Bibliographic Information: Donaldson, J., & Scheffler, A. (2003). Room on the broom. New York, NY: Puffin Books.
Brief Annotation: As a witch is flying on her broom with her cat, she loses (and finds) her ribbon, hat, and wand, meets some new friends, and makes room on the broom for everyone- until she is about to be devoured by a hideous dragon! Will her new friends be able to rescue her?
Grade Level: PreK-3
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy stories with witches; readers who enjoy repetitive text; readers who enjoy stories featuring talking animals.
Rating/Response: 4.5; I enjoyed this book immensely. The text is repetitive in a way that will help students develop phonemic awareness. The story is simple, but full of friendship, generosity, and perseverance. I love that the witch’s new friends manage to band together to scare off the dragon, and the broom the witch creates at the end, including special features for each of her animal friends, will amuse readers.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: This would be an excellent book to encourage students to make predictions. Students could practice during the early repetitive portions of the story, and then would get the opportunity to engage more critical thinking skills when making a prediction for the climax.
Bibliographic Information: Henkes, K. (1988). Chester’s way. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.
Brief Annotation: Chester and Wilson are best friends, and they have a particular way of doing things- until Lily moves into the neighborhood and changes everything.
Genre: Fantasy (Animal Fantasy); Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: PreK-4th
Readers who will like this: Readers who struggle with making new friends; readers who are fiercely independent; readers who enjoy stories featuring strong female characters.
Rating/Response: 5; In Chester’s Way, Henkes has woven together themes of acceptance, growth, and friendship in a delightful tale. Chester and Wilson feel like very believable boys (although they are mice), and Lily bursts with energy. This book can be long for some children, but most will stay engaged enough in the story to maintain focus.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: Sometimes it can be hard to make a new friend. What are some things that make it easier to make friends with someone you don’t know?
Bibliographic Information: Asher, J. (2011). Th1rteen r3asons why: A novel. New York, NY: Razorbill.
Brief Annotation: Clay comes home to find a package at his front door. Inside, he is shocked to discover a series of tapes recorded by Hannah, his former crush, who has recently committed suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and late into the night listening to Hannah’s tapes on a journey to discover the thirteen reasons why she killed herself.
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: 7th and up
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy contemporary realistic fiction; readers who enjoy stories about people struggling with mental illness; readers who feel victimized at school.
Rating/Response: 2; I hated this book. I gave it one point for keeping readers engaged. Asher obviously knows how to write a page-turner. However, I found several parts of the text to be completely lacking in believability, I felt no connection to the characters, and I think Hannah is a dreadful example for teenagers. Creating a set of vicious tapes meant to take down everyone who hurt you from beyond the grave requires both passion and energy. I realize that everyone experiences depression differently, but in my experience, when one is depressed, one generally lacks both passion and energy. Additionally, Hannah’s suicide felt less like a desperate longing to escape than a petty way of getting back at everyone who’s ever hurt her. I also find it completely unbelievable that if, as is stated in the text, Hannah was both showing drastic changes in attitude and behavior and actively sought help that NO adults would have come to her aid (including Mr. Porter, a MANDATED REPORTER). If Hannah had been hiding her depression convincingly or was undergoing treatment that was not successful, I would have been better able to believe this story. As it stands, I was frustrated and angry with both the characters and the author. I understand the reasons this book has been challenged, and although I am a big supporter of freedom of speech, I think this book is best suited to a high school audience. I would not recommend it for 7th and 8th graders.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: Oy vey. “What resources do we have available for people who are struggling with depression or considering suicide?”
Bibliographic Information: Van, D. C. (2007). If I built a car. New York, NY: Puffin Books.
Brief Annotation: While on a car ride with his father, a boy describes the fantastic care, with some extraordinary features, that he plans to design. Winner of the 2008 E. B. White Read Aloud Award.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Grade Level: PreK-4th
Readers who will like this: Readers who like cars; readers who enjoy humorous rhymes and stories; readers who enjoy design.
Rating/Response: 4; Overall, this was a strong book. I had the opportunity to read this book aloud to my fieldwork classroom of 2nd graders, and it was a hit. The students particularly enjoyed the description of the snack bar that the narrator plans to have installed in his car. The book held the class’ attention, and was easy to read aloud. It contains some nonsense words, which is sometimes of concern for early readers who are still learning to decode actual words. However, the some students (including many of those in my fieldwork classroom) enjoy hearing the imaginary words in the text. The largest objection I have to the book is the lack of female characters. Even the dog belonging to the narrator and his father appears to be male. The women in the illustrations are relegated to stereotypically feminine roles, which I find unacceptable for a book written in 2007.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: In this story, the narrator imagines all of the things he would put in a car of his own design. If you were going to design a car, what are some things you might like to put in it?
Bibliographic Information: Stevens, J. (1984). The tortoise and the hare. New York, NY: Holiday House.
Brief Annotation: This retelling of Aesop’s classic fable takes the time to add dimensionality to the fast but arrogant hare, and the serene and determined tortoise.
Genre: Fable (Folklore)
Grade Level: PreK-3rd
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy folklore; readers who enjoy stories with a moral; readers who fell marginalized due to a perceived lack of ability.
Rating/Response: 4; I enjoyed that this book was written to be read by early readers, and the illustrations were nice. It was nothing surprising, but also not bad. I like that the author added an additional layer to the story that would allow students to approach the moral in different ways. The hare is a bit of a bully, but the tortoise has a strong group of friends who support and encourage him. Thus, the story could be used not only to illustrate the virtues of perseverance, but of friendship.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: Have you ever heard somebody say, “Slow and steady wins the race?” Why do you think people say that?
Bibliographic Information: Krull, K., & Diaz, D. (2000). Wilma unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph became the world’s fastest woman. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Inc.
Brief Annotation: A brief picture book biography of Wilma Rudolph, who overcame polio and discrimination to win three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Nonfiction
Grade Level: 1st-3rd
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy running; readers who enjoy stories featuring strong female characters; readers who enjoy books about overcoming adversity.
Rating/Response: 4.5; I absolutely adored the story, but I found the writing to be a bit choppy and dry. The illustrations, however, were lovely, somehow managing to capture the essence of speed. This book made me frustrated with history as it is currently taught, as I had never heard of Wilma Rudolph prior to reading this book. After one reading, I am a huge fan. I think if history classes focused more on the stories of extraordinary individuals, such as Rudolph, more students would find it easy to actively engage in the subject matter.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: In this true story, the main character works very hard, and is eventually able to do something that no one thought she could do. What is something that was hard for you, but you worked very hard at until you could do it?
Bibliographic Information: Wiesner, D. (1991). Tuesday. New York, NY: Clarion Books.
Brief Annotation: Tuesday evening, around eight, the frogs on their lily pads mysteriously begin to rise in the air. After an evening of enjoying their newfound ability to fly, the magic departs. The frogs return to their pond, and the police are left to attempt to deduce a reasonable explanation. Then, the next Tuesday…
Genre: Fantasy; Mystery; Wordless Picture Book (Format)
Grade Level: K-3
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy mysteries; readers who enjoy fantasy; readers who enjoy filling in the story
Rating/Response: 5; There is a reason this book is still enjoyed over twenty years after its initial publication. Wiesner’s whimsical illustration, utilization of panels, and brief words make this book a delight. Younger children enjoy having a book that they can “read” by themselves; older children are able to notice the details that lend humor to the story.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: For this book, I would ask questions throughout, such as, “Why do you think the frogs can fly?”
Bibliographic Information: Snicket, L., Ellis, C., & Stookey, N. (2009). The composer is dead. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Brief Annotation: The Composer is Dead is an introduction to the sections of an orchestra as told through a murder mystery. The Inspector attempts to solve the case by interviewing the various sections of the orchestra. The book ends with the inspector realizing that many composers are dead, but we keep them “alive” by playing their music. The paper copy of the book includes an audio cd that features the story being read aloud with an original score composed by Nathaniel Stookey to support the text.
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: K-12
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy mysteries; readers who enjoy classical music; readers who are curious about the orchestra.
Rating/Response: 4.5; I love this book, and I love that the author and composer collaborated to create this new take on introducing the orchestra through a story (as has previously been done with Peter and the Wolf, among others). As with much of Snicket’s collected bibliography, the story has a bit of a morbid twist, as well as clever wordplay (“This is called composing. […] This is called decomposing.”).
One question you would ask before a read aloud: There are many different kinds of music, like jazz and hip hop. What other kinds of music can you think of?
Bibliographic Information: Katz, K. (2008). Ten tiny tickles. New York, NY: Little Simon.
Brief Annotation: A baby gets is awakened by various family members tickling her.
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: PreK-K
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy counting books; readers who enjoy books featuring babies; readers who enjoy books about routines.
Rating/Response: 2; Counting books are not traditionally the pinnacle of children’s literature, but this one was particularly inane. The tickles are the only things being counted. Numbers are a hard enough abstract concept for children to latch onto; creating a counting book with no physical representation of items to be counted seems entirely pointless. The illustrations are bright and colorful, if somewhat cartoonish.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: The baby in this story is helped to wake up by her family when they tickle her. How does your family help you wake up in the morning?
Bibliographic Information: Burleigh, R., & Johnson, S. (2001). Hoops. Orlando, FL: Voyager Books.
Brief Annotation: An illustrated poem that elicits the many physical and emotional feelings experienced while playing basketball.
Genre: Poetry/Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: K-3rd
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy sports in general, and basketball in particular; readers who enjoy poetry; readers who enjoy brief, accessible text.
Rating/Response: 4.5; I’m not sure if this book was intended to be an illustrated poem, but that is how it read to me. There is strong use of poetic language in the short, rhythmic sentences. I noticed that I couldn’t help but read it in my head as though I were listening to it being read aloud by a poet. The young men portrayed in the illustrations represent a variety of races.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: This book is a poem about the way that it feels to play basketball. I want you to think in your head about one of your favorite things to do. What does it feel like when you’re (running/dancing/playing soccer)?