The Teacher’s Pet

Everyone could see that the class pet was trouble. Everyone but the teacher, that is! Hilarity ensues as readers root for the children to save their classroom!

Picture book, fiction, humorous
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 1.8
4 out of 5 stars

Mr. Stricter is very excited by his classes’ science project! He’s has always wanted a pet, so when the class tadpoles are big enough to be released into the wild, the class gets to pick one to keep in the classroom.

They choose Bruno.
Zachariah OHora’s illustrations let observant readers in on the fact that Bruno may be a little more than Mr. Stricter expects. What is especially fun is the children’s scared and horrified faces versus the happy smiles of Mr. Stricter. Children will love this book as a read-aloud because they will delight in noticing that the illustrations do not necessarily match what the text is saying.

The children work together to solve the problem of Bruno. This is a great lesson that can be pointed out to children. Not all problems can, or should be, solved by adults.

Surely Mr. Stricter has learned his lesson and the next science project focusing on butterflies will go better…

This book is a fun and interesting story that will delight young readers. It will make an excellent read-aloud in a library or classroom. Don’t forget to check out the endpapers and note the very important difference.

The Teacher’s Pet
by Anica Mrose Rissi; illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Disney-HYPERION, 2017
ISBN 978-1-48474-364-5

Let’s Talk About Race

This book is a great way to begin talking to children about the subject of race and prejudice. It encourages everyone to look beyond the outside of a person to discover who they really are.

Picture book, non-fiction, empathy
Interest Level: K-5; Reading Level: 3.0
5 out of 5 stars

Julius Lester does a great job presenting the idea of race and how sometimes people form opinions about others before getting to know them. The narrator begins with:

I am a story.
So are you. So is everyone.
My story begins the same way yours does:
“I was born on ——.”

After sharing favorite color and hobbies and other tidbits, the narrator mentions that he is black. He mentions that sometimes people think they are better than someone because of how much money their parents make or the size of their house…or the color of their skin…but those stories aren’t true. The true story is what you can feel if you press your cheekbone or arm. You feel bones underneath. If everyone took off their skin, underneath we are all the same.
“Do I look at you and think I know your story when I don’t even know your name? Or do I look at you and wonder…” This is a powerful and very important question for everyone to ponder, but especially children. If we ever want to make the world a place where everyone is valued, young people must ask themselves these questions and develop empathy for those who are different.

Julius Lester has written a very powerful book that is meant to get children thinking about the topic of race and prejudice. His words are powerful but do not condemn the reader for not thinking about this issue. He merely invites the reader to explore and consider. I believe that every school and public library should have a copy of this book. The interactive nature of the text would make for a very good read-aloud experience.

Let’s Talk About Race
by Julius Lester; illustrated by Karen Barbour
HarperCollins Publishers, 2005
ISBN 0-06-028598-2

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!

This book celebrates those individuals who have the courage to use their voice to make the world a better place.

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: K-3; Reading level: 3.4
5 out of 5 stars

The town of La Paz is a noisy place, and the villagers decide they want a change. They elect a new mayor, Don Pepe, who sets out to make La Paz quiet. He succeeds, and for seven years silence reigns.

Then one day a rooster wanders into town and greets the morning with a song. Don Pepe is not pleased and informs the rooster that it is against the law to sing, to which the rooster replies, “Well that’s a silly law….Smell this sweet mango tree! How can I keep from singing?” Don Pepe cuts down the mango tree, thinking this will stop the rooster, but the next morning the rooster crows again. The story continues with the rooster being put in a cage, then starved, followed by placed in total darkness.

What motivates this brave rooster?

I sing for those who dare not sing — or have forgotten how…If I must sing for them as well, señor, how can I keep from singing?

Don Pepe threatens to make the rooster into soup, to which the rooster replies

Dead roosters sing no songs…But a song is louder than one noisy little rooster and stronger than one bully of a mayor…And it will never die — so long as there is someone to sing it.”

The villagers, inspired by the rooster, began to long for their own songs that they remembered from the past, joined the rooster with their own voices. Don Pepe escapes from the noise of the village, and things return to the way it was at the beginning of the story, only this time, the villagers are happy with the noise.

Carmen Agra Deedy has crafted an allegorical tale that reminds us not to let our voice be silent, and celebrates those brave souls who stand up to injustice and tyranny. Eugene Yelchin’s illustrations perfectly convey the tone of the fairytale style of text, and portray the rooster as a proud and unchanging champion.

The Author’s Note at the end sums up the lesson readers are meant to carry with them

Roosters sing at sunrise; they also sing
at noon, sundown, and in the middle of night.
Roosters sing when they please, and that’s all there is to that.

Much like roosters, human children are born with voices
strong and true — and irrepressible.

Then, bit by bit, most of us learn to temper our opinions,
censor our beliefs, and quiet our voices.

But not all of us.

There are always those who resist being silenced,
who will crow out their truth,
without regard to consequences.

Foolhardy or wise, they are the ones
who give us the courage to sing.

The vibrant and expressive illustrations and fairytale quality of the story would make this an excellent read-aloud.

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!
by Carmen Agra Deedy; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Scholastic Press, 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-72288-9

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

Young children will love this adventure to the inside of a snake. Good read-aloud!

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree
Story by Daniel Bernstrom; pictures by Brandan Wenzel
Katherine Tegen Books, 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-235485-3
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 24 x 27 cm
Picture book, fiction
Interest level: PreK-grade 1; reading level: 1.4
4 out of 5 stars

This story reads like a combination of a cumulative tale–“There Was an Old Lady”–and a folktale. A boy with a “whirly-twirly toy” is skipping along in the shade of a eucalyptus tree when he is gobbled up by a giant snake. The boy, still holding his toy, is actually unconcerned by this turn of events and uses his cunning to convince the snake to keep eating other animals that can be found in the eucalyptus tree. All the animals that end up in the snakes belly appear to be having a pretty good time, until the snake eats one last apple and ends up burping out the entire menagerie.

Brendan Wenzel’s illustrations are colorful and full of wide-eyed animals. Bernstrom uses fun and descriptive language, and the repetitive use of the word “eucalyptus” makes the text a delight to hear out loud. If you are going to use this book for a read-aloud experience, you will definitely want to practice a couple times first. It is easy to get tongue-tied!