2009 Finalists: Easy Readers & Short Chapter Books

2009 Easy Reader Finalists

Dinosaur Hunt (Max Spaniel)
by David Catrow
Orchard Books
Nominated by: Becky

Max isn’t a dog, he’s a dinosaur hunter…and hunt he does, looking here and there and everywhere for dinosaur parts.  The text in this easy reader is just right for a child learning to read, with short simple sentences and commonly used words.  The art extends the story showing Max using household items to build a dinosaur.  Recommended for dog lovers, dinosaur hunters, and everyone who collects things, just in case!
–Anastasia Suen, 5 Great Books, Children’s Book Biz

Good Dog, Aggie
by Lori Ries
Nominated by: EM

Aggie is a spirited dog who loves to run. Her owner, a young boy named Ben, tries obedience classes.  But Aggie is asked to leave so he begins the frustrating process of teaching her on his own.  The story is divided into three chapters that follow Ben and Aggie from obedience school to the park to a hat store and finally to a resolution of their problem.  The text is simple enough for a beginning reader but varied enough to remain interesting.  The bright, energetic watercolor illustration lend clues to the reader and are a perfect match for this sweet, funny story.
Sarah R. Neal

Mr. Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans
by Cynthia Rylant
Nominated by: Tara Lazar

Mr. Putter’s neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, thinks it would be great if they could attend a class together.  Mr. Putter isn’t really interested in learning about 100 Ways to Cook Beans, but Mrs. Teaberry is a friend, and he goes along.  They take along their pets, Tabby (Mr. Putter’s cat) and Zeke (Mrs. Teaberry’s dog).  When Zeke takes a bite of something he’s found, the beans start flying.  Regretably for Mrs. Teaberry they are not invited to return to class.  That’s when Mr. Putter shares his own idea of an educational outing!

What sets this apart is the unique characters and the timelessness of the humor.  The story is set in chapters, with illustrations that will entice readers to read about what is happening.  There is lots of humor, and the title helps kids understand that figures of speech sometimes have a very literal meaning. This is a perfect selection for first- and second graders to read independently, and an enjoyable read-along for developing readers. Parents will love the book, too.

Terry Doherty

Shampoodle (Step into Reading)
by Joan Holub
Random House Children’s Books
Nominated by: Barbara Eppenger

It’s time for a bath and a motley collection of dogs are
going to the groomers.  Baths, haircuts and fancy touches are in
store!  But, uh-oh, something’s gone wrong!  There are enough familiar,
simple words in this easy reader that a child can feel confident on
their own, but plenty of new fun words to sound out with a little help.
Even with the limitations of language in an easy reader, Joan Holub
has created a fun rhyming story that kids will enjoy working their way
through and parents and teachers won’t mind listening to for the
fiftieth time! T im Bowers’ illustrations are the perfect touch of
hilarity, especially when he matches the dogs’ crazy ‘dos to their
groomers’ own haircuts.  The pictures enhance the text without offering
too many clues to readers and will entice readers in to try the chewy
words for themselves!

Jennifer Wharton

Watch Me Throw the Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
by Mo Willems
Nominated by: Melissa

Watch Me Throw the Ball! is a hilarious addition to the Elephant and Piggie learn-to-read series by Mo Willems. The main characters include an optimistic, free-spirited pig named Piggie and a rather pessimistic, droll, rule-following elephant named Gerald.  In this installment, Piggie decides she is going to throw Gerald’s ball.  This causes great distress to the aforementioned rule-following Gerald.  Gerald wants Piggie to understand all that goes into throwing the ball–the practice, the hard work, the precision.  Piggie just wants to have fun.

Mo Willems has brilliantly created this new easy reader series full of amusing plots and complex characters, the latter a truly difficult feat in such short stories. Elephant and Piggie books are spectacularly engaging and are sure to captivate and simultaneously inform young readers on their way to reading fluency.
Melissa Young

2009 Short Chapter Book Finalists

Alice’s Shooting Star
by Tim Kennemore
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

In Alice’s Shooting Star, we get a good look at her
relationship with her little sister, Rosie. In the past, Alice has
resented Rosie getting away with all the things nobody else would even
dream of doing. Rosie is the star, the cute one, the little sister who
shines.  But now that she’s growing older, Alice is starting to see her
as a person and maybe as a friend.  Alice especially loves Rosie’s wild
imagination and the magical stories and language she brings home from
nursery school.  But their parents are worried about Rosie’s “lies.”  In
a final wild whirl of hilarious events, Alice is, for the first time
her life, in the spotlight.

There’s a lot packed into this little story. The illustrations catch
the various characters’ expressions and personalities perfectly and
blend smoothly to enhance the text.  Alice’s struggles as a middle
child trying to find what makes her unique and where she belongs,
especially when she’s sandwiched between two very outgoing and
assertive siblings, is spot-on.  Alice’s relationship with her sister
Rosie is a perfect mixture of older sibling exasperation and growing
friendship as she begins to see Rosie as a person.  Plus, the story is
just plain funny!
Jennifer Wharton

Bad to the Bone (Down Girl and Sit)
by Lucy Nolan
Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books
Nominated by: Jennifer Wharton

A dog named “Down Girl” and the dog next door, her best friend “Sit,” try to teach their masters how to obey in this short chapter book with four chapters.  Down Girl and Sit are very patient as they help their masters paint the house, take them to obedience school, and rescue them from Kitty-Kitty.  Young readers will enjoy reading a story told entirely in a dog’s point of view.  Remember, dogs are good and cats are bad.
–Anastasia Suen, 5 Great Books, Children’s Book Biz

How Oliver Olson Changed the World
by Claudia Mills
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Elizabeth Bird

Oliver’s third grade class is studying the solar system.  Crystal Harding, Oliver’s classmate, is horrified that Pluto is no longer a planet. Oliver sort of agrees with her–it doesn’t seem fair. At home, Oliver’s parents have taken over his assignment to create a solar system diorama. Even when Mrs. O’Neill asked each student to come up with an idea that can change the world, Oliver’s Mom told him what to suggest. That doesn’t seem fair, either.  When Crystal suggests they work together on the diorama, Oliver agrees … but then he has to convince his parents. How can he change the world if he can’t change his parents?  This is a story that kids will relate to and that reminds parents to let their kids grow up!

With its humor and third-graders’ perspectives of life, it is fun, poignant, and educational.  Although there are other characters, this is Oliver’s story. His thoughts, his feelings, and his reactions are all pulled into a  tightly knit story. The author sprinkles in some great factual information too.  This short chapter book for almost-independent readers is a great read-aloud selection for developing readers.  It is also sophisticated and fast-paced enough for dormant readers too.

Terry Doherty

Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes
by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Alyson

Mercy Watson, with her love of hot toast with lots and lots of butter on it, won my heart from the inception of her series, and I was not disappointed in this sixth installment.  Something Wonky This Way Comes takes Mercy and her friends and family to the drive-in theater.  The evening involves a good chase, Bottomless Buckets of popcorn, butter butter everywhere, and visits with characters from all the other books.  Chris Dusen’s illustrations fit the story perfectly.  There’s just nothing like the sight of a pig sticking her snout through a car window to get a buttery popcorn treat.  Kate DiCamillo has a gift for using simple text to create a hilarious, fast-paced, story that appeals to all ages and gives beginning readers the satisfaction of finishing a whole chapter book on their own.
Sarah R. Neal

Roscoe Riley Rules #7: Never Race a Runaway Pumpkin
by Katherine Applegate
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

This is the seventh title in this terrific early chapter book series. Each book begins with Roscoe Riley in a time out, and Roscoe, being the optimist that he is, declares this will be a perfect time to explain to you, the reader, just what happened.  The stories are chock-full of hilarity and slapstick situations that Roscoe gets himself into, with safe resolutions. In this one, Roscoe has a run-in with a runaway pumpkin in a contest he’s trying to win, and some superstitions he’s trying to avoid.

Applegate wonderfully captures the voice of a 6/7 year old, and her classroom scenes are authentic and hysterical!  Kids will feel comforted that she is describing what really happens in a first grade classroom and will likely recognize elements of their own classroom. Roscoe’s observations at home and in the classroom are witty and dry.  Parents can enjoy reading this series aloud to their young reader, and newly independent readers will enjoy reading it to themselves.
Melissa Young