Yard Sale

Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Moving anyone?

It happens a lot today and sometimes kids just don’t know what to make of it all. Especially when downsizing is part of the move.

Eve Bunting knows just how it looks and feels to a young child. So does Lauren Castillo, as proven by the realistic and detail filled illustrations.   It is hard to see your toys, and especially your bike sold and carried away.

Callie’s parents try their best to make the new apartment and its fold-out bed look exciting, but it really doesn’t make anything easier on yard sale day. Especially when some grownup, trying to be funny or cute, asks Callie if she is for sale, too.  What a devastating thing to say to any child.  Of course, she runs right to her Mom and Dad to ask about being for sale.

This reality makes everything else in the front yard meaningless. This small family realizes that who you have is much more important that what you have in your life.

Teachers, librarians, and parents of children preparing for a move will find repeated readings of this story to be helpful discussion starters. It will help everyone to explore the emotions involved with selling favorite items as well as moving to a new house.

Core curriculum standards for first grade readers as well as second grade readers can be fulfilled for the literacy skills of dialogue, picture clues, main idea, and supporting details.

Eve Bunting has written over 250 books for children and this is a great addition to the ones already in every school or public library.

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  • Yard SaleTitle:  Yard Sale
  • Author: Eve Bunting
  • Illustrator: Lauren Castillo
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6542-5
  • Genre: fiction, picture book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2

Maya & Filippo Visit San Francisco

Written by Alinka Rutkowska
Illustrated by Konrad Checinksi

Great new addition to the Maya and Filippo series.

Arriving on a cruise ship, Maya and Filippo set off to explore San Francisco with their mother. Their time is limited, so they try to plan their sightseeing in advance. Mother lists the most famous features of San Francisco for them to consider. Of course, the children have completely different ideas of what would be fun. They try to go to Alcatraz but find all the tickets sold out for that day. A cable car takes them up and down the hills. Their picnic in Yerba Buena Gardens is cut short by rain, a common occurrence in the city. So they have lunch in a café on Union Square. At Fisherman’s Warf and Pier 39, they watch the sea lions play. Feeling bad that they didn’t have time to go to the Golden Gate Bridge, they board the ship and realize the ship will pass directly under the bridge.

The illustrations are very colorful and convey the delight of exploring new territory.

Second grade readers will increase their literacy skills and comprehension through the adventures. They will learn about the geography and history of San Francisco. The author even includes a quiz to be sure the reader has learned something. Readers will also learns that compromise is a good way to be sure everyone has a great time.

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  • Maya-Filippo-San-FranciscoTitle: Maya & Filippo Visit San Francisco
  • Author: Alinka Rutkowska
  • Illustrator: Konrad Checinski
  • Published: 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, social studies, travel, compromise
  • ISBN: 978-1506126715

Sona and the Wedding Game

Written by Kashmira Sheth
Illustrated Yoshiki Jaeggi

Weddings are events surrounded by mystery for young children. We look forward to the excitement and fun, but sometimes feel a little left out. In this story, we learn how one tradition within the Eastern Indian community deals with that feeling. This is, after all, the first wedding Sona has ever attended.

The young sister of the bride is given the task of stealing the groom’s shoes during the ceremony. This seems like an odd task until you realize he will take his shoes off for the ceremony. If she is able to steal his shoes then he must bargain with her to get them back. This seems like a lovely tradition intended to help bring the siblings of the new family together.

Sona is nervous, of course. She can’t think of any way to steal his shoes during the ceremony for a long time. But, in the end, she is successful. Readers will wonder what she will want to bargain with the groom for to get his shoes back, some will already know what she wants.

Included in this story of tradition, is the painting of hands and the application of kumkum on the forehead of the groom for good luck. Parts of the wedding ceremony itself are included such as praying to Lord Ganesh and having the priest tie together the sashes of the bride and groom.

The illustrations of traditional clothing, garlands and surroundings are stunning. The watercolors are bright and authentic.  It is a truly beautiful book.

Teachers, librarians and parents of elementary children will enjoy this look into the wedding traditions of East Indian Americans. Second grade and third grade classrooms can fulfill the core curriculum standards for literacy, art, culture, history, and traditions by using this beautiful book. There are also several vocabulary words introduced in the text that would be familiar to some children of East Indian descent, although the author’s note is quick to say that India is a large country and not all the traditions are kept the same in every region.

Still, this is a beautiful look into a world we may not all have visited yet.

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  • SonaTitle: Sona and the Wedding Game
  • Author: Kashmira Sheth
  • Illustrator: Yoshiki Jaeggi
  • Publisher:  Peachtree, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 973-1-56145-735-9
  • Genre: Fiction – East Indian Customs, Weddings, East Indian Americans
  • Grade level: PreK to 4
  • Extras: Author’s Note further describes the wedding traditions and tells a little bit about how they are changing over time.

Toad Weather

Written by Sandra Markle
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

Ally thinks because it is raining there is nothing to do. Wrong!  An outdoor adventure with her mother and grandmother helps her discover a whole new world. A colorful world swirling with the colors of umbrellas reflected in sidewalk puddles unfolds before her as well as the twisted rainbows caused by oil drops on city streets.

She discovers worms who love rainy days because their skin needs to stay wet all the time.

This isn’t just any story to entertain readers about a rainy day it is based in researched science. This book will fulfill the core curriculum standards in natural science, environmental science, climate changes and even migration.

When they find the traffic stopped and investigate further they see toads, toads and more toads in a mob trying to cross the highway. The police have a detour set up and people are even picking up the toads and carrying them across safely.

Sandra Markle does a great job of including all the senses that children use to learn about their surroundings, well, not taste this time. But the sound of rain pounding on buildings and umbrellas, as well as the sight, is important for children to notice.

The illustrations of Thomas Gonzalez mimic the colors and textures of a rainy day. It is amazing how the puddles on the front cover give the 3-D impression that once you touch the cover, your fingers will be wet. And the toad looks like you can reach out and pick it up.

This is a great book for teachers, librarians, and parents to use for teaching science skills as well as explaining how many things there are to enjoy on a rainy day. It is so much fun there is no way kids will only want to hear it read over and over again on only rainy days.

Second grade and third grade readers will be able to read and enjoy this book on their own.

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  • Toad WeatherTitle: Toad Weather
  • Author: Sandra Markle
  • Illustrator: Thomas Gonzalez
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-818-9
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Weather, Climate, Toads, Migration
  • Grade level: 1 to 4
  • Extras: The author’s note at the end of the book explains a real toad migration that happens each spring near Philadelphia, PA.

P. Zonka Lays An Egg

Written and Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

P. Zonka would rather spend her day “staring at flowers and gawking at clouds” instead of laying eggs. This irritates the other chickens to no end. Why won’t she lay an egg? What’s the matter with her? P. Zonka wonders the opposite. How can they think about laying eggs when there is such beauty all around?

…the soft dark moss, the stripes on the crocuses, the orange cat with one blue eye, the shining center of a dandelion, the sky at midnight.

The hens (Nadine, Dora, and Maud, plus Gloria, a misnamed rooster) continue to goad P. Zonka. They call her lazy and urge her to try. Finally, she gives in and attempts to lay an egg. It isn’t easy, but when she finally does, she produces a spectacular egg as original and unique and colorful as P. Zonka, herself. Daydreamers rejoice!

Good things come to those who wait – a great message for young readers. Second graders will also benefit from the themes of individuality and artistry. Paschkis’ watercolor drawings are a feast for the eyes, and her endnote reveals the secret behind P. Zonka’s unusual name: a pysanka is a Ukrainian decorated egg made with patterns of beeswax and layers of dye. Recommended as a classroom read-aloud or library selection.

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  • P. ZonkaTitle: P. Zonka Lays An Egg
  • Author/Illustrator: Julie Paschkis
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2015
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-819-6
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Allegory

 

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

Written by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
Illustrated by Nicole Wang

Natural processes never exist in isolation from all the other natural forces around them. In this fun and interesting nonfiction picture book, the authors take an inventive approach to pointing out why this is true. If it weren’t for monkeys, we wouldn’t have chocolate bars. Actually, if it weren’t for midges, maggots, lizards, and fungus, we wouldn’t have chocolate either. The story of cocoa production is slowly worked through from the beans to the pods to the roots to the monkeys that help plant new seeds. The tiny bookworms in the corner of each two-page spread add the touch of humor that will ensure holding the attention of kids. The illustrations are realistic and colorful.

This is a perfect beginning reference for second graders learning about nature and science. It will hopefully promote further study. The reading level will be a bit challenging but should enhance literacy skills and comprehension. The suggestions for what kids can do next includes many easy tips.

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  • No Monkeys No ChocolateTitle: No Monkeys, No Chocolate
  • Author: Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
  • Illustrator: Nicole Wang
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-287-2
  • Extras: More detailed information in “Cocoa and Rain Forests,” “What You Can Do to Help,” and “Author’s Note”

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

Written by Hester Bass
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Lest the struggles for civil rights be forgotten, it’s important to look at the conditions along the road to freedom. Admittedly, we still have a long way to go due to hatred and prejudice. Many people fought and died for the incremental freedoms we now have. Riots and bombings happened many times. But, in Huntsville, a city that also saw the development of rockets for the space program, the movement forward was not marked by violence. Segregation was so strong that blacks weren’t even allowed to try on shoes. They had to carry outlines of their feet to the shoe store. For many weeks, blacks staged sit ins at lunch counters and left when asked or went to jail, sometimes with babies. Groups circled the courthouse with signs such as, “I Ordered a Cheeseburger, They Served Me a Warrant!” Finally, citizens remembered that white merchants relied so much on the revenue provided by blacks. For Easter 1962, a Blue Jean Sunday was declared. No money was spent on new clothes. Money was spent elsewhere whenever possible. Helium-filled balloons were released in the local parks. They carried messages of love and freedom. Rallies were conducted on both sides of the issue. At long last, schools were integrated. Many whites tried to prevent blacks from entering “their” school, but several white students also enrolled in the formerly black schools.
The story is greatly enhanced by the wonderful, action-filled illustrations of E.B. Lewis. The second grade reader can almost feel like she’s there, in the 1960s. A particularly poignant drawing of a young girl with impressions of her feet is memorable.

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  • Seeds of FreedomTitle: Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
  • Author: Hester Bass
  • Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, history, civil rights movement
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6919-5
  • Extras: Detailed explanation of the events in Huntsville, bibliography

Pitter and Patter

Written by Martha Sullivan
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

This colorful, creative nonfiction picture book traces the travels of two raindrops, named Pitter and Patter, throughout the narrative. Each raindrop follows a different path to the ocean.

Pitter lands in the valley and follows a stream. Patter plunks down in a meadow and follows the watershed. Each raindrop meets up with appropriate animals for the ecosystem being traveled through. All the sketches are detailed. Each double page spread is a look into one particular habitat. The text is sparse, readable, and complete. Readers will spend ample time studying the illustrations to understand the differences in how and where different animals live as well as how the water is moving always toward the ocean.

Pitter and Patter meet each other when they both reach the ocean. They are warmed by the sun’s rays, evaporate and return to the gray cloud above the sky. The diagrams as well as the story inclusion of the watershed and the water cycle clearly introduce, or reinforce these basic tenets of science, and therefore, definitely fulfill the core curriculum standards of elementary science. Literacy skills of reading for information standards will also be fulfilled in classrooms from kindergarten to grade 4 wherever this book is used.

Students can learn how to write about nonfiction topics and make their own diagrams to illustrate scientific facts from experiencing this book.

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  • Pitter and PatterTitle: Pitter and Patter
  • Author: Martha Sullivan
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-58469-509-7
  • Genre: Nonfiction, water cycle
  • Grade level: K to 4
  • Extras: Explore More Endnotes include diagrams of the water cycle, the watershed, more information about animals included in the book

Cinderella’s Secret Slipper

Written by Alinka Rutkowska
Illustrated by Konrad Checinski

Written tongue-in-cheek, this lively speculation on Cinderella’s life after marriage necessarily dwells on the what-if factor. What if Cinderella and the Prince had a princelet? What if that child is quickly growing up and using his parents’ possessions for who-knows-what? What if he breaks one of the famous glass slippers shortly before a formal event to which Cinderella wants to where the glass slippers? Can the slipper be repaired? Should it be repaired? Is it replaceable? Can the shoe store help? What about a glass store? Maybe the fairy godmother is the answer. Maybe someone else has a firy godmother.

Checinski’s colorful illustrations follow the story well and show all the action and emotion.

This is a great lesson in problem-solving and provides a good starting point for discussion of the appropriateness the use of various substances, such as glass for footware. As a read-aloud, this book would provide a starting point for such discussions. As independent reading for second grade and above, it provides good practice for literacy skills.

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  • CinderellaTitle: Cinderella’s Secret Slipper
  • Author: Alinka Rutkowska
  • Illustrator: Konrad Checinski
  • Publisher: Capraro Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: E-book, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: Pre-school to 4
  • Genre: Fiction, humor, family, folk tale
  • ISBN: 978-0983154754

About Mammals: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

Most mammals are beautiful and amazing. This book tends to reinforce that view. Detailed and realistic illustrations of many mammals are highlighted by simple text in the main section of this wonderful book. The author shows a wide range of mammals and habitats while still letting the reader know what makes a mammal a mammal. From bats to porcupines to whales, they’re all here. And they all have hair and drink milk from their mothers. Corresponding to each illustration plate is much more advanced information in the afterword. This section offers background information for teachers, librarians and parents to use when sharing this book with children. There is also a list of books for further reading and some current websites for use in further research.

Second grade readers as well as independent first grade readers will be able to enjoy this book on their own.

This volume is a new addition to the “About…” series from the Sills. Each of these books could be used to fulfill core curriculum standards in the area of science and nature. They would give children enough information and interest in the subject to continue to study mammals. Also, this is a bilingual version, giving access to more children and affords opportunities to learn more about another language.

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  • About MammalsTitle: About Mammals: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-800-4
  • Genre: Nonfiction, animals
  • Lexile: 300L
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