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August 10, 2016


Every month, TAB editor Kristin will be sharing her thoughts on five titles from our… Read More

June 1, 2016

May Teacher Panel Reviews

It’s time for another round of great reviews from our wonderful 2011-2012 Teacher Panel!


Stomp , Dinosaur, Stomp! by Margaret Mayo, illustrated by Alex Ayliffe
Reviewed by Donna, PreK Teacher, Missouri

This book is great for toddlers to PreKs. The cover of the book is bright yellow and features the ever-popular T. rex looking right at you! This is eye-catching and is a great selling feature. The illustrations are bright as well. On each page is a different dinosaur placed in an appropriate setting. For example, the Tyrannosaurus is stomping through a wooded area whereas the Plesiosaurus is in the water. For those of us who are not paleontologists, it is nice to have the correct pronunciation of the dinosaur names spelled out!

Each dinosaur has a special feature or “weapon” that it uses. For younger children, the repetition of the words helps comprehension and for older children, the repeated words are in bold print so they are easy to point out and read. The drawings are true to life. Preschool-age children will delight in guessing the secret weapon or trait of each dinosaur. This book is a must for every little dinosaur fan!

This book is good for:

  • Use in a dinosaur-themed week
  • Learning dinosaur names
  • Memory and recognition skills
  • Recognizing herbivores and carnivores


Ten Friendly Fish by Debbie Tarbett
Reviewed by Marilyn, PreK and Third-Grade Teacher, Texas

In Ten Friendly Fish, a group of adventurous fish go out for a swim one day. One by one, the fish stop to play with other colorful inhabitants of the ocean until only one fish is left. The one fish is not alone for long when he encounters all of the ocean friends together for a party.

Ten Friendly Fish is a bright, fun counting book. The illustrations are whimsical, colorful, and full of friendly sea creatures. The sentences flow and rhyme and lend themselves to choral reading and acting out motions. Counting the little fish on each page is a great way to encourage new counters in a fun, stress-free lesson.

This book is good for:

  • A math component in an ocean unit
  • Practicing counting objects
  • Teaching one-to-one correspondence



The Way I Act by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Janan Cain
Reviewed by Patti, Kindergarten Teacher, Utah

This book is excellent in explaining big words like respect and responsibility. It brings them down to an elementary level and shows what each of these concepts looks like in action. This is great because when we talk about these ideas we seldom have real-life examples of what they look like. It is also written in kid speak so the words are understandable to even the youngest reader. I highly recommend this book to any teacher who is trying to teach the big concepts of respect, responsibility, and safety (the big three). It also condenses all these great characteristics into one book. This saves time because you don’t have to read on entire book on just one concept.

This book is good for:

  • Martin Luther King Day
  • DARE programs
  • Discussing responsibility


Froggy Goes to Hawaii by Jonathan London, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Reviewed by Stephanie, Kindergarten Teacher, South Carolina

I absolutely love the Froggy books! There is never a dull moment with Froggy around, and his trip to Hawaii with family proves to be no different. My students loved sharing in Froggy’s adventures and laughed and laughed as he forgot to change out of his pajamas, played leapfrog at the airport, and got a little too close to a volcano. One thing is for sure, Froggy knows how to have fun! He still needs a little practice being patient, though. This is a great book to read when returning from summer break, before spring break, during ocean/beach units, or just to add a little mischief to your day! Hoppy reading!

This book is good for:

  • Onomatopoeia: Create a paper palm tree and brown die-cut circles for coconuts. Record different onomatopoeias on the coconuts and place them face down on a palm tree. Read Froggy Goes to Hawaii and discuss onomatopoeia (words that imitate sounds). Have students select an “onomatopoeia coconut” from the tree. Each student will use a large piece of construction paper and coloring pencils/crayons to illustrate his/her onomatopoeia. Create a classroom book of all the onomatopoeias.
  • Sequencing/comprehension: Pair students together and assign each pair with a different scene from the story to illustrate on a surfboard made with card stock. Have students meet at the sand table and work together to sequence the events of the story by placing all the surfboard illustrations in order.


The Ice Cream King by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Julie Downing
Reviewed by Stephanie, Kindergarten Teacher, South Carolina

Another delicious book by Steve Metzger. From the rich, rhyming text to the black-and-white “reality” pictures and the vibrant “fantasy” pictures, my students loved the excitement of bridging two worlds. This is an exciting story of a little boy’s magical journey through an ice-cream kingdom complete with an ice-cream castle, fountain, moon, and throne. In this wonderful land, he makes a thrilling discovery: sharing is the cherry on top. This book offers opportunities to incorporate a variety of content areas and is a sweet read for all ages. Two spoons for me, please!

This books is good for:

  • Literacy connections
  • Ice-cream cone word families: Prepare different cones with a variety of word families from the book (-ing, -ice, -ip) and a variety of different scoops of ice cream with corresponding words (sing, king, rice, mice, dip, slip) on colored paper. Have students match each word scoop with the correct word family cone.
  • Rhyming king: Prepare crowns out of construction paper and record rhyming words from the text on the crowns (sea/me, fudge/judge, throne/alone). To allow for student self-check, use the same color crowns for matching rhymes.


Eddie Gets Ready for School by David Milgrim
Reviewed by Jennifer, Kindergarten Teacher, Arizona

This is a fun book for any child who is ready and excited for the first day of school. Presented in list format, each page shows Eddie trying to get ready all by himself. Wishing to prove that he’s a “big boy,” Eddie tries to get dressed (with underwear on his head), eat breakfast (root beer), and pack up to go to the first day of school. Eddie makes you smile and get excited for the first day of school. This beautiful book is easy to read and has colorful pictures that are fun to look at.

This book is good for:

  • The first day of school
  • Checklists
  • Comparing right and wrong things to do before school



When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore, illustrated by Howard McWilliam
Reviewed by Jennifer, Kindergarten Teacher, Arizona

If you are a fan of Laura Numeroff’s books, then you will love When a Dragon Moves In. This wonderful book will inspire every child’s imagination. The little boy in the story builds a sandcastle at the beach—and a dragon moves in!

This colorful and fun book stretches the imagination. Kids can think of all the great reasons why a dragon would be fun to have—until he starts doing things that get the boy into trouble. Then you find out why you might not want to have a dragon at the beach after all. If you love to use your imagination, this book is for you!

This book is good for:

  • Imagination
  • Consequences
  • Prediction


Zoomer’s Summer Snowstorm by Ned Young
Reviewed by Lyndsey, First-Grade Teacher, North Carolina

Zoomer’s Summer Snowstorm is an adorable story that will help cool you off on a hot summer day. Ned Young easily brings his characters to life in this fun book. Zoomer is an energetic young pup who wants a snow cone on a hot day. He goes in the kitchen after he asks his mom if it’s OK and gets to work. Suddenly the snow cone machine starts overflowing, and before you know it the kitchen is filled with snow! Zoomer has the idea of turning summer into winter, so he opens the window and snow goes pouring into the front yard. This is where Zoomer’s imagination runs wild—and your child’s can too.

This story provides endless opportunities for discussion about ways to cool off in the summer or creative things to make with snow. Students can writes stories to go along with the fun creations Zoomer comes up with in his yard. On a hot summer day, sit down and read this fun story with your child and then head out for a snow cone!

This book is good for:

  • Imaginative writing
  • Summer reading
  • Learning past, present, and future


Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Sattler
Reviewed by Jill, First-Grade Teacher, Ohio

This book is a perfect read for the start of summer! It tells the story of two adorable pigs who enjoy collecting treasures at the beach. The highlight of their collection becomes an abandoned surfboard that they decorate with a face and affectionately name “Dave.” The two lovable pigs are thrilled with their adventures at the shore…as long as they don’t involve exploring the “lurking, murky ickiness” of the water! What will happen when Dave, the surfboard, ends up in the ocean? Will Fergus the pig be able to face his fear of the unknown to save Dave?

The text and pictures complement each other in this book to create a very engaging story. From the expressions on the pigs’ faces to the Hawaiian pig attire, there is so much to see in the whimsical illustrations! I love the message in this story about overcoming fears and trying new things. In the end, the pigs finally realize that the ocean can be a pretty cool place if they are brave enough to venture out in the unknown.

This book is good for:

  • Encouraging kids to try new things
  • Creative writing: What could be lurking in the murky, icky water?
  • Units on summer safety
  • Vocabulary building (the book includes great words like loyal, companion, and furiously)
  • Making predictions and connections


The Last Day of Kindergarten by Nancy Loewen, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
Reviewed by Jennifer, First-Grade Teacher, Minnesota

This story brings readers back to the excitement of starting a new school year. It also captures the worries a child might have about change when ending a school year. It is a great read-aloud for the end of a school year (kindergarten or first grade), and the author provides a genuine representation of the normal feelings of any young child throughout the early school years.

This book can be used as a great introduction to closing the school year. It provides some great discussion topics and can spark some really meaningful conversations that all kids should have with a grown-up before taking that big step up to the next grade.

This book is good for:

  • End-of-the-year closure
  • Talking about memories
  • Addressing feelings


Go West, Amelia Bedelia by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynn Sweat
Reviewed by Linda, Second-Grade Teacher, California

This 58-page picture book would be an excellent addition to any K–2 home library. It is an entertaining story that is full of figurative language and bright illustrations. With younger children, or those learning English, this story would best be used as a read-aloud, so the adult and child could discuss the reasons Amelia Bedelia responded in the silly ways she did in the story. In addition, the illustrations provide loads of opportunities for discussion that will encourage children to use the higher-level skill of reasoning when expressing their thoughts. Best of all, Go West, Amelia Bedelia! is part of a whole series of books that children would enjoy reading as well. After reading this book, it’s almost certain that elementary children will want to see what other misunderstandings Amelia Bedelia has in her other books!

This book is good for:

  • Teaching figurative language, especially to young kids, English learners, and those who are deaf/hard of hearing
  • Using with a rodeo/Western/agriculture theme or unit
  • Vocabulary development
  • Comparing and contrasting students’ vacations to Amelia Bedelia’s



Sidekicks by Dan Santat
Reviewed by Dan, Second-Grade Teacher, Pennsylvania

Sidekicks is a fast-paced graphic novel in which the aging Captain Amazing, hero of Metro City, is looking for a superhero partner as he can no longer handle his duties alone. With a plethora of eligible candidates for the job across Metro City, it is his neglected pets who want the job the most; they will do anything to spend more time with their owner, including putting themselves in danger. When the archvillain Dr. Havoc returns disguised as Wonder Man, Captain Amazing will need all the help he can get. Who will rise to the occasion and become his sidekick?

Sidekicks is a wonderful story about friendship, filled with humor and action. Young readers will love to imagine themselves right into the story.

This book is good for:

  • Friendship
  • Anti-bullying
  • Quotations


National Geographic Kids: Just Joking
Reviewed by Kristen, Third-Grade Teacher, South Dakota

This clever and witty book was a huge hit in my classroom. My students loved the bright and engaging photos on each page. Students also loved reading the book and then retelling their favorite jokes to their friends or in front of the class. For one week I posted a joke of a day from the book and had the kids try to solve the riddles.

This book is an easy read that allows readers at all levels to feel successful. Some of my most reluctant and shy readers were eager to get in front of the class and read their favorite joke aloud, which was so fun to see! A number of jokes used words that are homophones, which is a great connection to the skills we focus on in reading and language arts.

This book is good for:

  • Fluency practice
  • Quick (two- to three-minute) filler activities in the classroom
  • Homophones


My Naughty Little Puppy: A Home for Rascal by Holly Webb
Reviewed by Sharon, Third-Grade Teacher, New York

A Home for Rascal is the first book in an entertaining series by Holly Webb. This delightful early chapter book engages the reader with entertaining puppy antics as well as family dynamics. Young Ellie has always dreamed of owning a dog. She draws pictures and reads books about the type of dog she always wanted. After two years of waiting, her parents finally agree to get a family dog. But Ellie is worried that her bossy older brother and perfect older sister will get to choose the type of dog and name it. As they adopt the puppy and name him Rascal, life is not the same. How much havoc can one little puppy cause? What silly things will Rascal do? As Rascal lives up to his name, will Ellie be able to keep up with the naughty puppy—and keep him out of trouble?

This book is good for:

  • Predicting/revising predictions
  • Describing characters in a story (their traits, motivations, and feelings) and explaining how their actions contribute to the sequence of events
  • Comparing and contrasting the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters



Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Reviewed by Leah, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Ohio

You know that when the first sentence of a novel is “Mickey Cray had been out of work ever since a dead iguana fell from a palm tree and hit him on the head” you are in for a great read! The author of Hoot has written a hilarious romp that follows a boy and his father through the Florida swamps. They are on an “adventure expedition” with a Steve Irwin wannabe who proves time and again how unlike Steve Irwin he really is.

Readers will find several serious themes in this delightful book. There is quite a bit of information about endangered animal species and one of the storylines involves a girl who is abused by her alcoholic father. A great twist at the end kept me eagerly turning pages. This is a highly recommended read!

This book is good for:

  • Environmental studies—specifically endangered animals
  • Character education
  • Theater and script writing


The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Reviewed by Leah, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Ohio

This narrative, written in first person, took me back to my preteen and early teen years. The main character struggles with the choices that many girls of this age face: staying a girl or maturing into a young adult. This is clearly a dilemma that Julia wrestles with throughout the novel. When she finally makes her choice, there are serious consequences that she never considered.

Julia’s conflict is especially difficult for her since her mother is deployed to Iraq with the U.S. armed forces. Her feelings and insights really bring to life issues that so many youth deal with on a daily basis.

This book is good for:

  • Gulf War units
  • Narrative writing


Around the World in 100 Days by Gary Blackwood
Reviewed by Roxanne, Fourth-Grade Teacher, California

Around the World in 100 Days takes place in the late 1800s. It tells the story of a trip around the world in an automobile powered by steam. Harry Fogg, the son of a wealthy man who has already accomplished this same feat in 80 days, is determined to show the world what the automobile can do. He starts out with his friend (a gifted mechanic), a female reporter, and the unwelcome son of a man who is betting against their success. The book includes some wonderful characters, such as Dhiren Ramesh, an Indian engineer who teaches Harry to meditate. There are also some references to interesting events in history, such as the Luddite movement and the British rule of India. The adventure is full of mishaps and will keep students reading, just to see if Harry and his friends make it or not.

This book is good for:

  • Teaching geography and map skills—I would keep a map of the journey while reading
  • Comparing and contrasting today’s society and culture to the story’s setting
  • I would use the following quote for essay writing: “We should be indifferent to success or failure. One should simply do one’s part as cheerfully and as competently as possible, without thinking of the outcome.”


Sami’s Sleepaway Summer by Jenny Meyerhoff
Reviewed by Elizabeth, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Virginia

“I’m not a sleepaway camp kind of kid. And you can’t change who you are.”

In Jenny Meyerhoff’s novel, Sami’s Sleepaway Summer, Sami reluctantly heads off to Camp Cedar Lake reciting all the reasons why going to camp is her worst nightmare. She is allergic to nature, only likes 11 foods, and prefers quiet activities. Kids can relate to Sami as she is forced to face her biggest fears. The reader will cheer for her as she takes small steps—making new friends, trying new foods, and jumping into new activities.

Sami loves to list reasons for everything. How about a couple of reasons to love this book? Yiddish words and culture are sprinkled throughout the story and help the reader get to know Sami better. In addition, Meyerhoff beautifully portrays a blossoming friendship between Sami and Gabby, a girl who avoids talking because she stutters. Any book that helps kids think about, understand, and accept others’ differences has a place in every classroom library.

This book is good for:

  • Encouraging students to try new things
  • Accepting differences
  • A literature circle book for grades 3–5
  • Theme studies: friendship, acceptance, facing fears



Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist
Reviewed by Jennifer, Fifth-Grade Teacher, Florida

Callie receives “magical” glasses while waiting for her prescribed ones to arrive. She is shocked to learn she can read others’ thoughts when she is wearing the glasses. She is able to really see what others are thinking and most of all what they are thinking about her. She is struggling with the typical middle school need to fit in and reading what others think is often confusing for her. Her father and mother are separated so her relationship with her parents is changing. By reading other people’s thoughts, she starts to truly see that people don’t always say what they really think and they have worries too. As Callie starts to gain confidence, she begins to stand up for herself more and even tries out for the school play. Callie learns a big lesson from the glasses: “No matter how different we looked on the outside, on the inside we worried and wondered about the same things.”

This book is good for:

  • A lesson on point of view. Several times Callie reads the thoughts of others and is surprised by what she reads because her perception is different from theirs. How do others perceive actions and events?
  • A lesson on inferring. When Callie is reading some of the thought bubbles, you have to infer what happened to make someone think the thoughts that Callie is able to read.
  • A lesson on comparing/contrasting characters. There are many details in the story to choose from. (This fits nicely with the Common Core Standard LACC.5.RL.1.3.)


Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
Reviewed by Cindy, Sixth-Grade Teacher, Arizona

In Augusta Scattergood’s coming-of-age story, Glorianna (Glory) is in the midst of topsy-turvy times at home and in her hometown of Hanging Moss, Mississippi, in the summer of 1964. Fourteen-year-old Jessalyn is suddenly uninterested in sharing a room with 11-year-old Glory—or even being close with her. Their black housekeeper, Emma, seems to be on edge, although Glory cannot figure out why. And worst of all, her best friend, Frankie, keeps dropping hints that the community pool will be closed soon for “repairs” to cracks that Glory cannot even see. Things start looking up when she makes a new friend at the local library, a young girl named Laura Lampert. Laura and her mother are visiting Hanging Moss from Ohio for the summer to establish a “Freedom Clinic” for poor black residents, and there’s talk of mixing blacks and whites at the local schools, restaurants, and even the swimming pool. Everything starts to click with Glory as she realizes that the pool doesn’t have physical cracks, but their town has some metaphorical cracks that will continue to spread until these issues are dealt with. Drawing inspiration from her Nancy Drew mysteries, Glory attempts to find clues to make sense of this confusing new world she’s facing.

This book is good for:

  • Excellent mentor text for description of setting; you can almost feel the heat from the way the author describes summer 1964
  • Students who have seen the movie The Help but are not quite yet ready to tackle a book of that length
  • A lesson on idioms; many southernisms are sprinkled throughout the book


Plunked by Michael Northrop
Reviewed by Gabriel, Sixth-Grade and ELL Teacher, Iowa

Whoosh! Smack! Thump! Going up to bat had never been an issue for sixth grader and baseball enthusiast Jack Mogens. That is, until he was brought down by a wild pitch in the middle of a game. With that one fastball to the head, Jack not only suffered a minor concussion, but also lost his confidence at the plate and in life.

Much more than a book about baseball, Plunked explores all aspects of growing up, including relationships with friends, feelings of insecurity, and of course, first crushes. Filled with current references, witty dialogue, and relatable/well-crafted characters, this book, written in three parts, slides into home as one of the most entertaining and heartfelt sports-themed books that I have read in a long time. Jack’s journey and experiences after his injury will resonate with anyone who has ever been afraid to “step up to the plate” again.

This book is good for:

  • Lessons on understanding and using onomatopoeia
  • Reluctant or struggling readers who are interested in sports-themed books
  • Evaluating and identifying dynamic and static characters
  • A mini-lesson on text-to-self connections (almost everyone has had a moment when they have had to “get back on the horse”)

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April 25, 2012