Archive for July 3, 2013

Celebrating California

Written by Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrated by  C. B. Canga

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A new approach to state books in an easy-to-read format.  Mr. Geo is a hip geography teacher who explores new places and takes his young readers along.  In this volume, he is learning about California.  He goes to destinations such as a studio where a television show is being filmed, the San Diego zoo, a Spanish mission, Disneyland, Los Angeles, the Santa Monica pier, Silicon Valley and San Francisco.  He introduces readers to the diverse land forms such as Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the state, and the Mojave Desert with its dry Death Valley.  He even takes readers through, literally, a redwood tree in the famed forest.  He shows farm products grown in California and the wildlife that resides in the state.  He even touches on issues facing modern-day Californians as well as some of the state’s colorful history.

For such a short format, many things are covered in the text, making this a good book for an introduction to research.  Even though it lacks an index and a table of contents, the information is presented logically.  Back matter includes Fast Facts, a timeline of dates in California history, a glossary and a literacy activities section.  Mr. Geo is a fun and entertaining tour guide, making the book a possible class read aloud or a good book for a third-grade produced audio book.  The illustrations capture a whimsical side of Mr. Geo, driving around in his red convertible, as well as capturing the wonder of California sights.  There is a discussion guide at the publisher’s website: (

  • Celebrating CaliforniaTITLE: Celebrating California
  • AUTHOR: Marion Dane Bauer
  • ILLUSTRATOR: C. B. Canga
  • PUBLISHER: Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 36 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-89697-7
  • GENRE: Geography, Readers
  • LEXILE: 530

Dozens of Cousins

Written by Shutta Crum

Illustrated by  David Catrow

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“We fill up on beastie delights – on catching frogs and crawdads, on double-dog dares crossing balancing logs, and on talks the water mumbles as it tumbles along.”  Most of us have experienced a family reunion where the adults enjoy each other’s company while the children are allowed a bit of freedom to run and roam and have “beastie delights”.  At least until the neighbors complain.  Fortunately for the children in this story, Grandma and Grandpa still remember the joys of childhood.  They smooth things over with the neighbors and then join the grandkids for a soak in the creek.

The wonderful illustrations by David Catrow ( ) bring back memories of those family get-togethers with such clarity that you almost feel like you are there again.  The subtle changes in the sky as the story progresses take you from early morning to late night where, “Oh, we are happy ogres, my cousins and I – our hearts full, our tummies plump, and our heads stuffed with dreams of next year’s beastie family reunion”.

The ‘AD’ notation with the lexile score indicates that this book is ‘Adult Directed’ which just means it should be read to children around third grade age.  This would be a great read aloud as it provides many opportunities for mini-lessons  on topics such as adjectives, synonyms and possibly even literary license (“When big brothers wrestle us down and drag us to the pump to wash for dinner, we eat them up – They’re yummy beastie food, too!”).  The increased vocabulary and opportunities to determine meaning from context and pictures put this book high on the list of must haves for teachers who understand the importance of improving both reading skills and comprehension.

As a storyteller (and librarian), Shutta Crum understands the importance of gaining and maintaining children’s attention.  She does a fabulous job with that in this book.  A list of her other books, as well as contact/speaking information, can be found on her website ( ).

  • Dozens of CousinsTitle:  Dozens of Cousins
  • Author:  Shutta Crum
  • Illustrator:  David Catrow
  • Publisher: Clarion Books
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • hardcover:  32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-618-15874-4
  • Genre:  contemporary fiction
  • Lexile score:  1090 AD


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