Archive for 2013

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  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


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 ( 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


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:
About predators and prey:

  • 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  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


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:

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

  • 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


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:

Marilyn Singer’s website:

Alexandra Boiger’s website:

  • 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


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


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 (, 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: (

  • 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
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