Tag Archive for first graders

Fantastic Flowers

Written and Illustrated by Susan Stockdale

In most things we observe, it’s natural to compare the unfamiliar with the familiar. So it’s no surprise that flowers are often given names relating to other objects they resemble.  Beautiful illustrations point out these similarities with skill and humor. From ballerinas to hats to pocketbooks, the flowers come in all shapes. Dutchman’s breeches do in fact look like a pair of pants. The monkey orchid looks a lot like a monkey’s face. The red spider flower looks like a group of spiders. And the bumblebee orchid looks like a bumblebee. Stockdale uses lilting, rhyming language sure to draw in youngsters seeking to learn about the natural world. The Afterword further discusses the patterns and how they may help the plants survive, often to attract a pollinator. A photo of each flower shows how close the illustrations are to the real world. This unique and playful look at flowers will have kids looking for patterns in all sorts of other places.

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  • Title: Fantastic Flowers          
  • Author/Illustrator: Susan Stockdale
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Nature
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-952-0

Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes!

Written by Timothy Knapman
Illustrated by Nikki Dyson

Maybe dinosaurs don’t have bedtimes, but little boys do. And what are you going to do when your little one wants to pretend he’s a dinosaur and can do everything a dinosaur can? This adorable new book helps answer that question and more.

Dinosaurs don’t have dinnertimes, so they must get hungry. Dinosaurs love to make a terrible mess. They don’t have bath times, so they must have dirty ears. Dinosaurs don’t wear pajamas, so they must get very cold. Dinosaurs don’t play nicely. Dinosaurs don’t drink their milk. They don’t have bedtimes, but they do close their eyes and curl up and get a good-night kiss.

Sticking close to the dinosaur theme, Dyson packs a lot of action into the beautiful illustrations. Mo, the little boy, always wears dinosaur-themed clothes plus, often, dinosaur heads and paws. He’s always followed by his dog Rex and plenty of dinosaur toys. He even has a bandage on his knee.

Best as a read aloud, this can also be used by first graders for independent reading and increasing literacy skills.  

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  • dinosaurs-bedtimesTitle: Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes!               
  • Author: Timothy Knapman
  • Illustrator: Nikki Dyson
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book, Bedtimes
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8927-8

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

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


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


Bird & Diz

Written by Gary Golio
Illustrated by Ed Young

The look and set up for this fun book are perfect to give the feel for the music called bebop. When Charlie “Bird” Parker and John “Dizzy” Gillespie performed “Salt Peanuts” and their many other creations, they were more concerned about the mood than the form. The never-ending fold out of these pages gives the reader impression they are there when Diz plays his trumpet and Bird wails on his sax. Bebop is a heartbeat with fireworks, a roller coaster where the musicians chase each other. The illustrations make you want the music to go on forever.

First graders will want to review the pages many times, increasing their literacy skills and comprehension. Noting that bebop was about innovation and having fun makes the music history come alive. The back matter in the Afterword gives a good start for further exploration and encourages artistic expression in all its forms.

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  • Bird & DizTitle: Bird & Diz
  • Author: Gary Golio
  • Illustrator: Ed Young
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 26 pages, novelty
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, history, music
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6660-6

Lovey Bunny

Written and illustrated by Kristine A. Lombardi 

Lovey Bunny is full of love for just about everything. Her family, reading a good book, a bright sunny day – all of it makes Lovey Bunny super happy. She also enjoys arts and crafts and playing dress up. One day, she sees a sparkly dress hanging in Mama’s closet. Wanting to be just like her mama, she tries it on without asking and preens in the mirror. She feels so glamorous and grown up! Lovey bunny gets carried away and wears the dress outside, so she can wave to all her “admirers” on her scooter. But when she gets home she realizes she has dirtied and ripped the dress. Mama’s upset – she was supposed to wear it to a party that night. Lovey’s upset. Will she still be Mama’s Lovey Bunny? She takes matters into her own hands and patches up the dress the best she can with her arts and crafts skills. Mama forgives her and, instead of going out that evening, she wears the patched-up dress and cooks dinner for the family.

First graders will grasp the message of forgiveness, although parent readers may raise eyebrows at the unrealistic ending (a world where there are no consequences). The book’s strength lies in the illustrations. Lombardi uses an appealing pink and brown color scheme for her gouache and ink drawings and has created a main character that exudes sweetness and loads of personality.

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  • Lovey BunnyTitle: Lovey Bunny
  • Author/Illustrator: Kristine A. Lombardi
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1485-6
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Mother’s Day

I’m Gonna Climb a Mountain in My Patent Leather Shoes

Written by Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Lynne Avril

Determination and attitude rule the day for the heroine of this cute little rhyming book. Sadie loves her clothes almost as much as she loves camping with her family. The title gives a good feel for the theme of the book. On the way to the campsite, her sparkly new suitcase takes up too much space to suit her brother. Later, she says she’s “helping pitch our pup tent in my fancy ruffled pants.” She does many other activities in favorite clothes. The colorful and sparkling illustrations go right along with Sadie’s seemingly boundless energy, holding the reader’s attention. Bigfoot, magic wands of gold, silver crowns. They’re all here. What more could the reader want?

Fun rhymes highlight the many literacy skills enhanced by the text. First graders should be able to tackle the text on their own. Or just get the story from the pictures. This also a fun read aloud.

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  • Climb a MountainTitle: I’m Gonna Climb a Mountain in My Patent Leather Shoes
  • Authors: Marilyn Singer
  • Illustrator: Lynne Avril
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Genre: Fiction, humor, family
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-0336-2

Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go

Written and Illustrated by Cruschiform

Admit it. You’ve always wondered what IS faster than a speeding bullet. This book will answer that crucial question. Also, what is slower and what goes at the same speed as the bullet. This unique approach allows the reader to learn about the world without really reading. Each two-page spread depicts several objects that travel at approximately the same speed. A legend tells what each object is. The reader can then learn more about each object in the “Glossary” at the back of the book. The approach is multilayered, allowing the reader to come back and learn more later. Colorful illustrations make the process easier.

First graders will have fun picking up this book and comprehending that a peregrine falcon moves at the same speed as a high-speed train. They may be curious why the illustration are not to scale, however. A hornet looks bigger than a skydiver.

By the way, a shooting star is faster than a speeding bullet.

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  • Full Speed AheadTitle: Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go
  • Author/Illustrator: Cruschiform
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 64 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-4197-1338-5
  • Genre: Nonfiction, numbers, speed
  • Grade level: 1st and up
  • Extras: Ten-page Glossary that discusses each object depicted

Someday I’ll Fly

Written and Illustrated by Rebecca Evans

In this poignant story directly out of World War II, the author employs many themes to show the good hearts of the people surrounding Pam. Pam is fascinated by the airplanes that inhabit her father’s air field, but girls aren’t allowed to fly or even work on airplanes. When Pam encounters the pilots of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs), the prohibitions go out the window. With the help of the WASPs, Pam works on an old plane and studies the math and physics involved. One of the WASPs is stricken with polio and needs an iron lung to breathe. Since it’s wartime and mechanical parts are hard to find, Pam sacrifices parts from her beloved airplane to help complete the breathing machine, saving her friend’s life. Pam knows she has time and that someday she will fly.

The illustrations by Evans have the look and feel of the 1940s. Details such as the wooden-sided red wagon, the mom’s house dress, and the realistic iron lung help that feel. The kitchen cabinets and appliances look right for the time. And the airplanes are certainly right. Even the names are right for the time.

First graders and older can learn about the WWII era, women’s roles, and polio. Literacy and comprehension are enhanced by the lively illustrations.

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  • SomedayTitle: Someday I’ll Fly
  • Author/Illustrator: Rebecca Evans
  • Original Author: Joyce Faulkner
  • Publisher: Red Engine Press, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 34 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, fiction, history, flying
  • ISBN: 978-1-937958-66-4


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