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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: easy reader, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 61
1. What Does Otis See - thoughts on beginning readers

What Does Otis See? - Thoughts on beginning readers and a roundabout recommendation for a very "beginning reader."

I don't usually review beginning reader books, because I don't like many, and I'm frustrated by the lack of publisher consensus on what constitutes the levels.*  I've seen harried parents grab a selection of "Level 2" books off the shelf and assume that their second grade child will be able to read them (not a totally unreasonable assumption). However, aside from the obvious fact that not all children in a particular grade read at the same level, not all "Level 2" books are the same level of difficulty.  I intervene with assistance whenever possible, but pity the poor child whose parent doesn't receive assistance and returns home with insistence that the child slog through a book that doesn't match her ability. This is not the recipe for an enthusiastic reader!

Choosing books for Kindergarten children can be even more frustrating.  "Pre-level 1," "Emergent reader," "Ready to read," "Level 1" -- the choices are endless and the books often much too difficult for the earliest of readers. I love David Milgrim's Pip and Otto books, but ours are coming out of circulation due to age-related wear and tear.  BOB Books are wonderful, but too flimsy for library circulation.

Aggravated is an understatement for my feelings about the whole easy reader situation.

And then along comes What Does Otis See?

What Does Otis See? by Loren Long
Penguin Young Readers, 2015
Level 1, Guided Reading Level C (for those of you keeping score - I'm not)

What Does Otis See? features Otis the tractor exploring the farm. Here's what I like about it:
  • There are only three or four simple words to each double-spread illustration, "Otis sees a calf."
  • The illustrations are detailed, but simply presented with ample use of white space - not busy or distracting.
  • The illustrations offer foreshadowing and invite examination. The page preceding "Otis sees a calf," depicts Otis examining a flowery meadow with the calf partially obscured by grass and flowers.
  • Otis and the dog are adorable.

That Otis is an old tractor might make him unfamiliar to urban and suburban kids, but any child who has watched Disney/Pixar's Cars will certainly remember the tractor tipping scene.

Until publishers come to an agreement on a standard of leveling, I will continue to ignore the numbers on the book jacket.  I'll look on the inside and find the right book for each reader.  It takes more time, but it's what needs to be done.  If you're looking for a very easy, "easy reader," What Does Otis See? is worth checking out.

*In 2010, I wrote a piece for Children & Libraries titled "The Conundrum of Choosing Book Levels." My frustration level hasn't changed much.

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2. Picture Book Roundup - October 2015 edition

This edition of the Picture Book Roundup features three funny books, a hilarious cautionary tale, and a sweet bookish story to melt your heart. Enjoy!

Review copies of Night Animals by Gianna Marino (Viking, 2015) and In! Over! and On! by Ethan Long (Penguin, 2015) were provided by the publishers at my request. The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear (Tundra, 2015), Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2015), and Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy (Candlewick, 2015)

If you can't access the slide show with reviews below, you can see it on RiffleBooks at this link. [https://read.rifflebooks.com/list/185319]

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3. Dorling Kindersley's POCAHONTAS (Beginning to Read Alone Level 2)

Hey all... you know that Pocahontas did not marry John Smith, right? Check this out:

Here's the synopsis:
In this book, children learn the story of Pocahontas. Famous for helping maintain peace between the English colonists and Native Americans, this brave Indian woman befriended the settlers at Jamestown, saving the life of their leader, Captain John Smith, whom she later married.
I wonder if the synopsis is wrong? Does the book actually have that error in it?

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4. THANKSGIVING THIEF (Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew #16)

There are many ways I could critique Thanksgiving Thief. We could start with the cover:

Nothing wrong, we might say, but chapter one is called "Cool Costumes" and introduces the three kids on the cover to a "Native American girl" named Mary who is new to the school and providing them headbands (the "cool costumes") they'll wear in the school pageant. Mary's not on the cover. Maybe she shouldn't be, though, because she's not part of the series.

Here's how Mary is introduced to readers (p. 2):
Bess twirled around in front of Nancy's mirror and looked at the beaded leather dress she was wearing. "I love being a Native American princess," she said. "This is so cool."
Mary White Cloud looked at Bess. "You look great!" she said.
Mary was a new girl in their class at school. She was Native American. The girls' teacher, Mrs. Ramirez, had asked Mary to cast three more girls in the class to play Native American princesses in the pageant part of the River Heights Thanksgiving Celebration.
So far, we don't know what tribal nation Mary is from. I'm curious about that "beaded leather dress." Such items are not playthings to the Native families who have them. They hold great significance. A lot goes into the making of them. A lot of people are involved.

And this princess theme... not good!

Nancy, Bess, and George--the girls on the cover--and Mary, are all at Nancy's house (p. 3-4):
"Now for the headbands," said Mary. She opened a box on Nancy's bed and took out four beaded strips of leather. "These were worn by real Native American princesses in a tribal ceremony in Oklahoma last year," she told the other girls. "My uncle in Lawton sent them to me."
Aha! Some geographical information! Lawton, Oklahoma. There's a lot of Native nations in Oklahoma. Lawton is the location of the Comanche Nation's tribal offices. That doesn't mean the uncle in Lawton is Comanche, though. That he'd send these beaded strips of leather--used in a ceremony--to Mary? Not likely. Especially if they're to be used for "costumes" at a Thanksgiving pageant.

Nancy, Bess, and George put the headbands on, but Nancy asks (p. 5):
"Where are the feathers? Don't we have to have feathers?"
Mary nodded. "That's the most important part, but it's also the most difficult."
"What's so hard about finding feathers?" said George. "My pillow is full of them."
"It can't be that kind of feather," Mary said. "It has to be a special feather."
"What makes a feather special?" asked Nancy.
"It has to come from a living bird," Mary explained.
"You mean we're going to have to pull a feather from a real, live bird?" Bess exclaimed? How are we going to do that? I don't think we should go around chasing birds, trying to steal their feathers."
"That wouldn't work, either," said Mary, "even if you could catch one. No, it has to be one that the bird left behind, just so it can be used in a ceremony."

Oh-oh. I'm not liking this at all!

"Birds do that?" Nancy said.
"That's what one of our legends says," Mary told them. "A bird will drop a feather somewhere, making a connection with the earth and then we'll pick it up and put it in our headbands and use it when we're celebrating something important."
Ummmm, I don't think so. Sounds "Indian" though, doesn't it? It isn't.

While they're talking, a mystery develops. The girls take off their "costumes" and leave to investigate. The next day, they all meet up again at the gymnasium. Mary's mom is making fry bread, and when she's finished, she's going to help them with their parts in the pageant. While they're waiting, Bess shows Mary a feather she found (p. 23):
"That's wonderful! You're the first person to pick up a feather, Bess," Mary said. That's special in our culture."
Again... sounds like an "Indian" bit of lore, right?!

Things are going wrong--things that threaten the pageant and celebration. There's talk of it being cancelled. Meanwhile, more feathers are turning up at sites where food for the celebration is being stored or prepared. The crew thinks there's a thief at work who is leaving these feathers as his calling card. If that's the case, Mary tells them (p. 48):
"...that means they're negative, not positive, and you always need to use positive feathers in a pageant when you're dealing with Native American culture."
Again... sounds like "Indian" lore, right?! Nancy asks Mary if she knows the specific kind of feathers they are finding.
Mary shook her head. "No, I don't. We don't always know what kind of a bird drops its feathers, but in our culture, it doesn't really matter, as long as the bird does it willingly."
Goodness! That bogus legend gets even weirder! This suggests that any feather will do, but that is not the case. For many tribal nations, eagle feathers are the ones we use, and the acquisition of them is carefully regulated. The author of this Nancy Drew story obviously doesn't know about any of this. If you're interested, spend some time on the Eagle Repository website.

By the end of the story, we learn that those feathers the crew has been finding are turkey feathers, and that it is hungry turkeys that have been stealing food. Mystery resolved and an action plan in place to take care of the turkeys, the crew and Mary get ready for the pageant.
"Let me look at you," said Mary. She adjusted their headbands. "Perfect. You really do look like Native American princesses."
"Do you have our turkey feathers?" Bess asked.
Mary nodded. "Your three and one Mr. Fulton gave me!" she said.
"Super!" Nancy said.
"I am not going to perform the feather ritual," Mary said. "I will put one feather at the back of each headband." 
Thankfully, there is no description of this ritual. Here they are, on stage (p. 80).

They were welcomed by the Pilgrims? Hmmm... And see the two girls with hands raised as if saying "how" to those Pilgrims?

Published in 2008 by Simon and Schuster, and again in 2012 as an e-book, Thanksgiving Thief is not recommended. It is just another troubling Thanksgiving story, but in some ways, worse than the standard fare because of that legend Mary tells. There's already so much misinformation out there about who Native people are... why add to it?

Before ending this review, I want to say a few things about the Indian Princess. When non-Native girls think of being an Indian Princess, they are engaging in play. It may be rooted in the Y-Indian Princess program, or it may be connected to the erroneous idea that Pocahontas was a princess. The part of Thanksgiving Thief in which Mary's uncle sends headdresses worn by Indian princesses? A lot of pow wows in Oklahoma include a competition in which Native women seek to be named as their tribal princess, or, princess of the pow wow itself.  In Tribal Fantasies: Native Americans in the European Imaginary, 1900-2010, Renae Watchman writes:
Native people have refashioned the "Indian Princess," which has evolved into a powerful title for some Indigenous communities. Young women are obligated by their titles to act as ambassadors, gaining entry into the political realm of tribal sovereignty. Native Royalty are empowered as public speakers, representing their communities, their organizations, and their Nations. Pageants have erupted in the twenty-first century, as ambassadors are sought to represent a plethora of organizations such as college and university Princesses (for instance, Miss Native American University of Arizona and Miss Indian Nations from United Tribes Technical College), national, regional, state, and provincial royalty (Miss Indian Alabama, Miss Indian Canada, Miss Indian USA, Miss Indian World, to name only a handful of titles), countless Nation-Specific Rodeo Queens, as well as an infinite number of Princesses elected to represent their distinct Native Nations. 
Watchman has a lot more information about it than I've quoted above. Do read it. He quotes Jennifer Denetdale about the competition for Miss Navajo Nation. It isn't about Western notions of beauty. It is about culture. What you see in Thanksgiving Thief is stereotypical, detribalized playing Indian, and that is not ok.

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5. Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel

Stella Batts Needs a New NameI think many children (and adults) have at one time or another wanted to change their name. Stella Batts is no exception, especially when a boy in her class calls her Smella!

Stella is eight years old and wants to be a writer when she grows up. Stella loves that her parents own a candy shop where their specialty fudge is named after her. However, she does not love her name. Stella recently went on a class nature walk and something happened that she does not want to talk about. But now she wants a new name. Stella picks a new name, but then has second thoughts about her decision.

Courtney Sheinmel has created a likeable character. Stella goes through typical ups and downs that many third graders can relate to such as dealing with a mean classmate, hanging out with a group of friends, and having a younger sibling that wants to be just like her big sister. This story would be great for those who are just starting with chapter books. Charming black and white illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell add to the pleasant appeal of the book.

If you liked reading about Stella, you’re in luck! Young readers can enjoy more adventures about this enthusiastic third grader in the rest of her early chapter book series.

Posted by: Katie

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6. The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin

The Chicken Squad: The First MisadventureJ. J. Tully certainly stays busy these days. One would think a retired search-and-rescue dog could laze around the yard and enjoy a peaceful afternoon nap. However, J. J. does not know that luxury. Sugar, Poppy, Dirt, and Sweetie make up the Chicken Squad and they always keep things interesting. These four fuzzy little chicks are constantly getting into mischief and it’s J. J.’s job to keep them out of trouble.

It seems like a normal day for the Chicken Squad until Tail the squirrel dashes into the chicken coop with a huge dilemma. Tail has seen something in the yard that is BIG and SCARY! What could this big and scary thing be? The chicks try to get more information from Tail but it is an extremely difficult task as the squirrel keeps fainting from being scared. Will the chicks learn what this big, scary object is and protect everyone in the yard? The Chicken Squad is certainly up to the task!

This is a comical delight for young children who are beginning to read longer books. The black and white illustrations by Kevin Cornell enhance the story by perfectly depicting the range of zany emotions that each character experiences. The drawings are also paced throughout the story to break up the text for readers just starting with chapter books. If you enjoy these wacky chicks you can read more about them in their next adventure called The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken, or check out some of their previous escapades in the J. J. Tully Mysteries.

Posted by: Katie

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7. Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana by James Dean

Pete the Cat and the Bad BananaPete the Cat loves eating bananas. They are easy to peel, they are sweet and tasty. Every morning he puts a banana in his cereal. Sometimes he puts a banana on his peanut butter sandwich. One day something bad happens – Pete eats a banana with brown spots. YUCKY! It’s mushy and gross and makes his tummy hurt. From then on he refuses to eat any food that has anything to do with bananas. He tries other foods that are yellow like bananas or shaped like bananas or that need to be peeled like bananas, but none of those foods are just right like bananas.

Finally something perfect happens! Could it be he finds a good substitute for a banana OR could it be he starts eating bananas again? Read this delightful Pete the Cat book to find out.

I agree with Pete that a banana is fun to eat and that they are sweet and tasty. This story really spoke to me because I am very fussy when it comes to eating bananas – they can’t be too ripe (mushy), nor can they be not quite ripe enough (slightly hard). My family knows that I will only eat a banana that seems just right.

Pete the Cat is such a beloved book character who finds great solutions for any problem. His books are always fun to read and this newest book is just right – not at all too mushy!

Posted by: Wendy

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8. Heidi Heckelbeck Gets the Sniffles by Wanda Coven

Heidi Heckelbeck Gets the SnifflesWe all know what it’s like to be excited for something special. Heidi Heckelbeck waits all year long for the Brewster Fall Festival. She’s especially excited this year to go through the haunted barn with her best friend Lucy.

We also all know what it’s like to get sick and have to miss out on something special. Poor Heidi starts sneezing and feeling achy all over. At first she tries hard to ignore her symptoms, but when she becomes feverish she has to admit that she feels overall terrible. She has a really bad cold that she can’t even cure with a special “potion” and she will have to miss going to the long awaited Brewster Fall Festival!

When Heidi finally feels like her old self again, her family and friends delight her with a great surprise. They have turned the garage into a special haunted house just for her. What fun and how scary!

The Heidi Heckelbeck series is always a hit with me. Every page has an illustration that helps the reader further enjoy the story. This easy reader is not only a great read-alone story, but would also be fun to read aloud – especially on a crisp fall day!

Posted by: Wendy

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As I write this post, Stephen Krensky's Christopher Columbus is ranked at #1 in e-book biographies for children. The paperback edition is ranked at #3 in historical biographies for children.

I'll start by saying that I don't recommend Krensky's book.

It was first published in 1991 in Random House's "Step Into Reading" series. At first read, you might think the book is ok, but I want to walk through the book, pausing at certain parts. On one page, we read:
There are people on the island.
Columbus calls them Indians
because he thinks he has reached
the Indies.
He names the island San Salvador.
He says it now belongs to Spain.
On the next page, Krensky writes:
But the island really belongs
to the people who live there.
See? Krensky essentially says "wait up Christopher, you're wrong about that!" Sounds good, doesn't it?

Don't be taken in! It might seem like Krensky is giving us something different from the "Columbus discovered America" myth, but... let's keep reading.

Columbus notices that some of the Indians are wearing what appears to be gold, so he pushes on, to look for gold. He visits other islands and:
He meets more Indians.
Most are helpful and friendly.
Most? Who isn't helpful or friendly to Columbus? And why were they not helpful or friendly? Krensky doesn't say.

Skip ahead a few pages to where Columbus is gonna return to Spain:
The ships are already loaded
with many new kinds of food--
corn, potatoes, peanuts,
papayas, avocados.
Columbus has also forced
six Indians to come with him.
People in Spain have never
seen Indians.
Krensky tells us that Columbus is taking Indians to Spain so people can see them? Why didn't Krensky rebut those last two lines, like he did earlier when he said that the island really belonged to the people who lived there?

Skipping ahead again, Columbus is back in Spain where he "is a hero." The last page is:
For the rest of his life,
Columbus never knows
how truly great
his discovery is.
He has really found a new world--
a world that no one in Europe knew about.
It is called America!
"Discovery"? "[F]ound a new world"??? I can hear defenders say "but Krensky says it was new to people in Europe! Leave poor Krensky (and Columbus) alone, you mean woman! You leftist liberal!"

Does Krensky want kids to feel sorry for Columbus because he didn't (according to Krensky) know how great his "discovery" was?! On one page, in one place, Krensky pushed back on the Columbus myth, but everywhere else? He just told the same-old-story!

Krensky's book, as noted earlier, is in the "Step Into Reading" series. Books like it are ones designed to help kids become independent readers. Christopher Columbus is a "Step 3" book. That means it is for kids in grades 1-3. Becoming an independent reader is a powerful moment in a person's life. Books that help with that process can take on a lot of emotional weight. They did for me, and likely for you, too. Go to the library. Get one that you read. See what sorts of strings it tugs as you turn its pages. The frightening thing is that a reader can also develop emotional attachment to the content of books like this.

Even more frightening is the information I shared at the very top of this post. This is a best selling book. It was first published in 1991 (no doubt to coincide with the 500 year "anniversary" of Columbus "discovery" of the "New World") and it still going strong.

Do you know of a book for independent readers, or a picture book, that honestly presents information about Christopher Columbus? Betsy Bird at SLJ says she's just learned of one that might do a better job of telling readers about Columbus. Due out in January of 2015, we'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, those of you with older or capable readers can get Thomas King's brilliant Coyote Columbus Story. I recommended it in 2006.

If your child comes home today with coloring sheets of Columbus and you want to push back on what he/she was taught, the Zinn Education Project has an excellent page of resources.

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10. Pete the Cat – Too Cool for School by Kimberly and James Dean

Pete the Cat - Too Cool for SchoolIt’s time to go back to school, and just like a lot of kids, Pete is trying to figure out what to wear. He is asking EVERYONE! He asks his mom, and she tells him the yellow shirt, because it is her favorite, so he puts it on. Then his friend Marty tells him that the red shirt is his favorite, and Pete puts that one on too. Pete’s brother Bob likes the blue shirt, and Pete puts that one on too. Pretty soon EVERYONE is giving their opinion of what Pete should wear, and he is following EVERYONE’s advice and putting EVERYTHING on!! Of course Pete looks just plain silly, and he is also very hot with all those clothes on. He decides to go home to change his clothes, and this time he decides what he’s going to wear. In the end, Pete also decides that what really matters is being yourself . . . so if you want to be cool, just be you! I like the message of this book, and I think kids who love Pete the Cat will love this one too.

Posted by: Mary

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11. IT'S THANKSGIVING by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marilyn Hafner

Earlier this summer I started doing some research on easy readers to see what sorts of images of Native people I'd find in them. I've written about some in the past (like Danny and the Dinosaur) but haven't done a systematic study.

This morning I put out a call asking librarians for titles in their collections. Michelle replied, sending me scans from Jack Prelutsky's It's Thanksgiving! That book was first published in 1982. Michelle sent me illustrations from the 1982 edition, and, from a newly illustrated edition in 2007. The text did not change. Just the illustrations. (A shout out to Michelle for sending them to me!)

I don't know what prompted the new illustrations, but certainly, it wasn't a concern for accuracy. The Wampanoag's didn't use tipis as shown in the old and new editions:

The one on the left is from 1982; the one on the right is from 2007. The illustrations are from "The First Thanksgiving" chapter of the book. If you're a regular reader of American Indians in Children's Literature, you know I find the telling of that Thanksgiving story deeply problematic.

But let's spend a few minutes with those two illustrations. In the old one, the Pilgrim and the Indian have their hands up. Are they saying "how" to each other? Maybe the publisher and illustrator knew "how" was a problem but were clueless about the tipis and clothing? It also looks like they made the Indian noses less prominent, but just barely. The Pilgrims, though, their noses look a lot better.

If you are weeding books and want to weed this one but aren't sure how to justify it? Accuracy. Check out page 47 of CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries published in 2008. Crew has an acronym, MUSTIE, to help with weeding. Here's what the M stands for:
Misleading refers to information that is factually inaccurate due to new discoveries, revisions in thought, or new information that is now accepted by professionals in the field covered by the subject. Even in fields like physics, that were once thought to be pretty settled, changes occur that radically impact the accuracy and validity of information. 
So how 'bout it? Will you weed it? So kids don't keep growing up thinking that All Indians Lived in Tipis? There's a lot more to say about the "First Thanksgiving" story. I've reviewed a lot of books about it, but for now, check out this post. It features the thinking of a 5th grader: Do you mean all those Thanksgiving worksheets we had to color every year with smiling Indians were wrong?

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12. My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz

My Happy LifeInstead of counting sheep at night, Dani counts all the times she’s been happy. She is especially happy when she thinks about her new schoolbag, because she is so excited for her first day of school. It will be a new chapter in Dani’s happy life! And, as it turns out, there are many happy times spent in Dani’s new classroom and with her new best friend, Ella. But the school year brings some unhappiness, too. Ella moves away midway through the year, which makes Dani very sad. Dani is reminded of other times of unhappiness in her life, too, like when her mother died when she was very young. Dani misses Ella terribly and things look fairly bleak, but as Dani begins to snatch up little opportunities for happiness – like new pet hamsters and new friends at school – and to think about all of her happy memories, Dani’s life once more becomes a happy one.

Don’t let the size of this book fool you – it is 134 pages, but there is a lot of white space and an abundance of illustrations, making it perfect as a first chapter book for early readers. This book touches on two different sad events – the death of a parent and a best friend moving away. While these events are never trivialized, the book itself is not a sad book. It is mainly a book about resilience and about keeping on the sunny side of life. It is about how love from family, friends, and your own self can provide you with an inner reserve of happiness to draw from when bad things happen in life.

Posted by: Parry

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13. Moonsilver (The Unicorn’s Secret, #1), by Kathleen Duey

Moonsilver (The Unicorn’s Secret, #1)In Moonsilver, the first book of the series The Unicorn’s Secret, we meet Heart Avamir, a young girl who was abandoned at birth and raised by Simon Pratt, a demanding and unloving guardian. Despite this, Heart grows to be a kind, gentle, and hard working girl. When she meets an abandoned and starving white mare in the fields one day, she is instantly devoted and fights to keep the mare. Heart wakes up extra early to gather food for the horse, and enlists the help of the village healer and her only friend to help her nurse the horse back to health. When the mare begins to regain strength, Heart discovers that she is going to have a foal. But the foal turns out to be no ordinary horse, and in order to protect them both Heart must set out on a great adventure.

This beginning chapter book makes a great fantasy introduction, and is also recommended to young horse lovers. This would also make a good read aloud for children not yet ready to read chapters on their own.

Posted by: Parry

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14. Chip Wants a Dog by William Wegman

Chip Wants a DogChip wants a dog – it’s all he thinks and dreams about. He would just love to teach a dog tricks such as to roll over, fetch and sit. A dog would be his best friend.

The problem is Chip’s parents do not want a dog. They think dogs are too much hard work and his Mother is really more of a cat person. Chip doesn’t understand why he can’t have a dog. All the other kids have dogs.

One night Chip has a dream that he is a dog. When he wakes up in the morning he realizes something about himself that has to do with his intense desire to have a dog.

What a funny easy reader! The William Wegman photographs are classic!

Posted by: Wendy

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15. Urgency Emergency: Big Bad Wolf by Dosh Archer

Urgency Emergency! Big Bad Wolf When the penguinmedics burst through the hospital doors with a choking wolf, Dr. Glenda wastes no time diagnosing his problem – something is obstructing his airway! Quickly, Dr. Glenda and her faithful, if not slightly skittish, aide Nurse Percy deduce that it is not something stuck in the wolf’s throat, but rather someone. After much back-slapping and wolf-squeezing, a formerly missing grandmother is finally dislodged from the wolf’s gullet. Subsequently, police are called to haul away the carnivorous canine, and the undigested grandmother is reunited with her distraught, red-hooded granddaughter. It’s all in a day’s work for Dr. Glenda and crew.

Dosh Archer’s Urgency Emergency series is a fun take on fractured fairy tales for beginning readers. Each installment takes well-known characters from nursery rhymes and folk and fairy tales out of their storybook realms and into the E.R. with Dr. Glenda and Nurse Percy. As the author herself states in a 2009 interview, Dr. Glenda, Nurse Percy, and the rest of the City Hospital staff attempt “to bring an element of order to the chaotic world of fairy tales and rhymes,” and the results are rib tickling. These books are fun on their own, but would also make for a great read-aloud addition to a folk and fairy tale unit for Kindergarten through Grade 2.

Originally published in Britain in 2009, the third title in the series, Little Elephant’s Blocked Trunk, is scheduled to be released in North America in September of this year. Until then we always have The Big Bad Wolf and Itsy Bitsy Spider to tide us over.

Posted by: Staci

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16. Princess Posey and the Perfect Present by Stephanie Greene

Posey feels very lucky to be in Miss Lee’s first grade classroom. She loves her classroom with her very own cubby, she loves being in class with her two best friends, and she loves her teacher, Miss Lee. So when Posey finds out that Miss Lee’s birthday is coming up, she wants to give her the perfect present. She decides to bring Miss Lee roses grown from her family’s garden, but when her friend Nikki unknowingly arrives first and presents Miss Lee with a big, expensive-looking bouquet from the flower shop, Posey feels her gift is too humble and she hides it away. Feeling miserable, Posey doesn’t eat her birthday cupcake, sits alone at recess, and is even very mean to her friend Nikki. Things are all wrong. But, Posey talks to her mom about it. She puts on her pink tutu, in which she always imagines she is Princess Posey. She thinks: “Princess Posey (is) beautiful and kind. She wouldn’t cry if someone gave the same present. She would just think of another present.” And Posey is able to find another gift to show Miss Lee how much she cares, reconcile with her friend, and to once again feel very lucky to be in Miss Lee’s first grade classroom.

Stephanie Greene’s Princess Posey series depict a playful and sensitive first grader making her way in the world, and making plenty of mistakes while she’s at it. Greene handles well the difficulty of feeling jealous and inadequate, and how Posey is able to successfully transform these feelings with the help of her supportive family and her imagination. Young readers will relate to Posey’s experience of both the joys and traumas that unfold in the first grade classroom. With large print, ten short chapters, and an abundance of illustrations and white space, the Princess Posey books are perfect for readers just starting out on beginning chapter books.

Posted by: Parry

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17. Hooray! Hooray! It's Book Release Day!

Today is the official release date for The Ice Cream Shop. The first Steve and Wessley Scholastic Reader. 

0 Comments on Hooray! Hooray! It's Book Release Day! as of 4/29/2014 5:41:00 PM
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18. Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin

Ling and Ting are twins. They have the same hair, same smile and same eyes, but don’t let those similarities fool you – they are not exactly the same. Ling likes books about dogs, but Ting loves fairytales. Ling struggles with using chopsticks, while Ting finds chopsticks to be very easy to use. Ling is very good at sitting still and concentrating, but Ting has a tendency to be a bit more fidgety and forgetful. Each chapter of this amusing episodic book tells a different story to illustrate just how not the same these two twins really are.

Grace Lin manages to create adorable, relatable characters and place them into entertaining situations while maintaining a reading level appropriate for those who are still honing their reading skills. The cheerful, clear illustrations add charm to the story, provide helpful clues for decoding potential trouble words and, thanks to a mishap while at the barbershop in the first chapter, knowing which girl is Ling and which is Ting. Fans of Biscuit, Henry and Mudge, and the Elephant and Piggy books who are looking for a bit more of a challenge should definitely give Ling and Ting a try. If you like this one, make sure to read Ling and Ting Share a Birthday as well.

Click here for a link to a book trailer on Grace Lin’s website for Ling and Ting.

Posted by: Staci

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19. Moldylocks and the Three Beards, by Noah Z. Jones

Some weeks life is busy, and there just isn't time to read and write lots, and so the blogging is slow.  And it's been even slower for me because most of the books I have managed to finish recently didn't move me to write about them, mostly because of me not having the mental energy to figure out and express eloquently why they hadn't worked for me.

So last night I turned to a book from a series (Scholastic's Branches) that promises to build "reading confidence and stamina," both of which I feel I need right about now.

Moldylocks and the Three Beards, written and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (Scholastic, published in paperback in Jan 2014, and in a hardcover library edition April 29) is the first book in a series--"Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe."   My eyes rolled when I read the words "Princess Pink," but not so much so that I was unable to look at the cover more closely.  And lo, Princess Pink seemed pretty cool. 

So I tried it last night, and rather enjoyed it, and can happily recommend it.  If you are a young reader who enjoys the absurd. and who is looking for something fun and easy, this is what you get here.

Princess Pink is not a princess; after seven boys, her mother wanted a one, and so that's what she was named.  She hates pink.  She turned her pink fairy dress into a cowboy caveman outfit.   (Perhaps her hatred of pink, and her taste in dirty sneakers and bugs is a tad polarizing--does the cheesy pizza she enjoys really have to look so gross?  And one can enjoy the outdoors without one's shoes stinking.  But this is not a book that aims for subtly, so I shall let it pass).

And in any event, Princess Pink opens her fridge one night, and falls (literally) into a the Land of Fake-Believe, where she visits the home of three beards (not nice) in the company of a girl named Moldylocks.   The whole beard premise was rather effective, and I enjoyed it.

Recommended for those who don't mind negative portrayals of pink princess stuff.  

Not particularly recommended for those who don't like whimsical stories whose primary point is to make learning to read entertaining.  Also not recommended for those who loath spiders.  There are too many spiders for those readers to take.

Not really recommended to their adults for their own reading pleasure, although it was kind of exactly right for my tired brain last night...........and I might well find myself picking up Little Red Quaking Hood when it comes out in August.

Note:  Princess Pink's family looks to be African-American--pretty darn rare in easy-reader fantasy books!  (quick--name another girl character of color in an easy reader fantasy book.............those dots are me not being able to).

Disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher

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20. I’m a Frog! By Mo Willems

I am a FrogI’m just going to put it right out here – I LOVE the Elephant and Piggie books!

Gerald, the elephant, and Piggie, the pig, are best friends. Piggie tends to be frivolous, while Gerald tends to be serious. They have a wonderful friendship.

Piggie pretends to be a frog, which just totally confuses Elephant. Piggie hops around like a frog, she ribbits like a frog and she announces out loud that she is a frog. Gerald, who is a very literal elephant, says, “I was sure you were a pig. You look like a pig. And your name is Piggie.” Then he begins to worry that he, too, will turn into a frog. Oh my, he might have to eat flies!

The problem is that Gerald doesn’t understand what it means to pretend. Piggie patiently explains about pretending and then she invites Gerald to be a frog with her.

Oh, would you like to know if Gerald joins Piggie in pretending to be a frog? You should know that I NEVER give away endings!  RIBBIT! RIBBIT!

Posted by: Wendy

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21. Ant and Honeybee: a Pair of Friends in Winter by Megan McDonald

Ant and Honeybee: a Pair of Friends in WinterI have to get one last winter book in before the season ends; not that I am trying to prolong the magic that has been the winter of 2014, but there are so many great stories for children about winter that I am always a little sad to see it go. This winter, Megan McDonald and G. Brian Karas teamed up to release the second book in the Ant and Honey Bee Series, A Pair of Friends in Winter. In this early chapter book, Ant wanders out one last time before hibernating for the winter to see his friend Honey Bee. Truthfully, Ant does not want to be alone and misses his friend. He arrives just in time because Honey Bee is in a sour mood and in need of cheering up. The two get into a better mood by creating a giant sandwich and eventually snuggle in together to hibernate through the winter.

This is a perfect pick for an emerging reader looking for a story with a hearty plot and manageable text. Unlike many early readers, the story is engaging for both children and parents. The illustrations enhance the text and add details for parents to enjoy, like a funny newspaper heading on Honey Bee’s newspaper that reads “Killer Bee Attack.” G. Brian Karas is a prolific children’s book illustrator as the creator of the illustrations for books such as Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming and Big Bad Bunny by Franny Billingsley. His style varies slightly, but always includes intriguing details that leave readers pouring over pages long after they have finished reading the text. If you can stomach one last book about winter this year, I would pick up this title! Or, maybe, save it for next season.

Posted by: Kelly

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22. Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay

Lulu and the Duck in the ParkLulu is famous in her neighborhood for her love of animals. She cherishes her classroom’s weekly visit to the park, where she always says hello to a particular brown duck with one white wing. One spring day, after two unleashed dogs have wreaked havoc near the duck pond, Lulu notices one egg rolling across the grass. Lulu decides to take the egg with her back to class, where she can keep it safe. How will Lulu keep the egg safe? How will she keep it hidden? What if it starts to hatch in school?

This will make a great choice for readers who are new to chapter books – the pacing is brisk, the chapters are short, and there are many illustrations scattered throughout the book. Animal lovers will especially love this book, as they will relate to Lulu – an impulsive, bighearted, spirited lover and caretaker of animals. Readers will also come to know Lulu’s best friend and cousin, Mellie, and Mrs. Holiday, the strict teacher who (inexplicably!) does not like animals, but surprises Lulu and Mellie with her kindness. Look for Lulu’s other adventures in Lulu and the Dog by the Sea and Lulu and the Cat in the Bag.

Posted by: Parry

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23. Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big Lunch by James Dean

Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big LunchPete the Cat has taken the picture book world by storm. The sleek, blue cat with expressive eyes finds himself juxtaposed with human situations and works his way through them with his wry, laid back cat attitude. The Pete the Cat picture books contain large text that is great for children just learning to read and even those getting ready to read and just starting to recognize print. This year, the illustrator brought his easy to read text style and amusing illustrations to the easy reader format. Moving Pete into Easy Readers was a seamless transition.

In Pete’s Big Lunch, the alarm rings at 12 p.m. and Pete knows it is time for lunch by his growling stomach. The ravenous cat starts with a loaf of bread, tomatoes and fish but thinks that will not be enough. So, Pete starts to add more and more to the sandwich, packaging and all. When the towering meal is complete, Pete realizes that is way too much for one cat and whips out his cell phone and calls his friends to help him eat his big lunch. Kids who love Pete the Cat will love getting to read more about his adventures in books that are just perfect for beginning readers.

Posted by: Kelly

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24. Jasper John Dooley: Left Behind by Caroline Adderson

Jasper John Dooley: Left BehindJasper John Dooley is a new character in our easy fiction section and destined to become a favorite. These books are written for children just becoming comfortable with longer chapters and would work well as a read aloud for children who are not quite ready to read on their own. Jasper is a likable character with a voice that is truly that of a 7 year-old boy which will resonate with young readers. The text is accompanied by adorable pencil illustrations. In the second book in the series, Jasper is indeed, Left Behind when his grandmother leaves on a week-long cruise. Jasper spends a lot of time with Nan, especially on Wednesdays when Nan watches him. They always play Go Fish, eat jujubes and Jasper gets to ride the elevator up and down as much as he wants. Even though Jasper is happy that Nan finally gets to go on a cruise to see icebergs like she has always dreamed of, he is not looking forward to a week without Nan and each day that she is gone brings new challenges for Jasper. On the first day, Jasper hurts his stomach and puts a really cool, bright green band-aid over the very minor injury. Jasper decides that he needs to save the bright green band-aid to show Nan when she gets back. Each day, Jasper adds more band-aids to his tummy to keep the green band-aid safe until his tummy is covered in a pancake sized band-aid circle. Jasper also attempts to build a cruise ship with his best friend Ori with wood that builders left behind at Ori’s house to give to Nan when she returns. Ori decides that he is going to be the boss and Jasper will be the worker on this project, which results in some hilarious scenes consisting of Ori standing over Jasper while Jasper hammers yelling, “Work faster!” Every day is met with trials, tribulations and triumph for Jasper while Nan is gone which will keep readers engaged. This easy reader is sweet, funny and touching and is sure to be loved by children ages 5 to 8.

(Also, check out our review of Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week, the first book in the series!)

Posted by: Kelly

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25. Heidi Heckelbeck Goes to Camp by Wanda Coven

Heidi Heckelbeck Goes to CampHeidi is so excited to be going to sleep away camp! She is going with her best friend, Lucy, who went to Camp Dakota last summer. Lucy even taught Heidi to say “oogie da boinga”, which means “wahoo!” at the camp.

Lucy’s two best camp friends are anxiously waiting for her as she gets off the bus. It isn’t very long before Heidi feels totally left out. It seems as though Lucy’s friends don’t like her at all. She even resorts to trying a spell that promises to help with friendly foes from her “magic” book. When that doesn’t work, she confesses her problem to her camp counselor. Armed with her counselor’s advice, along with her own bravery, she asks the girls why they don’t like her. It isn’t long after that before all four girls are shouting “oogie da boinga.”

Younger readers will enjoy this new series which has easy reading chapters accompanied with cute illustrations on every page.

Posted by: Wendy

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