Archive for Fiction

Emma Dilemma, the Nanny, and the Wedding

Written by Patricia Hermes

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Emma’s family had the very best nanny ever!  Emma and her four siblings adored Annie.  What a shock when they found out, at almost the same time, that not only was Mom having another baby, but Annie was getting married.  Whatever would Emma do?  Where would she and her older brother Tim go when they were worried or scared?  Annie had always welcomed them into her upstairs apartment at such times.  Because Emma’s parents had offered to have Annie’s wedding in their home, Emma had to wait to paint her room the wonderful, electric blue color she had picked out.  Two days before Annie’s family was due to arrive from Ireland, Emma decided to turn her closet into a “safe place”, somewhere to go when she was scared or worried.  The first step was to paint it.  Her parents had said she could not paint her room, but did not say anything about her closet.  The next morning Mom and Dad found out about Emma’s middle of the night paint job when they found puppy paw prints all over the new floor in the entryway.  What a horrible dilemma!  The wedding was just two days away.  It was going to cost thousands of dollars to fix the floors, but they could not be fixed before the wedding.  Emma finally remembered the paint remover the vet had used to get the paint off of Woof’s feet when they took Woof and Marmaduke, Emma’s pet ferret, to the vet.  She tried that on the floor and it worked!  Now the house would look perfect for the wedding.  Ah, the wedding.  It was glorious.  When Emma saw how happy Annie was she knew that “everything was going to be all, all right”.

This sweet story would make a wonderful read aloud in a third grade classroom.  There are many prediction, problem solving, and vocabulary possibilities.  What will the family do if Annie moves out of their home?  Will Mom and Dad be able to handle SIX children without a live-in nanny?  What is a nanny?  Why would you need a nanny?  What would you do someone you loved might move away so that you could not see them every day?  What does it mean that “Emma screwed up her face”?

Teaching children to talk to adults about their feelings is not always so easy.  Had Emma talked to her parents about her feelings, maybe they would have helped her create a safe place in her closet.  This would have prevented many problems and headaches.  Emma’s dilemma helps children see what can happen when they (and sometimes even adults) try to handle things on their own.

Patricia Hermes ( has written a series of Emma Dilemma books.  Although Emma is different from Junie B. Jones and Agnes from The Secret Knock Club, readers will see many similarities.  Emma’s relationship with her brother Tim and their adventures will appeal to both girls and boys.  Even parents might learn a thing or two.

  • Emma DilemmaTitle:  Emma Dilemma, the Nanny, and the Wedding
  • Author:  Patricia Hermes
  • Publisher:  Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Hardcover:  137 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761462101
  • Genre:  fiction-novel
  • Lexile score:  580

The Sleepwalkers

Written and Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

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A unique graphic novel for the younger set.  If you are plagued by nightmares, write a letter, put it under your pillow and help will come.  Three fluffy sheep will rescue the sleeper from their dream and turn it into something the dreamer can handle, maybe even enjoy.  A little girl dreams about lots and lots of mice, but she is rescued by the sheep and taken to a safe house.  They give her an inflatable catamaran to float over the sea of mice and send her home.  Yet, the sheep are getting old and these nightly adventures are taking their toll.  They decide to train the next generation of rescuers.  The first new rescuer is concocted out of a well-loved quilt into a plump, rather timid bear named Bonifacius or Bonno for short.  The sheep take Bonno out the very next night for his rescue-in-training. This time the dream is a falling one.  They land on a plane that looks like a pterodactyl that the dreamer learns to fly.  The next day, the sheep make a sock monkey to be his teammate.  Bonno is sure that Amali the sock monkey is a better rescuer because she seems to do everything right.  Next, they conjure up their final rescue helper, Sophia, a crow with a writing quill for a head.  Just in time because they have someone with a Naked in Public dream.  They all get clothes to wear and Bonno adopts his signature costume, a Mexican wrestler’s mask.  Through all of these challenges, the new team learns to solve the scary dreams with their own inimitable style.

Young readers want to jump on the graphic novel bandwagon like their older peers but often the stories are not appropriate for them.  This one is written with them in mind concerning a struggle many of them face: bad dreams.  The characters grow and mature as they gain the confidence required to do their “job”, as well as helping the dreamers solve their sleep problems.  The graphic novel format is really difficult to read aloud unless you do it one-on-one.  This has a fairly easy reading level, so a third grader could read this to a younger reader such as a Reading Buddy and both would have the time to examine each frame.

  • SleepwalkersTITLE: The Sleepwalkers
  • AUTHOR and ILLUSTRATOR: Viviane Schwarz
  • PUBLISHER: Candlewick, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 94 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6230-1
  • GENRE: Graphic novel, fantasy
  • LEXILE:  350GN

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


The Spring Un-Fair (The Secret Knock Club #2)

Written by Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud

Illustrated by Adam McHeffey

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This adorable, easy to read book is like a third grade level combination of a Junie B. Jones and Amelia Bedelia.  There are the same type friendships as in Junie B. and similar misunderstandings like you find with Amelia Bedelia.  Sometimes you can understand how she could misunderstand words like Mrs. Carrot instead of Mrs. Carrick.  Of course, other times, it seems that she just likes to be different, calling yoga class yogurt class.

This is a great problem solving book as Agnes and her friends must come up with a way to raise money to provide a dunk booth for their school’s spring fair.  They decide to give a concert and Agnes names herself the lead singer for their rock band.  She and Fudgy must overcome a pretty serious case of stage fright.  Fortunately, they have the help of their music teacher, Mrs. Roman.  Unfortunately, the day of the concert Agnes comes down with a very bad case of laryngitis.  But, Fudgy’s older brother has a band of his own and with a little bit of pleading, Agnes and her friends are able to convince Reggie and his band to perform so the concert can go on.  It was a great show!  Agnes and her friends, with a little help from Reggie and his friends, were able to raise enough money to turn the spring un-fair into a spring fair.

Problem solving, overcoming fears, and working together are just a few of the social lessons to be learned.  Using this book as a read aloud would give the teacher numerous opportunities to help students gain valuable inference skills.  There are plenty of possibilities for creative writing prompts.  “What would you do if you needed to raise money for your school?”  And then there are the math possibilities.  “If a dunk tank costs $150, how much could you charge and how many tickets would you need to sell to raise enough money?”  Other great uses for this book include guided reading groups and literature circles.

Any child who loves Junie B. Jones will also love Agnes.  They are two peas in a pod.  The Secret Knock Club and the rock band will appeal to both boys and girls.  But, parents beware.  You may end up with a rock band in your garage.

  • Spring UnfairTitle:  The Spring Un-Fair (The Secret Knock Club #2)
  • Author:  Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud
  • Illustrator:  Adam McHeffey
  • Publisher:  Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Hardcover:  111 pages
  • ISBN: 9780761462156
  • Genre:  contemporary fiction
  • Lexile score:  530

Mr. Flux

Written by Kyo Maclear

Illustrated by  Matte Stephens

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First meet Martin, a boy so averse to change that he rides his old red bicycle because his new red bicycle is too new and scary to ride.  Next meet Mr. Flux, an artist who embraces change and loves to mix things up.  And now watch what happens when Mr. Flux gives Charlie a box full of change…

At first Charlie tries to return it, “because change is upsetting and we like things just the way they are.”  But Mr. Flux insists “…everything changes.  Look around you.  A dewdrop, a bubble, a cloud.  What stays the same?”

Soon Charlie is making some teensy-weensy changes.  And before you know it, as he spends more and more time with Mr. Flux, Charlie is not only making change but encouraging his family and neighbors to change too.

But the biggest change comes when Mr. Flux moves away, forcing Charlie to wonder “what if…nothing ever changed again?”

The lesson in this story is heavy handed at times, with a full spread of quotes in support of change.  But the whimsical illustrations and absurd behavior of the book’s characters coat the lesson with the type of sugar that third grade readers will love.

The message also comes in layers, addressing everything from art appreciation to friendship between people who confuse and puzzle each other.  And a surprising twist at the end increases reading comprehension with a fun play on words.

In a note from the author at the end of the book, readers are introduced to “Fluxus” an art movement that started in the 1960s and “brought together artists, filmmakers and musicians from all over the world who shared a love of humor and playfulness and change.”  In this sense, the author and illustrators have done a great job of showing Fluxus in action and encouraging readers to look at the world around them in a new way.

  • Mr. FluxTitle: Mr. Flux
  • Author: Kyo Maclear
  • Illustrator:  Matte Stephens
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Book Length:  36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-137-2 (hardback)
  • Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Art
  • Lexile Score: 840


Dodsworth in Tokyo

Written and Illustrated by Tim Egan

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Dodsworth in Tokyo is the newest installment in Tim Egan’s series about two characters, Dodsworth and a duck, traveling around the globe. Egan introduced readers to Dodsworth in the book entitled, The Pink Refrigerator, and though many fans consider the character of Dodsworth to be a mouse, the author himself is unsure. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly that can be found online, Tim Egan said, “I think he’s a mouse. I’ll never declare it.”

Whatever animal Dodsworth happens to be, he’s a delight in each of his books as he travels with his companion, a misbehaving duck. Prior to traveling to Tokyo, Dodsworth and the duck visited New York, Paris, London, and Rome in other books of similar names.

In the adventure in Tokyo, third grade readers will delight and giggle as the duck bumps into a rickshaw while busily looking at the signs along the crowded street, and falls into a koi pond. The duck has to be rescued by Dodsworth. Who knew a duck couldn’t swim? This in turn, causes a lady to send a tray of wagashi (Japanese desserts) flying through the air. But the duck redeems himself by returning a little girl’s favorite toy, a kendama.

Author Tim Egan succeeds effortlessly in teaching readers about Japanese culture and introducing Japanese words, like, arigato, rickshaw, bonsai trees, karate, kendama, wagashi, sumi-e paintings, Zen temple, Taiko drummers, and sushi.

Because some of the words do not follow phonetic rules, this book would be best for skilled third grade readers if the children are reading the book alone. Even skilled readers may need pronunciation help with many of the words. However, this book would make an excellent addition to a geography lesson about Japan, as a read aloud by the teacher. A class might enjoy reading the Dodsworth books in order of completion, with a world map displayed on a board. Place flags on the map of the various places Dodsworth visits and encourage the kids to learn to recognize the cities and countries Dodsworth and his misbehaving duck visit.

  • Dodsworth in TokyoTITLE: Dodsworth in Tokyo
  • AUTHOR: Tim Egan
  • PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Hard Cover, 48 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-87745-7
  • GENRE: Humor

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

Written by David Almond

Illustrated by Dave McKean

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Ancient myths are fascinating for those at the third grade reading level, especially when the story is a fresh take on mythology. This interesting story will capture youngsters with comprehension at the third grade level with a story full of gods, magic, and adventure, although older readers will enjoy this as well.

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf  is a creation myth about a world designed by some gods who did not quite finish the job. They created a world with, a sea, a sky, and mountains. There were some people and creatures and trees and plants, but there were also many blank spaces. The gods spend their time napping and lying around the clouds having cake and tea instead of finishing their work. Some young people, Harry, Sue, and Little Ben, wondered about the blank spaces. They feel like there should be creatures to fill those blanks. Little Ben thinks there should be a mousey thing. He creates one from plants, wool, and nuts and forms them into a mousey shaped thing and conjures it into a living thing. Sue decides to try to make a birdie kind of thing, and she pulls that off as well. Harry creates a snake from mud and brings it to life. The gods snooze on and never interfere. The real trouble is caused when Harry and Sue get together and decide what needs to happen is a wolf. Little Ben tries to stop them, but they are intent on bringing their creature to life.

Creation myths exist in every culture in the world. This would be a wonderful book to add to a unit on creation myths. Because it is so unusual and fresh, this will give youngsters a great starting point for writing and illustrating their own creation myths. Both the author and the illustrator have web sites. The author’s page can be found at and the illustrator’s site is

  • Mouse Bird Snake WolfTitle: Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
  • Author: David Almond
  • Illustrator: Dave McKean
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5912-7
  • Genre: Fiction, Creation Myth, Graphic Story
  • Lexile Score: 640


Escape from Silver Street Farm

Written by Nicola Davies

Illustrated by Katharine McEwen

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Three animal-loving children, Meera, Karl, and Gemma, get together to form a farm within the city. They love every aspect of developing a farm—even shoveling poop– alongside Flora MacDonald, a young Scottish farmer whose experience in farming is invaluable. As they prepare for the Grand Opening, they hear the results of the constant head-butting of their latest arrival, Kenelottl Mossworthy Merridale (Kenny, for short). Despite the noise, the children think everything is set until Flora announces that their prize attractions, the always-nervous turkeys, have flown the coop. As if that isn’t bad enough, Bobo and Bitzi, the Silver Street sheep—formerly known as poodle puppies—have also disappeared. Since the sheep are the newly arrived ram’s new wives, it is only sensible that the children use him to sniff them out. With the sheep in the grocery store and the turkeys about to take a frightening ride in a bouncy castle over the dam, life is exciting for all involved! But is the mystery solved? Not yet! There’s still the matter of the unexplained hole in the fence and the hidden tunnel. Enter Bish Bosh and Squirt for some additional entertainment.

As the sequel to Welcome to Silver Street Farm, Escape from Silver Street Farm is the second in a series of six books. Full of humor, the series should appeal to animal lovers at the third grade reading level. If teachers like the idea of teaching children the value of taking charge with the aid of a supportive adult or two, this book should definitely be added to their reading list.

About the author:

About the illustrator:

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  • Escape from Silver Street FarmTitle: Escape from Silver Street Farm
  • Author: Nicola Davies
  • Illustrator: Katharine McEwen
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Hardback: 80 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6133-5
  • Genre: Humor
  • Lexile score: 810


The Deductive Detective

Written by Brian Rock

Illustrated by Sherry Rogers

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When a cake is stolen from a cake contest and there are twelve possible suspects, who do you call? Duck, the deductive detective! He assesses the situation and one by one eliminates suspects based on the evidence. The Deductive Detective is a charming read-aloud, but for a third grade class to really appreciate the puns, students may also read it individually. Brian Rock, a former educator himself, also writes allusions throughout his book. To understand puns like the Elephant’s statement, “I come from a long line of Tudors”, or cow’s recollection that her great-grandmother once “jumped over the moon,” students must remember who the Tudors were or a nursery rhyme.

As a comprehension activity, students may be asked to pick two puns and explain them as if teaching an English as a Second Language (ESL) student. This type of activity promotes comprehension of the text and empathy for ESL students. This book is also a fantastic book to bridge literacy and math concepts. The overlap of the math concept subtraction and the process of elimination are clear.  As another extension activity to help students understand the concept of deductive reasoning, students may play the games like “Guess Who,” “Battleship,” or “Twenty Questions.” Each of these games requires students to use clues and the process of elimination to reach the solution to a problem. Literacy and problem solving skills are two of the most crucial skills for students to acquire, and games along with The Deductive Detective are a fantastic way to learn.

  • Title: The Deductive Detective
  • Author: Brian Rock
  • Illustrator: Sherry Rogers
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6250
  • Genre: fiction/deductive reasoning/mystery
  • Lexile: 670

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
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