Archive for August 31, 2012

Dive Right In

By Alison Hart
Illustrated by Arcana Studios

Buy on Amazon

The enticement for 2nd grade readers begins with the title: it invites you to dive right in, to a story with many alternate endings.

So you do, and discover that you have become the main character, a girl who is an accomplished diver. You have worked hard to perfect your diving skills and are now number two on the team.

The story opens to a practice session. You are practicing a “back dive straight” for the upcoming competition. Your BFF Megan walks in. You are surprised to see her, she is a gymnast not a diver, but happy nonetheless that she wants to join the diving team.

Megan’s gymnastic capabilities hold her in good stead on the diving board. Soon her diving skills outshine yours. How will you react? This is where the book comes into its own. Much as in real life it offers you different choices, and each choice takes you to a different conclusion.

Will you choose to be happy at your friend’s success or jealous? If you are happy what will you do? If jealousy besieges you how do you act? Even within the two choices there are many pathways you can take. The author has done a great job of tracking each path to its logical conclusion, and yet it is simply written for ease of comprehension.

Young readers will enjoy the book for the freedom it allows them to create their own story. At the decision points the book tells them: if you want to do this go to page….or if you want to do this go to page….

They follow one path, come to the end, but the book is not done yet. There is another path, and yet another–an almost endless source of entertainment. You can imagine their joy in knowing that there is still another story to be read, in discussing with their friends what path to take. Reading becomes a socializing experience.

The book is part of the Innerstar University series published by American Girls, a series of interactive books that would be a good addition to any second grade reading list.

Reading Activities: Visit the publisher’s website: for games and other activities.
Read the author’s biography at her website:

  • Dive Right InTitle: Dive Right In
  • Illustrator: Arcana Studios
  • Publisher: American Girl (2011)
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback: 119 Pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59369-909-3
  • Genre: Fiction

Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under

By Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jan Dubin

Buy on Amazon

Over in Australia where you can go “a-waltzing” you can also see animals that are found nowhere else in the world. Author Marianne Berkes explains in her book “Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under” that because Australia is a huge island-continent the animals that came “established themselves there and nowhere else.”

The book is full of information about the Australian animals and ecosystem, but it is not a text book. It is written at a second grade level with simple words and an easy rhythm.

“Zig,” said the father.
“We zag,” said the ten.
So they zigged and they zagged
With their father “mother hen.”

The poem invites action. Each animal mentioned in the book has two verses dedicated to it. The first verse tells the name of the animal, and what the baby of the species is called. So we are introduced to the hatchling (crocodile), joey (kangaroo), joey (koala), puggles (platypus), chick (lorikeet), joey (wombat), joey (sugar glider), chick (brolga), joey (bilby), and chick (emu). Did you know that so many animal babies are called joey?

The second verse describes the action: crocodiles snap, kangaroos hop, with depiction of the activities of all the ten animals. The children can make it a reading game. As they sing the poem they can snap and hop and munch and splash their way through the verses. This link takes you to an interview with the author. The interviewer talks of other books here, but the video gives an idea of how activities can be integrated into the reading:

And that is not all. Each spread has a hidden animal. Jill Dubin the illustrator has created these beautiful, many-layered drawings, accurately presenting the desert, the grassland and the forest, and the animals that leave in each biome. Along with learning about the cuddly koalas and snappy crocodiles the children sharpen their observation skills.

It is also a counting book As they count the animals they learn the numbers from 1 to 10.

The back matter is filled with detailed descriptions of the animals, tips from the author, tips from the illustrator and the music for the song “Over in the meadow” on which this poem is based. This link takes you to an audio rendition of “Over in the Ocean”. The children can sing-along, replacing the words of the song with the verses of this book.

There is math, there is science, there is music. There is a plethora of author-created activities. A worthy addition to any reading list.

  • Over in AustraliaTitle: Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • ISBN:  1584691352
  • Hard Cover and Paperback: 32 Pages
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Nature, Science
  • Lexile Score: 660

A Surprise Find

By Erin Falligan
Illustrated by Thu Thai/Arcana Studios

Buy on Amazon

The reader becomes the main character in this and other titles in the “Innerstar U” series from American Girl. The stories are interactive and the reader chooses which storyline to follow. In A Surprise Find, “you” are asked to participate in a clothing drive and you are having difficulty filling a box of things to donate. Suddenly, a prized bracelet goes missing and the search is on. Each choice you make introduces a different set of characters, a different complication and resolution.
» Read more

The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule

By Kashmira Sheth
Illustrated by Carl Pearce

Buy on Amazon

Ishan has way more imagination than his third-grade body can handle. Like every red-blooded American boy, he wants a dog. But his mother grew up to fear dogs. In her childhood home, dogs ran in packs and were dangerous. Ishan’s attempts to persuade his mother through his actions go beyond bad results to the horrible.
» Read more

Over in the Forest- Come and Take a Peek

By Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

Winner of the 2012 Florida Publisher’s Assn. President’s Gold Award (Children’s Picture Book Category)

2013 Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval

Winner of the 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Silver Award

Buy on Amazon

Over in the Forest-Come and Take a Peek is one of those books that should be included in every second grade classroom library because it entertains, while presenting facts.

This text gives facts about the forest that will stimulate 2nd graders’ curiosity, while the lyrical verse adds fun. It’s a great read-aloud or a book that can be read over and over as the second grader improves his/her reading skills. The pictures encourage vocabulary development, reinforce counting practice, and increase student’s comprehension skills by associating the pictures with the new words.
» Read more

Big Cat, Little Kitty

Scotti Cohn
Illustrated by Susan Detwiler

Buy on Amazon

Appealing to the cat lover in most of us, this is a fun way to learn about cats the world over. With each turn of the page, the author compares and contrasts the big cats and house cats. Through repetition and context, second and third graders should be able to increase reading skills, with new animal and place names and other challenging words. Additionally, the author progresses through the days of the week. On Monday, Tiger encounters a gibbon in the jungle. Tiggy sees a spider on her porch. On a Tuesday plain, Cheetah tends her cubs and keeps an eye on a warthog. Chessie spies a mouse near her rug. On Wednesday, Kalahari Lion watches a springbok while Leonardo watches a butterfly. And so on. This book has been honored by Mom’s Choice Awards.

» Read more

13 Words

by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Maira Kalman

Buy on Amazon

This book was introduces 13 words that lead the reader in a nonsensical story that has no real plot; it is pure word play. The words are second grade level words with the intent to demonstrate the meaning of the words by following the story hence increasing comprehension. It is is quirky and somewhat strange, but fun for some kids.
» Read more

The Mighty Miss Malone

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Buy on Amazon

This is a second to third grade level book based loosely on the Great Depression and childhood poverty. It is a funny, sad, and an inspiring book that leaves the reader feeling like the main character needed to be stronger or have more influence to affect change. The Malone family show strong bonds and coping mechanisms when dealing with the blows life throws yet as the character states, poverty is a tragedy and the story lends itself to discussions about poverty today.
» Read more