Archive for September 23, 2014

As An Oak Tree Grows

Written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Seasons and generations all pass by as the acorn planted by a supposed Native American child grows. While the text is clear and sparse, the illustrations are full of detail that will delight kindergarten readers as well as third grade readers.

The oak tree grows while people clear the land around it and begin to build houses and families. A timeline across the bottom of the pages lets readers correctly interpret the historical changes in transportation, architecture and clothing shown in the pictures.

For the youngest readers, it is enough to see the tree grow and the seasons change. Older readers will quickly notice the more subtle changes in lifestyle recorded in the illustrations.

This book will satisfy the common core standards for science, history, nature, and literature in several of the elementary grades. It is a beautiful springboard into studies of community development.

Readers will get attached to the tree and feel some sadness at its passing, but hope wins out as a new little acorn sprouts right next to where the old tree stood.

The poster that is in a pocket in the back of the book is full sized and has the stump of the tree enlarged. The rings of the tree are marked with historical markers to show how each ring of the tree represents a complete year. It will make it more understandable for young readers to see how this one tree was present for two hundred years of America’s history.

On the back of the poster are several activity sheets that go along with the book and only help to enhance the information included. This would be an excellent addition to any classroom, school or home library.

Buy on Amazon

  • As An Oak Tree GrowsTitle: As An Oak Tree Grows
  • Author/Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books/Penguin, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-25233-4
  • Genre: Historical fiction, realistic
  • Grade Level: K-3
  • Extras: Poster of the tree trunk, with historical labels on various rings, worksheets that go with the book are on the back of the poster.

Maddi’s Fridge

Written by Lois Brandt
Illustrated by Vin Vogel

After an afternoon of playing in the park, Sofia opens her friend Maddi’s fridge to look for a snack only to discover that it’s practically empty. Embarrassed, Maddi explains that her family doesn’t have much money for food. She begs Sofia not to tell anyone. Sofia promises she won’t.

Back home, Sofia sees her own fridge in a different light, stocked with all kinds of delicious things like milk, eggs, tortillas, salsa, carrots, and even a can of food for their dog. She wishes she could tell her mom about Maddi, but she made a promise. That night, she sneaks some of her fish dinner to give to her friend the next day. However:

Fish may be good for kids,
But fish is not good for backpacks.

This setback doesn’t keep the girls from their afternoon routine at the park. Maddi’s still the only one who can master the climbing wall, and she encourages Sofia to keep trying. She does – that night she tries again to bring Maddi some of her dinner.

Eggs may be good for kids,
But eggs are not good for backpacks.

On the third try, Sofia succeeds in bringing her friend something to eat. She also succeeds in making it to the top of the climbing wall, thanks to Maddi’s help all the way. And because friends help each other, Sofia decides she must break her promise. She tells her mother and together they buy groceries for Maddi’s family.

“A promise is important,” Maddi said.
“You’re more important,” Sofia said.

Kudos to Brandt for turning a serious social issue into a warm tale infused with humor and loads of heart. Second grade readers will love Vogel’s cheery illustrations, created with digital pen and ink and rich with detail. This book would be a wonderful addition to any classroom library – a perfect read aloud opportunity to discuss what it means to be a friend, how to help someone in need, and how some secrets should be shared with a trusted adult. The back page lists things kids can do to get involved plus a link to, which offers activity pages, a curriculum guide for teachers and parents, and links to hunger organizations.

Buy on Amazon

Maddis FridgeTitle: Maddi’s Fridge
Author: Lois Brandt
Illustrator: Vin Vogel
Publisher: Flashlight Press, 2014
Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9362612-9-1
Genre: Picture Book / Fiction / Social Issues