Tag Archive for literacy skills

Last Stop on Market Street

Written by Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Riding the bus with Nana after church on Sunday is the backdrop of this poetic story which won the 2016 Newbery AND a Caldecott honor. The story is fresh and timely. It is realistic for all children whether they live in the city or not.  The little boy doesn’t want to go again, and complains about many little things we all fuss about when we are in a bad mood. Nana turns all the negatives into positives. She gently shows him how to see things differently even as a blind musician on the bus tells him to close his eyes in order to see the music.

Unlike so many books for young children that wrap everything up at the end, this book ends with a bright new beginning. He is glad they came again to the last stop on Market Street. The readers will be glad, also.

The exquisite art work is reminiscent of the cut paper art of Ezra Jack Keats, as are the bright colors and realistic neighborhoods. This book is definitely a winner and a must have for every school and public library.

Standards in the common core will be fulfilled in the areas of literacy and geography, but art teachers will want to tap into these pages for sample illustrations and/or project ideas, too.

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  • Last Stop on Market StreetTitle: Last Stop on Market Street
  • Author: Matt de la Peña
  • Illustrator: Christian Robinson
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam & Sons, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0399257742
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: K to 2

Groundhog’s Dilemma

Written by Kristen Remenar
Illustrated by Matt Faulker

Ever try to please everybody? It doesn’t work, as Groundhog finds out.

He does his job, and he does it well. He sees his shadow, calls for six more weeks of winter amid thanks from some animals and complaints from others. Throughout the following year, the animals try to reward, or bribe him into “seeing” what they want him to see next year. They let him play on their baseball team, bring him treats and keep him company.

The illustrations are hilarious from speech bubbles to signs on the walls of his den stating, SAVE THE DATE, I AM WHAT I AM, etc. Soon, however, he realizes his problem and seeks out his pal, Owl for advice. He admits he has said yes to everyone else’s desires because he wants them to like him. Owl plays the part of most parents stating, “You got yourself into this, get yourself out.”

Deep inside his heart he knows spring will come when it is supposed to come regardless of what his friends want. So, he returns to being his true self, reporting only what he sees. A perfect ending follows as groundhog becomes the most important person on the baseball team. The one person who will truthfully call ‘em like he sees ‘em.

Literacy core curriculum standards like sequencing, character traits, dialogue, and main idea can be strengthened while using this text. It is a fun introduction to the phenomena of Groundhog’s Day and the coming of spring.

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  • Groundhogs DilemmaTitle: Groundhog’s Dilemma
  • Author: Kristen Remenar
  • Illustrator: Matt Faulker
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-600-9
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2

Groundhog’s Day Off

Written by Robb Pearlman
Illustrated by Brett Helquist

Everyone deserves a day off. Especially when no one appreciates you personally. All they care about is the job you do for them. That’s exactly what Groundhog decides. He packs up all his stuff, including his shadow, and heads off to the spa.

Helquist’s illustrations perfectly capture the expressions experienced by all involved. Especially groundhog’s surprise at hearing the televised news broadcast report stating that while many other animals have applied for the job, none could fulfill groundhog’s role. It seems his audience does love and miss him.

All readers will giggle at the antics of other animals as they audition for the job.

Pearlman ends with a humorous, if expected twist about another disgruntled holiday mascot.

Literacy and social studies core curriculum standards, as related to holidays, will be supported by usage of this delightful book. Teachers and librarians may use it as a springboard for students to write notes of appreciation to oft overlooked caregivers and school employees so they feel appreciated and loved.

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  • Groundhogs Day OffTitle: Groundhog’s Day Off
  • Author: Robb Pearlman
  • Illustrator: Brett Helquist
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-61963-289-9
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Holiday
  • Grade level: PreK to 1

Surf’s Up

Written by Kwame Alexander
Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

The sparse text in this delightful picture book partly serves to reinforce the wonderful illustrations. The reader meets two frogs enjoying fantastic weather and surfing conditions at the beach. But first, one friend has to finish the book he’s reading. And the book is anything but boring. But try convincing the other friend of that. The book is about a man searching for a giant whale. “Wowie Kazowie!” Kids will be drawn in by the reading frog’s enthusiasm and his vivid imagination of what the book scenes look like. The other frog learns of another way to spend a day at the beach.

This is a great book for first graders to read independently for increasing literacy skills or for a teacher or parent to read aloud with a group. Reading activities could include learning more about whales and which ones are the largest and most aggressive. Of course, kids can also learn about literature and Moby Dick, about whaling in the nineteenth century, and about why whaling is no longer a common practice.

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  • Surfs UpTitle: Surf’s Up
  • Author: Kwame Alexander
  • Illustrator: Daniel Miyares
  • Published: NorthSouth, February, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book
  • ISBN: 978-0-7358-4220-5

Cork & Fuzz Merry Merry Holly Holly

Written by Dori Chaconas
Illustrated by Lisa McCue

Special days are celebrated with good friends in a beautiful place. But sometimes it takes some searching to find the perfect spot. Someplace where birds aren’t squawking at you and squirrels aren’t throwing acorns down on your head.

This delightful book will have young listeners giggling and then singing along. Beautiful illustrations take readers along on the trip to find a quiet thinking tree and plant ideas about what it is making this day so special. The word Christmas is never used which makes the book universal for all winter holidays. Finding a tree with lights on it outside is unusual, but shouldn’t bother readers as there is a fence nearby suggesting a house nearby.

Teachers, librarians, and parents will want to add this wonderful book to the pile of winter holidays. Besides all the fun it offers, this book will also fulfill core curriculum standards in the area of literacy skills as teachers can use Cork and Fuzz as excellent examples of real life characters by listing their character traits. Understanding picture clues and predicting outcomes are also skills easily strengthened for grade one and grade two readers.  So fun!

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  • Cork & FuzzTitle:  Cork & Fuzz Merry Merry Holly Holly
  • Author:  Dori Chaconas
  • Illustrator:  Lisa McCue
  • Publisher:  Viking, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-451-47501-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 1

Stanley’s Diner

Written and Illustrated by William Bee

What is Stanley up to now? Cooking for hungry customers and teaching youngsters about food and food preparation. Hattie writes the menu on the blackboard and takes the orders, while Stanley cooks meals in the well-stocked kitchen. Charlie, the customer enjoys putting lots of syrup on his pancakes. Later, Stanley goes to the store and makes a special cake for Little Woo’s birthday. Then he cleans up and goes home.

For the very young, this would be a great read aloud for discussion of components and the pictures. Kids can even count the number of slices of toast Stanley’s toaster makes (eight). And they can read the names on the ingredients, such as flour, sugar, and butter. First graders can practice the literacy skills they’re already gaining by spotting the many simple elements in the fun illustrations.

Who knows what Stanley will come up with next.

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  • Stanleys DinerTitle: Stanley’s Diner
  • Author/Illustrator: William Bee
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Food, Culture
  • ISBN: 978-156145-802-8


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


Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities

Written by George Ancona

“I want to help.” It’s something kids say often and they really mean it. But sometimes it is hard for them to think of real jobs they can accomplish on their own.

Full color photographs of actual kids doing worthwhile jobs will help students find realistic goals. This book lists several jobs often overlooked. Bagging fruits and vegetables, as well as going along to deliver meals to shut-ins are things children are very good at accomplishing.

Various clubs take on the responsibility of cleaning certain sections of roadsides, but maybe someone in your class never thought of it. Seeing the kids clean up trash in this book might spark an idea for your local community.

Crafts kids can do that have a useful future are highlighted here as kids are shown making hats and scarves to donate to homeless shelters.

This book will meet the literacy skills of distinguishing fact from fiction, as well as main idea and picture clues. School and public librarians will want to display this book in a high traffic area as there are so few books like it to help kids contribute to their own communities.

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  • Can We HelpTitle: Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities
  • Author: George Ancona
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7367-3
  • Genre: Non-fiction
  • Grade level: K to 3

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


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
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