Becky and the Butterfly Girl

Written by Janet Young

Illustrated by Vladimir Cebu


Charming picture book featuring a child named Becky who guides her young readers on a tour of her butterfly garden. Becky’s garden is designed as a wild flower garden with water features, a pond filled with fish, birdhouses and bee houses, but most importantly it provides a safe haven for butterflies. Monarch butterflies are quickly disappearing due to the rapid expansion of roads and cities. Becky’s tour leads us through cone flowers, monarda, asters, goldenrod and milkweed. This garden is free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves; which are the only kind of food they eat, but which are poisonous to humans. Once the eggs become caterpillars, Becky’s dad carefully moves them to a cage where they continue to feed on milkweed leaves until they form a chrysalis. After about ten days they emerge as butterflies, when they are carefully released from their cage.

The illustrations depict Becky and her beautiful garden plants and animal friends. Story is based on Becky Lecroy, a genuine character whose parents raise monarch butterflies in their own wild flower backyard. Nice way to teach children about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and the importance of conserving the species. Targeted for grades preschool through grade four, this book should be included on classroom shelves in elementary school as well as those in libraries and environmentally conscious parents who might want to undertake the project on a smaller scale. I personally plant milkweed in my tiny garden to encourage monarchs to settle there. Sadly, in recent years, I have noticed a dramatic drop in the lovely creatures that used to fill my backyard.

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Rat Books for Kids: Amazing Pictures and Interesting Facts for Kids

Written by Susie Eli


Interesting nonfiction book especially suited for students in the elementary or middle grades. I will readily admit that I learned quite a bit from this thirty page book so I do not hesitate to recommend it for adult readers who have an interest in the subject. Royalty free common stock photos enhance interest and add an additional dimension.

Originally rats came from Australia and Asia, but are now found anywhere in the world. Readers learn that there are 60 types of rats, the brown rat and the house rat being the most common. Topics covered in the book include their behavior and habits, how they eat, grow and multiply, wild and pet rats, and the Gambian Pouched Rat. Some interesting facts that I gleaned from the book include: a group of rats is called a mischief, males are bucks and females are does, rats are smart and make good pets, happy rats might roll their eyes or make grinding sounds with their teeth, and one female may have as many as 2000 babies in one year! While rats are often seen as a nuisance, the Gambian Pouched rat can detect deadly land mines and diagnose a patient with tuberculosis.

Animal lovers will enjoy learning about this often maligned animal. Great resource for a science research project or report. Recommended especially for children in third through fifth grade. Fascinating read for adults as well as children. Available in kindle and paperback.

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The Improbable Rise of Paco Jones

Written by Dominic Carrillo


A very well-written novel that traces the experiences of a Mexican-American eighth grader struggling to fit into an exclusive private school and falling in love for the first time. Paco Jones is taunted by his classmates as Taco Jones; he is unattractive, nonathletic, uncool and poor. Paco’s biracial parents are determined to see that their son has a chance of success and struggle to give him a good education. Paco wants to gain the acceptance of his peers and please his parents. To complicate his situation further, Paco falls desperately in love with a black girl named Naomi, who is dating Trent, one of the popular jocks at school. When Naomi becomes impressed with Paco’s intelligence and honesty; she takes him into her confidence and reveals her true feelings about Trent. Strangely enough, Trent also enlists Paco’s help in his effort to woo Naomi. Paco becomes trapped between his two friends, and almost gets expelled in the process. Despite the trouble in which Paco finds himself, he remains true to his principles revealing his real character.

This tale deals with many issues that young adult readers face. Paco faces racial discrimination, economic insecurity, first love issues and parental child responsibilities. He winds his way through a myriad of difficulties, only to find out that there is not always a simple solution or a rosy ending. Characters are well- developed multicultural, and multidimensional; readers empathize with Paco, find a strong female role model in Naomi, and discover the strengths and flaws in others like Trent and Mr. Holiday. As a bonus, the author/teacher provides discussion questions that align with the US common core standards. This book also provides a flashback for adult readers who may have forgotten those turbulent junior high days. Recommended for readers age twelve and older.

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Albatrosses: Amazing Animal Facts

Written by Rita Terry


Contrary to the widely known expression from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “an albatross around your neck,” the albatross has nothing to do with bad luck. These beautiful animals are the world’s largest seabirds. Levy enlightens readers about the twenty-two varieties, their distinctive appearance, size and weight, diet, habitat, breeding habits, courtship, enemies, and environmental threats.

Most readers probably know little about these birds. I found it interesting that they live for long periods of time on one island, mate with one partner for life, and do not leave their parents until they master the intricate courtship dance to attract their life partner. The fact that the Wandering Albatross can soar without moving its wings for days at a time is amazing. It is sad that so many of these birds are killed when they dive down deep for fish bait and then drown before they can return to the surface.

This book is targeted for readers ages five to eighteen. Photographs are beautiful; the book will probably be most interesting to readers eight and older, who will be better able to master the text. This book contains a lot of information in less than fifty pages, and is well written with the exception of a typo in the spelling of Antarctica. Young animal lovers or children looking for an interesting research project will find the book a valuable nonfiction resource.

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National Park (National Park Trilogy Book 1)

Written by Hinesh Vithal


An interesting tale narrated by Rajah, a puggle comfortably ensconced with the Patel family in suburbia. When the family decides they will take a vacation trip to the game preserve, he is excited but remains haunted by a dream that his life will be cut short by a lion attack.

Readers will learn about life in the wild as they meet lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, crocodiles, buffalo, and wild dogs. As the family ride through the game preserve, readers feel as if they are a part of nature. The personified animals have a complicated system of government to which all inhabitants of the national park adhere led by a Council of the Big Five. When the vehicle in which Rajah is riding is overturned, he is injured and rescued by the animals. Rajah becomes an integral part of a habitat that is far out of his comfort zone, yet he is rapidly assimilated into their culture and conflicts. When internal discord threatens to wreck the government of the animals and their safety, Rajah becomes an unwilling hero.

This book contains one or two curse words, but is appropriate for readers twelve and older. The plot is cleverly done, if sometimes a bit wordy. Readers will take away factual knowledge of the game preserve, its inhabitants, and some messages that animals and humans might well take note of. Looking forward to see what happens in the rest of the trilogy.

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The Witch With The Glitch: A Fairy Tale And Adventure (A Lost Book Adventure)

Written by Adam Maxwell

Cover by Dale Maloney


Charming adventure of Nina and her two friends Ivy and Oswald who frequently meet in her Aunt and Uncle’s bookshop. Doesn’t sound like the place for a real adventure? Well, it turns out there is a hidden room in the bookshop, and once Nina places the key in the lock the children are on their way to a journey into the unknown. This time the children find themselves in the parlor of a gingerbread house. To their chagrin the three friends find themselves transformed into a vampire, ghost, and a werewolf!

They will meet a witch who has a problem using and controlling her powers, a village of strange little people, two kidnapped children, and a magical cat named Izzy. The three friends will have to learn to control their new identities and transform themselves. If they are unable to find Izzy before midnight, Belinda the witch will be unable to undo their spells, and they will be trapped forever. Will they be able find their way back to the bookstore and their families?

The author combines fairy tales, adventure, paranormal and lots of humor to keep the plot interesting. Characters are well-developed and the dialogue crisp and clever. This book is perfect for readers in grades three to six. Chapters are short and vocabulary provides enough challenge while not being overwhelming for the early reader. A few illustrations would have enhanced the book’s appeal. This could be a fun story to share with a family or class around Halloween.

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#Read Kids Classics


The Five Chinese Brothers

Written by Claire Huchet Bishop

Illustrated by Kurt Wiese

chinesebrotherspicClassic tale of five brothers who looked exactly alike and how they were able to avoid a public execution and prove the innocence of one of the brothers. Although each of the brothers looked exactly alike, each one possessed a unique and special power. The first brother could swallow the sea, the second had an iron neck, the third could stretch and stretch his legs, the fourth could not be burned, and the fifth could hold his breath indefinitely. The plot involves the first brother fishing in the sea when a little boy begs to go with him. He agrees on condition that the boy promises to obey him promptly. But when the first brother swallows the sea, the little boy begins to fill his pockets with the items left behind on land. Despite his warning to the boy that he could no longer hold the sea back, the boy refused to come return and was swallowed by the sea.

The brother was arrested, tried and condemned to death. He pleaded with the judge to return home to say good-bye to his mother and that is when the brothers conspire to use their talents to thwart the execution one by one. The town is amazed that the brother cannot be killed and are eventually convinced that he is innocent.

This book was originally released by Coward-McCann, Inc. in 1938 and was reprinted by Scholastic Book Services beginning in 1966. I grew up reading this humorous and clever classic and was happy to share it with my own children and students. Recommended especially for children in the five to eight age range, but it can certainly be enjoyed by any age. This book is available on amazon in multiple editions and in many formats.

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