Archive for Animals

Our Very Own Dog

Written by Amanda McCardie
Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

This semi-instructional picture book follows the story of a lively addition to a loving family. Sophie, the Jack Russell terrier, was adopted from a shelter by the narrator’s family. She made friends with some family members and readily accepted her new toys and collar. It took a little longer for her to warm to Dad, but food was a powerful incentive. She learned several commands and made some doggie friends. She enjoyed playing and also getting into trouble. Sophie was a dog to be proud of.

Rubbino’s detailed illustrations show exactly how to treat and train your dog. They are often humorous, with everyone getting a belly rub or Sophie trying to figure out why the daughter is in the bathtub.

Along with the heartwarming story, numerous sidebars give tips on caring for a new dog. That makes this the perfect read aloud so kids and adults can discuss the reasons for advice such as “Most dogs like to be petted by their owners, but many don’t like to be touched by strangers. Always ask the owner before you touch a dog.” Kids may want to keep referring back to the text as their own dog settles in.

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  • Title: Our Very Own Dog       
  • Author: Amanda McCardie
  • Illustrator: Salvatore Rubbino
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book, Animals, Adoption
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8948-3
  • Extras: A Few Useful Books About Dogs

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Written and Illustrated by Lisa Papp

Sometimes, all you need is a calming presence.

Madeline hates to read. She especially hates to read out loud in her class. She gets “Keep Trying” stickers, but she really wants a gold star. When she visits the library and talks to her favorite librarian, Madeline mentions her reluctance to read. The librarian suggests reading to one of the visiting dogs. Bonnie, the dog, is a patient listener and never giggles at her mistakes. Madeline becomes very attached to Bonnie and is very concerned when Bonnie fails to show up once. But, by that time, Madeline has enough confidence to read well in class and get her star. Madeline feels she must share her star with Bonnie – and her new puppies.

Beautiful and detailed illustrations accompany this heartwarming story about fears and how we can overcome them. The room with all the different dogs and kids with books is especially cute.

This makes a wonderful read aloud for first graders and a comforting independent read for second grade and up. Either way, a discussion in the difficulties of learning to read – or anything challenging – would also be in order. Reading activities may include investigating libraries and caring for dogs.

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  •  madeline-finnTitle: Madeline Finn and the Library Dog
  • Author/Illustrator: Lisa Papp
  • Published: Peachtree Publishing, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Reading, Fears, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-910-0



Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

The latest installment of the Marianne Berkes series has a lot going on. It is a counting book, reinforced by both the numbers of baby animals and the lineup of African gourd rattles. It is poetry, set to the rhythm of the traditional song “Over in the Meadow.” It is for learning about the African savanna and the animals that inhabit that area. It is hunting for nearly hidden animals in the pictures. It teaches about the song itself and about the techniques used by the illustrator.

Over in the grasslands
Where the acacia trees grew
Lived a tall mother giraffe
And her little calves two.

Altogether, first or second graders get to learn about twenty animals. Some of them may seem familiar from the zoo, – zebra, giraffe, elephant – but many are probably animals the readers have never seen – redbilled oxpeckers, naked mole rats, leopard tortoises. And none of them live your backyard. In the last pages, Berkes writes about the many themes used, including the ten different adjectives and the different baby names used. She also mentions many places to learn more, and she was careful to expalin that the numbers of babies each animal can have is fictional. Dubin writes about her collage technique, how important the different papers are, and what inspired the details.

A great addition to the counting library.

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  • over-in-the-grasslandsTitle: Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Nature, Geography, Counting, Poetry, Music
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-568-4
  • Extras: Fact or Fiction?, Life on the African Savanna, Who Are the “Hidden” Animals in the Grasslands?, About the Animals, Tips from the Author, Tips from the Illustrator, Over in the Grasslands [music]

About Marine Mammals: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

After reading this book, the reader will have a good handle on the variety of mammals that live in the oceans, as well as what makes an animal a mammal. All mammals need to come to the surface to breathe. They all give birth to live young, whether in the ocean or on shore. They all nurse their young. All are warm blooded. Some live in warm water, while some live in arctic zones. Some are predators, while some eat plants. Some are small, while some are huge.

John Sill’s vibrant yet subtle watercolors let the reader know exactly how these animals look in their natural environments. Especially instructive is the plate with the blue whale. He includes short-beaked common dolphins for scale.

The afterword and resources give second graders a great place to begin further learning. This and all the books in the “A Guide for Children” are valuable tools for elementary school classrooms.

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 About Marine Mammals

  • About Marine Mammals: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, August 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Animals, Nature
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-906-3
  • Extras: Afterword, Glossary, Suggestions for Further Reading, Resources

A Place for Frogs

Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Higgins Bond

Five thousand different species of frogs have been identified by scientists around the world. Several of the best known species of frogs are mentioned or illustrated in this book. However, the purpose of the book, and the series it belongs to, (A Place For…) is conservation.

The main story line is about how farm chemicals might harm frogs, changing plants in a natural habitat and even walking your dog can harm frogs. Because of the heavy preachy type of writing in this book, it should not be shelved with the true nonfiction books about frogs, but rather with the environmental conservation books.

Text insert boxes give true information as far as the life cycle of frogs and kinds of places or conditions where they lay their eggs. Several suggestions are made for helping frogs to survive, such as, watching out for them when you see them in a road. However, other suggestions are made without scientific basis. Statements like “scientists think…” are not the same as definitive research.

Teachers, parents and librarians might want to use this text in the lower grades of two and three for information about community and personal responsibility. However, it should not be used in the higher grades of four and five as the selected bibliography offers no actual scientific studies nor proof. This book will not meet any core curriculum standards aside from differentiating factual writing from persuasive writing. It should also be noted that this is an updated version of a book from 2009, and is not a new book.

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  • A Place for FrogsTitle: A Place for Frogs
  • Author: Melissa Stewart
  • Illustrator: Higgins Bond
  • Publisher: Peachtree Books, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-902-5
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Grade level: 2 to 5
  • Extras: Frog Facts, inside front and back covers are maps showing regions of the world that are home to various frog species, bibliography, other books for recommended reading

Fabulous Frogs

Written by Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Who knew there are over 5,000 kinds of frogs or that they were so fun to learn about? Each page of this great, beautifully-illustrated book introduces a new and unique species. The goliath frog of western Africa is the largest frog in the world. The smallest lives in Papua New Guinea. The Darwin grog of South America has the pointiest nose. The striped rocket from Australia can jump up to sixteen feet. There are flying frogs and hairy frogs – though both are misnomers. And poisonous frogs in bright colors. Some make nests for their eggs. Some hold the eggs in their mouths. Some frogs never leave the water. Some rarely leave their holes beneath the earth. Many other species are illustrated.

This text is great for use among second graders in a unit about the environment or amphibians. The author lists several excellent websites for learning more about frogs.

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  • Fabulous FrogsTitle: Fabulous Frogs
  • Author: Martin Jenkins
  • Illustrator: Tim Hopgood
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Animals, Nature, Environment
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8100-5

Wild Ones: Observing City Critters

Written by Carol L. Malnor
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Nature and its variety of animals are everywhere, even in the city. The author follows a dog as he explores many of the scenes present in every city. A squirrel and an opossum lurk near a shed. Ducklings are in danger on a ledge. A beaver and a gull are busy near the water. Starlings raid a trash bin. A rabbit snacks in a garden. Geese gather near a pond. Foxes, owls, and bats fascinate the dog. This approach is both captivating and enlightening.

As always, Morrison’s illustrations are lively, accurate, and fun to look at. With each illustration, more details are revealed about the natural world of the city.

Second graders will learn a lot about the critters they pass every day. In addition to learning more about the creatures, many reading activities are suggested by the text, including looking for squirrels and their activities on every page. Kids can make observations and maps in their own backyard. Many facts and resources for further learning are listed after the story ends.

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  • Wild OnesTitle: Wild Ones: Observing City Critters
  • Author: Carol L. Malnor
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Published: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, science, environment
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-553-0

Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed

Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Amy June Bates

Ketzel was just a kitten when the man, Moshe, found her cold and lonely on the street. They became great friends as Moshe worked on his musical compositions. Moshe was stumped after he received notice of the Paris New Music Review contest to highlight short compositions – less than a minute. As Moshe pondered the music in his head, Ketzel walked across the piano keyboard and picked out a beautiful tune. Moshe wrote down what he heard. It took twenty-one seconds to play. He sent it to the contest organizers. Ketzel didn’t win, but her tune got a certificate of special mention and was played at a concert, which Ketzel attended with Moshe. Her presence was revealed when she responded to her name at the introduction of the piece. Ketzel also got a royalty check for the composition, enough to buy several cans of cat food.

The illustrator has captured the whimsy of this great story.

Based on a true story, this lovely book is easily read independently by second graders looking to strengthen literacy skills. It’s a great reminder that talent can come in small packages. That talent only needs to be recognized.

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  • KetzelTitle: Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed
  • Author: Lesléa Newman
  • Illustrator: Amy June Bates
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: History, Music
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6555-5
  • Extras: Author’s Note

If You Love Honey: Nature’s Connections

Written by Martha Sullivan
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison


Rather than approaching one concept in isolation, this new book shows the reader how everything affects or is affected by other things and demonstrates the delicate balance of our planet. Honey is made by honey bees, who gather nectar from dandelions. Dandelions are protected by ladybugs, who also love goldenrod. Goldenrod attracts butterflies, who also love clover. Clover needs rich soil, provided in part by earthworms. Mushrooms help speed up the earthworm’s work. Mushrooms work in tandem with oak trees, whose leaves hide many creatures and whose acorns feed are planted by birds. Birds also eat berries, which are pollinated by the honey bees, bringing the story full circle.

Throughout the story, master illustrator Morrison sets the scene and shows that the items discussed in the text are even less isolated than imagined. Bears examine the honey repository. A farm and other flowers are near the dandelions. Sheep, protected by a dog, graze near the goldenrod. Rabbits much on the clover. Tree roots, baby bunnies, a lizard, and a toad appear in the rich soil. People work and play.

Second graders can learn so much about the nature in their backyards from this book. Literacy skills will be enhanced by the wonderful visuals and scientific concepts. Read aloud in a classroom, students can spot the details and discuss the connections.

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  • Honey_Paperback.inddTitle: If You Love Honey: Nature’s Connections
  • Author: Martha Sullivan
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Published: Dawn Publications, September 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Nature
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-533-2
  • Extras: Sweet Connections; From Nectar to Honey; Author and Illustrator Biographies; Other Books, E-books, and Interactive Book Apps


Written by Claire Saxby
Illustrated by Graham Byrne

Is that emu startled by you or are you startled by the emu? Either way, the cover of this wonderful new book is definitely an invitation to explore. The fantastic illustrations continue throughout the text, giving a real feel for the forests and grasslands and for the curiosity of the large bird. He is so devoted to the eggs he often loses a great deal of weight, refusing to leave the nest. He must guard the eggs from lizards called goannas. The chicks hatch after eight weeks and are partially protected by camouflaged markings. The father shows the chicks how to hunt for food, keeps them safe, and keeps them warm at night. Dingos might take the chicks. Adult emus could run away and kick predators. Emus move in a zigzag pattern to confuse eagles and other predators.

This heartwarming story of parental concern will make kids love the large birds and cheer for their survival. They will see that, despite the differences, denizens of Australia are not so different from animals everywhere. This would be great as a read aloud to discuss the emu’s life or as independent reading for literacy and further study.

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  • EmuTitle: Emu
  • Author: Claire Saxby
  • Illustrator: Graham Byrne
  • Published: Candelwick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, science, Australia
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7479-3
  • Extras: About emus, index
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