Children's and Young Adult Literature - Online
Model Schools Course

Facilitator -Beth Disque

Great Read-Alouds and Memorable Books!

Barrett, Judy -
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Beaumont, Karen_
I Ain't Gonna Paint No More

Blume, Judy-
The Pain and the Great One

Brett, Jan -
***The Mitten

Bunting, Eve -
Our Library

Campbell, Rod-
Dear Zoo

Carle, Eric –
The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Davies, Jacqueline -
The Lemonade War

DeFelice, Cynthia -
Casey in the Bath

Emberly, Rebecca & Ed -
If You're a Monster and You Know it

Galdone, Paul-
The Little Red Hen

Gleitzman, Morris-
Toad Rage

Glen, Maggie -

Haley, Gail E.-
A Story, A Story

Harper, Dan -
***Sit, Truman

Hatkoff, Isabella -
Owen and Mzee:The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship

Holling, Holling Clancy -
Paddle to the Sea

Johnston, Tony -
Amber on the Mountain

Keats, Ezra Jack -
The Snowy Day

Lovell, Patty-
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

Lowry, Lois-
Gooney Bird Greene

Lucado, Max
The Crippled Lamb

Martin, Jr., Bill -
Brown Bear, Brown Bear
(2 reviews)

McKee, David -

Meddaugh, Susan -
Martha Speaks

Munsch, Robert-
Purple, Green and Yellow

Osborne, Mary Pope -
Dinosaurs Before Dark

Palantini, Margie-

Parr, Todd -
The Best Friends Book

Rawlinson, Julia -
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

Reynolds, Peter -

Rosen, Michael -
***We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Schachner, Judy-
Skippyjon Jones
(2 reviews)

Sendak, Maurice-
Where the Wild Things Are

Seuss, Dr. -
The Sneetches and Other Stories

Shannon, David -
   David Gets in Trouble
   No David!

Shute, Linda -
Clever Tom and the Leprechaun

Siebert, Diane -

Silverstein, Shel-
The Giving Tree
(2 reviews)

Stevens, Janet -
Tops and Bottoms

Stone, Jon-
The Monster At the
End Of This Book

Tillman, Nancy _
On the NIght You Were Born

Trumbauer, Lisa -
Haunted Ghould Bus

VanAllsburg, Chris -
The Polar Express

Van Genechten, Guido -
Little Snowman Stan

Viorst, Judith -
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
(2 reviews)

Ward, Cindy -
***Cookie's Week

Wheeler, Lisa -
Sixteen Cows

Willems, Mo -
  Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
  Knuffle Bunny

Williams, Suzanne -
Library Lil

Wood, Audrey -
  King Bidgood's in the Bathtub
  Quick as a Cricket

Yang, James -
Joey and Jet

Young, Ed -
Lon Po Po

Bennett, Cherie -
Searching For David's Heart

Blume, Judy -
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Bunting, Eve -
The Memory String

Buyea, Rob -
Because of Mr. Terupt

Dahl, Roald -
  James and the Giant Peach (2 reviews)
  The Witches

D'Aulaires, Ingri and Edgar Parin -
D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths

DiCamillo, Kate -
Tiger Rising

DuPrau, Jeanne -
City of Ember

Ellis, Deborah -
The Breadwinner

Gardner, John Reynolds -
Stone Fox

Grogan, John -
Marley; A Dog Like No Other

Haddix,Margaret Peterson-
Running Out of Time

Hiaasen, Carl-

Howe, James -

Juster, Norton  -
The Phantom Tolllbooth

Klise, Kate -
Regarding the Fountain

Lowry, Lois -
All About Sam

Lytle, Robert -
A  Pitch in Time

MacDonald, Betty -
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

McDonald, Megan -
Judy Moody Was in a Mood

McGovern, Ann -
The Secret Soldier, The Story of Deborah Sampson

McMullan, Margaret-
How I Found the Strong



Meddaugh, Susan-
Martha Blah Blah

Mikaelson, Ben -

Mills, Claudia -
7 X 9 Equals Trouble!

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds -
The Boys Start the War

Nixon, Joan Lowery -
The Gift

O'Connor, Leslie
Waiting for Normal

Paulsen, Gary -
Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered
(2 reviews)

Polacco, Patricia-
  Pink and Say
Thank You, Mr. Falker

Ryan, Pam Munoz -
Esperanza Rising

Rylant, Cynthia -
Night in the Country

Silverstein, Shel -
  Every Thing On It
  The Giving Tree
  Where the Sidewalk Ends

Smith, Lane-
John, Paul, George, and Ben

Spinelli, Jerry -
Star Girl

Steptoe, John -
The Story of Jumping Mouse

Taylor, Theodore -
The Cay

VanAllsburg, Chris -
The Widow’s Broom 

Wiesner, David -

Wilder, Laura Ingalls -
Farmer Boy

Williams, Laura -
The Mystery of Dead Man's Curve

Williams, Linda -
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

Woodruff, Elvira-
Orphan of Ellis Island

Albom, Mitch -
   The Five People You Meet in Heaven
   Tuesdays with Morrie

Boyne, John-
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Bunting, Eve-

Card, Orson Scott -
***Ender's Game

Cormier, Robert -
We All Fall Down

Creech, Sharon -
   Love That Dog
   Walk Two Moons

Crutcher, Chris -
King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-advised Autobiography

Dickinson, Peter -

Gantos, Jack -
***Dead End in Norvelt

Hinton, S.E. -
The Outsiders

Horvath, Polly -
Everything on a Waffle

Ilibagiza. Immaculee -
Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

Jackson, Shirley -
The Lottery and Other Stories - "Charles"

Johnson, Angela -
A  Sweet Smell of Roses

Kinney, Jeff -
Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Moying, LI -
Snow Falling in Spring


Martin, Rafe-
The Rough-Face Girl

Minters, Frances -
Cinder -Elly

Munch, Robert -
The Paper Bag Princess

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds

Paulsen, Gary-
  Lawn Boy
  My Life in Dog Years

Peck, Richard-
A Long Way From Chicago

Picoult, Jodi -
My Sister's Keeper

Poe, Edgar Allen
The Tell-tale Heart

Reynolds, Peter -

Rawls, Wilson
Where the Red Fern Grows

Seuss, Dr. -
Oh the Places You'll Go

Snyder, Zilpha Keatly
The Egypt Game

Steinbeck, John -
Of Mice and Men

Zusak, Marcus -
***The Book Thief
(2 reviews)

***Submitted by current class member

Primary Listening Level (K - 2)

Barrett, Judi.  Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs.
Barrett, Ronald.  ©1982.  32pages
Description:  Picture book
Summary:   In the town of Chewandswallow the weather is anything but ordinary.  Instead of raining rain and snowing snow the only thing falling from the sky is food.  Things like juice, mashed potatoes, and hamburgers were the town’s source of food.  All was great until one day the weather took a turn for the worse and the food didn’t stop coming down.  The town was a huge mess.  The residents decide to sail away to a new land where you must by food from a supermarket.  The story ends with Grandpa saying goodnight to the children as this story was his bedtime tall tale. 
Review:  This is one of my favorite picture books.  I love this book because it really catches the student’s attention and gets them using their imaginations.  Year after year my students have loved this book and ask me to read it over and over again.  I use this book as a great resource to get kids thinking creatively. 
Audience:  Primary
Reviewed by:  Lena Haslun, Ryder Elementary, 2/2012

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs book cover
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Book Cover I Ain't Gonna Paint No More

Beaumont, Karen – I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!
Illus. by David Catrow, ©2005 32p.
Description – Picture Book, Fiction
Summary - This is a fun kid’s story about a boy who can't stop playing with paint. He paints his head and his chest and his elbow and his legs and he is about to do some more painting when his mom yells "WHAT???????" The story is well written with rhyme and rhythm.  It teaches about colors and the body and in such a fun fashion.
Review – This is a great read aloud, I read it every year.  My fourth graders love hearing this book.  They ask me to read it over and over again.  They get into the book and read along with me.  It is easy to fall in love with this book.
Awards - ALA Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards)
2009 Tennessee Children's Choice Book Award
Audience – Primary (but intermediate students enjoy this as well)
Reviewed by – Jodi Coppolo, Middleburgh, 4th grade, 1/10

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Blume, Judy- The Pain and the Great One
Illus. by - Irene Trivas, c 1974, unp
Description - Picture Book/Fiction
Summary - Sibling rivalry rears its ugly head in this adorable picture book about a young girl and her little brother. The first half of the book is told from the older sister’s point of view, describing her younger brother as The Pain. The second half of the book is told from the little brother’s point of view about his older sister who thinks she is the Great One.
Review - Coming from a family with five siblings, and raising a family with five siblings, I love this book, and students of all ages can relate, either as the older silbling, or as the younger. It is lots of fun to read-aloud because you can whine, or boast or use other appropriate sound effects to get the author’s point across.
Audience- All levels
Reviewed by - Susan Feyrer, Birchwood Elementary School, Reading Specialist, 8/06
The Pain and the Great One Book

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The Mitten Book Cover

Brett, Jan – The Mitten
©1989, 29 pages 
Description – Picture Book
Summary – A young boy unknowingly loses his newly knitted white mitten while playing in the snow.  As he enjoys himself outside, his mitten becomes overstuffed with animals looking for a warm place.  When a mouse climbs into the mitten and finds a spot on the nose of a bear, it makes the bear sneeze, sending the animals flying out of the mitten.  The boy then finds his mitten floating through the air, takes it home, and is left wondering how that mitten got so big.
Review – It’s a classic.  I love to read this book every year with my kindergarteners.  They find it hilarious that all the animals can jam themselves into the mitten.  The children love to see the great sneeze.  Jan Brett’s style is fascinating for the audience, providing illustrations along the border to support the story.  This story easily lends itself to many activities such as sequencing, retelling and knitting.  It also sparks discussions on animal characteristics and winter activities.
Audience - Primary
Reviewed by – Katie Hoffman, Maimonides Hebrew Day School, Kindergarten Teacher, 2/13

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Book Cover for Our Library

Bunting, Eve, Our Library
 Illustrator – Smith, Maggie, c2008, 32 p.
Description/Genre – Picture Book, Fiction.
Summary – Miss Goose, the librarian at the little town library, sadly tells Raccoon and his animal friends that the library is going to close because it needs too many repairs. Without skipping a beat, the young animals check out library books to learn how to paint and fix a roof. Then, they take care of the repairs the very next day. Other obstacles to keeping the library quickly arise and the youngsters work together, using their knowledge, ingenuity, effort, positive attitude and some library books, to make sure that they will always have this place to learn. Successful at the end of the story, the animals relax and share important messages: “There’s nothing you can’t learn to do when you have books,” “…If you can read,” and “…And it’s even better if you have a library.”
 Review – This is a simple story with an upbeat, can-do attitude that is great for youngsters. The watercolor/acrylic illustrations show expressive little woodland animals (and a grumpy beaver) with details that students can compare to the libraries that they know in real life. As a read-aloud, it’s a great way to show how books can help you to learn things so you can solve your own problems. Also, it reminds them that a library can be an empowering place and that people often come together to work for a cause. Children know that it is fiction and point out that some of the tasks might not be ones that   children to do (lay a roof, move a building) but they can still do a lot to make a difference (have ideas, work together, run sales, and be nice to each other.) I like using it with the youngest library users because it is a great book to reflect back to as they become aware of their own needs for information where to go to find books, read them and learn.
Audience- Primary (K-1)
Reviewed by - Kim Harmon, Pine Bush Elementary School, Library Media Specialist, (8/12)

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Campbell, Rod Dear Zoo
©1982, unp
Description - Picture Book, Fiction
Summary – A child wants a pet and decides to write to the zoo.  The zoo sends an elephant but he is too big so he is sent back. Next, a giraffe arrives but he is too tall so is sent back.  The story continues in this fashion with a fierce lion, a grumpy camel, a scary snake, a naughty monkey, and a jumpy frog arriving and being returned.  Finally a puppy arrives and is perfect.
Review – The children love this book and ask to read it over and over.  Each animal arrives in a crate, basket or suitable container and is hidden by a flap which I let the children open. I usually read this in the beginning of the year.  The children enjoy being called up to open a flap to see what the animal is that is hiding.  After it has been read the first time the children are able to guess the animal.  This is a great way to introduce sequencing to the children.  It is written in the first person.
Audience – Primary
Reviewed by – Fran Carroll, St. John the Evangelist School, 1st grade teacher, 2/07
Dear Zoo Book

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar book Carle, Eric – The Very Hungry Caterpillar
©1969 . unp.
Description – Fiction
Summary – This story follows the progress of a tiny egg that turns into a tiny caterpillar who eats his way through a large variety of different foods until he is so full that he has a stomach ache.  He eats through one leaf and feels better.  He wraps himself in a cocoon and sleeps for a long while. 
Review – I enjoy reading this book each year to all of my classes because the children are able to follow along easily and even join in as some of the reading is repetitious on every page.  The illustrations are very simple and quite colorful, which the children love.  It’s a beautiful story about the miraculous transformation of a caterpillar into a colorful butterfly.  I use this as an icebreaker in the beginning of the year and again when we are watching caterpillars change into butterflies in our classroom.
Audience – Primary
Reviewed by – Kathy Brocks, St. John the Evangelist School, ECE teacher, 2 / 07

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Davies, JacquelineThe Lemonade War
Reprint edition ©2009, 192p
Description/Genre – Fiction, Chapter Book 
Summary – Evan and Jessie are siblings and they get along really well until something happened that put them at war. They decided to have a bet. Who can make the most money having lemonade stands. This book is wonderful. It incorporates all the stages of having a successful business and everything that can happen to make your business fail. It really depicts the relationship of two children who are very different, but do care deeply for one another. It incorporates sibling rivalry, competition, learning what is right and wrong and lots of math
Review – I read this book to by second graders and they loved it. Every year we put on an Alex’s Lemonade Stand in which we raise money for childhood cancer. This book is a wonderful book to read to learn about how to have a successful stand and earn lots of money. Throughout the book the children learn different tips and they incorporate each tip into the lemonade stands they are having.
Audience – Second grade and older
Reviewed by – Laurie Critelli, Pine Bush  Elementary School, 8/11

Book cover for The Lemonade WAr

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DeFelice, Cynthia Casey in the Bath
Illus. Chris L. Demarest  ©1998, 32p.
Description: Picture Book, Fiction
Summary:  Casey hates to take a bath.  He will do anything to avoid it!  One afternoon an unusual salesman arrives at his front door trying to sell some strange green soap.  ‘It’s guaranteed to make taking a bath a thrilling experience’ the salesman said, giving Casey a wink.  Casey was not thrilled at the idea of bathing, but his parents made him try it.  Wait until you see what strange creatures come from green bubbles!  With ingenious illustrations and captivating text, this is sure to be a favorite read aloud for years to come!
Review: I read this book to my 1st graders every year—and every year they always clap at the end!  For me—that’s a sign of an amazing book!  The kids listen with mouths agape and look in awe and wonder at the sight of the illustrations!  They are so fascinated and humored by the little bubble creatures!  It has quickly become a classic in my library!
Audience: Primary
Reviewed by: Suzanne Sogoian, Craig Elementary, SLMS

Casey in the Bath book

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Book cover for If You're a Monster

Emberley, Rebecca and Ed- If You’re a Monster and You Know It…
Illustrated by Rebecca and Ed Emberley, ©2110, 32p 
-Picture Book, Fiction
-This is a re-work of the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It…”   done monster style! It is definitely a book that begs for audience participation from the Pre-School-First Grade crowd. Emberley style, bright colored illustrations of cool looking monsters draw the children in right away. This book absolutely must be sung and moved to. Some of my favorite actions are “twitching our tails” and “wiggling our warts”.
:  My Kindergarten Kids absolutely love it when we share this book together! They are usually already fans of Ed Emberley’s, Go Away Big Green Monster, and are excited about it before we even begin. The fact that it is the tune from If You’re Happy and You Know It….  is a huge plus because that’s always one of their favorite songs. They love becoming monsters and coming up with new parts to add to the song. We always have to take some “monster sized” deep breaths to calm ourselves down after reading this book. The children also love looking at the details of the illustrations. As a follow-up, they enjoy making their own monsters by cutting out the parts from brightly colored paper, and gluing the pieces onto black paper. They can do it any way that they want because they all come out great! This book provides a “monsterishly” good time for all!
-Pre-School-First Grade  
Reviewed by-Linda LaCoppola, Ryder Elementary School (CRCS), 3/12

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Galdone, Paul - The Little Red Hen
Illus. Galdone, Paul,  c1985,  32p.
Description- Picture Book
Summary- A delightful English folktale about the little red hen who finds some grain on the ground and decides to plant it. She asks for help from the mouse, cat and dog and they refuse to help, “Not I” they reply. This same response continues as the hen harvests, thrashes, grinds and bakes the wheat into a delicious loaf of bread. After all the hard work is finished the cat, dog and mouse are anxious to eat the bread but the little red hen refuses to share. After all, you reap what you sow!
Review- This is a great book to read to preschoolers during circle time. They are amused by the simple text and repetitive elements of the text. The predictable “not I” response carries them to through the story. I bring out some stalks of wheat during the story to explain what wheat looks like and what grains are. When I get to the end of the story where the animals ask for bread it is fun to ask the preschoolers “What would you do if you were the hen?” Another surprise for the little ones is to bring out the little red hen hand puppet at the end of the story to explain the importance of helping others and how hard work can have its benefits! It’s also a great lead into snack time where the preschoolers can sample some homemade bread that the Little Red Hen has brought with her to share. What a yummy ending to a wonderful story with an ageless message.
Audience- Primary
Reviewed by- Marta Roberts-Pekar, Burnt Hills Ballston Lake High School, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher,4/06
The Little Red Hen Book

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Gleitzman, Morris – Toad Rage
Illus. by Rod Clement, c2004, 164 p.
Description/Genre – Fiction chapter book
Summary -  Toad Rage is from Down Under and tells the tale of LImpy, a cane toad, who thinks that humans hate cane toads. He is determined to change this. He goes to the Olympics Games in Sydney, Australia with dreams of becoming a games mascot to show the world how nice cane toads are.  It is a rather dark comedy that includes a glossary to help readers understand some Australian words from the text, and you also get a peak at the first chapter of the sequel, Toad Heaven. 
Review – This book is hilarious! I read this book to my second graders, and we all laughed hysterically.  My class begged for me to read more each day because every chapter leaves you hanging and wanting to know what will happen next.  I read it because we were studying the life cycle of a toad, but I was a little worried that it might be too difficult for second graders to understand. I was pleasantly surprised when most students easily understood the rich text.  We discussed difficult parts and made connections to real life that helped to clear things up. I love this book and will continue to read it to second graders because it is an excellent book for teaching/reinforcing comprehension skills such as questioning, making connections, and inferencing.
Audience – Grades 2 (no younger) and intermediate grades
Reviewed by – Amy Santandrea, Birchwood Elementary School, Second grade, 8/06
Toad Rage Book

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Glen, Maggie - Ruby
Illustrator- Glen, Maggie ©1992 32p
Description – Picture Book/Fiction
Summary – This is a heart warming story about a bear that was created a little differently than the other bears in the toy factory.  While she was being created the person who was sewing her was not watching carefully so he fur is spotted, her eyes are different colors and her nose is crooked.  Ruby’s paw is stamped “S”.  Ruby thinks that stands for “Special”.  She is just tossed into a box with other toys that are seconds.  Ruby leads all her new friends out of the factory where the other toys find homes.  Some climb into a child’s bed or closet, but Ruby finds her way into an exclusive toy store.  The other toys treat her badly, but then along comes Suzie who thinks Ruby is just right.  Even when the sales person tries to get her a better bear, Suzie wants Ruby.
Review – I love this book asa read aloud because the heroine of the story isn’t perfectly made.  Ruby thinks she is “Special” and reacts with a great big “Whoopie”.  When she learns from some other misfit toys that she is second best she doesn’t give up or get discouraged.  I like to read this in conjunction with other books about being special or unique.  We all have our special gifts and talents and we all look different.  Just imagine a world where we all look the same.  It would be boring.  We need to rejoice in our differences.  Children can be cruel to others who have special challenges or different appearances and this story and Ruby is a champion for all of us who are special.  Unfortunately, when doing a search for this book I found out it is out of print, but it can be found in used stores on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. 
Audience – Primary (I have read this to 1st  and  4th graders and they loved it.)
Reviewed by – Fran Miller, First Grade teacher – St. Teresa of Avila School, Albany -07/07

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Owen and Mzee book cover

Hatkoff, Isabella & Craig and Kahumbu. Dr. Paula- Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
Photographs by Peter Greste
©2006, 40p
Description- Picture book
Summary- A true story about a baby hippo that was separated by his family when the devastating tsunami occurred in Southeast Asia. The villagers feared that since Owen (baby hippo) had not been taught how to fight and fend for himself that he would be better placed in a habitat that could house and take care of him so he was brought to Haller Park in Kenya where he adopted a 130 year old tortoise named Mzee  as his mother. For many years the tortoise was a loner and not friendly to many people so it was almost unheard of for a tortoise and a hippo to become companions, but they did and this story touched the heart of many. Owen follows Mzee around and will eat only when Mzee began eating. They are unsure of why this unlikely pair came to be but the amazement is there no matter the reason.
Review- I think this book is wonderful to read when talking about the importance of friendships and diversity.  It also shows triumph with such a painful loss. It helps students learn about resiliency and the power of love and relationships. I would use this book for character education as well as with relationship management.
Audience- Primary, but I think very interesting to young adults as well.
 Reviewed by- Jennifer Deeb, Iroquois Middle School, Health Teacher, 7/08


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Haley, Gail E. - A Story, A Story
Illus. by Gail E.
Haley, c  1970,  unp
Description/Genre: Picture book
Summary:  Once there were no stories on earth to hear, and this African tale recounts how Ananse the Spider man performed three impossible tasks to bring to earth the stories belonging to Nyame the Sky God.
Review:  Decisions, decisions. How to choose a truly special read-aloud, from a multitude of books I’ve read over thirty-some years. Fortunately I keep a list, and a little jogging down memory lane brought me to Gail Haley’s book.  I’m not a theatrical reader, but no matter how restless students are when they arrive, they stop and listen to the tale of Ananse the Spider man and how he brought the stories to earth. The combination of the cadence of the words and the brightly colored wood-cut-like illustrations tell the tale for all to hear and see. Something about this story keeps the children’s attention year after year, and I never tire of reading it, even if I still can’t pronounce Mmboro and Nyame. I just try to be consistent.
Audience: Primary
Reviewed by: Kathleen Hintz, St. Patrick’s Academy, Computer teacher/Librarian K-5.
A Story A Story Book

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Sit Truman Book Cover

Harper, Dan – Sit, Truman!
Moser, Cara and Barry, ©2004, 32p
Description/Genre – Picture Book
Summary – Truman is a huge, clumsy, realistic, and loveable dog who drinks out of the toilet, steals his owner’s sandwich, resents sharing his toys with little dog, Oscar, and gets lots of gentle reprimands throughout a normal day. He drools too much and pokes his nose in the mailbox, but he’s a good dog.
Review – My students love to see the little troubles Truman gets himself into as well as the watercolor illustrations.  Dog owners relate to the truisms in the book while children who’ve never owned a pet marvel at all the funny, cute things Truman does, and it seems everyone can relate to the little girl holding her ice cream cone high above her head trying to keep it away from single-minded Truman who wants a lick. This book doesn’t teach any huge lessons, although it is heartwarming to see the last page where Truman is sharing his bed with little Oscar, and Truman’s owner is gentle about correcting him when he makes mistakes, but it is just a really sweet, enjoyable book to read.
Audience – Students k-2 and any animal lover.
Reviewed by – Heather O’Leary, Hamilton Elementary, ESL teacher, 02/1

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Holling, Holling Clancy - Paddle To the Sea
©1941, 54 pages
Description/Genre- picture book/chapter book
Summary- Paddle to the Sea is a wooden Indian sitting in a boat that was carved by a young Native boy from the Nipigon country north of the Great Lakes. He is set on a bank of melting snow to start his journey through the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence Seaway and finally to the Atlantic Ocean. Along his journey, Paddle faces many challenges from Lumberjacks, sawmills, curious river creatures, fires, waterfalls, and tangled fishing nets. After 4 years, he completes his mission, crosses the Atlantic Ocean and meets up with his creator. This is an amazing tale with fantastic historical references.
Review- I have read this book to 2nd grade and we follow Paddle’s journey on a very large map I drew from the map in the back of the book. Each chapter, we moved Paddle a little further and learned new history and geography. We cheer for Paddle and we worry when he faces peril. It is an adventure book in every sense of the word.
Audience- I highly recommend it for any class studying geography and history of the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence Seaway (most likely intermediate or for any class that just enjoys a good adventure. 
Reviewed by- Laurie Del Signore, St. Mary’s School- Waterford, 2nd grade teacher, 8/07

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Book Cover for Amber on the MOuntain

Johnston, Tony, Amber on the Mountain
Illustrator – Duncan, Robert, @1994, 32p.
Description/Genre - Picture Book/Fiction
Summary - Amber on the Mountain is the story of a girl in the Appalachian Mountains, who wants to learn how to read and write. Amber is a mountain girl who has no one to teach her. Then another young girl arrives with her family, Anna. When Anna arrives the two girls quickly become best friends and Anna teaches Amber how to read. Although Anna has to leave the mountain before she can teach Amber everything she wishes like now learning to write, Amber perseveres in her quest to learn how to write.
Review - I read this beautifully written book to my third and fourth graders every year. Not only does it model beautiful language throughout the book, but it catches the reader in the opening sentences, “Amber lived on a mountain so high it poked like a needle stuck in down. Trees bristled on it like porcupine quills.” But it also empowers children to learn an important message that, “you can do almost anything you fix your mind to.” What a wonderful way to empower young readers!
Audience- I use this with my 3rd and 4th grade remedial readers (Intermediate), but I can see this used with primary students K-2.
 Reviewed by – Regina Anderson, CRCS, Reading Teacher, 7/12

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The Snowy Day Book

Keats, Ezra Jack– The Snowy Day
©1976, 32p
Description/Genre– Multi-cultural
Summary- This is a simple story of a boy who ventures outside his home to play in the snow. He makes a smiling snowman, an angel, and pretends to be mountain climber in the snow. On his way home, he packs a handful of snow into his pocket for the next day. However, when he looks inside his pocket before going to bed, the snow has melted and he feels very sad. He dreams that the sun has melted all the snow but when he wakes up and looks outside his window, he finds snow everywhere.
Review – This delightful, simply well written book tells of the adventures of a young African-American boy who enjoys a snowy day. It is a realistic depiction of the simple pleasures in life, which we all, in one way or another can relate to.
Audience- 4-8 (Beginning Readers)
Reviewed by – Sonji Greenaway, Albany High School, Library Media Specialist, 3/08

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Lovell, Patty – Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon
Illus. by David Catrow, c2001, 30 p.
Description – Picture Book
Review – A wonderful picture book for a read aloud.  The story is about Molly Lou Melon who has buck teeth,  a voice that sounds like a bull frog,  and fumble fingers.  All along though her grandmother tells her to believe in herself and so Molly Lou Melon does until the day she has to move into a new neighborhood and school.  There she meets Ronald Durkin who makes fun of Molly Lou Melon.  However, because of her confidence every insult she turns into a skill.  Finally Ronald Durkin realizes he rather be her friend than her enemy.
Suggestion for Classroom Use – A wonderful book to start the school year.  The book could lead to discussions of diversity and respect.  Also how to hand a bully.  Another way it could be used is characterization.  Molly Lou Melon shows confidence, perseverance, and creativity.
Audience – elementary, and 6th grade
Reviewed by – Christina Moloney, RCS – Middle School, 6th Grade
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon Book

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Lowry, Lois – Gooney Bird Greene
Illus. Middy Thomas, c2002, 88 p.
Description/Genre – Nonfiction, Chapter Book
Summary – From the moment Goo
 ney Bird Greene arrives at her new school, Watertower Elementary, all of the second graders are fascinated by her unusual lunches, and sense of style. Everyone wants to hear about Gooney Bird when it comes around to story time. That’s great for her, because she has some interesting and “absolutely true” stories to tell, and she loves being “right smack in the middle of everything.”
Review – Not only is this book extremely entertaining, it actually teaches children about what every story needs; a beginning, a middle, an end, and a main character. While the teacher, Mrs. Pidgeon, is trying to teach a lesson about a famous character in a story, the class decides that they would rather hear stories about their new classmate instead. And so the teacher agrees to let her spend 15 minutes every day telling her stories to her fellow classmates. In her first story, she explains how her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Greene, that’s Greene with a silent “e” at the end, come to name her Gooney Bird. Mrs. Pidgeon is always quick to point out when Gooney Bird uses characters, dialogue, or suspense during each one of her stories. Gooney Bird continues to tell stories from meeting the Prince at the Palace, to her diamond earrings and her magic carpet ride! Just remember, all of Gooney Bird Greene’s stories are “absolutely true!”
Audience – Primary
Reviewed by: Barbara Cooper, Birchwood Elementary School, Gr 1-2 Teacher, 2/06
Gooney Bird Greene Book

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The Crippled Lamb Book

Lucado, Max– The Crippled Lamb
Illustrated by Liz Bonham, ©1994, 28 pages
Description-Picture Book
Summary-Joshua is a crippled lamb that often feels sad and alone.  Because of his disability, he is unable to go on a journey with the Shepard and is forced to go back to the barn.  At night, a crying baby wakes Josh.  The baby’s mother told Joshua that the baby was cold.  Josh curled up close to the baby and warmed him with his warm wool.  Joshua understood that he was born with a crippled leg so he could be in the stable and keep baby Jesus warm.  God has a special place for him.
Review-This story is a heart-warming tale with a powerful message.  Everyone has a purpose in life, no matter how insignificant you may feel.  What a great message to share with children!
Audience-Primary, but the story and message could be enjoyed for all ages.  This is a great book to read for religious education.
Reviewed by-Jessica Bradshaw, Voorheesville Middle School, 7th Grade Life Science Teacher (2/08)

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Martin Jr., Bill, Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Illus. Carle, Eric, ©1996, 32p.
Description/Genre – Picture Book
Summary – This book tells a memorable story about many different colored animals.
Review – This book is great for students who are pre-readers to hear.  By using repetition, vivid pictures, bright colors, and familiar words, this is a story that students want to hear over and over.  They like to read-aloud with the teacher when they become familiar with the text.  Pre-reading students can also “pretend read” using this book.  By pretend reading, students are reinforcing good reading strategies.  Some of the strategies are: left to right progression; picture clues; and prior knowledge.  My pre-K students have always loved this story and pretend reading it. 
Audience- Primary
Reviewed by - Corina Spain – Elementary and Literacy Teacher, 8/06

Martin Jr., Bill – Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Illus. by Eric Carle, ©1996, 24 p.
Description – Picture Book/Fiction
Summary - This story begins with a brown bear and continues with a fun pattern of different colored animals that are looking at each other.
Review – This classic book is a staple in primary classrooms.    This book is a successful read-aloud because it contains repetitive text and rhyming.  Children can participate in the reading and they love the book. They want to hear it over and over.  Students love to act out this book as well.  I love this book because it can be used to teach rhyme, repetition, primary colors, and animals. I often use this book at the beginning of the school year as a culminating book, at the end of our color unit.  However, it is often visited multiple times throughout the year. 
NYS Standards Connections - All ELA Standards
Audience – Primary
Reviewed by - Kelly O’Connell, Ryder Elementary School, Kindergarten Teacher 08/10

Brown bear brown bear book cover

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Book Cover Elmer

McKee, DavidElmer
©1989, 32p.
Description – Picture book, fiction
Summary - Elmer is a brightly colored patchwork elephant living amidst a herd of plain gray elephants. Elmer’s sense of humor and crazy antics keep the community of elephants in a happy mood until the day Elmer gets tired of being different and rubs in berries to turn his skin gray. Now the elephants are sad when they think Elmer is not around. The surprise ending always elicits laughter from the children. Colorful illustrations keep them focused on the pages.
Review – I read this book to kindergarten classes every year when the letter Ee is introduced.  It is a great literature connection and helps students remember the sound of the short vowel, e. More importantly, it is a great springboard to discuss the message that it is O.K. to be different and we can celebrate the unique qualities in everyone. It can also be used to inspire various art projects using vivid colors and patchwork designs. Elmer is the first of more than a dozen books about Elmer written and illustrated by David McKee.
Audience – Primary
Reviewed by – Denise Tracy, Ryder Elem., Reading Specialist, 1/09

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Meddaugh, Susan. Martha Speaks.
Illustrated by: Meddaugh, Susan.  ©1992. 32pp.
Genre: Picture Book, Fiction
Summary: When Martha the dog is fed alphabet soup by her owner one day, the letters go to her head instead of her stomach. Suddenly, Martha can speak! Her owner-family delights in showing off Martha's new talent, until her talking begins to get on their nerves. She insults strangers and visitors, orders fast food deliveries from takeout restaurants, and talks through the family's TV programs.  They have had enough-enough to tell Martha they wish she never learned to talk. Martha is crushed, and no longer has an appetite for soup or for speaking, until one day, a burglar breaks into the family house. Martha tries to summon the police, but since she hasn't had any soup in several days, she can no longer use words. Luckily, the burglar gives her a pot of alphabet soup to keep her quiet, and Martha is able to phone the police and save the day! Now she eats soup everyday, and her family happily teaches her the rules of speaking etiquette!
Review – I have read this book over and over, to classes as well as to my own children, nieces and nephews. They love it as much as I do. The idea of a family pet finally starting to speak in “human”-it's a fantasy all pet lovers have had at one time or another. How often have we wondered what our dogs or cats are thinking? Martha solves that mystery for us- she says everything that comes into her mind-how refreshing, even if it is sometimes a little inpolite! 
     We emphathize with Martha when her feelings are hurt and she decides to talk no longer. We cheer with her family when she helps capture the burglar and saves her owners, just as any heroic pet would do. This story appeals so much because it is a dream come true-Martha's speaking proves that man's best friend is a best friend in every sense of the word.  This book is a delightful whimsy which tickles its audience!
Audience- Primary.
 Reviewed by – Janet Micheli, Rosendale Elementary School, 02/10.

Martha Speaks book cover

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Purple Green and Yellow Book Munsch, Robert  - Purple, Green and Yellow
Illus. Desputeaux, Helene,
©1992, unp.
Description/Genre – Picture book, humorous
Summary - Brigid talks her mother into buying her coloring markers (all the kids have them.) But after the washable markers and the scented markers, it is the ”super-indelible-never-come-off-till-you're-dead-and-maybe-even-later” coloring markers that get her in trouble.
Review -  In typical Munsch form, this is a story of taking the perfectly ordinary into the realm of (almost) absurd. Listeners hear the pattern set up in the first part of the story and when the pattern breaks the third time through they understand that something BIG is about to happen. When Brigid breaks the rules and starts coloring that first fingernail purple, there is often a small gasp in the audience as they realize the implications. From then until her mother finds out there is a wonderful tension as listeners have to find out what happens. The colorful artwork that looks like it was done with coloring markers only adds to the feel of the story.
Audience - Primary, 2-4th grades
Curriculum Connections – This is really a character education book about consequences of actions. Munsch uses humor and exaggeration, but it is about taking responsibility for your actions.   
Reviewed by - Melissa Bergin, Niskayuna High School, Library Media Specialist/NBCT

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Dinosaurs before dark book cover

Osborne, Mary Pope – Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House Series #1)
c1992, 80p
Description:  Fiction, Beginner Chapter Book
Summary:  In this first book in the Magic Tree House series, we are introduced to sibling characters Jack (8) and younger sister Annie.  On the way home, they discover a tree house in the woods filled with books.  Wishing to go to the scene in the dinosaur book sends them back in time to the cretaceous period and begins their fantastical journey.  The series continues to take Jack and Annie on many adventures through time to visit historical times and /or places, people, and animals.
Review:  I absolutely love introducing this series as a read aloud to my first grade class for a variety of reasons.  As developing readers, this series exposes children to the fun and adventure that can be experienced when reading.  Mary Pope Osborne uses details and description in such a way that we like to close our eyes and imagine what we are reading about, whether it be the characters, Jack and Annie, the setting, or the interesting animals that they meet along the way.  The books allow my first graders to listen and build comprehension skills beyond their individual reading levels.  We like to do character comparisons, as Jack and Annie have very different personalities.  We are able to discuss story elements such as character, setting, problem/solution, climax, etc that cannot necessarily be found in books at their independent reading levels.  I also love how the Magic Tree house books capture the interest of both girls and boys alike.  The girls tend to enjoy the fictional and fantastical quality of the books while the boys tend to be intrigued by the non-fiction content as well – the specific animals, people, and places.  The books have encouraged my student to find out more about the content, whether it be dinosaurs, or mummies, or space. The children often visit the library wanting to sign out Magic Tree House books whether they can read them or need family to share them with them.   I love the adventure and the suspense at the end of each chapter (and book) that leaves that children begging for me to “read one more” – and I’m happy to do so.
Audience: Primary
Reviewed by: Diane Truesdell, Radez Elementary (C-RCS), First Grade Teacher, 8/10

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Palantine, Margie -  Mooseltoe
 Illustrated by Cole, Henry,
Description- Fiction/Picture Christmas book. 
Summary- This is a story about a moose family getting ready for Christmas. The father moose tells about buying the gifts, baking, decorating and everything is always s”PERFECT, PERFECT.” Then all of a sudden on Christmas Eve. the family realizes that something is missing. They had forgotten to get a tree. When the father goes out there is not a tree to be found. He wants his family to have a “perfect” Christmas so he says that he will be their tree and they can decorate him. They do, and he turns out to be “perfect”. 
Review- This book has been read by either my teacher or myself for the last 3 or 4  years. As we have some of the same children it is hard to keep the ones who have heard it before from telling the ending to their friends. All the children get into saying the “PERFECT, PERFECT” part. I was undecided about which of 2 books to use for this review, I took a vote of my class and this one was the one they choose as the best one. I would like to also mention that the other book is The Wild Toboggan Ride. These are both books kids love and only 1 more child voted for Mooseltoe than The Wild Taboggan Ride.  
I think a book that is a fun read makes the book a really good read aloud book. If it is fun to read your voice shows it and children respond to that.
Audience- Primary, K-2 grades
Curriculum Connections- This book is fun to read to children and it also makes us adults realize how you get so caught up in making things “perfect” that sometimes we overlook the really important things.
Reviewed by: Wendy Brown, B.O.C.E.S. Teaching Assistant, February 14, 2007
Mooseltoe book cover

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Parr, Todd - The Best Friends Book
Illus. by Todd Parr,  ©2000, 24p
- Picture Book
- Tells all about the things best friends do to support each other
–This is a great read aloud because my students and I literally laugh out loud, LOL!  I read Todd Parr’s books aloud to my class for our “All About Me/Getting to Know You” days at the beginning of the year. The students love the bold, simple, and humorous illustrations which are effective in conveying the lengths friends go to in order to support each other.  Students enjoy and relate to the uncomfortable things that could or have happened to them or a friend like laughing and having milk come out of their nose or giving someone a present that is way too big, or breaking a friend's toy, and they realize that these things are no big deal when you are amongst friends.  The text is simple and repetitive, and students like to reread the book to themselves or a partner. After reading it, they can easily identify other books by Todd Parr because of the illustrations, so it's a nice way to introduce students to the joys of becoming familiar with a particular author and being able to identify and enjoy their other books. 
- Primary grades, but anyone could enjoy it.
Reviewed by
- Heather O'Leary, Hamilton Elementary School, ESL Teacher, 8/12
Book Cover for the Best Friends Book

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Book Cover for Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

Rawlinson, Julia – Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
Illus. by Tiphanie Beeke, c2006, unp.
Description - Picture Book, Fiction
Summary – Fletcher is a young fox who is noticing that the forest where he lives is changing, especially his favorite tree. He tells his mother that he is worried that he tree is sick because it is turning brown and his mother tells him, “Don’t worry, it’s only autumn.” Fletcher immediately comforts his tree with a pat and repeats what his mother said, obviously not knowing what autumn actually is. The wind blows and animals start collecting the fallen leaves for nests. Fletcher shows his care and concern by putting the leaves back onto the tree and holding the last leaf on the branch with his tiny fist, promising to stay with the leaf. The air turns bitter cold and Fletcher eventually takes this leaf home (making it a cozy bed.) His sadness turns to awe when he later sees his beloved tree beautifully transformed by glittering frost.
Review – The character Fletcher is the model of pure kindness and children appreciate him for it. Right from the start, young children recognize the signs of autumn through the changing of the leaves. They always feel proud of this knowledge, but never mock Fletcher’s confusion. They recognize that he is young and doesn’t understand this new experience. His honest and gentle kindness, shown through is thoughts, words and actions, is quite endearing to the Kindergarten and first graders that I read this book to. The pastels and watercolor illustrations are soothing. Children are drawn to the scenes with the beautiful landscapes and expressive little animals. The leaf’s tiny bed always brings an “Awww, how cute!” from the children and glittery texture of the last page brings gasps and quiet requests, “Can I touch it?” This is a wonderful story to read in the Fall (there are also Spring and Winter Fletcher books, as well.) Children love to discuss the story afterwards, making connections to the character and their own experiences with the change of seasons.
Audience - Primary
Reviewed by – Kim Harmon, Pine Bush Elementary School, Media Specialist, 8/11

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Book Cover Ish

Reynolds, Peter - ish
Illus. by Peter Reynolds, ©2004, unp.
Description - Picture Book, Fiction
Summary -  Ramon loved to draw. As he says,” anytime, anything, and anywhere.” But one day Ramon’s older brother Leon make a comment that changes his life-“ WHAT is THAT?” as he burst out laughing.  From then on Ramon looses his passion to draw, his brother’s laughing haunts him.  His younger sister Marisol helps Ramon gain his confidence again through -ish. Review - ish is my newest FAVORITE read aloud. Every year when school starts, I read this to my reading and writing groups. I have read it to kdg. through 5th gr. All the children can relate with the main character, Ramon. Everyone at some point in their life has been told that something is not right or that doesn’t look right. They feel the disappointment with Ramon. They love the illustrations and simple yet powerful story of trying, even if it isn’t perfect. As an adult, my personal favorite line is “And Ramon lived ishfully ever after.” And “The End-ish”   This is my new motto-ish just try, and be happy.
Audience – Primary but appropriate for all grade levels.
Reviewed by - Regina Anderson, Cobleskill-Richmondville School, Reading/Writing Teacher gr.1-5, 1/09

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Rosen, Michael – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Illus. by Helen Oxenbury, ©1989, unp
Description: Picture Book
Summary: A family of four, a father and two children, are going on a bear hunt.  Through their journey the family crosses grass, wade water, struggle through mud, find their way through the forest, fight a snowstorm, and finally enter a cave.  The family is extremely brave until the cave and they are then chased all the way home.
Review: I have read this book aloud many times in classrooms.  It is a great adventure story that invites children to chant along.  Every time I have read this book aloud the students are fully engaged and reading along.  It appeals to students because it is repetitive allowing them access to participate in the reading of the story.  I really love reading it aloud because of the excitement among the children throughout the adventure in this story. 
Audience: Primary
Reviewed by: Bonnie Bellville, Van Schaick Grade School, Reading Teacher, 2/13
We're going on a bear hunt book cover

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Skippyjon Jones

Schachner, Judy-  Skippyjon Jones
©2003, 32 p.
Description- Fiction, Picture book
Summary- This is a hilarious story of a Siamese kitten, which imagines himself everything but a cat.  His over zealous behavior makes his mother crazy!  As a result Skippyjon Jones is sent to his room to think about what it means to be a Siamese kitten, not a bird!  When Skippyjon is left in his room his imagination can’t help but take over.  Before you know it Skippyjon Jones is not a Siamese cat, but a Chihuahua!  Skippy’s adventure is filled with rhyming Spanish expressions throughout his adventure as Skippito Friskito.  Will Skippyjon Jones ever learn his lesson and act like a Siamese cat?  It seems doubtful.
Review- This book is a wonderful read aloud!  If you can keep up with the tongue-tying Spanish expressions, the kids will be rolling with laughter, as will you.  They love the expressions, and the songs, and can’t get enough of Skippyjon’s wonderful imagination.  This book was not only a fantastic read aloud, but became a popular book in my class library.
Grade Level- This would be a great book for any primary grade.
Reviewed by- Bree Bielawski, Birchwood Elementary School, 8/06

Schachner, Judy – Skippyjon Jones
©2003,  34 p.
Description – picture book, humor
Summary – Skippyjon Jones is not your ordinary Siamese cat.  Skippyjon has an incredible imagination that takes him all the way to Mexico, via his closet. Skippyjon sees himself as “El Skippito”, a great sword-fighting Chihuahua who saves his fellow Chihuahua’s from the huge bumblebeeto bandito.  This Siamese cat takes you on a thrilling adventure with his antics and imagination.
Review-   I was only recently introduced to this book, and was immediately captivated!  I have read it to my classes over the past few years and have found that even the most reluctant listener is quickly drawn in.  It is great fun to give Skippyjon a Mexican accent, and sing his theme song (clap included!).  I have read this book to audiences from 3 years to high-schoolers and everyone thoroughly enjoys it.  For the older crowd, it opens up the magic of imagination that many of us have long forgotten.
Awards -
2004 E B White Read Aloud Award
2005 The Ladybug Picture Book Award (NH)
2005 Armadillo Readers' Choice Award (TX)
2005 The Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award(WA)
Colorado Children's Book Award 2006
Audience -  primary (but great for a beginning Spanish class too)
Reviewed by – Kristen Covington, BOCES Sp.Ed.  8/07

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Sendak, Maurice - Where the Wild Things Are
Illus. by Maurice Sendak, Maurice, c1963,  unp
Description - Picture Book / Fiction
Summary - After getting into mischief, Max is sent to his room where he imagines sailing off to a land of wild things where he becomes king.
Review: Each year I look forward to reading this book to my class.  The children are always captivated by the illustrations and so it becomes a teaching tool to help develop their understanding of how illustrations enhance the content of the story.  The children readily see that the first pictures are small but that they increase in size as the story progresses. When Max is proclaimed King, the rumpus is shown on double pages and as he sails home the pictures gradually shrink in size.  This book stimulates imagination and provides an opportunity for an artistic response from the children.  I obtain large, paper bags for each child and cut out arms and hands.  Using paint, colored paper scraps, feather, etc., the children are left to create their own Wild Thing.  When they are all completed, the children wear their bags for our “Parade of Wild Things.”The masks are also used as the class does an improvisation of the book. I like to use the book to create a web after it is read so that the children can see the beginning, middle and end.
Audience - Primary (but I feel intermediate could enjoy the story)
Reviewed by - Valerie Eagan, Glen-Worden Elementary School, 1st Grade Teacher, 4/06
Where the Wild Things Are book cover

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The Sneetches book cover Dr. Seuss – The Sneetches and Other Stories
©1961; 65 p.
Description/Genre: picture book; short stories in rhyme
Summary: This delightful picture book contains four separate stories all in the typical Seuss rhyming tradition with lots of nonsense words and usually a moral or a lesson.
“The Sneetches” is about a group of “beings” some with stars on their bellies and some without. It is about prejudice and how silly it is. “The Zax” concerns two creatures that are so stubborn that they both remain in a standoff for years and years while the world changes around them. “Too Many Daves” is just a silly tale about a mother with 23 sons all named Dave and the trouble that ensues because of it. No real moral to this one, just plain fun! “What Was I Scared Of?” is the fourth and final story in the book and is my all time favorite read aloud. The main character (unnamed) is walking through the woods at night when he sees a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them. They chase him and he runs for his life. He sees them again another night riding on a bicycle, then in a row boat. Each time he escapes, terrified. The next time he goes out he is determined to not be afraid but of course he is. In the end, it turns out the pants are just as afraid of him as he is of them! He comforts the pants and they become friends.
Review: My children always loved this book and asked for it time and again, especially the story about the pants. I have always enjoyed reading it too. Small children always have something that they’re afraid of and stories like this can help them overcome those fears, the silly rhymes and situations make the story non-threatening even while being “scary” too. When I was an elementary media specialist (for one year only) I read aloud as many Dr. Seuss books as I could get my hands on. These books are timeless favorites and we shouldn’t forget them.
Audience: Pre-school through primary grades
Reviewed by: Polly Stahl, Niskayuna High School, Library Media Specialist, August 2006

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Shannon, David – David Gets in Trouble.  
©2002, Unpaged
Description – Easy Picture Book
Review – David keeps doing things that get him into trouble, and he has an excuse every time. At bedtime, he takes responsibility and he and his Mom express their love for each other. There are only a few words on each page. The situations and illustrations are very funny. David burping and walking down the street without his pants will have little ones laughing out loud. This book has special meaning for me because I was first introduced to it by my 3 yr. old grandson. They apparently play a tape of it in his day-care and he began to recite it from memory. This was significant because his language is delayed and I realized that he really understood and appreciated the humor in this book. I bought him all of the books in the “David” series and we take turns reading them and giggling over David’s antics.
Curriculum Connections – Great read-aloud. Can lead into a discussion of how we need to take responsibility for our actions and how they have consequences.  
Standards – Social Studies: Level K: Self and Others & Character Ed.
Finalist—2002 Borders Book Awards
Grade level – Pre K-3.
Reviewed by – Cheryl Charbonneau, Library Media Specialist, Guilderland High School, 7/06.
David Gets in Trouble Book cover

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Book Cover for No David

Shannon, David- No David!
Illus. by David Shannon, c1998, unp
Description/Genre- Picture Book/realistic fiction
Summary- This book is about a young child no David who is always being told “no.” This is, perhaps, because David is always getting himself into trouble. The words are very simple, but the detailed comic-like illustrations make this book hilarious.
Review- My students LOVE this book. I read it every year as a read-aloud at the beginning of the year. Students in primary grades all love it because David is so silly. The words are simple enough that even beginner students can understand it when modified. I used it to talk about classroom rules.
Audience- primary
Reviewed by- Sarah Georgian, Elsmere Elementary School, ESL Teacher, 2/12

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Heartland book cover Siebert, Diane Heartland
Illustrator- Minor, Wendell. c1989, 28 p.
Description: Juvenile poetry – this is a picture book that uses rhyming verse
Summary – This is a rhyming story that is a tribute to farms and farmers across America.
Review – This story makes a wonderful read aloud because of the story, the rhyming verse and the beautiful realistic pictures of livestock and farmlands.This book while written for younger children can be beneficial for all students. I enjoy reading this with my students even though they are older because they walk away with an appreciation of good writing and it makes them think about the lives of farmers.
Audience – Great for younger students; wonderful with all students.
Reviewed By – Maureen DeCheck, RCSHS, Special Education Teacher, 4/06

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Shute, Linda – Clever Tom and the Leprechaun
Illus. by Linda Shute, ©1990, 32.
Description - Picture Book, Fiction, based on an Irish Fairy Tale
Summary – Tom finds a leprechaun and tries to outwit him. Tom wants a pot of gold and knows that leprechauns are tricky. Tom thinks he bests the leprechaun, but lo-and-behold the leprechaun ends up keeping the gold for himself.
Review – I love reading this story in March. Students are fascinated with the idea of leprechauns and hidden treasures. I enjoy exposing them to a traditional Irish fairy tale, especially since my last name is O’Brien. I often carry some of my favorite stories for an emergency read aloud and I definitely bring it on St. Patrick’s Day.
Audience - Primary
Reviewed by – Pam O’Brien, Substitute Teacher, various school districts, August 5, 2011
Book cover for Clever Tom and the Leprechaun

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Silverstein, Shel - The Giving Tree
c1964,  unp.
Description- Picture Book
Summary- This classic book is a wonderful illustration of friendship, generosity and unconditional love. A boy and a tree form a special bond that lasts a lifetime. However, unconditional love comes with a price. This book warms the heart and stirs the soul. The simple illustrations and the flow of the words create a soothing story. The powerful message is applicable for any age group. Readers can identify with either character. Silverstein is a master at his craft. It is easy to see why this book is still popular after 40 years!
Review- I remember the first time someone read this amazing book to me. It made a powerful impression upon me as a preschooler. As an adult, I have read The Giving Tree to children ages kindergarten through high school. They are always hanging onto every word, anticipating the next page. The older children have great discussions after hearing this moving story. I believe the life lessons in this book are important for children today. It lends itself to excellent conversations of friendship and positive character traits.
Audience- Primary
Reviewed by- Kimberly Prettyman, Craig Elementary School, Reading Specialist, 8/06

Silverstein Shell-The Giving Tree
Illus. By Silverstein Shell ©1964 64p
Description – Picture Book, Fiction
Summary-The giving Tree is about a boy and a tree that are best friends. Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches or slide down her trunk, this made the tree happy. As the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave. This book is about the gift of giving and the capacity to love.
Review- The giving Tree has been in my home since 1967. I read it to my daughters and my grandson, now I plan to read it to my great grandson. Young children will feel for the main character, the tree. They will learn what giving and love is, they will also enjoy the drawings in the book.
Audience- Pre- school and early Elementary School.
Reviewed by – Darlene Conrad, Ravena -Coeymans-Selkirk Middle School, Teaching Assistant, 2/13/2012
The Giving Tree book cover

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Tops and Bottoms Book Cover

Stevens, Janet. – Tops and Bottoms
©1995 unp.
Description – Picture Book Fiction
Summary - Bear is lazy and Hare is industrious. Together they make beautiful gardens and yet Bear has trouble reaping the benefits. Hare  keeps tricking Bear and gets to keep all the vegetables for his family. This the story of two friends/neighbors who finally come to terms and are able to live happily ever after and in peace.
Review – This is by far one of my favorite stories. The drawings are perfect and the storyline is very clever. The characters are lovable. Everyone knows someone who is just like Bear or Hare. This is a great story to make children really think about what is going on in the story. They often ask to read it again.  It is a real classic and should be read to all second graders. My students love it every year.
Audience – Primary
Reviewed by: Peggy Gillen, Lincoln Elementary School, Second Grade Teacher 8/08

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The Monster at the End of This book Book Cover Stone, Jon - The Monster at the End of This Book
Illus. by Michael Smollin, c1971, 24 p.
Description- Picture Book
Summary- Grover is afraid to finish the book because of the title.  Of course, as we find out, he is the monster at the end of the book.
Review- This book is humorous.  Children love the fact that despite Grover’s numerous attempts to not get to the end of the book, we do and it happens to be him.  What a great introduction to irony!
Audience- Primary
Reviewed by- Jessica Bradshaw, Voorheesville Middle School, Science Teacher, April 2006

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On the Night you were born book cover

Tillman, Nancy- On the Night You Were Born
c2006, 32p
Description/Genre – Fiction  
Summary – Providing a sense of self worth and raising self esteem to young children, beautiful images of nature complete a wonderful story that will draw smiles and warm hearts from the audience and reader alike. 
Review - I have been reading this book out loud since I brought my daughter home from the hospital.  Right now, I wiggle her toes and say her name for her while anxiously waiting for the day she can do it on her own!  My favorite part is towards the end when the polar bears dance and the geese fly home –it brings tears to my eyes every time!  Each illustration captivates my daughter.  As she stares at each page, and traces her fingers over each picture, I know she already feels a deep sense of love the story reinforces.  I highly recommend it for any age! 
Audience – Elementary, (I’ve been reading it since birth, so I guess Pres-school too!)
Reviewed by – Andrea L. DeStefano, Social Studies Teacher, Cohoes High School, 2/8/09

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Trumbauer, Lisa– The Haunted Ghoul Bus
Illustrated by Jannie Ho, c. 2009, 26 pages
Description-Picture Book
Summary-While waiting for the school bus one Halloween Morning, a boy accidently hitches a ride on the Haunted Ghoul Bus.  As the Mummy Bus Driver picks up some Halloween Monsters, the boy quivers in fear and wants off of the bus.  Thanks to a witch named Dolores, the boy realizes that Halloween is fun.   His spooky adventure is cut short when they arrive at Ghoul School and the bus driver realizes that he picked up a boy by mistake.  He is taken back to his school, where the boy tells his tale and hopes to once again be picked up on the Haunted Ghoul Bus.
Review-What an adorable story!  The Haunted Ghoul Bus’s rhyming text is a fun book to read that gets kids and adults excited for Halloween.
Reviewed by-Jessica Bradshaw, Voorheesville Middle School, 7th Grade Life Science Teacher (2/10)

Haunted Ghoul Bus Book Cover

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VanAllsburg, Chris  -The Polar Express
©1985, 30p
Description/Genre – Picture Book
Summary –  On Christmas Eve, a boy takes a magical train trip to the North Pole.  While he is there he receives a special gift and learns that the magic of the season will always be alive for those who truly believe.
Review – This is a great read aloud because it spans many ages.  I’ve read it to 3rd and 4th graders, and like many others, I give them a bell after I read it to them.  I find that even those children who aren’t sure if there really is a Santa Claus get excited when they can hear their bell ring.  At least for one more year, they believe.
Audience – This is a great read aloud for the primary grades, but I feel that this story touches everyone who hears it.
Reviewed by – Kimberly Pinnell, St. Mary’s Catholic School, Art Teacher, 7/07
Polar Express

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Book Cover for Little Snowman Sam

Van Genechten, Guido – Little Snowman Stan
©2010, 32 p
Picture Book   Read Aloud
–Stan is a small snowman and is told to stay perfectly still and perfectly quiet. This is very hard for Stan. He is told that if he doesn’t, he will melt away. Stan has his own mind and he makes the choice to move and see what happens. He finds himself in a magical place called Freezeland with other snowmen just like him. Stan is happy he took a risk. Now he just needs to tell his old friends back home.
Review – I love this story. It has beautiful illustrations and a great lesson. Stan took a risk and it opened up his world. He wanted to do something different, but he was told he had to be like all the other snowmen. Now he can move around and live rather than staying still like he was told. Most children are amazed by snowmen. This read aloud stimulates a lot of curiosity and children really use their imagination when talking about Stan and his journey.
Audience – primary
Reviewed by
Laurie Critelli, Altamont Elementary School, Kindergaren Teacher, 8/2012

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Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No good very bad day book cover

Viorst, Judith, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Illus. Ray Cruz @1987
Description- Picture Book
Summary- In this book everything that could go wrong does go wrong for Alexander on this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  He has gum stuck in this hair, gets stuck sitting in the back middle seat in the car, doesn’t have dessert in his lunchbox, has a cavity, gets ugly sneakers, has to eat lima beans, sees kissing on TV and has to wear his railroad train pajamas that he hates along with many other unfortunate things that happen to him.  Alexander just wants to move to Australia to get away from all of this.  At the end his mom tells him everyone has these days, even in Australia.
Review-   One of my college professors read this book to the class and I had to share it right away with my family and friends.  Now when one of us has a day that’s not going our way we call it an “Alexander Day!”  This is one of the first books I read aloud to my second graders.  It’s great for text to self connections since everyone has had one, if not more, of these days.  Throughout the year I always have students saying to me “Mrs. Locke, I’m having an Alexander day.”  I always assure them that tomorrow will be better.
Audience- Primary
Reviewed by- Jennifer Locke, 2nd grade teacher, A.W. Becker Elementary School, 7/08

Viorst, Judith—Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Illustrated by Cruz, Ray ©1972, 28p
Description—Picture Book
Summary—Nothing is going right for poor Alexander! He wakes up with gum in his hair, gets in an argument with his friends, gets in trouble for fighting with his brothers, and makes a mess at his dad’s office.  He knows he is having a bad day but thinks it will be solved if he could only move to Australia.
Review—I love reading this book to all age groups.  No matter what the age they can all relate to having a bad day.  Students love to participate in the repletion of “It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”.  This book lends to great class discussions as well as multiple writing activities.
Audience—Kindergarten-fifth grade
Reviewed By—Ida-Jo Sudano, Schenectady CSD, SPED Teacher (integrated Program), 2/11

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Ward, Cindy - Cookie's Week
Illustrator – DePaola, T.  ©1997, 32 p
Description/Genre - Picture Book
Summary – Cookie is a mischievous cat who will make you laugh as he goes through his week destroying the house he lives in. 
Review – Humorous book that children will both adore and relate to.  Children can’t help but wonder what Cookie will do next.
- I recently volunteered to be a guest reader for my niece’s kindergarten class and I read this book.  The children absolutely LOVED this book.  They were laughing and engaged the entire time.  They even begged me to read it a second time.  I had brought my two year old daughter with me and she loved the book so much we have to read it every night at bedtime.  Therefore this is definitely a memorable book that I would strongly recommend. 
Audience- Primary
Reviewed by – Lena Haslun February, 2013

Cookie's week book cover

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Wheeler, Lisa – Sixteen Cows
©2002, 32 p.
Description: Children’s Picture Book, Farm animals, Rhyming
Summary:  Cowboy Gene and Cowgirl Sue both have eight cows with rhyming names that they sing out when they’re ready to bring them on home, but when Gene and Sue’s fence is knocked over by strong winds, their cows converge and now they have to find a way to bring them back. Though the names are all mixed up, Gene and Sue decide to combine their songs into one come home song to their one big ranch now that by the end of the story they get married.
Review:  An absolutely loveable Cowboy Gene and Cowgirl Sue both have spunky personalities that flow over to their cows-- content to chew on grass and come when they’re called-- although now they’re confused because the songs to get them home have mixed up everything. A soft-hearted story in sing-song rhyme demonstrate cooperativeness when Gene and Sue decide that instead of getting even, they’ll get together and bring them all home to one big ranch after they get gussied up to have a ho-down for a wedding with sixteen cows bedecked in flowers to celebrate.
Audience: Primary grades-- Preschool to 2nd grade
Reviewed by: Alicia Abdul, Albany High School Librarian, 7/2010

Sixteen Cows book cover

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Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Book

Willems, Mo – Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus
Illus. by Mo Willems, ©2003, unp.
Description - Picture Book, Fiction
Summary – A very imaginative, sweet-talking, tantrum-throwing pigeon really, really wants to drive a bus.  When the driver takes a short break, Pigeon gets his chance. 
Review – The simple drawings from award winning professional animator, Willems and “voice-making” text makes this an all time favorite for ALL my students. (PreK- 8) The text gives openings for the listener to reply to the pigeons questions and “attitude”. I have read this over and over to many grade levels, with many re-reads because of requests from students.
Audience - Primary
Reviewed by – L. Carroll, St. Pius X School, March 2008

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Willems, Mo - Knuffle Bunny
Illus. by Mo Willems, c2004, unp.
Description/Genre - Picture Book, Fiction
Summary - When Trixie’s cherished stuffed rabbit, Knuffle Bunny, goes missing, she tries to tell Daddy. But Daddy doesn’t understand what Trixie is trying to tell him. Trixie’s distress escalates until Mommy enters the story and knows right away that Bunny is missing. The happy ending isn’t far behind.
Review - Knuffle Bunny is my newest BEST read aloud. I have read it to kdg. through 3rd gr. Even though the main character is a nonverbal preschoolar, all children relate to this simple story of losing and then finding something precious.They love the illustrations which are drawings of Trixie and her family superimposed on photographs of the settings on each page. They laugh and laugh when Trixie tries to tell her Daddy. “AGGLE FLAGGLE KLABBLE” And, as an adult, my personal favorite line is “She went boneless.”
Audience - Primary
Reviewed by - Beth Disque, Birchwood Elementary School, Media Specialist, 2/06
Knuffle Bunny Book

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Book Cover Library Lil

Williams, Suzanne – Library Lil’
Kellogg, Steven. ©1997, 32 p.
Description/Genre: Picture Book – Fantasy – Fiction
Summary: Lil is the most remarkable and tenacious librarian her town has ever seen.   Facing storms and stubborn townsfolk, she is able to turn her whole town on to reading.  Soon after she faces her most difficult test to date, a motorcycle gang rides into town and challenges her.  Can she turn those tv-watching, pool playing thugs into readers? 
Review:  When I was working in an elementary library, this was the story that I chose to read every first day of library class for every grade.  The students never tired of this read-aloud.  The character of Lil entranced them, breaking the stereotype of a librarian.  The illustrations and characteristically Steven Kellogg, and they compliment and add to the written story   There was so much going on in the illustrations that even those students who had read the book many times before always found something new in the story (including myself).  I found myself wanting to be just like Lil, when I grew up(even after I was teaching)!
Audience:  Primary Students 
Reviewed by: Cara Buckley, RCS Middle School, Library Media Specialist, 01/09

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Wood, Audrey- King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub
©1983 unp.
Caldecott Honor
Description/Genre: Children’s book, fiction
This story is about King Bidgood. He is in the bathtub and he does not want to come out. The Page who works for the King desperately cries out for help from the others in the castle, telling them about the King being in the tub and not wanting to come out. He asks the others if they have any ideas on what to do. Each person attempts to lure the King out of the tub, with dinner, a fun game, but the King decides he can do any of those things in the tub. The Page finally wises up and “pulls the plug” on the King. The books rhyming, predictability, and excellent illustrations make it fun to read aloud to students and they enjoy it so much they read along with you.
Review: The first time I had ever heard of this book was when my college roommate read it to me one day when we were putting together a list of books that we would like to use in class with students. She told me that it had been one of her favorite books when she was little and it quickly became one of mine as well! The story is so humorous and very the author had chosen a interesting use of words. As the page would cry out, help help!, the author would chose to say, when the sun hung low, meaning evening time or chose to say when the sun came up, meaning morning. The Page would continue to say that the King is in the bath tub and he won’t come out, and ask oh who knows what to do? Then many characters like the Knight, the Queen, the Duke would think of a way to lure him out of the tub, like telling him to come out because it was time to eat lunch. The king would then say, come in come in with a yum yum yum, and when you turn the page the king would be in the tub with this elaborate lunch spread out over the tub and the page would read, today we dine in the tub! The students get a kick out of the pictures, they are very detailed and funny. You can also use this book to teach many lessons, like compound words, rhyming, about castles and the medieval times.
Audience: Primary
Reviewed by: Wendy J. Chirieleison, Saint Johnsville Junior/Senior High School, Advantage After-School Program Coordinator
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub book cover

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Quick as a Cricket Book Cover

Wood, Audrey-Quick as a Cricket
Illus. by Don Wood, ©1982, 31p.
Description-picture book
Summary – A young boy may be inclined to describe himself in many ways and that is just the case in this rhyming book of similes and opposites.  Coupled with delightful illustrations this is an adventure through pure joy and imagination.  The boy is indeed, as quick and as slow, as small and as large, as sad and as happy as many of interesting creatures that adorn these pages.  All comparisons can be wrapped up in one complete package…himself!
Review-This is my all time favorite book.  I love the premise of the book and the clever way Woods used rhyme and simile to tell the story.  The illustrations are topics of conversation on their own.  Every time I read this to a class, and I’ve been doing that since 1991, some new observation or comment is shared.  Children always seem to find something fresh and insightful to ponder.  I have used it for multiple LA, Science and Social Studies curriculum connections.  The possibilities are endless.  This book captivates the children.  They use the similes all year long in the classroom.  Every primary class should have a copy of this treasure.
Grade Level- primary (Although I did use it one year with 5th graders that just couldn’t get the ideas of simile!)
Reviewed by-Kim M. Fusco, Hamagrael/Glenmont School, Kindergarten Teacher, 08/08

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Joey and Jet Book cover

Yang, James – Joey and Jet
Illus. by James Yang   ©2004   28p.
Description – Picture Book
Summary -   Joey and Jet’s story is told through prepositions.  It is a very short story which delights children while following the path of the ball Joey throws for Jet.  Then the pictures show Jet returning the ball to Joey.
Review – I have read this book to students in Kindergarten through 2nd grade.  The students ask for it to be read over and over. With Kindergarteners it helps them learn directional words.  They love to pretend that they are going the way of the ball.  They will act the story out in the classroom. They also love to read along with the book.  In grades 1 and 2, I use it for writing.  It shows the students how stories can be told using small moments. 
Audience – Primary
Reviewed by – Eileen McGrail, Radez Elementary School, Reading Specialist, 7/10 

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Young, Ed,  Lon Po Po
Illustrator – Young, Ed, ©1989, 32 P.
Description/Genre - Picture Book,          Fiction, Fairy Tale
Summary – This ingenious book is a Chinese version of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Three sisters, Shang, Tao, and Paotze, outsmart the wolf who tricks them into believing that he is their Po Po (Grandmother) when their mother leaves to visit the real Po Po.
Review – This book makes a great read aloud, making students realize that different versions of the same story are taught in other cultures.
Awards – 1990 Caldecott Medal
Audience- Primary
Reviewed by – Mary Tischler, Cobleskill/Richmondville, ELA Teacher, 02/09

Lon Po Po Book Cover

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Intermediate Listening Level (3 - 5)

Searching for David's Heart Book Bennett, Cherie- Searching for David’s Heart
c1998, 220p
Description/Genre- Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction
Summary- Darcy and her best friend, Sam, run away and are searching for her brother David’s heart. David has died in a horrible accident and his parents donate his heart for transplant. Their trip takes them from Wisconsin to Florida. They have several somewhat amusing adventures. A subplot involves Darcy’s father. He has not been promoted to a job he feels he deserved. Instead, the job was given to a black man. Darcy’s father becomes quite prejudiced. Darcy eventually discovers that David’s heart has been given to a black boy, Winston. She gets to know him and Darcy brings Winston and his family home to meet her parents. The author adds humor, mostly in the character development of Sam.
Review- This book has become an annual read aloud. The children grab hold of Darcy and Sam’s characters very early in the story. There are many, many emotional moments, such as Darcy’s realization that David is dead, and the emotional climax when Darcy’s father meets Winston. The concepts of prejudice and organ donation are well-handled, as well as the friendship that can exist between a young boy and girl.
Audience- Intermediate/Middle School
Reviewed by- Jackie Albanese, Birchwood Elementary School, 4th grade, 2/06

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Blume, Judy – Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
©1972, 144 pages
Description- Chapter Book/Fiction/Humorous Story
Summary- Living with his little brother, Fudge, makes Peter Hatcher feel like a fourth grade nothing.  Whether Fudge is throwing a temper tantrum in a shoe store, smearing smashed potatoes on the walls at Hamburger Heaven, or scribbling all over Peter’s homework, he’s never far from trouble.  He’s a two-year-old terror who gets away with everything and Peter’s had enough.  Judy Blume’s keen insight into the world of children and young adults has delighted readers worldwide.
Review- This novel is set in Manhattan.  The story is quite factual and the places are real which makes this a wonderful opportunity for fourth grade students to learn about New York City.  What a funny story!  I have used this book to start each school year off with my fourth grade students for the past several years.  They laugh out loud listening to the outrageous antics of Fudge, some of their favorite parts have been when Fudge pretends to be a bird, flies off of the jungle gym, and loses his front teeth; when Peter’s father becomes so frustrated with Fudge not eating that he says, “eat it or wear it”; and finally when Fudge swallows Dribble the turtle.  I have my students keep a journal to answer questions about the story and write down their reactions and feelings to the different things that happen during the story.  After we finish reading the book we play “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Jeopardy”.  It is lots of fun.  What a wonderful story about family relationships, especially between two siblings, many children can relate to the main characters.  After reading this book many of the students go on to read one of the other books in the series such as,  Fudge-a-Mania or Superfudge.
Audience- Grades Three, Four, and Five
Reviewed by- Diane Eller, Academy of the Holy Names, Grade Four, 8/06
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Book

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Book Cover for the Memory String

Bunting, Eve-The Memory String
Illustrator-Rand, Ted, ©2000, 33p.
Description-Realistic Fiction-Picture Book
Summary- Laura has a string of buttons that she cherishes.  Each button represents a memory from loved ones in her family.  Laura’s mother has died and the memory string has been passed down to her.  Laura tells the stories or memories about each button to her cat, Whiskers.  Whiskers breaks the string and Laura is heartbroken because one of the missing buttons is from her dad’s uniform when he returned from war, which was her mother’s favorite. Laura is reluctant to accept her stepmother, Jane, as a substitute for her mother. Jane helps Laura find the missing button.  Laura realizes that it’s time to make some new memories, including Jane as a part of the family.
Review- This is my all-time favorite read aloud. I read this book every year when I launch Writing Workshop in September. It’s a wonderful springboard for collecting and writing important memories in a writer’s notebook.  The kids enjoy bringing in objects from home to inspire them to write a personal narrative or memoir.  We also make beaded” memory strings” to share. I love the tender and sweet watercolor illustrations. Every teacher should own this book.
Audience- Intermediate, can be used with 2nd or 3rd graders.
Reviewed by-Holly Ackerknecht, G.D. Ryder Elementary, Remedial Reading, 1/09

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Buyea, Rob. – Because of Mr. Terupt
©2010, 288p 
Description/Genre - Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction 
Summary – This is the story of a fifth grade class in Vermont and their extraordinary teacher, Mr. Terupt.  Each chapter presents the perspective of a different student in the class and as the story progresses, the reader comes to know each character’s “school self” and “home self.” While Mr. Terupt understands how these two selves come together in each of his students, the children don’t see this until they are close to losing him. The chapters are organized in a careful progression that keeps the reader turning pages and the story growing in intensity.
Review – I recommend this to all of my fifth grade teachers for a read-aloud at the end of the school year.  The student-characters’ voices are very realistic and each chapter presents great fodder for discussion.  Classroom can have conversations about how our actions have consequences, and they can begin to explore the idea of having a “reputation,” what that means, and how much of one’s reputation is really true.
Audience – Intermediate
Reviewed by – Donna McAndrews, Glencliff Elementary School, Media Specialist Date, 8/12
Book Cover for Because of Mr Terupt

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Connor, Leslie – Waiting for Normal
©2010, 320p.
Description –
Chapter Book – Realistic Fiction
Summary -
 It’s hard to write a short summary of this book because it contains so much.  The book opens when Addie and her mom, or “Mommers” as she calls her, move into a trailer under a railroad bridge on a busy Schenectady street.  Her mom and stepdad, whom Addie adores, have broken up and he is taking her half-sisters to live up north where he found a job.  Mommers is all or nothing, and Addie is often left to fend for herself.   Addie’s story takes many twists and turns, some predictable, some surprising, but the story has an element of hope that runs throughout, and Addie is a character that students will fall in love with and really relate to.
Review – My students and I LOVE this book.  Even though Addie is an adolescent girl, even the boys really relate to her story.  This book has sparked so many deep discussions and really helped my students connect to one-another around issues of poverty, divorce, loneliness, cancer, fire, learning disabilities, and most importantly, hope in the face of adversity.   The kids rally together in their support for Addie, and are collectively frustrated with Mommers, whose neglect ends up costing her custody of all her kids.  They are always cheering at the end when things finally go right for Addie.  They also love that the setting is Schenectady and hearing places they know mentioned in the story.  This is a must-read.
Audience – 5th grade and up
Reviewed by – Sara Warner, Paige Elementary School, 4th Grade Teacher, 8/12
Book cover for Waiting for Normal

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James and the giant peach

Dahl, Roald- James and the Giant Peach
Quentin Blake, Illustrator. c1988, 160p
Description/Genre - Chapter Book, Fantasy
Summary – James Henry Trotter is forced to live with his horrible two aunts after his parents are strangely killed. He meets a man who gives him glowing green crystals to make his life extraordinary.  When he accidentally drops them on an old peach tree, a beautiful peach grows bigger and bigger until it is the size of a house.  James enters the tree to find a grasshopper, centipede, spider, and an earthworm. Together they go on an amazing journey and live happily in their new life. Amazing details and so enjoyable for kids!
Review – I love reading this book aloud to students. We act out the songs, compare and contrast characters, and enjoy critiquing the movie at the end. The vivid descriptions are fantastic examples for students’ own writing. 
Audience - Intermediate
Reviewed by – Diane Sniezyk, Craig Elementary School, 3rd Grade Teacher Date, 8/07

Dahl, Roald , James and the Giant Peach
Illustrator - Burkert, Nancy   ©1961  Number of Pages-160
Description/Genre – Chapter Book, Fantasy
Summary – As an orphaned boy, James lives a miserable life with his two aunts. One day a strange old man appears and gives James a magic potion. Unfortunately, he trips and falls and the peach tree and its bug inhabitants are the beneficiary of the magic. James finds a tunnel into the magical peach that has grown and meets the large insects that have come to life. They begin an adventure that will take them to a better life across the ocean in New York City.
Review -
This book was read to me when I was in school and I have continued that tradition in my classrooms. Students love this book because it is full of magic and action. There are numerous cliff hangers and the children often protest when I stop reading for the day. I love the book because it can be used as a reference when talking about descriptive writing. It also has a vast vocabulary and lends itself to discussions about new words.
Audience- Intermediate
Reviewed by – Erin McMahon, Glencliff Elementary, Third Grade Teacher, August/2012

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Dahl, Roald.  The Witches
Illustrated by Blake, Quentin c.1983, 208p.
Description/Genre – Fantasy
Summary – After the death of his parents, a young boy is raised by his grandmother, a cigar smoking witchophile who lectures him on “Real Witches”.  One day, he finds himself in the midst of the Annual Meeting of the Witches of England and learns about the Grand High Witch’s plot to turn all the children of England into mice.  He watches as the obnoxious boy Bruno is lured into the meeting under the guise of a promised chocolate bar which has been laced with the mouse making formula. He himself gets caught and is changed into a mouse.  From then on he and Grandmama take on The Grand High Witch and try to save the children from the witches’ schemes.
Review – I started my teaching career the year this book came out.  As a classroom teacher, I loved it so much that I would read it aloud every fall to my third and fourth graders.  I have not tired of it yet!  The Grand High Witch’s accent was so much fun to act out. My students and I would always get a kick out of Grandmama, her description of Real Witches, all of the events during the meeting of the RSPCC, and the final showdown when the witches get a taste of their own medicine.  We just loved the British humor and descriptive writing of Roald Dahl.
Audience – Mostly intermediate
Reviewed by – Sue Dyer, Radez Elementary, Reading K-5, 2/10

The Witches book cover

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Tiger Rising book cover

DiCamillo, Kate - Tiger Rising
©2001, 74 p.
Description - Fiction
Summary - After Rob loses his mother he and his father move to Florida to get a new start on life.  The new start has not gone well for Rob.  He is a quiet kid who keeps all of his feelings bottled up inside and school is a very tough place for him.  Rob’s adventure begins when he encounters a tiger in a cage while on a walk in the woods.  At the same point in time a new girl moves to the area.  Sistine is not like anyone Rob has met before.  She is intelligent and extremely outspoken.  Rob and Sistine become friends and this friendship changes both of them forever.  Together they must decide what to do with the tiger.  This decision is not an easy one and whatever decision they make will have a great impact on them and those that they care about.
Review -  Read Aloud
My students love this book for two reasons.  First, everyone of my students can relate to one of the characters in the book.  Rob and Sistine are very different people and many of the students end up taking the side of one of these characters.  Second, they find it amazing that there can be a real life tiger living in the woods near someones house.  I love this book because it shows students that decisions are not always black and white.  All decisions that they make will have an impact on themselves and others.  Rob also becomes a great example of how hiding behind your feelings creates more pain then letting them go.  Students really understand the “suitcase” references Rob makes throughout the book.
Audience - Intermediate
Reviewed by - Jonathan Younkin, Lincoln Elementary School, Grade 4, 3/5/11

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D’Aulaires, Ingri and Edgar Parin- D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths
©1962, 192 pages
Summary-This book is a collection of Greek myths and legends.  It starts from the beginning of time with Mother Earth and how Zeus and the Olympian gods/goddesses came to be and ends with stories such as Heracles and King Midas.  Most of the myths are fairly short so you can read one or a few at the time.  Many of the myths explain the relationships between the various gods and goddesses and how or why they are god or goddess of their particular area.
Review- This book is a great read aloud because the myths are very well written, interesting and students love to hear them over and over.  Many students have heard of some Greek myths and gods/goddesses but they do not know the full story.  Students do not know that myths were written to explain events in the natural world that the Greeks did not understand.  As students hear the stories they can figure out for themselves what the myths were trying to explain to ancient people.  Students often want me to keep reading more myths to them even when I’m done and will borrow the book to read on their own.
Review by- Katie Meislahn, Bethlehem Central Middle School, social studies 6 teacher, 8/08

D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths BOOK Cover

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City of Ember book cover

DuPrau, Jeanne – City of Ember
©2004, 270p
Description/Genre - Chapter Book, Science Fiction
Summary – Ember is an unusual and unique city that is always dark, because it is underground and there is no sun, moon or natural light.  As the short introduction builds to a level of tension, the plot continues with the reader’s knowledge that things are running out and the city will eventually be in darkness forever. Our main characters, Doon and Lina find a puzzling document that could help save the town.  Although their initial drive is to be famous and get the glory of saving the town, Lina and Doon’s very different personalities are shown as they fight the status quo and try to save the people. References to the cultural differences between the City of Ember and the world we are used to are scattered throughout the book unveiling them slowly like a great mystery.  It is not until chapter 8 that we find out that Lina and Doon do not know what a boat, a candle or moving light is.  References to when this book takes place can create a spirited debate.  And the cliffhanger ending leaves most children clamoring for the next book, in fact I own 8 copies. 
Review - I have been reading this book out loud since 2004.  It fits well during our study of electricity.  In addition, the children are usually very excited about starting a 4 volume series during the mid winter months.  I have made charts of the partially salvaged note and children make guesses to complete the document after each read aloud session.  There are great vocabulary words to introduce such as egress.  Also I like how the story is told from both Lina and Doon’s point of views.  I have made Venn diagrams to list the character traits of both and predicted how they would behave.  As the movie came out a few years ago, I thought more children would have read the book, but really only children whose older siblings had me tend to have read the story so the mystery remains.
American Library Association Notable Book
Kirkus 2003 Editor's Choice
Publisher's Weekly Flying Start
Borders Original Voices
Several weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List (Children's Paperback Fiction)
New York Public Library's 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Child Magazine, Best Children's Books of 2003
Winner for children's literature, California Book Awards, Commonwealth Club of California
Chapman Award for Shared Reading (Esmé Raji Codell)
State readers' choice award winner in:  Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Kansas, Indiana, Nevada, Missouri, and New Mexico
Audience - Intermediate
Reviewed by – Carol Herrington, Hillside Elementary School, Fourth Grade Teacher, Date, 3/1

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Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner.
Illus. by Michael Solomon, c.2000, 170p|
Description/Genre: Chapter Book/Realistic/Young Adult Fiction
Twelve-year-old Parvana enjoyed going to school, living in a nice, loving home, and being a kid.  That is until the Taliban--an extreme militia group that rules Afghanistan--took over the city of Kabul. Girls were forbidden to go to school and women from going to work. Women and girls are not even allowed out of the homes unless they are accompanied by a man. These days, Parvana only leaves her family's one room apartment to help her injured father get to the market, where she earns a small amount of money reading for those who cannot. When the Taliban bursts into their apartment one evening, Parvana's father is arrested. The family is unsure of how they will live without a man to earn money and go to the market with to get food. Then, they come up with an idea –now their survival depends on whether Parvana can convince the outside world that she is a boy.
Review: I have been reading this book to my class for several years. The Breadwinner is a worthwhile, thought-provoking story that will inspire empathy for children like Parvana, who have grown up in the middle of a war. I am always amazed at the children’s reaction when I first introduce the book. They don’t seem too interested, and then after the first two chapters, the students don’t want me to stop reading. This book offers a great opportunity to write family stories, memories, and it also lends itself to a wonderful discussion about how lucky we are in to live in America.
Audience- Intermediate grades  
Reviewed by: Kathleen Palmieri, Karigon Elementary School, Fifth Grade Teacher, 8/12.
Book Cover for The Breadwinner

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Gardiner, John Reynolds - Stone Fox
Illus. by Sewall, Marcia, ©1980, 81p
Description/Genre-Chapter Book/Realistic Fiction
Summary-Little Willy, who is ten years old, lives with his grandfather on a potato farm in Wyoming. Willy’s pet and best friend is a large, black dog named Searchlight. One morning grandfather wouldn’t get out of bed and wouldn’t respond at all to Willy. Doc Smith examined him and found nothing physically wrong. From that very first morning when Grandfather got ill, Willy was determined to stay with him and do all the work on the potato farm. Willy finally discovers that Grandfather owes $500.00 in back taxes and that they could lose the farm because of this. Willy enters a dogsled race to earn the money to pay the taxes. Stone Fox is a well-known Native American who has never lost a dogsled race. There is an exciting account of the race and a sad twist of events at the end. The ending of the story is based on a real legend that is reported to be true.
Review-This wonderful, heart-breaking story becomes so real to anyone who hears it or reads it that children become mesmerized by the story. The determination, hard work, and commitment that Willy displays in this book can certainly be admired. Wonderful traits are displayed throughout the book and it is a good example that shows these traits in action. Most children are shocked and surprised at the ending but it teaches a wonderful lesson of life-everything isn’t always good and happy and we must learn how to deal with the bad parts of life. I have read this book for years to different classes, and I will continue to read it for many more years to come because it shows so many wonderful qualities and traits to possess with love being the most important of all.
Audience- Grade 3, but it is also good for Grade 4 and 5.
Reviewed by Marie Brown, St. Mary’s School, Grade 3 Teacher, 7/07

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Book Cover of Marley A dog like no other Grogan, John / Marley: A Dog Like No Other
©2007, 196 pages
Genre: Memoir
Summary: This book is John Grogan’s account of life with his dog, Marley. It is an adaptation for younger readers from  Marley & Me. The author tells about life before Marley, his decision to get a dog and all of the escapades the dog put his family through. Marley’s fear of thunder and  various other idiosyncrasies make for great stories. Readers grow to love Marley in spite of his bad behavior and really feel for the Grogan family as they struggle with Marley’s old age and illnesses.
 Review:  I have read this book to my class for only two years, but it is one that ALL students love and even get the book to read themselves later.  It evokes strong emotions throughout the book.  Students find themselves roaring with laughter as Marley poops at Dog Beach then sobbing when Marley has to be put to sleep. I use this book also to show how an author can use one idea to write for several audiences. (I have several picture books about Marley, the original Marley & Me and  Bad Dogs Have More Fun; articles Grogan wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer.)
Audience: Intermediate: Grades 3-5
Reviewed by: Christine Thaxter, Ryder Elementary CRCS, 3rd grade teacher, 8/09

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Haddix, Margaret Peterson, Running Out of Time
Description/Genre: Chapter Book, Historical Fiction
Summary:  Thirteen year old Jessie Keyser lives with her family in Clifton Indiana.  Her Pa is the blacksmith, her Ma tends house and is the town’s unofficial midwife, and Jessie and her brothers and sisters attend school in a one room schoolhouse.  It is a typical midwestern town in the 1840’s.  Then children start to get sick and Jessie’s Ma tells her the truth-it is not 1840, it is 1997.  Clifton is not a real village-it is a reconstructed one that tourists watch through electronic monitors.  To save the sick children Jessie must escape and enter present day society to get help.  Jessie struggles with dealing with modern technology and truth as she is pursued by those who would keep her knowledge a secret. 
Review: This is a thrilling page turner that introduces critical thinking to kids.  Anyone who has ever been to Williamsburg or Old Sturbridge Village would be immedidately hooked by this tale.  Jessie is very believable and her situation provokes fantastic class discussions about how kids may react in similar situations.  My students are rivited to this story every time I read it to them.  I usually tie it in to a unit on life in the 1800’s.
Audience: Intermediate read aloud-the story does resove itself, but not exactly a picture perfect happy ending (it might be disturbing to some younger kids)
Reviewed by Ellie Colby, Craig Elementary School, Grade 5 Teacher 2/08

Running Out of Time Book

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Book Cover for Bunnicula

Howe, James – Bunnicula
Illus. by Alan Daniel, ©1979, 97 p.
Description: Chapter book, Fantasy, Mystery
Summary:  While attending a Dracula movie, The Monroe family finds a baby rabbit on a theater seat; they adopt him and aptly name him Bunnicula. The rabbit has a note around his neck written in a strange language.  The family’s pets—an intellectual, high-strung feline named Chester, and his plodding sidekick, Harold—don’t quite know what to make of the new family member.  Very soon, however, Chester becomes convinced that Bunnicula is a vampire.  How else can you explain his little fangs, and his habit of sleeping in the day and roaming the house at night, sucking the juices out of vegetables?  Chester will stop at nothing to destroy this dangerous creature, while Harold actually comes to like the little bunny.  Is Bunnicula really a vampire, or simply an innocent victim of Chester’s overactive imagination?
Review:  As a middle school librarian, I have not read this book to my classes, but I did read it, as well as its sequel, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, to my own children, who laughed out loud, as did I.  The narrative, from Harold’s point-of-view, lets children into the mind of a pet, which adds a fun twist to the story.  The mutual lack of understanding between the pets and their owners, and Harold’s interactions with Chester, make for funny situations and dialog, which could spur a discussion about the behavioral characteristics of people, cats and dogs.  Many scenes are perfect for reading aloud. Some of the best relate to Chester’s attempts to destroy Bunnicula, such as the scene in which Chester is trying to pound a raw steak into the heart of a sleeping Bunnicula.  Unfortunately, some of my students have have never heard of this book, which is a worthy addition to the elementary read-aloud canon.  With the popularity of vampire novels today, children would enjoy it, as would their parents and teachers.
Audience: Intermediate (Especially grades 3-5)
Reviewed by:  Diane Leone, Bethlehem Central Middle School, Media Specialist, 3/12

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MacDonald, Betty – Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
Knight, Hillary, Illustrator © 1947, 128 pages
Fantasy chapter book
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is the friendly, odd but lovable neighborhood friend to all children.  She’s every mother’s best friend and every child’s favorite play date.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s specialty though, is curing children of their “unfavorable” behaviors.  She has cures for even the toughest ailments like the Answer-Backers or the Never-Want-to-Go-to-Bedders.  Whenever a mother calls for her help, she always has the most magical answer that never fails to work.  Children of all ages love to hear bits of themselves in the various chapters of all the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books.
This book, and the five others in the series, is the perfect read aloud for children in grades K-5.  I’ve witnessed children begin to recognize themselves in the various “ailments” that Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is called on to “cure”.  For example, she helps to correct The Picky-Eater, The Fighter-Quarrels, the Interrupters and the Never-Want-to-Go-to-Schoolers.   As the original editions were written in the late 1940’s, there are references to the lifestyle of that era that children will be fascinated with.  I also enjoy the sophisticated language that Mrs. MacDonald chose to include in her stories much like Roald Dahl and other authors of the like. The stories have many magical elements, thus making it a wonderful choice for a light fantasy read.   I also feel the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books could easily be used in a Writer’s Workshop that would invite children to create their own ailment and cure in the style of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.  The title is a deceptive one for I have yet to meet a class that hasn’t laughed and begged for more of these wonderful stories!
Audience: Primary and Intermediate
Reviewed by:
Cheri Hart, Elementary Enrichment Teacher at Guilderland Central Schools, August 2012

Book Cover for Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

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Book Cover for Judy Moody was in a Mood

McDonald, Megan – Judy Moody Was in a Mood
Reynolds, Peter H., ©2000, 176 p
Description/Genre – Chapter Book/Realistic Fiction/Back to School
Summary – Judy Moody is in a mood….a very bad mood because she is not looking forward to going “back to school.” She is not looking forward to starting over in a new grade without her favorite armadillo sticker on her name plate, and knows that her new classroom will not have a porcupine named Roger in it. She is worried that she will have to sit in the front row of Mr. Todd’s classroom and will be unable to pull off passing notes back and forth to her best friend Rocky. Judy is an aspiring doctor and uses her brother Stink to practice on with her huge Band-Aid collection. Judy has many moods, collections and a pet Venus Fly Trap named Jaws. This story is a sure crowd pleaser and will leave yo0 roaring with laughter!!!
Review – I have shared this book at the very beginning of the school year for six years! It is a great way to break the “ice” with a new class that may be nervous and wanting to share all kinds of information with me. The students laugh every time, as I adapt my voice for each character and part in the story. It is an excellent attention grabber for those who are feeling the first day jitters and it truly makes the students roar with laughter throughout the entire story. I start a new “reading” trend, as all my students get “hooked on reading the Judy Moody and Stink series!” Every year, each student is inspired by Judy Moody and create their own “Me Collage” as our first third grade assignment, then we put them on display for the entire school to enjoy! At the end of the year, we revisit our “Me Collages” and add more to them before they take them home for the summer!
Audience – Primary/Intermediate (Grades 2-4)
Reviewed by –
Shelby Murphy-Miller, BKW Elementary School, Third Grade Teacher, August 2011

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7 times 9 equals trouble book cover

Mills, Claudia- 7 X 9 = Trouble!
Illus. by G. Brian Karas © 2004, p. 112
Genre-Realistic fiction chapter book
Summary-The main character Wilson has a difficult time passing his timed multiplication quizzes and he feels that he is the only student who can not pass them.  What makes it worse for him is his kindergarten brother starts learning multiplication by using skip counting.  His parents and friends try helping him out so that he will pass the tests before time is up.  Throughout the story several strategies for multiplication are shared and there is a second story involving a missing hamster. 
Review-I have read this book the last couple of years with my students.  I find that they easily relate to the story because of the focus on multiplication, the relationship between the two brothers, and/or the way the parents try to help out.  My students are always eager to find out what is going to happen to Wilson and they make and revise predictions continuously throughout the story.  They also try to figure out what happened to the hamster in the story.  I usually read it as we are getting into learning our multiplication facts so that they connect with it quickly.  I also like to use this book to begin discussing how a character changes throughout a story.   
Reviewed by-Alicia Hughes, Radez Elementary, Grade 3 Teacher, 08/10

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Lytle, Robert– A Pitch in Time
©2003, 344 pages
Genre- Fiction. fantasy, time-travel
Summary – This unique book takes a boy (Mac Dugan) back into the time of the Civil War.  When Mac wakes up in 1864 he is in the middle of a baseball game, his favorite sport!  He is taken into the family of the local pharmacist and learns first hand what life was like for children at that time.  He learned what effect the war had on a small community.  Baseball was a ‘gentleman’s game’ and he has to quickly learn the old-fashioned rules both there and in town. He learns to appreciate things that are in his life in the future and how to take care and preserve them when he returns. 
Review (Memorable book) - The plot is fast moving and with both male and female characters was a favorite to my whole class. I liked this book for my students because it takes a child back into a tumultuous time in history and explains what life was like for both adults and children.  It touches on topics such as the Underground Railroad and slavery in a non-threatening way.  It uses the theme of baseball ( a favorite for most children) to weave the story around.  For today’s child, it brings history to light in a fun way, not just from pages of a social studies book. 
Audience- Intermediate
Reviewed by – Cily Rueda, Scotia Glenville Grade 4 teacher (7/11)

Book cover for A Pitch in Time

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Hoot Book Hiaasen, Carl. Hoot.
c2002, 292 p.
Description/Genre- Chapter BookRealistic Fiction
Summary - Roy is the new kid at school, again. His family is always moving. Roy is the victim of a bully, and learns to fight back. Roy also learns, with the help of his new friends, to stand up for what he believes. He and his friends stop the construction of a new pancake house to save some rare owls.
Review- Hoot would be a great read aloud because there is so much action in the book. There are also many opportunites for discussion about several themes. Children who have been the “new kid at school” will relate to this book. Bullying, friendship and standing up for what you believe are also themes that can be discussed as this book is read orally.
Audience- Intermediate
Reviewed by- Carol Leitze, Craig School Special Education Teacher, February, 2007.

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Juster, Norton  - The Phantom Tollbooth
©1959.  272 pages.
Description: Fiction/Fantasy.
Summary: Milo is a boy who is bored with life and can’t seem to understand why he must learn things, both in and out of school.  He arrives in his apartment after school one day to find a strange package in his room.  Upon opening it he discovers a tollbooth.  He decides to “play” with it and finds himself transported to a strange land known as “The Kingdom of Knowledge”.  Milo must save two exiled princesses in order to return to his home.  He meets many colorful characters along the way such as a watchdog named Tock, a spelling bee, the Humbug, King Azaz the Unabridged, and the Mathemagician.  Milo aquires a thirst for knowledge and adventure during his quest and returns home with a renewed interest in life and all that it offers.
Review: I have read this book to every class I have taught since 1989.  I start the year with it and have the students draw the characters we meet as I read.  The story is full of puns and links to homonyms, synonyms, and other aspects of the English language.  I post a map (I used the opaque projector to transfer the one in the book to a poster sized image the first year I read it and had it laminated) so that students can follow the story on the map.  I love how excited the students get during certain parts of the story (like when Milo learns that letters do grow on trees, or that numbers are mined like gems) and how involved they get in the story with the characters-they all have a favorite one.  The story has an excellent moral about how important inquisitiveness is in learning.  This book sets up a positive learning attitude for my class when I read it at the start of each year, and I find myself (and my students referring to it throughout the year).  It is a fun, lighthearted read with an understandable message for students.  There is an older movie version that I tend to show after we read the book so that we can compare and contrast the two versions (as well as the students’ renderings of the characters vs. the movie’s characters).
Audience: Intermediate.  I have read this to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes-all enjoyed it, but the older students were able to get more of the advanced references to tricks within the English language than the younger students were.
Reviewed by Ellie Colby, Grade 5 Teacher, Craig Elementary School, Niskayuna Schools   Date: 2/07
The Phantom Tollbooth Book

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Klise, Kate - Regarding the Fountain
Illustrations by M. Sarah Klise  ©1998 138 pages
Description:  Chapter book, Fiction, Comedy/Mystery
Summary:  The Dry Creek Middle School drinking fountain has sprung a leak so Principal Russ requests a catalog from designer, Flo Waters from Flowing Waters Fountains. Principal Russ just wants a catalog so he can choose a fountain and get the water leak taken care of.  Flo Waters on the other hand, can not send a catalog because as she explains to Principal Russ, “all of her fountains are custom made”. Soon the new drinking fountain takes on a life of its own. The school board president is not very happy with the project and either is Dee Eel from the water supply company. There is a scandal going on and the fifth graders from Mr. Sam N’s class reveal the secrets behind the drinking fountain! This is a great read aloud!
Review:  I have been reading this book aloud every year since it came out! It is hilarious! The children will be laughing hysterically! The unique thing about this book is that it is told through letters, postcards, memos, transcripts and official documents. The illustrations are fabulous! This is a funny book for children and also it gets them to use their imaginations and creativity. I have each student create their own drinking fountain. It is so amazing to see what they come up with! My favorite parts are when designer, Flo Waters responds to the principal. She NEVER has a straight answer and it drives the principal crazy! I highly recommend this book for grades 4 and 5.
Audience:  Intermediate
Reviewed by:  Erin Massaroni, 4th Grade Teacher, Craig School, Niskayuna, NY 7/07

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Lowry, Lois - All About Sam
c1988, 135p
Description/Genre - Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction
Summary - Watching and listening to his parents and sister Anastasia, Baby Sam learns about life and begins to explore his world. Children will identify with Sam as he grows and develops. Having a hat tied uncomfortably under his chin, watching his family frantically search for him after rolling out of sight when he learns to turn over, discovering the flushing toilet, and many other funny escapades make for the funny read.
Review - I have been reading this book out loud since 1990. It has made every group laugh without fail. My favorite part is Sam at age 2 when he is intriqued with the flushing toilet and thinks that Anastasia's fish would be much happier there. Lowry provides a great model for writing from a first person point-of-view and writing from a perspective other than one's own. She captures the innocence and cute actions that give smiles to baby-watchers. Readers can continue the romp with Attaboy, Sam!, Zooman Sam, and See You Around, Sam!
Audience - Intermediate (but primary students also enjoy this story)
Reviewed by - Cheryl Cufari, Glencliff Elementary School, Media Specialist Date, 2/06
All About Sam Book Cover

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Book Cover for Secret

McGovern, Ann The Secret Soldier. The Story of Deborah Sampson
Copyright: 1975 65p.
Genre: Historical Biography Chapter Book
Summary:  Deborah Sampson isn’t your typical woman of Revolutionary War times.  She does not want to define herself in traditional women roles of these times; rather she longs for excitement and adventure.  This true story depicts Deborah’s early life and how her experiences led her path down to her secret enrollment into the Army during the Revolutionary War.  But, course not as a known woman!  She transforms to Robert Shurtliff, young man.  As Robert, Deborah faces challenges as a “man” at war, but fights to keep her true identity a secret.  Ultimately, she makes positive contributions to her country, and, yes, she does get discovered!
Read Aloud Review: I enjoy reading this short chapter book as a compliment to social studies units on the Revolutionary War or Women in History.  I spark students’ curiosity by displaying a picture of the statue in front of the Sharon Public Library in Massachusetts that honors Deborah.  I elicit predictions about who the woman may be and what type of important role she might have played in the Revolutionary War.  Many of the predictions fall in the traditional roles of women at that time, so when they hear that she fought in the war, as a Continental Soldier, I often have hooked them.  The students quickly become engage in the secrecy of the character and become problem solvers for her as she faces issues.  Deborah is an unusual character who displays many levels of character traits and motivations that spark good conversations within higher-level comprehension skills. 
Audience: Intermediate Grade Levels
Reviewed By:  Stacey Betts, Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School, Special Education Teacher, 2/2012

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How I Found the Strong book cover McMullan, Margaret - How I Found the Strong
c2004, 144 p.
Description/Genre – Historical fiction. Intermediate chapter book.
Summary – Frank “Shanks” Russell, the baby of the Russell family, is only ten-years-old when the Civil War begins to touch his life.  Too young to enlist, “Shanks” is left at home when his older brother and his pa run off to fight in the war.  He is left at home to take care of the rest of his family and his family’s land, as well as Buck, the family’s slave. “Shanks” begins to question the reason for war and his own beliefs in the status quo of the slave/slave-owner relationship.  These questions trouble him more and more as he begins to become closer to Buck than to his own family.
Review – Although this book is slow-going to begin with as a read-aloud, I really like it because it becomes quite suspenseful when “Shanks” and Buck are making their way to the Strong River.  The chapters end with cliffhangers and students become very engaged.  I also like the content of this book because it calls people’s beliefs into question and it also illustrates to students what the Civil War was like for everyday people in the South.  It helps to underscore that not everyone lived on a huge plantation with 100’s of slaves, but that many people were very poor and had very hard lives.
Audience – Intermediate
Reviewed by – Katie Marcincuk, Ballston Spa Middle School, Grade 7 ELA teacher

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Meddaugh, Susan - Martha Blah Blah
©1996, 32 p.
Description-Picture Book, Third Person
Review-Martha the family dog begins to talk due to her love of alphabet soup. Life as a talking dog is fantastic for Martha and her family members, until one day her words are suddenly no longer coherent.  Read this laugh out loud funny story and find out what has happened to Martha’s words and the alphabet soup.  Kids and adults alike will rejoice in this book’s plot line and terrific illustrations.
Curriculum Connections-A great read aloud for middle grade students.  Can be used a good model for story elements and humor when creating their own picture book or comic book.   Students can use the “bubble” format for dialogue as an alternative way to show the character’s are speaking.
Standards-ELA 2 & 4
Grade Level-
Middle Grade 4-6, Picture Book
Reviewed by- Jill Ridler, RCS Middle School, Reading Teacher, 4/06
Martha Blah Blah book cover

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Mikaelsen, Ben.  Petey
©1998,   280p
Description/Genre -  Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction,  Intermediate
Summary -  Petey is born in 1922 with cerebral palsy and is thought to be an idiot and is institutionalized. The story follows Petey’s life from institutionalization as an infant to his death. It’s a story of empathy and kindness of the individuals he meets, either as caregivers or fellow patients.  It also very clearly demonstrates that although Petey’s body was uncontrollable his mind was very bright, in fact Petey was clever enough to finally communicate despite his spoken language was guttural at best.  Petey is such a good book on so many levels and a portrayal of friendship between unlikely individuals.
Review -  Beth Disque, media specialist at Birchwood recommended this book when I was looking for a good read aloud for my fifth grade class. Her recommendations are usually a hit with the students so I started reading it and I loved it, one reason being my husband had a sister who was born with cerebral palsy and in the early ‘60’s the doctors wanted his parents to institutionalize her but they refused. I generally read the first few chapters of a book and the students vote whether to continue or choose a different book. The students wanted to choose a different book but I told them the book gets really good, that the first few chapters are a bit slow but after another few chapters we would vote again. Well the book got a thumbs up and the students voted Petey one of the favorite read alouds for the year! They are spellbound for many reasons; their disbelief at the inhumane treatment of patients in an institution, the unlikely friendships that develop, the fact that Petey is based on a true story to name a few. I have read Petey every year since then and it remains a favorite.
Audience-  Intermediate and beyond
Reviewed by - Carole VanAlstyne, Birchwood, Grade 5 Teacher, 8/06
Petey book cover

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Book Cover for The Boys STart the War

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds.  The Boys Start the War.
©1993,   144p
Description/Genre -  Chapter Book, Fiction,  Intermediate
Summary – This is the first book in a series and introduces the four Hatford boy characters, Jake, Josh, Wally, and Peter --- and the three Malloy girls, Eddie, Beth, and Caroline. Jake and Josh are twins, and they're in the sixth grade with Eddie (who is really Edith Ann, but she refuses to be called that). Beth is in fifth grade, Wally and Caroline are in fourth grade, and Peter is in second grade.
The boys best friends, the Bensons, move from West Virginia to Georgia and when they discover that a bunch of girls move in they decide to make them so miserable that the Malloy family will move back to Ohio. The boys think if the house is vacant the Bensons will move back…problem solved. A feud develops pitting the boys against the girls, each group designing hilarious pranks to try and best the other.
The boys start “the war” by dumping all kinds of dead stuff on the girls' side of the river, but the girls are up to the challenge!  Do the boys like dead stuff? Then the girls will give them dead stuff! Eddie and Beth decide to pretend they are burying Caroline in the river.
The boys can't believe their own eyes! Dumping dead fish is one thing --- but people? Nobody just dumps people into a river, do they? And how did Caroline die? Was it all the dead stuff polluting the water? Will the boys go to jail for killing her? They are plenty scared. This the first set of pranks but the volley goes back and forth, nobody willing to call off “the war.”
Review – Students love this book as a read aloud finding each prank funnier than the last. They also sit at the edge of their seats wondering if the parents are going to find out. Students usually vote this as one of their favorite read alouds and beg for me to read the next book in the series. I usually read this early in the year because some reluctant readers, usually 5 or 6, and generally a few boys, love the humor so much they read the entire series.
Audience- Intermediate and beyond
Reviewed by - Carole VanAlstyne, Birchwood, Grade 5 Teacher, 8/09

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The Gift Book Cover

Nixon, Joan LoweryThe Gift   
Illustrator – Glass, Andrew, ©1983 – 86 p
Description/Genre – Chapter Book-Fiction, Fantasy
Summary – This book predates the author’s more popular mystery and historical fiction best sellers, such as the Orphan Train books and Land of Hope. I happened upon it in our school library as I was searching for a good read-aloud for St. Patrick’s Day several years ago. I have read it every year since then.  In the story, Brian must stay in Ireland with his elderly grandfather, aunt and uncle while his parents are abroad on business. What he thinks will be a boring summer without his friends and baseball becomes a memorable and life-changing experience. He sets out to prove to his stern and cynical Aunt Nora that his grandfather’s stories about magical creatures and little people are true. In order to do this, he must capture a leprechaun. This leads to many suspenseful adventures. He does find and catch a leprechaun…sort of! In the process, he gains an appreciation for his Irish heritage and a deep love and connection with his grandfather.
Review –  I must warn you that this book is out of print. If you cannot find it in a library, I have been able to snag a few copies on or ebay, which I am saving for my currently non-existent grandchildren.  It is worth the search.  It is a great read-aloud for so many reasons. The chapters usually end as cliffhangers leaving the children begging for you to read on. (I never do…I love to keep them in suspense)  The characters and setting are so real. The author is a master of descriptive language.  The students (and you) are just transported into the green meadows of Ireland.  Finally, the students become so invested in Brian’s quest to capture a leprechaun.  They want so badly to believe in the magic and, in the end, they do!  I have read this book to second, third and fourth grade classes.  I ask this question at the end each time: “Why is this book titled The Gift when no gift is ever mentioned in the whole story?”  Each time, the students have been able to articulate that the grandfather gives Brian gift of Believing in Magic (and himself) They really “get it!” A beautiful story for those who are Irish all year or those who are only Irish in March!  (I read using an Irish brogue.  Even a really bad accent like mine adds so much fun to the read aloud experience)
Audience- Intermediate
Reviewed by – Mary Ann Morgan, Bell Top School, Fourth Grade Teacher  8/08

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Harris and Me book cover

Paulsen, Gary – Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered
1993, 157 pgs
Description/Genre- Chapter Book, Historical fiction, Humor
Summary- Harris is the 9 year old second cousin to the 11 year old narrator who provides many adventures, humor, and lessons during the narrator’s summer-long stay at their farmstead. The narrator needs some fun after being removed from his alcoholic parents during a time in the late 1950’s where there are no certainties. But when he must return home at the end of the summer, he realizes that he was home all along.
Review- Reading it alone is pee-your-pants funny, so imagine reading this story to upper elementary and middle school students! There are only two books that I have honestly laughed out loud and couldn’t stop, and this is one of them. The mishaps and misadventures of two boys on a farm is priceless and detailed in only a way Paulsen can dream up.
Audience- Intermediate
Reviewed By: Alicia Abdul, Albany High Librarian, 7.29.08

Paulsen, Gary Harris and Me
©1993, 157p
Description/Genre – Chapter book, Realistic Fiction
Summary – City boy has been living with foster families and bounced from home to home leaving him feeling angry and out of place.  But one summer he is brought to long lost relatives who live in the country where he meets his cousin Harris.  City boy finds a place where he belongs as he experiences a summer like none other.  Harris and City boy wrestle with pigs, play Tarzan and act out like cowboys dangerously with Buzzer the attack cat and a deranged rooster!  Through the hilarious circus acts City boy learns what a real family feels like and discovers things in him he didn’t know was possible; love and self worth. 
Review – I read this novel aloud every year and my students can not stop giggling.  Although 7th grade, they grab carpet scraps and sit around my feet with enthusiasm to see what type of trouble Harris will get himself and City boy into next.  We never know City boy’s name but through his voice (1st person point of view) my students feel like they know him inside and out.  Paulsen uses similes, imagery and personification to paint a perfect picture of country life and adolescent mischief. 
Audience - Intermediate
Reviewed by – Katyanna Carll-Keyser, Berne-Knox-Westerlo, English Teacher, 2/10

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Pink and Say book cover Polacco, Patricia – Pink and Say
Illustrated by the author, ©1994, unpaged
Description – Historical Fiction/Picture Book/First Person Narative
Summary – Say Sheldon, a 15 year old white Union soldier, lay in a muddy field,  injured from a lead ball in his knee. Pinkus Aylee, a black teen, who became separated from his Forty-eighth Colored company, found Say. Sick himself, he carried Say many miles to his home to see his Mama, who was living alone on the estate where she was a slave. Everyone else had run away, but she had stayed so she would be there when Pink returned. When both boys had recovered and were able to return to their companies, marauders arrived. Mama sent the boys to the cellar, knowing the marauders wouldn’t look there. They didn’t, but they shot and killed her. After burying her, the boys set out to find the Union troops, but were captured by Confederate soldiers. They were sent to Andersonville, the worst of the Confederate camps. Pink, being black, was hanged. Say spent some months in the prison, was released, and returned to his home in Saranac, Michigan, where he married and sired 7 children. He died in 1924. His story was handed down from generation to generation. The book is dedicated to Pinkus Aylee.
Review – This simple book is such a powerful tale of compassion and friendship. It is a perfect story to read to American History classes studying the Civil War. If there are no tears (there always are), there is total silence as the kids digest what happened to Pink. Most of them have no idea that teenagers were on the battlefield, or that there were black troops fighting for their own cause. A very stirring story and one I love to read-aloud.
Audience – Intermediate
Reviewed By – Barbara Angelo, St. Mary’s-St. Alphonsus School, Librarian, 2/24/07

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Polacco, Patricia- Thank You, Mr. Falker
c1998, 40p
Description - Picture Book, Memoir
Summary – This is Patricia’s story of how she learned to read in fifth grade after struggling with a learning disability. Her teacher, Mr. Falker, stands up for her against the class bully, recognizes her disability and then gives her the extra help she needs to learn how to read.
Review – I read this book to my class every year as a reminder to myself and to set the stage for our classroom. I’m not sure what the children love more- the book or seeing me cry. This book spurs a wonderful conversation about persistence, success, and the power we have to help one another.
Audience- Primary, Intermediate, and YA
Reviewed by -Chrissy O’Reilly, Hillside Elementary, 5th grade teacher, 3/11
Thank You Mr. Falker book cover

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Ryan, Pam Munoz - Esperanza Rising
©2000 264 pp.
Summary- Esperanza lives a life of privilege in Mexico until the death of her father leaves her and her mother destitute.  They must escape the far-reaching hands of brutal uncles and reinvent themselves in America.  The book follows this young teen on her journey of growth and change.  It has all the elements of a great story…villains, friendship, death, sacrifice, and love.
Review- The story is poetry in novel form, so beautifully written.  Each chapter title is the name of a fruit or vegetable, which is symbolic for the challenge or triumph that is unfolded within.  The book tackles many harsh realities: death, barriers of social class, labor relations, and the hardships of the Great Depression.  Esperanza is a testament to the human condition.  Girls and boys enjoyed it equally.
Audience - This book makes a terrific read aloud for grade 5 but could be used as an independent read for older grades, especially when supported by background on the Great Depression.
Reviewed by Ellen DiRienzo Birchwood School, Grade 5, February 2011
Esperanza Rising book cover

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A Night in the Country Book

Rylant, Cynthia – Night in the Country
Illus. by Mary Szilagyi, ©1986, 32p
Description/Genre – Picture Book, Fiction
Summary – This beautiful book gives a descriptive account of a night in the country. Readers will know what such a night sounds like and looks like. They’ll see what creatures are busy at work while we sleep.
Review – This is usually the first book I read aloud to my fifth graders, and it then becomes a touchstone text in our classroom. It serves as a tool to help us hear what language can sound like; it helps us discuss an author’s purpose; it helps us see what punctuation can do for a writer. I use this throughout the year during writer’s workshop. This book and its author often becomes a mentor text/mentor author for many students.
Audience - Intermediate (but primary students would also love this book)
Reviewed by – Rebecca Wlazlo, Pine Bush Elementary, Grade 5 Teacher, 2/08

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Scieszka, Jon – The Frog Prince Continued
Johnson, Steve; ©1991; pages 27
Description/Genre – Picture book, Fiction, Fairy tale
Summary – The Frog Prince and Princess are not as happy as we would like to think. The Frog Prince decides to leaves home to find a witch who will change him back into a frog. He encounters and nearly escapes several witches from other familiar fairy tales. (Ex: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty). He finally returns home to the Princess and realizes that she truly loves him and believes in him. (Why else would she kiss “slimy frog lips”?) He kisses her and they live happily ever after as frogs.
Review – I love reading fractured fairy tales to students. I have found that once students begin to read chapter books they don’t go back to picture books very often. Scieszka does a great job of expanding the standard fairy tale. I enjoy reading these type of picture books to older students because they always lead to very interesting discussions. Reading examples of fractured fairy tales is a fun and humorous way to introduce creative writing. I’ve had my middle grade students take their favorite fairy tale and continue the story or rewrite the story from the perspective of another character in the story.
Additional books that work extremely well are:
Scieszka, Jon The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
Ahlberg, Allan - Jolly Christmas Postman
Ahlberg, Allan - The Jolly Postman: Or Other People's Letters
Audience – Grade 3 and up -
Reviewed by Anne Niegsch, St. Mary’s Waterford, Middle School Teacher 8/07

Frog Prince Continued

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Book Cover for Every Thing on it

Silverstein, Shel         Every Thing On It
Illustrated by Shel Silverstein,   © 2011   195 pp.
Genre: Poetry Collection           
All you need is someone to read them aloud and you’ve made Shel Silverstein’s words and drawings a complete poetry experience. The 145 include poems for holidays (“The One Who Invented Trick or Treat” and “Santa’s Helper), for interpersonal relationships (“Masks”), for food-lovers (“Twenty-Eight Uses for Spaghetti”), for communication (“Sign”), and, of course, for naughtiness (“Garlic Breath”, and “The Toilet Troll”). There are even poems with advice on creating poetry (“Lizard” and “Italian Food”).
Review: Since I only have my students for a short period of time each day, I seldom read them an entire chapter book.  I often do use picture books in my teaching.  However, I repeatedly use poetry, including the latest from Shel Silverstein, Every Thing On It. I use the poems for a change-of-pace, for a distraction, and for comic relief. But I also use them for their figurative language, vocabulary, and perspective.  Although these poems were not chosen by Silverstein himself to be in his previous books, they are small gems that will be asked for again and again by intermediate-grade students.
Audience:  Intermediate-grade students
Reviewed by Dottie Halligan, Sacandaga Elementary School, AIS Teacher, 3/12

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Silverstein Shel - The Giving Tree
Illus. Silverstein, Shel ©1964 52p.
Description- Picture Book
Summary: This book is about the love between a tree and a boy. In the beginning the boy loves the tree and spends his time climbing the trunk, swinging from the branches and eating the apples. But as time goes by he only comes to the tree when he needs something, apples to sell, branches for a house and the trunk for a boat. The book is about the sacrifices the tree makes to make the boy happy and in turn herself happy. Finally, at the end when the tree has nothing left to give the boy, now an old man, he is content to just sit and be with his tree (stump).
Review: Every year I always ask my students what their favorite book are and then I tell them mine. I always read The Giving Tree because it sparks such wonderful conversations and allows me to start to get to know my new students and the way they think. It is amazing to hear students argue whether or not the tree should have given everything she has for the boy’s happiness. The discussions usually turn into so much more than just the book.
Audience: Intermediate
Reviewed by- Nadine Panarese, Radez Elementary, Reading Specialist, 8/09
The Giving Tree book cover

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Where the Sidewalk Ends Book Cover

Silverstein, Shel, - Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Illustrated by Silverstein, Shel.  ©1974 166 pgs.
Description/Genre: Poetry
Summary:   A selection of poems that are fun for any age.  Some poems are silly, some scary, some zany, and just wonderful to hear.  There is something for everyone, even those who don’t like poetry or can’t write it (they can and they will). 
Review:  This book is fun to read to my children.  We laugh and laugh and each of us has our favorites.  I especially love to see when my older kids bring it to my younger children and ask if they can read it to them.  Ours is a very used copy.  I also love to read this to my students because it is a fun way to enjoy poetry.  It’s a great read aloud for the beginning of a poetry unit.  It invites discussion and laughter!
Audience: I choose intermediate for this review but it is a book that spans the ages from preschool to adulthood.
Reviewed by:  Laura Carroll, Niskayuna, Special Education Teacher, August 14, 2008

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John, Paul, George, and Ben book cover Smith, Lane - John, Paul, George & Ben
©2006, 32p
Description/Genre- Fiction
Summary – A very humorous introduction to our founding fathers.
Review – An excellent introduction to the founding fathers or as a treat after students are already introduced. Students will enjoy comparing what they know about these men, with the “liberties” the author takes in describing how they grew to be important men of early American history. The book ends with a nice nonfiction section which gives a bit of information on each man, as well as a true and false section to show where the author deviated from truth for the sake of our reading enjoyment.
Reviewed by – Erin Jankowski, Glendaal Elementary, 8/06

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Star Girl Spinelli, Jerry-Star Girl
©2002, 208 p.
Description/Genre-YA Realistic Fiction, Chapter Book
Summary- Star girl arrives at Mica High after being home schooled.  She is nothing like anyone else has ever seen in Mica High.  She is friendly to everyone, wears prairie clothes, carries a pet rat and sings happy birthday to everyone in the cafeteria while accompanying herself on her ukulele.  The High School students cannot categorize her or fit her in so they misunderstand and shun her.  She makes a friend and sweet romantic interest , Leo, and he feels he must choose between Star girl and the world at Mica High..
Review- I have been reading this book aloud for two years.  The students seem to enjoy hearing about another school that struggles to deal with social issues.  My 5th graders like to hear the inside scoop about teenagers too.  This story makes you laugh, cry and feel what it feels like to have to decide between what is right and what is popular.   Next time I read it I will try to start a Star Girl Society to promote acceptance and a positive social climate in my school and classroom.  I may also read it with a read aloud of Wicked.  For information on starting a Star girl society check out
Audience-Grade 5 but would be appropriate for grades 6 -8 as well.
Review by- Laura Taggart, Voorheesville Elementary, Resource Room, 8/03/07

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Steptoe, John – The Story of Jumping Mouse
Illus. by John Steptoe, c 1984, unp
Description/ Genre – Picture Book, Fiction- Native American Legend
Summary- A young mouse decides to follow his dream and explore the “far-off land”, a place known to him only through the tales of the older mice, despite their warnings that the journey will be long and dangerous.  He has difficulty at the very start of his journey until he meets Magic Frog whose gift of jumping legs enables the young mouse to cross the river and continue on.  As the newly named “Jumping Mouse” goes on he meets other animals that have encountered hardships and losses, and Jumping Mouse uses his new found magic to help these creatures.  Unfortunately, in the process, Jumping Mouse loses his own senses and arrives in the far-off land bereft of sight and smell.  Once again, Magic Frog arrives and comes to the aide of the young mouse.
Review- This is an amazing tale of caring and kindness as the little mouse selflessly comes to the aide of other animals. I have read this book for many years to fourth graders as part of the unit on Native Americans. It is such a powerful book that I often read this to conclude our study of Native American Legends.  This book conveys its message through simple language and black and white illustrations. (It was a Caldecott Honor Book.) Students sit glued to their seats as they travel along with Jumping Mouse, fight back tears as we witness the stunning ending, and take a big gasp when the story is done.
Audience- Fourth Grade
Reviewed by- Caryn Feig, Birchwood Elementary School, Special Education Teacher, 2009
Book Cover of The Story of Jumping Mouse

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Taylor, Theodore - The Cay
©1969, p. 144
 fiction: asurvival adventure story set in the Caribbean during W.W.II. It deals with the issues of a young boy who loses his sight, growing up, racial prejudice, and surviving on an isolated cay ( small island without fresh water).
Summary- Phillip, a young American boy whose father is stationed on the island of Curacao in the Caribbean to help run the oil refineries during the war, is leaving to return to America with his mother when their ship is torpedoed by a German submarine. He is separated from his mother and ends up on a raft with an old West Indian named Timothy and a cat named Stew. During the several days spent on the raft, Phillip loses his sight. Timothy believes that it is due to  a knock on the head while abandoning the sinking ship, and that it would only be a temporary condition.  They decide to land on a deserted cay where they must survive while waiting to be rescued. Phillip must deal with his handicap as well as come to grips with the fact that he is stranded with a black man. As a boy raised  in Virginia, he was told by his mother that blacks were different from them and that they were to be avoided.
Review- I have read this novel to many classes over the last twenty years and it has always been a real hit with my students. I do tend to ham it up by putting on a West Indian accent when reading the part of Timothy. This is fun for me and almost necessary because Timothy’s dialogue is written in the Caribbean dialect. The Cay  catches the interest of the students because it deals with several issues that they find genuinely intriguing - survival in a harsh environment, racial prejudice, becoming blind, and growing up. I love this book because it is a great opportunity to discuss the issues as they come up and because it is very well written.
Audience- intermediate level
Reviewed by- Sven Gudmundsen, Birchwood School, fifth grade teacher, July 2006
The Cay book cover

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The Widow's Broom book cover VanAllsburg, Chris - The Widow’s Broom 
©1992, 32 pages.
Description – Picture book.  Fantasy/fairy tale.
Summary – One night, a witch falls to the earth when her broom runs out of “power”.  She is cared for by a kind widow named Minna Shaw.  While the witch does leave, her broom is left behind.  Minna discovers that it still has magical powers, and becomes a big help to her on the farm.  The broom can sweep, chop wood, feed the chickens and play the piano.   Minna’s neighbors are fearful of the evil broom and eventually come and take it and burn it.  But then…..the “ghost” of the broom scares the neighbors away and Minna can again live peacefully with the broom as her helper.
Review – love, love, love this book!!!  This is such a great book to read at Halloween time.  The kids get so into the story.  It is scary, but not too much so.  The illustrations are fantastic, but I don’t show them to the kids when I read it.  I have the kids listen as I read it with great expression and feeling.  I also stop at 6 places during the story and have the students sketch what they visualize.  I give them one minute for each stopping place.  I am not expecting great works of art.  The important thing is that they listen and get pictures in their heads.   Then I show all the illustrations, but point out that it is not important if their picture matches what the illustrator drew.  We all have different pictures in our minds. 
Audience – Since it is a little scary, it is more suited for intermediate, 3rd grade and up.
Reviewed by – Tammy McCarthy, Ballston Spa Reading Specialist, February 22, 2007.

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Wiesner, David  - Tuesday
©1991, 32p.
Description –Wordless Picture Book
Summary – On one Tuesday evening, frogs unexpectedly rise into the air upon their lily pads and float throughout a town.  They pass by an old woman asleep in her chair in front of the television, a man fixing a late-night snack, and a dog out prowling. The next morning lily pads are found in the most unusual places.  How could that be explained?
Review - It may be a stretch to call a wordless book a “read-aloud”, but the book that I have made sure to share with all of my classes the past few years has been Tuesday.  The students all become attentive and curious, shouting out observations, comments, and questions.  Indeed, what IS happening with those frogs floating in the air?  Some will even make predictions as to what will be seen NEXT Tuesday.
Awards – Caldecott Award
• ALA, Notable Children’s Book
• American Bookseller, Pick of the Lists
• Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Blue Ribbon
• Kentucky Blue Ribbon Award
• Library of Congress, Best Books for Children
• New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
• Parenting Magazine, Ten Best Books of the Year
• Publishers Weekly, Best Books of the Year
• School Library Journal, Best Books of the Year
• Young Hoosier Picture Book Award
Audience - Although I use it with fourth and fifth graders, it is fascinating to even primary children.
.Reviewed by – Dottie Halligan, Sacandaga Elementary School, AIS teacher (grades 4&5), 8-06
Tuesday book cover

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Farmer Boy book cover Wilder, Laura Ingalls-Farmer Boy
Illus. - Williams, Garth, ©1981, 372 pages
Description/Genre-Chapter Book/Historical Fiction
Summary-Farmer Boy is about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband Almanzo, his family and their life on a farm in Upstate New York in the 19th Century.    Almanzo lives with his mother, father, older brother Royal, his older sister Eliza Jane and his younger sister Alice. He also has two oxen, whose names are Star and Bright.  All he wants to do is care for them but he is told by his father that he is much too young and might encourage bad behaviors.  While reading the story you learn about the different chores that Almanzo and his siblings have to complete during the summer, fall harvest, and winter.    Besides working on the farm and attending school Almanzo and his siblings try to have some fun when they have the free time!
Review-Farmer Boy is one of my favorite books to read to my students every year!  I always read the story a month or two months before our end of the year field trip to the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, New York. The students always love to hear about Almanzo and the multi-aged one room schoolhouse that he attends with his siblings. They also enjoy listening to all the chores Almanzo is expected to do throughout the year because some of them are not familiar with what a chore is.  Another favorite part is when they talk about breakfast, dinner, or lunch and that Almanzo is always hungry.  Everyone can relate to that sometime!  Farmer Boy always starts many discussions in my classroom and is loved by all of my students each year.
Reviewed by-Megan Jeffers, St. Patrick’s Academy, 4th Grade, 8/06

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Williams, Laura E. – The Mystery of Dead Man’s Curve
Illustrated by Maestro, Laura, © 2000, 117 pgs.
Description – Mystery, Intermediate grade level chapter book
Synopsis – Jen and Zeke, who are twins, live with their Aunt Bee in the Old Mystic Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. Someone is trying to scare away all of the guests at the Bed and Breakfast. Strange and Frightening things are occurring every day.  The twins need to figure out who is behind all of these weird occurrences before something really terrible happens.  As the reader, you need to figure out what is happening before the twins do and before the book ends.  Good Luck!
Review – I love this book, especially as a read aloud for the entire class.  It is written on a 4th grade reading level, so it is a little bit above some of my 3rd grade class to read on their own. I do believe that this is a book that all students enjoy, so I do it as a read aloud.  My students can never get enough of it.  They are definitely sad and usually surprised when it ends and are always left wanting more.  The students love it because it allows them to be interactive with the text, instead of just passive listeners to the story.  They must follow the story and clues carefully in order to come up with “Suspect Sheets” of who they think is behind the mystery and why. 
Recommended Audience – The story is suitable for students 8-up. Great for 3rd – 4th grades.
Reviewed by – Diane McDonnell, Rosendale Elementary, Grade 3 Teacher, 8/06

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Williams, Linda – The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
Illustrator:  Lloyd, Megan, @1986, p.29.
Description/Genre:  Fiction, fear and Halloween theme
Summary:  A little old lady who is not afraid of anything goes for a walk at night and is haunted by a pumpkin head, two pair of shoes, and other spooky objects that follow her on her walk.  Each object has a sound and motion associated with it.  For example, the shoes go “CLOMP! CLOMP!”   There is a surprise at the end, which is very amusing. 
Review:  The book makes a great read-a-loud because it is humorous, brief, and appropriate for all ages at Halloween.   The best reason I like this book for a read aloud is that you can divide your classes into sections and assign each of them a line for a scary object.  That group has to say the noise and do the movement for that object.  It gives the chance for students to be silly but at the same time listen and be on time for their part.  The book is repetitive so the groups get to do their part many times.  The group that performs the most accurately can earn some kind of award.  It’s also fun to see how fast, how slowly, how loud, or how softly the parts can be done.  It can be turned into a performance piece and help get students to respond in another enjoyable way.  Students love to videotape this so they can enjoy their performance.
Audience:  Intermediate (Although primary grades would love this too!)
Reviewed by:  Laura Carroll, Van Antwerp Middle School, Niskayuna, Special Education, 8/07.
Little old lady who was not afraid of anything

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Orphan of Ellis Island book cover Woodruff, Elvira - Orphan of Ellis Island - A Time-travel Adventure
©2000, 174p
Description- Fiction, Intermediate Grade Chapter Book
Summary- Dominic Cantori is a fifth grade foster child who has lived with many families. He is ashamed of being an orphan and dreams of the day he will be adopted. On a class trip to Ellis Island, Dominic makes up a story about his family but when he realizes his lie will be discovered he hides in the janitor’s closet. He falls asleep and when he awakens he realizes it is nighttime and he is alone, and scared. Dominic panics and picks up one of the phones on which the immigrants’ stories are taped and is amazed when the voice on the other end talks back to him. His adventure begins as he travels back in time to Italy, 1908. In the small village of Avaletto he meets three brothers and on his many adventures with them he learns the true meaning of both hunger and happiness. It is not until one of the brothers dies that Dominic realizes he is somehow related to the brothers. Dominic ends up escorting the other two to America and he discovers the truth about his past and the joy of being part of a family.
Review -This is a great read-aloud that leads to LOTS of discussions on many topics; adoption, foster homes, diversity, honesty, poverty, accepting others, immigration, just to name a few. It is a story that moves quickly, thus the audience is drawn in right away. There are excellent breaks in the action at each chapter which literally leave the audience begging for more! I’ve read this book aloud for several years now and the kids always rate this book a 10 (the BEST)!
Audience - Intermediate
Reviewed by -Lisa Luyckx, Birchwood School, 4th Grade Teacher, 7/06

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Young Adult (6 - 12)

Albom, Mitch – The Five People You Meet in Heaven
©2003, 198p
Description/Genre – Fiction
Summary -  The novel starts with a man named Eddie who works at an amusement park named Ruby Pier.  He is the maintenance man at the park, and in the beginning of the novel, he attempts to save a young girl from a falling car of an amusement park ride.  He tries to pull her out of the way, but he dies trying.  We then see him in the afterlife, he wants to know if he saved the little girl.  This is where we learn about the real Eddie as we meet five people from Eddie’s past.  There are so many things about Eddie that we want to know and figure out.  Was he married? Where is his wife?  Why doesn’t he have kids?  We also learn that he was a soldier in war.  We get all of the answers that we want, as does Eddie.  It is a wonderful novel…a modern day version of A Wonderful Life
Review - I read this book aloud to my Seniors after reading Tuesdays With Morrie.  I think it is successful because it starts with an elderly man trying to save a little girl and dying in the process.  It immediately pulls the kids in.  They want to know if he saved the little girl!  It is an excellent read aloud and lends itself to many writing activities.  Also, there is a great film adaptation that goes along with it.  The students love it – both boys and girls! 
Audience – YA
Reviewed by – Danielle Benner, Guilderland High School, English Teacher, 8/12

Book Cover for Five People You meet in Heaven

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Book Cover for Tuesdays with Morrie

Albom, Mitch – Tuesdays with Morrie
©1997, 224 pages (hardcover)
Description:  Non-fiction
Summary:  After seeing his former professor on Nightline with Ted Koppel, Mitch decides to reconnect with Morrie.  The problem is Morrie is in Boston dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease and Mitch is a high-powered sports writer for the Detroit Free Press.  However, the reconnect, and the friendship blossoms into Morrie sharing his life lessons with Mitch.
Review:  I absolutely love this book and never get tired of reading it aloud to students.  I use it in College Writing as a “send off” piece prior to graduation.  Students are writing their life lessons/memoirs concurrently.
Audience: high school students would get the most out of the life lessons and understanding the relationship between a mentor/mentee.
Reviewed by:  Brenna Autrey, Guilderland High School, English, August 2011

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Boyne, John – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
©2006 218 p
Description/Genre – Chapter Book, Fiction/Historical Fiction
Summary – This story is told through the eyes of a young and naïve boy named Bruno. His father is a Commandant in the Nazi Army and they move to “Out-With” where Bruno notices that there are people on the other side of the fence who are wearing striped pajamas. Bruno goes on an adventure one day and finds a boy his age named Schmuel, who lives on the other side of the fence. The boys become friends quickly and enjoy talking to each other from their side of the fence. There is a horrifying twist at the end of the book that catches adults and children off guard.
Review – This book is a terrific read aloud book! It is at a much higher level than my fifth grade students would be able to read independently since many do not have the background knowledge needed to understand the book fully at this point in their lives. Some of my students are familiar with the Holocaust and therefore are able to help the others make connections of “Out-With” being Auschwitz, and “The Fury” being The Fuehrer. Once the pieces start falling together the kids understand that it’s not just a story about a boy named Bruno, but it is a story that includes history as well. They love to be the one to figure out parts of the story. I love this book because of the way John Boyne wrote it. He uses language that truly makes it sound like Bruno, a nine year old, is the one who wrote the book. There are also many great parts of the story where the students are able to inference and make connections. Depending on the students background knowledge I give more or less support to help understand the story. Many fantastic discussions have started in my classroom while reading this book. It has been made into a movie so unfortunately some students have seen it which takes away from the magic of hearing it. It is still a wonderful book to use for a read aloud though! I recommend reading this book before sharing it with your class to make sure it is appropriate for your students.
Audience – Intermediate or higher. (I use it with fifth grade but would not go be
low that age level.)
Reviewed By – Tara Coppolo, Radez Elementary School, Grade 5, July 2011

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Blackwater Book Bunting, Eve – Blackwater
©2000, 160p
Description– Realistic Fiction
Summary- This fantastic story tells of Brodie who while playing, participates in a deadly game. Brodie is trying to live with himself after realizing that no one has ever survived a fall into the Blackwater River. It becomes apparent early on that one person has died after Brodie’s “fun” and the other person hasn’t been found yet. He is haunted by the images of these two, Pauline and Otis, while living in fear that Otis will appear. His cousin, Alex who is staying for the summer, is no help at all. In fact, he encourages Brodie to keep their secret. Although, it appears as if Brodie, Alex, Pauline and Otis are the only ones who know what happened that day on the toadstool, there is someone leaving Brodie clues that state everyone will find out the truth if he doesn’t speak up soon. There are a multitude of people that could fit this category and Brodie is most worried that it’s Otis.
Review – There are fantastic places to stop in this book that will leave students on the edge of their seats wanting more of the story. Humor is mixed in with the reality of what to do with this situation. It is real to students and they can relate to the characters. The subject of guilt and one’s character are prevalent in the discussions that could be had with students.
Audience – 6th grade
Reviewed by
– Stacey Gerwitz, Ballston Spa Central School, English Teacher, July 31, 2006

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Ender's Game Book Cover

Card, Orson Scott – Ender’s Game
© 1985, 357 p.
Description/Genre – Science Fiction
Summary –Ender Wiggin is a brilliant child selected at an extremely young age for his promise and sent by Earth’s military fleet to battle school, where he is quickly recognized for his natural ability as a commander, and immediately rises above his fellow cadets.  He will be honed for years by Earth’s military to lead an army against an invasion by the Buggers, insect-like creatures who are on their way to invade Earth a third time, having been defeated previously by the great commander Mazer Rackham.  It is clear that he is Earth’s last hope.  Isolated and lonely, Ender tries to balance his compassion and his ruthlessness, as personified, respectively, by his beloved sister Valentine and his sadistic brother Peter, whose personal qualities rendered them unsuccessful battle school candidates.   Little does Ender know he know that he is being manipulated by his superiors to commit a terrible atrocity. 
Review – This book is on my all-time favorite list.  I read this to my own children when they were in middle school, and they loved it.  In fact, we read the entire Ender series of four books.   Those students in my school (mostly boys) who have read it speak very highly of it.  This Nebula and Hugo Award winner is a coming of age story with interesting characters, and includes technology that is an obvious precursor to our Internet-based communications of today.  It is also an unrelentingly intense book.  You cannot help feeling empathy for this child, as he is pushed harder and harder to be the great commander he is expected to be.  When his trust is betrayed, you feel betrayed as well, particularly because the consequences are so huge.  I was in tears at the end of the story.  On a larger scale, the book reveals much about war and man’s capabilities for love and hate.  A first-rate read.
Audience – Young Adult
Reviewed by – Diane Leone, Bethlehem Central Middle School Librarian, 2/13

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Cormier, Robert - We All Fall Down
© 1991   193 pages
Description/Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Four teens seemingly randomly chose the Jerome house to break into on April Fool's Day.  But there is no irony in the damage they leave behind, not only to the house, but also to Karen Jerome who has to be hospitalized.  Who were these trashers? and why did they choose this house? Jane Jerome agonizes with her family as they continue to live in their house, not feeling comfortable, but knowing that if they flee, the trashers have won.  How this crime affects each of the Jerome family members, as well as at least one of the trashers, is the meat and potatoes of this novel.  Man sometimes shows his dark side.  As Cormier expressed in an interview, "The book shows what happens when good people don't come to the rescue."  The book has high interest for teens on a multiplicity of levels and makes the reader face the darker side of realism in life.
Review: Much of the narration of We All Fall Down is interior monologue, characters churning around and turning over conflicting thoughts that emerge from guilt or fear or other powerful emotions.  When a reader can lend life to those thoughts, can use the inflected voice to whisper or cry or scream, the action leaps off the page.  I have found that students do not want me to stop reading.  Honestly speaking, however, even when I am not the theatrical reader and a student is reading, instead, using a monotone, or at least little inflection, it doesn't seem to change the class's interest.  It is the text, the plot, the character development that holds interest.  Even though the book is almost 200 pages long, students eagerly wish to continue the investigation into what happened on April Fool's Day at the Jerome household and how that event affected Jane and one of the trashers.  Besides being a dark look at humanity, it is also a love story, even if a doomed one.  
      I have used this text with my summer school class for a few years.  Summer school is rough, no matter how you shape the curriculum.  Having a high interest young adult novel makes coming to school at 8 a.m. tolerable!  
     However, these past two weeks saw a student at my school die because of guns.  On the day of the funeral of this young man, we happened to be reading about "unintended victims" in the text.  It was a dark mirror of what had happened just a few days before to my students' peer and gave an occasion for serious discussion in class of violence and relationships and survival.  That is the stuff of We All Fall Down.
Audience: Grades 8-12
Reviewed by: Joy Healy, Albany High School, English Teacher, 02/08

We All Fall Down Book

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Love that dog Creech, Sharon.  Love that Dog
Description/Genre – Poetry, realistic fiction, short novel
Summary – Jack does not believe he can write poetry and it is through this novel that he shows his teacher, and the reader, that he in fact is a poet.  Jack finds inspiration for writing poetry through his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, who encourages him and shares interesting poetry with the class. And through is love for his dog.    Jack shares with the reader how much he cares for Sky, his dog, and soon everyone can connect to Jack and his ability to write poetry.  
Review - I use this novel each year to introduce our poetry unit. Like Jack, many students do not believe they can write poems or they are immediately turned off.  This novel captivates students as we begin to read it aloud.   They see the poetry in Jack’s writing and even have fun deciphering the poems Jack refers to such as The Red Wheelbarrow and Love that Boy.  Not long after I begin reading the novel aloud, students are soon inspired to write their own poetry.  By the novels’ end (it takes about 2 class periods to read) students are in tears, sad for Jack and the loss of Sky.  They quickly find inspiration to write their own poems. 
Audience – Middle school because of how I use it but I can see it being used in elementary schools. 
Reviewed by – Heather Callagan, Iroquois Middle School, English 6 & 7, August 2007

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Book cover for Walk Two Moons Creech, Sharon    Walk Two Moons
©1994, 280 pg.
Genre - Realistic Fiction
Summary - Imagine losing a parent and praying to trees to find them? Believe in a little magic as 13 year old Sal drives across country with her crazy grandparents in search of her mother.  She only has one week to get there, her mother’s birthday, in which magically she can come home.  Yet, Sal know something the reader does not, taking us on her journey, walking in her mother’s footsteps and teaching us the lessons of growing up and facing the truth.  As Sal drives, she also tells us through flashback, stories of Ben, Pheobe and a mysterious lunatic.  A must read-a-loud for all teens!
Review - Every year I read aloud this novel and my students are are filled with laughter, curiosity and even tears!  The sit at the edge of their seats dying to know what happens to Sal as she drives cross country in search of the truth and her mother.  Students jump out up to race over to our poster size map of the Unites States moving the miniature car across when she reaches different destinations.  I change my voice to meet the quirkiness of Sal’s grandparents and Phoebe her dramatic best friend.  I love this book because Creech gives a plethora of information about geography, Native Americans, Greek mythology mixed in with the theme of tough times.  Students want to see how Sal grows, and several students can relate to the deep loss felt at the end of the book.  I am filled with glee as I watch their facial expressions and see the emotion dribble out of them.  I remind them, no matter sad or happy, a good book will always make you feel something!  No matter what, I will keep sharing this realistic fiction book with my 7th graders as long as I can.  It is a phenomenal story!
Awards - Newberry Award Winner
Audience - Readability level is intermediate although I use it in 7th grade due to the context of the loss of a child, the higher level vocabulary and poetry references.
Reviewed by - Katyanna Keyser, BKW, English Teacher, 8/12

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Book Cover for King of the Mild Frontier Crutcher, Chris, King of the Mild Frontier: An ill-advised Autobiography
2004, 260 pages
Description:  Autobiography
Summary:  Chris Crutcher tells stories from his childhood in this autobiography.  He addresses his sometimes rocky relationship with his parents and siblings and his issues with his temper, all while invoking his sense of humor.
Review:  This is a fantastic read-aloud.  Crutcher’s sense of humor and ability to tell stories is amazing.  I have used this book as a read-aloud in my college writing class as an example of voice.  Crutcher’s voice is honest, funny, and alive while you’re reading.  It resonates with teens and adults because of the daily issues that are addressed.
Audience: Young adult
Reviewed by – Brenna Autrey, Guilderland High School, July 2012

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Dickinson, Peter – Eva
©1988, 219 pp.
Description/Genre:  Chapter book, Science Fiction
Summary:  In a far-distant dystopian future, human beings have destroyed the environment and spend all of their their time watching the Shaper, a cross between virtual reality and television.  In this bleak setting, thirteen-year-old Eva has undergone an experimental procedure to save her life following a terrible car accident.  Her neural memories have been implanted into the body of a chimp, Kelly, who is part of her primatologist father’s research project.  The crux of the story revolves around Eva’s inner identity: she is not merely a human being or even a chimp, but a hybrid, who can now understand the destructive behavior of homo sapiens.  In an effort to save the chimpanzee species, she and her animal activist friend concoct a scheme to move her father’s chimps to an island off the coast of Africa, where they can live in the wild, with Eva as their matriarch.  The ending is extremely moving, as years later, a dying Eva hopes that she has helped usher in a future species of intelligent chimp that may change the world for the better. 
Review:  I admit that this is a book I have never been able to forget.  Not only does it treat a serious subject matter, but the writing is beautiful, and the relationship between Eva and the chimps is touching.  Perhaps it hits a bit too close to home, as we see the slow degradation of the environment,  the increase in threatened species, and the role of the media in elevating the frivolous, just as the Shaper companies exploit Eva as a spokesperson for their advertisers.  Eva is struggling to find her own identity, as are all adolescents.  They too find themselves in a fragile world that will require their intervention to save it from disaster. 
Audience:  Middle School (grade 7 or 8), because of the age of the main character, but a high school student would enjoy the book as well.   A younger middle schooler with strong reading skills might also enjoy the book, particularly if he/she likes science. 
Reviewer: Diane Leone, Bethlehem Middle School Librarian, August 2012

Book Cover for Eva

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Dead End in Norvelt book cover

Gantos, Jack – Dead End in Norvelt
© 2011, 341 pages 
Description/Genre – Historical fiction, Humor
Summary – A thicker version of some of the humorous Gary Paulsen stories, Jack Gantos is the star of Gantos’ book where he is working as a scribe for Norvelt’s oldest woman, Miss Volker who has promised Eleanor Roosevelt to outlive everyone and write their obituaries that meld history with their life story.
Review – For reluctant readers, especially boys, Gantos weaves funny, mysterious, historical, and family into one neat package. Chapters where Miss Volker is melting her hands off or when Gantos’ blood gushes from his nose when he lies are unique and inventive. Boys who have read the book are equally drawn to the cars, the Grim Reaper costume, Gantos’ father’s weapons and everything to do with Gantos’ silly existence and ability to laugh at the situation and himself, giving boys a boost of self-esteem as well.   
Audience – 7th through 10th grade
Reviewed by – Alicia Abdul, Albany High School, Librarian, 2/2013

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Hinton, S.E. - The Outsiders
©1967, 192p
Description/Genre - Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction
Summary - This is a story about growing up and depicts the coming-of-age of Pony Boy Curtis. His life is full of difficulty given that he has a brother as his sole guardian; is entangled in the “gang” conflicts between his group, the Greasers, and the wealthier group, the Socs; and that he needs to escape into the country to evade the impending murder charge for a killing in the local park.
Review - Given that all of the characters in the novel are near adolescents, the reader can relate to the character’s struggle by remembering their own journey through those difficult years.  For teenagers reading the novel, this is an opportunity to see the how their own lives might have played out during the time period in the novel. This piece is abundance with dialogue, which makes it much easier for a read-aloud and themes of love, family, friendship, compassion, bravery, cowardice, and loss are still relevant and interesting topics forty-two years after publication.
Audience - Middle to High School ELA students.
Reviewed by - Chris Imperial, Guilderland High School, July 15, 2009
The Outsiders book cover

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Horvath, Polly – Everything on a Waffle
2001, 149 pages
Description/Genre - Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction
Summary – Primrose firmly believes that her parents will come back to her after her they are lost at sea, but in the meantime she must spend time with some very odd but entertaining characters, like a long-lost uncle who feels a kinship he wouldn’t let go of as he tries to gain custody of Primrose. Like many of Joan Bauer’s female protagonists, you root for Primrose every step of the way.
Review – Polly Horvath’s works are always full of zest and joy and that’s where the entertainment comes in. Very few stories have made me laugh out loud as this did with a very interesting scene in the restaurant! Then they can go whip up the recipes that end each chapter. Kids will be entertained by her as well as inspired to never give up hope when they believe something so much.
Audience – Middle school
Reviewed by – Alicia Abdul, Albany High School Librarian, February 2009

book cover of Everything on a Waffle

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Left to Tell book cover Ilibagiza, Immaculee – Left to Tell : Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
©2006, 215p.
Description/Genre- Nonfiction, Young Adult, Biography
Summary- This is the true story of a survivor, Immaculee Ilibagiza, from the Rwanda genocide in the 1990s written with Steve Irwin.   It is an incredible story of how one woman kept hope alive while facing unimaginable horrors during months of hiding from murderers in a small, windowless bathroom with over a half of a dozen other women.  It is estimated that over a million Rwandans were killed during this time including Immaculee’s family and many of her friends. Also, provides a look at history of this horrible time.
Review- While Immaculee turned to God for her strength; the message does not have to be a religious one.  Ultimately, it is a story of strong will and the ability to forgive the unforgiveable.   It delivers messages of overcoming extreme obstacles, facing loss, grief, resilience, finding hope in  time when there really does not appear to be any.  Prepare for an unforgettable and heart wrenching read.
Audience- High School Students
Reviewed by- Kristi Picard, South Colonie High School, 02/11

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Jackson, Shirley  The Lottery and Other Stories “Charles”
©1949, ~10 pages
Description/Genre –Short story
Summary- This is a funny story told by the mother of a rambunctious kindergartener, Laurie, which goes off to school for the first time. Laurie comes home everyday and tells his mom about a troublesome student in his class, Charles. The mom becomes concerned that this behavior will rub off on her own son, so she heads to a PTA meeting to meet with Laurie’s teacher to discuss that problem child. As she scans the room to spot the parents of such a bold child she sees Laurie’s teacher and in an unusual twist at the end she discovers that her son is “Charles”.
Review- I read this every year during one of the first days of school. Students always enjoy the story and when I read it a second time they enjoy picking out the examples of foreshadowing that are sprinkled throughout the story. I also use other Shirley Jackson short stories throughout the year so I can refer back to this first story. I also like this story, because it does refer to expectations of students in a classroom, whether it is kindergarten or 9th grade.
Audience- I enjoy using this for my freshmen introduction each year, but it could be used in later primary or middle grades. I change some of the verbiage (i.e. rubbers…rain shoes).
Reviewed by – Susan Olekoski, Schenectady High School, ELA Teacher, 2/2010

The Lottery Book Cover

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Sweet Smell of Roses Book Cover

Johnson, Angela, A Sweet Smell of Roses
Illustrated by: Eric Velasquez; ©2005, 32p
Description: Realistic Historical fiction
Summary: What a quiet beautifully simple read aloud. As Milli and her sister sneak out of the house “after a night of soft rain” they smell the sweet smell of roses. The sisters are unified and stand as one as they hold hands and march for freedom as so many children of the 1950’s and 1960’s did. They feel a sense of accomplishment, they feel strong and they feel Right as they march past others who would believe not. After their experience they return home to their momma on Charlotte Street and tell her of their adventure.
Review: Awesome “hook” for students learning about the civil rights movement. After a brainstorming session on civil rights this quick read will suck the learner. These characters smell the sweet smell of roses as they can smell the sweet smell of equality for all peoples in the United States of America and feel as though they contributed to the good of the order.
Audience: eighth grade social studies
Reviewed by: Lisa Spadinger, Voorheesville Middle School, Resource Room Teacher/Reading Specialist, 2/10.

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Book cover Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Kinney, Jeff – Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Illustrated by Kinney, Jeff, ©2007, 224 pages
Description-Graphic Novel (sort of) or Illustrated Novel
Summary- Greg Heffley is an unlikely hero.  This 6th grader is the friend that you’d never want since he constantly puts his needs above everyone else’s.  With that being said, Greg is not at all malicious, he is just a typical middle school student with warped perspective.  The story follows Greg through his 6th grade year of Middle School, where
students begin to evaluate their popularity and become more aware of their peers.  Greg definitely has social issues that make you laugh out loud.  It’s really fun to see Greg get into trouble and even more fun to see how he tries to squirm out of it.
Review-This story is hilarious!  Middle School students really relate to Greg Heffley, which is very scary to say.  I think all middle school teachers should read this book so they can better understand the mindset of the students that they teach.
Audience-Intermediate, but enjoyed by all, especially middle school teachers; this would be a great read aloud book for a Faculty Meeting
Reviewed by-Jessica Bradshaw, Voorheesville Middle School, 7th Grade Life Science Teacher (1,09)

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Li, Moying –Snow Falling in Spring
©2008, 192  
Description/Genre- Memoir.
Summary – A young girls story of coming of age during the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward under the leadership of Mao Zedong in the 1940’s Communistic state of China.  Moying Li shares her story beginning with the burning of household metal items in her youth to aid the industrialization of her nation to her recollections of the Red Guard’s formation and brutal assualts on individuals deemed “anti-communist.” 
Review – My students were able to gain a better understanding of the impact of Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward through Moying Li’s vividly accurate descriptions.  One scene, in particular, most of my students write about as a cause/effect of the time period in which the headmaster of Moying Li’s school committs suicide to prevent being assualted and forced to work on a labor camp. 
Audience- Intermediate
Reviewed by – Andrea DeStefano, Cohoes High School, Social Studies Teacher, 7/22/09

Snow Falling in Spring Book Cover

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The Rough Face Girl Book Martin, Rafe – The Rough-Face Girl
Illus David Shannon, c1992, unp.
Description – Picture Book, Fiction, Native American
Summary – Rough-Face Girl, so called because tending the fire has scarred her face, has two greedy sisters who want to marry the great Invisible Being.  Her sisters take the family’s only goods to try and woo him.  Neither is successful.  Then Rough-Face Girl decides to try, as she sees the Invisible Being everywhere she looks.  Because there is nothing of value left for her to use, she must make do with what she has.  A Native American Cinderella story.
Review – I loved reading this to my students when I taught pre-school but have found that 7th graders enjoy it just as much, especially when learning about Native American nations.  It has a theme that speaks to most people, because it is not about being beautiful but about looking at things in different ways.
Curriculum Connections – Social Studies for learning about Native American legends; Character Education; English in a storytelling or short story unit.
Audience – all ages
Reviewed by – Megan Jackson, Bethlehem Central Middle School, ELA 6 teacher, 4/06

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Minters, Frances. Cinder-Elly
Illustrator – Karas, G. Brian. ©1994. 32p.
Description/Genre – Picture Book/Fairy Tale
Summary – This is a modern rap version of Cinderella. The youngest sister gets to attend a basketball game, her transportation is a bicycle and the slipper is a sneaker. Prince Charming turns out to be the star player.
Review – While the theme is the same, the updates, bright and colorful cartoon illustrations and rap beat are great fun.
Audience- I used the book with a high school special needs class, but it would be more common to use it at a primary or intermediate level. I first read aloud a more traditional version of Cinderella and then introduced this one. Students were asked to compare and contrast the two versions. I was afraid they might think it was too young for them, but they actually loved it. The laughter was sincere and the discussion was lively. We talked about how the themes of various fairy tales are repeated in many different cultures. I had borrowed several different versions of Cinderella and they read them in their classroom.
Reviewed by – Cheryl Charbonneau, Guilderland High School, Library Media Specialist (8/07)

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The Paper Bag Princess Book Munch, Robert N., - The Paper Bag Princess
c1980 Illus. by Michael Martchenko
Description/Genre- picture book, Fiction, satire
Summary- Elizabeth is a beautiful princess who is going to marry and equally beautiful Prince named Ronald.  One day, a dragon came and smashed her castle, burned her clothes and carried her prince away.  Not being a person who lays on her laurels, Elizabeth decided to get Ronald back!  She found the only thing that wasn’t burnt (a paper bag), put it on, and was on her way.  Elizabeth finds the dragon, and outsmarts him, and gets her Ronald back.  But is he everything she thought she always wanted?
Review- I absolutely love reading this book aloud!  When I first started teaching, I taught in a pre-school, and they loved this book!  The pictures made them laugh, and the story itself made them root for Elizabeth!  Now, being an eight grade English teacher, I still use this book in my classroom.  When we do our Fantasy/Science Fiction/Humor Unit, this is an excellent book to use as an example of satire, stereotypes, humor and fairy tales.  I’ve found that even my eight grade students love story time!
Audience- Primary-Advanced (something for everyone)
Reviewed by- Shawn Snyder, Ravena Middle School, English Teacher, 4/06

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Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds  -  Shiloh
© 2000, 137 pages
Description- Realistic Fiction
Review- This book is a story about a boy Marty who happens upon a beagle that follows him. He learns how the beagle’s owner, Judd Travers, mistreats his dogs, and takes it upon himself to save the beagle from abuse by hiding him at his home.  
Curriculum Connections- When I read this book aloud many discussions naturally occur about animal abuse, what is right, what is wrong, lying to protect, and lying by omission to name a few. Shiloh contains strong language and we talk about the author’s use of words and how the words help us learn about the character (Judd Travers) before reading this together. This book deals with the following topics and more: loyalty, empathy, conflict, courage, fairness, responsibility, and family.
Awards- The 1992 Newbery Medal was awarded to Shiloh, as well as 25 state children's choice awards.
NYS Standards- English Language Arts: Standard 1, Standard 2, Standard 3, Standard 4
                              Social Studies: Standard 5
Grade Level-6
Reviewed by- Christine Shiely, Cobleskill-Richmondville Schools, Literacy Specialist 2/17/2010

Shiloh book cover

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Paulsen, Gary.  Lawn Boy
©2007, 96 pages.
Description/Genre:  Humorous Fiction
Summary:  A 12-year-old boy receives a used lawn mower from his grandmother for his birthday.  As he begins to mow more and more lawns, one of his customers, a financial planner, helps him to begin to invest his earnings in stocks and other places.  Before he knows it, our hero has employees, a large amount of money, and even “owns” a boxer.  Thrown in some mobsters and some oblivious parents and you have the very funny book called, Lawn Boy.
Review:  I read this book aloud with my lunch club for reluctant readers who are also identified with reading problems.  All of the students loved this story and couldn’t stop laughing.  What was really incredible was that besides getting to read more, all of the students in the group could give anyone a simple description of the stock market  and financial planning by the end of the book.  (They actually sat around and had discussions about it, which is how I know they got the concepts).  I enjoyed it because it was a really funny quick read, which actually taught me something, besides entertaining me.
Audience:  This book is perfect for middle-schoolers, grades 6-8.
Reviewed by:Beth Davis. Berne-Knox-Westerlo Middle/Senior High School, School Library Media Specialist, August, 2009
Lawn Boy Book Cover

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book cover of My Life in Dog Years Paulsen, Gary - My Life In Dog Years
Illus. by Paulsen, Ruth Wright, c1999, 144p

Description: Non-fiction memoirs of Paulsen’s experiences with some of his dogs.  This book is divided into dog chapters; each chapter is devoted to a favorite canine.
Summary: The title tells all.  This is a glimpse into the life of a famed author through his dogs.  Each chapter tells of a dog he has owned- what he has learned, what he remembers and what he cherished about each one. The reader of this book gets to know Paulsen even better.
Review:  What an amazing emotional trip!  I sobbed uncontrollably, and I laughed until I snorted.  Paulsen’s usual tell-it-like-it-is style captured me from the very beginning.  I have yet to read it to a student who didn’t like it. What kid (young or old) can resist a dog? The amazing detail and wonderful sketches (by his wife) of each dog bring each best friend to life.  You know the dog… or someone who has owned one just like it.  It is in my top five for kids who “don’t like to read” and my slow readers.  The interest level is outstanding, and the content, though centered around dogs, spans Paulsen’s life leading to lessons about World War II, dog sledding and much more.
Audience: read aloud grades 5 and up.  (Also a great independent read for grades 6 and up due to some higher level vocabulary.)
Reviewed by: Stephanie Patten Wrobleski, Ballston Spa Middle School English AIS teacher grades 7 & 8, February, 2007.

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Peck, Richard -  A Long Way from Chicago
Cover Illustrator – Smith, Debora, c1998, 176p
Description/Genre – Historical Fiction
Summary – This book is written as a series of short stories that take place during the Depression.  Joey Dowdel and his sister, Mary Alice, spend each summer with their grandmother who has some very “unconventional” ways of dealing with life.  As each summer passes, Joey and Mary Alice, who hail from Chicago, learn to understand and appreciate their Grandma Dowdel, who has a quick mind and a heart of gold.
Review – This book is packed with action and humorous tales.  Joey and Mary Alice encounter all sorts of interesting characters when they visit their grandmother’s “hick-town” each summer.  These characters seem to come to life and all of my students have been able to relate to the events that take place.  Each chapter is a sequential summer, so it creates the effect of reading a series of short stories.  This has really helped maintain interest with my students and provides lots of opportunities for mini-lessons and projects around each chapter.  From catching the sheriff and his cronies singing in their underwear at the local Rod & Gun Club to pulling a fast one at the local fair to win her grandson a much desired airplane ride, Grandma Dowdel perpetually entertains the reader.  The students I read this to last year continue to talk about this book in detail over a year after we finished reading it!
Audience- Young Adult (Grades 6-8)
Reviewed by – Cindy Markham, Scotia-Glenville Middle School, Speech-language Pathologist, April 2006
book cover of A Long Way from Chicago

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Picoult, Jodi. – My Sister’s Keeper
©2005, 448 p. 
Description/Genre - Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction, Family Drama
Summary - This is a story about a family’s struggle to survive. True, there is a major tragedy in the works -- a young girl is deathly ill and has been for a significant amount of time. Moreover, there are the issues with her sister being her cure. However, I think this novel speaks to more “mundane” issues of contemporary family life – a child who is constantly in trouble with the law and with school, a father who has to experience stress in every aspect of his life, and a mother who is mentally over-taxed, and entire collection of people forced to make rapid decisions, legal and ethical, without any foundation or experience to do an adequate job.
Review - From all perspectives, this is a sad story, with only momentary hints of humor and happiness interjected into the prose. Surrounded by the major theme of a sick child, a family finds themselves in a place they never thought they would end up in, and making decisions that one could criticize from afar but might understand upfront. On the periphery, we learn of other characters who are facing similar battles. Through a rich narration and a very captive setting, Picoult opens up a world that makes us cringe and cry at the same time.
Audience – High School Students, ELA
Reviewed by - Chris Imperial, Guilderland High School, August 11, 2010
My sister's keeper book cover

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book cover of The Tell-Tale Heart Poe, Edgar Allan – The Tell-Tale Heart
© 1843 5 pg
Description/Genre – Short Story
Summary – What more could a 6th grader ask for around Halloween time?  Enter the mind of our narrator, who wants to convince the audience he is not insane and did not dislike the old man he murders.  “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a great 1st person point of view narrative that unfolds before the eyes of the audience.  Slowly the audience comes to understand the man before them is as insane as a chicken walking into KFC.  The question then remains, will he get caught for murdering the old man all because of his vulture eye?
Review – Every year I add another prop to my performance of “The Tell-Tale Heart”.  I’m in my third year using this macabre tale to introduce students to the 1st person point of view narrative style of writing in the form of a short story.  My classroom is transformed into the old man’s bedroom complete with bed, floorboards, a red light, cobwebs, an old man (his head and hand & stuffed clothing although a student works well too) and one beautiful rubber heart).  I then perform this tale in front of the students with the lights out for dramatic effect.  I nearly have it memorized, but still cheat with a book light.
At the end, students are asked to be detectives/lawyers and collect the evidence that proves our narrator is insane and guilty.
Audience – Middle School (all levels…heck even high school with some added special effects, maybe a strobe light during the murder scene…sorry I really get into the performance)
Reviewed by – Marc Mostransky, R-C-S Middle School, ELA 6 Teacher, 4/06

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Rawls, Wilson – Where the Red Fern Grows
c1961, 249p
Description / Genre – Full-length chapter book, fictin
Summary – Billy is a young boy growing up in the country.  He longs for hunting dogs, but his family is too poor.  Billy does everything he can to make some money and buy his dogs.  This adventure includes a trip into the city to pick up the dogs.  Billy forms an unforgettable bond with his two new best friends.  This is also a heart-wrenching tale of love that is lost.
Review – I have been reading this book aloud to sixth graders since I started teaching 7 years ago.  The emotional roller-coaster that Billy survives touches each student differently.  There are always a number of students who cry at the end of this book.  It is a great way to show students how powerful good literature can be.  This book also teaches the lesson of working hard for something that you really want.
Audience – intermediate
Reviewed by – Angel Jewell, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk MS, English 8 / AIS 6-8, 4/06
book cover of Where the Red Fern Grows

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Reynolds, Peter H. - Ish
c2004, 32p
Description/Genre – Picture book (realistic fiction)
Summary – Ramon loves to draw, until his brother makes fun of his drawings. After that, Ramon begins to criticize his own work—crumpling each new picture he creates—until he finds all of his crumpled work on display in his sister’s room. She teaches him that it’s OK to be “ish”—to simply do the best you can do.
Review – I love this book! I share it (along with The Dot, also by Reynolds) with my new students each September. We then use the “ish” phrase all year long—as in, “My writing piece is Cynthia-Rylant-ish.” It’s a quick read, but the message is long-lasting.
Audience – Every age will enjoy this story.
Reviewed by – Rebecca Wlazlo, Farnsworth Middle School, 3/11
Ish book cover

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Oh the Places You'll Go Book

Dr. Seuss- Oh, The Places You’ll Go...
©1999, 48p.
Description – Picture Book
Review – A must read for anyone graduating (whether it’s elementary, middle, or high school; it even would be great for college graduates)!!A wonderful book about the ups and downs of life; done in the usual Dr. Seuss fashion. The book puts the reader (or in this case the audience) as the main character and discusses the importance perseverance in life.
Suggestion for Classroom Use – Would be perfect to read at a moving up day ceremony or either graduation type ceremony. If that is not possible it would be perfect as a read-aloud during the last day of a given class. I even decided to have a student of mine read it before he graduated in December and seemed to enjoy it
Audience – Anyone
Reviewed by: Nicole Wilber, RCS, Alternative Education Teacher, 3/08
**Editor’s note: I had a college professor read this book to my class, a semester before we were scheduled to student teach and I thought it was awesome**

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Snyder, Zilpha Keatley – The Egypt Game
©2009, 240 p.
Description/Genre – Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction
Summary – This is a story about a girl who moves to a new town to live with her grandmother and is very stubborn when it comes to making friends.  She does make friends and becomes very close with them.  While studying about Egypt in school, they come across an empty area behind a store where they begin their game.  The fantasies of the friends make the story very mysterious and exciting.  After finally meeting the owner of the store who owns the empty area where they have made their Egypt, they learn what friendship and understanding is all about.
Review – This is a great read-aloud for 6th graders while learning about Egypt in social studies.  The students love the real references to Egyptian facts.  They can also relate to the different characters in the story as each character has a very different personality.  But as middle school students, they can relate to knowing each and every one of those personalities.  Many times after listening to this story, students go on to read The Gypsy Game on their own.
Audience – 6th grade
Reviewed by – Cori Spain, Watervliet Elementary School, Teaching Assistant, 2/12

Book Cover for The Egypt Game

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Steinbeck, John.  Of Mice and Men
©1937  107 pages
Description/ Genre: Chapter Book    Fiction          
Summary:  George and Lennie are two migrant workers during the Great Depression.  Lennie, a large, strong man, is able to do the work of two men, but his mental disability results in actions that he describes as “I done a bad thing.”  George promised Lennie’s aunt that he would take care of Lennie, so the two travel and work together.  However, they have to run away from a job when Lennie began to stroke the soft skirt of a young woman who panicked and called for help.  The novel begins as they find work bucking barley on a ranch, and George gives Lennie instructions about where to meet him if he ever gets in trouble.  Inevitably, Lennie does get in trouble, accidentally killing a woman, and runs to the brush where George finds him.  George makes a very difficult decision about what to do in order to keep Lennie from being hung or put in jail when the other workers find him.
Review: I have read this book often to 9th or 10th grade learning disabled students as we replicate the curriculum taught in the general education English classes.  It is a powerful novel.  Even though it was written more than seventy years ago, it speaks to students today in its themes of friendship, trying to achieve the American Dream and dealing with discrimination against blacks, against women and against the disabled.  Time and again, there is absolute silence in the classroom as students wait to hear what will happen next, and the ending leaves them stunned.  It is the catalyst for some great discussions.
Audience: High school students
Reviewed by:  Mary Jane Brown, Bethlehem Central High School, Special Educator, February, 2011
Of Mice and Men book cover

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Book Cover for the Book Thief

Zusak, Marcus-The Book Thief
©2006, 576 Pages
Description – Historical Fiction
Summary- The Book Thief is the story of a young girl living in Nazi Germany during WWII.  Her mother, a communist, is forced to give her and her brother up to a foster family, and her brother dies on the way to his new home.  Liesel is left alone with a new family in a very poor neighborhood.  Her life is a struggle and she has difficulties adjusting, but she grows to love her new family and she makes new friends.  Liesel struggles as her foster father teaches her to read. She steals books from the governor’s wife, who she befriends, earning her nickname.  One day, her foster father is asked to help the son of a man who had saved his life in WWI.  They must hide him in their basement as he is Jewish.  You can feel the tension in the book, as this little family eeks its way through WWII. Death continues to narrate the book, and is never far away. In the end, death wins as the little town is bombed and many people that Liesel loves are killed.  She is saved, along with the governor’s wife, and they go on together.
Review- This book is an amazing read aloud!  The narrator is death, who is very busy during the war. That gives the book an interesting twist, and may inspire young adult writers to think differently about their own writing.  The story itself is very compelling, and there are many places to stop where students will be looking forward to your next time to read aloud.  Lastly, it creates empathy for others, and an understanding of one facet of World War II.
Audience –
Young Adult
Reviewed by – Kelly Chila, O’Rourke Middle School, Teaching Assistant, 8/12

Zusak, Marcus  - The Book Thief
White, Trudy,  © 2006, 552p.
Description/Genre – History Fiction with some graphic novel aspects
Summary:  A unique holocaust novel, narrated by Death, which tells the story of Liesel, a young girl sent by her mother to be housed in an area that is safer than her own home.  En route, Death comes to take her brother and Liesel ends up alone living with strangers, including a young Jewish man who is in hiding in the basement of the house. Liesel spends her time visiting the library of a well-off family and, on occasion, she takes books she finds impossible to leave behind. This book rocked me with its sensitivity, stark beauty and characters.
Review: This book was memorable for me for the stark yet rich language, the structure which includes a mini graphic novel within the novel and the character, Liesel, a true survivor.  This book never fails to have an impact on students who I have persuaded to take it on.  Death is an eternally present condition and I think that the personification of death as narrator can be soothing to students who have experienced loss.  Liesel’s situation is directly related to the Holocaust, however, her feelings of emotional confusion and acting out are universal young adult emotions making her an extremely sympathetic character. 
Recommended Grade Level(s) – 9 also appropriate for grades 8 – 12
Reviewed by Silvia Meder Lilly, BCMS/HS, LMS, 2/13

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