Archive for April 30, 2014

Boot & Shoe

Written and illustrated by Marla Frazee

Buy on Amazon

In this tale of two brotherly dogs, the author captures the beauty of routine and of knowing your best friend well. Boot and Shoe are dogs who live in the same house and have the same routine, but one likes to spend his day on the front porch, while the other naps on the back porch. A pesky squirrel decides to interrupt their happy equilibrium one day with a lot of chattering and running around. They chase him here and there until the squirrel gets bored. Naturally, the brothers end up at the wrong end of the house and cannot find their companion. The search goes on until both dogs have to pee on the same tree and find each other again, causing a kind of reset to their routine.

First graders can handle most of the language on their own, increasing their literacy skills, and will be delighted with the vivid illustrations that give many clues to the action, adding to their comprehension. They will certainly understand the ideas of frustration and wanting to be with a treasured friend. This gem received numerous starred reviews and appeared on many reading lists, including the 2012 ABC Best Books for Children and the 2012 Kirkus Best Children’s Books. The author’s website,, provides a wealth of information, including interviews and podcasts.

  • Boot and ShoeTitle: Boot & Shoe
  • Author/Illustrator: Marla Frazee
  • Publisher: Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, humor, friendship
  • ISBN: 978-1-4424-2247-6


I Hatched!

Written by Jill Esbaum
Illustrated by Jen Corace

Buy on Amazon

A baby chick in a killdeer nest cracks, pushes out and explores her surroundings. The story is told in the first person so the chick, and the young reader will both be excited about new wobbly legs, reflections in water and how very big the world seems to be.

Beautiful illustrations complement the story and lead perfectly through the sequence of the story. It is a beautiful addition to the springtime stories that exist. However, this will introduce young children to a particular bird that they can listen for around their own environments.

The rhyme of the story works well and will tickle young listeners. The story also has a gentle rolling rhythm that is a delight to the ears. There is humor, surprise and opportunities for young children to suggest what comes next in the story. For all these reasons, it is a great book for teaching literacy skills and fulfilling the requirements of the common core.

There is a double-page spread that would be excellent for introducing and/or reinforcing mapping skills where the little chick first experiments with running. It also opens the door to further research questions for the children to ask. What will the killdeer bird eat? How long will she stay in the nest? In what parts of the country are killdeer birds found? These answers can be sought in the library or on-line. It might even cause the class, or individual child, to learn about other kinds of birds. It could grow into a life-long love of bird watching and bird feeding.

  • I HatchedTitle: I Hatched!
  • Author: Jill Esbaum
  • Illustrator: Jen Corace
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-3688-7
  • Genre: Picture Book Fiction
  • Grade Level Preschool – 2

Eye: How It Works

Written and Illustrated by David Macauley

Buy on Amazon

David Macaulay has added to his huge and magnificent set of nonfiction work with this fascinating look at eyes. There are two stories in one here. While a team is playing soccer parallels are drawn between how the game is going to how the eye works. Both stories will keep the young reader interested and involved.

As always Macaulay’s illustrations are clear and stunning. His use of diagrams insures that children will know exactly how all the parts come together. In particular, his diagrams of how glasses actually correct vision will enlighten many adult readers as well.

This book is one in a series called: My Readers and belongs to level 4, which is particularly created for the proficient first grade reader. However, it will be enjoyed by students in all the elementary grades and can easily be used to fulfill science requirements in middle grades. The core curriculum would place this book at various levels in the sciences as well as the health standards. Literacy skills teachers will use it to teach reading a non-fiction text as well as, in how to decipher diagrams.

Macaulay’s use of a soccer game will help to draw in the reluctant readers in the classroom. Because this book is also available in paperback, it is particularly affordable for classroom and home libraries.

This is so well done that as soon as you finish reading it, you will go and look for the rest of the set.

  • EyeTitle: Eye: How It Works
  • Author/Illustrator: David Macaulay
  • Publisher: Macmillan, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-15-96437821
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Lexile: AD640L, Grade Level K-2
  • Extras: Glossary, List of Related Websites and videos

Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends

Written by Joanne Linden
Illustrated by Tom Goldsmith

Buy on Amazon

Ben is a typical kid on a typical boardwalk with his parents and his best friend, Zip. When the weather becomes threatening, Ben is in a panic wondering what happened to Zip. He begins at kid level and only sees knees – fat, bony, bumpy, and scratched. He climbs to bench level to be confronted by bellies – hairy, jelly, and hanging down. Standing on a picnic table, Ben can see a lot of hair – red, yellow, long, and swirly. He climbs the lifeguard tower only to discover everyone has taken shelter. But he does spot the place where he last saw Zip – a popcorn stand – and runs to the area. Zip, who the reader finds out is a dachshund, has been caught on a post. Ben releases him and waits for the weather to clear.

First graders will love the fact that many of the illustrations are from their perspective. This would be great as a read aloud because all the kids can help look for Zip. In fact, the reader will be driven to go back to the beginning and find all the places Ben, Zip, and each of his parents appear. The illustrations are detailed and lively and do a great job of involving the reader. Along with literacy skills, this book is good for teaching observation skills.

  • Ben & ZipTitle: Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends
  • Author: Joanne Linden
  • Illustrator: Tom Goldsmith
  • Publisher: Flashlight Press, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, fiction, friendship, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-9362612-8-4

Beneath the Sun

Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum

Buy on Amazon

When a summer day is very hot, few people think about what wild creatures are doing to endure the extreme temperature. This clever book shows how animals are able to survive without the sunscreen and lemonade available to humans. Woodchucks in fields spend the heat of the day in cool underground dens, and earthworms do the same while slowing their metabolisms. The author moves on to the desert, where she follows a ringtail family as they nap in their den, a golden eagle as it cools itself by soaring through the air, a turkey vulture spraying itself, a jackrabbit who cools through its ears, and a horned lizard in the deep shade. In a wetland, osprey chicks cool down with the help of their father’s wet feathers. Tadpoles, crayfish, and salamanders stay in the water and mud. At the seashore, a herring gull shades its chicks. Anemones pull in their tentacles, sea stars hide in the shade, and fiddler crabs have specialized shells that reflect the sun. The realistic, detailed, and beautiful illustrations in this book show exactly how each animal survives.


The author’s website,, provides a wealth of information for first graders and up. She provides ideas for many reading activities plus curriculum guides. This book would be good as a read aloud, allowing for discussion of each animal and the environment in which it lives.

  • Beneath the SunTitle: Beneath the Sun
  • Author: Melissa Stewart
  • Illustrator: Constance R. Bergum
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-733-7

How to Babysit a Grandma

Written by Jean Reagan
Illustrated by Lee Wildish

Buy on Amazon

The highly talented duo of Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish have come together to make a wonderful companion to their popular previous picture book, How to Babysit a Grandpa.  Only this time, the one being babysat is Grandma.

The authentic child voice carries us into the story of a little girl taking care of her grandma while Mom and Dad are away. She helps Grandma find the best place to sleep, the best things to play at the park and the best way to make anything and everything taste better (always add sprinkles).

First grade readers, among many others, will enjoy reading this story on their own or having it read to them. The illustrations will remind them of fun things they have done with their own grandparents. Librarians and parents will love this as a read aloud. The brightly colored illustrations draw readers in to spend time studying each and every one to see all the fun details. Every page puts a smile on a reader’s face, regardless of their age.

Preschool and primary grade teachers will use this book in fulfilling core curriculum standards and literacy skills through picture clues, dialogue, inference, sequential order and finding the main idea. Readers can use this as a spring board for drawing pictures, talking aloud in front of the class or getting new ideas for ways to entertain Grandma next weekend.

This wonderful pair of books will be a great addition to any home or school library. The first one rapidly became a New York Times bestseller, and won several awards. This one is sure to follow in those footsteps. They are both great fun to read over and over again. Go find them and curl up somewhere comfy with someone small who loves to giggle.

  • Babysit a GrandmaTitle: How to Babysit a Grandma
  • Author: Jean Reagan
  • Illustrator: Lee Wildish
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-385-75384-5
  • Genre: Picture book, fiction
  • Grade level: K through 3