Tag Archive for literacy

Lucky Strike

Written by Bobbie Pyron

Ever been an outsider?  Remember what that feels like deep in your soul?

Nate and Genesis are both outsiders. They stick together because, “weirdos and losers stick together” and that’s their motto.  Nate is just downright unlucky. All the time, everywhere unlucky.

Genesis is a brainy girl who doesn’t believe in luck. She believes in science and probability and such. Even when Nate doesn’t call the right coin in fifty-four tries!

In a fun and opposing way, Nate is the complete opposite of Harry Potter. He does get struck by lightning and becomes the luckiest guy in touch. Townspeople even start saying he has the Midas touch. Everything is fantastic, the cool guys want him to play baseball with them, all the fishermen want him to ride on their boat. Until Nate realizes they don’t want him, just his luck.

This is a great story about being outsiders, what real luck actually is, and loyalty to the end.

Grade four, grade five and grade six readers will enjoy this story on every page. The realistic use of dialogue and short sections makes it easy to read quickly. Some students may enjoy reading parts aloud as they act out certain sections.

Teachers and librarians can use it as an excellent example of: voice, character development and plot. They will fulfill the core curriculum standards in literacy and English.

It is recommended for all elementary and middle school and public libraries.

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  • Lucky StrikeTitle: Lucky Strike
  • Author:  Bobbie Pyron
  • Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 263 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-59217-8
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Grade level: 3 to 6


Written by Sam Gayton
Illustrated by Alice Ratterree

Would you set a faerie free? How about a trapped orphan boy? Open the pages of this adventure book based on Gulliver’s Travels, and go along with three inch high, Lily, and the captured boy, Finn, as they rescue each other.

Supposedly, on Gulliver’s first return from his travels, Londoners called him a liar and lunatic for talking about lands with tiny people. So, on his second trip, he captured a tiny faerie to bring back to London as evidence. This is her story.

Short chapters, plenty of dialogue and good humor help the story to move along at a comfortable pace. Young independent readers will delight in the story. Teachers, librarians and parents will enjoy the literary quality of the work, as well.  London in the 1800’s is well represented in details of sight and smell. Friendship in all its trials and glories is explored as Finn and Lily struggle to free each other. Their adventure is one of twists and turns, failures and successes.

Realistic pen and ink drawings bring the characters, as well as the surroundings of the city of London to life before the readers’ eyes. Art teachers and librarians can use these drawings to begin discussions about illustrating a story.

Teachers and librarians can introduce this story with or without comparisons to the original, Gulliver’s Travels. Maybe it will piggy back with, The Borrowers, Stuart Little, or other such stories about the unseen little people of literature. Perhaps this will be the introduction for some students into the world of fantasy.  Standards in the core curriculum for middle school literacy will be satisfied. Grade four, grade five or grade six readers will enjoy this immensely. This book is recommended for all school libraries and it would be a wonderful present for fluent as well as reluctant readers.

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  • LilliputTitle:  Lilliput
  • Author:  Sam Gayton
  • Illustrator:  Alice Ratterree
  • Publisher:  Peachtree, October, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 246 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-806-6
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Grade level: 3 to 6
  • Extras: Afterward by Author

The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can


“Achieveable,” Really? Girls going to school? Not born in Zimbabwe during the war. Then girls rarely got to attend school. Only after she grew up and had children of her own was Trent encouraged by the women of her village to learn to read. They needed her to read letters from their faraway husbands.

This beautifully illustrated story is based on the true life experiences of Dr. Tererai Trent, who now hold many degrees and is an advocate for learning and education world-wide.

Traditional values, beliefs and thatched roofed homes are described and illustrated in this full color book. Teachers, librarians, and reading specialists will fulfill core curriculum standards in geography, history, and literacy by using this book with grade three readers.

It also highlights the good possible accomplished by just one person in advocating and supporting education. While Trent dreamed of education in Zimbabwe, it became a reality in America, as she explains in the body of the text as well as in her author’s notes.

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  • Girl who buried her dreamsTitle: The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can
  • Author: Dr. Tererai Trent
  • Illustrator: Jan Spivey Gilchrist
  • Publisher: Viking, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-670-01654
  • Genre: Non-fiction, biography
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Afterward

Little Rhino: My New Team

Written by Ryan Howard and Krystle Howard

Baseball and bullies is the theme of book one in a new series called, Little Rhino, written by the husband- wife team of Ryan and Krystle Howard. Ryan plays Major League Baseball. Krystle is a former elementary reading teacher. They write authentic dialogue as well as exciting and realistic play-by-play baseball. Both are interested in literacy as well as sports.

Team members represent a diversity of children and the main character, Ryan known as Rhino, is taken care of by a single grandparent. But none of that interferes with this great story of being on your first baseball team. Learning how to play together and get along with others solves a bullying problem in a light and realistic manner.

Third grade readers will recognize lunch room conversations about dinosaurs, a pestering bully and waiting all day Saturday for it to finally be game time.

Full page pen and ink drawings help to break up the chapters while immersing readers in the setting or action.

This is a series that third grade readers will enjoy reading and collecting. Having the beginning of the next book included at the end of this book excites readers and gives them something to look forward to reading about. It is also a good marketing plan.

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  • RhinoTitle: Little Rhino: My New Team
  • Author: Ryan Howard and Krystle Howard
  • Illustrator: Scholastic
  • Publisher: Scholastic, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Papberback, 96 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-67490-4
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Grade level 3
  • Extras: The beginning of Book 2, The Best Bat, is at the back of this title.