Archive for September 10, 2012

Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog

By  Elizabeth W. Davidson
Illustrated by Michael Hagelberg

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Cheery is an endangered Chiricahua leopard frog and his story is becoming all too common: his environment makes it harder for him to survive.  Told from his perspective, Cheery hatches and grows up with his siblings as previous generations have done.  But Wise Old Frog warns the tadpoles about bullfrog and crayfish, invasive species that will harm them by eating them or infecting them with disease.  When Cheery wakes up from his winter hibernation, all the other chiricahua leopard frogs except one are gone.  Cheery and his new friend are captured and join a family of chiricahua leopard frogs at a zoo where they are cared for and ultimately released to their pond which has since been cleared of bullfrogs and crayfish. » Read more

Jo MacDonald Had a Garden

By Mary Quattlebaum
Illustrations by Laura J. Bryant

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Jo MacDonald, Old MacDonald’s granddaughter, has her very own garden! In their book Jo MacDonald Had a Garden, Author Mary Quattlebaum and illustrator Laura J. Bryant put a new spin on the familiar song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and provide a playful introduction to an innovative type of gardening. No cows or sheep here: Jo’s garden embraces the wider community of wild and domesticated plants and animals that can live in a garden.

In this version of the song, Old MacDonald is, well, old. He’s tired and busy with his own farm, but he helps with Jo’s garden, too. It’s clear that Jo is in charge, though, and she’s doing things her way. She plants the familiar lettuce, squash, radishes, and tomatoes, but she also plants native plants, including coneflowers and viburnum, and she welcomes the wild animals that visit her garden, too.

Native plants, for those not already familiar with them, are plants that have lived in a particular place for many thousands of years and are well-integrated into the ecological community. They thrive in the local soil and climate, and they also provide food and shelter for a variety of beautiful insects, birds, and other fascinating creatures. While these plants and animals do not get much attention in the text, the pictures and back matter make it clear that they are as vibrant and vital a part of the garden as the more familiar edible crops Jo grows.

Jo provides food and a lovely habitat for people, too. Jo and her cousin, Mike, harvest vegetables and share a meal made from food they grew while Old MacDonald naps in the shade. Even when Jo and Mike are hard at work digging, planting, and observing the garden, they are clearly having fun. Rain or shine, the garden is depicted as a welcoming place children will want to explore.

The language in Jo MacDonald Had a Garden is simple, repetitious, and familiar; it will appeal equally to kindergarten through second graders. As a read-aloud book in a mixed-age classroom or during family reading time, Jo MacDonald Had a Garden will work well. It will also be a fine addition to a reading unit about school or home gardens and farms.

The back matter provides some information about the various insects and plants shown in the book, including how they are useful in the garden and in the wild. A search for plants and creatures, as well as additional questions provided in the back of the book, encourage children to examine the details of the story.

Although the images in this story provide more detail than the text, both come together as a simple, pleasant book that both girls and boys are likely to enjoy. In a world where many children rarely encounter worms, this book is a good way to show how much fun being outside and getting dirty can be.

Additional resources

  • Jo MacDonald GardenTitle: Jo MacDonald Had a Garden
  • Authors: Mary Quattlebaum
  • Illustrator: Laura J. Bryant
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications
  • Reviewer: Lisa Kahn Schnell
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-165-5
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, science

Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie

By Laurie A. Jacobs

Illustrated by Anne Jewett

2012 Winner of the Gellet Burgess Award (Mulit-generational)
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Grandma Tillie tells Sophie and Chloe that she’s ordinary, but then transforms into some really interesting characters. There’s Tillie Vanilly, who puts on a variety show. There’s Chef Silly Tillie, whose specialties include roasted snake toes. And who could forget, Madame Frilly Tillie, whose bath time make-overs make the girls feel very gorgeous. While its fun to see all the things Grandma Tillie can do, in the end, its plain bed-tucker and story-reading Grandma Tillie who is the favorite. Rollicking fun for Grandparents Day or grandmother-themed activities.
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The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens Of Fair Meadows Farm

By Patricia McLachlan
Illustrated by Tim Jessel

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One warm night four children stood in front of a bakery. No one knew them. No one knew where they had come from.

It is hard to imagine that the first Boxcar Children book was written 70 years ago. Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens Of Fair Meadow Farm is the prequel to the series, brought out in honor of the 70th anniversary. The book answers the questions that have puzzled generations of readers: where did the children come from? how were they orphaned? do they have no family?

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Molly’s Organic Farm

By Carol L. Malnor and Trina L. Hunner

Illustrated by TrinaL. Hunner

Finalist for the 2013 Foreward Magazine Book of the Year Award

Winner of the 2012 Green Book Festival Award (Honorable Mention)

2013 Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year Selection (Honorable Mention)

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“So much to explore!” discovers Molly, the lost orange cat in the book Molly’s Organic Farm. Molly wanders onto an organic farm while searching for a place to sleep, but she’s so intrigued by the nuances of farm life—including compost, beneficial insects, and trips to the local farmer’s market—that she stays. The farmers quickly welcome Molly as part of the complex farm community.
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