Archive for the ‘Easy Readers’ Category

Review of The Good for Nothing Button, by Cherise Mericle Harper

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

The Good for Nothing Button

by Charise Mericle Harper

Hyperion Books for Children, 2017. 60 pages.

The Good for Nothing Button is part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series. It features a bit of metafiction, with the start and end of the book showing Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie reading the story by Charise Mericle Harper and reacting to it.

That would annoy me if the story itself weren’t an excellent beginning reader tale.

Yellow Bird has something to show his friends Red Bird and Blue Bird. It’s a button!

But this button does nothing – or so Yellow Bird says.

But when Blue Bird presses it, he’s surprised the button is so easy to press.

Being surprised is not nothing.

When Red Bird presses it, he’s not surprised, which makes him sad.

Blue Bird points out that being sad is not nothing.

Red Bird and Blue Bird come to believe that the button can do many things. Yellow bird is not convinced. His efforts to explain that convince Red Bird and Blue Bird that the button has made Yellow Bird angry!

And the whole conversation and argument is good, silly fun. I suspect you may find kids playing with the concepts of “Nothing” and “Something” after reading this book.

It’s all easy to read, and our friends Elephant & Piggie introduce the story and play off of it. Fantastic for beginning readers.

chariseharper.com
pigeonpresents.com
hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Duck, Duck, Porcupine, by Salina Yoon

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Duck, Duck, Porcupine

by Salina Yoon

Bloomsbury, May 2016. 70 pages.

This has the feel of another classic beginning reader. We’ve got friends in everyday situations — with a payoff ending. The story is told using speech bubbles (as well as pictures of lists). There are three stories, so it’s preliminary to chapters.

Classic beginning readers have two best friends. In this book, we’ve got a trio. There’s Big Duck, Little Duck, and Porcupine. Big Duck seems to think she’s the leader, but in all three cases, Little Duck figures out a solution.

The bright colors and thick line drawings are visually pleasing. The pages of this book reach out to the reader. Yes, the text is in speech bubbles, but there are only a few words on a page, and even the youngest reader will not have any trouble following which speech comes next.

The promise is that this is the first of a new beginning reader series. I love seeing books that not only help a child who’s beginning to be able to read on their own, but also give them something they will be happy to read. This story is good enough that kids not able to read yet will enjoy it just as much as those who gain the pride of reading it all by themselves.

salinayoon.com
bloomsbury.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Pig, a Fox, and a Box, by Jonathan Fenske

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

pig_fox_box_largeA Pig, a Fox, and a Box

by Jonathan Fenske

Penguin Young Readers, Level 2, 2015. 32 pages.
2016 Geisel Honor Book

This beginning reader has the pay-off kids learning to read will love.

Pig and Fox are friends, but Fox likes to play tricks. In the first two parts, Fox tries to be sneaky and play tricks on Pig and both times, it backfires badly. In the third part, we see that Fox has learned his (painful) lesson.

First, this book manages to use rhyme well, a thing that isn’t easy. The story is never sacrificed for the rhyme.

I also like the way the author has the reader make inferences from the pictures. After the first part, Fox has a Band-Aid and a mark on his tail. After the second part, he’s got a cast, a black eye, and two large bandages. Also, when we see a box in the second part, it’s been taped back together after its collapse in the first part.

It’s also fun the way the reader will see that it’s not Pig’s fault at all that Fox gets hurt. The whole book is an exercise in seeing things from another perspective.

There’s also repetition, which is nice for beginning readers. In this case, it adds to the humor when each part starts the same way — but Fox, who is in bad shape, decides in the third part that he’s had enough hiding and playing today.

penguinyoungreaders.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Supertruck, by Stephen Savage

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

supertruck_largeSupertruck

by Stephen Savage

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2015. 32 pages.
2016 Geisel Honor Book
Starred Review

When I first read this book, I gave it a glance through, and wasn’t tremendously impressed. I automatically cringe from anthropomorphic trucks, so I missed it’s charm.

Then Supertruck won a Geisel Honor. Then I was scheduled to do a Mother Goose Story Time (for ages 0 to 24 months) the day before a blizzard was expected. I checked Supertruck, and it was absolutely perfect.

The text is simple, with only a sentence or so on each page. This is perfect for reading to very little ones, and also perfect for kids just learning to read.

Yes, the trucks are a little bit anthropomorphic, but it’s very simply done. Stephen Savage’s typical graphic design look adds a simple and friendly face to each truck. I love the way the garbage truck wears glasses.

The story is simple. We meet three colorful, important trucks: a bucket truck, a fire truck, and a tow truck. They do important things, while the garbage truck just collects the trash.

Then it starts snowing, and the city is caught in a terrible blizzard.

Just then, the garbage truck sneaks into a garage and becomes . . .

SUPERTRUCK!

The glasses have disappeared, and he now sports a plow blade in front. He digs out the city, makes a path for the other trucks, and saves the day.

The next morning, the trucks wonder about the mighty truck who saved them. Where could he be?

He’s just collecting the trash.

The final picture has snow falling again, and Supertruck heading into a garage with a sly smile on its face. Kids will love being in on the secret. Grown-ups will love the deft play on superhero tropes.

This book is brilliant. Wonderful reading during a storm, but I predict it will still get turned to when the weather is hot. For any kid who loves trucks, as well as any kid who dreams of secret super powers. Or any kid who enjoys a well-told, simple story.

mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David A. Adler

Monday, September 5th, 2016

dont_throw_it_to_mo_largeDon’t Throw It to Mo!

by David A. Adler
illustrated by Sam Ricks

Penguin Young Readers, 2015. 32 pages.
2016 Geisel Award Winner

The publisher labels this book “Level 2” for the “Progressing Reader.” It uses simple sentences and lots of pictures – but tells a story with a plot and a twist.

Mo loves football, but he’s the smallest and youngest player on his team. He doesn’t play often. Then Coach Steve carries out a plan to get the other team undervaluing Mo. He puts Mo in and tells him to go deep – but tells the team, “Don’t throw it to Mo!”

After a few plays like this, the other team’s not worried about Mo – setting him up to catch a long pass and win the game.

That summary, of course, doesn’t do the book justice. The author uses the simple sentences of an early reader as an asset, building the suspense and making the result believable. I told you what happened. Readers will see and understand what’s happening. And when they read the words themselves, they’ll get a big pay-off when Mo wins the game.

Mo’s not the only winner from this book.

davidaadler.com
samricks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, by Bob Shea

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

ballet_cat_largeBallet Cat

The Totally Secret Secret

by Bob Shea

Disney Hyperion, May 2015. 56 pages.
Starred Review

Big thanks to Travis Jonker for pointing out to me the genius that is this book. I had just gotten an Advance Reader Copy at ALA Midwinter Meeting, but I might have overlooked it since it is so thin.

This is a delightful choice for beginning readers. Cartoon illustrations with the dialog in speech bubbles keep the focus on the interaction between characters. And this is friendship drama as it really happens, folks!

As the book begins, Ballet Cat asks her friend Sparkles the Pony to pick what they should play today. At first things sound good – Crafts, checkers, a lemonade stand. But then Ballet Cat thinks of objections to each one. They shouldn’t leap with scissors; their kicks might knock over the checkerboard; and the lemonade will splash when they spin.

Sparkles’ body language is eloquent – and it’s lovely to see how Ballet Cat completely misses it. (But the reader will see it loud and clear.)

Sparkles says, “What if, maybe, we don’t spin today?”

Ballet Cat’s answer is, “HA! Don’t spin? Good one, Sparkles.”

Here’s the scene where they decide what to play:

Ballet Cat: Now, let’s see. What goes well with leaping, kicking, and spinning? Think, cat, think!

Sparkles the Pony (in very tiny print, with drooping eyes): We could play ballet.

Ballet Cat: Ballet? There is an idea! Leaping, yes. Kicking, yes, yes. Spinning, yes, yes, YES!

Great idea, Sparkles. How did you ever think of it?

Sparkles: We play ballet every day, Ballet Cat.

Ballet Cat: Oh, right.

After some play, which Ballet Cat enters into exuberantly, she figures out that something’s wrong with Sparkles. It turns out that Sparkles has a totally secret secret. He is afraid that if he tells the secret, Ballet Cat will not be his friend.

Well, the reader is not surprised by the secret, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to give it away. Sometimes Sparkles doesn’t want to play ballet.

Can their friendship survive this disaster? Well it helps that Ballet Cat has a secret secret of her own.

This is a wonderful addition to books for beginning readers. I stand in awe of cartoonists like Bob Shea who can express so much emotion in such seemingly simple pen scratches.

Absolutely brilliant. And the best news is that it’s the start of a new series. I plan to booktalk this book with the younger elementary grades, because I can’t imagine a better way to entice kids to reading.

bobshea.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Boris on the Move, by Andrew Joyner

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Boris on the Move

By Andrew Joyner

Branches (Scholastic), 2013. Originally published in Australia in 2011. 74 pages.

I don’t like it, but parents always expect us to keep our books organized by grade level. They come to the desk and ask, “Where are your books for second graders?” We have to explain that second graders fit a wide range of interests and reading abilities, and we give them some tips on how to look for books for their child (like bring the child with them).

However, I find I do appreciate the reading level information clearly stated on the cover of these new “Branches” books published by Scholastic. This one says on the back, “Appeals to K-2nd Graders” and “Reading Level Grade 2.”

Now, it does mean that you won’t ever catch a 3rd grader reading these books, which is a shame. But for a good book, full of pictures, to get a beginning reader used to chapters, this fills the bill.

In this first story about Boris, we’re introduced to Boris, his Mom and Dad, and his friends at school. Boris lives with his parents in an old bus, but the bus never goes anywhere. Boris dreams of adventure and complains to his parents. Then, one day, the bus moves!

But they don’t go to the jungle or on an African safari. Instead, they stop at Greater Hogg Bay Conservation Park. Not what Boris had in mind! But Boris manages to have an adventure anyway.

This is kid-sized fun that children can read to themselves. The book is not a graphic novel, but there are lots of pictures, and all the dialogue is written with speech bubbles instead of “he said” “she said.” Boris is a warthog, though like a child in every way. But pictures of warthogs acting like people are far more entertaining than pictures of people would be.

A quality addition to beginning chapter books.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Maya Makes a Mess, by Rutu Modan

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Maya Makes a Mess

by Rutu Modan

A Toon Book (Candlewick Press), 2012. 32 pages.

This book simply makes me laugh. It’s a Toon Book — a graphic novel for beginning readers. In fact, it’s specifically a Level Two Easy-to-Read Comic for Emerging Readers in grades 1-2. The series contains some excellent tips at the back for reading comics with kids.

But the story is why I enjoy it. Maya is a messy eater. And the reason that makes me laugh? Well, she eats spaghetti exactly like my son did — with bare hands. I completely understand the parents’ frustration in saying to Maya — “What if you were eating dinner with the Queen?”

So then the Queen invites Maya to dinner.

Maya is very polite. She remembers to say Please when she asks for pasta with ketchup. But when she doesn’t know which fork to use and is told to eat it the way she does at home — well, the entire dining room notices.

But this is a happy and silly story — so eventually all the dressed-up grown-ups decide to eat like Maya does. Hilarity ensues.

This book will get a kid’s focus off the laborious details of decoding words and have them enjoying the outrageously delightful story.

toon-books.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Frog and Fly, by Jeff Mack

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Frog and Fly

Six Slurpy Stories

by Jeff Mack

Philomel Books, 2012. 40 pages.

My friend has told me that her favorite picture books are those where someone gets eaten, and now I am alert for such books and always show them to her. But I have to admit that there were already several among my favorites before I ever met her. I’ve even started a board on Pinterest highlighting these bloodthirsty — but so funny — books.

With a title like Frog and Fly, that someone gets eaten should not come as a surprise. Though the title should actually be Frog and Flies. Let’s just say that this isn’t one of those stories-about-two-unlikely-friends books.

The cartoon illustrations are accompanied by simple sentences in word balloons, with plenty of repetition. For example, one story goes like this (except no explanation of who is speaking, with the words in speech bubbles telling that clearly):

Zip! The fly lands on a dog and says, “Good morning, Dog.”

The dog says, “Yuck! Shoo, Fly!”

Zip! The fly lands on a hog and says, “Good morning, Hog!”

The hog says, “Yuck! Shoo, Fly!”

Zip! The fly lands on the frog and says, “Good morning, Frog!”

SLURP!

“Yum! Good morning, Fly!”

All of the stories have that kind of simple kicker ending. And the final story? Well, let’s say that the Frog finally gets his comeuppance.

Beginning readers will thoroughly enjoy this book, and I have a feeling it will also go over great at storytime with preschool to early elementary age listeners.

jeffmack.com
penguin.com/youngreaders

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Penny and Her Song, by Kevin Henkes

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Penny and Her Song

by Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow Books, 2012. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I’ve already found the book I want to win the Geisel Award for a book for beginning readers this year. I received a copy of this book at ALA Midwinter Meeting and fell in love with it. Then I got to hear Kevin Henkes speak about his work and particularly this series he is starting for beginning readers, and my love only increased.

The book begins like this:

Penny came home from school
with a song.
“Listen, Mama,” said Penny.
“It’s my very own song.”

But right then is not a good time for Penny to sing her song. The babies are sleeping. Papa tells Penny the same thing. So Penny goes to her room and tries singing to herself in the mirror. She tries singing to her glass animals. “That didn’t work.” In the second chapter, the babies are awake, so Penny tries singing her song at the dinner table. Mama and Papa both tell her not to sing during dinner.

But after dinner, Penny and her song get all the attention they deserve. I particularly like this page:

“That was beautiful!” said Mama.
“That was wonderful!” said Papa.
The babies made baby noises.
“Thank you,” said Penny.

The whole family enjoys singing the song, and it has a lovely gentle ending that brings things full circle.

One thing I loved about this book was Penny reminded me of myself as a little girl. No, I didn’t make up my own songs (Well, at least not to share.), but I did play “Little Marcy” records and dance all around the house, singing along with Little Marcy. I can also relate to having to be quiet while babies were sleeping.

This book just makes me happy.

And I would love to try it out on beginning readers. Though I think it would work great for Storytime as well. Kevin Henkes explained that he put in two chapters because beginning readers love the accomplishment of finishing a chapter. He is writing further books about Penny that will get progressively a little more challenging.

But I have already found a friend.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.