Review of Boris on the Move, by Andrew Joyner

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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/boris_on_the_move.html

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

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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/maya_makes_a_mess.html

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

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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/frog_and_fly.html

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

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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/penny_and_her_song.html

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.

Tweetle Beetles for Read Across America Day

I remember when I was 3 or 4 years old, my mother read me a new book, Fox in Socks, by Dr. Seuss. What really impressed me about it was the warning at the front: “Take it slowly. This book is DANGEROUS!”

Perhaps that was why, over the years, I was inordinately proud of being able to read it quickly. I am the third of thirteen children, so I got plenty of practice reading aloud to my younger brothers and sisters. Then I started reading aloud to my own sons. I think it was as an adult that I finally got where I could read all of Fox in Socks quickly and without a mistake. And that was an accomplishment that took years to achieve! (Though I don’t prove it here. I think the camera flustered me!) Now that my sons are grown, I’ve become a librarian, so I can continue to read aloud to children.

About a month ago on YouTube, I saw a video of a teenager reading Fox in Socks extremely quickly. Much, much faster than I can do, no contest.

However, watching that video gave me the bug. I can go pretty fast, and I think listeners can actually understand what I’m saying. At any rate, I wanted to make my own video, because what a lovely excuse to read Fox in Socks as fast as I can! And what better day to pick than Read Across America Day, Dr. Seuss’s Birthday?

So I made an announcement in the library and rounded up the kids in the children’s area so I had an audience, and went at it. Lots of fun! I will have to try to do it faster (and with less flubs) next year.

After tweeting about reading Fox in Socks, I came up with the following about School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books:

When a reader tweets on twitter about which novel is the sweeter, it’s a
Tweeting Reader Sweeter Novel Twitter Chatter Battle.

Happy Read Across America Day, everyone!

Review of Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

play_outside.jpg

Are You Ready to Play Outside?

An Elephant & Piggie Book

by Mo Willems

Hyperion Books for Children, 2008.  57 pages.

Starred Review.

Sonderbooks Standout 2009:  #5 Picture Books

Geisel Award Winner 2009

http://www.pigeonpresents.com/

http://www.hyperionbooksforchildren.com/

Mo Willems is a genius.  I am currently reading several books that tell me it is not my circumstances that determine my happiness, but the story I tell myself about those circumstances.  I have heard sermons about contentment.  I have lectured at length to my children that complaining will only make them unhappy.

None of those things was remotely as effective as this book.  Not as funny, either!

Now, I was set up to enjoy this book.  The day before I read it, I was doing a quick run to the grocery store.  We had expected an ice storm, but instead we got nasty, cold, heavy, near-freezing rain.

I do not like rain in the winter.  I tend to think how much I would prefer snow.  Rain in winter is almost as cold as snow, but not as pretty, and not as fun.  It soaks into your clothes much more quickly, and doesn’t brighten a dark day like snow does.

As I came out of the grocery store, the fleeting thought crossed my mind that it was a shame I had to make a grocery run today.  Loading groceries into the car in the pouring, cold rain is not a fun thing to do. 

No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than I looked up and saw a mother and son walking toward the store.  The mother had an umbrella, but the little boy, about three years old, wasn’t paying any attention to staying under it.  He was positively dancing with joy at being out in the rain.  His shiny yellow boots splashed the pavement with zest, and you could instantly see how excited he was about this wondrous chance to go shopping in the rain!

Kind of put things in perspective for me!

The next day, this book, Are You Ready to Play Outside? came to the library.

Piggie is so excited about playing outside with Gerald!  They will run!  They will skip!  They will jump!  NOTHING will stop them!

Then it begins to rain.

It pours.  Piggie is NOT a happy pig.

Gerald, an elephant, first tries shielding Piggie with his ear, but it is still raining.  Piggie doesn’t see how anyone could possibly play outside with all this rain.

Then they see two worms come out, exuberantly happy, splishing and splashing in the rain.

They decide to try it.  They run!  They skip!  They jump! 

Piggie decides he loves rain!  He hopes it rains all day!

Then it stops. 

Piggie is not a happy pig.

Fortunately, Piggie has an elephant for a friend, who has a solution.

Of course, once again, what makes this book a masterpiece is Mo Willems’ amazing ability to convey emotion with his simple cartoon drawings.  For example, Piggie’s frustration over the rain is palpable.  And I never imagined that worms could look so joyful!  Elephant and Piggie turning somersaults and kicking up their heels in the rain proclaim complete exuberance.  Add to that the suspense of the early-reader language and timing, with each expression and emotion getting full page treatment, and you have an utterly magnificent book.

It’s funny.  It’s emotional.  And it conveys a life-changing lesson in a way that sticks.

What more could you ask for in an easy reader?

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/play_outside.html