November 4, 2017

City and Country by Jody Jensen Shaffer

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:45 pm by suebe2

City and Country
by Jody Jensen Shaffer
National Geographic Kids

Kids in the country get green space and nature.  Right?

Kids in the city get to do exciting things with their friends.  Right?

We all have preconceived ideas about what it is like to live in the city and what it is like to live in the country.  This co-reader from National Geographic kids sets the record straight. It talks about everything from where people live to what they do for fun, green spaces and learning.

You may not be familiar with the term co-reader.  I wasn’t when the author told me about her book so I asked her to explain it to me. A co-reader is meant for the child who has just reached the point of reading independently.  The left hand page of each spread is for the adult to read.  It tells something about city or country life.  The right hand page is for the young reader.  Obviously, it is a bit easier to read but it also shared information.  The grown up doesn’t get all the fun facts!

Early readers are tricky.  You want them to be engaging but it is hard to introduce information when a reader is still developing their skills.  Fortunately there are lots of photos to help decipher the text.

And the photos added a lot to the book.  What I liked most about them was that they weren’t all from the US or Europe. But it was done in a way that felt natural not in a way that felt like diversity was added because “we have to do it.”  Honestly, I spent a lot of time flipping between the images and the photo credits just because I’m a fact hound.

Each section ends with a thought exercise.  One asks young readers to look at each photo and tell if it is city or country and how they know this.  Another asks the young reader to consider the sights and smells in the world around them.

Look for these books in your library.  Add them to your classroom shelf.  They provide not only help in developing food for thought but also encouragement to exercise those brains.


September 30, 2016

We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:52 am by suebe2

we-are-growingWe Are Growing!
by Laurie Keller
Hyperion Books for Children

I have to admit that I was initially confused when I saw this one.  I had seen it advertised as a Mo Willems book but here was a different author’s name.  Now that the last book in the Elephant and Piggie series has been published (last as in there will be no more), the two characters will continue to appear at the beginning and ending of books in the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series.  These parts of each book are written by Willems.  The main story is written by someone else.

This time around, Laurie Keller has written a story about eight friends. They are growing fast and changing every moment.  One is the tallest.  Another the curliest. Then there’s the one who is the silliest.  Each spread challenges children knew to reading to decipher a pair of words, tall and tallest, curly and curliest, etc.

But the last friend can’t figure out where he excels.  Everyone else is the best at something.  What is his special skill?

Now, you’ve probably looked at the top right and seen the cover of the book.  Yep.  The eight friends are indeed blades of grass.  Well, seven of them are.  The second from the right end has a surprise in store for everyone.

As is always the case with early readers, the illustrations help new readers decipher the text.  The illustrations are simple enough not to distract from the text but still loads of fun.  Obviously there has to be plenty of humor to get readers to watch grass grow.

The book design is also clever.  SPOILER ALERT.  SKIP THE REST OF THE PARAGRAPH IF MY REVEALING THE ENDING WILL FREAK YOU OUT. By the time the story ends, the last blade of grass has figured out that he is the neatest.  He proves it by sweeping things up – including the page numbers.  

This book is silly and fun and will keep your young reader turning the pages as they seek to find out what is so special about that last blade of grass.  Pick this one up for your young reader today.


February 16, 2015

Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 1:49 am by suebe2

Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page
by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Arthur Howard
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I used to read the Mr. Putter and Tabby series on a regular basis back when my young reader was just starting to read independently, but he’s 15 now.  I was thrilled to rediscover this series at my local library.

Mr. Putter and Tabby share a love of many quiet activities from taking a bath to napping to reading.  Not surprisingly, they have favorite books.  Mr. Putter loves cowboys.  Tabby loves rabbits.  They both love gardening.

At the library, Mr. Putter sees a sign-up sheet for story time with your pet.  He signs up to do this with Tabby and then tells his friend Mrs. Teaberry about the opportunity.

Mrs. Teaberry loves new things so it isn’t surprising that she latches onto this idea.  Will anyone want to hear Mr. Putter and Tabby after hearing Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog Zeke?  Mr. Putter practices reading with gusto.

If you haven’t read Mr. Putter and Tabby, you may be surprised that to discover just how funny these took are.  There is generally a slapstick, silly element that appeals to the youngest readers.  This comes through in Arthur Howard’s expressive, colorful illustrations.

There is also a more subtle side to the humor.  Often these jokes come through the text or subtleties in the illustrations (look for Mrs. Teaberry’s cookies and check out the ingredients).

Because this is an early reader, the illustrations may expand on the text but only a little.  Their true role is to support the text and the reader, providing clues for words the reader may have troubles deciphering.

If you haven’t read these books, share them with your young reader who is working to develop his own reading skills.  There is enough to these books that you can also share them with your picture book-aged child.  These books are great read-alouds.

Don’t glance at the illustrations and put them down because the characters are not kids.  They may be a little older than many early reader characters but these two are kids at heart.  Whether your young reader is somewhat shy or a real fire cracker, she will identify with one of these characters.


January 22, 2010

Snakes! by Melissa Stewart

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 4:34 pm by suebe2

Snakes! (AR 3 .2 )

by Melissa Stewart

In this case, you can judge a book by its cover which is no great surprise when the cover says National Geographic Kids.  Vibrant photos and fascinating facts fill this early reader.

Readers will learn all about snake anatomy, where they live, snake babies, how they get around, what they eat and snakes as pets.  My son thinks snakes are beyond cool so I know a lot of snake trivia, but I still learned some new facts:

  • Snakes that give birth to live young live in cooler climates and the puff adder can give birth to up to 150 babies at a time!
  • Snakes with round pupils hunt in the day time and those with slitted pupils hunt at night.  My son was not surprised by this.  “Like a cat’s eye, mom.”  Uh, yeah.  Just like that.
  • The long belly scales that grip the ground and move the snake forward are called scutes.

This book is a Level 2, for children who are reading independently.  The font is large and the text is broken up enough that it shouldn’t intimidate — but any kid who is fascinated by snakes will be drawn in by the photos.  I’m a little iffy on snakes myself — they’re compelling and totally creepy at the same time — but I couldn’t put the book down.  Even in a paper back, the photo quality lets you see the texture of the scales and the amazing range of colors.

The one spread that might not be for the faint of heart is “Snake Snacks.”  It is one thing to read about a snake chowing down on a frog or an antelope but it is quite another to see it in glorious color.

If you’ve got a boy who is reluctant to pick up a book, give him this.  You might even leave it open to “Snake Snacks” or “Snakes All Around,” which shows a pile of hibernating garter snakes.  The creep factor is high enough to get his attention and would have definitely pulled my son in.

This is one of the best beginning readers I’ve ever read.  Slither on out and get it for the young reader in your life.


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