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.

Jake’s Cooking Craze

Written Ken Spillman
Illustrated by Chris Nixon

Encouraging kids to try something new, this book is the story of a budding chef. Jake is not a devotee of a popular cooking show until he hears what he could reap from being his own cook. Jake starts watching JuniorChef partly because everyone else does. It inspires him to make a less than stellar recipe of his own – sweet potatoes and beans covered with all the condiments in the refrigerator. Dad decides it’s time for Jake to learn from Nana. But Nana’s lessons are boring for Jake. As part of the cooking show craze, Jake’s school is to participate in a competition. So Jake gets really creative – with snails from his garden. Hilarity ensues, complete with kid-pleasing bodily functions. Humorous illustrations are scattered throughout the text.

Second graders will learn about some pretty fancy dishes as they practice their literacy skills. Jake may not be able to understand the various meanings of “rare,” but maybe the readers can.

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  • Jakes Cooking CrazeTitle: Jake’s Cooking Craze
  • Author: Ken Spillman
  • Illustrator: Chris Nixon
  • Published: Star Bright Books, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 Up
  • Genre: Humor, Cooking
  • ISBN: 978-1-59572-685-8

 

The Turnip

Written and Illustrated by Jan Brett

One tasty turnip turned out to be a problem in badger girl’s garden. It was a giant turnip. Such a giant turnip that not badger girl, badger brother, nor badger parents could get it out of the ground.

Jan Brett once again beautifully illustrated a well-loved Russian folk tale and told it with a surprising new twist readers will love. Nothing is more fun than knowing something about a story the main characters don’t even know.

This cumulative story told in the center of the pages is foreshadowed in the margins, as is Brett’s pattern. Young readers and listeners enjoy watching the story progress and develop from margin cameo to double page spread. In many instances, while children know who the new character is going to be, they can only guess at the upcoming action.

Teachers and librarians can fulfill core curriculum standards in literacy, art, and geography as they introduce folk tales from around the world. Parents will enjoy including this beautiful new Brett book to the read aloud collection for quiet time.

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  • TurnipTitle: The Turnip
  • Author/Illustrator: Jan Brett
  • Illustrator: Jan Brett
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-17070-6
  • Genre: picture book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3

Claude in the Spotlight

Written and Illustrated by Alex T. Smith

Claude and Sir Bobblysock are at it again. As soon as Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes leave for the day, the pals are off in search of adventure. This time, they wander into a kids’ dance class. When a fly goes up Claude’s stylish red sweater, his gyrations are the hit of the class. Claude and Sir Bobblysock then follow the kids to a theater, where they are all to participate in a variety show. There, of course, Claude saves the day. A bad man tries to scare everyone away by pretending to be a ghost, so he can have the prize. But Claude recognizes his fakery. An operatic lady Viking, whose talent is breaking glass with her voice, causes a large chandelier to nearly fall on the show’s sponsor. Claude and the bad man catch the chandelier in time. So Claude and Sir Bobblysock take home boxes of cakes, the prize. Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes are very confused by the cakes.

Much of the story is told through the amusing illustrations, especially the contributions of Sir Bobblysock.

There is a lot to hold the attention of second graders. This would also make a great read aloud, with kids helping to point out the many illustration details.

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  • Claude in the SpotlightTitle: Claude in the Spotlight
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Humor
  • ISBN: 978-156145-895-0

 

Max and Marla

Written and Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

True Olympians never give up. Proven here by two good friends who prepare for everything in the sport of sledding, well almost, everything that could go wrong. Humorous illustrations fill in the story where the words leave off and will have children dissolved in giggles.

Max and his pet owl are very persistent. Each new failure provides a new opportunity to prepare in a different way. The message to keep on trying will stick with readers and listeners.

While this book is suggested for readers from kindergarten through second grade, there are many words children will struggle to sound out. Librarians, teachers and parents will do best to read this book aloud the first time or two. It is a fantastic new winter book and will be a great addition to any collection. The look at a particular season qualifies this as a book to fulfill core curriculum standards in science, as well as for many literacy skills.

Read and enjoy. Then go sledding with a new outlook.

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  • Max and MarlaTitle: Max and Marla
  • Author/Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/32pgs
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-17504-6
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade Level: K to 2

Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed

Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Amy June Bates

Ketzel was just a kitten when the man, Moshe, found her cold and lonely on the street. They became great friends as Moshe worked on his musical compositions. Moshe was stumped after he received notice of the Paris New Music Review contest to highlight short compositions – less than a minute. As Moshe pondered the music in his head, Ketzel walked across the piano keyboard and picked out a beautiful tune. Moshe wrote down what he heard. It took twenty-one seconds to play. He sent it to the contest organizers. Ketzel didn’t win, but her tune got a certificate of special mention and was played at a concert, which Ketzel attended with Moshe. Her presence was revealed when she responded to her name at the introduction of the piece. Ketzel also got a royalty check for the composition, enough to buy several cans of cat food.

The illustrator has captured the whimsy of this great story.

Based on a true story, this lovely book is easily read independently by second graders looking to strengthen literacy skills. It’s a great reminder that talent can come in small packages. That talent only needs to be recognized.

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  • KetzelTitle: Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed
  • Author: Lesléa Newman
  • Illustrator: Amy June Bates
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: History, Music
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6555-5
  • Extras: Author’s Note

My Leaf Book

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

Leaves change color and fall breezily to the ground every year. Children love to catch them, collect them and figure them out.

Monica Wellington’s new book helps them identify leaves and put them in a book of their own making. While this book is fiction because the little girl is not real, Wellington has included a great deal of authentic science. Her depiction of various leaf types is well done and the leaves are matched with the names of the trees from which they come.

Grade one, grade two, and even grade three readers will be able to use the book for basic leaf identification. However, the scientific notes placed in text boxes on the pages illustrating true leaves are done in tiny print that will require adult help for some children to read and decipher.

Librarians and teachers can use this book successfully as a read aloud for pre-school through first grades. While the book meets core curriculum standards for literacy in the areas of picture clues, comparing and contrasting, separating fact from fiction, it also fulfills standards for natural science in the elementary grades. This book deserves a second look as first glance will sell it short of its educational value.

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  • My Leaf BookTitle: My Leaf Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4141-6
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: End pages contain a list of leaf projects for readers to do
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