1 04/08/2014 reviews Books

Scholastic Decoder: April 2014

April! Wait, isn’t it February? March pretty much whipped by around my place, between the break and a couple of nasty bugs, but hey! Sunshine outside and a lovely springy week ahead! Thank goodness April is here at last – and with it, new flyers.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle is always a good bet – a favourite of many, a good storyteller, and skilled at weaving concept teaching into a story, not to mention an easily-recognized illustrator. This also happens to be a major classic, so if you don’t already own it, make this your one pick this month.

Klutz Hands On Learning Pack – I am a big fan of Klutz kits. They have clear, easy-to-follow instructions, contain everything you’re going to need, and I’ve always gotten good results from these obviously well-tested projects. They aren’t all about reading, but it’s worth noting that following instructions is its own particular reading skill. I like buying these from the flyers, too, because they make great gifts, and come a little cheaper this way.

Rain, Rain, Go Away – I love song books, and this cute little board book is a nice one for spring. Definitely for younger kids, but a charmer, to be sure.

Earth Day Pack – great ideas for getting little kids involved and getting them thinking in terms of conservation from early on without making it too heavy a message.

Otis and the Puppy This is very retro and a little quiet, rendered in sepias and deep red touches, so it’s not for every kid, but it’s a wonderful friendship story about a little old tractor named Otis. It’s a followup to the original, simply called Otis, and equally charming

Under Ground – I always love Denise Fleming’s art, and she excels when she talks about the natural world, as she does here. A perfect starter for getting your kid interested in what’s to be found in the dirt!

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly – This standard little kid song is presented in bright, bold colours with die cut pages. I like books of songs for sharing – they help with the words for singing along, and remind us that singing is actually excellent for literacy.

Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes – finger rhymes are a staple for little kids, and this book has a great selection. I always love having books of rhymes on hand, because sometimes, nothing springs to mind, and you have to get them from somewhere in the first place – this sort of source book is such a great place to start.

How Do Dinosaurs? Pack – I love this series. this is another example of teaching manners and so on done really, really well. They are funny and silly, but then get around to pointing out how this should go, all illustrated by Mark Teague’s comical, and very human, dinosaurs.

Franklin All Year Collection – This is almost completely from the original series of Franklin stories by the author, rather than those based on the TV shows – and these, I like. If you’ve got a Franklin fan, this will be a good pack for you, or you can wait for the complete pack of originals to come around again, as it surely will.



Funny Spring Stories pack – I always struggle with packs, because they are usually so uneven. Truth be told, I only know three of these, but they are all such great winners, that for $12 total, I’d say it’s well worth the risk on the fourth, because you’ll enjoy the other so much anyway!

Duck Collection – These are very funny, and full of warmth of goofiness. I really like this series which hasn’t yet gone off the rails as so many do.

Plant a Kiss A sweet little story about how love multiplies and never runs out, by the magical duo of Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter Reynolds. This one I reviewed a while back here.

You Read to Me, I’ll Read To You  – These are excellent starters for early readers who are nervous about reading on their own, and good fun to read together as practice or a family activity. This is how I got my girl to start reading aloud to me – she was unwilling to be imperfect, but here, we were doing it together. Much better!

Biscuit Pack – Biscuit books are early readers, for real beginners. They are not great stories, but feature a cute puppy, limited vocabulary, large text, and
lots of repetition, which is just what emerging readers need to succeed.

Fly Guy – This series is funny, focused on friendship, and a great hit with kids in the grade 1-2 range. If they like these, there are a couple more to follow, too, which is always fun.

A to Z Mysteries – This series does, as the name suggests, have a mystery for each letter. Nicely pitched for grades 2-3, these are fairly popular and will work
well for a kid who likes mysteries.

Klutz Cat’s Cradle – I love Klutz kits for their clear, easy-to-follow instructions, solid results, and completeness. thumb Doodles are a fun pack for the arty or the slightly challenged, as it doesn’t take a ton of skill. Cat’s Cradle is a great game and storytelling device, and one I’m thinking of getting for myself, since my daughter has taken to hers so strongly, I never get to borrow it.

National Geographic non-fiction – Nat Geo is turning out great non-fiction for kids these days. The pictures are everything you’d expect from them, the facts are solid, and they have pitched them well for browsing and more thorough reading alike, depending on the kid. I recommend these if your kid would find the topic interesting.



National Geographic non-fiction – Nat Geo is turning out great non-fiction for kids these days. The pictures are everything you’d expect from them, the facts are solid, and they have pitched them well for browsing and more thorough reading alike, depending on the kid. I recommend these if your kid would find the topic interesting.

Shel Silverstein Pack – I’m a huge fan of Shel’s work, and these are, in my opinion, his best two works of poetry. everyone should get to experience the enormous fun to be found in these pages!

The Usborne Big Book of Experiments – I love science for kids. It’s interesting, exciting, and educational without being dry. It also gets them reading and following instructions, which is an important skill. There’s great fun to be had here, even if it makes a mess of the kitchen!

Big Nate Pack – This is sort of the natural successor to Diary of a Wimpy Kid – half-graphic, sassy, and great kid appeal. A touch cheekier, but still funny, any fan of the former is pretty sure to enjoy these.

Shrek – have you read the original advanced picture book that the movie was LOOSELY based on? I say loosely because it is quite different – but I also love William Steig, and this is fun on its own merit. A great pick for kids who love the offbeat and slightly gross.

Magic Tree House  Pack – This long-running series is still going strong, and I’m still enjoying the adventures of Jack & Annie as they explore times, places, and major historical figures. It’s a nice bridge between fiction and non-fiction, and though definitely on formula, still an enjoyable, decently-written read.

Pippi Longstocking – The silly, wonderful world of Pippi has been amusing kids for decades, and just begs to be shared. She is charmingly offbeat, and drags along her much more regular neighbours on some crazy adventures.



Big Nate – This is sort of the natural successor to Diary of a Wimpy Kid – half-graphic, sassy, and great kid appeal. A touch cheekier, but still funny, any fan of the former is pretty sure to enjoy these.

31 Ways to Change the World – In time for Earth Day, this book has a whole bunch of ideas on a kid level to help improve the world, from conservation to the three Rs and more.

Poetry for Young People – I love poetry for kids, and I think it’s important to expose them to it before they are taught that it is too difficult and serious. This set is a nice little taste of classic stuff that is accessible for them to help open up their tastes.

Heroes of Olympus – the same world as Percy Jackson, but with some different characters. This series is still in progress, so I’m waiting for them all to come out, but if you’ve got a fan on your hands, it’s totally worth it and in hot demand.

Icefire Pack – This weighty fantasy series about dragons has been a hit among the kids who love fantasy. This pack is a worthwhile buy if that’s your kid, especially given that these books should keep your kid busy reading for a while! This is the entire series of seven serious volumes.

Fairy Tales Pack – Gail Carson Levine is all about the fairy tale retold, and she does a fine job of it. Ella Enchanted, particularly, is really well done, and has a different take on why Cinderella gets stuck in her role as servant in the first place. Great reads for dreamy types or those who always loved the princess thing, but need a more grown-up take on it now.

Kane Chronicles Box Set – Rick Riordan’s other series – this one, based on Egyptian mythology rather than Greek. to be honest, I am waiting for the whole series before I read them because I can’t handle the waiting,. but I haven’t read anything from Riordan that doesn’t move along engagingly.

Wimpy Kid #8 Pack – This series has been a massive hit with kids and spawned a few imitators, as well. It is very funny, and the half-graphic format makes it a favourite with reluctant readers. The newest is on offer here and while I often suggest skipping books bundled with other stuff, i like the idea of giving a kid a journal to do some writing of their own.

Shadow Children Pack – This series was dystopian before it was hot – and more children’s than teens, though it is dark and sophisticated enough to require an older and more sophisticated reader to match.

Gordon Korman Survival Trilogies Pack – Korman has a few trilogies, all with an adventure/disaster/survival theme that gives them great boy appeal. These are well done and a good, compelling read that can pull along even a reluctant reader with the plot.

Note I like their new “mature readers” section they’ve created, which highlights that the Shadow Children and the Hunger Games are definitely darker books meant for older kids. Nice way of including but clarifying.

  • Kat Clarke Murray

    I’m with you on waiting for the whole series (I also like the cover art to be consistent so I usually buy a boxed set…pretty OCD but that’s me!) but my Percy Jackson fan students are LOVING the Kane Chronicles, so I’d totally recommend them. And agreed: Wimpy Kid is one of the best tricks for reluctant readers, boys and girls alike. I love Scholastic!

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