Conejito: a folktale from Panama by Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrated by Geraldo Valerio.

This is one of the CCBC Choices of the year, and everyone knows that you can’t go wrong with them!

Conejito’s school is on vacation so his mother sends him up the mountain to visit his aunt, Tia Monica who will feed him good things until he is fat! Fat! Fat!  On his way to his aunt’s he bumps into all sorts of animals who want to eat him.  But he tells them that he will be much fatter when he returns and that they should catch him then.  On the mountain with his aunt, he becomes not only fatter but also stronger, which serves him well on his way back down the mountain. 

The language of this book makes it a perfect read aloud.  There is a delightful mix of Spanish and English that creates a rhythm.  Even better, there are phrases that children will be able to repeat or help with throughout the story, learning Spanish as they contribute.  Add to the language, the bright whimsical illustrations and this is a great book to share with a group.  Even if you are shy about reading other languages aloud, try this!  It is worth the practice it takes. 

Recommended for preschoolers and Kindergarteners.  Best shared aloud with a group.

Tiger Moth

Tiger Moth: Insect Ninja and Tiger Moth and the Dragon Kite Contest by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Eric Lervold.

I didn’t expect much from these easy-reader graphic novels when I took them home for my sons.  I knew that the boys would be hooked by the cover art and the titles alone, but had no expectations of quality.  I was very pleasantly surprised.

Tiger Moth is a 4th grader who is also a ninja, he has an apprentice ninja named Kung Pow whom he is training in the ninja arts.  In the first book, Tiger Moth finds himself cast unhappily in the school play.  But a mystery unfolds when a painting is stolen from the stage.  Who could have done it?  In the second book, Tiger Moth must figure out who is cheating at the kite contest and how. 

The books are graphic novels, meaning that the art work carries a lot of the story line.  And the art is accessible and fun, just right for easy-readers.  Reluctant readers will pick these up happily.  Even better though is the fact that the humor of the stories create a venue for language play.  The puns are giggle-worthy and there are plenty of them. 

The age of the protagonist makes these great for elementary age reluctant readers, the format lifts it out of any stigma about easy reader books, and the puns make it more interesting for older children.  This is a winning combination.