Archive for August 20, 2015

Digby O’Day and the Great Diamond Robbery

Written by Shirley Hughes
Illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

A cat and dog can sometimes be best friends and are in this chapter book. Digby and Percy are headed off on for a seaside vacation in a posh hotel in this installment of the series.

On their way to the hotel dining room the first night, they were surprised by the arrival of a famous movie star with all her entourage and many reporters and photographers. Later in the evening they noticed a man swept off the jetty and into the sea. Working mightily together, they managed to rescue him from the sea.

After the famous star has her diamond necklace stolen, Digby and Percy manage to find it along with many other stolen gems. They saved the day and became heroes.

The chapters are short, the font large and the pages thick. Many grade two readers and grade three readers will read this independently. There are some unusually large words included for this age group, but literacy decoding skills and context clues should make the story manageable. The sketches will also help by providing picture clues. As a series for emerging readers, this offers a fun start. Teachers and librarians will know which students will benefit from being recommended to try this series.

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  • Digby O'DayTitle: Digby O’Day and the Great Diamond Robbery
  • Author: Shirley Hughes
  • Illustrator: Clara Vulliamy
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 106 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7445-8
  • Genre: Chapter Book
  • Grade level: K to 3
  • Extras: map of the story world, maze, one page quiz of story, bios of author and illustrator

The Day the Crayons Came Home

Written by Drew Daywalt
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Duncan’s crayons quit a while ago, but now they are headed back home. Well, some of them are supposed to be headed home. The title is a little confusing on this issue and kids will catch it for sure. One crayon is upstairs in Duncan’s room stuck to a sock, and one is down in the cushions in the couch. Another is standing in the hallway of Duncan’s house waiting for someone to open the door.

The first and last pages of the book are in normal font. However, as in the previous book about these crayon characters, the postcards supposedly written by the crayons are going to be hard for some children to read. They are in kid-like scrawl and in various colors.

Otherwise, it is a silly, fun kind of book destined to get giggles galore from young readers themselves and lots more when a literacy teacher or librarian reads it aloud. It would be great to use with older students when talking about character development. Writing curriculum standards will be met using this as discussion starters also in discussions of fact versus fiction and setting.

Art projects depicting crayons in touch conditions will be fun follow-up activities for classroom or story hour.

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  • CrayonsTitle: The Day the Crayons Came Home
  • Author: Drew Daywalt
  • Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
  • Publisher: Philomel, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-17275-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: K to 3

The Stranded Whale

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Melanie Cataldo


In this beautiful, short tale of a beached whale and how three children tried to save it, Yolen relates a timeless struggle against the harshness of nature. As the children walk home from school, they discover a whale stranded on the beach as the tide goes out. They immediately start trying to wet the whale’s skin with their sweaters and call for help from the beach’s emergency phone. Many people come to help, but it’s not enough. Eventually, the whale dies and the kids go home to their frantic parents. The Coast Guard gives the children each a medal for making the attempt to help, but what they really want is for the whale to be alive and well.

Cataldo’s lovely illustrations evoke the feel of the ocean and are dark enough to convey the seriousness of the situation. In the Author’s Note, Yolen explains her road to this story and the history of beached whales. She notes that this phenomenon doesn’t affect the overall whale population. Animals die.

Second graders will enjoy reading this story independently and should find hope in the circle of life. Nature may be harsh at times, but it is what it is. And people can always help.

Buy on Amazon

  • Stranded WhaleTitle: The Stranded Whale
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Illustrator: Melanie Cataldo
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 4
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture Book, Nature, Environment
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6953-9
  • Extra: Author’s Note