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

About Habitats – Wetlands

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

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What exactly is a wetland?  It is a place that is covered with water.  Some wetlands are wet all of the time while others may dry up sometimes.  Other wetlands may look dry but the ground is really very wet and soggy.  Even the plants that grow in the wetlands are different.  Some have are rooted in the dirt.  Some of these grow under the water while others grow out of the water.  There are even some plants that just float around on top of the water.  Grass, shrubs, trees and even human food grow in wetlands.  Did you know that rice and cranberries are grown in wetlands?  These plants also provide a way to clean our water before it soaks back into the ground.  Wetlands provide protection from flooding because they can soak up extra water.  These are good reasons why we need to protect our wetlands.
Too often we think of informational texts as dry and boring.  That is not the case with this book.  While it is considered to be on a third grade reading level, it provides easy reading and comprehension in the main section for lower level readers.  The back of the book provides more detailed information for each of the illustrations that can be used for more advanced readers or for teaching information.
Written by a former elementary teacher and beautifully illustrated by her husband, this book would make an excellent resource for third grade, early research skill building.  The author has included a glossary as well as other books and websites for further research.  This book is just one in a series of other books by the same author and illustrator about different habitats.
  • WetlandsTitle:  About Habitats Wetlands
  • Author:  Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator:  John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Paper back:  unpaged
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-689-5
  • Genre:  nonfiction – science/environmental

Change the World Before Bedtime

A Collaboration by Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers and Karen Good

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Ever wonder just what would happen if everyone in the world lived to do good deeds? Had adults read Change the World Before Bedtime as they were growing up, maybe the world would look a lot kinder today.

Teaching our children that change is possible is our responsibility. The very first page, sums up the main point, “Change the world before bedtime. Its easy. You’ll see! Sharing a part of your heart is the key.” Readers then learn how to start the train of change by learning to eat healthy foods and to do ”random good deeds” throughout the day. Continuing on, the kids in the book go forward to visit the sick and elderly. They learn to collect items for the less fortunate, be kind to the earth, and to have happy thoughts to lead them to happy words. “There’ll be laughter and flowers and rainbows above, cause happy things happen when hearts shine with love.”

One of the greatest features of Change the World Before Bedtime is the illustrations. Every page has colorful kids, in a colorful world, all together for the common good. The drawings support the idea of the page perfectly, adding so much more depth to the comprehension of the story. I can definitely see reading this, and discussing each picture in full detail, every single night to my own children because it is a book that the kids will treasure in years to come.

The beauty of this book is that it can be used as a read aloud easily. Asking the children about what they could do that day to change the world would make for an enlightening discussion. Another use for the book is to have the children practice saying nice things to one another. If you were doing a lesson on health, the book would be great to show how taking care of your body is the start to caring for the rest of the world.

The pages in Change the World Before Bedtime are printed on solid paper in the hardback version that will hold up to many readings, making it a great investment for the  third grade classroom. (I might still by two, one for my class and one for my home.) The last page of the book has an area for “Your Bright Ideas…To Change the World Before Bedtime“. And, the back and front inside cover has lined notebook-like paper for even more ideas. What a wonderful use of space!

Change the World Before Bedtime has won The Mom’s Choice Award for Best in Family-Friendly Products and received a Gold Medal.  It’s surely to win many more awards.

Author Mark Kimball Moulton has a wonderful site where you can even schedule a school appearance:  www.markkimballmoulton.blogspot.com.

Earth2 is a site that calls into action the theme of the book and can be found at www.earth2company.com. You can watch a video of author Josh Chalmers talking  about his views on making changes.

  • Change the WorldTitle:  Change the World Before Bedtime
  • Authors and Illustrators:  Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, Karen Good
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
  • Reviewer:  Ann Norris
  • Hardback:  32 pages
  • ISBN: 076434238X
  • Genre:  Citizenship, recycling, environmental

Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun

Written by Liz Kessler

Illustrated by Natacha Ledwidge

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The fifth book in the beguiling Emily Winthrop series plunges readers into the mysterious world of a deeply distressed Neptune. The Lord of the Oceans is disturbed by nightmares. And it is not just nightmares, he explains to Emily and Aaron. “Every night in my sleep, I have been plagued by terrors, by images, feelings.” His feelings affect the terrestrial weather patterns, creating short-lived, but violent storms. What disturbs him more though, is an absolute certainty that he is experiencing not dreams, but memories.  Old memories are awakening again, bringing warnings of impending disaster, he explains. The Ocean Lord seeks help from the half-human, half-mer Emily and Aaron.

After some debate they agree, convincing themselves and their parents that this is an all-paid-for vacation to accomplish an easy task. But what begins simply becomes dangerous and very, very complicated. In the frozen north, Emily and Aaron discover mysterious crystals, and frozen statues that appear to be reawakening. Young readers will enjoy the challenge of  figuring out the path through the many twists and turns the story takes. Nothing is what it seems to be. Who is friend and who is foe? A narwhal turns out to be a loyal friend, and Neptune’s trusted advisor may not be worthy of his trust after all.

Many reading activities can be created around the issues of trust, loyalty and friendship that are so simply presented. Above all the story is a great adventure yarn for 3rd graders. This book, and the whole Emily Windsnap series, would be a worthwhile addition to any reading list.

 

Additional Resources: 

About Arctic Norway: http://www.visitnorway.com/us/What-to-do/Attractions-Culture/Nature-attractions/Arctic-Norway-is-the-kingdom-of-light/

Author Website: http://www.lizkessler.co.uk/

The Life of a Glacier: http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/glaciers/life-glacier.html

  • Emily WindsnapTitle: Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun
  • Author: Liz Kessler
  • Illustrator: Natacha Ledwidge
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback:  272 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5824-3
  • Genre: Fiction/Novels
  • Lexile Score: 740

Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

Written by John Coy

Illustrated by Joe Morse

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In 1891, James Naismith took over a gym class with trepidation.  It was a rowdy class of young men, so rowdy that two teachers had already quit.  But he was determined to make it work.  The young men were bored of the same old exercises, Naismith realized, and they needed something fun.  He tried established outdoor games but they were too rough for indoors.  He needed something new.  » Read more

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

Written and illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

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“Stand tall, Frog Belly Rat Bone! I dub thee king of the Treasures!” This monster tale is far from sweet or cute, but there is a certain charm about it. This tale is well-suited for a second or third grade boy (or girl, for that matter) who appreciates stories and art from off the beaten path. The protagonist in this story is a special boy from a dreary place called Cementland. When the boy’s wish to find treasure comes true, he follows the treasure’s directions to bury the “specks” found within the treasure box. After his treasure disappears one night, he decides to build Frog Belly Rat Bone, king of the Treasures. When the boy and Frog Belly Rat Bone bury the treasure, they discover how truly wonderful it is. It’s a treasure that returns many dividends and beautifies Cementland: flowers! Ering’s book would be a fantastic addition to any unit about Spring, Arbor day or Earth day.

The themes of environmentalism, friendship, and patience are also well-suited for several different journal prompts including, “Have you ever planted anything? Tell about that experience.” “Who is your most unlikely friend, and what makes him/her so special to you.” Or “What was the most rewarding thing you every waited for, the thing or event that required the most patience from you.” Frog Belly Rat Bone is well suited for reading aloud, and as a follow-up comprehension activity, students may answer simple questions about the main who, what, when, where, why, and how of the book. To produce a classroom garden, students could plant their own “specks” in zipper bags or cups filled with soil. How fulfilling to watch their own garden growing day to day.

  • Frog BellyTitle: The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone
  • Author/Illustrator: Timothy Basil Ering
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • 
Hardback, 42 pages
  • 
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6661-3
  • Genre: fiction/garden
  • Lexile: 670

Farther

Written and Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith

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“Then the dream spoke to me, and I took up the old wings.” These words from the cover of Farther sum up the book nicely. This stunning book speaks to its readers about dreams and carrying on a family legacy. Grahame Baker-Smith won the Kate Greenway Medal, which is a British literary award for “distinguished illustration in a book for children;” and it is no wonder, for the illustrations manage to be both modern and enchanting. They boast detail and whimsy. This book sparks imagination for what is possible in the pictures alone. The text is dreamy and a little forlorn; evoking reflection. After reading this book, a class of third grade students may explore what exactly calls the narrator’s father away, both figuratively and literally. The illustrations are crucial for students’ comprehension, so this book may be better suited for a solo read, but the text is rather poetic for reading aloud.

As a possible pre-reading assignment, students may look at the illustrations only and journal about their guesses about the story-line. After reading the book, students could journal about how their guesses matched up with the actual content. This book also offers a good place to start discussions about students’ dreams and hopes for the future, or about family heritage. Whether this book is used in a unit on family or dreams for the future, this book is a charming addition to any classroom.

Farther
Title: Farther
Author/Illustrator: Grahame Baker-Smith
Publisher: Templar Books (Candlewick Press)
Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
Hardback, 38 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6370-4
Genre: fiction/inspirational
Lexile: 730

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