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

Spies and Lies: Famous and Infamous Spies

Written By: Susan K. Mitchell

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Who hasn’t dreamed of being a spy? Spies and Lies: Famous and Infamous Spies, part of “The Secret World of Spies” series, shows both the rewards and perils of espionage and reminds the reader that the best spies were never discovered.

The reality of spying may seem mundane to some readers when compared to Hollywood’s version of this profession, but the author manages to get some of the thrilling moments in her narrative. Third graders, who are starting to develop their own talents, will see how working with what you have is always best.

Women often make good spies because they don’t seem threatening. Belle Boyd, a charming and beautiful woman, was a very successful spy for the South during the Civil War. She charmed information from Union troops and helped win battles for Stonewall Jackson. Legend says that, at one point, she ran across a battlefield to deliver information. Josephine Baker, Julia Child, and Marlene Dietrich are mentioned as other women with beneficial talents.

Espionage has sometimes become a family business because then you don’t have to pretend with everyone. The Kuehns spied for Nazi Germany in Hawaii. They were only discovered because someone noticed they were flashing signals to the Japanese. The Walkers spied for the Soviet Union in U.S. And sisters, Ginnie and Lottie Moon, were two more Civil War spies.

Sometimes, even children have been spies. Agnes Daluge was a very small thirteen-year-old when she began helping Jews leave Nazi Germany. Dicey Langston was a fifteen-year-old spy during the American Revolution. Information is still coming to light about Romanian children spying for the government during the Cold War.

Even animals have been spies – birds, cats, and literal bugs.

The table of contents, index, glossary, and “To Find Out More” section are valuable for comprehension of the concepts. The author included a short section about becoming a modern-day spy. The publisher’s website, www.enslow.com, shows the other titles in this series and has a free pdf educator’s guide available, including many reading activities and reading worksheets.

  • Spies and LiesTitle: Spies and Lies: Famous and Infamous Spies
  • Author: Susan K. Mitchell
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-349-2
  • Genre: History, Espionage
  • Lexile Score: 740L

Becoming Babe Ruth

Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares

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Very few Americans, even those not interested in sports, have never heard of Babe Ruth. So what makes this volume unique and valuable? The story focuses on Ruth’s early life and how he became the great baseball player rather than on his stats and behavior as a grown man. The phenomenal illustrations show not only the illustrator’s passion for baseball and for Ruth, but they also show Ruth’s passion for everything, including kids and eating. Ruth was sent to Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore when he was seven. He was considered incorrigible. He learned to pitch and bat at the school and he learned to work hard to attain his goals. Even after he was no longer an inmate, Ruth did a lot to help the boys at Saint Mary’s. In 1920, the school’s band traveled with the team. The reader gets a glimpse of life in the early twentieth century as well. The street and game scenes are particularly vivid and also show the physical attributes in the cities he played for.

Because of the enthusiasm shown, third grade readers will be drawn into the tale of Ruth’s young life on the street and in Saint Mary’s. This book has already appeared on several reading lists, including receiving a Booklist starred review. The publisher’s website, www.candlewick.com, contains a lot of information about the author and about the book itself. As part of their “We Believe in Picture Books” campaign, the publisher is also posting videos by readers on www.readingstartshere.com.

  • Babe RuthTitle: Becoming Babe Ruth
  • Written and Illustrated By: Matt Tavares
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard Cover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5646-1
  • Genre: Picture book, Sports
  • Lexile Score: 710L

American Girl: Quick Change (Innerstar University)

Written by Erin Falligant

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American Girl has a new series called Innerstar University. These stories are designed to give girls confidence in themselves and in the decisions they make. Each chapter begins and then the reader chooses which page to go to depending on their likes or decisions for different pathways and different endings.

Third and fourth grade readers will enjoy these challenging stories. The reading level is specific to the grade level, but the comprehension is somewhat above the below average reader. It takes some understanding to follow to the pages with the different endings. Teachers should be aware that reluctant readers or those reading below the third grade level may have difficulty following the plot until they gain confidence in their reading ability.

Teachers will find that girls will enjoy the books more than boys, making teachers on the lookout for a series of books for boys with the same skill levels for classroom libraries. The American Girl series for girls is designed to offer activity ideas for girls and they choose the endings to the stories depending on the hobby or interest each reader has. The endings can be quite different making this one book a possible of 20 stories with 20 different endings.

This book makes a great addition for the classroom encouraging third grade readers to read for the pure joy of picking up a book.

  • Quick ChangeTitle: American Girl: Quick Change
  • Author: Erin Falligant
  • Illustrator: Arcana Studios
  • Publisher: American Girl
  • ISBN: 978-1-60958-090-2
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Lexile: 610

Perfect Game

Written by Fred Bowen

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Once in a while there comes a sports story that is so much more than the usual story of wins and losses. Fred Bowen’s Perfect Game immerses his readers in the world of baseball: the preparation, the statistics, and then ever so gently lifts them out of that and into a world known to few children — the world of the Special Olympics Unified Sports.

Isaac Burnett is an expert pitcher. The opening chapter clues the reader to his search for perfection. He dresses for the game, checking and rechecking in the mirror that“…everything was just the way he liked it. The socks. The pants. The shirt. And last but not least, the hat.” He steps out ready for the perfect game.

There is a lot of technical description, but even readers who do not play baseball get the gist: the perfect game gets away from Isaac. He tries again and again, but it does not happen. His father urges him to practice more, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” And who knows, his father tells him, “maybe enough perfect practice will get you a perfect game.”

Coach Parks senses Isaac’s growing frustration. He does not lecture, or demand more; he just engineers a change of path. He asks Isaac to help with another team. Reluctantly Isaac agrees, but he is not prepared for the scene of absolute bedlam that greets him at the practice gym. He did not know this was a team of ‘retards’. Maya, the coach’s helper sets him right. “That’s not a word we use,” she tells him. “And you shouldn’t either. It’s really not nice.”

Bit by bit Isaac learns to appreciate the spirit that informs the players. He sees Kevin, a young boy with Syndrome X, blossom into a good shooter and slowly leaves the sanctuary of the quiet corner to step out onto the court. The readers learn along with him, and that is the best way to teach, isn’t it? That words can hurt, that the effort is what counts, and most importantly that playing for the team’s win is “perfect enough.”

What a perfect addition to any reading list! The back matter gives additional information about the 23 perfect games and the Special Olympics Unified Sports. There is enough matter to create many reading activities and discussion points.

Additional Resources:
About the story: http://www.fredbowen.com/perfect_game_116987.htm
Author Bio: http://www.fredbowen.com/bio.htm
List of Perfect Games: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/rare_feats/index.jsp?feature=perfect_game

Perfect GameTitle: Perfect Game
Author: Fred Bowen
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Reviewer: Anjali Amit
Paperback: 143 pages
ISBN: 978-1-56145-625-3
Genre: Fiction/Sports
Lexile Score: 500

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