Tag Archive for second grade

I Am Amelia Earhart

Written by Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

An excellent addition to the series “Ordinary People Change the World” is this new biography about Amelia Earhart. Written in the first person, it is like a comfortable conversation between two kids.

It is exciting to read about Amelia’s early experiments with ramps and roller coaster carts in her grandmother’s back yard. She tells about her first ride aboard an airplane at a county fair which is something many young readers will have seen or experienced.

She talks about all the different jobs she had to do while trying to raise enough money for her flight lessons. The illustrations are great fun as we see the small cartoon version of Amelia driving a huge truck, taking stenography notes and posing as a photographer.

The text is sparse and accessible for beginning readers. It will invite them in and encourage them to keep reading this book as well as many others in the set.

Her recollection about the flight lessons is valuable as she tells her readers that she never was the best or fastest. Instead she was the one who worked longest and hardest at her lessons.

This is an excellent inspirational book for all young readers, but especially for young girls who might think their options are limited.

Core curriculum standards in the area of history, biography and literacy can be practiced and strengthened with this book. Readers will love being able to see real photographs of Amelia at the end of the book. It adds realism to the biography experience and shows what the early airplanes looked like. These photographs may provide a springboard for further research and perhaps even career dreams.

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  • Amelia EarhartTitle: I Am Amelia Earhart
  • Author: Brad Meltzer
  • Illustrator: Christopher Eliopoulos
  • Publisher: Dial Book for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4082-2
  • Genre: Biography, history, nonfiction
  • Grade level: K to 3
  • Extras: photographs

As An Oak Tree Grows

Written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Seasons and generations all pass by as the acorn planted by a supposed Native American child grows. While the text is clear and sparse, the illustrations are full of detail that will delight kindergarten readers as well as third grade readers.

The oak tree grows while people clear the land around it and begin to build houses and families. A timeline across the bottom of the pages lets readers correctly interpret the historical changes in transportation, architecture and clothing shown in the pictures.

For the youngest readers, it is enough to see the tree grow and the seasons change. Older readers will quickly notice the more subtle changes in lifestyle recorded in the illustrations.

This book will satisfy the common core standards for science, history, nature, and literature in several of the elementary grades. It is a beautiful springboard into studies of community development.

Readers will get attached to the tree and feel some sadness at its passing, but hope wins out as a new little acorn sprouts right next to where the old tree stood.

The poster that is in a pocket in the back of the book is full sized and has the stump of the tree enlarged. The rings of the tree are marked with historical markers to show how each ring of the tree represents a complete year. It will make it more understandable for young readers to see how this one tree was present for two hundred years of America’s history.

On the back of the poster are several activity sheets that go along with the book and only help to enhance the information included. This would be an excellent addition to any classroom, school or home library.

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  • As An Oak Tree GrowsTitle: As An Oak Tree Grows
  • Author/Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books/Penguin, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-25233-4
  • Genre: Historical fiction, realistic
  • Grade Level: K-3
  • Extras: Poster of the tree trunk, with historical labels on various rings, worksheets that go with the book are on the back of the poster.

What’s New? The Zoo! A Zippy History of Zoos

Written by Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Marcellus Hall


Children love zoos and wondering how they got started is sure to amaze young readers.

Not surprisingly, it became the sport of the very rich and powerful. Kathleen Krull has done her research. The scant text tells of zoos from 4,400 years ago, in what is now Iraq to one 3,000 years ago in China, and one in 2009 in San Diego, California. Many others in between are included. She clearly explains that while zoos used to be mainly for showing off wealth or power, they are now used to protect animals. They are no longer placed in cages, but specific habitats are built to resemble their natural environments as much as possible.

Large colorful, watercolor illustrations enhance this brief history and development of zoos in the world. Children will be able to recognize the animals, parts of the world and approximate times in history from these carefully prepared images.

Teachers and librarians will be able to fulfill educational standards in the areas of science, history, literacy, geography, cultures, and art using this one text.

After reading this book, children will be ready and anxious to visit the zoo either online or in person. The list of sources in the back of the book provides many great zoo sites to visit.

  • Title: What’s New? The Zoo? A Zippy History of Zoos
  • What's New The ZooAuthor: Kathleen Krull
  • Illustrator: Marcellus Hall
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, July 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-13571-9
  • Genre: Nonfiction picture book
  • Grade level: Preschool to 3
  • Extras: Bibliographic Sources

Fly Away

Written by Patricia MacLachlan

Patricia MacLachlan continues to provide emergent readers with wonderful stories. This latest book is based on the words from a children’s song that was adapted from an Engelbert Humperdinck song. It tells of the birdies who fly away, but come back home.

Her main character, Lucy, is a young girl whose family is traveling back to the mother’s home in a poor, old overused, but much loved Volkswagen van with a pop-up top. Like many poor families, the children are unaware of their poverty because of the way the parents handle life with jokes and songs.

During the visit home to see the stubborn aunt who doesn’t want help, the river floods. While it rises, neighbors come to help move things and memories of the past flood into conversations.

The relationships between the young siblings is perfectly described. They share secrets as well as quiet strength with one another. One secret has to be shared publicly, though, when the littlest boy comes up missing.

Not surprisingly, it is a well-written book that children just beginning to delve into chapter books will enjoy greatly. They will be able to recognize themselves and their relationships to others within its pages. They will learn that we, like the birdies, often fly away, but then come back home.

Literacy teachers, second grade and third grade readers, librarians and parents will enjoy this book as they practice all their literacy skills, but more importantly just love reading.

  • Fly AwayTitle: Fly Away
  • Author: Patricia MacLachlan
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, April 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 128 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-4424-6008-9
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Grade Level: Grade 2 and above


Claude at the Beach

Written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith

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Claude, the small plump dog, and Sir Bobblysock return in this entertaining account of a vacation at the beach. The author begins with Claude’s background, making this a good stand-alone book, but don’t miss Claude’s other adventures. He lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes and reserves his antics for when they are at work. Claude packs his suitcase with useful items, such as underpants, a lampshade, sunscreen, whipped cream, and sticky tape. He and Sir Bobblysock set off for the beach, where Bobblysock promptly falls asleep. Claude rescues a swimmer from a shark while the lifeguard helps a woman with her beach balls. After a snack, Claude and Bobblysock meet a family of pirates. They all go to hunt for buried treasure on Skull Island, which they eventually find. They also find the pirates who buried the treasure. Of course, the second group of pirates is very interested in the useful items Claude packed in his suitcase. Claude and Sir Bobblysock return home, dragging in sand, treasure, and seaweed smells.

Second grade readers will enjoy the silliness and wry humor. Read aloud is recommended, but only because sharing the jokes will make them even more fun. In any case, the story will hold kids’ attention and literacy skills will be enhanced.

  • Claude at the BeachTitle: Claude at the Beach
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2011
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-703-5
  • Extras: Author blog at www.alextsmith.blogspot.com

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

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 www.MoonSawItAll.com. Visit the publisher’s website for additional titles: www.LittleFiveStar.com.

  • 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

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, www.dawnpub.com, 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

Turkey Claus

Written by Wendi Silvano

Illustrated by Lee Harper

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In a sequel to Turkey Trouble, also by the duo of Silvano and Harper, Turkey finds that he may yet be the centerpiece for a holiday meal. Though he made it safely through Thanksgiving without being eaten, Turkey now overhears Farmer Jake and his wife, Edna, discussing a Christmas turkey dinner.

Turkey heads to the North Pole in hopes of Santa Claus solving his dilemma, but he’s turned away by elves protecting Santa’s time on the day before Christmas. Silvano and Harper cleverly adorn Turkey in fun, holiday-themed disguises to hopefully gain entrance to Santa’s presence. Though he strikes out with most of his disguises, Turkey finally sneaks in, hidden in a gift, and Santa saves the day. Turkey, dressed as Santa, delivers Gobblers Pizza to the farmer and his wife, just in time for dinner.

The illustrations are charmingly delightful, and the elves comments to Turkey are sarcastically humorous for adult and children’s entertainment, yet seriously explanatory to solve the mystery of each disguise. “Candy canes don’t have beaks,” explains the elf when Turkey is surprised that he’s discovered.

Parents and teachers will enjoy adding this humorous second grade book to their holiday reading list for must-read-alouds. Following the story, adults can use this website http://belladia.typepad.com/crafty_crow/2009/11/the-biggest-list-of-turkey-crafts-for-kids-to-make.html to find a three-dimensional turkey craft. After the children complete a turkey craft, supply them with various Christmas arts and crafts supplies (be sure to supply some unusual, atypical crafty kind of items to stir their imaginations) for each child to create a holiday-themed “disguise” for Turkey. Then, pair each child with a friend to act out an elf-scene from the book. Encourage one child to use his turkey to say, “May I please see Santa?” Have the (elf) partner reply with, “No turkey is getting in here today!” When the “turkey” says, “How’d you recognize me?” the (elf) partner replies with an acceptable answer to match his/her disguise.

Children will enjoy reading this unique Christmas story (most Christmas stories don’t have a turkey dinner as the theme of the book) during the December season as a fun twist to the usual holiday-ish kind of story. The story will stir their imaginations, and kids will find themselves attempting to think of other disguises for Turkey, because after all, who wouldn’t want to gain entry to Santa’s presence?

  • Turkey ClausTITLE: Turkey Claus
  • AUTHOR: Wendi Silvano
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Lee Harper
  • PUBLISHER: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Hard Cover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0761462392
  • GENRE: Holiday/Christmas
  • LEXILE: 500
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