Tag Archive for read aloud

Muffy & the Dog Catcher

Written and Illustrated by Devra Robitaille

The first book in the “Muffy” series introduces a number of captivating characters. Muffy is just a puppy and the smallest of the litter on the farm. She often gets left behind. To amuse herself, she plays a sort of hopping game with a grasshopper and leads herself way beyond the parameters of her farm. Familiar with the concept of a road, she finds one and follows it. Eventually, she comes on a house with a number of dogs and very welcoming humans. She makes herself at home, but misses her farm and her sister. Through one of the other dogs, she meets a dog catcher who can talk to the animals.

This would be fun as a read aloud for younger kids. The characters are compelling and kids can help figure out how Muffy will find her true home. The illustrations of Muffy are beautiful and soothing enough for bedtime. For independent reading, the language and voice are a bit challenging so should be left to somewhat older kids.

Kids will love the characters and will identify with Muffy’s struggles to fit in. They will enjoy getting into the minds of the dogs, as the dog catcher does.

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  • Title: Muffy & the Dog Catcher         
  • Author/Illustrator: Devra Robitaille
  • Published: The Hologram Library, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: E-book, 49 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Chapter book, Animals, Family



Firefly Hollow

Written by Alison McGhee
Illustrated by Christopher Denise

Kindred spirits are hard to find. Friends who truly believe in you and your dreams are just the kind we need.

In, Firefly Hollow, there is a whole nation of fireflies, but only one that wants to fly to the moon. There is a whole nation of crickets, but only one that wants to catch baseballs. Good thing they find each other. Even better, they find a miniature giant who really, really needs friends.

This beautiful book reminds readers of, The Wind in the Willows, with its exquisite illustrations done on glossy papers and with no text on the backside of the page. In some ways, it will also remind children of the Ice Age stories as these friends: firefly, cricket, and miniature giant form a nation of themselves just as the characters in Ice Age create a new kind of herd. What is most important is how each of them understands, supports and fulfills the needs of the others.

Peter, the miniature giant, has lost his best friend and doesn’t know how to cope. Readers will understand these feelings whether they have experience the death of a friend or had a close friend move away. The animals understand Peter much better than his parents do. The readers will pick up on the connection between the river vole and the father as a particular secret they hope will be revealed.

Middle grade readers will enjoy this as an independent read, a read-aloud or a book club discussion title. Literacy core curriculum standards will be fulfilled in several areas using this book, and it is definite the art teacher will want to do a unit revolving around these marvelous paintings.  Writing standards can be met as students branch off after this reading to write their own stories about kindred spirits, actual friends, or unspoken dreams.

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  • Firefly HollowTitle: Firefly Hollow
  • Author: Alison McGhee
  • Illustrator: Christopher Denise
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4424-2336-7
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Grade level: 3 to 7

Stay! A Top Dog Story

Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer

“Ben thought Buster was the best dog in the world,” but his parents weren’t so sure. Ben’s parents want to go on vacation, but they’re not so sure they want Buster to come along. So Buster is to be left with Ben’s grandfather. In order to make sure Buster is safe, Ben writes instructions for his grandfather. The problem is, Ben keeps thinking of more instructions and has to keep sending postcards and notes. Another problem is that Buster is not always a good dog, so the grandfather takes it upon himself to make Buster behave. Naturally, he ends up making notes for Ben. Buster even learns not to attack mailmen. Buster gets to go on the vacation the next time, but he still can’t behave all the time. Not all the time, anyway.

The humorous illustrations are often dominated by the notes, cards, and maps about Buster’s world. Who knew a dog could cross its legs when it needs to go outside?

Third graders will learn a lot about pets and about family while practicing their literacy skills. This would also be a good read aloud with younger children for practicing those skills and laughing about Buster’s antics.

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  • StayTitle: Stay! A Top Dog Story
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex Latimer
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Animals, Family, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-156145-884-4


Goodnight Selfie

Written by Scott Menchin
Illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby

As mobile phone users get younger and younger, the devices are used for more and more fun ideas. With the advent of celebrity selfies and many apps, kids know about all the ideas even before they have their own phones. This is the story of a young girl who gets a hand-me-down from her brother and feels compelled to take selfies while doing everything she does. When her mother suggests taking photos of other things, she decides dubs them elsies. And she takes many elsie-selfies. Of course, she doesn’t want to go to bed, and takes one more selfie – a goodnight selfie.

The illustrations add a lot to the story, especially given that the story is about illustrations. The cute quality captures the whimsical nature of selfies.

This is a fun read aloud for younger children, with whom parents and teachers can discuss the importance of not focusing only on oneself. Third graders may even have their own phones and can read independently about fun things to do with those phones.

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  • Goodnight SelfieTitle: Goodnight Selfie
  • Author: Scott Menchin
  • Illustrator: Pierre Collet-Derby
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Identity, Family
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-3182-6

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones

Written by Will Mabbitt
Illustrated by Ross Collins

Blimey! Don’t pick your nose or you could get captured by pirates! No matter how many times some children are warned, they still do it, Mabel Jones is one guilty girl. One minute she is wearing her pajamas and in her own bedroom. Then silence. Captured and plopped aboard a pirate ship, she is required to help find some missing treasure before the comet flies over if she has any desire of getting back home.

This mismatched batch of pirates are hilarious. First, they are completely disgusted to realize their new crewmate is a girl. Until they realize she can read. Now they know she is brainy and can be of help to them. Even the strange creature who captured her ends up loving her, because she is kind to him.

Everything about this adventure is entertaining and fun. Even the varying sizes of fonts make it a fun read and give the appearance of fewer words than might be expected in this long a book. Good readers will devour this story and reluctant readers will stick with it all the way to the end. Pen and ink sketches help the characters and story come alive, though, the text does that extremely well.

While there are some misspelled words, as one might expect of pirates, the spellings are phonetic so children readers will translate them happily.

Teachers and librarians can introduce this in read aloud form. Literacy skills dealing with fantasy, world building, context clues and character development will all be met within the core curriculum. English teachers can easily use these stories to propel their students’ own writing into the world of the future.

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  • Mabel JonesTitle: The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones
  • Author: Will Mabbitt
  • Illustrator: Ross Collins
  • Publisher: Viking/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 290 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-451-47196-3
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Grade level: 3 to 6

Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather

Written by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
Illustrated by Sebastia Serra

Does your big toe hurt? Is the sky red at night? There have been many different myths in various cultures over the generations to explain the weather. While some might be right, many others have been proven wrong by scientists and their research.

Colorful illustrations, including weather pattern diagrams, help compare the myths of the past with the truth as it is understood today. In an optimistic and challenging ending, the book even suggests that one of today’s young readers will someday be a scientist looking back on us today and saying, “Boy, we were wrong about the weather.”

Accurate weather terminology is used throughout the book with clear definitions where necessary. It will be helpful to the youngest students as they are introduced to weather science for the first time.

As a read aloud, teachers and librarians can use this in kindergarten and first grade. Second and third graders will be able to read it independently. While they might not recognize some of the ancient peoples mentioned, it is a well done look at myths being disproven by science. It will fulfill core curriculum standards for science and literacy in the elementary grades.

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  • WeatherTitle: Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather
  • Author: Kathleen V. Kudlinski
  • Illustrator: Sebastia Serra
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-3793-8
  • Genre: Non-fiction, science, weather
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: Timeline of Weather Science, related websites

Horrible Harry and the Wedding Spies

Written by Suzy Kline
Illustrated by Amy Wummer

How very exciting it is to have your teacher getting married! And it couldn’t happen to anyone better than our long- time friend, Horrible Harry.   Of course, that in itself would cause many to worry. Things don’t always go well when Harry is involved.

His class finds out about her wedding day during a show and tell class but then realize they haven’t been invited. None of them! They do what any reader attached to this series will enjoy. They figure out a way to spy on the wedding from the balcony and then the belfry of the church.

Suzy Kline has again written an entertaining and true to life story that young, but independent readers will enjoy. Her gentle inclusion of everyday struggles in a classroom, like not getting invited to a birthday part, will be familiar to students, but she handles all the incidents with respect and humor.

Teachers, parents, or librarians can introduce this book by reading only a portion of it aloud. Literacy skills will be strengthened while children enjoy a fun read. It is also a great book to use for a family couch activity like, you read a page and I’ll read a page. Another way to enjoy it would be to have an older child read it to, or with a younger sibling.

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  • Horrible HarryTitle: Horrible Harry and the Wedding Spies
  • Author: Suzy Kline
  • Illustrator: Amy Wummer
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 70 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-670-01552-8
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Grade level: 2 to 5

Here’s Hank: Fake Snakes and Weird Wizards

Written by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver

In Hank’s fourth book, we find him being a wonderful big brother to Emily. What she really, really wants for her birthday party is to have Ralph’s Reptile Show come to perform at her birthday party. Trouble is, Dad says Ralph is expensive. Besides, Ralph’s schedule is already booked full.

When Emily slams her bedroom door shut to go inside and cry, Hank has to think of something. So he hollers in that he could have the Westside Wizard come do a show at her party instead of Ralph. Trouble is, there is no such thing as the Westside Wizard. Hank calls an emergency meeting at the clubhouse with Frankie and Ashley. Together they work out a plan for Hank to dress in disguise and perform magic tricks. Because Emily’s very favorite animals are snakes, he even works a rubber snake into his act.

Throughout the story, Hank and his friends work very hard to make Emily’s birthday special. Readers will pick up on the importance of taking care of younger siblings and planning surprises for them.  Third grade readers will also watch Hank struggle as he practices over and over again to get the tricks to work out just right. It is very rewarding to see how hard he works to make the party special. Children will understand many skills take lots of practice to succeed.

Humor continues to play a large role in this Hank book, especially as the family dog is the first one to suspect who is inside the wizard costume.

As with all of the Hank books, this one is printed using the Dyslexie font which makes it easier for kids with reading disabilities to distinguish the letters. However, it is not in any way intended only for children with dyslexia. This font makes it easier and faster for all children to read. They will particularly enjoy the lists Hank makes for himself, like the one about the four things that happened to him when Frankie tried to teach him magic tricks.

Teachers, librarians and parents can enjoy this as a fun read aloud to share with their children and/or as a book club book to open discussions about what can or has been done to help make holidays special for siblings.

After reading this book, readers will want to go to the library and read the first three Hank books, if they haven’t read them yet.

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  • Heres HankTitle: Here’s Hank: Fake Snakes and Weird Wizards
  • Authors:  Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver
  • Illustrator: Scott Garrett
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 128 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-448-48252-1
  • Genre: realistic fiction
  • Grade level: 1 to 3

Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

Written by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts


Madame Chapeau spends her days creating exquisite hats for her customers, but spends nights at home alone. Only on her birthday does she allow herself to go out for a special dinner. She dons a fancy dress and her favorite bonnet and walks the streets of Paris to the best restaurant in town (the tongue-in-cheek named Chez Snooty-Patoot).


On the way, a crow snatches her beloved hat off her head. As she runs after the bird, a variety of people, including a baker, policeman, and cowboy, offer up their hats. She cannot accept their kind offerings, because she knows the hats are not a perfect fit. She arrives at the restaurant feeling blue when a little girl approaches. The girl gives the lonely hatmaker a present – a fuzzy cap made from yarn. Even though it’s silly looking, it lifts Madame Chapeau’s spirits. A hat made for her with such love and care is cause enough to celebrate. She invites everyone to join her for cake and never dines alone again.


Educators and parents will have a ton of fun reading this aloud to young elementary school children. Beaty’s text rhythmically rolls off the tongue and bounces along in time.

Like the lady herself, all her hats were refined –
Brilliantly singular; one of a kind!
Each feather, each bauble, each bead, and each bow –
Painstakingly chosen by Madame Chapeau.

Third grade readers will love Robert’s illustrations, a feast for the eyes, as he pays homage to fashion editor Isabella Blow and milliners Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, and Elsa Schiaparelli, among others. Fashionistas, big and small, will enjoy spotting some of the famous hat designs sprinkled throughout the book, such as Charlie Chaplin’s derby, Marcel Marceau’s crumpled top hat, and the unique hat worn by Princess Beatrice to the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.


Visit the author’s website (http://www.andreabeaty.com/happy-birthday-madame-chapeau.html) for fun links on hat making.


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  • Happy Birthday Madame ChapeauTitle: Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau
  • Author: Andrea Beaty
  • Illustrator: David Roberts
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1219-7
  • Genre: Picture Book / Fiction

The Grudge Keeper

Written by Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

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The town of Bonnyripple is a civilized place where no one ever holds a grudge. Why? Because any and all arguments are to be immediately delivered on a scroll of paper to old man Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper.

Ruffled feathers, petty snits, minor tiffs and major huffs, insults, umbrage, squabbles, dust-ups, and imbroglios – the Grudge Keeper received them all, large and small, tucking each one carefully away in his ramshackle cottage.

Over time, though, the grudges add up. They stack so high in Cornelius’ cottage that he can barely move. Then one day, a storm blows into town and causes quite a commotion. Items are ruined, neighbors bicker, feelings are hurt, and come morning the entire town is upset with each other. They march straight to Cornelius to drop off their grievances. But what do they find? A literal mountain of grudges and complaints and backhanded compliments all tossed together in a blown-about heap. And buried underneath it all is the poor grudge keeper. The townspeople must put aside their differences and work together to save him.

Wheeler does an excellent job creating the fairy-tale town of Bonnyville with her ink-and-watercolor illustrations. Watch how the color pallet shifts with the town’s mood, especially when the storm approaches – literally and figuratively. Rockliff uses plenty of alliteration and tongue-in-cheek wordplay to make the story fun to read and fun to listen to; this would work well as a third grade read aloud and could promote discussion on getting along and resolving conflict.

For a great interview with the author and illustrator and an insider’s look into the picture book-making process, visit The Making of the Grudge Keeper on the publisher’s website:



  • The Grudge KeeperTitle: The Grudge Keeper
  • Author: Mara Rockliff
  • Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-729-8
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Humor
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