May 27, 2011

Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust
Author: Karen Hesse
Copyright 1997 Scholastic Inc.
ISBN: 0-590-37125-8
Genre: Historical Fiction

Out of the Dust is a beautifully written story about a young girl named Billie Jo who is coming of age during the Dust Bowl.  Living in the panhandle of Oklahoma, Billie Jo faces several tragedies as she faces the many hardships that the rest of the nation also faced during the Great Depression.  Written in a poetic style, the words and layout of the story accentuate Billie Jo’s emotions as she discusses the happenings of her life during her teenage years.  Vivid language and a unique writing style bring the Dust Bowl era to life for readers of all ages.  It is definitely an enjoyable read!

May 26, 2011

When Marian Sang

When Marian Sang
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Copyright 2002 Scholastic Press
ISBN: 0-439-26967-9
Genre: Biography

There are many amazing stories of individuals who made remarkable strides in the movement toward equal rights during the Civil Rights Era.  Some are very famous – who could forget the impact of Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr? – while others blend into the background of history.  Although they may be a bit forgotten, those who don’t stand out worked to create change in many ways in order to secure equal rights for all.  Marian Anderson is one of those individuals.  In the children’s book When Marian Sang the author describes how Marian changed the performing arts scene for African Americans with her magnificent voice.  The historically accurate illustrations in this book are based on photographs from the time period, and the reader is able to gain more knowledge from the books appendix in which the author and illustrator describe how they came to tell Marian’s story.  It is an inspirational story about how one person can overcome the odds and create a change for many.

May 26, 2011

How Much Is a Million?

How Much Is a Million?
Author: David M. Schwartz
Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
Copyright 1985 Mulberry Books
ISBN: 0-688-09933-5
Genre: Informational Text

Very often, abstract concepts are difficult for children to understand, especially children affected by autism spectrum disorders.  In the children’s book How Much Is a Million?, large, abstract numbers such as one million are described in a much more user-friendly manner.  Comparisons are presented in concrete terms that kids are familiar with so these large numbers aren’t so confusing after reading the book.  The bright, interesting illustrations provide enjoyment as kids learn about the magic of large numbers.

May 25, 2011

Saving Strawberry Farm

Saving Strawberry Farm
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator: Rachel Isadora
Copyright 2005 Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 978-0-688-17401-9
Genre: Historical Fiction

Before beginning a new history lesson or starting to read a new book about a historical event, it is beneficial to read a shorter story that can help illustrate the new information that will be presented to the reader.  Saving Strawberry Farm is a beautifully illustrated children’s book that presents many of the ideas surrounding the Great Depression in a simple way that new learners can understand.  A young boy goes to the corner store to buy some ice for an Independence Day picnic, and while there he learns that a neighbor’s strawberry farm is being auctioned by the bank.  In an effort to save the farm, Davey alerts the townspeople using a trick often employed during the Great Depression.  This story provides talking points for teachers to begin discussions about the hardships of poverty, the differences in daily life, and the efforts of townspeople to support each other.  It is an excellent story that brings this era to life.

May 25, 2011

And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three
Authors: Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
Illustrator: Henry Cole
Copyright 2005 Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Company
ISBN: 978-0-689-87845-9
Genre: Controversial

Many different types of families exist in our society today.  Some children grow up with a mom and a dad, with only one parent, with their grandparents, in foster homes, or even in homes with two moms or two dads.  This topic can often be difficult to explain to young children as they begin comparing their own lives to those of their friends.  In And Tango Makes Three, the reader learns about a unique family that lives at the Central Park Zoo.  Roy and Silo are two male penguins who live together in the penguin house and begin to act like a couple.  When they find a rock and start to nurture it like the other penguin couples are nurturing their eggs, the zookeeper takes notice and places an orphaned egg in their nest.  This book can be used to start a discussion about the different types of families that children may have as well as a way to begin a discussion about adoption, surrogacy, or foster-parenting.  Although controversial to some, reading this book may be an appropriate means for answering questions kids may have about same-sex couples and families and how they are formed.

May 24, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Author: Judi Barrett
Illustrator: Ron Barrett
Copyright 1978 Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-0689707490
Genre: Modern Fantasy

One quality of a great children’s picture book is the ability for the reader to find meaning solely by looking at the illustrations.  In Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the reader enters a world in which food falls from the sky and the townspeople don’t have any idea how to cook.  Through the illustrations of this book, the reader can understand the setting, see the problem of food storms build, and notice how the townspeople come to a conclusion.  With excellent detail and a unique artistic approach, Barrett draws readers of all ages into a fun and thought-provoking story.

May 24, 2011


Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Copyright 1988 Puffin Books
ISBN: 978-0142410370
Genre: Modern Fantasy

Matilda is a delightful tale about an extraordinary young girl with a very strong intellect.  Although this would seem to benefit a child, Matilda’s family is unappreciative, and sometimes even unaware, of her capabilities.  They are rude to her and often treat her as though she does not exist.  After beginning school at which a horrid mean woman serves as principal, Matilda discovers that she has even more capabilities that reach beyond those that might be expected.  Throughout the book, the style of language and dialogue used by Matilda and the other characters draws the reader in and make it very difficult at times to put the book down.  It is an excellent story for the young reader!

May 21, 2011

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed
Author/Illustrator: Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Copyright 2003 Harcourt, Inc.
ISBN: 0-15-216413-8
Genre: Picture Book

Any mother who has a little girl will be able to identify with the this story.  In Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, the main character, Ella Sarah, wants to choose her own clothes.  And her clothing choices are very typical of the preschool age.  Her desired outfit encompassed every color of the rainbow, and after being encouraged to wear matching outfits and even a set f hand-me-down overalls, Ella Sarah takes it upon herself to get dressed.  With bright, colorful illustrations, Ella Sarah’s clothing choices truly come to life in this excellent children’s book.

May 21, 2011

Little Pea

Little Pea
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Jen Corace
Copyright 2005 Chronicle Books
ISBN: 0-8118-4658-X
Genre: Picture Book

Little Pea is a silly little book that any preschooler is certain to love.  Little Pea is depicted as a typical young child living with is parents.  However, one part of his life is different: he hates candy – and he must eat it in order to have dessert.  The watercolor and ink illustrations enhance the simplicity of the story yet appear lively when placed on the bright white background of the pages.  If you enjoy Little Pea, be sure to find the other titles by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Little Hoot and Little Oink.

May 20, 2011

The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand
Author: Audrey Penn
Illustrators: Ruth E. Harper & Nancy M. Leak
Copyright 1993 Child & Family Press
ISBN: 0-87868-585-5
Genre: Picture Book

The first day of school for many young children can be a day filled with fear and apprehension.  Leaving one’s parents and entering a world filled with strangers and uncertainty can certainly cause kids to worry.  The Kissing Hand is one of those stories that can help ease the nervousness students feel as they begin a new school year.  The main character, a small raccoon who his beginning his first year of school, faces the same feelings and his mother is provides a unique method for him to remember her love while he is away.  Children will be able to identify with the characters and can feel a sense of calm as they go into an unknown world with Chester Raccoon in mind.  Additionally, a discussion about nocturnal animals can begin with the reading of this book as Chester attends school at night.  Overall, The Kissing Hand is an excellent read!