Category Archives: Elementary Books

New Releases

Today we are looking at a few new releases from the first half of 2012 that are worth checking out.

Penny and Her Song

Penny and Her Song is by the wildly popular Kevin Henkes.  This is a beginning reader chapter book (2 chapters) that follows Penny as she tries to capture an audience to listen to her new song.  In the clip below, Henkes introduces us to the character, Penny.

Builder Goose (It’s Construction Rhyme Time)

Builder Goose: It’s Construction Rhyme Time! by Boni Ashburn and Sergio DeGiorgi plays off classic nursery rhymes with a construction twist.  The illustrations are bold and lively.  This is a fun read for young readers.

Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons

Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin is next in a series of Pete the Cat picture books.   In this tale, Pete sings a groovy song about his buttons.  However, his buttons keep popping off.  No need to worry.  Pete discovers he will always have a bellybutton that he can sing about.  Children even learn a little basic subtraction in this tale.  Get a little taste of the book in the clip below.

Bugs Galore

Bugs Galore by Peter Stein and Bob Staake is a perfect book for your little bug lover.  Lots of descriptive adjectives to describe all those bugs also helps build vocabulary.

Enjoy checking out one of these 2012 new releases.  What other 2012 releases have you found to be noteworthy?

*Please check out the linky party directory to see where this post has been linked to for the week.


ABC Books

There is an ABC book out there on just about any topic.  They range from very simple labeling of basic objects to complex descriptions of specific subjects.  ABC books aren’t just for beginning readers.  They can teach something to all of us no matter what our age.   Let’s look at some interesting ABC books on a variety of subjects.

Firefighters A to Z by Chris L. Demarest

I love when authors write about topics that are meaningful to them.  Demarest was a member of a volunteer fire department in New Hampshire when he wrote this book.  The text is short, but informative. What is most interesting is that the text follows the real life order firefighters take when fighting a fire from when the alarm (A) sounds all the way to zipping (Z) into bed for a rest.  He ends the book with an author’s note filled with fascinating and important information about fires.

On Your Toes- A Ballet ABC by Rachel Isadora

Here is another book where the author has some real-life experience with the subject.  Isadora was a ballet dancer with the Boston Ballet before she became a successful writer and illustrator.  Her colored pastel illustrations will capture the attention of any child dreaming of being a dancer.  I will say that it’s helpful to have some background knowledge on the subject to understand some of the vocabulary such as pas de chat and harlequin.  Although, Isadora does include a glossary for each word she depicts in her ABC book.

Potluck by Anne Shelby and Irene Trivas

Potluck is one of my favorites.  Maybe it’s so well liked because it revolves around food!  Some friends get together for a potluck and each person brings an item that begins with the first letter of their name.

Lonnie loves lasagna, so he brought lots of that.

Monica made mounds and mounds of mashed potatoes.

Norman knew that oodles of noodles would be needed.

I’ve used this book countless times in the classroom.  One of my favorite activities was to create a class book with each student writing and illustrating a page for our own potluck book.  The students always had a fun time researching a food that began with the letter of their first name.  I’ve also used the book as an administrator when we held a potluck lunch for a staff development day.  Each participant signed up to bring an item that began with the first letter of their first or last name.  I created a sign-up sheet on chart paper labeled with the ABCs down the side for each participant to record their dish.

All Aboard ABC by Dough Magee and Robert Newman

This book will educate a train enthusiast.  I’m guessing this will be a favorite of my oldest son when he gets a bit bigger.  The illustrations are photographs of trains and all things train related.  Diesel engines, junction, signals and freight cars are just a few words that you’ll pick up in this informational book.

The Desert Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta and Mark Astrella

This book is just one of Pallotta’s 24 ABC books that he has written in addition to several other books.  Each of his ABC books is loaded with information on the topic he is covering.  In The Desert Alphabet Book you will learn facts such as a Headstanding Beetle stands on its head to collect droplets of water on its body that then slide down to its mouth.

Eating the Alphabet- Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

This is a great book to introduce children to new vegetables and fruits.  In fact, it would work well with the tasting passports that I talked about last week!  This is a very bold and colorful labeling book.  Ehlert includes a very detailed glossary at the end of the book.  Did you know that celery is native to the Mediterranean area and the Middle East and was cultivated by the Romans?

Hurricane City by Sarah Weeks and James Warhola

It has always fascinated me that hurricanes have people names and that every hurricane for each season is named in ABC order.  This silly tale revolves around the havoc that different named hurricanes have on towns.

Hurricane GABRIEL blew like mad-

Father lost what hair he had.

Hurricane OPAL huffed and puffed,

Sandwiches came all unstuffed.

A Garden Alphabet by Isabel Wilner and Ahsley Wolff

This is a great book for the spring as we begin to plant our gardens.  Travel through the alphabet as a garden is planted, nurtured and harvested.  The simple text is perfect for the preschool crowd.

Antics by Cathi Hepworth

26 words in ABC order that all have the little word “ant” in them!  Yep, who would have thought that they all existed.  Hepworth showcases them in this clever book.  Flamboyant, gallant and hesitant just to name a few.  How many more can you think of?

Avalanche by Michael J. Rosen and David Butler

This ABC book is actually a story.  The author highlights the alphabet during the tale of  a snowball that grows into an avalanche while collecting items in its path.  This is a fun twist on the predictable type of ABC books we are familiar with reading.

So here are ten of my favorites.  What ABC books are you fond of?  Let’s grow the list even more.

Please check out my linky party directory to see where this post has been linked to this week.

Building Literacy in the Kitchen

Between prepping meals, eating meals and cleaning up after meals, my family spends the majority of our waking time in the kitchen.  Our kitchen also opens into the hearth room which adds to the number of hours spent in this area.  So, this got me thinking about what one could do in the kitchen to help promote literacy development in our youngsters.  The ideas kept flowing, so I thought I’d share some of the better ones with you!

Salt or Sugar Writing

Tactile learners will enjoy practicing letter or word writing with their finger in a shallow container of salt or sugar.  When they are done, store the sugar or salt in a labeled Ziploc bag for future use.

ABC of Spices

Have you had some spices in the back of the cupboard for years?  Pull them all out (Throw out the ones that don’t have a scent anymore!) and let your child put them in ABC order.  Not only will it provide a literacy opportunity for your child, but it will also organize your life.  I’ve had my spice cabinet alphabetized for years.  It makes cooking so much easier.

Menu Creation

For over a year now, I’ve created a weekly dinner menu and posted it on one of my favorite blogs, This Week for Dinner.  I’ve found that it has decreased our grocery bill and has helped me to create more balanced meals.  Creating a menu for a day or week is a great activity to do with your kids.  This especially works well with picky eaters.  If you allow the kids to have some input into planning the menu, they generally will try more foods.  Pull out some cookbooks, and pick out some new recipes out to try.  You are not only helping your child make food choices, but you are helping them develop their reading and writing skills.  Kids could post the weekly menu on the refrigerator or display it on the table for the whole family to see.  Then, get the kids to help you create a grocery list to support the menu!  Oh, the real world writing possibilities!

Tasting Passport

A tasting passport is an extension of the idea above.  Create a passport complete with your child’s picture.  On each page your child can draw a picture of a new food or cuisine they have tried.  Younger children can label each picture using inventive spelling.  Older children can write about each tasting experience.  The goal is to see how many passport pages your child can fill.  What a great way to get picky eaters to try new foods.

Muffin Tin Reading Games

Last year, I posted several muffin tin literacy games that use a muffin tin and a few other supplies.  It is my most popular post to date.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

Pancake Letters and Sounds

For an extra special breakfast, make pancakes shaped like letters.  Then, during breakfast, have your child brainstorm words that begin with the sound each pancake shaped letter represents.

aWhy not share the book, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola during this special morning time too.

A variation of this to idea and use it when baking bread or pretzels.

Spaghetti Letters

Let your youngster form letters using strings of cooked spaghetti.  This is a simple activity for your child to do while you are prepping something in the kitchen.


Have your child create placemats for tonight’s dinner.  Simply give your child some paper and crayons/markers and a literacy starter.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  •  Draw your favorite scene from a book you read today.
  •  Pick a letter sound and draw or write as many things as you can think of that begin with that sound.
  •  Divide your placemat into three sections.  Draw a picture of the beginning, middle and end of a story we read today.
  •  Write a note to each family member and then decorate it.
  •  Create and decorate a name poem for each family member on their very own placemat.

M- Memory keeper

O- Outstanding cook

M- Master hugger

Don’t forget some of the common, simple and easy ideas such as using magnetic letters on the refrigerator to spell words.  The refrigerator is also a great canvas for displaying your child’s work.  Or, how about pulling out the cereal box and reading the nutritional label.  How do you help develop literacy in the kitchen?

Please check out the linky party page to see where this post has been linked to for the week.

Author/Illustrator Spotlight: Patricia Polacco

I have a handful of favorite children’s authors/illustrators- Cynthia Rylant, Eric Carle, Gail Gibbons, and Lois Ehlert. However, my favorite author of all time is Patricia Polacco.

Polacco came from a family of storytellers.  She used many of these childhood oral stories and her imagination to begin writing children’s books at age 41.  Most of her books draw on inspiration from her own life and her rich cultural background.  Polacco has written and illustrated over 50 books!

Here are a few of my absolute favorites.

Thank You Mr. Falker

Patricia Polacco didn’t learn how to read until she was 14 years old.  It was a wonderful teacher who discovered that she had dyslexia.  This book is a tribute to that teacher, Mr. Falker.  This great teacher not only recognized that there was a reading problem and got help for Polacco, but also addressed a boy who was teasing this young girl because she couldn’t read.  The book is a powerful story for children with reading problems and those that are being teased.  It also makes a wonderful gift to a teacher who has made a difference in your life.

Thunder Cake

As a child, Polacco feared Michigan thunderstorms.  In this story, her grandmother distracts  her with the idea of baking a cake during this type of weather.  Polacco and her grandmother gather ingredients from the farm to prepare the cake.  As they enjoy a warm slice of cake, grandmother points out that only a brave girl could gather all of the items from the farm during the loud thunder.

At the end of the book is a recipe for Thunder Cake with one odd ingredient- tomatoes!

The Lemonade Club

Many of Polacco’s books have powerful messages which is one of the reasons that I love them so much.  In The Lemonade Club, two 5th grade best friends are faced with a challenge when one of them is diagnosed with leukemia.  They learn that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade with the help of a teacher and an entire class.


Meteor was Polacco’s first children’s book and is based on a true story.  A meteor actually landed in the Michigan town where she lived!  This funny story captures the magic that captivated the town over this event.

When Lightning Comes in a Jar

When Lightning Comes in a Jar is full of text-to-self connections for me.  Every year Polacco’s extended family gathered together and celebrated lots of family rituals that involved Jello dishes (I can relate!) and lots of stories while looking through photo albums.  This particular year, grandma decides to initiate a new ritual of collecting lightning in a jar.  This is one ritual that Polacco loved and continued to pass down to other family members.

I hope you will check out one of the listed books or one of Polacco’s other 45 titles.  I’d love to hear which ones are your favorites.

Books to Celebrate Earth Day and a GIVEAWAY

There are so many great books that have been published for children regarding the care of our earth.  It’s actually pretty exciting to see this topic covered so well.  I’ve narrowed down a few of my top picks and hope that you will check them out with your young readers.

The Wartville Wizard by Don Madden

The town is being buried in trash.  Careless citizens are throwing gum and soda bottles on the ground.  One tidy man realizes he has the power to get rid of the trash and teaches the town a lesson.  This is such a fun and silly book packed with a powerful environmental message.

This Is Our Earth by Laura Lee Benson and illustrated by John Carrozza

Benson uses rhythmic verse to paint a portrait of appreciation for our earth at the top of each page.  The subtext at the bottom of each page gives facts to introduce life and earth sciences.  I love the last line, “This is our Earth to cherish and love.  To clean and protect from below and above.”

Our Earth by Anne Rockwell

This story explains how our earth has changed over time.  Islands, glaciers, volcanoes, coral reefs, forests, and caves are all explored in this simple introduction book.

Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole

In the garden that Jack built you will see and meet lots of plants and animals.  Over the course of this cumulative book, you will watch his garden bloom.  This is an excellent book for building vocabulary.

Wilson’s World by Edith Thacher Hurd and Clement Hurd

Wilson sets out to paint a picture and create a story that he titles, “THIS IS WILSON”S WORLD”.  As Wilson adds more and more to his picture he realizes that his “world” is quickly becoming polluted and crowded.   So, he takes out a clean piece of paper and begins to create a world that he really wants to be a part of.  He creates a world where everyone takes care of the environment.

Dear Children of the Earth by Schim Schimmel

This is a letter that Mother Earth writes to the world about the importance of respecting the planet.   Schimmel’s acrylic paintings are a beautiful accompaniment to the poignant text.

City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

A vacant lot sits in the middle of a city block.  A young girl has an idea to turn the run-down lot into a green space.   The story blossoms into a whole neighborhood coming together to create this beautiful space.  At the end of this book are tips to starting your own community garden.  I like this book so much that I’m giving one hardbound copy of the book away to a lucky Growing Book by Book reader.

Giveaway Guidelines

You have multiple chances to win a hardbound copy of City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan.

1.  Leave a comment on this post.

2.  Like Growing Book by Book on Facebook.  Simply use the button in the right hand tool bar THEN, leave another comment saying that you liked Growing Book by Book on Facebook.

3.  Become an email follower.  You can find a spot in the right hand tool bar to fill out your email address to become a follower.  Make sure to leave a comment that you became a follower.

4.  Become a Pinterest follower.  Click the Pinterest button on the right and then click on follow once you get to Pinterest.  Be sure to leave a comment on this post telling me you became a Pinterest follower.

There you go!  Four ways to win!  Entries will be accepted until 4/22/12 (Earth Day!) at 9:00pm (CST).  The lucky giveaway winner will be randomly selected the week of 4/23/12 and announced on this site.  I will contact the winner via email.   I can ship to USA addresses only.   Good luck!

Be sure to check my linky party page to see where I’ve linked up to this week.

National Poetry Month and a GIVEAWAY

April is National Poetry Month.  To honor the poetry genre, we’ll look at my top ten children’s poetry books.  Plus, one lucky reader will win one of my favorite poetry books!  Drumroll please…

1.  Sing a Song of Popcorn

Not only does it contain a great collection of poetry (over 100 poems), but it also features the illustrations of nine Caldecott artists.  Poems are clustered into topics such as “Spooky Poems” and “Mostly Nonsense”.  It also includes my favorite poem, “Sunflakes”.

2. Hailstones and Halibut Bones

This is a short book that explores the vivid imagery of twelve different colors.   A book for all ages.

 “Black is the night

When there isn’t a star

And you can’t tell by looking

Where you are.”

3. Where the Sidewalk Ends

A favorite poetry list must include something by Shel Silverstein.  The collection is full of humorous poetry with Silverstein’s own illustrations.

4. A Pizza the Size of the Sun

Jack Prelutsky is a well-known children’s poet.  The book contains over 100 humorous poems.

5.  Spectacular Science

Lee Bennett Hopkins selected the poems for this book.  You will find poems about magnets, metamorphosis, snowflakes,  stars and more.

6.  Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers (A Collection of Family Poems)

Mary Ann Hoberman showcases families in this collection of poems from “Cousins are Cozy” to “When Annie Was Adopted”.

7.  Snuffles and Snouts

A whole book of poetry about pigs!  Steven Kellogg illustrated the collection.  It’s a beautiful and fun book.

8.  At the Crack of the Bat

Just in time for baseball season, Lillian Morrison has compiled over 30 poems about the beloved sport.  Take me out the ballgame!

9.  Monster Soup and Other Spooky Poems

This collection features poets such as Rowena Bennett, Jack Prelutsky, Beatrice Schenk de Regniers and more.  Poems are silly and spooky, but not scary!

10. The Random House Book of Poetry for Children

A powerful duo of Jack Prelutsky, who compiled the poems, and Arnold Lobel, who illustrated the book,  equals one classic poetry book to have in your collection.  It has always been one of my go to resources for great poems.  I like it so much that I giving a copy away to one lucky reader!

Giveaway Guidelines

You have multiple chances to win a hardcover copy of The Random House Book of Poetry for Children.

1.  Leave a comment on this post.

2.  Like Growing Book by Book on Facebook.  Simply use the button in the right hand tool bar THEN, leave another comment saying that you liked Growing Book by Book on Facebook.

3.  Become an email follower.  You can find a spot in the right hand tool bar to fill out your email address to become a follower.  Make sure to leave a comment that you became a follower.

4.  Become a Pinterest follower.  Click the Pinterest button on the right and then click on follow once you get to Pinterest.  Be sure to leave a comment on this post telling me you became a Pinterest follower.

There you go!  Four ways to win!  Entries will be accepted until 4/8/12 at 9:00pm (CST).  The lucky giveaway winner will be randomly selected the week of 4/9/12 and announced on this site.  The winner will have 5 days to contact me with mailing information.  If the winner does not contact me within the given time, another winner will be selected.  Good luck!

And, don’t forget to celebrate Poem In Your Pocket Day on April 26th.  Simply carry around your favorite poem in your pocket for the day and share it with others.

*Check out my linky party page to see where I’ve linked to this week.

10 Books About Frogs

Spring is just around the corner!  Next to fall, spring is my favorite season.  I love watching flowers and trees bloom and the return of all the little creatures.  So, this week, I thought we would look at one of those creatures that appears in the spring-  FROGS!  Here are my top 10 picks for books about frogs.


1.  Bradley McGogg, The Very Fine Frog by Tim Beiser came out in 2011.  Bradley learns that not everyone eats the same things as he does, and that is ok.  It really has a great message about respecting customs and preferences of others.

2.  City Dog, Country Frog by Jon Muth is a story with a deep message.  The tale of finding a friend and then losing him gently teaches that all living things have a beginning and an ending.

3.  Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel is a classic in a series of books by Lobel.  There are five silly adventures in this book highlighting the everlasting friendship of a frog and a toad.

4.  Jump Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan is a fun cumulative tale that will get the kids up and jumping.

5.  Tuesday by David Wiesner is an almost wordless book about frogs who take flight on their lily pads.  The illustrations won Wiesner a Caldecott award in 1992.

6.  It’s Mine by Leo Lionni is a tale of three frogs who argue all day about things that they find and want to claim as their own until they learn from a toad that sharing is much more rewarding.

7.  Bentley & Egg by William Joyce follows a frog who is in charge of watching a duck egg.  He decides that the white egg is boring and colorfully decorates it.  Well, it is mistaken for an Easter egg and the adventure begins.


8.  From Tadpole to Frog (Let’s Read and Find Out Science) by Wendy Pfeffer is a good basic introduction to the life-cycle of a frog for early readers.

9.  What is the difference between a frog and a toad?  Check out Frogs by Gail Gibbons to find out.  Plus, you will learn oodles more in this great read.

10.  Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley showcases photographs from the Central American rainforest of a red-eyed tree frog searching for food and dodging predators.

Hoppy Reading!