Category Archives: Elementary

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’

Revisiting Childhood Memories: A Review of ‘No, David!’

“It’s not enough to love children, it is necessary that they are aware they are loved.”–  St. John Bosco

Reading Level

K-1                        [common core]

Pre-K – Grade 3 [David Shannon website]

Pre-K – 1              [Scholastic]

Review and Comments

David Shannon’s book, No, David!, is modeled after a book he wrote and illustrated as a child.  The pictures are colorful, and the vocabulary is limited because at the time he only knew how to spell no and David.  His story allows a small glimpse into the animated life of a very active, little boy named…… David.

This version highlights familiar childhood situations like sneaking cookies and jumping on the bed during imaginative play.  While David is enthusiastically charging through his day, his mother is trying to teach him important lessons: taking care of toys, respecting the property of others, and listening to and obeying his mother. David ultimately faces consequences after his serious infraction of breaking his mother’s vase.  The main lesson he does learn is that his mother’s love is unconditional. She assures him on the last page that she still loves him even after all the challenges of the day. Continue reading Revisiting Childhood Memories: A Review of ‘No, David!’

Run and Find Out!: A Review of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

“To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.” – St. Teresa of Avila

Reading Level

Grades 3-5    [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently.]

5.0    [AR]

Review and Comments

Rikki-tikki-tavi is a young mongoose who is welcomed into an English family after being separated from his own family during a terrible storm.  The father seems to know a lot about mongooses, and he assures his wife and son that it is a good thing to have a mongoose close by because they kill snakes.  This proves true when Rikki-tikki saves the young son from a deadly snake soon after he arrives.  The danger for the family is not over however. Rikki-tikki e and his adopted family soon experience life-threatening encounters with a pair of deadly adversaries. Continue reading Run and Find Out!: A Review of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

Another Door Opens: A Review of ‘Bud, Not Buddy!’

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”–  Mother Teresa

Reading Level

Grades 4-5          [common core]

Grades 3-5, 6-8 [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 5                 [AR]

Interest Level

Grades 4-8          [AR]

Review and Comments

Bud, Not Buddy is a story about a ten year boy who is virtually alone in the very harsh world of the Great Depression.  Bud is living somewhere between the memories of his deceased mother and a yearning for the father he never knew.  During his search for his father, the reader is exposed to lessons about this period in history through the people Bud meets and his deepest thoughts and feelings as only a ten year old can express them. Continue reading Another Door Opens: A Review of ‘Bud, Not Buddy!’

25 Picture Books to Encourage a Love of Nature

“God wrote “I love you”—He  wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea.  He wrote his message everywhere!  Because God created everything in the world to reflect Him like a mirror—to show us what He is like, to help us to know Him, to make our hearts sing.”— Sally Lloyd-Jones, from The Jesus Storybook Bible

 This month we celebrate Easter and new life seems to be all around. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing trees blossom and birds build nests.  What is dormant is now vibrant and full of life!  It’s such a lovely time for us all to look around at nature since it is neither too hot nor too cold to be outside.  Children love this time of year and they are so observant, aren’t they?!  It is for this reason I’ve put together this list of books in which we can praise our Lord who has given us such beautiful gifts in the world around us, encourage our children to look carefully at the intricacies of what He has made, learn about people who have aided in His creative powers, and become inspired by what could happen when we make the tiniest effort to take care of His gifts for us.  Loving our planet and all that it holds means nothing if we forget who gave it to us.

I’ve divided the list into sub-sections to help break it up a bit.  Click on the picture of the book for our affiliate link!

In Praise of Nature and God’s Wonderful Creations

St. Francis sings of God’s love and all of the surrounding nature join him.  Beautifully illustrated and poetic, Tomie de Paola never disappoints.

Using text from the Old Testament, Tomie dePaola praises all of God’s creations from the sky to the earth to under the water.  It’s a celebration of nature. Continue reading 25 Picture Books to Encourage a Love of Nature

Unity of Scripture: A Review of ‘The End of the Fiery Sword, Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary

“Death by Eve, life by Mary” — Saint Jerome (Epistle 22)

Interest Level:  Ages 3+

Review and Comments:

Maura McKeegan illustrates how events of the Old Testament foreshadow the New Testament in this straightforward story of Adam and Eve and Jesus and Mary.  She begins in Genesis with Eve’s disobedience and explains how the Blessed Mother is the new Eve with her obedience and “yes” to God.  Then, the story continues with Adam’s temptation and betrayal prefiguring Jesus’ temptation and fulfillment of His Father’s will. The angel’s fiery sword guarding the tree of life foretells the angel sent to comfort Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Where Adam and Eve’s sin closed the gates of Heaven, Jesus opened the gates and fulfilled God’s plan of redemption. Continue reading Unity of Scripture: A Review of ‘The End of the Fiery Sword, Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary

Knock. Knock. Who’s There?: A Review of ‘Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China’

“Never trust a stranger-friend; no one knows how it will end.  As you’re pretty, so be wise; wolves may lurk in every guise.” – Charles Perrault, Little Red Riding Hood

Reading Level:  

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

K – 1      [according to common core]

3.5         [AR]

Interest Level:    K-2         [Ages  6-8]

A little house…. a basket…. a grandmother….. and a wolf.   These are all familiar elements in the fairy tale Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. The reader will be intrigued with this version of the story while mentally checking off differences and similarities to the more familiar traditional tale.

The story begins with the customary visit to Grandmother, but this time it is the mother who visits Grandmother while her three children stay home.  As any concerned mother, she warns them to keep the door locked because she will be gone overnight.  This of course is a clue to the discerning reader that they may not follow her instructions and that disobedience will put them in great danger. Continue reading Knock. Knock. Who’s There?: A Review of ‘Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China’

9 Books for Kids to Love During Lent

Lent is almost here and since it is such an important time of year for Catholics, we wanted to make sure you had some of these amazing books in your collection!  Each book shares a wonderful story meant to help kids understand Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.

Happy Lent!

Click on the picture for affiliate link.

In The Legend of the Sand Dollar Kerry visits her cousin Jack and she learns that God’s creations hold extraordinary lessons.  Jack shows her a simple sand dollar and uses its unique designs to tell her Jesus’ story from his birth to Pentecost.  Kerry is enthralled with what she has learned and knows that God is constantly reminding us all that He is close.  (Ages 3-7)

God Gave Us Easter is a great story for sharing the reason for Easter in simple terms.  It shows ‘new life’ found where things are seemingly dead and it reiterates the story of Jesus and the promise that he would come to take care of our sins. (Ages 3-7)

 

Easter is a time to celebrate and Bella and Pablo are excited to experience every aspect of the day in God’s Easter Gifts.  After Mass they go on an very special and memorable Easter egg hunt.  Each egg they find holds a story about a gift from God.  The children learn that Easter is definitely about celebrating God’s gifts, especially Jesus.  (Ages 4-7)

Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday is a sequel to Humphrey’s story as a young camel when he first met Jesus when he was just a baby.  Now he is much older and wiser and is present during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  The pictures are beautiful and the camel’s goofy nature brings fun to the story.  This story stays true to the story of Palm Sunday and is great for kids.  (Ages 4-8)

Three trees each discuss their hopes and dreams for the future in The Three Trees.  Each one hopes for something different and grand but is met with a much more humble fate.  As they find out, their destiny is much more important to the mission of Jesus.  This is a beautiful story that reminds us of the power of the cross.  (Ages 5-9)

The Donkey That No One Could Ride is a simple story about a young, scared donkey.  He meets a man who asks him to carry him on an important ride.  The little donkey does not feel he is worthy, but the man gives him courage.  He agrees to the job and as he carries the man through Jerusalem and people call him a prophet, the donkey feels special.  (Ages 3-7)   For a full review of this book and other Anthony DeStefano books, read our blog post here

The Parable of the Lily tells the story of a farmer’s young daughter who receives a bulb as a gift.  She is disappointed and the gift is forgotten and eventually thrown into the garden.  She is surprised when she wakes up on Easter morning to find a Lily blooming in its place.  Part of a series of parables for little children, this story shares the message of forgiveness and new life.  (Ages 3-8)

The First Easter Bunny is simple story that shares the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection told through the eyes of a rabbit.  Perfect for an Easter gift!  (Ages 4-8)

 

 

 

Perfect for early readers, The Easter Cave goes through many of the details of the Easter story while using rhyme and rhythm.  Beautiful illustrations and repetition make it a wonderful book to keep in your home.  (Ages 4-8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading 9 Books for Kids to Love During Lent

Finding Greatness: A Review of ‘Wonder’

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” –from Wonder

Grade Level:

Grades 5-8

Review and Thoughts

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is one of those great middle elementary books that teaches everyone the struggles and beauties of life and how sometimes they become entwined and we can’t have one without the other.

The story begins with our introduction to August Pullman who has been born with a terrible facial deformity.  In fact, when he is first born, he tells us that the nurses took him away so that his mother couldn’t see him.  He goes on to explain how everyone is so shocked and flustered in the hospital, but when his mother sees him, she notices how beautiful his eyes are and loves him the way any mother would.  And so the book begins with that combination of struggle and beauty and continues throughout. Continue reading Finding Greatness: A Review of ‘Wonder’

Bearing the Burden of Another: A Review of ‘Number the Stars’

“We must stand up for the rights of our neighbor who is suffering from injustice; we must defend them all the more vigorously because we see Jesus present in them. Surely this is our duty because of our love for others for his sake. We have no right to be ‘sleeping watchmen’ or dumb watch-dogs. Whenever we see evil we must sound the alarm.” — Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Reading Level:   5.2 [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

4.5 [AR level]

Interest Level:  Grades 3 – 6

Review and Comments:

Number the Stars is a historical fiction that takes place during WWII in Denmark.  The danger and turmoil in Copenhagen at the time are seen through the eyes of a ten year old girl named Annemarie. She witnesses cruelty and personally experiences fear amidst the bravery and heroic sacrifices of many who “honor the humanity of others.” Continue reading Bearing the Burden of Another: A Review of ‘Number the Stars’