Prairie Chicken Little

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 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.

  • Prairie Chicken LittleTitle: 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

Noisy Bug Sing-Along

Written and Illustrated by John Himmelman

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Each little bug in this creative presentation has a fresh and intricate image and is identified by the noises it makes. The second grade reader will come away knowing exactly what field crickets look like and have a good idea what their “chirp”-ing sounds like. Colorful two-page spreads follow for tree crickets (reee-), mole crickets(dirt-dirt-dirt), click beetles (click), tiger moths (squeaka), dog-day cicadas (ZZZZ), bumble bees (zzzz), mosquitoes (mmmm), butterflies (…), true katydids (ch-ch-ch), bush katydids (tick-tick-tick zeezeezeezee), and grasshoppers (keraack). Last, the author brings all the sounds together in a vibrant chorus, decorated with sound waves.

The illustrations are at least as important to this book as the words. Most children of this age have probably never stopped to take a close look at or listen to different types of bugs. The detail is unbelievable, with each tiny dirt fragment accounted for in the mole cricket drawing. The bat hunting the tiger moth is very genuine. Even the ear into which the mosquito flies is realistic.

The “Listening to the Noisy Bugs” section provides a lot of possibilities for reading activities. For example, readers can go on the publisher’s website,, and listen to real bug noises. Then, the reader can test herself by guessing what bug she’s listening to. In “About the Noisy Bugs,” the author shares more about each type of bug. For example, dog-day cicadas have hollow abdomens, like drums. They tighten and loosen the muscles there to make the ZZZZ sound. The author’s website,, also has resources to use.

  • Noisy BugTitle: Noisy Bug Sing-Along
  • Author/Illustrator: John Himmelman
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-192-1
  • Genre: Picture book, Insects, Nature


The Matchbox Diary

Written by Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

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Candlewick picture books never disappoint! The Matchbox Diary, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, offers second grade readers and up a synergistic blend of old world charm and contemporary youthful innocence and curiosity through an immigration tale with illustrations that will appeal across generations. The Matchbox Diary reminds me of another classic picture book called One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II written and illustrated by Lita Judge.

Ibatoulline’s illustrations are so realistic they look like they could walk off the pages on which they are printed. Through his illustrations Ibatoulline not only captures the heart of the relationship between the little girl and her great grandfather in present day, but he also conveys the challenges and hardships that most immigrants faced when leaving their home country to enter a new one. Each spread consists of an illustration of the object on one side and on the other side is an illustration of an old photo that tells the story behind the object.

Fleischman utilizes a diary of objects versus a writing journal since his young protagonist (great grandfather) can not read or write in English or Italian when he first arrives into the United States. Because he wants to remember every detail of his journey, he collects small objects that represent his experiences and places them in a matchbox for safe-keeping and sharing with future generations.

Fleischman got the idea for The Matchbox Diary from New Hampshire artist, Gary Hamel who exhibited a matchbox diary of a recent trip he had made to Italy. Fleischman was so intrigued by the idea, he got Hamel’s blessing to borrow and reinvent his matchbox concept.

I see endless uses for The Matchbox Diary in the classroom where second grade teachers and up can tap into core subjects like language arts using this book as an aid. Parents and grandparents can use this book to open up a dialogue on their own immigration story. We all come from somewhere, right?

  • Matchbox DiaryTitle: The Matchbox Diary
  • Author: Paul Fleischman
  • Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Hard cover: 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-4601-1
  • Genre: picture book

Mr. Putter and Tabby Ring The Bell

By Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Arthur Howard

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This book is about an old man, Mr. Putter, and his cat, Tabby.  They are great companions and do everything together.  They especially like eating their next door neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry’s, rhubarb trifle, along with her dog, Zeke.

One day, while enjoying fall activities, Mr. Putter hears the ring of a school bell and decides that he misses school, pencils, and books.  He decides to go back to school just for a day.  He asks the first grade teacher at school if he can come to show and tell with Mrs. Teaberry, Tabby, and Zeke.  The teacher tells Mr. Putter that her class loves animals and she is led to believe that both Mr. Putter’s cat and Mrs. Teaberry’s dog, Zeke, can do tricks.  The story continues with lots of funny antics that second graders will love!

Students will love the illustrations depicting the moods of the animals and characters in the book, along with their funny behavior.

What a great story for teachers to use as a read aloud for second graders at the beginning of the year to introduce show and tell time to the class!  It would also be a great book to introduce new readers to chapter book formats.

This book is written by Cynthia Rylant and is one of numerous in a series of Mr. Putter and Tabby books.  The author also writes the popular Henry and Mudge books that most young readers are familiar with and love.

The illustrator is Arthur Howard, who also illustrates the rest of the Mr. Putter and Tabby books.

  • Mr. PutterTitle:  Mr. Putter and Tabby Ring the Bell
  • Author:  Cynthia Rylant
  • Illustrator:  Arthur Howard
  • Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer:  Rebecca L. Wagner
  • Paperback:  43 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-547-85075-7
  • Genre:  Fiction/Animals/Old age/Autumn

Let’s Meet a Construction Worker

Written by Bridget Heos

Illustrated by Mike Mora

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Kids may not be able to visit a construction zone, but Let’s Meet a Construction Worker gives young readers a chance to learn about the different jobs that these community helpers have as they build a new, environmentally friendly school.

This thin chapter book would be a nice addition to a second grade class as a book for individual reading for research during a unit about community helpers or careers. The information within is leveled: there is the main text of the book, but also there are offset notes for further facts on various words and ideas throughout the book, and in the appendix, there is a list of resources for online investigation and other books for digging deeper. Though this book is probably best suited for individual reading, the text is captivating for reading aloud. Students may demonstrate their comprehension by jotting down five main ideas from the book. Since this book follows Mr. Moore, the foreman of the construction site, students may further demonstrate their comprehension by detailing a few aspects of his job.

This book is a Cloverleaf Book, which means that there are several books in a series about Community Helpers, including books about dentists, doctors, firefighters, librarians, police officers, teachers, and veterinarians. Also, this book is supported by Lerner Source, a website for downloading free educational resources at I would highly recommend this series of books for any elementary classroom.

  • Lets Meet a Construction WorkerTitle: Let’s Meet a Construction Worker
  • Author: Bridget Heos
  • Illustrator: Mike Moran
  • Publisher: Millbrook
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-9023-7
  • Genre: non-fiction/community helpers/construction

The Man From The Land of Fandango

By Margaret Mahy
Illustrated by Polly Dunbar

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The Man from the land of Fandango is a magical story. In the story, the children create a whimsical man by drawing him with paints on canvas and then bringing their picture to life. The Man from the Land of Fandango wears bright colored pants, jacket, and tie. He is able to transform himself into whatever he wishes, such as a bird or a ball, and loves to share treats with his amazing friends whether they are animals or children. » Read more

Elmer and the Birthday Quake

Written and illustrated by David McKee

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Happy Birthday ONE! STOMP! Elmer the patchwork elephant and his cousin Wilbur search the jungle to discover the cause of a distant noise while Rose and a whole herd of elephants gather to celebrate Old’s hundredth birthday. The little birthday gathering, though, causes Old and the other elephants some big trouble. Lucky for all of the elephants involved, Super El is nearby to save the day!

David McKee’s beloved Elmer stars in another sweet book perfect for a class birthday party or for second or third grade class’ one hundredth day of school celebration. The colorful illustrations and sweet story are well-suited for a class wide read aloud, and as a kinesthetic activity, students could finish the birthday chant started by the pink herd of elephants…without the earthquake!

Elmer and the Birthday Quake introduces the idea of an earthquake brought on by the elephant’s thunderous stomping. Students are fascinated by science in action, and it would be really neat to hold a series of experiments on vibration and gravity. There are several easy ideas for elementary experiments on gravity at

Elmer is widely known and appreciated; it would be easy to incorporate Elmer and the Birthday Quake within an entire Elmer unit. For numerous Elmer the Elephant activities for every subject in an elementary classroom, visit This book and the entire Elmer series are fantastic books for connecting literacy with all the disciplines.

  • ElmerTitle: Elmer and the Birthday Quake
  • Authors/Illustrators: David McKee
  • Publisher: Anderson Press
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 28 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-1117-3
  • Genre: fiction/birthday

Alligator or Crocodile? How Do You Know?

Written by Melissa Stewart

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Seems like nothing is more fascinating to a second grader than crocodiles and other semi-monsters. Usually, kids wonder about the difference between alligators and crocodiles. This book, part of the “Which Animal is Which?” series, gives definitive answers for that difference in a way that second graders can understand.

Alligators live in fresh water. Crocodiles can live in salt water. The reptiles’ snouts are shaped differently. Alligators have a wider jaw and are a darker color. Only a few of an alligator’s top teeth show when its mouth is closed. Crocodiles show most of their teeth with their mouths closed. Alligator mothers make mounds for their eggs. Crocodile mothers dig holes. Alligator mothers stay with the babies for up to a year. Crocodiles leave the young once they reach the water. All these ideas are easily accessible and memorable for kids.

The photographs included provide wonderful illustrations of the concepts discussed. Who can resist the smile of a crocodile? And it’s amazing how, even in a photograph, the reptiles disappear in the water. The “Words to Know” section at the beginning of the book is especially helpful for comprehension as it relates to the National Science Education Standards for K-4 and Common Core Standards. The websites mentioned are all reputable, though they are at much higher reading levels than this book. The table of contents, books section, and index are also very helpful to learning. Especially useful, is the world map of where these creatures live. The publisher’s website,, is good for searching out other titles about this and other subjects. And the publisher has a free pdf educator’s guide available, including many reading activities and reading worksheets.

  • AlligatorTitle: Alligator or Crocodile? How Do You Know?
  • Written By: Melissa Stewart
  • Publisher: Enslow Elementary/Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-234-1
  • Genre: Nature, Reptiles

Martha Speaks Funny Bones Jokes and Riddles

Written by Karen Barss

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Martha Speaks Funny Bone Jokes and Riddles, written by Karen Barss and based on the characters created by the talented Susan Meddaugh for the Public Broadcasting Service for Kids (PBS Kids) Martha the Talking Dog series, is aimed at readers at the second grade reading level. With the exception of three jokes, the book consists of twenty plus jokes and riddles, as well as a matching game that revolve primarily around dogs in one form or another. The humor is tastefully appropriate for young readers and is consistent throughout the joke book. Most of the jokes and riddles are a play on words common to the subject of canines and that are familiar to young children. A good example of this is:

Question: How does Martha stop the DVD player?

Answer: She presses the “paws” button!


Another example of the kind of humor readers can expect to see is as follows:

Question: What kind of dog does Dracula have?

Answer: A bloodhound


With a canine on nearly every page the jokes and riddles are displayed in a colorful, comic-book-like layout that will appeal to children at the second grade reading level. Kids are sure to laugh out loud and re-read the jokes to share with their family and friends. Funny Bone Jokes and Riddles is an ideal hard cover book for librarians and teachers to carry on their book shelves for reluctant readers, as well as fans of the PBS Kids Martha the Talking Dog series due to the familiarity of its characters.


  • Martha FunnyTitle: Martha Speaks Funny Bones Jokes and Riddles
  • Author: Karen Barss
  • Illustrator: Based on PBS characters created by Susan Meddaugh
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0547-865775
  • Genre: Games/Jokes

The Emancipation Proclamation: Would You Do What Lincoln Did?

Written by Elaine Landau

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Anyone who has seen the movie Lincoln or studied the 16th president’s time in office knows that Abraham Lincoln was president during the darkest and most difficult days of American history. Lincoln saw his country torn in two over the issue of slavery and faced the almost impossible task of waging war on his own people, while trying to pass legislation that many people disliked. One of Lincoln’s greatest, yet most difficult accomplishments, was passing the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves. Would You Do What Lincoln Did? takes readers on a journey with President Lincoln and gives them a first-hand look at the problems he faced.

Would You Do What Lincoln Did? begins with an attention-grabbing description of violence as it describes how a mob broke into a warehouse, destroyed a printing press, and killed its abolitionist owner. From there, the book goes into a careful and detailed explanation of slavery, abolitionism, and other hot issues of the day before going on to describe President Lincoln’s efforts to rid the United States of slavery and unite the country during the Civil War. What sets this book apart from other history books is a page at the end of each chapter that asks the reader, “What would you do?” and presents a series of options. This page is followed by the next chapter, which begins by saying, “This is what happened.” This format is a wonderful way to involve the reader and make him or her think about what was going on 250 years ago and how different choices could have changed history. I can see teachers and students engaged in lively classroom discussions as they ponder the choices Lincoln faced!

I highly recommended this book for any second-grade classroom in need of a great way to present a vital chapter in American history. The book is well-organized, detailed, and appealing to readers, with plenty of action and personal detail. Despite the wealth of information, the text is easy for second graders to read and understand. Period photographs, paintings, and newspaper reprints provide an up-close “you are there” feeling to the book that is sure to keep readers’ attention. The book also includes a timeline, a glossary, a list of books and websites with more information, and a detailed index. This is an excellent choice for a book report or history project. The book could also be used as the basis of a reading worksheet or history enrichment lesson. It’s a great choice for independent reading by strong readers but would also work as a classroom read-aloud that is sure to spark discussion as the students ponder what they would do in Lincoln’s place.

  • EmancipationTitle: The Emancipation Proclamation: Would You Do What Lincoln Did?
  • Author: Elaine Landau
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, 2008
  • Reviewer: Joanne Mattern
  • Hardback: 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-194-8
  • Genre: History
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