Tag Archive for reading activities

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 www.johnhimmelman.com  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: www.nature@dawnpub.com

  • 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

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

Cookie, the Walker

Written and Illustrated by Chris Monroe

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I admit it. I’m a sucker for subtle, dry humor, and I’m a big fan of Chris Monroe. In the tradition of Sneaky Sheep, the new book will have second graders as well as grown-ups giggling and wanting more.

Cookie is an ordinary dog, except she walks on two legs. The advantages are many. She can look out the window without getting on the furniture. She can turn on the television. She can reach the icemaker. Her talent draws more attention than Cookie and her buddy, Kevin, can handle. She is hired first by Beatrix Havior of B. Havior’s Behavior Barn to star in a dog show. Cookie performs many tricks and even walks on a flaming board across a kiddie pool filled with snapping turtles. She works for snacks. Next, Pierre La Toot of Cirque De La Toot shoves Kevin aside to hire Cookie for circus peanuts (snacks). Television producer Stu Spoon comes next with a fanny pack, mini fridge, and more snacks. Among other things, she dances with penguins and interviews ghosts. Cookie mostly ends up overworked and over-snacked. So she starts walking like a regular dog again, unless there’s no one around and she sees bacon or an extra-fluffy towel.

The silliness of both the text and illustrations make this a winner, drawing in many readers. But the themes of using your talents and the value of individuality provide many opportunities for reading activities. Parents and teachers may want to use this as a read aloud for younger children, so they can discuss those themes.

  • cookie the walkerTitle: Cookie, The Walker
  • Author/Illustrator: Chris Monroe
  • Publisher: Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publisher Group, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-5617-2
  • Genre: Picture book, humor
  • Lexile: 320L


Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Amanda Haley

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It snowed without stopping

For week after week.

When it ended at last,

Cami Lou took a peek.


Thus begins the story of Snowzilla — a simply told tale-in-verse that pre-schoolers to second graders would enjoy. Cami Lou bundles up her brother against the cold and they step out to “build a huge snowman, unlike any other!”

Well, the snowman is like no other. It keeps growing and growing; so big, that they need Dad’s rig to place the head on the top. So big, that busloads of tourists come to see it. So big, that the neighbors protest, and the case goes to court! But Cami Lou knows how to drum up support. She emails, and texts, and blogs, with just one message: Save Our Snowzilla.

The colorful illustrations perfectly match the tone of the story. The giant snowman contrasts with the tiny dots that are the people crowding around. Even the yellow busses seem small beside him. The protesters parade with placards that read “melt the snowman!” and  “SNOWMAN NO MAN!” and the savers hold up “SOS: Save Our Snowman.”

Interestingly, there is (or was) a real Snowzilla, whose story parallels this tale. The average snowfall in Anchorage, Alaska, is 57 inches, so temptation to go build a snowmen is huge. That is what Billy Ray Powers and his children did in 2005 (see http://www.snowzilla.org/ ). The snowman was so big that they used up all the snow in their yard, and had to borrow snow from the neighboring yards, bucket by bucket, pulled in on sleds. What do you think this mammoth snowman was called? Why Snowzilla of course.

The rhymes are simple enough to learn. Many reading activities can be built around them — snowy day or not!

  • SnowzillaTitle: Snowzilla
  • Author: Janet Lawler
  • Illustrator: Amanda Haley
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback:  32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761461883
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 690


What the Snakes Wrote

Written by Hazel Hutchins
Illustrated by Tina Holdcroft

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While Rufus, the farmdog, stands guard next to his doghouse, with chickens in the background and a cat’s silhouette in the window, he notices that snakes were lying in the dirt in oddly-shaped patterns. Unbeknownst to Rufus, the “shapes” were actually letters and spelled out “dog.”

Rufus decides to go on patrol of the farmyard, since the farmer is busy taking care of a hole he discovered in a field, and Rufus encounters the pigs, cows, and horse, and lots more snakes, coiled in more fascinating shapes. When Rufus saves the snakes from impending danger of a vehicle, he thinks the farmyard returns to normal. However, many other snakes emerge and contort into some kind of message.
Rufus finally fetches the farmer, and eventually the farmer reads the snakes’ message: Save Our Home. The farmer was unwittingly covering up the snakes’ den with his attempt to fill the hole in the field. With a happy ending for the snakes, the farmer, and Rufus, the author delightfully emphasizes the need to respect the habitats of animals, allowing them to coexist with humans…and dogs!

This is a really fun book for students who are making the connection between the written letter and the formation of words. The illustrations are clever and friendly, as all the animals appear to be smiling at the reader, including the snakes. Mid- to late-first grade readers can read the book alone and will enjoy recognizing the words that the snakes script in the dirt.

First or second grade teachers can incorporate this charming book into a number of lessons or unit studies: farms and farm animals, animals and their habitats, reptiles, animal appreciation, or letter recognition. Included in the back of the book are two pages of additional information about snakes, meant to be read aloud by a teacher or parent.

Author Hutchins and author/illustrator Holdcroft have contributed many other books to the children’s literature genre and have garnered picture book awards.

A creative follow-up to this story might include offering dough or clay in a center and encouraging the children to roll the dough into “snakes” and then spell words with the snake-shapes for a friend to read.

  • What the Snakes WroteTITLE: What the Snakes Wrote
  • AUTHOR: Hazel Hutchins
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Tina Holdcroft
  • PUBLISHER: Annick Press
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Paperback, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-55451-472-4
  • GENRE: Contemporary


Lulu and the Dog from the Sea

Written by Hilary McKay

Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

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Cousins Lulu and Mellie return for book number two in this delightful and entertaining series. Like the first book in the series, Lulu and the Duck in the Park, this is destined to appear on many reading lists and receive many awards. The publisher’s website has a Common Core Teacher’s Guide for the series, providing many reading activities (http://www.albertwhitman.com/).

Lulu’s family is going on a week-long beach vacation, and Mellie is going along. The house they rent is comically inadequate, complete with a potholed road and only three glasses in the kitchen. The locals have been fighting a battle with a stray dog which seemingly came from the sea. Lulu gets the full story about the dog’s mother and sisters and how they were eventually captured by the dogcatcher. Predictably, Lulu ignores all the warnings and befriends the dog from the sea. He remains wary of other humans, but that doesn’t stop him from saving the day. The author uses gentle humor and a little self-deprecation to show how things can sometimes go awry. Delightful illustrations show much of the action and are wonderful additions.

Second grade readers will learn, in a fun way, about many issues facing young vacationers. They will learn that rocks on the beach belong to everyone and should not be appropriated by individuals. Trash must be protected from critters, even if humans don’t think the critters are clever enough to access the cans. Craft projects, such as kite building, often require some instruction. Even thieving dogs require attention and water.

A thoroughly enjoyable early reader.

  • Lulu and the DogTitle: Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
  • Author: Hilary McKay
  • Illustrated by: Priscilla Lamont
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback, 108 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-4820-2
  • Genre: Chapter book, Animals.

Gooney Bird on the Map

Written by Lois Lowry

Illustrated by Middy Thomas

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Mrs. Pidgeon’s second grade class is counting the days until February vacation. With just ten days until the school vacation begins, Mrs. Pidgeon’s class celebrates  Valentine’s Day, a couple of Presidents’ birthdays, practices math facts, studies geography, and tromps around in the snow during recess.

Some of the students in Gooney Bird’s class are taking exciting vacations – to Vermont, Hawaii, and Florida. But most of the classmates will be staying home in Watertower.

When the vacationers begin to brag constantly about their vacations, Gooney Bird hatches a plan to show them just how it feels when others gloat, and it involves a very large “frozen” map of the United States that the class, with the help of the school custodian, Mr. Furillo, outlines in the snow-covered playground.

By the end of the story, everyone is happy about the map project, and the gloaters tone down their vacation bragging. The book culminates with Mrs. Pidgeon’s class presenting a program to the entire school about the various states they’ve studied, using their outdoor map in the snow.

Author Lois Lowry uses this story of Gooney Bird, which is one of several Gooney Bird installations, to teach geography concepts in an interesting, yet subtle way. She makes Mrs. Pidgeon’s classroom seem like a happy place to be, where much learning – and fun – takes place.

A fun reading activity to continue the geography concepts introduced or taught by author Lowry might be to place a large United States map on the wall and encourage the children to place sticker-flags on the states they have visited.

  • Gooney BirdTITLE: Gooney Bird on the Map
  • AUTHOR: Lois Lowry
  • ILLUSTRATIOR: Middy Thomas
  • PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Paperback, 125 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-85088-7
  • GENRE: Contemporary

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

Claude in the City

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.

  • Claude in the CityTitle: 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


What’s in the Garden?

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Cris Arbo

Winner of the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award (Children’s Picture Book)

2013 NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award

2013 Mom’s Choice Gold Award

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Marianne Berkes has made a habit of writing wonderfully inspiring, ‘interactive’ books for children. The series Over In The….(Forest, Ocean, Jungle, Arctic, Australia) contained detailed information hidden in crisp rhymes. She has repeated the feat in her new book What’s in the Garden?

The book is written as easy-to-solve riddles. The short verse on the right-hand page poses a riddle, but you have to turn the page to find the answer. There is also an easy-to-make recipe associated with that fruit or vegetable. This is the first verse:
  Delicious, nutritious, what could it be?
  In spring there are blossoms all over the tree.
  Red, green, or yellow, with fruit that is round.
  If you don’t pick it, it plops to the ground.
The answer is apple — red, green or yellow. The accompanying recipe describes how to make applesauce. Each full page spread is an accurate, vibrantly colored illustration that draws the reader in. So detailed are the illustrations that you can almost feel the texture of a leaf, the fine hairs along the pumpkin stalk.

One fruit “has a long ear, but never an eye,” another “doesn’t have ears, but does have eyes.” Second grade readers will surely enjoy solving the riddles and making the accompanying dishes.

The back matter is rich with additional information. “Food For Thought” provides more information on the fruits and vegetables mentioned in the book. Older readers would benefit from this for their projects and term papers. “How Does Your Garden Grow?” describes how a plant starts and what it needs to prosper. Many projects and reading activities can be created from the book as children learn where their fruits and veggies come from. Here is an entertaining song (Dirt Made My Lunch) with the same idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCeyXW64cns

  • Whats in the GardenTitle: What’s in the Garden?
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Cris Arbo
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-190-7
  • Genre: Picture Book/ Non-Fiction


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