Archive for 2012

I Am Sacagawea

Written by Grace Norwich

Illustrated by Anthony VanArsdale

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The remarkable story of Sacagawea, a teenage girl guiding Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean, is an accessible one for middle grades in this slim book. The introduction is written as if Sacagawea herself is speaking to the reader, summing up her amazing life by saying “my story is proof that anything can happen.” » Read more

Fame, Fortune, and the Bran Muffins of Doom

Written and illustrated by Marty Kelley

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Simon takes life seriously, very seriously. When he decides that he and his friends will achieve fame and, more importantly, fortune by winning the school talent show, he goes about it seriously.None of them can sing, dance or play a musical instrument, but those are simply problems to solve. Simon is sure he can come up with a solution as long as Mike McAlpine and his minion-friends leave Simon alone. They don’t.

Then there is Stacy, a girl who would be cute if she would quit interrupting Simon. Even Simon’s friends do not see what he is trying to do and start fooling around. Silence, he tells them. It is always up to Simon to keep everyone on track. Then Mrs. Annand yells at them when they try to rehearse and even throws hard bran muffins, interrupting and possibly causing a concussion. In spite of all these problems, Simon gets the group on stage with an act of sorts.

This is perfect for the core curriculum mission of challenging students to read at a higher grade level, although it has a 2nd grade Lexile measure. The situations seem better suited for the 4th grade audience. Simon and all the characters are extremes. Simon is the smart kid who uses big words and bosses everyone around. The story is in first-person from Simon’s point of view so be ready for a lot of bossing around. Munch is the gross kid who will eat anything, so he is really gross. Ralph is the sickest sick kid of all time. Mike is the stupidest bully and his minions are even more stupid. Mrs. Douglass has checked out far more than the usual retired-in-place teacher. The only “normal” person is Stacy and she’s amused by the whole crowd. Even with all this silliness, the story comes together with a satisfying ending. Good fare for the Captain Underpants devotee, but readers might learn some words along the way. There’s a Simon glossary at the end which bumps up the reading level substantially. It would be a good class read aloud since a teacher will be more able to read most of the big words without stopping. There are a few challenging ones even for grown-ups. Check out Simon’s plans: ( where you can play a game or check up on his latest schemes.
Fame Fortune and Bran Muffins

  • TITLE: Fame, Fortune, and the Bran Muffins of Doom
  • AUTHOR: Marty Kelley
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Marty Kelley
  • PUBLISHER: Holiday House, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 154 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-8234-2606-5
  • LEXILE: 660

A Rock Is Lively

Written by Diana Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

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How is a rock lively? Until this book was published, it wasn’t clear how that was possible.But Aston finds a way. She makes rocks lyrical, almost poetic. Rocks are lively when they are molten or when they are part of a lively setting. They are mixed up because they are made from a recipe of many materials, like a cake. They are galactic because they can be parts of meteors, comets, or asteroids. They are as old as the earth. They can be as huge as a mountain or as tiny as a grain of sand. » Read more

Extreme Earth

Written by Seymour Simon

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What is the hottest place on Earth? What is the coldest place on Earth? How tall is the world’s highest waterfall? This book contains the answers to these questions. It also answers questions about more record breaking places on Earth!

Readers are invited to join the author on a journey around the world to explore remote regions, extreme climate and unbelievable destinations.Extreme Earth offers an informative look at our incredible, awe inspiring world. The book is full of fun, interesting facts that will engage the reader. Each page is beautifully illustrated with actual pictures of the locations mentioned. » Read more

Twenty Gold Falcons

Written by Amy Gordon

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Mystery fans will have much to enjoy in this rollicking tale, set in the present times, but related to a treasure that pre-dates the Depression era.Mr. Jenkins’ introduction to the Gold Falcons is a teaching moment that could lead to many more reading activities.

When her father dies, Aiden Farmer has to move from her beloved farm to the city of Gloria. From being a happy farm girl, she becomes “Farmer Girl”, mooed on, and booed on by classmates at the snooty, stuck-up private school she now attends. That is, till Mr Jenkins talks of the Gold Falcons. » Read more

Desert Baths

Written by Darcy Pattison

Illustrated by Kathleen Rietz

Outstanding Science Trade Book 2013 by National Science Teacher’s Association and the Children’s Book Council (click for more info)

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Bath time without soap and water? what an excellent way of introducing young readers to life in the desert where water is scarce and the heat unrelenting. In a simply told story Darcy Pattison takes her readers to the desert. The lyrical text showcases the beauty of the land, and the scruples of the animals who live there. » Read more

Super Grammar

Written by Tony Preciado
Illustrated by Rhode Montijo

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“A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go down….” The authors of Super Grammar know that grammar is a difficult pill to swallow, but it is an essential medicine nonetheless if we are to communicate effectively. What will make grammar easier? They ponder. Aha! Heroes and villains (super heroes and super villains, really) who fight the good fight for grammatically correct, concise, and structured writing. What a fantastic concept. » Read more

Solar System Forecast

Written by Kelly Kyzer Whitt

Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein

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Get ready for an interplanetary adventure in learning as the green alien leads us through the weathers of the planets and moons of our solar system. What a fascinating way of presenting facts that have to be studied in class, often through not very interesting text books. This forecast aligns itself to the Common Core, so teachers and parents know that what is presented here is what their students have to learn. » Read more

Bodyguards! From Gladiators to the Secret Service

Written by Ed Butts
Illustrated by Scott Plumbe

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The world is a large place; it is not possible to know every single thing about it, and no one is expected to have such knowledge. But, occasionally you come across a book that makes you realize the fascination of everyday facts. Bodyguards! is such a book.

Bodyguards have been around, but how many people know that it is a career that goes back to ancient times, has its own code of conduct, and very rigorous training procedures? The book is chock-full of facts and would make a great read for upper elementary and middle school students. You can just picture readers trading stories of ancient Egyptian bodyguards, and enlightening each other on the difference between a Samurai and a Ninja warrior. » Read more


Written by Tammy Gagne

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Adele is part of the Blue Banner Biography series brought out by Mitchell Lane. The premise behind the series is that reluctant readers would be attracted to a book, if it tells a story they are interested in. It addresses the complaints that keep children away from books — too long, too boring, too old, or just not interesting. Young children are interested in the lives of their favorite stars, whether they be in sports, music, performance or writing. This series provides the biographies of contemporary superstars. » Read more

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