Happy Birthday, Tree! A Tu B’Shevat Story

By Madelyn Rosenberg
Illustrated by Jana Christy

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Written as a novel about two children looking for a way to celebrate the Jewish celebration of trees, this is an environmental adventure. Joni and her friend Nate think about what will make the trees happy. In the process, they figure out that their tree will be happy if the Earth is happy. They try several ways to please their favorite climbing tree: singing to it in Hebrew and English, trying to blow away the clouds blocking the sun, giving it a party with hats, giving it a tree-friendly cupcake, watering, depositing a paper bird in the tree, and acting like trees themselves. In the end, their solution is to plant a companion tree and give it all the love, water, and sunshine they can.
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I Am An Elephant

Written by Aaron Carr

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What an interesting concept. Imagine a keyed treasure box. The key contains its own information, and it goes on to unlock the box that contains the treasure trove. The book under review, produced by AV2 Books, is such a key.

AV2 books are what they label “media enhanced books”. Simply put, the book links to a secure website that is rich with resources. Each book has its particular code, the key, to the website.

The book has value in itself. The very youngest readers will be attracted by the photo illustrations, and the simple sentences in bold, large-size font. Reading through at that level provides basic, but sufficient information about the elephant. The facts are interestingly presented. Elephant ears are as big as a person, they eat 300 ponds of food, and drink a bathtub full of water each day. Wow!

Second grade readers can move on to the additional facts provided in the back. Each paragraph is linked to the corresponding two-page spread, for more detailed reading. And then the jewel in the crown is the link to the website. Readers learn to transition from book to web.

Click on the pages listed to the left to be taken to the related page. Ah the riches; videos, audio files, games, read aloud activities, slideshows and more. There is enough to keep a classroom engaged for many productive weeks. Just what the teacher ordered.

  • ElephantsTitle: I Am An Elephant
  • Author: Aaron Carr
  • Publisher: AV2 by Weigl
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-61690-760-0
  • Genre: Picture Book/ Non-Fiction

Happy Endings: A Story about Suffixes

Written by Robin Pulver

Illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed

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Happy Endings: A Story About Suffixes is a fun and wacky introduction to the way words end and what that does to the meaning of each word. Mr. Wright has the audacity to try to teach something the last day of school: suffixes.  The kids don’t want to learn anything, forcing Mr. Wright to yell that they will tackle word endings after lunch.  The Words Endings not only get their feelings hurt, they worry about getting tackled, so they hide.  This has turned into a complete disaster.  Now Mr. Wright threatens to cancel summer vacation unless they get this situation under control!  The kids start looking for those missing word endings, patterning their search after the detective they read about.  Even though the Suffixes have been working out and have a fighting chance in case they get tackled, they would rather give clues than get physical.  Now that the kids are looking, they see the word ending clues in plain sight, even though they have been mixed up within each of the words.  Summer vacation is saved and the kids have learned about suffixes.
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The Case of the Piggy Bank Thief (A First Kids Mystery)

Written by Martha Freeman

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Excitement surrounds an archaeological dig in the fourth First Kids Mystery Cammie and Tessa return as the daughters of the first female President and immediately go into action. In the midst of dogs, cats, and canaries running wild, Tessa’s piggy bank goes missing. Tessa refuses to tell Cammie why the bank is so important, despite the low monetary balance inside. Meanwhile, archaeologists are digging in an area of the grounds thought to contain remnants from the burning of the White House during the War of 1812. Mysterious, unauthorized holes have appeared at the dig. Also, their friend, Dr. Maynard, is due to receive a presidential medal. So, Cammie gathers all the information she can about the piggy bank and the holes. The kids get a special tour of the coin collection at the National Museum of American History. Naturally, they find the bank and the artifact that makes it valuable and the kids end up being heroes.
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Fly, Chick, Fly

Written by Jeanne Willis

Illustrated by Tony Ross

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Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross team up again to produce a gentle read for a second graders, but the simply poignant text is appealing to a broad range of ages. Fly, Chick, Fly is a poetic tale about how different members of an owl family respond to the normal changes of life. The youngest chick in a sibling group is resistant to independence, despite her parents’ prodding and her siblings’ success.
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From Peanut to Peanut Butter

Written by Robin Nelson

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From Peanut to Peanut Butter is a new title in the Lerner’s Start to Finish Second Series aimed at readers of the second grade reading level. From Peanut to Peanut Butter joins other fun titles such as: From Foal to Horse, From Flower to Honey, and From Kernel to Corn, among others.

Like other titles in this series, readers explore a photographic journey accompanied by short, concise text that describes nature’s cycle from start to finish on a particular topic of interest. In From Peanut to Peanut Butter, second grade readers learn how farmers grow and harvest peanuts, how machines sort and shell them in preparation for the baking process where the shelled peanuts are mixed with honey and sugar to finally form peanut butter that is then filled into jars. The journey concludes with a photograph of children spreading peanut butter on celery for a tasty snack at school. At the back of each Start to Finish Second Series title, readers will find a glossary of words related to the subject, as well as an index to refer back to key areas of interest.
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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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