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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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December Teacher Advisor Reviews

HONEYBEE

K is for Kwanzaa.  by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max

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

This book is geared toward preschool, PreK, or school-age children. This is a very informative book about the holiday of Kwanzaa both for the teachers and students. Each page has a letter that represents something about Kwanzaa as well as the definition and an illustration of what the word means. It is also helpful that the author put in the way to correctly pronounce the word. The beginning of the book explains the origin of Kwanzaa and some history about it. Another page includes the Seven Kwanzaa Principles. The illustrations of people in the book are great because they show real hairstyles and clothing of the African people. African American children benefit from seeing multicultural books with children who resemble them! This also benefits children of all races and multicultural books encourage tolerance in our community and teach about other cultures and their holidays.

 

This book could be used for:

  • K Is for Kwanzaa enhances the alphabet curriculum in the preschool and PreK classroom.
  • This book can help teachers add a Kwanzaa theme if they have not done so.
  • K Is for Kwanzaa can open up a discussion for school-age children.

The Little Shepherd’s Christmas by Carol Heyer

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

The Little Shepherd’s Christmas has beautiful illustrations and a wonderfully written story. The young shepherd is excited about being allowed to watch the flock with his brothers for the first time. The story briefly mentions what each shepherd is responsible for and how important their job is to the family. When the littlest shepherd becomes distracted he ends up looking for his little lamb who has wandered away; after finding the lamb, he and his brothers are surprised by an angelic announcement of the Son of God being born. The brothers travel to find the Son in the nearby town and discover the littlest shepherd’s true calling is being a friend.

 

This book could be used for:

  • Discussing how Jesus’ birth was announced
  • Discussing a shepherd’s job
  • Sequencing events

 

FIREFLY

 10 Trim-the Tree’ers: A Holiday Counting Book by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Linda Davick

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

This is a perfect book for little friends. It’s time for the holidays, and what could be more fun than trimming the tree with friends and neighbors? This book flows with a great rhyming text and encourages young readers to count the trimmings from 1 to 10. The letters in the mailboxes, stockings hung by the chimney with care, and the diverse characters with cute outfits that match their special decorations come together to provide the reader with a “warm fuzzy” of holiday details. Davick’s illustrations provide for a beautiful winter setting complete with soft snowflakes, a cozy fire, and lots of smiles. This book radiates warmth and cheer and is a perfect selection to get your child in the holiday spirit!

 

This book could be used for:

  • Rhyming
  • Counting and one-to-one correspondence
  • “I spy” and/or problem solving
  • Sequencing events

A Night in Santa’s Great Big Bag by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Tim Jessell

Reviewed by Patti, Kindergarten Teacher, Herriman, Utah

This is an incredible book that explains one of the mysteries of Christmas: what does the inside of Santa’s bag look like? Kristin and Tim do a wonderful job recreating a scene that every child has wondered about—what inside the bag would look like. Lamb is caring and understanding and helps other toys see how special they are. Lamb also helps them feel at ease going into a new place and helps and teaches them how to be the best toy they can be. Again, an adorable book that will help children understand the magic of Christmas and the special feeling of helping and understanding that comes with the spirit of Christmas.

 

This book could be used for:

  • Helping
  • Holidays
  • Santa
  • Feelings
  • Understanding
  • Moving
  • Divorce

All About Winter Pack Reviewed by Jennifer, Kindergarten Teacher, Clarkdale, Arizona

Let’s Count Goats! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jan Thomas

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

This cute story is an easy read to practice counting. The goats end up in various places and climates and there are many opportunities to count aloud as a group or one on one with a student. The goats are a bit naughty and so they allow for some humor while reading the story. This book is also good for opposites as goats go over, under, in, and out. Students may be able to make connections to what some of the goats are doing such as cheering in a crowd or playing a soccer game. At a point this is a story children would be able to read independently to an adult or to themselves.

 

This book could be used for:

  • Opposites
  • Counting

 

LUCKY

 

A Kwanzaa Miracle, by Sharon Shavers Gayle, illustrated by Frank Norfleet

 

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

Ashley and her brother think they know Mrs. Jackson, the meanest lady in the apartment building. However, they discover things aren’t always as they seem. Focusing on the first principle of Kwanzaa, Umoja, A Kwanzaa Miracle is a touching picture book that reminds us what really matters during the holiday season, no matter which holidays you celebrate. Included is a short guide to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Please note, death of a child and a spouse are mentioned in this book.

 

This book could be used for:

  • December holiday units
  • Family units
  • Discussion of treatment of the elderly

Furry Freedom Fighters: The Attack of the Giant Hound and All Hail the Jellyfiend!, by Nick Page, illustrated by Tim Hutchinson

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

This is a cute two-part novel written in comic-book form with a twist. The illustrator uses both illustrations and photographs to represent the characters. The heroes in this book, better known as the Furry Freedom Fighters, have their work cut out for them in “The Attack of the Giant Hound” as a hound dog mysteriously turns into a giant dog. The team must work together. How will they protect Petshopolis? Using speech bubbles the characters come to life and keep the reader engaged. The reluctant reader will most likely enjoy the author’s style and use of silly made-up words. The second story in the book, “All Hail the Jellyfiend,” has the Furry Freedom Fighter team saving Earth from the Jellyfiend. The book ends with an adorable breakdown of “The Good Guys” and “The Villains.”

 

This book is good for:

  • Determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from non-literal language
  • Explaining 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)
  • Comparing and contrasting 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)

 

ARROW

Pegasus #1: The Flame of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn

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

I loved this book! From the first page, I was swept into an action-packed story that kept moving quickly toward an unexpected ending. It features Emily as the heroine in a story based in Roman mythology. During a fierce lightning storm, the mythological winged horse Pegasus crashes onto the roof of Emily’s New York apartment building. She immediately forms a bond with the horse and decides to help him complete the dangerous mission that Jupiter sent him on. The trials that come at Emily, Pegasus, and their friends seem never-ending! What an exciting read!

Anyone who has enjoyed the Percy Jackson series will be drawn to this novel. I love that it features a girl in a strong heroine role and that there are Roman gods to introduce readers to the less commonly known counterparts of the Greek gods.

 

This book could be used for:

  • Writing: character development/change
  • History/literature: Roman mythology vs. Greek mythology

Stealing Air by Trent Reedy

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

I really enjoyed Stealing Air. Brian, the main character, is a typical sixth grader who moves to a new town and new school. He wants to make friends and fit in and begins by showcasing his skateboarding skills. Let me say that I am not familiar with skateboard lingo and the beginning was a bit confusing for me. The characters are believable while the story itself is pretty fantastic. It is a story that most children would love to experience. There are lessons to be learned and exciting adventures throughout this book. Stealing Air is a book that gets better and better as you read. I read most of the book while in my classroom and my students are begging to be next in line to read it.

 

This book could be used for:

  • Showing how a well-written book can draw you in and keep you reading
  • Teaching problem/solution (there are many good small examples within the story)
  • Teaching a character lesson about friendship

 

Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice

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

Wild Life is about hunting (among other things). I don’t care for hunting. In fact, I don’t eat meat. I skeptically picked up the book and began reading. It didn’t take me long to realize that, surprisingly, I really liked this book, and by the time I got midway though it, I loved it. Erik finds himself ripped away from not only the life he’s always known, but also a best friend he learned the basics of hunting with. He gets plunked down in the middle of Nowhere, North Dakota, with his grandparents, Oma and Big Darrell, whom he barely knows. Oma is kind enough, but Big Darrell is mean, angry, and scary. Enter Quill, a lovable lost hunting dog, who gives Erik the companionship every boy (especially a lonely one) longs for. When Quill’s owner wants him back, Erik hatches a plan to run away and “live the wild life” on his own. In the exciting adventure that follows, Erik and Quill prove themselves to be quite a team—capable of survival in the wild. The unpredictable, heart-wrenching ending is one where Erik must experience one loss in order to gain something else. Erik, Quill, Oma, and even grumpy Big Darrell find their way right into the reader’s heart. What a great read!

 

This book could be used for:

  • Book club/literature circle book for: adventure, survival, animals/pets
  • Teaching students about hunting—the topic is handled very well and with sensitivity
  • A mentor text for character development—both Erik and Big Darrell go through major changes
  • Students who like Hatchet and other similar books

 

TAB

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen

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

Lamar Washington is the 13-year-old “king” of Striker’s, the local bowling alley where he and his friends hang out, bowl, and keep the snack bar in business. While things are always good when he’s at Striker’s, at home it’s a different story. His mom has died, his dad works long hours, and his brother Xavier is the basketball star of their small town of Coffin, Indiana. Dad seems to only have eyes for X and his basketball career, so when local bad boy Billy Jenks offers to bring Lamar into his pool-hustling business and be his “friend,” it only seems natural to take advantage of it—despite the warnings from his best friend, Sergio. When Lamar’s idol, celebrity bowler Bubba Sanders, decides to make a trip to Coffin and offer a chance to win one of his custom bowling balls, the chain of events that lead up to this visit will make you laugh, cry, and maybe do both at the same time. Holy guacamole, this book is off the chain!

 

This book would be good for:

  • A lesson on slang and how it affects the tone of the book
  • Reluctant readers, especially boys, who will identify with the easy-to-read story told in such a humorous way
  • Life lessons that can be learned from the choices we make, and how we can find redemption after making mistakes

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2 Responses

  1. margaret

    I recently began a nonfiction reading unit in my first grade classroom. I have spent hours trying to level my classroom library with book wizard. However, MANY of the books that I have purchased through scholastic are not leveled. I am so frustrated!! I have spent many of my points or my own money purchasing your sets of “science vocabulary readers” only to find that either I can’t find the book in book wizard or it says “not leveled.” UGH!!

  2. Thanks for the wonderful review of my picture book THE LITTLE SHEPHERD’S CHRISTMAS. It was so great to know you liked it!

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