October 5, 2016

The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:15 pm by suebe2

the-cookie-fiascoThe Cookie Fiasco
by Dan Santat
Hyperion Books for Children

Four friends with only three cookies makes for one great big problem.  Will they work it out before it’s too late?

A hippo, a crocodile and two squirrels are trying to figure out how to evenly divide four cookies.  (It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke!) I kept expecting the hippo to snap and just eat all the treats.  He does suggest that he should get a bigger share because he’s so much bigger than the others.

But as hippo gets hungrier and hungrier, his nerves snap.  Let’s just say that he has a nervous habit of fiddling with things.  With a snap, the breaks one cookie and then another.  The squirrels worry that soon there will be only crumbs.

Worrisome though it may be hippo’s habit saves the day.  It seems that it is much easier to evenly divide the pieces of cookies.

Work with kids and at least one of these characters looks familiar.  I definitely know hippo.  One of my son’s friends will carefully explain that because he is bigger he deserves more.  He NEEDS it.  Then there’s my niece aka the outspoken squirrel.  I am little and I am mighty.  You’d think Santat had spent time in my dining room.

Because this is another of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! early readers, the text is super simple.  The illustrations don’t build on it, as they would in a picture book, but they do give young, inexperienced readers the clues they need to decipher unfamiliar words.

As always, Santat’s illustrations are humorous and expressive.  As simple and straightforward as they look, there are always plenty of clues for young readers to use the gauge what is going on in a character’s head.

If you have a young reader who is working to decipher words for him or herself, request this book at your library. The text is simple and straightforward.  The characters are silly.  It will pull your new reader in and help to develop the skills needed to tackle longer books.


January 4, 2016

Mr. Putter and Tabby Smell the Roses by Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:01 am by suebe2

Mr. Putter and Tabby Smell the Roses
by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Arthur Howard
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Mr. Putter wants to do something special for Mrs. Teaberry’s birthday.  He knows that he could get her ice cream and cake and balloons, but he does that every year and he wants this year to be different.  So he thinks about the things that Mrs. Teaberry likes and recalls how often she tells him about her maple trees and her roses. Clearly she likes plants.  The best place to experience fantastic plants?  The Conservatory.

On Mrs. Teaberry’s birthday, she and Mr. Putter dress extra nice.  He drives them, and her good dog Zeke and his fine cat Tabby, to the Conservatory.  He explains to Zeke that if he can be a good dog, Mr. Putter will give him a surprise. The group stroles around enjoying the smells of damp earth and fresh flowers. They enjoy the sunlight streaming in through the tall windows.

Zeke manages to be good for 5 whole minutes.  Then he spots something that he just knows must the his surprise and he goes after it for all he’s worth.

I don’t want to give away the ending of the book, but suffice it to say that Zeke has not spotted his surprise.  What he has spotted, as usual, causes trouble, and soon the group is being ushered out the door.  Don’t worry!  The good news is that there is more celebrating to be had.

I have to admit that I was a little reluctant to pick up this book in January.  Do people want to read spring time stories in the cold of winter?  For some the answer is yes because they don’t like the snow.  But this isn’t a spring time story.  We don’t really know what time of year it takes place because the setting is indoors.

Check out this fun book for your new reader.  Each chapter contains a complete, albeit short, story. Added together, your reader will get a satisfying story all about friendship and mistakes and making the best of things without dwelling on what hasn’t gone as planned.


September 3, 2015

Pigs Make Me Sneeze! by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:33 am by suebe2

pgs make me sneezePigs Make Me Sneeze!
by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children

Piggie has just arrived when Gerald starts sneezing.  Gerald comes to the conclusion that he’s sneezes, big, bold and unavoidable, are caused by none other than his best friend.  The only way to stop sneezing is to avoid Piggie.

When Gerald storms off, he encounters Dr. Cat.  As he’s explaining his problem to the good doctor, he once again starts sneezing.  He jumps to the conclusion that he must be allergic to both pigs and cats.

Fortunately, Dr. Cat is less likely to jump to conclusions.  After he examines Gerald, he diagnosis the sneezy pachyderm with nothing more than a simple head cold.  Gerald runs off to tell Piggie the good news.  Because this is Mo Willems there’s a bit of a surprise at the end but I refuse to spoil it for you.

As always Willems’ simple line art is both expressive and hilarious.  Gerald sneezes as only an elephant can (big and bold) creating many opportunities for humor.

But first and foremost this is a beginning reader.  Your new reader will have to take some time puzzling through the text.  Fortunately repeated words and simple phrasing, complimented by art work that illustrates while expanding on the story, make it possible.

That said, this book would also work well for story time (be ready for a snout full of fake sneezes) or reading one on one with your little one. I wouldn’t pick this for bed time reading because the sneezing is way too physical and much more likely to wind someone up than to calm them down.

As an adult, I appreciated the adult level humor.  Admit it, we’ve all worked with someone who jumps to immediate, and generally incorrect, conclusions about why the sneezes, who gave them the sneezes and how to get rid of the sneezes.

Share this one with non-readers and new readers but be ready for plenty of additional sneeze-filled sound effects.



February 3, 2015

Waiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:18 pm by suebe2

Waiting is Not Easy (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Readers will know something is up as soon as Piggie somersaults onto the page.  He has a surprise for Elephant but he won’t say what it is.  It is an understatement to say that Elephant does not wait patiently.  He wines.  He gripes.  He gets a little nasty, but still Piggie won’t end the waiting.  He simply reassures his friend that it will be worth it.

And it is.

The surprise is the awe-inspiring beauty of a star-filled night sky, something Piggie couldn’t have rushed even if he wanted to.  The best part of it is that Elephant gets it.  Once he has shared in the surprise he completely and totally gets it and comes up with an equally amazing something to share with his best friend.

I love the characters in the Elephant and Piggie books.  While one has a trunk and big ears and the other has a curly tail, they are obviously real children in their behaviors and their attitudes.  This is a big part of the reason that young readers identify with these characters.  Somewhere in the pair, young readers see themselves.

If you aren’t familiar with the Elephant and Piggie books, these are early readers, suitable for kids who are just learning to read on their own.  Willems’ expressive illustrations show the characters’ emotions so clearly that they provide top-notch clues to words that some reader may be struggling to decipher.

That said, as much as these books appeal to new readers, they are also good for reading aloud simply because of the character’s silliness and expressive behavior.  Pick up an Elephant and Piggie book to share with a young book lover in your life, but don’t forget to read it yourself.  They really are fun!


June 23, 2014

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:00 am by suebe2

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover
by Cece Bell
Candlewick Press

Rabbit can’t wait for his best friend Robot to show up.   He already has a whole list of sleepover activities planned, starting with Make pizza and ending with Go to bed.  

The problems start when they try to make pizza. Robot doesn’t like carrots on his pizza.  He likes nuts and bolts.  When he helps himself to the nuts and bolts in Rabbit’s table and chairs, Rabbit has a meltdown when the furniture falls apart.  Where are they going to eat their pizza?  Fortunately, Robot has a solution.

From a missing remote to Robot’s dead batteries, the problems continue but, as in any friendship, the solutions come from both Rabbit and Robot.  Each of them helps the other out.

Early readers like this one are essential for many new readers.  With large text and not too many words per page, they are a quick read and help young readers build not only skills but confidence.

This one has the added benefit of being all about friendship — each friend wants his way but they have to work their way to an acceptable compromise.  This dance will look familiar to any parent whose child is learning to be a good friend.  Whether your child is a little uptight and a bit of a control freak, like Rabbit, or someone who marches to his own drummer and is logical too a fault, like Robot, he will find a character to identify with in this book.

Help your young reader learn not only about friendship but also basic reading skills with this fast paced book.  Broken into four chapters, a less confident reader can read them one at a time while a more confident reader can easily finish the book in one sitting.

Whether your young reader is an animal lover or a robot fan, check this out today.


April 12, 2012

Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:34 pm by suebe2

Penny and Her Song
by Kevin Henkes
AR 2.1

In addition to his numerous picture books and his novels, Kevin Henkes has branched out into  beginning readers.

When Penny comes home from school, she is more than ready to share.  After all, she has a song and a song requires an audience.  But Mama isn’t ready to listen.  She doesn’t want Penny to wake up the babies.  Papa compliments the song but, like Mama, wants to make sure the babies get their nap.

Penny tries singing to herself but a song requires an audience.

By dinner time, she’s ready to try again but she is assured, once again by Mama and Papa, that the dinner table isn’t the place for a song.  It is only after dinner that Penny finds a willing audience.

As always, I’m left wondering if Henkes bugged my house.  Ok, my son may not be a huge singer but seriously?  This kid is a driven performer when it comes to getting Mom and Dad’s attention.  Definitely a true to life story.

And he tells it in such a way that newer readers will be able to puzzle through the text using his illustrations for visual cues.

Be sure to share this with the new reader in your life but don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t feel the need to show you her own talents either in reading it to you again or in putting on a performance.


January 13, 2011

Cork and Fuzz: Finders Keepers by Dori Chaconas illustrated by Lisa McCue

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 4:25 am by suebe2

Cork and Fuzz: Finders Keepers

by Dori Chaconas

illustrated by Lisa McCue

Viking, 2009

AR 2.2

Cork and Fuzz may be best friends but in many ways they are as different as different can be.  Cork is a critter, specifically a muskrat, who finds things.  Imagine the child who brings home 3/4 of the natural world after any walk — feathers, sticks, stones.  Fuzz is a possum who keeps things.  Sometimes these things are his.  Sometimes they belong to someone else.

The problem comes when Cork loses his fabulous new shiny green stone.  Predictably, Fuzz finds it.  What isn’t so predictable is what happens next when they investigate a chittering pile of leaves in Fuzz’s yard.

Don’t worry that at least in the beginning this story is a bit predictable.  As an adult, you have more experience in the world than the intended reader — a child in grades 1 to 3 who is just reading alone.  Because this book is a beginning reader, meant for the newly minted reader to follow without adult intervention.  The text is straightforward and the illustrations add to it in a way that will help the reader decipher any single word that may be a little hard.

Often, I don’t care for beginning readers.  I know that they’re really hard to write but the stories just feel ho hum.  Not so with this one.  Both characters are likable and young readers will readily identify with both as well.

This is a fun story about friends as well as finders keepers and even the childhood chorus of “but I want to keep him as a pet.”  Bring this home for your newly independent reader today.



September 17, 2010

Gilbert, the Surfer Dude by Diane deGroat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 3:30 am by suebe2

Gilbert, the Surfer Dude  (AR 2 .3)

by Diane deGroat

Gilbert and his family are going to the beach.  His sister is reading a book about the ocean but all Gilbert can think about is the feeling that he forgot something.  His sister points at her book and the pictures of sharks and other scary things.  There is no way she is going swimming.  Mom points out that the little girl has a lovely new suit and it hits Gilbert.  He forgot his swim suit.

Fortunately Gilbert is able to find a suit although his mother is sure it is too big.  Still, he can’t resist having a suit that says Surfer Dude — perfection.  At the beach, Gilbert helps his sister dig a hole and create a pool.  Someplace she feels safe enough to swim.

Gilbert grabs his boogie board.  With some help from Dad, he finally manages to surf until his tumbles off the board and loses something rather important.  His suit!  Other swimmers spot the mysterious object and are sure it is something dangerous.

Gilbert manages to retrieve his suit and even decides to swim again but this time he swims some place a bit less scary.

Good beginning readers are hard to find but DeGroat’s Gilbert readers are top notch.  She has enough story to keep things moving and interesting, her characters are fun and she always has a twist at the end.  Some of the Gilbert books are picture books so if you are looking specifically for beginning readers, look for the “I Can Read!” banner on the front cover.

Help your young reader work on their skills while experiencing books with this fun character.  These books would be good for both girls and boys.


July 21, 2010

The Search for Antarctic Dinosaurs by Sally M. Walker

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:49 pm by suebe2

The Search for Antarctic Dinosaurs (AR 4 . 4)
by Sally M. Walker

When I think Antarctica, I don’t tend to think fossils so I picked this title up initially because it surprised me.

It tells about the work of paleontologist William Hammer and his crew as they excavate fossils for study in the United States.  With the bitter cold of Antarctica, field seasons are only weeks long.  In addition to discussing the work of the paleontologists, Walker tells about their gear as well as the dangers of working in the extreme cold.

Hammer knew he had the major portion of a skeleton but not what it was.  Imagine having to wait months for shipping containers just to find out what you had found!  Back in Illinois, they cleaned the fossils and realized that they had found something entirely new — Cryolophosaurus ellioti, frozen crested lizard, the first dinosaur to be found on mainland Antarctica.  Amazingly, other materials found with the remains provided a rare insight into how this particular animal died.

This may be a beginning reader but at 50 pages and with specialized vocabulary, it wouldn’t be suitable for a brand new reader.  Still, kids enthusiastic for dinosaurs will take the time to puzzle through the well-written text.

I love finding a non-fiction beginning reader that is well written and this one certainly fits that requirement.


July 13, 2010

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs: A True Story by Shirley Raye Redmund

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 9:57 pm by suebe2

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs: A True Story (AR 3 .6 )
by Shirley Raye Redmund

This is a biography about a dog named Tray and a girl named Mary Ann Anning.  If you are a dino nut, are related to a dino nut or read many children’s books, you may know Anning’s name.  She is well known for the fossils she found as a twelve year old girl in Lyme Regis, England.  Her finds included an ichthyosaurus, a plesiosaur and the first pterodactyl.

Less well known is her companion on these many outing — a small black and white dog named Tray.  When they discovered the ichthyosaurus, Tray stood guard while Mary Ann returned  to town.

When a scientist arrived and wanted to see the place where the ichthyosaurus had been, Tray was the one that led them to the right cliff side  location.  Tray also kept Mary Ann company when she studied the books that the scientist bought for her.

With so many books being published on Anning, including adult novels, I was happy to find a Redmund’s beginning reader.  Warning:  It is a level three reader so it may be beyond the reach of  absolute beginners, but fairly confident readers who still aren’t ready for picture free texts will dive right in.

An excellent choice for dinosaur lovers, dog lovers and budding scientists.


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