Juana & Lucas
Written and Illustrated by Juana Medina
Age Level: 5 - 8
Grade Level: K – 3
Would you like to travel to Columbia? Learn a little Spanish? This is the perfect chapter book for you! Meet Juana from Bogata, Columbia. She’ll show you the best things about growing up in Bogata from a kid’s point of view.
But life isn’t perfect. Juana is failing English at school, and if she doesn’t pull up her grades, Mom is canceling the trip to Spaceland. Juana speaks Spanish, and English makes absolutely no sense. The only one who understands – the dog, Lucas, and he’s no help. Will Juana make it to Spaceland? Read and find out!
PS – if you liked this book, there’s a sequel – Juana & Lucas: No Problemas.
Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary
Written by Vicki Conrad
Illustrated by David Hohn
Age Level: 5 - 9 Grade Level: K – 4
Are you a Beverly Cleary lover? A fan of Henry, Beezus, and Ramona? The Mouse and the Motorcycle?
If you've ever wondered how Beverly Cleary became a writer, you need to read this book. It’s fantastic! Here are three things I discovered. 1. Beverly was a terrible early reader. 2. Anyone can talk about winning a contest, but you have to enter to win. Beverly was the only kid to enter. Guess who won! 3. She hated boring books. Beverly wrote the stories she wanted to read. Nothing boring!
Want to learn more about Beverly? Read her biography, the back matter, and timeline. They’re definitely NOT boring!
Written by Minh Le
Illustrated by Dan Santat
Age Level: 3 - 5 Grade Level: P – K
I found this book on the ‘New Book Shelf’ at my local library. The cover made me pick it up and take it home. If I’d read the first couple pages, I might not have checked it out at all, but I’m glad I did! I loved it from the middle on, and the pictures are AMAZING!
Now, I wonder if the author had to make the beginning feel off, like the relationship between the two main characters. Why? In the beginning a young boy was visiting his grandfather, and they didn’t understand each other. In the middle they begin drawing pictures. That’s when I started loving this book, and that’s when the boy and his grandfather began to connect. If you try reading it, don’t give up until you get to the gorgeous illustrations. They’re worth the wait!
Escape from Baxters' Barn
Written & Illustrated Rebecca Bond
Age Level: 8 - 12
Grade Level: 3 – 7
I loved this book back in 2015, and I still do. From the minute I saw it, I thought of Charlotte’s Web. So did School Library Journal.
The story starts when a stray cat named Burdock overhears someone say he’s going to burn the barn down for insurance money. Burdock calls a meeting of the farm animals, and it’s the beginning of a journey to save their lives. The animals must work together to plan an escape, or face a fiery death. There is a happy ending, but you’ll have to read to find out how the animals made it happen.
I admired this book so much I picked it as a mentor text for a story I’m writing. If I write half as well as Rebecca Bond, I’ll have a good story.
Big Bad Detective Agency
Written by Bruce Hale
Age Level: 7 - 10
Grade Level: 2 - 5
Looking for an easy chapter book that’s funny and punny? Try this one! It’s spun from some of my favorite fairy tales. Big Bad Wolf is accused of destroying three houses, the ones that happen to belong to the three little pigs.
Wolf is arrested. He claims he’s been framed, but he gets one day to prove his innocence. If he fails, he’ll spend his life in jail with nothing to eat but porridge. YUCK!
Wolf is clueless till the fourth little pig shows up with some crazy crime-solving ideas. He has to try them, or face a life of porridge. Read along to find out the verdict – and what’s for dinner.
Genius Journal: Stem Edition
Written by Karen O’Leary
Age/Grade Level: None suggested. I suggested one below.
Do you have a child who loves to read, think, and do? This is the perfect book for him/her. I’ve only looked at the STEM Editionbut I’m assuming that the others are written similarly.
The STEM edition is set up in 7 sections. Each section starts with a quote that’s followed by a series of activities. These range from thoughtful questions like what would you do, why , or describe.
There are also writing opportunities for acrostic poems, a letter, a list, a story, or jokes. You can respond with a math problem, a design project, or in a maze. There are even opportunities to explain or imagine. These could be done in words or drawings. Altogether there are more than 50 prompts to respond to with unique and creative ideas.
The age level? I think it’s for any child who likes to read or write. This is a journal your child can make their own. I looked across the other Genius Journals, and the comments were all from parents/grandparents with 10/11 year olds, but I think this is a great possibility for any reader/writer from Kindergarten up.
There are 3 other journals: Hopes & Dream, Friendship, and Teacher Edition. If I were still teaching, I would love to use this for kids who always finish early and want something meaningful to do. This is it!
Written by Angie Karcher
Illustrated by Dana Karcher
Grade Level: 3 – 4
Can you imagine growing up with a 35-foot town Santa who disappears one day? You didn’t notice him fading away, but somebody did, and they sent Santa off to the junkyard. Fortunately someone else noticed and started a program to ‘Stand Santa Back Up.”
Santa’s gift is written in verse so it’s a fun read aloud, but my favorite part is that it’s a great example of how working together can solve problems.
Written by Susan Edwards Richmond
Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Age Level: 4 - 8
Grade Level: K – 2
Have you heard of a Christmas Bird Count? I hadn’t, but the Audubon Society does one every year, and author Susan Richmond has been counting birds for 14 of them. She is the perfect person to tell the story of Ava, bird lover and girl citizen scientist.
The Christmas Bird Count has 3 rules: 1. Count every bird you hear or see. 2. At least 2 people must see or hear each bird. 3. The hardest – you can only count a bird once. If you think you’ve seen or heard it before, you can’t count it again.
Want to learn more about the Christmas Bird Count, read the back matter. It’ll tell you more about each bird and how to join the count.
Rhino? What Rhino?
Written by Caryl Hart
Illustrated by Sarah Horne
Age Level: 3 - 5
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
This was one of the first books I read when I started keeping a journal of the new children’s books I was reading. I guess it’s been awhile! Rhino was published back in 2012, but my notes reminded me what I loved about it.
The story is told in verse, and it’s good to the last rhyme!The plot? Rhino escapes from the zoo and hides out on a farm. There are no zookeepers so Rhino takes whatever he wants. His life is perfect, but it’s not so great for the other farm animals. They get blamed for every single thing Rhino takes. They decide to teach Rhino a lesson, and a few manners. This story is pure fun! I hope you check it out!
The Best Seat in Kindergarten
Written by Katherine Kenah
Illustrated by Abby Carter
Age Level: 4 - 8
Grade Level: P – 3
This would be a great first day of school book, but it’s also something more. It’s about the power of friendship, of helping others. The first day of school finally arrives, and his teacher takes the class outside for a nature walk. The assignment – find something and bring it back for show-and-tell. Guess who finds the best thing of all? Sorry, you’ll have to read to find out what Sam found.
PS – this is a sequel to Katherine’s 2006 book, The Best Seat in Second Grade.
Whenever I read or write, I find a comfy chair with a great view. I get my favorite drink, stretch out, and let the words take me away.