I have a hard time critiquing books for younger students, so the books that are housed in my library for the reading help program don't thrill me. Some of them are so young that I think I will try to place them at an elementary school. It is interesting to see what is out there for beginning readers.
Krull, Kathleen. Houdini: The World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King.
This author has a variety of biographies, all of which are well-researched and compelling, but I always try to read them first, because some, like this one, are much too short for my students. This book would be a good way to get elementary students interested in biographies, and I learned a lot of interesting facts about Houdini's life and his act, which was even more interesting after having read Paul Adam's Max Cassidy: Escape From Shadow Island. I do like this author's Marie Curie biography.
Kennedy, Marge. See Inside the White House; Pets at the White House.
These are on a second grade reading level, and do not provide any more than an introduction to the white house. The pictures are good, and the text is clear, with pronunciation of key words, but as my 7th grader put it, "These look like Dora the Explorer."
Mochizuki, Ken. Be Water, My Friend: The Early Years of Bruce Lee.
I was a little confused as to why this was purchased-- Lee died almost 40 years ago and didn't have a huge body of work, especially one with which your average ten year old might be familiar. The text is fine; Lee's early difficulties with employment are covered, as is a lot of philosophy of martial arts. The pictures, all in sepia tones, seemed muddy to me.
Weeks, Jan. Let Toby Lane Play Goalie.
This is a "Read-It! Chapter Book" from Picture Window Books, a division of Capstone. I like some of their fiction, like the David Mortimore Baxter series, but the drawings in this one were... not attractive. Not only that, but they depicted teenagers, and the book is really not low level, high interest. The story, about a boy whose school is playing soccer, is a little odd-- after not meeting success as goalie, Toby meets a retired soccer star who moves to his town and gets some tips from him... and then the star abruptly dies. This was first published in Australia. Perhaps younger students will like this one, but it did not do much for me.