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: www.enslow.com. Additional reading resources and reputable websites are also listed.
- TITLE: 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
- LEXILE SCORE: 470
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, www.pbskids.org/martha, which is loaded with information for parents and teachers and reading activities. Martha also has her own website, www.marthathetalkingdog.com; and the publisher’s website (www.hmhbooks.com) is useful to help increase reading skills and comprehension.
- TITLE: 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
Written by Tom Angleberger
Illustrated by Cece Bell
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Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony. Why? Well, read the book and find out! Just kidding. Apparently, he was bored. His pony suggested a trip to town and the story begins. Why go to town? Well, maybe to buy a feather for his hat. Call it macaroni? Really? Apparently “’macaroni’ is just another word for ‘fancy’”. Hmmmm, isn’t that interesting? This book is full of ‘interesting’ information.
This graphic novel was written on a second grade reading level, but older children would enjoy it. There are so many classroom applications for this book that I am not sure where to begin. Writing sequence is an important lesson. Crankee Doodle starts with “first” and moves on to “second” when asking his pony why he would want to call his hat macaroni. Teaching social skills may be as important as teaching reading skills. When Crankee Doodle tells his pony that he smells bad, the pony has a bit of a meltdown. This is an excellent opportunity to teach children about appropriate communication and how our words can hurt. It is also a chance to teach children how to deal with hurtful words. The word choices can make comprehension a little tough for struggling readers sometimes. However, the format makes it interesting enough to keep their attention.
Crankee Doodle is short enough so that most readers would be able to push through, even if a little frustrated. It has just enough complexity in its storyline to keep even advanced readers interested, but not too much to confuse struggling readers. The graphic novel style will appeal to a wide audience, young and old.
Author Tom Angleberger is also the author of the Origami Yoda books. All kinds of fun stuff, as well as other books, can be found at his website (http://origamiyoda.wordpress.com/). Illustrator Cece Bell is both an illustrator and author. Her website (http://cecebell.wordpress.com/) has information about her other works, as well as her blog.
- Title: Crankee Doodle
- Author: Tom Angleberger
- Illustrator: Cece Bell
- Publisher: Clarion Books
- Reviewer: Sandi Waymire
- Hardcover: unpaged
- ISBN: 978-0-547-81854-2
- Genre: contemporary fiction
- Lexile score: 450
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 http://www.scribd.com/doc/132313055/50-States-to-Celebrate-by-Marion-Dane-Bauer-Discussion-Guide. The author’s website address is http://www.mariondanebauer.com/. The illustrator’s portfolio can be viewed by going to http://www.directoryofillustration.com/ArtistPortfolioThumbs.aspx?AID=5491. Early readers will enjoy learning from this colorful book.
- Title: 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
Written and Illustrated by Abby Hanlon
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Ever had writer’s block? Did you ever feel like what you had to write about just wasn’t very exciting? Well, that is exactly how Ralph feels in this charming metafiction tale. While everyone else in class seems to be able to produce volumes at writing time, Ralph doesn’t know how to begin to record even the mundane. His teacher insists that “Stories are everywhere!”, but when he stares out the window, at his paper, and at the ceiling, nothing seems to inspire him…until he lays under his desk, hiding, yet pretending to find inspiration. And then something happens when the teacher asks Ralph about his story, he has one!
Abby Hanlon’s line drawings capture the emotion of a budding writer in elementary school. This fun read-aloud is well-suited for a second grade class; this new book is an instant classic because any reader can relate. To reinforce comprehension, students may be asked to describe what techniques didn’t work to help Ralph get over his writer’s block and what helps them to personally clear away the fog that keeps them from completing assignments. As a teacher herself, Hanlon is familiar with students’ struggles with finding their stories. What I love most about this book is that Ralph is shown writing and brainstorming all over the room. His teacher is not caught up in his sitting on his bottom at his desk; Ralph’s teacher in encouraging and understanding of Ralph’s need to get up and move to find inspiration. Ralph Tells a Story is a must-have for any elementary classroom library.
For writing tips and prompts http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/journal-prompts.html
- Title: Ralph Tells a Story
- Author/Illustrator: Abby Hanlon
- Publisher: Amazon Publishing
- Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
- Hardback, 38 pages
- ISBN: 978-0761461807
- Genre: fiction/writing process
Written and Illustrated by J. R. Krause and Maria Chua
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Poco Loco is a mouse who’s just a little bit crazy. He invents things that no one else would think of inventing, like the Cuckoo Clock-Coffeemaker, the Shower-Bed, and the Waffle Iron-Weather Forecaster. But those aren’t bad ideas. They are just a little different. What happens when Poco Loco tries to warn his friends Gallo, Gato, Cerdo, and Vaca of bad weather? They do not believe him because the sky is clear—and the weather forecast comes from a waffle iron. But when Poco Loco is swept up by the wind, they quickly learn Poco Loco and his invention are correct. One after the other of them tries to save him, basically ending up looking like a tail to a kite! Whipped away by the strong wind, they may not know it, but they are fortunate when the rain puts an end to their flight . . . and Poco Loco remembers his greatest invention—the helicopter-paraguas (helicopter-umbrella).
Perfect for the second grade reader, comprehension comes easily with the exciting, colorful illustrations. The bilingual approach, best enjoyed when the book is read aloud, will appeal to both Spanish and English learners at the second grade level. Teachers will appreciate the Glossary of Spanish Words, in addition to the many prompts in the text and illustrations. Much like Poco Loco, the authors J. R. Krause and Maria Chua are genios. Children will laugh uproariously at the silliness of Poco Loco and his friends’ adventure. Poco Loco is a must-have for any first, second, or third grade classroom.
Illustrator/Author Website: www.jrkrause.com
- Title: Poco Loco
- Authors: J. R. Krause and Maria Chua
- Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
- Reviewer: Bonita Herold
- Paperback: 32 pages
- ISBN: 978-1477816493
- Genre: Picture Book
- Lexile Score: 470
Written by Eric Kimmel
Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
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I love a tale where the young heroine can take care of herself. In this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Little Red Hot is a hot-pepper-loving, horse-riding, quiche-baking, big-bad-wolf-talking dynamo who figures out her own solutions. She is not perfect, but she figures out her mistakes and still finds a solution. Set in Texas, the story has the pace of a tall-tale, but one where we already know the story. We know Red will go to Grandma’s. We know there will be a Big Bad Wolf, or Señor Lobo. And we know everyone will come together at the end. What we didn’t know was how they do it in Texas. Suffice to say, the cuisine enjoyed by Little Red Hot, is not one that can be wolfed down. The pictures are as active as the character and give the feel of wide-open, cactus-filled landscape, where Little Red Hot seems both at home and in command.
This will be an ideal read aloud for younger students. However, as a retelling, it also perfect for emerging second grade readers. If the students have heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood, they will be able to make accurate predictions about this story, aiding their reading comprehension, while still enjoying the differences. I would even recommend this fun book for third, fourth and even fifth grade readers who might be working on comparative literature themes. Fractured fairy tales provide plenty of room to compare and contrast the well-known plot with the new one. Kimmel’s other picture books offer more fairy tale hijinks and more chances to compare and contrast.
Visit Eric A. Kimmel’s web page and see what he is up to now.
- Title: Little Red Hot
- Author: Eric Kimmel
- Illustrator: Laura Huliska-Beith
- Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
- Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
- Hardcover 32 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-4778-1638-7
- Genre: fiction, picture book
- Lexile Score: 750
Written and Illustrated by Alex T. Smith
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Claude and his best friend, Sir Bobblysock, a very bobbly sock indeed, set out on an adventure and make a splash in the city. Claude, a dog with a long face and a beret, lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes, who leave Claude and Bobblysock alone every day. After the humans take off for work, Claude blocks traffic because he doesn’t understand horn blowing. He examines groups of pigeons. He finds a shop with many kinds and colors of berets and buys every possible combination. He goes to an art gallery and foils an art thief. He is the hero of the day and is recognized by the mayor, though Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes don’t understand how. Next, Claude takes a trip to the hospital in an effort to find out what’s wrong with Sir Bobblysock. At the hospital, Claude is recruited to help a group of wrestlers suffering from a mysterious illness. Of course, all is well at the end.
Imaginative and exciting illustrations are important parts of this story. As a dog, Claude doesn’t talk much, but he has many expressions. The themes of pure silliness, humor, and striking out on your own fit in well with the second grade reading level. There is enough repetition to aid in comprehension, but not enough to get tedious. For more fun and reading activities, check out Smith’s blog at http://alextsmith.blogspot.com/, which includes his sketchbook, or Claude and Bobblysock’s own blog at http://claudebooks.blogspot.com/. Apparently, Claude’s fans like to dress like Claude and have their own Sir Bobblysock.
- Title: Claude in the City
- Author and Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
- Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Hard cover: 94 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-56145-697-0
- Genre: Middle grade, Humor
Written by Jackie Mims Hopkins
Illustrated by Henry Cole
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A delightful spin on a classic story, Prairie Chicken Little provides a fresh look at how panic starts on the wide open spaces of the grasslands when a nervous prairie chicken spreads rumor of a stampede. With no trees around, there are no acorns falling, but these animals fear a stampede more than the sky falling, so “a rumbling and a grumbling and a tumbling” is enough to cause quite a stir. When Mary McBlicken runs to tell her friends on the prairie about the imminent stampede, they are all aflutter until Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan come along to calm them down.
This brightly illustrated book would fit nicely in a unit about different ecosystems of North America or a unit about wild animals. There are also several nice lessons about how prepositions like, “over,” “through,” “around,” and “down” guide our imagination and the storyline. Students may even write and illustrate their own colorful story told with a dozen different prepositions. To test the readers’ comprehension after reading this story aloud, students may describe the problem, what Mary wanted to do about it, and how it was finally resolved.
With such a common story line, there are loads of extension activities for the classroom. For a generous collection of activities, visit http://www.myfreshplans.com/2010-09/chicken-little-lesson-plans/. This site offers activities for the language arts, science, character development, and critical thinking. It also links visitors to several audio versions of the classic tale of Chicken Little. Many may easily be adapted to use with Prairie Chicken Little. After reading this updated story, students may also be encouraged to write their own twist on a different classic tale.
- Title: Prairie Chicken Little
- Authors: Jackie Mims Hopkins
- Illustrators: Henry Cole
- Publisher: Peachtree
- Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
Hardback, 38 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-56145-694-9
- Genre: fiction/folk tale/Chicken Little