Archive for Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monkey and Elephant Get Better

Written by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Illustrated by Gaila Bernstein

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Every story of friends has an annoyance. The question is how do you get around the annoying tendencies of your pals. Monkey and Elephant are good pals. They do everything together. Monkey likes shiny rocks. So does Elephant. Monkey likes to sing. So does Elephant. Monkey is tired of Elephant copying, even to the point of sneezing after she sneezes. But Elephant isn’t copying, at least not with the sneezes. Elephant is sick. Now Monkey forgets about the concerns of copying in order to take care of her friend. Monkey thinks she knows exactly what will make Elephant feel better, but Elephant is different than Monkey and needs different things. When Elephant gets better Monkey gets sick and the roles reverse. The sweet, if not unexpected ending, is that both friends celebrate their own strengths and appreciate the strengths of the other.


Monkey and Elephant Get Better is an early chapter book, written for the emerging reader and answers questions every young elementary school student faces: What is copying, or how do we make ourselves unique? How can we feel better when we’re sick? And how can we show we care about our friends when they are sick? While later books will get into more details about these questions, Schaefer does an excellent job of paring down to the core issues that puzzle these young learners. Second grade readers will enjoy reading this on their own. While it is longer than most picture books, it is illustrated with bright and informative paintings that will help with the reading comprehension of those trying to match the image to the word.


  • Monkey and ElephantTITLE: Monkey and Elephant Get Better
  • AUTHOR: Carole Lexa Schaefer
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Gaila Bernstein
  • PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Amy S. Hansen
  • EDITION: hardcover, 42 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-4841-1
  • GENRE: Early Chapter book, Fiction
  • LEXILE: 390

The Favorite Daughter

Written and Illustrated by Allen Say

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Yuriko is a Japanese name that causes embarrassment to a little girl at school when her new teacher pronounces it incorrectly. She wishes she has a plain regular name and decides to change her name for a day or two. During the story, though, she finds out why her name is part of who she really is. This is a wonderful story for all children to find out more about names.

The children tease and bully her about her name and the fact that Japanese dolls all have black hair, while the hair on her doll and on her head is blonde. It is a wonderful multi-cultural story about how we can all fit in while still being different.

As a read aloud, it will strength understanding of how some families have different backgrounds from our own. It will give an opening for parents, teachers and librarians to discuss how we treat those who might have a different name or different kind of family than our own.

Second grade and third grade readers will be able to read this story independently while younger ones will need to have it read aloud. It has beautiful illustrations and an interesting parallel story line about an art project that the author uses to strengthen the idea of individualism.

The core curriculum requirements for many areas can be met using this book. It compares Japanese bridges with the Golden Gate in illustrations, the use of chopsticks, eating sushi and differences between languages with the illustration of Japanese ink painting.

Extras: This book could be used in a geography or culture class when students are studying Japan and Japanese customs. The art project about the golden gate bridge can be changed to include any important structure in any community. The illustration of the Japanese ink painting can be used to spark projects of research or painting. There are also a couple of expressions in the Japanese language to intrigue students for future exploration.

  • Favorite DaughterTitle: The Favorite Daughter
  • Author/Illustrator: Allen Say
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine, Scholastic, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-17662-0
  • Genre: Fiction, social studies, culture
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