Review: Pizza Party!

“It cooks./We look.//We read a book.//It’s done./What fun!” p.22-24

Pizza Party by Grace Maccarone, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully.
Cartwheel Books Imprint, Scholastic, New York, 1994, my reprint edition 2003.
Rhyming realistic fiction, 30 pages.
Lexile:  BR (What does BR mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  0.5 (worth 0.5 points)

Five people gather for a pizza party and work together to make, then eat a pizza in this diverse early reader for children who have just mastered the basic sight words.  This is the third book of my thrift store finds.

Pizza Party cover

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Review: Best Friends in the Snow

Angela Shelf Medearis and new-to-me illustrator Ken Wilson-Max team up for an early reader about playing in the snow.

Best Friends in the Snow by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max.
Cartwheel books imprint, Scholastic, New York, 1999 (my edition is a 2003 reprint).
Seasonal realistic fiction, 22 pages + literacy activities.
Lexile: 60L
AR Level: 1.1 (worth 0.5 points)
NOTE: Although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday, this is a fiction book.

Two best friends, a white boy and a black girl, engage in fun wintertime activities in this simple early reader text.

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Best Friends in the Snow by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max.

Angela Shelf Medearis is the author – you probably don’t even need me to review it to know that it’s great.  Both the author and illustrator are #ownvoices.

This book is just made to delight preschoolers.  The words are simple, with no more than two sentences per page and often less.  The first page has the longest text of the entire book.  Ken Wilson-Max was new to me, although his style felt familiar.

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Review: We Can!

The earliest readers need diverse books too! Here’s one appropriate for the beginning reader.

We Can! (also titled If You Can, I Can) by Gay Su Pinnell, illustrated by Barbara Duke.
Scholastic, New York, 2002.
Realistic fiction, 9 pages.
Lexile: BR  (What does BR mean in Lexile?)
AR: not leveled
NOTE: Intended for the earliest beginning readers, a later edition is titled If You Can, I Can.

We Can is the sweet story of two non-white brothers, told in extremely simple words with pictures carrying most of the story, for the earliest of pre-readers and beginning readers.

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We Can! by Gay Su Pinnell, Illustrated by Barbara Duke.

I was delighted to find a nice selection of early readers at a local thrift store.  It is incredibly difficult to find a good batch of books at this level in general, let alone culturally appropriate and diverse books, so I quickly sorted through the stack to find any that had diverse characters.  At a dollar each, this particular store was a little expensive for pre-readers (most places sell used ones for 50 cents down even as low as 10 cents, especially for used books which have writing and highlighting in them as some of these did), so I wanted to only select those that I might not find elsewhere.

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Review: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A very basic text explaining the holiday to very young students.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Robin Nelson.
First Step Nonfiction, Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.
Early reader non-fiction, 23 pages including glossary and index.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 2.1 (worth 0.5 points)

This is a very basic early reader as part of a formulaic series for preschool to first or maybe second grade learners.  It is typically marketed to teachers and schools as part of a holidays set, which is how I acquired it.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Robin Nelson

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Review: Singing for Dr. King

Learn more about two third-graders who participated in the Selma marches with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Singing for Dr. King by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.
Produced for Scholastic by Color-Bridge Books, Brooklyn, NY, 2004.
Picture book non-fiction, 32 pages (including back matter).
Lexile: 660L  (for some reason, the illustrator is listed as the author)
AR Level: 3.8 (worth 0.5 points)
NOTE: Part of the Just For You series, level 3.  This book is non-fiction.

This book is about Sheyann Webb and her friend Rachel West, two third graders who marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  These nine year olds also sang for Dr. King and attended civil rights meetings, defying and later inspiring their parents and teachers by doing so.

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Singing for Dr. King by Angela Shelf Medearis

This book instantly stood out from the pile of books because anything about Dr. King is hugely popular in my house.  Then when I opened the book and read the first page, I knew it was non-fiction partly by the way in which the characters were introduced.  Here is the opening:

“In 1965, Sheyann Webb was in the third grade in Selma, Alabama.  She was smaller than most third graders, including her best friend, Rachel West.  //  Rachel was nine.  She lived with her family in the apartment next door to Sheyann’s.” p. 5

Fiction books for young children simply don’t open that way, giving the full names, ages, and year on the opening page.  It happened that I had just been reading A Child Shall Lead Them, so I quickly recognized the names and scenarios from that book.  However, a reader who was not already familiar with these events could easily have mistaken this book for fiction that was written oddly.

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Review: Ruby Bridges Goes to School

Just one big caveat before using this early reader in a school library or classroom.

Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story by Ruby Bridges.
Scholastic, Cartwheel Books, New York, 2009.
Early reader (Scholastic Level 2) non-fiction with photographs, 30 pages.
Lexile: 410L
AR Level: 2.5 (worth 0.5 points)

This is a nonfiction early reader about the life of Ruby Bridges, written by her. This book covers her historic integration of the William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana, as well as some information about reactions to the integration and her later life (particularly a reunion with her teacher).

It’s not entirely clear whether she wrote an entirely new book or simplified her book In My Eyes for a younger reading audience, however she is attributed with both the text and the photo compilation, so until I read the other book, I’m going to assume these are two separate works.

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Most of the children’s non-fiction books about African-American history tend to be aimed at second grade on up.  There are, of course, many picture books intended to be read aloud by an adult, but most of the basic early readers are predominately white.  This sets up the disturbing standard of the “white default” early in life.

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