President George Washington

When George Washington was young, his mother would not let him go to sea. But later, George became a hero when he led the Continental Army in battle and helped America win its freedom from England. He was elected the first president of the new nation and tried his best to keep the country at peace. George Washington was one of the greatest men of his time. 

President George Washington covers George’s life, starting when he was nine years old and living in Virginia. The story explains how he became chief of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War and the first president of the United States. The story ends with his death. While the book does not go into great detail, readers will learn interesting facts about George Washington and see how he became one of America’s heroes.

The book uses large text, short chapters, and simple vocabulary to make it accessible to readers in first and second grade. Each page has two to seven simple sentences and a large illustration. The earth-toned pictures bring George’s world to life. While the war scenes are not graphic, the scenes of soldiers fighting Native Americans may upset some readers. The back of the book includes important dates and suggested reading.

Adler gives readers a brief look into George Washington’s life and will help readers understand why George Washington was considered “first in war, first in peace, and the first in the hearts of his fellow citizens.” Beginning readers who want to learn more about colonial days will find President George Washington educational and engaging.

Sexual Content 

  • None

Violence 

  • During the French and Indian War, George Washington said, “I have heard the bullets whistle, there is something charming in the sound.”
  • The story has several pages that show George Washington and his army fighting Native Americans in the French and Indian War. In addition, the illustration for the Boston Tea Party shows people dressed up as Native Americans with feathers in their hair.

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content 

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Mystery of the Map

Oliver, Mya, and Jorge take a ride in a hot-air balloon, only to crash-land on an unknown island filled with extinct animals and a horde of angry Vikings. Welcome to Poptropica, an uncharted group of islands whose existence is hidden from the rest of the world. As the three friends embark on a perilous search for a way home, they quickly discover the shocking reason they were brought there—something that threatens the very existence of Poptropica and their ability to ever make it off the island! 

Many kids already love Poptropica, a website that shares stories via gaming literacy. Kids familiar with the website will instantly connect to Poptropica: Mystery of the Map. Written by Jack Chabert, author of Eerie Elementary (published under a pen name), Mystery of the Map uses action and humor to entertain readers. The graphic novel features three diverse kids—Oliver, Mya, and Jorge. The three are somewhat stereotypical—Oliver is a nerd, Jorge is clueless, and Mya is frustrated by the boys’ antics. Despite this, readers will love this crazy adventure where the kids get the best of the Vikings.  

Some of the humor is comically childish. For example, after falling from the sky, Jorge gets caught in a tree and a bird pulls off his belt. Jorge’s pants fall, revealing bright pink, space underwear. Then, when the kids sneak into the Viking’s fort, one Viking picks his nose and eats the booger. In addition, two of the Vikings are sitting and their butt cracks show. Oliver says, “Seriously? These guys built ships that crossed the Atlantic, but they couldn’t invent belts?” 

Each page has brightly colored illustrations that use fun elements such as onomatopoeia—”Krash! Smash! Krak!”—as well as comical characters with oversized eyes. The illustrations clearly show the characters’ varying emotions such as annoyance, fear, and confusion. Some of the pages let the illustrations tell the story without text. Other pages contain up to nine sentences with easy-to-understand vocabulary. Most of the sentences are super short, which makes the book accessible to reluctant readers. 

While on the island, the kids meet Eric the Red. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t give much information on the well-known Viking and misses the chance to add historical facts. If readers are interested in more adventurous Viking stories, they can sail into history by reading Voyage with the Vikings by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker. 

While there is little educational value in Mystery of the Map, the graphic novel will entertain readers with the funny, fast-action romp through an island filled with Vikings. Most of the violence comes from the kids running from danger, which is portrayed in humorous ways. The simple plot has a mysterious villain, Octavian, who the kids outwit. If you’re looking for a book series that kids will devour, the Poptropica Series should be on your must-read list. The conclusion ends with the kids sailing away from the island, leaving readers eager to start the next book in the series, The Lost Expedition 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • While on a balloon ride, Captain Octavian pushes Mya. To defend her, her brother Oliver pokes Octavian in the stomach. During the tussle, Jorge and Oliver fall out of the hot air balloon. Octavian then pushes Mya out. The three kids fall from the sky but are uninjured. 
  • Octavian tries to steal a Viking ship. When a Viking calls out, Octavian throws a stone at the Viking’s head, which knocks the man out. 
  • A large saber tooth cat chases the kids. When the cat jumps, Jorge ducks and the cat hits a tree and knocks itself out. 
  • When the Vikings try to put the kids into a cage, they run. There is a short fight that shows a Viking throwing a barrel at the kids. Then the Viking gets out his weapon. Before he can use it, Oliver knocks a container off a shelf. The container hits the Viking on the head and the kids are able to escape. 
  • A group of Vikings shoots arrows at the kids.  
  • A Viking chases the kids. The short chase ends when the saber tooth cat attacks the Viking and they both fall into a river. 
  • The kids find a man wearing only his underwear, tied to a tree. They free the man. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • The Vikings drink mead. 

Language   

  • Octavian calls a boy a brat. 
  • Because Oliver can identify a rare bird, Jorge calls him a nerd. 
  • Jorge asks if Mya is a neat freak.  
  • When Jorge hears a Viking talking to himself, Jorge says, “He’s nuts.” 

Supernatural 

  • The kids find a magical map. Oliver explains, “I can pinch and zoom and stuff! I can see all sorts of details about the island. It’s some kind of new technology.” The map answers their questions and shows them where to go. For example, when Oliver says, “Map, please find shelter,” the map shows them where to go. 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs

There once was a little dog named Tray. He lived in England with his owner, Mary Ann Anning. Besides Mary Ann, Tray loved one other thing: he loved to dig for dinosaur bones. Together he and Mary Ann found small bones, big bones, and even entire skeletons! People came from all around the world to see the bones they found. This is the true story of Tray, the dog that dug for dinosaurs. 

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs will please young readers who love dogs and dinosaurs. This true story shows how Mary Ann and Tray worked together to find dinosaur fossils. Throughout her life, Mary Ann studied and searched for dinosaurs. At first, they found small fossils, but eventually, they also found an ichthyosaur that is still displayed in the British Museum in London.  

Mary Ann and Tray’s activities come to life in large illustrations that often include pictures of the fossils they found. The illustrations are drawn using the muted browns and greens of nature. Occasionally, the many people that came to meet Mary Ann and Tray are pictured, which introduces readers to the fashions of the early 1800s.  

As part of the Ready-To-Read Level Three Series, The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs is best suited for confident readers who are ready to tackle more challenging vocabulary and sentence structures. The story has a more complicated plot and deeper character development than books in lower levels. Most pages have approximately six sentences with illustrations that break up the text.   

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs will entertain readers as it shows how Mary Ann and Tray turned their passion for finding fossils into a lifelong adventure that impacted the field of paleontology. The story is perfect for young readers that love dinosaurs. Readers who want to learn more about dinosaurs and finding fossils should check out the picture book Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern. If you’re looking for a fun, fictional book about dinosaurs, The Dino Files Series by Stacy McAnulty is sure to please.  

  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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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter:  How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars

In 1943, the CIA intercepted messages from Mexico and South America that were believed to be disguised war information. A team of ciphers was able to decode these messages and they discovered that a secret Nazi spy ring was sending the messages. These decoded messages were the evidence needed to arrest thirty-three German spies in what is now known as “the greatest spy roundup in history.” This team of ciphers was led by Elizebeth Smith Friedman, a renowned cryptanalyst. Elizebeth’s work as a spy and her incredible accomplishments were kept secret, until recently. 

Adapted from Friedman’s personal memoirs, Code Breaker, Spy Hunter utilizes watercolor illustrations and simple vocabulary to recount the amazing story of a previously unacknowledged figure. The story is told in a linear narrative detailing the most significant moments of Friedman’s career as well as some lesser-known fun facts from her personal life. For example, during dinner parties she hosted with her husband, a fellow cipher, they challenged their guests with the coded address of the restaurant.  

The book retells Friedman’s story in a way that is easy for younger readers to navigate while not compromising or minimizing important details to Friedman’s story. Although the book features small font and some particularly text-heavy pages, its colorful, minimalist illustrations help readers maintain a consistent understanding of the story. It is important to note that the book assumes that readers already have a basic understanding of both World Wars. If there are young readers who are not yet familiar with these historical periods, parental guidance will be needed. 

In Code Breaker, Spy Hunter, readers will receive an insightful and important education on an overlooked historical figure. Elizebeth’s story of small beginnings teaches that hard work and positive relationships are the keys to success.  

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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Groundhug Day

Moose is having a Valentine’s Day party, and all his friends are so excited! Everyone except Groundhog, that is. If Groundhog sees his shadow outside, he’ll hide in his hole for six more weeks and miss the party!

Determined to help their friend join them, Moose, Squirrel, Bunny, and Porcupine put their heads together and come up with a plan. But will it be enough to get Groundhog out to play?

When Groundhog comes out of his den and sees his shadow, his animal friends discover that Groundhog is afraid of shadows. In order to get Groundhog to come out, the animals show him all the different ways shadows are “awesome.” The animals show Groundhog how to use shadows to draw silhouettes and create puppet shows. Watching shadows dance is fun too. Despite this, Groundhog goes back into his hole for six more weeks. And when he finally pops out of his den and is ready for a St. Patrick’s Day party, Groundhog discovers that Bunny is “holed up this time of year” because he’s painting Easter eggs.

Young readers will relate to Groundhog’s fear of shadows and love all the ways the animals use shadows for entertainment. The story comes to life with super cute illustrations that are drawn in natural colors. Readers will giggle as each animal plots a way to get Groundhog out of his hole, especially because each scheme is drawn on a chalkboard. Plus, Groundhog is super cute and his clothing resembles an English gentleman. When he finally comes out for spring, he’s dressed for a Saint Patrick’s Day party!

Even though Groundhug Day 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. Readers may need help reading some of the text-heavy pages that have up to seven sentences per page. However, the adorable illustrations and the conversations between the animals make Groundhug Day entertaining enough for younger readers to enjoy.

Groundhug Day is a sweet story that will warm readers’ hearts and remind them that shadows are not scary. If you’re looking for another fun Valentine’s Day book, check out Splat the Cat: Funny Valentine by Rob Scotton.

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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Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman

The woods are dark and dangerous. Slave catchers are out with their dogs. But high above the trees, the North Star shines down. Harriet Tubman is glad to see the North Star. It points the way to freedom. Tonight Harriet is helping slaves escape on the Underground Railroad. Will they make it? Find out in this exciting true story.  

Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman highlights the bravery of Harriet Tubman and the people who risked their lives to hide runaway slaves. The story uses kid-friendly language to show the hardships Harriet and others faced. While the story doesn’t give detailed descriptions of the abuse that enslaved people endured, young readers may find the beatings and other violence upsetting. Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman will introduce readers to this difficult time in history.  

The story doesn’t just focus on the abuse of enslaved people; it also shows the kindness of those who helped the enslaved people on their journey north. For example, “A Quaker named Thomas Garrett owned a shoe store. He had a secret room for runaways to hide in behind a wall of shoe boxes. When the runaways were ready to leave, he gave each a pair of shoes.” Harriet Tubman’s story reinforces the theme that people must stand together and fight for what is right.  

As a Step into Reading Level 3 book, Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman is intended for readers in second and third grade. However, the grade levels are only guides; children will progress through the steps at their own speed, developing confidence in their reading. Each page of Harriet’s story has a large colored illustration that will help readers understand the plot. The story uses oversized text and has two to seven sentences per page.  

The true story of Harriet Tubman will inspire children by showing Harriet’s determination and bravery. Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman is a fast-paced, suspenseful chapter book that will engage young readers. If you’d like another engaging story that focuses on history, check out Pioneer Cat by William Hooks and Attack at the Arena by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker. 

Sexual Content 

  • None

Violence 

  • When enslaved people disappeared, the bossman “and his dogs would come after them. If they were caught, they would be beaten. . . maybe to death.”  
  • When Harriet was seven, she worked for Mrs. Cook winding yarn. “Sometimes the yarn broke. Then Mrs. Cook got out the whip.” Mrs. Cook would call Harriet a “stupid girl.”  
  • Many slaves worked in the tobacco fields. “If they didn’t work fast enough, they were beaten.” 
  • When Harriett was a teenager, an enslaved person ran away. “The bossman threw a weight at him to stop him. But it hit Harriet instead. Harriet wasn’t the same after that.” 
  • While leading people to freedom, one man decided he wanted to go back. “Harriet stood in his way. If the slave catchers caught him, they would beat the secrets of the Underground Railroad out of him. Harriet couldn’t let that happen. She pointed her gun at the man.” Afterward, the group “trudged on.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

  • None

Spiritual Content 

  • While Harriet was trying to escape to freedom, “a group of slave hunters were approaching . . . She prayed the hunters wouldn’t see her. Somehow they never did.” 
  • Harriet went back to the south to free other slaves. “She was going to free her people, just like Moses in the Bible.” 

Pigeon Hero!

In a town in Italy during World War II the people surrendered without firing a shot. But American warplanes are due to arrive, and the radio’s broken, so no one can tell them to call off the attack! G. I. Joe, a carrier pigeon, is the only one who can take the message to the Americans. Will he make it in time to save the town? 

The story of G.I. Joe is told in kid-friendly language and focuses on G.I. Joe’s dangerous flight. Despite the difficulties, G.I. Joe is able to deliver his message and then return. When he returns, “Joe carried a new message. The planes would not come! The town was safe.” Readers will enjoy seeing G.I. Joe complete his mission and be rewarded with a medal.  

As part of the Ready-To-Read Level 2 Series, Pigeon Hero! is intended for children who can read independently. The story is told using short chapters. Each page has four to seven sentences of various lengths; however, most sentences are short. G.I. Joe’s story has a complex plot that takes place in different locations. Each page has a full-colored illustration that will help readers visualize the story’s events. Several pages show German soldiers firing machine guns at G.I. Joe. Towards the end, two pages focus on the joy the townspeople feel when G.I. Joe returns with a new message. 

Readers who are interested in animals or war will find the story of G.I. Joe interesting. The short story highlights G.I. Joe’s bravery as he overcomes obstacles to deliver the message. G.I. Joe’s ability to save the day will leave readers with a smile. Plus, the last page of the book gives more information about the amazing things that war pigeons were able to do. Children interested in birds may want to take a step into the past by reading Ancient Animals: Terror Bird by Sarah L. Thomson. However, if you’re looking for a more motivational story, Bird Boy by Matthew Burgess would be a better choice. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • British soldiers plan to have a big battle with the Germans. But when the soldiers arrive, the Germans flee. Several soldiers are shown with their weapons. 
  • German soldiers try to shoot G.I. Joe. “G.I. Joe heard machine gun fire. The enemy below was shooting at him!” 
  • A hawk tries to eat G.I. Joe. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder

Captain Bling and his merry crew set off to find treasure, but they get blown off course and end up at the North Pole. When they spy the elves carefully wrapping presents, the pirates think they have found the ultimate booty! They quickly steal the presents and make their way back to the ship. By the time Santa Claus catches up to them, the pirates are well on their way to escaping. But Santa has a surprise for Captain Bling and his crew!

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder will take readers on a swashbuckling adventure to the North Pole. The pirates’ plundering activities are told with humor, in rhyming couplets. The pirates attack Santa’s workshop, forcing Santa and the elves to fight, and “though Santa swung fast, the pirates swung faster, and a sack versus swords was a surefire disaster.” However, the gifts are saved because the pirates change their ways and help Santa on Christmas night.

The brightly colored illustrations show Santa’s magical land where pine trees are decorated, snowmen smile, and toys are stacked waiting for Christmas day. Young readers will love the illustrations’ fun details such as penguins watching the elves and pirates fight, and a shark happily waiting as Santa walks the plank. Each page has 1 to 3 rhyming sentences which include some advanced vocabulary. Even though Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder 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.

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder is a fun spinoff of The Night Before Christmas. Pirate-loving readers will enjoy seeing Santa and the pirates fight over the toys. Plus, the happy ending shows Santa and the pirates working together to deliver Christmas toys. If you’re looking for another humorous Christmas picture book, The Knights Before Christmas by Joan Holub is sure to make readers smile.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The pirates take Santa’s treasure, “so Santa gave chase, with his sack on his back, but the pirates were ready to face his attack.” The pirates capture Santa and “the pirates forced Santa to walk the gangplank.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Word Travelers and the Taj Mahal Mystery

Eddie and Molly-Jean (MJ) are next door neighbors and best friends. One Saturday, Eddie’s mom sends him up to the attic to get his great-grandpa’s most prized possession (a book, of course). Eddie and MJ are suddenly transported to India where they must use their word knowledge to solve a mystery and help a new friend save his school.  

From an educational standpoint, Word Travelers is an excellent book to use as an introduction to new words, because there are many words defined throughout the story. Each word is shown in bold text and there is a glossary at the end of the book. The vocabulary lessons are mostly integrated into the story. For example, when discussing shampoo, Dev looks up the word and reads “shampoo comes from Hindi. That’s one of the many languages we speak in India.” The readers are also told that “the Hindi word champo originally meant to press or rub, like during a massage. Over time, the word was adopted into English to describe the way we rub our hair when we wash it.” A new word appears every one to five pages, which may be overwhelming for some readers.  

Some readers may be bothered by the unrealistic events. For example, when Eddie and MJ travel to India, they appear in a bedroom. A boy named Dev finds them and instead of acting suspicious of the two strangers, he immediately begins telling them about his problem. Later in the story, Eddie, MJ, and Dev hurry to “board the last dinghy to Sea Palace.” But once they get there, they row the dingy to the palace themselves, which makes no sense. Not only that, but at one point MJ rows the dingy by herself while the two boys sleep. There are several more events that may leave readers scratching their heads. 

Word Travelers has diverse characters who work together to solve a mystery. However, most of the problem-solving comes from a magical book titled Awesome Enchanted Book and takes little effort on the kids’ part. Still, young readers will enjoy the black and white illustrations that appear on almost every page. Plus, the illustrations help readers visualize the story’s events. When the villain appears for the first time, his stereotypical appearance makes it clear that he is the bad guy. Even though there is a clear villain, he is never scary, but instead adds suspense to the story.  

Most young readers will not be able to read Word Travelers on their own. The book is written at a 5.9 reading level, which is higher than most young adult books’ reading level. Readers will need help pronouncing and understanding many of the words that are being introduced. However, Word Travelers is worth reading and discussing with a child because of its educational value. One positive aspect of the book is that occasionally MJ talks about historical people that she admires, such as Mae Jemison, the first Black female astronaut. This may spark readers’ interest in learning more about these historical people. If you’d like a book that teaches about vocabulary but is more accessible to younger readers, The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds and the Polly Diamond Book Series by Alice Kuipers & Diana Toledano would be good choices. 

Sexual Content 

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Violence 

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Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

  • Eddie tells a bad joke. Afterward, MJ says, “As you can see, my best friend is a little kooky in the coconut.”  
  • Heck is used twice. 
  • The villain calls someone a fool.  

Supernatural 

  • Eddie and MJ find the Awesome Enchanted Book which takes them to another place. When they start talking about the origin of the word pajamas, “the Awesome Enchanted Book began floating above their heads, spinning faster and faster, until poof!—the room was filled with a swirling haze of smoke.” 
  • The villain tries to open the Awesome Enchanted Book. He was “trying with all his might to open it. But the book wouldn’t budge.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • Eddie exclaims, “Holy cow!” Hearing him, an adult tells him, “In many cultures and religions, people believe cows are holy. And throughout India, people treat cows in that way.”

The Circus Ship

When a circus ship runs aground off the coast of Maine, the circus animals stagger to the shore of a small island. At first the townspeople view them with suspicion, but it’s not long before the locals and animals are sharing the island in harmony. Then, when the greedy circus owner returns, the townsfolk and the circus refugees come up with a delightfully original way to outsmart the fiend, exacting hilarious revenge in the process. 

The Circus Ship uses wonderfully expressive caricatures that evoke the early nineteenth century. Young readers will love the humorous illustrations. For instance, when a man sees an alligator sleeping on his wood pile, he jumps into the air and pulls his hair. When the circus master comes looking for the animals, readers will have fun finding all the hidden animals. Many of the animals are disguised in silly ways, such as one woman who is wearing a snake as a scarf and has a monkey in a stroller. 

Even though The Circus Ship 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 eight to twelve rhyming lines. The story uses complex sentence structure and some difficult vocabulary words such as menagerie, tuckered out, and bothersome. Despite this, the story’s plot is easy to follow.  

Not only is The Circus Ship highly entertaining, but the illustrations are also wonderful as well. Plus, the story has a positive message about not judging others (in this case, animals) by their appearance. Anyone, young or old, who loves animals will enjoy The Circus Ship. If you’re looking for a silly picture book that young readers will want to read again and again, The Circus Ship is the book for you. For more stories with silly shenanigans with animals, check out the Mercy Watson Series by Kate DiCamillo. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • The boat hits a rock. “Then came a CRASH! An awful BASH! Things flew into the air! . . . The splashing, thrashing animals swam round and round and round.” The animals swim to the island.  
  • A little girl gets caught inside a burning building. The tiger “ran past all the people, and he leapt into the blaze.” The girl comes out of the fire unharmed and riding on the tiger’s back.

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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Silver

Rachel dreams of racing huskies, just like her father. So when she gets a tiny puppy for her birthday, she names him Silver for his shiny coat and vows that he will be the fastest lead dog in Alaska. But one day, Silver disappears. Rachels sets out to find him, following the tracks of a large animal into the forest. Snow begins to fall. An eerie howling breaks the silence. Then Rachel realizes she is tracking a wolf, that she is all alone, and that night is falling. 

Silver brings the harsh Alaskan winter to life. Through Rachel’s daily life, readers will be able to imagine the winter weather, the isolation, and the importance of huskies. Since the story is told from Rachel’s point of view, there is little suspense or action. Even though dogsledding is an important part of Rachel’s life, there is very little action pertaining to the dogs. The pace doesn’t pick up until the end of the book when Rachel realizes that Silver is missing. Since there is so little action, some readers may struggle to read the entire book.  

While Silver was written for young readers, the difficult vocabulary and mature tone may make Silver difficult for some readers. However, the format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and black and white illustrations that appear on almost every page. The Stepping Stones Series is specifically written for young readers and the books allow readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics.  

Readers interested in dog sledding or learning more about Alaska will enjoy Silver. While the story lacks action, Rachel is a caring girl who loves dogs and takes good care of Silver. Plus, her two-parent family is shown in a positive light. Readers craving a more action-packed book that features dog sledding may want to check out Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Those interested in learning more facts about dogs and how they help humans should add Dog Heroes by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce to their must-read list. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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The Right Track (Disney Frozen: Northern Lights)

Anna, Elsa, and their friends from Disney’s Frozen embark on a new adventure with the help of the Northern Lights. The friends travel to Troll Valley to help the trolls celebrate the Crystal Ceremony. Along the way, they meet Little Rock, whose tracking crystal will not glow. The friends encounter other obstacles as well. Will they make it to Troll Valley in time for the celebration? 

Readers will be drawn to The Right Track because it follows Disney’s Frozen characters. The story uses basic vocabulary and short sentences, but is intended for children who are familiar with words on sight and who can sound out new words. Each page has 1 to 3 simple sentences printed in large text. The action is illustrated with large pictures that show the friends’ adventures. The colorful illustrations will help readers understand the story’s plot. 

The Right Track uses familiar characters and full-page illustrations to engage young readers. The story is intended for preschool through kindergarten readers, but older readers will also enjoy the story. The plot is easy to understand. However, readers may be disappointed the story ends before Anna, Elsa, and their friends make it to the Troll Valley, so they don’t get to see if Little Rock is able to light his tracking crystal. Despite this, fans of Frozen will enjoy the winter wonderland and will learn about the importance of helping a friend. Readers who are ready to move up to chapter books will enjoy stepping into another winter wonderland by reading the Diary of an Ice Princess Series by Christina Soontornvat. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

  • Elsa uses her magic. “Elsa waves her arms. She makes a stairway of ice. It stretches across the river.” 
  • When the ice stairway begins “to fall. Elsa uses her magic. She makes ice sleds.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Sweep

On a windy fall night, a young boy named Ed looks over his town. He has a broom in hand and is standing atop a towering mountain of leaves. The day began with him sweeping leaves, but below his mountain are all the other things he seemed to have collected along the way, including dogs, cats, bicycles, cars, buses, people, and buildings.   

The story of Sweep starts when a single leaf in the wind hits Ed’s face, causing him to trip over a broom. This puts Ed in a bad mood, but unlike all the bad moods he’s had before, this one grows and grows until he is ragefully sweeping every leaf around him into one large pile. His bad mood convinces him to go on, not accounting for all the animals, vehicles, or people in his way. Ed knows he is taking things too far. He even knows that if he looked up from the ground, he would see all the beautiful balloons, birds, and kites above it. But his bad mood is not satisfied until he has swept up his whole town. 

By the end of the day, there are no flowers left and the birds have stopped singing. Ed is tired, hungry, and questioning if he can really stop sweeping after going through all this trouble. As he ponders this, his bad mood begins to lift and a strong gust of wind picks up every person and thing in his pile. Not only does the wind put everything back to normal, but Ed believes the town looks even better than it did before.  

The wind gently lands a kite in front of Ed, who, finally looking up from the ground, flies it high in the air. He notices the beauty of all the other kites around him. The next time Ed finds himself in a bad mood, he makes sure to think twice and ask himself if there is a way to process it in a more constructive way. 

Sweep is a smart and funny story that teaches a valuable lesson about learning to process your feelings. The book has one to five sentences per page, making it a fast read. Readers of all ages will also enjoy the book’s art style, which makes use of bleaker autumn shades such as beige, gray, brown, and crimson during Ed’s rampage through his town and uses a wide spectrum of bright, vivid colors when his spirit lifts. The items and characters that amass in Ed’s constantly growing pile guarantee a laugh on every page, and the pile’s mountainous final form is full of clever gags and details for eagle-eyed readers to spot upon repeated readings. 

Younger readers will relate to Ed’s impulse to lash out when he’s in a bad mood. Plus, his journey will help them to understand the harmful nature of being negative. By reading Sweep, readers will also learn how to evaluate and express their feelings in a way that is beneficial to themselves and others. Readers who enjoy Sweep should also read Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, a sweet book that shows how one man’s grumpy mood changes when he meets an unexpected friend.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Big Freeze

The time has come for Princess Lina to choose her magical weather specialty. Her cousin, Jack Frost, makes amazing snowflakes. Her Uncle Lee forms ice caves in glaciers. Her Great-Aunt Sunder creates winter storms on polar seas. Everyone has chosen something so impressive. Lina’s not sure what she’s going to do—but she’s determined to make her mark in a big way! 

To complicate matters, Lina’s teacher has assigned an art project. Lina is disappointed that she can’t use science because she isn’t artistic. Everything Lina tries turns out to be a big mess. After several failed attempts to create art, Lina uses magic to make her project, but she wonders if that is cheating. Lina thinks, “One of Ms. Collier’s rules was that we were supposed to do our projects without any help. But she didn’t say anything about using magic, right?” 

The Big Freeze is told from Lina’s point of view, which helps readers understand her conflicts. Readers will relate to Lina’s difficulty at school and her desire to make her family proud. Lina writes in her diary often, which allows the readers to understand her thoughts and feelings. Lina’s best friend, Claudie, also tries to help Lina by giving advice. The two girls’ friendship is sweet and Claudie’s words are always encouraging and positive. 

One of the reasons Lina has difficulty completing her project is because she wants it to be perfect. In the end, instead of copying someone else’s art form or turning in a project that was made by magic, Lina writes a poem and turns it in late. Lina learns that “there’s no such thing as a perfect piece of art” and that she “needed to cut [herself] some slack.” 

Readers will be drawn into the book because of the cute illustrations that appear in black, white, and light green. The illustrations appear on almost every page and the pictures help readers understand the plot because they show Lina’s activities. The Big Freeze uses simple vocabulary, plus several pages contain a list. The paragraphs contain three or fewer sentences and have a variety of graphic elements to break the text into small portions. The easy-to-read story has relatable conflicts and interesting characters. Lina’s grandfather is a major character, and he has a “big, booming voice [that] can get a little intense.” To emphasize how loud Lina’s grandfather is, his words appear in large green font and all capitals.  

Readers who love princesses and magic will find The Big Freeze to be an entertaining book. The end of the book gives directions on how to make a snowflake that has “the power of patterns.” Both parents and children will be pleased with the kind and encouraging characters who don’t expect each other to be perfect. For more magical reading that has kind characters check out the Candy Fairies Series by Helen Perelman and the Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None

Supernatural 

  • Everyone in Lina’s family has a magical power. Her mom and grandfather are Windtamers and can control the weather. “Mom’s job is to bring the spring rains. Granddad is the North Wind.” 
  • Lina is a Winterheart, “which means my powers are all about ice and snow.” 
  • Lina uses her magic to make a perfect ice sculpture of herself. She also uses her magic to make it snow.

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Green Ghost

It’s Christmas Eve, and Kaye’s family is on the way to her grandmother’s house in a swirling snowstorm. Suddenly the car hits a patch of ice, slides across the road and skids into a snow-filled ditch! Through the car window, Kaye spots a light in the woods. Its glow leads her and her parents through the blizzard. They find a warm cabin, a kindly old woman named Elsa, and a green ghost who needs Kaye’s help!  

A long time ago, when Elsa was three, her sister Lillian wanted a beautiful Christmas tree rather than the ugly Junipers that her father brough home every year. So, Lillian and Elsa go into the snowy woods to find a tree. However, when Lillian finds the tree, she is unable to cut it down. By the time Lillian gives up, Elsa is shivering cold. Lillian can’t carry Elsa home, so she wraps Elsa up in her jacket, crawls under the tree, and snuggles up to keep Elsa warm. While Elsa survives, Lillian dies.   

By the time Kaye meets Elsa, she is an old woman who lives by herself. Like Elsa’s sister, Kaye wants a beautiful Christmas tree, not the artificial tree her grandmother planned to get. Kaye’s story parallels Lillian’s story and, in the end, Kaye learns that having a beautiful Christmas tree isn’t what is important. Christmas isn’t about the tree or the decorations, it’s about spending time with the people you love.  

The Green Ghost is full of suspense which will keep young readers flipping the pages until the very end. Even though The Green Ghost is a ghost story, the ghost’s appearance isn’t frightening. Before Kaye realizes that Lillian is a ghost, Kaye follows her into the woods. Kaye wonders, “What if this girl was playing a trick on her? What if she was trying to get Kaye lost in the woods? Could she find her way back to Elsa’s alone if she had to?” While the story revolves around a ghost, the story has a happy ending. 

The Green Ghost’s format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and illustrations. The story goes back and forth between the early 1930s when Lillian was alive and the present. The two points of view are easy to follow because the chapters from Lillian’s time begin with the date and have a gray boarder around each page. This book is part of the Stepping Stones Series that is specifically written for beginning readers. The series allows readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics. 

If you’re looking for an engaging Christmas story with a positive message, The Green Ghost would be fun to read wrapped in a blanket on a cold night. If you want to add another Christmas-themed book with a positive message to your child’s reading list, check out Winter Wonders by Kate Hannigan. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Kaye and her family skid off the snowy road. “And they were sliding back across the road again. The car slid, and it turned, too . . . like some kind of carnival ride.” The car is stuck so they walk to a nearby house for help. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Blasted is used several times. For example, Kaye and her family are driving through a snowstorm. When Kaye starts asking her father questions, he snapped, “We’re in the middle of blasted nowhere.  

Supernatural 

  • A ghost appears to Kaye. “A small, pale face appeared. . . a lighted face. . . The light—or face, whatever it was—called to her. Not with a voice. . . Still, the light called as clearly as if it had said, ‘Come.’” 
  • Lillian, the ghost, appears as a little girl and leads Kaye into the forest where she stops by a tree. Then, “Lillian stepped back toward the line of trees and disappeared. She simply vanished.” 
  • Elsa tells Kaye that the ghost is her sister who died. “When I was a girl, Lillian visited me every year, right around Christmas. . . And then she and I would walk out together to see this tree.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • Elsa tells Kaye and her family, “it was surely an angel who had brought them to her on this stormy night.” 

The Little Reindeer

On the night of Christmas Eve, a young girl named Ollie is awoken by a jingling outside her house. She hurries to her window but sees nothing out of the ordinary. With her reindeer pajamas and red sled, Ollie adventures into the snowy night to find the source of the sound.  

Stepping outside, she hears the sound again. She leaps onto her sled. Speeding down the hill outside her house, the sound becomes clearer. Eventually, Ollie traces the sound to the barren, dark woods outside of her neighborhood. Feeling brave, she runs into the darkness. There, she finds the source of the sound hanging from a tree branch. It is a red collar with silver bells. Ollie smiles and takes the collar but wonders who it belongs to.  

Just then, she hears a new sound –the sound of footsteps crunching through the snow. A real reindeer is approaching. He eyes the collar in Ollie’s hands, and Ollie understands that the collar belongs to him. Ollie kindly returns the collar to the reindeer, who gestures his new friend to climb onto his back. 

Suddenly, the two are soaring above the woods, over Ollie’s town, through the night sky. The reindeer softly lands in front of Ollie’s house. Ollie thanks her friend, but admits that she doesn’t want to say goodbye. However, she understands that this reindeer has a very special job to do tonight. Ollie goes back to her room, lies in bed, and pleasantly dreams of her adventure. Her reindeer friend jingles past her window once more, only this time, he is leading Santa’s sleigh. The next morning, Ollie is gifted a snow globe with a figurine of the reindeer inside. She smiles, knowing that she will always have something to remind her of that magical night and that she’ll see her friend next year. 

The Little Reindeer is a fast and fun read for the Christmas holiday, with one to four short sentences per page. Its illustrations are mostly drawn in black, white, and gray, with red being the only color to stand out. The backgrounds are typically entirely blank or black, with chalk-like dots of snow to enliven the winter spirit. Detail-driven readers can have fun searching for Ollie’s stuffed reindeer hiding in every page. 

Young readers who celebrate Christmas will relate to Ollie’s holiday spirit. However, all young readers will admire Ollie’s sense of adventure, her bravery, and her sparkling curiosity. Through Ollie’s journey, readers can learn that by following their bravery and curiosity, they can form their closest friendships and greatest memories.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Carpenter’s Gift

One Christmas night, Henry sits in his house and thinks blissfully back to a special day in 1931. He was a child then, growing up during the Great Depression. The historical downturn left a significant impact on his family. His family lived in a small house, and both of his parents were out of work. They struggled to afford coal for the stove or blankets for the beds. Henry kept an optimistic mind, and occupied himself with thoughts of warm, magical places.  

On Christmas Eve of that year, Henry was surprised to see his father arrive at the house in a big rental truck. He calls for Henry to come along, and the two happily drive to a nearby forest to cut down its evergreen trees and stack them onto the back of the truck. When Henry asks why, his father joyfully replies that they’re going to New York City to sell Christmas trees. 

The thought of being in a big city like New York excites Henry, and he is immediately fascinated by Midtown Manhattan. Henry’s father parks the truck beside a construction site and asks a worker if they can set up shop there. Acknowledging the pair’s situation, the worker agrees. What follows is a heartfelt story of generosity and hope in the hardest of times. 

The Carpenter’s Gift is a sweet holiday tale that spans several generations before arriving at the message that there is no better present than kindness. Henry searches time and again for the warm, magical moments he dreams of, and finds that these moments are produced not by magic but by simple acts of giving. 

The warm atmosphere of the book is strengthened by its lavish, impressionistic illustrations that are passionately drawn in the beautiful colors of each season. The illustrator makes several uses of double-page illustrations to portray the sheer scale and beauty of the evergreen trees. The story is told with simple, easy vocabulary, and readers can expect four to ten sentences on each page.  

The Carpenter’s Gift is guaranteed to satisfy all readers who celebrate Christmas and is a comforting read for those looking for a warm story this winter season. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

  • None

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

by Luke McClain 

Race to the South Pole

Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, is back! This time, he joins a dangerous expedition to the South Pole!

Ranger joins an early twentieth-century expedition journeying from New Zealand to Antarctica. He befriends Jack Nin, the stowaway turned cabin boy of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ship. They’re racing against a rival explorer to reach the South Pole, but with unstable ice, killer whales, and raging blizzards, the journey turns into a race against time. . . and a struggle to stay alive.

Told in third-person, Race to the South Pole includes the inner thoughts of both Ranger and Jack. Even though Antarctica is dangerous, most of the danger comes from the harsh weather conditions. During the trip, both Ranger and Jack miss their families and wonder when they’ll be able to return home. Although Jack faces deadly freezing weather, he works hard and never complains. However, Jack sneaks onto the ship without telling his family his plans. And while in the Arctic, he doesn’t follow orders and instead sneaks out of the camp and almost dies alone.

Race to the South Pole is an entertaining and educational story that has a unique perspective because it focuses on a golden retriever. Readers interested in the men who attempted to reach the South Pole will enjoy Race to the South Pole, which has full-page, black-and-white illustrations approximately every six pages. Even though Ranger’s story is fictional, facts are woven into the story. The end of the book has more information about the historic expedition as well as a list of further resources. Plus, the author’s note includes information about Jack’s Maori Chinese cultural background. The book references Ernest Shackleton who climbed Mount Erebus but did not reach the South Pole. Readers interested in learning more about Ernest’s explorations can read Survival Tails: Endurance in Antarctica by Katrina Charman.

While Race to the South Pole lacks suspense, the story contains enough intrigue to keep the reader interested. Jack’s desire to help his family is relatable and his determination is admirable. The author’s note explains how the characters are based on real people, but the original expedition ended with the death of five members of the team, which will help readers understand how dangerous the expedition really was. Readers who want to learn more about how dogs help humans in frozen conditions should also read Dogs in the Dead of Night by Mary Pope Osborne.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Horses and dogs were taken on the expedition, but there was not enough food to adequately feed them. “The sled dogs were getting lean, too. They were so hungry that one team attacked a pony that was stuck in a snowdrift. The horse fought off the dogs, but the pony was hurt, too weak to travel even another mile before the men made camp.”
  • A sled dog team fell into a crevasse. “Ranger and Osman strained under the weight of the rest of the team. The other dogs dangled in midair, howling as the lines cut into their fur. . . Jack could hear them yelping and whimpering below.” The dogs are saved.
  • Jack ventures out alone and falls in a crevasse. “The ice walls rushed past as he fell. . . Jack’s leg twisted, and his knee gave a sickening pop. . . Just when it felt like he might plunge into the darkness forever, Jack thumped on his back onto a snow shelf. He landed so hard he couldn’t breathe.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Jack falls overboard, one of the men yells, “Good Lord!”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Leif and the Fall

Leif is a small green leaf who lives in a tall oak tree. Being a leaf means being attached to a tree, but Leif doesn’t mind. He loves the view from his branch and getting to spend time with his best friend, Laurel. As the breeze gets harsher and the days get shorter, Leif realizes that it’s nearly fall. Leif has never seen fall, but its arrival worries him, as he knows that fall is the time when all leaves fall from their trees. Leif doesn’t want to be like all leaves. With the help of Laurel, he hatches a plan to catch himself. 

Leif and the Fall is a fun and pleasant read for the young reader who doesn’t let others tell them who they are and what they are capable of. It is also a testament to the power of thinking outside the box and surrounding yourself with the right people. While the other leaves mock and discourage Leif’s plan, Leif persists in his goal and chooses to surround himself with supportive friends like Laurel. While none of Leif’s plans work in the way he intended, the story tells a thoughtful message that all your hard work and skills will inevitably help you in some way, as all of Leif’s discarded contraptions form a pile big enough to soften his and Laurel’s fall. 

The book’s short and sweet story is well-matched with simple, charming illustrations.  The leaves are softly colored in shades of green, yellow, brown, and gray. Faces are drawn to personify them, while their stems are drawn as their arms and legs. The pages have blank backgrounds that are either white or colored with muted autumn shades. Readers can enjoy a second read-through to spot all the insects hiding on the tree’s branches. Each page has one to seven short sentences and easy vocabulary that makes it easy to understand for beginning readers.  

Leif and the Fall is an excellent book for young nature lovers and fans of autumn. Apart from being an enjoyable story, it is sure to help younger readers as they learn the importance of creativity, self-expression, and positive friendships. Readers ready to snuggle up with another fall-themed picture book with a positive message should add Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller to their must-read list. 

Sexual Content:

  • None 

Violence: 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol: 

  • None 

Language: 

  • None 

Supernatural: 

  • None 

Spiritual Content: 

  • None

Into the Storm

After their victory in Texas, the Pawtriots are en route back to their home in Washington, DC. But when a massive storm on the Atlantic Ocean rolls in, Sergeant Rico and his unit are forced to take shelter on a mysterious island in the Caribbean.

While on the island, the Pawtriots meet M—the leader of the island’s animals. M tells them the story of the thrice-cursed pirate Sea Wolf, his crew, and his ship, the Calico Jack. When Sea Wolf and his crew are brought back to life, it’s up to the Pawtriots to defeat the pirates and return peace to the island.

While aboard a Coast Guard Ship, Rico and the Pawtriots meet two brothers: Jet and Jag. While Jag is a “hard-liner” who follows all the rules, Jet breaks rules at every opportunity. The two dogs add interest to the story, but they also give mixed messages. At times rules are followed, but others believe “that some rules are meant to be broken.” Sometimes breaking the rules cause problems, but other times breaking the rules is the only solution.

Rico and the Pawtriots follow Army morals. For example, to save the Pawtriots, Rico agrees to serve Sea Wolf. Rico thinks, “When I was in the Army, there were times when sacrifices had to be made for the greater good and the sake of the mission. This is one of those times.” Because of Rico’s leadership and courage, the Pawtriots are successful in eventually defeating Sea Wolf.

Into the Storm begins by recapping the events from the previous book, Everything is Bigger in Texas. While chapter one is heavy on the military lingo, the sayings are explained. For example, Rico explains that “debrief you” is “Army-talk for ‘getting up to speed on the details of the mission. . . and quickly.’” Despite this, younger readers may struggle with the advanced vocabulary such as makeshift, flotilla, interceptor, and liaison.

Each chapter starts with the location, date, and military time, which makes the timeline easy to follow. Black and white illustrations appear every 1 to 6 pages and show the animals in action as well as some of the dangers they face—including Sea Wolf, the Kraken, and the various characters. The back of the book also includes the Soldier’s Creed, and a glossary of Army terms.

the Pawtriots fight and defeat supernatural pirates, and throughout the story, Rico leads his unit and reinforces the importance of duty, respect, courage, and helping others. As the Pawtriot Dogs Series progresses, readers will have to remember a large cast of characters whose personalities are not well developed. Readers will enjoy Into the Storm because it is a suspenseful story that follows a group of heroic dogs. Dog-loving readers who want more fun adventures should add the Puppy Pirates Series by Erin Soderberg to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Sea Wolf throws Jet off a tower. Rico says, “All I can do is watch as she crashes into a cluster of tall trees below, helplessly clawing at the branches in a desperate effort to slow her fall. She hits the ground hard. . .”
  • Sea Wolf commands his crew to attack the Pawtriots. The fight is not described, but Rico is captured and put in chains.
  • The Pawtriots must face a kraken that has “twelve long, slimy tentacles with suction cups that can pull your skin clean off and fangs that will rip you to shreds.” Rico describes how “a tentacle sweeps my legs out from under me. . .the wet rock presses up against my fur. I try to wrestle free from the Kraken’s grip on my tail, but it’s useless.”
  • Someone kills the Kraken to save Rico. Rico sees “Penny, who has Sea Wolf’s sword in her paw. It’s covered in Kraken blood.”
  • The Pawtriots are in a cavern that starts to collapse. Rico is the last to exit. “I am squeezed in between rocks. . . I wiggle my body and shimmy as fast as I can, falling out of the tunnel onto ground just as the tunnel caves in completely.”
  • Sea Wolf makes the Pawtriots walk the plank. As they struggle to remain afloat in the ocean, they are saved.
  • To defeat Sea Wolf, the “Pawtriots don’t hesitate, and in an instant, they’ve swarmed the Cutthroats, engaging them in fierce paw-to-paw combat.” No fighting is described.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Sea Wolf calls someone a “treacherous bilge rat.”
  • Sea Wolf calls his crew, “Yellow-bellied sapsuckers.”
  • Sea Wolf calls his former first mate a “backstabbing traitor.”

Supernatural

  • Rico and the Pawtriots end up on a cursed island. While there, a cat tells the story of the “Thrice-Cursed Pirate Sea Wolf” and his ship, the Calico Jack. Sea Wolf’s sword, ship, and crew were cursed. Sea Wolf’s “very soul was trapped inside the eternal flame. . . If the bell were ever to be run, then Sea Wolf would have until sunset to raise his crew, his ship, and retrieve his sword before the flame dies out and Sea Wolf with it.” Someone rings the bell and reawakens Sea Wolf and his crew.
  • When Sea Wolf reappears, “his eyes are bloodshot, and the moon paints his gray fur with an ominous glow.”
  • Sea Wolf’s “strength grows with each passing minute that his lungs draw breath.”
  • The Sea Wolf’s first mate was cured with immortality. She says, “Being alive forever gets old. I’m tired. Very, very tired. And the only way I can rest is if Sea Wolf rises and falls.”
  • In the end, Sea Wolf is defeated and “Sea Wolf vanishes.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Drummer Boy

In a wintery little town, a toy drummer boy appears mysteriously on a child’s doorstep. The child loves the little drummer boy, and the drummer boy loves the child. The drummer boy gives the child the only gift he can– He plays his drum– boom pum pum boom pum.

 But when he accidentally falls into the trash, the drummer boy is sent on a scary and snowy journey! Even so, as he is carried and flown, and almost buried in snow, the little drummer boy still gives the gift he can to a rat and a snowman and the nighttime stars.

Right from the start, young readers will be captivated by the drummer boy. When he falls into the trash, and is taken to the dump, the drummer boy begins a journey where he ends up in surprising places. Even when his circumstances seem dire, the drummer boy gives to others by playing his song. The ending is surprising and sweet and reminds readers that the reason for Christmas is because a little baby was born.

The snowy illustrations are in muted colors with beautiful details. The illustrations show the scale of the little drummer boy and how small he is compared to his surroundings. Even though Drummer Boy 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 9 sentences; however, some of the sentences are complex.

The story is surprisingly suspenseful, and readers will be curious to see where the drummer boy ends up next. If you’re looking for a holiday book to share with your family, Drummer Boy is an enchanting story that shows the importance of giving to others despite your circumstances.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Let’s Play, Crabby!

Plankton wants Crabby to play a game. Plankton tries to get Crabby to play Simon Says, Tag, and Hide-and-Seek. But Crabby does NOT want to play with Plankton. Will Plankton give up? Or will Crabby finally play along?   

Beginning readers will fall in love with Plankton’s enthusiasm and Crabby’s grumpiness. This easy-to-follow, silly plot comes to life in the brightly-colored artwork that appears on every page. The pages are broken into colorful panels, which makes it easy for readers to follow along. Plus, the colorful speech bubbles make it easy to understand who is speaking.  

Let’s Play Crabby is perfect for children who are learning to read. The text uses simple sentences and easy vocabulary, and the speech bubbles are color-coded to distinguish each speaker. Each page contains five or fewer sentences, which makes the story accessible to new readers. 

Let’s Play Crabby is full of humor and has a silly, surprise ending. With easy-to-read text, a comic-story format, and full-color artwork on every page, the book will boost reading confidence and fluency. Readers will laugh their way through the book and will be eager to read another Crabby story. Beginning readers who love Plankton and Crabby can learn more about friendship by reading The Unicorn and Yeti Series by Heather Ayris Burnell.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Snow

Everyone loves snow! It’s fun to play in and makes wonderful snowmen. But where does snow come from? The answer is at your fingertips. Just open this book and explore the wonders of snow. 

Readers will follow an unnamed girl who spends a day out in the snow. Between scenes of the young girl and her dog, information is given about how snow is formed, why it falls to the ground and the different types of snow. Readers will also learn how “snow melts into puddles, intro rivers, into lakes, and gives the earth a fresh, cool drink.” The last page includes six additional facts about snow. 

Each page has large illustrations with a blue sky in the background; this allows the white snow to show up clearly. Throughout the story, the girl makes a snowman, plays in a puddle, skates on a frozen pond, and sleds with her dog. However, she never smiles and in some of the pictures, she looks cold and miserable. This contrasts with the story’s theme, “while winter is here, snow makes the cold world beautiful and so much fun!” 

As part of the Ready-To-Read Level 1 Series, Snow tells a simple story through longer sentences. Some of the sentences begin on one page and end on another. However, each page only has 1 to 2 sentences that use simple vocabulary. Each page’s illustration matches the words on the page and helps explain some of the facts, such as “clouds are crystals of ice.” 

Snow uses a blend of storytelling and informational reading to teach young readers about the attributes and importance of snow. While the story lacks entertainment value, readers interested in snow will enjoy learning new facts. Readers ready to snuggle up with a snowy book should also read Max & Mo Make a Snowman by Patricia Lakin. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Red and Lulu

Two cardinals, Red and Lulu, have made a nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree overlooking a family’s house. The shade from the tree’s branches keeps the birds cool during the hot months, while its needles keep them warm during the cold months. Red and Lulu’s favorite time of year is winter when the family decorates their tree and sings O Christmas Tree. One morning, as that special season is arriving, Red flies out to find breakfast while Lulu stays behind. When Red returns, he finds that their tree has been cut down, and is being driven away on a large truck. Red can hear Lulu singing from somewhere inside the tree. He calls out to tell her to stay where she is. 

Red flies towards the tree, but he can’t keep up with the truck, which leads Red into a chase through highways, across the George Washington Bridge, and through crowded city streets. Before long, Red realizes he has lost sight of the truck, and finds himself in a strange new place unlike anywhere he’s ever been before – New York City. Red spends days searching the city for Lulu. He searches outside of the New York Public Library, through Times Square, and over the Empire State Building. During Red’s search, he and Lulu’s special season finally arrives. As snow falls, Red hears the faint sound of O Christmas Tree being sung from a distance. He hurries towards the sound, finally tracing it to a crowd of people surrounding a familiar tree standing at Rockefeller Center. The tree is covered from top to bottom in colorful Christmas lights, but Red immediately recognizes it as his and Lulu’s tree. 

He flies over the happy carolers and into the tree’s branches, where he is joyously greeted by Lulu. The two reside happily in their tree and smile at the large crowds of people who seem to love it just as much as they do. One day, the same truck arrives and takes their tree once again. This time, Red and Lulu find a new tree in Central Park, where they make their new home. Every winter since, Red and Lulu take a trip to Rockefeller Center to visit their first tree and listen to the crowd of people sing their favorite song. 

Red and Lulu is a sweet and touching story and a visually engaging read from start to finish. The book is rich with beautiful illustrations that are carefully and passionately drawn to convey the beauty of winter, as well as that of every season in the book’s opening pages. The background of each illustration tends to have more muted colors, from beige and yellow autumns to gray and blue winters, which allows the bright red cardinals and glowing holiday decorations to stand out. The font of the narration is notably smaller on some pages, but the straightforward narration allows for an altogether easy read. However, beginning readers may need help understanding some of the difficult vocabulary such as “frantically” and “marveled.” There are one to eight sentences per page, but some pages rely on the illustrations to tell the story.  

Red and Lulu’s narrative does an excellent job of getting the reader to care about the relationship between its two title characters, making their eventual reunion feel just as special. Readers who celebrate Christmas are likely to enjoy the book’s Christmas setting, but the book can also be enjoyed by readers who live in New York City or who are familiar with the area. Readers who have moved homes or are preparing to move can also find this story particularly endearing, as they may relate to the overwhelming change felt by Red and Lulu, as well as the story’s message of the home being defined by the presence of loved ones rather than a specific place.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

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