Because of Winn Dixie

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: Because of Winn-Dixie
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Age Range: 9-12
Grade Level: 4-7

Because of Winn-Dixie is about a girl name India Opal that claims ownership of a stray dog causing chaos in the local grocery store. Being new in town, Opal hasn’t made many friends, but Winn-Dixie changes all that by bringing her together with a host of interesting characters in their small town. Even though her mama left when she was three and it’s just her and the preacher (her daddy), Opal soon discovers that her heart can be full again…all because of Winn-Dixie.

My Thoughts

After reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, I was itching to pick up another Kate DiCamillo book.  This one didn’t disappoint.  Even though I knew a movie version had come out a number of years ago, I like to read the book first!

Because of Winn-Dixie totally engages the reader.  Right away I liked India Opal and thought she had so much spunk! I love how the the author used a dog in this story to help Opal connect not only to her new community, but also to her daddy. Dogs certainly provide friendship and unconditional love and any child who has wanted desperately to take home a stray will be encouraged by Winn-Dixie.

There are some concepts in the story that are better suited for the older reader: Opal has a mother that left when she was three; Amanda has experienced the loss of a sibling; Gloria admits to have once had an addiction to alcohol. Be prepared to answer any questions your child may have concerning these sensitive subjects when you read the book. (I’ve included some links below to help you get started.)

We did rent the movie from the library after we (my daughter and I) finished reading the book.  As is common, the movie doesn’t follow the book exactly and my daughter was constantly pointing out the differences. Overall, we liked the movie, but the book was much better!

Resources for Teaching



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Pax

Pax by Sara Pennypacker: Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: Pax
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Age Range: 8-12 years
Grade Level: 4-7

Pax is the story of a red fox that suddenly finds himself unprepared for life in the wild.  Peter, his human boy that adopted Pax as a kit, is forced to leave Pax near the edge of the woods on his way to his grandfather’s house because his father is going to war and they can’t take Pax along.  Soon Peter greatly regrets abandoning Pax and sets out with determination to find him. The journey taken by fox and boy to find each other again is long and difficult, but each discover they have strength and courage to overcome their fears and limitations.

My Thoughts

Before reading this one with your kids, definitely consider the age recommendation for this book, as well as the emotional sensitivity your child has toward animals in trouble. Pax is not lighthearted reading.  There are some very serious situations of war told in the story, but if you are prepared, this can open up a healthy dialogue of discussion.

The story takes off immediately, drawing you into the worlds of Pax and Peter.  Chapters alternate between the two characters, so you can experience what each of them are going through in their efforts to find each other again. We learn more about foxes, their behavior, diet and life in the wild.  Some of the reading is heartbreaking, but you will find yourself desperately reading on to the end, filled with hope that the pair reunites.

Pax was well written and explores the beautiful bond people can have with their pets.  The character traits of determination, persistence, empathy, and loyalty all prevail in this incredible story of a fox and his boy.


Resources for Teaching


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A Toad for Tuesday

A Toad for Tuesday by Russell E. Erickson: Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: A Toad for Tuesday
Author: Russell E. Erickson
Age Range: 6-9
Grade Level: 2-4

A Toad for Tuesday was first published in 1974.  This is a short novel without chapter breaks, but an easy read for elementary kids.  The story begins with two frog brothers, Morton and Warton, enjoying a tasty meal in their warm underground home during winter.  Warton decides he wants to visit his Aunt Toolia and prepares himself with layers of clothes, a pack of food and some skis.  On the way he gets picked up by an owl who takes him back to his tree and tells Warton that he will eat him on Tuesday since it’s the owl’s birthday.  Warton has five days to plan an escape, but in the meantime befriends the cranky owl. Warton’s calm and friendly nature might just be enough to save his life!

My Thoughts

Another thrift store find for me, A Toad for Tuesday won me over with the cover!  This book moves swiftly and the message in the story is heartwarming.  Warton seems to take his fate with ease, engaging the owl in long conversations and tidying up the owl’s home.  What I really liked was that Warton appears to have no ulterior motives, but it is just in his nature to be kind and friendly.  He is able to deal with the unexpected turn of events in a calm manner and thinks carefully before acting.  Warton exhibits some wonderful character traits, such as bravery, kindness, cleanliness, friendliness, and flexibility.

Russell E. Erickson has written several more books in the series. See the list below for more of these fun reads!

  1. Warton and the Traders
  2. Warton and the Contest
  3. Warton and the King of the Skies
  4. Warton and Morton
  5. Warton’s Christmas Eve Adventure
  6. Warton and the Castaways


Resources for Teaching

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo: Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Age Range: 7-10 years
Grade Level: 2-5

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is about a precious china rabbit that is loved by a little girl named Abilene.  Edward is very vain and thinks only about himself and how special he is…until one day when he finds himself lost in the depths of the ocean.  From a fisherman’s net to a toy shelf, the journey is more than Edward trying to find his way back to Abilene.  It is a journey of a self-absorbed rabbit learning to love and care for others.

(Even though this book isn’t about a live rabbit, I found that the teachable points of the story were well worth the read.)

Write Through the Bible

My Thoughts

While exploring book titles for rabbits, I came across The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I have a habit for searching out 5-star reviews and was curious as to what made this book so special to earn those coveted 5 stars.  I picked it up at the library (though I enjoyed it so much I bought my own copy) and read it quickly once I arrived home.  This book was one I could not put down.  I followed Edward through his amazing character transformation which is full of heartbreak and hope.  Edward is not a very likeable rabbit at the beginning, but that starts to change as he finds himself moving from one place to another, with each experience having an impact on how he perceives the world.

Edward goes through a range of feelings throughout the book, which is a wonderful way to teach about different emotions to kids.  One of the most important concepts taught is how opening one’s heart to love does not come without pain, but the way it can change us is worth the risk.

The book contains excellent life lessons that could lead to insightful discussions such as:

    1. Vanity and the negative consequences
    2. Opening your heart to love again after being hurt
    3. Learning the importance of putting others first


Resources for Teaching

I try to include as many free resources for you as possible, though I know there are some wonderful activities available all over the internet for just a few dollars.


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Taylor-Made Tales: The Dog’s Secret

Taylor-Made Tales: The Dog's Secret by Ellen Miles - Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: Taylor-Made Tales/The Dog’s Secret
Author: Ellen Miles
Age Range: 7-10 years
Grade Level: 2-5

Taylor-Made Tales/The Dog’s Secret is an easy read chapter book that blends two stories into one.  Cricket doesn’t want to be labeled “rambunctious” by the new teacher, Mr. Taylor, so she goes out of her way to follow rules and not stand out.  In fact, her whole class is hesitant about the new teacher, until Mr. Taylor engages them every afternoon in a story made up from items the kids had lost.  The story he tells is about a girl named Maisie and her dog Jack.  Jack is a very special dog with a secret talent and one day he disappears.  Maisie is afraid the secret is out and she will never see Jack again.

My Thoughts

I picked up this book at a local thrift store after checking the reviews for it on Amazon (you’ll find this is a very common thing for me to do!).  Apparently, there are several more in the series, all which tell different tales made up by Mr. Taylor and include five things chosen by the students.  The Dog’s Secret is a fun and light-hearted read.  Even though Maisie experiences loneliness and sadness over a missing pet, the situation is not traumatic for sensitive readers.

The chapters integrate both story lines of Cricket and Maisie seamlessly. Jack seems like that perfect dog companion that many kids dream of having growing up.  Themes of  patience, helpfulness, empathy, and acceptance can be found throughout the story. This is a must for any dog lover!


Resources for Teaching

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Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe: Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

 

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought what better book to read and review than Bunnicula!

The Book

Title: Bunnicula
Author: Deborah and James Howe
Age Range: 8-12 years
Grade Level: 3-7

Bunnicula was first published in 1979 and has been a favorite among children for many years. The story is told by Harold, the family dog. He and Chester, the cat, are surprised one evening when their owners bring home a lost bunny. Strange things start happening during the night and Chester becomes suspicious about Bunnicula and sets out on a mission to prove that this new pet is dangerous and needs to go. Will Harold be able to stop him?

My Thoughts

Believe it or not, this was my first time reading Bunnicula. Even though I’d heard of it for years, I think the idea of a vampire rabbit seemed way too hoaky. I read this book in an afternoon and have to admit, it was FUNNY. The dog and cat relationship depicts their differences perfectly: Harold just wants to relax and eat cupcakes while Chester sleeps all day and gets a bit neurotic at night (if you are a cat owner, this makes perfect sense). The ways in which Chester attempts to get rid of Bunnicula are hilarious and will have your kids laughing out loud.

The story is great for kids that like a bit of scary, as it balances out the events with humor. I was glad to see that there are several more in the series and will recommend these to my oldest daughter.

As a side note, I personally am not a fan of children’s books using the word “stupid” and this does occur a time or two in Bunnicula, though not enough for me to get too upset about it.

Resources for Teaching

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Basil of Baker Street (The Great Mouse Detective) – Books to Read

The Great Mouse Detective - Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus: Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: Basil of Baker Street
Author: Eve Titus
Age Range: 6-9 years
Grade Level: 1-4

Basil of Baker Street (also known as The Great Mouse Detective) was first published in 1958.  Amazon now carries a republished version, as well as many more in the series. Basil is the star sleuth in this detective novel, with his sidekick Dawson. Both are mice living in the cellar of Sherlock Holmes’s house on Baker Street in London. They are soon approached by Mr. and Mrs. Proudfoot, a pair of mice parents whose young twin girls have gone missing.  Basil is quick on the case as he and Dawson set out to discover what has happened to Agatha and Angela.


My Thoughts

I have always loved a good mystery. The copy I picked up at my local library was titled “Basil of Baker Street.”  It wasn’t until I arrived home that I made the connection between this book and Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective.

This story is such a cute read.  I love how the author made Basil into a mouse version of Sherlock Holmes.  If you have a young detective in your home, this series is sure to entertain.  Some words may be a little more difficult for today’s reader, but it’s an excellent opportunity to grow vocabulary!

Since the twins are kidnapped by strangers, this also provides us as parents and teachers another chance to reinforce who strangers are, what kids can do when approached by a stranger, what steps to take if they are lost, as well as other concepts surrounding this topic.

As a side note, the movie The Great Mouse Detective, does not follow this book; however, the characters are based off the five books in the series.

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Frog and Toad Stories – Books to Read

Today I’m beginning a new series of posts to review and recommend some other animal books you and your kids might enjoy reading. Don’t worry! I will still be writing about the Burgess books, but there are so many wonderful children’s stories about animals that are worthy of sharing. Some of these posts will include classics from years past and some will be more recent publications.  Whether you love certain books from your childhood or are looking for new ones to introduce to your child or in the classroom, I hope to provide you with more ideas to encourage and grow the animal lover in our children’s hearts (as well as our own!).

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel: Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: Frog and Toad Storybook Collection
Author: Arnold Lobel
Age Range: 4-8 years
Grade Level: PreK-3

No doubt you’ve heard of or already own the Frog and Toad books written by Arnold Lobel. This series of four books was republished into a treasury volume in 2013.  The books include: Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Days with Frog and Toad, and Frog and Toad All Year (each are also sold separately on Amazon).

Frog and Toad are best friends. Frog is upbeat and optimistic while Toad tends to be grumpier and more of a worrier. The books contain five chapters, each a story about Frog and Toad’s adventures and friendship.  Their days together include things like sledding, gardening, a lost button, swimming, looking for spring, eating cookies, and much more!  Geared toward a younger audience, this series has been a favorite of generations since their original publication in the early 1970’s.

My Thoughts

I absolutely adored these books as a kid and introduced them early to my own kids.  We have the audio version so we can listen in the car on long trips.  They love these stories!

Frog and Toad books include many opportunities to add character trait development into your reading lessons. I’ve mentioned some samples below (italicized words are the names of the chapters):

    • Kindness – The Surprise: Frog secretly rakes up the leaves in Toad’s yard while Toad does the same in Frog’s yard.  By the time they both come back home, the wind has blown all the leaves out of the pile and across their yards again. Each one feels so glad the other will be surprised they won’t have to rake.
    • Orderliness A List: Toad writes a list of all the things he wants to get done that day.
    • Patience – The Garden: Frog and Toad plant some seeds and Toad does all sorts of things to try and make them grow.  With Frog’s help he soon realizes patience was the most important part!
    • Self Control – Cookies: Toad bakes some cookies and shares them with Frog.  Neither of them can stop eating them so they try hiding them in order to avoid temptation.
    • Bravery – Dragons and Giants: Frog and Toad attempt to be brave by going out into the world and experiencing new things.
    • Tidiness – Tomorrow: Toad wants to rest but after realizing that there are many things to clean in his home, he decides it’s best to get them done and not procrastinate.
    • Acceptance/Uniqueness – A Swim: Toad wears a bathing suit to go swimming with Frog but is embarrassed when other animals want to see him in it.  They won’t give up so Toad gets out of the water and they all laugh.  He agrees with them that he does look silly, but by this point he has accepted it.


Resources for Teaching

Frog and Toad Videos for Kids

 

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