The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 2 | Page 49


Free Books for Your Classroom

Classroom CloseUP

Ida B…and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World

By: Katherine Hannigan

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Interest Level: Grades 3-5

Reading Level: 6.4

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Ida B…and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World is a story about a little girl whose life is turned upside down when her mom is diagnosed with cancer. Ida B is an only child but has a dog named Rufus and a cat named Lulu who follows her around wherever she goes. Ida B tried out kindergarten, but only lasted three weeks, so her parents decided it would be best to home school her. A free-spirited and earth loving girl, Ida B, is forced to go back to public school when her mom gets sick. She is full of life and has a strong inner connection with nature. She lives on Apple Orchard farm and her best friends are the apple trees and the brook by the mountain. She talks to them and hears them talk back.

When Ida B’s mother gets sick and Ida B had to return to school, she was determined to be miserable. She quit talking to her parents and did not associate with the other children at school. Her teacher noticed her behavior and was very patient with her. She finally asked Ida B to tutor another student who was struggling in math. Ida B was reluctant, but secretly liked the teacher and did not want to disappoint her. She and the boy became friends but she didn’t want anyone to know she was happy about having a friend.

With times getting tough, her father had to sell part of their land so they could pay the medical bills. This did not sit well with Ida B because it was just a few weeks prior to that her dad had promised her that all of the land would be hers someday. The people who bought the land had two children, one of whom was in Ida B’s class at school. They tore down three trees in the spot where they built their house and Ida B was devastated. She began to resent everyone and became a mean girl towards the girl in her class who was going to live by her.

Over time Ida B realizes that she was mean and realized that she has created her own misery. Will she figure out how to make things right before it’s too late?

The author, Katherine Hannigan, teaches several life lessons in this story. She provides a lot of teaching opportunities throughout the text as well. Ida B has a love for nature and keeping the environment safe. At the end of the book, there is information on some positive things that the reader can do for the earth and the creatures that live on it. Overall, I thought the book was a great read aloud for my students. It kept them engaged and made them giggle from time to time.

Karla Jackson

Oskar and the Eight Blessings

● Authors: Richard Simon and Tanya Simon

● Illustrator: Mark Siegel

● Grade level: K-5

● Independent reading level: 2nd grade

● Rating: 5 stars

● Genre: Historical fiction

Oskar is a young refugee who has been sent to New York City by his parents to escape the Nazis. This moving story shares the journey of Oskar as he makes his way to find his Aunt Esther on Christmas Eve, the seventh night of Hanukkah, 1938. He is carried by

the last words his father spoke to him – “even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” Oskar walks down Broadway, taking in the sights and sounds of the holiday shop windows. Along his way, Oskar meets strangers that offer

him small acts of kindness that restores his faith in people and reinforces his father’s message. Count Basie, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Superman all make their way into Oskar’sjourney.

The story evokes feelings of empathy and compassion. Richard Simon wrote this story of hope and human survival as a link to his own past. Mark Siegel’s paneled illustrations are in muted, dreamy colors with glowing streetlights and snowflakes. Included is a map

of Manhattan, showing Oskar’s journey and his stops along the way. This is a beautiful story, with magical illustrations that will teach our students empathy

and deeper cultural awareness. The message of hope would be perfect for a read aloud during the holiday season, or as a gentle introduction to the Holocaust.