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Teacher Panel: January Reviews

Time to ring in the new year with teacher reviews of some of our favorite January titles!

HONEYBEE

Good Morning, Digger written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg

Reviewed by Meredith Burton, Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Teacher, South Carolina

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! In Good Morning, Digger, the reader observes a building project by a little boy who watches the construction from the moment Flatbed first brings Digger to the site until he is taken away again to work somewhere else. The reader is also introduced to Dump Truck, Cement Mixer, and Tall Crane throughout the project, and soon a building starts to take shape. Digger’s “helpers,” the construction workers, busily go about their work surveying, jack-hammering, carrying lumber, welding, hammering, and even having lunch. The young narrator gets closer to the action as time goes by, and before long, a new community center is visible in the construction. Many families from the neighborhood come to help paint the community center. The little boy helps with a mural that pays tribute to Digger and the work he did to make the community center a reality.

This book would certainly intrigue any construction or truck lover, but it also tells the story of a community that is brought together through the creation of a building. Anne Rockwell adeptly draws the reader in through the action, but then shifts the focus to the community as well. This book would be a wonderful addition to a unit on communities or neighborhoods, different community helpers, or construction/architecture.

One More Hug for Madison by Caroline Jayne Church
Reviewed by Brittany Lee, First Grade Teacher, South Carolina

One More Hug for Madison is a sweet and comforting book for any child who has a hard time falling asleep at night. Madison is a little mouse who does everything right when she gets ready for bed. She washes her whiskers, brushes her teeth, and puts on her pajamas. She even puts away her toys! However, after her favorite bedtime story, Madison still isn’t ready for bed. Her mommy does her best to help her fall asleep, but it does take some time! This sweet, repetitive story is a wonderful way to tuck your little one in bed at night.

Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery
Reviewed by Terry Canning, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, New York

The monkey is at it again! He’s out on yet another adventure in Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery. The man with the yellow hat takes him to a museum, where they hop in a van heading to a rock quarry. George will get to learn how to dig for dinosaur bones! When watching the process in action, George realizes that it isn’t as exciting as he hoped it would be, so he explores the site of the dig to see if he can find any dinosaur bones for himself. I don’t want to spoil what happens but you can be sure that George saves the day and figures out how to dig for dinosaur bones. The book, written by Catherine Hapka, in the style of Margret and H. A. Rey, is true to the longtime style of Curious George tales. What starts out as a simple activity becomes an adventure when the curious monkey gets involved, but all turns out for the best in the end. Your preschooler will love listening to Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery. Included with the book is a word scramble activity and finger puppets that can be used to reenact the story! It will introduce new vocabulary like quarry, pickaxes, sift, and rockslide. Children will see a step-by-step simplified version of how an excavation takes place. Get your sandbox or sensory bin out because I’m sure that after hearing Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery your curious little ones will want to sift, pour, scoop, and dig to see what they can find too!

Little Scholastic: Please and Thank You
Reviewed by Terry Canning, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, New York

It’s never too early to help a child learn and become comfortable using those “magic” words, “please” and “thank you.” Your child will love to read this book with you and its sturdy board book construction will help it stand up to the most enthusiastic participant. Through cute and colorful illustrations, the simple, repetitive text will help a youngster see just how many wonderful adventures can be unlocked by using “please” and “thank you” when asking for something. Please and Thank You is a lift-the-flap book too, and because the flaps are very durable, children will be able to engage in the storytelling along with you. The book will help them remember when and why we use those “magic” words. What better way to begin to instill good manners in a child than with a hands-on book that’s fun to read together!

FIREFLY

Pirates Don’t Take Baths by John Segal
Reviewed by Denise Dawkins, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Washington, D.C.

Pirates Don’t Take Baths is a great book for that child in your life who hates taking baths. The author felt the same way when he was a kid and is sympathetic to this problem. The boy in the story lets his imagination take over as he pretends to be a lot of people who don’t take baths, including pirates, cowboys, and astronauts. Mom’s logic wins in the end as she helps him see that a treasure hunter can find treasure in the bathtub, which is affirmed by his exclamation—“Eureka!”—on the last page.

This is a fun book to use in the classroom when teaching personal hygiene, and I would highly recommend it to the parents of my students. Segal effectively uses a child’s imagination to teach the importance of taking baths, and for tidbits about the various roles the boy pretends to be.

Don’t Worry, Douglas! by David Melling
Reviewed by Denise Dawkins, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Washington, D.C.

Don’t Worry, Douglas! is another sweet story about the endearing bear named Douglas who was first introduced to us in Hugless Douglas. In this latest installment we see how Douglas goes to his dad when faced with a problem. Douglas’s dad gives him a brand-new woolly hat, which Douglas is very excited to show to his friends. Dad gives him only
one instruction: “Take care of it.” We watch as Douglas runs off to show his new hat to his friends and snags it on a branch along the way. Soon his new woolly hat becomes a spaghetti hat after it completely unravels, and Douglas gasps as he realizes he has a problem he doesn’t know how to solve. All of us have at some point been faced with a
problem that makes us gasp. Imagine how a young child feels in Douglas’s predicament. David Melling does a nice job of showing a young child how to handle a problem: tell the trusted adults in your life “everything.”

In the classroom, I use this story as a jumping-off point to discuss problem-solving — how bad things happen sometimes and how the trusted adults in our lives are there to help us and console us. It’s important to assure young children that when they’re faced with problems, there are people in their lives they can go to for help. These trusted adults can
be any family member, a teacher at school, or a minister or rabbi.

Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper
Reviewed by Donna Olp, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Ohio

When Cupcake is looking for that special “something,” his friend comes up with exactly the kinds of toppings that preschoolers would dream up as they try to out-silly each other. The preschool bunch will find it hysterical. Here”s a delicious opportunity to ask them to use their imaginations to come up with ever-more-outrageous suggestions.

Dream Big, Little Pig written by Kristi Yamaguchi and illustrated by Tim Bowers
Reviewed by Donna Olp, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Ohio

Children will enjoy chiming in with Poppy’s friends and relations as they call out “Follow your dreams,” “You go, girl!” and “Dream big, pig!” This book would be a good tie-in to the Winter Olympics and a discussion starter: Do you think it was easy for Kristi Yamaguchi to achieve Olympic greatness?

Snow Puppy by Marcus Pfister
Reviewed by Chrystal Shook, Kindergarten Teacher, Ohio

Marcus Pfister, the author of Rainbow Fish and a host of other well-loved books, is back with a sweet tale of friendship. In Snow Puppy, Rascal is bored after being left alone while his owners (Sophie and her family) are away shopping. That is, until he notices little white specks floating from the sky. After a determined effort, he manages to open a door and race outside for a game of chase-the-snowflake. Noticing a small brown animal hopping across a field, Rascal decides to follow in a new game of chase. He uses his good nose to follow the frightened rabbit until it disappears into its home under the ground. Rascal, hungry and cold from the chase, wants to be back in his own cozy home as well, but he’s run so far he has no idea how to find his way back. Using the good nose that helped him track the rabbit, Rascal notices and follows a familiar and delicious scent. A kind woodcutter working in the woods takes pity on Rascal and offers him food, a warm blanket, and his first ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. Back in town, amid the hustle and bustle of shoppers, a homesick Rascal hears a most happy sound — Sophie’s voice. As Rascal leaps out of the sleigh and into her arms, the woodcutter tells of finding Rascal lost in the woods. The grateful family invites the woodcutter to share Christmas dinner as thanks for his gift to them, the return of their beloved puppy.

Kids, especially dog lovers, will enjoy this story of the playful and adorable Rascal. The happy ending is sure to please, and the story’s acts of kindness and appreciation offer nice examples for children. It is the pictures, however, that provide the most pleasure in sharing this book. The full-page illustrations make it a delightful one to share with a group, as well as curled up in comfy lap. The rich hues, softened edges, and lovely detail evoke an emotional warmth that draws you into the book. Rascal’s charm and the beauty that can be found in the snowy wonder of winter make each turn of the page a gratifying one. If you enjoy sharing Marcus Pfister stories with your little ones, this is a book you’ll want to read on a cold winter’s day

SEESAW

Snowman All Year written by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner
Reviewed by Nancy Osterkamp, First Grade Teacher, California

What if snow was magical? What if that magical snow made the snowman you built come alive? And what if that magical snowman could stay with you all year? Would you teach him to fly a kite? Pretend to be pirates together? Or maybe you would take him to an amusement park to ride the roller coaster together! All of these fun adventures and more are imagined by a young boy who longs to have his snowman come alive and be his playmate all year.

I was thrilled to see this book in the SeeSaw flyer because it is such a fun story. This is the third book in the Snowmen series. Children are very familiar with the snowmen who come alive after everyone has gone to bed and the fun things they do. Girls, boys, and parents will enjoy this new story, which sparks the imagination and makes for exciting conversation — What if you built a snowman and it did come to life? What would you do with it?

A must-have storybook for your winter book collection! Other titles in the series include Snowmen at Night and Snowmen at Christmas.

The Runaway Wok written by Ying Chang Compestine
Reviewed by Julie, Kindergarten Teacher, Michigan

I have just found a new favorite book for my Chinese New Year celebration! The Runaway Wok is a fun story mixed with facts about this amazing Chinese festival. A magical wok helps the poor families celebrate the New Year while robbing from the greediest, richest man in Beijing. The story is a twist on a Robin Hood adventure combined with the wonderful traditions of China. Included in the back of the book are historical facts about the Chinese New Year festival and a recipe for Festive Stir-Fried Rice. Yummy!

With delightful illustrations that bring to life the rich culture of China, The Runaway Wok will enchant young children and make you hungry for Chinese food!

Immi’s Gift written by Karin Littlewood
Reviewed by Adrienne Davitz, First Grade Teacher, Texas

Sometimes the simplest gifts bring the greatest joy. What a perfect moral for the winter season!

Ever put a message in a bottle? The idea that two children can share little trinkets via the ocean, and that one can connect in that fashion with someone else around the world, is reminiscent of the message in a bottle. We have all often wondered who would receive a message if we sent it; maybe we’ve even tried.

Immi’s Gift is a beautifully illustrated story about the surprising gifts a child of the far frozen north receives from her fishing hole in the ice. Though her igloo is lonely and she longs for company, she decorates the ice walls with many small, colorful bits of treasure that she finds with her fishing pole in the sea. Thus a little red bird, an orange starfish, a green leaf, and a purple feather find their way to her ice igloo’s walls. Because her igloo is the brightest in the land, she begins to receive many wondering visitors, attracted by the brightness. Many animals of the Arctic come and stay for supper and fill the long, dark nights with stories of faraway lands. The visiting animals make Immi very happy, and they are happy too. One day the ice begins to melt and Immi knows it is time to leave her home. But one last thing remains for her to do. She takes her own little carved, wooden bear necklace and drops it in the ice hole, a gift to the sea that has been so generous to her. Little does Immi know that very far away, in a warmer place, someone will find her little white bear on the shore.

LUCKY

I Grew Up to Be President by Rebecca Zomchek
Reviewed by Alia McNeil, Second Grade Teacher, Pennsylvania

Have you ever wondered what presidents did before (and after) they were presidents? If so, then I Grew Up to Be President is the book for you. Full of historical and unusual facts from our first president, George Washington, to our current president, Barack Obama, this book contains a wealth of information.

Readers will find out which presidents had a penchant for practical jokes, who wrote his correspondence in secret code, and which president didn’t know he’d won the presidency until much later because he refused to pay postage on letters received. Readers will also find out what careers these men had before they took on the role of commander in chief. Several presidents were lawyers, teachers or college professors, and/or military men. Still others had jobs making cloth, reporting for newspapers, and acting. In addition to the presidents themselves, the book discusses presidents’ wives and children. There are even several sections about presidential pets. At various times throughout the history of the presidency, the White House was home to some unusual pets, including bear cubs, alligators, goats, a herd of sheep, a raccoon, and a cow (to give fresh milk for the president and his family).

Aside from information about the presidents, their families, and their time in office, I Grew Up to Be President also contains many resources. Included in various sections throughout the book are information about the thirteen original colonies and their fight for independence from England, a glossary of terms, an overview of the three branches of our federal government, website resources, and additional books for reading. I Grew Up to Be President would be a wonderful addition to any bookshelf!

100 Ways to Celebrate 100 Days by Bruce Goldstone
Reviewed by Isabelle DeBarros, Fourth Grade Teacher, Massachusetts

This book not only gives ideas about what to collect for the 100th day of school, but it presents ideas about activities for the 100th day of school. Many of these can be self-started by students, so much so that groups of students in a classroom could be involved in a variety of projects at the same time. One recommendation is to celebrate 100 days by building a shape with 100 blocks, linking 100 paper people, turning 100 fingerprints into 100 bugs, birds, and other animals, finding objects that look like the number 100, etc. This book will be sure to get both teachers and students excited for the 100th day of school!

Secret in the Attic #4: Terror at Troy by L.A. Peacock
Reviewed by Katie Line, First Grade Teacher, Minnesota

Terror at Troy is the fourth book in the Secret in the Attic series. In this action-packed chapter book, twins Jess and Josh go up to their attic and check on a magic chest left by their uncle Harry. They know from past experience that the items left in this chest will take them on a magical time-traveling adventure! When they open the chest, they see the jewels of Helen of Troy. Jess and Josh are transported back to ancient Greece and get to see the battle of Achilles and Hector, as well as ride in the Trojan Horse. If your child
has read all the Magic Tree House books and is not quite ready for Percy Jackson, the Secret in the Attic series will be a perfect match!

Sophie the Sweetheart by Lara Bergen
Reviewed by Yoshika Green, Second Grade Teacher, Florida

Sophie, that fun-loving character, is on the name hunt once again in Sophie the Sweetheart. This time she’s trying her best to be as sweet as she can, but it is no easy feat for this way too honest child. Even though she tries to say sugary things, she still manages to let an “un-sweet” name slip out when dealing with the not-so-friendly Mindy. Things take a surprising turn when Sophie lays the sweet on thick, as she tries to redeem her sweetheart name with Mindy. Sophie is not only up to being sweet at heart; she tries to be a sweet matchmaker as well. What more would prove just how sweet Sophie is than if she could pull off a match made not in heaven but in school? Will these two teachers find love and forever call Sophie the sweetheart that brought them together? You’ll enjoy reading this sweet story to find out this and other Sophie surprises.

The story is a great teacher resource for lessons on self-esteem, problem resolution, anti-bullying, and adjectives. My students love every book in the Sophie series. They say that Sophie is “funny, adventurous, sneaky, and brilliant!” I must say that as their teacher, I love Sophie for all the same reasons. There’s never a dull moment of reading, when a Sophie book is in hand. This is definitely a story that my students will enjoy rereading time and time again. I recommend this book to readers who love a spunky character who is full of creative ideas that help her discover who she is by the adjectives she chooses to tag onto her name.

ARROW

Showoff by Gordon Korman
Reviewed by Jon Weingarten, Third Grade Teacher, California

Some readers might remember author Gordan Korman from his books in the 39 Clues series. Others might be fans of the Swindell series. If so, then this book will not disappoint you. Showoff is the fourth book in the Swindell series. The main character, Griffin Bing, also known as the “Man with the Plan,” once again needs to come up with a plan to save Luthor, his friend Savannah’s scary, oversized Doberman, from doggy jail. As with the previous books in the Swindell series, Griffin’s plan involves his friend Ben, and takes Ben and the reader on a rollercoaster ride involving choices and places that could get both boys in serious trouble. Showoff is a great book for students in 3rd–6th grades and would be enjoyed by both boys and girls. In fact, if you haven’t already read the first three books in the series, go out and get them today, and order Showoff as soon as it’s available. Where will Griffin’s plan take the boys? Will they manage to avoid trouble? Most importantly, can they save Luthor? Read Showoff to find out.

13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison
Reviewed by Steve Wyborney, Fourth Grade Teacher, Oregon

Reader, be warned. . . .

Tanya, a young teen with a secret and highly unusual gift, is sent to live with her grandmother at Elvesden Manor. None of Tanya’s relatives welcome her. They just wish she would go away, and it turns out that they have very good reasons for those feelings. However, despite her longing for the truth, Tanya understands very little.

Tanya’s secret gift is the ability to see fairies. Yet even though she can see them and talk to them, she knows very little of how dangerous they can be, or how closely her family history is connected to the fairy realm or to Hangman Woods, where the fairies often emerge. Unfortunately, Hangman Woods is dangerously, temptingly near Elvesden Manor.

Tanya’s limitless desire for the truth leads her through hidden passages and forgotten rooms of Elvesden Manor, which is struggling to contain many of its own secrets. As she explores, Tanya’s discoveries lead her to deeper and more dangerous questions.

Reader, be warned! As the truth slowly and steadily unravels in surprising ways, this book becomes very difficult to put down. It is a spellbinding page-turner that steadily ratchets up the tension. The closer Tanya gets to the truth, the deeper the danger becomes. Yet Tanya will not quit until she finds the full extent of the truth about herself, her family, and Elvesden Manor.

Michelle Harrison has crafted a series of tense layers that work together beautifully in this completely absorbing page-turner. Every now and then you discover a 350+ page book that you can read in a single sitting; 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison is one of those books. Once you turn the first page, you won’t find a good place to stop reading. But you won’t care — you won’t want to stop.

TAB

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
Reviewed by Lisa Womack, Sixth Grade Teacher, Florida

The False Price doesn’t disappoint, from beginning to end. Sage, an orphan, is just trying to get by and stay alive. One day he gets bought by Connor, a regent in the King’s Court, and he realizes that not only is life about to get more difficult, but the ability to stay alive has just gotten a lot trickier. Connor has a plan to pass off one of the four orphans he bought as the missing prince and he has two weeks to figure out which one will be the best fit. Not only are the boys competing with each other, but it has been made clear that the ones who do not make the cut will be easily disposed of. Sage isn’t sure what to do; he doesn’t want to be prince, but he also knows that he might be the only one who can save them all. This book is full of action and twists and turns from the first page to the last. This is a five-star choice, great for any student or adult, girl or boy!

Bystander by James Preller
Reviewed by Kim Nelson, Fifth and Sixth Grade Teacher, Minnesota

Are you looking for a way to talk about bullying? You need to check this book out. After recently moving to a new school, Eric found himself witnessing students being bullied but he did nothing. Eventually, he realized that he needed to do something to make it stop, but he did not know what that something was. Written from the point of a view of a bystander, this book allows readers to connect with the characters and their feelings while easily lending itself to discussions about bullying. Since this is such a vital conversation in classrooms and homes everywhere these days, this book is a must-read!

Entwined by Heather Dixon
Reviewed by Kim Nelson, Fifth and Sixth Grade Teacher, Minnesota

After their mother dies, twelve princesses must observe a year-long mourning period. With a bit of magic, the sisters find a secret passageway to a hidden ballroom right within their castle. Readers are swept away into the magical world of the twelve dancing princesses, and discover what happens when these sisters escape to an enchanted realm each night. Romance, adventure, and little bit of magic keep readers turning the pages, intrigued to find out what happens to these beautiful princesses.

Vietnam #2:  Sharpshooter by Chris Lynch
Reviewed by Laurie Crawford, Fourth Grade Teacher, Pennsylvania

Sharpshooter is a great guy read! Rudi, Morris, Beck, and Ivan are in their last year of high school and faced with the possibility of enlisting, being drafted, or running from serving in the Vietnam War. Years ago they made a pledge to stick together—will the threat of war cause them to break their promise to one another? Ivan’s father was a soldier, so Ivan has no problem with going away to war. That’s not the case with his friends. Read on to see what becomes of the young men as they face their futures.

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January 4, 2012