Digby O’Day and the Great Diamond Robbery

Written by Shirley Hughes
Illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

A cat and dog can sometimes be best friends and are in this chapter book. Digby and Percy are headed off on for a seaside vacation in a posh hotel in this installment of the series.

On their way to the hotel dining room the first night, they were surprised by the arrival of a famous movie star with all her entourage and many reporters and photographers. Later in the evening they noticed a man swept off the jetty and into the sea. Working mightily together, they managed to rescue him from the sea.

After the famous star has her diamond necklace stolen, Digby and Percy manage to find it along with many other stolen gems. They saved the day and became heroes.

The chapters are short, the font large and the pages thick. Many grade two readers and grade three readers will read this independently. There are some unusually large words included for this age group, but literacy decoding skills and context clues should make the story manageable. The sketches will also help by providing picture clues. As a series for emerging readers, this offers a fun start. Teachers and librarians will know which students will benefit from being recommended to try this series.

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  • Digby O'DayTitle: Digby O’Day and the Great Diamond Robbery
  • Author: Shirley Hughes
  • Illustrator: Clara Vulliamy
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 106 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7445-8
  • Genre: Chapter Book
  • Grade level: K to 3
  • Extras: map of the story world, maze, one page quiz of story, bios of author and illustrator

The Day the Crayons Came Home

Written by Drew Daywalt
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Duncan’s crayons quit a while ago, but now they are headed back home. Well, some of them are supposed to be headed home. The title is a little confusing on this issue and kids will catch it for sure. One crayon is upstairs in Duncan’s room stuck to a sock, and one is down in the cushions in the couch. Another is standing in the hallway of Duncan’s house waiting for someone to open the door.

The first and last pages of the book are in normal font. However, as in the previous book about these crayon characters, the postcards supposedly written by the crayons are going to be hard for some children to read. They are in kid-like scrawl and in various colors.

Otherwise, it is a silly, fun kind of book destined to get giggles galore from young readers themselves and lots more when a literacy teacher or librarian reads it aloud. It would be great to use with older students when talking about character development. Writing curriculum standards will be met using this as discussion starters also in discussions of fact versus fiction and setting.

Art projects depicting crayons in touch conditions will be fun follow-up activities for classroom or story hour.

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  • CrayonsTitle: The Day the Crayons Came Home
  • Author: Drew Daywalt
  • Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
  • Publisher: Philomel, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-17275-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: K to 3

The Stranded Whale

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Melanie Cataldo

 

In this beautiful, short tale of a beached whale and how three children tried to save it, Yolen relates a timeless struggle against the harshness of nature. As the children walk home from school, they discover a whale stranded on the beach as the tide goes out. They immediately start trying to wet the whale’s skin with their sweaters and call for help from the beach’s emergency phone. Many people come to help, but it’s not enough. Eventually, the whale dies and the kids go home to their frantic parents. The Coast Guard gives the children each a medal for making the attempt to help, but what they really want is for the whale to be alive and well.

Cataldo’s lovely illustrations evoke the feel of the ocean and are dark enough to convey the seriousness of the situation. In the Author’s Note, Yolen explains her road to this story and the history of beached whales. She notes that this phenomenon doesn’t affect the overall whale population. Animals die.

Second graders will enjoy reading this story independently and should find hope in the circle of life. Nature may be harsh at times, but it is what it is. And people can always help.

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  • Stranded WhaleTitle: The Stranded Whale
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Illustrator: Melanie Cataldo
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 4
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture Book, Nature, Environment
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6953-9
  • Extra: Author’s Note

Where Did My Clothes Come From?

Written by Chris Butterworth
Illustrated by Lucia Gaggliotti

 

Answering the title question, this informative book is surprisingly light and entertaining. The author highlights each piece of clothing most children wear and goes into quite a bit of detail on the origins of the main material used for each. Jeans begin as plants, are harvested by tractors and people, and run through a series of processing steps. Each step is skillfully illustrated, including the maturing bolls and the problems of seed extraction. Readers get a look at spinning machines, looms, cutting presses, the individual jeans pieces, and the seamstresses making the final jeans. The author also talks about flax and hemp. Sweaters are often made of wool, sheared from sheep, washed, dried, spun into yarn, and knitted into garments. Wool also comes from other animals. Silk is especially dear and reserved for party dresses. Manufacturers are experts at raising the moths. Fleece is recycled plastic bottles. Rubber is another plant derivative – with a different process, including tapping, molding, rolling, and pressing. The author gives one last push for recycling at the end.

Second grade readers will learn a lot about the world they live in and practice their literacy skills along the way.

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  • Where Did My Clothes Come FromTitle: Where Did My Clothes Come From?
  • Author: Chris Butterworth
  • Illustrator: Lucia Gaggliotti
  • Published: Candlewick Press, August 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Manufacturing, Recycling
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7750-3
  • Extras: Author’s note, bibliography, index

Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box

Written by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

With recent challenges to voting rights by some states, it’s important to keep in mind the history of civil rights struggles. The Founding Fathers only guaranteed voting rights for white male landowners over 21. Slowly, the barriers have come down, but not without challenges. In the 1950s, many states were forced to allow blacks to vote, but many found a way around that by making requirements such as the so-called literacy test. Poll judges were allowed to randomly (meaning for blacks only) present potential voters with complicated texts and require them to interpret the text.

In this beautifully and vividly illustrated picture book, the authors tell of a black farmer trying to vote for the first time. When he is turned away, his grandson understands the fervent hope of his granddaddy and vows to vote in his granddaddy’s place one day. With references to the hard work granddaddy does and the loving guidance Granddaddy provides, the reader can identify with the characters and sense the importance of the vote. The tears Granddaddy sheds at being denied his rights is a great touch.

Second grade readers will learn a lot about civil rights history and citizenship. Although this is fiction, it could be anyone’s story.

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  • Granddaddys TurnTitle: Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box
  • Author: Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
  • Illustrator: James E. Ransome
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Fiction, History, Diversity
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6593-7
  • Extras: Author’s Note

Mighty Mole and Super Soil

Written by Mary Quattlebaum
Illustrated by Chad Wallace

In an underground world unknown to most people, moles thrive. With long, sharp claws, they move heavy objects out of the way and dig quickly through the soil. They encounter rivals for their food – earthworms, insects, snails, slugs, centipedes, and larvae – and many creatures helped by the healthy soil. Predators, such as snakes, are close but rarely a big threat to moles. The soil moles live in is alive with nutrients and microscopic creatures. Moles are even born underground, where they have everything they need. The story is compelling and well-researched, and contains many relevant facts.

Vivid illustrations give a genuine sense of living in the underground. Kids will feel like they’re with the moles – in a comfortable way.

In the “Explore More – For Kids” section, second graders are challenge to think about the world they just learned about. “I’m a reptile that can grow up to six feet long.” A list of super powers demonstrates why the star of the book is called Mighty Mole and is a superhero. In “Explore More – For Teachers and Parents,” learning activities are outlined and encouraged. Online resources are cited for more learning and activities.

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  • Mighty MoleTitle: Mighty Mole and Super Soil
  • Author: Mary Quattlebaum
  • Illustrator: Chad Wallace
  • Published: Dawn Publications, September, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature
  • ISBN: 978-1584695387
  • Extras: Explore More – For Kids, Explore More – For Teachers and Parents

If You Love Honey: Nature’s Connections

Written by Martha Sullivan
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

 

Rather than approaching one concept in isolation, this new book shows the reader how everything affects or is affected by other things and demonstrates the delicate balance of our planet. Honey is made by honey bees, who gather nectar from dandelions. Dandelions are protected by ladybugs, who also love goldenrod. Goldenrod attracts butterflies, who also love clover. Clover needs rich soil, provided in part by earthworms. Mushrooms help speed up the earthworm’s work. Mushrooms work in tandem with oak trees, whose leaves hide many creatures and whose acorns feed are planted by birds. Birds also eat berries, which are pollinated by the honey bees, bringing the story full circle.

Throughout the story, master illustrator Morrison sets the scene and shows that the items discussed in the text are even less isolated than imagined. Bears examine the honey repository. A farm and other flowers are near the dandelions. Sheep, protected by a dog, graze near the goldenrod. Rabbits much on the clover. Tree roots, baby bunnies, a lizard, and a toad appear in the rich soil. People work and play.

Second graders can learn so much about the nature in their backyards from this book. Literacy skills will be enhanced by the wonderful visuals and scientific concepts. Read aloud in a classroom, students can spot the details and discuss the connections.

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  • Honey_Paperback.inddTitle: If You Love Honey: Nature’s Connections
  • Author: Martha Sullivan
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Published: Dawn Publications, September 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Nature
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-533-2
  • Extras: Sweet Connections; From Nectar to Honey; Author and Illustrator Biographies; Other Books, E-books, and Interactive Book Apps

The Bingity- Bangity School Bus

Written by Fleur Conkling
Illustrated by  Ruth Wood

Fans of, The Poky Little Puppy, and, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, might also remember this Bingity-Bang School bus that sounds like a thousand tin cans. When Busby hears talk about how banged up and rickety he is becoming, he fears he is an embarrassment to the school children. He runs away, literally. After he goes flying down a hill he ends up rolling over and over crashing into a field. The children send out a search party and end up forcing the town to fix their pal, the school bus.

Today’s young readers will enjoy reading books that their grandparents read. But they will also be surprised at how many more words are in this picture book than in those they have become used to reading.

Literacy skills will be strengthened and this book can start interesting discussions about how the publishing industry has changed over the years. Parents, librarians and teachers can use this book to meet core curriculum standards in history and culture by talking about the community represented in this book. Do all children still ride busses? Do all children in a town go to the same school? Is it up to the town to pay for fixing the school bus?

Because of the heavier text, second and third grade readers are more likely to read this book independently than are first graders. The younger folks will love having it read to them while they study the brightly colored illustrations.

Favorite books from the Wonder Book line originally published in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s are being reprinted by G & D Vintage, which is under the umbrella of Grosset & Dunlap. This is one of the reprints in the set.

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  • Bingity-Bangity School BusTitle: The Bingity- Bangity School Bus
  • Author: Fleur Conkling
  • Illustrator:  Ruth Wood
  • Publisher: G & D Vintage, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-448-48763-2

 

The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki

Written and Illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

Publishers are starting to reveal fall titles, and fall is looking good!

Scientists agree that the people of the world began in one region and slowly scattered across the globe. But there is very little agreement how the scattering occurred. Just a lot of theories and speculation. After spending a year living among the Polynesians on Fatu Hiva, Thor Heyerdahl speculated that Polynesians crossed the vast Pacific on rafts from Peru. The folk stories and similar names were enough to make him wonder. Of course, few people believed such a journey was even possible. Heyerdahl and his crew proved it was possible. They lashed together balsa wood with hemp rope and fashioned a single mast and a bamboo cabin. Navigation was by sextant, and much of their food was from the sea. Rogue waves and a storm were nearly enough to cause them to issue a distress call from their radio, but they stuck with it and reached Polynesia. No one will ever know for sure that ancient people made this voyage, but Heyerdahl proved it could have happened.

The story so fascinates readers that Heyerdahl’s original account of the voyage was translated into seventy languages and is still in print sixty years later. Ray’s beautiful illustrations give the reader the feeling of being there for the voyage and encourage the desire to travel to the places mentioned.

Second graders will learn about anthropology, Polynesia, and rugged travel. They will also get a chance to hone literacy skills and learn that the seemingly impossible may not be.

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  • Kon-TikiTitle: The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki
  • Author/Illustrator: Deborah Kogan Ray
  • Published: Charlesbridge, October 13, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Nonfiction, anthropology
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-620-7

 

The Whodunit Detective Agency: The Circus Mystery

Written by Martin Widmark
Illustrated by Helena Willis

Kids love to solve mysteries and this third mystery in The Whodunit Detective Agency series is a fun one. Circus tents and balloon sellers bring excitement to town that can only be topped by a backpack wearing money who bows at his costumers.

Stolen cell phones and lost wallets raise crowd tensions between shows and get the local sheriff involved. His friends and sometimes crime stopper helpers, Jerry and Maya, come to the show intent on solving it.

Newly independent grade three and grade four readers will enjoy this mystery they can solve on their own to solve the crime. Clues are cleverly placed and details explained. Large font on clean white paper make the book approachable. Full color sketches keep the readers entertained and take them right into the circus tents.

Readers will enjoy getting to know Jerry and Maya and will look forward to more crime solving with them in their town of Pleasant Valley as the series continues.

Maps of the town as well as a gallery of characters who will appear in the story are presented in the beginning pages inviting readers to jump in and get to know them even before the story begins. Parents, teachers and librarians can get reluctant readers involved in this series by reading a chapter or two aloud. Or by using the technique, you read a page and then I’ll read a page.

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  • Circus MysteryTitle: The Whodunit Detective Agency: The Circus Mystery
  • Author: Martin Widmark
  • Illustrator: Helena Willis
  • Publisher: Grosset Dunlap/Penguin
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 2015
  • ISBN: 978-0-448-48070-1
  • Genre: Fiction, Mystery
  • Grade level: 2 to 4
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