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Churchill’s Tale of Tails

Written and illustrated by Anca Sandu

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Churchill loves his squiggly piggy tail. Not that it’s especially big or fancy or practical, it’s just his and he’s darn proud of it.

One morning Churchill wakes to find his tail missing. His animal friends try to boost his spirits by lending him their spare tails. Zebra’s tail is interesting enough, but Churchill wonders what others are like. Peacock’s feathery plumage makes him feel beautiful. Fish’s tail transforms him into a graceful swimmer. And a tiger tail? Totally fierce! Churchill gets so caught up trying on tails that he has no time for anything else, including his friends. When he finally stumbles upon his lost appendage (in a comic scene involving a wee bird), he realizes how selfish he’s been; his friends have tried to help him and he’s given them nothing in return. To apologize, he throws them a big party and promises to take good care of his own tail from now on.

Debut author/illustrator Sandu has created a winsome main character that brims with personality. Second grade audiences will find Churchill engaging with his expressive eyes, enthusiastic demeanor, and, in the end, a good heart. On each page, Sandu includes plenty of visual details for readers to discover, including funny dialogue snippets in cartoon bubbles. Themes of individuality and valuing friendships round out this silly story that is sure to produce smiles and giggles from young readers.

  • Churchills TaleTitle: Churchill’s Tale of Tails
  • Author/Illustrator: Anca Sandu
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-738-0
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Animals

So Long Gnop-Jiye

Written by Katrina Moore
Illustrated by Khriss Bajade

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As a nation of immigrants, Americans have often heard the story as each new child attempts to find a place in our culture. But each child has a unique set of circumstances and brings something new to that culture. And so it is with the author’s mother – forced out of Hong Kong at a young age and plopped into a school where the language barrier is a big problem. As soon as seven-year-old Kuen Mun, renamed Mary, begins to understand, she is much happier. But she still dreams of the dolls, house, and pet duck, Gnop-Jiye, she left behind.

The author begins by making it clear Mary’s is a family story – told by a mother to her children. Mary’s grandfather is also part of the story, making this a multigenerational event. Family is important to them, as it is to so many people.

The illustrations follow the theme very well, including details of the characters’ lives. For example, Bajade shows what it must have been like for Mary to share a bed with both her parents when they first started out in America.

Second graders and older can relate to Mary’s feelings of helplessness in the face of her new situation and isolation in not knowing the language. This book should give the reader a new understanding of the situations immigrants face and the sacrifices they make when they arrive in a new place. The author introduces a few Chinese words, adding to the literacy skills and comprehension.

As an extra, the publisher includes a free audio download with the book through their website, tatepublishing.com.

  • So Long Gnop-JiyeTITLE: So Long Gnop-Jiye
  • AUTHOR: Katrina Moore
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Khriss Bajade
  • PUBLISHER: Tate Publishing, 2014
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-1-63063-064-5
  • FORMAT: Paperback, unpaged
  • GENRE: Historical Fiction, Culture Shock, Family

The Moon Saw It All

Written by Nancy L. Young
Illustrated by Nadia Komorova

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Something magical happens when a full moon appears over Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona. Animals from air, land, and sea come together to dance, sing, and make music at the “critter ball.” With ethereal illustrations awash in purple hues, second graders will love this gentle rhyming story of friendship, camaraderie, and celebration of nature.

At the monthly moonlit dance by the creek, frogs and bugs exchange hugs, while bobcats croon and porcupines whistle a tune. Snakes shake their rattles, gila monsters swish, and silver minnows shimmer as they splash, while brown bears do-si-do and quails tango all under the watchful eye of the moon. Cheek to cheek, paw in paw, they dance the night away. No one wants it to end, but at daybreak the animals vanish. All that remains are hoof prints, paw prints, feathers and flower petals curiously mixed together, along with a message inscribed in the sand: The moon saw it all!

Recommended for ages 3-9, this book is chock-full of warm fuzzies; the soothing cadence is a natural fit for a bedtime story or classroom read-aloud. Every page offers an array of critters to gaze upon, plus children outside of the southwest will learn about regional species such as bighorn sheep, javelina, tarantulas, and coatimundi. A curriculum guide for school or home use follows the story and includes vocabulary words, lessons on poetry, and literary activities. A companion coloring book, The Moon Colors It All, can be purchased on www.MoonSawItAll.com. Visit the publisher’s website for additional titles: www.LittleFiveStar.com.

  • Moon Saw It AllTitle: The Moon Saw It All
  • Author: Nancy L. Young
  • Illustrator: Nadia Komorova
  • Publisher: Little Five Star / Five Star Publications, 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58985-250-1
  • Genre: Picture Book / Fiction / Nature / Animals

A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road

Written & Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

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Wonderful watercolor illustrations draw the reader into the world of Mei’s 9th century China and all of her dreams about what the west might be like. The story starts with her pestering her father about going with him along the Silk Road to sell their silk. He will not allow it, but does agree to take her smooth, round pebble. The plan is to send the pebble as a gift to someone at the far end of the Silk Road.

Each illustration shows a different time of year, in a different spot along the journey. Using the seasons was a wonderful way to illustrate how long the journey was from East to West.

As the pebble was passed from traveler to traveler, the illustrations changed to show the various cultures along the way.  Not everyone who carried the pebble was a merchant. There was a monk, a sandalwood trader, a performing family, a thief and finally a pirate! How wonderful to see that it was the child of the pirate who finally was the recipient of the smooth, round pebble.

To Mei’s great delight, someone sent a gift back from west to east, also.

The smooth, melodic language will become a favorite at read alouds in libraries, classrooms and homes. Second grade readers will love the change to dream along with Mei about a place they have never been.

Teachers will love enhancing the core curriculum and literacy skills with mapping, multi-culturalism and history as well as geography of the world with this truly beautifully done story.

  • A Single PebbleTitle: A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road
  • Author/ Illustrator: Bonnie Christensen
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook, 2013.
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: hardcover
  • ISBN:  978-1-59643-715-9
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Grade: Preschool to 2
  • Extras: Bibliographic information, maps, and websites to visit

On Kiki’s Reef

Written by Carol L. Malnot
Illustrated by Trina L. Hunner

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This wonderful story follows Kiki, a green sea turtle, as she grows and explores her undersea world, a coral reef. She starts as a baby, emerging from her egg and heading for the sea. She’s one of the lucky babies to reach the water, dodging birds and crabs. She grows and eats among the seaweed. The clownfish lives in harmony with anemone. Kiki is helped by tang fish, which eat the algae that grows on her shell. Groupers and wrasse also live in harmony. She must be careful of barracuda and sharks, especially tiger sharks. Kiki observes a seahorse’s camouflage, a parrotfish chewing among the coral, an octopus grabbing shrimp and snails, and a human diver. She barely escapes the human’s net. But Kiki does survive to lay her eggs and complete the cycle of life.

Hunner’s illustrations are vivid depictions of what it must be like underwater. The reader gets a you-are-there feeling from the beautiful colors and many details.

The last several pages discuss many facts about the creatures Kiki encounters. The author presents numerous reading activities and online resources, making this book a valuable teaching tool. The publisher’s website, www.dawnpub.com, is rich in resources, including teacher guides. Second graders and up will enjoy the story and learn a lot about turtles and ecosystems in general.

 

  • On Kikis ReefTITLE: On Kiki’s Reef
  • AUTHOR: Carol L. Malnot
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Trina L. Hunner
  • PUBLISHER: Dawn Publications, 2014
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-476-2
  • FORMAT: Hard cover, 32 pages
  • GENRE: Creative Nonfiction, Nature, Animals
  • PUBLICATION DATE: March 2014

The Mouse and the Meadow

Written and Illustrated by Chad Wallace

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Delightful rhyming verse accompanies gorgeous illustrations in this tale of a meadow mouse and his natural friends and enemies. A young mouse explores the meadow for the first time and finds a fascinating world. A spider spins a marvelous web. A honeybee gathers pollen. A caterpillar weaves a cocoon. The sudden appearance of a box turtle’s head startles the little rodent. But it’s the appearance of a snake that really has him frightened. Barely escaping, the mouse is aided first by a weasel then by a mother rabbit. As night falls, the mouse studies a firefly. He discovers new terror in the swooping of a great horned owl. He is saved by another mouse, who shows him where to hide.

As a read aloud, the lilting rhythm will hold children as young as four. For independent reading, second grade readers should be able to tackle the pages. The animal communication rings true. The illustrations are realistic and action-packed.

The last three pages of the book highlight many facts about the meadow animals,  talk about other animal volumes available from the publisher, and give readers an idea of where to get more information. The publisher’s website, www.dawnpub.com, is rich in resources, including teacher guides. The pages also give a sample of reading activities, like hatching a cocoon and growing a miniature meadow.

 

  • Mouse and MeadowTITLE: The Mouse and the Meadow
  • AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Chad Wallace
  • PUBLISHER: Dawn Publications, 2014
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-481-6
  • FORMAT: Hard cover, 32 pages
  • GENRE: Creative Nonfiction, Nature, Animals
  • PUBLICATION DATE: March 2014

Turkey Claus

Written by Wendi Silvano

Illustrated by Lee Harper

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In a sequel to Turkey Trouble, also by the duo of Silvano and Harper, Turkey finds that he may yet be the centerpiece for a holiday meal. Though he made it safely through Thanksgiving without being eaten, Turkey now overhears Farmer Jake and his wife, Edna, discussing a Christmas turkey dinner.

Turkey heads to the North Pole in hopes of Santa Claus solving his dilemma, but he’s turned away by elves protecting Santa’s time on the day before Christmas. Silvano and Harper cleverly adorn Turkey in fun, holiday-themed disguises to hopefully gain entrance to Santa’s presence. Though he strikes out with most of his disguises, Turkey finally sneaks in, hidden in a gift, and Santa saves the day. Turkey, dressed as Santa, delivers Gobblers Pizza to the farmer and his wife, just in time for dinner.

The illustrations are charmingly delightful, and the elves comments to Turkey are sarcastically humorous for adult and children’s entertainment, yet seriously explanatory to solve the mystery of each disguise. “Candy canes don’t have beaks,” explains the elf when Turkey is surprised that he’s discovered.

Parents and teachers will enjoy adding this humorous second grade book to their holiday reading list for must-read-alouds. Following the story, adults can use this website http://belladia.typepad.com/crafty_crow/2009/11/the-biggest-list-of-turkey-crafts-for-kids-to-make.html to find a three-dimensional turkey craft. After the children complete a turkey craft, supply them with various Christmas arts and crafts supplies (be sure to supply some unusual, atypical crafty kind of items to stir their imaginations) for each child to create a holiday-themed “disguise” for Turkey. Then, pair each child with a friend to act out an elf-scene from the book. Encourage one child to use his turkey to say, “May I please see Santa?” Have the (elf) partner reply with, “No turkey is getting in here today!” When the “turkey” says, “How’d you recognize me?” the (elf) partner replies with an acceptable answer to match his/her disguise.

Children will enjoy reading this unique Christmas story (most Christmas stories don’t have a turkey dinner as the theme of the book) during the December season as a fun twist to the usual holiday-ish kind of story. The story will stir their imaginations, and kids will find themselves attempting to think of other disguises for Turkey, because after all, who wouldn’t want to gain entry to Santa’s presence?

  • Turkey ClausTITLE: Turkey Claus
  • AUTHOR: Wendi Silvano
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Lee Harper
  • PUBLISHER: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Hard Cover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0761462392
  • GENRE: Holiday/Christmas
  • LEXILE: 500

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 (http://www.markkimballmoulton.blogspot.com/) 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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