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Showing posts from November, 2008

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley, 32pp RL 1

Mary Ann Hoberman is a genius with rhymes. This may explain why, on the heels of Jack Prelutsky, another great children's poet, she is the new Children's Poet Laureate through 2010! She also happens to be the author of one of my all time favorite picture books about a harried mother trying to please all of her wonderful, deserving children, Seven Silly Eaters, illustrated by the incomparably magnificent Marla Frazee. And, she is the author of the classic National Book Award winning A House is a House for Me, published in 1974 and illustrated by Betty Fraser. Hoberman's You Read to Me, I'll Read to You is an ingenious series of rhyming picture books for two readers, to be read out loud, similar to Paul Fleischman's Newbery Award winning book, Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, but for beginning readers. A portion of the profits from the book are donated to Literacy Volunteers of America, which makes perfect sense since you can't read these books alone.

Pur…

Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores Starbuckle by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, illustrated by Abby Carter, 56 pp, RL 1

Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores Starbucke by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, pictures by Abby Carter, is such a perfect book for a new reader who has just begun to be a fluent reader. At fifty-six pages with great illustrations throughout, it is just the right length. There are four chapters in each book, with a story arc that progresses from beginning to end, unlike a Frog and Toad book where each chapter is an individual story. Like the chapter books for more advanced readers, this book gives new readers the chance to try their skills on something a little longer with a slightly more complex story line than the average early reader book.
The plot of the book is very timely for emerging readers - school and socialization. Andy Shane, who lives with Granny Webb, gets along in this world just fine, unless Dolores Starbuckle is around to tell him what he is doing wrong. Andy Shane is a shy, observant boy who doesn't like being the center of attention, especially for the negativ…

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman, painted by Betsy Lewin, 44pp RL 1

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa is a series of beginning reader books that any horse loving girl is sure to devour. These truly are first grade reading level books - there are no contractions and key words are repeated frequently. If you can teach your reader to sight-read "cowgirl" "Kate," and "cocoa," she'll be set. There aren't too many other long, odd words in the books. There are four chapters in each book, with each chapter telling a different story. These books are similar to the Poppleton in that they divided into chapter/stories and the words are fairly simple.
In the first book we meet Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, a horse who talks, and learn how he was named. Cocoa is the color of chocolate with a mane the color of caramel, Cowgirl Kate's two favorite candies. We also learn that Cocoa loves to eat. But, as much as he loves to eat, he cannot wait for surprises. When Kate brings him his breakfast, a bucket of oats, and a surprise in a bo…

Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole story and pictures by Wong Herbert Yee, 48pp RL 1

Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole is dedicated to, "Friends of Frog and Toad." And, while it is very much in the style ofFrog and Toad, with two friends from the same species (rodent, not amphibian) who are thoughtful homebodies, neither has the neurosis of Toad nor the wisdom of Frog. Nevertheless, this is a great series of books that is perfect for a hungry new reader.





Mouse and Mole live in a tree. Mouse is upstairs in the trunk, Mole is downstairs under the roots. As they go about their days the encounter differences and conflicts but resolve them with care and understanding. Wong Herbert Yee, who is also the author and illustrator of the terrific Fireman Smallpicture books, draws rodents reminiscent of Kevin Henkes' Lilly and friends. Like his story, his illustrations are quiet, homey and simple, but not simplistic. And, the stories are funny and playful. Mishaps ensue when darkness-loving Mole visits Mouse's sunny kitchen and when Mouse gets a few bumps whil…

Frog and Toad written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, 62 pp, RL 2

As I was writing a review for Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole by Herbert Wong Yee, which is dedicated to friends of Frog and Toad, I realized that, even though most everyone is familiar with Frog and Toad, I mention them so often in reviews that they deserve their own review/tribute.  Arnold Lobel is an author, illustrator, Caldecott winner for Fables in 1980, Caldecott Honor winner for Frog and Toad are Friends, and a Newbery Honor winner for Frog and Toad Together. He was also married to the colorfully unique illustrator and author, Anita Lobel and they collaborated on the Caldecott Honor winning ABC book, On Market St Like James Marshall, Lobel died at a young age and left a relatively small library of books behind.  There are less than twenty books written and illustrated by Lobel in print today. Besides Frog and Toad, two of my favorites that are seared into my memory from childhood are The Ice Cream ConeCoot and Other Rare Birds and Miss Suzy, which was written by Miriam B. Y…

Ook Book and other Silly Rhymes by Lissa Rovetch, illustrated by Shannon McNeill (and other REALLY great VERY early reader picture books)

I have a confession to make. In addition to the Berenstein Bears and the unsettling Love You Forever byRobert Munsch, (this link to the blurb about Munsch's book helped me to understand why it disturbs me and why I don't think of it as a book to read to children) I do not like books by Dr Seuss. Not evenThe Cat in the Hat. That was one malicious, deviant cat and even as a kid he made me uncomfortable. However, as a parent I have found Dr Seuss' books can be useful with children who are in the earliest stages of learning to read and here is why.
Letter recognition and the awareness that different sounds go with each letter is the first step for an emerging reader. Phonological and phonemic awareness, the understanding that language is made up of individual and separate sounds and the ability to notice and work with those sounds, is the next step in reading readiness. This is where Dr Seuss comes in. In a 1954 article for Lifemagazinedetailing the numerous reason…

New Reader Week and What I have Learned!

I didn't plan to do a post like this before kicking off "New Reader Week," but I feel like, despite shepherding two of my three children through the learning to read process and selling books to parents for over 13 years that are supposed to do the same thing, I LEARNED some stuff I didn't know!!!
I have my reviews this week organized by reading difficulty level - tomorrow starts off with a re-write of a post from September on some of my favorite sets and publishers of beginning to read materials, as well as a link to a site with a great list of "sight words" so you and your reader can make your own books.  Also, with great serendipity, I was able to add a link to a spectacular site that teaches you/kids how to make your own books!  Thanks to my sister-in-law for your thoughtfulness and timeliness in sending me that link!!
Next, I have a post on picture books that can double as reading primers and a bit on the history of Dr Seuss' foray into that realm, w…

Barrel of Laughs: A Vale of Tears, written and illustrated by Jules Feiffer 180pp RL4

I love A Barrel of Laughs: A Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer. If Monty Python's Flying Circus had written a young adult book, this very well might be it. (Actually, Eric Idle wrote a very funny retelling, and now out of print, in novel form, of Edward Lear's poem "The Owl and the Pussycat.") Jules Feiffer has a spectacular sense of humor and a very nice way of letting the reader in on the joke. If you haven't already read it, don't miss my favorite of Feiffer's many excellent picture books, Bark, George!

Roger, the son of the kindly King Watchamacallit, has a gift that is also a curse. He is a carrier of joy and he spreads it before him wherever he goes, his remarkably high spirits casting a spell over anyone or anything who comes within a half mile of him. Because of this, very little gets done in the kingdom and it is J. Wellington Wizard who determines that Roger must go on a quest. Prince Roger journeys through the Forever Forest, across severa…

Fairy Tale Friday & New Reader's Week Announcements!

Fairy Tale Fridays:  This Friday and next I am going to spruce up some reviews of Fairy Tales that I wrote before I had the idea to start Fairy Tale Fridays.  For those of you who have been reading for that long, I apologize for the repeats.  For those of you new to the blog, I am happy to have the chance to reintroduce some books that I think are great.  Also, I am struggling a bit to find chapter books that are traditional fairy tales, retellings of fairy tales or just plain fairy stories.  I have several 4th & 5th grade reading level books yet to review and read, but I feel like I am floundering a bit.  If you know of any chapter books that are fairy tales, fairy stories or fairy tale retellings, please let me know and I will seek them out to read and review.  Eventually, I think I may just have to relax my definition of fairy tale and allow in some general fantasy titles and rename it Fantasy Fridays.

New Reader's Week:  A new and improved version of my post titled, "T…

The Secret History of Giants by Professor Ari Berk, illustrated by Wayne Anderson, Douglas Carrel, Gary Chalk, Kevin Levell and Larry MacDougall

The Secret History of Giants: Or the Codex Giganticum, written and collected by Ari Berk, Magister and Scribe of the Order of Golden Quills, is an superb new book from one of my favorite publishing houses,Candlewick Press. Publishers of the Ology series of books, including Dragonology, the original fun reference books with flaps, envelopes, books within books and all sorts of other goodies, Candlewick Press are masters at making a visually beautiful book and they have an excellent roster of artists to draw from, including one of my favorites, Wayne Anderson, illustrator of the picture books Tin Forestand The Dragon Machine, both by Helen Ward (and contributor to the Dragonology books) when making a multifaceted book like The Secret History of Giants. They have also found an excellent, scholarly author in Professor Ari Berk, who holds degrees in Ancient History, American Indian Studies and a Ph.D in Comparative Literature and Culture. In addition to this, Professor Berk has worked …