Written by Lisa Yee
Illustrated by Dan Santat
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Bobby Ellis-Chan has fourth grade down—except when he has to go to PE, or explain why he wears his shirt backward on picture day, or compete against his older sister, or face the neighborhood scary cat. His biggest fear is that someone – anyone – will compare him to his famous father, a former professional football player. Bobby has asthma and is just not good in football. Meanwhile his sister is a great high school quarterback. And Bobby is almost always chosen last for any team. When his PE teacher finds out about Bobby’s father, he wants to meet him and expects Bobby to show the class how to play football. Bobby’s little sister is a wonderful character, insisting on renaming everything from Wormy Worm Worm to Gnomey Gnome Gnome. She has her own princess view of the world. Bobby’s class is working on a production of Annie, adding to the tension at school. And Bobby’s father wants to learn to sew and make Bobby’s Sandy the Dog costume. Santat’s hilarious illustrations add a lot to the story.
Third grade readers will find a lot to identify with. Bobby’s class talks about fears and how to overcome some of them. Another day, they discuss asthma and other conditions that draw unwanted attention. But, mostly, Bobby is looking for a way to connect to his father, while his father wants to connect to him. A very universal theme. Many reading activities are suggested by the text. School musicals, more discussion of fears, Halloween costumes, and football games all could result. Literacy skills will be sharpened though enjoyment of the story.
Bobby appears in a number of books in the “Bobby Vs Girls” series. Check out the websites: www.lisayee.com and www.dantat.com. In them, Bobby lives on.
- Title: Bobby the Brave (Sometimes)
- Author: Lisa Yee
- Illustrator: Dan Santat
- Publisher: Arthur A. Levine, Inc./Scholastic, 2010
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 153 pages
- Genre: Chapter book
- ISBN: 978-0-545-05594-9
Written by Richard Peck
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy
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With his signature gentle humor, Richard Peck hits another one out of the park. Or maybe out of the barn, to be more accurate. A mouse, small for his age and not quite grown, lives in the mews adjacent to Buckingham Palace. The time is September 1896, two days before the diamond jubilee for Queen Victoria’s sixty years on the throne. The mouse doesn’t know who he is or even what his name is. But he does know he was raised by his auntie Marigold after his mother died in childbirth. Mouse Minor, as he’s called by his classmates, has a distinctively shaped tail and a penchant for getting in scuffles with much larger mouse children. He learns that there is a mouse doing every job a human does, only the mouse does it better. Also, clothed mice must never be seen by humans. So, as a result of his latest scuffle with the larger boy mice, he sets off on adventure around the palace. He befriends and talks to a cat and a horse, rides in the horse’s ear, gets flicked out into a flower bed, and becomes a yeomouse of the guard. Eventually, he learns of his true identity and destiny.
Kelly’s illustrations are perfect additions to the tale, giving a real dimension to Mouse minor and his cohorts.
Third graders will get a big kick out of the many adventures of Mouse Minor. They will also love the plays on words and the little running gags. Mouse Minor’s stories about riding in the horse’s ear and swimming in a punch bowl are never quite believed. Everyone wants to know if he’s not quite grown or just small. And why is he pink with black flecks after a swim in the strawberry punch and ride in a pocket? Meanwhile, teachers can sneak in some reading activities related to the Victorian Era and the British monarchy.
- TITLE: The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail
- AUTHOR: Richard Peck
- ILLUSTRATOR: Kelly Murphy
- PUBLISHER: Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013
- REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
- FORMAT: Hardcover, 223 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-8037-3838-6
- GENRE: Fantasy, Humor, History
- LEXILE: NA
Written by Jonah Winter
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
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This biography of the first modern artist is designed for third grade readers and fourth grade readers and is a beautifully full-colored picture book illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. It tells the story of his life in a chronological manner. When he was in school, he worked faster and better than any of his classmates. He was very good at painting landscapes but became quickly bored and wanted to try something new.
He had a blue period and a rose colored period, but he always felt the need to move on and experiment with new subjects and techniques in the world of fine art.
This is the story of a true creative spirit. As soon as Picasso had mastered one technique, he moved on to something newer and more exciting. Some of his ideas came from visiting other museums, like the time he saw masks in an African display and went home to create a painting of various faces that looked like masks taken apart and rearranged in wild new ways.
Many of Picasso’s actual works are shown in this pictures of this book so students will be able to recognize them at other times and places.
Pablo studied and worked in both Spain and Paris. Sometimes the critics didn’t like his work or his new ideas. It hurt his feelings, but he went on painting true to his heart.
This book would be a great read aloud for any elementary or middle grade students. It should be included in any study of art comprehension. Literacy skills like sequencing, part to whole, picture clues and reading for details can be strengthened by using this book in a small or large group setting.
Children who need to have confidence in themselves and their ideas bolstered will find that kind of support in this story. Hopefully, it will help them keep their curiosity and creativity bursting through with unbounded energy.
Extras: This book contains pictures of Picasso’s work and in the back lists the names of the paintings, as well as in what Art Museums around the world they can be found.
- Title: Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!
- Author: Jonah Winter
- Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes
- Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic
- Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
- Format: Hardcover
- ISBN: 978-0-545-13291-6
- Genre: biography, nonfiction
- Lexile: NA