About Habitats: Forests

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

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What are forests and why are they important? What kind of wildlife lives in a forest? These questions and more are answered in the latest offering from the About Habitats series.

Cathryn and John Sill have created a wonderful beginner’s guide, presented in a clean, organized fashion. On the left-hand side of the page spread, a simple sentence with easy language appears over a white background. To the right, readers are treated to a painting, vivid with color and detail. With clear labeling for easy cross-reference, different levels of information are available for different reader levels. A kindergartener may pore over the picture of the cute chipmunk, while a second or third grader can expand their knowledge and literacy skills from the plant and animal identifiers (e.g., an Eastern Chipmunk in a deciduous forest, surrounded by morel mushrooms and Christmas ferns).

Young readers will learn about the different types of forests like deciduous, tropical, or boreal and how each has their own distinct characteristics. The illustrations show animals and plants thriving within each habitat: a snowshoe hare blends into the snowy landscape of the boreal forest; an orangutan finds shelter in the tropical forest canopy; a black bear, broad-winged hawk, and box turtle live side by side in the deciduous forest.

Extras include a global map of the major forest areas of the world, a glossary, bibliography, and additional websites for further information. For more titles in the About Habitats series, visit the publishers website: www.peachtree-online.com.

  • ForestsTitle: About Habitats: Forests
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-734-2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nature, Wildlife, Ecology

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Big Birthday Bash

Written and illustrated by Frank Cammuso

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In this delightful graphic novel, young witch Salem Hyde and her cat companion Whammy prepare for their friend Edgar’s birthday party. Meanwhile, they are also battling their archenemy, Shelly. First, the reader gets to know Salem and her magic a little bit. She makes herself bigger and then runs out of magic before she can shrink back. Next, Salem has to get past Shelly and the fact that she’s hidden Salem’s invitation to the party. On an excursion to buy Edgar’s present, their misadventures continue with major brain freeze from slushees and Shelly confronting them at the toy store. Plus, they have no money. When they finally get to the party, Salem does her best to make it a great day for Edgar. Of course, her spells backfire and she has to correct for some of them. She tries to make the party big but ends up shrinking the attendees instead. Whammy is almost served up as dinner to some baby birds.

The lively and exciting panels pull the reader in and should hold their attention. They also provide a great backdrop to increase comprehension for second graders and up. Friendship and getting along are strong and subtle themes of this work. The author’s website, www.cammuso.com, provides information on author visits and about all his books.

  • Big Birthday BashTitle: The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Big Birthday Bash
  • Author/Illustrator: Frank Cammuso
  • Publisher: Amulet/Abrams, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 94 pages
  • Genre: Graphic novel, fiction, fantasy, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1025-4

Claude at the Beach

Written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith

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Claude, the small plump dog, and Sir Bobblysock return in this entertaining account of a vacation at the beach. The author begins with Claude’s background, making this a good stand-alone book, but don’t miss Claude’s other adventures. He lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes and reserves his antics for when they are at work. Claude packs his suitcase with useful items, such as underpants, a lampshade, sunscreen, whipped cream, and sticky tape. He and Sir Bobblysock set off for the beach, where Bobblysock promptly falls asleep. Claude rescues a swimmer from a shark while the lifeguard helps a woman with her beach balls. After a snack, Claude and Bobblysock meet a family of pirates. They all go to hunt for buried treasure on Skull Island, which they eventually find. They also find the pirates who buried the treasure. Of course, the second group of pirates is very interested in the useful items Claude packed in his suitcase. Claude and Sir Bobblysock return home, dragging in sand, treasure, and seaweed smells.

Second grade readers will enjoy the silliness and wry humor. Read aloud is recommended, but only because sharing the jokes will make them even more fun. In any case, the story will hold kids’ attention and literacy skills will be enhanced.

  • Claude at the BeachTitle: Claude at the Beach
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2011
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-703-5
  • Extras: Author blog at www.alextsmith.blogspot.com

Churchill’s Tale of Tails

Written and illustrated by Anca Sandu

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Churchill loves his squiggly piggy tail. Not that it’s especially big or fancy or practical, it’s just his and he’s darn proud of it.

One morning Churchill wakes to find his tail missing. His animal friends try to boost his spirits by lending him their spare tails. Zebra’s tail is interesting enough, but Churchill wonders what others are like. Peacock’s feathery plumage makes him feel beautiful. Fish’s tail transforms him into a graceful swimmer. And a tiger tail? Totally fierce! Churchill gets so caught up trying on tails that he has no time for anything else, including his friends. When he finally stumbles upon his lost appendage (in a comic scene involving a wee bird), he realizes how selfish he’s been; his friends have tried to help him and he’s given them nothing in return. To apologize, he throws them a big party and promises to take good care of his own tail from now on.

Debut author/illustrator Sandu has created a winsome main character that brims with personality. Second grade audiences will find Churchill engaging with his expressive eyes, enthusiastic demeanor, and, in the end, a good heart. On each page, Sandu includes plenty of visual details for readers to discover, including funny dialogue snippets in cartoon bubbles. Themes of individuality and valuing friendships round out this silly story that is sure to produce smiles and giggles from young readers.

  • Churchills TaleTitle: Churchill’s Tale of Tails
  • Author/Illustrator: Anca Sandu
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-738-0
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Animals

So Long Gnop-Jiye

Written by Katrina Moore
Illustrated by Khriss Bajade

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As a nation of immigrants, Americans have often heard the story as each new child attempts to find a place in our culture. But each child has a unique set of circumstances and brings something new to that culture. And so it is with the author’s mother – forced out of Hong Kong at a young age and plopped into a school where the language barrier is a big problem. As soon as seven-year-old Kuen Mun, renamed Mary, begins to understand, she is much happier. But she still dreams of the dolls, house, and pet duck, Gnop-Jiye, she left behind.

The author begins by making it clear Mary’s is a family story – told by a mother to her children. Mary’s grandfather is also part of the story, making this a multigenerational event. Family is important to them, as it is to so many people.

The illustrations follow the theme very well, including details of the characters’ lives. For example, Bajade shows what it must have been like for Mary to share a bed with both her parents when they first started out in America.

Second graders and older can relate to Mary’s feelings of helplessness in the face of her new situation and isolation in not knowing the language. This book should give the reader a new understanding of the situations immigrants face and the sacrifices they make when they arrive in a new place. The author introduces a few Chinese words, adding to the literacy skills and comprehension.

As an extra, the publisher includes a free audio download with the book through their website, tatepublishing.com.

  • So Long Gnop-JiyeTITLE: So Long Gnop-Jiye
  • AUTHOR: Katrina Moore
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Khriss Bajade
  • PUBLISHER: Tate Publishing, 2014
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-1-63063-064-5
  • FORMAT: Paperback, unpaged
  • GENRE: Historical Fiction, Culture Shock, Family

The Moon Saw It All

Written by Nancy L. Young
Illustrated by Nadia Komorova

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Something magical happens when a full moon appears over Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona. Animals from air, land, and sea come together to dance, sing, and make music at the “critter ball.” With ethereal illustrations awash in purple hues, second graders will love this gentle rhyming story of friendship, camaraderie, and celebration of nature.

At the monthly moonlit dance by the creek, frogs and bugs exchange hugs, while bobcats croon and porcupines whistle a tune. Snakes shake their rattles, gila monsters swish, and silver minnows shimmer as they splash, while brown bears do-si-do and quails tango all under the watchful eye of the moon. Cheek to cheek, paw in paw, they dance the night away. No one wants it to end, but at daybreak the animals vanish. All that remains are hoof prints, paw prints, feathers and flower petals curiously mixed together, along with a message inscribed in the sand: The moon saw it all!

Recommended for ages 3-9, this book is chock-full of warm fuzzies; the soothing cadence is a natural fit for a bedtime story or classroom read-aloud. Every page offers an array of critters to gaze upon, plus children outside of the southwest will learn about regional species such as bighorn sheep, javelina, tarantulas, and coatimundi. A curriculum guide for school or home use follows the story and includes vocabulary words, lessons on poetry, and literary activities. A companion coloring book, The Moon Colors It All, can be purchased on www.MoonSawItAll.com. Visit the publisher’s website for additional titles: www.LittleFiveStar.com.

  • Moon Saw It AllTitle: The Moon Saw It All
  • Author: Nancy L. Young
  • Illustrator: Nadia Komorova
  • Publisher: Little Five Star / Five Star Publications, 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58985-250-1
  • Genre: Picture Book / Fiction / Nature / Animals

A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road

Written & Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

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Wonderful watercolor illustrations draw the reader into the world of Mei’s 9th century China and all of her dreams about what the west might be like. The story starts with her pestering her father about going with him along the Silk Road to sell their silk. He will not allow it, but does agree to take her smooth, round pebble. The plan is to send the pebble as a gift to someone at the far end of the Silk Road.

Each illustration shows a different time of year, in a different spot along the journey. Using the seasons was a wonderful way to illustrate how long the journey was from East to West.

As the pebble was passed from traveler to traveler, the illustrations changed to show the various cultures along the way.  Not everyone who carried the pebble was a merchant. There was a monk, a sandalwood trader, a performing family, a thief and finally a pirate! How wonderful to see that it was the child of the pirate who finally was the recipient of the smooth, round pebble.

To Mei’s great delight, someone sent a gift back from west to east, also.

The smooth, melodic language will become a favorite at read alouds in libraries, classrooms and homes. Second grade readers will love the change to dream along with Mei about a place they have never been.

Teachers will love enhancing the core curriculum and literacy skills with mapping, multi-culturalism and history as well as geography of the world with this truly beautifully done story.

  • A Single PebbleTitle: A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road
  • Author/ Illustrator: Bonnie Christensen
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook, 2013.
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: hardcover
  • ISBN:  978-1-59643-715-9
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Grade: Preschool to 2
  • Extras: Bibliographic information, maps, and websites to visit

On Kiki’s Reef

Written by Carol L. Malnot
Illustrated by Trina L. Hunner

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This wonderful story follows Kiki, a green sea turtle, as she grows and explores her undersea world, a coral reef. She starts as a baby, emerging from her egg and heading for the sea. She’s one of the lucky babies to reach the water, dodging birds and crabs. She grows and eats among the seaweed. The clownfish lives in harmony with anemone. Kiki is helped by tang fish, which eat the algae that grows on her shell. Groupers and wrasse also live in harmony. She must be careful of barracuda and sharks, especially tiger sharks. Kiki observes a seahorse’s camouflage, a parrotfish chewing among the coral, an octopus grabbing shrimp and snails, and a human diver. She barely escapes the human’s net. But Kiki does survive to lay her eggs and complete the cycle of life.

Hunner’s illustrations are vivid depictions of what it must be like underwater. The reader gets a you-are-there feeling from the beautiful colors and many details.

The last several pages discuss many facts about the creatures Kiki encounters. The author presents numerous reading activities and online resources, making this book a valuable teaching tool. The publisher’s website, www.dawnpub.com, is rich in resources, including teacher guides. Second graders and up will enjoy the story and learn a lot about turtles and ecosystems in general.

 

  • On Kikis ReefTITLE: On Kiki’s Reef
  • AUTHOR: Carol L. Malnot
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Trina L. Hunner
  • PUBLISHER: Dawn Publications, 2014
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-476-2
  • FORMAT: Hard cover, 32 pages
  • GENRE: Creative Nonfiction, Nature, Animals
  • PUBLICATION DATE: March 2014

The Mouse and the Meadow

Written and Illustrated by Chad Wallace

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Delightful rhyming verse accompanies gorgeous illustrations in this tale of a meadow mouse and his natural friends and enemies. A young mouse explores the meadow for the first time and finds a fascinating world. A spider spins a marvelous web. A honeybee gathers pollen. A caterpillar weaves a cocoon. The sudden appearance of a box turtle’s head startles the little rodent. But it’s the appearance of a snake that really has him frightened. Barely escaping, the mouse is aided first by a weasel then by a mother rabbit. As night falls, the mouse studies a firefly. He discovers new terror in the swooping of a great horned owl. He is saved by another mouse, who shows him where to hide.

As a read aloud, the lilting rhythm will hold children as young as four. For independent reading, second grade readers should be able to tackle the pages. The animal communication rings true. The illustrations are realistic and action-packed.

The last three pages of the book highlight many facts about the meadow animals,  talk about other animal volumes available from the publisher, and give readers an idea of where to get more information. The publisher’s website, www.dawnpub.com, is rich in resources, including teacher guides. The pages also give a sample of reading activities, like hatching a cocoon and growing a miniature meadow.

 

  • Mouse and MeadowTITLE: The Mouse and the Meadow
  • AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Chad Wallace
  • PUBLISHER: Dawn Publications, 2014
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-481-6
  • FORMAT: Hard cover, 32 pages
  • GENRE: Creative Nonfiction, Nature, Animals
  • PUBLICATION DATE: March 2014

Turkey Claus

Written by Wendi Silvano

Illustrated by Lee Harper

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In a sequel to Turkey Trouble, also by the duo of Silvano and Harper, Turkey finds that he may yet be the centerpiece for a holiday meal. Though he made it safely through Thanksgiving without being eaten, Turkey now overhears Farmer Jake and his wife, Edna, discussing a Christmas turkey dinner.

Turkey heads to the North Pole in hopes of Santa Claus solving his dilemma, but he’s turned away by elves protecting Santa’s time on the day before Christmas. Silvano and Harper cleverly adorn Turkey in fun, holiday-themed disguises to hopefully gain entrance to Santa’s presence. Though he strikes out with most of his disguises, Turkey finally sneaks in, hidden in a gift, and Santa saves the day. Turkey, dressed as Santa, delivers Gobblers Pizza to the farmer and his wife, just in time for dinner.

The illustrations are charmingly delightful, and the elves comments to Turkey are sarcastically humorous for adult and children’s entertainment, yet seriously explanatory to solve the mystery of each disguise. “Candy canes don’t have beaks,” explains the elf when Turkey is surprised that he’s discovered.

Parents and teachers will enjoy adding this humorous second grade book to their holiday reading list for must-read-alouds. Following the story, adults can use this website http://belladia.typepad.com/crafty_crow/2009/11/the-biggest-list-of-turkey-crafts-for-kids-to-make.html to find a three-dimensional turkey craft. After the children complete a turkey craft, supply them with various Christmas arts and crafts supplies (be sure to supply some unusual, atypical crafty kind of items to stir their imaginations) for each child to create a holiday-themed “disguise” for Turkey. Then, pair each child with a friend to act out an elf-scene from the book. Encourage one child to use his turkey to say, “May I please see Santa?” Have the (elf) partner reply with, “No turkey is getting in here today!” When the “turkey” says, “How’d you recognize me?” the (elf) partner replies with an acceptable answer to match his/her disguise.

Children will enjoy reading this unique Christmas story (most Christmas stories don’t have a turkey dinner as the theme of the book) during the December season as a fun twist to the usual holiday-ish kind of story. The story will stir their imaginations, and kids will find themselves attempting to think of other disguises for Turkey, because after all, who wouldn’t want to gain entry to Santa’s presence?

  • Turkey ClausTITLE: Turkey Claus
  • AUTHOR: Wendi Silvano
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Lee Harper
  • PUBLISHER: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Hard Cover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0761462392
  • GENRE: Holiday/Christmas
  • LEXILE: 500
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