Borden, Louise, Trish Marx, Ills. Peter Fiore. Touching the Sky: The Flying Adventures of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York, NY, 2003.
In Touching the Sky: The Flying Adventures of Wilbur and Orville Wright, Louise Borden and Trish Marx use free verse to relate stories about the famous flight pioneers and the record-setting flights that they performed in September of 1909, Wilbur in New York City and Orville outside of Berlin. Peter Fiore’s colorful watercolor illustrations capture the liveliness and excitement that surrounded these historic flights.
Touching the Sky succeeds in making the legend of the Wright Brothers come to life through these two brief stories. Each story brings one brother to the center in turn, showing them as individuals instead of simply as half of the Wright Brothers. It shows another aspect of the Wright brothers that is often neglected – the huge fame that they attained after their success with flight.
The text is simple enough to not be too challenging for young children, but not overly simplistic so as to lose the interest of more advanced readers. Fiore’s pictures help to bring the stories alive visually both by portraying the emotions of the stories and showing the reader what the world looked like in 1909; not only the Wright planes, but also the clothing, buildings, and people of the time and places shown.
This book is a good choice for elementary students. The text is suitable and the pictures are interesting enough on their own to divert children who may not yet be up to the reading level of the text.
Sea Clocks: The Story of Longitude by Louise Borden
To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendie C. Old
Hot Air by Marjorie Priceman
The Yellow House: Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin Side by Side by Susan Goldman Rubin, Illustrated by Jos A. Smith
Litwin, Eric, Ills. James Dean. Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes. HarperCollins. 2011.
The team of Eric Litwin and illustrator James Dean returns with Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, another installment in the popular Pete the Cat series.
This time, Pete is headed to school in red shoes. Pete goes through his day, riding the bus, eating lunch, going to the library, and more, all the while singing that he is “rocking in my school shoes.”
The repetition of these lines in the book will help young readers with learning words and becoming more comfortable reading. This is reinforced with the recording of the song that readers can access online. Not only is the song a fun feature to go along with the book, it also will assist children with reading by allowing them to follow along in the book to the words of the song.
Dean’s artwork is endearing, showing scenes from “Cat Town” and especially Pete’s school. Who can resist a drawing of a bus full of cats? Though the pictures are simple and have a childlike quality, it is clear what each picture is showing (library, classroom, cafeteria, etc.) and therefore they serve the added purpose of showing children what a day at school is like. This may ease anxieties about going to school by giving children a non-threatening example to look to.
Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes fills a variety of needs for young readers, helping them both with reading and starting school.
Burt, Marissa. Storybound. HarperCollins, 2013.
Age Range: 8-12
Una Fairchild would rather spend her time with a book than with other people. Books she can rely on, unlike kids at school who make fun of her and are gone forever as soon as she moves to another foster home. One day she is reading in the school library when she finds herself inside the book, living it instead of reading it. She soon learns that she has been Written In to Story, the world where characters from the books in the Land of Readers live. Being Written In may not be such a good thing; it hasn’t happened to anyone since a great war before living memory changed the face of Story. In this fantastical world, it is hard to know who to trust and what to believe. Una and her new friends must try to learn the truth about Story and its people before Una’s identity as a Write In is discovered.
Storybound is an entertaining, fast-paced book that is full of action and adventure, with a healthy dose of mystery and intrigue. Readers will fly through this book as they look for answers to all of the questions Una and her friends face as they try to find the truth of Story’s Backstory. They will be delighted by the eclectic group of characters that they will meet, including a talking cat, a Hero in training, and a dryad looking for a missing tree, not to mention fairies, Tale Keepers, possible witches, possible Villians, and especially the world of Story itself.
The fast pace of Storybound and short chapters should be a point of appeal to even reluctant readers. Though the main character, Una, is a girl, her friend Peter also gets ample time at center stage, making the book more accessible to boys who prefer reading about male characters.
The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Half Upon a Time by James Riley
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles)
Heller, Ruth. Animals Born Alive and Well. Grosset & Dunlap, New York: 1982.
Age range: 2-6
The colorful illustrations found in Animals Born Alive and Well spill across the two-page spreads in beautiful detail. Both charming and realistic, the animals pictured range from the easily recognizable (cat, giraffe) to the exotic (pangolin, okapi) and are labeled for easy identification. Readers will also learn that mammals aren’t limited to walking on the ground. They may fly (bat) swim (dolphin) or burrow (mole). The rhymed text makes the words roll off the tongue, and the illustrations often help to show the meaning of more difficult words. For example, one page reads, “So are CAMELS, and like all others, they are nourished by their mothers.” (p.13) Directly below the text is a picture of a baby camel nursing – being nourished by its mother. Heller even teaches the reader an especially big, scientific word at the end of the book: viviparous. She helpfully breaks it down into syllables, making it easier for the young reader (and the reading or assisting parent!) to sound out.
Animals Born Alive and Well fills the needs both of an entertaining book and an educational book. Children will learn facts about mammals and names of different types of mammals, but they will also enjoy listening to the rhyming and pointing out different animals from the illustrations. The vast number of animals pictured alone will provide incentive for many repeated readings.
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
It Started as an Egg by Kimberlee Graves
Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Heller
About Mammals: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill