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Python

Written by Christopher Cheng

Illustrated by Mark Jackson

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Pythons are beautiful. Who knew? In this lyrical, non-fiction book, Cheng uses a duel narration technique. First and foremost, we follow a specific python in the bush. She suns. She hunts and misses a beautiful bird. She hunts and captures a rat. Then she prepares her food by squeezing it.  Eventually, after she has digested, she will lay eggs and take care of them. The eggs hatch and small pythons appear. This is the main narrative, told with both poetry and accuracy. On most spreads, however, is another presentation of interesting facts about pythons and how their bodies work. For example: “Pythons, like all reptiles, are ectothermic. That means they acquire heat from their environment.” These factoids are set in a different font, but not a pull-out box. This choice means the book appears as a lovely single unit, with two types of text and wonderful paintings working together.

Python as a topic will instantly appeal to many kids. Snakes have always been cool to some and scary to others. Their coolness isn’t just the fact that they scare younger siblings, but also in their differentness. Snakes move differently. They’re covered in scales instead of skin or fur. They need the sun. And yet, this book emphasizes the similarities as well. Without anthropomorphizing Python, we see that when she is hungry she hunts, when she is cold and she finds a way to get warm, and when she lays her eggs, she cares for them. What she thinks about all of this, we don’t know, but we can see actions parallel to other animals and to us.

This book will fit in well to studies of reptiles in second or third grade and will make a wonderful read aloud, helping to diversify the science curriculum that often focuses on animals with fur and feathers.

Additional Information:

Smithsonian has wonderful pictures of reptiles, including pythons:

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/photogallery/reptilesamphibians/default.cfm

National Geographic has links to videos of pythons and other reptiles:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/burmese-python/

  • PythonTitle: Python
  • Author: Christopher Cheng
  • Illustrator: Mark Jackson
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Hardcover: 32
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6396-4
  • Genre: nonfiction, nature

 

Meet Caroline: An American Girl

Written by Kathleen Ernst

Illustrated by Robert and Lisa Papp

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Meet ten-year-old Caroline Abbott, a girl growing up in Sackets Harbor, New York, across the lake from the British Colony of Upper Canada. In the summer of 1812, as she’s sailing with her father and cousins, Oliver and Lydia, she imagines someday being the captain of her own ship despite the fact that people think girls should grow up to become mothers who sew, cook, clean, and take care of babies. In the meantime, though, she has to learn everything she can so that she earns her father’s trust. That could be difficult, especially when she grabs for her toy after Oliver shouts, “Prepare to jibe! Trim the sheet!” Caroline knows better; yet, she lets go of the rail at a crucial time and goes skittering across the deck along with her top. She sees the disappointment in her father’s eyes when he admonishes her, but understands it. She could have been killed. This mishap soon becomes secondary, though, as three longboats bearing the British flag approach rapidly. Those on board find out the hard way that war has just been declared. The British soldiers claim the boat as their own, take the men as prisoners, and deliver the girls to their rightful homes. But Caroline, worried sick about her father, finds a way to help the war effort.

Putting themselves in her shoes, girls at the second to third grade levels will love to read about Caroline’s bravery and her plans to succeed in a men’s world. Being as exciting as it gets, the content will encourage reading comprehension for those readers possessing second to third grade reading skills. And, of course, teachers will love the Learning Guide. Meet Caroline, award-winning historical fiction at its very best, should be at the top of the second and third grade reading list.

Additional Resources:

Author’s Website: http://kathleenernst.com/index.php

Learning Guide: http://kathleenernst.com/cms-assets/documents/106243-235746.carolineonlinecurric.pdf

Meet historical characters by American Girl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxzlJl9JNWs&playnext=1&list=PL4D2C82641321C06D

  • Meet CarolineTitle: Meet Caroline: An American Girl
  • Author: Kathleen Ernst
  • Illustrators: Robert and Lisa Papp
  • Publisher: American Girl Publishing
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Paperback: 91 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59369-882-9
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

Tallulah’s Toe Shoes

Written by Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

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In ballet, and most pursuits, there is always another level to strive for. Tallulah is a good, but young, ballet dancer. When her teachers tell her she is not yet ready to dance on her toes, she knows they are wrong. Tallulah finds an old pair of toe shoes, stuffs them with tissues, and tries to dance. She imagines herself as the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty. Then she looks in the mirror and sees herself as a rat. Tallulah must accept that she is not yet ready. Just as her teachers said, her body, her feet, and her skills cannot yet dance on pointe. But equally important, the level she is at is good.

Everyone who has ever enjoyed looking at a ballet, will enjoy the pictures. They dance off the page, but do not take themselves too seriously. We see how Tallulah imagines herself— but then, in a style reminiscent of Hilary Knight of Eloise fame—we see what the young ballet dancer really looks like as well. Tallulah’s younger brother offers a low- key counterpart to the intensity of Tallulah’s drive.

While this book will appeal to the second and third grade ballet enthusiasts, its message — enjoy the journey— is good for many kids (and adults for that matter). Tallulah doesn’t need to be in such a hurry to get into toe shoes. They will wait for her, and she has plenty more to explore right where she is. The book will also make a fine read aloud for younger children. The reader can ask for the children’s help in following the dancers across the page, learning sequencing of images as well as words.

Additional Resources:

Tallulah’s website: www.hmhbooks.com/tallulah

Marilyn Singer’s website: www.marilynsinger.net

Alexandra Boiger’s website: www.alexandraboiger.com

  • Tallulahs Toe ShoesTitle: Tallulah’s Toe Shoes
  • Author: Marilyn Singer
  • Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
  • Publisher: Clarion Books
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Hardcover: number of pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-48223-1
  • Genre: fiction: picture book

 

Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh

Written by R.L. LaFevers

Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

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Theodosia tries to be obedient and not peculiar, but the circumstances are just beyond her control. When she and her mother return to Luxor to catalog the contents of a newly discovered temple, Theo seizes the opportunity to return a couple of magical objects to their rightful owners. Naturally, there are bad people, the Serpents of Chaos, who want to use the objects to their own ends. Then there are the good people, the Wedjardeen, who don’t believe Theo’s heart is pure. Theo is also in the midst of a nationalist craze that wants the Inglaize to leave Egypt and her treasures. A British former military man provides much-needed help. She befriends a young donkey boy who reminds her of her brother and who turns out to be surprising himself. Because Theo herself possesses some magical attributes, she is able to weather all the threats and save the day. Unpredictable, entertaining, and enormously enjoyable, Theodosia keeps the reader on her toes. The illustrations are pleasant diversions.

Set in the early 1900s, this volume gives third graders a taste of the era in which Egyptology gained great favor with British museums. This is the fourth volume in the Theodosia series, providing a good incentive to read the first three books also. Each volume has appeared on at least one reading list, such as the Junior Library Guild Selections and the Today Show Holiday Picks. Each has also been nominated for several awards. The author’s website, www.rllafevers.com, provides reading activities for parents and educators, as does Theo’s own website, www.theodosiathrockmorton.com.

  • TheodosiaTitle: Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh
  • Author: R.L. LaFevers
  • Illustrated by: Yoko Tanaka
  • Publisher: Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback, 394 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-85086-3
  • Genre: Middle grade, Egyptian Myth.

What Not to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day

Written by Martha Simpson

Illustrated by Jana Christy

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Ah, those wonderful parent days are quickly approaching, yet again this year.  Yes, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Each year children of all ages across the country struggle with what to get their parents on those days.  What is the perfect gift that sums up a years or lifetimes worth of love?

In What Not to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day, this little boy is no different.  Rather than telling ideas of what to give, this little boy shares some past experiences of what NOT to give.  Charming and well written, this book is well suited for second to third grade level reading.  These children should easily be able to comprehend the story.  Children will walk away with a comical sense of what not to give your mom.  The little boy in this story has stayed away from the social convention of flowers or candy for gifts, and has opted for the unconventional. For example, most moms will not enjoy a tub of fat worms, nor chewed up shoes.  There is however, a contrast/comparison of some mothers who might rather enjoy these ideas.

What Not to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day, is illustrated with bright colors and whimsy, that children will enjoying looking at.  In the end the little boy does come up with the perfect gift.  A gift any mom would cherish from her young or old children. What is it?  Pick up What Not to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day and find out.

  • What Not to Give Your MomTitle:  What Not to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day
  • Author:  Martha Simpson
  • Illustrator:  Jana Christy
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing
  • Reviewer: Cheri Liddy
  • ISBN: 9781477816479
  • Genre: fiction

Deadly Venomous Animals

Written by Matt Doeden

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The Table of Contents tells it all. You’d better watch your step because these twelve deadly animals could wreak serious damage. Appealing to boys in particular, both boys and girls possessing second to third grade reading skills will enjoy the nastiness this book has to offer. Whether the venom comes from a snake, a scorpion, or an innocent-looking snail, it’s nothing to mess with.

The photographs are amazingly beautiful, and the facts in the sidebars may present information that could save your life. If you’re visiting Australia, for example, you may just want to shake out your shoes before putting them on. And if a Brazilian wandering spider starts an awe-inspiring dance, step back! Their name “wandering” didn’t come about because they like to pack their bags and travel. Scientists named it this because the spiders wander around at night hunting for prey. (On the other hand, those little arachnids aren’t particularly tied to their homes; they can hitch rides in shipments of pineapples, too.)

But guess what? While venom is undoubtedly dangerous, it’s also helpful in making medicine, such as powerful painkillers. The cone snail venom, in particular, may be used to create medicines that treat nerve diseases, such as Parkinson’s.

Reading comprehension is given a boost by the various vocabulary words sprinkled in the colored boxes throughout. After reading Deadly Venomous Animals, the reader may want to refer to page 30 for eight additional sources of information. Studying nature should always include a study of venomous animals and insects, if for no other reason than to appeal to a child’s sense of the gross.

  • Deadliest Venomous AnimalsTitle: Deadly Venomous Animals
  • Author: Matt Doeden
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-0599-8
  • Genre: Nature

 

William and the Lost Spirit

Written and Illustrated by Gwen de Bonneval and Matthieu Bonhomme

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Welcome to medieval France, land of chivalry, monsters, and unexplained events. Translated from the French, this beautifully drawn graphic novel gives third graders a glimpse into that world, represented by realistic characters. William has recently lost his father, but the father’s spirit continues to call to William. His sister, Helise, also disappears, so he sets off in search of clues. Brigands run rampant in the area, making it difficult to know who to trust. Monsters William encounters include those with no head and a face below their arms, anthropomorphic dolphins, talking plants, and dog-headed men. He crosses the ocean and the desert and catches a glimpse of his father’s hand. He gets help from a variety of characters, including his aunt, a knight, a troubadour, one of the monsters, and a young girl. The girl is required to call herself the only son of a king, just one of the “truths” of that kingdom. On his return, William faces his mother and possible future stepfather who are suspicious at best. His sister turns into a goat. Mom is sometimes a cat.

As with most graphic novels, the illustrations are very important, and these do not disappoint. Faces and animals are true-to-life and even the monsters are believable. The battle scenes may be overly realistic.

The extensive section about roles in the medieval world, mythological creatures, and gender roles provides added value and should aid students in comprehension. There is also a very good discussion section. The publisher provides materials and information on reading activities through their website: www.lernerbooks.com .

  • WilliamTitle: William and the Lost Spirit
  • Authors and Illustrators: Gwen de Bonneval and Matthieu Bonhomme
  • Publisher: Graphic Universe/Lerner Publishing Group
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-0807-4
  • Genre: Middle grade, Chivalry, Myth

Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout

Written by Megan McDonald

Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

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Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout is sure to make its way to reading lists as it will stretch both reading skills and science literacy. This eighth book in the Stink and Judy Moody series by prolific author Megan McDonald takes Stink on a froggy adventure. Stink Moody can’t swim his way out of the Polliwog level swim class because his head just won’t go under water. Then, frogs start popping up everywhere – in his shower, boots, and bathtub. Stink bonds with the frogs and convinces his friends to visit a vernal pool. There, they learn about challenges amphibians face such as shrinking habitat and pollutant-induced mutations. Croak! Squeenk! Ribbet! Stink is not happy about that and decides to join a frog-counting project.

When Stink is licked by a blue frog (surely a radioactive mutant), things get a little freaky. As he hippity-hops through the day, Stink gobbles up once-despised raisins which now look like tasty flies. The webbing betweens his toes seems to grow, and he is tempted to spend the night in the dark, damp basement. When he is eager to go to swim class, Stink’s sure he’s turning into a frog!

The story comes to a comforting conclusion as Stink froggy-kicks his way across the pool, happily dives underwater, and ribbets his way from the polliwog to the frog level in swim class.

With plenty of boy-appeal and humor on the third grade level, this book will inspire future scientists. It is perfect for young readers who enjoy froggy facts and reading games such as fun quizzes. (Did you know Northern green frogs eat their own dead skin?!) Several pages of Stink Frog superhero comics will please graphic novel fans.

Although the text includes a few inaccuracies (for example, the implication that skinks are amphibians), teachers will appreciate the scientific content (life cycle, scientific skills, field science techniques) as well as the conservation message. The classic classroom activity to accompany this book is raising tadpoles, but the book would also complement field trips to a pond or wetland area and a unit on freshwater ecology. Additional resources and lessons can be found on the website of the Center for Global Environmental Education, A Thousand Friends of Frogs (http://cgee.hamline.edu/frogs/), a project begun by students who found malformed frogs and decided to do something about it.

  • StinkTitle: Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout (Book #8)
  • Author:  Megan McDonald
  • Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0763661403
  • Genre: Chapter book, nature, contemporary, science

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race Against Time

Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Illustrated by Joe Berger

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang seems to have a mind of her own. The amazing flying, submarine-ing, time traveling car takes the Tooting family on one adventure after another. Whether the family is escaping from a field full of Tyrannosaurus Rexes in the Cenozoic Era, riding in a car race in Prohibition-era New York or experiencing the lost city of El Dorado in the wilds of the Amazon, life with a luxury car demands ingenuity and stamina. Yet back at their home in England is an even bigger problem. A super-villain has moved into their house, touching all of their stuff. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is taking them to these different places in history for a reason. Dad, Mom, Jem, and Lucy are constantly seeking clues to solve the mystery of what Chitty is trying to tell them. Each member of the family is also learning that he or she has something important to contribute to solving the puzzle, even baby Harry. They soon feel like there isn’t any problem too big for them to handle. Good thing! The book ends with a cliff-hanger as the family is stranded in 1966 without Chitty.

This is a fun read that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. With a classic knack of British understatement, the humor is endearing. Jem is an inventive, engineering type of boy and Lucy is a brainy girl so both boy and girl readers will have someone to cheer for. This would be a great class read aloud for either third or fourth grade. Each place the Tootings land has something to do with Chitty’s history. Have the students make a chart and record what part of Chitty’s story is represented in each location as a reading worksheet or critical reading activity. There is an activity kit, a teacher’s guide and a book trailer available at the publisher’s website: (http://www.chittyfliesagain.com/).

  • Chitty BangTITLE: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race Against Time
  • AUTHOR: Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Joe Berger
  • PUBLISHER: Candlewick, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 234 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5982-0

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball

Written by David A. Kelly

Illustrator by Oliver Dominguez

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Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball written by David A. Kelly is the story and history of how Lena Blackburne’s mud went from a riverbank to the major leagues and all the way to the Hall of Fame! It is a story anyone interested in baseball facts and trivia would enjoy and is for readers as young as first grade to those in their senior years. I see this as a perfect book to be read to young readers by an avid baseball fan in that young reader’s life such as a mom, dad, uncle, aunt, or grandparent.

Lena Blackburne never became a famous ball player, but he did contribute to baseball in a major league way by unveiling a secret recipe to break in new baseballs. His recipe was so successful that baseball teams have been buying his tubbed mud for close to seventy-five years. In fact, Lena’s mud is the only thing that’s allowed on major league balls.

Readers are sure to appreciate Oliver Dominguez’s life-like illustrations that make you feel like you are on the baseball field ready to play ball with the touch and feel of Lena’s mud on your hands. Baseball history buffs will especially enjoy Kelly’s author note at the end.

Sports fans will also enjoy other books by David A. Kelly such as early reader title, Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse or Ballpark Mysteries, a series aimed at those at the first to fourth grade reading level and is about two cousins who travel to Major League ballparks across the country with Kate’s sports-reporter mother watching games and solving mysteries.

  • Miracle MudTitle: Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball
  • Author: David A. Kelly
  • Illustrator: Oliver Dominguez
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Hard cover:  32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-80920-4
  • Genre: picture book, biography, sports
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