Category: Easy Readers


okay andy

Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton III

The author of the Max and Pinky books returns with a new duo, Andy and Preston.  Andy is an alligator and Preston is a young coyote.  The two of them make an unlikely team but one that works incredibly well for humor.  Preston often can’t figure out what is really going on.  So when Andy is hunting a rabbit, Preston thinks it is a game of tag.  In the next chapter, Preston wants to take every thing they find, though Andy holds onto a stick for himself.  Andy is so distracted that he doesn’t see the cliff coming and then he lets loose his anger on Preston.  Then it is up to Andy to make things right, if he can.  In the final chapter, Andy is trying to sleep when Preston wants to have him guess what kind of animal noise Preston is making.  This quickly descends into a merry chaos and then the book comes full circle back to the rabbit in a very satisfying ending.

This is a graphic novel perfect for beginning readers.  Eaton tells the story in just a few words, letting the illustrations carry most of the story rather than the words.  He uses repeating words too, making it even funnier and also making it easier for the youngest readers to decipher.  Filled with silly action, the book does speak to the ins and outs of friendship.  Eaton’s art is clear and clean, his thick black lines filled with simple colors.  The result is a graphic novel that is simple, easy and cheerful.

A great pick for beginning readers, children will enjoy the graphic novel format and the humor.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Blue Apple Books.

ten eggs in a nest

Ten Eggs in a Nest by Marilyn Sadler, illustrated by Michael Fleming

Released January 28, 2014.

Gwen the Hen laid eggs and Red Rooster was very excited to be a father.  Gwen refused to let him count the eggs before they hatched because it was bad luck.  So Red just had to wait.  When one egg hatched, he marched off to the market to buy the new chick one worm.  But when he returned home, there were two more new chicks!  He hurried back to the market after adding 1+2.  Then when he returned there were three more chicks.  1+2+3=6 newly hatched chicks and off Red hurried.  I bet you can guess what happened next!

This beginning reader nicely mixes counting and addition into the story.  Young readers will enjoy the bustling pace of the book and the tension of what Red will find upon his return to the nest.  The entire book has a warmth and sense of community that is tangible.  Simple text includes lots of numbers and remains simple for new readers throughout.

Fleming’s art is cartoon-like and very child friendly.  The colors pop on the white backgrounds, especially Red who is really a rainbow of colors including orange, purple and blue.  The oval chicks are bouncy and cute as can be. 

To sum it up, this is a great “addition” to new reader collections.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Random House.

big wet balloon

The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers

Inspired by his daughters aged 3 and 5, this book celebrates a rainy day.  When Matilda wakes up on a Saturday morning, she is delighted by everything she can do that day.  Clemmie, her little sister, gets excited too.  But then their day turns out to be filled with rain.  Matilda is undaunted and sets out to persuade Clemmie to join her out in the rain.  Clemmie is very hesitant, insisting that it is wet, until Matilda shows her the umbrella and how to use it.  Clemmie then enjoys the rain until her red balloon floats off when she gets too excited.  But Matilda finds a way to make that right as well.

Liniers shows his adoration for his daughters in this book.  Clemmie is clearly a toddler and expresses herself in early sentences and short words.  Matilda is an enthusiastic older sibling who wants to spend time out in the weather.  It is a pleasure to see a sibling relationship depicted with such warmth and evident love for one another.  Matilda is never frustrated by the situation, always coming up with another way to approach it.  The words and art dance together here.  Both help tell this story of a rainy and wet Saturday. 

My children always loved rain more than sun, so this is a book that they would have loved.  Time to get out rain slickers and umbrellas and play in the rain!  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

robot go bot

Robot, Go Bot! by Dana Meachen Rau, illustrated by Wook Jin Jung

In this most simple of graphic novels, a little girl builds a robot and when she presses the big red button, it comes to life.  The robot happily plays with bubbles with her, plays ball and floats in a boat.  But then, the little girl gets more demanding and has the robot sewing, being a horsie, planting a garden, and mowing the yard.  Finally, the robot has had enough and leaves.  While the girl searches for him, she realizes that she has to be a good friend in order to have a good friend. 

Rau has written a very simple book here with only minimal words that often rhyme for even simpler reading.  It is the pictures that really tell this story completely.  Done in comic style, they have rounded panels.  Yet they also have the feel of picture book illustrations with their bright colors and playful feel.  The softness of the illustrations also invite very young children to read.  I appreciated the choice to have the main character a girl, since so many robot books have male characters.

Simple and playful, this most beginning of graphic novels is inviting to little children and has the appeal of robots as well.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Random House.

bink gollie best friends forever

Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile

Bink and Gollie return in their third book of escapades as best friends.  The first of the three stories in this book has Gollie wondering if she might have royal blood while Bink is much more interested in pancakes.  The second has Bink worrying about being short and buying the incredibly complex Stretch-o-matic that requires “excessive assembly.”  The third story has the girls wondering what collection they should start to get a record in Flicker’s Arcana of the Extraordinary. 

In all of these stories, we get to see Bink and Gollie as pure individuals.  It’s a relief as always to return to a storybook world where girls are not bedecked in glitter, ruffles and pink.  These are two girls who read as real and tangible and completely unique.  I also enjoy the way that the friendship between the two girls always has space enough for them to be themselves and not try to even mimic one another.  As always the stories are clever with great endings and completely readable by young readers.  The illustrations continue to have the same freshness as the stories and characters, with wonderful humor embedded in them.

Fans of Bink & Gollie will be clamoring for the third book and thanks to the unique characters and easy reading format, these books belong in every library.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

lulu and the dog from the sea

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay

Released on March 1, 2013.

This second book in the Lulu series continues the story of Lulu, a seven-year-old girl who loves all kinds of animals.  In this story, Lulu goes on vacation by the seaside with her parents, her dog,  and her cousin, Mellie, who is also seven.  At the seaside, they stay at a small cottage and Lulu quickly finds out about a stray dog who has been living off of garbage along the beach.  Lulu sets out to make friends with the dog, but no one else is enthusiastic.  Mellie just wants to build her kite, Lulu’s mother just wants to read the stack of books she brought along, and her dad wants to work on his running.  But Lulu knows that this stray is actually a very special dog, she just has to convince the rest of them.

McKay has a knack for creating characters and experiences that read as vibrantly true and honest.  In her books, there are lost kite bits, sand tracked into the house, trashed garbage cans, and too many shopping trips for forgotten items.  At the same time, there is also the love of a dog, a family that truly spends time with one another, and the success of plans coming together in the end, perhaps not exactly as planned.  As with her previous books, I have always wanted to live in a McKay novel in the midst of the loving mess.

I must also mention that this is an early reader series featuring a modern family of color.  Nothing is made of this fact in the stories.  It is just there, not a plot point, just a fact.  It’s handled with a matter-of-fact nature that I wish we saw more of in books for children.

A great addition to this growing series, the second Lulu book is sure to please fans of the first and bring new fans to the series too.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Albert Whitman & Company.

pet named sneaker

A Pet Named Sneaker by Joan Heilbroner, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

Sneaker was a snake who lived in a pet store and wanted to be taken home.  But no one seemed interested in a snake until one day Pete came into the store and noticed how special Sneaker was and decided to take him home.  The two invented games together, forming handcuffs and a hat out of Sneakers’ flexible body.  Then one day Pete had to go to school.  Sneaker didn’t want to be left behind, so he slithered into Pete’s backpack.  Once they got to school, Sneaker proved to be a great snake ambassador, quickly proving that snakes are not only no slimy but are quite smart.  Sneaker continued to show how amazing he was by saving a drowning toddler at the pool and getting it so that animals were welcome to swim there too.  Funny and briskly paced, this book will have great appeal for beginning readers.

Told in very simple and friendly language, this book has a strong storyline for a beginning reader.  Sneaker and Pete have several adventures in the course of the book, moving quickly from a tale of new friendship to one of real action, which is sure to please new readers.   The art by Lemaitre gives the book a vintage feel, hearkening back to Seuss and Eastman in its simple lines and bold colors.  There is also that little zing to the eyes, that feeling that the reader is in on the joke that is conveyed through the illustrations. 

This is a book with great humor, a touch of vintage feel, and one cool cold-blooded hero.  Appropriate for beginning readers aged 3-5. 

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

everything goes

Everything Goes: Henry Goes Skating by Brian Biggs

This book follows the Everything Goes books by Biggs, but this time is in a format perfect for very early readers.  When Henry wakes up, there is snow on the ground and more falling.  He thinks it’s the perfect day to build a snowman, but his family decides to head skating instead.  On their way to the rink, they see all sorts of vehicles, including a bus that is stuck on the ice.  Luckily, there is a tow truck helping the bus get on its way.  At the rink, they see a Zamboni and get to skate in the snow.  When they get back home, it’s snowman building time!

Done in the style of Biggs, this book is not actually written or illustrated by him.  It does capture the busy and bright style of the earlier books by Biggs that had lots of vehicles and movement.  The illustrations here are filled with color and motion.  The writing is simple enough for the earliest of readers. 

Combine basic words with the popularity of cars and trucks and you have a winning early reader.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

mother of monsters

The Mother of Monsters: A Story from South Africa by Fran Parnell, illustrated by Sophie Fatus

This second in a series of monster tales features a story from South Africa retold for young readers.  It is the story of Ntombi, the mischievous and brave daughter of the chief, who is determined to see the dangerous Ilulange River with her own eyes.  Her father allows her the trip to the river as long as she takes the other girls along with her.  When they finally reached the legendary river, the girls are disappointed.  Instead of danger, they have found a river that looks perfect for swimming.  Leaving their clothes on the bank, the girls splash in the water.  Then they discover that their clothes are missing.  It could have been the Mother of Monsters who took them!  One-by-one the girls pled with the monster to return their things, and the monster does.  But Ntombi is not willing to beg for her clothing, so the monster swallows her whole.  But that is not the end of the story!  You must read this book to find out how Ntombi survives the Mother of Monsters.

Parnell has broken the story into chapters, making it all the more pleasant for beginning readers who can take the story a bite at a time.  The chapters are short and filled with action.  The star of the book, Ntombi, is both brave and foolish, often at the same time.  Throughout the story, she learns about humility but also about love.  The book is clearly from another culture, which makes it all the more interesting to read.

Filled with bright colors, the paintings by Fatus have an intriguing folk quality to them.  The scenes of the girls without clothing are handled with skillfully placed leaves, hands and flowers.  The illustrations have humor to them, which makes the book very playful, something that is welcome with a monster devouring people.

A welcome addition to folktales, this is a story I had never heard before and really enjoyed.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Barefoot Books.

bink and gollie two for one

Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile

Oh how I adore these two characters!  I was thrilled to see Bink and Gollie returning for a second book.  This time the friends head to the state fair.  Bink wants to play Whack a Duck but her aim is not as good as she might think.  She manages to hit the man running the booth with hysterically funny results.  The two girls then head to what Gollie wants to do, which is to enter the talent show.  She assures everyone that she has several talents and Bink continues to tell people that, but it doesn’t quite work out like Gollie had expected.  Finally, the friends head to the fortune teller’s tent where they are told just what they both want to hear most.  The entire book is a laugh-out-loud funny, warm and cozy work that is simply glorious.

I really enjoyed that the different chapters in the book have very different feelings.  The first is so wildly funny that I was chortling out loud to myself and had to share it with others in my family.  The writing throughout the book is smart, clever and funny.  Readers will be able to see the jokes coming, but the writing takes it to a different level.  Above all, these two are friends who stand together and celebrate their differences.

Fucile’s art is a huge part of both the humor and the warmth of the book.  Throughout the vaudeville humor of the first chapter, I was amazed at how much physical humor could be portrayed on a page.  He has his own sense of comic timing that adds so much.

Highly recommended, if you haven’t read Bink & Gollie yet, make sure to try both books.  Fans will adore this second in the series and long for the next one immediately.  This is a modern children’s classic.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

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