In this endearing sixth episode of the series, Cowgirl Kate and her horse, Cocoa, meet and discover baby animals on their farm. Told in four short chapters, the stories are empowering and gently dramatic. The two friends go on a night watch to see a calf born. Cocoa tries being “springy and zingy” with the new calf. A puppy arrives at the farm–to Kate’s delight and Cocoa’s concern. And in the final chapter, we come full circle with another night watch and a visit from a “ghost” in the barn. Full of warm humor, friendship, and action, this book will be a sure hit with early readers who have some established skills and are making the turn toward chapter books. Good use of repetition, short sentences, and picture cues will help early readers to be successful. Likable characters, sweetly satisfying stories, and fun cowgirl language (gully, loft, bale, nickered) will make readers want to saddle up and come along! —Cynthia Lord
Fly Guy, the big eyed fly pet of a boy named Buzz, meets the perfect girl … Fly Girl. Fly Girl’s girl, Lizz, brags that Fly Girl can do tricks and talk better than Fly Guy. So Fly Girl and Fly Guy compete to see who can fly the fanciest, who can talk the best, and who is grossest. Before they know it, they fall in love and see their entire future together – kissing, marriage, and a dog-food can home. But the couple soon realizes that they can’t leave their boy and girl. So, to the relief of kissing-is-gross fans all over the world, Fly Girl and Fly Guy decide to just be friends. Colorful cartoon images stand out from the surrounding white space paired with simple text to make this easy reader a visual delight. Tedd Arnold, the author and illustrator, originally created the Fly Guy series with the first book, Hi! Fly Guy. —Melissa Taylor
From habitat to habits, body parts and numbers, National Geographic: Ants covers it all. Part of what makes this book fun is that the ants are, literally, larger than life … these are not the “tiny” things crawling around our yard or kitchen counter. The closeup shots that fill this easy reader let kids see a lot more than that! If you have an animal (and insect) loving reader, they will pore over this one. This is a nonfiction book you’ll enjoy sharing with your kids as they read to you, because you are guaranteed to learn something new. —Terry Doherty
Cork, a muskrat, and Fuzz, a possum, are the Odd Couple of the early reader world. Cork is the helpful, understanding animal who patiently cares for a baby porcupine throughout the story while Fuzz takes care of only himself. While Fuzz goes about his own things, he inadvertently entertains the young animal. By the end of the story, Cork and Fuzz come to realize that in their own ways, they have done a great job of sharing the caretaking responsibilities. Cork and Fuzz is made up of four short chapters that will give young readers a sense of accomplishment as they finish each one. Detailed illustrations break up the story in meaningful and not distracting ways. Early readers will enjoy this story while also strengthening their ‘reading muscle’ as they practice the strategies young readers need to grow. —Stacey Loscalzo
The Elephant and Piggie books had already made their mark in the world of early readers before the arrival of this year’s new favorite, We Are in a Book! Now if there is any parent, teacher or child who has yet to fall in love with these books, this is their chance. Willem’s expressively drawn duo is back with all their humor and wit as they realize that they, in fact, are in a book. They jump about joyfully as they come to understand that the person staring at them is a reader. It is Piggie who first grasps the power they have been given. The two realize that if they say a word, the reader will read the word. While children will enjoy this book for the animal’s comical expressions and for the ease with which a new reader can read a meaningful and funny book, most adults won’t be able to miss the not-so-subtle message that Willems shares: With writing comes power. Some of Willem’s young readers may grow to express this same power in their own writing. —Stacey Loscalzo
Early Chapter Books
Anna Hibiscus, her African father, Canadian mother, and her mischevious twin brothers live in Africa. These are Anna’s stories about her family life: wanting to have personal space, dealing with younger brothers, respect for elders, traditional African ways v. modern conveniences, hard work, and compassion. Although set in Africa, it has universal appeal and will resonate with young readers. Atinuke contrasts and compares customs and life in Africa with other parts of the world, artfully explaining how modern life and traditional ways can co-exist. The chapters can be read in sequence or as individual short stories, and the illustrations effectively distribute text and make this attractive to dormant and reluctant readers. This is a book you can read aloud with your kids early in elementary school and they can later read for themselves. It is an excellent choice for mixed audiences. —Terry Doherty
Frankie isn’t doing so well in Possum Scouts. He’s failed the knot-tying badge and can’t move from Pygmy to Shrew with everyone else. His only hope is to win the model car race, the Pine Run 3000. Except Frankie declines his father’s help and builds a creation that only somewhat resembles a functional car.
Frankie constantly gets distracted by his vivid imagination which is hilariously depicted in cartoons and when he becomes the awesome Frankie Pickle. “Wonder Pickle, we pronounce you a member of the League of Awesome. Go forth with your awesomeness,” says his imagination’s superhero mom in one graphic. Author and illustrator Eric Wight creates a thoroughly believable and lovable character – in fact, I’m pretty sure I know this kid. The book is half-and-half graphic and narrative novel, with cartoon black-and-white illustrations. There’s plenty of picture context clues as they read. —Melissa Taylor
Home on the Range is a delightful story about two city dogs and their masters on vacation at a dude ranch. Narrated by Down Girl, one of the dogs, each chapter provides another hilarious mix-up as she and her canine friend, Sit, meet barking squirrels (prairie dogs), gasoline-powered bulls (trucks), and fierce ugly dogs (coyotes). Along the dusty trail, they meet a sensible ranch dog named Git Along and discover that life on the other side of their neighborhood fence is full of wide open spaces and new surprises: pointy lizards, angry nostrils, chuck wagons, and cows without leashes. It’s challenging to write a short chapter book where the child reader knows more than the main character, but Lucy Nolan provides just the right touch and Mike Reed’s wonderful black-and-white illustrations carry the story along and guide understanding. Brimming with kid appeal, these witty, exciting, tail-wagging adventures with Down Girl and Sit will bring young readers stampeding to the fence. –Cynthia Lord
Posey is an upcoming first grader who has some concerns about the new school year. As a first grader, she will have to go to her class by herself instead of her mom walking beside her. Fortunately for Posey, she meets her new teacher at the ice cream store and soon learns that Miss Lee will help her make the beginning of first grade quite memorable.
Author Stephanie Greene has spent a lot of time working with kindergarten and first grade students. Posey is a delightful character who reminds me of students that I work with each day. Like Posey, they’re sweet kids who have some fears and need help in navigating this thing we call school. Greene’s connection to real students shows in Princess Posey and The First Grade Parade and makes it an engaging early chapter book. — Jeff Barger
Author Jules and illustrator Benitez have given us a completely fresh character in Freddie Ramos, a Latino grade-schooler whose father was killed in the line of duty and whose mother only recently graduated from community college, allowing her to get a better job and move her son out of their old, “bad” neighborhood and into a better one. One day Freddie receives a mysterious package containing a pair of purple sneakers with silver wings that give him super speed, and he immediately begins dreaming of using his “zapato power” to make his world an even better place. Even without his amazing shoes, Freddie’s kind heart and willingness to help would make him a hero, and I think that many readers–myself included–will be rooting for him for many years to come. —Julie Jurgen