Tag Archive for second graders

Great, Now We’ve Got Barbarians!

Written by Jason Carter Eaton
Illustrated by Mark Fearing

If you don’t clean your room, there’s a good chance you will get some kind of infestation but what if that infestation involves barbarians? Seems pretty extreme, huh?  And what do you have to do to get rid of them?

The main character in this raucously fun book is not bothered by the ants or flies or mice his sloppiness bring, but when Vlad the Barbarian shows up, it’s a different story. Vlad brings with him Törr and a bunch of other guys in horned helmets. And they eat all the cheese curls. They snore and belch and snarl, too. They use Mom’s makeup for war paint. The only answer is to take away their fun. Be careful not to cause any more havoc. Something else may show up.

The expressions of the rest of the family, including the cat, are priceless, as are the details of the mess the boy and his barbarians create.

Second graders may be able to read this independently, though much younger kids will get a kick out the humor.

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  • Title: The Tree: Great, Now We’ve Got Barbarians!
  • Author: Jason Carter Eaton
  • Illustrator: Mark Fearing
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6827-3


Written and Illustrated by Leila Rudge

Gary is a pigeon. A racing pigeon who doesn’t fly. When the other pigeons go out to race, he sits at home and waits for the others to return. And dreams of all the places he could have gone. He has a scrapbook of their mementos and stories. Accidentally, he goes out with the flock one day. Since he can’t fly, he’s left to figure out how to return home by other means. When he steps off the bus and tells the others of his adventures, they see the wisdom of solution and start using alternate transportation themselves.

The beautiful and detailed illustrations complement the story perfectly. Gary has things in his scrapbook that help him find his way in the world: what appears to be a subway map, a street map, drawings of various modes of transportation so he can recognize them. The pigeons wear jerseys. A few wear backwards baseball cap or stocking caps.

As a read aloud or independent reading for second graders, this book offers a jumping off place for learning about venturing out into the world. Kids will have fun spotting all the details in the illustrations and figuring out how Gary gets home. Heartwarming and funny at the same time.

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  • garyTitle: Gary                                                            
  • Author/Illustrator: Leila Rudge
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8954-4



Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

The latest installment of the Marianne Berkes series has a lot going on. It is a counting book, reinforced by both the numbers of baby animals and the lineup of African gourd rattles. It is poetry, set to the rhythm of the traditional song “Over in the Meadow.” It is for learning about the African savanna and the animals that inhabit that area. It is hunting for nearly hidden animals in the pictures. It teaches about the song itself and about the techniques used by the illustrator.

Over in the grasslands
Where the acacia trees grew
Lived a tall mother giraffe
And her little calves two.

Altogether, first or second graders get to learn about twenty animals. Some of them may seem familiar from the zoo, – zebra, giraffe, elephant – but many are probably animals the readers have never seen – redbilled oxpeckers, naked mole rats, leopard tortoises. And none of them live your backyard. In the last pages, Berkes writes about the many themes used, including the ten different adjectives and the different baby names used. She also mentions many places to learn more, and she was careful to expalin that the numbers of babies each animal can have is fictional. Dubin writes about her collage technique, how important the different papers are, and what inspired the details.

A great addition to the counting library.

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  • over-in-the-grasslandsTitle: Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Nature, Geography, Counting, Poetry, Music
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-568-4
  • Extras: Fact or Fiction?, Life on the African Savanna, Who Are the “Hidden” Animals in the Grasslands?, About the Animals, Tips from the Author, Tips from the Illustrator, Over in the Grasslands [music]

I Love Lemonade

Written by Mark Sommerset
Illustrated by Rowan Sommerset

Baa Baa Sheep returns with even more mischief this time. Given, adults really need to talk to kids about not pulling any of his pranks in real life.

In the previous story, Baa Baa Smart Sheep, Baa Baa knowingly tricked Quirky Turkey into consuming smart pills, which were actually poop. In this tale, Quirky seeks revenge. He wants to convince Baa Baa that a glass of pee is actually delicious lemonade. Naturally, Baa Baa is way too smart for Quirky. All he needs to do is the classic misdirect ala Bugs Bunny.


So, you’re sure it’s lemonade?
Yes, it’s lemonade.
That’s fresh.
And squeezed.

You’re a turkey.
I AM a turkey.
Who likes lemonade?
Who LOVES lemonade.
Then … why don’t you help yourself?
Don’t mind if I do!


This is very funny, especially for first and second graders, but, again, maybe giving them new ideas is not the best thing to do. You decide.

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  • I Love LemonadeTitle: I Love Lemonade
  • Author: Mark Sommerset
  • Illustrator: Rowan Sommerset
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8067-1


Never Follow a Dinosaur

Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer

In the best traditions of The House that Jack Built and I Met a Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, this cute and funny tale considers what could happen if the tracks two kids find belong to a dinosaur. With each clue Joe and Sally find, they add details about what the dinosaur is up to. An empty cat food bowl suggests a hungry dinosaur. Deep tracks suggest a hungry, heavy dinosaur. Tracks across the swimming pool must mean a hungry, heavy, swimming dinosaur. By the time they find the dinosaur, it has become a hungry, heavy, swimming, dancing dinosaur with a headache and a sore foot and wings. They plan a dinosaur trap, but the reader knows that won’t work. Anyway, the one thing the kids don’t discern from the clues is that it’s also a friendly dinosaur who needs help to bake cakes.

Latimer’s colorful illustrations make the story even more amusing. Willoughby, the cat, follows them on every page. Each child hangs onto a favorite toy throughout.

Second graders can read much of this book independently, but it’s a very entertaining read aloud and would be great with a whole classroom of even younger kids.

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  • Never Follow a DinosaurTitle: Never Follow a Dinosaur
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex Latimer
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-704-5


Fabulous Frogs

Written by Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Who knew there are over 5,000 kinds of frogs or that they were so fun to learn about? Each page of this great, beautifully-illustrated book introduces a new and unique species. The goliath frog of western Africa is the largest frog in the world. The smallest lives in Papua New Guinea. The Darwin grog of South America has the pointiest nose. The striped rocket from Australia can jump up to sixteen feet. There are flying frogs and hairy frogs – though both are misnomers. And poisonous frogs in bright colors. Some make nests for their eggs. Some hold the eggs in their mouths. Some frogs never leave the water. Some rarely leave their holes beneath the earth. Many other species are illustrated.

This text is great for use among second graders in a unit about the environment or amphibians. The author lists several excellent websites for learning more about frogs.

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  • Fabulous FrogsTitle: Fabulous Frogs
  • Author: Martin Jenkins
  • Illustrator: Tim Hopgood
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Animals, Nature, Environment
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8100-5

Jake’s Cooking Craze

Written Ken Spillman
Illustrated by Chris Nixon

Encouraging kids to try something new, this book is the story of a budding chef. Jake is not a devotee of a popular cooking show until he hears what he could reap from being his own cook. Jake starts watching JuniorChef partly because everyone else does. It inspires him to make a less than stellar recipe of his own – sweet potatoes and beans covered with all the condiments in the refrigerator. Dad decides it’s time for Jake to learn from Nana. But Nana’s lessons are boring for Jake. As part of the cooking show craze, Jake’s school is to participate in a competition. So Jake gets really creative – with snails from his garden. Hilarity ensues, complete with kid-pleasing bodily functions. Humorous illustrations are scattered throughout the text.

Second graders will learn about some pretty fancy dishes as they practice their literacy skills. Jake may not be able to understand the various meanings of “rare,” but maybe the readers can.

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  • Jakes Cooking CrazeTitle: Jake’s Cooking Craze
  • Author: Ken Spillman
  • Illustrator: Chris Nixon
  • Published: Star Bright Books, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 Up
  • Genre: Humor, Cooking
  • ISBN: 978-1-59572-685-8


Claude in the Spotlight

Written and Illustrated by Alex T. Smith

Claude and Sir Bobblysock are at it again. As soon as Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes leave for the day, the pals are off in search of adventure. This time, they wander into a kids’ dance class. When a fly goes up Claude’s stylish red sweater, his gyrations are the hit of the class. Claude and Sir Bobblysock then follow the kids to a theater, where they are all to participate in a variety show. There, of course, Claude saves the day. A bad man tries to scare everyone away by pretending to be a ghost, so he can have the prize. But Claude recognizes his fakery. An operatic lady Viking, whose talent is breaking glass with her voice, causes a large chandelier to nearly fall on the show’s sponsor. Claude and the bad man catch the chandelier in time. So Claude and Sir Bobblysock take home boxes of cakes, the prize. Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes are very confused by the cakes.

Much of the story is told through the amusing illustrations, especially the contributions of Sir Bobblysock.

There is a lot to hold the attention of second graders. This would also make a great read aloud, with kids helping to point out the many illustration details.

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  • Claude in the SpotlightTitle: Claude in the Spotlight
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Humor
  • ISBN: 978-156145-895-0


Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed

Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Amy June Bates

Ketzel was just a kitten when the man, Moshe, found her cold and lonely on the street. They became great friends as Moshe worked on his musical compositions. Moshe was stumped after he received notice of the Paris New Music Review contest to highlight short compositions – less than a minute. As Moshe pondered the music in his head, Ketzel walked across the piano keyboard and picked out a beautiful tune. Moshe wrote down what he heard. It took twenty-one seconds to play. He sent it to the contest organizers. Ketzel didn’t win, but her tune got a certificate of special mention and was played at a concert, which Ketzel attended with Moshe. Her presence was revealed when she responded to her name at the introduction of the piece. Ketzel also got a royalty check for the composition, enough to buy several cans of cat food.

The illustrator has captured the whimsy of this great story.

Based on a true story, this lovely book is easily read independently by second graders looking to strengthen literacy skills. It’s a great reminder that talent can come in small packages. That talent only needs to be recognized.

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  • KetzelTitle: Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed
  • Author: Lesléa Newman
  • Illustrator: Amy June Bates
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: History, Music
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6555-5
  • Extras: Author’s Note

A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young

Written by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Chris Riddell

With creative presentation and fun, rhymy words, this great collection will provide hours of entertainment. From seemingly constant admonitions to just plain silliness, a joyful time awaits. As the author says,

Once upon a plom
There lived a poor little mom
Along with her children three.

And when the Gom, Flom, and Chom face a Berrible, who will win? We also know that

Mo’s in a muddle
She slipped in a puddle
Mommy gives Mo
A great big cuddle.

Who knew?

As with most poetry, the best time to be had and the best comprehension come when the poems are read aloud. Most second graders can handle the lyrical poetry independently. And the lively illustrations provide clues at every turn to help the process. A poem about an elephant is presented on a two-page spread, sideways for larger effect. Angry words are very large.

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  • Great Big CuddleA Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young
  • Author: Michael Rosen
  • Illustrator: Chris Riddell
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 80 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Poetry
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8116-6


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