The Gift of Nothing

The Gift of Nothing by Patrick Mcdonnell


Oh, how I wish I discovered this book during the holiday season. It’s the story of a dog who wants to buy his cat friend something special, but the cat named Earl already has everything. After much thinking, Mooch decides to get Earl nothing for Christmas. A big box of nothing which is really everything. 


Lots of layers to this deceivingly simple book. I’d read it to any grade and watch the depth of understanding grow through the years. For example, “in a world filled with so many somethings, how do you find nothing?” Wise question. Check out Jon Agee’s Nothing for a book along the same lines of consumerism gone crazy.

Mr. George Baker

Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest


As if I didn’t already adore the words of Amy Hest, my adoration was sealed with this book, Mr. George Baker. Written at a level for younger readers, Mr. George Baker is a 100 year old man who is going to school to learn how to read, just like his small friend Harry. They wait for the school bus together each morning, and this story tells of the world and each other as they wait. 

The description is perfect and ripe for discussion with younger and older readers. And the idea of authors inventing new words like ‘hangy’ and ‘twisty’–beyond powerful for kids to see. 

“I really like his sweater, all hangy with three buttons.”

“There’s candy in those pockets. Little chocolate candies in twisty silver wrappers.”



The Dog Who Belonged to No One

The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest

Soft, gentle, warm, evocative: it seems everything Amy Hest writes is just oozing with all these qualities. The Dog Who Belonged to No One is a charming story of a dog who has no one and a girl who is lonely and how they find each other. But it’s not just any girl meets dog book–the language and imagery is nothing short of stunning. When I read it with first graders, we talked about what the pictures in our mind were (warm bread, soft porch light, curled up in the rain…) It is told in see-saw fashion with one page describing the dog and one page describing the girl, Lia. Lots of layers to this book and a fantastic mentor text.

Truly Winnie

Truly Winnie by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, ill. by Alissa Imre Geis


Look at that cover. Don’t you just want to meet this girl? She just looks like someone I would like to know. This first in a series of books introduces us to the character of Winnie. She’s off to a summer camp with her two best friends, but during that time she makes a few mistakes and learns some valuable lessons. What I love about this book is that it is about such real stuff–from being afraid to be without your best friends to kind of wanting to be without them to explore things on your own to inventing stories about your life to impress others. Everything that happened in Truly Winnie had me nodding my head and thinking, “Yep, that could totally happen!” and that kind of book just appeals so much to a certain type of reader (me! among many others). I can’t wait to read more Winnie books to learn more about how she is so good at art and to also see if some of her new camp friends are continuing characters. If you are a fan of Ivy and Bean or Just Grace, this is another series to add to your reading pile!

The Recess Queen

The Recess Queen by Alexis O’ Neill

We’ve all known one of these playground bully types like the main character in this great book. “Mean Jean”, the Recess Queen, is the one who rules the playground and everyone else lives in fear of her. Enter the new girl, Katie Sue–tiny, red pigtails sticking out–who doesn’t know the rules and gives Mean Jean a run for her money. It ties up nicely in the end but didn’t feel contrived at all to me. I love the lesson of this book and the language is gorgeous (lollapasmoosh is one of my new favorite words. I just need to figure out where to use it…) This falls into the “every kid should read this book before s/he leaves elementary school” category.


Suddenly! by Colin McNaughton

Another gem I stumbled upon while weeding the shelves! Super short and oh-so-funny, Suddenly! tells the tale of a pig being stalked by a big bad wolf on his way to the market. However, every time the wolf pounces, the pig suddenly (get it?) makes a quick turn to the left or forgets something in the house and turns back, leaving the poor wolf in a heap on the floor. This would be a great mentor text for transition words or just for good ol’fashioned fun. Any fans of Wile E. Coyote will adore this book.

Houndsley and Catina

Houndsley and Catina by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay

Cute, cute, cute! This new series of books by the author of Pinky and Rex is just so inviting and fun to read. Houndsley and Catina are two friends, a cat and a dog, who are different from each other but very sweet together. One of the things I love most about this book is that it is deep and thoughtful but is at a reading level that is accessible for many kids. Here’s an example…

“Houndsley and Catina built a fire and talked about what they saw in the flames. And then they grew still and didn’t talk at all.”

That’s just a taste of the magic. Couple his words with Marie-Louise Gay’s gorgeous illustrations, and it’s a winner.

Poop-Eaters: Dung Beetles in the Food Chain by Deirdre Prischmann

Get ready for extreme grossness with this fabulous book! Poop-Eaters tells of the habits of the dung beetle and really spares no detail of their love of poop for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve been using it as a mentor text for a NF lesson with 4th and 5th graders, and you can always hear a chorus of “oh no!” or “gross!” as I finish a sentence. Excellent voice in this book as well, and it gets rave reviews from me as a book that holds everyone’s attention.

A few of the 4th and 5th grade class reviews of this book:

5.0 stars5.0 stars5.0 stars5.0 stars5.0 stars December 8, 2009
If you like gross things, this is just the right book for you! This book is filled with poopy facts about dung beetles. For example, their favorite food is elephant poop. If you are wondering what happens to different animals’ poop, this is a MUST READ! by Ms. Hellyer’s Non-fiction Superstars!
5.0 stars5.0 stars5.0 stars5.0 stars5.0 stars November 30, 2009
Do really gross books amaze you? If the answer is yes, you’ll love this book! This book tells us about beetles that gorge on POOP! Careful–you might throw up after reading this book. By Ms. Terry’s Super Non Fiction Readers

Gooney Bird Greene

Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry

Thanks to Ms. Chesebro for the wonderful recommendation. This book was so much fun to read! Gooney Bird Greene (don’t forget the silent ‘e!’) is new to her school and filled with amazing and somewhat crazy stories about her life. She entertains her fellow classmates with her zany tales and also encourages them to tell their own stories. A perfect readaloud for personal narrative examples as well as a strong character. Plus, with Gooney Bird’s funky clothes, I’m already thinking that she would be a fun character to dress up as on a book character day.

Time Soldiers

Robert Gould’s Time Soldiers

A huge T-Rex invading a city + Kids in camouflage clothing ready to save the day= Everyone begging to take this book home!

Very cool way of putting this book together with real photos of kids and superimposed dinosaur photos. I mean, just look at that cover. It’s awesome! Definitely worth checking out from the Hub, and it’s a series and there’s another one with King Arthur.