Written and Illustrated by Barbara Reid
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Not since The Giving Tree has an author explored so many ways we commune with trees. Reid approaches trees from a purely artistic direction and ends up imparting much more information about the subject than seems possible at first. Each illustration begins with plasticine and paint and focuses on some aspect of the tree’s physical appearance. The pictures nearly jump off the page. Another device the author uses is to progress the tree through an entire calendar year.
First grade readers will see that bare winter limbs make a sort of etching on the sky. The first hints of spring colors will remind the reader of tentative attempts to draw, then an explosion of color. Tree leaves can create a tunnel of green when driving down a street or an entire ocean when viewed from above. A tree next to an apartment building is home to a multitude of animals and a storage space for a kite. They often become pirate ships, caves, clubhouses, or friends. In the hot summer sun, trees can be umbrellas. Trees of different ages correspond to the ages of people. Playing in the falling leaves feels like a good-bye party. Trees can be spooky around Halloween. Later, trees put on snowsuits, just like kids. Then they sleep like a baby until spring.
This unique approach will hold the reader’s attention and increase comprehension for beginning readers. The author’s excellent website (http://www.barbarareid.ca/) provides more information about her methods and makes many suggestions for reading activities. This book has won numerous awards, won several starred reviews, and appeared on reading lists, including The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens.
- TITLE: Picture a Tree
- AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Barbara Reid
- PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman & Company
- REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
- EDITION: 2013
- ISBN: 978-0-8075-6526-1
- GENRE: Picture book, Trees
- LEXILE: 390
Written and Illustrated by Masayuki Sebe
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Simple and engaging, 100 Animals on Parade encourages 1st grade students to count to 100 – over and over again. The book follows groups of animals (yes, there really are 100 of each) as they parade to the Animal Festival. Along the way, readers are asked to identify the bear strong enough to carry a piano, the pig that loves carrots, the carpenter beetle with the spinning top, the circus rabbit with something on his head…
The pictures really make this book stand out. And while it would work as a read aloud in a classroom setting, it is best viewed up close with lots of time to examine each animal. In every picture, the reader is asked to count something or find something or laugh along with the characters. With vibrant use of color, author/illustrator Masayuki Sebe has created simple and lovable cartoon animals that draw readers in with their funny details and amusing mutterings.
The final spread shows all 500 animals celebrating at the festival. But the fun is not over. On the very last page, the reader is informed that there are a snail, a ladybug and an ant in every scene – a tactic that is sure to get kids going right back to the beginning to start the count all over again!
Originally published in Japanese by Kaisei-sha Publishing Company, 100 Animals on Parade will be well received in North America. The kids who read it and love it won’t even realize they are improving their counting skills – the true measure of a good book.
- Title: 100 Animals on Parade!
- Author/Illustrator: Masayuki Sebe
- Publisher: Kids Can Press, 2013
- Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
- Book Length: 28 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-55453-871-3
- Genre: Fiction, Math
- Lexile Score: 110
Written by Susan Pearson
Illustrated by S.D. Schindler
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A refreshing and entertaining new ghost story is available at a first grade reading level. Four children go outside on a clear evening for a ghost hunt. They are determined to find a ghost no matter what stands in their way. With each obstacle, the kids make the encounter into a game. When they finally find a ghost at the graveyard, the kids are understandably frightened, but they make it back to their bed all in one piece. Naturally, they must occupy only one bed. But, of course, they’re ready to go on another hunt the next day.
With insistent repetition, the author increases the young reader’s comprehension. Especially charming are the bits of onomatopoeia: “squish squash squaash in the murky swamp, rustle rustle rat-a-tattle through the cornfield, splash splash splash in the swishy, fishy river, creeeeak squeak eeeeeeek at the graveyard gate”, and so forth.
The illustrations are delightful and very much in keeping with the feel of the text. The kids skip across the yard and through the river. They help each other on the race back to the house. The kids themselves are adorable and are images with which other children can identify. The scenes are realistic and have a you-are-there feel. The details, such as the young boy’s teddy bear and the small animals seen along the way, add to the fun. Readers could make spotting the small critters into a reading activity: How many frogs in the swamp? How many fish in the river?
The authors’ website, http://www.susanpearson.net/, has plenty of information about the book and the author. The illustrator’s website, http://www.sdschindlerbooks.com/index.html, is similarly useful.
- Title: We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt
- Written By: Susan Pearson
- Illustrated By: S. D. Schindler
- Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Hard cover, 32 pages
- ISBN: 978-0761463078
- Genre: Picture book, Halloween, ghosts
- Lexile Score: 60