Tag Archive for literacy skills

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo and Flo!

Written and Illustrated by Laurel Molk

Familiar rhymes and lots of good times make up this story about four delightful mice. Long o is the sound and catching various animals by the toe is the game. Problem is, not all of the animals even have toes. The mice are active, adventurous and set to fulfill their task.

Throughout the story, the littlest mouse wants to go along and have a part, but the bigger ones say, no.  Suddenly when the little one seems to be gone, maybe even swallowed by an alligator, the story takes an interesting turn.

Preschoolers as well as grade one readers and grade two readers will love repeating this story over and over for it humor as well as its rhymes. Teachers and parents can use this book to practice various literacy skills.

Everyone will hope Laurel is hard at work on another book about this crew!

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  • Eeny MeenyTitle:  Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo and Flo!
  • Author/Illustrator: Laurel Molk
  • Publisher: Viking/Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-670-01538-2
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level:  PreK Up


Midnight: True Story of Loyalty in World War I

Written by Mark Greenwood
Illustrated by Frané Lessac

War brings many unexpected victims, including animals taken to war to do jobs humans are unable to do. In this true tale from World War I, the reader learns about a horse who went to war with her owner, Guy Haydon. She was born on a ranch in New South Wales, Australia. Of course, horses can’t go to all the places where battles rage, so Midnight was separated from her master for a time during the battle of Gallipoli. When they were reunited, they helped lead the Beersheba charge, part of the campaign to take Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire. When both Midnight and Guy go down from a single bullet, they stay together until help comes. Lessac’s lively and colorful illustrations add to the story and help give the feeling of being there.

First grade readers will learn about World War I, ranches in Australia, and the jobs that horses do. The book is a candidate for reading aloud to generate further discussion. Literacy skills will be enhanced when kids want to find out what happened to Midnight. The author includes notes about the Haydon ranch and about the charge at Beersheba for further learning.

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  • MidnightTitle: Midnight: A True Story of Loyalty in World War I
  • Author: Mark Greenwood
  • Illustrator: Frané Lessac
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: Pre-K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, animals, war
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7466-3
  • Extras: Author’s Note, The Charge at Beersheba

Caterina and the Best Beach Day

Written and Illustrated by Erin Eitter Kono

Sunscreen, lunch, books, umbrellas, yep, planning for a beach day takes lots of preparation as readers will see in this new adventure about Caterina and Leo.  This contemporary, realistic story clearly shows how people go to the beach with differing expectations. Caterina has lots of plans. Poor Leo, only has one strong desire, to see a whale.

Colorful, busy illustrations provide plenty of clues for readers about what kinds of things to pack for a day at the beach while also providing lots of laughs.

While Caterina is busy getting situated, making lunch and later building a sand castle, Leo keeps looking and looking for his whale. He even heads off on his own to search.

The scant text is engaging and independently readable for grade two readers, however, younger children will love to have this book read aloud over and over. One particular literacy skill strengthened in this book is picture clues. Core curriculum standards will be met for elementary grades studying seasons, and the geography of the coastlines of the world.

Spending time with Caterina and Leo will leave a smile on a reader’s face and a daydream about days at the beach.

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  • CaterinaTitle:  Caterina and the Best Beach Day
  • Author/Illustrator: Erin Eitter Kono
  • Publisher: Dial/Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4131-7
  • Genre: Realistic Picture Book
  • Grade level: Pre-K to 3


Bunny Roo, I Love You

Written by Melissa Marr
Illustrated by Teagan White

Bunny Roo, I Love You, is a beautiful, non-rhyming picture book that reads like a series of riddles. It starts off, “when I met you,” and uses descriptive terms like small and trembling, but moves on to things like howling, whimpering, and yawning. The soft water-colored illustrations show an animal as it is guessed.

Each page offers an individualized cause and effect common with the particular animal. For instance, when the narrator thinks it might be a thirsty kitten, because of the whimper, milk is offered. The use of the second person throughout is a good ploy for involving even the youngest reader. Obviously, this is about identifying the baby. It is reminiscent of Eastman’s, Are You My Mother, but in the opposite direction.

It is a fantastic read aloud for parents, teachers of preschoolers and librarians, but also a great example of the literacy skills of cause and effect, parts to whole and sequence of events. Beginning readers will enjoy following the clues on their own as well as guessing each animal and then studying its habitat in the illustrations.

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  • Bunny RooTitle:  Bunny Roo, I Love You
  • Author: Melissa Marr
  • Illustrator: Teagan White
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulson, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-16742-3
  • Genre: fiction picture book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3

Dragon and Captain

Written by P.R. Allabach
Illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom

Dragon (aka a young boy) is eating his oatmeal when he spies a possible pirate on the beach (aka another boy in the sand box). Of course, Captain is not a pirate. He’s a ship captain who’s been separated from his ship. Dragon and Captain set out to find Captain’s ship and re-capture it from the real pirates. First, they need things from Dragon’s cave (er, bedroom). They trek through the dark forest (bushes) and stop at a waterfall (sprinkler). They spot the ship and defeat the pirates. Then it’s snack time. All the while, the grownups lurk in the background abut never interfere. The interaction between imagination and reality is brilliant. It will show kids that anything is possible. The illustrations are vivid and colorful clearly show how each boy resembles his alter ego.

First graders will be able to tell the story from the pictures while still working on their literacy skills through the sparse text. The way the boys immediately get caught up in each other’s fantasies shows how easy friendship can be.

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  • Dragon and CaptainTitle: Dragon and Captain
  • Author: P.R. Allabach
  • Illustrator: Lucas Turnbloom
  • Publisher: Flashlight Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, simple graphic novel, friendship
  • ISBN: 978-1-9362613-3-8

Spectacular Spots

Written and Illustrated by Susan Stockdale

Beautiful yet sparse language, both rhythmic and rhyming tells the story of how spots on the outside of some animals helps to protect them.

In the area of creative nonfiction, this book is an excellent example. First grade readers will enjoy hearing or reading this book repeatedly because of the musical quality of the poetry like text. The font is large and dark making it stand out from the beautiful illustrations. Her choice of words also helps hint at additional attributes, such as the “gliding snail”, and the “clinging frogs”.

Well-designed back matter increases the ability for this book to fulfill common core standards in science, for animal study, camouflage, biology and how animals adapt to the environment. Librarians and teachers will also use the book for literacy skills such as rhyming and use of descriptive language.

Children will be on the look-out for animals with spots after reading this book and when they find them, it won’t be any mystery why those spots are so important. It’s got nothing to do with fashion!

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  • Spectacular SpotsTitle: Spectacular Spots
  • Author/Illustrator: Susan Stockdale
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-817-2
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Animals, Camouflage, Biology
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: In the back are two pages with small squares showing each of the patterned spots for children to enjoy matching with the appropriate animal in the front of the book. There are also two pages that show mini-pictures of each animal accompanied by an explanation of how the spots protect those animals. The particular class that each animals belongs to and where to find it in the world are provided.

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

Nobody’s Perfect

Written by David Elliot
Illustrated by Sam Zuppardi

So often we say, or hear this phrase as do our children. They strive to be perfect but it just isn’t always possible. This book helps readers understand how hard it is to be perfect in everyday fun ways.

Young readers will love the pencil drawings painted with acrylics on water-colored paper especially because they are reminiscent of how children draw with extra lines. The colors are realistic, vibrant, and smooth. The basketball looks ready to bounce and the blanket ready to snuggle under. The main character’s huge smile on the cover instantly wins you over.

This book uses only a few instances of misbehavior which helps to keep the story line simple and straightforward. The main character points out how sometimes it is someone else who is less than perfect: sister, pet, friend, even Mom. That distance from the reader allows the story to be told without becoming threatening or preachy. Actually, the illustrations allow readers to find humor in falling short of perfection. The conclusion is satisfying in every way.

The front and end papers of the book would make wonderful drawing lesson practice for the youngest artists as they make a drawing of all their own favorite toys, pets, and friends.

The words are sparse and easy as well as in bold, larger than normal font. First grade readers will enjoy reading this story over and over on their own. Literacy skills can be fulfilled in the classroom, the library, or the home. Discussions about mistakes can be begun or continued making use of this fun book.

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  • Nobodys PerfectTitle: Nobody’s Perfect
  • Author:  David Elliot
  • Illustrator: Sam Zuppardi
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-6699-6
  • Genre: picture book
  • Grade level: Preschool to 3

Noisy Bird: Sing Along

Written and Illustrated by John Himmelman

Different kinds of birds sing different songs. The sounds, habitats and diets of a few birds are told in simple direct sentences. The contrasting colors used by John Himmelman make each page an individual beauty. Correct details of each habitat and every bird described will provide young readers with things to find and study in each picture for a long time. This entertaining book will also draw teachers and librarians to seek out other books by the same author.

Second grade readers will be able to read the text independently, in many cases, but much younger children will enjoy having it read to them. Older children may use it for science reports or for ideas to use in building dioramas.

Children who love to draw or paint might be encouraged to try illustrating things from their own backyard after studying these realistic illustrations.

The sounds included provide teachers, parents and readers an opportunity to practice the literacy skill of onomatopoeia while learning about birds.  What fun it would be to have different children assigned to make the call of a particular bird.

This is a good introduction to reading nonfiction books and picking out important details. After reading it, students might write a nonfiction sentence of their own.

The activities and facts at the end of the book will encourage and aid young readers to broaden their knowledge of birds and birding.

This book will be a great addition to classroom, school, and home libraries for children ages 3 -8.

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  • Noisy BirdTitle: Noisy Bird: Sing Along
  • Author/Illustrator:  John Himmelman
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-58469-514-1
  • Genre: Nonfiction, animals
  • Grade level: Preschool to 3
  • Extras: Fun facts, birding activities, resources and related information

Noodle Magic

Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Illustrated by Meilo So

Written in the tradition of a folktale this story tells of a Chinese Grandfather who is well known for his marvelous noodles. When his granddaughter asks for magic to help her make some noodles, he assures her that she has all the magic she needs already. By the time her story is complete it will be proven that all the magic she needs is right inside of her. It is a positive message for every child to hear.

As it becomes time for Mei to try making her own noodles, the birthday of the Emperor draws near. What a great opportunity to make something special. The emperor will need a perfect, magical long-life strand for his birthday celebration.

Grandfather and Mei slap and knead the bread. Then it becomes time to stretch and pull the noodles long and thin. Readers will enjoy the karate and kung fu language employed as well as the delightful illustrations of the pulling out process. The noodles seem endlessly long on some pages while on others they are rolled up as nicely as a neat ball of yarn.

Bright colors and swirling paint adds to the attractiveness and playfulness of the book. By the time readers finish this story, they will be anxious to make, or, at least, eat a nice big pile of noodles.

Near the end of the story when all the noodles are raining down from the sky, young children will delight in being able to find their own favorite type of pasta in the picture as well as the outline of some basic farmyard animals made from noodles.

A fun follow up activity for this book would be to have some already boiled spaghetti noodles ready for children to use to make designs or letters with on a piece of construction paper.

This book can be used in fulfilling make core curriculum standards for literacy, geography, cultures and nutrition.

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  • Noodle MagicTitle: Noodle Magic
  • Author: Roseanne Greenfield Thong
  • Illustrator: Meilo So
  • Publisher: Orchard Books
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-52167-3
  • Genre: Fiction PB
  • Grade Level: Preschool to grade 2
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