2013 Finalists: Easy Readers

Mo Willems
Disney Hyperion
Nominated by: Danielle Smith

Elephant and Piggie are back, bigger and better than ever! When Piggie’s beloved new ball get stolen by a mysterious “big guy” it’s Elephant to the rescue! Until he sees just…how…BIG that big guy is! It’s all about perspective in this latest in Mo Willems’ easy reader series, since only the master of the simple form could convey to young readers the idea that it’s all in how you look at it. Has Piggie’s ball been stolen, or is she the thief? Is the big guy a bully, or just a lonely guy looking for a friend?


As always, Willems conveys humor and heart with simple lines and clever layout. The pitch-perfect timing of the storyline will have parents and children alike giggling together and maybe taking a little lesson on friendship away as well. Elephant and Piggie is the perfect choice for beginning readers, with the limited text and minimal illustrations and A Big Guy Took My Ball is another winner in a long line of delightful entries in this popular series.


— Jennifer, Jean Little Library

Jamie Michalak
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Bigfoot Reads

In the classic easy reader odd-couple style, Joe is a giraffe who’s always curious and eager for new situations. Sparky is a turtle who just wants to sit in the sun and relax. But no matter what crazy trouble Joe gets them into, they are still friends and they make it through together.


Joe and Sparky’s silly adventures will delight kids who get the insider jokes about school. The illustrations are bright and really pop with Joe’s bright yellows and splashes of green and blue, while the text is just right for an emerging reader ready for something a little more difficult than Elephant and Piggie or Fly Guy, but not quite ready for early chapters yet. Joe and Sparky’s adventures combine the best of classic easy readers with a contemporary humorous flair and attractive art that will keep kids reading and giggling.


— Jennifer, Jean Little Library

Love Is in the Air (HC) (Penguin Young Readers, L2)
Jonathan Fenske
Penguin USA
Nominated by: Katie Fitzgerald

Love Is in the Air navigates the ups and inevitable downs of friendship in a completely fresh way. Balloon is depressed after a birthday party, but a gust of wind brings along a new friend, Kite. Their whirlwind friendship is challenged by their inherent differences, but they overcome the obstacles. Kite is there to cushion Balloon’s hard times, and friendship wins out.

In just over 200 very accessible words, this book celebrates friendship while offering new readers great drama. Word and phrase repetition supports beginning readers, and there are many opportunities for prediction. Touches of rhyme and the terrific word choices make this book rise above much of the standard beginning reader fare. Love Is in the Air will leave you floating on Cloud 9.

–Laura Purdie Salas, laurasalas.com/blog

Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Linda Baie

While out for a stroll with her doll, Penny spots a marble in her neighbor’s yard. It is a shiny blue marble, and Penny instantly falls in love with it. Impulsively, Penny nabs the marble. And almost immediately, she is filled with regret and remorse and anguish. Should she have taken the marble? she asks herself. Has she done the wrong thing? Should she return it?

Kevin Henkes has done it again. He has dropped us right inside the mind and heart of a small child. He has bestowed on us a main character so genuine, so palpable, and so human that she might be playing right now in the house next door to us. In Penny we see a child who is all at once both self-seeking and generous, both gently naughty and deeply contrite, a child who, yes, might take something that isn’t hers and yet who also has the courage to return something taken to its rightful owner. A charming little story with big ideas for small people, all told in a mere forty-eight pages.


— Deb Nance, ReaderBuzz

Josh Schneider
Clarion Books
Nominated by: LoriA

Since it is Dana’s birthday, she can do whatever she likes. Besides wearing her favorite dress and eating her favorite breakfast, what she likes to do is call Anthony an “ickaborse,” pinch him, and eat his dessert. But Dana’s attitude changes after Anthony surprises her with a birthday gift–an elephant with toenails painted her favorite color.


This story for independent beginning readers delivers its anti-meanness message with a huge helping of humor. The contrast between expressive line work and an understated, matter-of-fact text is genuinely funny.  Details like toy ponies, Dana’s bandaged leg, and the book she reads to her elephant (“You’ll Be Sorry”) infuse the cartoon illustrations with bits of realism and add interest without overpowering the main story line. The story comes full circle with a final, hilarious twist that will leave readers laughing at this unconventional way of dealing with bullies.


–Danyelle Leach, Bookshelves in the Cul-de-Sac

Dosh Archer
Albert Whitman & Company
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

City Hospital just received a choking wolf patient. A lost little girl in a red coat has just been found. She says she was looking for her missing grandma. Hmmm….what could that wolf patient have devoured that is causing him to choke? Will Nurse Percy be able to overcome his fear of wolves and help Doctor Glenda save the day?


This fast-paced easy reader will draw beginning readers in with the bright color illustrations on each page. Readers can draw on their background knowledge and text connection with the story of Little Red Riding Hood to help identify some of the characters in this twisted story. This humorous tale will have readers laughing from start to finish.


— Jodie Rodriguez, Growing Book by Book