The Princess and the Frogs

Written by Veronica Bartles
Illustrated by Sara Palacios

In her premier picture book, Bartles presents a delightful twist on the princess-kisses-a-frog fairy tale. Princess Cassandra is as pampered as a princess can be. She has hundreds of dresses and thousands of books, but she has no pet to match her favorite dress. The Royal Pet Keeper sets out to find her the perfect pet. He searches high and low until he happens upon the perfect green frog. Cassandra is elated. She and the frog jump and play all day. When she kisses the frog good night, he turns into a prince. Unacceptable. She has the same result with frog after frog until the palace is overrun with princes. Cassandra finds one prince who only wanted to be a frog. Perfect. One more kiss turns him back to a frog.

Charming illustrations enhance and expand the story as written. Frogs slide down bannisters with Cassandra, share sodas with her, and jump rope. Princes slide down bannisters, hang from chandeliers, and use dresses for kite tails.

This is most fun as a read aloud so kids can guess about the next parts of the story. It’s fun looking for what makes each frog and each prince unique.

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  • the-princess-and-the-frogsTitle: The Princess and the Frogs                         
  • Author: Veronica Bartles
  • Illustrator: Sara Palacios
  • Published: Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fairy Tale
  • ISBN: 978-0-06-236591-0

Gary

Written and Illustrated by Leila Rudge

Gary is a pigeon. A racing pigeon who doesn’t fly. When the other pigeons go out to race, he sits at home and waits for the others to return. And dreams of all the places he could have gone. He has a scrapbook of their mementos and stories. Accidentally, he goes out with the flock one day. Since he can’t fly, he’s left to figure out how to return home by other means. When he steps off the bus and tells the others of his adventures, they see the wisdom of solution and start using alternate transportation themselves.

The beautiful and detailed illustrations complement the story perfectly. Gary has things in his scrapbook that help him find his way in the world: what appears to be a subway map, a street map, drawings of various modes of transportation so he can recognize them. The pigeons wear jerseys. A few wear backwards baseball cap or stocking caps.

As a read aloud or independent reading for second graders, this book offers a jumping off place for learning about venturing out into the world. Kids will have fun spotting all the details in the illustrations and figuring out how Gary gets home. Heartwarming and funny at the same time.

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  • garyTitle: Gary                                                            
  • Author/Illustrator: Leila Rudge
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8954-4

 

 

Pizza at Sally’s

Written by Monica Wellington

Definitely worth another look, this book from ten years ago still has a fresh approach to learning about where the food we eat comes from. Sally grows tomatoes, destined for the pizza, in her garden. Wheat comes from the farm, helped along by the farmer and his equipment. Cheese, from the shop next door, is made from milk. When Sally opens her shop, she takes the orders and assembles the finished pizza for take-out and eating in. She begins by mixing and working the pizza dough. Sauce, cheese, and added ingredients follow.  

As an illustrator, Wellington includes all sorts of information, such as many of the things other than cheese that come from milk. This is a helpful, simple, and subtle message that promotes comprehension and literacy skills. Each step of the process is deftly shown, complete with many details. Through it all, Sally’s cat assists her. Kids can look for details such as the names of the ingredients, the names on the order pad (which partially match the book dedication), different vehicles, Italian words and their translations, etc.

A fun book about a favorite food. 

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  • pizza-at-sallysTitle: Pizza at Sally’s
  • Author: Monica Wellington
  • Published: Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin, 2006
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture book, Food, Cooking
  • ISBN: 978-0-525-47715-0
  • Extras: Pizza recipe

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Written and Illustrated by Lisa Papp

Sometimes, all you need is a calming presence.

Madeline hates to read. She especially hates to read out loud in her class. She gets “Keep Trying” stickers, but she really wants a gold star. When she visits the library and talks to her favorite librarian, Madeline mentions her reluctance to read. The librarian suggests reading to one of the visiting dogs. Bonnie, the dog, is a patient listener and never giggles at her mistakes. Madeline becomes very attached to Bonnie and is very concerned when Bonnie fails to show up once. But, by that time, Madeline has enough confidence to read well in class and get her star. Madeline feels she must share her star with Bonnie – and her new puppies.

Beautiful and detailed illustrations accompany this heartwarming story about fears and how we can overcome them. The room with all the different dogs and kids with books is especially cute.

This makes a wonderful read aloud for first graders and a comforting independent read for second grade and up. Either way, a discussion in the difficulties of learning to read – or anything challenging – would also be in order. Reading activities may include investigating libraries and caring for dogs.

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  •  madeline-finnTitle: Madeline Finn and the Library Dog
  • Author/Illustrator: Lisa Papp
  • Published: Peachtree Publishing, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Reading, Fears, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-910-0

 

 

Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

The latest installment of the Marianne Berkes series has a lot going on. It is a counting book, reinforced by both the numbers of baby animals and the lineup of African gourd rattles. It is poetry, set to the rhythm of the traditional song “Over in the Meadow.” It is for learning about the African savanna and the animals that inhabit that area. It is hunting for nearly hidden animals in the pictures. It teaches about the song itself and about the techniques used by the illustrator.

Over in the grasslands
Where the acacia trees grew
Lived a tall mother giraffe
And her little calves two.

Altogether, first or second graders get to learn about twenty animals. Some of them may seem familiar from the zoo, – zebra, giraffe, elephant – but many are probably animals the readers have never seen – redbilled oxpeckers, naked mole rats, leopard tortoises. And none of them live your backyard. In the last pages, Berkes writes about the many themes used, including the ten different adjectives and the different baby names used. She also mentions many places to learn more, and she was careful to expalin that the numbers of babies each animal can have is fictional. Dubin writes about her collage technique, how important the different papers are, and what inspired the details.

A great addition to the counting library.

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  • over-in-the-grasslandsTitle: Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Nature, Geography, Counting, Poetry, Music
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-568-4
  • Extras: Fact or Fiction?, Life on the African Savanna, Who Are the “Hidden” Animals in the Grasslands?, About the Animals, Tips from the Author, Tips from the Illustrator, Over in the Grasslands [music]

A Moon of My Own

Written by Jennifer Rustgi
Illustrated by Ashley White

Inspired by the notion that the moon follows us wherever we go, this new book would work well as a read alone or as a part of a unit on the Moon or the seven continents. Each two-page spread shows a child near a famous landmark, shown in silhouette, with the moon in the sky. This gives the book a mysterious quality kids will love. The landmarks are scattered across all seven continents: the Eiffel Tower in Europe; the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Great Wall of China, and the Taj Mahal in Asia; Serengeti National Park in Africa; Sequoia National Park in North America; the Amazon Rainforest in South America; the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; a penguin colony in Antarctica; and the Aurora Borealis above the Arctic Circle. The Moon is shown in progressive phases. The gorgeous illustrations are accompanied by simple questions and observations, such as “And when I’m tired, you’re there to guide me home.”

The end material suggests many ways to learn more about the Moon and its phases. It includes facts and activities, such as creating a Moon journal and demonstrating how Moon phases happen.  The resources included are both websites and books. Great for learning about the world around you.

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  • a-moon-of-my-ownTitle: A Moon of My Own
  • Author: Jennifer Rustgi
  • Illustrator: Ashley White
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Nature, Geography
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-572-1
  • Extras: Wonderful Places Around the World, Seven Continents of the World, Explore More – For Teachers and Parents, Recommended Resources

I Love Lemonade

Written by Mark Sommerset
Illustrated by Rowan Sommerset

Baa Baa Sheep returns with even more mischief this time. Given, adults really need to talk to kids about not pulling any of his pranks in real life.

In the previous story, Baa Baa Smart Sheep, Baa Baa knowingly tricked Quirky Turkey into consuming smart pills, which were actually poop. In this tale, Quirky seeks revenge. He wants to convince Baa Baa that a glass of pee is actually delicious lemonade. Naturally, Baa Baa is way too smart for Quirky. All he needs to do is the classic misdirect ala Bugs Bunny.

 

So, you’re sure it’s lemonade?
Yes, it’s lemonade.
That’s fresh.
And squeezed.

You’re a turkey.
I AM a turkey.
Who likes lemonade?
Who LOVES lemonade.
Then … why don’t you help yourself?
Don’t mind if I do!

 

This is very funny, especially for first and second graders, but, again, maybe giving them new ideas is not the best thing to do. You decide.

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  • I Love LemonadeTitle: I Love Lemonade
  • Author: Mark Sommerset
  • Illustrator: Rowan Sommerset
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8067-1

 

Never Follow a Dinosaur

Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer

In the best traditions of The House that Jack Built and I Met a Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, this cute and funny tale considers what could happen if the tracks two kids find belong to a dinosaur. With each clue Joe and Sally find, they add details about what the dinosaur is up to. An empty cat food bowl suggests a hungry dinosaur. Deep tracks suggest a hungry, heavy dinosaur. Tracks across the swimming pool must mean a hungry, heavy, swimming dinosaur. By the time they find the dinosaur, it has become a hungry, heavy, swimming, dancing dinosaur with a headache and a sore foot and wings. They plan a dinosaur trap, but the reader knows that won’t work. Anyway, the one thing the kids don’t discern from the clues is that it’s also a friendly dinosaur who needs help to bake cakes.

Latimer’s colorful illustrations make the story even more amusing. Willoughby, the cat, follows them on every page. Each child hangs onto a favorite toy throughout.

Second graders can read much of this book independently, but it’s a very entertaining read aloud and would be great with a whole classroom of even younger kids.

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  • Never Follow a DinosaurTitle: Never Follow a Dinosaur
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex Latimer
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-704-5

 

Return

Written and Illustrated by Aaron Becker

As in his fantastic Caldecott Honor Journey and sequel, Quest, Becker has no problem telling a beautiful story with no words. His rich and detailed illustrations really need no words.

Most of the characters carry a single crayon and add to the color of the world with that single crayon. Whatever they draw becomes a reality and can take them to castles in faraway lands. This book begins with the girl drawing a red door and entering. Her father finds her missing and follows her into the other realm. There they find the boy from the other books, a king, a huge castle, and also some danger. The boy draws purple birds and other creatures. As the father and daughter continue to explore, they discover cave drawings that look suspiciously like the story being told in the book. With the father’s help, the girl overcomes an evil man capturing all the different colors.

As an innovative picture book, Return encourages the reader to use imagination and observation to learn about the world and make inferences, very important to solving problems. Of course, the reader should also give this book a try if only for the pure enjoyment of the reading. With or without a teacher or parent, kids will love this book.

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  • ReturnTitle: Return
  • Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7730-5

 

About Marine Mammals: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

After reading this book, the reader will have a good handle on the variety of mammals that live in the oceans, as well as what makes an animal a mammal. All mammals need to come to the surface to breathe. They all give birth to live young, whether in the ocean or on shore. They all nurse their young. All are warm blooded. Some live in warm water, while some live in arctic zones. Some are predators, while some eat plants. Some are small, while some are huge.

John Sill’s vibrant yet subtle watercolors let the reader know exactly how these animals look in their natural environments. Especially instructive is the plate with the blue whale. He includes short-beaked common dolphins for scale.

The afterword and resources give second graders a great place to begin further learning. This and all the books in the “A Guide for Children” are valuable tools for elementary school classrooms.

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 About Marine Mammals

  • About Marine Mammals: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, August 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Animals, Nature
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-906-3
  • Extras: Afterword, Glossary, Suggestions for Further Reading, Resources
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