Archive for Author admin

Around One Log: Chipmunks, Spiders, and Creepy Insiders

Written by Anthony D. Fredricks

Illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio

Buy on Amazon

Once a tree falls down it’s dead and gone, right?  Wrong!  It turns out that a fallen log can be a home, a hiding place, or even a tasty snack.

Using a variety of story telling devices, author and educator Tony Fredericks shows readers just how much can happen “Around One Log”.  The central narrative follows a class field trip, cleverly explaining why each new creature is introduced by “this is the…”  The field trip is only directly evident when a student appears at the very end to ask a question. This pushes the book out of strict non-fiction and into the category of creative non-fiction or informational fiction, while at the same time helping the reader connect to the action.

Told in cumulative verse, the near perfect rhyme and rhythm makes this part of the book an easy read aloud.  Unfortunately, the most often repeated lines are the weakest;

              From top to bottom, inside and out,

              Both friend and foe all ramble about.

This part of the book is a bit too simplistic for the average 4th grade reader who is more likely to appreciate the introduction – a letter from a roly poly which draws the reader into the animal’s world. There are also “Field Notes” at the end to provide more detail, including a “fantastic fact” about each critter.  Complicated words are defined in parentheses within the text, making the entire package accessible (and perhaps more appropriate) for children in the earlier grades.

Similarly, the section “Activities, Projects, and Lots of Cool Ideas” can be adapted by teachers and parents to suit the needs of both younger and older students.  Three additional activities are available to educators as a PDF download from the publishers website (http://www.dawnpub.com/downloadable_activities_book/)  Primarily writing exercises, they also include key concepts and additional resources.

Beautiful watercolor pictures accompany the text.  The log really does come to life with the art of Jennifer DiRubbio who makes great use of both texture and color, no small feat given that the setting is brown.  One word of caution – viewing the ebook version on my iPad separated the two page spreads.  This resulted in text heavy pages interspersed with image only pages and the  unfortunate decapitation of a salamander.

Fredericks and DiRubbio have collaborated on other books about communities of animals in various natural habitats.  With titles such as “Under One Rock” and “On One Flower” these books most certainly follow the same formula that has earned “Around One Log” an award winning reputation.  This book provides wonderful imagery and multiple approaches to learning, offering something different to students of all ages.

  • Around One LogTitle: Around One Log: Chipmunks, Spiders, and Creepy Insiders
  • Author: Anthony D. Fredricks
  • Illustrator: Jennifer DiRubbio
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • ebook: 36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-137-2 (hardback)
  • Genre: Nature

 

Cake

Written by Joyce Magnin
Illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov

Buy on Amazon

Wilma Sue is wary of the world and she is only twelve. She has been in and out of foster homes since she was a baby. She can’t figure out why no one wants her. She longs to fly like a bird somewhere, anywhere to get away from this feeling. But for now she has to go where the home sends her and this time they send her to two sisters who have spent many years in Africa as missionaries. This is no ordinary place where Wilma Sue finds herself. Ruth is always working at one of her causes. Naomi is always baking cakes for people in the neighborhood who needs a special gift. And Penny, the little girl next door, says awful things to Wilma Sue for no good reason. Wilma Sue tries so hard to get along and do the right thing, but things go wrong so easily. For instance, there is the time that Wilma Sue’s garter snake gets away from her in church and makes a mess of the service. She loves taking care of the chickens and helping with the baking, but she just can’t make sense of why Penny seems to hate her. Then, the chicken coop catches fire. Penny goes so far as to say Wilma Sue did it. Wilma Sue may have to go back to the home after all, just when she was starting to love being with Naomi and Ruth.

The voice of this first-person narrative is charming, a rather modern day Anne of Green Gables. She has a big vocabulary and an almost encyclopedic way of expressing herself which is explained by the fact that she had no friends her age and spent her time reading. The sisters are eccentric but loving, the adult characters they visit have funny names and Penny is really unpleasant, which makes most wonder why Wilma Sue would even try to be friends with her.

One suggested literacy activity would be to make a list or a chart of the cake-recipients and explain the hidden meanings of their names, paired with the hidden meaning of the hymn that Naomi sings when she bakes that person’s cake. Penny’s name alone will get a lot of interesting discussion: Pigworthy. This would make a good book for a class read aloud or book discussion group in a private school, church group or a home school. There are discussion questions at the end of the book along with a glossary and a recipe.

  • CakeTITLE: Cake
  • AUTHOR: Joyce Magnin
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Olga and Aleksey Ivanov
  • PUBLISHER: Zonderkidz, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 221 p.
  • ISBN:
  • GENRE: Middle-grade fiction

Deadly Bloody Battles

Written by Madeline Donaldson

Buy on Amazon

Deadly Bloody Battles by Madeline Donaldson is aimed at the fourth grade reading level and up. It covers twelve of history’s deadliest battles including: Thermopylae and Salamis, Battle of Watling Street, Battle of Baghdad, Taking Down Tenochtitlan, Battle of Saratoga, Battle of Borodino, Battle of Antietam, Verdun and the Somme, Battle of Stalingrad, and the Battle of the Bulge.

Each spread provides key details and facts, as well as pictures, photos, and art that represent the battles mentioned above in some unique manner. Readers will feel planted in each battle as if they were transported back in time to witness the facts and bloody gore for themselves. Donaldson also provides an index, as well as a detailed list of sources and websites for readers to dig more deeply for further information. Deadly Bloody Battles will appeal most to fourth grade boys and up and will likely inspire imaginative play. What better way to reinforce the facts as kids act out what they have just learned? Be sure to keep sharp, pointy objects out of reach.

Deadly Bloody Battles is part of the series called Shock Zone: Deadly and Dangerous. Other books in this series are: Deadly Adorable Animals, Deadly Venomous Animals, Deadly Danger Zones, Deadly High-Risk Zones, and Deadly Hard-Hitting Sports. Teachers and librarians would be remiss not to include Deadly Bloody Battles in their nonfiction titles of their library. Parents with active boys with inquiring minds, Deadly Bloody Battles could be the book that turns your child into a more active reader.

  • Deadly Bloody BattlesTitle: Deadly Bloody Battles
  • Author: Madeline Donaldson
  • Publisher: Lerner
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-0601-8
  • Genre: nonfiction, history

A Smidgen of Sky

Written by Dianna Dorisi Winget

Buy on Amazon

A Smidgen of Sky is Dianna Dorisi Winget’s debut middle grade novel and it shines on many levels. Readers at the fourth grade reading level and up will fall in love with the protagonist, ten-year-old Piper Lee because of her spunk and voice. She puts her soul into all of her worries as she actively sets off to eliminate each and every one of them.

Piper Lee has meaningful problems that feel as real as the character Winget has created on the page. Several years prior to where Winget starts Piper’s story, we learn that her father’s plane crashed out at sea as he tried to rescue some friends during a bad storm. Because nobody has found his body Piper Lee has not given up on him and believes with all her heart that he will return. But her mother does not share Piper’s opinion that her father will return and has moved on with her life. In fact, her mother’s about to get married and is encouraging Piper Lee to move on with her life, too!

But Piper can’t. Her loyalty toward her father is too strong. So she is determined to find her father and break up her mother’s relationship with Ben, her future step-dad. Because she will stop at nothing, she takes dangerous risks to realize her dream. But is it what she really wants?

A Smidgen of Sky will give fourth grade readers a close look at how challenging it is for kids to lose a parent and gain a step-parent, as well as the good things that come from a blended family. Best of all, Winget’s story offers hope to those going through a similar situation.

  • Smidgen of SkyTitle: A Smidgen of Sky
  • Author: Dianna Dorisi Winget
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Paperback: 195 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6459-6
  • Genre: fiction, family, contemporary

Grandfather’s Secret

Written by Lois Szymanski

Illustrated by Kelli Nash

Buy on Amazon

Life along the Chesapeake is different than the life most other children experience. Fourth grade readers will learn a lot about Chesapeake life in a fun and exciting way in this family-style mystery.

As soon as Charley sees the houseboat his deceased grandfather left, he knows he has to restore it to its former glory. Charley’s father is a tough sell because he feels Grandfather let the family down by squandering money and the boat is just a piece of junk. But he comes around when he realizes Charley can be trusted. Charley and his friend Evan begin tearing up the floor inside the cabin. Suddenly, Charley hears and voice and feels his grandfather’s touch. Evan can also see the ghostly shape of Grandfather, who then tells the boys he needs them to retrieve some items that belong on the boat. The boys also encounter a ghostly lady who is guarding one of the items. And they learn of a third ghost. When the apparitions achieve their goals, they are able to pass on. Nash’s cover art is the perfect accompaniment to this enjoyable tale.

Throughout the narrative, the boys are shown using good safety techniques, adding to comprehension of the perils of life on the water. The boys use goggles and masks when working with chemicals. They always wear life vests on the water. When a storm hits unexpectedly, they wait it out like Charley’s father instructed him.

A number of excellent websites exist, which would aid in developing reading activities related to Szymanski’s story. http://www.kentislandheritagesociety.org/ and    http://www.smithisland.org/ are two such sites.

  • Grandfathers SecretTitle: Grandfather’s Secret
  • Written By: Lois Szymanski
  • Illustrated By: Kelli Nash
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-3535-8
  • Genre: Life on the Chesapeake, Ghost Mystery

Ivy Takes Care

Written by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Buy on Amazon

Despite some incredibly exciting passages, this book was written about a quieter time and place. It has a lot to say about responsibility and following your dreams.

Ivy lives on a 1949 Nevada ranch, where the guests are all people awaiting divorce decrees. Her one true love is animals. Her best friend is away for the entire summer vacation at a fancy camp in the East, so Ivy’s only companion is the incredibly annoying and irresponsible Billy Joe, son of the ranch’s maid. When the local vet encourages her to work toward becoming a vet herself, Ivy realizes she’ll have to save for college. She starts looking for jobs taking care of animals. Her first assignment is to care for a horse while the owner vacations. She discovers a mother fox in the barn and attempts to help her. Of course, Billy Joe learns about the fox and wants to kill her for her pelt. Next, Ivy and Billy Joe help a ranch resident train a puppy. Billy Joe lets out the prized German shepherd, who is attracted to a porcupine. Last, Ivy encounters a blind former jockey and a thoroughbred at a local ranch. Written as three short stories which could be read separately, the text nevertheless holds together well. LaMarche’s gorgeous and realistic drawings of Ivy and her animal friends help make this a winner.

The fourth grade reader will particularly enjoy the excitement caused by Billy Joe’s rattlesnake hunting. The text would fit in well with reading activities related to the American West and the era following World War II or even pet care.

  • Ivy Takes CareTitle: Ivy Takes Care
  • Written By: Rosemary Wells
  • Illustrated By: Jim LaMarche
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press,
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard Cover: 200 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5352-1
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Animals, American West

Sir Gawain the True

Written by Gerald Morris
Illustrated by Aaron Renier

Buy on Amazon

An entertaining adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this is the second book in the Knight’s Tales series. In this story, King Arthur’s court is struggling with how to behave. They have skills like bashing each other with long pointy sticks called lances. But more and more the knights are expected to be polite. Being courteous is an idea that doesn’t make sense to the men of action. When Gawain rescues a woman from a dragon and boasts about his feat, he is confused by her irritation. Then, when King Arthur is also annoyed, Gawain begins to examine his behavior for ways he could have reacted differently. Then a green giant crashes King Arthur’s New Year’s Eve party, although he is polite about it, and offers a strange game. Trade blows with his axe. He will take the first axe-strike and Gawain will get his turn this time next year. Gawain accepts the challenge and promptly chops off the giant’s head. The giant simply picks up his head and says, “See you this time next year.” Through a series of unexpected meetings, Gawain is able to redeem himself with the lady he first offended and trick the giant while still honoring his word and learning a few manners along the way.

Told with humor that will appeal to young readers, the story is accessible and can even teach a thing or two about the value of courtesy and friendship without being preachy. The black and white drawings pick up the humor to illustrate the story with the same sassiness that is found in the text. This is a good class read aloud or appropriate for a fourth grader to read to a younger reading buddy. The plot twists and turns are well-laid out. A possible literacy activity would be to make a chart of turning points and then pose the question, “What would change if Gawain made a different decision?” Students could write their own discussion questions for this one because of the great discussion potential.

  • Sir GawainTITLE: Sir Gawain the True
  • AUTHOR: Gerald Morris
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Aaron Renier
  • PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin/Sandpiper
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 118 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-544-02264-5
  • GENRE: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Classic adaptations

Captain John Smith’s Big and Beautiful Bay

Written by Rebecca C. Jones
Illustrated by Linda Shute

Buy on Amazon

Beautiful illustrations, interesting callouts, excellent paper and getup make this a book an upper elementary and middle school reader would like to read again and again.

Captain John Smith was not like the other people who came over from the old land. They were in search of gold, so they could return to England rich men. Captain Smith was not interested in wealth gathering; he wanted to learn about the people, the crops and the animals of the New World. He explored the lands and woods around the river. The sparkling waters of the Chesapeake Bay beckoned, and finally he set off with a crew of fourteen, in a well provisioned shallop, to explore the bay.

Many adventures befell the crew. They weathered storms and extreme hunger; some people welcomed them, others tried to scare them away. But the lands were richly wooded; the skies teemed with birds, and the oceans were so filled with fish that John Smith said one could walk across the bay on their backs.

Captain Smith and his crew kept extensive journals. This story is based on those journals and is historically accurate. The back matter encourages young readers to go directly to the source material — telling them that the Captain was a lousy speller!

He was, however, an excellent map maker. So accurate are his maps that they were used for navigation for the next 300 years. As accurate as the maps are the illustrations in the book, especially the callouts that portray marine life. They provide information, made all the more memorable by the occasional flash of humor, and can provide hours of reading activities. This is a beautifully produced book.

John Smith returned to England, but never forget the rich and beautiful Chesapeake Bay.

Additional Information:

http://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/bayhistory/johnsmith

Chesapeake Bay: http://www.smithtrail.net/the-chesapeake/

Interactive Game: Captain John Smith: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/games/interactiveadventures/john-smith/

  • Captain John SmithTitle: Captain John Smith’s Big and Beautiful Bay
  • Author: Rebecca C. Jones
  • Illustrator: Linda Shute
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 9780764338694
  • Genre: Picture Book/ Non-Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 920

Wild Discoveries: Wacky New Animals

Written by Heather L. Montgomery

Buy on Amazon

Wild Discoveries: Wacky New Animals, written by Heather L. Montgomery, is one of the best science books I have ever read that offers budding scientists and animal lovers at the fourth grade reading level a look at a topic that is not often discussed: wacky new animals! Did you know that scientists have identified almost one million different animals on earth and that there may be as many as six million animals still waiting to be discovered?

Discoveries are happening every day at the rate of two per hour. In Wacky Animals Montgomery reveals those discoveries from a wide range of habitats such as: rain forests, oceans, islands, mountains, as well as wacky places such as a truck stop, a toxic-waste dump, and even a New York City park! Scientists are not the only ones making discoveries. Kids can find new species, too! Who knows? Maybe you will be the next person to discover a new species.

Montgomery weaves in fun facts, as well as colorful photos on every spread that are sure to appeal to kids at the 4th grade reading level. She begins with a concise Discovery 101 lesson to ground budding scientists on some key facts and terminology and then highlights how new discoveries are named. She groups a collection of recent animal discoveries by habitat and has also thrown in a couple of new non-animal discoveries because they were simply too cool to leave out. On each animal spread she provides the “scientific name” and the species’ “role in nature”. She closes with information on how kids can become active in making new discoveries, as well as an easy to read glossary.

Kids are sure to love this book and Montgomery’s approach in making the information lively and engaging. Be sure to include this in your library of books.

 

  • Wild DiscoveriesTitle: Wild Discoveries: Wacky New Animals
  • Author: Heather L. Montgomery
  • Illustrator: Assortment of photo credits from various photographers
  • Publisher: Scholastic
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-47767-3
  • Genre: Science, nonfiction
  • Lexile Score: IG840

Brilliant Hues

Written by Naomi Kinsman

Buy on Amazon

Sadie Douglas is dealing with a lot of events, most of them beyond her control. How she reacts to those events are important factors in her growth and development. Her father works as a mediator. One of the participants in a dispute he’s mediating is so angry he’s determined to draw Sadie and her mother into the fray. So Sadie needs a nanny/bodyguard. The nanny keeps people away and protects her. Also, Sadie has taken a younger girl under her wing. The young girl has a twin who could die from cancer. And the girl’s father is the other party in the mediated dispute. Meanwhile, Sadie’s group of friends is engaging in activities Sadie finds distasteful and, in some ways, dishonest. What will happen if she refuses to participate or, worse, tells them what she thinks? Last, Sadie misses her friends in Michigan, where her family lived for a time. Her art continues to tie her to those friends. The reader gets to see her emails to those friends.

As a level headed young woman, Sadie tries to think before she speaks, and she uses her art to reflect her thoughts. In fact, she pours her whole heart into her drawings and paintings. This book, at a fourth grade level, shows how a religious girl can find answers within herself and her community, but it has life lessons for everyone. Obvious reading activities follow the text, with many possibilities for art and writing projects. As the fourth “Faithgirlz: From Sadie’s Sketchbook” volume, this links well to the www.faithgirlz.com website with tons of information and more activities.

  • Brilliant HuesTitle: Brilliant Hues
  • By: Naomi Kinsman
  • Publisher: ZonderKidz
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback, 224 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-310-72668-5
  • Genre: Chapter book, Religious, Christian, General
  • Lexile Score: 940L
« Older Entries Recent Entries »