will recognize lunch room conversations about dinosaurs, a pestering bully and waiting all day Saturday for it to finally be game time.

Full page pen and ink drawings help to break up the chapters while immersing readers in the setting or action.

This is a series that third grade readers will enjoy reading and collecting. Having the beginning of the next book included at the end of this book excites readers and gives them something to look forward to reading about. It is also a good marketing plan.

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  • RhinoTitle: Little Rhino: My New Team
  • Author: Ryan Howard and Krystle Howard
  • Illustrator: Scholastic
  • Publisher: Scholastic, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Papberback, 96 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-67490-4
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Grade level 3
  • Extras: The beginning of Book 2, The Best Bat, is at the back of this title.

Horrible Harry and the Wedding Spies

Written by Suzy Kline
Illustrated by Amy Wummer

How very exciting it is to have your teacher getting married! And it couldn’t happen to anyone better than our long- time friend, Horrible Harry.   Of course, that in itself would cause many to worry. Things don’t always go well when Harry is involved.

His class finds out about her wedding day during a show and tell class but then realize they haven’t been invited. None of them! They do what any reader attached to this series will enjoy. They figure out a way to spy on the wedding from the balcony and then the belfry of the church.

Suzy Kline has again written an entertaining and true to life story that young, but independent readers will enjoy. Her gentle inclusion of everyday struggles in a classroom, like not getting invited to a birthday part, will be familiar to students, but she handles all the incidents with respect and humor.

Teachers, parents, or librarians can introduce this book by reading only a portion of it aloud. Literacy skills will be strengthened while children enjoy a fun read. It is also a great book to use for a family couch activity like, you read a page and I’ll read a page. Another way to enjoy it would be to have an older child read it to, or with a younger sibling.

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  • Horrible HarryTitle: Horrible Harry and the Wedding Spies
  • Author: Suzy Kline
  • Illustrator: Amy Wummer
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 70 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-670-01552-8
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Grade level: 2 to 5

There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Player that Ever Lived

Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares

Sports heroes are often colorful and have an interesting story to tell. Ted Williams falls into that category.

As a child, Ted Williams was skinny and not very muscular, but he wanted to be the best hitter in baseball. Through determination, he practiced every chance he got, swinging the bat long after the other kids had gone home for supper. He swung until his hands bled. He ate to gain weight and exercised to build muscles. His career was first interrupted by World War II and later by the Korean War. He was a very good fighter pilot. But, when he returned, his baseball skills always seemed to pick up where he left off. He led the Red Sox to the World Series and is commemorated in many ways at Fenway Park. In the author’s note, the author points out the conflict Williams had with the media and often with the fans, but those conflicts didn’t lessen his skill on the ball field. And he was dedicated to helping others, especially children.

Vivid illustrations make the story come alive, from the fields where he practiced in San Diego to Fenway Park to the airplanes he flew.

Third grade readers will learn about Ted Williams, history, World War II and the Korean War, sports, and following one’s dreams and talents. This volume of Candlewick Biographies will promote literacy skills and comprehension.

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  • there goes ted williamsTitle: There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Player that Ever Lived
  • 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: 978-0-7636-7655-1
  • Extras: Author’s Note, bibliography, Ted’s baseball statistics, index

Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse

 

Written by Leslie Bulion
Illustrated by Mike Lowery

This crazy little book would go well with either a unit on the science of anatomy, health, poetry, or all three. From the stomach to the brain to the inner ear, each major body part is discussed in poetry form, then in a detailed sidebar. Blood’s tribute begins:

Three boats sail
Along the river of life –
A sticky situation

At the end, the author outlines what poetic forms and devices she uses and where her inspiration came from. Her love for Shakespeare is obvious. The author even encourages composition on those subjects the book doesn’t cover – sort of a “you try it now.” She is very careful to use correct terminology and not to oversimplify for third graders, so literacy skills and comprehension are more important than ever.

Throughout both the riddles and the back matter, humorous illustrations aim to keep the readers’ attention and have them looking for more. Students may want to try their hands at drawing their favorite body parts – within reason. Very cute, very educational, and very fun.

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Random Body Parts

      • Title: Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse
      • Author: Leslie Bulion
      • Illustrator: Mike Lowery
      • Publisher: Peachtree, 2015
      • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
      • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
      • Grade Level: 3 to 5
      • Genre: Nonfiction, science, health, poetry
      • ISBN: 978-1-56145-737-3
      • Extras: Glossary, body diagram, poetry notes, and resources for further study

 

Growing Up Pedro

Written and Illustrated by Matt Tavares

More than Pedro’s story, this is the story of two brothers and how they helped each other become two of the best pitchers in the major leagues. As a child, Pedro always looked up to his older brother, Ramón. Pedro wanted to play baseball with Ramón and his friends, but Ramón didn’t want Pedro to get hurt. Instead, the older brother instructed the younger brother to throw rocks at the ripe mangoes on the trees. A scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers spots sixteen-year-old Ramón on the Dominican national team and watches him at training camp. At seventeen, Ramón paves the way by reporting to the Dodgers. At every turn, he shares what he learns with Pedro, who takes his advice to heart. Pedro works on English as well as his fast ball. In 1990, Pedro is also drafted to the Dodgers. Ramón is still the pitching star of the family. The brothers work together on the major league team for little more than a season before Pedro is traded to Montreal in 1994. By 1996, Pedro has proven himself and starts pitching for the Boston Red Sox. He leads Boston to many great seasons. Meanwhile, he helps his family back in the Dominican Republic and also helps build up the village where he grew up. The illustrations are lively and realistic, with a definite feel for being at the ballpark.

All third graders will find the story heart-warming, helping them to work on literacy skills and comprehension. They will also learn something of recent history and about math with baseball statistics. This book is well-researched and well-told.

As a Baltimore Orioles fan, this almost made me like Pedro.

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  • Growing Up PedroTitle: Growing Up Pedro
  • Author/Illustrator: Matt Tavares
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, sports
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6824-2
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Pedro Martinez’ major league statistics, Bibliography

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

 

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