February 16, 2015

Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 1:49 am by suebe2

Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page
by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Arthur Howard
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I used to read the Mr. Putter and Tabby series on a regular basis back when my young reader was just starting to read independently, but he’s 15 now.  I was thrilled to rediscover this series at my local library.

Mr. Putter and Tabby share a love of many quiet activities from taking a bath to napping to reading.  Not surprisingly, they have favorite books.  Mr. Putter loves cowboys.  Tabby loves rabbits.  They both love gardening.

At the library, Mr. Putter sees a sign-up sheet for story time with your pet.  He signs up to do this with Tabby and then tells his friend Mrs. Teaberry about the opportunity.

Mrs. Teaberry loves new things so it isn’t surprising that she latches onto this idea.  Will anyone want to hear Mr. Putter and Tabby after hearing Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog Zeke?  Mr. Putter practices reading with gusto.

If you haven’t read Mr. Putter and Tabby, you may be surprised that to discover just how funny these took are.  There is generally a slapstick, silly element that appeals to the youngest readers.  This comes through in Arthur Howard’s expressive, colorful illustrations.

There is also a more subtle side to the humor.  Often these jokes come through the text or subtleties in the illustrations (look for Mrs. Teaberry’s cookies and check out the ingredients).

Because this is an early reader, the illustrations may expand on the text but only a little.  Their true role is to support the text and the reader, providing clues for words the reader may have troubles deciphering.

If you haven’t read these books, share them with your young reader who is working to develop his own reading skills.  There is enough to these books that you can also share them with your picture book-aged child.  These books are great read-alouds.

Don’t glance at the illustrations and put them down because the characters are not kids.  They may be a little older than many early reader characters but these two are kids at heart.  Whether your young reader is somewhat shy or a real fire cracker, she will identify with one of these characters.


October 7, 2013

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:06 am by suebe2

Penny and Her Marble
by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books

When the story opens, Penny is walking her doll Rose up and down the sidewalk.  On one pass, Penny imagines they are walking through a great city.  On the next, they are navigating a great wood.  As she passes her neighbor’s front yard, Penny spots a big, beautiful blue marble.  She quickly slips it into her pocket and heads home.

But when you think you might have done something even a little bit wrong, imagination can be a bad thing.  Thinking about the marble that she isn’t sure she should have, Penny isn’t interested in baking cookies, even her favorites, or eating dinner.  That night, sleep is a long time coming.

When she gets up the next morning, Penny is determined to do the right thing and when she does something amazing happens.

Beginning readers, even more advanced readers with multiple chapters such as this, aren’t easy to write.  Vocabulary and sentence length must be kept at a manageable level for youngsters who are just learning to control the strings of letters they will one day read with ease.  Some writers produce beginning readers that are mediocre at best, but not Henkes.

Henkes gives us a solid, likable character with a realistic problem.  Not only is it realistic, but it is something readers will get.  After all, they’ve all been there before.

Henkes illustrations, black pen and water color, are as charming as always.  His characters always look fun and maybe just a little silly but they are capable of a full range of emotions.  Add to this the fact that, as with all good beginning readers, Henkes illustrations give the young reader contextual clues for deciphering words like stroller, marble and curtain that they might not immediately recognize even if they’ve encountered these things in their lives.

Fans of Henkes’s picture books will be happy to find his story in a book that is written just for them to decipher with their brand new skills.



February 1, 2011

We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:00 am by suebe2

We Are in a Book!

by Mo Willems

Hyperion, 2010

Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are at it again.  Gerald is the first one to notice that something is up.  In fact, someone . . . or something . . .  may be watching them.

Piggie, always the bolder of the two, investigates and discovers the truth — the pair is being watched.  But not by a monster.  They are being watched by a reader.

The situation is cool enough to overcome Gerald’s reserved nature and soon he is turning flips and plotting with Piggie to play a trick on the reader.  What kind of trick?  You’ll have to take the chance of being victimized to find out.

Think you can outsmart a cartoon pig and a cartoon elephant?  Maybe you can and maybe you can’t but either way you’re sure to have a good laugh.

Although our family still reads at bedtime, we very seldom read aloud anymore, instead each reading our own book.  Willems’ book simply cries to be read out loud and soon my son and I were leaning on each other laughing aloud.  When we finished, he took the book from me and read it again.  You’ll see why when you read it for yourself.

Beginning readers are essential.  The deceptively simple texts lure inexperienced readers into turning the pages until the story is done.  Very few are so good that you want to read them again and again and share them with a friend.  Willems’ book is one of the best.

Be sure to pick up a copy for the young reader in your life who enjoys a good laugh and may need a nudge to gain some confidence in their own reading skills.  Willems, Gerald and Piggie deliver.


January 22, 2010

Snakes! by Melissa Stewart

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 4:34 pm by suebe2

Snakes! (AR 3 .2 )

by Melissa Stewart

In this case, you can judge a book by its cover which is no great surprise when the cover says National Geographic Kids.  Vibrant photos and fascinating facts fill this early reader.

Readers will learn all about snake anatomy, where they live, snake babies, how they get around, what they eat and snakes as pets.  My son thinks snakes are beyond cool so I know a lot of snake trivia, but I still learned some new facts:

  • Snakes that give birth to live young live in cooler climates and the puff adder can give birth to up to 150 babies at a time!
  • Snakes with round pupils hunt in the day time and those with slitted pupils hunt at night.  My son was not surprised by this.  “Like a cat’s eye, mom.”  Uh, yeah.  Just like that.
  • The long belly scales that grip the ground and move the snake forward are called scutes.

This book is a Level 2, for children who are reading independently.  The font is large and the text is broken up enough that it shouldn’t intimidate — but any kid who is fascinated by snakes will be drawn in by the photos.  I’m a little iffy on snakes myself — they’re compelling and totally creepy at the same time — but I couldn’t put the book down.  Even in a paper back, the photo quality lets you see the texture of the scales and the amazing range of colors.

The one spread that might not be for the faint of heart is “Snake Snacks.”  It is one thing to read about a snake chowing down on a frog or an antelope but it is quite another to see it in glorious color.

If you’ve got a boy who is reluctant to pick up a book, give him this.  You might even leave it open to “Snake Snacks” or “Snakes All Around,” which shows a pile of hibernating garter snakes.  The creep factor is high enough to get his attention and would have definitely pulled my son in.

This is one of the best beginning readers I’ve ever read.  Slither on out and get it for the young reader in your life.


July 3, 2009

Plink and Plunk by James Howe

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:00 am by suebe2

plinkPlink and Plunk  (AR 2 .8 )
by James Howe
(Candlewick Press)

It can be tough enough to find beginning readers that appeal to both children and adults but trying to locate books that appeal to both boys and girls is extremely difficult.

Take a look at the Houndsley and Catina series.

When  Houndsley takes Catina boating, she returns the favor by taking him biking.  But is it really a favor?  (The next sentence is a plot spoiler so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want a hint of what happens.)  The problem is that Catalina is afraid of water and Houndsley can’t ride a bike.

In this humorous book, each of the three chapters stands independently so the reader can stop after each for a break from working their new skills.  That said, the book can be read cover to cover if you are reading together.

Marie-Louise Gay’s illustrations combine watercolor, pencil and collage to compliment this gentle tale. 

Gentle tale?  Didn’t I say it was suitable for boys?  You bet.  It may not be car chases and mad cap mayhem but my son, at ten, adores these books.  Whenever I get a new one, I have to take it back so that I can read and review it.  Then off it goes, back into his room.

But don’t be altogether shocked.  Author James Howe writes great boy books.  If you don’t recognize his name, he is also the author of the Bunnicula series, about a mischievous vampire bunny.

Share some reading time with the new reader in your life.


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