Fox at Night

Fox is up late in the night. There are shadows and noises everywhere. Fox is sure the night’s full of monsters! Then he meets the real creatures of the night and realizes they are not so scary after all.

Fox at Night uses illustrations to create suspense. For example, at first Fox looks at the “monsters” in the night through his binoculars, which allows him to focus on their scary features such as a bat’s wings and his pointy ears. But when he finally meets them face to face, he realizes that they are not monsters after all. Each new creature that Fox meets stays with him throughout the story. In the end, Fox and his friends do find a small, three-eyed, purple monster. In a surprising twist, the monster thinks the forest animals are the monsters and the purple monster quickly runs away.

As a My First I Can Read Book, Fox at Night is perfect to read to your little one. The story uses basic language, word repetition, and large illustrations on each page. Each page has 1 to 3 simple sentences that include dialogue and imagery.

Fox’s story is told through adorable pictures that have a hint of humor. For example, when Fox meets Skunk, Skunk is flying a kite in the middle of the night and Fox has his blanket over everything except his face. The humorous ending will have readers snuggling into bed with a smile on their faces. Young readers will fall in love with Fox and want to read about all his adventures. Readers who are ready for more silly monster fun should check out the Notebook of Doom Series by Troy Cummings.

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Maybe

You are the only you there ever has been or ever will be. You are unique. Just the odds of you being here at this exact place and this exact time are so great and so rare that they will never happen again. This is a story for everything you will do and everything you could be. It’s for who you are right now, and it’s for all the magical, unbounded potential you hold inside.

Unlike most picture books, Maybe isn’t a story with a plot. Instead, the book gives advice interspersed with questions to consider. The text asks, “Maybe you will help others to see the beauty of each day? Maybe you are here to shine a light into places that have been dark for too long.” While all of the advice and questions encourage readers to think about their unique abilities, many of them are deep questions that require thought and meditation. Because of this, younger readers might have a difficult time staying focused through the end of the book.

The whimsical illustrations focus on a girl and her pig. The young girl has a cap made of leaves with a beak-like beak. While the illustrations are beautiful and interesting, some of them are odd and do not match the words. For example, in one picture the girl is standing inside a giant flower and watering it. In the picture, the pig is chasing a ladybug. The text asks, “What if you are only scratching the surface of what you can do and who you can be?”

Another negative aspect of the story is the quickly shifting focus. The questions do not seem to flow naturally but instead jump from thought to thought. Instead of having a unified theme, Maybe reads like a motivational speech from a stranger. Because of this, young readers may wiggle and squirm throughout the reading of the book. If you’re looking for a motivational picture book, you should bypass Maybe and instead check out I Believe I Can by Grace Byers and The Power of One: Every Act of Kindness Counts by Trudy Ludwig.

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Ty’s Travels: Lab Magic

Corey and Ty take an exciting trip to the museum, where they get to be scientists. First, they study bugs. Then, they study the wind. Ty is disappointed when he discovers that he is too little to do science experiments at the museum. But Ty doesn’t let that spoil his day.

Once Corey and Ty get home, Momma helps them set up a science experiment that is perfect for younger kids. Before they begin, Corey and Ty make sure they are safe by putting on a lab coat (Dad’s shirt), goggles, and gloves. With their parents’ help, Corey and Ty learn that they like being scientists.

Lab Magic is part of the My First I Can Read Series, which uses basic language, word repetition, and illustrations that are ideal for emergent readers. Each page has one to four simple sentences with large, brightly colored illustrations. The illustrations will introduce different types of science such as using test tubes or learning about butterflies. Plus, the pictures will help young readers understand the plot.

Young readers who are learning how to read will enjoy Lab Magic. The short sentences and large illustrations make the story accessible to emergent readers. Like the other books in Ty’s Travels Series, Lab Magic shows Ty’s two-parent family in a positive light. Readers will enjoy learning about Ty’s adventure and all of the different ways science can be studied. For more science fun, check out Cece Loves Science by Kimberly Derting & Shelli R. Johannes.

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Players in Pigtails

Did you know that one of America’s favorite songs, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” was written about a girl? And that in the 1940s girls all across America were crazy for our country’s favorite game?

These little known facts inspired Shana Corey to imagine a story about how one determined girl made her way to the big leagues & found a sisterhood of players in pigtails. With the same exuberant spirit that fueled the formation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, Players in Pigtails celebrates these brave girls’ love of the game & the league they called their own.

Players in Pigtails begins with Katie Casey, who “wasn’t good at being a girl.” The story explains the 1950s view on women in a way that is both relatable and understandable. In order to play baseball, girls had to attend charm school and wear dresses as uniforms. Despite society’s views about girls and baseball, the players in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League showed that they could play baseball. During the first game, “no one was asking what good baseball was to a girl. They were all too busy talking about how good girls were for baseball.”

The bright full-page illustrations reflect the clothing and culture of the 1950s. However, some of the illustrations use humor to show Katie Casey’s plight. For example, the pictures show how Katie Casey couldn’t knit and her dancing was horrendous. Even though Players in Pigtails is a picture book, it is intended to be read aloud instead of having the child read it independently. Each page has 2 to 4 sentences and many of them are complex. In addition to needing help reading, young readers may also need help understanding societies’ views on women. Younger readers may have a difficult time listening to the entire story because of the text-heavy pages.

Younger readers may wonder why girls had to learn how to drink out of a teacup and have good posture in order to play baseball. However, Players in Pigtails shows how women overcame obstacles to play the game they loved. The charming story will encourage readers to chase their dreams even when they may seem impossible. Anyone who loves baseball should read Players in Pigtails because of its historical value. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an encouraging book to read to your baseball-loving child, Players in Pigtails is a must read. Readers may also want to check out Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubbard and Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki which are wonderful and motivational baseball picture books.

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Knight Owl

Since the day he hatched, Owl has dreamed of becoming a real knight. He may not be the biggest or the strongest, but he believes that his sharp nocturnal instincts can help protect the castle, especially since many knights have recently gone missing. While holding guard during Knight Night Watch, Owl is faced with the ultimate trial—a frightening intruder. It’s a daunting duel by any measure. But what Owl lacks in size, he makes up for in good ideas.

Owl’s story comes to life in beautifully detailed illustrations that are shades of brown and blue. Owl’s small size is shown when he is working with the other knights, when he needs a ladder to see over the castle wall, and when a dragon towers over him. Despite his size, Owl reminds himself that he is a knight and knights are brave. When the dragon first appears, his face takes up an entire page, which allows his scales, angry eyes, and large teeth to pop off the page. Even though the dragon is frightening, Owl finds a way to connect to the dragon. Soon the two are talking about “how each of them had hatched from eggs [and] how much they liked the night.”

The story incorporates humorous wordplay. It also shows how Owl’s owlish traits help him be a good knight. For example, “the other knights usually fell asleep during the long Knight Night Watch, but Owl didn’t mind.” The illustrations also have fun elements such as the huge dragon reclining on the castle wall while enjoying a pizza.

Even though Knight Owl is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 4 sentences. The story’s word play and onomatopoeia make Knight Owl a fun book to read aloud.

Young readers who dream of dragons and knights will fall in love with Owl. The relationship between Owl and the dragon is endearing and it teaches the importance of not making assumptions based on how someone looks. Once Owl and the dragon talk, they discover “they really had a lot in common.” Owl doesn’t save the day by using his strength or a sword, but by being brave enough to befriend the dragon. Readers who love dragons should also read When Dragons are Dreaming by James Mayhew & Lindsey Gardiner. Readers ready for chapter books should read Roland Wright: Future Knight by Tony Davis.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • It is implied that the dragon ate some of the knights.

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Clovis Keeps His Cool

Clovis has a terrible temper. He’s been learning how to control it with calming tea, deep breaths, and his beloved late granny’s wise words in mind: “Grace, grace. Nothing broken to replace.” His new job running her old china shop helps put him at peace.

But when bullies from his football days come to heckle him at the shop, Clovis faces a big challenge that even deep breaths and Granny’s words might not be enough for. Will Clovis give in to the urge to charge even if it means destroying something he loves?

In stressful situations, Clovis tries his best to stay calm. However, when heckler’s break his granny’s teacup, Clovis charges. When he has the hecklers cornered, Clovis is reminded of his granny’s words, which allows him to calm down. In a unique twist, Clovis invites the hecklers to have a cup of tea with him. In the end, the hecklers help Clovis clean up the mess in granny’s shop. “Little by little, they helped Clovis pick up the pieces, putting right what had gone wrong. And always Clovis served tea. By the time his shop reopened, a few things had changed. Clovis had old hobbies, new friends, and plenty of grace to go around.”

Through Clovis’ experiences, the reader will learn ways to destress. For example, Clovis listens to soothing music, he does yoga, he has chamomile tea, and he breathes to the count of ten. However, Clovis isn’t perfect and he loses his cool, but he finds a way to make everything right. When Clovis was being bullied, he could have retaliated, but instead, he treats the hecklers with kindness and they find common ground. Some younger readers may not understand all the underlying themes in Clovis Keeps His Cool, but it will give parents the opportunity to discuss anger, bullying, and forgiveness with their child.

While Clovis Keeps His Cool is an entertaining story on its own, the illustrations are wonderfully fun and humorous. For example, the contrast between Clovis’ large size and the tiny china in the tea shop will make readers smile. Clovis’ facial expressions are detailed and help the reader understand his varied emotions. Readers will also enjoy looking for the cat that pops up in several pages.

Even though Clovis Keeps His Cool is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 2 to 4 sentences. However, some of the sentences are complex and readers may need help understanding some of the vocabulary. The varying size of the text adds interest to the page and also helps reinforce when Clovis is angry. The story’s alliteration, onomatopoeia, and dialogue make the story fun to read aloud.

Clovis Keeps His Cool will resonate with every young child because everyone gets angry at times. The unique setting, animal characters, and entertaining story will keep readers engaged as it teaches the importance of staying calm. Whether you’re looking for an educational book or a book to read just for fun, Clovis Keeps His Cool is an excellent choice.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • Hecklers come into the tea shop and one throws a teacup at Clovis. Angry, Clovis “tore through town, hot on the hecklers’ hooves. The stampede didn’t stop until he’d chased them to the end of a dark alley. . . Clovis snorted and pawed the ground.” Clovis controls his temper before he hurts anyone.

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

  • Someone calls Clovis a wimp.

Supernatural

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The Perfect Birthday Recipe

Summer birthdays can be lonely, but not when you have great friends like Beaver’s! This year Tortoise, Bird, Rabbit, and Squirrel insist on baking Beaver’s birthday cake, but Beaver isn’t so sure. He is the ultimate perfectionist and would rather do it himself, following the recipe exactly. Will Beaver’s nitpicky ways ruin his birthday and his friendships? The Perfect Birthday Recipe is the fourth and final story in Katy Hudson’s best-selling set of seasonal picture books, which include Too Many Carrots, A Loud Winter’s Nap, and The Golden Acorn.

 Every perfectionist will relate to Beaver, who makes step-by-step plans and wants everything done exactly as specified. When his friends insist on helping, Beaver worries and frets and grumbles his way through the process. Readers will giggle as each of Beaver’s friends “helps” make the cake. Tortoise works slowly and messily. Bird adds her family’s secret ingredient to the cake mix—pickled worms. Once Beaver sees the finished cake, which looks nothing like the recipe picture, Beaver “snaps” and yells, “This is the ugliest, most disgusting cake I have ever seen!”

Beaver leaves his friends and goes off in a huff to create a new, perfect cake. When the new cake is complete, Beaver cries because he has no one to share it with. In the end, Beaver learns that a perfect birthday only needs one ingredient—his friends.

Hudson’s seasonal picture books capture readers’ hearts as they teach about the importance of friendship. Each page is beautifully illustrated in bright colors and contains wonderful details. For example, when Rabbit misreads the cake recipe and adds two hundred carrots, the illustration shows Tortoise and Squirrel trapped under a mound of carrots with only their heads peeking out. Readers will want to look at the illustrations again and again, finding new details every time.

The Perfect Birthday Recipe will keep young readers engaged until the story’s end. Most of the text is dialogue and some words are bolded for added emphasis. Each page has 1 to 3 sentences, which makes it a quick read. The Perfect Birthday Recipe will please parents and children alike because of the adorably cute animals, a relatable conflict, and a positive message. Plus, Beaver’s story highlights the downfall of perfectionism and the importance of friendship.

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Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Born in Ghana, West Africa with one deformed leg, Emmanuel was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.

Even though Emmanuel only had one good leg, he was determined to do what the other children did—go to school, play soccer, and ride a bike. Unlike most children today, Emmanuel also had to work shining shoes and selling vegetables to help support his family. Because of his disability, people told him to “go out and beg, like other disabled people did.” However, Emmanuel refused to give up, and his experiences led him to ride 400 miles across his country to show that “being disabled does not mean being unable.”

Even though Emmanuel’s Dream is a picture book, most young readers will not be able to read the book independently because of the advanced vocabulary and text-heavy pages. Each page has 2 to 4 sentences and many of the sentences are long and complex. The simple illustrations use bright colors and show Emmanuel’s world. Through the pictures, readers will get a brief look at Ghana’s culture.

Because of his disability, Emmanuel faced many hardships and discrimination. However, his story focuses on how he overcame each difficult situation. Emmanuel’s Dream will entertain readers as it teaches them the importance of perseverance and hard work. Because of Emmanuel’s dedication, he was able to succeed in spreading his message. “He proved that one leg is enough to do great things—and one person is enough to change the world.”

If you’re looking for more inspiring sports related books that focus on people overcoming difficult situations, pick up a copy of She Persisted in Sports by Chelsea Clinton and Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubbard.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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Supernatural

  • When Emmanuel was born, most people thought he would be “useless, or worse—a curse. His father left, never to return.”

Spiritual Content

  • Emmanuel was given his name because it means “God is with us.”
  • Emmanuel asked the king of his region “to give him a royal blessing.”

 

Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

Sonia and her friends are planting a garden, and each one contributes in his or her own way. Rafael has asthma and sometimes must stay calm so he can breathe, which gives him time to paint beautiful rocks for the garden. Anthony uses a wheelchair to get around and can move super-fast, directing the group. Anh has a stutter and prefers to listen, so she knows just how to plant each flower. All the friends are different, but they all have one thing in common: they like to ask questions and learn about one another!

This inclusive story is told by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and inspired by her own diagnosis of diabetes. Readers will see differently abled kids use their strengths to work together and learn about each other. The book shows that differences are wonderful and that all you have to do when you don’t understand something is ask.

Each page of the picture book focuses on nature and the children who are working in the garden. The illustrations are brightly colored and show some imaginative elements as well. For example, Jordan loves dinosaurs, and in his illustration, he is walking over a rainbow and is surrounded by dinosaur shaped plants. Readers will enjoy finding all the animals that appear throughout the book such as a squirrel, a grasshopper, and birds.

The book uses a similar format on all the pages. Each two-page spread has a paragraph about a different person who has a disability. Each page also has a question for readers to consider. For example, “I also love reading and writing. What about you?” Even though each page only has 2 to 5 sentences, parents will need to read the book to their child rather than having the child read it independently. The complex sentence structure and advanced vocabulary will be difficult for beginning readers.

Just Ask uses an extended metaphor that compares people to a garden. For example, Sonia must take insulin because “my body doesn’t make insulin naturally like other people’s.” The full-page illustration that accompanies the words shows Sonia sitting in a flower, giving herself a shot of insulin. Just Ask introduces readers to a wide range of differences such as autism, stuttering, and needing to use a wheelchair. Plus, the children who appear in the story are diverse and have many different skin tones.

Parents and educators who want to educate readers about people with different abilities should put Just Ask on their must-read list. Unlike most picture books, Just Ask isn’t necessarily entertaining, but it teaches important lessons about being inclusive and shows how everyone can contribute in different ways. While young readers may not understand the connection between people and different types of plants, Just Ask is the perfect book to use as a discussion starter. While the story encourages readers to ask about people’s differences, it does not explain how to ask in a polite and kind manner.

The beautiful and creative illustrations, the diverse characters, and the positive message make Just Ask an excellent book to read to young children. The picture book gives information about different disabilities as well as food allergies and encourages readers to be inclusive.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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Hello Goodbye Dog

For Zara’s dog, Moose, nothing is more important than being with his favorite girl. So, when Zara has to go to school, WHOOSH, Moose escapes and rushes to her side. Hello, Moose!

Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed at school and Moose must go back home. Goodbye, Moose.

But Moose can’t be held back for long. Through a series of escalating escapes, this loyal dog finds his way back to Zara, and with a little bit of training and one great idea, the two friends find a way to be together all day long.

Hello Goodbye Dog is a super-cute picture book full of fun illustrations that show Moose repeatedly escaping his house and running to Zara’s classroom. The brightly colored illustrations are often humorous. The characters’ faces are expressive and show a wide range of emotions. Another positive aspect of the illustrations is that the children and staff are a diverse group, including Zara, who uses a wheelchair. Each page has two to four short sentences that use easy-to-understand language.

Young readers will laugh at Moose’s antics as he continually runs to Zara’s school because he enjoys being with Zara and the other children. The conclusion shows a unique solution to the problem when Moose attends therapy dog school. Once Moose graduates from therapy dog school, he is welcomed to Zara’s classroom by everyone, including the adults who once chased him out.

Dog-loving readers will love Hello Goodbye Dog and will want to read it again and again. If you’re looking for another fun dog-related book add Shampoodle by Joan Holub and Marley Firehouse Dog by John Grogan to your reading list.

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All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything

Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins never wanted her wheelchair to slow her down, but the world around her was built in a way that made it hard for people to do even simple things like go to school or eat lunch in the cafeteria. This is the true story of a little girl who just wanted to go, even when others tried to stop her.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was proposed, requesting that Congress make public spaces accessible to everyone, Jennifer joined activists in Washington, D.C. for what became known as the Capitol Crawl. To bring attention to the dilemma, Jennifer and others crawled all the way to the top of the Capitol Building,

All the Way to the Top begins by exploring the discrimination Jennifer was faced with because she was in a wheelchair and how this led her to participate in organized protests. A major portion of the book focuses on the protests Jennifer attended, the goals of the protests, and the reasons Congress was against the ADA. Even though All the Way to the Top is a picture book, it covers complicated topics like the ADA, activism, and the role of Congress.

The picture book’s illustrations focus on Jennifer whose facial expressions clearly show a range of emotions from joy to determination to sadness. Some of the pictures show large groups of people protesting. In these illustrations, the protesters are not clearly defined and are one color which allows the focal point to stay on Jennifer. Each page contains 2 to 6 sentences; however, the complex sentence structure makes some of the pages appear text heavy. Even though All the Way to the Top is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently.

Jennifer is an admirable person, who was determined to show people how passing the ADA would help people with disabilities. However, the story acknowledges that “laws like the ADA don’t change things overnight. Entrances have to be rebuilt, sidewalks redesigned, buses reengineered. Slowest of all, minds have to change.” The book ends with three pages that explore the topic in more detail, a timeline that shows the milestones of the disability rights movement, and a picture of Jennifer climbing the steps of the Capitol.

All the Way to the Top shows how one person can make a positive impact on the world. All the Way to the Top is an excellent book to use in an educational situation, for research, or as a conversation starter. Plus, Jennifer’s story highlights the importance of dedication and giving voice to a cause. All the Way to the Top received the Schneider Family Book Award which honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Readers who want to read another biographical picture book that shows how one person overcame a disability should read The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability

“My name is Shane, and I was born with a disease that makes my body grow smaller and weaker as I get older instead of bigger and stronger. Living with this disease means that I’ve used a wheelchair for most of my life and often rely on my family and friends to help me do all my favorite things—like eating pizza, participating in sports, and playing video games. Since many people are curious about me, I decided to answer some of the questions I’m asked head-on in this book. Go ahead and take a look! Although I need a little more help than you might, you’ll see that I’m not so different.”

Shane talks about his disability in a conversational tone and with humor. Shane’s family helps him with many of the day-to-day tasks that most people complete easily. “My brother helps me brush my teeth, but he loves to joke around, so I don’t let him help me get dressed or he makes me wear ridiculous outfits.” The book explains the importance of Shane’s wheelchair, his friends, and his family. Like most young people, Shane likes to play sports and eat pizza. But when people make fun of him, “it hurts my feelings because if they knew me a little better, they would see that I’m not so different!”

Each page has a full-page illustration that is often humorous. For example, Shane shows himself next to a T-Rex and the dinosaur is saying, “My head is big and my arms are short too, but I’m still awesome.” Each two-page spread has a question in a quote bubble, and the text answers the questions. Most pages have approximately five sentences, but some only have two sentences.

Shane uses a matter-of-fact tone to put readers at ease while he explains his disability. Shane doesn’t go in depth about the medical aspect of his disability, and he never complains about the things he cannot do. Instead, Shane uses humor to show that even though he looks different than other people, he really isn’t different on the inside.

Sexual Content

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Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

Louis Braille was just five years old when he lost his sight. He was a clever boy, determined to live like everyone else, and what he wanted more than anything was to be able to read.

Even at the school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him. So, he invented his own alphabet—a whole new system for writing that could be read by touch. A system so ingenious that it is still used by the blind community today.

When Louis first went blind, he felt like “the neighbor’s angry dog, chained too tight. Alone in the dark.” However, his family and people in his community taught him how to navigate in his dark world. For example, “the village priest taught me to recognize trees by their touch, flowers by their scent, and birds by their song.”

One pivotal moment in Louis’s life was when he went to school with other blind students. The children at the school were excited when “a French army captain had invented a code to send secret messages during battle. The code is read by touch, not by sight, so we might use it here.” This code gave Louis the inspiration to create his own system, where each letter was represented by dots that fit under a finger. Louis’s invention continues to have a lasting and profound impact on people today.

Six Dots educates readers about Louis Braille and gives them an idea of how it feels to be blind. While the story is interesting, the text-heavy pages and complicated cause and effect of events will be difficult for younger readers to sit through. Each page has 4 to 12 sentences. The realistic illustrations are drawn in shades of brown with light blues and greens. The book ends with one page written in a question-and-answer format that explains more about Louis. In addition, there is a list of resources to learn more about Louis and about using braille.

Six Dots is an entertaining and educational story that packs a lot of information into a short space. Louis Braille’s story demonstrates how one’s disability does not have to control your life. Despite being blind, Braille went on to master the cello and the organ, both of which he played professionally. He also was a history professor and published books on music, mathematics, and mapping. Six Dots would be an excellent resource to use for readers who want to research Louis Braille. Readers looking for another motivational picture book about a real person should read The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Louis became blind after he accidentally poked his eye with an awl and both eyes become infected.

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

Problems always set Emma “Lilian” Todd’s mind soaring—even as a girl. Growing up during the golden age of invention and born into a family of inventors, Lilian couldn’t hold strips of wire or bits of tin without tinkering. She turned toys and trash into useful inventions.

But when Lilian grew up and learned that inventing wasn’t considered women’s work, she decided to do the next best thing. She got a job at the U.S. Patent Office typing up plans for brand-new inventions—and constructing each contraption in her mind. Soon, she engineered her own fantastic flying machines, testing and tweaking her designs and overcoming each obstacle. Lilian found inspiration in nature and her many failures until her biggest dream finally took flight.

Lilian’s story comes alive in beautiful, brightly colored illustrations. Each illustration will help readers understand the plot as well as Lilian’s inventions. Each page has 2 to 8 sentences that include some complex sentences and difficult vocabulary; therefore, the picture book should be read by an adult the first time. The text includes quote bubbles that contain quotes from Lilian. The end of the story includes an author’s note with photographs, supplemental information, and a timeline.

Wood, Wire, Wings is mentioned in the Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People in 2021 and shows the importance of perseverance and determination. Lilian’s story has many interesting facts, but younger readers may have a difficult time sitting through the entire story. Despite this, Lilian’s story will motivate readers to reach for their dreams. In addition, Lilian’s story will inspire young people to try to invent things with simple household items. Young readers who are interested in engineering and creating should read the Questioneers Series by Andrea Beaty. Strong readers should also add the Ellie, Engineer Series by Jackson Pearce to their reading list.

Sexual Content

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World

Barnum Brown’s (1873-1963) parents named him after the circus icon P.T. Barnum, hoping that he would do something extraordinary – and he did. As a paleontologist for the American Museum of Natural History, he discovered the first documented skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, as well as most of the other dinosaurs on display there today.

Barnum’s Bones follows the fossil hunter around the globe as he searches for bones. Barnum found so many bones that some people believed Barnum was “able to smell fossils.” Barnum’s story also demonstrates the hard work that went into digging the fossils out of the dirt. In the end, Barnum realized his dream of discovering a new dinosaur species. “Just as his family had wanted, Barnum did something important and unusual: he discovered a sleeping dinosaur and brought it back to life. Sixty-six million years after extinction, T. Rex lives on in Barnum’s bones.”

Told with humor, Barnum’s Bones is a fascinating story that details how one man did “important and unusual things.” Each page of the picture book has large, detailed illustrations that add humor to the book. For example, in one picture, an iguana is looking at a newspaper story about a stegosaurus. While the story is entertaining enough to keep young readers engaged, the illustrations are so full of fun details that readers will want to take their time studying them. The amazed expression of a horse, Barnum’s bedroom overflowing with fossils, and the giant skull of a dinosaur are included in the illustrations.

Even though Barnum’s Bones is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Most of the pages are text heavy and younger readers may become squirmy before the end of the book. However, anyone who is interested in dinosaurs and paleontology must read Barnum’s Bones because it is both informative and interesting. Plus, Barnum’s story shows how one man’s dedication allowed him to live his dream and discover new dinosaurs.

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Snail Crossing

Snail sees a plump, crisp cabbage across the road. Determined to reach the tasty snack, Snail starts sliding across the road. A group of ants are trying to cross the road too. But when the rain comes, the ants are fearful they will drown! So, Snail invites the ants into his house and serves them tea.

When the rain stops, Snail and the ants are excited to continue on their way. But with cars whizzing past and a hungry bird swooping by, is there any way Snail will reach the cabbage?

Snail Crossing is an adorably cute story about friendship. At first, the ants just want Snail to get out of their way. But once Snail saves them from the rain, the ants apologize for being rude. An ant says, “We’re sorry. Terribly sorry. Sometimes we get a bit antsy.” In the end, Snail gets the cabbage in a surprising way that reinforces the importance of helping each other.

Snail’s adventure is illustrated with large, colorful pictures that will help readers see the scale of the world compared to such a tiny creature. Snail’s trip across the road may seem daunting, but he never stops moving towards his goal. The snail’s pink shell is the focal point of each illustration, and readers will grin in delight when they glimpse the inside of Snail’s shell.

Even though Snail Crossing is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 6 simple sentences that are easy to understand.

Snail Crossing is a humorous story that young readers will enjoy. The relationship between Snail and the ants is unexpected and wonderful. Whether you’re looking for a quick bedtime story or a silly adventure, Snail Crossing is sure to delight readers both young and old. If you’re looking for more fun stories that focus on a snail, add The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A hungry bird tries to eat Snail for lunch.

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Fox the Tiger

Fun-loving, mischievous, Fox, wishes he was a tiger. Tigers are big and fast and sneaky. So, he decides to become one! Soon, Turtle and Rabbit are joining in the fun. But will Fox want to be a tiger forever?

Young readers will fall in love with Fox as he pretends to be a tiger. Soon, Turtle joins the game and pretends he’s a race car. Finally, Rabbit turns into a robot. As the animals play dress up, Fox and his friends learn that the best thing to be is yourself.

Fox the Tiger uses simple, but adorable pictures that have a hint of humor. For example, as Turtle is changing into a race car, both Fox and Rabbit wait and wait. They wait so long that a snail passes them by. Each page has 2 to 3 simple sentences that include dialogue and fun onomatopoeia. As a My First I Can Read Book, Fox the Tiger is perfect to read to your little one. The story uses basic language, word repetition, and large illustrations on each page.

Young readers will fall in love with the mischievous Fox and want to read more adventures about him.  Even though the story is short, it has a powerful message—Fox is glad to be a fox and you should be glad to be you.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon

Every step forward is a victory.

Fauja Singh was born determined. He was also born with legs that wouldn’t allow him to play cricket with his friends or carry him to the school that was miles from his village in Punjab. But that didn’t stop him. Working on his family’s farm, Fauja grew stronger, determined to meet his full potential.

Fauja never, ever stopped striving. At the age of 81, after a lifetime of making his body, mind, and heart stronger, Fauja decided to run his first marathon. He went on to break records all around the world and to become the first person over 100 years old to complete a marathon.

The picture book begins with a forward by Fauja Singh where he writes about his disability. Despite people teasing him, he never stopped believing in himself. Fauja says, “Doctors couldn’t figure out why I had trouble walking as a child, nor could they figure out why I was able to begin walking and, eventually, running. I think of it as a reminder that all of our bodies are different—and so are our experiences with disabilities.”

Every reader can benefit from Fauja’s story, which highlights the importance of perseverance and determination. Despite his disability, his mother continued to remind him, “You know yourself, Fauja, and you know what you’re capable of. Today is a chance to do your best.” With every small step, Fauja became stronger and eventually reached each of his goals—to walk, to farm, and to run a marathon.

Fauja’s story comes to life with fun, brightly colored illustrations. For example, when Fauja is stretching, a bird perched on his arm does the same stretch alongside him. While most of the illustrations focus on Fauja and his family, illustrations that portray more people show diverse groups. Even though Fauja Singh Keeps Going is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 2 to 7 sentences, and some sentences are complex.

If you’re looking for a motivational biography, Fauja Singh Keeps Going is the book for you. Even though Fauja faced hardship and discrimination, he focused on the positive and kept working to achieve his goals. He did not let the negative comments of others bring him down. Instead, “As he ran, Fauja thought about all the things people from his village said he would never do. . . They thought he was too old to run and yet, here he was, running 26.2 miles at the age of 100.”

Fauja Singh Keeps Going is a must-read because it shows the power of positive thinking and believing in yourself. In addition, Fauja’s story will encourage readers to “try your hardest, and always choose yes when you meet a challenge.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Fauja lived in England, he “learned that some people in the United States were attacking Sikhs for how they looked.”
  • While running a marathon, “someone shouted racist and hateful words at him. Other people joined in. Fauja brushed it off. He knew he had a strong spirit.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • When Fauja began to walk, “his parents were so happy, they shared prayers of thanks and distributed parshad to the entire village.”
  • At the end of the book, there is a one-page section that gives more information about Fauja and how his religion, Sikhism, affected his life. “Sikhs believe in treating everyone equally, serving others, working hard, and living with honesty and integrity.”

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten

Elizabeth Cotten was only a little girl when she picked up a guitar for the first time. It wasn’t hers (it was her big brother’s), and it wasn’t strung right for her (she was left-handed). But she flipped that guitar upside down and backward and taught herself how to play it anyway. By the age of eleven, she’d written “Freight Train,” one of the most famous folk songs of the twentieth century. And by the end of her life, people everywhere—from the sunny beaches of California to the rolling hills of England—knew her music.

Libba’s story, which conveys her love of music, is both beautiful and motivational. As a child, “Libba Cotton heard music everywhere. She heard it in the river when she brought in water for her mother. She heard it in the ax when she chopped wood kindling.” Libba grew up in a poor neighborhood in the segregated South, but she still found the time and the scarce resources to teach herself how to play the guitar. To buy herself that guitar, she swept floors, picked vegetables, and set the table to earn money. Readers will admire Libba’s hard work and perseverance.

As Libba became older, she stopped playing music to work and care for her family. It wasn’t until Libba was in her sixties that she began to record and tour through the United States and Europe. Her story shows that the true beauty of music has no age. “Libba believed that people could accomplish anything at any age.” Even though Libba is known for her music, the story also focuses on her kind and caring personality.

Libba’s story comes to life in muted illustrations that show her day-to-day life. Even though Libba is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 3 to 7 sentences and some of the sentences are complex. The book repeats part of Libba’s most famous song “Freight Train.”

While Libba’s story will appeal to music lovers, it is also an important story to read because it highlights the importance of never giving up on a dream. Despite growing up poor, Libba’s positive attitude carries her through life. Libba’s story teaches young readers that dreams can come true with a good mix of work and dedication. If you’re looking for another motivational biographical picture book, add Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker to your must-read list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Dang is used four times. For example, when Libba broke a guitar string, her brother said, “Dang. She’s done it again.”

Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • The author’s note explains that “the pastor at [Libba’s] church urged her to give up playing guitar, saying it was ‘the Devil’s music.’”

 

Otis  

 

Otis is a special tractor. He loves his farm and he loves his farmer. He particularly loves the little calf in the next stall, who he purrs to sleep with his soft motor. The two become great friends, romping in the fields, leaping bales of hay, and playing ring-around-the-rosy by Mud Pond.

But when the big yellow tractor comes to the farm and replaces Otis, he is cast away to rust behind the barn—until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond. Then, there is only one tractor (and it’s not the big or yellow one) that saves the day. It’s little Otis!

Young readers will enjoy seeing Otis and the calf romp around the farm. The two friends clearly care for each other, and Otis’ facial expressions are packed with emotion and easy to read. When the calf gets stuck in the mud, a lot of people show up to help the calf—and some people just show up to watch the events unfold. Several people, the big yellow tractor, and the firetruck all try to help the calf, but in the end, Otis becomes the hero.

The background of each illustration is done in soft grays, which allows Otis’s and the animal’s colors to pop on the page. Even though Otis is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. The onomatopoeias make the story fun to read aloud. Each page has 2 to 5 sentences; however, some of the sentences are complex.

Young readers who are fascinated by tractors will love being introduced to Otis, who looks after the farm animals. While the story focuses on Otis, many of the pages also have a gaggle of geese that like to play with Otis and the little calf. The cute story is easy to understand and highlights the importance of friendship. Readers interested in more farm-related stories should check out I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Fly High, Fly Guy!

Mom and Dad won’t let Fly Guy go along on the family road trip. They’re afraid he’ll get lost. But when Dad accidentally shuts him in the trunk, Fly Guy goes along for the ride! First, Fly Guy gets lost at the picnic site—but he shows up in the garbage can. Then he gets lost at the art museum, but he shows up as part of a modern painting. At the beach, he turns up in a shell, and at the amusement park, on Buzz’s hot dog (yuck!).

Beginning readers will have fun reading about Fly Guy’s adventures which come to life in comical illustrations. Each page has large, brightly colored illustrations. The cartoonish characters have exaggerated facial features to help readers understand the characters’ emotions. The story will give emerging readers confidence as they move from picture books to chapter books. Fly High, Fly Guy has three chapters, and most pages have one to three simple sentences. The story’s short sentences and simple vocabulary make Fly High, Fly Guy a good choice for younger readers.

Although Fly High, Fly Guy doesn’t have a lesson, the creative story will engage readers and have them wondering what Fly Guy will do next. Readers will giggle at some of the illustrations such as when Fly Guy goes to a museum and kisses Mona Lisa on the nose. The Fly Guy Series uses humor to show that reading can be fun. Readers who enjoy Fly High, Fly Guy may also want to read 13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment

Young Parker Curry loves to dance. But one day, instead of going to dance classes, Parker’s mother takes Parker and her younger sister Ava to the museum. Parker, Ava, and their friend Gia, walk with their mothers through paintings that make them gasp and giggle. However, it isn’t until the end of their trip that Parker Curry looks up to see something which truly makes her dance inside—a portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. Viewing the beauty and strength of a figure that looks like her family—like herself— Parker Curry begins to dream of all she can become. Listening to her mother list everything that Michelle Obama has inspired in society, Parker sees not just a portrait, but all the exciting new possibilities set before her. She sees the potential she holds to learn how to paint, play sports, practice musical instruments, cook new foods, advocate for others, volunteer, mentor, write, or dance, and dance, and dance.

Parker Looks Up is the true story behind the moment Parker Curry first saw the portrait of Michelle Obama, painted by acclaimed artist Amy Sherald. The portrait is on display in Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. Each page of Parker Looks Up displays Parker’s journey towards Michelle’s portrait in vibrant, colorful, digital animation. Readers follow Parker, her sister Ava, and their friend Gia through wide-framed, animated replicas of paintings from the gallery— artwork depicting prancing horses, blooming flowers, jeweled necklaces and bushy mustaches. Each painting Parker passes fills the page with vibrant detail that will be sure to engross young readers.

The amount of text on each page ranges anywhere from 1 to 9 sentences. Young readers will need help to understand some of the diction, such as words like “advocate,” “spellbound,” or “easel.” However, varied font sizes, bolded descriptions above each replicated painting, and brightly colored bubbles of exclamatory dialogue help readers stay engaged while working with their parents to understand the association between the images displayed on the page and the words used to describe them. For instance, following a full-page image of Michelle Obama’s portrait, words like “courageous,” “inspirational,” “volunteer,” and “mentor” float in pink font around Parker, thus providing an opportunity for readers to understand these words in connection to Parker, Michelle, and even themselves.

Parker Looks Up demonstrates to readers the power behind actively celebrating the beautiful diversity that exists in the art and leadership communities that inspire us daily. In writing Parker Looks Up, Parker Curry and Jessica Curry also provide readers with an avenue to feel that they, just like Parker, can do anything they set their minds to. Michelle Obama inspires Parker to see “a road before her with endless possibilities.” Parker Looks Up encourages all young readers to look to themselves when searching for a path that makes them feel like they, just like Parker, are dancing on the inside. If you’re looking for other picture books that use real people to inspire, add Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, and the Amazing Scientists Series by Julia Finley Mosca to your must-read list.

Sexual Content

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by Hannah Olsson

 

 

 

 

Not Quite Snow White

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted nothing more than to play Snow White in her school’s musical.

Excited, Tameika dances and sings her way through the halls. But on the day of auditions, she overhears some kids suggesting that she is not princess material. Tameika suddenly doesn’t feel quite right enough to play a perfectly poised princess.

Will Tameika let this be her final curtain call?

Readers will instantly connect with Tameika, who loves all types of dance including “a hip-rolling happy dance. . . A stomping mad dance. And a hair-flicking just-because-she-felt-fabulous dance.” At first, Tameika feels confident, until she overhears her peers talking about her. The other kids make comments like, “She can’t be Snow White. She’s too tall! She’s much too chubby. And she’s too brown.” Hearing these words makes Tameika feel self-conscious and doubt her ability.

Not Quite Snow White shows how Tameika’s peers’ whispered words affect her. Tameika’s mother encourages her by saying, “You are tall enough, chubby enough, and brown enough to be a perfect princess.” Parents may want to use Not Quite Snow White as a discussion starter. They could talk about Tameika’s facial expressions and how it feels to be the subject of mean words.

Tameika’s love of dance and music comes to life in adorably cute illustrations that use bright colors.  Some of the illustrations focus on Tameika and her family, who are African American. At school, the children and teachers have a variety of skin tones. Each page has 1 to 4 sentences. Even though the vocabulary isn’t difficult, young readers will need an adult to read Not Quite Snow White to them.

Not Quite Snow White will engage young readers while it teaches the importance of loving yourself. Any child who loves Disney will relate to Tameika, who does not look like the stereotypical Disney princess. Despite what others say, Tamika realizes she can still be a “perfectly poised princess.” Not Quite Snow White reinforces the idea that “you’re just enough of all the right stuff.” Not Quite Snow White may become one of your child’s favorite books not only because of the fun illustrations but also because of the feel-good message.

Parents and teachers who would like to read more books that build a child’s self-confidence should add I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Angus All Aglow by Heather Smith to their must-read list.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

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Arthur’s Tractor: A Fairy Tale with Mechanical Parts

One day, Arthur is out plowing the green fields into brown with a mighty tractor. Does he notice that a fair maiden is running for her life right behind him? Not a chance. Does he notice the dragon? Or the knight?

The only thing he does notice is his “broken” tractor! Little does Arthur realize that he is heading for a fairy tale ending himself. With action and details to discover on every page, this picture book will captivate every knight and princess in your kingdom . . . or backyard!

Arthur’s Tractor is the perfect book to read aloud because it’s full of funny dialogue and onomatopoeia. For example, while the princess is under attack, she makes many different sounds such as “EEEK!” Arthur thinks that his tractor is to blame for the odd sounds, and he’s determined to make his tractor as good as new. At one point, Arthur wonders, “Well, bless my blisters, whatever can that THUD THUD THUD be?”

While Arthur inspects his tractor, a battle is going on right behind him. Behind the green and brown fields that Arthur is plowing, there is a princess in pink, a brave knight, and a huge dragon. Plus, several animals, including a frog and a squirrel, are fighting over a golden egg. Readers will love looking at the detailed illustrations that are packed full of action.

In the end, the princess proves that girls can love tractors as much as anyone. After helping Arthur fix the tractor, the princess says, “Now pass me that can, and I’ll oil that coil bolt brandisher before the dang things bangles free.” Each page of the picture book has 1 to 6 sentences. Because of the colloquial language, and complex sentences, young readers will need an adult to read the story to them.

Arthur’s Tractor will appeal to anyone who loves tractors and fairytales. Young readers will laugh at the silly antics of the fairytale characters and enjoy the unique conclusion that shows the princess driving the tractor as “they all lived happily ever after.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Dang” is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

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