Archive for Uncategorized

Before She Was Harriet

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

Few figures of the abolition movement have gotten the recognition of Harriet Tubman. That’s not to say there weren’t many, many more deserving souls involved in emancipation. What sets Harriet apart is just how accomplished and tireless she was. This gorgeous picture book highlights her many achievements and makes her life more real for the reader. Cleverly, the author shows that Harriet didn’t just become an old woman. She had many stops along the journey.

Before she was Harriet, she was literally known by other names, but she could also be identified by her roles. Suffragist, generally, spy, nurse, Aunt Harriet, Moses, conductor, Minty, and Araminta. The author highlights each role and draws the reader into Harriet’s world. She lets them know what life was like for this wonderful woman. The lyrical approach helps attract the reader to that world, as do the amazing illustrations. Seeing Harriet in the dark with the houses in the distance lets the reader know what a risk she was taking with the Underground Railroad. Seeing the suffragists intent on her words lets us know the respect she commanded.

Very important addition to the Harriet Tubman library.

  • Title: Before She Was Harriet
  • Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
  • Illustrator: James E. Ransome
  • Published: Holiday House, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nonfiction, History, Biography
  • ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

King and Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth

Written by Dori Hillestad Butler
Illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Fourth in the mystery series, The Lost Tooth is well worth a look for kids learning to solve problems while they learn to read better. Kayla is a strong believer in scientific method, carefully listing the clues that she and King have and the things they need to know. King also thinks he knows some clues, but he is mostly available for amusement.

When Kayla loses a tooth at school, her teacher sends her home with the class tooth fairy pillow. By the time she gets home, she is unable to find the tooth. King keeps smelling evidence of Kayla’s mouth but must hunt for the tooth along with Kayla. Of course, it’s King who eventually finds the tooth, but not without some destruction along the way.

The simple language, quick action, and familiar situations of this series make it a great introduction to chapter books. The illustrations give hints about the story that might help the struggling reader. Plus, the illustrations are pleasing and add to the enjoyment.

  • Title: King and Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth 
  • Author: Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Illustrator: Nancy Meyers
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Chapter Book, Fiction, Mystery, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-880-6

Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat

Written and Illustrated by Laurie Ellen Angus

Vibrant paper collages accompany a simple yet lyrical text to highlight how many birds live. The focus is on the feet of the birds, but much more is shown about their worlds. For example, most birds must be conscious of their surroundings and wary of any predators in their vicinity. It’s great that the reader is made aware the birds’ lives are not all fun.

The swan’s webbed feet help her get closer to the water plants that are her diet. The heron’s long legs and toes help her get a view of the fish she hopes to catch. The roadrunners strong feet and legs help her catch lizards for lunch. Woodpeckers can climb to the grubs they love to eat. Small flexible toes help the cardinal perch to eat berries and help the towhee scratch for insects. Owls have powerful feet that help them catch prey.

The Explore More sections make this a valuable book for nature study. Activities and resources are abundant.

  • Paddle Perch ClimbTitle: Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat
  • Author/Illustrator: Laurie Ellen Angus
  • Published: Dawn Publications, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nonfiction, Nature, Birds
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-614-8
  • Extra: Explore More – for Kids, Explore More – for Parents and Teachers, More Fun with Birds, More Nature Appreciation Books

The King of Bees

Written by Lester L. Laminack
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

In a short, entertaining story about Henry, who lives with his Aunt Lilla, the reader learns about both bees and family. The author manages to tell a riveting story without being too scary and imparts information without being didactic. The reader will come away loving bees and hoping the bees survive.

The two live in Lowcountry South Carolina and struggle to make ends meet. Henry wants desperately to help his aunt in any way he can. He’s just a little young for some of the activities that appeal to him. He helps gather the eggs and quickly learns not to break any of them. He watches as his aunt tends her beehives and is fascinated. Aunt Lilla explains how the bees live and how they also work hard. When the bees swarm, Henry tries his best to make sure none of the bees leave him or Aunt Lilla. He’s learning to bee talk. Anxious moments occur, but it all turns out well in the end.

Beautiful illustrations accompany and help tell the story. Even the end papers add to an understanding of Henry’s world.

Recommended for a unit on nature or conservation. Great spark for further exploration.

  • King of BeesTitle: The King of Bees
  • Author: Lester L. Laminack
  • Illustrator: Jim LaMarche
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Nature, Responsibility
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-953-7
  • Extra: Author’s Note

Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth

Written by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Emily Sutton

The flora and fauna of the earth are not only beautifully diverse but also interdependent in magnificently complicated ways. The author shows that interdependence in simple terms, highlighting food chains and ways usefulness goes both ways. She also shows how man’s shortsightedness has contributed to the elimination of some vital species. As a zoologist, the author maintains that extinctions need to be stopped.

Wonderfully rich and detailed illustrations show just how busy the earth is, with over two million species identified over the years by humans. Even the end pages get into the act showing many, many plants and animals.

Enough of the text is familiar (elephants and oak trees) to catch a reader’s attention, while enough is new and unusual (Galapagos rosy iguana and microbes that make volcanic lakes brightly colored) to spark curiosity and further research. Recommended for the classroom and for at the home of a budding biologist.

  • Many2Title: Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth
  • Author: Nicola Davies
  • Illustrator: Emily Sutton
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Biology, Ecology
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9483-8

Blacksmith’s Song

Written by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
Illustrated by Anna Rich

One of the many methods for passing along information about the Underground Railroad may have been the rhythms of the plantation blacksmith. This is a heartwarming look at how a young boy would have perceived the actions of his blacksmith father. It will help the reader identify with both the conductors and passengers on the railroad.

Late into the night, Pa swings his hammer, giving the passengers direction. As an excuse, Pa tells his master he’s working on a special birthday present for the mistress of the plantation. Pa is an artist with the iron, forming a beautiful gate topped by a bird. When Pa works himself ill, the boy must take the hammer and pound out the rhythms, at risk to his own well-being. Finally, his family takes a journey of their own.

The beautiful illustrations add to the feel and demonstrate the darkness, fear, and hope associated with the railroad. Pa’s creations are reproduced stunningly. Besides the iron bird, he produces a star for the boy, pointing the way to freedom.

Recommended for use with history units, musical studies of spirituals, or as independent reading. It should spark many discussions and suggest many projects.

  • 61HBFeE1G5L._SY438_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Blacksmith’s Song
  • Author: Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
  • Illustrator: Anna Rich
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, History
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-580-5
  • Extras: Author’s Note

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs

Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

The theme of this cute new book is that even the non-elephants deserve our respect, if only for the ability to survive. That ability is a combination of camouflage, ability to hide, and other factors. Playful language make the concepts fun. Accurate and detailed illustrations make them easy to understand.

Etruscan pygmy shrews and Amau frogs are so small they escape predators by slipping into holes and cracks. Galapagos tortoises are incredibly slow but can hide inside their strong shells. The hoatzin, a bird, and the zorilla, a weasel relative, scare predators away with their awful smells. The okapi is known for its ability to hide in plain sight. Koalas, giant armadillos, and brown bats get an edge by sleeping a lot and not needing a lot of food. The western fence lizard is so fast, it can catch any number of spiders and insects. It can also lose its balance a lot. Walruses rely on their blubber to keep them warm and act as storage for lean times. Naked mole rats and perfectly adapted to their desert burrows.

More information about each animal is available in the final section. A fun way to learn about animals that may not be featured in your favorite movie.

  • PipsqueaksTitle: Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs
  • Author: Melissa Stewart
  • Illustrator: Stephanie Laberis
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 2
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Biology
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-950-6
  • Extras: More about the Underdogs

King and Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse

Written by Dori Hillestad Butler
Illustrated by Nancy Myers

Kayla and King are busy solving a mystery again in the third installment of this wonderful series for young readers.

King is playing ball with a puppy when his ball gets thrown over the fence. In trying to recover it, they find many other balls, but not King’s. He meets a cat who tells him “Mouse took it.” How could a mouse take a ball larger than itself? The girls list all the clues they know and all the things they don’t know. Then King figures out who Mouse is.

What’s great about this series is that there are enough illustrations to help move the story along and enhance a young reader’s ability to figure out the words. The story is exciting and complicated enough to make the reader think a bit. And the language is simple enough to be readable. Plus, it’s humorous.

Recommended for reading together, reading aloud, and independent reading.

  • Mysterious MouseTitle: King and Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse           
  • Author: Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Illustrator: Nancy Myers
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Early Reader, Mystery
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-879-0

La La La: A Story of Hope

Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Jaime Kim

In her usual subtle and gentle style, the author tells a heartwarming and fundamental story of longing and companionship. There is very little text, so most of the story is told through the vivid illustrations.

When a young girl begins singing to the world, she gets no response. “La,” she sings to the air, to the leaves, to a lake, and to plants. She even tries to climb a ladder to the moon. She wears herself out singing, and still she gets nothing. She eventually falls asleep. When she wakes up, someone else is singing “La! La! La!” It’s the magical face in the moon, shining and singing away.

  • This can be viewed as a simple story of the girl finding a new friend, but so many other themes enter with each reading. As a read aloud or for independent reading, this is a wonderful book to add to any collection.
  • La La LaTitle: La La La: A Story of Hope
  • Author: Kate DiCamillo
  • Illustrated: Jaime Kim
  • Published: Candlewick Press, October 3, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 72 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Loneliness, Frienship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5833-5

Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dreams of Don Quixote

Written by Margarita Engle
Illustrated by Raúl Colón

Although most people know about Don Quixote, few know much about the author behind the icon. In this fictionalized account of Miguel Cervantes’ early life, the reader learns that Miguel had a very tough life indeed. Escape into his fantasies about Don Quixote was often the only happiness in his world.

In simple language easily accessible to early grades, the author tells of Miguel’s father who lost most of his earnings to gambling and ended up in debtors’ prison for a time. So the family moved around a lot. Miguel found refuge in the stories his teachers read from books so precious only the teachers were allowed to touch them. Miguel witnessed burning of some of the books considered subversive due to use of imagination. The plague hit Europe, causing more suffering for the Cervantes family. Eventually, Miguel learned enough about writing that one of his teachers asks to publish some of his poems.

Fantastic pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations accompany every page of the manuscript. Realistic and authentic, they are certainly as enjoyable as the text.

In the Notes, the reader learns of Miguel’s later life. Nothing got easier. He was taken as a slave, was freed, and spent time in prison himself.

  • Miguels Brave KnightTitle: Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dreams of Don Quixote
  • Author: Margarita Engle
  • Illustrator: Raúl Colón
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, October 1, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Biography
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-856-1
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Historical Note, Biographical Note, Don Quixote: A Cultural Icon
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