2018 Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book Finalists

Easy Reader

Fox the Tiger (My First I Can Read)
by Corey R. Tabor
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Claire Annette Noland

Written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor, Fox the Tiger, is an accessible story about a fox who wishes he was big, fast, and sneaky like a tiger. Fox reinvents himself with painted stripes and renames himself Tiger. Seeing this, Tiger’s friends join in on the fun with their own imaginative identities until the rain returns them to their natural selves. Luckily a squirrel who admires foxes encourages Fox to embrace his identity, which provides young readers with a subtle lesson in self-acceptance hidden by humorous costume changes. Fox the Tiger is a sweet story perfect for building reading competence and self-confidence in young readers.

Jennifer Miller, Raise Them Righteous

I Want to Be a Doctor (I Can Read Level 1)
by Laura Driscoll, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri
Nominated by: ChristaS

A little brother’s injured foot takes an African-American family of four to the hospital where the sister’s observations and questions provide information about different types of doctors and the process of getting a cast. Engaging illustrations of x-rays and wheelchairs along with those of smiling, diverse staff offer a welcoming environment to counter what could be a frightening unknown to a child. The text is age appropriate for the level, but also lists the difficult words for physician specialties (pediatrician, radiologist) at the end of the book for further investigation. In combining flowing narrative and useful knowledge in an accessible way for young readers, I Want to Be a Doctor excels, educates, and perhaps inspires.

Pam Coughlan, MotherReader

Much Too Much Birthday (Maud the Koala)
by J. E. Morris
Penguin USA
Nominated by: Sara S

After everyone Maude invites to her birthday party arrives, Maude finds her excitement turning to nerves as she begins to feel overwhelmed. While hiding in the bushes on the edge of the party, she meets another party-goer and realizes she’s not alone-and that they can face the party together.

This accessible early reader gives children and adults a great starting point for talking about social anxiety. Bright colors, a sweet and simple story, and easy to read text make this a book young children can understand. The message is never forced and Maude is a relatable character for many children. The note to caregivers in the back adds a unique touch to guide adults to conversations and ideas of what to do if their child experiences social anxiety.

Sarah Bean Thompson, Green Bean Teen Queen

My Toothbrush Is Missing (The Giggle Gang)
by Jan Thomas
HMH Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Becky L.

The story begins with Dog, who is missing her toothbrush, and Donkey, Sheep, and Duck, who are worried but unhelpful. With each item that is not dog’s toothbrush, the hilarity increases until the surprise twist at the end of the story. Thomas’ bright colors and cartoon illustrations have long been a favorite of the toddler and preschool set and this book clearly hits the mark. This new story in the Giggle Gang series includes bold text that is truly easy to read, carefully arranged speech balloons and illustrations that make the story easy to follow, and Thomas’ trademark surprise twist at the end of the story. Sure to delight kindergarten through second graders, the goofy adventures of the Giggle Gang will keep kids entertained and reading while they giggle.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

The Perfect Gift (Confetti Kids) (Dive Into Reading; 5)
by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez 
Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Nominated by: Kate B.

Mei has a problem. Her Chinese-American family is preparing a 100-day party for her baby brother Ming and Mei wants to give him a special gift. Her friends offer suggestions but nothing seems quite right. As Mei’s grandmother teaches her about the traditions of the Chinese celebration, Mei realizes that the perfect gift comes from the heart and she is inspired to make a special 100-Day book for Ming.

Written in three short chapters, The Perfect Gift introduces a Chinese celebration unfamiliar to many children. Customs and traditions are integrated into the story which is part of the Confetti Kids early reader series featuring a diverse group of friends navigating common childhood experiences. The cultural story-line, colorful illustrations, and accessible vocabulary make The Perfect Gift a perfect pick for children ages 5-8.

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Note: Baby Monkey, Private Eye has been rescinded as a finalist. It remains on this page for transparency, although it is no longer considered a finalist. Please see this post for more information.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye
by Brian Selznick and  David Serlin
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

Written by Brian Selznick and David Serlin, Baby Monkey, Private Eye stars an adorable pint-size sleuth who quickly solves any case he is asked to crack by the series of unusual characters, including astronauts and clowns, that parade through his office. Selznick is responsible for the clever, atmospheric illustrations that play a central role in the text’s unfolding. His illustrations of Baby Monkey’s office change to reflect each case, which encourages visual engagement and richly extends the story beyond the necessarily simplistic text. This giggle-inspiring tale merits multiple reads.

Jennifer Miller, Raise Them Righteous

Early Chapter Books

Big Foot and Little Foot (Book #1)
by Ellen Potter and Felicita Sala
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Kimberley Moran

In his cavern apartment, a young Sasquatch named Hugo loves his family and friends, but longs to explore the wide world. Taught to fear humans, Hugo’s accidental encounter with one leaves him curious, and when a human answers his stream-cast message, he can’t resist the adventure ahead of him. In the first book of this new series, Ellen Potter creates a fantasy home for the Sasquatch that has many familiar elements – apartments, school, lip gloss – but with its own imaginative twists and appealing characters. The clever line drawings support and illuminate the story while breaking up the text nicely for readers adjusting to longer books. The message against preconceived ideas is delivered with a light touch that plays into the story organically. With great world-building and gentle humor, Big Foot and Little Foot shows the value of acceptance and friendship in a throughly entertaining chapter book.

Pam Coughlan, MotherReader

Caterflies and Ice (Zoey and Sassafras)
by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay
Innovation Press
Nominated by: Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Zoey loves helping her mother take care of magical animals. When her mother is away, two small Caterflies visit Zoey during a snowstorm she knows she has to help them. Their eggs have been trapped behind ice and they need to get out! Can Zoey think of a solution all on her own? Zoey is a smart main character who uses her interest in science, her love of animals and her kindness to help those in need. Zoey and her cat Sassafrass are endearing and the science elements add to the story as readers can try Zoey’s experiments themselves. An added glossary in the back is a nice addition for those new to chapter books.

Sarah Bean Thompson, Green Bean Teen Queen

Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl
by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by  Elizabet Vukovic
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: PragmaticMom

Eeight-year-old Jasmine is excited when her teacher announces an all school talent show. While her friends all have awesome talents, Jasmine isn’t quite sure what talent she can share. When the new girl brags about her excellent violin skills and tries to turn the event into a competition, Jasmine begins to doubt herself. Fortunately, Jasmine’s mother introduces her to taiko – Japanese drumming. Jasmine takes lessons and learns a short song while learning the importance of hard work. Her diligence pays off and Jasmine realizes that her drumming talent makes her feel “free and strong and happy.” The relatable plot, short chapters, and black and white drawings make this an appealing book. An author’s note introducing Japanese culture is included as well as instructions for making a hachi-maki headband make this a perfect choice for young independent readers.

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

by Anna Humphrey, illustrated by Kass Reich 
Nominated by: MotherReader

When Daniel has recently moved to a new town, he is jolted out of his loneliness by a talking bat who has taken up residence in his attic bedroom. The two quickly bond over their shared sadness and Star Wars. It turns out the bat, who Daniel names Megabat, is from Borneo and is desperate to return home. Daniel and Megabat become great friends and enlist the help of neighbors as they try to get Megabat back to Borneo. The bat and the boy’s stories parallel, allowing Daniel to learn from his small winged friend. Children are sure to fall in love with Humphrey’s story and characters. Many will likely wish for a talking bat to befriend!

Jennifer Miller, Raise Them Righteous

Owen and Eleanor Move In (Owen and Eleanor)
by H. M. Bouwman, illustrated by Charlie Alder
Sparkhouse Family
Nominated by: Jennifer W

Two very different families learn to live together in the first book of a new series. Eleanor is not happy about moving; they have to share a house with another family (it’s a two-level duplex), she had to leave her treehouse behind, and her fish, Scrumpy the Fourth, died on the way. When she meets Owen, she’s intrigued; he’s homeschooled, has some cool ideas, and is very excited to have a new friend his own age right there! Eleanor decides he’s just the right person to help in her plan… to run away back to her old home. It’s rare to find children’s literature where faith is included in the story; not as a proselytizing tool or the focus, but as an everyday part of life and there are equally few books which depict homeschooling. Eleanor’s family is Hispanic and conventionally religious; Owen’s family is white and have a more general spirituality. The kids ask matter of fact questions and talk casually with their parents about their differences but it doesn’t overshadow the main plot of the story. This stands out as a well-written book with a strong sense of diversity and inclusion. The humor and plot will also appeal to young readers who will be able to recognize their own concerns and trials throughout the story.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
by by Alice Kuipers, illustrated by Diana Toledano
Chronicle Books
Publisher/ Author Submission

Polly loves to write stories. If she could write any story, she’d write one about how her family gets a bigger house – so she wouldn’t have to share her room with her annoying little sister Anna when her new baby brother is born. When Polly is gifted with a magical notebook that makes her stories come to life it seems like all her dreams have come true! The illustrations, in soft shades of gray, show a biracial family and a sweet little girl who has to figure out how to fix the problems she’s caused with some loving help from her family. Polly’s story is sure to be a hit with kids who like to use their imaginations and are unsure about family change. Although there’s plenty of wish-fulfillment here, there’s also a gentle lesson about how getting what you want isn’t always what you need. Pair this first book in a new series with some blank paper for kids to write and illustrate their own stories, real or imagined, and be ready for more books about Polly’s adventures with her magic notebook.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library