Archive for 2014

I Hatched!

Written by Jill Esbaum
Illustrated by Jen Corace

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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

Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends

Written by Joanne Linden
Illustrated by Tom Goldsmith

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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

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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

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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


Written by Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris

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While there are many books about dolphins on the market, this one was designed and written with the beginning reader in mind. It features heavy, glossy pages that will withstand multiple readings. It uses varying degrees of font size and shading to help the young reader focus on one set of text at a time. Each item of information is only one sentence long, and thus easy for the student to grasp. Each item is also illustrated directly below or beside the text with clear photographs.

This marvelous introduction to dolphins compares their needs to the needs children will understand. It compares the blowhole to breathing through the mouth, and tells children that a dolphin can be a sleepyhead, but not really sleep. A dolphin can “stand” by flipping its tail back and forth really fast.

Readers learn how dolphins: touch, eat, play and get along with one another. At the very end of the book, one page talks about how dolphins interact with people. The book concludes with a student friendly glossary and index.

Literacy skills are prominent in the design of this book that is also a perfect match for core curriculum standards in science and marine life. It will be a wonderful addition to any library, classroom or home collection and is part of the Scholastic series discover more.


  • DolphinsTitle: Dolphins
  • Author: Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris
  • Illustrator: (Live Photography)
  • Publisher: Scholastic, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-62738-2
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Animals, Dolphins
  • Grade Level 1 and 2 (Beginning Readers)
  • Extras: Free digital book with code from hardcover book, glossary, index

Stripes of All Types / Rayas de todas las tallas

Written and Illustrated by Susan Stockdale

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Where can you find striped animals?

Prowling the prairie / rondando por las praderas
Perched on a peak / y encaramadas en altas cumbers.
Crawling on cactus / Caminando sobre el cactus
And camped by a creek / y echadas junto al arroyo.

This English/Spanish bilingual edition is the latest offering from the author. Using minimal text, the book covers a variety of striped mammals, insects, and aquatic creatures posing in their natural habitat. We see ring-tailed lemurs drink from rivers, poison frogs propped on logs, zebra moray eels twist in the sand, and a tabby cat curled in a child’s arms. Stockdale never names the animals, but their identity is revealed in the back pages along with the answers to why animals have stripes (one or two sentences of information are provided for each animal). Readers will also enjoy guessing which stripe belongs to which animal in a memory matching game.

In the classroom, this informational book could be used in both science and literature lessons. It’s a great introduction to patterns, animal markings, and camouflage, while the short rhyming text uses alliteration to enhance the literary skills of young readers. Stockdale’s illustrations are sure to mesmerize a first grade audience. Using bold colors and thick lines, her acrylic artwork really pops off the page.

Visit the authors website for more information and other nature titles:

  •  Stripes of all typesTitle: Stripes of All Types / Rayas de todas las tallas
  • Author/Illustrator: Susan Stockdale
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-793-9
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nature, Science

About Birds: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

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This beautiful little book packs a lot into a very few words and pictures. It allows first graders and older to see common birds (cardinal, American robin) up close and to learn about birds in other parts of the world (common murre, magnificent hummingbird). It is a valuable introduction to the English/Spanish bilingual world. And it contains a wealth of information for those who want to know more. As a read aloud or for independent study, this volume of the “About” series provides a solid basis for comprehension of nature and conservation plus a boost to literacy skills.

It is presented as a picture book with a short sentence for each bird, translated into Spanish. e.g., “Some birds build nests on the ground. / Algunos párajos hacen sus nido en la tierra.” is followed by a realistic painting of an ovenbird and its nest. The afterword has longer explanations of each picture, a glossary, and bibliography with books and websites.

Detailed and realistic illustrations make the reader feel like they have actually seen the birds. As birds move fast and are shy of humans, it helps children to recognize our feathered friends.

  • About BirdsTitle: About Birds: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree  Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, unpaged
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, bilingual
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-783-0

Lost for Words

Written and Illustrated by Natalie Russell

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When Tapir opens up his brand new notebook, the blank pages stare back at him. He can’t think of a thing to write. His friends, however, don’t have that problem; words flow out of them like water: Giraffe writes poems, Hippo writes about his adventures, and Flamingo composes songs. Tapir feels very jealous.

Hoping to draft off their creativity, Tapir imitates them: he chews on leaves like Giraffe, he wallows in mud like Hippo, and he hums like Flamingo. But the words still don’t come. Frustrated, he finds a quiet place on top of a hill. Looking down at the beautiful scenery, he’s inspired to draw what he sees: a tall tree for Giraffe, a river for Hippo, and a sun for Flamingo. Before long, he has filled his entire notebook with colorful drawings. His friends love his creations so much they are moved to tears. Tapir learns that images can be just as powerful as words.

With bookshelves crowded with cat and pig main characters, it’s refreshing to see a less familiar creature like Tapir take center stage. In this tale of individuality and finding one’s creative spark, first graders will connect with the story’s message; they, too, must feel frustrated sometimes as they learn how to write. Warm colors and soft lines give Russell’s childlike illustrations a soothing feel. Recommended as a bedtime story or a classroom read aloud.

  • Lost for WordsTitle: Lost for Words
  • Author/Illustrator: Natalie Russell
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-739-7
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Art


Written and illustrated by Lori Nichols

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Even before Maple was born, her parents planted a namesake tree for her. How very beautiful, and yet simply, this book begins. Starting out this way, in the book and in the little girl’s life proves without a doubt how much she is wanted and loved.

Her backyard tree is her best friend. The whimsical watercolors give this book a welcoming feeling. And Maple is welcomed by her tree, even when she is too loud to stay in the house.

The story continues on with surprising twists on an old theme. There will be a new baby in the house, but first there is a new tree in the yard.

Young readers and listeners will enjoy knowing what comes next without anyone needing to tell them.

Maple is a wonderful big sister. She shares her tree with her sister when she needs cheering up as well as her favorite stuffed toys.

This lovely picture book shows the passing of the seasons and the changes in the tree.

It will be a welcome book to first grade readers and will be an asset to the core curriculum in its depiction of nature and the child’s interaction with the environment. The literacy skills enhanced include sequencing, foreshadowing and picture clues.

  • MapleTitle: Maple
  • Author/ Illustrator: Lori Nichols
  • Publisher: Penguin, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, unpaged
  • ISBN:  978-0-399-16085-1
  • Genre: Fiction, nature, environment
  • Level: Beginning readers

Fly, Butterfly

Written by Bonnie Bader

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Beautiful real-life photography illustrates this well written non-fiction narrative book for first grade readers. It begins by explaining in lyrical language how a butterfly chooses a damp milkweed leaf on which to lay an egg.

The various stages of a butterfly’s life are described and shown clearly. This book designed with the core curriculum in mind shows the migratory habits and path of the monarch butterfly.

Differences between winter in the mid-continental United States and Mexico is used to explain the reason for the migration of the butterflies. Photographs showing them flying in huge cloud-like formations and covering ponds in search of a drink during their travels will amaze even the adults using the book.

This book makes an excellent read aloud for a preschool teacher or any librarian. The glossy finish on the paper makes the fantastic photography stand out.

  • Fly ButterflyTitle: Fly, Butterfly
  • Author: Bonnie Bader
  • Illustrator: photography
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, January 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: paperback
  • ISBN:  978-0-448-47919-4
  • Genre: nonfiction, nature
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