The Sound of All Things

Written by Myron Uhlberg
Illustrated by Ted Papoulas

Based on the author’s true story, this beautiful picture book follows a deaf man and woman and their hearing son as they venture out for a day at Coney Island. The man has a vague memory of sounds, and wants his son to describe all sounds vividly. The rollercoaster, the crash of ocean waves, a thunderstorm, the roar of the fireworks. But the young boy lacks the vocabulary for adequate descriptions. The library! What a great idea.

Papoulas does an amazing job of capturing the fun, excitement, and flavor of Coney Island in the 1930s. His vibrant and detailed illustrations make the reader part of the scene. The Brooklyn Bridge at both day and night and depictions of Coney Island are great.

This is a wonderful tool for learning about just how disabilities affect everyday life. The use of the library at the end is a sneaky, yet effective way to work on literacy skills and introduce a reading activity.

I tried to imagine what it was like to be deaf. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine being blind. But there was no way I could ever know what it was like being deaf.

This book and the one the boy finds help.

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  • Sound of All ThingsTitle: The Sound of All Things
  • Author: Myron Uhlberg
  • Illustrator: Ted Papoulas
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Disabilities, Words, History
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-833-2

A Place for Frogs

Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Higgins Bond

Five thousand different species of frogs have been identified by scientists around the world. Several of the best known species of frogs are mentioned or illustrated in this book. However, the purpose of the book, and the series it belongs to, (A Place For…) is conservation.

The main story line is about how farm chemicals might harm frogs, changing plants in a natural habitat and even walking your dog can harm frogs. Because of the heavy preachy type of writing in this book, it should not be shelved with the true nonfiction books about frogs, but rather with the environmental conservation books.

Text insert boxes give true information as far as the life cycle of frogs and kinds of places or conditions where they lay their eggs. Several suggestions are made for helping frogs to survive, such as, watching out for them when you see them in a road. However, other suggestions are made without scientific basis. Statements like “scientists think…” are not the same as definitive research.

Teachers, parents and librarians might want to use this text in the lower grades of two and three for information about community and personal responsibility. However, it should not be used in the higher grades of four and five as the selected bibliography offers no actual scientific studies nor proof. This book will not meet any core curriculum standards aside from differentiating factual writing from persuasive writing. It should also be noted that this is an updated version of a book from 2009, and is not a new book.

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  • A Place for FrogsTitle: A Place for Frogs
  • Author: Melissa Stewart
  • Illustrator: Higgins Bond
  • Publisher: Peachtree Books, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-902-5
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Grade level: 2 to 5
  • Extras: Frog Facts, inside front and back covers are maps showing regions of the world that are home to various frog species, bibliography, other books for recommended reading

Emma and Julia Love Ballet

Written and Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Ballet is the star of this story so beautifully done by award winning-illustrator Barbara McClintock. Emma is a little girl who lives in the country and takes ballet lessons. Julia is a grown-up ballerina. The story is beautifully told in parallel fashion as we see each girl get breakfast and go through their day. Besides the comparison between how they do things because of their age, is the comparison of rural versus city life. It is a fascinating dance within the story itself.

The diversity factor also plays in this story as Julia is of African American descent, reflecting the realities of our current prima-ballerina in the United States. A marvelous conclusion to the story has Emma asking for Julia’s autograph with Julia answering, how she once shared Emma’s dream of becoming a ballerina. So this is a different kind of circle story. Where the mouse ends up wanting another cookie, in this instance, the book clearly tells little girls who love ballet their dream can be realized.

Stretches and poses were carefully studied thus beautifully illustrated. Current and former ballet students will recognize the positions. Other types of dances are also represented and encouraged.

This book is a delight and should be part of every school and public library. Teachers will fulfill many core curriculum standards in literacy such as picture clues, sequencing, comparing and contrasting, as well as, main idea.  An all-around winner!

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  • Emma and JuliaTitle: Emma and Julia Love Ballet
  • Author/Illustrator: Barbara McClintock
  • Publisher: Scholastic, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-439-89401-2
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2

 

Fabulous Frogs

Written by Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Who knew there are over 5,000 kinds of frogs or that they were so fun to learn about? Each page of this great, beautifully-illustrated book introduces a new and unique species. The goliath frog of western Africa is the largest frog in the world. The smallest lives in Papua New Guinea. The Darwin grog of South America has the pointiest nose. The striped rocket from Australia can jump up to sixteen feet. There are flying frogs and hairy frogs – though both are misnomers. And poisonous frogs in bright colors. Some make nests for their eggs. Some hold the eggs in their mouths. Some frogs never leave the water. Some rarely leave their holes beneath the earth. Many other species are illustrated.

This text is great for use among second graders in a unit about the environment or amphibians. The author lists several excellent websites for learning more about frogs.

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  • Fabulous FrogsTitle: Fabulous Frogs
  • Author: Martin Jenkins
  • Illustrator: Tim Hopgood
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Animals, Nature, Environment
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8100-5

Green Bean! Green Bean!

Written Patricia Thomas
Illustrated by Trina L. Hunner

Poetic and rhyming, this new book highlights the life cycle of the lowly bean.

A hoe to help grow.

      And a curlicue catching dew.

   Curlicue catching dew.

      Oh no! Wind roars. Rain pours.

A young girl plants beans, with the help of her dog. As the garden grows, the girl discovers all the aids and perils for her burgeoning plants. Beetles and snails chew on the leaves. Moisture, hoeing, and stakes help the plants grow. A rabbit comes for a snack, but is thwarted by netting. Patience and sharing with birds and bees bring forth a bountiful harvest. And rejected beans make sure the cycle begin again. Wonderful, lively illustrations accompany this sweet story.

This is a great companion for a first or second grade unit about the life cycle and could easily include kids sprouting their own beans, potatoes, or avocadoes. Some of the activities even encourage eating the beans and other fruits and vegetables!

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  • Green BeanTitle: Green Bean! Green Bean!
  • Author: Patricia Thomas
  • Illustrator: Trina L. Hunner
  • Published: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Science, Agriculture
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-544-8
  • Extras: Many, including “Life Cycle,” “Words to Know,” and “Fun Things to Do”

Wild Ones: Observing City Critters

Written by Carol L. Malnor
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Nature and its variety of animals are everywhere, even in the city. The author follows a dog as he explores many of the scenes present in every city. A squirrel and an opossum lurk near a shed. Ducklings are in danger on a ledge. A beaver and a gull are busy near the water. Starlings raid a trash bin. A rabbit snacks in a garden. Geese gather near a pond. Foxes, owls, and bats fascinate the dog. This approach is both captivating and enlightening.

As always, Morrison’s illustrations are lively, accurate, and fun to look at. With each illustration, more details are revealed about the natural world of the city.

Second graders will learn a lot about the critters they pass every day. In addition to learning more about the creatures, many reading activities are suggested by the text, including looking for squirrels and their activities on every page. Kids can make observations and maps in their own backyard. Many facts and resources for further learning are listed after the story ends.

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  • Wild OnesTitle: Wild Ones: Observing City Critters
  • Author: Carol L. Malnor
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Published: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, science, environment
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-553-0

Arctic White

Written by Danna Smith
Illustrated by Lee White

How many shades of white do you see around you?

Danna Smith introduces the nuances of white in the beauty of the arctic using short melodic sentences. Lee White does an exquisite job of illustrating various whites amid classic winter blue hues.

But grandfather has a secret about something extra special he can only show the children in the darkest dark. He leads them out on an adventure. What might it be?

Something sure to delight every reader. The double-paged spread depicting the Northern Lights is glorious.

But the story doesn’t end yet. The children hurry home to recreate marvelous full color pictures to display inside their igloo. The double meaning of colors existing on the inside, will intrigue adults and children alike. It could lead to interesting discussions.

While this book easily fulfills core curriculum standards in literacy, geography and science; the art teacher might get the most mileage from it. Surely the children can produce wonderful colors from any part of the world to decorate their winter hallways.

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  • Arctic WhiteTitle: Arctic White
  • Author: Danna Smith
  • Illustrator: Lee White
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-62779-104-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2

Never Insult a Killer Zucchini

Written by Elana Ezose and Brandon Amancio
Illustrated by David Clark

The setting is a science fair and the participants are exceptional. Each and every project is unusual, advanced, and possibly impossible. There are twenty-six projects in total, one for each letter of the alphabet. But each project also represents a basic concept in physics, concepts that explained in detail in the last pages of this fun book. Some of the projects are not only possible but currently in use in some form. From Antimatter and the Bionic Limb to the Youth Serum and Zero Gravity, Mr. Farnsworth must judge them all. The Killer Zucchini comes in at “K,” where Mr. Farnsworth threatens to put ranch dressing on it. AT “D,” the student is eager to demonstrate his Doomsday Device. At “M,” the Mind Control project receives a promise from Mr. Farnsworth for first prize.

The cartoon-style illustrations are wonderful and detailed. They help to make this a delightful experience.

Second graders can read the main text with a little help and can learn a little physics along the way, especially with the help of the explanations. Older students can use this as an introduction to many of the concepts presented. All in all, a fantastic way to spur interest in science.

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  • Killer ZucchiniTitle: Never Insult a Killer Zucchini
  • Author: Elana Ezose and Brandon Amancio
  • Illustrator: David Clark
  • Published: Charlesbridge, February 9, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Early reader, Science, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-618-4

Merry Christmas, Mr. Mouse

Written and Illustrated by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner

Hidden pictures add to the excitement of this new book by the creators of, Snowmen at Night.

This rhyming story tells of a mouse family that moves into a nook under a kitchen floor. Their first discovery is special cooking and decorating done by the people of the house. Without missing a beat, Mr. Mouse hurries back to the nook and begins the same party preparations for his own family.

Grade one and grade two readers will enjoy reading this story on their own. Preschool listeners will be awed by the bright colored multi-layered illustrations. There are even hidden pictures on every page, with answers provided on the backside of the cover. What a neat idea!

Everyone will enjoy recognizing the everyday items carried into the nook by the mice to be used for their own furniture, clothing and snacks. Perhaps a discussion will follow about other household items to see how they could be used by others. What an interesting look at spatial relationships to see Mrs. Mouse using a birthday candle as a living room reading lamp.

Librarians, teachers, and parents should put this on the purchasing list right away. Literacy skills will be met in the core curriculum standards in multiple areas. Picture clues, rhyming words, predicting outcomes, and cause and effect, are just examples of the skill practice possible.

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  • Merry Christmas MouseTitle:  Merry Christmas, Mr. Mouse
  • Authors/Illustrators:  Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner
  • Publisher:  Dial Books, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-8037-4010-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2
  • Extras: Hidden pictures in the illustrations.

Whose Hands Are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book

Written by Miranda Paul
Illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell

With delightful rhyme, the author creates a guessing game for eleven different jobs vital and familiar to all communities.

          But hands can help – so raise yours please!

          Can you guess?

          Whose hands are these?

Each occupation is described perfectly for kids, starting with the hoeing and sowing, soiled hands of farmers. Then on to the sticky hands of cooks and the peacekeeping hands of police. Scientists, potters, news reporters, mechanics, architects, referees, physicians, and teachers are also highlighted. In the end, readers are asked what their hands will do.

Powell’s realistic, but entertaining illustrations give life to the occupations described by Paul. Each section shows vignettes of hands doing the jobs, and the tools used, that the reader needs to guess. At the end of each section, there is a full-page depiction of several individuals doing the job.

Second graders should be able to handle most of the reading activities, especially in context. This would also be a fun read aloud with younger kids, who would undoubtedly love to shout the answers.

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  • whose handsTitle: Whose Hands Are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book
  • Author: Miranda Paul
  • Illustrator: Luciana Navarro Powell
  • Published: Millbrook Press Trade, January, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 4
  • Genre: Community
  • ISBN: 978-1467752145
  • Extras: Many Kinds of Helping Hands goes into more detail about each job.
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