December 20, 2016

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:54 pm by suebe2

the-thank-you-bookThe Thank You Book
by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children

When Piggie announces that he’s going to thank everyone that is important to him, it obviously makes Gerald nervous.  He’s worried that his friend is going to leave out someone important.

From one character to another, Gerald follows Piggie.  Piggie thanks the squirrels for their great ideas, the penguin for his ice cream and a whole host of animals for being good friends.  Readers will even get to see Pigeon.

The more character’s that Piggie thanks, the more anxious Elephant (Gerald) becomes.  Finally he forcefully points out that Piggie has forgotten someone really important.  Piggie, of course, things of the same character that the readers have already thought of.  With all of this thanking going on, Piggie hasn’t said thank you to Elephant.

When Piggie thanks him, Elephant loses his cool.  He didn’t mean himself at all.  And, no, I’m not going to tell you who he meant because it is too good.  You’ll have to read the book.

This isn’t a picture book but one of the Elephant & Piggie early readers now put out by Hyperion.  Unlike Dan Santat’s The Cookie Fiasco and We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller, this one is actually written by Mo Willems.

Who would like this book?  As an early reader, it is a good choice the a child who is just learning to read independently.  The text is simpler than that of a picture book and the images provide plenty of contextual cues for any words your child might have trouble deciphering.  Obviously share it with your young Elephant and Piggie fans but also pick it up to share with your young child who blesses endless people in her evening prayers or who simply needs to learn a few subtle lessons about gratitude.  We have, after all, all been there.


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.


December 31, 2015

Pie for Chuck by Pat Schories

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:29 am by suebe2

Pie for Chuck
by Pat Schories
Holiday House

Big Chuck loves pies.  The problem is that he can see the pie cooling in the window but he can’t reach it.  Neither can Raccoon or Rabbit or Chip.

One by one, except for the mice who work in a group, the animals try to reach the pie cooling on the window sill. Unfortunately, it is high over head and even three mice standing on top of each other can’t reach it.  Three mice standing on a woodchuck’s head is another story. Soon the animal friends are enjoying a blue berry treat.

This is an early reader meaning that although it looks like a picture book it is meant for young readers to puzzle through on their own.  The great part?  It is all of 70 words long.  Yes, I counted them.  The reason this is so great is that 70 words don’t take long to puzzle out or to count.  Even a really new reader will be able to work through this with the contextual clues provided in the illustrations.

And as simple as it looks, the author doesn’t talk down to the reader.  No one says that Big Chuck is a woodchuck.  The reader either figures that one our or not.  The same with Chip who happens to be . . . can you guess? . . . a chipmunk.

The books in this series are written at the kindergarten/early first grade level.  There are also classroom discussion questions available on the web site.  You can find the questions/activities for Pie for Chuck here.  Also available for young readers who may be having problems acquiring new sight words are flash cards.  You can find the cards for Pie for Chuck here.

Check this out at your local library and share it with your young reader or add it to your classroom library today.  If your young readers enjoy reading about Big Chuck, you can also check out Pants for Chuck.



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!


September 8, 2014

Ice Cream Soup by Ann Ingalls

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:54 am by suebe2

Ice Cream Soup
by Ann Ingalls
Penguin Young Readers

What do you get when you combine various kinds of ice cream, sprinkles, candies and syrup in one big pan?  The character in this early reader is trying to make an ice cream cake but by the time he’s done scooping, sprinkling, patting into place and pouring, he has a gloopy mess. Fortunately, this can do kid makes it work, renaming his dessert creation.

With controlled vocabularies and short sentences, early readers are tough to write.  How do you include syrup, sprinkles and all kinds of additions?  Those words, syrup in particular, aren’t easy to read.  The author solves it by having the character add “this and that.”  This keeps the reading level low enough for a new reader and the specifics come through in the illustrations.

Any parent or grandparent whose ever watched a messy ice cream concoction come together knows just how realistic this story is.  Young readers will enjoy the punchy text and the sense of accomplishment that they get when they read the book cover to cover with only minimal help.

This reader is level 1.  This means that:

  • the vocabulary is simple
  • words repeat
  • there are clues in the pictures
  • sentence structure is simple and predictable
  • ideas explored in the story are familiar

In spite of this simplicty, Ingalls upbeat language makes the story fun including rhyme and a quick rhythm.  Richard Watson’s cartoony illustrations add to the fun, increasing the sillyness factor tenfold as the mess grows and the kittens come check things out.

Pick this one up for your new reader and help him gain confidence in his new skills.



December 18, 2013

A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:45 am by suebe2

A Big Guy Took My Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
by Mo Willems

Piggie runs to Gerald (Elephant) in hysterics.  She found a ball, a wonderful big ball, and was having so much fun with it.  Then along came a big guy and . . . took her ball.  As always, Elephant is the problem solver of the pair.  “Why do big guys get to have all the fun?” he asks.  Because he is a big guy, he won’t have to be afraid of another big guy and he sets off to get Piggies ball back.

The problem is that Elephant is no longer the biggest guy around because the other big guy is a whale.

Piggie is a little annoyed and Elephant is a lot embarrassed when he returns without the ball, but then the two get a surprise.

It was the whale’s ball all along.  But it isn’t much fun because no one will play with him.  He is too big and everyone is afraid.  “Little guys get to have all the fun,” says the whale.

Elephant and Piggie prove that everyone can have fun when they invent a new game — Whale Ball.

As always, I love Elephant and Piggie.  They may be a talking Elephant and a talking Pig but they are so real.  There is never a doubt in my mind that Mo Willems pays attention to children, their problems and their takes on life.  Moms read this and are nodding their heads because we’ve all been through “I found it and now it’s mine” as well as “A big guy took it away.”

The other thing to love is Willems’ illustrations.  They are so simple with heavy black lines and just enough color to bring it all to life but his characters are so expressive.  Take a look at the pair and you know beyond a doubt when Piggie is worried and Elephant is ashamed.  Or Piggie is happy and Elephant is mad.

If you aren’t familiar with Elephant and Piggie, pick up a few of these early readers.  Your young reader will enjoy a book he can puzzle through himself even as he enjoys fun characters who solve their own problems and are fun and funny at the same time.



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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