Archive for May 8, 2013

Friends: Snake and Lizard

Written by Joy Cowley
Illustrated by  Gavin Bishop

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Remember Frog and Toad? Now we have Snake and Lizard, and they are just as entertaining. The first book in this series, Snake and Lizard, won the 2008 New Zealand Children’s and Young Adults Book of the Year Award. This sequel is destined for similar accolades. It was named to several reading lists in New Zealand, having been published there in 2009. But it was too good to keep to one country. It’s now hit the United States and Japan.

The story follows Snake and Lizard as they share an oversized burrow in the desert as a result of a collapsed wall. Of course, they have very different needs and very different ways of looking at things. While Lizard enjoys the curtain a spider has graced them with over one entrance, Snake enjoys the taste of the spider in her tummy. But they also find much to agree on. They generally enjoy helping other desert creatures. And they enjoy their withers together, which would be walks if Snake could actually walk. » Read more

Earth Heroes: Champions of Wild Animals

Written by Bruce and Carol L. Malnor
Illustrated by Anisa Claire Hoveman

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Aimed at the fifth grade reading level and up and a “Mom’s Choice Awards Honoring Excellence”, Earth Heroes: Champions of Wild Animals celebrates the lives of eight Earth Heroes who dedicated their efforts and energy to studying and protecting their favorite animals, and in so doing, made a lasting and significant impact on the world. Bison, birds, chimps, seals, wolves, and elephants all owe their survival to the people profiled in Earth Heroes: Champions of Wild Animals.

What I enjoyed most was that I felt like I was not only getting good, solid facts presented in a clear format, but I also got a personal look into their lives and how they came to protect their animal. It became more engaging for me and I just could not put the book down and had to read from start to finish. » Read more

Good Sport: Against All Odds

Written by Glenn Stout

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It can be difficult to find books that interest 5th grade students and it can be even more difficult to find books with an inspirational message. Author Glenn Stout has met both goals with his book in the Good Sport series titled Against All Odds.

Fifth grade readers will benefit from the author’s take on being a good athlete even when the going gets rough. He outlines the difficulties that five different athletes including Tim Tebow have had to overcome to be great. It is not only an honest depiction of the challenges it takes to become good at the sport but the author also demonstrates the faith, hard work, and road blocks that each has faced when dealing with the trying to be a winner.

The language is clear and appropriate for the fifth grade reader. The book offers an appendix with the stats for each player in the book and a resource section to encourage the fifth grade reader to investigate more about the sport or the athlete which is helpful to teachers who want to instruct on research, writing, or challenge the students to learn more.

Against All Odds is current and the athletes in the book are recognized by this age group as great. The book appeals particularly to fifth grade boys which can be a challenging group to keep engaged in reading making this book a wonderful addition to the classroom library.

  • Good SportTitle: Good Sport: Against All Odds
  • Author: Glenn Stout
  • Publisher: Sandpiper: Houghton Miffin Harcourt
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-88734-0
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Paperback: 122 including Appendix
  • Lexile: 1130

Just Grace, Star on Stage

Written and Illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper

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This is the ninth book in the Just Grace series, but readers coming fresh to this book may find the title mystifying: who is Just Grace? Has the name been switched around, or is Just short for Justine? No. There are four girls named Grace in the class. Something has to be done. The teacher is confused. A short cartoon explains the teacher’s solution, and how our heroine became Just Grace.

The book is written as a chapter book, but interspersed between the paragraphs are cartoon that are sure to attract first and second grade readers. The book is a cross between a comic book and a chapter book, with bold headlines cluing the reader to what is happening, and what will follow. For beginning readers they are good comprehension aids.

Grace is a charming protagonist — involved in her class activities, understanding of her classmates and a good friend. The teacher announces that their class is going to stage a play. What excitement! Grace would like the lead role, as would Marta. But, subtly stated, not all the children want to be the lead. There are some happy to be supporting actors and actresses. The book has many such life lessons easily woven into the fabric of the story. They are not presented as lessons (a sure put off for any reader), but can be great discussion points.

The choice of roles comes as a surprise. Marta is chosen to be the fairy queen, Grace is the narrator, and Sam is the king. However, there is many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip. Things do not go as planned, and Grace ends up playing the lead role in saving the play and the day.

Additional Resources:
Author Bio:
Audio and Video Podcast:

  • Just GraceTitle: Just Grace, Star on Stage
  • Author: Charise Mericle Harper
  • Illustrator: Charise Mericle Harper
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback: 194 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-63412-8
  • Genre: Fiction/Contemporary
  • Lexile Score: 970
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