Archive for April 29, 2013

Let’s Meet a Construction Worker

Written by Bridget Heos

Illustrated by Mike Mora

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Kids may not be able to visit a construction zone, but Let’s Meet a Construction Worker gives young readers a chance to learn about the different jobs that these community helpers have as they build a new, environmentally friendly school.

This thin chapter book would be a nice addition to a second grade class as a book for individual reading for research during a unit about community helpers or careers. The information within is leveled: there is the main text of the book, but also there are offset notes for further facts on various words and ideas throughout the book, and in the appendix, there is a list of resources for online investigation and other books for digging deeper. Though this book is probably best suited for individual reading, the text is captivating for reading aloud. Students may demonstrate their comprehension by jotting down five main ideas from the book. Since this book follows Mr. Moore, the foreman of the construction site, students may further demonstrate their comprehension by detailing a few aspects of his job.

This book is a Cloverleaf Book, which means that there are several books in a series about Community Helpers, including books about dentists, doctors, firefighters, librarians, police officers, teachers, and veterinarians. Also, this book is supported by Lerner Source, a website for downloading free educational resources at I would highly recommend this series of books for any elementary classroom.

  • Lets Meet a Construction WorkerTitle: Let’s Meet a Construction Worker
  • Author: Bridget Heos
  • Illustrator: Mike Moran
  • Publisher: Millbrook
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-9023-7
  • Genre: non-fiction/community helpers/construction

The Man From The Land of Fandango

By Margaret Mahy
Illustrated by Polly Dunbar

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The Man from the land of Fandango is a magical story. In the story, the children create a whimsical man by drawing him with paints on canvas and then bringing their picture to life. The Man from the Land of Fandango wears bright colored pants, jacket, and tie. He is able to transform himself into whatever he wishes, such as a bird or a ball, and loves to share treats with his amazing friends whether they are animals or children. » Read more

Elmer and the Birthday Quake

Written and illustrated by David McKee

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Happy Birthday ONE! STOMP! Elmer the patchwork elephant and his cousin Wilbur search the jungle to discover the cause of a distant noise while Rose and a whole herd of elephants gather to celebrate Old’s hundredth birthday. The little birthday gathering, though, causes Old and the other elephants some big trouble. Lucky for all of the elephants involved, Super El is nearby to save the day!

David McKee’s beloved Elmer stars in another sweet book perfect for a class birthday party or for second or third grade class’ one hundredth day of school celebration. The colorful illustrations and sweet story are well-suited for a class wide read aloud, and as a kinesthetic activity, students could finish the birthday chant started by the pink herd of elephants…without the earthquake!

Elmer and the Birthday Quake introduces the idea of an earthquake brought on by the elephant’s thunderous stomping. Students are fascinated by science in action, and it would be really neat to hold a series of experiments on vibration and gravity. There are several easy ideas for elementary experiments on gravity at

Elmer is widely known and appreciated; it would be easy to incorporate Elmer and the Birthday Quake within an entire Elmer unit. For numerous Elmer the Elephant activities for every subject in an elementary classroom, visit This book and the entire Elmer series are fantastic books for connecting literacy with all the disciplines.

  • ElmerTitle: Elmer and the Birthday Quake
  • Authors/Illustrators: David McKee
  • Publisher: Anderson Press
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 28 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-1117-3
  • Genre: fiction/birthday

Alligator or Crocodile? How Do You Know?

Written by Melissa Stewart

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Seems like nothing is more fascinating to a second grader than crocodiles and other semi-monsters. Usually, kids wonder about the difference between alligators and crocodiles. This book, part of the “Which Animal is Which?” series, gives definitive answers for that difference in a way that second graders can understand.

Alligators live in fresh water. Crocodiles can live in salt water. The reptiles’ snouts are shaped differently. Alligators have a wider jaw and are a darker color. Only a few of an alligator’s top teeth show when its mouth is closed. Crocodiles show most of their teeth with their mouths closed. Alligator mothers make mounds for their eggs. Crocodile mothers dig holes. Alligator mothers stay with the babies for up to a year. Crocodiles leave the young once they reach the water. All these ideas are easily accessible and memorable for kids.

The photographs included provide wonderful illustrations of the concepts discussed. Who can resist the smile of a crocodile? And it’s amazing how, even in a photograph, the reptiles disappear in the water. The “Words to Know” section at the beginning of the book is especially helpful for comprehension as it relates to the National Science Education Standards for K-4 and Common Core Standards. The websites mentioned are all reputable, though they are at much higher reading levels than this book. The table of contents, books section, and index are also very helpful to learning. Especially useful, is the world map of where these creatures live. The publisher’s website,, is good for searching out other titles about this and other subjects. And the publisher has a free pdf educator’s guide available, including many reading activities and reading worksheets.

  • AlligatorTitle: Alligator or Crocodile? How Do You Know?
  • Written By: Melissa Stewart
  • Publisher: Enslow Elementary/Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-234-1
  • Genre: Nature, Reptiles

Martha Speaks Funny Bones Jokes and Riddles

Written by Karen Barss

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Martha Speaks Funny Bone Jokes and Riddles, written by Karen Barss and based on the characters created by the talented Susan Meddaugh for the Public Broadcasting Service for Kids (PBS Kids) Martha the Talking Dog series, is aimed at readers at the second grade reading level. With the exception of three jokes, the book consists of twenty plus jokes and riddles, as well as a matching game that revolve primarily around dogs in one form or another. The humor is tastefully appropriate for young readers and is consistent throughout the joke book. Most of the jokes and riddles are a play on words common to the subject of canines and that are familiar to young children. A good example of this is:

Question: How does Martha stop the DVD player?

Answer: She presses the “paws” button!


Another example of the kind of humor readers can expect to see is as follows:

Question: What kind of dog does Dracula have?

Answer: A bloodhound


With a canine on nearly every page the jokes and riddles are displayed in a colorful, comic-book-like layout that will appeal to children at the second grade reading level. Kids are sure to laugh out loud and re-read the jokes to share with their family and friends. Funny Bone Jokes and Riddles is an ideal hard cover book for librarians and teachers to carry on their book shelves for reluctant readers, as well as fans of the PBS Kids Martha the Talking Dog series due to the familiarity of its characters.


  • Martha FunnyTitle: Martha Speaks Funny Bones Jokes and Riddles
  • Author: Karen Barss
  • Illustrator: Based on PBS characters created by Susan Meddaugh
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0547-865775
  • Genre: Games/Jokes

The Emancipation Proclamation: Would You Do What Lincoln Did?

Written by Elaine Landau

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Anyone who has seen the movie Lincoln or studied the 16th president’s time in office knows that Abraham Lincoln was president during the darkest and most difficult days of American history. Lincoln saw his country torn in two over the issue of slavery and faced the almost impossible task of waging war on his own people, while trying to pass legislation that many people disliked. One of Lincoln’s greatest, yet most difficult accomplishments, was passing the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves. Would You Do What Lincoln Did? takes readers on a journey with President Lincoln and gives them a first-hand look at the problems he faced.

Would You Do What Lincoln Did? begins with an attention-grabbing description of violence as it describes how a mob broke into a warehouse, destroyed a printing press, and killed its abolitionist owner. From there, the book goes into a careful and detailed explanation of slavery, abolitionism, and other hot issues of the day before going on to describe President Lincoln’s efforts to rid the United States of slavery and unite the country during the Civil War. What sets this book apart from other history books is a page at the end of each chapter that asks the reader, “What would you do?” and presents a series of options. This page is followed by the next chapter, which begins by saying, “This is what happened.” This format is a wonderful way to involve the reader and make him or her think about what was going on 250 years ago and how different choices could have changed history. I can see teachers and students engaged in lively classroom discussions as they ponder the choices Lincoln faced!

I highly recommended this book for any second-grade classroom in need of a great way to present a vital chapter in American history. The book is well-organized, detailed, and appealing to readers, with plenty of action and personal detail. Despite the wealth of information, the text is easy for second graders to read and understand. Period photographs, paintings, and newspaper reprints provide an up-close “you are there” feeling to the book that is sure to keep readers’ attention. The book also includes a timeline, a glossary, a list of books and websites with more information, and a detailed index. This is an excellent choice for a book report or history project. The book could also be used as the basis of a reading worksheet or history enrichment lesson. It’s a great choice for independent reading by strong readers but would also work as a classroom read-aloud that is sure to spark discussion as the students ponder what they would do in Lincoln’s place.

  • EmancipationTitle: The Emancipation Proclamation: Would You Do What Lincoln Did?
  • Author: Elaine Landau
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, 2008
  • Reviewer: Joanne Mattern
  • Hardback: 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-194-8
  • Genre: History

Let’s Meet a Dentist

Written by Bridget Heos
Illustrated by Kyle Poling

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A trip to the dentist is something every child has to endure, and it can often be a frightening experience. What are those shiny tools the dentist pokes in your mouth? Why does he count your teeth? What is an x-ray? Does it hurt to get a filling? Children have all these questions and more. Many children are frightened of the dentist, but dental hygiene is an important part of keeping your body healthy. That’s why books that explain and reassure children about dental visits are an vital and valuable resource. Let’s Meet a Dentist is an engaging and informative look at this important topic.

Let’s Meet a Dentist follows a class on a field trip to the dentist. The book starts with the narrator stating, “Our class is on a mission! We want to find out what a dentist does.” From this attention-grabbing introduction, we go along with the class as they meet Dr. Florez, find out what equipment she uses and why, and get information on how to keep teeth clean and healthy, what it’s really like to fill a cavity, and what braces and retainers do. The information is presented in two ways on each colorfully illustrated page. The child narrator tells most of the story in a lively, kid-friendly tone. Meanwhile, boxed text on each page provides facts about topics mentioned in the main text.

Let’s Meet a Dentist is a lively and fun choice for a second-grade library. The tone of the book is very appealing, and both the narration and the chapter titles grab young readers’ attention and make the book fun to explore. The bright art is also eye-catching and appealing. The reading level is simple enough for second graders to read the book independently, while the book could also appeal to younger students or reluctant readers as a classroom read-aloud. A glossary in the back of the book provides vocabulary words that could easily be incorporated into a reading worksheet. Additional back matter includes a healthy snack recipe, a list of related books and Websites, an index, and a link to additional online educational resources. We give Let’s Go to the Dentist a perfect checkup!

  • Lets Meet a DentistTitle: Let’s Meet a Dentist
  • Author: Bridget Heos
  • Illustrator: Kyle Poling
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press, 2013
  • Hard Back: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-9029-9
  • Genre: Science/Health

How Do Jets Work?

Written by Buffy Silverman

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It’s pretty amazing to see a jet up close. How do these huge planes get off the ground, much less fly? How fast do they go? What scientific principles allow these machines to zoom through the air like giant birds? How Do Jets Work? explores this topic in a straightforward way that will satisfy young readers’ curiosity.

How Do Jets Work? opens with a jet backing out of the gate at the airport. From there the book takes readers on a step-by-step exploration of how the plane is prepared for takeoff. In Chapter 2, the text continues to follow the plane, this time explaining the mechanics of how air is pulled into the engine and burns fuel, giving the jet enough power to leave the ground and soar into the sky. The book explains lift, drag, and other aerodynamic principles in simple terms second-grade readers (and even younger children) will grasp easily. Finally, the books follows the plane as it lands, again providing clear explanations of what happens and why. The book closes with a labeled drawing of a jet, some fun facts, a glossary, index, and list of books for further reading. A link to additional online educational resources is also provided.

How Do Jets Work? is a terrific choice for any young reader who is curious about flight. The text is simple and straightforward, making this is great choice for independent reading on the second-grade level. Bright color photographs and easy-to-read captions help make this a great choice for reading aloud as well. In addition, the book is a great starting point for class projects, book reports, or science explorations. Any classroom or school library would benefit from this excellent book.

  • How Do Jets WorkTitle: How Do Jets Work?
  • Author: Buffy Silverman
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group, 2013
  • Reviewer:  Joanne Mattern
  • Hardback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-8967-5
  • Genre: Science

Figuring Out Fossils

Written by Sally M. Walker

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The past is a fascinating place. I’ve always been amazed at what scientists can figure out from fossils and other archaeological clues. Many children share my sense of wonder and amazement. Figuring Out Fossils (part of Lerner’s cleverly named new series, Do You Dig Earth Science?) is a great way for second-grade readers to explore these artifacts from long ago.

Figuring Out Fossils starts with a basic question: What Are Fossils? From there the book explains everything you need to know about fossils, including what they are, how they form, where they are found, and how scientists use them to learn about the past. Along the way, readers will learn amazing facts, such as even footprints can become fossils, or that ice can preserve not just ancient bones, but fur, skin, and muscles as well. The book is illustrated with stunning photographs that show readers close-ups of fossils, along with views of complete reconstructed skeletons and scientists working in the field. This is a well-researched, well-written, and appealing book.

I highly recommended Figuring Out Fossils for any second-grade classroom. The book is well-organized, with each chapter focused on a specific topic and clear chapter titles to direct readers to the information they’re looking for. A diagram of fossil formation is a valuable resource, and the book also includes a glossary, a list of books and websites with more information, an index, and a link to additional online educational resources.

Figuring Out Fossils will benefit students and teachers in many ways. It is a great resource for a classroom library, as well as a good choice for a book report or science project. Teachers will find it easy to create reading, vocabulary, or science worksheets from this book. Eager readers will appreciate the easy-to-understand and straightforward text, the terrific photos, and the wealth of fascinating information. This is a great choice for any teacher or student looking to learn more about fossils and the journey back in time that they take us on.

  • Figuring Out FossilsTitle: Figuring Out Fossils
  • Author: Sally M. Walker
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group, 2013
  • Reviewer: Joanne Mattern
  • Hardback: 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-4677-0019-1
  • Genre: Science

Rosie’s Magic Horse

Written by Russell Hoban

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

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An ice-pop stick thinks there is more for him than to be thrown away.  And he is right.  A girl named Rosie picks him up and adds him to her ice-pop stick collection.  The old sticks feel like there is nothing left for them but to live in Rosie’s old cigar box.  But the new stick dares them to dream, to try something different.  “What,” they challenge him.  Be a horse is the first thing the stick thinks of.  Meanwhile, back at Rosie’s house, her parents are worried about paying their bills and that makes Rosie worry, too.  She fashions her sticks into a horse shape and, at the stroke of midnight, the horse comes alive.  She asks the horse to help her get some treasure.  They ride off on an adventure that involves a mountain of ice-pops and pirates.  After a harrowing (and delicious) escape, Rosie brings home a chest of gold to help Mum and Dad pays the bills.  And the sticks take a well-deserved nap.

Well-known collaborators Russell Hoban, author, and Quentin Blake, illustrator, successfully team up again with this unique picture book.  There are so many metaphors that this is one of those picture books that could be used with older students to teach literary devices.  The pen and watercolor illustrations are filled with Blake’s trademark humor.  The text could be adapted to a skit or reader’s theatre as a literacy activity, but the illustrations make it an ideal class read aloud.  This seems to be Hoban’s last book because he died in 2011, making Rosie’s Magic Horse even more a treasure.

  • Rosies Magic HorseTITLE: Rosie’s Magic Horse
  • AUTHOR: Russell Hoban
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Quentin Blake
  • PUBLISHER: Candlewick
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6400-8
  • GENRE: Picture book, magic realism, adventure
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