Archive for 2012

OH NO, Little Dragon!

Written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck

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Who wouldn’t love a little dragon? Especially one who gets sooty just phooshing around. Jim Averbeck continues to delight with this gem about a dirty little dragon whose mother makes him wash off his soot. While in the tub, he can’t resist setting his toy boat on fire, causing a tremendous flood. The water puts out his spark. He sets out on a quest to relight the spark in his dragon heart. Rubbing his tummy doesn’t work. Warm clothing doesn’t work. Even chili peppers don’t work. Only his mother’s love can re-ignite the spark in his heart.

“because YOU are the spark in MY heart.”

The illustrations are simple yet priceless. Little Dragon is proud of his phooshing. He is annoyed at having to take a bath. He is mortified when he discovers he’s lost his spark. He is pleased to get his spark back. He is apprehensive when he gets sooty again. And his solution is unexpectedly fun.

The author’s website,, contains a tremendous amount of information about the author and his books. The publisher also highlights the author at

  • Oh No Little DragonTitle: OH NO, Little Dragon!
  • Author/Illustrator: Jim Averbeck
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, humor, family, love
  • ISBN: 978-1-4169-9545-6


Boot & Shoe

Written and illustrated by Marla Frazee

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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


Christmas Wombat

Written by Jackie French

Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

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What’s more fun than a small, furry animal, especially one that is a bit feisty and confronts animals much larger than it is? It’s doubtful that many first graders in the U.S. have heard of wombats, so this is their opportunity to learn a little about them.

Apparently, wombats sleep, scratch, and eat grass and carrots. This particular wombat has never heard of Christmas, nor encountered a reindeer, and he must compete with the reindeer for his carrots. He takes a nap on Santa’s sleigh and thus ends up traveling with the jolly man and eight not so tiny reindeer. It’s not a problem as long as the carrots keep coming, though. Carrots are everywhere and easy to find with the reindeer’s help. Even the snowman has a carrot – for a nose. And the toucan’s nose – or bill – at least looks like a carrot.

Many of the illustrations are laugh out loud funny. The cover picture, a wombat with a red clown nose and antlers, standing amid gifts and a bag is perfect. The wombat thinks a chimney is a wombat hole and enters eagerly. Then, he needs help getting back up. The picture of the wombat standing nose-to-nose with a polar bear is priceless.

The publisher’s website,, has many resources for parents and educators. The author’s website,, has sections called “how to get kids reading” and “farming with wild animals,” both of which could be very helpful for developing reading activities. There’s no doubt a book this funny and easy to follow can increase a reader’s comprehension.


  • Christmas WombatTitle: Christmas Wombat
  • Author: Jackie French
  • Illustrator: Bruce Whatley
  • Publisher: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-86872-1
  • Genre: Picture book, Holiday, Humor, Australia, Animals
  • Lexile Score: 240L

Shadows on My Wall

Written & Illustrated by Timothy Young

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Monsters are a familiar problem for children at the first grade reading level. Helping youngsters find ways to deal with the idea of monsters in a way that is fun and empowering for them is not easy. This book, whether used to build comprehension or as a read aloud, will help youngsters deal with some of their terrors.

Shadows on My Wall is a well-written and illustrated picture book that will capture the imagination of youngsters. It opens with a little boy’s bedroom at night, light from the streetlights shining in through the window with very creepy shadows on the wall by his bed. While it is clear these are simply spooky-looking tree branches, soon the boy’s imagination takes over and they look more like monsters to him. But maybe they aren’t monsters. Maybe they are dinosaurs, and dinosaurs are pretty cool. The boy’s imagination keeps on working and the shadows take on new form after new form until the boy makes a shadow of his own. That is the beginning of the boy’s ability to take charge of those pesky shadows. This is very empowering for little ones.

A spread at the back of the book shows several shadows children can make with their hands and how to do them. The author/illustrator has a web site at, however, there are no teaching materials there or on the publisher’s website.

There are three other picture books by the same author, two of which have monster themes.

  • Shadows on My WallTitle: Shadows on My Wall
  • Author/Illustrator: Timothy Young
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, 2012
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0764342240
  • Genre: Fiction, Imagination

How to Babysit a Grandpa

Written by Jean Reagan
Illustrated by Lee Wildish

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For grown-ups and first grade readers and second grade readers alike, this is a really cute story with neat cartoonish pictures. However, it is also an empowering story for young children that will thrill them no end.

Instead of grandpa doing the babysitting, the main character is and the focus is on keeping grandpa happy and out of trouble until the parents come home.

Literacy skills galore can be strengthened like text to illustration correlations, picture clues, inferential skills and foreshadowing as the children will quickly find the humor in what isn’t said on the page.

Teachers can use this as a discussion starter as well as a story starter for students to write about, “the time I babysat for my grandpa or grandma.”  It could be a fun project for grandparents day, Christmas or any holiday.

An art teacher can have a marvelous time with children making illustrations showing some of their favorite activities with grandparents. Or it can take a completely different position in health class by having children illustrate or list a few of things that they would have to be careful about when taking care of others.

Basically, though, this is a totally enjoyable read aloud that will be worn out by little people and their grandpas.


  • Babysit GrandpaTitle: How to Babysit a Grandpa
  • Author: Jean Reagan
  • Illustrator: Lee Wildish
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-375-86713-2
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction

We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt

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,, has plenty of information about the book and the author. The illustrator’s website,, is similarly useful.


  • Ghost HuntTitle: 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