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Encourage older children to read to their younger brothers and sisters. Older children enjoy showing off their skills... More

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Author: Jean Alicia Elster

Illustrator: Nicole Tadgell

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Publisher: Judson Press,

Material: hard cover

Summary: Joe Joe (age 10) has a dream: he wants to go to college. He's getting good grades and he even got a part-time job. But when his friends start teasing him, he gets discouraged. He's been reading about Mary McLeod Bethune. Some of her dreams, like learning to read, came true. When Joe Joe learns she didn't get the missionary job she wanted, he decided dreams don't always come true. Just as he's giving up, his mother suggests that he finish reading the story. This is the second book in this picture book series that combines urban life with history.

Type of Reading: playtime reading, transitional reader, read aloud book, remedial reader

Recommended Age: read together: 6 to 9; read yourself: 8 to 10

Interest Level: 7 to 10

Reading Level: 3.1

Age of Child: Read by a 10-year-old girl at Effort Baptist Church as part of the Children's Ministry and Use Your ABCs project.

Young Reader Reaction: I picked this book because the cover and title made it look really interesting. I liked the book: Joe Joe had a dream and stuck to it.

Adult Reader Reaction: This is an outstanding picture book. There is an obvious story about Joe Joe and his dreams, but there are also subtle messages about the importance of learning to read and integrity. The author seamlessly weaves the modern-day story with a biography of Mary McLeod Bethune. I particularly liked how the author created a book about Mary Bethune's life and matched it with photographs.

Pros: Kids will easily relate to Joe Joe and his dilemmas, and parents will love how they connect with successful historical figures in this well-written, beautifully illustrated picture book. The story is complex enough to be considered as a high/low book

Cons: None, really. This book is a natural for classroom or small-group discussion. It would be valuable to have some starter questions in the back.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is an outstanding book to be shared with upper-elementary and newly-minted middle grade students. This should be in every school library.


Educational Themes: There are a number of themes, including the universal issues that come with being 10: understanding yourself, dealing with peer pressure, setting goals, responsibility, etc.). The author subtly presents the issue of literacy and reading, both in an historical and modern context. The biography of Mary McLeod Bethune offers excellent points of reference for contrast, as well as a study of history.

Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 3.1

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book series, family, growing up, urban, contemporary, multicultural

Date(s) Reviewed: May 2009

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