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Book Reviews from the Children's Department Staff of the Park Ridge Public Library
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1. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin

The Five Lives of Our Cat ZookYou probably have deduced from the title that this book has a pet with questionable health and are ready to move on to the next review because you don’t like sad stories about animals…but please don’t! This is a certainly a story that features a very sick cat, but also manages to be a feel good story, a slice of Oakland, CA urban life, a sweeping fairy tale, a love story, and realistic tale about a 10-year-old girl navigating her world.

Oona Armstrong is that 10 year-old girl and her life is a complicated one. Her father passed away after a long battle with cancer, her 5 year-old brother Freddy just recently started talking and eating again after the loss of their father, and her cat, Zook (short for Zucchini) is very old and very sick, and her mother has a new boyfriend named Dylan, but Oona refers to him only has “The Villian.”

Oona copes by telling whoppers; so many whoppers that she has a color coding system for all of the different types of whoppers she tells. The best whoppers are the stories she creates for Freddy. Fairy tales that are crafted from memories their father told her that help explain the world to a 5 year-old, including the four lives prior to the one that their cat Zook is currently living.

Oona’s whoppers get her into some trouble, but they also make her and Freddy’s life much more bearable and the beauty of this book is watching how those whoppers eventually help her family move on from very tough times. We have to experience some sorrow to find joy and this book is a perfect example of that.

Posted by: Kelly

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2. A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any Situation By Patti Kelley Criswell

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any SituationKnowing what to say in any given situation can be tough. You may be in a difficult situation and need to speak with care so as to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. You may be dealing with a bully and you need to stand up for yourself. You may need to respectfully negotiate a compromise with a friend or parent. And sometimes you hurt someone and need to apologize. A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say covers all types of situations and offers real-life examples of healthy ways to express what you mean effectively and with respect for yourself and others. This is a great book for girls to explore on their own or with their parents or friends. It would make a great starting point for discussion or a guide to role playing between daughters and their parents, so as to practice handling different situations. The information in this book is well organized and the design is colorful and appealing. It is part of the American Girl series, which many girls may already be familiar with. The book was made for girls, but it is sound advice for boys as well!

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say was first recommended to me by the organization A Mighty Girl – check out their website or follow them on Facebook for great book, toy, and movie recommendations for girls, as well as interesting information about women throughout history.

Posted by: Parry

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3. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

The Invisible BoyEveryone knows a child or has been the child that doesn’t get noticed in school for one reason or another. This book perfectly illustrates the world of a child who feels invisible. The teacher is so busy dealing with the boy with the “volume control” or the girl who complains and whines too much that she too doesn’t really notice Brian. He doesn’t get chosen for teams at recess and doesn’t get invited to parties, and sadly the other kids don’t stop to notice that their actions may be hurtful to Brian. No one seems to notice all the good things about Brian – that he is a wonderful artist – that he has a great imagination – that he can write exciting stories . . . Then one morning a new boy arrives in class, and Brian shows him a little kindness when the kids tease the new boy about the strange food he is eating for lunch. When the new boy Justin finds Brian’s note telling him that he thought his lunch looked good, Justin thanks him, and the two become fast friends. AND once Justin takes a chance on Brian, other friends follow, and pretty soon Brian doesn’t feel so invisible. Thanks to Miss Judy for pointing out this beautiful story to me. It is a must read!

Posted by: Mary

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4. A Pet for Fly Guy by Ted Arnold

A Pet for Fly GuyWith the summer reading club in full swing, I have books about pets and animals on my mind. The latest Fly Guy book was the perfect summer find. We have always enjoyed the other easy readers from this series in our house. And now, Fly Guy is making his picture book debut. In this latest story, Fly Guy is disappointed to discover that almost everyone has a pet except him. His owner and best buddy, Buzz, take him to the pet store to find a suitable pet. Unfortunately, none of the animals are quite right. Especially the frog that tries to eat him! It turns out that his buddy Buzz makes the perfect pet. Buzz accepts the offer to be his pet as long as Fly Guy doesn’t feed him. This is a cute story with a fun ending, and even has a nice introduction to the basics of pet care thrown in.

Posted by: Liz

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5. Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not ReadingCharlie Joe Jackson is in middle school and he has never read an entire book cover to cover. In fact he does everything he can to avoid reading. Luckily, Charlie Joe’s friend Timmy has been a huge help to his non-reading habits. For the past two years, Charlie Joe buys Timmy an ice cream sandwich and in exchange Timmy explains what happens in the books they are required to read for school. This agreement is perfect for Charlie Joe, until Timmy decides he is no longer happy with their arrangement. To make matters worse, he has a huge position paper due at the end of the school year that involves a lot of research. A lot of research means reading a lot of books. Charlie Joe comes up with a creative scheme to keep his perfect record of non-reading. However, he knows this scheme could get him into a big trouble while also pushing away the girl he has had a crush on since kindergarten.

Tommy Greenwald has written a humorous story about a child who simply does not enjoy reading. I am someone who loves to read so this title immediately caught my attention. Charlie Joe is a likeable character who will appeal to many children. Throughout the book Greenwald includes twenty-five of Charlie Joe’s non-reading tips, though at times Charlie Joe doesn’t follow his own instructions. Comical illustrations are woven throughout the book to further enhance the story’s appeal. This book would be a great choice for any middle school child who is a reluctant reader. If you enjoy this book, you can read more about Charlie Joe’s antics in Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation.

Posted by: Katie

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6. Common Core Review: Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly JourneyChildren and adults alike are fascinated by butterflies. Their beautiful delicate wings attract attention where ever they fly, and their seemingly magical metamorphosis has inspired countless stories. Handle with Care tells the story of El Bosque Nuevo, a butterfly farm in Costa Rica, where a variety of butterflies are raised and then sold to various museums around the world. The benefits of this arrangement are twofold: 1. people everywhere can have the opportunity to observe and learn from butterflies from distant parts of the world and 2. the profits from the sales of the butterflies go to help preserve the rain forest surrounding the farm.

Author Loree Griffin Burns meticulously researched this topic and even spent time living in Costa Rica and working at El Bosque Nuevo. Her hands on research and genuine passion for the subject matter are evident throughout this book. Burns chooses her words carefully so as to make the material accessible to a younger audience while still being interesting and informative enough for older, more independent learners. In addition, Ellen Harasimowicz’s vibrant and gorgeous photographs bring the reader into the butterfly farm and allow for a stunningly up close view of the butterflies as they make their remarkable transformations. However, this book is more than just an informational text about butterflies. It is about the journey these amazing creatures take in an effort to inform, enlighten, and educate people around the world about butterflies while also raising money and awareness to save the rainforests. Handle with Care takes the familiar (butterflies) and connects it to the exotic (Costa Rican rainforests) and, in doing so, readers can make a connection to the very real plight that is the deforestation of the rainforests.

Common Core Connections
Because Handle with Care has so many layers, it lends itself to a variety of educational opportunities. Younger students will benefit from a pairing with any number of traditional butterfly stories such as Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings. In addition to studying the life cycle of a butterfly, older students can also go on to explore the environmental issues raised by the book. Students could be encouraged to communicate with the butterfly farmers at El Bosque Nuevo and perhaps even raise awareness and funds for the butterfly farm in their own communities. Field trips to butterfly gardens are a natural extension for any age as well.

For more information on the work of El Bosque Nuevo and more ideas on how to share this information with students, visit the following websites:
El Bosque Nuevo
Loree Griffin Burns’ Handle with Care page

Posted by: Staci

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7. Chip Wants a Dog by William Wegman

Chip Wants a DogChip wants a dog – it’s all he thinks and dreams about. He would just love to teach a dog tricks such as to roll over, fetch and sit. A dog would be his best friend.

The problem is Chip’s parents do not want a dog. They think dogs are too much hard work and his Mother is really more of a cat person. Chip doesn’t understand why he can’t have a dog. All the other kids have dogs.

One night Chip has a dream that he is a dog. When he wakes up in the morning he realizes something about himself that has to do with his intense desire to have a dog.

What a funny easy reader! The William Wegman photographs are classic!

Posted by: Wendy

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8. The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones

The Islands of ChaldeaThe books of Diana Wynne Jones were a constant throughout my childhood and teen years. Of the nearly 100 books by her listed in our library system’s catalog, there isn’t a single one that I haven’t read at least once, if not repeatedly.

After Jones passed away in 2011, I naturally thought that I would never again read a new book by her. But first there was the posthumously published Earwig and the Witch, a short, snappy book about an orphan and her curious adoptive ‘family.’ It was definitely appealing, but it had that abrupt, unpolished quality that posthumously published books often have. I would recommend it to a reader, but it didn’t capture my imagination the way so many of Jones’ books had. Yet again, I thought that was that.

Fully three years after her death, though, a full-length novel by Jones has appeared–it was discovered amongst her papers, and polished and completed by Jones’ sister, Ursula Jones, already an author in her own right. This was the final (?) Diana Wynne Jones novel that I had been waiting for–it has a story that sucks a reader in almost instantly, characters who are defined simply but indelibly, and a setting so well-described that one can see it.

Aileen is an apprentice Wise-Woman, cared for by her Aunt Beck, the Wise Woman of Skarr, one of the group of sovereign islands known collectively as the Islands of Chaldea. Aileen has only just attempted her first initiation when she and her aunt–and a prince, and a castle servant–are sent off on a whirlwind quest that requires them to visit every island.

As is typical for Jones, our heroine has more reserves than she believes (but is never a wet blanket about her insecurities), there are wonderful animal companions, and adult authority figures are often Very Cranky.

I hope that it is taken as a compliment when I say that I cannot tell at all where Ursula Jones’ contributions come in–the book hangs together perfectly as a whole, with no disjointed transitions or developments that ring false. I highly recommend the book, both on its own merits, and as a satisfying send-off to Diana Wynne Jones’ magical oeuvre.

Posted by: Sarah

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9. Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Sarah shares a book that ties in with Paws to Read, our summer reading club: Mice Mischief: Math Facts in Action, by Caroline Stills.

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10. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Most Magnificent thingThomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Ashley Spires’ new book The Most Magnificent Thing is the picture book embodiment of that quote. Spires’ little heroine has a vision. She has a plan. She is going to make the most magnificent thing. However, when the result of her handiwork does not live up to her expectations, she is forced to try again and again and again but it never turns out quite right. Eventually, her frustration gets the better of her and she is ready to give up, until her assistant/best friend/pug convinces her to take a little walk and cool down. Upon their return, she feels refreshed and calm and suddenly she knows exactly how to build the most magnificent thing.

Frustration is a part of life. We all experience it from time to time, but it can be so difficult for our younger counterparts who are just learning how to cope with their emotions. The Most Magnificent Thing shows one way to deal with those feelings without being overly didactic. Spires’ digital artwork is composed of simple, charming line drawings for the background with richly colored and expressive characters providing the action in the foreground. The little girl and her adorable pug are sure to please readers of all ages. This book would be a great read aloud for bedtime or any time for kids ages 4-7. Older kids in particular will get a kick out of the revenge the little pug dog takes on one failed invention.

Want more? Check out the book trailer from Kids Can Press.

Posted by: Staci

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11. Where’s Mommy? by Beverly Donofrio

Where's Mommy?Maria (a girl) and Mouse Mouse (a mouse) live in the same house. Maria and Mouse Mouse are playmates, but they must keep their friendship a secret from their families. Maria’s family would not be pleased to discover there were mice living in the house, and Mouse Mouse’s family would be frightened if they knew they had been discovered. One day, as the two friends are each preparing for bed in their respective parts of the house, each calls for their mother, and each discovers that their mother is missing! Simultaneously, Maria and Mouse Mouse search throughout their house, eventually running into each other and a very surprising resolution to the mystery!

This simple story is brought to life with detailed illustrations by Barbara McClintock. In each spread, we see both households side by side, so readers can compare and contrast details of each home. The mouse house has a “borrower” element – an upright flashlight serves as a floor lamp, a seed packet is wall art, and a thimble is a teacup. This is a cozy, sweet story with illustrations that kids and parents will pore over for their charming detail. The story ends with a question that will prompt children to tell their own stories. Where’s Mommy? is the sequel to Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary.

Posted by: Parry

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12. The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

Year of Billy MillerBilly Miller is about to begin 2nd grade and he is worried. He’s worried that he won’t be smart enough; especially after hearing his dad read the letter from his new teacher saying how 2nd grade will be a “wonderful, exciting challenge.” It’s the word “challenge” that worries Billy.

Billy gets off to what he worries might be a rocky start with his teacher, Ms. Silver, who is wearing red chopsticks in her hair on the 1st day of school. He feels his joke of making “devil’s horns” with red crayons could have been misunderstood and that Ms. Silver might have thought he was making fun of her. After thinking about how he can make things right with her, he comes up with an idea to give her a special gift to show her that he really is a nice boy.

Papa, an artist, is also a stay-at-home Dad who takes care of Billy and his younger sister. Billy struggles with how to tell Papa that he wants to start calling him Dad, instead of calling him by the childish name of Papa. The conversation goes great and Dad takes the name change like a champ! Billy is also somewhat responsible for helping his Father with a much needed breakthrough in his art work.

His sister, Sal, may not be his favorite person, but Billy hopes she will help him with his master plan of staying awake all night. Their parents are away overnight and Billy patiently waits for their babysitter to go to sleep before he quietly creeps into his sister’s room. He wakes her up to be his “stay up all night” partner and entertains her to keep them both awake. They make it to about midnight before drifting to sleep.

Toward the end of the school year, the 2nd graders are going to put on a show about Families and each student will recite or read an original poem that they have written for a special person. Billy struggles with who to write about, but finally chooses his Mother. He discovers that writing a poem isn’t exactly easy. Armed with some advice from his teacher, he spends some wonderful moments with his Mother discovering some things about her that are “poem worthy.” Billy Miller’s poem entitled “Quiet Mom” couldn’t be sweeter and more heartfelt.

This book is divided into four separate episodes that are each devoted to a significant person in Billy’s life – Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother. There are many humorous and heartwarming moments that are delightful to read about from the viewpoint of Billy, who is a very sensitive and thoughtful 7-year- old boy. It would be a great read aloud, especially to someone about to enter 2nd grade.

Posted by: Wendy

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13. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Dear ZooThis oldie but goodie is one of my favorites, and it is the perfect read for our summer reading club. A child is looking for a pet and writes to the zoo to get one. The zoo has quite a hard time finding the correct pet and sends an elephant, a giraffe, a lion, a snake, and a monkey. Of course, none of the animals are just right and must be sent back. The zoo finally finds the perfect pet and sends a dog. Little ones will have fun discovering what is under each flap and making animal sounds along the way.

Posted by: Liz

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14. A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

Book of SleepHave you ever wondered how animals sleep? For many little ones, it will be a surprise to find out that some animals sleep standing up, and some animals sleep in the daytime, and some animals sleep alone and some sleep in a group, and some even sleep with one eye open. Even though this book doesn’t have many words, it doesn’t need them to move the story along. I think this book would be a perfect story to read at bedtime with its peaceful illustrations and simple message, but it also lends itself to fun conversation too. Sleep tight!

Posted by: Mary

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15. Angus and Sadie by Cynthia Voigt

angus and sadieSummer Reading is here and we are excited for our “Paws to Read” program! In light of our animal-themed Summer Reading Club, I could not resist reviewing this sweet book about two dogs finding their way in their world. This gentle read will appeal to most dog lovers. Angus and Sadie are two Border collie littermates that are acquired to become farm dogs. The story told with dialogue between the two dogs as well as some from their owners, Missus and Mister. The dogs have very simple interactions when they are puppies and their interactions become increasingly complex as the book goes on. Readers will enjoy hearing the dogs’ point of view and Mister tries to train them to come, stay, and herd the sheep on the farm.

The most endearing part of the book is the development of Angus and Sadie’s distinct personalities. As with any siblings, they develop into very different individuals. Angus’s boundless energy and happy-go-lucky attitude contrast with Sadie’s sweet, quieter disposition throughout the story. While housed in our older fiction section, this story would be a delightful and completely appropriate read for younger children reading slightly above grade level.

If you like this book, do not miss Voigt’s Young Fredle, a companion novel which takes place on the same farm and features a young mouse’s journey to get back to his family after getting ill and being separated from them.

Posted by: Kelly

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16. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

mister tiger goes wildMr. Tiger is completely and utterly bored. He lives in the city where his animal friends are proper all the time. But Mr. Tiger doesn’t want to be proper, he wants to be wild! Mr. Tiger starts to act differently and his friends think his behavior is unacceptable. He runs to the wilderness where he can finally be himself. The only problem is that he misses his friends and his home. When Mr. Tiger returns to the city he is happy to find that things have changed quite a bit.

Posted by: Katie

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17. Gravity by Jason Chin

Gravity by Jason ChinOver the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more very young children–almost toddlers–asking for books about science. There have always been tiny kids interested in dinosaurs and outer space, but it seems like they’re becoming savvier (and more interested in a variety of topics) at a younger age than ever before.

Thank heavens for Jason Chin. His books–Redwood, Coral Reefs, Island, and now Gravity–are perfect for this set. Each one is a beautifully drawn, engaging story that will teach a reader more than expected about the topic (also helpful for the adult reader who might feel slightly behind when it comes to the child’s knowledge base!) As well as being intellectually stimulating and lovely to look at, Chin’s book is also subtly funny, in way reminiscent of David Wiesner. What better way to reinforce what gravity does than to show us what would happen without gravity? And what better way to drive that point home than to show us the reassertion of that gravity after its absence? Understated, but hilarious.

Gravity also sports a double-page spread at the end of the story, explaining the subject in greater detail–and with smaller, but still extremely helpful illustrations. A keen-eyed reader will also notice that there is a small bibliography on the copyright page. Probably not for toddlers, these books, but definitely helpful for anyone who would like to learn more on the fascinating subject.

Posted by: Sarah

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18. Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, to help us kick off our summer reading clubs — Paw Pals and Pawsome Readers — Kelly shares The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins.

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19. Common Core Review: Volcano Rising by Elizabeth Rusch

volcano risingWhen you hear the word “volcano” what comes to mind? Do you picture forceful explosions of liquid hot magma? Perhaps you think of the ancient city of Pompeii and its ash-covered inhabitants preserved for centuries in various stages of panic. Volcanoes typically conjure up visions of destruction and disaster, but Elizabeth Rusch’s Volcano Rising tells a very different story of volcanic activity – a story of creation, not destruction. Volcano Rising is a beautifully illustrated, engaging, and informative description of creative eruptions which are forming new mountains and islands all over the world.

Additionally, Rusch’s use of two levels of text makes this book accessible for a wide age range. The bold, succinct text is peppered with delicious onomatopoeia. Add to the mix Susan Swan’s beautiful collage illustrations and you have an informational text that is just begging to be read aloud to younger audiences. Further down on the page, the smaller text provides more in depth details and fascinating accounts of real volcanic activity that will grip older readers and keep them turning the pages to learn more. Helpful pronunciations are included throughout the text, and a glossary, selected bibliography, and suggested resources for further learning can be found at the end.

Common Core Connections:
As a first-rate informational text, Volcano Rising certainly fulfills all 10 of the ELA standards for Reading Informational Texts for grades 1 through 3. However, this book goes beyond the basics of meeting the standards and lends itself to the promotion of reading across the curriculum. Volcano Rising is a text that can be shared in Science, Social studies, ELA, and Art classes. Consider a cross-curricular unit focusing on the scientific aspects of volcanic formations in a variety of geographical locations (including under water and beneath glaciers). Students can then enrich their experiences by creating collages to represent what they have learned and perhaps writing a poem or brief description using any number of writing conventions from the onomatopoeia that they saw in Volcano Rising to alliteration or personification.

Consider pairing with either of Lisa Westberg Peters’ poetry collections about volcanoes and geology:
Earthshake: Poems From the Ground Up (2003)
Volcano Wakes Up! (2010)

Some Strong Connections:
1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.5
Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
2. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.6
Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.
3. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.7
Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
4. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.6
Distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.

Posted by: Staci

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20. The Short Giraffe by Neil Flory

The Short GiraffeGeri is the shortest giraffe who ever lived. Normally that doesn’t seem to cause a problem except for when Bobo, the baboon, tries to take a photo of all the giraffes. Everyone wants the picture to be perfect. Unfortunately, Bobo finds it impossible to snap a perfect picture that includes the tallest giraffes along with the shortest giraffe. How can he get them all to fit in? Geri offers to stay out of the picture, but the giraffes won’t hear of such nonsense. They come up with a variety of ways to help Geri to be tall. Some very silly ideas are attempted and, as a result, some very silly pictures are taken – none of them just right. Finally, a little caterpillar that had been watching all the failed attempts comes up with a perfect idea. And, sure enough, Bobo is able to take a PERFECT picture that includes all the giraffes!

What a perfect little book that includes sweet illustrations and some tall ideas about working together. The giraffes, along with the help of the tiny caterpillar prove “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Posted by: Wendy

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21. You Make Me Smile by Layn Marlow

You Make Me Smile by Layn MarlowWe may have had enough snow and cold weather this year, but this is a story that will make you smile. It begins on a gray day that turns into a beautiful snowy one. A little girl bundles up and hurries outside to begin work on a snowman. The day is a special one. It is the day her snowman makes her smile. The story spans the season. The following winter the little girl meets her friend again. The adorable illustrations will make you smile. It’s one to remember next winter or to read on a steaming-hot summer day to remind us that winter isn’t always so bad.

Posted by: Liz

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22. Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton

Goldi Rocks and the Three BearsI am always impressed when someone can redo an old story and make it fresh, while still staying true to the original. This is definitely not an easy task, but the authors of Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears manage to remake this classic story in a fun and appealing way. The story starts out with the three bears and their band trying to figure out why they are not so popular. Eventually, they come to the conclusion that they need a lead singer who can hit the high notes that they cannot, and thus begins their search. Meanwhile, Goldi happens upon their empty house and finds their music studio, which thrills her to no end. She tries out some of the instruments and equipment, but unfortunately takes a tumble and breaks the microphone stand. Then she tries out the headphones, but Mama Bear’s are too tight, Papa’s are too loose, and Baby Bear’s fit her just right (you see where this is going . . .)

Goldi is exhausted from all that grooving, so she decides to take a nap. Meanwhile the three bears are holding auditions to find a lead singer for their band, but to no avail. When they return home, they are surprised by the terrible mess left by Goldi. She is startled awake and screams with a “pitch perfect high C”, and they have found their singer! This book is very clever and definitely a fun version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Posted by: Mary

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23. Darling: Mercy Dog of World War I by Alison Hart

Darling is enjoying a comfortable life as a family’s dog in the farming community of Cosham, England during World War I. He loves his family, especially the children, Katherine and Robert. He has a friend in a stray dog named Rags. Best of all, there are sheep all over Cosham that Darling chases with glee, allowing his herding nature a frequent workout and irritating the neighborhood farmers. When Katherine and Robert’s father is called away to war, another family sacrifice is quick to follow. Because of a steep dog tax, the family can no longer afford to keep Darling. They enlist her into the military in hopes that their beloved pet can help with the war effort. At first, Darling’s happy-go-lucky attitude does not make her a very good soldier, however, when the sergeant who cares for her is injured in a training exercise, Darling rushes to his side and barks until someone helps him. This focus and caring make Darling a perfect fit for the role of Mercy Dog. Darling is trained to find wounded soldiers during battle and stay with them until a medic can help.

This book is action-packed, focusing on Darling’s training as much as her combat experience. There are interesting facts about World War I, military dogs and life in England during the war. This is the first book in a series called Dog Chronicles. This book and the forthcoming sequels are a wonderful way to introduce historical events to young dog lovers in 2nd grade and up. The details are rich, but not gruesome and the conclusion is satisfying so that young readers never are overly stressed emotionally while reading about this lovable dog and the people she cares for.

Posted by: Kelly

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24. Princess Posey and the Perfect Present by Stephanie Greene

Posey feels very lucky to be in Miss Lee’s first grade classroom. She loves her classroom with her very own cubby, she loves being in class with her two best friends, and she loves her teacher, Miss Lee. So when Posey finds out that Miss Lee’s birthday is coming up, she wants to give her the perfect present. She decides to bring Miss Lee roses grown from her family’s garden, but when her friend Nikki unknowingly arrives first and presents Miss Lee with a big, expensive-looking bouquet from the flower shop, Posey feels her gift is too humble and she hides it away. Feeling miserable, Posey doesn’t eat her birthday cupcake, sits alone at recess, and is even very mean to her friend Nikki. Things are all wrong. But, Posey talks to her mom about it. She puts on her pink tutu, in which she always imagines she is Princess Posey. She thinks: “Princess Posey (is) beautiful and kind. She wouldn’t cry if someone gave the same present. She would just think of another present.” And Posey is able to find another gift to show Miss Lee how much she cares, reconcile with her friend, and to once again feel very lucky to be in Miss Lee’s first grade classroom.

Stephanie Greene’s Princess Posey series depict a playful and sensitive first grader making her way in the world, and making plenty of mistakes while she’s at it. Greene handles well the difficulty of feeling jealous and inadequate, and how Posey is able to successfully transform these feelings with the help of her supportive family and her imagination. Young readers will relate to Posey’s experience of both the joys and traumas that unfold in the first grade classroom. With large print, ten short chapters, and an abundance of illustrations and white space, the Princess Posey books are perfect for readers just starting out on beginning chapter books.

Posted by: Parry

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25. Urgency Emergency: Big Bad Wolf by Dosh Archer

Urgency Emergency! Big Bad Wolf When the penguinmedics burst through the hospital doors with a choking wolf, Dr. Glenda wastes no time diagnosing his problem – something is obstructing his airway! Quickly, Dr. Glenda and her faithful, if not slightly skittish, aide Nurse Percy deduce that it is not something stuck in the wolf’s throat, but rather someone. After much back-slapping and wolf-squeezing, a formerly missing grandmother is finally dislodged from the wolf’s gullet. Subsequently, police are called to haul away the carnivorous canine, and the undigested grandmother is reunited with her distraught, red-hooded granddaughter. It’s all in a day’s work for Dr. Glenda and crew.

Dosh Archer’s Urgency Emergency series is a fun take on fractured fairy tales for beginning readers. Each installment takes well-known characters from nursery rhymes and folk and fairy tales out of their storybook realms and into the E.R. with Dr. Glenda and Nurse Percy. As the author herself states in a 2009 interview, Dr. Glenda, Nurse Percy, and the rest of the City Hospital staff attempt “to bring an element of order to the chaotic world of fairy tales and rhymes,” and the results are rib tickling. These books are fun on their own, but would also make for a great read-aloud addition to a folk and fairy tale unit for Kindergarten through Grade 2.

Originally published in Britain in 2009, the third title in the series, Little Elephant’s Blocked Trunk, is scheduled to be released in North America in September of this year. Until then we always have The Big Bad Wolf and Itsy Bitsy Spider to tide us over.

Posted by: Staci

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