Tag Archive for third grade readers

Harry Miller’s Run

Written by David Almond
Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

What was it like to be in the first Great North Run? Liam, eleven years old, doesn’t know, but he’s excited to train for his first participation in the Run. The older kids run all the way from Newcastle to South Shields, thirteen miles. Liam is in the Junior division, running a shorter route. On the way to training, Liam and his Mam stop to care for Harry, an older gentleman. Liam is reluctant to take the time, but ends up glad they did. Harry tells him all about the first time he and his buddies ran to the sea. Harry and three friends set out on a lark and ran and ran. They stopped many times to get drinks. Once, they stopped to enlist the help of a girl who knew the way. “There’s a wolf on your tail! Run for your lovely life!” people would tell them. They knew they were done when they talked to the ice cream man on the Ocean Road. And Harry kept contact with the girl. Shortly after Liam’s visit, Harry died.

Rubbino’s illustrations are perfect for the flavor of the times and the culture of Harry and Liam. The illustrations for present day are black and white, while the time of Harry’s first run are color, as Harry’s memories are so vivid.

Though the story is about a specific event, it points out the importance of oral history and learning about traditions from our elders. Liam found that Harry had a lot to teach him. The dialectic dialogue is occasionally difficult to decipher, so younger or reluctant readers may need a little help with comprehension. But this story is well worth the effort.

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  • Harry Millers RunTitle: Harry Miller’s Run        
  • Author: David Almond
  • Illustrator: Salvatore Rubbino
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 64 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Early Reader, Oral history, Tradition
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8975-9

Purple Pup

Written by Karl Steam
Illustrated by Joshua Lagman

What if science advanced far enough that we could pick and choose very specific characteristics for the plants, animals, and humans around us? Would we be able go to the pet store and get a dog that is our favorite color and soft to pet? Could rescue dogs have even better senses of smell and hearing to locate lost people better? And how would their new positions affect the personalities of the animals?

Compelling characters and an exciting story make Steam’s speculations on these topics fun and challenging for kids. Great illustrations are an added part of the story.

Lav, bred to be purple and soft, is raised with Kama, a camouflaged dog with super hearing. But Lav hates the people in the lab because they poke him with needles and don’t understand that Cryp, Kama’s designated future mate, is vicious with him. Lav escapes and finds people he can love. Meantime, Kama is being trained by a human she can love. Due to his unusual color, Purple Pup, as Lav is now known, is returned to the lab, but he can’t forget his boy. He then escapes with Kama, Cryp, a miniature gorilla, and a miniature lion. They live in the woods with a wolf pack until Lav’s purple coat is again spotted.

Given all the discussion about GMOs and mapping genomes, this is a good place to get third graders started on the possible scientific results of manipulation. Many activities can arise from caring about Lav and his friends.

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  • Title: Purple Pup


  • Author: Karl Steam
  • Illustrator: Joshua Lagman
  • Published: Karl Steam, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 214 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Chapter book, Genetic manipulation, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-163578-0001-7
  • Extras: Real-life Modifications, GM Food, Online videos (www.karlsteam.com)

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Written by Kate diCamillo
Illustrated by K.G. Campbell

Flora is a cynic. Who reads comic books about superheroes. And can’t figure out her parents. Her mother spends all her time writing bad romance novels on an old typewriter and doting on a lamp named Mary Ann. Her father greets everyone with, “George Buckman. How do you do?’ Even people he already knows.

Flora’s neighbor, Tootie Tickham, gets a new vacuum cleaner so powerful that it drags her into the yard and sucks up a squirrel. The squirrel is transformed by the experience and is dubbed Ulysses, after the name of the vacuum. Thus begins Flora’s quest to prove Ulysses’ worth and discover the rest of his talents. He’s strong. He flies. He types. Poetry. And he loves Flora. Add to this Tootie’s great-nephew, William Spiver, who is temporarily hysterically blind, and Dr. Meerscham, Mr. Buckman’s neighbor who grew up in Germany and talks about her deceased husband, the other Dr. Meerscham. Most of the world is unwilling to believe in a squirrel with super powers.

Silly and full of running gags, this award-winning book is surprisingly deep and emotional. The characters and warm and deep. The third grade reader will learn about love in all its many forms and about doing the impossible. Kids will love and read this book again and again.

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  • Flora and UlyssesTitle: Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
  • Author: Kate diCamillo
  • Illustrator: K.G. Campbell
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 234 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Fiction
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7671-1

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.

Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Written and illustrated by John Hendrix

Why can’t peace break out spontaneously? Well, apparently, it can. One hundred years ago, during the early days of World War I, soldiers along the trenches in Europe decided to celebrate Christmas with their own special brand of good will toward men – men on the other side of the conflict. By means of a fictional letter from a British soldier, the reader learns of the conditions endured by the men on both sides. Rain, for example, meant three-foot-deep mud that seeped into everything. On Christmas Eve, the British soldiers started hearing singing. Poking their heads up, they could see lighted Christmas trees along the German trenches. Many soldiers crossed into No Man’s Land to shake hands and exchange trinkets with men from the other side. When Christmas was over, the war resumed, but the men were reluctant to shoot at their new friends. Man shot at the stars instead.

The truce really happened. The troops were severely reprimanded for fraternizing with the enemy. And another year of heavy fighting meant that the spontaneity did not carry over to the next year. But third grade readers and above can learn a lot about history, the conditions of war, and international relations from the text. Core concepts are strengthened by this fictionalized account. The realistic and beautiful illustrations enhance the story.

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  • Shooting at the StarsTitle: Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914
  • Author/Illustrator: John Hendrix
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4424-9447-3
  • Genre: Historical fiction, social studies 
  • Grade level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: author’s note, glossary, index, bibliography


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

Four Famous Faces

Written by Jean L.S. Patrick
Illustrated by Renee Graef

Four beautiful Native American animals are pictured on the cover as a group of friends off on a hike. The story begins as a prairie dog pup sets off to find the “four famous faces” that all the tourists traveling past in their cars and campers are going to see. For so much traffic, they must be very important faces.

Young readers will giggle as the prairie pup asks first bison, elk, then bats and finally mountain goats if they are the four famous faces before finally reaching the welcome center to the real famous faces of Mount Rushmore. Along the journey, third grade readers will visit several fantastic National and State parks. At the back of the book, an in-depth section is presented for each of the parks as well as for each of the animals. This makes the book of particular value for teachers and librarians. The information section will fulfill the core curriculum and literacy skills of any school system.

The readers will be able to distinguish easily between the fiction and non-fiction sections of the books and can use this as an example when they are doing their own classroom writing. It is a great addition to the study of geography as well as a neat travel guide for families preparing to take their vacation in this region of our country. Otherwise, it would be a great reminder of a trip taken a couple of years ago. The story ends on a very satisfying note, as does every trip away from home.

Extras: Several non-fiction pages in the back of the book that each focus on a particular park: Devil’s Tower National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Park, Badlands National Park, and Custer State Park. Each of these pages also include a non-fiction fact box about each of the animals who starred in the picture book story at the beginning of the book. (bison, prairie dog, elk, and big-eared bat)

A lengthy list of books for further reading and web sites.

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  • Four Famous FacesTitle: Four Famous Faces
  • Author: Jean L.S. Patrick
  • Illustrator: Renee Graef
  • Publisher: Stories in Stone, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-9798823-8-8
  • Genre: Fiction

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature

Written by Sarah C. Campbell

Patterns exist in the natural world, not easily divided into categories like circle, triangle or square. What are we do make of them? Things like branches in trees or bolts of lightning?

A mathematician named Benoit Mandelbrot noticed similar patterns in natural shapes. The kinds of shapes that make the fronds on a fern also continue to make the whole fern. The same can be said about the development of broccoli or branches on a tree.

The beautiful photographs in this book as well as the simple, yet clear diagrams make it easy to see the patterns described.

The afterword about Mandelbrot also tells readers that fractals are how the wiring of the Internet works and would be necessary to make something like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak to work.

This beautiful book is a fantastic way to interest readers in mathematics, science and the natural world. Third grade readers will be able to read it on their own. Teachers and librarians will find it useful in fulfilling the core curriculum standards as well spring-boarding a student’s interest far and beyond anything they considered up to this point. Art teachers can use this volume to entice students to think about using fractals in their artistic endeavors. What a wonderful book this will be in every school library!


  • Mysterious PatternsTitle: Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature
  • Author: Sarah C. Campbell
  • Illustrator:  Photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-62091-627-8
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Grade Level: 3 to 6
  • Extras: Step-by-step activity for making a fractal, afterword about the man who discovered fractals

A Home for Mr. Emerson

Written by Barbara Kerley
Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

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Ralph Waldo Emerson loved his home in Concord, Massachusetts. Perhaps more than most people love a home. And yet, this book is not only about the home, but the man who lived there.

He was a little boy in Boston who wanted to go to the country and be outdoors. As a young man his family moved about a lot, but they did end up in the country. He collected books and friends. He married a woman who loved chickens and rosebushes.

Reading this biography feels like getting to know a good friend. The narration is smooth and inviting while also being full of quotes from Mr. Emerson’s writings.

The illustrations are large and draw the reader right into his office filled with books and papers and a favorite rocking chair.

Fire strikes late in the night when Mr. Emerson is sixty-nine years old. The whole town comes to help save books, papers, clothes and furniture. But it is his spirit that is hurt the most. Finally, weeks later his friends convince him to go away on a trip to rest and recover. Only while away in England and then Egypt he missed his favorite people and home more than ever. When he returned to the Concord train station the whole town was waiting to greet him. The biggest surprise was how beautifully the town had rebuilt and refurnished his beloved home.

Third grade readers will enjoy this well-told biography and learn their literacy skills of using primary sources when doing their own reports.  They will also see how possible it is to include read quotations in a new narrative.

Librarians and teachers can use this as a wonderful read aloud and satisfy the core curriculum in the areas of biography as well as American literature. Art teachers can use the variations in illustrations to highlight usage of color to distinguish distance as well as personal attributes showing emotion along with many other well done techniques.

This biography is a joy to read again and again. It is a well done transition from real life facts to real life story.  The great team work of Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham also created the books, What To Do About Alice? The Extraordinary Mark Twain, and Those Rebels, John & Tom. It is a very talented duo!

  • Home for Mr. EmersonTitle: A Home for Mr. Emerson
  • Author: Barbara Kerley
  • Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-35088-4
  • Genre: Biography, nonfiction, community
  • Level: Grades 3-7
  • Extras: Author’s Note, list of primary sources and source list for original quotations

Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog

Written by Elizabeth W. Davidson, Ph.D.
Illustrated by Michael Hagelberg

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Cheery is a Chiricahua (Cheer-a-cow-ah) Leopard Frog. In his own words, he shares his life with young readers starting at the beginning when he’s just an egg floating in a pond. As he grows from a tadpole to a full-grown frog, he swims and eats and sings songs all night long with his fellow Leopard Frog friends.

But Wise Old Frog warns Cheery of life’s dangers. Invasive crayfish and bullfrogs not only cause diseases, but often feast on Leopard Frogs. After one winter’s hibernation, Cheery wakes to find most of his friends gone. What happened? He learns that many frogs got sick or fell prey to the invasive creatures. Cheery’s loneliness turns to confusion as he is caught in a net, put in a bucket, and whisked away to a strange place. However, upon hearing the familiar call of other Leopard Frogs, he feels safe. Now at a zoo habitat, Cheery and his friends have plenty to eat and can repopulate without the threat of danger. When they are a full family again, they are moved back to their old pond to swim and eat and sing.

This book hits just the right notes for third grade readers, leaving them feeling encouraged and hopeful. The disappearance of the Chiricahua Leopard Frog is just one example of the many frog species that are endangered or extinct. The author, a research scientist at Arizona State University, provides extra information on amphibian decline and the importance of frogs to our ecosystem. A curriculum guide is also included and offers reading strategies and questions for the classroom. Additional materials can be found on the publishers website: www.littlefivestar.com.

  • CheeryTitle: Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog
  • Author: Elizabeth W. Davidson, Ph.D.
  • Illustrator: Michael Hagelberg
  • Publisher: Little Five Star / Five Star Publications
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58985-025-5
  • Genre: Picture Book / Nonfiction / Animals / Endangered Species
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