Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin

Ling and Ting are twins. They have the same hair, same smile and same eyes, but don’t let those similarities fool you – they are not exactly the same. Ling likes books about dogs, but Ting loves fairytales. Ling struggles with using chopsticks, while Ting finds chopsticks to be very easy to use. Ling is very good at sitting still and concentrating, but Ting has a tendency to be a bit more fidgety and forgetful. Each chapter of this amusing episodic book tells a different story to illustrate just how not the same these two twins really are.

Grace Lin manages to create adorable, relatable characters and place them into entertaining situations while maintaining a reading level appropriate for those who are still honing their reading skills. The cheerful, clear illustrations add charm to the story, provide helpful clues for decoding potential trouble words and, thanks to a mishap while at the barbershop in the first chapter, knowing which girl is Ling and which is Ting. Fans of Biscuit, Henry and Mudge, and the Elephant and Piggy books who are looking for a bit more of a challenge should definitely give Ling and Ting a try. If you like this one, make sure to read Ling and Ting Share a Birthday as well.

Click here for a link to a book trailer on Grace Lin’s website for Ling and Ting.

Posted by: Staci

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Good Night, Trucks!: a Bedtime Book by Brian Biggs

I have discovered that little boys’ interest in trucks begins at a very early age. Right now, one of my toddler’s favorite books is Everything Goes: Good Night Trucks by Brian Biggs. He loves to look at the colorful, cartoon illustrations of all of the trucks. The story consists of one or two trucks per spread, and it includes old favorites as well as some less familiar trucks to build a toddler’s vocabulary. I always know when my toddler finds the ice cream truck because he starts smacking his lips, and he does his best monster impression when he gets to the monster truck page. Little ones will love saying good night to all their favorite trucks.

Posted by: Liz

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Ribbit! By Rodrigo Folgueira

We all know that pigs say “oink” – or do they?

One morning the most adorable pink pig is discovered by the frogs sitting on a rock in their pond. Seeing a pig in their pond is very confusing to the frogs. When asked why he is sitting in their pond the pig answers “RIBBIT!” The frogs don’t know what to make of a pig in their pond who says “RIBBIT!” Is he making fun of them? What exactly does he want from them?

When other animals arrive to see the pig for themselves, they begin to laugh which only upsets the frogs more than ever. The chief frog decides that they must go find the wise old beetle who will surely know what to do about a ribbit-ing pig. When the animals, along with the wise old beetle, return to the rock in the pond, the pig is gone. In all his wisdom the beetle says, “Maybe he just wanted to make new friends.” Oh no! the frogs and other animals hadn’t thought of that!

Sure enough, the adorable pink pig has found himself some new friends. What a delight to discover who all his new friends turn out to be!

This is a wonderful book about acceptance, friendship, as well as confidence. The charming illustrations draw the reader into the story. I read it over and over – it’s just that much fun!

Posted by: Wendy

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Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

“Holy Unanticipated Occurrences!” is a favorite phrase in Flora and Ulysses and one I uttered after I read it. Perhaps I should have anticipated loving Flora and Ulysses as much as I did. After all, I have enjoyed every other book I have read by this prolific juvenile fiction author, Kate DiCamillo was recently named and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and the book won this year’s Newbery Award. But I had trouble getting excited about reading a book about a squirrel and a girl from a broken home. Was I ever wrong! This book is a delight.

The story begins with a vacuum, a brand new Ulysses Super-Suction Multi-Terrain 2000x vacuum that Mrs. Tickham is exploring in her backyard. When she flips the switch, a squirrel is in the vacuum’s path and is sucked inside. Mrs. Tickham screams until her neighbor and the book’s heroine, Flora Belle Buckman arrives on the scene and rescues the squirrel and changes her and the Tickham’s forever. You see, being vacuumed did something to the squirrel. It made him feel awake, special; it even gave him special powers. He could understand Flora, he had super strength, he could fly, and he could type…poetry! Flora names the squirrel after the vacuum that transformed him, Ulysses. She immediately equates her squirrel’s ability with that of her favorite comic book superhero, The Amazing Incandesto and uses the comic as a guide for maneuvering through life with a super squirrel. Told mostly in prose, the story is enhanced with comic-style vignettes that mostly give a visual depiction of Ulysses accomplishing amazing feats.

Perhaps the most amazing feat is that this book is about more than a superhero squirrel. It is about Flora dealing with her parent’s recent divorce, her parents dealing very badly with their recent divorce and their melancholy daughter, the Tickhams taking in their nephew William Spiver since he cannot deal with this mother’s new boyfriend, and a very wise neighbor dealing with the loss of her husband. All of this is packed into an extremely quick read that would be an appropriate read aloud for the whole family as long as everyone can see the pictures. The plot is exciting, the deeper issues are layered so that they are accessible to mature readers, but not disturbing to younger readers, and the character are easy to identify with. All in all, Flora and Ulysses is not a book to be missed.

Posted by: Kelly

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Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell

Rufus is a little pig, and his greatest wish in the world is to go to school. After all, he has a backpack, he has a lunchbox, he has a blanket. What more could he need? He explains this to Principal Lipid, but he just keeps insisting that there are no pigs allowed in school! His reasons are many – pigs track mud in the halls, they turn their drawings into airplanes, they start food fights in the cafeteria, and the list goes on and on. Well Rufus is not about to give up – he finally pulls out all the stops and brings his favorite book to school and announces that he wants to learn to read. THAT does make a difference, and even strict old Principal Lipid cannot say no to this request. Of course the children are delighted when Rufus joins their class; and of course Rufus LOVES everything about school . . . and storytime most of all. This story is delightful and has an old-fashioned quality that will appeal to young and old alike.

Posted by: Mary

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Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous BoySome books are special. They have a plot description that sounds like many another book (girl finds herself in a fantastical situation and discovers that she must save the world), but are written in such a otherwordly, atmospheric way that even the adjectives that one might use to describe them aren’t magical enough.

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard finds herself in a foreign city. Her father is an international expert on swords, and has been called upon to organize a gala Christmas Eve exhibition at the city’s museum. Miss Kaminski, the museum director, is very beautiful, but cold and strange, and Ophelia feels uneasy. She spends her days exploring the museum — from Culture of the Cossacks to Mesopotamian Mysteries and everything (everything) in between. In one room, though, she finds a door. That door hides a boy — a marvelous boy — who says that he has been imprisoned by the Snow Queen, and that he’s waiting for the One Other who will be able to use his sword to defeat her. He needs Ophelia to free him — an act much more complicated than just finding the key to the door.

Foxlee’s book is spellbinding; the world she creates is so compelling that I could see every detail, and what is more, believe every detail. I could see the frozen city, feel the cold in my bones, and believe in the uncanny museum, where wolves might roam the dollhouse exhibit.

Any reader would be enchanted to discover this wonderful book, and many of them might find themselves exploring the museum map on the endpapers. For all the eeriness of the museum, I would like to visit and wander its Gallery of Time, among others. Who knows what I might discover?

Posted by: Sarah

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Common Core Review: No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

NoMonkeysNoChocolate_300
It can be difficult to comprehend events that take place in other parts of the world, so when an opportunity comes along to make a connection between life as we know it and another culture or part of nature it can provide a great opportunity. No Monkeys, No Chocolate provides just such a connection. In this delightfully illustrated nonfiction book, authors Melissa Stewart and Allen Young explore where chocolate comes from on an ecological level. From pods to beans and back again, Stewart and Young explain the various stages of the lifecycle of the cocoa tree and the various organisms that help along the way. Readers will learn the importance of midges, maggots, lizards, fungi, and of course monkeys in the production of chocolate. Without all of those living organisms we would have no cocoa trees. Without cocoa trees we would have no chocolate. And where would we be without chocolate? The book concludes with a concise explanation of the connection between cocoa trees and rainforest preservation and some tips to teach young readers how they can do their parts to help the rainforests as well.
In addition to the wealth of information found within the pages of this book, Melissa Stewart offers more resources on her website including a timeline of her writing process for No Monkeys, No Chocolate as well a list of other great books about ecosystems and how living organisms work together. For teachers or librarians looking for book extension activities Stewart has also created a Reader’s Theater script for No Monkeys, No Chocolate and a few other fun activities on her website.
When it comes to Common Core State Standards, this book hits the jackpot. It is a great resource for teaching informational texts in a science setting, and provides a great opportunity to meet the third RI ELA-Literacy standard for Key Ideas & Details for grades 3 through 5. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3) For even more ideas on teaching with this book, take a look at Melissa Stewart’s curriculum guide.

Just a Few of the Correlations to Common Core State Standards:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3
Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.9
Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3
Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5
Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.8
Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9
Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3
Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.6
Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.9
Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Posted by: Staci

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