Archive for April 17, 2014

About Habitats: Forests

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

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What are forests and why are they important? What kind of wildlife lives in a forest? These questions and more are answered in the latest offering from the About Habitats series.

Cathryn and John Sill have created a wonderful beginner’s guide, presented in a clean, organized fashion. On the left-hand side of the page spread, a simple sentence with easy language appears over a white background. To the right, readers are treated to a painting, vivid with color and detail. With clear labeling for easy cross-reference, different levels of information are available for different reader levels. A kindergartener may pore over the picture of the cute chipmunk, while a second or third grader can expand their knowledge and literacy skills from the plant and animal identifiers (e.g., an Eastern Chipmunk in a deciduous forest, surrounded by morel mushrooms and Christmas ferns).

Young readers will learn about the different types of forests like deciduous, tropical, or boreal and how each has their own distinct characteristics. The illustrations show animals and plants thriving within each habitat: a snowshoe hare blends into the snowy landscape of the boreal forest; an orangutan finds shelter in the tropical forest canopy; a black bear, broad-winged hawk, and box turtle live side by side in the deciduous forest.

Extras include a global map of the major forest areas of the world, a glossary, bibliography, and additional websites for further information. For more titles in the About Habitats series, visit the publishers website:

  • ForestsTitle: About Habitats: Forests
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-734-2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nature, Wildlife, Ecology

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Big Birthday Bash

Written and illustrated by Frank Cammuso

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In this delightful graphic novel, young witch Salem Hyde and her cat companion Whammy prepare for their friend Edgar’s birthday party. Meanwhile, they are also battling their archenemy, Shelly. First, the reader gets to know Salem and her magic a little bit. She makes herself bigger and then runs out of magic before she can shrink back. Next, Salem has to get past Shelly and the fact that she’s hidden Salem’s invitation to the party. On an excursion to buy Edgar’s present, their misadventures continue with major brain freeze from slushees and Shelly confronting them at the toy store. Plus, they have no money. When they finally get to the party, Salem does her best to make it a great day for Edgar. Of course, her spells backfire and she has to correct for some of them. She tries to make the party big but ends up shrinking the attendees instead. Whammy is almost served up as dinner to some baby birds.

The lively and exciting panels pull the reader in and should hold their attention. They also provide a great backdrop to increase comprehension for second graders and up. Friendship and getting along are strong and subtle themes of this work. The author’s website,, provides information on author visits and about all his books.

  • Big Birthday BashTitle: The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Big Birthday Bash
  • Author/Illustrator: Frank Cammuso
  • Publisher: Amulet/Abrams, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 94 pages
  • Genre: Graphic novel, fiction, fantasy, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1025-4

Claude at the Beach

Written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith

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Claude, the small plump dog, and Sir Bobblysock return in this entertaining account of a vacation at the beach. The author begins with Claude’s background, making this a good stand-alone book, but don’t miss Claude’s other adventures. He lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes and reserves his antics for when they are at work. Claude packs his suitcase with useful items, such as underpants, a lampshade, sunscreen, whipped cream, and sticky tape. He and Sir Bobblysock set off for the beach, where Bobblysock promptly falls asleep. Claude rescues a swimmer from a shark while the lifeguard helps a woman with her beach balls. After a snack, Claude and Bobblysock meet a family of pirates. They all go to hunt for buried treasure on Skull Island, which they eventually find. They also find the pirates who buried the treasure. Of course, the second group of pirates is very interested in the useful items Claude packed in his suitcase. Claude and Sir Bobblysock return home, dragging in sand, treasure, and seaweed smells.

Second grade readers will enjoy the silliness and wry humor. Read aloud is recommended, but only because sharing the jokes will make them even more fun. In any case, the story will hold kids’ attention and literacy skills will be enhanced.

  • Claude at the BeachTitle: Claude at the Beach
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2011
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-703-5
  • Extras: Author blog at