Tag Archive for second grade

Ralph Tells a Story

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

  • Ralph Tells a StoryTitle: Ralph Tells a Story
  • Author/Illustrator: Abby Hanlon
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 38 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761461807
  • Genre: fiction/writing process



Poco Loco

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

  • Poco LocoTitle: 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

Martha Speaks: So You Want to Be a Dog?

Written by Raye Lankford and Peter K. Hirsch

Illustrations based on characters by Susan Meddaugh

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Many second graders have wondered what it would be like to be an animal. In Martha Speaks: So You Want to Be a Dog?, readers follow along with children who experience a doggy transformation. The book is presented through two separate stories, tied together with a brief introduction and conclusion.

In the first story, neat and helpful Carolina can’t seem to empathize with Martha, the talking dog who likes to sniff garbage, loves to roll in the mud, and can’t stand to be on a leash. Then Carolina is unexpectedly turned into a collie.  After being taken to the pound, she gains a new point of view. In the second story, T.D. is unhappy with his life. In the past week, he lost his homework, had someone sit on his lunch and gotten assigned a science project as punishment.  T.D. challenges Martha by stating that a dog’s life is easier than a boy’s, and he ends up conducting a doggy experiment. After spending a day as a dog, blocked out of the library, unable to draw, and generally being bored, T.D. concludes that a dog’s life is not perfect either.

Colorful illustrations based on the characters from the PBS “Martha Speaks” television show are placed on every page and may support comprehension. Children on a second grade reading level  will appreciate this imaginative take on a dog’s life. They will enjoy the humor in Carolina’s experience and will relate to T.D.’s everyday challenges. These relatable characters and situations will carry second grade readers into the story and help them improve their reading skills. Teachers will appreciate the ties to curriculum. The second story introduces the scientific process, using vocabulary such as hypothesis, conclusion, and experiment.

The back matter includes a glossary which, in addition to including scientific terms, will help readers determine the difference between “empathy” and “sympathy.” Also included are a simple origami activity and five easy steps for a kid-friendly experiment. Websites, (www.marthathetalkingdog.com) and (www.pbskids.org/martha) offer additional activities, games, videos and stories.

  • Martha Speaks So You Want to be a DogTITLE: Martha Speaks: So You Want to Be a Dog?
  • AUTHOR: Raye Lankford and Peter K. Hirsch
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Based on characters by Susan Meddaugh
  • PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • REVIEWER: Heather L. Montgomery
  • EDITION: Paperback: 96 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0547970189
  • GENRE: Chapter book
  • LEXILE: 430

Bramble and Maggie – Give and Take

Written by Jessie Haas

Illustrated by Alison Friend

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Bramble and Maggie – Give and Take is a wonderful chapter book for second grade level readers that encompasses a good plot, a take away lesson, lovable characters, and rich illustrations. Although the main character next to Bramble the horse is a girl, boys can relate to the overall story and life experiences that are common to the second grade reader.

Readers are experiencing what it takes to play and work together. In this chapter book students have a fast moving chapter story that shows how Bramble the horse learns to trust Maggie and how Maggie learns to compromise with her horse.

Teachers will appreciate the life lesson in this second grade level reader which can spring board deeper discussions and group activities showing compromise. Parents will appreciate a well written book that helps to reinforce positive character education and family values.

Bramble and Maggie- Give and Take is a reading experience that students will enjoy reading independently. The language is appropriate for the young reader and the concepts are clear and easy to comprehend.

  • Bramble and MaggieTitle: Bramble and Maggie – Give and Take
  • Author: Jessie Haas
  • Illustrator: Alison Friend
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5021-6
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Genre: Juvenile/Chapter book


Happy Birdday, Tacky!

Written by Helen Lester

Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

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The team of author Lester and illustrator Munsinger delight children and adults with another installment of Tacky the Penguin stories. In this episode, several of Tacky’s penguin friends attempt to plan a perfect birdday party for Tacky, and they want it to be a surprise.

Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect bake a cake, secure the fishy ice cream, write and illustrate cards, prepare a special birdday card, purchase the extravagant dinner jacket, and line up some penguin entertainment. But, as often happens to an event when Tacky is involved, things don’t necessarily go as originally planned. Tacky wants to dine on the jacket and not in it. He wears the fishy ice cream cone on his head like a hat. He extinguishes the birdday candles with a hair dryer; and then tosses the cake like a football. And after those fiascos, Twinklewebs the Dance Queen, begins to perform her special ballet dance. But her swan song takes a mis-flight, and Twinklewebs is injured, or so the drama-queen thinks. In Tacky fashion, the guest of honor distracts the crowd with his Flapwaddle Dance, and suddenly Twinklewebs recovers and joins him in the dance, along with Tacky’s penguin friends.

Lester and Munsinger use the Tacky series to celebrate individuality and differences. The books often mention that Tacky is an “odd bird,” but yet he never fails to delight his friends in the story and charm readers, both children and adults. The stories of Tacky encourage readers to appreciate their uniqueness, as well as the differences of others around them.

Second grade readers will like the made-up words, like “flapwaddle,” “birdday,” “tippywebs,” and “Iglooslavia.” Be sure to check the children’s reading comprehension of the story with the created words used in the story and with the words used by the penguin character, Twinklewebs, spoken in an “Iglooslavian” accent.

After reading the story aloud to the class, pick a day to celebrate the individuals in your classroom. Play a game in which the students take turns sharing aloud a fact about themselves that they believe is unique, a characteristic that no one else in the room shares. Like, one child might say, “I was born in California.” If someone else in the room shares that same fact, then he or she joins the speaker at the front of the room, and the speaker must make another statement of uniqueness. The idea is for each child to share something about himself or herself that is completely individual to that child and will single he or she out as a special, unique individual. (And, it’s a fun way to get to know your students better!)

  • Happy Birthday TackyTITLE: Happy Birdday, Tacky!
  • AUTHOR: Helen Lester
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Lynn Munsinger
  • PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Hard Cover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-91228-8
  • GENRE: Humor




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


Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie

Written by Mary Ellen Jordan and Andrew Weldon

Illustrated by  Andrew Weldon and Bruno Herfst

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Funny farm animals and silly antics is what you will find in the book Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie.  Imagine a farm full of animals doing nothing that animals should do.  Cows eating jelly, rather than grass.  Pigs pruning in a mirror, rather than rolling in the mud, and a dog, watching TV with attitude.   Young children will find the story comical and reading out loud will be fun because of the rhyming nature of the book as well.

Children will begin to expand their understanding of rhyming words and with some encouragement could explore other words that rhyme along with the story.  The illustrations will also be enjoyed by children, as well as being quite comical and funny to younger kids.  Looking at the pictures, children could come up with their own rhymes or create new and funny twists to the story.  Short and easy to read this is a good book for children with early reading skills or it could be used for slightly older children as a spring board to creating a new story or expanding on what is already written.  Then what fun it would be to have children read aloud and share their new creation.

  • Lazy DaisyTitle: Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie
  • Author: Mary Ellen Jordan and Andrew Weldon
  • Illustration:  Andrew Weldon and Bruno Herfst
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
  • Reviewer: Cheri Liddy
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-4400-6
  • Genre:  fiction, stories in rhyme

These Seas Count!

Written by Alison Formento

Illustrated by Sarah Snow

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Something bad has happened at Sunnyside Beach.  There is trash everywhere.  So Mr. Tate’s class is helping to clean up the beach.  Captain Ned tries to keep the sea clean, but there is too much garbage for him and he needs some help.  He tells the children that the sea is sad and if they listen closely, the sea will tell them a story.  They hear about one whale leaping high, two giant sea turtles surfing, three marlins gliding and more.  But, for sea life to be free and happy, the oceans must be clean and have no pollution.  Everything in the ocean is connected so when the water is dirty, everything suffers.  Now Mr. Tate’s class counts bags of garbage!  When they ride on Captain Ned’s boat, they help clean the ocean then, too.

This lovely book emphasizes the need for humans to take care of earth.  Having the sea “talk” to the children makes it less didactic, but the message is still a stern one.  The digital collage illustrations create a feeling of depth with lots of color to keep the reader’s attention.  There is a bibliography and a list of internet sites as well as an author’s note that provides background information on ocean pollution.  Great for units on the environment.  This book is good for a class read aloud and its second grade reading level makes this a choice for student-made audio books or PowerPoint presentations.  The publisher’s website has a teacher’s guide with in-depth literacy activities: (http://www.albertwhitman.com/resources/BookResources/9/5/documents/these_seas_count_teachers_guide1.pdf).   There is a nice book trailer on the author’s website: (http://www.alisonashleyformento.com/www.alisonashleyformento.com/WELCOME_TO_MY_WEBSITE%21.html).

  • These Seas CountTITLE: These Seas Count!
  • AUTHOR: Alison Formento
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Sarah Snow
  • PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-7871-1
  • GENRE: Environment, Picture Book

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 (sylvandellpublishing.com). 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

Spider Stampede (S.W.I.T.C.H.)

Written by: Ali Sparkes

Illustrated by: Ross Collins

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Josh and Danny are twins – but they’re far from identical. Josh loves creepy-crawlies (as Danny would call them). Danny could “win the Under Nine Dancing Competition” for his bust-out moves when a spider lands on his shorts. That’s all about to change when the boys follow their dog Piddles under a hole in the fence into their mysterious neighbour’s back yard and they end up in Petty Potts’s lab.

Accidentally covered in S.W.I.T.C.H. (Serum Which Initiates Total Cellular Hijack) set out for Piddles, the boys escape and run back home. They climb into the bathtub to wash off the yellow goop clinging to their legs, but they’re too late. The bathtub grows huge as they shrink to spider status. The adventure grows even larger when their sister Jenny flushes them down the drain and a pair of surprisingly wise and friendly rats come to the rescue.

Spider Stampede, the first of six S.W.I.T.C.H. titles (originally published by Oxford University Press in 2011), is a captivating blend of science and fiction. The author effortlessly weaves scientific detail into the story. Simple black-and-white line illustrations add humor and interest.

The first in a series, this chapter book introduces the cast of characters and sets up the motivation for the seemingly mad scientist that is Petty Potts. At the end of the story – once the boys are safely transformed back into eight-year-old humans – Petty Potts’s diary entry fills in a few more storyline details. Readers will quickly realize the story is far from finished! Second grade readers will be hooked.  There’s also a two-page glossary of scientific terms used throughout the book and recommended reading pages including both books and websites to expand reading skills.

Spider Stampede is fun, fascinating, and full of fantastic science facts. It’s a clever second grade level chapter book that promises to be a thoroughly entertaining series!

  • Spider StampedeTitle: Spider Stampede
  • Author: Ali Sparkes
  • Illustrator: Ross Collins
  • Publisher: Darby Creek
  • Reviewer: Megan Kopp
  • Hardcover: 104  Pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-9199-9
  • Genre: Science Fiction



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