Tag Archive for read aloud

How Santa Changed

Written by Karl Steam
Illustrated by Maksym Stasiuk

Do you think Santa Claus suddenly appeared one day just the way kids see him today? Is it possible he was once a skinny young man with a brown beard? Did he insist on making all the toys himself? Was his sleigh pulled by the largest moose, which fought for the privilege of pulling the sleigh? Was Mrs. Claus a terrible cook? Steam says all of this is possible in this charming, rhyming story. As Santa grew older, his beard whitened. As the world’s population grew, his sleigh got too heavy for one belligerent moose and the toys too numerous to make on Santa’s own. And Mrs. Claus learned to make delicious cookies as she read tips about baking, adding to Santa’s round belly.

Illustrated in rich colors, this is a wonderful read aloud for this time of the year, or actually for any time, as kids learn about working together and about how things become the way they are. Each spread shows details for kids to spot, such as a family portrait or the title of the book Mrs. Claus is reading. Steam’s website (https://www.karlsteam.com/) includes classroom resources.  

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  • how-santa-changedTitle: How Santa Changed                                   
  • Author: Karl Steam
  • Illustrator: Maksym Stasiuk
  • Published: Amazon Digital Services, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Kindle Edition, 38 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Christmas
  • ISBN: 978-163578-002-4
  • Extras: Classroom Resources (Discussion and Activities), Online Resources

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.

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  • 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



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.

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  • 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

How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends?

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague

How do dinosaurs know so many things about kids?

Once again, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague team up to compare the feelings of dinosaurs as if they were regular kids. And once again, it is spot on. Jane’s poem about what happens to friends when they get in a fight goes through the common feelings of anger, resentment, hurt, and ultimately forgiveness. The ideas as well as the drawings provide giggles and ideas for handling such a situation.

The words are easy to read with large, dark font. Children will be able to read it back to parents or teachers after only a couple of repetitions. However, the illustrations are so wonderful, children will delight in studying them over and over. Teachers can use this particular book in the series to meet core curriculum standards in literacy while reinforcing cause and effect, picture clues, main idea, or sequencing skills.

This is a wonderful addition to a series of books librarians, parents and teachers all enjoy. Even though, there have been many of these books both the text and the illustrations are able to offer a fresh, new experience.

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  • How Do Dinosaurs Stay FriendsTitle: How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends?
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Illustrator: Mark Teague
  • Publisher: Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-82934-2
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 1
  • Extras: Beginning and back end pages show dinosaurs with their proper scientific names.

Who We Are! All About Being the Same and Being Different

Written by Robie H. Harris
Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

Another in the series “Let’s Talk About You and Me.” In this trip to Funland, Harris explores the physical characteristics that make us the same and make us different. As a read-aloud, this is great for kids just learning about the wider world. Illustrated with a lot of detail, the book shows many examples. On the very first page, the reader sees a wheelchair, a stroller, and a kid riding in a backpack. Clothing is another highlight – from shorts, T-shirt, and baseball cap to a tunic, pants, and a head scarf. Bodies are big and small, all with heart, muscle, and belly button. Most with ears, nose, and mouth. Hair comes in all shades and stages of curly. So does skin. Eyes are all different shapes and colors. Skin color depends on melanin. Many characteristics come from your family. Feelings are important and are things we share with everyone. So be aware of the feelings of those around you. We were all somebody’s baby once.

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  • Who We AreTitle: Who We Are! All About Being the Same and Being Different (Let’s Talk About You and Me)
  • Author: Robie H. Harris
  • Illustrator: Nadine Bernard Westcott
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Science
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6903-4

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

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


I Am Henry Finch

Written by Alexis Deacon
Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

Henry is a finch. And he acts like a finch. Up in the morning with the flock. Says “Good morning” with all the finches. “Good afternoon,” “Good evening,” and “Good night” too. The only change in the routine is when the Beast shows up. The finches fly to a tree. Then Henry has a thought about being great. A thought that gets him swallowed by the Beast. Eventually, he plants a thought in the Beast’s head. “Open.” The Beast opens its mouth and out flies Henry. Safe again, Henry invites the other finches to have thoughts.

The wonderful illustrations in this entertaining book make up a good deal of the story. When inside the Beast, where it’s dark, the pages are black and the images are jumbled.

The book may be silly, but first graders will learn a lot about following their talents and about being a leader. As a read aloud, it’s a great tool for teachers and parents to interact with the kids.

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  • Henry FinchTitle: I Am Henry Finch
  • Author: Alexis Deacon
  • Illustrator: Viviane Schwarz
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture book
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7812-8

Maple & Willow Apart

Written and Illustrated by Lori Nichols

Friends can be found just about anywhere, including your imagination. When Maple heads off to big girl school, Willow is lonely and bored for a little while. Then she makes up an imaginary friend based on the acorns she and Maple played with before school started. As Maple comes home with exciting stories about kindergarten, Willow has stories of her own about adventures with Pip.

The pencil drawn, digitally colored illustrations clearly show each emotion experienced by siblings as one heads off to school. Parents, librarians and teachers will find this text useful in helping the youngest students cope with the separation. First grade readers will recognize the signs of fall, and younger children will love the illustrations as this story is read aloud. Teachers can meet core standards of science while also addressing the feelings of those brothers and sisters left at home. Stories like this help us all understand each other a little bit better.

Art teachers of older students can use this as an excellent example of color blending, as well as the intricacies of showing emotion with the simplest of pencil strokes.

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  • Maple & WillowTitle: Maple & Willow Apart
  • Author/Illustrator: Lori Nichols
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulsen /Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-16753-9
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 1

Mango, Abuela, and Me

Written by Meg Medina
Illustrated by Angela Daminguez

Grandma moves from a far-away island to join Mia’s family so she won’t be alone anymore. But she can’t read or speak English. And Mia can’t read or speak Spanish. With their beds lined up side by side in their shared room, it is supposed to be a chance to get to know each other. Instead it is a frustrated time of quiet.

As the story continues, Abuela waits for Mia to come home from school and takes her for walks to feed the birds even though they can’t visit. Abuela is sad. She misses her island home, her birds, her husband. Mia is sad. She wants to tell about her day at school.

One afternoon as she is making an after school snack, she says the name of each ingredient in English. Abuela says its name in Spanish. Then Mia gets the idea to label every item in the living room with its English name. Mia and her Mom get a parrot at the pet store.

By the end of this touching book, they are understanding each other and even sharing a bedtime storybook.

Teachers, librarians and parents will enjoy using this read aloud to young students, while second grade readers will read it independently. It is a basic introduction to bilingual families and will give some English students a touch of Spanish.

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  • MangoTitle: Mango, Abuela, and Me
  • Author: Meg Medina
  • Illustrator: Angela Daminguez
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6900-3
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2
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