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

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September Teacher Advisor Reviews

HONEYBEE

One Windy Day by Tammi Salzano, illustrated by Hannah Wood

Reviewed by Donna, PreK Teacher, St. Louis, Missouri

One Windy Day is a book that can be used to teach young toddlers all the way up to PreK and beginning readers. The mail carrier is a fox who likes windy days because he gets to meet a lot of animal friends who catch the letters that blow out of his bag and hands. It is a fall day and the colors of the book reflect that. The illustrations are vibrant and will catch the eye of any reader. The book teaches opposites. The letters blow near, far, up, down, etc. Finally, with the help of his friends, Fox is able to deliver the mail despite the wind.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • An opposite-themed week
  • Teaching words to younger children
  • Teaching beginning reading skills

Time to Say Bye-Bye by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Reviewed by Marilyn, PreK and Third-Grade Teacher, Houston, Texas

This is a bright, colorful book with clear pictures, toddler-friendly vocabulary, and a repetitive story structure. It can easily become a toddler favorite. After just a few readings most children should be able to “read” the story themselves as they identify the objects in the story. Parents and teachers can easily make connections to events in toddler’s lives as they encounter objects at the park, at Grandma’s, and during play time, bath time, and bedtime. It would be a great introduction for toddlers starting with a babysitter or day care as they begin having to say bye-bye to parents at drop-off time in the morning.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Introducing vocabulary to toddlers
  • Story starters with young children (What do you say bye-bye to?)
  • Addressing separation anxiety

Elmo Goes to School by Jodie Shepherd, illustrated by Christopher Moroney

Reviewed by Marilyn, PreK and Third-Grade Teacher, Houston, Texas

This bright Sesame Street–themed book contains more than 30 flaps for an interactive storytelling experience. This is a sturdy board book with flaps that are easy to grasp for a four- or five-year-old child. All of your child’s favorite Sesame Street monsters get to participate in the school day. Each page depicts a happening from Elmo’s first day of school and has an interactive hunt for shapes, numbers, colors, actions, or snacks. Elmo gets dropped off at school, plays in centers, does art, goes outside, and has lunch.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Introducing the first day of school to new students
  • Comparing what happens on Elmo’s first day to their own first day
  • Drawing connections to characters children are familiar with on TV
  • Starting a story experience
  • Drawing their own bus and classroom

FIREFLY

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

Reviewed by Patti, Kindergarten Teacher, Herriman, Utah

This is the most delightful book. I smiled all the way through. It is the perfect introduction-to-kindergarten book. Olivia doesn’t want to wear a pink tutu and dress like all the other girls and some of the boys. When they are wearing their pink tutus to a party she wears a “simple” French sailor shirt, matador pants, black flats, a strand of pearls, sunglasses, a red bag, and a gardening hat. She also says there are many different princesses and talks about Thai, African, and Chinese princesses. Ian Falconer catches the six-year-old mentality perfectly and in the cutest way lets students know that they can be different from the crowd and fabulous in their own way. I highly recommend this book to any age range! Believe in yourself and who you are, and never be afraid to dream of what you can do. Olivia the queen isn’t!

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for talking about:

  • Self-esteem
  • First day of school
  • Emotions
  • Finding yourself
  • Being different is okay, if not fabulous!
  • Walk to the beat of your own drum!
  • Cultural diversity
  • Fitting in by being yourself
  • Never be afraid of being you!

National Geographic Kids Apples and Pumpkins Pack by Jill Esbaum

Reviewed by Stephanie, Kindergarten Teacher, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Perfect National Geographic series pack for fall! Colorful photographs and descriptive text invite students to learn about life cycles, make connections, and more. Esbaum brilliantly uses language and pictures that jump right off the page and tap into the exploratory nature and senses of young readers everywhere. These books provide a good foundation for the young mind and are a delicious treat for all ages. Join the author as she explores a world where apple stars hold seeds that grow and jack-o’-lanterns brightly glow!

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Life cycle thinking maps
  • Apple star painting
  • Graphing your favorite apple
  • All about adjectives

Froggy Builds a Tree House by Jonathan London, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz

Reviewed by Jennifer Shilling, Kindergarten Teacher, Clarkdale, Arizona

Our beloved Froggy is back and he is building a tree house! In this fun book, Froggy gets a fun idea and wants to build his own tree house so he can order a pizza. Froggy has a few little “bumps” while building the tree house, but he and his friends have a great time working together. This book is GREAT for team building!

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Team building
  • Working with tools
  • Safety lessons
  • A step in building something

Stay Close to Mama by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Reviewed by Lyndsey, First-Grade Teacher, Wake Forest, North Carolina

I read Stay Close to Mama to my first graders the other day. They loved the story. It is a sweet journey of a very curious little giraffe named Twiga who wants to go and explore his world. Not too far behind is Twiga’s mama, who keeps reminding him to stay close and stay safe. As Twiga explores his surroundings the children also got to take a journey through the plains of Africa. The pictures are great and the details in the story help you to see what you might encounter on a journey through the plains of Africa. My children were excited to see where Twiga the giraffe would go next.

This would be a great story for Mother’s Day or for a mom to buy for her sweet kindergartener to share. It is reassuring to a child to know that no matter what you encounter in your world your mama will never be far behind. At the end there is a great informative paragraph sharing some facts about giraffes. It was fun to learn things neither I nor the students knew about giraffes.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Landscapes
  • Mother/child reading time
  • Study on giraffes

SEESAW

Spiders by Nic Bishop

Reviewed by Linda, Second-Grade Teacher, Oakdale, California

Spiders is a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, and it is sure to capture the interest of readers of all ages. The impressive photographs of magnified spiders that appear on each page will surely inspire anyone to read the information in the text in order to learn about these fascinating creatures. In addition to describing different types of spiders, the author gives a brief history about spiders in general. He describes the anatomy of all spiders and compares them to insects. A detailed description of how spiders trap their prey is also included, as well as how spiders go about consuming their food. The yellow crab spider, green lynx, goliath birdeater tarantula, black widow, huntsman, cobalt-blue tarantula, black-and-yellow garden spider, orb web spider, fishing spider, jumping spider, rose-hair tarantula, wolf spider, and long-jawed spider are all shown and described in this spectacularly interesting book!

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Use with a unit on spiders (perhaps at Halloween time)
  • Use when studying insects, in order to compare/contrast insects and spiders (Venn diagram)
  • Student reports
  • Doing a K-W-L chart to find out what the kids already know and want to know about spiders before reading the book, and what they learned from reading the book
  • A draw-along lesson about spiders, in which the teacher names the parts as they are being drawn so the children use the correct terminology, and the spiders are drawn as close to scientifically correct as possible
  • Group reports about the individual spiders mentioned using the book as one of the sources

LUCKY

National Geographic Kids Chapters: Dog Finds Lost Dolphins! by Elizabeth Carney

Reviewed by Kelly, Second-Grade Teacher, Sutton, Massachusetts

Come meet animal heroes Cloud, Kasey, and HeroRats as they help other animals and people! Part of the National Geographic Kids Chapters series, Dog Finds Lost Dolphins! And More True Stories of Amazing Animal Heroes is a fantastic introduction to and exploration of both chapter books and nonfiction text. Each of the three parts of the book highlights an animal hero and describes how it helps other animals or people. Information is also given on the training the animal receives and is complemented by beautiful photographs of the animal. The text is very accessible for young and intermediate readers, and will fascinate them as they learn about these unlikely heroes.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Kids who like animals and nonfiction
  • Animal units
  • Study of human-animal interactions

Ruby’s New Home by Tony and Lauren Dungy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Reviewed by Elaina, Third-Grade Teacher, Chicago, Illinois

When Mom and Dad brought her home, everyone was so excited! Ruby, an adorable brown puppy, has just joined a family of five with three anxious kids ready to spoil her. It becomes clear after their first trip to the pet store, though, that there may be some competition between the siblings regarding Ruby’s care. Who does Ruby really belong to? Who gets to play with Ruby first? Who gets to sleep with Ruby in their room? Mom steps in to explain that Ruby is a family member and that the kids should share. When Ruby goes missing, the family works as a team and finds her snuggled up in her own bed! From there, the family learns to take turns and share the responsibility of having a puppy.

This level two reader will make a great addition to a guided reading collection but also works well by itself.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for talking about:

  • Teamwork
  • Sharing
  • Responsibility

Magic Tree House #48: A Perfect Time for Pandas by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca

Reviewed by Sharon, Third-Grade Teacher, Hartsdale, New York

Mary Pope Osborne keeps readers on the edge of their seats as Annie and Jack find the final clue to save Merlin’s beloved penguin. Annie and Jack have been on three journeys in three previous books in which they collected a rose carved out of emeralds, a dried white and yellow flower, and a goose-feather quill pen. All of these items are needed to create a spell to turn Penny back into a real penguin and save Teddy (who accidently put the spell on her) from being banished from Camelot. They are transported to southeast China close to a panda reserve right as an earthquake occurs. How will the pandas survive, and how will the pandas help them in their mission to find the last clue to help Teddy?

I must admit that this is the first book in the series that I have read and I couldn’t put it down. It is well written and I love how the author had three books culminate in a final story bringing each of the clues together to save Teddy. The rose carved out of emerald was from the book A Crazy Day with Cobras. The dried white and yellow flower was from the book Dogs in the Dead of Night. The goose-feather quill pen was from the book Abe Lincoln at Last! I looked this information up online so the other books can be read before this one.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Describing characters in a story (their traits, motivations, or 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 (in books from a series)
  • Describing the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect
  • Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic (such as writing about pandas or the earthquake in China)

ARROW 

City of Orphans by Avi, illustrated by Greg Ruth

Reviewed by Leah, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Centerville, Ohio

The fantastic Newbery Medal–winning author Avi has written yet another spectacular adventure story. Set in New York in 1893, this tale depicts very realistically the difficulties that immigrants to America faced. Maks and Willa struggle to earn their eight cents a day working as newsies. When Maks’s sister Emma is accused of theft and tossed in prison, Maks and Willa become detectives with the help of a former Pinkerton agent. Mystery is woven skillfully into the plot along with well-researched historical information.

Avi does an amazing job of creating imagery for the reader. I could visualize the conditions where Maks and his family lived. I thought that the hope and optimism that the characters displayed was inspiring. Life in America was tremendously hard for the immigrants but still better than what had been left behind. I was also moved by the desire of the characters to better themselves. One character worked 12-hour days lacing shoes in a factory to earn pennies and then went to night school with the hope of becoming a secretary. She would earn ten dollars a week in that position! The lessons learned from reading this outstanding novel are many.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for talking about:

  • American history and immigration
  • Character education: bullying, perseverance, and integrity
  • Writing: character development, and imagery

The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford

Reviewed by Roxanne, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Antioch, California

The Secret Tree is a book about friendship and growing up. What do you do when your friend decides it’s time to grow up and you are not ready to leave childhood behind? She wants to be in with the cool girls, and you still want to be a roller-derby queen. This is one of the problems faced by Minty during the summer before middle school. The Secret Tree has complex characters with real-life issues. The “secrets” are ones that many students will identify with. It is always a pleasure to find a book with strong female characters, and who can resist reading and guessing about other people’s secrets? The ending is satisfying in that it reveals secrets and resolves the issues in a positive way. I like happy endings.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Making predictions to comprehend text
  • Cause and effect
  • Character development

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli

Reviewed by Elizabeth, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Richmond, Virginia

Closer-than-close twins experience inevitable change as they struggle to find their own identities. The reader feels Lily’s angst as Jake understandably pulls away from his clingy sister, insisting he does not want any part of being a “twinny twin twin.”

While Lily tries to figure out who she is without Jake by her side, Jake navigates the rocky terrain of doing whatever it takes—relentlessly picking on lovable Ernie, the “supergoober”—to fit in. With humor and insight, Spinelli takes the reader on a touching parallel journey of Lily’s self-discovery and Jake’s redemption.

Cleverly told from the twins’ alternating points of view, this novel has plenty of action, drama, and heart, along with a strong message about kindness and accepting others. It’s a great read that would appeal to all.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Both boys and girls
  • Bullying, friendship, and standing up for what’s right
  • Mini-lessons in voice and point of view
  • Theme studies: friendship, growing apart, change, redemption 

TAB

The Bar Code Prophecy by Suzanne Weyn

Reviewed by Jennifer, Fifth-Grade Teacher, Orlando, Florida

I hadn’t read the other books in this series and I found it wasn’t necessary to read them in order to understand the story. Grace works at a corporation that is responsible for bar-code tattoos and other types of technology. The company was previously in trouble for misusing technology they created.

All people are supposed to get a bar-code tattoo when they turn 17. When they are given the tattoo, their DNA and other information is sent to a computer. Grace receives her tattoo early on in the book, which triggers a host of events that cause Grace to be on the run. Grace has to figure out who to trust and quickly. The book is an action-packed example of dystopian fiction. This book would be great for students who enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • A lesson on sequencing: There are lots of events in the story to keep track of, so a sequencing chart would be helpful.
  • Lessons on predicting: Students could predict why events are happening in several places in the story. They could also predict what is going to happen throughout the book.
  • Having students write a possible ending to the story using details from the story to justify their reasoning (the story leaves us with an open ending).

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park

Reviewed by Cindy, Sixth-Grade Teacher, Alma, Arizona

Rafe is on a mission at his new middle school: to break every rule in the school. His friend, Leo the Silent, has a points system that helps him do just that. Although his mom and her evil live-in boyfriend, Bear, disapprove of his friendship with Leo, Rafe has decided that rules are for chumps and he will break every one of them. The fact that his crush, Jeanne Galletta, also disapproves seems to matter little to Rafe. While dodging Miller the Killer (the class bully) and teachers such as the Dragon Lady, Rafe is well on his way to earning many points for doing things such as streaking through the school in his underwear on Halloween. Things begin to escalate between Rafe and the principal and Rafe and Miller the Killer. The story takes a surprise twist at home and at school with an ending that will surprise many but shock none.

[Teachers | Parents]

This book is good for:

  • Fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, as it also has clever illustrations spread throughout the story
  • Lessons using the voice of the writer; the main character’s voice is very strong throughout
  • Lessons on bullying (at home and at school)

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August 29, 2012