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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

November Teacher Advisor Reviews


Ten in the Den  by John Butler

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

I LOVED this book! The predictable text made the story a quick favorite in the library center. Ten little animals are in the den when the little mouse tells everyone roll over; one by one they roll over and out of the den and down the hill. When the little mouse gets lonely as the last one in the den, he rolls to his friends and they all settle in for the night under the tree. The students were familiar with the classic “ten in the bed” tale and were surprised when it was animals in the “bed.” The rhyming words to describe how the animals rolled down the hill were a big hit. The pictures are wonderfully drawn and easily recognizable.

This book could be used for:

  • Work with rhyming
  • With one-to-one correspondence
  • With vocabulary building




 The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Matt Tavares

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

The Gingerbread Pirates is a delicious holiday treat and a refreshing twist on the classic tales of the Gingerbread Man. Jim and his mother decide to bake pirate-shaped gingerbread cookies on Christmas Eve…but oh, no! Captain Cookie will not on the plate go! As Jim falls asleep listening for Santa’s reindeer, Captain Cookie begins an adventure to find the rest of his gingerbread pirate crew and save them from this Santa Claus character he has heard about. Young readers will enjoy this creative and beautifully illustrated story of Captain Cookie’s journey, which leads him to a Christmas surprise fit for any crew of the pirate seas. Gingerbread, pirates, and a little Christmas magic…aye, aye! We be delivering a great holiday story, matey!

This book could be used for:

  • Persuasive writing activity from Captain Cookie’s point of view
  • Pirate Cookie Sight Word Game (use laminated pirate-shaped cookies/cookie sheets and flipper spatulas with high-frequency words)
  • Retelling rope story elements and sequencing
  • Pirate Probability problem-solving activity



 Rabbit’s Gift by George Shannon, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

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

Rabbit’s Gift is a Chinese folktale translated by the author George Shannon. It is a sweet story about a rabbit sharing a turnip during a cold winter storm. It shows the power of kindness as Rabbit’s gesture to share carries on through various animals in the woods. Each animal shows itself to be very grateful and thoughtful toward the others. In the end the turnip shows back up at Rabbit’s house, where he ultimately chooses to get everyone together and share the turnip amongst all the animals. What a good story to show how to pay it forward.

This is a great story for teaching folktales from other countries. Teachers can read various folktales and compare them as well as discuss the elements that make them folktales. This is also a good story to use in integrating lessons on countries and discussing the various literature from different countries.

This book could be used for:

  • Folktales
  • Sharing
  • Cultures and literature




 Home for Christmas by Jan Brett

Reviewed by Jill, First-Grade Teacher, LaGrange, Ohio

Home for Christmas tells a heartwarming story about a mischievous little troll named Rollo. As the legend goes, Rollo won’t lose his troll tail until he learns to be helpful and kind. Rollo isn’t bothered at all that he still has his tail. In fact, he decides that he will run away from home just to avoid his chores. Throughout the story, Rollo has many adventures with the beautifully illustrated wild animals, but none of the animal families is quite the right fit for him. Eventually Rollo realizes that there is no place like home, and he returns just in time to celebrate “the best Christmas ever”! Is Rollo’s change of heart enough for him to eventually lose his troll tail? You’ll have to read the book to find that out.

The illustrations, like all of Jan Brett’s illustrations, are beautifully detailed. Brett’s trademark borders can be seen throughout the story, giving clues to what is happening at home while Rollo is away and what is going to happen next in the story. The art in the borders helps promote good thinking and comprehension skills by encouraging children to find clues throughout the story.

Although Christmas is only mentioned at the end of this story, this book would also be a great introduction to discussing holiday traditions within the classroom. Home for Christmas is a touching story that encourages kindness and responsibility in families, and I think it is a must-have for all Jan Brett fans.

This book could be used for:

  • Author study on Jan Brett
  • Making inferences: Use the illustrations in the border to discuss what Rollo’s family is doing at home while Rollo is in the wilderness
  • Making predictions: Use the border illustrations to discuss what will happen next
  • Comparing and contrasting student holiday traditions with Rollo’s family



 How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague

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

This is an adorable rhyming book that is presented in a large font, making it especially attractive to kids who worry about being able to read a lot of words per page. The two-page-spread illustrations are sure to captivate children’s attention, as each one includes a different kind of dinosaur, whose scientific name also appears in the drawing. Throughout the first half of the story, the author poses questions, sparking the reader’s curiosity about how dinosaurs act while participating in different Chanukah traditions. Later, the author reveals that dinosaurs really do behave appropriately while sharing in the customs of this special Jewish holiday. Specific descriptions of the acceptable behaviors are included in the story. Readers of all ages are sure to enjoy this book and even pick up some facts about Chanukah while reading this fictional story!

This book could be used for:

  • Use this book during a Holidays Around the World unit of study in December.
  • Do a KWL chart prior to studying about Chanukah. Then, after reading this book, add to the L column with facts about the holiday that were presented in the story.
  • Present the following vocabulary words to the class and discuss their meanings: menorah, gelt, dreidel, latke.
  • Discuss the meaning of the number of candles on a menorah.
  • Introduce the dreidel game and play it as a center game, or send it home for a family activity. Plastic dreidels can be purchased inexpensively, or the game piece can be printed on tagboard, cut out, and folded as a make-and-take project.
  • Complete a Venn diagram, comparing and contrasting Chanukah and Christmas traditions.
  • Make and eat latkes in class.
  • Sample some gelt (chocolate coins).
  • Look up information about each of the dinosaurs shown in the story (which are also illustrated and named inside the front and back covers).
  • Write a friendly letter to a dinosaur in the book, telling him how to behave during the holidays. Cite reasons for these rules.
  • Discuss positive character traits found in the book.


 I Spy Fly Guy! by Tedd Arnold

Reviewed by Jennifer Thompson, Kindergarten Teacher, Albertville, Minnesota

This is a very simple story—great for a first chapter book. It gives the reader the sense of reading a chapter book, but the ability to understand and follow the story easily. Fly Guy is a common character in many Tedd Arnold books, and a possible author study could be done with a guided reading group.

I would recommend I Spy Fly Guy! for teaching sequence of events and problem/solution. This book would make a great resource for those comprehension strategies, especially for young readers.

This book could be used for:

  • Guided reading group
  • Sequence of events
  • Problem/solution




 Scholastic Discover More: Penguins by Penelope Arlon

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

Instantly become a penguin expert with this all-in-one Discover More guide! This full-color penguin reference book gives you everything you could ever want to know about penguins and their habitats. Did you know that there is one species of penguin that can grow as tall as a seven-year-old child? An incredible guide at the beginning of the book teaches readers how to best use the reference and offers page descriptions, keys, and directions on how to access a free digital book about Antarctica (another perk to owning the book). With winter coming up, this is a perfect read for my third graders. The photographs are large enough to do short read-alouds, and the text is perfect for young readers to tackle independently. I am very impressed with the format and believe this piece will mark the beginning of our room’s new Scholastic Discover More series.

This book could be used for:

  • Lessons with winter themes
  • Lessons about penguins
  • Lessons about Antarctica
  • Reference book collections



 Goofballs #1: The Crazy Case of Missing Thunder by Tony Abbott, illustrated by Colleen Madden

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

The Crazy Case of Missing Thunder is the first book in the Goofballs series. This early chapter book is adorable, and in the hands of a reluctant reader it looks like a “big kid’s” chapter book. What is really enjoyable is that the plot moves along quickly as clues to the mystery are introduced. This encourages the reader to really think to figure out “who done it” and revise their predictions as they read. What seems obvious is not really obvious as clues are introduced.

The Goofballs are a group of four friends—Jeff, Brian, Mara, and Kelly—who solve mysteries together. The story is told in first person by Jeff, who takes the lead in solving this case. In this book they are hired to solve a case where a beloved horse named Thunder has disappeared. Does Thunder’s name have something to do with the mystery? You will have to pick up this book to find the answer.

This book could be used for:

  • Making predictions
  • Introduction to mystery books
  • Wordplay and slapstick
  • Dialogue-driven text
  • Books written in first person
  • Friendship and working together

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3: Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.7: Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.9: Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series).




 Big Nate Makes the Grade by Lincoln Peirce

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

If my students’ reactions when they saw Big Nate Makes the Grade sitting on my desk were any indicator of how fun this book would be, I knew I was in for a treat! Big Nate did not disappoint! Nate is off on his next mischief-filled adventure in this latest installment of the wildly popular graphic-novel series. One of my favorite parts involves a classic “teacher trick” where Nate and the know-it-all Gina are separated. Nate is really excited until he realizes that his new seat is worse than his old one because it is in front of a sick kid who is coughing germs all over him.

This graphic novel kept me turning pages not only to see what trouble Nate would get into next, but also to keep the laughs coming. I loved the multiple levels of humor in this book—it appeals to kids and adults alike!

This book could be used for:

  • English—teaching dialogue writing and punctuation
  • Art—creating comic strips


 The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

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

In Ellen Potter’s riveting remake of the classic The Secret Garden, Roo Fanshaw experiences personal tragedy and upheaval that immediately draw the reader into Roo’s shockingly sad world. As the narrative begins, we discover Roo curled up motionless under her family’s trailer, where she hid during the murder of her father. She’s damaged, withdrawn, and alone, but not for long. She ends up on creepy Cough Island (think tuberculosis) in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, taken in by her strange uncle. Life there in a former TB sanitarium for children ends up being much better than Roo’s former circumstances. However, something’s amiss on Cough Island, and Roo can’t seem to resist the urge to investigate what lies at the heart of the sanitarium. What she finds there is shocking. I found this book both haunting and engaging and could not put it down. I imagine my fourth graders will feel the same way!

This book could be used for:

  • One of several titles in a mystery study or literature circle
  • A comparison of The Secret Garden and The Humming Room
  • A mentor text for setting
  • A mentor text for character development


 Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Reviewed by Tera, Fifth-Grade Teacher, Papillion, Nebraska

This is a book with a twist in the end…my favorite kind of chapter book! Georges is experiencing some changes in his life when he meets a boy in his new apartment building named Safer. Safer and his family are quite interesting and make Georges feel welcome in their home. Safer is a self-appointed spy who is helping Georges learn how to be a spy too. They decide to track the mysterious Mr. X, who also lives in their apartment building, to find out what he carries in his large suitcases. Their work as spies allows the boys to figure out secrets about each other and decide what makes a true friend.

This book could be used for:

  • Comprehension questions due to the twists and ties that are seen throughout the book…students must pay attention to the detail throughout the story for the end to make sense
  • Literature circle book to allow great discussions and conversations on the story and characters



 Trash by Andy Mulligan

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

This story takes place in a fictional Third-World city called Behala that is based loosely on a place the author visited while in Manila. The story starts with Raphael talking about his life as a dumpsite boy. Scavenging at a dumpsite is how these children make money for their families to eat and survive. They are looking for things like plastic, glass, cardboard, metal, and clothing. Things that most of us wouldn’t think twice about as we tossed it into the recycling bin or trash can are valuable in Behala. Most of the time, the dumpsite boys don’t find much, but one day Raphael finds a small leather bag that contains money and several other items. The boys are excited about the money, but they don’t really think about the bag and the other items. They realize the bag and its contents are important when the police arrive at the dumpsite and offer money if the bag is found. The boys wisely keep quiet, but then Raphael’s aunt mentions that he found something to the police; Raphael tells them it was just a shoe. I don’t want to give away much of the story, but the hunt is on for both the police and the boys. The boys want to find out why the bag is so important, and the police are close behind because they believe the boys have the bag. Please note that this book is more geared for mature readers or middle-school students.

This book could be used for:

  • Use it for a lesson on voice/perspective/point of view. The chapters are told from different characters’ points of view.
  • Use it for lessons on predicting. Have students predict what will happen next throughout the story.
  • Use it for text-to-world connections. Do dumpsite boys exist? Do some government officials misuse money intended for others? Are there political prisoners today? Are there mission schools that offer education and food, but the children still need to work in order to survive?
  • Use it for a writing lesson. Would your students have reacted the same way to the police and the items? Would they have done the same thing the boys did at the end of the book?



 Game Changers by Mike Lupica

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

Ben McBain has loved sports his whole life, but none more than football. Not only does he love football, but he knows that despite his small size, he was born to play quarterback. All of his best friends who play football with him know this too. The problem is that Rockville Middle School has a new coach: Matt O’Brien, a former NFL quarterback whose pro career consisted of being Peyton Manning’s backup QB for the Indianapolis Colts. Coach O’Brien’s dream is to craft one person to be the ultimate quarterback: his son, Shawn. Even though Shawn has all the physical qualities to be the perfect quarterback, he lacks the mental confidence to pull it off. Can Ben realize his dream of not only being the ultimate team player, but proving he is the best choice for quarterback as well?

This book could be used for:

  • Reluctant readers who love books filled with mostly sports talk and game scenarios
  • Example of a character who displays good sportsmanship and teamwork no matter what the situation
  • Many examples of figurative language that relate to sports talk


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November 8, 2012