Archive for Animals

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

“Pick me up, pick me up,” our children say. Then as they get a bit older, they begin to carry around their own stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures. This leads in well to a discussion of animals and their babies. Teachers, parents and librarians can use this beautifully illustrated book of how animal babies are carried to introduce or supplement any animal unit of study. Close-ups of each animal pair make it easy to see how the baby is transported from one place to another. Young children will enjoy this immensely.

Short rhyming lines introduce each animal pair followed by a slightly more in-depth description. A glossary gives even more detail.

Following the narration, a matching game is provided as a culmination of the story. For teachers, there are several suggestions for cross-curricular activities in language arts, math, engineering and movement. There are also web links to provide additional activities.

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  • Baby on Board.jpgTitle:  Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young
  • Author:  Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator:  Cathy Morrison
  • Publisher:  Dawn Publications, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Paperback, 32 pages
  • Genre: nonfiction, science
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • ISBN:  978-1-58469-593-6
  • Extras: Teacher guidelines for use in language arts, math, engineering, movement and math. An extensive glossary, extended reading lists and web links. It also contains a matching game for young readers to complete after reading the book.


Written and Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell

Fall in love with this heartwarming tale almost as quickly as the boy falls in love with his new dog.

When a young boy and his father move into a new home, the boy asks for a dog. At the local animal shelter, they disagree briefly on which dog is right for them, but the dad lets the son choose, since it will be his responsibility. The first days with Toby are rough, as he is afraid of everything and does not know his doggie manners. But, gradually, as Toby and his boy learn from each other and form a bond, life gets better. They play together, go on walks, and even hunt for shoes. They learn to sit and stay and make friends.

Mitchell’s beautiful illustrations capture the emotions of all three characters. She shows all the actions involved in adjusting to their new life together. The end pages are especially delightful.

The author’s note about the Toby who inspired this story should encourage people to visit shelters and be as loving as the boy in the story. Parents and teachers should be prepared to discuss puppy mills and how they affect different animals differently. Also, discussions about responsibility and training animals may be incorporated.

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  • tobyTitle: Toby
  • Author/Illustrator: Hazel Mitchell
  • Published: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Fiction, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8093-0


Octopus Escapes Again!

Written and Illustrated by Laurie Ellen Angus

How talented is an octopus? As talented as it needs to be to survive all the predators that would love to eat it. In this informative picture book, the author follows an unnamed octopus as she works to find a meal of her own. First, her quest for shrimp is interrupted by a sea turtle. She hides inside an empty shell. When she spots some small fish, an eel is on the prowl. She escapes due to her ink. Next, a shark closes in, and she shoots away quickly. A large fish grabs one arm. The arm breaks off, and the octopus escapes again. The arm will grow back. A gull tries to get her. She uses her natural camouflage. Finally, she catches some clams for dinner.

The many animals highlighted in this tale are discussed in much more detail in the Explore More sections. In addition, the author suggests several interesting activities where kids can learn more – both about the octopus and the other animals present. Some great online videos are also mentioned.

The writing is fun and the illustrations give the “being there” feel for underwater adventures. Recommended as the focus for a stand-alone unit or as further exploration related to food chains or sea creatures.

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  • octopus-escapes-againTitle: Octopus Escapes Again!
  • Author/Illustrator: Laurie Ellen Angus
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nature, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-578-3
  • Extras: Explore More – For Kids, Explore More – For Teachers and Parents

Little One

Written and Illustrated by Jo Weaver

Mother Bear comes out of her cave in the spring with a sleepy, staggering cub by her side. It is a quiet story of looking around our huge wonderful world to see all the wonderful things the world has to offer. But this book offers very little. It is just about a walk in the woods, being gentle with friends then returning to the cave for another long sleep.

Nothing happens as far as plot. The cub is just a follow along character except for his one try at catching a fish. While it is as comfortable as a quiet walk with a friend, it is a very slow book for young, energetic readers. Save this one for right before nap or bedtime.

There is a tiny reference to the changing seasons, but the book is done entirely in black and white so only the words convey any passage of time. The artist used black charcoal to make interesting images, and stunning backgrounds. They almost look stamped upon the rough textured background. The book does have very heavy paper which probably adds to its high price.

While this is an interesting book to peruse, it is not recommended for school or library purchase due to its high price and low expectancy for being reread. It really would not satisfy any core curriculum standards for teachers or librarians. Parents might be able to use it for a quieting down kind of story.

  • Little OneTitle: Little One
  • Author/Illustrator: Jo Weaver
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-924-7
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 1



How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends?

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague

How do dinosaurs know so many things about kids?

Once again, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague team up to compare the feelings of dinosaurs as if they were regular kids. And once again, it is spot on. Jane’s poem about what happens to friends when they get in a fight goes through the common feelings of anger, resentment, hurt, and ultimately forgiveness. The ideas as well as the drawings provide giggles and ideas for handling such a situation.

The words are easy to read with large, dark font. Children will be able to read it back to parents or teachers after only a couple of repetitions. However, the illustrations are so wonderful, children will delight in studying them over and over. Teachers can use this particular book in the series to meet core curriculum standards in literacy while reinforcing cause and effect, picture clues, main idea, or sequencing skills.

This is a wonderful addition to a series of books librarians, parents and teachers all enjoy. Even though, there have been many of these books both the text and the illustrations are able to offer a fresh, new experience.

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  • How Do Dinosaurs Stay FriendsTitle: How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends?
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Illustrator: Mark Teague
  • Publisher: Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-82934-2
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 1
  • Extras: Beginning and back end pages show dinosaurs with their proper scientific names.

Every Day Birds

Written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Illustrated by Dylan Metrano

Glorious cut paper illustrations of common birds jump from the pages of this delightful new poetic nonfiction book. The text is simple, with large, bold type. Birds illustrated are correctly portrayed to fit the text as well as their own habitat.

Youngsters hearing it read aloud will love the rhythm and rhyme of the poem. They will quickly learn to identify the birds and will be repeating the poem before long.

This book will be an asset to science teachers in the elementary grades and will fulfill many core curriculum standards for teachers and librarians in the areas of literacy as well as science. The art teacher or classroom teacher might well use this as an example of excellent cut paper art. Children will love making cut art of their own in school or at home to put in books or greeting cards.

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  • Everyday BirdsTitle: Every Day Birds
  • Author: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
  • Illustrator: Dylan Metrano
  • Publisher: Orchard Books, Imprint of Scholastic, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-69980-8
  • Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: Back pages provide in-depth information about what each type of bird eats, where it lives, how it looks, or what sounds it makes. The poem is also provided in its entirety on a double paged spread at the back of the book.

Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth

Written and illustrated by Jarvis

Be who you are and trust your friends. Those are the main lessons from this entertaining book about an alligator with false teeth.

Alan tries to be scary – just like everyone else in his family. He gnashes his razor sharp teeth at all the animals and has the frogs leaping. And the monkeys tumbling. And the parrots screeching. After a long day of scaring, he relaxes by removing his teeth, storing them in a super-secret hiding place, and going to bed. An early-rising beaver stumbles on the teeth and experiments with them. Alan’s embarrassed by not being so scary any more. He’s so embarrassed, he can’t stop crying. The other animals find his teeth for him but need assurances to give them back. So Alan has to move beyond scaring.

The amusing and colorful mixed-media illustrations make this new parable enjoyable and engaging. Great for independent reading or as a read aloud.

Maybe all these animals can’t live so closely in the real world, but first graders can still learn about cooperation and better uses for their resources.

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  • Alans Big Scary TeethTitle: Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth
  • Author/ Illustrator: Jarvis
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Animals, Interpersonal relationships
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8120-3

Over on the Farm

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

In this simple little counting book, the author reworks the song “Over in the Meadow,” into a rhyme about the animals on a traditional farm. For example:

     Over on the farm

     In a tree-hollow heaven

     Lived a mother barn owl

     And her little owlets seven

Some of the counts aren’t quite realistic, but the author takes license for the sake of rhyme and rhythm and later explains what the animals are really like. And the actions the animals take are consistent with actions real animals take and kids can identify with.

As usual, Morrison’s beautiful illustrations follow the text exactly and enhance the reader’s activities, such as counting the babies and looking for other details.

Just like the new verses to the song, there seem to be end to the reading activities available to first graders and up. Along with music for the song, directions are given for dancing to it. More Fun on the Farm makes many suggestions for further enjoyment of the story.

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  • Over on the FarmTitle: Over on the Farm
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Published: Dawn Publications, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Music, Counting, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-549-3
  • Extras: Music, Fact or Fiction, Seasons on the Farm, About the Animals, More Fun on the Farm (math, science, language arts, arts, From Farm to Table), Movement and Music

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Written by Lindsay Mattick
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Winnie-the-Pooh was real? Actually, the bear he was named after was real. This story written by Lindsay Mattick, is the truth behind the bear and his name. Lindsay is the great granddaughter of one of the main characters in the whole affair, Captain Harry Coleburn.

It seems a young Canadian vet headed off to war, saw a trapper with a bear cub and offered to buy it from him for $20, which really was a lot of money back then. The young vet kept the bear, trained it, so to speak, and named it Winnie, short for Winnipeg, to help the fellows in his unit from becoming too homesick. The bear was their mascot and traveled with them until it became too dangerous. Then he was donated to the London zoo, where he was often visited by a young boy named Christopher Robin Milne. Christopher took such a liking to Winnie that he went home and named his stuffed bear, Winnie. Well, we all know what happened then.

The story is told through beautiful lyrical language as, “the train rolled through dinner…”, and difficult to grasp philosophy, “sometimes one story must end so another can begin.” It includes humor and heartbreak, but most stunningly, the truth.

The watercolor illustrations are wonderfully done to realistically show children what soldiers training for the First World War looked like and how they lived. The back of the book is a collection of real photographs of the men, the bear, and even the journal in which Harry, the vet, kept his notes. The format reminds one of the many American Heritage Girl books, which were among the first to put a story at the front and the nonfiction correlation in the back. The illustrations are so stunning, they won the Caldecott Medal for this wonderful book.

Core curriculum standards can be attained by teachers and librarians in the areas of literacy, geography and history. It is wonderful book for teachers of writing to use as an illustration of how authors use the things around them every day in creation of stories. Children, parents, and grandparents alike will delight in getting to know a little bit more about their own favorite pooh bear,

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  • Finding WinnieTitle: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
  • Author: Lindsay Mattick
  • Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
  • Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015.
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 56 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0316324908
  • Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book
  • Grade level: K to 1
  • Extras: photographs of the real people, real bear and the journal entries

Midnight: True Story of Loyalty in World War I

Written by Mark Greenwood
Illustrated by Frané Lessac

War brings many unexpected victims, including animals taken to war to do jobs humans are unable to do. In this true tale from World War I, the reader learns about a horse who went to war with her owner, Guy Haydon. She was born on a ranch in New South Wales, Australia. Of course, horses can’t go to all the places where battles rage, so Midnight was separated from her master for a time during the battle of Gallipoli. When they were reunited, they helped lead the Beersheba charge, part of the campaign to take Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire. When both Midnight and Guy go down from a single bullet, they stay together until help comes. Lessac’s lively and colorful illustrations add to the story and help give the feeling of being there.

First grade readers will learn about World War I, ranches in Australia, and the jobs that horses do. The book is a candidate for reading aloud to generate further discussion. Literacy skills will be enhanced when kids want to find out what happened to Midnight. The author includes notes about the Haydon ranch and about the charge at Beersheba for further learning.

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  • MidnightTitle: Midnight: A True Story of Loyalty in World War I
  • Author: Mark Greenwood
  • Illustrator: Frané Lessac
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: Pre-K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, animals, war
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7466-3
  • Extras: Author’s Note, The Charge at Beersheba
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