Archive for Humor

Pirates on the Farm

Written by Denette Fretz
Illustrated by Gene Barretta

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What a dream come true!  Pirates moving in NEXT DOOR! Joey was thrilled.  Mother, not so much.  Fortunately, Dad was one of those people who could see past the outside and straight to the heart.  Oh the adventures that were had by the pirates and their neighbors.  Dad kept on loving and accepting those pirates and eventually Mother came around and saw their good hearts for herself.

Written from the viewpoint of Joey’s sister, this story is sure to appeal to young girls, especially girls with younger brothers.  Due to the swashbuckling, plank walking and other shenanigans, just about every boy will find this story appealing.

This is a great story for all children and would make a great read aloud for a first grade class.  The illustrations make comprehension a breeze. It teaches the importance of acceptance.  People who are different have value and can often teach us new things, just like the pirates did for Joey and his family.  It helps us see the potential for good in others. Toward the end of the story the pirates prove to be great farmers and have even been putting “offerings” (gold teeth) in the church offering plate.  This book would be an excellent resource for the beginning of the school year or even for Sunday School when there are new “friends” coming together for the first time.

All kinds of fun information can be found at Denette Fretz’s website  This includes Joey’s journal entries, fun to read and added value for the book.


If you fell in love with the illustrations like I did then you will not want to miss Gene Barretta’s website .  So many precious illustrations and more information on Mr. Barretta.

  • PiratesTitle:  Pirates on the Farm
  • Author:  Denette Fretz
  • Illustrator:  Gene Barretta
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz, 2013
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-310-72348-6
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Humor

Tiger in My Soup

Written by Kashmira Sheth
Illustrated by Jefferey Ebbeler

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Take a simple story, simply told. Add to it colorful illustrations that parallel the imagination of the characters and you will get the delightful Tiger In My Soup. Sibling interaction, a love of books, and the power of imagination populate this light and frothy tale. In just 300 words the author creates a world where imagination reigns supreme and tigers roam free. Beware though. It’s such a wonderful read aloud that your voice may beg for a rest after the third, or tenth, thirtieth request to ‘read it one more time please’.

Older sister is in charge for the day. “Will you read to me?” younger brother, who is also the narrator, asks. Sister doesn’t deign to reply. Well then, brother demands lunch. She is in charge, after all. Super-efficient sister opens a can of soup, heats it, warns him that it is hot, and is back to her reading before brother can put in another plea. Hmm. That trick didn’t work either. But it is an ALPHABET soup that sister has served.

Brother, and the illustrator, are off and running. The letters R O A R are visible floating in the bowl. Maybe there is a tiger in the soup rising out of the steam…..Brother arms himself, and oh how he arms himself! a colander helmet, a spoon sword and a tray for a shield. First graders will enjoy figuring out the all kitchen gadgets that make up the weaponry.  Brother’s imaginary war is cleverly juxtaposed with sister’s nonchalance. The world may be coming to an end but I shall read on, sister seems to say.

The illustrations don’t just complement the text, they add layers to it. The cover of the book brother is holding out, and the double-page spread which begins “I hand it to her and she begins to read,” are reminiscent of the Madhubani paintings of India. Such a wonderful combination of an ancient art form and a modern sensibility: cars and boats and music and books.

Brother wages war. Sister reads on.  Does she read to him? Read the book to find out. Here’s a clue: he  does wonder where tiger will show up next. A thoroughly enjoyable addition to any reading list.
Additional Resources:

Author bio:

Illustrator bio:

Madhubani paintings:

  • Tiger in My SoupTitle: Tiger in My Soup
  • Author: Kashmira Sheth
  • Illustrator: Jefferey Ebbeler
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2013
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback:   32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-696-9
  • Genre: Picture Book/ Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 180

Favorite Stories from Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa

Written by Erica Silverman
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin

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Best friends Kate and her horse, Cocoa, team up for two delightful stories in Favorite Stories from Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa.

In the first story, “The Surprise,” Cocoa shows his impatience when Kate enters the barn with a surprise package. Cocoa wants his surprise immediately. He refuses to eat his breakfast and shows his irritation when Kate grooms him. When Cocoa takes a bite out of his new straw hat surprise, Cocoa learns his lesson about being impatient and obstinate.

In “Bedtime in the Barn,” Kate camps out in the barn with her pet horse, Cocoa. Each time Kate attempts to settle down for sleep, Cocoa has a request, like fluffing his straw, hunger, or thirst. Once Cocoa is finally satisfied, Kate can’t fall asleep. Cocoa saves the day when he sings her a sweet lullaby and snuggles close to her on the straw.

The Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa series by popular duo Silverman and Lewin are familiar titles with teachers and librarians and have been reissued under the “Green Light Reader” category. The Kate and Cocoa series is a Level 2 Green Light Readers story, for those who can read with help. The most difficult word in the story is the word “curried,” used when Kate grooms the horse. With sentence brevity and simple vocabulary, children will feel great success when reading this story. This book is appropriate for late kindergarten grade level or early first grade level.

This book would be an excellent read for children who need to learn about patience. The humorous ending of the story helps children learn a lesson, but chuckle along with Cowgirl Kate as Cocoa gets his just reward for acting petulantly. The second story in the book is perfect for children who are thinking about getting a pet. Children learn about being a responsible pet owner and the needs and requirements of an animal when Kate camps out in the barn. And lastly, another bonus for reading this story is the enjoyment of the friendship between Kate and Cocoa. Young readers internalize the concept that not all best friends are the two-legged kind!

To make this book even more fun to read, readers can build a fort in the house or classroom with sheets draped over chairs or a table. Then, place a flashlight inside the “tent” and dim the lights in that area, if possible, and allow the children to read by flashlight and pretend to camp out in the barn, like Kate does.

For follow-up reading activities, teachers or parents should check out the teachers’ guide icon on the left margin of this page:  Also after reading the story, make a bar graph of the students’ pets. Which pet is the most popular? The most unusual? Smallest or largest? Discuss at length the responsibilities of owning a pet. Talk about the needs and requirements of the different pets in the class graph, as well as the cost and emotional responsibilities of owning a pet.

  • Cowgirl KateTITLE: Favorite Stories from Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa
  • AUTHOR: Erica Silverman
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Betsy Lewin
  • PUBLISHER: Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Hard Cover, 30 pages
  • ISBN: 978-544-02268-3
  • GENRE: Humor
  • LEXILE: 310

Uh-Oh, Dodo!

Written & Illustrated by Jennifer Sattler

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Dodo is a blue baby bird out for his first adventure walk in the world with Mama. He loves to sing and walk and make new friends. Sometimes, though, the world can be a scary place, like when the leg you grab onto isn’t your Mama’s.

He has several adventures that first grade readers will enjoy particularly because they have experienced the same things. The font is large and bold so beginning readers and emergent readers will be comfortable with the text.

There are many picture clues to help out first grade readers, but it will also become a favorite read aloud for the kindergarten and younger set. The children can mimic Dodo by walking or singing loudly like he does in the story.

Literacy skills like setting, cause and effect, sequencing, picture clues and drawing conclusions can all be strengthened by this colorful book that contains many loveable creatures.

Literacy teachers will also want to use this story as a way to begin a writing activity, be it fiction or nonfiction about one time when a student went a walking with Mama and what happened on their marvelous adventure.


  • Uh Oh DodoTitle: Uh-Oh, Dodo!
  • Author/Illustrator: Jennifer Sattler
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/32pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-59078-929-2
  • Genre: Picture book

Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?

Written by Julie Middleton
Illustrated by Russell Ayto

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Strange things happen during a visit to the museum.  Dave is sure that the dinosaurs are moving.  Dad is reading the signs and looking ahead so he does not see any of the activity.  As Dave studies the Ankylosaurus, he is sure the dinosaur is winking at him.  Dad says that it can’t be, it is only Dave’s imagination.  Dad gives the same response when the Deinocheirus tries to tickle Dave, the Allosaurus grins at Dave and the Diplodocus tries to eat Dave’s burger.  But even Dad can’t ignore the T. Rex.  He has to admit that the T. Rex is indeed following them.  “Oh, you’re right, Dave,” said Dad.  “That dinosaur’s not dead.”  So the final page has Dad and Dave running from the T. Rex.

For any child who has tried to get his or her parents’ attention, this book will ring true.  The quirky illustrations are sure to delight, especially the Tyrannosaurus Rex with the huge head and the pointed toes.   The humor is picked up in the signs posted along the exhibit route and the translations of the dinosaur names.  A fun read aloud for a dinosaur or a museum unit. It would make a great literacy activity to have a second grader read to the first grader.   With such distinctive voices, it could also be used for reader’s theatre.

  • Dinosaurs DeadTITLE: Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
  • AUTHOR: Julie Middleton
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Russell Ayto
  • PUBLISHER: Peachtree, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-690-1
  • LEXILE: 270

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

Gus, the Dinosaur Bus

Written by Julia Liu
Illustrated by Bei Lynn

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This is the tale of Gus, a dinosaur school bus. Kids think he’s awesome. They never want to get sick or sleep in for fear of missing a ride. He picks them up right at their door, and even apartment dwellers can hop out their windows and slide down his neck. He makes a good umbrella when it rains, and he never has to stop for gas. Gus is a perfect bus. Isn’t he?

Not everyone thinks so. A supersaurus on the city streets has its challenges. Sometimes he gets tangled in the telephone lines, his tail has been known to hit a roof or two, and the city often has to fix his dino-sized potholes. Some people think Gus is causing more havoc than good. The school’s principal has no choice but to pull the dinosaur off the road. Banished to the school gym, Gus cries and cries. When the children come to visit him they find a literal swimming pool of tears. And in a classic case of turning lemons into lemonade, the children discover a new use for Gus: he’s the best dinosaur playground ever!

Lui’s cute story brings to mind Syd Hoff’s classic Danny and the Dinosaur. The concept will definitely stimulate the imagination of many dinosaur-loving first graders. They will also latch on to Lynn’s pencil and watercolor illustrations, which have a child-like feel complete with scribbles and stick figures. Vocabulary and sentence structure are appropriate for beginning readers. This is also a good choice for a teacher read-aloud and/or classroom library.

  • Gus the BusTitle: Gus, the Dinosaur Bus
  • Author: Julia Liu
  • Illustrator: Bei Lynn
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-90573-0
  • Genre: Picture Book
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