Archive for Nonfiction

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

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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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

Trouper: Based on a True Rescue Story

Written by Meg Kearney
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

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The story starts with Trouper, a stray three-legged dog running with a pack of dogs on the streets until they are all captured and loaded up in the dog catcher’s truck.

The dog in this true story was taken first to a kill shelter, then rescued by another shelter. There is no mention of the kill shelter in the children’s book. It is only in the preliminary material so can be shared with readers, but doesn’t have to be. The full color illustrations show him as he waited and waited for someone to choose him and take him home.

Children will love this story of how dogs and puppies watch for new owners to come and pick them out.

This lovely book was developed together by the award winning poet, Meg Kearney and Caldecott Honor winner, the illustrator E.B. Lewis.

Second grade readers will be able to read the short text individually and will be able to use their newly developed literacy skills of context clues, predicting outcomes, and realizing the related cause and effects.


  • TrouperTitle: Trouper: Based on a True Rescue Story
  • Author: Meg Kearney
  • Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press, New York, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-10041-0
  • Genre: Nonfiction

On the Slant

Written by Jane Yolen

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Jane Yolen, who has written over 300 books and won numerous awards including a Caldecott for Owl Moon, Golden Kite, two Nebula and Christopher awards, etc…gives readers an insight into how she made her passion into her career. Every one of her works can be read aloud and loved by preschoolers to second graders and up to adults.

On the Slant belongs on any reading lists for young authors to learn how to take criticism and make it into a published work or create a work space that enhances the creative juices to overflow. Jane also shares her life story from her fascinating childhood where she generated an apartment building newspaper using carbon paper with her first pink manual typewriter. The story continues as the reader learns the secret to her success starts with writing everyday whether it be ideas, stories, or poems, regardless if they ever get published.

Photographs from her past and present provide another layer of her life showing baby pictures to more current photographs taken by her son, Jason Stemple. These photos even show how she lives part of the time in Massachusetts while the rest of the year in Scotland. The most important part of her life includes her family.

On the Slant takes every age reader to a place where imagination and hard work meet. The organized format and straight forward voice keep readers turning each page to learn more about Jane. Be sure to check out her website at to email her with your questions.

  • Title: On the Slant
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Photographer: Jason Stemple
  • Publisher: Richard C. Owens Publishers, Inc, 2009
  • Reviewer: Julia Beiker
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-57274-978-8
  • ISBN 10: 1-57274-978-4
  • Genre: Nonfiction biography
  • Lexile: 1090


Chickens on the Family Farm

Written by: Chana Stiefel

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In this virtual field trip to a family farm, readers will learn how farmers keep and care for chickens. Part of the “Animals on the Family Farm” series, this book is a great introduction to farm living and animal science.

On a family farm, everybody wakes up early to pitch in. The chickens need to be fed. The coop looks like a large tent on wheels. It has to be big enough to house the birds, but easily moveable so they can graze different parts of the field every day. The coop also protects chickens from predators like foxes or hawks, although a rooster will sound the alarm if he senses danger. Children will enjoy the fun facts sprinkled throughout the book. Did you know that some chickens lay blue or green eggs? Did you know that certain breeds are used for eggs while others are used for meat? A farmer can collect 150 eggs in a day. And, of course, a book about chickens isn’t complete without pictures of adorable baby chicks.

With eye-popping colors and oversized headers, each page layout is a digestible “chapter,” a few sentences long, perfect for second grade readers. Crisp, full-page photographs help to illustrate the text and keep the reader engaged. The “Words to Know” section, table of contents, and index will also assist with their comprehension.

Other books in this series (which feature cows, goats, sheep, pigs, and turkeys) can be found on the publisher’s website: Additional reading resources and reputable websites are also listed.

  • chickens on the farmTITLE: Chickens on the Family Farm
  • AUTHOR: Chana Stiefel
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow Elementary / Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • REVIEWER: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • FORMAT: Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4644-0351-4
  • GENRE: Non-Fiction / Science

Celebrating Texas

Written by Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrated by C. B. Canga

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Readers at the second grade reading level don’t need to get on a bus or a train to see the great state of Texas. They can read this latest in the 50 States to Celebrate Series, Celebrating Texas. It will be a great addition to students’ reading lists, although it certainly can be a read aloud book for children with lower reading comprehension.

Celebrating Texas is a guided tour through the state led by a pleasant character named Mr. Geo. He starts with a couple of nice maps. One is a map of Texas showing some cities and important sites. The second map places the state for the readers according to its relationship to other states and the country of Mexico. Mr. Geo guides the reader through pages about rodeos, what famous sites are in various cities, and the kinds of foods and dancing for which the state is famous. Animals are always of interest to youngsters, so Mr. Geo hikes to different areas of the state to introduce some of the animals native to Texas. The Caddo, who lived in bee-hive shaped grass houses, were a tribe of Native-Americans who first farmed the vast lands of Texas. Their word for “friends” is the origin of the name of the state. Famous Texans Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston also are introduced to readers along with a bit of information about how they helped build Texas. Crops, sports, industries, and natural resources are also part of the state’s story, and Mr. Geo doesn’t forget those. Fun facts are found along the bottom of many pages.

Four pages in the back of the book add some information and have some learning activities. A reading guide with summary, discussion questions for read aloud, teaching ideas, and a lesson can be found at The author’s website address is The illustrator’s portfolio can be viewed by going to Early readers will enjoy learning from this colorful book.

  • Celebrating TexasTitle: Celebrating Texas
  • Author: Marion Dane Bauer
  • Illustrator: C. B. Canga
  • Publisher: Sandpiper
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-89786-8
  • Genre: Non-Fiction, Geography
  • Lexile Score: 600


Nature Recycles How About You?

Written by Michelle Lord

Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

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The title describes the story and makes the book immediately attractive to parents, teachers and librarians looking for interesting ways to teach young readers to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. First and second graders (the book targets the 4-8 age group) will enjoy learning these little known facts. The decorator sea-urchin, what an apt name, lives in the Atlantic Ocean. “The water is warm, but he covers up.” Why? To protect himself from the rough waves and the sun’s strong rays. Maybe even to hide from predators. He decorates himself with colorful algae, rocks, corals and other ocean refuse. This is clearly REuse of easily available material. The facing page poses the question: Urchin recycles. How about you?

The Carolina wren uses spider webs, dog hair and snakeskin among other things to make her nest warm. The veined octopus takes discarded coconut shells to hide in when danger threatens. An Asian elephant’s ears are not large enough to keep away flies. He uses a fallen banana leaf as a fly swatter, and then  makes a meal of it! Each animal description can lead to interesting classroom discussions and many reading activities.

Consecutive two-page spreads — description of the animal on the left and gorgeous, full-color illustration on the right carry the story along. The question asked on the illustration page “(name of animal) recycles. How about you?” becomes a refrain that the youngest readers will look forward to, making the book an interesting read aloud. The earth also recycles. “The earth recycles water over and over.” The story ends with showing how children recycle, and the benefits of recycling.

One of the strong suits of the publisher, Sylvan Dell, is providing extensive follow-up information in the back matter that can be utilized to enrich the lessons. This book has a map activity, a quiz, and an explanation of why animals recycle. There is additional material online ( Click on the book cover to go to the relevant page.

  • Nature RecyclesTitle:  Nature Recycles How About You?
  • Author: Michelle Lord
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6274
  • Genre: Non-fiction/Science

The Long, Long Journey

Written by Sandra Markle

Illustrated by Mia Posada

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Crackle! Crackle! Crunch! The Long, Long Journey paints a picture of one amazing little bird. The story tracks the life of a female bar-tailed godwit. It starts with her hatching and follows her early life in Alaska. It lets readers watch as she gobbles insects to put on weight. Second grade readers will enjoy seeing how she avoids animals like the Arctic fox that wants to eat her for dinner. It joins the godwit and her flock as they fly thousands of miles, day after day, to cross the ocean.

Mia Posada’s accompanying artwork is a wonderful mixture of collage and watercolor. Readers can see the soft down of the chicks. They can feel the woody branches of the arctic plants. They can almost touch the crisp feathers of the adult birds.

Godwits are amazing! The number-crunching bulleted list of facts at the end of the story adds the details. Godwits hatch in only twenty-one days. They are able to walk and feed themselves right away. They eat so much that half of their body weight is fat. They need this fat to fuel the journey. One godwit flew 7,270 miles (11,700 kilometers) nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand.

The Long, Long Journey is a perfect read-aloud book for the second grade level. It gently introduces the subject of migration as a true story. It expands this knowledge with a list of websites, books, and videos. Using these resources readers can learn more about the godwit and other bird’s migration.

Sandra Markle lives near Christchurch, New Zealand. Her author’s note at the very end describes the godwit festival. People from around the country celebrate the godwit’s arrival in the spring and its departure to Alaska every fall. Fall in New Zealand is spring in Alaska. Teachers can use the information to create a variety of reading and writing activities and maybe even create their own migratory bird celebration.

  • Long Long JourneyTitle: The Long, Long Journey
  • Author: Sandra Markle
  • Illustrator: Mia Posada
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press
  • Reviewer: Megan Kopp
  • Hardcover: 32 Pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-5623-3
  • Genre: Nature
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