Delicious Vegetarian Main Dishes

Written by Jennifer S. Larson

Illustrated by Brie Cohen

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Ready to cook?  Here is another book in the “You’re the Chef” series.  Recipes include Eggxtra Tasty Bake, Simple Black Bean Salad, Tortilla Tower, Crispy Tofu Sticks, Curried Potatoes and Rice, Who Needs Meat Sloppy Joes and others.  The recipes are vegetarian but not vegan.  The photographs are so mouth-watering that anyone will want to get in the kitchen and start cooking.  The recipes use mostly fresh ingredients and, even though there is an allergy alert in the opening, the recipes are mostly free of those allergy foods.  The author developed these recipes with her boys, so they are plenty kid-friendly.

Every step in each recipe has a diagram of the mentioned cooking technique.  The safety tips and advice about cooking are smart, without talking down.  There are definitions about everything a young cook needs to know: an informational graphic of cooking tools, a diagram with each recipe for the appliance needed to prepare it and a glossary of special ingredients in case a young reader doesn’t know something like cilantro or couscous.  There is an index and a section of other readings and websites.  The reading level is 4.7 making this a very accessible how-to book.  A solid recommendation for those “how-to” units especially if the literacy activity is to make or do the thing described in the book.  The publisher has an additional recipe and other downloads on their website with a log-in: (https://www.lernerbooks.com/products/t/11665/9780761366355/delicious-vegetarian-main-dishes).   The series has several other titles.

  • Delicious Vegetarian Main DishesTITLE: Delicious Vegetarian Main Dishes
  • AUTHOR: Jennifer S. Larson
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Brie Cohen
  • PUBLISHER: Millbrook/Lerner
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-6633-1
  • GENRE: How-to, Cooking
  • LEXILE: 790, Reading level 4.7

Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire

Written by Roxane Orgill

Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

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Most youngsters are interested in show business and the movies, but few reading at the fourth grade reading level are familiar with vaudeville or one of the most famous movie dancers of all time, Fred Astaire or his sister, Adele, his dancing partner for three decades. This rich biography, beautifully illustrated, can be a good read aloud book as well as good for children with comprehension at the fourth grade level to read on their own.

Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire is a fascinating biography of people who began their professions at such a young age, readers will find it hard to believe. At a time when child labor laws were nearly non-existent, young Fred and Adele traveled by train with their mother from Omaha to New York City. After more training in the art of dance, they donned costumes and began their careers singing and dancing on stage. They were only five and eight, Adele being the older. Times were so different then. No radios or television existed, and although there were movies, the movies had no sound. People went to the theatre to see live performances by all kinds of artists – jugglers, singers, talking dogs, trick bicyclists and more. That was vaudeville. Fred and Adele were right in the middle of it. They did two shows every day. At the end of each week, they would pack up and travel with their mother to another town to do it all over again. The only friends they had were each other. They couldn’t go to school, but their mother taught them their subjects. Things were not always easy and their careers stuttered when Adele grew into a young lady and Fred, small for his age, was left behind. However, they persevered and went on to be big stars. Adele hung up her dancing shoes when she was still relatively young, and that was when Fred changed gears and moved on to even greater fame.

The back of the book contains further readings, as well as suggestions for listening to recordings of Fred and Adele and a website (www.AlsoDances.net) that is a dedicated Fred Astaire site. There is also a good list of suggested videos. Candlewick Press, the publisher, offers a short author interview at http://www.candlewick.com/authill.asp?b=Author&pg=1&m=actlist&a=&id=0&pix=n&dlisbn=0763621218. The author has a webpage (http://www.roxaneorgill.com/) with some tips on becoming a writer.

  • FootworkTitle: Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire
  • Author: Roxane Orgill
  • Illustrator: Stéphane Jorisch
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6440-2
  • Genre: Biography, Picture Book, Non-fiction
  • Lexile Score: 1040

Saige (American Girl Today)

Written by Jessie Haas

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Saige is about to start fourth grade. Everything should be great yet she and her best friend seem to be growing apart. Add to that budget cuts and her favorite subject, art, is being canceled. Her grandma suggests that Saige can do something to stop that, but then she gets hurt.

This is an excellent story involving realistic conflicts that young 4th grade level readers, particularly girls, face every school year. The language is sometimes challenging, but the plot is easy for the reader to comprehend and the characters are easy to relate to for this level. And what fourth grade reader doesn’t love horses or stories about horses?

Budget cuts are something that most everyone understands. Saige faces the possibility of giving up art and current fourth grade teachers must decide on the most appropriate books for the classroom. Saige is an excellent book for free reading and reading for pleasure. Teachers should encourage students to choose this as a fun and enjoyable book as a personal choice, but it may not be worth the price for the classroom. It is not necessarily a book that works for boys, nor does this book offer the historical references that may work in a general classroom setting.

That being said, this is well written and covers many aspects of family life, the emotions of a fourth grade reader, and the relationship of a grandmother and granddaughter. If money for the classroom library is not a problem, this is a great choice to promote reading for pleasure and wholesome family relationships. It also does well to encourage students to use critical thinking skills to solve real life problems.

  • Title: Saige (American Girl Today)
  • Author: Jessie Haas
  • Publisher: American Girl Publishing
  • Website: www.americangirl.com
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Genre: Juvenile fiction/girls/horses

Celebrating New York

Written by Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrated by C. B. Canga

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Mr. Geo is on the move again in Celebrating New York. This time he is taking a trip to the state of New York. On this visit, he goes to Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls, just to mention a few places. He even goes to the 86th floor, which happens to be the top, of the Empire State building. Many people think of New York City as just a bunch of buildings and skyscrapers, but Mr. Geo shows us that is not the case with Central Park being right the middle of Manhattan. This park takes up several city blocks with carousels, horseback riding, museums and even a zoo. How’s that for city living? Even the site of the World Trade Center is mentioned, along with the new construction of the One World Trade Center.

Celebrating New York is loaded with fun facts and illustrations of not only New York City, but other parts of the state, too.

While written for fourth grade reading, other elementary grades would also enjoy this book. There is also a page of activities, at the end of the book as well. Geography, history and fun trivia facts about the state of New York are all covered in this one book. The author has also included a glossary page as well. Students will develop further reading skills by using Mr. Geo’s trip as a jump start to some further research and discovery of the state.

  • Celebrating New YorkTitle: Celebrating New York
  • Author: Marion Dane Bauer
  • Illustrator: C. B. Canga
  • Publisher: Sandpiper Publishing
  • Reviewer: Cheri Liddy
  • Paperback: 36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-89781-3
  • Genre: geography, history

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again

Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Illustrated by Joe Berger

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is determined to put herself back together even though the Tooting family thinks they are in charge of the refurbishing project.  Dad loses his job and decides to fix those things around the house that he has not had time for.  He is so overzealous with his home projects that Mom buys him a camper van to restore.  She works at Unbeatable Motoring Bargains and it was a good deal.  He and Jem (short for Jeremy) work for nearly two months lovingly taking things apart, cleaning and oiling them, and putting them together.  The first time they start up the van, Jem notices a strange noise from the engine which he interprets as spark plugs misfiring.  To find spark plugs that old, they must go to a salvage yard that has been in operation for years.  In wandering amongst the wrecks, they find a huge engine in the top of a tree along with a steering wheel and a hand crank. Dad gets very excited and adds it to their camper van along with a few other parts that belong with the engine.  Then, the next time they drive it, it drives itself, even going off a cliff.  That activated a huge pair of wings and the camper van flew! The van takes the Tooting family to Paris and Cairo.  Someone in the family had each wanted to go there so they didn’t think about the camper van taking them.  In Paris, they find the headlamps.  In Cairo, they find the wheels.  But it is in Madagascar, when they find the car’s body, that Jem realizes these discoveries are not coincidences.  The car even gives them her name with two long whirrs and two short bangs.  After the car is in one piece, Jem also realizes that a villain named Tiny Jack has been after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the whole time.  To escape Tiny Jack and his evil Nanny, they accidentally discover another working bit: the Chronojuster –   which is just a fancy word for time travel gizmo.

Ian Fleming wrote the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which involved the Potts family and their adventures with the car.  This new series has a new family and a new set of adventures but, the magical car has all its old charm.  This is the sequel and it ends with a cliffhanger that leads into the next book: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race Against Time.  The characters are delightfully eccentric, even the villain.  This would make a good class read aloud.  The fourth grade reading level makes this a good choice for reading buddies because the story would engage younger readers as well.  Students can chart the countries where Chitty takes the Tootings for a geography and literacy activity.  There is an activity kit, a teacher’s guide and a book trailer available at the publisher’s website: (http://www.chittyfliesagain.com/).

  • Chitty BangTITLE: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again
  • AUTHOR: Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Joe Berger
  • PUBLISHER: Candlewick, 2011
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 213 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6353-7

 

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Written and Illustrated by Stephan Pastis

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Timmy Failure is anything but. According to him, he is the founder, president and CEO of the best detective agency in town – no, make that the entire world. With his trusty business partner, his 1,500 pound pet polar bear named Total, they make up the brains and brawn behind his brilliant organization: Total Failure, Inc.

But it’s difficult to build a billion-dollar empire. He has to work out of his mom’s closet and he uses her Segway (a.k.a. the Failuremobile) to get around town. Mom had only one rule about using the Segway, which was to use it “Never. Ever. Ever.”

As Timmy tells his story, readers will quickly realize that he, in fact, can’t solve anything. He’s like a young Michael Scott from The Office, arrogant and clueless, yet somehow endearing. When Mom’s Segway goes missing, Timmy smells sabotage. He’s convinced his archrival, the One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered, had something to do with it. As Total busies himself with eating and napping, he has no choice but to enlist his idiot best friend, Rollo Tookus, to help him solve the case. If only Rollo spent less time studying and more time being like Timmy, he wouldn’t have ended up locked in a bank safe wearing a daisy costume. If only. In the end, all is restored and Timmy’s sweet side revealed, but not before he crashes a car into his teacher’s living room with a polar bear in the passenger seat. Just another day in Failure-land.

Pastis, the creator of the popular comic strip Pearls Before Swine, expertly uses his black and white illustrations to give comic punch to already absurd situations. A few of the vocabulary words will have kids at this reading level scratching their heads (expenditures, subterfuge, mendacity), but their appearance near drawings offers helpful context. Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate will likely gobble up this book in one sitting. Fourth graders may also enjoy Timmy Failure’s own blog with cameo entries from his friends (http://www.failureisanoptionblog.tumblr.com) as well as the official book site, which includes author info, news, and games. (http://timmyfailure.com/index.html)

  • Timmy FailureTitle: Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
  • Author: Stephan Pastis
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6050-5
  • Genre: Fiction / Humor

Lost in the City: A Julie Mystery (American Girl Mysteries)

Written by Kathleen O’Dell

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Julie Albright is ecstatic about spending spring break with her dad. Though Julie doesn’t live far from her dad, in an apartment she shares with her older sister and mother, Julie only sees her dad every other weekend. And a week spent with her dad means she’ll also get to see her best friend, Ivy, just before Ivy’s family leaves for a wedding. Ivy asks Julie to pet sit her uncle’s talking parrot while the Lings are away, and Julie happily accepts.

But only a short time after beginning her job as pet sitter, Julie realizes that Lucy, the talking parrot, has vanished from her cage! Who has taken Lucy, and why?

The more Julie investigates and attempts to solve the mystery, the more suspects Julie places on her list of “would-be” thieves. Did elderly, sometimes-grouchy Mr. Shackley rid of the noisy parrot? Did her friend and former classmate, Gordon, snitch the bird? Was her Aunt Maia the culprit? Was Mrs. Marino, Gordon’s mom hiding something? Could Pirate Pete, the pet store owner, be involved? Or had Uncle Lee kidnapped his own bird?

The author does an exceptional job of keeping readers engrossed in the mystery and guessing about the mishap of Lucy until the very end of the story. All ends well, and Lucy is safely returned to her owner.

An additional part of the book, a “Looking Back” section with photographs, discusses the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, one of the San Francisco locations mentioned in the fictional story of Julie and Lucy and also elaborates on the height of the vegetarianism movement of the 1970s.

This fourth grade level story would be especially beneficial to children who are going through or have gone through a family divorce. In the American Girl collection of books, Julie is currently the only Historical Character to be released with divorced parents, and the story touches on Julie’s parents, who have been divorced a couple of years, as well as her friend Gordon’s parents, who are in the process of divorcing.

An informative website that would enhance science and reading activities relating to the story can be found at www.parrots.org. A plethora of information about almost 400 parrots, including photographs, is available under the “encyclopedia” tab.

  • Lost in the CityTITLE: Lost in the City: A Julie Mystery (American Girl Mysteries)
  • AUTHOR: Kathleen O’Dell
  • PUBLISHER: American Girl Publishing
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Paperback, 143 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-60958-177-0
  • GENRE: Middle-grade fiction

On the Slant

Written by Jane Yolen
Photographed by Jason Stemple

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Jane Yolen who has written over 300 books and won numerous awards including a Caldecott for Owl Moon, Golden Kite, two Nebula and Christopher awards, etc., gives readers an insight into how she turned her passion into her career. Of course every one of her works can be read aloud and loved by preschoolers to 2nd graders and clear up to adults.

On the Slant belongs on any reading lists for young authors to learn how to take criticism and make it into a published work or create a work space that enhances the creative juices to overflow. Jane also shares her life story, from her fascinating young childhood where she generated an apartment building newspaper using carbon paper to her first pink manual typewriter. The story continues as the reader learns the secret to her success starts with writing everyday whether it be ideas, stories, or poems regardless if they ever get published or not.

Photographs from her past and present provide another layer of her life, showing baby pictures to more current photographs taken by her son, Jason Stemple. These photos even show how she lives part of the time in Massachusetts, while the rest of the year in Scotland and that the most important part of her life includes her family. This book takes every age reader to a place where imagination and hard work meet. The organized format and straight forward voice keep readers turning each page to learn more about Jane. Be sure to check out her website at www.janeyolen.com to email her with your questions.

  • Title: On the Slant
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Photographer: Jason Stemple
  • Publisher: Richard C. Owens Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Julia Beiker
  • Edition: Paperback
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-57274-978-8
  • ISBN 10: 1-57274-978-4
  • Genre: Nonfiction biography

Reflections

Written by Ralph Fletcher

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Many youngsters wonder how books are created. There are many books on writing, but few are written for the fourth grade reading level. It is a real challenge to write a book that offers comprehension of such a complex subject for the fourth grade level, but Ralph Fletcher has done a masterful job of it without ever talking down to this young audience.

Reflections is really the story of Fletcher’s life’s journey to becoming a writer. He introduces the reader to some of the realities of being a working writer with the story about the manuscript for his first novel and what happened to it. It’s quite a story. His childhood is the foundation of his writing life. Growing up in a family with nine kids gives him plenty of grist for his writer’s mill, especially since his mother taught him to be a true observer of everything around him. And that observation ability became absolutely critical to his writing. Fletcher not only writes about his writer’s notebooks, what goes into them,  and what he gets out of them, but he includes photographs of his notebook pages so the young reader can really see the product. He discusses how he finds his ideas for a wide variety of projects. Youngsters will find hope for a writing future when they see how great ideas can come from the simplest things. Fletcher goes on to give a clear view of the writing process and how important the many steps are to successful writing. As any writer knows, revision is probably the most important and time consuming part of the process, and Fletcher spends some good time on that. This is a very realistic picture of writing as a career, and it is one fourth graders and up will find fascinating.

Fletcher is a prolific writer with many books on writing, and Reflections is not the only one for elementary students. Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out and How to Write Your Life Story are two of his other books that will be of interest to budding writers. On his web site, kids can find Tips for Young Readers (http://www.ralphfletcher.com/tips.html), a wonderful resource. He offers teacher handouts (http://www.ralphfletcher.com/teacher.html) as well.

  • Title: Reflections
  • Author: Ralph Fletcher
  • Publisher: Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • ISBN: 1-57274-858-3
  • Genre: Nonfiction

Fabulous Fashions of the 1960s

Written by Felicia Lowenstein Niven

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Go-go boots, beehive hair and bell-bottom pants!  The fashions of the 1960s were casual, breaking away from the formal looks of the older generation.  This book examines not only the fashions of the era, but some of the social conditions that contributed to styles.  The 60s were a time of change.  Designers experimented with advances in fabrics and other materials such as plastic, vinyl, and even paper.  They used bright colors and bold patterns.  Elements of Africa, Asia and India, as well Native Americans, appeared in clothing styles.  Some hairstyles were bigger than the bouffant of the 50s and some were straight even if a person’s hair was naturally curly.  Men’s fashions were more relaxed, too.  No more hats!  A man could wear a turtleneck sweater or a Nehru jacket and still be fashionable.  Designers got ideas from such things as the Beatles and Woodstock.  This was a time when small boutiques and individuals with artistic ideas could affect what was popular to wear.

An insightful look into how people looked in the 1960s and why.  A reading worksheet could be easily written using the table of contents and chapter subheadings as an outline to demonstrate the skill of writing from an outline as a literacy activity.  The photographs are a good representation of the time.  The book includes a timeline summarizing all the decades of the series, a glossary, a list of readings and internet addresses and an index.  Fun series.

  • Fabulous FashionsTITLE: Fabulous Fashions of the 1960s
  • AUTHOR: Felicia Lowenstein Niven
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 48 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-279-2
  • GENRE: Non-fiction, fashion
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