Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout

Written by Megan McDonald

Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

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Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout is sure to make its way to reading lists as it will stretch both reading skills and science literacy. This eighth book in the Stink and Judy Moody series by prolific author Megan McDonald takes Stink on a froggy adventure. Stink Moody can’t swim his way out of the Polliwog level swim class because his head just won’t go under water. Then, frogs start popping up everywhere – in his shower, boots, and bathtub. Stink bonds with the frogs and convinces his friends to visit a vernal pool. There, they learn about challenges amphibians face such as shrinking habitat and pollutant-induced mutations. Croak! Squeenk! Ribbet! Stink is not happy about that and decides to join a frog-counting project.

When Stink is licked by a blue frog (surely a radioactive mutant), things get a little freaky. As he hippity-hops through the day, Stink gobbles up once-despised raisins which now look like tasty flies. The webbing betweens his toes seems to grow, and he is tempted to spend the night in the dark, damp basement. When he is eager to go to swim class, Stink’s sure he’s turning into a frog!

The story comes to a comforting conclusion as Stink froggy-kicks his way across the pool, happily dives underwater, and ribbets his way from the polliwog to the frog level in swim class.

With plenty of boy-appeal and humor on the third grade level, this book will inspire future scientists. It is perfect for young readers who enjoy froggy facts and reading games such as fun quizzes. (Did you know Northern green frogs eat their own dead skin?!) Several pages of Stink Frog superhero comics will please graphic novel fans.

Although the text includes a few inaccuracies (for example, the implication that skinks are amphibians), teachers will appreciate the scientific content (life cycle, scientific skills, field science techniques) as well as the conservation message. The classic classroom activity to accompany this book is raising tadpoles, but the book would also complement field trips to a pond or wetland area and a unit on freshwater ecology. Additional resources and lessons can be found on the website of the Center for Global Environmental Education, A Thousand Friends of Frogs (http://cgee.hamline.edu/frogs/), a project begun by students who found malformed frogs and decided to do something about it.

  • StinkTitle: Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout (Book #8)
  • Author:  Megan McDonald
  • Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0763661403
  • Genre: Chapter book, nature, contemporary, science

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race Against Time

Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Illustrated by Joe Berger

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang seems to have a mind of her own. The amazing flying, submarine-ing, time traveling car takes the Tooting family on one adventure after another. Whether the family is escaping from a field full of Tyrannosaurus Rexes in the Cenozoic Era, riding in a car race in Prohibition-era New York or experiencing the lost city of El Dorado in the wilds of the Amazon, life with a luxury car demands ingenuity and stamina. Yet back at their home in England is an even bigger problem. A super-villain has moved into their house, touching all of their stuff. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is taking them to these different places in history for a reason. Dad, Mom, Jem, and Lucy are constantly seeking clues to solve the mystery of what Chitty is trying to tell them. Each member of the family is also learning that he or she has something important to contribute to solving the puzzle, even baby Harry. They soon feel like there isn’t any problem too big for them to handle. Good thing! The book ends with a cliff-hanger as the family is stranded in 1966 without Chitty.

This is a fun read that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. With a classic knack of British understatement, the humor is endearing. Jem is an inventive, engineering type of boy and Lucy is a brainy girl so both boy and girl readers will have someone to cheer for. This would be a great class read aloud for either third or fourth grade. Each place the Tootings land has something to do with Chitty’s history. Have the students make a chart and record what part of Chitty’s story is represented in each location as a reading worksheet or critical reading activity. There is an activity kit, a teacher’s guide and a book trailer available at the publisher’s website: (http://www.chittyfliesagain.com/).

  • Chitty BangTITLE: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race Against Time
  • AUTHOR: Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Joe Berger
  • PUBLISHER: Candlewick, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 234 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5982-0

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball

Written by David A. Kelly

Illustrator by Oliver Dominguez

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Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball written by David A. Kelly is the story and history of how Lena Blackburne’s mud went from a riverbank to the major leagues and all the way to the Hall of Fame! It is a story anyone interested in baseball facts and trivia would enjoy and is for readers as young as first grade to those in their senior years. I see this as a perfect book to be read to young readers by an avid baseball fan in that young reader’s life such as a mom, dad, uncle, aunt, or grandparent.

Lena Blackburne never became a famous ball player, but he did contribute to baseball in a major league way by unveiling a secret recipe to break in new baseballs. His recipe was so successful that baseball teams have been buying his tubbed mud for close to seventy-five years. In fact, Lena’s mud is the only thing that’s allowed on major league balls.

Readers are sure to appreciate Oliver Dominguez’s life-like illustrations that make you feel like you are on the baseball field ready to play ball with the touch and feel of Lena’s mud on your hands. Baseball history buffs will especially enjoy Kelly’s author note at the end.

Sports fans will also enjoy other books by David A. Kelly such as early reader title, Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse or Ballpark Mysteries, a series aimed at those at the first to fourth grade reading level and is about two cousins who travel to Major League ballparks across the country with Kate’s sports-reporter mother watching games and solving mysteries.

  • Miracle MudTitle: Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball
  • Author: David A. Kelly
  • Illustrator: Oliver Dominguez
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Hard cover:  32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-80920-4
  • Genre: picture book, biography, sports

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: The Unicorn’s Tale

Written by R. L. LaFevers

Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

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Nathaniel misses his parents so much that he can’t think about anything else; even the fact that he is getting to travel around the world helping his Aunt Phil, a beastologist, takes a backseat to his fears. Nathaniel is even willing to give up the ancient Book of the Beasts if it will help his cause.

Aunt Phil pilots an old plane around the world to tend to the beasts, accompanied by her friend Cornelius, who is a dodo bird, and now Nate and his pet gremlin, Greasle. Greasle and Cornelius don’t get along at all, and that creates several complications as they travel together.

Aunt Phil has heard that a unicorn is acting strangely, and may be ill, and this is a very serious issue that must be taken care of immediately, as there are very few unicorns left after the terrible destruction in Europe from the Great War. Nate must solve a mystery, and save them all from a kidnapper, who will do anything to get his hands on the Book of the Beasts. Can Nate set aside his fears about his parents disappearance long enough to help Aunt Phil? What takes priority for right now? Will they be able to outsmart Obediah?

This is book four in the Beastologist series, and each book takes Nate and Aunt Phil a little closer to discovering what might have happened to Nate’s parents. While this book can be read as a stand-alone book, to fully comprehend all that is happening you really need to read the first three.

This is a fun chapter book for third graders that introduces many myths mixed with adventure. Do unicorns really exist? Where might have the story of unicorns originated? Readers from the third grade thru fifth will totally enjoy this book, brought to life by the many pen and ink illustrations.

The Unicorn’s Tale received an A+ rating from the Junior Library Guild and an award by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles for the cover art.

The author’s website (www.rllafevers.com/) to see drawings of Nate and the beasts sent in from their readers, and promises to post them in their reader’s gallery, they can be sent to art@nathanielfludd.com.

  • Title: Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: The Unicorn’s Tale
  • Author: R. L. LaFevers
  • Illustrated by: Kelly Murphy
  • Publisher: Sandpiper, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin
  • Reviewer: Carole Robishaw
  • Paperback; 160 pages
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547850795
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

Breezier, Cheesier, Newest, and Bluest: What are Comparatives and Superlatives?

Written by  Brian P. Cleary

Illustrated by Brian Gable

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“’Tall’ is a describing word, and taller is comparative.  Tallest is superlative.  You following my narrative?”  An enterprising teacher can turn the text of this book into a rap that is sure to not only grab children’s attention, but to stay with them so that they catch themselves rapping about comparatives and superlatives on their morning drive into work….at age thirty.  The illustrations are beyond cute and give an added ‘BOOM’ to the text.

While the title may imply that this is just an informational text with cute illustrations to appeal to third grade children, it is actually much more.  The sing-song rhyming text makes this book so much fun to read.  Students get an advanced lesson on rhyming, a step up from cat and hat to cheesiest and queasiest.   The words comparative and superlative are repeated so many times throughout the book so that comprehension of these concepts happens almost without the child’s realization.  Not only is this book a joy to read, it can serve as a classroom resource that children will enjoy.

“But sometimes, you don’t add e-r.  Instead, you reach for “more,” as in more tired…”.  More and words like good that have a total change for its comparative and superlative forms fit right in to the rhyming good time that children will have when reading this book.

The text is wacky and fun.  Very few lines run in a flat line and the font has different sized letters.  This might prove a little distracting to a new or struggling reader.  However, when used in a guided reading setting, a child’s reading skills could definitely be improved.  This book rates two thumbs up and is a definite must for any upper elementary classroom library.

Fun activities, games, interactive books and more can be found at www.brianpcleary.com .

  • BreezierTitle:  Breezier, Cheesier, Newest, and Bluest What are Comparatives and Superlatives?
  • Author:  Brian P. Cleary
  • Illustrator:  Brian Gable
  • Publisher:   Millbrook Press
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Hardcover:  31 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-5362-1
  • Genre:  nonfiction – language

 

Don’t Let the Barber Pull Your Teeth

Written by Carmen Bredeson

Illustrated by Gerald Kelley

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Part of the “Ye Yucky Middle Ages” series, this book walks kids (and parents) through the parts of public health that we all pay attention to: washing in dirty water, piles of poop, diseases, tooth decay, leeches and more. Life, in general, was gross, and, as the book points out, bathing was optional. Why use dirty water to wash in? Were the people of old just stupid?

No, Berdeson explains, these people weren’t stupid.  They just did not understand what germs were or how these germs caused diseases. Their medical treatments were based on what they could see, and what they imagined. Doctors bled patients to restore the balance of blood to all parts of the body and they drilled holes in the head to relieve headaches. Both ideas seem obviously dangerous today, but the logic is there.

Each chapter in this third grade level book addresses a different section of medieval life, ranging from the extremely personal life (where did the medieval people go to the bathroom), to the more public life (how the plague changed the socio-economic landscape for all time). Each chapter is also self-contained, which encourages the reading skills of reluctant readers, who may want a short piece of information instead of a longer story.

Bredeson’s narration is light, but not comic. In a few words, she puts the medical decisions made by these people into the context of their time. Explaining, for example, that surgery was a risky business: “People who survived surgery often ended up with massive infections. None of the surgical instruments were cleaned between operations.  However, medieval people did pour alcohol on wounds. They did not understand that alcohol kills germs, but knew it helped with healing.”

Readers will love the yuck factor of this book, and the others in the series. And they might brush their teeth more willingly when they read about the gross alternatives.

Other resources:

While not dating back to the Middle ages, these museums offer other history on health and medicine.

National Museum of Health and Medicine

http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/ 

National Museum of Dentistry

http://www.dental.umaryland.edu/museum/collections.html

  • Dont Let the BarberTitle: Don’t Let the Barber Pull Your Teeth:  Could You Survive Medieval Medicine?
  • Author: Carmen Bredeson
  • Illustrator: Gerald Kelley
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-373-7
  • Genre: nonfiction, history and science

 

 

The Little Prince: The Star Snatcher’s Planet

Written by Thomas Barichella

Illustrated by Élyum Studio

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This graphic novel is Book #5 in a series adapted from the TV animated adventures based on Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s classic The Little Prince.

Designed for a new generation of readers, this series follows Little Prince and his trusty sidekick Fox as they travel the universe to keep planets safe from their archenemy, the evil Snake. In this adventure, the duo finds themselves in the world of the Cholorphyllians, a farming people who are having trouble keeping their crops alive. The prince’s magical powers lead them to a strange man called the Astronomer. They learn he’s been collecting stars to keep for himself in his isolated tree house. Problem is, he’s emptying the sky of light and without it all the Cholorphyllians’ plants will die.

It won’t be easy to convince the Astronomer to return the stars, especially with Snake whispering dark thoughts into his ear. Snake persuades Astronomer to not only snatch stars, but to capture the Little Prince’s own home, Asteroid B612, and his beloved friend, Rose. Little Prince and Fox must use their creativity and quick thinking to come up with a plan to save their home and prevent the Cholophyllians’ entire planet from plunging into darkness.

With the universal theme of good triumphing evil, third grade readers, especially those who like superhero tales, will enjoy this action-packed adventure. A quick character glossary on the first page introduces new readers to the cast, and a sprinkling of advanced vocabulary will help with their reading skills. An additional comic book short of The Little Prince (as imagined by artist Pierre Makyo) is included at the end, as well as a one-page biography of Saint-Exupéry, which may encourage readers to seek out the original story, currently celebrating its 70th anniversary of publication.

The QR code on the back cover links to the publisher’s website for additional information on the series. (www.lernerbooks.com).

  • Star SnatcherTitle: The Little Prince: The Star Snatcher’s Planet
  • Author: Thomas Barichella
  • Illustrator: Élyum Studio
  • Publisher: Graphic Universe / Lerner Publishing Group
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Paperback: 56 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-8755-8
  • Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction

True Tales of the Wild West: American Cowboys

Written by Jeff Savage

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The wild west is wild no longer. The cowboys who defined life in the wild west have all but disappeared. Today’s grade schoolers and middle graders may not even know the stories of how the west was won. Jeff Savage’s book American Cowboys performs the important function of presenting this information in easily comprehensible prose. His book both describes the life of the unsung cowboys and gives the reasons why they disappeared.

The last chapter — Trail’s End — describes how the change came about. “The Homestead Act….made public land in the West available to settlers on payment of a small fee. In return, the settlers had to live on and cultivate the land for a minimum of five years.” Little by little the open ranges gave way to settlements. Barbed wire fences went up. The heroic cowboys became fence-riders and patrolmen, but no longer were they, and the cattle, lords of the open grasslands.

The first chapter sets the scene. Young James McCauley is on night watch. An unexpected rainstorm starts a stampede that separates James from his watchman buddy and the large herd of cattle. Roundups were dangerous.

The daily rigors and hardships of a cowboy’s life are well described, but there was an allure to life in the open plains. People from the East ran away to become cowboys. Young men from as far away as Europe came because they had “heard tales about the exciting west.”

The information is complete and very well organized. We learn of the tools of the cowboy’s trade. A good horse was an absolute necessity, as was the multipurpose lasso. Every item of his clothing had a specific purpose: from the bandana to the oversize Stetson. We picture the cowboy as a heroic character. “As much as the cowboys didn’t mind bragging, they hated complaining….There was no sympathy for a whining cowboy.”

As food habits changed the demand for beef grew. Cattle had to be driven to distant markets. “Cattle worth four dollars a head in Texas might be worth more than forty dollars a head in Kansas and Missouri and places north.”

The map of the major trails that the cowboys used for cattle drives is an effective reminder of how the country was settled. There is much in the book that lends itself to discussions and reading activities. The glossary explains terms that have also almost disappeared from daily usage. Indeed an attractive addition to a reading list.

Additional Information:

The Chisholm Trail: http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/C/CH045.html

The American Cowboy: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-americancowboy.html

photos of the Old West: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2149899/The-American-West-youve-seen-Amazing-19th-century-pictures-landscape-chartered-time.html

  • American CowboysTitle: True Tales of the Wild West: American Cowboys
  • Author: Jeff Savage
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback:  48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4644-0027-8
  • Genre: Non-Fiction/Social Studies

Mallory and Mary Ann Take New York

Written by Laurie Friedman
Illustrated by Jennifer Kalis

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Mallory and Mary Ann Take New York is a fun chapter book for 3rd grade level readers. It appeals to girls and gives an exciting story about fashion, designing, and fun places to visit in New York. It also combines a problem for two best friends. Mallory wins a contest and that includes being on a favorite television show and she has promised her best friend she will be on too. How will the girls pull off this promise when only one girl has been invited to model the winning outfit on television?

The suspense of how the two girls make this happen is the crux of this 3rd grade level book and it keeps readers turning the page. The characters are well developed making them lovable and offering the 3rd grade reader new friends on the page. The material is challenging, but easy to comprehend, making the 3rd grade level reader enjoy independent reading success when reading the book alone.

While the book offers excellent language and comprehension for the 3rd grade reader, most boys will shy away from the book because the main protagonist is a female. There may be boy characters that show up on the page from time to time, but most 3rd grade level boys will not find enough action or interest to keep reading this book, making it a less than stellar choice for mix gender reading group work.

Third grade girls however, will love the book and the rest of the books in the series about Mallory and Mary Ann. The books give 3rd grade readers excellent examples of friendship, honesty, and critical thinking. The entire series are wonderful additions for the classroom because the interest level will encourage girls to read the next book in the series helping them to master their reading skill.

  • MalloryTitle: Mallory and Mary Ann Take New York
  • Author: Laurie Friedman
  • Illustrator: Jennifer Kalis
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Company
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Hardcover: pages 155
  • Genre: Chapter Book, Juvenile fiction

Bound for Snow (Innerstar University)

Written by Alison Hart

Illustrated by Arcana Studios
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Get ready for an adventure in the snow. This edition of the “Innerstar University” series has the girls playing in the white stuff in all kinds of fun and exciting ways. As with the other volumes in this series, the text is written in second person, making the reader one of the team, participating in all the activities. This approach works well for third grade readers, especially girls.  The reader is part of the story.

The girls plan a weekend at a mountain resort. The reader is invited to decide to how to prepare for the weekend. Should you pick dogsledding? Your decisions will lead you through choosing and training a dog. You will learn to navigate a trail and how to take care of your dogs. Would snowboarding be more fun? What do the boards look like? You’ll find out what a lesson is like and pick a different trail for that activity. Does skijoring sound like fun? What is skijoring? The reader’s decisions lead to twenty possible endings, none of which are right or wrong.

Reading activities are important to this book series. The reader is invited to make a decision on most pages for the direction of the plot, giving the reader practice with decision trees and logic. The characters, most of which are used throughout the series, are well-defined and each shows desirable traits. A companion website, www.innerstaru.com, has plenty more to learn. The book comes with a special access code for better site usage.

The illustrations are generic, with all the girls have similar features and physical build, but they do show the action in an understandable way. They should enable any girl to become the one in the story.

  • Bound for SnowTitle: Bound for Snow
  • Author: Alison Hart
  • Illustrator: Arcana Studios
  • Publisher: American Girl Publishing, Inc., 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hardcover: 119 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60958-088-9
  • Genre: Contemporary sports, friendship
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