Archive for 2013

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

Written by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
Illustrated by Nicole Wang

Natural processes never exist in isolation from all the other natural forces around them. In this fun and interesting nonfiction picture book, the authors take an inventive approach to pointing out why this is true. If it weren’t for monkeys, we wouldn’t have chocolate bars. Actually, if it weren’t for midges, maggots, lizards, and fungus, we wouldn’t have chocolate either. The story of cocoa production is slowly worked through from the beans to the pods to the roots to the monkeys that help plant new seeds. The tiny bookworms in the corner of each two-page spread add the touch of humor that will ensure holding the attention of kids. The illustrations are realistic and colorful.

This is a perfect beginning reference for second graders learning about nature and science. It will hopefully promote further study. The reading level will be a bit challenging but should enhance literacy skills and comprehension. The suggestions for what kids can do next includes many easy tips.

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  • No Monkeys No ChocolateTitle: No Monkeys, No Chocolate
  • Author: Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
  • Illustrator: Nicole Wang
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-287-2
  • Extras: More detailed information in “Cocoa and Rain Forests,” “What You Can Do to Help,” and “Author’s Note”

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 Visit the publisher’s website for additional titles:

  • 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

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 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 ( 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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Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Durbin

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It is a rare gem for parents and teachers of elementary students to find a book
that is entertaining, educational, and fun but Over in a River fits the bill. Second grade level readers will enjoy the rhyming text while younger children will enjoy the counting activity in each stanza. Second graders can manage the text independently but the lively picture book will be a great group story for a science lesson in the first or second grade classroom or read aloud to younger children.

Included in the wonderful rhyming story are fun filled facts about each species and
their natural habitats. The illustrations are engaging and fun for students of all ages while the text is filled with facts about nature, animals and animal babies. Second grade readers will have so much fun reading, counting, and playing I spy with the colorful illustrations they will not realize how much they are learning along the way.

The author also includes several extra pages of activities and lesson ideas for second grade teachers and parents. There is information about rivers, animals, and habitats but there is so much more. Also included are activities that incorporate music, singing, and dance for second grade readers. The illustrator chimes in with many ideas about drawing animals and how to make collages. All of these fabulous ideas will appeal to second grade readers and enhance any lessons brought to the classroom increasing both second grade
reading interest and comprehension.

  • Over in a RiverTitle: Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrations: Jill Durbin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, 2013
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand RN
  • Genre: Juvenile fiction, nature,
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-330-7

Noisy Frog Sing-Along

Written & Illustrated by John Himmelman

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Frogs sing when they are together, but did you know that only the male frogs sing? Second grade readers will be thrilled to find out this and other fun facts about frogs and their loud singing voices. Second grade level readers will be able to read Noisy Frog Sing-Along independently yet the book will be enjoyed by younger readers who have it read

Second grade teachers and parents will appreciate the scientific facts that will enhance lessons in the second grade classroom. The author also includes several activities that can be used to compliment lessons on frogs, nature, and the environment. More information on this book and other nature books by this author is available to parents and teachers at  which includes a list of books and programs on singing amphibians and insects. What second grade teacher doesn’t appreciate additional information to enhance a lesson plan?

Noisy Frog Sing-Along is more than a silly picture book about frogs making throat noises. It is a great addition to any second grade classroom or home school collection. The text is
simple, the illustrations are interesting and engaging, and the additional scientific facts make this a great book for the second grade reader.

More information:

  • Noisy FrogTitle: Noisy Frog Sing-Along
  • Author/Illustrator: John Himmelman
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications 2013
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Genre: Picture Book, Creative Nonfiction
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-339-0

I Hate Picture Books!

Written & Illustrated by Timothy Young

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Max vows to throw away of all his picture books, because they do nothing but cause him trouble. He read Harold and the Purple Crayon, but when he drew on the walls like Harold, his mother sent him to his room. When he wished a boat would take him away to Where the Wild Things Are, nothing happened. He woke up in his same old room with his same old picture books – the ones he now hates.

Readers will relish being in on the joke as Max complains that picture books make no sense (“Cows can’t type… and caterpillars don’t eat salami or Swiss cheese…”). And they will laugh out loud at a hilarious bit about what happens when you take Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham too seriously. As Max rants on and on, he realizes that he hates his picture books because sometimes they cause him to have strong emotions, like the time Are You My Mother? made him cry. Remembering that moment triggers something inside him to run to the trash and dig out the discarded book, and before you know it, he is lying on his floor with all his picture books around him, reading them again and again and again.

Perfect for second graders who may be advancing to early readers, Young reinforces how picture books stimulate our imaginations and stay with us long after we graduate from them. His skillful recreations of classic illustrations will have readers chanting, “I’ve read that one!” and will whet the appetite for those who haven’t.

Reading activities could easily stem from the hundreds of familiar book covers that appear within the pages.

  • i hate picture booksTitle: I Hate Picture Books!
  • Author/Illustrator: Timothy Young
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-4387-2
  • Genre: Picture Book, humor, contemporary, books


Written & Illustrated By Elisha Cooper

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While this realistic fiction picture book reads like a nonfiction book, the illustrator does admit that the train station in San Francisco picture in the book is entirely fictional.

Tickets are purchased and passengers race to catch the train. The paintings are beautiful and realistic. Any child who has ridden a train will love revisiting the experience and those who have not will be daydreaming about it until they do.

All the buttons and gauges the engineer sees and touches are in the illustration as well as the beautiful countryside that they are driving through.

True life announcements are made on the intercom system as factories, cities and other trains go whooshing on by.

All different kinds of container cars are pictured and explained, but not overly explained. Readers are still left to wonder what might be in each ones as it flies on by. Then the train is chugging through the Rocky Mountains with all of its wonderful eagles, moose and deer outside.

The overnight train has a fancy dining car and a sleeping car with fold-out seats that turn into beds for comfy sleeping while the train continues through the mountains.

Second grade readers and third grade readers will enjoy reading this book of sparse text and detailed pictures over and over as they study the pictures and feel the excitement of the trip.

Literacy skills of every kind can be practiced in this story as well as core curriculum geography by providing a map for children to mark while reading about the trains travels. It would also work extremely well in a transportation unit as a read aloud for kindergarten or first grade readers.

  • TrainTitle: Train
  • Author/Illustrator: Elisha Cooper
  • Publisher: Orchard Books/Scholastic, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-38495-7
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
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