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

June 1, 2016

February Teacher Advisor Reviews


Clifford’s Bedtime Story by Norman Bridwell
Reviewed by Donna, PreK Teacher, St. Louis, Missouri

This is a review of Clifford’s Bedtime Story. It’s a very short story that is a great tool for beginning readers as there are only one or two sentences on each page. Emily Elizabeth is outside in the yard getting Clifford ready for bed. It is funny how she gives him a bath in the swimming pool. Clifford finally settles down in his big doghouse so that Emily Elizabeth can read him a story about a castle. She starts reading and he falls asleep. Clifford has a dream about a girl trapped in a castle. Clifford saves her and she looks just like Emily Elizabeth. When the book is finished being read, Emily Elizabeth falls asleep with Clifford too.

Bears in Beds by Shirley Parenteau, illustrated by David Walker
Reviewed by Marilyn, PreK and Third Grade Teacher, Houston, Texas

The book Bears in Beds, by Shirley Parenteau and illustrated by David Walker, is wonderfully descriptive and full of fun. The bears climb into their beds with whirls, wiggles, and kisses good night. The lights go out and the sounds of blowing wind awaken the bears, but it is the rattle from under the chair that makes Big Brown Bear turn on the light. After discovering what is causing the rattle, the bears cuddle together for a bedtime story and a good night’s sleep. This cute story that had my class talking to the bears in the book became an instant favorite read-aloud.

This book could be used for:

  • Discussing being afraid in the dark
  • Comparing to bear hibernation habits
  • Introducing and discussing descriptive verbs

Sesame Street: I Can Do It! by Sarah Albee, illustrated by Larry DiFiori 
Reviewed by Stephanie, Kindergarten Teacher, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Big Bird, Elmo, and Grover too…the Sesame Street gang is here to show little friends all they can do! A small Step Into Reading book with a big message about learning new things and having friends to help you along the way. This story has great rhyming text and includes many high-frequency words to get your little reader off to a good start! From shooting some hoops and sliding down slides, Albee encourages young readers everywhere to believe in the power of “I can” and enjoy the rewards of friendship. Ready, step, read, and see all the things that you can be!

This book could be used for:

  • Rhyming sound & sort
  • Social skill building & character traits
  • High frequency search & find
  • Math word problems
  • Making lists



Splat the Cat: Funny Valentine by Rob Scotton
Reviewed by Patti, Kindergarten Teacher, Herriman, Utah

Yet another great addition to the Splat the Cat family. This book is fantastic. I love how they reward the teacher with a valentine. She always seems to be forgotten on this very special day. It is great for predicting because you can ask a question before each flap. It also builds throughout the books with the flaps. My kindergartners loved it! I had to read it twice before they would let me put it down. It is great for summarizing and you really can’t guess the ending, which makes it a perfect book for predicting and summarizing. It also shows friends working together for a good cause.

This book could be used for:

  • Sequencing
  • Predicting
  • Summarizing
  • Working together
  • Valentine’s
  • Respecting others


Christopher Counting by Valeri Gorbachev
Reviewed by Jennifer, Kindergarten Teacher, Clarkdale, Arizona

Who doesn’t love to count? In this wonderful and colorful book, Christopher Counting by Valeri Gorbachev, counting is everywhere! Little Christopher rabbit learns to count in school. He loved what he learned that he started counting everything he saw. This led him to a fun game of hide-and-seek, and he got to count then! My class really enjoyed this book because they got to count too. It would be great for early readers to read the numbers in the story. The illustrations are beautiful. I really enjoyed reading this book!

This book could be used for:

  • Beginning counting
  • Reading number words


Glamsters by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
Reviewed by Lyndsey, First Grade Teacher, Wake Forest, North Carolina

You know the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well go ahead and do it with this story.  The title alone is fun and creative, and the picture gives you a great a visual of what you will experience when reading this story. A hamster lives in a pet shop and is desperately hoping to be adopted along with her sister, but they are going unnoticed. Then Harriett sees an article that explains how to go from hamster to glamster! Harriett follows the instructions to make her fur shiny and she makes a beautiful hat to wear. Then she goes so far as to give her sister “whisker extensions.”

I will leave out the fun details, but the lesson that Harriett’s sister teaches her in the end is that you don’t need to be a glamster to be noticed—just be yourself. What a fun way to show children that they are perfect just the way they are. They will see that they never need to change their appearance inside or out to make someone like them. Definitely a must-read!

This book could be used for:

  • Self-confidence
  • Create your own “glamster”
  • Have children share what they like about themselves and each other



White Water by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by Shadra Strickland
Reviewed by Kelly, Second Grade Teacher, Sutton, Massachusetts

White Water by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein is a touching, thought-provoking look at segregation in the 1960s. The main character, Michael, is hot and thirsty after a long bus ride. When he arrives in town, he heads to the water fountain for a cool drink of water. He takes only a brief drink, as he finds the water from the “Colored Only” fountain to be of poor quality. However, another little boy takes a much longer drink from the “Whites Only” fountain. Michael imagines that the other water must taste so much better—why else would the other boy take such a long drink? Michael hatches a plan to find out how the “Whites Only” water tastes, and ends up discovering much more than that. An age-appropriate look at a sensitive topic, White Water gently asks us to question that which may seem unquestionable.

This beautifully illustrated picture book, which is based on a true story, is perfect for:

  • January discussions on civil rights
  • Black History Month studies
  • Discussions of equality


Cam Jansen and the Basketball Mystery by David A. Adler, illustrated by Joy Allen
Reviewed by Sharon, Third Grade Teacher, Hartsdale, New York

Cam Jansen works her detective magic in Case # 29, The Basketball Mystery. Cam, her friend Eric, and his family are attending the last game of the season, which also happens to be the final game for Coach Oscar Jenkins. Excitement builds as the game is played. Will the Hamilton team be able to win the final game and send Coach Jenkins out with a big cheer? At the end of the game there are some surprises in store. A former student who is now someone important shows up with a basketball signed by more than 100 of Coach Jenkins’s former players. The ball is going to be worth a lot of money one day. As the fans leave the gym to head to the cafeteria for the party, the basketball disappears. Will Cam and Eric be able to find it before the culprit leaves the building? As Cam clicks away with her photographic memory, we are kept in suspense until the end.

This book can be used for:

  • Making predictions
  • Introduction to mystery books
  • Dialogue-driven text
  • 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)



Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz 
Reviewed by Leah, Fourth Grade Teacher, Centerville, Ohio

After reading Splendors and Glooms, I understand why it won a Newbery Honor Award for 2013. This completely original story contains oddly intriguing characters and wonderful imagery. I could smell, hear, and see the Victorian setting and characters in my head while I read.

Gaspare Grisini is a master puppeteer with a mysterious past. When Clara Wintermute is discovered missing following one of his shows, his young apprentices, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, try to solve the mystery of her disappearance. What they discover is shocking and kept me turning page after page, eager to see what happened next.

Readers will discover themselves transported into Victorian-era London with the accurate descriptions of clothing, city streets, houses, and even the air that the characters breathe. The novel’s mysterious plot continuously twists and turns, encouraging the reader to keep thinking and guessing at what might come next.

This book could be used for:

  • History: Victorian-era studies
  • Writing: imagery, character development, mystery writing
  • Theater: puppeteering


Dragon Run by Patrick Matthews
Reviewed by Roxanne, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Antioch, California

Dragon Run is one of those books that will get your most reluctant reader involved. It is a fantasy story of a boy, Al, in a time when dragons rule the earth. At the age of 12, all children go to the castle of the dragon to receive a number that determines their place in society. Al is expecting to get a number similar to his parents, who are fours. To his surprise and dismay, Al receives a zero. Zeroes and their families are exterminated in an effort to “cull the herd.” Al gets unexpected help and escapes the castle. The adventures he has from there are sometimes frightening but always exciting. I loved the book and hope there will be further adventures with Al, his friends, the magisters, and the dragons. I am reading the book to my class and they beg to be read the next chapter each day.

I will use this book to:

  • Talk about the fantasy genre
  • Focus on the comprehension strategy of visualization; students add to a storyboard after each chapters read aloud
  • Talk about character development and how the characters evolve through the story


The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Reviewed by Elizabeth, Fourth Grade Teacher, Richmond, Virginia

How far would you go to stand up for what you believe in? Twelve-year-old Marley’s moving story is set in racially divided Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958. Marley is an intriguing narrator who refuses to speak outside of her home. Then along comes Liz, someone who really gets Marley and draws out the best in her, including her voice. As suddenly as Liz appears, she disappears, leaving Marley stunned by the news that Liz is actually an African American girl passing as white to attend Marley’s school. While the two friends face insurmountable odds and numerous dangers, they strive to maintain their friendship nonetheless. Along the way, the reader experiences the harsh reality of the South during this tumultuous time in America’s history. The Lions of Little Rock is a wonderful read and most appropriate for grades 5–8.

This book could be used for:

  • A read-aloud during a study of civil rights/desegregation or in conjunction with Black History Month
  • A novel for historical fiction book clubs/literature circles
  • A mentor text for character development—characters that change and those that do not and why



Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters by Suzanne Weyn
Reviewed by Jennifer, Fifth Grade Teacher, Orlando, Florida

This story’s premise intrigued me from the beginning and I couldn’t put it down. It takes place years after Dr. Frankenstein has created his “monster.” We have a brief introduction to Dr. Frankenstein and find out his wife passed away shortly after having twin daughters, Giselle and Ingrid. Dr. Frankenstein has to abandon his daughters to protect them. The story then fast-forwards to when the twins are 17 and they find out they have inherited the family castle. Once at the castle, some mysterious things start to happen. The girls are also dealing with love interests, learning about the father they didn’t know, and restoring the castle to its former glory. The story is told in the form of a journal with each twin writing an entry. The twins’ personalities are very different and even if you didn’t read who wrote each entry, you would be able to figure it out fairly quickly. The journal entries were all connected, but there are stories within the stories. Please note that this book is more geared for mature readers.

  • Use it for a character development lesson. I enjoyed the journal entries from each girl and felt I really began to know the characters. You could easily come up with scenarios that students could speculate on how each girl would react or respond.
  • Use it for a lesson on predicting—after completing the story, students can make predictions about what will happen to each of the main characters.
  • Use it for text-to-text connections—this would be a great book to read after reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Would these events be an inspiration for Mary Shelley?
  • Use it for text-to-world connections and/or research writing—there are many famous people and scientific discoveries mentioned in the book. Students can easily research many of the famous people mentioned.

I Funny: A Middle School Story by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Reviewed by Cindy, Sixth Grade Teacher, Alma, Arizona

Jamie Grimm is a funny kid…a real comedian. No, really, he is. As he would say, though, he can’t be called a stand-up comedian because he really can’t stand up. He is wheelchair-bound, but Jamie doesn’t let that stop him. He lives with his aunt and uncle, who are so somber that he calls them the Smileys. His cousin, Stevie Kosgrove, is the school bully who isn’t afraid to terrorize Jamie in any way he possibly can. Luckily for Jamie, he has two great friends, Pierce and Gaynor; his Uncle Frankie, who owns the local diner and is obsessed with yo-yos; and the attention of the new girl at school, who is so cool Jamie can’t call her anything but Cool Girl. When Jamie finally gets up the courage to enter the local funniest kid contest, he begins a journey where he not only learns a lot about himself, but learns to deal with the tragedies life has handed him thus far. James Patterson continues his streak of writing books for kids that can make you laugh, cry, or sometimes do both at the same time!

This book could be used for:

  • Giving first-hand perspective of the challenges kids face with physical disabilities, and try to make the best of it
  • High-interest book for reluctant readers, boys and girls alike
  • Displays different fonts and text features, which give an opportunity to show students how to comprehend and interpret the differences

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February 8, 2013