Category Archives: Elementary

Be Who You Are Perfectly: A Review of ‘Chrysanthemum’

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Teresa

Reading level   

Grades 1-2

Common Core  

Grade 2

Interest level

P-3

Review and Comments

Choosing a name for a child can be quite a challenging decision for parents.  Mr. and Mrs. Mouse considered this obligation thoughtfully and chose the name that was “absolutely perfect” for their new precious baby.  They named her Chrysanthemum – the perfect name for their perfect daughter.   As Chrysanthemum grew, she too found her name to be perfect whether it was written or spoken.  As a matter of fact, she often repeated it to herself because she liked the sound of it so much.

When it was time for Chrysanthemum to start school, she was very excited and full of enthusiasm as most children are.  The first time her class heard her name however, they laughed.  Some students, three girls in particular, continuously made comments about her name and thought of different ways to tell her it was unusual and weird.  Unfortunately, Chrysanthemum listened to the harsh comments of the girls and it wasn’t long before she didn’t think her name was perfect anymore.  She even had the drastic thought that she should change her name.  Alas, the next day of school was not any better.  The three girls treated her the same way, and she felt truly dreadful. She shared all of this with her parents and they assured her that her name was indeed absolutely perfect and then tried to help her see why those girls would say such hurtful things. Continue reading Be Who You Are Perfectly: A Review of ‘Chrysanthemum’

Something Very Magical: A Review of ‘Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook’

“You can find magic wherever you look.  Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.” – Dr. Seuss

Reading level

Grades 1 – 2

AR 3.8

Interest level

Pre-K – 2

Review and Comments

Miss Smith’s rather ordinary looking storybook is truly quite amazing.  Zach, a student in her class, quickly recognizes its unique nature after the very first story time of the new school year. Miss Smith’s stories are mind blowing!  The first tale she reads is about pirates.  It’s a good story, but this time Zach can actually see the characters come to life right before his eyes and feel the atmosphere of each setting as if he is in the middle of the action.  And he also sees the characters promptly return to the book when the story ends. After that first experience, Zach’s excitement does not wane.  He has so much curiosity about the adventures of each new story that it makes him want to go to school. Continue reading Something Very Magical: A Review of ‘Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook’

Enveloped in Heavenly Grace: A Review of ‘Our Lady’s Message to Three Shepherd Children and the World’

“My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” – The Blessed Mother

Interest Level

Ages 8+

Review and Comments

There are many books available about Fatima, especially during the 100th year anniversary.  Our Lady’s Message to Three Shepherd Children and the World is written in such an excellent way that it is my choice for teaching children about Mary’s appearance in Portugal during WWI, whether in a classroom situation or in a family setting. The author’s voice is relaxed and engaging as if a parent or grandparent is telling the story. Intertwined in the retelling are: Bible references, lessons every Catholic should understand, and questions to prompt deeper reflection about Mary’s message.  At times the author emphasizes the important points of a section by restating the facts as a summary, which helps the reader focus on the main idea. Continue reading Enveloped in Heavenly Grace: A Review of ‘Our Lady’s Message to Three Shepherd Children and the World’

Heaven in our Hearts: A Review of ‘Mary and the Little Shepherds of Fatima’

“There is no problem, I tell you no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot solve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.” – Sister Lucia of Fatima

Interest  Level

Pre-K – Grade 5

Review and Comments

Mary and the Little Shepherds of Fatima is a very good introduction to the story of Mary’s appearances to young children in Portugal during WW1 for those who have never heard it before.

The three shepherd children, Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia, actually experienced two phases of miraculous appearances.  First, there were three visits from the Angel of Peace (the Angel of Portugal) during which the children were prepared for the Blessed Mother.  During these visits, the Angel taught the children how to pray and make sacrifices because they loved God.  There were promises made also. Continue reading Heaven in our Hearts: A Review of ‘Mary and the Little Shepherds of Fatima’

Inner Beauty is God’s Delight: A Review of ‘The Sign of the Carved Cross’ (Chime Travelers #2)

“I am not my own, I have given myself to Jesus.  He must be my only love.” – Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Reading Level

Grade 2-5

Review and Comments

The Sign of the Carved Cross is the second book in the Chime Travelers series.  It is about a girl named Katie who travels through time to the year 1675. Katie’s story begins at school where she faces a challenging dilemma involving her longtime friends and their obvious disapproval of a new girl. As Katie contends with her mixed feelings of loyalty, jealousy, and then guilt, she becomes more confused and moody.  Her twin brother, Patrick, councils her about the way she is acting and encourage her to be friendly towards the girl.  His wisdom comes from his own experience with time travel and the lessons he learned. Continue reading Inner Beauty is God’s Delight: A Review of ‘The Sign of the Carved Cross’ (Chime Travelers #2)

Know That You Are Not Alone: A Review Of ‘The Secret of the Shamrock’ (Chime Travelers #1)

“I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me.” – St. Patrick

Reading Level

Grades 2-5

Review and Comments

The Secret of the Shamrock is about a boy named Patrick and his amazing experience with time travel to the year 395.   The story begins with a humorous incident (for the reader but not so much for Patrick) at his newly adopted sister’s baptism. He secretly brings his pet frog, Francis, to the baptism where Francis jumps into the baptismal font.  Naturally, Patrick’s parents are not amused.  They decide their children need to learn more about the church so they volunteer the family’s service to the cleaning ministry at their parish. Continue reading Know That You Are Not Alone: A Review Of ‘The Secret of the Shamrock’ (Chime Travelers #1)

Hold on Tight: A Review of ‘The Night Gardener’

“The tighter you squeeze, the less you have.”–Thomas Merton

Reading Level

Grades 5-8

Review and Comments

The story of The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is one of darkness and mystery.  Set in VIctorian England, Molly and Kip have set out looking for work and are accepted by the Windsor family.  The new job is brings on a terror that the two children were not expecting.

When Molly first arrives at the home of the Windsors, she immediately notices how dirty it is and how it looks as though it hasn’t been taken care of in ages.  Slowly, she realizes that something is amiss.  The old pictures of the family show them as younger looking, healthy and vibrant.  Now they look pale, sickly, and their eyes look lifeless. Continue reading Hold on Tight: A Review of ‘The Night Gardener’

A Review of Two of the ‘Kids of Polk Street School’ Books

The Kids of the Polk Street School series is written for young readers who are eagerly beginning to stretch their reading skills to chapter books.  This is quite an exciting time of new goals for children. Each book focuses on a student in Ms. Rooney’s second grade classroom.

The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room

“Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times, in all circumstances.”  – St. Vincent de Paul

Reading level

3.2        [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

2.1         [AR]

Interest level

Grades  3 – 5

Review and Comments

The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room, the first book in the series, introduces readers to several typical second grade students.  Richard “Beast” Best is one of the students beginning the new school year in Ms. Rooney’s class – for the second time.  Because of this, Richard has to deal with a lot of concerns before he feels comfortable in a class of younger children.  What will he tell his old classmates about why he was left back?  Why does he have to feel so big next to the other second graders?  Why does he still have baby teeth?  Why can he only read ten words? Why does he get in trouble so often? The reader understands more about Richard’s struggles through his relationships with other students who eventually support and accept him.  Inevitably, there is also an irritating student who attempts to upset Richard’s adjustment to the new school year with hurtful remarks. Continue reading A Review of Two of the ‘Kids of Polk Street School’ Books

Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

“Love has hands to help others.  It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sights and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like.”  – St. Augustine

Reading Level

Pre K – K, 1-2      [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 3.5            [AR]

Interest Level

Ages 4-8

Review and Comments

Boxes for Katje is a wonderful story and an outstanding example of actually living Jesus’ commandment, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

This true story begins after WWII when the people of Europe are suffering deprivations of all kinds, and charities in America are working together to relieve those affected. Katje’s tale is intertwined beautifully with the seasons, the growing needs of the citizens of Holland, the expanding generosity of the citizens of the United States, and the engaging letters of two little girls. Continue reading Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

Dream it. Do it.: A Review of ‘Duck on a Bike’

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Reading Level

PreK-2, 3-5          [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grader K-1           [common core]

2.0                        [AR]

Review and Comments

If you are looking for an engaging and entertaining book, Duck on a Bike is a good choice.  The story is about an eager duck who decides to try his skill at riding a bike.  At first he struggles a bit, but it doesn’t take long before he is able to ride the bike all around the farm.  He passes ten farm friends along the way and greets each one with a very friendly hello.  The animals reply and then express personal observations about seeing Duck on a bike.  These remarks range from Duck being a silly duck, to a concern for his safety, and then even a bit of jealousy. Then, a surprising opportunity presents itself when the animals see eight bikes parked beside a house.  They seize the moment and ride the bikes. (Mouse has to hitch a ride with another animal of course, and the pigs happily ride a tandem bike.)  They finally understand the joy Duck experienced on his earlier ride. Continue reading Dream it. Do it.: A Review of ‘Duck on a Bike’