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 www.shadowsonmywall.com, 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.
- Title: 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
Written and Illustrated by Barbara Reid
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Not since The Giving Tree has an author explored so many ways we commune with trees. Reid approaches trees from a purely artistic direction and ends up imparting much more information about the subject than seems possible at first. Each illustration begins with plasticine and paint and focuses on some aspect of the tree’s physical appearance. The pictures nearly jump off the page. Another device the author uses is to progress the tree through an entire calendar year.
First grade readers will see that bare winter limbs make a sort of etching on the sky. The first hints of spring colors will remind the reader of tentative attempts to draw, then an explosion of color. Tree leaves can create a tunnel of green when driving down a street or an entire ocean when viewed from above. A tree next to an apartment building is home to a multitude of animals and a storage space for a kite. They often become pirate ships, caves, clubhouses, or friends. In the hot summer sun, trees can be umbrellas. Trees of different ages correspond to the ages of people. Playing in the falling leaves feels like a good-bye party. Trees can be spooky around Halloween. Later, trees put on snowsuits, just like kids. Then they sleep like a baby until spring.
This unique approach will hold the reader’s attention and increase comprehension for beginning readers. The author’s excellent website (http://www.barbarareid.ca/) provides more information about her methods and makes many suggestions for reading activities. This book has won numerous awards, won several starred reviews, and appeared on reading lists, including The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens.
- TITLE: Picture a Tree
- AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Barbara Reid
- PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman & Company
- REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
- EDITION: 2013
- ISBN: 978-0-8075-6526-1
- GENRE: Picture book, Trees
- LEXILE: 390
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, http://www.susanpearson.net/, has plenty of information about the book and the author. The illustrator’s website, http://www.sdschindlerbooks.com/index.html, is similarly useful.
- Title: 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