Song for Papa Crow

Written and Illustrated by Marit Menzin

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This above all: to thine own self be true. This gently told tale reminds us of the wisdom of Shakespeare’s words as it celebrates both diversity and individuality.

Children are exposed to so many conflicting opinions. In today’s fast-moving, ultra-competitive world, the mantra of success seems to be to blindly follow the more successful person. Marit Menzin’s tale reminds of of the dangers of going down that path, without being overly preachy or didactic.

Little Crow is the outsider who wants to fit in. Don’t we all know that story? Even a second grade reader would understand that desire. Papa Crow’s encouragement is not good enough, for he is Papa, and Papas and Mamas always say good things. Little Crow wants endorsement from the other birds. Through fortunate circumstance he is given a magic seed that allows him to sing like the mockingbird, mimicking the sounds of the other birds.
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My Bonus Mom! Taking the Step Out of Stepmom

Written by Tami Butcher

Illustrated by Feras Nouf

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If a child is hurting because of a divorce or a parent remarrying, this fun little book might be just the thing to help. The author tells her story of her own parents’ divorce.  She is honest that at first she was angry and afraid, but once she settled into the situation, there were good things about having two homes, two birthdays and two Christmases.  Then, her father remarried.  Instead of a woman who tries to take her mother’s place or who is mean, her stepmother is loving and friendly, becoming an extra mom, a “bonus” mom.
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Shadows on My Wall

Written and Illustrated by Timothy Young

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Shadows On my Walls is a tale told blue: blue illustrations, the blue of bedtime fears and the dark blue-black night.

Bedtime can be scary. It’s dark outside, the lights are off and the room seems large and full of monsters. Timothy Young, author and illustrator, remembers those childhood fears and recreates them in this gentle story of a young boy and the shadows on his wall.
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Monkey of the Month

Written by Adam Kramer

Illustrated by David Kramer

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Helpful apes and slovenly ones alike collect in our birthday boy’s house for twelve months, until his mother sends them packing, but how long will her home be quiet?

Monkey of the Month is an entertaining read aloud for a second grade class. The cadence and flow of the text is charming, but the most captivating aspect of this book is the unexpected qualities that each month’s monkey brings. One can hear a class of second graders giggling as a fellow student reads, “So the seasons quickly passed, and the monkeys kept arriving. One mowed the lawn, one raked the leaves, and one liked scuba diving.”
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Just Perfect

Written and Illustrated by Jane Marinsky

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The young narrator of this sweet picture book is looking for a way to round out his family. It’s “Mommy, Daddy and I”, but he thinks four would be nice, too. So he consults his book, Animals from A to Z, for possibilities. He tries out a dog, but it sheds too much. Each animal is more unlikely because each animal’s unique characteristics make them incompatible to live with a human family. A porcupine is too prickly; an octopus makes too big a mess with its long tentacles; a dolphin needs too much water. Finally, along comes a baby that is the perfect fit for this family.
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Tom the Tamer

Written by Tjibbe Veldkamp
Illustrated by Philip Hopman

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Tom the Tamer is a gentle story about overcoming fear. Tom organizes circus shows for his father. A trampoline for snails and trapezes for squirrels. No matter what Tom does, his father is still afraid of the bugs and animals that live outside and he never leaves the house. Tom decides to make up a new show. It starts with a Polar bear from the Paws, Claws, Beaks and Bugs pet store. When the bear hears about the purpose of a show for Tom’s father, he wants to help. He pretends to be a big, fuzzy, comfy chair that Dad can sit in. That works so well that bear and Tom go back to the pet store and they recruit lots of other animals to pretend to be normal, indoor things. Dad comes around and touches all of these new “things” until he finds out that they are really animals. Now he knows that he doesn’t need to be afraid since he has touched them and wasn’t hurt by them.

This fearful father and brave boy put a new spin on the theme of overcoming fear. It could be used as a class read aloud for either an animal unit or an emotions unit. The role reversal will be entertaining and will spark conversations about conquering other fears using this “immersion therapy.” The illustrations are line drawings colored in with watercolor, busy with a lot of detail to keep a young reader engaged. Tom has a strong narrative voice so this would be a good choice for literacy activities such as a second grader reading aloud to a younger student in a reading buddies program or a second grader-made audio book.

  • Tom the TamerTITLE: Tom the Tamer
  • AUTHOR: Tjibbe Veldkamp
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Philip Hopman
  • PUBLISHER: Lemniscaat, 2011
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-935954-05-7

What Happened to Merry Christmas?

Written by Robert C. Baker
Illustrated by Dave Hill

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In modern years, it seems the reason we celebrate Christmas has become blurry. Retailers, schools and even many families have taken the phrase “Merry Christmas” from their vocabulary. Robert C. Baker has written a lovely, heartwarming, children’s book that gives hope and encouragement to those of us who wonder What Happened to Merry Christmas?.
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Together at Christmas

By Eileen Spinelli

Illustrations by Bin Lee

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Ten little mice find themselves out in the snow on Christmas Eve. One by one, each finds a way to get warm but each is by himself and lonesome. So they come back together to dance and celebrate and, in so doing, they find a hollow log big enough to accommodate all of them.
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Carter’s Christmas

Written by Lisa Bullard
Illustrated by Katie Saunders

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Christmas is special time of year with many traditions and celebrations, but for Carter, it’s about giving his grandma something special. Carter’s Christmas, by Lisa Bullard, is a sweet story written from the perspective of a little boy who’s trying diligently to make a present for his Grandmother, who he lives with. Bright and cheery, Carter’s Christmas is also full of fun tidbits of Christmas trivia and traditions.
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Aunt Ant Leaves Through the Leaves

Written and Illustrated by Nancy Coffelt

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This book has a cute way of introducing homophones and homonyms to second graders through a story about a monkey who needs help getting his bananas home to make a pie.  He then approaches other animals, such as Aunt Ant, who can’t help, and Bee, who has other things to do until finally he gets all the animals to help him. The story is a modern version of The Little Red Hen. Throughout the book, the author introduces clever ways to use many different combinations of homophones and homonyms in the story to help students understand the multiple meanings of the words.
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