Category Archives: Elementary

Just Suppose: A Review of ‘Is a Worry Worrying You’

“Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Reading/Interest Level

Picture book – Ages 4-7

Review and Comments

Sometimes a child’s small worry can quickly become an upsetting situation. This book addresses these concerns by defining exactly what a worry is and then continues to describe it in different ways as the story progresses – it’s real, it can cause sadness, it can be scary sometimes, and it can stay as long as you let it.

Examples of worrisome problems are illustrated with each fanciful image beginning with ”Suppose….”.  The event escalates from something silly like “Suppose, just suppose, one hundred elephants come to tea….” to a quick solution that is meant to acknowledge the worry and calm the situation.  These instructions will help a child realize that big worries can be handled with patience and practical ideas.  At the end of the book, helpful approaches are suggested so the worries don’t escalate into those 100 elephants coming for tea!

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Learning to Be Generous: A Review of ‘If you Plant a Seed’

“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“Acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver.” – St. John Chrysostom

Reading level

Pre-K – Grade 2

Review and Comments

If You Plant a Seed is a wonderful book that will inspire young children. The story expresses how deliberate selfishness and then small acts of kindness can transform into either negative or positive events. The absolutely beautiful illustrations visually capture the imagination and perfectly enhance this story of few words.

It all begins when a rabbit and mouse plant a variety of vegetable seeds in a garden.  While they wait for the seeds to grow, the reader can inspect and enjoy the illustrations of time passing. Finally, the plants are perfectly delicious looking, and the pleasure of the two friends is obvious.  In the midst of the mouse and rabbit enjoying their garden meal, a few bird friends are watching…. hungrily staring actually. It is very obvious they want some of the garden bounty also. 

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Choices: A Review of ‘Perfect Gifts’ (from THe Adventures of Nick and Sam, Book 1)

“The cost of obedience is small compared with the cost of disobedience.” – Saint Augustine

Reading Level

Ages 5-8

Review and Comments

Perfect Gifts is an excellent story about the virtue of obedience and the promblematic consequences  of disobedience.  The story revolves around a devoted family that includes twins, Samantha and Nicholas.  Their eighth birthday approaches and as with all soon-to-be eight year olds, excitement is at a peak.  The children wonder if they will receive the gifts they long for, and Nick cannot wait to see what his parents bought him.  He and Samantha sneak a peek at their wrapped gifts, but nothing goes as planned.  There are regrets and consequences for their actions.  Nick just doesn’t understand why his parents are so upset or that their disobedience has created a broken trust.

A.A. Milne once wrote “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience – well, that comes from poor judgment.”   The twins certainly rack up a lot of experience in this story!  While at a public pool, Samantha’s father actually has to save her life because of her disobedience.  On the twins’ actual birthday, the family plans a special family hike.  Before they begin, both Samantha and Nicholas ignore their parents’ advice to be better prepared and suffer the consequences.  Then, impatient Nicholas ignores his dad and goes to an abandoned barn. Let’s just say a run in with a family of skunks is a very powerful lesson! Yet even after suffering all those very tough consequences, Nick chooses to ignore his parents one last time. He secretly takes all the money from his bank and buys some so called amazing items from an older nieghborhood boy.  On the way home he falls and all his items break.  He is alone with the damage of his disobedience once again.  This time he fully examines his actions over the last few days and it’s not a proud moment for him.  Then who should come looking for him but his father! Nick asks for forgiveness and understands that he is able to start over because of the love and forgiveness he receives.

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Not the Only One: A Review of ‘Raymie Nightingale’

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
‘What? You, too? I thought I was the only one.'”–CS Lewis

Reading Level

Grades 4-8

Review and Comments

Raymie Clarke’s father has left her family for a dental hygienist, but she has a plan to bring him home. She will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, he will see her picture in the paper, and he will come home. All she has to do is learn how to twirl a baton.

It is in her incredibly awkward baton twirling class that Raymie meets her two greatest friends, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski. Though each girl has different motives for wanting to learn to twirl a baton and join the contest, they realize that they all care about each other very much, and their very different personalities don’t stop them from having a few adventures together.

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Fun at the Beach: A Review of ‘Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea’

“Come to the beach, where the sea is blue, and little white waves come running at you. A wave comes splashing, over your toes. You just stand still, and away it goes. We’ll build a castle down by the sea, and look for shells if you’ll come with me.”  – Anonymous

Reading Level

Grades 2-3

AR 2.5 (0.5 points)

Interest Level

Pre-K-2

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Review and Comments

Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea is the sixth book in a series of twenty-eight beginning chapter books for emerging readers.   In this particular episode, Henry, his dad, and his pet dog, Mudge, spend a fun filled day the beach. 

“The ocean was waiting.  It was blue and white and forever.”

When they finally arrive they immediately run for the water.  Henry and Dad are very brave playing in the big waves, but Mudge isn’t quite so sure about the surf.  He prefers the beach and a nice snooze in the sand.   Besides the water fun, Dad and Henry build a sand castle and eat hot dogs and snow cones. There is a bit of excitement when a large, unexpected wave covers the castle and loyal Mudge bravely rescues Dad’s favorite red lobster. Their day ends with a pleasant walk on the beach.  It is definitely a father-son-dog day to remember.

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Demonstrating Character: A Review of ‘Prince Martin Wins his Sword’

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” – C. S. Lewis

Reading Level

Ages 6-9

Review and Comments

If you are looking for a book full of action, Prince Martin Wins His Sword by Brandon Hale is a good choice. It is a story of courage, friendship, and the strength and faithfulness of a father.   

Prince Martin lives in a castle surrounded by knights, their code of behavior, and their amazing weapons.  Martin aspires to have his very own sword one day.  He also has an undisclosed dream to own a faithful and brave dog, but the sword is his great desire.  His father, the King, wisely makes the judgment that Martin is much too young for a sword and that his staff and sling is enough for him at this point in his life. He explains that when Martin demonstrates that he is brave, loyal, and true, he will be deemed worthy to own a sword.  This is a goal Martin hopes to reach, but he has no idea how he will achieve those very lofty traits.

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The Power of Words: A Review of ‘Seeds and Trees’

The babble of some people is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing. – Proverbs 12:18

Reading/Interest Level

Grades 1-6 [Ages 6-12]

Review and Comments

Seeds of words spoken, some green and others black, are given to a young prince every day.  The green seeds are gentle while the black seeds contain only hostility and misery. The prince accepts both seeds and plants them all.  As the prince watches his trees grow he observes that all the trees are powerful but very different.  The green trees are life giving.  The black trees create such darkness that the green trees eventually suffer and become weakened right down to their roots.

The prince meets an extraordinary, sincere friend who only gives him green seeds.  She is wise and very brave in the face of the darkness of the forest.  The green trees seem to “come alive” when she is near, but the dark trees seem to amplify their negativity.  The prince’s new friend has a challenging solution for the tragedy of the weakening green trees.  He recognizes her insight and agrees to accept the challenge.  Using her old tools, she and the prince cut down one dark tree. Then, they carefully cut down more and more until not one dark tree or any fragment of a root is left.  Following his friend’s advice, the prince never plants dark seeds again.  He carefully watches over his grove of green trees and continues to plant the green seeds that produce “new life.”

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A Reason For Everything: A review of ‘Danger! Tiger Crossing’ (#1 of the Fantastic Frame Series)

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”  -Aristotle

Reading Level

Grades 2-4, (Ages 7-9) 3.8

Interest Level

Grades 1-5

[128 pages]

Review and Comments

Danger! Tiger Crossing is the first book in the Fantastic Frame series.  This exciting story is filled with mystery, interesting characters, and a bit of a Jumanji flavor that will surely attract the reader from the first chapter.

The main character, Tiger, is an interesting boy who thoughtfully observes his surroundings, analyzes clues, and then works to solve problems.  And the problems he faces in this adventure are extraordinary.   His story begins when his little sister reports that she has seen an orange pig in the backyard.  This statement is so unbelievable that Tiger resolves to prove the pig lives in his sister’s imagination.  While he is examining the scene, he actually sees the pig in his neighbor’s yard wearing a top hat and a bow tie.  He also meets Luna, a neighbor.  Tiger and Luna approach things from different angles, but these differences come in very handy as complications present themselves.

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Emptying Oneself: A Review of ‘The Legend of Bluebonnet’

“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving.  Without sacrifice, there is no love.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

Reading Level

AR4.2 [0.5 points]

Interest Level

Grades 1-3

Review and Comments

The Legend of the Bluebonnet is definitely my favorite Tomie dePaola book.  This beautiful story shows how the selfless giving of an ordinary, little Comanche girl accomplishes something quite extraordinary and saves her people.

The Comanche people, especially the young and old, are suffering greatly during what seems like an endless drought.  They pray to the Great Spirits and ask what they must do to end this devastating trial.  The shaman also prays to the Great Spirits, and when he returns from his private prayer time, he tells them the drought is a result of their selfishness. They must sacrifice their most valued possessions as an offering, and then spread the ashes to the points of the earth.  If they do this, the drought and famine will end.  The People are relieved they have an answer.  They acknowledge their most prized possessions and talk about why each article is special, but in the end each person decides that the Great Spirits surely isn’t asking forhis or her particular item.

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A Restless Imagination: A Review of ‘My Life in Pictures (Bea Garcia)’

“Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.” – St. John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 1-4, Ages 6-9

Review and Comments

Beatrice Holmes Garcia is a budding artist who illustrates her actual life experiences along with some very original daydreams.  Her drawings are not always restricted to her trusty journal however.  She has been known to draw on her little brother, the walls, and even the television.  Her family is usually very supportive of her enthusiasm unless her art extends beyond her notebook. 

It is obvious that Bea’s family and home are very important to her – the center of her world. That expands a bit when she happily meets her first best friend on her 5th birthday. The girls are kindred spirits from their first introduction.  They do everything together: draw, learn new things, and even share a magic tree in the backyard where their imaginations are truly free. 

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