Jeremy’s Dreidel

Written by Ellie Gellman

Illustrated by Maria Mola

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Young Jeremy sees a sign at the Jewish Community Center about a dreidel-making workshop in this informative, yet fiction, book written by Ellie Gellman, called Jeremy’s Dreidel. Jeremy and his friends come to the workshop with their creative ideas, as instructed by the poster. Jeremy wants to make a dreidel with Braille lettering so his blind father can enjoy the game; he comes with a lump of soft clay.

Gellman uses dialogue with the characters in the story to explain the use of a dreidel, the representation and meaning of the Hebrew letters on the dreidel, the history and celebration of Hanukkah, the slight difference between the dreidel game in Israel, Braille lettering, and blindness.

When the kids complete their hand-made dreidels, they vote on three for display in the lobby of the Community Center. When Jeremy’s unique dreidel is one of the three chosen, he is obviously sad about the decision. When asked by his friends about his disappointment, Jeremy expresses concern that if his dreidel is in a glass case, his father will not be able to actually use the dreidel, Jeremy’s purpose for making it.  Jeremy’s friends solve the dilemma by suggesting a dreidel game night at the center during the Hanukkah celebration. The idea is a hit, and grown-ups and kids celebrate Hanukkah, with dreidel games, a play about Judah Maccabee, songs, and latkes and jelly donuts.

Additional bonuses for the book are included in the back: instructions for making three dreidels, instructions for playing the dreidel game, and a picture of the Braille alphabet.

Jeremy’s Dreidel is a wonderful addition to a third grade library, especially during the Hanukkah season.  Children will want to read this book to gain a better understanding of diversity; two specific characteristics mentioned in this book include Jewish culture and visual-impairments.

Teachers will want to use this book in the classroom to encourage the appreciation of differences in people, also. And, this book is an excellent one to use to encourage compassion for others and a giving spirit. The main character, Jeremy, is focused throughout the story in creating something for his father that will bring joy to his dad. At the end of the story, when the climax arrives that doesn’t meet Jeremy’s goal, Jeremy’s friends step up with an idea that then extends joy and happiness to Jeremy, a kind of pay-it-forward moral ends the story.

Several helpful online sites will enhance reading comprehension and reading skills. Follow the directions for games, activities like building a menorah, recipes like potato latkes, songs, and stories at this site http://www.chabad.org/kids/article_cdo/aid/354748/jewish/Chanukah.htm and  http://www.akhlah.com/jewish-holidays/hanukkah/.

Kids might also be interested to know that author Ellie Gellman, though she grew up in the United States (in Minneapolis), now resides in Jerusalem. Illustrator Maria Mola, however, grew up outside the United States, in Barcelona, Spain, but now resides within the U.S., in Philadelphia.

  • Jeremys DreidelTITLE: Jeremy’s Dreidel
  • AUTHOR: Ellie Gellman
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Maria Mola
  • PUBLISHER: Kar-Ben Publishing
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Paperback, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-7508-1
  • GENRE: Contemporary/History
  • LEXILE: 510

The ABC’s of Cancer “According to Lilly Isabella Lane”

Written by Terri Forehand
Illustrated by Dawn Phillips

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Lilly Isabella Lane is nine years old. Lilly is a composite of the children for whom the author, also a registered nurse, has given care. A short time ago Lilly was a normal nine year old doing normal nine year old activities. Then she got a fever and only wanted to sleep. She was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Rather than be depressed about her illness, Lilly decides to learn about it and educate other kids. She wants to be as active and positive as possible. In the process of telling others, she selects words that describe the pros, cons, and neutrals of leukemia and its treatment. At least one word is chosen for each letter of the alphabet. The words for each letter are woven into a prose narrative about treatment, cure, and favorite things.

Lilly begins with A is for “attitude,” the positive spunky outlook on life needed to fight cancer. She ends with Z is for “zoo” and “zebra” her favorite place to visit and her favorite animal next to a brown horse. In between are concrete and abstract and subjective words such as B is for “bald,” D is for “dying,” I is for “intravenous lines,” M is for “Make a Wish,” S is for “soup” and “sorry about that,” and T is for “tests.” Two soup recipes and a group of ideas to share with a patient conclude the text.

The result is an upbeat info-fiction story filled with easily accessible information about a dreaded disease. One needs to read the whole book to get a full picture and then there are many unanswered questions. Those questions could be used for further discussion, additional research or a visit to or by an oncologist.

Illustrator Dawn Phillips has brought a spunky, colorful Lilly to life. Though bald, Lilly often is depicted wearing quirky and colorful headgear. It is her eyes and mouth, however, which leave an impression; they appear to be emphasized with bright make-up outlined with pen and ink. The eye is drawn to Lilly’s lovely face and away from her baldness.

Other books that appear in standard review sources feature a parent who has cancer, and the narrative is based on that parent-child relationship during the illness.

 

Extras: Grade level lesson plans about cancer, helping others, and taking action are available at Scholastic Livestrong at School http://www.scholastic.com/livestrong/

 

  • ABCs of CancerTitle: The ABC’s of Cancer “According to Lilly Isabella Lane”
  • Author: Terri Forehand
  • Illustrator: Dawn Phillips
  • Reviewer: Marion Mueller
  • Format: Paperback picture book
  • ISBN: 9781492334644
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Lexile score: 1000

The Christmas Tugboat

Written by George Matterson and Adele Ursone
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

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When George Matteson got the job of towing the barge that carried the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, he saw it as the perfect time to take his wife and daughter to work with him. It was his wife’s suggestion that the story of this trip would be perfect for a children’s book. So, they wrote the story from their daughter’s point of view.

It takes almost a whole day to get from New York to where the barge with the Christmas tree is waiting for them. After making sure the barge and the tree are secure, they start back downriver toward New York. Before they get to the old dock where they will spend the night, Dad explains that the lights in the pilothouse are kept off at night to preserve the tugboat captain’s night sight.
The next morning the sunlight hits the frost on the tree and makes it look like it has already been decorated with hundreds of tiny diamonds. As they get closer to New York City they are greeted by news helicopters, police boats, and tour boat full of school kids. Dad lets his daughter steer the barge for a short time before they reach their destination. Just before the big tree is taken away one of the workers finds a pinecone for the daughter. She decides to plant the seeds so that she can have her own New York City Christmas tree.

This book would be a great addition to any third grade social studies shelf. It could be used with a lesson about holiday traditions. It could also be used in a study about transportation. It would make a great text to text connection for a study about how products get to the store shelves. This would also be a great book for a parent to read with a child who needs help improving reading skills.
As a text to text connection, this book has infinite uses. A science unit on eyes could be connected to the pages about night vision. A geography lesson about New York, a science lesson about big trees growing from little seeds, you would not have to look hard to find many other possibilities.

Mr. Matteson’s wife, Adele Ursone, is an artist who finds inspiration for new art while on the tugboat with her husband. Information about her can be found at http://adeleursone.com/pgs/statement.php.

James Ransome has illustrated many books including this one. For this book he based his illustrations on pictures the Matteson family took while on their trip. More information about him and other books he has illustrated can be found at http://jamesransome.com/about.html.

More information about Rockefeller Center can be found at http://www.rockefellercenter.com/plan-a-trip/.

  • Christmas TugboatTitle: The Christmas Tugboat
  • Author: George Matterson and Adele Ursone
  • Illustrator: James E. Ransome
  • Publisher: Clarion Books
  • Reviewer: Sandi Waymire
  • hardback: 39 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-618-99215-7
  • Genre: realistic fiction

Bobby the Brave (Sometimes)

Written by Lisa Yee
Illustrated by Dan Santat

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Bobby Ellis-Chan has fourth grade down—except when he has to go to PE, or explain why he wears his shirt backward on picture day, or compete against his older sister, or face the neighborhood scary cat. His biggest fear is that someone – anyone – will compare him to his famous father, a former professional football player. Bobby has asthma and is just not good in football. Meanwhile his sister is a great high school quarterback. And Bobby is almost always chosen last for any team. When his PE teacher finds out about Bobby’s father, he wants to meet him and expects Bobby to show the class how to play football. Bobby’s little sister is a wonderful character, insisting on renaming everything from Wormy Worm Worm to Gnomey Gnome Gnome. She has her own princess view of the world. Bobby’s class is working on a production of Annie, adding to the tension at school. And Bobby’s father wants to learn to sew and make Bobby’s Sandy the Dog costume. Santat’s hilarious illustrations add a lot to the story.

Third grade readers will find a lot to identify with. Bobby’s class talks about fears and how to overcome some of them. Another day, they discuss asthma and other conditions that draw unwanted attention. But, mostly, Bobby is looking for a way to connect to his father, while his father wants to connect to him. A very universal theme. Many reading activities are suggested by the text. School musicals, more discussion of fears, Halloween costumes, and football games all could result. Literacy skills will be sharpened though enjoyment of the story.

Bobby appears in a number of books in the “Bobby Vs Girls” series. Check out the websites: www.lisayee.com and www.dantat.com. In them, Bobby lives on.

  • Bobby the BraveTitle: Bobby the Brave (Sometimes)
  • Author: Lisa Yee
  • Illustrator: Dan Santat
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine, Inc./Scholastic, 2010
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 153 pages
  • Genre: Chapter book
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-05594-9

Halloween Sleepwalker

Written by Thomas Freese
Illustrated by Fran Riddell

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On Halloween night, Shelby Sherman Sanford and his family chat about what spooks them the most. His mom hates ghosts, jack-o’-lanterns creep out his dad, and his older sister never wants to meet a real witch. But Shelby, who is only eight, feels brave. Nothing scares him – he’d walk outside in the middle of the night if he could. After his parents put him to bed, he has a dream so vivid that it feels like he is walking alone through the cornfields near his home. He stumbles upon five witches waiting for him. The youngest gives him an enchanted apple and dares him to take a bite. When he does, he gains a “second sight” and can see the spirit world.
He glanced down at the cauldron and saw the spirits of the potion, reaching out with ghastly green hands, wanting to escape from the bubbling brew.

Ghosts fly about and the dead reach for him from their graves. The oldest witch sticks Shelby on her broomstick and he goes on a wild ride before crash-landing into a pile of leaves. He runs home, covered in bits of straw and twigs. When Shelby wakes in the morning, he shares his weird dream with his family. His sister notices the twigs stuck to his pajamas. Maybe it wasn’t a dream after all…

This spooky tale with its Twilight Zone-like ending is gentle enough for third graders to enjoy and could work as a classroom read aloud. Freese’s writing style is that of a good-natured, sit-around-the-campfire storyteller, and potentially scary images are tempered by Riddell’s folksy artwork – a mix of cartooning and scrapbook paper cutouts.

 

  • Halloween SleepwalkerTitle: Halloween Sleepwalker
  • Author: Thomas Freese
  • Illustrator: Fran Riddell
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 64 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-4399-5
  • Genre: Picture Book / Fiction

Secrets at Sea

Written by Richard Peck
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

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Whimsical and unpretentious, this tale has the reader believing that mice really do think like humans. Set in the late 19th century, this is a story about a mouse family who know where their bread is buttered and who do their best to help their human family. When the humans plan a trip to Europe to help their daughter find a husband, three mouse sisters and their mouse brother decide their best chance for survival is to go along, even though they’re terrified of water. Poor Helena, the oldest, is stuck with the job of getting her siblings where they need to go, helping the humans, and dealing with some very bad incidents. She is nearly flipped into the ocean during a safety drill, thrown through the air into a man’s pocket during a royal reception, chased by a one-eyed cat, and squashed by the sweets in a young boy’s bed. Mousely romance dominates the end of the story, but it’s so well done, kids may not even notice. The fact that Helena survives all this is testament to her perseverance and heart.

Murphy’s illustrations are perfect additions to the tale, helping to give life to Helena and her family.

Third graders can easily follow the mouse adventures. As in his other work, Peck includes many plays on words and running gags, allowing kids to play with the language they are still learning. Meanwhile, teachers will recognize that reading activities related to the history of the Hudson Valley, the Victorian Era, and the British monarchy can develop from the pages.

  • Secrets at SeaTITLE: Secrets at Sea
  • AUTHOR: Richard Peck
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Kelly Murphy
  • PUBLISHER: Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Young Readers Group, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • FORMAT: Hardcover, 238 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-3455-5
  • GENRE: Fantasy, Humor, Family, History

Pizza in Pienza

Written and Illustrated by Susan Fillion

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A young Italian girl professes her love for pizza in this bilingual (English/Italian) picture book. Told through a series of paintings, readers are introduced to the girl’s hometown of Pienza, where life is simple and sometimes old-fashioned, but everybody knows each other, and the constants are comforting: extended family, large midday meals, and, of course, pizza.

I love to eat pizza anywhere, anytime.
Even when it rains, I eat it walking in the street.

Whether cooked in a hot brick oven at her favorite restaurant, or made from scratch in her grandmother’s kitchen, the young girl thinks about pizza so much that she goes to the library to learn more. Here, Fillion offers readers a simple history lesson, easily digestible for a third grade audience.

Ancient Greeks and Italians ate flatbreads with onions, herbs, and honey.
…But pizza as we know it was really born in Naples Italy.

This book would work well as a classroom read aloud, as there are many opportunities to engage students in discussions about food, languages, and culture. Children of all ages will gravitate to Fillion’s illustrations, painted in acrylic with rich, warm colors. She has a sense of humor, too – look for surreptitious slices of pizza popping up in portraits of the Mona Lisa and World War II soldiers, among others. Back pages include an Italian pronunciation guide, a “Brief History of Pizza” (designed for parents, teachers, or upper elementary grades to dig in to), as well as a recipe for Pizza Margherita – a tasty finish.

 

  • PizzaTitle: Pizza in Pienza
  • Author/Illustrator: Susan Fillion
  • Publisher: David R. Godine, 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56792-459-6
  • Genre: Picture Book, nonfiction, history, food

Here Come the Girl Scouts!

Written by Shana Corey
Illustrated by Hadley Hooper

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Girls of all ages will enjoy this true story about Juliette Low and her founding of the Girl Scouts. It is a fun read with great illustrations and quotes from Juliette, who was always known as Daisy.

Third grade readers will enjoy reading this story independently and especially will like the short grouping of text around the illustrated pages. It will be a great book to use for developing picture clues as that is where much of the humor is found.

Readers will be encouraged to be brave, courageous and hard working in all that they do in order to succeed. But none of these things are described in a negative or dull way. Oh no, excitement and adventure is what the Girl Scouts expect out of life whether it is when camping out under the heavens or earning badges on how to cure hams.

The art work supports how multicultural the Girl Scouts are in welcoming members from all over the world. It would also provide an art teacher with many examples of what can be done with images in a book as the actual quotes are in a kid-printing type font while the narrative is in a regular typed font. Many literacy skills can be practiced and enhanced through this fun nonfiction story.

This book could be the beginning of a great writing activity for individual girls to use as a model for writing about their own lives and what they enjoy doing.  It is an introduction to girls to develop spunk, gumption and initiative.

While some might consider this a biography of Juliette Low, it only briefly refers to her childhood in terms of her near complete loss of hearing and how she overcame it. Then her development of the Girl Scouts is explained. No other information about her later life is included so it is really the history of the organization.

The last two pages of the book show cartoon caricatures of famous women who were Girl Scouts. Women like Lucille Ball, Gloria Steinem and Hilary Clinton are included as well as an empty frame labeled only as “you,” meant for readers.

This is the kind of book that will draw even reluctant readers to the nonfiction section of the library.

Extras: Added information is included in the end matter, but the reading level is comparable and can be handled by the same readers enjoying the body of the book. It will take a longer time and more intensely interested reader.

  • Girl ScoutsTitle: Here Come the Girl Scouts!
  • Author:  Shana Corey
  • Illustrator: Hadley Hooper
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2012
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/40p
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-34278-0
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Lexile: 720

Horrifa’s Magic Makeover: “Witch” Way to the Ball

Written by Susan L. Krueger
Illustrated by Nadia Komorova

 

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Horrifa’s Magic Makeover: “Witch” Way to the Ball is a laugh out loud story about a scaly, warty, young witch who dreams of becoming a pink-fleshed mortal wearing a lacey, sparkly dress to attend the prince’s ball. Although her mother, Dragunda is not crazy about her daughter, Horrifa’s wish to meet the prince, she helps her “downgrade” her look from a gorgeous, beautiful witch dressed in black to a dreadfully despicable and ugly “princess-like” mortal. Despite the chaos and pandemonium that ensue from her mother’s efforts and the disappointment Horrifa feels at not meeting the prince in this spin of a Cinderella tale, Horrifa learns to accept and love her scaly, warty self for who she is.

Susan Krueger’s language is rich and her descriptions are both funny and creative in a twisted kind of way that will make kids laugh. Nadia Komorova’s spooky illustrations complement the text and bridge the gap between those words that might prove challenging for some readers to understand. Aimed at both girl and boy readers between the third grade reading level through the fifth grade reading level, Horrifa’s Magic Makeover: “Witch” Way to the Ball is sure to entertain readers and send home a key message: accept yourself for who you are. Warts and all! Kids, even reluctant readers, will be hard pressed to put this book down and will certainly read Horrifa’s Magic Makeover in one sitting from start to finish!

Horrifa’s Magic Makeover: “Witch” Way to the Ball is Susan Krueger’s second book. To learn more about the author, please go to: http://www.fivestarpublications.com/book_detail.php?recordid=152&page=2&thistitle=About+Susan
Horrifa's Magic Makeover

  • Title: Horrifa’s Magic Makeover: “Witch” Way to the Ball
  • Author: Susan L. Krueger
  • Illustrator: Nadia Komorova
  • Editor: Jennifer Steele Christensen
  • Publisher: Little Five Star
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Paperback: 89 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58985-088-0
  • Genre: fantasy, fairytale

Ghost Buddy: Zero to Hero

Written by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

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Winkler and Oliver have an incredible feel for the underdog and an even more incredible feel for the humor in any situation. Third graders should be able to grasp most of the language and all of the action. And they should identify with the not-so-perfect-but-lovable characters. The story will hold their attention long enough to increase comprehension and learn a thing or two.

Billy Broccoli is just learning to deal with his new family. Mom has remarried and his new sister is no help. They all move to a new house so they can be together. This means a new school for Billy. Besides, there’s a ghost residing in his new closet. A ghost no one else can see. His family and friends think he’s talking to himself. Billy considers himself cool, but Hoover Porterhouse III, the ghost, is there to tell him otherwise. Billy doesn’t quite understand why sixth graders don’t appreciate his “Varsity Farting Team” T-shirt or the fact that he’s saved his tonsils in a jar. Of course, Hoove has problems of his own. After 99 years as a ghost, he’s still failing at helping people. So the two of them set out to make Billy really cool and to battle the next-door bully/eavesdropper. Turns out even the neighbor has secrets. With Hoove’s help, Billy is able to defeat him. Now, if he can just get his stepfather to stop talking about dental floss, his mother (also the principal) to stop babying him at school.

This first-in-the-series volume sets the stage for some wonderful hijinks in future installments. What else does Hoove have up his … er … sleeve?

Publisher Scholastic provides a free teacher’s guide at Scholastic Teacher’s Guide.

  • Zero to HeroTITLE: Ghost Buddy: Zero to Hero
  • AUTHOR: Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
  • PUBLISHER: Scholastic Paperbacks, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • FORMAT: Paperback, 176 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0545298827
  • GENRE: Fantasy, Humor

 

 

Click here for Zero to Hero book trailer.

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