Tag Archive for read aloud

Fly, Butterfly

Written by Bonnie Bader

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Beautiful real-life photography illustrates this well written non-fiction narrative book for first grade readers. It begins by explaining in lyrical language how a butterfly chooses a damp milkweed leaf on which to lay an egg.

The various stages of a butterfly’s life are described and shown clearly. This book designed with the core curriculum in mind shows the migratory habits and path of the monarch butterfly.

Differences between winter in the mid-continental United States and Mexico is used to explain the reason for the migration of the butterflies. Photographs showing them flying in huge cloud-like formations and covering ponds in search of a drink during their travels will amaze even the adults using the book.

This book makes an excellent read aloud for a preschool teacher or any librarian. The glossy finish on the paper makes the fantastic photography stand out.

  • Fly ButterflyTitle: Fly, Butterfly
  • Author: Bonnie Bader
  • Illustrator: photography
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, January 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: paperback
  • ISBN:  978-0-448-47919-4
  • Genre: nonfiction, nature

Snowflakes Fall

Written by Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Steven Kellogg

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This beautiful picture book brings back all the joy and excitement of snowflakes. The wonderful illustrations by Steven Kellogg show children sledding, making snow angels and leaving tracks with their little red boots.

The sparse, poetic language by Patricia MacLachlan sings the story of all the wonderful places and ways that snowflakes fall. She talks of the snow quilted meadows and covered evergreens. But mostly she talks about how beautiful each one is and how unique that no two are alike. Just like children.

This wonderful book is a project by two people who were deeply hurt by the tragedy that took the lives of so many beautiful children in Sandy Hook, CT. It is their gift to the hurting community and a gift to all who read it. Enjoying these pages helps adults to relive past snowy fun, children to expect snowy fun and all of us to appreciate each other as the beautiful, unique creatures we are.

It is a wonderful read aloud for any age.

First grade readers will enjoy seeing poetic Patricia MacLachlan’s text is and how perfectly the illustrations match it. Literacy skills abound beginning with the parts to whole relationship as she talks about the fur on the dog and the tongues of laughing children. The story contains many beautiful similes for readers of all ages to admire. This book will be a treasure to read year after year after year and will always bring a smile to everyone’s face.

  • Snowflakes FallTitle: Snowflakes Fall
  • Author: Patricia MacLachlan
  • Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
  • Publisher: Random House, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-385-37693-8
  • Genre: Picture Book Realistic Fiction
  • Grade level: First up
  • Extras: Teaching Tools Available at RHTeachersLibrarians.com

Pirates on the Farm

Written by Denette Fretz
Illustrated by Gene Barretta

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What a dream come true!  Pirates moving in NEXT DOOR! Joey was thrilled.  Mother, not so much.  Fortunately, Dad was one of those people who could see past the outside and straight to the heart.  Oh the adventures that were had by the pirates and their neighbors.  Dad kept on loving and accepting those pirates and eventually Mother came around and saw their good hearts for herself.

Written from the viewpoint of Joey’s sister, this story is sure to appeal to young girls, especially girls with younger brothers.  Due to the swashbuckling, plank walking and other shenanigans, just about every boy will find this story appealing.

This is a great story for all children and would make a great read aloud for a first grade class.  The illustrations make comprehension a breeze. It teaches the importance of acceptance.  People who are different have value and can often teach us new things, just like the pirates did for Joey and his family.  It helps us see the potential for good in others. Toward the end of the story the pirates prove to be great farmers and have even been putting “offerings” (gold teeth) in the church offering plate.  This book would be an excellent resource for the beginning of the school year or even for Sunday School when there are new “friends” coming together for the first time.

All kinds of fun information can be found at Denette Fretz’s website http://denettefretz.com/.  This includes Joey’s journal entries, fun to read and added value for the book.


If you fell in love with the illustrations like I did then you will not want to miss Gene Barretta’s website http://www.genebarretta.com/ .  So many precious illustrations and more information on Mr. Barretta.

  • PiratesTitle:  Pirates on the Farm
  • Author:  Denette Fretz
  • Illustrator:  Gene Barretta
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz, 2013
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-310-72348-6
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Humor

When Lions Roar

Written by Robie H. Harris
Illustrated by Chris Raschka

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Simple sentences, broad-stroked watercolors and everyday fears speak directly to beginning readers in this beautiful book illustrated by two-time Caldecott Winner, Chris Raschka.

The story is one of solving problems as the child, which can be seen as either a young boy or girl, gets scared by loud frightening noises and then just sits right down, closes his eyes and yells, “Go away! Scary! Go Away!”

First grade readers as well as second grade readers will feel empowered by learning to take control of their own fears. The everyday fears include scary animals, thunder and lightning as well as Daddies who yell and Mommies who holler.  With only three or four words per page the author has captured childhood fears in the natural world, animal world and the child’s family circle.

Literacy skills such as identifying nouns and verbs, sequencing, using picture clues and predicting outcomes can be strengthened using this book. As a read aloud it will also open the doors of dialogue with children about other things that scare them and how they overcome those fears. In like manner, it can become a springboard for art and writing activities for young students.


  • When Lions RoarTitle: When Lions Roar
  • Author: Robie H. Harris
  • Illustrator: Chris Raschka
  • Publisher: Orchard Books/Scholastic, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-11283-3
  • Genre: Picture Book

In the Tree House

Written by Andrew Larsen

Illustrated by Dušan Petričić

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In the Tree House is a wonderful, engaging picture book that succeeds at taking the reader out of her own world and transporting her into the world of an unnamed narrator; a boy who loves summer, his tree house, and his older brother.

Right from the beginning, we are welcomed into his tree house on a really hot day – hot enough to crunch ice cubes – and treated to a view of his neighborhood.  From here we are told the story of how the tree house had been built the year before.  Like many tree houses, it grew through the collaboration of a father and his sons.  In this case, it was inspired by the narrator who started making tree house plans to help him adjust to a move and a new house where he no longer shared a room with his brother.

From the tree house, Dad and his sons watched the twinkling lights of their sleepy neighborhood because the city sky is too bright for them to see the stars shine.  It was the best summer ever – full of comics, cards, flashlights, and endless hours shared between brothers in the tree house.

But this summer is different because the narrator’s brother is growing up and no longer has time for the tree house.  His brother is busy with friends and he is alone – the King of the Castle with no one to share it with – until one night when everything goes dark and a black out brings everyone together.

In the Tree House is a simple story about growing pains and the bond between brothers.  The text is plain and straightforward, relying on illustration to portray much of the emotion behind the words.  The pictures are purposefully stark, leaving lots of room for readers of all ages to fill in the blanks.  Together, the illustrator and author have succeeded in making this book both poignant and timeless.

Everyone in first grade will want to spend their summer in a tree house after having this book read aloud to the class.  Some readers will want to savor the book privately and then make plans to build their own tree house.  Older readers will be forced to reflect upon changes in their own relationships with siblings and other family members.  Still others will be touched by the notion that turning off the lights for a while can put everything into perspective.

  • In the Tree HouseTitle: In the Tree House
  • Author: Andrew Larsen
  • Illustrator: Dušan Petričić
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Book Length: 36  pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-55453-635-1
  • Genre: Contemporary, fiction
  • Lexile Score: 60

Tiger in My Soup

Written by Kashmira Sheth
Illustrated by Jefferey Ebbeler

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Take a simple story, simply told. Add to it colorful illustrations that parallel the imagination of the characters and you will get the delightful Tiger In My Soup. Sibling interaction, a love of books, and the power of imagination populate this light and frothy tale. In just 300 words the author creates a world where imagination reigns supreme and tigers roam free. Beware though. It’s such a wonderful read aloud that your voice may beg for a rest after the third, or tenth, thirtieth request to ‘read it one more time please’.

Older sister is in charge for the day. “Will you read to me?” younger brother, who is also the narrator, asks. Sister doesn’t deign to reply. Well then, brother demands lunch. She is in charge, after all. Super-efficient sister opens a can of soup, heats it, warns him that it is hot, and is back to her reading before brother can put in another plea. Hmm. That trick didn’t work either. But it is an ALPHABET soup that sister has served.

Brother, and the illustrator, are off and running. The letters R O A R are visible floating in the bowl. Maybe there is a tiger in the soup rising out of the steam…..Brother arms himself, and oh how he arms himself! a colander helmet, a spoon sword and a tray for a shield. First graders will enjoy figuring out the all kitchen gadgets that make up the weaponry.  Brother’s imaginary war is cleverly juxtaposed with sister’s nonchalance. The world may be coming to an end but I shall read on, sister seems to say.

The illustrations don’t just complement the text, they add layers to it. The cover of the book brother is holding out, and the double-page spread which begins “I hand it to her and she begins to read,” are reminiscent of the Madhubani paintings of India. Such a wonderful combination of an ancient art form and a modern sensibility: cars and boats and music and books.

Brother wages war. Sister reads on.  Does she read to him? Read the book to find out. Here’s a clue: he  does wonder where tiger will show up next. A thoroughly enjoyable addition to any reading list.
Additional Resources:

Author bio: http://kashmirasheth.com/about/index.php

Illustrator bio: http://www.jeffillustration.com/Bio.html

Madhubani paintings: http://colorofindia.com/madhubani-art.htm

  • Tiger in My SoupTitle: Tiger in My Soup
  • Author: Kashmira Sheth
  • Illustrator: Jefferey Ebbeler
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2013
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback:   32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-696-9
  • Genre: Picture Book/ Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 180

The Three Bears: An Alphabet Book

Written by  Grace Maccarone
Illustrated by  Hollie Hibbert

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Another alphabet book?  “A is for alphabet, and here it is…”  Yes, another alphabet book.  But, this one has a twist.  It tells the story of Goldilocks and the three bears and starts with the traditional “B is for bears” format that found in most alphabet books.  As the story is told, many chances for beginning letter sounds are given.  “There were three bears – Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear, who were in bed.”  Grace Maccarone did a wonderful job of incorporating beginning sound practice into this familiar story.  Children will not even realize that they are getting this practice.  They will just have fun reading the book.

Although it is an alphabet book that would be perfect as a kindergarten read aloud, it is on a late first grade reading level.  The combination of the wonderful illustrations, abundance of sight words, and liberal use of beginning sounds makes this book an excellent choice for conducting running records.  The illustrations offer plenty of cues, as do the alphabet letters that are prominently displayed.  If you are tired of writing the same types of things for shared writing, why not write your own alphabet story with your class?  This could be done from kindergarten all the way through second grade.  Children build skills in brainstorming, organizing their thoughts, writing, and of course the end result helps increase reading skills.

Speaking of illustrations, the bears in this book are not scary, not even Papa Bear. Hollie Hibbert has a gift for creating illustrations that could tell the story without any text.  You can read more about Ms. Hibbert and see more of her wonderful creations at her website (http://www.holliehibbert.com/Hollie_Hibbert_Illustration/Home.html).

This short book really packs a punch when it comes to classroom application.  It is fun to read, fun to look at, and can be the foundation for many fun reading and writing lessons.

  • Three BearsTitle:  The Three Bears: An Alphabet Book
  • Author:  Grace Maccarone
  • Illustrator:  Hollie Hibbert
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, 2013
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-7904-6
  • Genre:  Fantasy, alphabet
  • Lexile score:  480

Where Is Baby?

Written by Kathryn O. Galbraith
Illustrated by John Butler

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Where is baby hiding? Under a blanket? Behind a chair? While baby plays a game of hide-and-seek with Mama, other babies in the animal kingdom are hiding as well.

Baby deer disappear in dappled spring sunlight.
Baby polar bears vanish in the snow.
Baby wolves dash into their dens.

Gailbraith’s simple, lyrical language used in a repetitive fashion will not only assist first graders with their reading skills, but the descriptive verbs will also enhance their vocabulary and comprehension. The payoff at the end of the story is a tri-fold picture reveal, which conveys the message that no matter where babies hide, Mama is always nearby. Back pages offer “More About Babies” information, where readers can learn a couple of fun facts about each featured animal (e.g., a baby otter is called a pup, a baby elephant drinks 48 cups of mother’s milk each day, a robin chick weighs less than a quarter coin at birth, etc.).

Butler’s adorable full-spread illustrations capture the fine details of these sweet baby faces, and no doubt will win over the pre-K through first grade audience (even my 5th grader could not contain her squeals of delight!). Drawn with acrylic and color pencils, the soft lines and soothing pastel palettes are instantly calming, just right for any kind of downtime: a classroom story circle or a bedtime read-aloud.
More titles from the author and illustrator can be found on the publisher’s website: http://peachtree-online.com/index.php/book/where-is-baby.html


  • BabyTitle: Where Is Baby?
  • Author: Kathryn O. Galbraith
  • Illustrator: John Butler
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-707-6
  • Genre: Picture Book

Shadows on My Wall

Written & Illustrated by Timothy Young

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Monsters are a familiar problem for children at the first grade reading level. Helping youngsters find ways to deal with the idea of monsters in a way that is fun and empowering for them is not easy. This book, whether used to build comprehension or as a read aloud, will help youngsters deal with some of their terrors.

Shadows on My Wall is a well-written and illustrated picture book that will capture the imagination of youngsters. It opens with a little boy’s bedroom at night, light from the streetlights shining in through the window with very creepy shadows on the wall by his bed. While it is clear these are simply spooky-looking tree branches, soon the boy’s imagination takes over and they look more like monsters to him. But maybe they aren’t monsters. Maybe they are dinosaurs, and dinosaurs are pretty cool. The boy’s imagination keeps on working and the shadows take on new form after new form until the boy makes a shadow of his own. That is the beginning of the boy’s ability to take charge of those pesky shadows. This is very empowering for little ones.

A spread at the back of the book shows several shadows children can make with their hands and how to do them. The author/illustrator has a web site at www.shadowsonmywall.com, however, there are no teaching materials there or on the publisher’s website.

There are three other picture books by the same author, two of which have monster themes.

  • Shadows on My WallTitle: Shadows on My Wall
  • Author/Illustrator: Timothy Young
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, 2012
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0764342240
  • Genre: Fiction, Imagination

Bink and Gollie: Best Friends Forever

Written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
Illustrated by Tony Fucile

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Friendship trumps all. You may be tall and trying to prove your royal antecedents, or short and working to make yourself taller. There may come a hiccup or two in life, but Bink and Gollie remain BFFs.

The book contains three short stories, simply told, but not simple. The theme of this book, part of a series, is acceptance. ‘Queen Gollie’ finds Bink’s door shut to her, but Gollie is warmly welcomed. Bink’s Stretch-O-Matic just stretches Gollie’s credulity. The ending is classic: Bink and Gollie stretched out on a rug looking at the contraption.

“It makes me feel taller just to look at it,” said Bink.

“Art can have that affect,” said Gollie.

And the art that accompanies the text, deepens and enriches the stories. In the best picture books, the illustration shows a dog with an attitude or a quirk that the words don’t describe. Tony Fucile is an artist whose drawings gently nudge the story into the stratosphere, the illustrator who, you pray silently, would agree to illustrate your books. Such thought and planning has gone into the drawings. First graders will find many details: the telescope on Gollie’s balcony, the sit-out bench situated on another branch, Bink’s Bink-sized mailbox. The picture in Bink’s living room is a portrait of the inventor of peanut butter! Sly humor abounds. “Excessive assembly required” say the instructions on the Acme Stretch-O-Matic.

What a wonderful read aloud of a book for the very youngest set. The expressions tell the story, even to those who can’t read yet. “Alrighty then” may soon become a frequently heard phrase. And this is not all. The publisher has a teacher’s guide, http://www.candlewick.com/book_files/076363266x.btg.1.pdf, to facilitate discussions and reading activities.

  • Bink and GollieTitle: Bink and Gollie: Best Friends Forever
  • Author: Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
  • Illustrator: Tony Fucile
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-3497-1
  • Genre: Contemporary
  • Lexile Score: 290
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