Archive for November 29, 2013

The Visit: The Origin of the Night before Christmas

Written by Mark Kimball Moulton
Illustrated by Susan Winget

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In this new edition of the story behind the beloved Christmas poem, Moulton and Winget create a beautiful keepsake. Written from the oral history provided by Clement Moore’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Ms. Dinghy Sharp, Moulton captures the spirit and wonder of “The Night before Christmas” through poetry similar in rhyme and meter to the original. Moore wrote the original as a gift to his sick daughter. He never dreamed it would become the beloved classic that it is. The author begins with Ms. Sharp’s firsthand memories of her grandfather, then has the grandfather relate his memories, and on back. Much of the language in the original is outdated, and Moulton deftly explains terms like “coursers” and why Papa needed to tear open the shutters and throw up the sash. Moore himself was known as Papa and was sought out to tell stories to children. Why did everyone hang the stockings by the chimney? The description of Saint Nicholas and the sleigh came directly from Moore’s neighbor and the sleighs used of the time. Winget’s gorgeous illustrations make the book a memento. Readers will feel part of the worlds of 1936 and 1822 and can spend hours looking at the details in the pictures.

The book works well as a read aloud for small children and as an independent reader for late second to early third grade readers. Possible reading activities include learning about the first Saint Nicholas, a poetry unit, and discussing family oral history. The author’s website ( highlights this book and his other work.

  • VisitTitle: The Visit: The Origin of the Night Before Christmas
  • Author: Mark Kimball Moulton
  • Illustrator: Susan Winget
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 54 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, Holidays, Christmas, Poetry, History, Creative Nonfiction
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-03532-3

Caleb’s Hanukkah

Written by Lisa Bullard
Illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo

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Caleb has been practicing, and this year he is going to win at the dreidel! As schools seek to teach about diversity and tolerance, it is essential that students learn about holidays that span the many cultures of America and beyond. Caleb’s Hanukkah is a fantastic book for introducing a young elementary class to the basic principles of Hanukkah. Second graders will find this book easy to follow and comprehend. It is structured in a short chapter format, and on each page, there is information that relays Caleb’s story and Hanukkah traditions, but each page also has notes in tabs that offer detailed explanations about various aspects of Hanukkah. The storyline of this book would be well-suited for reading aloud, but the information tabs are better for individual reading. I love that this book introduces the Jewish history behind Hanukkah and not just the ways that contemporary Jews practice Hanukkah.
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They’re Coming!

Written & Illustrated by Timothy Young

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They’re Coming! They’re Coming! They’re Coming! Who’s coming? When are they coming? How are they coming? Where are they coming? To find the answers, follow the “monster” type characters that shamble across the countryside on each double-page:  a zombie, a werewolf, a witch and a bat, a mummy, and even the headless horseman. A luminous moon provides just sufficient light to silhouette each “monster.”  Yellow green eyes stare from the monsters helping create a creepy mood. . The illustrations are digitally created and printed on heavy high gloss paper.

A rich selection of eerie adjectives describes each ghoul followed by the phrase, “They’re coming!’ That phrase will quickly be repeated by the children in a story hour setting.

The book is similar to the old story joke “The Viper is Coming,” in which the viper turns out to be the “vindow vasher.” Here the surprise ending involves a party.

Kids and adults like to be scared just a little bit; we also like a bit of tension in a story. They’re Coming meets both requirements. Currently the entertainment media’s interest and promotion of monsters, paranormal, spooky, walking dead, etc. have touched even preschool and primary age children. This title fulfills that interest and need.

This book is appropriate for inclusion in a Halloween story hour even though Halloween is not mentioned. However, once the secret about who is coming and where they’re going, is out, the book may not be as effective in a story hour. The title is also appropriate for schools that don’t celebrate Halloween, but the kids still enjoy a spooky story.  Share the old rhyme “I’m Not Scared of Monsters” (I’m not scared of monsters, No monsters ever scared me, For I know that all monsters are only make believe) in that story hour.

Author/illustrator Timothy Young has had a long career in a variety of artistic endeavors from animation to sculpting, from toy design to book illustration and design.


  • Theyre ComingTitle: They’re Coming
  • Author and Illustrator: Timothy Young
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2012
  • Reviewer: Marion Mueller
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 9780764342257
  • Genre: Fantasy picture book
  • Lexile: 370L

Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Durbin

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It is a rare gem for parents and teachers of elementary students to find a book
that is entertaining, educational, and fun but Over in a River fits the bill. Second grade level readers will enjoy the rhyming text while younger children will enjoy the counting activity in each stanza. Second graders can manage the text independently but the lively picture book will be a great group story for a science lesson in the first or second grade classroom or read aloud to younger children.

Included in the wonderful rhyming story are fun filled facts about each species and
their natural habitats. The illustrations are engaging and fun for students of all ages while the text is filled with facts about nature, animals and animal babies. Second grade readers will have so much fun reading, counting, and playing I spy with the colorful illustrations they will not realize how much they are learning along the way.

The author also includes several extra pages of activities and lesson ideas for second grade teachers and parents. There is information about rivers, animals, and habitats but there is so much more. Also included are activities that incorporate music, singing, and dance for second grade readers. The illustrator chimes in with many ideas about drawing animals and how to make collages. All of these fabulous ideas will appeal to second grade readers and enhance any lessons brought to the classroom increasing both second grade
reading interest and comprehension.

  • Over in a RiverTitle: Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrations: Jill Durbin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, 2013
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand RN
  • Genre: Juvenile fiction, nature,
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-330-7

Noisy Frog Sing-Along

Written & Illustrated by John Himmelman

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Frogs sing when they are together, but did you know that only the male frogs sing? Second grade readers will be thrilled to find out this and other fun facts about frogs and their loud singing voices. Second grade level readers will be able to read Noisy Frog Sing-Along independently yet the book will be enjoyed by younger readers who have it read

Second grade teachers and parents will appreciate the scientific facts that will enhance lessons in the second grade classroom. The author also includes several activities that can be used to compliment lessons on frogs, nature, and the environment. More information on this book and other nature books by this author is available to parents and teachers at  which includes a list of books and programs on singing amphibians and insects. What second grade teacher doesn’t appreciate additional information to enhance a lesson plan?

Noisy Frog Sing-Along is more than a silly picture book about frogs making throat noises. It is a great addition to any second grade classroom or home school collection. The text is
simple, the illustrations are interesting and engaging, and the additional scientific facts make this a great book for the second grade reader.

More information:

  • Noisy FrogTitle: Noisy Frog Sing-Along
  • Author/Illustrator: John Himmelman
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications 2013
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Genre: Picture Book, Creative Nonfiction
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-339-0

I Hate Picture Books!

Written & Illustrated by Timothy Young

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Max vows to throw away of all his picture books, because they do nothing but cause him trouble. He read Harold and the Purple Crayon, but when he drew on the walls like Harold, his mother sent him to his room. When he wished a boat would take him away to Where the Wild Things Are, nothing happened. He woke up in his same old room with his same old picture books – the ones he now hates.

Readers will relish being in on the joke as Max complains that picture books make no sense (“Cows can’t type… and caterpillars don’t eat salami or Swiss cheese…”). And they will laugh out loud at a hilarious bit about what happens when you take Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham too seriously. As Max rants on and on, he realizes that he hates his picture books because sometimes they cause him to have strong emotions, like the time Are You My Mother? made him cry. Remembering that moment triggers something inside him to run to the trash and dig out the discarded book, and before you know it, he is lying on his floor with all his picture books around him, reading them again and again and again.

Perfect for second graders who may be advancing to early readers, Young reinforces how picture books stimulate our imaginations and stay with us long after we graduate from them. His skillful recreations of classic illustrations will have readers chanting, “I’ve read that one!” and will whet the appetite for those who haven’t.

Reading activities could easily stem from the hundreds of familiar book covers that appear within the pages.

  • i hate picture booksTitle: I Hate Picture Books!
  • Author/Illustrator: Timothy Young
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-4387-2
  • Genre: Picture Book, humor, contemporary, books