Tag Archive for reading activities

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

“Pick me up, pick me up,” our children say. Then as they get a bit older, they begin to carry around their own stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures. This leads in well to a discussion of animals and their babies. Teachers, parents and librarians can use this beautifully illustrated book of how animal babies are carried to introduce or supplement any animal unit of study. Close-ups of each animal pair make it easy to see how the baby is transported from one place to another. Young children will enjoy this immensely.

Short rhyming lines introduce each animal pair followed by a slightly more in-depth description. A glossary gives even more detail.

Following the narration, a matching game is provided as a culmination of the story. For teachers, there are several suggestions for cross-curricular activities in language arts, math, engineering and movement. There are also web links to provide additional activities.

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  • Baby on Board.jpgTitle:  Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young
  • Author:  Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator:  Cathy Morrison
  • Publisher:  Dawn Publications, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Paperback, 32 pages
  • Genre: nonfiction, science
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • ISBN:  978-1-58469-593-6
  • Extras: Teacher guidelines for use in language arts, math, engineering, movement and math. An extensive glossary, extended reading lists and web links. It also contains a matching game for young readers to complete after reading the book.

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

Mr. Cookie Baker

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

Wellington has a real talent for drawing kids into activities that also have a fun end-product. In this re-issued classic, kids learn all about cookies and where they come from. The lively illustrations make the process that much more fun.  Simple, bright pictures contain many, many details to spot and remember.

Behind a sign that tells the reader the bakery opens at 9 am, Mr. Baker is hard at work using his flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and salt. With his big bowl and spoon, measuring spoons and cups, mixer, and spatulas, he mixes his dough. He rolls, cuts, and shapes. He bakes the cookies in a bog oven. They smell delicious. With care, he decorates the cookies. A crowd of customers buy the fresh product. He hangs the closed sign and has a cookie himself.

From this, and books like it, kids will learn about the processes that affect the world around them. Most will delight in helping adults try the recipes in the book, decorating the cookies, and giving them the taste test.

The presented are: sugar cookies, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal.

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  • mr-cookie-bakerTitle: Mr. Cookie Baker                           
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Published: Dutton Children’s Books, 2011
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Picture Book, Baking
  • ISBN: 978-0-525-47763-1
  • Extras: Four standard cookie recipes

Apple Farmer Annie

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

October is the best time of the year for apples, and the farmer in this cute new book seems to know it.

Annie has a large orchard with many apple varieties. She picks them, then sorts and organizes them. During the organization phase, the illustrator includes a quick counting motif. Annie makes sweet apple cider, smooth applesauce, muffins, cakes, and pies.   For each project, all the equipment used is shown in amazing detail, given the simple design used for the illustrations. After all the preparation, Annie loads up the uncooked apples and many of the cooked projects. She heads to market in the city with them. She has a busy day. The author lists several apple varieties and even gets in a joke with a book about The Big Apple.

The simple language and illustrations make this easily an independent reading possibility, but, as a read aloud, all the many details in the illustrations can be discussed. Of course, the recipes will require adult participation anyway. This opens the door for many more reading activities.

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  • apple-farmer-annieTitle: Apple Farmer Annie
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Published: Puffin Books/Penguin, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Picture Book, Food, Counting, Baking
  • ISBN: 978-0-14-240124-8
  • Extras: Recipes

Octopus Escapes Again!

Written and Illustrated by Laurie Ellen Angus

How talented is an octopus? As talented as it needs to be to survive all the predators that would love to eat it. In this informative picture book, the author follows an unnamed octopus as she works to find a meal of her own. First, her quest for shrimp is interrupted by a sea turtle. She hides inside an empty shell. When she spots some small fish, an eel is on the prowl. She escapes due to her ink. Next, a shark closes in, and she shoots away quickly. A large fish grabs one arm. The arm breaks off, and the octopus escapes again. The arm will grow back. A gull tries to get her. She uses her natural camouflage. Finally, she catches some clams for dinner.

The many animals highlighted in this tale are discussed in much more detail in the Explore More sections. In addition, the author suggests several interesting activities where kids can learn more – both about the octopus and the other animals present. Some great online videos are also mentioned.

The writing is fun and the illustrations give the “being there” feel for underwater adventures. Recommended as the focus for a stand-alone unit or as further exploration related to food chains or sea creatures.

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  • octopus-escapes-againTitle: Octopus Escapes Again!
  • Author/Illustrator: Laurie Ellen Angus
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nature, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-578-3
  • Extras: Explore More – For Kids, Explore More – For Teachers and Parents

Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum in a Dish

Written and Illustrated by Tracey M. Cox

In a world where people still question what good math is, this brand new counting book brings counting and color recognition right into the real world. All the children in the text has access to a bowl of bubble gum balls. In turn, each child picks out the balls of the color he or she wants. Cox shows the bowl and lets the reader count the balls of that color in the bowl, among the other colors. The child then blows a bubble matching the ball color and growing progressively bigger with each new number. The highly repetitive text is perfect for younger children and makes independent reading a strong possibility, especially for first graders. Reading activities can definitely include more counting in dishes. Coins, colored blocks, or jelly beans.

The simple style of the illustrations enhances the simple concepts presented in the text. These are concepts that provide a solid foundation for future learning. Even the amusing author photo at the end has a great big bubble the author presumably blew. Do we know how many gum balls she chewed?

  • Bubble Gum Bubble Gum in a DishTitle: Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum in a Dish
  • Author/Illustrator: Tracey M. Cox
  • Published: Guardian Angel Publishing, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Counting, Colors
  • ISBN: 9781616337711



Over on the Farm

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

In this simple little counting book, the author reworks the song “Over in the Meadow,” into a rhyme about the animals on a traditional farm. For example:

     Over on the farm

     In a tree-hollow heaven

     Lived a mother barn owl

     And her little owlets seven

Some of the counts aren’t quite realistic, but the author takes license for the sake of rhyme and rhythm and later explains what the animals are really like. And the actions the animals take are consistent with actions real animals take and kids can identify with.

As usual, Morrison’s beautiful illustrations follow the text exactly and enhance the reader’s activities, such as counting the babies and looking for other details.

Just like the new verses to the song, there seem to be end to the reading activities available to first graders and up. Along with music for the song, directions are given for dancing to it. More Fun on the Farm makes many suggestions for further enjoyment of the story.

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  • Over on the FarmTitle: Over on the Farm
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Published: Dawn Publications, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Music, Counting, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-549-3
  • Extras: Music, Fact or Fiction, Seasons on the Farm, About the Animals, More Fun on the Farm (math, science, language arts, arts, From Farm to Table), Movement and Music

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


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


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