Tag Archive for literacy skills

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.  

Buy on Amazon

  • 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

We Found a Hat

Written by Jon Klassen

As usual, Klassen says a little in very few words. Two turtles find a hat. They find it together. It looks great on each of them, but there’s still only one hat. One hat. Two turtles. Not right. One turtle realizes the fair thing to do is leave the hat and forget about it. They walk away. The other turtle looks back with longing. Together, they enjoy a sunset. The first turtle claims to be thinking about the sunset. The second turtle says it’s thinking about nothing, but still looks back at the hat. It’s time to go to sleep. They discuss their dreams. The first turtle has a dream where each of them has a hat. The second turtle goes to sleep and dreams the same dream.

The stark nature of Klassen’s illustration gets the point across that this is a very simple message. Kids will probably note right away that one turtle has square markings, while the other has triangular markings. Simple, but different. They will see that friends share everything, possibly even dreams.

This would make a great read aloud to stimulate discussion of friendship and sharing. Independent reading would certainly reinforce literacy skills. There is a lot to love in this book.

 Buy on Amazon

  • we-found-a-hatTitle: We Found a Hat
  • Author: Jon Klassen
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 56 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture book, Sharing, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5600-3



Apple Farmer Annie

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

October is the best time of the year for apples, and the farmer in this cute new book seems to know it.

Annie has a large orchard with many apple varieties. She picks them, then sorts and organizes them. During the organization phase, the illustrator includes a quick counting motif. Annie makes sweet apple cider, smooth applesauce, muffins, cakes, and pies.   For each project, all the equipment used is shown in amazing detail, given the simple design used for the illustrations. After all the preparation, Annie loads up the uncooked apples and many of the cooked projects. She heads to market in the city with them. She has a busy day. The author lists several apple varieties and even gets in a joke with a book about The Big Apple.

The simple language and illustrations make this easily an independent reading possibility, but, as a read aloud, all the many details in the illustrations can be discussed. Of course, the recipes will require adult participation anyway. This opens the door for many more reading activities.

 Buy on Amazon

  • apple-farmer-annieTitle: Apple Farmer Annie
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Published: Puffin Books/Penguin, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Picture Book, Food, Counting, Baking
  • ISBN: 978-0-14-240124-8
  • Extras: Recipes


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.

 Buy on Amazon

  • 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


Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum in a Dish

Written and Illustrated by Tracey M. Cox

In a world where people still question what good math is, this brand new counting book brings counting and color recognition right into the real world. All the children in the text has access to a bowl of bubble gum balls. In turn, each child picks out the balls of the color he or she wants. Cox shows the bowl and lets the reader count the balls of that color in the bowl, among the other colors. The child then blows a bubble matching the ball color and growing progressively bigger with each new number. The highly repetitive text is perfect for younger children and makes independent reading a strong possibility, especially for first graders. Reading activities can definitely include more counting in dishes. Coins, colored blocks, or jelly beans.

The simple style of the illustrations enhances the simple concepts presented in the text. These are concepts that provide a solid foundation for future learning. Even the amusing author photo at the end has a great big bubble the author presumably blew. Do we know how many gum balls she chewed?

  • Bubble Gum Bubble Gum in a DishTitle: Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum in a Dish
  • Author/Illustrator: Tracey M. Cox
  • Published: Guardian Angel Publishing, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Counting, Colors
  • ISBN: 9781616337711



In the Wind

Written by Elizabeth Spurr
Illustrated by Manelle Oliphant

This is the first in a series for youngsters about the weather. The first thing kids think of related to wind is a kite and the fun they can have. In soft water colors, the reader sees a typical middle class neighborhood on a beautiful day. A little girl, along with her dog and mom, set out on a windy, sunny day for the park. We see her tie on the string and the tail as she begins to fly the kite. The trees show a stiff wind in the park. The kite swoops and loops until it catches in a tree, which horrifies the girl. She gets the kite loose, but the kite breaks free and the wind dies unexpectedly. The girl is obviously disappointed. The girl finds the kite again near home, and, with her mother’s help, she gets it down. But the wind will be back some day. Oliphant’s illustrations help the story along at every turn.

Kindergartners and first graders can practice their literacy skills through independent reading. This is also a fun read aloud for even younger kids.

Buy on Amazon

  • In the WindTitle: In the Wind
  • Author: Elizabeth Spurr
  • Illustrator: Manelle Oliphant
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 22 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Board book, Weather
  • ISBN: 978-1-56143-854-7

Super Happy Magic Forest

Written and Illustrated by Matty Long

Missing magic crystals and an evil doer remove the joy out of the happy forest. Only the bravest will be sent to great goblin mountain to get the crystals back where they belong. This colorful, glossy book is very busy with crowded double-paged spreads designed to look like maps for our wanderers. All along the trail, dangers and challenges abound.

Young readers and listeners will enjoy picking out the characters reminiscent of other well-loved stories from the unicorn to the Smeagol look-a-like polishing his gold ring. Children will study the illustrations and enjoy the humorous one liners, some of which only the adults will understand.  Teachers and librarians can use it to introduce the epic form of storytelling, while fulfilling

It is a classic epic tale format, though a skeleton of the literacy and/or English standards of the core curriculum. Students would enjoy adding to the difficulties of the quest, or inventing a new one either on their own or as a group project.

Buy on Amazon

  • Super Happy Magic ForestTitle: Super Happy Magic Forest
  • Author/Illustrator: Matty Long
  • Publisher: Scholastic, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-86059-8
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2


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.

Buy on Amazon

  • 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.

Baa Baa Smart Sheep

Written Mark Sommerset
Illustrated by Rowan Sommerset

Well, I nearly giggled myself to death on that one. At least, I can imagine a first grader doing so.

When Quirky Turkey encounters bored Baa Baa Smart Sheep, Baa Baa looks for a way to alleviate the boredom. So Baa Baa convinces Quirky Turkey to eat a pile of poo, which may or may not be smarty tablets. Warning: the little twists at the end will probably cause this to be favorite bedtime reading. As the cover says, this contains mischief.

The illustrations are adorable and supplement the text well.

The language is a little beyond first grade, but the context and repetition lend themselves to independent reading on the second try, meaning reinforced literacy skills. These New Zealanders have a winner here.

Buy on Amazon

  • Baa BaaTitle: Baa Baa Smart Sheep
  • Author: Mark Sommerset
  • Illustrator: Rowan Sommerset
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8066-4

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,

Order on Amazon

  • 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
« Older Entries