Tag Archive for reading activity

Kangaroo’s Out of This World Restaurant

Written & Illustrated by Eva M. Sakmar-Sullivan

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In the Australian Outback, Kangaroo wallows in misery and complains she’s worthless. Why Kangaroo feels this way is unclear, but wise old Koala hobbles into the picture with his cane and gives Kangaroo advice: “Everyone has something to offer. You just have to find it.” All Kangaroo can do is jump, so she does, higher and higher until she reaches the moon. When she lands on the moon’s surface, she’s delighted to discover it’s made of cheese and tastes great, too. She loads up her pouch with cheese and brings it back to Earth to share. Her furry friends love the moon cheese so much that Kangaroo bounces them back to the moon for more, and she opens up a restaurant (hence the title). She also becomes a taxi service, transporting her friends whenever they have a hankering for this out-of-world snack. Kangaroo has found her calling and her true happiness.

This didactic tale relays a positive message for the first grade and under crowd, but Sakmar-Sullivan’s strengths really lie in her art: big shapes and bright, bold colors that pop off the page. Inside the back cover, there’s a full-page spread, which identifies all featured creatures as native to Australia, and the author suggests a reading activity (i.e. find the platypus, the dingo, the numbat, etc.) I do think her impressionable audience could have benefited from another extra, though, explaining that the moon is actually made of rock, not cheese.

Author’s website: www.stardolphin.com

  • Kangaroos RestaurantTitle: Kangaroo’s Out of This World Restaurant
  • Author/Illustrator: Eva M. Sakmar-Sullivan
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-4519-7
  • Genre: Picture Book, fantasy, animals

Annie and Simon: The Sneeze and Other Stories

Written by Catharine O’Neill

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Little Annie and her older brother, Simon, return in a precious story about healthy and happy, sibling relationships. Readers first met the sister brother duo in Annie and Simon, by Catharine O’Neill, released in 2008.

In this first grade chapter book, Annie, Simon, and their dog, Hazel, have four adventures. In “Living Things,” Annie draws wildlife pictures while at a lake, though Simon sometimes struggles to recognize the subject of each of his much-younger sister’s artwork.  When Simon sneezes in chapter two, Annie is convinced he is ill and wants to nurse him back to health with a story, a duck blanket, a violet hankie, and gummy bears. Once Simon is settled on the couch, Annie snuggles sweetly with him under the blanket, and he reads the story to her. The family dog, Hazel, is the subject of chapter three. Annie draws pictures of her dog until the Gray Cat Next Door wanders into the yard. Annie then decides a cat might make a better pet. When Gray Cat catches a mouse, Annie remembers how much she adores Hazel.  And, finally, in “Horse Chestnuts,” Annie and Simon collect a wagonload of horse chestnuts, only to have them stolen and buried by a squirrel.

The chapter ends with Simon kissing Annie on the top of her head. He announces, “You know, you’re my favorite little sister.”

To which she smiles and says, “I know.”

Adults will want children to read this delightful book to counteract the many stories available on sibling rivalry. O’Neill writes about siblings who have a harmonious relationship, with no jealousy, bitterness, fighting or arguing, prejudices, or favoritism. This book would benefit children who have a difficult home life or a broken home in which they’ve possibly been removed from a beloved sibling or step-sibling. This story could also help children learn to appreciate an older or younger sibling and look for the positives in that relationship.   Only-children in a family could get a glimpse into the life of two or more children families. And, this story would make a great read aloud for a three- to five-year-old child whose mom is expecting a new baby.

To amplify the theme of the story, a teacher could incorporate this reading activity: Use a bulletin board to show each child’s family tree. The child can write on strips of green paper cut in the shapes of leaves the names of each family member and the relationship and attach it to a construction paper cut-out of a leafless tree with branches.

Then periodically have children take turns standing near their tree and share something about one of their siblings, like a fun activity the two kids took part in together, what they like best about that sibling, or an accomplishment of the sibling. (For children without siblings, have them add cousins to their family tree.)

Allow and encourage the sharing time to create pride in the sibling relationship or an appreciation of the family member. This kind of activity also helps classmates learn about other families and family members, thus bonding the classmates, creating a “family-type” relationship within the classroom.

  • Annie and SimonTITLE: Annie and Simon: The Sneeze and Other Stories
  •  AUTHOR: Catharine O’Neill
  •  PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • FORMAT: Hardcover, 57 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-4921-0
  • GENRE: Family
  • LEXILE: 340

We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt

Written by Susan Pearson

Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

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A refreshing and entertaining new ghost story is available at a first grade reading level. Four children go outside on a clear evening for a ghost hunt. They are determined to find a ghost no matter what stands in their way. With each obstacle, the kids make the encounter into a game. When they finally find a ghost at the graveyard, the kids are understandably frightened, but they make it back to their bed all in one piece. Naturally, they must occupy only one bed. But, of course, they’re ready to go on another hunt the next day.

With insistent repetition, the author increases the young reader’s comprehension. Especially charming are the bits of onomatopoeia: “squish squash squaash in the murky swamp, rustle rustle rat-a-tattle through the cornfield, splash splash splash in the swishy, fishy river, creeeeak squeak eeeeeeek at the graveyard gate”, and so forth.

The illustrations are delightful and very much in keeping with the feel of the text. The kids skip across the yard and through the river. They help each other on the race back to the house. The kids themselves are adorable and are images with which other children can identify. The scenes are realistic and have a you-are-there feel. The details, such as the young boy’s teddy bear and the small animals seen along the way, add to the fun. Readers could make spotting the small critters into a reading activity: How many frogs in the swamp? How many fish in the river?

The authors’ website, http://www.susanpearson.net/, has plenty of information about the book and the author. The illustrator’s website, http://www.sdschindlerbooks.com/index.html, is similarly useful.


  • Ghost HuntTitle: We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt
  • Written By: Susan Pearson
  • Illustrated By: S. D. Schindler
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard cover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761463078
  • Genre: Picture book, Halloween, ghosts
  • Lexile Score: 60