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.

Purple paragraphs on the left, orange paragraphs on the right and blue in the middle signal who's turn it is to read the rhyme, the blue being for both voices together. Hoberman begins her fairy tale book with an introduction to the style of writing and tips on how to read, as well as suggestion to grown-ups that they make sure children are familiar with the original versions of the fairy tales inside before reading as Hoberman makes some playful changes. These are very short fairy tales in which some two, some four pages, in which "wolves are tamed, trolls are transformed and peas are triumphant." A poem introduces the book and then eight fairy tales follow. The Three Bears, The Princess and the Pea, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Three Pigs, Little Red Hen and the Grain of Wheat and The Three Billy Goats Gruff are all turned into rhyming, two voiced poems in this clever book. The collection ends with a short poem that encourages children to seek out the original fairy tales and read them on their own.

Hoberman's rhymes and retellings are superb! As Child magazine wrote when they awarded it one of the Best Children's Book of 2004, "The content is as smart as the format with fresh takes on old plots." This is so true. Hoberman manages to end each story with friendship and cheer, the characters saying to each other, in one way or another, "And when our story is all through, You'll read to me and I'll read to you!" Since I discovered this series of books well after my second child was reading, I have not had the chance to read them out loud with a young friend. I suspect kids love them, though. The rhymes are hard to resist and you feel a little bit like an actor as you read out loud with someone else. Since I think I have a few years to wait before my youngest is ready to read out loud with me, I can't wait to give these books a test drive with my niece the next time I see her!

Besides the original, Your Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together, which is available in paperback, the other three, in hardcover only, are Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together, Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together and Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together.

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