Category: Easy Readers

Review: The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi (InfoSoup)

Diva is a little white dog who lives in a grand apartment building in Paris. She is so small that she is smaller than a foot, which makes her run whenever she hears footsteps of strangers coming. She loves to spend time in the apartment courtyard, though even there she is often startled or scared. Flea is an alleycat who spends his time moving from place to the place in Paris. He has had a lot of adventures throughout the city and has many tales to share. This unlikely pair meet when Flea unintentionally upsets Diva by hanging around her courtyard. Diva teaches Flea about things like going inside for breakfast while Flea teachers Diva about exploring out in the public streets and learning to meet people rather than running away.

Willems was living in Paris when he discovered this story right at his own apartment building, a little dog who was friends with a stray cat. He has taken that initial inspiration and created two outstanding characters in Diva and Flea. The combination of being pampered and frightened is quite clever and a much more creative choice than being pampered and spoiled rotten. Flea too is not stereotypical. He has a very metropolitan flair rather than being uncouth and rude. Their friendship develops right on the page, each of them learning from the other and seeing one another in a new way with each encounter.

The art by DiTerlizzi is gorgeous. He captures the compact vigor of Diva and her panic attacks. Then there is the rangy motion of Flea, where you can almost see him move on the page with his shifting muscles under his fur. Paris too is captured along with them as they look at the Eiffel Tower. I was grinning ear-to-ear to see Willems himself pop onto the page as the person that Diva first attempts not to run away from. Clever indeed.

Another winner from Willems, this book offers his fans a new chapter book with some grand new characters. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: In, Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long

In Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long

In, Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long

Following his Geisel Award-winning Up, Tall and High, Long returns to prepositions. Four animals friends have adventures on the farm in this easy reader. Broken into three short stories, each story focuses on one pair of prepositions. Chicken can’t get in the coop, so she is left out in the rain, until she realizes that everyone else is warm and dry in there, so she orders them to get out. In the next story, Chicken can’t get over the fence or go under it either. Luckily Cow has another solution for her, go around! In the last story, Pig is on the tractor and Cow and Goat join him there. When they are all on the tractor though, it starts to roll away and soon they are all thrown off. But they want to go on it again.

Long is a very prolific author and excels at creating books for beginning readers which are a winning mix of humor and simplicity. It also helps that he is a natural storyteller and so his short stories in the book have the feel of being complete tales despite their brevity. His characters are also universal, in their group and individual dynamics. The book is entirely relatable by children and will be enjoyed in classrooms looking at prepositions as well as by individual readers.

Long’s illustrations are funny and filled with a cartoon appeal. The colors are candy-bright and even gray rainy days are tinged in lavender. The incorporation of a few flaps to lift is also very appealing for young readers who will enjoy that the twist for each story is revealed in a physical way.

Silly and very easy to read, these stories have massive appeal. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Review: What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma F. Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virjan (InfoSoup)

The pig in a wig comes first in this story where she is quickly floating in a boat on the moat. But then it all starts to get even more silly as a frog, a dog and a goat on a log join her in the boat. A rat and an elephant come next and it gets even more crowded, then a skunk and house! It’s completely full when a mouse and a panda join the floating group. But the pig has had enough and orders everyone to leave. They swim to shore, but then it’s all a bit too quiet for the pig who figures out exactly what they need to stay together.

This very simple rhyming book takes a classic story line of wildly silly building up of creatures in a limited space. The rhymes are silly themselves, often forced in a way that adds to the humor. The entire menagerie of animals have no rhyme or reason them other than rhyming and sometimes not even that. It’s a very silly story and one that is sure to appeal to new readers.

The illustrations are done with simple lines and colors. Looking almost like a coloring book, the illustrations add to the simplicity and the innate appeal of the book.

An early reader that has enough silliness in it to appeal to new readers. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

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

ballet cat

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea

Released May 5, 2015.

Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony want to play together, but first they have to decide what to play. Sparkles has lots of ideas, like doing crafts, playing checkers and selling lemonade, but none of them work when Ballet Cat wants to be able to spin and leap and twirl. Very reluctantly, Sparkles offers to play ballet with her instead and Ballet Cat jumps at the opportunity. Sparkles though is not having a very good time. When Ballet Cat asks him what is wrong, Sparkles doesn’t want to say in case she won’t be friends with him any longer. Ballet Cat though has her own secret that she doesn’t want to tell Sparkles either. It will take one very brave pair of friends to share these secrets.

Shea has created a new series for beginning readers that is sure to appeal. Ballet Cat and Sparkles fill the page with humor that is broad but also wry and clever. It’s the perfect mix for young children navigating their own friendships. The best parts are when the characters are at odds with one another and when they state the obvious. It’s writing that reads as if small children were saying it without ever putting them down.

The art is pure Shea, dynamic and colorful. It is filled with action and activity and emotions too. Shea excels at showing emotions on his characters that are done strongly enough that small children will be able to understand immediately how a character is feeling. Sparkles in particular emotes clearly on the page, his body language and expressions showing exactly how he feels.

A strong new beginning reader series about friendship that is perfect for Elephant and Piggie fans. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley.

Review: Good Night, Knight by Betsy Lewin

good night knight

Good Night, Knight by Betsy Lewin

When Horse and Knight are falling asleep, Knight has a dream about golden cookies. So he wakes up Horse and sets off on a quest to find the golden cookies. They search everywhere, in hollow tree trunks and under water and in the bushes, riding from one place to the next at a brisk trot. It isn’t until they return home and Knight has collapsed from exhaustion that Knight realizes that the cookies were right in their castle all along. The two have a golden cookie feast and then go to bed, but it’s not long before Horse has a golden dream of his own!

Written for emerging readers, this picture book is written with a limited vocabulary and words that repeat on the page and from one section of the story to another. The picture book format will invite reluctant readers to give reading a try. Lewin also wisely incorporates plenty of humor and galloping around, giving the reader reasons to turn the page to see what will happen next. It’s a good mix of action and silliness.

Lewin’s illustrations break the text into nice readable chunks appropriate for beginning readers. Plenty of attention is paid to the illustrations, offering humor beyond the text itself. For example, Knight never removes his armor, even to sleep! The art is simple, funny and inviting.

Head out on a quest with your beginning reader and this simple picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Holiday House.

Review: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry

meet the bigfeet

The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry

The author of I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean and other picture books has released his first book for early readers.  It is the story of Blizz Richards, a yeti who lives an isolated life in Nepal.  He has a great cave for a house that he’s filled with all sorts of cool gadgets and lots of things to play on.  He is a cryptid, and as one he has taken an oath to never be seen by the outside world.  So Blizz almost never sees his family.  But all that is about to change with the announcement of an upcoming Big Feet Family Reunion.  Blizz shares the story of Brian, one of his relatives in Canada who got spotted and had his picture taken and put up on the Internet.  It was all because of George Vanquist, a man who continues to seek out cryptids and expose them.  Now Blizz has to risk it all to see his family, rescue Brian from his shame of being exposed and avoid George Vanquist along the way. 

Sherry has such a great touch for humor.  Throughout the book there are moments of hilarity that children will adore.  He also manages to create unique characters even in this very simple format.  Blizz manages to be a cool character, someone who lives a rich life despite being mostly alone.  He does have several clever smaller creatures who live with him and who help out regularly throughout the story.  The book moves along at rocket speed, helped by the large number of illustrations which will make it a welcoming read for new readers.

The illustrations have the same clarity as Sherry’s picture books.  With simple lines, he creates entire worlds here with characters who express emotions clearly.  One of the best parts of this book are the little diagrams throughout, first of what a yeti really is, then showing Blizz’s house, and next explaining cryptids,  They are clever, funny and avoid creating large paragraphs of explanation.

Filled with humor and the same distinctive illustration style as his picture books, this early reader will appeal to any child looking for some giggles.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.