Currently viewing the category: "Rhyme/Rhythm"

5 Little Ducks
Author: Denise Fleming
Published November 8, 2016 by Beach Lane Books

A Guest Review by Kathryn O’Connor

Summary: Papa Duck and his ducklings go on adventures through the woods and over the hills everyday. Each time Papa Duck yells out “Quack quack quack” to gather his ducklings, but not all of them come back. In fact, with each adventure, one fewer duck returns. Finally on Saturday, Papa Duck went out alone and yelled “Quack, quack, quack”. It was then that all of his ducks came back! When the family woke up together on Sunday, Mama Duck decided it would be best for the family to stay in and rest.

Review: Denise Fleming takes a modern spin on a classic nursery rhyme. It is fun to find out what new adventure the ducklings are taking on throughout the week. Because the ducks meet new people and explore new places each day, the reader is kept engaged. The repetition of the story makes it easy for young readers to follow along with and make predictions. In combination with this, the large text format and bolded numbers allow for easy comprehension.

The lively illustrations bring life to the text, and I love how perspective is used in all of them. Some of the pictures you’ll find to be zoomed out, while some are zoomed in. My favorite part of this picture book is at the end where Fleming has two non-fiction pages based on the animals of the story. This encourages the readers thinking and allows them to explore further.

Although this book is a helpful, entertaining tool for teaching days of the week and numbers 1-5, my only concern is that readers might become worried or anxious thinking about the well-being of the ducks. At some points while reading, I was concentrated on where the ducks were, if they were still alive, and when they were going to return to their family, rather than enjoying the text.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story can be used at first as a whole class read aloud, and perhaps even in a singing voice. Students will quickly pick up on the pattern of the story due to the repetition. By keeping the book in a classroom library, readers will then be willing to pick up the text and read independently or to a friend for they have already familiarized themselves with it. For beginning readers, this will spark motivation and love of reading. This story is also a helpful aid in teaching and counting numbers 1-5, days of the week, and sequencing text.

Discussion Questions: How many ducks do you think will come back?; What day comes next?; Why does Papa Duck yell “quack, quack, quack” everyday?; Where do you think the ducks are going?; Why do you think the ducks want to explore?; Why is Papa Duck feeling sad?; How do you think Papa Duck felt when his ducks returned?; Why does Mama Duck want all of the ducks to rest on Sunday?

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Read This If You Loved: 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, or The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

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Author: Barbara Dee
Published March 14th, 2017 by Aladdin

Summary: Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Review: I really, really, really enjoyed this book. First, it made me like Shakespeare more than I did before. Second, I think that it dealt with sexual identity in a gentle and realistic manner. 

I must admit that Shakespeare is a fear of mine because I just never have felt like I got him the way I should as an English Lit major and English teacher; however, it is what it is. When I see Shakespeare plays, I am always transported into the story and understand what all the hoopla is about, but reading it cold, I just never get it. I worried that a story about a middle school putting on Romeo and Juliet would let the Shakespeare bog it down, but it did the opposite–it helped this story be what it is. The reader learns to love Shakespeare as Mattie learns to love him. And since we are in class and at rehearsals with Mattie, we also get to be part of some of the lessons about the play thus helping the reader understand the text as well as Mattie is supposed to. It was brilliantly intertwined.

Mattie’s feelings toward Gemma are obvious to the reader before Mattie even realizes what they are, but that felt truly realistic to me because if you are someone who has already crushed on boys, feeling the same way towards a girl could be confusing, but Dee never makes it seem like what Mattie seems is anything but natural which is beautiful to see in a middle grade novel.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to being in classroom, school, and public libraries, sections of the story could definitely be used in conjunction to a reading of Romeo and Juliet. Some of the discussions of the play, both during Mattie’s English class and during play rehearsals, would be great jumping off points for similar discussions in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: What clues did Dee include that Mattie’s feelings for Gemma were deeper than she first realized?; If your class was putting on Romeo and Juliet, who do you think would be best to play each character? Explain.; What allusions to Romeo and Juliet did Dee include within the text?; Have you ever read a text that affected you the way Romeo and Juliet effected Mattie?

Flagged Passages: “But that afternoon, when I got home from Verona’s and locked myself in my bedroom to read Romeo and Juliet, something happened to me. It was kind of like a thunderbolt, I guess you could call it. Because as I was reading, I stared speaking the words out loud, feeling the characters’ emotions as if they were mind. I didn’t understand every word, and a few times I skimmed when certain characters (specifically, Mercutio and Friar Lawrench) got speechy. But the idea that Romeo and Juliet had a secret love they had to hid from their families, even from their best friends–it was a story so real I could almost see it happening in front of me.

And wen I got to the end, when Juliet discovers that Romeo is dead, and kisses his lips, and they’re still warm, I did the whole scene in front of the mirror, including the kiss. My eyes had actual tears, and I thought: It’s like this play is happening TO me. Inside me. 

I wanted to own it. I wanted to eat it, as if it were chocolate layer cake.” (p. 68-69)

Read This If You Love: Shakespeare, Middle grade novels about school life and identity 

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing a copy of the book and to Barbara Dee for reaching out to me!**

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

If I Were a Whale
Author: Shelley Gill
Illustrator: Erik Brooks
Published February 21st, 2017 by Little Bigfoot

Summary: From best-selling children’s author Shelley Gill comes this colorful, rhyming board book playfully featuring whales found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans. Toddlers will love to learn about whales swimming in the deep blue sea in this beautifully illustrated board book that shares simple whale facts in an imaginative way.

If I could be anything, do you know what I’d be? I’d be a whale in the deep blue sea.
Scooping up fishes and flipping my tail, I’d be a minke or beluga whale.

About the Author: Shelley Gill was the fifth woman to complete the Iditarod race. When she’s not writing, Shelley travels to schools around the country where she covers a variety of topics–from whale watching to how she thinks up her writing ideas.

About the Illustrator: Erik Brooks spent much of his childhood in Anchorage, AK, where he explored the outdoors and had Alaskan experiences such as seeing the occasional moose wandering through the yard and getting run over by a dog sled. He still loves getting out into nature with his family and his handsome mutt of a dog, Max.

Review: If I Were a Whale is the perfect mix of rhyming poetry and scientific facts. Gill guides us through different oceans visiting different types of whales glimpsing at how each lives their life. This book maybe just a tiny introduction to whales, but the illustrations and text will make the reader want to read it again and then go learn more. Trent, as soon as we were done reading it, asked for it again, but the second time through included a lot more questions about the different whales. I see this book being read often in our future because Trent is a big fan of animals and science as well as good rhythmic picture books. I also want to commend the artist as each page is a beautiful scene with the highlighted whale and its habitat.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In early education, it is so important to introduce young children to as much as possible to help their knowledge grow of our tremendously complicated and full world. If I Were a Whale is a perfect read aloud book that kids will love but will also introduce them to different whales, other animals, and geography.

Discussion Questions: Which whale would you want to be? Why?; Why do whales live in different oceans?; What other animals did you see in the book? Why were they in the illustrations or text?; How are the whales alike? Different?

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Read This If You Loved: Baby Beluga by Raffi, If I Were a Penguin by Anne Wilkinson, Giant Squid by Candace Fleming, O is for Orca by Andrea Helman, Books about whales or other ocean animals

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**Thank you to Nicole at Little Bigfoot for providing a copy for review!**

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juke box

Author and Illustrator: David Merveille
Published February 1st, 2008 by Kane Miller

Summary: From disco to opera, hip hop to jazz, David Merveille’s unique style makes this practically wordless book sing. A non-fiction journey through the musical universe, Jukebox is filled with details, revealing as much about the people who listen to music as it does about those who create it.

My Thoughts: This wordless picture book celebrates a variety of music genres in a beautiful way. He is able to show through illustrations the feeling of music personified. Merveille’s artwork really bring each genre to life. The easiest way to explain how he is able to do this is to show you:


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Dan, The Taxi Man
Author: Eric Ode
Illustrator: Kent Culotta
Published September, 2012 by Kane Miller

Summary: “Here’s Dan, Beep! Beep! the Taxi Man, going to the show and picking up the band. Climb inside while you still can with Dan, Beep! Beep! the Taxi Man.” And what a band it is! A symphony of sounds and colors, this cumulative tale is as much fun to read aloud as it is to listen to.

My Thoughts: Dan, The Taxi Man celebrates music by bringing a band together and putting focus on each musician and their instrument. The onomatopoeias, the rhythm, and the repetition throughout makes this a book that kids will want to read over and over again (just like Trent does!).

P.S. Check out Busy Trucks on the Go by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta for a fun shout-out to Dan, The Taxi Man!


Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: These two books definitely celebrate music and do so in two different ways. These books would be great read alouds in the classroom, specifically music classes. I also could see them be used in a lit circle or book club activity with a selection of music picture books such as Trombone Shorty, Herman & Rosieand Marvin Makes Music as well as many others.

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**Thank you to Lynn from Kane Miller for providing copies for review!**

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parade of puppies

A Parade of Puppies
Author: Charles Ghigna
Illustrator: Kristi Bridgeman
Published August 23, 2016 by Orca Book Publishers

Summary: In this follow-up to A Carnival of Cats, babies, toddlers and dog-lovers alike will enjoy discovering and guessing what breed of puppy is hiding on the next page. With playful rhyming text from award-winning author Charles Ghigna, and beautiful illustrations by celebrated artist Kristi Bridgeman, this hint-and-reveal board book will have everyone pondering what puppy will turn up next!

Ricki’s Review: After I received A Carnival of Cats for review, my son wanted to read it every night. I have that book memorized, and it is a delightful book to know by heart! So when I heard that A Parade of Puppies was coming out, I jumped at the chance to review it. Charles Ghigna’s clever rhymes make the story engaging and fun. I loved being able to teach my son about different dog breeds, and I am looking forward to going to the park, so we can practice his new knowledge! It is hard to find board books that are fun to read over and over and over again, but I know I will enjoy reading this book each time that my son requests it.

Kellee’s Review: I love when books teach toddlers specific knowledge instead of assuming that they aren’t able to learn things like dog breeds. Charles Ghigna’s two books, A Carnival of Cats and A Parade of Puppies, assumes that toddlers want to learn more than just dog vs. cat (which, as a mother of a toddler, is true). Trent loves looking and talking about the differences between the different types of dogs (which is bigger? Has spots? etc.).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to write extended rhymes for this book. Charles covers a lot of popular, fun dog breeds, and students would have a lot of fun researching other breeds and creating additional pages for this book. I can see a bulletin board covered with a parade of puppies! That would bring warmth to a classroom!

Discussion Questions: How does the author make decisions about rhyme? Are there certain dog breed names that seem more difficult to rhyme with? How did he creatively solve this issue?; What dog breeds are included? What breeds are missing? Why do you think he chose to include certain breeds and not others?

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Read This If You Love: Dogs; A Carnival of Cats by Charles Ghigna

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**Thank you to Orca for providing copies for review!!**

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


Antsy Adams: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature
Author: Cindy Jenson-Elliott
Illustrator: Christy Hale
Published September 6th, 2016 by Henry Holt and Co.

Goodreads Summary: You may be familiar with Adams’s iconic black-and-white nature photographs. But do you know about the artist who created these images?

As a child, Ansel Adams just couldn’t sit still. He felt trapped indoors and never walked anywhere–he ran. Even when he sat, his feet danced. But in nature, Ansel felt right at home. He fell in love with the gusting gales of the Golden Gate, the quiet whisper of Lobos Creek, the icy white of Yosemite Valley, and countless other remarkable natural sights.

From his early days in San Francisco to the height of his glory nationwide, this book chronicles a restless boy’s path to becoming an iconic nature photographer.

Cindy Jenson-Elliott photo

About the Author: Cindy Jenson-Elliott is the author of 17 books, a teacher and environmental educator. She teaches writing workshops through her small business Words to Go ( You can see her work on her website at

Kellee’s Review: As a child of a museum director and a photographer, Ansel Adams has been a name that I’ve known since I was quite young. He was one of the first artists whose work I could identify on my own. I was fascinated by his photographs–almost spooky in their lights and shadows but beautiful to where you cannot take your eyes off of them.

I loved learning about Ansel as a child. His story rang true as a teacher especially because there are so many kids like Ansel who are not made for the traditional setting of school yet are brilliant and should be educated a bit differently than the norm. Cindy Jenson-Elliott and Christy Hale do a very good job at showing and telling how Ansel viewed the world. With detailed illustrations, onomatopoeias, and a rhythmic texts, Ansel’s story is told in such an authentic way that really takes the reader into his brilliant mind.

Ricki’s Review: I’ve heard the name Ansel Adams, but I never connected it to the beautiful photography. I am so glad to have read this book because it made me aware of an important man that I didn’t know much about! As a mom of a son that is always itching to go outdoors, this was a great book to read to him. He felt very connected to Ansel! It also taught him all of the lessons he learns while he is outside! It is great to learn about who this man was as a child and what his life was like when he was growing up. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ansel’s story fits into art, history, and language arts. Ansel Adams is a very significant artist of the 20th century and his story could be told within the context of art history or American history. The historical aspect in addition to the imagery, figurative language, and rhythm makes this text perfect for the classroom.

Discussion Questions: How did Ansel’s life change after his dad pulled him out of school? How did this choice affect the rest of his life?; How did Ansel’s personality differ from what the school expected of him?; Who do you think had the biggest influence on Ansel’s life?; Ansel was able to do what he loved for a living. What do you love to do? How could you make a living doing it?

Author Guest Post: I really enjoyed working on this book, partly because I loved the character, but also because I spend a lot of time in the places Ansel Adams haunted. I went to Yosemite for the first time at the same age as Ansel Adams went. And each year, my family treks up to the High Sierra to camp and explore.

I also loved deeply immersing myself in his life and discovering so many things I had not realized: that he explored nearby nature — not far away and exotic locales — as a child, and that forged his connection with the natural world;  that he did commercial work to make a living for his family (so affirming for artists and writers who have to do the same thing!); that he was a concert pianist.

Sometimes when you deeply research a life in order to write a biography, you fall a little bit in love with your subject. Though this was my first biography, from what I understand from other biographers, that’s a common experience. I also understand that many biographers, after spending a few years with someone, fall out of love as they discover all the dimensions of a personality. That didn’t happen for me with Ansel Adams. Reading about the person, seeing where he lived and what he valued throughout his life, and particularly through reading autobiography, I felt such admiration and respect. In a well-written autobiography, you get into a state where you feel like you are experiencing a person’s essence. Reading Ansel Adams’s autobiography was like that for me — his poetic word choices, the way he described the world he lived in and his experience in that world, I had the feeling of standing beside him and seeing his world through his eyes. I wanted to carry that essence into my picture book about Ansel Adams. I wanted young readers to feel what Ansel Adams must have felt making a connection with nature in quiet Lobos Creek behind his house, or meeting his beloved Yosemite for the first time. I wanted the experience of reading Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature, to be visceral. I hope that through my words and Christy Hale’s collage art, that people experience the world through a beautiful set of eyes.

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(Yosemite photographs to see the beauty and precision of Christy Hale’s artwork)


Read This If You Love: Art/photography, The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock, The Museum by Susan Verde, Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock, Photos Framed by Ruth ThomsonThe Sky Painter by Margarita Engle, On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne

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**Thank you to Cindy and Morgan at Macmillan for providing copies for review!**

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Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Michael Slack
Published August 30th, 2016

Summary: We’re Pirasaurs! We’re Pirasaurs!
We rule the open seas!
We’ll cannon-blast you to the past!
We do just what we please!

Meet the Pirasaurs, a ragtag team of seasoned pirate dinosaurs looking for adventure and treasure! There’s fearsome Captain Rex, golden-toothed Velocimate, one-eyed Bronto Beard, and more fearsome, buccaneering beasts….as well as one new recruit who may be small, but who’s eager to prove he can learn the ropes and find his place on the team.

But when a trap is set upon the Pirasaurs while looking for buried treasure, it’s up to the littlest recruit to show the team that there’s more to a Pirasaur than meets the eye patch!

“We’re Pirasaurs! We’re Pirasaurs!
We grunt and roar and sneer!
We’ll steal your books with tails and hooks
And own the blogosphere!

We’re Pirasaurs! We’re Pirasaurs!
We pose a giant threat!
We’ll slash and duel and soon we’ll rule
The world-wide internet!

We’re Pirasaurs! We’re Pirasaurs!
Our story is fantastic!
This grand hardback by Funk & Slack
Is published by Scholastic!

… and will be available on August 30th wherever books are sold!”

-Funk, 2016

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Kellee’s Review: Pirate dinosaurs?! I am so glad that Josh Funk thought of this because it makes a perfect picture book! Who doesn’t like dinosaurs or pirates or both?! I will tell you that my son definitely does! I mean, look at that face!


But in addition to how much we like the premise, it is done so well. Josh Funk must think in rhyme because his books rhyme so seamlessly, and it is so impressive. I also liked the characterization within the book because there are some wonderful pirasaur characters that each have such fun personality. And all of this isn’t even mentioning the colorful, beautiful illustrations!

Ricki’s Review: The concept! Ahhhh, the concept! This book had my son RAWGHing for days. It is books like Pirasaurs! that make readers. It shows kids that reading can be really fun and engaging, and I am grateful to have this book in my collection. The words flow beautifully, and the rhymes rolled off of my tongue as I read them. The illustrations pop, and I couldn’t stop smiling as I turned each page. The book takes readers for an adventure that they will remember long after the book ends. Each of the pirasaurs has a different, cooky personality—and my goodness are they hilarious! I highly recommend you get your hands on this book. It’s a winner.

Teachers’ Tools of Navigation: Pirasaurs! would be a perfect mentor text to discuss prediction, rhyme/rhythm, and characterization. First, while reading, stop just when the battle is beginning and have your students predict what they think is going to happen next. Remind them to use prior knowledge or text evidence to support their prediction. Then at the end of the book, students can check their predictions. When finished, the text can be used to analyze rhyme scheme and rhythm. Finally, students can analyze the character traits of each character and look for descriptive language that shows each character’s personality.

Discussion Questions: What are the character traits of each pirasaur?; What rhyme scheme does the book follow?; What do you think is going to happen after the battle?; What jobs do each pirasaur have? How can you tell?; What is the theme of the story?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long; How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge; Ladder to: The Pirate Pig by Cornelia Funke, The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash, Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow (series) by Rob Kidd

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**Thank you to Josh Funk for everything!**

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