Archive for July 27, 2012


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The only way you can learn about dinosaurs is through books. Dinosaurs are extinct. Or so we like to think. The book tells us that chicken, and all living birds are dinosaurs. Surprise, surprise.

The chapters are short and logically organized. The information presented in one chapter leads on to the next. A reader is told about the distinguishing characteristics of a dinosaur. All dinosaurs walked on their toes, had a curvy neck, and laid eggs. Birds and chicken have the same characteristics. Ergo, they are dinosaurs.
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I Am the Book

compliled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

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This is a book about books, presented as an anthology of poems. Imagine a youngster discovering through the poems what a book can be. The poems are written at a second grade level. The vocabulary is simple and the poetry is not complex either.

I Am A Book — the title of the book, is also the title of one of the poems. “I’ll be your friend,” the poem tells the reader. “I’ll plant in you a spring seedling….i am the book/ You are needing.” What a wonderful image — a book as a friend.
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Skater’s Secret

by Jake Maddox (text by Lisa Trumbauer)
Illustrated by Tuesday Mourning 

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Maggie is jealous. Her sister Shannon is not only two years older, she’s two years better as a figure skater. Maggie’s friend insists that Maggie has a different style and her teacher says she is powerful. Still Maggie always feels like she is in Shannon’s shadow. Maggie hears the perfect song for her new routine but she keeps it a secret so she can have a little advantage. Then her instructor begins to add new moves and she finds out that Shannon has picked the special secret song that she wanted to use. She wonders if she will ever find out what kind of skater she is supposed to be.
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by Anne Schreiber

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Penguins look like cuddly soft-toys. They waddle when they walk, and surf as they swim. They look like they are dressed in tuxedos, ready to go to the ball. Who can resist the lure of a penguin?

The book tells us that they are not just the clowns of the ocean, but are well adapted for their life at sea. Their sleek shape is built for speed. The blubber keeps them warm. They have two layers of feathers: soft inner feathers to trap the heat, and stiff oily feathers to keep out the water. Their webbed feet help in steering.
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Andy Shane and the Queen of Egypt

by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
illustrated by Abby Carter

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Quiet but fiercely independent Andy and bossy show-off Dolores both want to do their Cultural Fair report on Egypt. She suggests that they work together but Andy likes to go at his own pace so he resists. Dolores then goes all out to convince him. After her actions cause him to make a huge mistake in the T-ball game, she tries to make it up to him by choosing another country. When he freezes up during his oral presentation, Dolores pantomimes help that gets him through. He finally sees that cooperation will be better for both of them.
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Magic Pickle and the Garden of Evil

Written and illustrated by Scott Morse

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JoJo has been living around a Super Hero vegetable for too long. She tricks Magic Pickle into cleaning her room. Her latest scheme is too much! Her new class project is a school garden and she would love to grow a crop of Super Hero vegetables. When Magic Pickle refuses, she sneaks into his top secret lab and steals his amazing super-grow juice. Overnight the regular seeds they plant turn into a new generation of Super powerful villains. The only way to fight them is to unleash an army of rabbits. There is no evidence of the epic struggle between girl and vegetable-kind, but neither is there anything left of the school garden.

This book just might be silly enough for second graders and challenge their reading skills in the process. It is a combination of graphic and regular novels. Day to day life with Magic Pickle has grown boring so JoJo is constantly tricking Magic Pickle into doing things he thinks are an unfair use of his power. JoJo’s attitude of entitlement to a Super-Hero’s magic products is irritating and she gets out of her dilemma far too easily. Characterization is shallow and the story is slight but with a Super-Hero Pickle, second graders are more interested in silly action anyway. At the upper end of second grade reading level, second graders may need help with comprehension or will need to hear the book read aloud (if the adult can stand it).

There are those reluctant boy readers who will go for this kind of book. The graphic novel illustrations and style of storytelling can help a reader feel like he is reading a book by himself. Boys typically will not read books with a girl main character, but the way JoJo is drawn and the way she acts, they will forget she’s a girl.

Read other Magic Pickle graphic novels:

  • Magic PickleTITLE: Magic Pickle and the Garden of Evil
  • AUTHOR: Scott Morse
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Scott Morse
  • PUBLISHER: 2009, Graphix/Scholastic, 134 pages, graphic novel
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • ISBN: 978-1-4420-2659-9


by Melissa Stewart

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The hiss of a snake is enough to scare a hearer into hiding. It is an automatic response — run first, decide later whether the snake is poisonous or not. So the book (part of the National Geographic Kids series) is adorned with glorious, colorful photos to entice the young reader to get past the fear and read about this interesting animal.
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Trapped On The D.C. Train

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What could be worse than battling the June heat in Washington D.C.? KC Corcoran and her best friend Marshall Li are about to find out as they board the train at Union Station for a weekend in the country with the Vice-President.

KC’s stepfather is the President of the United States. The children are under strict orders not to disclose that, to prevent anything untoward from happening. The Vice-President is Aunt Kitty, and the two accompanying guards are her family. But there is someone who does know their true identity.

When the vice-president thinks of getting coffee from the snack car KC and Marshall ask if they can go get it. Aunt Kitty sees no harm in that, the snack car is only two compartments away, and they are on a moving train. They do come back safely with the coffee and snacks.

KC is puzzled by some thing she sees along the way. Why is the blind man, and the lady across the aisle from him, sitting facing the back of the train? Marshall tells her its her overactive imagination trying to make a mystery out of it. Is she?

The author scatters clues along the path. The train lights switch off for short moments. A conductor comes along to reassure the passengers that this matter is being attended to; they should not worry if the train makes an unexpected stop. A man is working on the platform connecting the last caboose to the rest of the train. We read on.

Then the last caboose disappears. The Vice-President’s compartment is gone. KC and Marshall are by themselves. They know they have to hide. Somebody is looking for them, and the intentions are not good.

The story is simply told, at a second grade level, yet it sweeps the reader along. It is part of a series which would be a good addition to any second grade reading list.

  • Trapped on DC TrainTitle: Trapped On The D.C. Train
  • Author: Ron Roy
  • Publisher: Random House (2011)
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback: 90 Pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-375-85926-7
  • Genre: Fiction Mystery

Poodle and Hound

by Kathryn Lasky
Illustrated by Mitch Vane

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Poodle and Hound are friends. Sometimes they get on one another’s nerves but sometimes they are perfect together. For instance, Poodle goes to get her fur done. She thinks Hound won’t even notice so she treats herself to tea at the Ritz. She gets lonely sitting by herself and then when she gets home, Hound brags on how nice she looks. She is glad she saved some of her cookies to share.
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Hogg, Hogg and Hog

Written and illustrated by Margie Palatini

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Three very big pigs have made it big in the big city by making ‘oink’ very trendy. But the big city can be unforgiving. When people get tired of ‘oink,’ the three very big pigs are in danger of becoming passé. They need another big idea. Their humble beginnings back at the farm provide inspiration. Baa! Quack! Ribbit! They take on partners, headed by a familiar name indeed: O. McDonald.
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