The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail

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.

 

  • Mouse with the Question Mark TailTITLE: 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

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso

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.

  • Pablo PicassoTitle: 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

Booker T. Washington: African-American Leader

Written by: Patricia and Fredrick McKissack

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When Booker T. Washington was a child, all he wanted to do was go to school. But he couldn’t. He was born a slave and put to work on a Virginia plantation as soon as he turned five years old. When slaves were freed during the Civil War, Booker and his family were left with no money and they didn’t know how to read or write. This book, part of the “Famous African Americans” series, tells the story of Booker’s determination to become educated.

When a school opened for black children, Booker jumped at the chance. He couldn’t go everyday because he had to work, too, but he read anything he could get his hands on. As he grew, he had a goal: he wanted to go to the first black college in Hampton, Virginia, even though it was 500 miles away. He walked, begged for rides, and hopped trains – it was a difficult journey, but he made it. He dedicated his whole life to education, first becoming a teacher, then principal, then community leader. In 1895, he landed on the national stage at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition and became a voice for a people that had to fight to be heard.

Themes of perseverance and overcoming all odds will leave a lasting impression with third grade readers. Authors Patricia and Fredrick McKissack present Washington’s story in short chapters mixed with archival photographs, mock-ups, and illustrations to support reading comprehension. The book fulfills common core standards for grades K-3 and provides a “Words to Know” section along with additional reading resources and age-appropriate websites. Other titles in this series can be found on the publisher’s website: www.enslow.com

  • Booker TTITLE: Booker T. Washington: African-American Leader
  • AUTHOR: Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow Elementary / Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • REVIEWER: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • FORMAT: Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4644-0194-7
  • GENRE: Non-Fiction / Biography
  • LEXILE SCORE: 490

 

July Titles

Pdf: July Titles 3rd Grade

 

Animal Tales by Terry Jones, ISBN 9781843651635

Animal Tales is a lovely collection of short stories, perfect for reading aloud to the third grade crowd.  …

 

Celebrating California: 50 States to Celebrate by Marion Dane Bauer, ISBN 978-0-547-89697-7

A new approach to state books in an easy-to-read format.  Mr. Geo is a hip geography teacher who explores new places and takes his young readers along. …

 

Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days by Michael Oren Fitzgerald, ISBN 978-1-937786-09-0

A book of photos and quotes, the superb layout allows you to sneak into the camp with the Native American’s shown. …

 

Dozens of Cousins by Shutta Crum, ISBN 978-0-618-15874-4

… Most of us have experienced a family reunion where the adults enjoy each other’s company while the children are allowed a bit of freedom to run and roam and have “beastie delights”.  At least until the neighbors complain. …

 

Emma Dilemma, the Nanny, and the Wedding by Patricia Hermes, ISBN 978-0761462101

…What a shock when they found out, at almost the same time, that not only was Mom having another baby, but Annie was getting married.…

 

Let’s Visit Istanbul: The Adventures of Bella & Harry by Lisa Manzione, ISBN 978-1-937616-09-0

The Adventures of Bella and Harry series is … told through the eyes of two Chihuahua siblings, children of all ages will eagerly gobble up a big dose of geography without even realizing it’s good for them.…

 

Mister and Lady Day, Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved HererHer by Amy Novesky, ISBN 978-0-15-205806-7

… Mister and Lady Day has done an excellent job of grabbing the attention of young animal lovers and teaching them a little bit about the history of jazz.…

 

Nikki and Deja: Substitute TroubleerHer by Karen English, ISBN 978-0-547-61565-3

We are told … Nikki and Deja … are the best of friends. As in all satisfying series we see their friendship ripening as they grow in understanding. …

 

The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz, ISBN 978-0-7636-6230-1

A unique graphic novel for the younger set.  If you are plagued by nightmares, write a letter, put it under your pillow and help will come. …

 

A Squirrel’s Story: A True Tale by Jana Bommersbach, ISBN 978-1-58985-252-5

[This] is one of the best books for use in the 3rd or 4th grade classroom because of both the fun story line and the facts about squirrels the reader will absorb. …

 

Strange Foods by Michael J. Rosen & Ben Kassoy, ISBN 978-0-7613-8984-2

…  Do not read this review before breakfast!  Or any other meal for that matter! …

A Squirrel’s Story: A True Tale

Written by Jana Bommersbach

Illustrated by Jeff Yesh

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A Squirrel’s Story: A True Tale is one of the best books for use in the 3rd or 4th grade classroom because of both the fun story line and the facts about squirrels the reader will absorb. Teachers and parents will enjoy following the mama squirrel as she raises her babies and teaches them the values and the character traits that they will need to grow into responsible adult squirrels.

Student readers will be able to master the reading independently, but as a classroom addition to science and biology, this book will also work great as a group story. The author has taken observations about squirrel activity to weave a story about how a parent teaches a young one how to be independent, gain confidence, and be nurtured to healthy growth and development by telling The Squirrel’s Story. 

The author has done an excellent job with additional classroom activities in the last few pages of the book. The curriculum guide includes third grade vocabulary words and exploration, creative language activities, and writing guidelines. Also included for readers is a word matching game. Teachers are encouraged to allow students to be the reporter, the poet, or the researcher and to discover how to write their own true story based on observations.

Art is an extra bonus activity included in the curriculum addendum and teachers and parents will enjoy adding this to the fun when reading and teaching this book. The author offers several online sites for more activities and information to enhance the student. Activities address both visual and auditory learners making this book a great addition to the classroom. Other books by the publisher can be found at www.eStarPublish.com and specific additional information on this book can be found at the website www.SquirrelsStory.com.

  • A Squirrels StoryTitle:  A Squirrel’s Story: A True Tale
  • Author: Jana Bommersbach
  • Illustrations: Jeff Yesh
  • ISBN: 978-1-58985-252-5
  • Publisher: Five Star Publications, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Genre: Nature, Juvenile literature
  • Lexile 690

 

Strange Foods

Written by Michael J. Rosen and Ben Kassoy

Illustrated by Doug Jones

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Warning:  Do not read this review before breakfast!  Or any other meal for that matter!  This is a warning that should also be applied to Michael Rosen’s latest book, which more than delivers on the title Strange Foods.

Part of the “No Way” series, Strange Foods gives readers a taste for bird spit (in Bird Nest Soup, a Chinese delicacy), maggots (in Casu Marzu, Sardinian cheese that tastes like ammonia and smells like a stink bomb), jellyfish (in Echizen Kurage, a Japanese Candy), and cat poo (in Kopi Luwak, a coffee made from beans that have been partially digested by an Asian Marsupial).   And if that’s not enough – how about some poison on the side?  This book dishes it up in tiger blowfish, which contains enough tertodotoxin to “pleasantly” numb your lips and tongue.  But if you eat too much of this Japanese dish you can experience dizziness, exhaustion, nausea and muscle paralysis that can lead to death!  Strange Foods also introduces readers to mithridatism, the practice of ingesting small amounts of poison to build up immunity to snake bites, poison ivy encounters and attempted assassinations in the case of one Turkish King.

The food description and recipes in this book are served up with a combination of food photography and humorous cartoon style illustrations, set on a bold color background.  The effect is visually striking and appealing – although most of the food pictures will have readers yelling “yuck!”

There is a glossary at the end to increase the third grade readers comprehension and source notes to help readers get more information.  All this makes Strange Foods an essential addition to the non-fiction library.  But it is a book that’s best kept out of the kitchen.  Otherwise, you just might start getting requests for chicken feet, pig hooves, or giant water bug soup!

  • Strange FoodsTitle: Strange Foods
  • Author: Michael J. Rosen and Ben Kassoy
  • Illustrator: Doug Jones
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press (Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Book Length: 36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-8984-2
  • Genre: Non-fiction, food preferences, social studies

How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know

Written by Susan E. Goodman
Illustrated by Michael Black

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Everything you need to know about going into space. Space tourism isn’t here yet but here is a travel guide for when vacationing in outer space is a reality. There is advice about what to pack and the best time to go with a special warning to go healthy because medical issues are difficult to deal with in space. There is a section about what sensations to expect from your trip and how time is measured there, what weightlessness feels like and how important it is to exercise. Bedrooms, bathrooms and eating must be modified in microgravity. No soda in outer space because in microgravity, when the carbonation is released from the stomach, so is everything else. Some of the best sightseeing in outer space is looking at the Earth but no trip off-world is complete without a side trip to the moon. Until the resorts are built, you’ll stay on your orbiting ship and shuttle down to the moon’s surface. Once back home, you may have a few effects from your trip such as getting used to gravity again, but these are minor compared to the thrill of telling your friends about outer space!

A delightful presentation about space travel. There are quotes from the astronauts along with funny fact boxes such as tips and travel alerts. The illustrations are cartoon characters or photographs enhanced with those characters. Even though it is a spoof of guidebooks, a lot of good information is included. Extra material includes a section about gravity, a glossary, a space exploration time line, further reading, internet sites and an index. This would be a good class read aloud, a demonstration of writing in second person. Using the book as a guide, students could make a brochure about space travel as a literacy activity.

  • How Do You BurpTITLE: How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know
  • AUTHOR: Susan E. Goodman
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Michael Black
  • PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 72 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-59990-068-1
  • GENRE: Non-fiction, Space Travel
  • LEXILE: 770, Reading level 5.1

Let’s Visit Istanbul!: Adventures of Bella & Harry (The Adventures of Bella & Harry)

Written by Lisa Manzione
Illustrated by Kristine Lucco

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Chihuahuas have been featured a lot in children’s fiction – for good reason. There is just something about their small size and pointy ears that make us want to know what they are up to and join in their fun. The Adventures of Bella and Harry series is no different. Because it is told through the eyes of two Chihuahua siblings, children of all ages will eagerly gobble up a big dose of geography without even realizing it’s good for them.

Book nine, Let’s Visit Istanbul, does a great job of introducing first through third grade readers to the culture, history, and geography of Istanbul, Turkey. Following Bella and Harry through a day of travel, readers experience everything from the food they eat for breakfast, to the dizzying number of historic buildings they visit, to the sights and the smells of The Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and biggest covered markets in the world.

The story is told mostly in stilted dialogue that is not exactly realistic (but then again, these are talking dogs!) Bella, the older sister, speaks very much like a travel guide. But Harry, the younger brother, mixes things up and adds some humor by suggesting games of tag and sharing his dream of flying on a magic carpet.

It is not the writing that makes this book work, it is the design and the beautiful illustrations by Kristine Lucco that incorporates detail not included in the text, such as the Turkish flag and the clothing worn by the locals. At the end, there are several pages that also provide additional information. “Fun Turkish Words and Phrases” defines important words like ‘please’ and ‘yes’ along with the all important phrases ‘girl dog’ and ‘boy dog’. “Our Adventures in Turkey” shows snapshot pictures of Turkish jewelry, dancing, and other cities within the country.

To accompany the series, author and publisher Lisa Manzione has put together a wonderful website, www.bellaandharry.com. There are reading activities such as “Pack Bag”, “Word Match” and “Flag Match”. There are also lesson plans and teacher guides for the first six books in the series.

With the release of four books in 2013, including Let’s Visit Istanbul, and the planned release of four more titles in 2014, this is a series that will continue to gain momentum. It has already received several awards and is the basis for a musical that is now on tour. Get ready world – here comes Bella and Harry!

  • Lets Visit IstanbulTitle: Let’s Visit Istanbul!: Adventures of Bella & Harry (The Adventures of Bella & Harry)
  • Author: Lisa Manzione
  • Illustrator: Kristine Lucco
  • Publisher: Bella & Harry, LLC
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Book Length: 45 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-937616-09-0
  • Genre: Travel

Nikki and Deja: Substitute Trouble

Written by Karen English

Illustrated by Laura Freeman

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We are told in the first book of the Nikki and Deja series that they are the best of friends. As in all satisfying series we see their friendship ripening as they grow in understanding. Deja understands her friend’s love of words, she is going to be a journalist after all, and does not hesitate to ask for help when writing notes and letters.

This book is so suited to second and third graders, themselves living through the experience described in the stories. Substitute teachers are a fact of life. Teachers fall sick, or have other commitments, and have to take time off. Substitute teachers who cannot handle the classroom very well, and children taking advantage of their timidity are also a fact of life.

Mrs. Shelby-Ortiz has a broken ankle, and will be out for a few weeks. Mr. Willow substitutes. He writes his name on the blackboard in letters as small and timid as his teaching. Smart, worldly-wise Deja ticks off all the things he has done wrong, and the ways he could improve:

“Mistake Number One. Actually it’s Mistake Number Ten, Deja thinks. Mr. WIllow should have said very clearly, “You’re on the wrong paragraph. Go to paragraph two.” And then he should have looked at Carlos very sternly. But instead he starts off with “I think….” Deja shakes her head slowly.”

As the day progresses her count goes up:

“Mistake number zillion and three, according to Deja. Don’t ask. Tell.”

She proposes that they write Mr. Willow a note on how things are supposed to be, but make it “Anon..anon”

“Anonymously,” Nikki says easily. Deja asks her how to start the letter. “When my mother has me write letters to my great-aunt Nora, she tells me to start with ‘I hope this letter finds you well….’”

The story takes off from there. Deja and Nikki write the letter and succeed in getting it to Mr. Willow anonymously. Are they prepared for the consequences? Do they even imagine what one simple, helpful letter would lead to? The unknown adds an element of mystery that young readers would enjoy.

As would the teachers. The story gives an easy lead into talking about classroom behavior when there is a substitute.  This is a short chapter book that can lead to many reading activities and discussion points, a book and a series that would grace any classroom reading list.

  • Nikki and DejaTitle: Nikki and Deja: Substitute Trouble
  • Author: Karen English
  • Illustrator: Laura Freeman
  • Publisher: Clarion books
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback:  108 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-61565-3
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 700

Animal Tales

Written by Terry Jones

Illustrated by Michael Foreman

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Animal Tales is a lovely collection of short stories, perfect for reading aloud to the third grade crowd.  Each tale is filled with humor, absurdity, and lessons with a careful delivery that will appeal to readers of all ages.

“The Frog That Found A Fortune” is about a nervous little frog who finds what he believes to be a long lost diamond from the Crown of England.  Readers are taken on a wild ride as the frog imagines himself being rewarded for it’s return with barrow loads of slugs that lead him to become a virtual slug baron.  But then, as frog starts to worry about all the barriers that might stand in the way of getting the diamond back to Buckingham Palace, a magpie steals the precious jewel forcing the unusually sensible frog to realize that life is good in his lovely, damp hedge and that the magpie has just saved him a whole lot of trouble.

This is just one of the circus like tales that put animals in human like situation and unlikely partnerships.  There’s Bear and Skunk, who save each others lives through love and gratitude,  overcoming their differences to become the odd couple.  There’s Jack the Rabbit and Old Mr. Fox, Crocodile and Tiger…

Written as legends in a wonderful story-telling voice that often addresses the reader, these Animals Tales are made to be shared.  The morals and lessons presented in each story are multi-faceted and complex, lending themselves to vibrant post-read discussion.  Not all the endings are happy.  Not all the messages are direct.  But every story begs to be explored.

In addition to giving readers something to think about and enhancing comprehension, the stories help boost vocabulary with the seamless insertion of words such as IGNONIMY and  INSATIABLE.  North American readers will also be introduced to British expressions such as trousers and petrol.

The stories are dispersed with lovely anthropomorphic pictures.  My favorite is the image of badger (an old, misunderstood war hero) teetering on a ladder above his store with an array of groceries and bratty kids shown in delightful detail below.  Similar pictures accompany the paragraph long “Wonders of the Animal Kingdom” captions (The Transylvanian Limping Bat, Electric Wombats, Money Salamanders, The Fake Elk, Bendy Giraffes, The Mongolian Deep Fried Bat.. ) which read like news editorials, spoof ads and short entries from an animal encyclopedia of the absurd.

There is truly something for everyone in this wonderful collection, with laugh out loud outrageousness that will have kids rolling with laughter to clever humor that adults will find difficult to explain.  “The Amazing Terry Jones Presents…” includes two other titles, Fairy Tales and Fantastic Stories, that are also available in hardback and ebook – equally perfect for the classroom or sitting around the campfire.

  • Animal TalesTitle: Animal Tales
  • Author: Terry Jones
  • Illustrator: Michael Foreman
  • Publisher: Pavilion Children’s Books (Anova Books Groups)
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Book Length:  87 pages
  • ISBN: 9781843651635 (hardback)
  • Genre: Fantasy, animal legends
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