Archive for Reading Level

A King James Christmas: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from around the World

Edited by Catherine Schuon and Michael Fitzgerald
Illustrated by Catherine Schuon

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A King James Christmas: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from around the World is the story of Jesus Christ that is divided into three parts: his birth, his childhood, and his teachings. [button link=”″] Buy on Amazon [/button] For Schuon and Fitzgerald this book comes from their own passion and represents many years of dedicated, selfless devotion to creating a work of art that celebrates the true meaning of Christmas that is intended for the whole family from the pre-schooler, to the second grader reader through teens to adults.

What makes this book universal for Christian readers all over the world is the selection of art that comes far and wide from Russia, Italy, England, Germany, China, the Netherlands, Macedonia, and even from the hands of Catherine Schuon. A list of the illustrations, the time they were painted and by whom, as well as the location where they hang can be found at the back of the book.

A King James Christmas: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from around the World is an heirloom book you will want to read aloud with your family every Christmas and pass down to future generations. Every detail from the tiniest of considerations is thoughtfully executed from the selection of artwork to the large font and insertion of more common expressions to ensure that readers of all ages will understand some of the archaic text taken directly from the King James bible, written and completed in the year 1611.

To learn more about Catherine Schuon, please go to:

To learn more about Michael Fitzgerald, please go to:

To view sample pages of A King James Christmas: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from Around the World, please go to:
[learn_more caption=”Bibliographic Information”]

  • A King James ChristmasTitle: A King James Christmas: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from Around the World
  • Author: from the King James bible
  • Edited by: Catherine Schuon and Michael Oren Fitzgerald
  • Illustrator: Various including paintings by Catherine Schuon
  • Publisher: Wisdom Tales
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Paperback: 68 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-937786-03-8
  • Genre: Christian, holiday, Christmas
  • Lexile Score: 1020


The Garden of My Imaan

Written by Farhana Zia

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A lively story about choices facing today’s Muslim American girls.  Aliya is a typical fifth grade girl: she wants to talk to a boy she has a crush on, she wants to know how to stand up for herself and she wonders how to reconcile school life with life at home.  The difference is that she is Muslim and she feels uncomfortable with what that means in America today.  Then she is asked to show a new girl, Marwa, around.  She is a strict Muslim.  She already wears a hajib but, even more, she is calm and confident in the face of discrimination and bullying.  Aliya resents being asked to be Marwa’s friend because it calls everyone’s attention to the fact that they are both Muslim.  Aliya is embarrassed partly because she doesn’t know what she believes.  She begins to write letters to Allah to express her frustration and confusion.  Thanks to the gentle guidance of her grandmother and Marwa’s example, Aliya begins to see that complaining doesn’t accomplish anything, but doing something does.  She is bold enough to stand up to the class bully.  She finds the courage to run for student council.  She even sees that an offer of friendship is the best way to make peace with the mean girl.

Aliya grows and matures in a way that will speak to any girl no matter what her religious background.  The story helps explain Muslim beliefs and shows that there is no typical Muslim.  Aliya’s family is from India, while Marwa’s is from Morocco, and yet they are treated the same by people either carrying prejudice towards Muslims or who simply don’t know the differences.  The grandmothers are fun.  There is a grandmother, great-grandmother and a great aunt, all of whom influence Aliya and entertain the reader.  Aliya’s best friend is Winnie, who is part Korean, so the theme of understanding different cultures is carried throughout.  This would be a good book club selection for a girl’s book club.  If this is used as a read aloud, be aware that there are several Arabic and Urdu phrases woven into the dialog.  The students could look up these phrases on the internet and hear them pronounced as a literacy activity, perhaps gaining insight into families with different backgrounds.

  • Garden of My ImaanTITLE: The Garden of My Imaan
  • AUTHOR: Farhana Zia
  • PUBLISHER: Peachtree, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 230 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-698-7
  • GENRE: Middle-grades fiction, school stories, multicultural fiction
  • Lexile 600

The Ugly One

Written by Leanne Statland Ellis

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Micay, Beautiful Round Face, is known by far too many in her Incan tribe as Millay, the Ugly One. She keeps to herself as much as possible because her ugliness has been a source of torture for her as long as she can remember. The young men her age, particularly Ucho, never let her forget the fact that she is different. They make fun of her because her face is marred with a scar that extends from her right eye to below her lip. Of course, she wishes things were different; she wishes she were beautiful like her sister. But since she is not, she just wants to be left alone at which time she can draw comfort from her family and her faith in the Sun God. One day a stranger traveling from the jungle to Machu Picchu gives her a baby macaw. Her life takes on new meaning as the bird blossoms and connects her with Paqo, the medicine man, or Shaman. Will her scar eventually heal so that she can be like others, or is she destined for greater things?

Readers will feel Micay’s pain and rejoice in her victories. Putting themselves in her shoes, girls at the third to fifth grade levels will cheer at every advance Micay makes toward discovering her mission in life and boo whenever bullying rears its ugly head. Ellis provides such wonderful detail that the reader is transported to the times when the Incan Empire ruled. Boys will enjoy reading about these wondrous times. Finally, teachers will appreciate the reference materials at the end of the book. Reading comprehension for these fifth grade readers should be at an all-time high in this beautiful story about Incan culture.

Author’s Website:

  • The Ugly OneTitle: The Ugly One
  • Author: Leanne Statland Ellis
  • Publisher: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Hardback: 245 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-64023-5
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 780

Samphire Song

Written by Jill Hucklesby 

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The summary for Samphire Song doesn’t begin to tell teachers and parents or students the heartfelt emotional story Ms. Hucklesby tells within the pages of this novel. Fourteen year old Jodie has many family issues she keeps inside and working with the horses is where she best fits in. From the very first page the author sucks the reader in with all five senses and a realistic feel for being nose to nose with the horses.

What 5th grade level reader doesn’t love horses and wouldn’t be able to relate to having at least one issue with their personal family situations? Samphire Song is an excellent example of fiction where fifth graders and higher level readers will be totally engaged in the story from beginning to end.

The book is written with a complexity of emotions yet with easy to comprehend clear sentences and paragraphs making this a good book to use when teaching 5th grade readers the skill of writing too. Characters are well rounded and realistic, the plot is one that students can relate to, and the crisp writing is excellent examples of the use language.

Samphire Song is well worth adding to a home, school, or fifth grade classroom and is suitable for girls or boys even though the main character is female. The experiences and emotions so cleverly described  for the 5th grade reader are clearly understood by either gender.  The family issues within the plot also make a great opportunity for teachers or parents to discuss feelings and choices within the classroom setting.

The publisher website offers more information about this and other fine books for 5th grade level readers at

  • Samphire SongTitle: Samphire Song
  • Author: Jill Hucklesby
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
  • Reviewer:  Terri Forehand
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-7224-5
  • Edition: Hardback, 287 pgs
  • Genre: Juvenile-Fiction, Horses, Family problems



The Vine Basket

Written by Josanne La Valley

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Appropriate for those on a fifth grade reading level, The Vine Basket will appeal to those interested in learning about cultures in exotic lands. The unique setting – a rural community on the fringe of the Taklamaken Desert in East Turkestan (i.e., a little known region in China) – of this novel will expand the world view of just about any reader. It could be a useful addition to fifth grade social studies curriculum.

After her older brother fled the family after involvement in a protest against oppressive Chinese government, young Mehrigul is pulled from school to labor on her family farm. She dreams of returning to school, studying hard and getting a job in a museum to tell the story of her people, the Uyghur (pronounced wee gur). Deeply steeped in Uyghur culture, her family is trapped between the demands of the Chinese cadre and their basic needs. Fourteen-year-old Mehrigul shoulders the everyday burdens that her depressed ana (mother) and bitter ata (father) refuse to take responsibility for.

Mehrigul’s deepest fear is that she will be sent off to the factories to work, far from her family and her people. Her motivation is to protect her younger sister and to spare her from a hard life.  When one of Mehrigul’s  baskets is noticed and purchased by an American tourist, she gains hope. Her grandfather can be her mentor and teacher her the family tradition of basketry, but her father stands in her way. His refusal to allow her to work on or sell baskets feels like tyranny and, with much guilt, Mehrigul weaves baskets in secret.

This is the story of a young girl striving to prove herself to her family and herself. Although it presents universal concepts, The Vine Basket will be best for readers whose comprehension will not be challenged by foreign words and foreign concepts. This book, La Valley’s debut novel, portrays a little known ethnic struggle through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old.  It successfully provides a window into the Uyghur culture and illustrates how a challenging situation can bring a family together.

  • Vine BasketTitle: The Vine Basket
  • Author: Josanne La Valley
  • Publisher: Clarion Books
  • Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
  • Hardcover/ 256 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0547848013
  • Genre: Novel, contemporary
  • Lexile Score: 950

Zoe Kravitz : X-Men’s Amazing Angel

Written by Sandy Donovan

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Fans of Zoe Kravitz, a.k.a. Angel Salvadore, will be thrilled with this addition to the Pop Culture Bios – Action Movie Stars series. Kravitz is included here because of her role in the 2011, X-Men: First Class addition to the popular X-Men movie series. If readers haven’t been paying attention, they will be surprised to discover Kravitz has been leading a busy acting, singing and modeling career since her senior year in high school. Her famous parents (Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet known for her role in “The Cosby Show”) haven’t hindered her quick rise to the top. She is presented as a strong role model for young teens and as the book makes clear, Kravitz is on her own path to success which includes studying acting at the State University of New York.

She continuously challenges herself by looking for roles that stretch her comfort zone and then keeps herself grounded with strong ties to her extended family with whom she talks daily. “I can literally tell them everything, which is great.” Peppered with quotes, photos and sidebars packed with related information, this title pulls scattered information about the star’s life into one neat package. Upcoming projects are mentioned and current boyfriends are listed. Readers at the seventh grade level will digest this title easily and many fifth grade and sixth grade readers and fans will be interested as well. A list of related websites are included in the book.

  • Zoe KravitzTitle: Zoe Kravitz : X-Men’s Amazing Angel
  • Author: Sandy Donovan
  • Publisher: Lerner Publications
  • Reviewer: Carol S. Surges
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-0747-3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
  • Lexile Score: 890

Taylor Swift: Music Superstar

Written by Jeff Burlingame

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Taylor Swift proves that a young person can achieve big things.  In spite of all her accomplishments, she remains down-to-earth.  She believes she owes everything to her fans and she stays accessible to them by social media and talking with them one-on-one after performances.  Her life experiences are woven into all of her songs and her fans feel like her songs could be about their own experiences.  She began singing, acting and writing early in her life because she loved them.  She won a national poetry contest in the fourth grade which naturally led to songwriting.  She also showed business sense at a young age.  When she was eleven, she and her family traveled to Nashville where she took homemade CDs of her singing karaoke and she dropped them off at record label offices.  No one called, but she proved she was persistent.  When she was fourteen, Taylor was offered a contract with RCA.  She tried working with them for a year, but she felt they wanted to categorize her so she walked away from renewing her contract.  She played everywhere she could and after one performance, a man approached her.  He wanted to start a new record label and he wanted to sign her, promising her she could sing her own songs and follow her artistic vision.  It was a good collaboration.  She sold million of recordings, began winning awards and shooting up to the top.

This easy-to-read biography is full of quotes and personal stories, analyzing the different aspects of her successful career.  Readers will enjoy the many color photos.  The reading level makes this a good choice for a Powerpoint presentation or an audio book.  The publisher’s website has Core Curriculum literacy activities for another book in the series, but it could easily be adapted to use with this book: (
Taylor Swift

  • TITLE: Taylor Swift: Music Superstar
  • AUTHOR: Jeff Burlingame
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 48 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-286-0
  • GENRE: Biography, celebrity
  • LEXILE: 840

Desert Baths

Written by Darcy Pattison

Illustrated by Kathleen Rietz

Outstanding Science Trade Book 2013 by National Science Teacher’s Association and the Children’s Book Council (click for more info)

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We are so conditioned to the idea of bathing as a water activity, that the thought of a bath without water seems strange. But there are cultures where bathing with oil is commonplace, and the word water-bath is an accepted part of the vocabulary.

The book lists twelve different ways of bathing. While fifth grade readers would be intrigued by the concept of a dust bath, or an ant bath, the adults in their life can make a convincing argument for cleanliness by pointing out that even animals find ways to keep clean.

And what fascinating ways: bathing in the dewdrops (Anna’s hummingbirds), ant bathing (scaled quail), licking the eyeballs to keep them clear (western banded gecko) or just shedding old skin for a new clean covering (diamondback rattler)!

The book is richly illustrated with pictures that faithfully reflect the passing time: from the vulture silhouetted against the rosy dawn, through the bright skies of the daytime heat to the purpling of the night. Each double page spread creates a complete, and completely accurate desert, habitat. There is a haunting verity to the pictures that carries the readers right into the little-known desert world.

Back matter additions make this book a valuable addition to any reading list. Young readers will enjoy the fun facts and quizzes, and trying their hand at making their own sundial.

Additional Resources:

Online activities:

Deserts of the world:

  • Desert BathsTitle: Desert Baths
  • Author: Darcy Pattison
  • Illustrator: Kathleen Rietz
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-5345
  • Genre: Picture Book/ Non-Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 870

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot

Written and Illustrated by Lauren Stringer

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Imagine a piano on wheels traveling through town! Stravinsky cannot be separated from his piano, and he has to provide the music besides. His wheeled piano leads the procession. Young readers will enjoy the idea of playing on a moving piano. “Well I will learn the piano if I can push it around the house,” may become an oft-heard request. Nijinsky, one cavorting cat, and his troupe of well trained ballet dancers follow, dancing in  time to the music. The Eiffel Tower clues the readers to the setting. “Follow me, follow me,” the dog in the picture seems to say. We follow along, eager to know what comes next.

Oh what a riot of color! Whether we are looking at the smaller illustrations or the full page pictures, the bleed-to-the-edge full color illustrations have us mesmerized. Look at the double page spread that has the words “And when it was ready Stravinsky and Nijinsky brought their new show to town.”

The words provide point and counterpoint:

Some people hated it! They were nettled by the new.

They stood on their seats and shouted “Boo! Boo! Boo!”

The facing page says:

And some people loved it! They were excited by the new.

They stood on their seats and shouted “Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!”

And so a riot breaks out. Imagine that – a riot in a theater.

Thus, the author succeeds in introducing fifth grade readers to two of the greats of the world of music and ballet. “Who are these people?” they may ask, intrigued by this story. A great launching point into the lives and achievement of Stravinsky and Nijinsky, and how their balletThe Rites of Spring changed the musical world forever. This book is a deserving addition to all libraries and reading lists.


Additional Resources:

Author’s studio:

Stravinsky’s The Rites of Spring

Rites of Spring Part I


  • When Stravinsky Met NijinskyTitle: When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot
  • Author and Illustrator: Lauren Stringer
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback:  32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547 90725-3
  • Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book
  • Lexile Score: 930

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

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