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.
- Title: 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
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.
- Title: 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
Written by Nancy Viau
Illustrated by Gynux
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Storm Song is a rollicking read-aloud, great for first grade and will help youngsters appreciate rainstorms. The book brings a rain storm to life through alliteration and strong sensory language. With phrases such as “Pitter, pat, pound!” Viau uses rhythm and language brilliantly to build tension and excitement about a universal experience, being scared yet fascinated by the power of a storm. Through an exploration of many aspects of the storm (the whisking of leaves, the sparkle of lightning, the ticking of a clock in the calming aftermath), the book avoids what could be just another book about rain.
When the lights go out, readers experience the confusion of the main characters, two young girls, one boy and an amiable dog, and feel the relief provided by a creative mother who quickly has them pretending to “Row, row, row your boat,” eating popcorn heated over flames, and snoozing comfortably on the couch together. The concluding spreads present the passing of the storm, the dog splashing in the puddles, and the peaceful calm washing over all.
The digital images by Gynux complement the text beautifully. From the leaves sweeping across the yard to the expressions of the young characters entranced by lightning, the illustrations capture the emotional energy of the text.
First grade teachers will appreciate the “Teacher’s Guide” available at (http://www.nancyviau.com/teachers-guides/). With activities appropriate for K-2nd grade, language arts, drama, art and science, there is something for everyone in this activity collection created with the Common Core in mind. The guide includes pre and post reading questions, a list of other books about storms, reading games that play with onomatopoeia, and lightning experiments.
- Title: Storm Song
- Author: Nancy Viau
- Illustrator: Gynux
- Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2013
- Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
- Paperback: 24 pages
- ISBN: 978-1477816462
- Genre: Picture book
- Lexile Score: 660
Written and Illustrated by Barbara Reid
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Not since The Giving Tree has an author explored so many ways we commune with trees. Reid approaches trees from a purely artistic direction and ends up imparting much more information about the subject than seems possible at first. Each illustration begins with plasticine and paint and focuses on some aspect of the tree’s physical appearance. The pictures nearly jump off the page. Another device the author uses is to progress the tree through an entire calendar year.
First grade readers will see that bare winter limbs make a sort of etching on the sky. The first hints of spring colors will remind the reader of tentative attempts to draw, then an explosion of color. Tree leaves can create a tunnel of green when driving down a street or an entire ocean when viewed from above. A tree next to an apartment building is home to a multitude of animals and a storage space for a kite. They often become pirate ships, caves, clubhouses, or friends. In the hot summer sun, trees can be umbrellas. Trees of different ages correspond to the ages of people. Playing in the falling leaves feels like a good-bye party. Trees can be spooky around Halloween. Later, trees put on snowsuits, just like kids. Then they sleep like a baby until spring.
This unique approach will hold the reader’s attention and increase comprehension for beginning readers. The author’s excellent website (http://www.barbarareid.ca/) provides more information about her methods and makes many suggestions for reading activities. This book has won numerous awards, won several starred reviews, and appeared on reading lists, including The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens.
- TITLE: Picture a Tree
- AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Barbara Reid
- PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman & Company
- REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
- EDITION: 2013
- ISBN: 978-0-8075-6526-1
- GENRE: Picture book, Trees
- LEXILE: 390