Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin (9781338180619)
The amazing Selznick has taken on easy readers with this new book written with Serlin. Baby Monkey isn’t just a baby and a monkey, he also has a job (and an amazing office) as a private eye. He is asked to solve several crimes in the course of the book, but first he has to have a snack and put on his pants! Filled with eye-catching details and others that are worth poring over the pages to discover, this is a funny and smart book for new readers to explore on their own or with an adult helping out.
The book has the heft and weight of a full chapter book, but upon opening it the letters are large, the language repetitive and it’s just right for children learning to read. It is the illustrations by Selznick that make this book so special. Using his signature style, he fills the pages with details that are entrancing. At the same time, there is a lovely repetitive nature to the story that plays out in the simpler images as well with the snacks, writing notes, and putting on pants. This adds to the humor of the book as these elements play out again and again.
A winning new easy reader that pushes the boundaries of the format, this book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
(Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.)
The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper (9781484726464, Amazon)
Part of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series, this early reader is a philosophical joy. Yellow Bird has a button that does absolutely nothing, or does it? He shows it to Red Bird and Blue Bird. When Blue Bird tries the button, it surprises him. And that’s not nothing! It doesn’t surprise Red Bird, which makes Blue Bird sad, also not nothing. Then Yellow Bird gets angry at their responses, which is also not nothing. Soon the button can make them do lots of things, even get funny and silly. Perhaps the button does everything?
Harper has created a wonderful mix of humor and philosophy in this early reader. Done with just the right jaunty humor and wild zaniness, the book moves at a fast pace towards its philosophical conclusion. The ties to Elephant and Piggie are clear and this feels like a natural extension of their humor and attitude, making it exactly the right kind of book for this series.
The illustrations are bright and simple. Done with similar speech bubbles to Elephant and Piggie, they convey the emotions of the birds clearly, something that is very important in this book in particular.
A zingy riot of an early reader, this one is a winner. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Wolfie & Fly by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Zoe Si (9781101918203)
Renata Wolfman doesn’t have friends, she’d much rather play all alone because then you don’t need to share or compromise with others. Even her parents can’t get her to go out with them, she’d rather stay home and read her factual books about sea life. When Renata is left alone at home one day, a boy comes over. Livingston Flott, known as Fly at school, wants to hide from his older brother. Renata, called Wolfie by Fly and others at school, reluctantly lets him in, interrupting her building of a submarine out of a refrigerator box. Soon the two of them are starting to play imaginary games together, something entirely new for Wolfie. But when real water starts to pour into the windows, can they imagine their way right into the sea?
This early chapter book features a girl who loves control and facts and a boy who wants to create songs and loves to imagine. The two together are a dynamic mix, creating just the right amount of tension between them and showing how opposites can actually make the best playmates as long as ideas are shared and there’s a willingness to try new things. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the water turns out not to be entirely imaginary, something that underlines that fact that imagination and reality mix to something entirely extraordinary.
Si’s illustrations are playful and add exactly the right amount of pictures to break up the text, making this a great pick for newer readers. Her art is playful, done in black and white and shows the submarine that Wolfie made and the adventures that the two have together with a jolly merriment.
A strong pick for early chapter book collections, fans of Ivy & Bean and Bink & Gollie will find another pair of playmates worth knowing here. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley received from NetGalley and Tundra Books.
My Kite Is Stuck by Salina Yoon
This second Duck, Duck, Porcupine! book continues the refreshing humor of the first. Familiar characters return with Big Duck leading the way, often into confusion. Porcupine joins in. Little Duck is quiet and wise, though no one ever pays him any attention. The book is made up of three short stories. The first story faces the problem of a kite stuck in a tree and their unique and very silly solution to the problem. The second story is about what happens when the characters make new friends, with bugs. Finally, there is the problem of the excitement of the lemonade stand and Big Duck and Porcupine forgetting one important ingredient: the lemonade!
Yoon has a great touch with humor. She allows each joke to play out just long enough to get all of the joy out of it and then briskly moves along to the next story. The stories are entertaining and fun, each of them written for beginning readers to enjoy with adult help or on their own. The three characters play beautifully against one another and will appeal to young readers.
The art is bold and bright. It reminds me of comic panels with its thick black outline on each double-page spread. The speech bubbles add to that feeling as well, making this almost a graphic novel for new readers, but not quite. I particularly enjoy the moments when Little Duck breaks the fourth wall and looks out directly at the reader for sympathy.
Funny and full of laughter, this emergent reader almost-graphic-novel is just right. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.
The Long Dog by Eric Seltzer (InfoSoup)
Dog after dog appear in this easy reader that is reminiscent of the classic Go, Dog. Go! The very simple text shows opposites. There are hot dogs and cold dogs. Wet dogs and dry dogs. Dirty dogs and clean dogs. Each shown with a simple illustration that will help new readers decode the words. Throughout the book, a particularly long dog appears again and again, adding a touch of whimsy and humor. This is a simple yet very engaging beginning reader with tons of appeal.
Seltzer uses very simple sentences throughout his book, appealing directly to new readers. The use of opposites also helps with new readers figuring out the words as well as the repeating simple sentence structure. The illustrations have a winning cartoon style that is simple as well. Each sentence is clearly matching to a corresponding image aiding in new reader skills. The added touches of humor throughout make for a book that is fun to read as well.
A nice pick for beginning reader collections, this is simple, easy and full of humor. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan (InfoSoup)
This second book in the A Pig in a Wig series keeps up the zany silliness of the first even though it’s a bedtime story. Pig is getting ready for bed still in her wig, brushing her teeth and combing her hair. She’s all settled into bed with her teddy bear when other animals start showing up and making noise. They all climb into the bed with Pig, but soon it is too much to take and Pig shushes them all and sends them back to the barn. Soon all is silent again until the owl outside Pig’s window starts to hoot. Where will she find a quiet place to sleep?
Just as with the first book, this book is written in a jaunty and bouncy rhyme that sets a brisk pace. Despite the silliness and the rhyme though, the book does slow down at the end in a natural way, becoming downright dozy by the end. The illustrations are simple and funny, particularly when all of the animals are piled high on the bed.
A great addition to beginning reader collections, this book had just the right mix of silly and sleepy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
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.
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.
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.