Dolley Madison Saves George Washington

Written and Illustrated by Don Brown

Fire! Fire in the White House! Run away, run away, but Dolley Madison didn’t run away. She stopped to save the famous portrait of George Washington. It wasn’t a quick trick, either because the frame was too heavy to manage. She instructed some workmen to cut the portrait out of the frame and carry it to safety.

Don Brown’s biography begins with information about Dolley, including her charm, her ability to hostess wonderful parties, and her remodeling of the White House. He also tells readers how Dolley was actually related to George Washington by marriage.

The muted colors used in the illustrations are representative of the time. However, children will enjoy the great amount of action depicted in the story and the pictures. Teachers and librarians can use this biography to meet the core curriculum standards in literacy and American history. The author’s note also includes an interesting discussion about the many spellings of Dolley’s name. Students might use this as a springboard to studying other names with multiple meanings.

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  • DolleyTitle: Dolley Madison Saves George Washington
  • Author/Illustrator: Don Brown
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-544-58244-6
  • Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book, Biography
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Bibliography

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones

Written by Will Mabbitt
Illustrated by Ross Collins

Blimey! Don’t pick your nose or you could get captured by pirates! No matter how many times some children are warned, they still do it, Mabel Jones is one guilty girl. One minute she is wearing her pajamas and in her own bedroom. Then silence. Captured and plopped aboard a pirate ship, she is required to help find some missing treasure before the comet flies over if she has any desire of getting back home.

This mismatched batch of pirates are hilarious. First, they are completely disgusted to realize their new crewmate is a girl. Until they realize she can read. Now they know she is brainy and can be of help to them. Even the strange creature who captured her ends up loving her, because she is kind to him.

Everything about this adventure is entertaining and fun. Even the varying sizes of fonts make it a fun read and give the appearance of fewer words than might be expected in this long a book. Good readers will devour this story and reluctant readers will stick with it all the way to the end. Pen and ink sketches help the characters and story come alive, though, the text does that extremely well.

While there are some misspelled words, as one might expect of pirates, the spellings are phonetic so children readers will translate them happily.

Teachers and librarians can introduce this in read aloud form. Literacy skills dealing with fantasy, world building, context clues and character development will all be met within the core curriculum. English teachers can easily use these stories to propel their students’ own writing into the world of the future.

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  • Mabel JonesTitle: The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones
  • Author: Will Mabbitt
  • Illustrator: Ross Collins
  • Publisher: Viking/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 290 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-451-47196-3
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Grade level: 3 to 6

Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather

Written by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
Illustrated by Sebastia Serra

Does your big toe hurt? Is the sky red at night? There have been many different myths in various cultures over the generations to explain the weather. While some might be right, many others have been proven wrong by scientists and their research.

Colorful illustrations, including weather pattern diagrams, help compare the myths of the past with the truth as it is understood today. In an optimistic and challenging ending, the book even suggests that one of today’s young readers will someday be a scientist looking back on us today and saying, “Boy, we were wrong about the weather.”

Accurate weather terminology is used throughout the book with clear definitions where necessary. It will be helpful to the youngest students as they are introduced to weather science for the first time.

As a read aloud, teachers and librarians can use this in kindergarten and first grade. Second and third graders will be able to read it independently. While they might not recognize some of the ancient peoples mentioned, it is a well done look at myths being disproven by science. It will fulfill core curriculum standards for science and literacy in the elementary grades.

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  • WeatherTitle: Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather
  • Author: Kathleen V. Kudlinski
  • Illustrator: Sebastia Serra
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-3793-8
  • Genre: Non-fiction, science, weather
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: Timeline of Weather Science, related websites

Who Was Beatrix Potter?

Written by Sarah Fabiny
Illustrated by Mike Lacey

Not everyone born to wealth loves it. Case in point, Beatrix Potter. She was born to a wealthy family in 1866 London, but wealth tied her hands. Well, perhaps, not completely wealth. It was also the time in which she was born. A wealthy young woman was not supposed to study science, draw animals or make her own living.

But that is exactly what Beatrix wanted and finally accomplished. It is sad how long it took success to find her, but perhaps the illness and loneliness actually helped her become a better storyteller.

Young readers will be amazed to find out how her stories began. They were letters she wrote to a little boy who was sick. She didn’t know what to write to him about so she told him a story about a young rabbit named Peter who got into a garden.

It is fascinating to read what Beatrix did with all the money she earned from her stories and illustrations. She helped make the world a better place with her stories and saved the part she loved best for future generations to enjoy.

Fabiny wrote a smooth and engaging narrative that reads as comfortably as a letter.

Educators will use this to fulfill core curriculum standards in history, biography, art, and literature. Librarians will use it to introduce a famous author and her wonderful books. Art teachers will use it to show how precise her illustrations were, and to encourage their students to practice over and over again their drawing of real subjects. This is a beautiful addition to Penguin’s, “Who Was?” series.

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  • Beatrix PotterTitle: Who Was Beatrix Potter?
  • Author: Sarah Fabiny
  • Illustrator: Mike Lacey
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 112 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-448-48305-4
  • Genre: Biography
  • Grade level: 3-7
  • Extras: Timeline, Bibliography, related web sites

Two for Joy

Written by Gigi Amateau
Illustrated by Abigail Marble

Centered around little Jenna and her mother, Grace, this lovely little chapter book says a lot about family, aging, and love for animals. Grace gets a call in the middle of the night. Her one remaining aunt, Tannie, has fallen (again) and broken her ankle. As her only living relatives, Jenna and Grace work on a scheme to talk Tannie into leaving her farm in Mississippi and coming to live with them in Virginia. First, they have to make their house ready for an elderly woman in recovery. Second, they have to drive her home and convince her. During the fourteen-hour drive, they play the counting crows game. Third, the three of them need to adjust to each other. Grace tries to take care of everything, leaving Jenna feeling neglected and Tannie feeling useless.

Third graders will learn about the issues of aging and also a little about birds and other animals. The wonderful characters lend themselves to wanting to find the outcome and independent reading.
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Two for Joy

  • Title: Two for Joy
  • Author: Gigi Amateau
  • Illustrator: Abigail Marble
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Fiction, birds, elderly
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-3010-2
  • Extras: Author’s note with suggestions for games

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

 

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