Archive for Family

Fly Away

Written by Patricia MacLachlan

Patricia MacLachlan continues to provide emergent readers with wonderful stories. This latest book is based on the words from a children’s song that was adapted from an Engelbert Humperdinck song. It tells of the birdies who fly away, but come back home.

Her main character, Lucy, is a young girl whose family is traveling back to the mother’s home in a poor, old overused, but much loved Volkswagen van with a pop-up top. Like many poor families, the children are unaware of their poverty because of the way the parents handle life with jokes and songs.

During the visit home to see the stubborn aunt who doesn’t want help, the river floods. While it rises, neighbors come to help move things and memories of the past flood into conversations.

The relationships between the young siblings is perfectly described. They share secrets as well as quiet strength with one another. One secret has to be shared publicly, though, when the littlest boy comes up missing.

Not surprisingly, it is a well-written book that children just beginning to delve into chapter books will enjoy greatly. They will be able to recognize themselves and their relationships to others within its pages. They will learn that we, like the birdies, often fly away, but then come back home.

Literacy teachers, second grade and third grade readers, librarians and parents will enjoy this book as they practice all their literacy skills, but more importantly just love reading.

  • Fly AwayTitle: Fly Away
  • Author: Patricia MacLachlan
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, April 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 128 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-4424-6008-9
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Grade Level: Grade 2 and above


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,

  • 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

Zoe’s Room (No Sisters Allowed)

Written and Illustrated by Bethanie Deendy Murgia

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This wonderful read aloud explores family dynamics as the little sister, still in a crib, is moved into Zoe’s room. Now Zoe cannot turn on the light and continue to play after she is sent to bed. At the same time it is listened to, it will be modeling voice inflection, fluency and dialogue.

Her play is wildly imaginative as she is the queen of the universe, explores uncharted territory and sets the table for morning royal tea. Until the sister arrives and every little thing wakes her up and sends Mom and Dad running into the room.

Finally, it is during a scary thunderstorm when the queen hops into the crib for safety and comfort. It is a good example of a main character solving her own problems, and in this case, it is with the help of an unwitting sibling.

Literacy skills such as picture clues, context clues and dialogue can be taught and strengthened for first grade readers, second grade readers and third grade readers just starting to enjoy books independently.

  • Zoes RoomTitle:  Zoe’s Room
  • Author/Illustrator: Bethanie Deendy Murgia
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, Inc. 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-45781-1
  • Genre: Fiction, family

When We Go Walking

Written by Cari Best

Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

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With integration being such an important concept in education today, this book is a must have.  What better way to interest your second grade children in taking a walk around the neighborhood or school than to follow Wendy and her family on their walk?  Walking, stretching, bending, and twisting, sight words, new vocabulary, and new ideas.  Literacy and PE all from one book.  But wait, there’s more!  Recycling and repurposing equals science.  Wendy and her family find all sorts of fun stuff to put into her collecting bag.  They see birds and trains, old clocks and old signs.  The illustrations are colorful, detailed, and have added dimension due to the creative collage work of the illustrator.   There is a wonderful “I spy” quality of this book as the text and pictures match perfectly.

Although this would be a great book to read aloud to first grade children, the vocabulary and more complex language make it more appropriate for second grade.  “Then I muscle my legs like Wonder Girl’s and lug it up the hill.”  The authors use of words in this way, paired with the illustrator’s sweet pictures help the reader expand vocabularies, learn different ways to say things, and gain comprehension from pictures.  PE, art, and even some science can be integrated into literacy lessons with this book.  It might even be possible to squeeze out a lesson on being environmentally friendly out of this book as Wendy and her brother find trash that does not belong on their Rambling Road.

Whether a child has memories of family walks or is looking forward to making them, all children (and adults) will find something fun and interesting here.

  • When We Go WalkingTitle:  When We Go Walking
  • Author:  Cari Best
  • Illustrator:  Kyrsten Brooker
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Hardcover:  unpaged
  • ISBN: 9781477816486
  • Genre:  contemporary fiction
  • Lexile score:  480