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Tall Tall Tree

Written by Anthony D. Fredericks
Illustrated by Chad Wallace

High above the forest floor is a world few people know about. It’s home to hundreds of species and is only present where the coast redwoods grow. If the redwoods go, this environment goes.

The author presents the story as a counting book with gentle rhyme highlighting ten different animals.

A single soaring eagle

Against a sky of blue

Up through “ten spotted Ladybugs.” In the Explore More sections, detailed descriptions and fun activities make this an extremely educational experience.

The realistic illustrations show kids a world they might never see otherwise. He includes in each illustration an extra animal so kids will have something extra to spot after counting the stars of the show.

As with most books from this publisher, this is a great text to include in a classroom. In this case, one learning about nature, the environment, or redwoods in particular. Of course, parents might also enjoy reading the fun text and discussing the environment with their kids.

This is a wonderful addition to any nature library.

  • Tall Tall TreeTitle: Tall Tall Tree
  • Author: Anthony D. Fredericks
  • Illustrator: Chad Wallace
  • Published: Dawn Publications, September 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Nature, Counting
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-602-5
  • Extras: Explore More for Kids, Explore More for Teachers and Parents, Activities on publisher’s website: dawnpub.com

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song

Written by Debbie Levy
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

More than ever, children need something positive to hold onto. If they can sing some of their troubles away, maybe that will clear their heads so they can come up with solutions. This book was published a few years ago, but has even more relevance to today.

The author, Debbie Levy, has written about many subjects that qualify as consciousness-raising, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, and Richard Wright. In this story of the civil rights movement, she treats the topic with her usual sensitivity. From slavery to the lunch counter sit ins to the Freedom Singers, this one song held the people together. The March on Washington and the fight for the Voting Rights Act featured the song. It spread throughout the world to inspire struggles in other countries. The song evolved over the years, but the sentiment remained the same.

Vanessa Brantley-Newton is also no stranger to working with sensitive issues nor to illustrations about songs. Her images perfectly show how the singers have incorporated the song into their lives.

Highly recommended for early grade school discussions of current events.

  • We Shall OvercomeTitle: We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song
  • Author: Debbie Levy
  • Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton
  • Published: Disney: Jump at the Sun, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 3
  • Genre: Creative nonfiction
  • ISBN: 978-142311954
  • Extras: The Life of “We Shall Overcome,” a timeline; bibliography

Don’t Call Me Turtle

Written by Elaine A. Powers
Illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe

Written in rhyme to hold a kid’s interest, this is a cute story about a tortoise that keeps getting mistaken for a turtle. So the author explains many of the differences between the two. This is most important for those who might encounter one of these creatures and are wondering how best to help it. Readers don’t want to be responsible for drowning a tortoise. The shape and consistency of the shell and the different feet and claws are dead giveaways.

The detailed illustrations also aid with tortoise/turtle identification.

This short book is perfect for a nature unit on reptiles. Back matter is lacking, but the story is compelling enough to urge kids to look for more information.

  • Dont Call Me TurtleTitle: Don’t Call Me Turtle
  • Author: Elaine A. Powers
  • Illustrator: Nicholas Thorpe
  • Published: Lyric Power Publishing LLC, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 26 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Creative nonfiction
  • ISBN: 978-1517509576

Super Rooster and Wonder Cat

Written by Alma Hammond
Illustrated by Hugh Keiser

Based on the author’s observation of an unlikely pair of friends while on honeymoon in Bora Bora, this imaginative story speculates about what a rooster and a cat might encounter as they venture forth. They decide they have super powers, namely an ability to cockadoodle dazzle or to run up a coconut palm quickly and knock down a coconut. They meet a crab whose power is to break open the coconut, a spotted eagle ray who can fly through the air, and a black tip reef shark that can leap through the air for a distance. At first, the rooster and cat are frightened of the other creatures. Then they learn not to be threatening themselves.

Keiser’s illustrations provide a perfect backdrop to this fun story in which kids can explore what their super powers might be.

This is also a great opportunity for readers to learn about an area of the world they may never have heard of, or maybe only in Hollywood movies. They can explore who might be an unusual friend for them.

  • Super RoosterTitle: Super Rooster and Wonder Cat
  • Author: Alma Hammond
  • Illustrator: Hugh Keiser
  • Published: Sweetbeet Books, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Creative nonfiction
  • ISBN: 978-0-9985362-0-0
  • Extras: Study questions, Fun facts about the creatures on Bora Bora

Fergus and Zeke

Written by Kate Messner
Illustrated by Heather Ross

Fergus is a mouse. A well-behaved mouse that just happens to be the classroom pet for Miss Maxwell’s class. He follows all the rules, so why shouldn’t he go on the class field trip? Consequently, he sees no problem with stowing away in Emma’s backpack. He befriends a nice banana so he will follow the rule of having a buddy. But when the kids are required to leave their backpacks in the cloak room, Fergus has to find another buddy. And he does – Zeke, a museum mouse. Zeke, not quite believing in rules, shows him all the fun places humans cannot go. They have so much fun, Fergus almost misses the bus home. Of course, Zeke must come with him, much to the surprise of the entire classroom.

Fergus is so likeable that young readers will surely want to know what happens to him. They will probably want to see more from Fergus and Zeke also. Kids will learn a lot about friendship about the importance of rules. They might also learn about how field trips work and about what goes on at natural history museums. The sweet illustrations give a realistic view of this imaginative story.

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  • Fergus and ZekeTitle: Fergus and Zeke
  • Author: Kate Messner
  • Illustrator: Heather Ross
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 56 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Chapter book, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7846-3

Annie and Simon: Banana Muffins and Other Stories

Written by Catherine O’Neill

In three sweet stories, the reader is invited to get to know Annie and her big, big brother, Simon.

First up, Annie is hungry and Simon suggests making banana muffins. The recipe goes smoothly until Annie insists on counting the nuts and the cranberries. Simon’s interest waivers enough so that Annie slips in chocolate chips, which are not in the recipe. Naturally, the muffins are delicious.

Next, Simon finds himself babysitting with the neighbor’s baby. That goes well until the child’s favorite toy gets misplaced. Turns out, the family dog is burying all sorts of useful items.

Last, Annie and Simon are enjoying treasures from Annie’s past – a pacifier and a book about butterflies. Meanwhile, the dog needs to be distracted away from a porcupine.

Delightful watercolors adorn nearly every page and show how much Annie and Simon enjoy each other. Lovely details will be fun for kids to spot. The book is short enough for early readers to tackle on their own. It can also be enjoyed as a read aloud, especially at bedtime.

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  • Annie and SimonTitle:  Annie and Simon: Banana Muffins and Other Stories
  • Author:  Catherine O’Neill
  • Publisher:  Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format:  Hardcover, 64 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-7498-4
  • Genre: Early Reader Fiction
  • Grade level: K to 3

Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3

Written by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan
Illustrated by Grace Zong

            Saying good-bye to a favorite teacher is a hard thing to do. Especially, is she is not coming back to the school at all next year.

            Each child has a special job in this story of packing up the classroom on the last day. While most of them see each other being busy, they are not able to see William drawing his pictures until almost the end of the story. But he becomes a hero when they realize his pictures help them remember all the great times they had during the year.

            Teachers and librarians can use this book as they prepare for the end of the school year and especially, when a teacher is retiring or just moving on to another career.

            The illustrations are great fun and very realistic in showing children at work with tongues sticking out and smiles on their faces. This will become a favorite.

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  • Title:  Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3
  • Author:  Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan
  • Illustrator:  Grace Zong
  • Publisher:  Peachtree, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-944-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level:  K to 3

Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports

Written by Phil Bildner
Illustrated by Brett Helquist

If you have any interest in sports, or if you have some fondness for the 1970s, or even if you like stories about strong women, you really need to read this book.

In 1971, a new female tennis player, Chris Evert, appeared on the scene, quietly winning a lot of matches. In 1973, Chrissie and Martina Navratilova played for the first time, with Chrissie dominating the match. They became good friends, however. Martina gradually built up her game until she became the dominant player. Over the next several years, Chrissie and Martina played each other eighty times in tournaments. Martina won forty three of the matches. They made each other better players and were always the best of friends in spite of coaches and others wanting them to be at each other’s throats.

The lively and realistic painted illustrations give the reader the feeling of being there. Kids can see the determination and effort required to play.

Their rivalry gives a lot of lessons about friendship and what a good rivalry can do for you. The reader can also learn about this period in history, when the iron curtain was still a consideration. 

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  • Title: Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports
  • Author: Phil Bildner
  • Illustrator: Brett Helquist
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Picture book, History, Sports
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7308-6
  • Extras: Martina and Chrissie though the Years (timeline) and Sources

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

Written by Danna Smith
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

            Falconry has enjoyed a long history of legends and stories alike. This stunningly beautiful tale is told in verse from the viewpoint of a young girl hunting with father and their hawk. The story is told sequentially during the day, throughout a hunt and concludes with putting the hawk to bed in its mew at day’s end.

            The spectacular acrylic gouache illustrations bring alive medieval castle life amid authentic panoramas of European countryside. All views of the hawk, as well as of its prey are so realistic as to make the reader think it is a photograph. Upon reading the detailed illustrator’s note it all makes sense as, Ibatoulline, was raised by a falconer father and totally understands this topic. The hawk appears to be gliding right across the cover of the book.

            On each page a nonfiction text box clearly explains details of falconry using the proper terms. All nonfiction text is presented in italics, which helps young readers distinguish it from the fictional tale. Teachers, librarians and parents will commend the publisher for this important design feature.

      Curriculum standards can be met in the areas of literature, geography, history, animal life and the arts well into middle school.  While the book is also a beautiful read aloud for kindergarten or grade one. Teachers of grade two or grade three will use it in teaching about falconry as an ancient hunting sport, as an introduction to the study of medieval times or as a science book about falcons.  It is a story children and adults will want to read again and again. It is highly recommended for all school and public libraries.

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  • Title:  The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry
  • Author:  Danna Smith
  • Illustrator:  Bagram Ibatoulline
  • Publisher:  Candlewick, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-7992-7
  • Genre: Picture Book/Nonfiction Connection
  • Grade level:  PreK to 3
  • Extras: Index, Related Readings List, Related Internet sites, detailed illustrator note.

King and Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats

Written by Dori Hillestad Butler
Illustrated by Nancy Myers

In this cute story for younger readers, King the dog feels he’s being unjustly accused of stealing dog treats.

King’s owner, Kayla is making peanut butter dog treats, but not for King. She is making them for her friend Jillian’s new puppy. The reader watches as Kayla mixes the yummy ingredients, rolls out the dough, cuts the shapes, and bakes the bone-shaped treats. While the treats cool, King plays with the puppy. When they return to the kitchen, they find several treats missing. Also, King senses a smelly intruder. The new puppy can’t be the thief. Jillian’s little brother can’t be the thief. King knows he’s not the thief. Who can it be?

Action-filled illustrations add to the fun and to the solution of the crime.

In addition to the practice kids will get with the simple language in this great little book, they will get to practice their reasoning and deductive skills.  

Buy on Amazon

  • Missing Dog TreatsTitle: King and Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats         
  • Author: Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Illustrator: Nancy Myers
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Early Reader, Mystery
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-877-6
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