Archive for 2012

They’re Coming!

Written & Illustrated by Timothy Young

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They’re Coming! They’re Coming! They’re Coming! Who’s coming? When are they coming? How are they coming? Where are they coming? To find the answers, follow the “monster” type characters that shamble across the countryside on each double-page:  a zombie, a werewolf, a witch and a bat, a mummy, and even the headless horseman. A luminous moon provides just sufficient light to silhouette each “monster.”  Yellow green eyes stare from the monsters helping create a creepy mood. . The illustrations are digitally created and printed on heavy high gloss paper.

A rich selection of eerie adjectives describes each ghoul followed by the phrase, “They’re coming!’ That phrase will quickly be repeated by the children in a story hour setting.

The book is similar to the old story joke “The Viper is Coming,” in which the viper turns out to be the “vindow vasher.” Here the surprise ending involves a party.

Kids and adults like to be scared just a little bit; we also like a bit of tension in a story. They’re Coming meets both requirements. Currently the entertainment media’s interest and promotion of monsters, paranormal, spooky, walking dead, etc. have touched even preschool and primary age children. This title fulfills that interest and need.

This book is appropriate for inclusion in a Halloween story hour even though Halloween is not mentioned. However, once the secret about who is coming and where they’re going, is out, the book may not be as effective in a story hour. The title is also appropriate for schools that don’t celebrate Halloween, but the kids still enjoy a spooky story.  Share the old rhyme “I’m Not Scared of Monsters” (I’m not scared of monsters, No monsters ever scared me, For I know that all monsters are only make believe) in that story hour.

Author/illustrator Timothy Young has had a long career in a variety of artistic endeavors from animation to sculpting, from toy design to book illustration and design.


  • Theyre ComingTitle: They’re Coming
  • Author and Illustrator: Timothy Young
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2012
  • Reviewer: Marion Mueller
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 9780764342257
  • Genre: Fantasy picture book
  • Lexile: 370L

Trick or Treat

Writtten by Leo Landry 

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Trick or Treat is a fun picture book for kids whether they have it read aloud or are able to read it independently.  Second grade level readers should have no problem reading independently and the illustrations and the twist at the end of the story will keep them engaged and turning the page.

Teachers will appreciate this addition to the first or second grade classroom library especially during the month of October because it is such a fun Halloween book with a hint of scary without being offensive to parents or too frightening to the reader.

Trick or Treat is a wonderful example of a story that has levels of comprehension and meaning told with few words. It is not just an ordinary Halloween party story but a party with unexpected human guests. The fact that the main character was not expecting two children to appear is just one fun twist to what the author shares throughout the story.

The book offers the teacher an opportunity to ask great questions of the reader to test second grade reader comprehension and also to encourage students to write their own fun Halloween stories. The ending itself offers much room for classroom discussion because it leaves the main character in a cliff hanging predicament, a perfect time to ask the students what they would do.

From the invitation on the jacket flap to the hysterical twist at the end of the story, the story will be enjoyed by adults and the young readers who master the pages.

  • trick or treatTitle: Trick or Treat
  • Author: Leo Landry
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 2012
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-24969-8
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand



The Dyno-Mite Dog Show

Written by Louise Bonnett Rampersaud

Illustrated by Adam McHeffey

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In the tradition of Amber Brown, Clementine, and Junie B. Jones, we now have Agnes. She’s a good-hearted, run-amuck third grader who runs The Secret Knock Club with an iron fist, certain that she knows what the club should do and how they should do it. For a school service project, the Secret Knock Club has chosen to throw a dog show at the local retirement village. Unfortunately for Agnes, school projects cannot exclude anyone, so when her former best friend —now worst enemy—Heather asks to join in, she is allowed. With fun word play, and energy that won’t quit, Agnes somehow gets the club and the home-made dog bones to the dog show, where the dogs are provided by the staff. It might be a smooth show, except that Agnes’ principal (whose mother lives in the retirement village) shows up with her own dog. Will the dogs perform? Will Agnes and Heather get along? Will they manage the doggie wedding? Will there be any ice cream left? Not every twist of the story of the story is believable, but it doesn’t really matter. Second and third grade level readers will turn the page to see what Agnes does and how she might make the situation worse, and to learn why is Agnes’ former best friend her enemy anyhow.

While longer than the original than many early chapter books, this new “The Secret Knock Club” chapter book series will work as a read-aloud for younger kids. They will appreciate the boy who misspells everything and always wears a cape, as well as the dogs, the grandma, and the champion bubble-blowing pal. This may also work as a good read for kids who are not quite on grade-level, but ready for chapter books, as the vocabulary and the sentence length are short and snappy, matching Agnes’ energy level.

  • Dynomite Dog ShowTitle: The Dyno-Mite Dog Show
  • Author: Louise Bonnett Rampersaud
  • Illustrator: Adam McHeffey
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Hardcover: 106
  • ISBN: 978-0767462132
  • Genre: fiction, early chapter book.
  • Lexile Score: 450


Celebrating Texas

Written by Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrated by C. B. Canga

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Readers at the second grade reading level don’t need to get on a bus or a train to see the great state of Texas. They can read this latest in the 50 States to Celebrate Series, Celebrating Texas. It will be a great addition to students’ reading lists, although it certainly can be a read aloud book for children with lower reading comprehension.

Celebrating Texas is a guided tour through the state led by a pleasant character named Mr. Geo. He starts with a couple of nice maps. One is a map of Texas showing some cities and important sites. The second map places the state for the readers according to its relationship to other states and the country of Mexico. Mr. Geo guides the reader through pages about rodeos, what famous sites are in various cities, and the kinds of foods and dancing for which the state is famous. Animals are always of interest to youngsters, so Mr. Geo hikes to different areas of the state to introduce some of the animals native to Texas. The Caddo, who lived in bee-hive shaped grass houses, were a tribe of Native-Americans who first farmed the vast lands of Texas. Their word for “friends” is the origin of the name of the state. Famous Texans Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston also are introduced to readers along with a bit of information about how they helped build Texas. Crops, sports, industries, and natural resources are also part of the state’s story, and Mr. Geo doesn’t forget those. Fun facts are found along the bottom of many pages.

Four pages in the back of the book add some information and have some learning activities. A reading guide with summary, discussion questions for read aloud, teaching ideas, and a lesson can be found at The author’s website address is The illustrator’s portfolio can be viewed by going to Early readers will enjoy learning from this colorful book.

  • Celebrating TexasTitle: Celebrating Texas
  • Author: Marion Dane Bauer
  • Illustrator: C. B. Canga
  • Publisher: Sandpiper
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-89786-8
  • Genre: Non-Fiction, Geography
  • Lexile Score: 600


Ralph Tells a Story

Written and Illustrated by Abby Hanlon

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Ever had writer’s block? Did you ever feel like what you had to write about just wasn’t very exciting? Well, that is exactly how Ralph feels in this charming metafiction tale. While everyone else in class seems to be able to produce volumes at writing time, Ralph doesn’t know how to begin to record even the mundane. His teacher insists that “Stories are everywhere!”, but when he stares out the window, at his paper, and at the ceiling, nothing seems to inspire him…until he lays under his desk, hiding, yet pretending to find inspiration. And then something happens when the teacher asks Ralph about his story, he has one!

Abby Hanlon’s line drawings capture the emotion of a budding writer in elementary school. This fun read-aloud is well-suited for a second grade class; this new book is an instant classic because any reader can relate. To reinforce comprehension, students may be asked to describe what techniques didn’t work to help Ralph get over his writer’s block and what helps them to personally clear away the fog that keeps them from completing assignments. As a teacher herself, Hanlon is familiar with students’ struggles with finding their stories. What I love most about this book is that Ralph is shown writing and brainstorming all over the room. His teacher is not caught up in his sitting on his bottom at his desk; Ralph’s teacher in encouraging and understanding of Ralph’s need to get up and move to find inspiration. Ralph Tells a Story is a must-have for any elementary classroom library.

For writing tips and prompts

  • Ralph Tells a StoryTitle: Ralph Tells a Story
  • Author/Illustrator: Abby Hanlon
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 38 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761461807
  • Genre: fiction/writing process



Poco Loco

Written and Illustrated by J. R. Krause and Maria Chua

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Poco Loco is a mouse who’s just a little bit crazy. He invents things that no one else would think of inventing, like the Cuckoo Clock-Coffeemaker, the Shower-Bed, and the Waffle Iron-Weather Forecaster. But those aren’t bad ideas. They are just a little different. What happens when Poco Loco tries to warn his friends Gallo, Gato, Cerdo, and Vaca of bad weather? They do not believe him because the sky is clear—and the weather forecast comes from a waffle iron. But when Poco Loco is swept up by the wind, they quickly learn Poco Loco and his invention are correct. One after the other of them tries to save him, basically ending up looking like a tail to a kite! Whipped away by the strong wind, they may not know it, but they are fortunate when the rain puts an end to their flight . . . and Poco Loco remembers his greatest invention—the helicopter-paraguas (helicopter-umbrella).

Perfect for the second grade reader, comprehension comes easily with the exciting, colorful illustrations. The bilingual approach, best enjoyed when the book is read aloud, will appeal to both Spanish and English learners at the second grade level. Teachers will appreciate the Glossary of Spanish Words, in addition to the many prompts in the text and illustrations. Much like Poco Loco, the authors J. R. Krause and Maria Chua are genios. Children will laugh uproariously at the silliness of Poco Loco and his friends’ adventure. Poco Loco is a must-have for any first, second, or third grade classroom.

Illustrator/Author Website:

  • Poco LocoTitle: Poco Loco
  • Authors: J. R. Krause and Maria Chua
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1477816493
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Lexile Score: 470

Martha Speaks: So You Want to Be a Dog?

Written by Raye Lankford and Peter K. Hirsch

Illustrations based on characters by Susan Meddaugh

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Many second graders have wondered what it would be like to be an animal. In Martha Speaks: So You Want to Be a Dog?, readers follow along with children who experience a doggy transformation. The book is presented through two separate stories, tied together with a brief introduction and conclusion.

In the first story, neat and helpful Carolina can’t seem to empathize with Martha, the talking dog who likes to sniff garbage, loves to roll in the mud, and can’t stand to be on a leash. Then Carolina is unexpectedly turned into a collie.  After being taken to the pound, she gains a new point of view. In the second story, T.D. is unhappy with his life. In the past week, he lost his homework, had someone sit on his lunch and gotten assigned a science project as punishment.  T.D. challenges Martha by stating that a dog’s life is easier than a boy’s, and he ends up conducting a doggy experiment. After spending a day as a dog, blocked out of the library, unable to draw, and generally being bored, T.D. concludes that a dog’s life is not perfect either.

Colorful illustrations based on the characters from the PBS “Martha Speaks” television show are placed on every page and may support comprehension. Children on a second grade reading level  will appreciate this imaginative take on a dog’s life. They will enjoy the humor in Carolina’s experience and will relate to T.D.’s everyday challenges. These relatable characters and situations will carry second grade readers into the story and help them improve their reading skills. Teachers will appreciate the ties to curriculum. The second story introduces the scientific process, using vocabulary such as hypothesis, conclusion, and experiment.

The back matter includes a glossary which, in addition to including scientific terms, will help readers determine the difference between “empathy” and “sympathy.” Also included are a simple origami activity and five easy steps for a kid-friendly experiment. Websites, ( and ( offer additional activities, games, videos and stories.

  • Martha Speaks So You Want to be a DogTITLE: Martha Speaks: So You Want to Be a Dog?
  • AUTHOR: Raye Lankford and Peter K. Hirsch
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Based on characters by Susan Meddaugh
  • PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • REVIEWER: Heather L. Montgomery
  • EDITION: Paperback: 96 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0547970189
  • GENRE: Chapter book
  • LEXILE: 430

Sherlock Bones and the Missing Cheese

Written by Susan Stevens Crummel

Ilustrated by Dorothy Donohue

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A smelly, scrumptious cheese is missing!  This is no ordinary cheese.  It is made from the milk of a cantankerous cow, a Cowabunga.  It is delicious, delectable, but really smelly.  So when it disappears from its rock, Sherlock Bones is called to find that missing cheese.  He uses all five senses to gather clues.  Some witnesses saw strange things, others heard strange things.  He notes them all which lead him to the beanstalk.  He concludes that they have a giant problem.  Sure enough, a giant got hungry for pizza and thought the smelly cheese would be perfect for his concoction.  When Sherlock demands that the giant return the cheese, he puts all the cheese in his mouth.  Poor giant.  Now he has a giant stomach ache.  When he grabs Sherlock, they both fall out of beanstalk land.   The people of the dell are now able to trade the giant’s services for the cure to the Cowabunga Cheese Disease.

For all those amateur detectives out there, Sherlock’s clues are shown in detail and can be adapted into a literacy activity.  Sherlock’s problem solving method is a good model for young readers.  There is also the music for “The Farmer in the Dell” which the author claims was the inspiration for this story.  It is a very loose connection, but the song could be part of the story time that uses this book as a read aloud.  The intricate cut-paper illustrations are unique, giving a sense of depth as well as adding a humorous element of their own.  The illustrator shows her method on her website: (

  • Sherlock BonesTITLE: Sherlock Bones and the Missing Cheese
  • AUTHOR: Susan Stevens Crummel
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Dorothy Donohue
  • PUBLISHER: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7614-6186-9
  • GENRE: Rhyming stories, Picture books

Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie

Written by Mary Ellen Jordan and Andrew Weldon

Illustrated by  Andrew Weldon and Bruno Herfst

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Funny farm animals and silly antics is what you will find in the book Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie.  Imagine a farm full of animals doing nothing that animals should do.  Cows eating jelly, rather than grass.  Pigs pruning in a mirror, rather than rolling in the mud, and a dog, watching TV with attitude.   Young children will find the story comical and reading out loud will be fun because of the rhyming nature of the book as well.

Children will begin to expand their understanding of rhyming words and with some encouragement could explore other words that rhyme along with the story.  The illustrations will also be enjoyed by children, as well as being quite comical and funny to younger kids.  Looking at the pictures, children could come up with their own rhymes or create new and funny twists to the story.  Short and easy to read this is a good book for children with early reading skills or it could be used for slightly older children as a spring board to creating a new story or expanding on what is already written.  Then what fun it would be to have children read aloud and share their new creation.

  • Lazy DaisyTitle: Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie
  • Author: Mary Ellen Jordan and Andrew Weldon
  • Illustration:  Andrew Weldon and Bruno Herfst
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
  • Reviewer: Cheri Liddy
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-4400-6
  • Genre:  fiction, stories in rhyme

These Seas Count!

Written by Alison Formento

Illustrated by Sarah Snow

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Something bad has happened at Sunnyside Beach.  There is trash everywhere.  So Mr. Tate’s class is helping to clean up the beach.  Captain Ned tries to keep the sea clean, but there is too much garbage for him and he needs some help.  He tells the children that the sea is sad and if they listen closely, the sea will tell them a story.  They hear about one whale leaping high, two giant sea turtles surfing, three marlins gliding and more.  But, for sea life to be free and happy, the oceans must be clean and have no pollution.  Everything in the ocean is connected so when the water is dirty, everything suffers.  Now Mr. Tate’s class counts bags of garbage!  When they ride on Captain Ned’s boat, they help clean the ocean then, too.

This lovely book emphasizes the need for humans to take care of earth.  Having the sea “talk” to the children makes it less didactic, but the message is still a stern one.  The digital collage illustrations create a feeling of depth with lots of color to keep the reader’s attention.  There is a bibliography and a list of internet sites as well as an author’s note that provides background information on ocean pollution.  Great for units on the environment.  This book is good for a class read aloud and its second grade reading level makes this a choice for student-made audio books or PowerPoint presentations.  The publisher’s website has a teacher’s guide with in-depth literacy activities: (   There is a nice book trailer on the author’s website: (

  • These Seas CountTITLE: These Seas Count!
  • AUTHOR: Alison Formento
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Sarah Snow
  • PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-7871-1
  • GENRE: Environment, Picture Book
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