Archive for Fiction

Maple & Willow Apart

Written and Illustrated by Lori Nichols

Friends can be found just about anywhere, including your imagination. When Maple heads off to big girl school, Willow is lonely and bored for a little while. Then she makes up an imaginary friend based on the acorns she and Maple played with before school started. As Maple comes home with exciting stories about kindergarten, Willow has stories of her own about adventures with Pip.

The pencil drawn, digitally colored illustrations clearly show each emotion experienced by siblings as one heads off to school. Parents, librarians and teachers will find this text useful in helping the youngest students cope with the separation. First grade readers will recognize the signs of fall, and younger children will love the illustrations as this story is read aloud. Teachers can meet core standards of science while also addressing the feelings of those brothers and sisters left at home. Stories like this help us all understand each other a little bit better.

Art teachers of older students can use this as an excellent example of color blending, as well as the intricacies of showing emotion with the simplest of pencil strokes.

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  • Maple & WillowTitle: Maple & Willow Apart
  • Author/Illustrator: Lori Nichols
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulsen /Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-16753-9
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 1

The Best Parts of Christmas

Written and Illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Remember when you enjoyed the family Christmas tree so much that you hated to see the tree leave? Even when it had lost all the needles and turned into a fire hazard? This is the premise for this fun new book. The author follows Fritz and his dog as he and his parents select a tree at a farm. Fritz is a little confused, since rule #5 of the house rules is “No branches, sticks, or twigs allowed indoors.” But he doesn’t bring it up. He is in charge of the ornaments. The usual ornaments must be places close together so they can be close to their friends. Quickly, he notices anything can be an ornament, so the tree ends up beautifully decorated. And the decorating continues with cookies, candy canes, and many gifts. Fritz loves the tree so much, he wishes for it to always stay. Of course, it can’t stay, but Fritz can decorate one branch in his room. And that way, he can remember. The illustrations add to the fun by showing the personalities of Fritz, his dog, and his parents.

First graders can practice their literacy skills while learning about holiday traditions.

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  • Best Parts of ChristmasTitle: The Best Parts of Christmas
  • Author/Illustrator: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, Holidays, Family
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7556-1


Mango, Abuela, and Me

Written by Meg Medina
Illustrated by Angela Daminguez

Grandma moves from a far-away island to join Mia’s family so she won’t be alone anymore. But she can’t read or speak English. And Mia can’t read or speak Spanish. With their beds lined up side by side in their shared room, it is supposed to be a chance to get to know each other. Instead it is a frustrated time of quiet.

As the story continues, Abuela waits for Mia to come home from school and takes her for walks to feed the birds even though they can’t visit. Abuela is sad. She misses her island home, her birds, her husband. Mia is sad. She wants to tell about her day at school.

One afternoon as she is making an after school snack, she says the name of each ingredient in English. Abuela says its name in Spanish. Then Mia gets the idea to label every item in the living room with its English name. Mia and her Mom get a parrot at the pet store.

By the end of this touching book, they are understanding each other and even sharing a bedtime storybook.

Teachers, librarians and parents will enjoy using this read aloud to young students, while second grade readers will read it independently. It is a basic introduction to bilingual families and will give some English students a touch of Spanish.

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  • MangoTitle: Mango, Abuela, and Me
  • Author: Meg Medina
  • Illustrator: Angela Daminguez
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6900-3
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2

Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate

Written by Jacky Davis
Illustrated by David Soman

Ladybug Girl’s friend, Finny, has the neatest toys! Especially, this new Rolly-Roo that is just the perfect ride on top, climb inside or pull along pudgy horse. So when Finny comes over to play, of course, Ladybug Girl is excited to play with him. She plays hard with him, so hard in fact that his wheel falls off!

Only after this disaster, does it become clear just how hurt Finny has been all afternoon. She feels left out.

The girls decide to fix Rolly together and then plan other fix-it jobs they can do together. The rest of the afternoon becomes more and more fun as Rolly gets parked and the girls find things to do together.

A wonderful read aloud for all of the little folks just learning about other children’s feelings. Discussions about sharing and thinking about playing nicely will follow under the direction of teachers, librarians and parents.

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  • Ladybug GirlTitle: Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate
  • Author: Jacky Davis
  • Illustrator: David Soman
  • Publisher: Dial Books, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4030-3
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 1

The Seeds of Friendship

Written and Illustrated by Michael Foreman

When Adam and his family move to a new city, he naturally misses the sights and sounds of his old home. The new home seems gray and uninviting. And he has no friends. He draws pictures that remind him of home and asks his parents to tell him stories. He even does outlines of animals from home on the frosted windows in his building. Finally, he gets to see snow for the first time in his life. As a group of kids build a snowman, Adam quietly builds a snow elephant. The kids take up the idea, and they soon have a whole snow zoo. When Adam starts to school, many of his new friends are in his school. His teacher provides him with seeds from the school’s green space, which starts Adam and his friends on the road to a whole series of window boxes and rooftop gardens.

The wonderful text in this book shows how all you need to make a friendship is some common ground. It also shows how a little green space can improve your enjoyment of a place. First graders can start their own little gardens and read more about urban green spaces while practicing their literacy skills.

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  • Seeds of FriendshipTitle: The Seeds of Friendship
  • Author/Illustrator: Michael Foreman
  • Published: Candlewick Press, August 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture book, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7834-0


Dilly Dally Daisy

Written and Illustrated by Mark Fearing

Getting out the door on time is a challenge for all of us, but especially for children engaged in playing. Mark Fearing uses lively, funny illustrations of Daisy as she is waylaid by activities as well as by her inability to make a decision.

As is natural, little episodes, like having a favorite shirt in the dirty clothes hamper can turn a day into a dismal disaster. Preschool, kindergarten, and grade one readers will giggle their way through pages even though, they recognize themselves in some situations.

Parents, and teachers can use this as a realistic and fun way to help children set a goal for themselves to be on time. Discussions about putting clothes out the night before or preparing a bag for piano lessons or swim lessons can follow each reading.

While this book would fit core curriculum standards for literacy, there are several basic life skills involved in getting to appointments on time that can relieve much family and personal stress whether it is on some educational standard list or not.

This is a good book that should be part of every child’s library collection where preschoolers visit.

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  • Dilly Dally DaisyTitle: Dilly Dally Daisy
  • Author/Illustrator: Mark Fearing
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4065-5
  • Genre: picture book fiction
  • Grade level: PreK to 1

Max the Brave

Written and Illustrated by Ed Vere

In this adorable picture book with equally adorable illustrations, first graders learn what it’s like to face your worst fears and to be brave in facing them. It all depends on what name you put on it.

For all his blustering, small kitten Max doesn’t know what he has gotten himself into by saying he will chase mice. He is young and cute and has never encountered a mouse. He’s so cute, he gets dressed up with bows. And he doesn’t want to be cute. He wants to be brave. He discovered: no mice in tin cans, flies are not mice, goldfish are not mice, birds are not mice, elephants are not mice, and even mice are not mice. At least, that’s what mice will tell you. Mice are monsters and monsters are mice. So, mice are scary and Max should chase monsters instead.

Whether read independently or as a read aloud bedtime book, kids will see that bravery (and chasing mice) is not always desirable. Assessing the situation, however, is always a good idea. Small kittens should avoid large teeth and even large sneezes. The illustrations, alone, are laugh out loud funny.

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  • Max the BraveTitle: Max the Brave
  • Author/Illustrator: Ed Vere
  • Published: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, September 1, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-4926-1651-1


Papa Gave Me a Stick

Written by Janice Levy
Illustrated by Simone Shin

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Always. And the stick that Antonio’s papa gives him is certainly no exception. What Antonio really wants is a guitar (guitarra), but the best his papa can do is a stick with which to play. Antonio soon encounters a dog who needs help lighting a fire – to keep warm. His stick is perfect. The grateful dog brings him a tortilla. The tortilla saves a starving bird, who gives him a string. The string is used to pull a burro’s tooth. The burro’s blanket saves a drowning cat. The cat gives Antonio a ring he’d found. The ring proves to be the lost ring of a mariachi musician, who is about to get married. The man is so grateful, he gives Antonio the guitarra he wished for.

The illustrations are wonderful and in keeping with the lightheartedness of the story.

Mexican culture and language are highlighted in this delightfully simple story. First graders and older will love learning and pronouncing the Spanish words and delight in the lovely conclusion to the story.

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  • Papa Gave Me a StickTitle: Papa Gave Me a Stick
  • Author: Janice Levy
  • Illustrator: Simone Shin
  • Published: Star Bright Books, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, Helping others, Language, Culture
  • ISBN: 978-1595723420
  • Extras: Glossary, Mariachi instruments

Such a Little Mouse

Written by Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Staphanie Yue

Mice are so cute and friendly in picture books! This nameless little mouse that lives way out in the middle of the meadow under a clump of dandelions is great fun to follow on his daily travels. With little text, but great rhythm, we journey through the seasons watching him put away food for the winter.

Preschoolers and grade one readers will love the short phrases and sentences as well as the action of their new little friend. The repetition of the one, two, three things he does in the morning will help children practice counting and giggling.

Beautiful, realistic watercolor pictures introduce children to the sights and neighbors in the meadow. Stephanie Yue’s cover in particular is fantastic. She not only shows the main character but clearly illustrates the title by placing this tiny mouse under some seemingly giant dandelions.

Literacy skills such as comparing and contrasting, sequential order, main idea and supporting details plus picture clues can easily be strengthened just by sharing the picture book and visiting about it. Librarians, teachers, parents, and most importantly, children will find this story charming over and over again.

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  • Such a Little MouseTitle:  Such a Little Mouse
  • Author: Alice Schertle
  • Illustrator: Staphanie Yue
  • Publisher: Orchard Books, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-64929-2
  • Genre: Picture Book Fiction
  • Grade level: PreK to 3

The Haunted Library: The Five O’Clock Ghost

Written by  Dori Hillestad Butler
Illustrated by  Aurore Damant

What happens to a ghost when its haunt gets torn down?  This is only of one the interesting questions readers will learn in this fourth book in the series of, The Haunted Library.

Parents or grandparents sharing these books will be reminded of Casper, the Friendly Ghost, as these ghosts and their “solid” friend go about solving mysteries together.

This particular mystery includes texting on phones by the teen-agers and operating an amateur radio by an elderly ham operator. Red herring clues will tantalize young readers as they try to predict the outcome.

Second grade readers and third grade readers will enjoy the story independently in most cases while first grade readers would love to have it read aloud to them. All the basic literacy skills can be strengthen using this book, with the exception of specific non-fiction text skills.

Children will have a great time getting to know these characters and watching as they invent and create their own ghost catching equipment.  The cartoon like sketches are funny while also being helpful in understanding the story. Lots of laughs in this one.

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  • Haunted LibraryTitle: The Haunted Library: The Five O’Clock Ghost
  • Author:  Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Illustrator:  Aurore Damant
  • Publisher: Grosset Dunlap/Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-448-46248-6
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Grade level: 1 to 3
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