Category: Easy Readers


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.

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.

2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book:

WINNER

You Are Not Small

You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant

 

HONOR BOOKS

Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page Waiting is Not Easy! (Elephant & Piggie, #22)

Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems

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.

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.

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