Tag Archive for third graders

Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of the Missing Goop

Written by N. Griffin
Illustrated by Kate Hindley

This entertaining mystery teaches a little about math, music, code breaking, and music. Kids will love solving the mystery along with the characters.

Smashie and Dontel’s third grade class return to prepare for a musicale with the other third grade class. To spice up the show, they decide to sculpt everyone’s hair using a magical gel invented by Charlene’s mother. The hair goop (aka Herr Goop) allows Charlene and her mother to sculpt hair into any shape. Every time a new jar of Herr Goop shows up, it immediately disappears. Since the ingredients are expensive and the musicale is coming up soon, it’s important that the jars are found. Smashie and Dontel keep a notebook of clues, motives, and suspects to try to figure everything out. They notice a code written on the jars. After decoding, they follow the clues all the way to the musicale itself.

The characters are lovable, the musical and dance numbers are engaging, and the intrigue is intense. Reading activities could include everything from 60s music to code breaking to baking brownies.
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  • Title: Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of the Missing Goop       
  • Author: N. Griffin
  • Illustrator: Kate Hindley
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Chapter book, Codes
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8535-5

Pirate’s Perfect Pet

Written by Beth Ferry
Illustrated by Matt Myers

Just what does a pirate need to be a pirate? As this innovative and humorous story unfolds, the reader finds it may not be as simple as it sounds. The captain receives a note (by bottle) from his mother instructing him in proper pirate etiquette. He has it all under control, except for a peg leg and an appropriate pet. His crew sets out in search of a pet and hitting all the wrong places. The beach has crabs and octopuses (octopi?). Farm animals try to hide from the pirates. And pigs are too muddy. The farmer carts them to the zoon on his tractor, but the koalas are too cuddly. An added bonus is the lion causes a need for a peg leg. The zoo trolley leaves them at the pet emporium, where they reject pet after pet. (“Shiver me Shih Tzu!”) A squawk overhead reveals the inevitable parrot. With one last play on words, the parrot becomes the perfect pet.

The illustrations for this work are beyond hilarious. The main character is the stereotypical pirate, but no one else really fits the mold: female with eye patch and high heels, older guy in bunny slippers, fattened up lion, and anachronisms galore.

The only surprise after reading this book would be if a third grader weren’t thoroughly delighted and entertained. Younger kids would enjoy the fun, but repeated reading will give third graders the chance to practice literacy skills.

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  • Pirates Perfect PetTitle: Pirate’s Perfect Pet
  • Author: Beth Ferry
  • Illustrator: Matt Myers
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7288-1



Written by Sue Whiting
Illustrated by Mark Jackson

This is a great opportunity to learn about the creature that fascinates observers and puzzles scientists. Kids will love the platypus and want to know more.

The author starts out by following a male platypus as he goes about his daily foraging. His burrow is warm and cozy and nestled on the bank of a creek. His body and fur help him to move around his semiaquatic world. His flexible bill allows him to find and capture worms, insect larvae, crawfish, and beetles. He dives repeatedly to the creek bed until he fills the pouches in his cheeks for the coming meal. He has to hide quickly from predators. Meanwhile, the female tends to the eggs and nurses the babies.

The beautiful illustrations give a real feel to the environment of the platypus, the other animals, and even the plant life.

Third graders will get a chance to practice literacy skills while learning about life in Tasmania and Australia. This would be a good read aloud for discussion of what a monotreme is and how it differs from a mammal.

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  • PlatypusTitle: Platypus
  • Author: Sue Whiting
  • Illustrator: Mark Jackson
  • Published: Candlewick Press, March 8, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 4
  • Genre: Science, Nature, Geography
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8098-5
  • Extras: Numerous sidebars, Index, author’s note “The Puzzling Platypus”

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


The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, Poet

Written and Illustrated by Don Tate

Who would have thought a man who taught himself to read could come up with such beautiful poetry? While selling his master’s fruit at a university, George’s use of language caught the attention of college students. The students commissioned him to write love poetry for them, helped him learn to write, and to learn about literature and history. George paid his master to let him write full time and eventually published a volume of poetry, The Hope of Freedom. His master refused to let him buy his freedom outright, though. Eventually, the Emancipation Proclamation brought an end to his servitude and George moved west with the army.

Horton’s is an important story that should be covered in literature and in history. The Civil War was fought by human beings about human beings. Horton took great risks seeking his freedom. After he published his first volume of poetry, North Carolina outlawed speaking out against slavery and also outlawed teaching slaves to read and write. After that, Horton restricted himself to non-political poetry. He also published an autobiography, used by the author of this book. Tate’s illustrations help to bring the poet’s story to life. This could be read aloud in a classroom to stimulate discussion.

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  • George Moses HortonTitle: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, Poet
  • Author/Illustrator: Don Tate
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Biography, Poetry, History
  • ISBN: 978-156145-825-7
  • Extras: Extensive bibliography, Author’s Note

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 Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune

Written and Illustrated by P.J. Lynch

The beautiful and realistic illustrations in this engaging new book are a big part of the little-known story of one of the original settlers near Plymouth Rock. John Howland was a young servant indentured to William Bradford, leader of the Pilgrims and first governor of the Massachusetts colony. When the group set out on the two-month journey to America, John was obliged to come along. Lynch’s book gives a detailed version of the trek, from the loading on of supplies in London, to the various stops before leaving England, to the perils of the ocean crossing and setting up life on the new shore. During a storm at sea, John ventured out on the deck, only to be swept overboard. Luckily, a bolt of lightning showed him where a rope was hanging over the side of the boat, and he was rescued.

The Pilgrims were actually two groups who set out for Virginia. They merged when one of the ships set to transport them proved unseaworthy. The bad weather on the passage carried them two hundred miles north of their destination, but they decided to settle there anyway. Sickness, exposure, and starvation took out half the population in the first winter. The native Americans were wary but helpful. Squanto knew English as a result of being enslaved for a period. John Howland intended to return to England to make his fortune but decided to remain in New Plymouth.

Third graders and up will benefit greatly from this exciting tale. They will learn a truer history of the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving. They can polish their literacy skills as well.

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  • Boy who fell offTitle: The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune
  • Author/Illustrator: P.J. Lynch
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 64 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: History, Narrative Nonfiction
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6584-5

Two for Joy

Written by Gigi Amateau
Illustrated by Abigail Marble

Centered around little Jenna and her mother, Grace, this lovely little chapter book says a lot about family, aging, and love for animals. Grace gets a call in the middle of the night. Her one remaining aunt, Tannie, has fallen (again) and broken her ankle. As her only living relatives, Jenna and Grace work on a scheme to talk Tannie into leaving her farm in Mississippi and coming to live with them in Virginia. First, they have to make their house ready for an elderly woman in recovery. Second, they have to drive her home and convince her. During the fourteen-hour drive, they play the counting crows game. Third, the three of them need to adjust to each other. Grace tries to take care of everything, leaving Jenna feeling neglected and Tannie feeling useless.

Third graders will learn about the issues of aging and also a little about birds and other animals. The wonderful characters lend themselves to wanting to find the outcome and independent reading.
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Two for Joy

  • Title: Two for Joy
  • Author: Gigi Amateau
  • Illustrator: Abigail Marble
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Fiction, birds, elderly
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-3010-2
  • Extras: Author’s note with suggestions for games

There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Player that Ever Lived

Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares

Sports heroes are often colorful and have an interesting story to tell. Ted Williams falls into that category.

As a child, Ted Williams was skinny and not very muscular, but he wanted to be the best hitter in baseball. Through determination, he practiced every chance he got, swinging the bat long after the other kids had gone home for supper. He swung until his hands bled. He ate to gain weight and exercised to build muscles. His career was first interrupted by World War II and later by the Korean War. He was a very good fighter pilot. But, when he returned, his baseball skills always seemed to pick up where he left off. He led the Red Sox to the World Series and is commemorated in many ways at Fenway Park. In the author’s note, the author points out the conflict Williams had with the media and often with the fans, but those conflicts didn’t lessen his skill on the ball field. And he was dedicated to helping others, especially children.

Vivid illustrations make the story come alive, from the fields where he practiced in San Diego to Fenway Park to the airplanes he flew.

Third grade readers will learn about Ted Williams, history, World War II and the Korean War, sports, and following one’s dreams and talents. This volume of Candlewick Biographies will promote literacy skills and comprehension.

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  • there goes ted williamsTitle: There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Player that Ever Lived
  • Author/Illustrator: Matt Tavares
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, history, sports
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7655-1
  • Extras: Author’s Note, bibliography, Ted’s baseball statistics, index

Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse


Written by Leslie Bulion
Illustrated by Mike Lowery

This crazy little book would go well with either a unit on the science of anatomy, health, poetry, or all three. From the stomach to the brain to the inner ear, each major body part is discussed in poetry form, then in a detailed sidebar. Blood’s tribute begins:

Three boats sail
Along the river of life –
A sticky situation

At the end, the author outlines what poetic forms and devices she uses and where her inspiration came from. Her love for Shakespeare is obvious. The author even encourages composition on those subjects the book doesn’t cover – sort of a “you try it now.” She is very careful to use correct terminology and not to oversimplify for third graders, so literacy skills and comprehension are more important than ever.

Throughout both the riddles and the back matter, humorous illustrations aim to keep the readers’ attention and have them looking for more. Students may want to try their hands at drawing their favorite body parts – within reason. Very cute, very educational, and very fun.

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Random Body Parts

      • Title: Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse
      • Author: Leslie Bulion
      • Illustrator: Mike Lowery
      • Publisher: Peachtree, 2015
      • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
      • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
      • Grade Level: 3 to 5
      • Genre: Nonfiction, science, health, poetry
      • ISBN: 978-1-56145-737-3
      • Extras: Glossary, body diagram, poetry notes, and resources for further study


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