Archive for Animals

About Mammals: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

Most mammals are beautiful and amazing. This book tends to reinforce that view. Detailed and realistic illustrations of many mammals are highlighted by simple text in the main section of this wonderful book. The author shows a wide range of mammals and habitats while still letting the reader know what makes a mammal a mammal. From bats to porcupines to whales, they’re all here. And they all have hair and drink milk from their mothers. Corresponding to each illustration plate is much more advanced information in the afterword. This section offers background information for teachers, librarians and parents to use when sharing this book with children. There is also a list of books for further reading and some current websites for use in further research.

Second grade readers as well as independent first grade readers will be able to enjoy this book on their own.

This volume is a new addition to the “About…” series from the Sills. Each of these books could be used to fulfill core curriculum standards in the area of science and nature. They would give children enough information and interest in the subject to continue to study mammals. Also, this is a bilingual version, giving access to more children and affords opportunities to learn more about another language.

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  • About MammalsTitle: About Mammals: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-800-4
  • Genre: Nonfiction, animals
  • Lexile: 300L

What’s New? The Zoo! A Zippy History of Zoos

Written by Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Marcellus Hall


Children love zoos and wondering how they got started is sure to amaze young readers.

Not surprisingly, it became the sport of the very rich and powerful. Kathleen Krull has done her research. The scant text tells of zoos from 4,400 years ago, in what is now Iraq to one 3,000 years ago in China, and one in 2009 in San Diego, California. Many others in between are included. She clearly explains that while zoos used to be mainly for showing off wealth or power, they are now used to protect animals. They are no longer placed in cages, but specific habitats are built to resemble their natural environments as much as possible.

Large colorful, watercolor illustrations enhance this brief history and development of zoos in the world. Children will be able to recognize the animals, parts of the world and approximate times in history from these carefully prepared images.

Teachers and librarians will be able to fulfill educational standards in the areas of science, history, literacy, geography, cultures, and art using this one text.

After reading this book, children will be ready and anxious to visit the zoo either online or in person. The list of sources in the back of the book provides many great zoo sites to visit.

  • Title: What’s New? The Zoo? A Zippy History of Zoos
  • What's New The ZooAuthor: Kathleen Krull
  • Illustrator: Marcellus Hall
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, July 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-13571-9
  • Genre: Nonfiction picture book
  • Grade level: Preschool to 3
  • Extras: Bibliographic Sources

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

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

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,, 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,, 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
  • 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

King of the Zoo

Written by Erica S. Perl

Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

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Everyone wants to be king of the zoo, but no one more that Carlos the chameleon. The funny cartoon animals are visited by a young girl and her grandmother following the map at the front of the zoo. Many of the animals claim to be king, making Carlos get more and more upset.

It never says so in words, but diligent observers will see their friend changing colors on page after page. They will feel sorry for him and then cheer for him. Carlos has wonderful facial expressions that children will be anxious to copy.  The beautiful watercolors are stunning as well as entertaining.

The animals might not be able to agree on exactly who is King of the Zoo but the zoo guest and her grandmother know by the end of the story. This story is on a second grade reading level. Picture clues will add to their comprehension of what is going on and what special gift makes Carlos a very special animal.

Literacy skills of dialogue and narration can be identified in the text as well as sequencing in discussing which animals were visited first, next and last. Preschoolers as well as first and second grades will enjoy having this story read aloud.

Extras: visit the author at and meet the illustrator at

  • king of the zooTITLE: King of the Zoo
  • AUTHOR: Erica S. Perl
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Jackie Urbanovic
  • PUBLISHER: Orchard Books, Scholastic, 2013.
  • REVIEWER: Elizabeth Swartz
  • FORMAT:  Hardcover/32p.
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-46182-5
  • GENRE: Fiction, Zoo Animals, Chameleons


Martha Speaks: Summer Fun

Written by Susan Meddaugh

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What’s more fun than a talking dog? Martha, the talking dog, certainly has an amusing view of the world. She also has a sneaky way of teaching a lot, given that she doesn’t quite understand the human world. Based on the PBS series, this is a collection of three stories, each by a different author. First, one of Martha’s human friends mistakenly uses a self-tanning lotion instead of her usual sunscreen. When she uses it to excess, her skin turns embarrassingly orange. To make her feel better, Martha talks all the other kids into adopting the same orange glow. And the friend feels better. Next, Martha learns of her lupine heritage and decides to become a pack animal. Her canine friends opt out when they find that comfort comes first: food, bed, and television. Martha returns to her pack, the other members of which are human. Last, Martha does her best to be endearing to her human grandmother, only to take several missteps. Martha can’t quite figure out an appropriate birthday gift. But Grandma recognizes her efforts and rewards her. Not only are the stories fun and informative, the illustrations are winners too. The reader can feel like part of the action.

Not surprisingly, Martha Speaks books have tons of added value for second grade readers. In addition to the popular television show, Martha Speaks, the show has an excellent website,, which is loaded with information for parents and teachers and reading activities. Martha also has her own website,; and the publisher’s website ( is useful to help increase reading skills and comprehension.

  • Martha SpeaksTITLE: Martha Speaks: Summer Fun 
  • AUTHORS: Susan Meddaugh
  • PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • EDITION: 2013
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-97025-7
  • GENRE: Paperback, Animals, Humor
  • LEXILE: 480

What the Snakes Wrote

Written by Hazel Hutchins
Illustrated by Tina Holdcroft

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While Rufus, the farmdog, stands guard next to his doghouse, with chickens in the background and a cat’s silhouette in the window, he notices that snakes were lying in the dirt in oddly-shaped patterns. Unbeknownst to Rufus, the “shapes” were actually letters and spelled out “dog.”

Rufus decides to go on patrol of the farmyard, since the farmer is busy taking care of a hole he discovered in a field, and Rufus encounters the pigs, cows, and horse, and lots more snakes, coiled in more fascinating shapes. When Rufus saves the snakes from impending danger of a vehicle, he thinks the farmyard returns to normal. However, many other snakes emerge and contort into some kind of message.
Rufus finally fetches the farmer, and eventually the farmer reads the snakes’ message: Save Our Home. The farmer was unwittingly covering up the snakes’ den with his attempt to fill the hole in the field. With a happy ending for the snakes, the farmer, and Rufus, the author delightfully emphasizes the need to respect the habitats of animals, allowing them to coexist with humans…and dogs!

This is a really fun book for students who are making the connection between the written letter and the formation of words. The illustrations are clever and friendly, as all the animals appear to be smiling at the reader, including the snakes. Mid- to late-first grade readers can read the book alone and will enjoy recognizing the words that the snakes script in the dirt.

First or second grade teachers can incorporate this charming book into a number of lessons or unit studies: farms and farm animals, animals and their habitats, reptiles, animal appreciation, or letter recognition. Included in the back of the book are two pages of additional information about snakes, meant to be read aloud by a teacher or parent.

Author Hutchins and author/illustrator Holdcroft have contributed many other books to the children’s literature genre and have garnered picture book awards.

A creative follow-up to this story might include offering dough or clay in a center and encouraging the children to roll the dough into “snakes” and then spell words with the snake-shapes for a friend to read.

  • What the Snakes WroteTITLE: What the Snakes Wrote
  • AUTHOR: Hazel Hutchins
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Tina Holdcroft
  • PUBLISHER: Annick Press
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Paperback, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-55451-472-4
  • GENRE: Contemporary


Lulu and the Dog from the Sea

Written by Hilary McKay

Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

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Cousins Lulu and Mellie return for book number two in this delightful and entertaining series. Like the first book in the series, Lulu and the Duck in the Park, this is destined to appear on many reading lists and receive many awards. The publisher’s website has a Common Core Teacher’s Guide for the series, providing many reading activities (

Lulu’s family is going on a week-long beach vacation, and Mellie is going along. The house they rent is comically inadequate, complete with a potholed road and only three glasses in the kitchen. The locals have been fighting a battle with a stray dog which seemingly came from the sea. Lulu gets the full story about the dog’s mother and sisters and how they were eventually captured by the dogcatcher. Predictably, Lulu ignores all the warnings and befriends the dog from the sea. He remains wary of other humans, but that doesn’t stop him from saving the day. The author uses gentle humor and a little self-deprecation to show how things can sometimes go awry. Delightful illustrations show much of the action and are wonderful additions.

Second grade readers will learn, in a fun way, about many issues facing young vacationers. They will learn that rocks on the beach belong to everyone and should not be appropriated by individuals. Trash must be protected from critters, even if humans don’t think the critters are clever enough to access the cans. Craft projects, such as kite building, often require some instruction. Even thieving dogs require attention and water.

A thoroughly enjoyable early reader.

  • Lulu and the DogTitle: Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
  • Author: Hilary McKay
  • Illustrated by: Priscilla Lamont
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback, 108 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-4820-2
  • Genre: Chapter book, Animals.
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