Tag Archive for read aloud

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


Written and illustrated by John Rocco

Caldecott honoree John Rocco does detailed and realistic illustrations for this new and fun book about a real event in the author’s life. Given the rough and long winter of 2013-2014, it’s a timely reminder that sometimes Mother Nature has ideas of her own. February 1978 saw forty inches of snow in New England in two days, a record event for the area. Rocco and his family “survived.” As a frequent survivor of Iowa winters, I can tell you he hits the nail on the head with the emotions and with the magnitude of the conditions. At first, it’s fun trying to wade through huge drifts. You can make snow caves in some areas. But the sled won’t go through the worst parts, and the family runs out of milk and other supplies. The snowplows appear five days after the snow stopped, but not before John straps tennis racquets to his ten-year-old feet and walks to the grocery store for supplies. He brings a whimsical touch in many illustrations. John staring out the window at the falling snow with a penguin lampshade, a poster of snowy Mount Everest, and an Arctic Survival guide at his side speaks volumes. And the numerous side trips on the way to the store are typical ten-year-old antics.

First grades will love the theme and the idea of a whole week of snow days. They can handle much of the text on their own. Literacy skills and comprehension will be enhanced. Gentle reminders from adults may be in order, though. Tennis racquets only make good snowshoes in an emergency. And don’t take off for the store in a blizzard without an adult’s permission. For teachers, this book makes a good jumping off place for learning about winter around the world and extreme weather of all kinds.

The author’s website, www.roccoart.com, brings the reader to Rocco’s world, including his Caldecott Honor title, Blackout, and numerous Rick Riordan books. The publisher’s website, www.disneybooks.com, has wonderful teacher guides.

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  • BlizzardTitle: Blizzard
  • Author: John Rocco
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Genre: Memoir, winter, helping out
  • ISBN: 978-142317865-1
  • Release date: October 28, 2014


Fine Life for a Country Mouse

Written and illustrated by Susan Detwiler

Really? Another Aesop re-telling? Yes, and it’s worth every second spent with it. The illustrations are beautiful and memorable. The text is simple, yet informative. Tillie is a country mouse who lives in a tree trunk and makes everything she needs. After her city cousin, Oliver, visits, Tillie decides to check out the posh world he describes to her. Of course, Tillie decides the country life is for her, while Oliver sticks with the city life. The author is careful not to anthropomorphize the characters too much. The food, furniture, and other items the mice use would actually be available to mice. The clothing maybe not as much. But the mouse paws look like mouse paws. Details in the illustrations add to the modern feel of this ancient tale. A modern car nearly runs over the mice. The trucks, a train, the lay out of the street, and even the straight rows of corn are obviously modern.

This book is part of Penguin’s “Core Concepts” program. First graders and up will have a chance to practice literacy skills. This would be a great read aloud. The illustrations are richly detailed and lend themselves to actively spotting the lady bug and looking for other sneaky details. In the meantime, the reader is learning to appreciate what they have and that others may want to live differently. Even within a family, not everyone has to want the same things.

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  • Fine LifeAuthor/Illustrator: Susan Detwiler
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin Random House Company, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-448-48154-8
  • Genre: Fable, Diversity, Family

Except If

Written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck

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This beautiful and surprising book is really a lesson in not taking things at face value. When the reader encounters a blue egg, she might expect to see a bird emerge EXCEPT IF the egg contains a baby snake. The snake slithers along EXCEPT IF it’s really a baby lizard, complete with legs. The lizard can scurry up walls EXCEPT IF it grows into a dinosaur. And the dinosaur will stand as tall as the hills EXCEPT IF it’s already a fossil, a craggy hill that shelters a nest. With an egg.

The repetitive nature of the text is a good draw for first graders, who love to anticipate. The fun illustrations make it a good candidate for a read aloud, with the listeners guessing what the next exception will be. All this combines to increase comprehension of the story line and literacy skills.

The author’s website, http://www.jimaverbeckbooks.com/, contains a tremendous amount of information about the author and his books. The publisher also highlights the author at http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Jim-Averbeck/65519797.

Except If

  • Title: Except If
  • Author/Illustrator: Jim Averbeck
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, 2011
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, Imagination
  • ISBN: 978-1-4169-9544-9



Written and illustrated by Aaron Becker

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A Caldecott Honor book for the gorgeous, vivid, and detailed illustrations, this book is worth a look just for the pictures, but it has so much more to offer. A young girl’s sepia world is punctuated only by her red scooter, red kite, a red ball, and a red crayon. When she uses the crayon to draw a door, a whole new and colorful world opens up. With castles, windmills, numerous waterways, and various flying contraptions, it’s indeed a fascinating world. The girl finds the crayon can also create a boat, a hot air balloon, and a magic carpet. The magic carpet and a purple bird lead her to a boy with a purple crayon. Together, she and the boy create a bicycle and ride off to more adventures.

This wordless picture book is easily followed by first graders just beginning their reading journey, but would be great as a read aloud so that kids can be encouraged to use imagination about what will come next. Kids could even lead the discussion and practice their speaking and leadership skills. The publisher provides a great “Guide to Reading a Wordless Book” on their website, www.candlewick.com, with many reading activities.

  • JourneyTitle: Journey
  • Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, Art, Imagination, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6053-6


Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends

Written by Joanne Linden
Illustrated by Tom Goldsmith

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Ben is a typical kid on a typical boardwalk with his parents and his best friend, Zip. When the weather becomes threatening, Ben is in a panic wondering what happened to Zip. He begins at kid level and only sees knees – fat, bony, bumpy, and scratched. He climbs to bench level to be confronted by bellies – hairy, jelly, and hanging down. Standing on a picnic table, Ben can see a lot of hair – red, yellow, long, and swirly. He climbs the lifeguard tower only to discover everyone has taken shelter. But he does spot the place where he last saw Zip – a popcorn stand – and runs to the area. Zip, who the reader finds out is a dachshund, has been caught on a post. Ben releases him and waits for the weather to clear.

First graders will love the fact that many of the illustrations are from their perspective. This would be great as a read aloud because all the kids can help look for Zip. In fact, the reader will be driven to go back to the beginning and find all the places Ben, Zip, and each of his parents appear. The illustrations are detailed and lively and do a great job of involving the reader. Along with literacy skills, this book is good for teaching observation skills.

  • Ben & ZipTitle: Ben & Zip: Two Short Friends
  • Author: Joanne Linden
  • Illustrator: Tom Goldsmith
  • Publisher: Flashlight Press, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, fiction, friendship, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-9362612-8-4

Beneath the Sun

Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum

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When a summer day is very hot, few people think about what wild creatures are doing to endure the extreme temperature. This clever book shows how animals are able to survive without the sunscreen and lemonade available to humans. Woodchucks in fields spend the heat of the day in cool underground dens, and earthworms do the same while slowing their metabolisms. The author moves on to the desert, where she follows a ringtail family as they nap in their den, a golden eagle as it cools itself by soaring through the air, a turkey vulture spraying itself, a jackrabbit who cools through its ears, and a horned lizard in the deep shade. In a wetland, osprey chicks cool down with the help of their father’s wet feathers. Tadpoles, crayfish, and salamanders stay in the water and mud. At the seashore, a herring gull shades its chicks. Anemones pull in their tentacles, sea stars hide in the shade, and fiddler crabs have specialized shells that reflect the sun. The realistic, detailed, and beautiful illustrations in this book show exactly how each animal survives.


The author’s website, www.melissa-stewart.com, provides a wealth of information for first graders and up. She provides ideas for many reading activities plus curriculum guides. This book would be good as a read aloud, allowing for discussion of each animal and the environment in which it lives.

  • Beneath the SunTitle: Beneath the Sun
  • Author: Melissa Stewart
  • Illustrator: Constance R. Bergum
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-733-7

How to Babysit a Grandma

Written by Jean Reagan
Illustrated by Lee Wildish

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The highly talented duo of Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish have come together to make a wonderful companion to their popular previous picture book, How to Babysit a Grandpa.  Only this time, the one being babysat is Grandma.

The authentic child voice carries us into the story of a little girl taking care of her grandma while Mom and Dad are away. She helps Grandma find the best place to sleep, the best things to play at the park and the best way to make anything and everything taste better (always add sprinkles).

First grade readers, among many others, will enjoy reading this story on their own or having it read to them. The illustrations will remind them of fun things they have done with their own grandparents. Librarians and parents will love this as a read aloud. The brightly colored illustrations draw readers in to spend time studying each and every one to see all the fun details. Every page puts a smile on a reader’s face, regardless of their age.

Preschool and primary grade teachers will use this book in fulfilling core curriculum standards and literacy skills through picture clues, dialogue, inference, sequential order and finding the main idea. Readers can use this as a spring board for drawing pictures, talking aloud in front of the class or getting new ideas for ways to entertain Grandma next weekend.

This wonderful pair of books will be a great addition to any home or school library. The first one rapidly became a New York Times bestseller, and won several awards. This one is sure to follow in those footsteps. They are both great fun to read over and over again. Go find them and curl up somewhere comfy with someone small who loves to giggle.

  • Babysit a GrandmaTitle: How to Babysit a Grandma
  • Author: Jean Reagan
  • Illustrator: Lee Wildish
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-385-75384-5
  • Genre: Picture book, fiction
  • Grade level: K through 3

About Birds: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

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This beautiful little book packs a lot into a very few words and pictures. It allows first graders and older to see common birds (cardinal, American robin) up close and to learn about birds in other parts of the world (common murre, magnificent hummingbird). It is a valuable introduction to the English/Spanish bilingual world. And it contains a wealth of information for those who want to know more. As a read aloud or for independent study, this volume of the “About” series provides a solid basis for comprehension of nature and conservation plus a boost to literacy skills.

It is presented as a picture book with a short sentence for each bird, translated into Spanish. e.g., “Some birds build nests on the ground. / Algunos párajos hacen sus nido en la tierra.” is followed by a realistic painting of an ovenbird and its nest. The afterword has longer explanations of each picture, a glossary, and bibliography with books and websites.

Detailed and realistic illustrations make the reader feel like they have actually seen the birds. As birds move fast and are shy of humans, it helps children to recognize our feathered friends.

  • About BirdsTitle: About Birds: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree  Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, unpaged
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, bilingual
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-783-0

Lost for Words

Written and Illustrated by Natalie Russell

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When Tapir opens up his brand new notebook, the blank pages stare back at him. He can’t think of a thing to write. His friends, however, don’t have that problem; words flow out of them like water: Giraffe writes poems, Hippo writes about his adventures, and Flamingo composes songs. Tapir feels very jealous.

Hoping to draft off their creativity, Tapir imitates them: he chews on leaves like Giraffe, he wallows in mud like Hippo, and he hums like Flamingo. But the words still don’t come. Frustrated, he finds a quiet place on top of a hill. Looking down at the beautiful scenery, he’s inspired to draw what he sees: a tall tree for Giraffe, a river for Hippo, and a sun for Flamingo. Before long, he has filled his entire notebook with colorful drawings. His friends love his creations so much they are moved to tears. Tapir learns that images can be just as powerful as words.

With bookshelves crowded with cat and pig main characters, it’s refreshing to see a less familiar creature like Tapir take center stage. In this tale of individuality and finding one’s creative spark, first graders will connect with the story’s message; they, too, must feel frustrated sometimes as they learn how to write. Warm colors and soft lines give Russell’s childlike illustrations a soothing feel. Recommended as a bedtime story or a classroom read aloud.

  • Lost for WordsTitle: Lost for Words
  • Author/Illustrator: Natalie Russell
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-739-7
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Art
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