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My Dad Thinks He’s Funny

Written by Katrina Germein
Illustrated by Tom Jellett

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My Dad Thinks He’s Funny is a delightfully sarcastic book that almost any kid can relate to. For any child who has a parent whose first response to a complaint about a sore finger or foot is “just chop it off,” this book will provide plenty of giggles and eye rolling. Katrina Germein perfectly captures the silly ways that many dads have of showing their love and humor. This book is a fantastic read aloud for a third grade class; it encourages skills in fluency and inflection to give more meaning to the text. This book seems like a natural fit in a unit about families or toward the end of year when students are thinking about Fathers’ Day. Teachers may have students fashion a card or gift for dads in a way that echoes the format of My Dad Thinks He’s Funny: recording an example of how their dads demonstrate certain traits or qualities. This book is a lovely gift for a special man at Father’s Day, bringing unity to the giver and receiver.

As an art extension activity for this book, students may create illustrations in the same style as Tom Jellett. His multi-media illustrations are a unique combination of simple drawings and real materials. Students may start with easy combinations like markers and colored chalks on paper, or more advanced artists may move to combining these and raw materials like fabric and natural elements. To bring art and literacy together, students may even write and illustrate their own book! Whether for home or class, My Dad Thinks He’s Funny is a great addition to a book collection.

  • My Dad Thinks Hes FunnyTitle: My Dad Thinks He’s Funny
  • Author: Katrina Germein
  • Illustrator: Tom Jellett
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761461807
  • Genre: fiction/fathers
  • Lexile: 620

Balloon Trees

Written by Danna Smith

Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein

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Where does rubber for balloons and tires come from? Balloon Trees follows the process of harvesting latex from rubber trees, to shipping, chemical processing, vulcanization, and distribution of balloons. Dana Smith’s simplified prose may be a bit deceptive, for the ideas within Balloon Trees are anything but “simple”; her research and collaboration with rubber manufacturers is combined in this book to make a non-fiction description of the route balloons take from beginning to end.  The extra information in the “For Creative Minds” of Balloon Trees also gives resources that allow teachers and students to take learning beyond the pages of Balloon Trees.  Laurie Allen Klein illustrations are nothing short of stunning; the colors and textures bring to life the process of balloon manufacturing. Each illustration has a beautiful green bird that seems to be observing the different steps of balloon manufacturing, and in many of the illustrations, the bird imagery is echoed subtly, almost as a bonus seek and find.

After reading Balloon Trees aloud with a third grade class, be prepared to research answers to more questions that students may have because this book provides just enough information to inform students about balloon manufacturing and to pique students’ appetites to understand the greater concepts of rubber use and manufacturing. In the back of the book, there are several ready-to-use resources, such as a sequencing game and a true or false comprehension quiz about rubber. Balloon Trees also gives readers access to myriad free online resources at Sylvan Dell’s website. These resources are an asset to any busy teacher who wants to give the best information and tools to students on their journey as life-long learners. This book is a natural fit in any third grade classroom library.

  • Balloon TreesTitle: Balloon Trees
  • Author: Danna Smith
  • Illustrator: Laurie Allen Klein
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6243
  • Genre: non-fiction/rubber/latex/manufacturing
  • Lexile: 730

Burton’s Friendship Garden

Written by V. A. Boeholt

Illustrated by Nathaniel P. Jensen

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Burton, the kind scarecrow, invites his friend Ribbon to watch as Farmer Green works the field with his tractor. First, the farmer plows all of last year’s growth to make natural fertilizer, and then he readies the discer. He follows that with dragging tied-together wagon wheels across the field to make it smooth. After he’s picked up the rocks, the farmer tells Burton that he’ll return tomorrow to plant the seeds. Imagine the scarecrow’s concern when he doesn’t show up. After two days of waiting, Burton finds out from the crow that the farmer has broken both legs. Now he’s even more worried. What will happen to Farmer Green’s family if he cannot grow crops? Burton, always kind and thoughtful, bands the animals together to form a plan to help.

Boeholt’s book, as Book 2 in the series called Friendship Tales from the Farm, is so much more than a book about farming. Teachers will surely appreciate the Resource Guide (included within the book), the page on the history of gardening, comprehension questions, the ideas for activities, and the glossary of words unfamiliar to many third graders. In addition, Burton’s Friendship Garden provides an opportunity to teach character development and service, as the scarecrow, alongside his friends, finds a way to work together to achieve a worthy goal. As Boeholt brings Burton to life, she’s able to reach children with that important message of friendship. Read aloud or silently, Burton’s Friendship Garden should be near the top of the third grade reading list.

Author’s Website: http://scarecrowstories.com/

Illustrator’s Website: http://www.natepjensen.com/#

Related trailer for the first book in the series, Burton the Kind Scarecrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVUZrnZEehk

  • Burtons Frindship GardenTitle: Burton’s Friendship Garden
  • Author: V. A. Boeholt
  • Illustrators: Nathaniel P. Jensen
  • Publisher: Five Star Publications, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Paperback: 36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-558985-210-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Lexile Score: 800

 

Barnaby the Bedbug Detective

Written by Catherine Stier

Illustrated by Karen Sapp

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Did you know “an adult bedbug lives about twelve to eighteen months”? Or that “adult bedbugs can go months, and in rare cases, more than a year, without eating”? You know a book is going to be a great read when even the inside of the cover pulls you in with such fascinating facts! Barnaby the Bedbug Detective highlights the life of a working dog unlike most we are familiar. Seeing-eye dogs, therapy dogs, and the canine unit for police stations are familiar to almost everyone, but dogs’ trained as bedbug detectives shows just how industrious and useful these furry creatures can be!

Students read about a pound dog, Barnaby, who is passed up as a family dog but is later hand-picked as a perfect candidate for canine training in bedbug detection. Author Catherine Stier weaves a fiction tale based on facts, which triggers readers’ curiosity about different aspects of Barnaby’s job and perhaps other unlikely jobs that dogs can perform. Karen Sapp’s illustrations are bright and cheerful, yet informative; one particular illustration shows the lifecycle of the bedbug. This book would be a perfect fit in a unit about pets, careers, health or as an addition to a unit on research. After reading Barnaby the Bedbug Detective, students may be encouraged to ask questions and find the answers through research in the media center. To promote comprehension, students may be assigned to research a canine job and present their findings in a multimedia presentation. If students are interested in learning more about bedbugs in particular, there are several resources listed at the end of Barnaby.  This book is well-suited for reading aloud in any second or third grade class; most students will relish in learning more about the gross facts and fascinating job of Barnaby.

  • BarnabyTitle: Barnaby the Bedbug Detective
  • Author: Catherine Stier
  • Illustrator: Karen Sapp
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-0904-3
  • Genre: fiction/dogs/working-dogs

 

Shark Baby

Written by Ann Downer

Illustrated by Shennen Bersani

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Shark Baby is a picture book that bursts at the seams with facts and fun information for any grade level that enjoys picture books. Independent readers at a third grade level can easily master the language in the picture book text, although some may need assistance with pronunciation or comprehension.

The illustrations are fabulous and keep the reader turning the page. The illustrations also keep those being read to interested because they depict action with each page. Third grade level readers will enjoy the mystery of discovering what type of shark the new baby shark is. Students will be amazed at all the interesting facts they will learn about the sea, creatures who live in the ocean, and the habitats that are depicted as Shark Baby travels to find out what kind of shark he is.

This picture book is a treasure for the classroom teacher because along with a good story based on science facts, this book includes 4 pages of activities and additional lesson material to support information about sharks. Additionally, Sylvan Dell Publishing offers more teacher assistance on their web page at www.SylvanDellPublishing.com  making this a must to any third grade level classroom.

  • Shark BabyTitle: Shark Baby
  • Author: Ann Downer
  • Illustrations: Shennen Bersani
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6342
  • Genre: Juvenile/ Nonfiction

 

The Year of the Book

 Written by Andrea Cheng

Illustrated by Abigail Halpin

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Anna is a real American girl. Or is she? In a lighthearted and fun way, third graders can learn about Anna’s world. Her mother was born in China. Her father is Chinese-American. Like most third graders, Anna is feeling a little out step with the world and is trying to figure out who her friends are. Anything that sets her apart also makes her feel vulnerable. She doesn’t want to learn Chinese. She doesn’t want her friends to know her mother cleans for a living. She doesn’t want to get too close to Laura, in case Laura’s using her to make Allison jealous. The two things she does love are reading and painting. Eventually she finds out that other people have problems too. Helping others makes her forget her own issues and moves her toward greater understand and acceptance. Laura’s parents are separating, causing Laura to lean on Anna for support. Anna’s friend, Ray the crossing guard, breaks his leg, and Anna finds a way to help him. And one of Anna’s mother’s clients, Mr. Shepherd, is a widower confined to a wheelchair. He’s one of Anna’s best friends. Anna also helps another Chinese-American girl who is struggling in school and shows kindness to her teacher.

Reading activities are built right into the book. Anna makes her own lunch bag, and the illustrator shows us how. The reader learns several Chinese words and characters. Lessons on won ton folding are also included.

This is a welcome addition to a world in which more and more families combine multiple backgrounds. It’s sure to make many reading lists. The author’s website, www.andreacheng.com, contains a teacher’s guide and numerous ideas for more reading activities.

  • Year of the BookTitle: The Year of the Book
  • Author: Andrea Cheng
  • Illustrator: Abigail Halpin
  • Publisher: Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback, 146 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-544-02263-8
  • Genre: Chapter Book, Chinese-American Culture

Hero Mom

Written by Melinda Hardin

Illustrated by Bryan Langdo

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When you were a kid, did you ever wonder what the adults in your life actually do all day? Figuring that out is even more difficult for children whose mothers are deployed in the military. In this amazing picture book, seven kids explain from their perspective what their mothers are doing for their country and the people of the world. All these moms are superheroes, though none of them wears tights and a cloak. Instead of leaping tall buildings, one mom builds them. One girl’s mom literally flies in to save the day – in a helicopter. One mom works with animals to help find missing people and dangerous objects. A boy’s mother is not a Transformer, but she does keep machines running. Delivering supplies where needed keeps one mother rolling at merely human speed. As a healer, one mom may actually have super powers. As a commander, a girl’s mom leads other heroes.

Seeing the variety of jobs women perform is important for all third graders. The illustrations show not only the variety of jobs, but the variety of moms. The illustrator helps keep the subject light, yet realistic. The author and illustrator also demonstrate how the kids keep in touch through computers, phone calls, letters, and pictures and how the moms eventually come home to hugs.

Military families rarely get enough support, but organizations do exist to help. One such organization is the National Military Family Association (www.militaryfamilies.org). A quick internet search will provide many more connections and provide nearly unlimited opportunities for reading activities.

  • Hero MomTitle: Hero Mom
  • Author: Melinda Hardin
  • Illustrator: Bryan Langdo
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard cover: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1477816455
  • Genre: Picture book, Jobs, Women, Military

 

Columbus

Written and Illustrated by Demi 

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With a balanced and realistic approach, the author introduces third graders to the explorer, navigator, and entrepreneur. Columbus was not the altruistic explorer, as he has sometimes been painted. Nor was he the villain he was been named because of the treatment of Native Americans and the dismissal of the Viking landings. Despite the previous conventional wisdom, most people in the late 1400s realized that the world was round. What was unknown was the existence of the Americas and the distance across the ocean. Columbus was convinced the distance to Asia was much shorter than the actual distance to America. In fact, he never understood that he’d reached an entirely new world. He went for the riches and proved that many times by abandoning his crew so he could look for gold. He treated the Native Americans badly and basically managed to singlehandedly wipe out the Tainos. None of his four voyages to America went particularly well. And he definitely never found the palaces of Kublai Khan. But he did manage to draw a great deal of attention to the area and thus open up the Americas to European influence.

The real stars of the book are the elaborate illustrations. The intricate details show the world in which Columbus lived, including many of the creatures he encountered on his travels. The pictures practically tell the story and should enhance the reading skills of students.

As with any subject that is well-known to the general public, this is a good place to start. The publisher has innumerable books on the subject with which readers can continue.

  • ColumbusTitle: Columbus
  • Written and Illustrated By: Demi
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard cover, 64 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761461678
  • Genre: Picture book, Biography.

 

Deadly! The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth

Written by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Neal Layton

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Isn’t it amazing how different words, a different word order or even a punctuation can change the focus and often the meaning of the same bit of information? Take the two sentences: “Call me, Ishmael”, and “Call me Ishmael”. Same words, same word order. Just one comma totally changes the meaning.

Deadly! presents scientifically accurate facts about both predators and prey, and how they are equipped for survival in the natural world. Nature is not tame, and the book can be a good way of introducing second and third-grade readers to the food chain. However, the very first spread contains the sentence, “In fact, when you look around the animal world, its clear that animals have been almost as good at finding different ways to hurt and murder one another as humans have,” which is a pity, because it distorts the purpose and focus of a worthwhile book.

The book is neatly organized, with information on one animal handing off to the next through a connected fact. Cheetahs, for example are superb runners, but they overheat in about 60 seconds, and have to give up. This segues into the section on dogs because “unlike cats, dogs can run and keep running.” Big animals give way to the small and tiny. Each creature has its own method of obtaining its meals.

There are many little-known facts sure to fascinate the readers: a mantis shrimp (about the size of a pencil case) creates a shock wave that can stun its prey. The trap-jaw ant “can snap its pincer-like jaws shut 2300 times faster than you can blink your eye.” The electric eel can generate 500 volts of electricity. Each interesting fact can lead to classroom discussions and more reading activities.

Towards the end of the book the author makes the case for living with these deadly predators, because they can be very useful to humans. The last page, Living With Deadly reminds us that animals “……..even the armed and deadly ones, have just as much right to their place on the planet as we do.” Another great discussion point. “When we enter a wild animal’s world, we shouldn’t expect it to be either a monster or a best friend. It is just itself…”

Additional Resources:
Bio: http://www.nicola-davies.com/about.php
About predators and prey: http://www.brooklynkids.org/attachments/Predators&Prey_FIN_HR.pdf

  • DeadlyTitle: Deadly! The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth
  • Author: Nicola Davies
  • Illustrator: Neal Layton
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback: 61 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6321-8
  • Genre: Nonfiction/Science

On the Move: Mass Migrations

Written by Scotti Cohn

Illustrated by Susan Detwiler

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Most youngsters are fascinated by animals of all kinds, and that fascination is fed by wonderful books as children become proficient readers at the third grade reading level. On the Move: Mass Migrations should become a staple for students’ reading lists, although it certainly can be a read aloud book for younger children as well.

On the Move: Mass Migrations has sections discussing the migrations of spotted salamanders, sandhill cranes, horseshoe crabs, caribou, chimney swifts, Brazilian free-tail bats, monarch butterflies, polar bears, snakes, elephant seals, salmon, and gray whales. These represent animals from a wide variety of places on the North American continent. Some move in order to find food, some to find mates, some need to go from a cold climate to a warmer one, some to find an appropriate or safe place to give birth or lay their eggs. Some sections discuss more than one season’s migrations for an animal. The section on horseshoe crabs even tells about red knot birds and common green darner dragonflies which both have a relationship to the crabs and the crabs’ habitat, but have their own migration patterns as well. Every section (or spread) has a lush, detailed illustration to give youngsters a true picture of the animals in their natural habitat. Everything in this beautiful book will delight youngsters and whet their curiosity and start their interest flowing. It will surely lead to further questioning and learning.

Four pages in the back of the book add some information and have some learning activities, but the real gift with this book is the 42-page teaching activity guide which can be downloaded at http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/documents/TeachingActivities/OnTheMove_TA.pdf  contains everything from comprehension questions to writing prompts to a wide variety of activities such as word searches, a science journal, vocabulary activities, animal charts, and much more. This book will be a great addition to any classroom library.

  • On the MoveTitle: On the Move: Mass Migrations
  • Author: Scotti Cohn
  • Illustrator: Susan Detwiler
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6251
  • Genre: Nature
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