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Sea Glass Summer

Written by Michelle Houts
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Astounding watercolor illustrations accompany a sweet, quiet, heartwarming story that shows even the simplest things can tie us together. The main story is about a boy who spends the summer collecting sea glass and dreaming about it. He feels connected to his grandfather because he uses his grandfather’s magnifying glass to examine the bits of glass. Of course the glass collected by the boy also has stories – long before it was smoothed and clouded by the sea. The book suggests one piece came from a champagne bottle used during a ship’s christening years before. Another piece is from a shipwreck. And glass dropped by the boy after breaking the magnifying glass will no doubt be discovered by some other child years from now. The author invites the reader to imagine all the other stories the sea glass has to tell. Great for the imagination and great for remembering our connections with others.

  • Sea GlassTitle: Sea Glass Summer
  • Author: Michelle Houts
  • Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoullin
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Picture book, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Family, History
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8443-3

Little Lunch: Triple Treats

Written by Danny Katz
Illustrated by Mitch Vane

Silliness ensues in this adaptation of three stories from the Australian television series, Little Lunch. Six classmates find endless, hilarious adventures leading up to and during lunch. In “The Snack Shop,” the reader learns about the contents of each lunch box. Rory’s lunch box is at home. He’s already eaten all the emergency food from the teachers’ lounge, so he plots to leave school grounds and buy food at the snack shop across the street. “Grandparents Day” finds Battie afraid to tell the teacher his famous grandfather will not be able to make a speech as planned. Battie spends lunch hour hiding so he doesn’t have to share. “The Cake Sale” highlights Tamara and Debra-Jo trying to sell not-so-good slices of cake to raise money for homeless puppies. Atticus, Rory, and Battie start a rival fundraising effort. It turns into a food fight.

In a gentle way, life lessons are underscored, while the reader laughs along with the classmates. Illustrations are lively ink drawings on nearly every page, enabling even more engagement. Watch for more episodes and for more syndication of the television show.

  • Little LunchTitle: Little Lunch: Triple Treats
  • Author: Danny Katz
  • Illustrator: Mitch Vane
  • Publisher: Candlewick Entertainment, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 112 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Humor, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9471-5

Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure

Written and Illustrated by Alex T. Smith

Mr. Penguin is a Professional Adventurer with a spider for an assistant. (Colin the Spider communicates by writing on a pad.) When he receives a request for help from the Museum of Extraordinary Objects, Mr. Penguin sets off for the museum. The museum is in sad shape and needs to find a treasure the deceased owner hid somewhere. Mr. Penguin and Colin are greeted by Miss Bones and her brother, Montague, current owners. Working from the first clue, the four of them find more clues and a lot of danger. Will they find the treasure? Who else is searching for it? Will the alligators get them?

First in a new series written and illustrated by the author/illustrator of the Stanley series, this is a fun and exciting adventure for early readers. Of course, many of the situations the characters find themselves in are a little beyond believable. But what do you expect from a penguin and his spider partner? Their methods are great, though. They show how to re-interpret clues and use a map.

Looking forward to more from Mr. Penguin and Colin.

  • Mr Penguin and The Lost TreasureTitle: Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 212 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Chapter book, Humor, Mystery
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-120-1

Away with Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird

Written by Lori Mortensen
Illustrated by Kristy Caldwell

Isabella was a sickly young lady. She grew up in Victorian England, where young ladies dressed and acted properly at all times. But her doctor advised her to get outside and explore the world. Oddly, this approach helped her to feel better. So she started exploring well beyond England. And she wrote about her adventures. People loved reading her stories. Her travels went wider and wider. Her writings grew more numerous. In spite of the trials of traveling, she continued to feel better when out and about. Eventually, she became a well-known lecturer as well as a writer. Her health finally did catch up to her, but she lived to be seventy, was the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographic society, and was presented to the queen.  

Fascinating look at what a person can do when she puts her mind to it. Very few people know much about Isabella. It’s refreshing to learn about another hero. Well researched and presented.

  • Away with WordsTitle: Away with Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird
  • Author: Lori Mortensen
  • Illustrator: Kristy Caldwell
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publications, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Picture book, Biography
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-005-1
  • Extras: Author’s Note, A Timeline of Isabella Bird’s Travels and Publications, Source notes, Bibliography

Beware of the Crocodile

Written by Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

Don’t be fooled by the lively illustrations in this great new book. It’s surprisingly informative and still a lot of fun. It’s not some outlandish tale about an anthropomorphic crocodile-like creature. The actions taken are real actions a crocodile might take. The focus is on two things – how a crocodile hunts and how a crocodile is born and grows.

Crocodiles are smart enough to know the places that animals come to drink water. They will lie motionless, with just the top of their heads above water, until an animal gets close enough to grab. They only need to feed again when they’ve digested the meat available on the caught animal. The mother crocodile lays her eggs in the sand and tends them, adjusting the number of leaves covering them to regulate the temperature. She then protects the small babies as best she can.

Of course, crocodiles really are scary, but the scariness in this book comes from real crocodiles, not cartoons. Recommended for classroom units on nature.

  • Beware of the CrocodileTitle: Beware of the Crocodile
  • Author: Martin Jenkins
  • Illustrator: Satoshi Kitamura
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nature
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7538-7
  • Extras: About Crocodiles, More Information, Index

A Place for Turtles

Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Higgins Bond

First released in 2008, this highly informative and entertaining book has been revised and updated for a new audience and for new data. Each informative two-page spread includes a problem that turtles currently face and possible solutions and ways readers can help turtles. Much of the background and information is revealed in sidebar fashion, making it more accessible to teachers and parents. This is truly for a family and schoolroom discussion. Beautifully realistic illustrations help readers relate to the turtles.

Introduction of exotic plants has destroyed much of the turtles’ landscape. When people add fish to lakes and ponds, they may be squeezing out turtles. Some fishing equipment is harmful to turtles. Plastic shopping bags can be ingested, causing death. People have eaten too many of the beautiful creatures. Dogs often harm turtles. Turtles used for amusement causes many problems. Turtles often get killed on roadways. Humans often encroach on turtle habitat. The key is to leave them alone as much as possible and help where necessary.

Highly recommended for home and classroom.

  • A Place for TurtlesTitle: A Place for Turtles
  • Author: Melissa Stewart
  • Illustrator: Higgins Bond
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company Inc., April 1, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska                                                                                                                                             
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 3
  • Genre: Nature, Turtles
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-096-9
  • Extras: Turtle Facts, Selected Sources, Recommended for Young Readers

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog

Written and Illustrated by Lisa Papp

Adorably detailed illustrations are the added touch that makes this cute new book delightful for early readers. Of course, the use of fuzzy dogs doesn’t hurt the readablility either. The variety of pets shown and their toys and equipment help make this a book kids will want to read.

Madeline is waiting for her new puppy to get old enough to live at her home. Meanwhile, through connections to a local shelter, she becomes attached to some of the shelter’s dogs too. She soon realizes that just speaking to the shelter dogs seems to make them happier. She invites her friends to come with her and read to the dogs. She wants to make sure every dog gets a little extra attention. The idea is such a hit that the library is overwhelmed by check outs. And Madeline’s favorite shelter pup finds his forever home.

This could be an inspiration for kids to read at the shelter or just become a favorite bedtime book.

  • Madeline Finn and the Shelter DogTitle: Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog
  • Author/Illustrator: Lisa Papp
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company Inc., 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska                                                                                                                                             
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 3
  • Genre: Shelter animals/Rescue
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-075-4

U.S. Piggy Bank

Written and Illustrated by Karl Steam

Not many people can visualize a trillion anything. Even people who work with money don’t often have a firm grasp of the size of the country’s debt. Even people who deal with the vastness of space can’t tell you what a trillion miles looks like. But Steam makes a good effort at helping kids visualize the vastness of the national debt. This book is not an indictment of that debt in any way. It’s merely an attempt at helping kids understand what a big number one trillion is. Who knew how much soda flows over Niagara Falls? Or how much a trillion pennies weighs? After an in-depth discussion of the size of a trillion, the author gives a brief history of how the national debt was established and how it helps drive the economy.

The illustrations and page design are simple and straightforward, enhancing rather than distracting from the story. Gotta love the pig(gy bank).

In addition to the background about numbers and the national debt, the author includes a list of possible activities related to the subject and a link to his website.  

This is a valuable resource for understanding many topics in the news. It also helps with general math and economics.

  • Piggy BankTitle: U.S. Piggy Bank
  • Author/Illustrator: Karl Steam
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: E-book, 20 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 5
  • Genre: Numbers, U.S. Treasury, Money
  • ISBN: 978-1-63578-021-5

Our Nation’s Documents: The Written Words that Shaped Our Country

Written by Time for Kids Editors with Melanie Kletter
Illustrated by Aaron Meshon

Complete overview of the major documents in the history of the United States. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution with all amendments, the Monroe Doctrine, the Emancipation Proclamation, Wilson’s 14 Points, Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights, and the Truman Doctrine are all presented in their entirety. Brief historical perspectives and biographical information about the authors of the documents are also included. The truly innovative role comes with the discussion goes on in the margins of every page. Shown as a series of text messages, the discussion asks the questions most children would ask. During impeachment, “Okay, so the House brings charges. Then what happens?” The messages also bring a touch of humor – childish humor. For example, in response to evacuation of Russia in the 14 Points, the question, “Why would you want to vacuum Russia?”

Highly recommended as a reference to keep on hand for further study. Great way to keep kids engaged.

  • Our Nation's DocumentsTitle: Our Nation’s Documents: The Written Words that Shaped Our Country
  • Author: Time for Kids Editors with Melanie Kletter
  • Illustrator: Aaron Meshon
  • Published: Liberty Street/Time Inc. Books, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 112 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 Up
  • Genre: Creative Nonfiction, History, Civics-
  • ISBN: 978-1-68330-848-5
  • Extras: Table of contents, Timeline, Index, Credits

Germs: Fact and Fiction, Friends and Foes

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

How do microorganisms feel about our many efforts to wipe them out? This humorous look at the history of germ warfare attempts to answer that question by showing that germs have always been around us and always will be. The author states that she has struggled for years to get her children to wash their hands. Hopefully this look at the germ world will encourage hers and all children to realize the importance of that simple gesture. It’s also important to realize that many microorganisms are not only desirable but essential to our existence. This is a great place to begin learning about the love-hate relationship we have with these organisms.

The author begins with an overview and quickly moves on to the era in which bacteria were discovered.  The work of Anton van Leeuwenhoek and Louis Pasteur are highlighted and delightfully illustrated. The war to contain microorganisms and to propagate the “good” ones goes on. Knowledge and vigilance are our best weapons.

  • GermsTitle: Germs: Fact and Fiction, Friends and Foes
  • Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
  • Illustrator: James E. Ransome
  • Published: Henry Holt and Company, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Creative Nonfiction, Biology
  • ISBN: 978-0-8050-7915-0
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Glossary
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