Silent Swoop: An Owl, and Egg, and a Warm Shirt Pocket

Written by Michelle Houts
Illustrated by Deb Hoeffner

Based on a true story, this is a wonderful outline for caring human beings. A great horned owl chooses to lay her two eggs beneath the conveyor belt at a coal mine yard. Rather than destroy the eggs, the miners call a local bird sanctuary. Walter, the man from the sanctuary, simply puts the eggs in his shirt pocket and takes them to the incubator at the shelter. One hatches! Careful to treat Coal, the owlet, like a bird rather than like an oddly shaped human, Walter helps raise the chick. Coal takes on the job of educating children and seniors. Soon, the miners find another egg. This one hatches too.

Beautifully and realistically illustrated, this is a wonderful place to start learning about owls and about wildlife rescue in general. The activities and information at the end make the next steps for learning easy to find.

  • Silent SwoopTitle: Silent Swoop: An Owl, and Egg, and a Warm Shirt Pocket
  • Author: Michelle Houts
  • Illustrator: Deb Hoeffner
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 2
  • Genre: Animals, Nature, Wildlife Rescue
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-647-6
  • Extras: Explore More for Kids, Explore More for Teachers and Parents

Give Me Back My Bones!

Written by Kim Norman
Illustrated by Bob Kolar

Part skeletal primer, part pirate adventure, this is a fun way to learn about the bones in the human body. A long-dead pirate finds his bones scattered when a huge wave hits him. He spends the rest of the story looking for individual bones and reconstructing himself. First his head, then his nose and jaw, then his shoulders and ribs. Written in rhyming form and lyrical language. The author uses the scientific names for the bones, adding to the learning experience. The illustrations show an underwater quest with everything from jellyfish to giant clams to sharks helping in the search.

At last! I’ve got my lost bones,
no longer skull-and-crossed bones,
my milky ocean-tossed bones …
avast! I need …
a ship!

The dust jacket is a poster summarizing all the bones discussed. The end papers also reflect the summary of bones. Perfect for a health unit in school. Also perfect for Halloween.

  • Give Me Back My BonesTitle: Give Me Back My Bones!
  • Author: Kim Norman
  • Illustrator: Bob Kolar
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Physiology
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8841-7

My Grandma and Me

Written by Mina Javaherbin
Illustrated by Lindsey Yankey

In a sweet and quiet story, the author takes a look at her strong relationship with her grandmother. As a child, she did everything with her grandmother. She helped clean and cook. She helped buy bread by lowering the bread basket from their apartment. She visited her friend Annette and her grandmother. They spent many happy hours together. She would use Grandma’s chadon in play. For Ramadan, she got up early to eat with her grandmother, even though she was too young to fast during the day. And she ate with Grandma after sunset. She prayed with Grandma for their friends to go to heaven.

Illustrations are often subdued, but are a beautiful addition to the story, borrowing motifs from Iranian culture. They help make this a wonderful quiet-time and bedtime story, best read with another family member.

  • Grandma and MeTitle: My Grandma and Me
  • Author: Mina Javaherbin
  • Illustrator: Lindsey Yankey
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Family, Culture
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9494-4

Pick a Pumpkin

Written by Patricia Toht
Illustrated by Jarvis

Each year brings exciting new ways to honor children’s favorite holidays. This year is no exception. A new rhyming take on the activities of Halloween with kid-friendly, detailed illustrations, Pick a Pumpkin fits the bill. Starting in the pumpkin patch, observers must pick their favorite size, color, and shape.

Vivid orange,
ghostly white,
or speckled green
might be just right.

After a cursory clean up, it’s time to cut the top and clean out the insides. Next comes the face carving, followed by the addition of light.

Its fiery grin
will blaze and snicker,
to guard your house
while you have fun.

And it’s time to celebrate.

The author does such a great job of making the reader anticipate the next step, while the illustrator makes you want to linger over the wonderful scenes. Traditional costumes and images are mentioned and seen throughout.

  • Pick a PumpkinTitle: Pick a Pumpkin
  • Author: Patricia Toht
  • Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoullin
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Picture book, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Holiday, Fun
  • ISBN: 978-1-5362-0764-4

Mr. Posey’s New Glasses

Written by Ted Kooser
Illustrated by Daniel Duncan

This enchanting new story combines the ideas of seeing through someone else’s eyes, walking in their shoes, and their grass is greener. One morning, Mr. Posey is feeling the sameness and dullness of his existence. Same kitchen, same newspaper, same neighbor playing with his dog. He walks to the local thrift store and digs through a barrel of glasses, looking for a new outlook. Whether it’s imagination or magic, Mr. Posey gets more than he bargained for. Each set of glasses brings him to a new and exciting view. He’s in the nighttime, observing bright and beautiful stars. He’s underwater with many sea creatures surrounding him. The room is swirling about him. Finally, his young friend points out the filth on his current glasses. Sometimes, all it takes is a small adjustment.

In the beginning, all the illustrations are the same dull color. Even the flowers look tired. Each new Posey experience is shown in shining detail. The colors are definitely brighter on Mr. Posey’s way home.

Recommended for learning about empathy, but also just for the fun of it.

  • Mr. PoseyTitle: Mr. Posey’s New Glasses
  • Author: Ted Kooser
  • Illustrator: Daniel Duncan
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Picture book, Perspective
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9609-2

Going Down Home with Daddy

Written by Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrated by Daniel Minter

Touching and enlightening, this is the story of one family in particular and every family, at the same time. Lil Alan and his immediate family make their annual trek to the farm where his great grandmother lives. They start out early in the morning and arrive just as Granny is feeding her chickens. They spend the weekend playing with cousins and attending services at Granny’s church. On Sunday evening, the children each makes a presentation based on what the family means to them. Lil Alan worries that he won’t have anything to present, but he discovers that whatever he feels is legitimate.

Throughout the story, the author and the illustrator show images of growth and branching, relating Lil Alan’s experience to the family tree and how that tree has been cultivated by each family member. Granny is both the root and the branches of that tree. Even her chickens are part of the cultivation. The story and the illustrations are both gorgeous.

The story shows the strength and importance of family and family history, especially among those of African descent.

  • Going Down HomeTitle: Going Down Home with Daddy
  • Author: Kelly Starling Lyons
  • Illustrator: Daniel Minter
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Family
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-938-4

Noah Builds an Ark

Written by Kate Banks
Illustrated by John Rocco

It seems a little silly to call this a quiet book, since the central event is a storm that lasts four days, but quiet it is. In it, the reader learns a lot about what it takes to survive such a storm and how beneficial it is to be helpful to those around us.

As Noah’s family readies for a big storm, Noah worries about the small creatures he regularly meets in his backyard. As his father boards up the windows, Noah prepares his wagon for the salamanders, field mice, hummingbirds, and spiders to take shelter. He removes the wheels and adds a roof and walls. As his mother and sister stack groceries in the kitchen, Noah gathers seeds and other foods for the animals. With the yard flooded, the animals are indeed safe inside Noah’s ark.

As always, Rocco’s beautiful illustrations are important part of the story. Imagine living through such a big storm and being in the ark.

Though it’s somewhat doubtful that all of Noah’s creatures would share this type of space, the heartwarming way in which the story is presented make this a tale worth embracing. It makes the reader wonder how they can help others, especially those animals mentioned.

  • Noah Builds An ArkTitle: Noah Builds an Ark
  • Author: Kate Banks
  • Illustrator: John Rocco
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska                                                                              
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Ecology, Empathy
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7484-7

King and Kayla and the Case of Found Fred

Written by Dori Hillestad Butler
Illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Kayla really needs to learn to speak – or at least understand – dog-lish. Because King often has all the answers for solving the mysteries they confront. In the latest installment of the King and Kayla series, they are trying to figure out where a stray dog came from. Kayla quickly realizes he is not a stray because he knows tricks. King gets his name – Fred – and clues to his family’s location. Not until King has a chance to show Kayla the answer is Fred reunited with his family.

Kayla’s well thought out approach to problem solving is an excellent model for readers to learn. She always lists what they know and what they need to discover to solve the mystery. Plus, she has fun while she helps the lost dog. Outstanding illustrations accompany every page, helping to draw the reader into the story. They can truly feel the fun to be had a vacation lake.

  • Found FredTitle: King and Kayla and the Case of Found Fred
  • Author: Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Illustrator: Nancy Meyers
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company Inc., 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska                                                                                                                                             
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Fiction Chapter Book, Mystery
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-052-5

Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly!

Written by Ann Ingalls
Illustrated by Rebecca Evans

This cute rhyming story follows a baby robin as it shakily learns to fly like mama. Not only are those first “steps” difficult, but the presence of a cat makes concentration especially challenging. Of course, it’s a rocky start, but the bird soon finds that the effort to try new things can be well worth it.

Wonderful illustrations make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience for readers. They can feel the baby bird’s struggle, the pride of the mother bird, the possible amusement of the sparrows as they watch, the malevolence of the cat, and more. The bird even watches while sister does ballet moves.

In addition to the lesson to keep trying, readers will learn a lot about birds – American robins in particular and what makes a bird in general. They will also learn about predators and the circle of life. As is usual for this publisher, extensive suggestions for further learning accompany the text, with links for even more learning. STEM is not just an acronym.

  • Why Should I WalkTitle: Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly!
  • Author: Ann Ingalls
  • Illustrator: Rebecca Evans
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska                                                                                                                                             
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 3
  • Genre: Nature, Young birds
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-639-1
  • Extras: Explore More – For Kids, Explore More – For Teachers and Parents

Carter Reads the Newspaper

Written by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Don Tate

Do you ever wonder why we celebrate Black History Month? The contributions of African Americans and other groups have often been ignored or even actively covered up. So, if you really want to learn about history, highlighting this group becomes important. Carter G. Woodson, who eventually earned a doctorate in history, was an outspoken advocate for black history. He happened to be black himself and first had to fight for the right to read that history. In his pursuit of his heritage, he became part of that heritage. His childhood was a fascinating struggle for learning. In this beautiful new book, the author and illustrator reveal that struggle and encourage the reader to become part of the struggle too.

Carter, born ten years after the end of the Civil War, was the youngest of seven children of parents born into slavery. Carter was only able to attend school when he wasn’t needed on the farm. But his father encouraged his learning by asking Carter to read the newspaper to him. As a teenager, Carter worked in a coal mine to help feed the family. His co-workers also asked Carter to read the newspaper aloud, sparking him finish high school and move on to college. The author has the reader cheering for Carter at every turn, and the illustrator makes his life and those of parents come alive. The reader also gets a glimpse of many figures from black history throughout the book and in the end papers, hopefully generating more curiosity from the reader.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

  • Carter Reads the NewspaperTitle: Carter Reads the Newspaper
  • Author: Deborah Hopkinson
  • Illustrator: Don Tate
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company Inc., 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska                                                                                                                                             
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 5
  • Genre: African American History
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-934-6
  • Extras: Learn More About Carter G. Woodson (Internet Resources, Bibliography), Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, List of black leaders pictured throughout the book, Carter Godwin Woodson’s Life and Accomplishments (Timeline), Sources for quotations
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