2021 Finalists: Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books

Easy Reader

Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf (The Real Chicken Little)
by Wedelich, Sam, illustrated by Wedelich, Sam
Nominated by: Julie Williams

Chicken Little may be called little but she’s the smartest, most scientific chicken in the barnyard. At first, she’s frightened of the big bad wolf, but when the other chickens in the barnyard choose flight over fight, brave Chicken Little researches the facts. Since chickens can’t really fly, she tells the group they must stay home.

Chicken Little takes things into her own hands and talks to the wolf. Is he truly big and bad? He tells her he tries to be good. He lets her know he’s a vegetarian and doesn’t eat meat so there’s no harm that can happen to the chickens. Poor misunderstood and alone wolf has no friends and nowhere to go, so the chickens take him in as one of their family. They even throw a “pot cluck” dinner for him. A very important message of acceptance and including everyone is a lesson even the youngest children will understand. Whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, and funny, this little gem of a book is for every child and a must-have.

Pamela Thompson McLeod, Books by Pamela Thompson

Fox at Night (My First I Can Read)
by Tabor, Corey R., illustrated by Tabor, Corey R.
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Kristen

Simple, repeating easy reader with all the things kids love. Darling illustrations, patterns for early reading, night-time characters and the fears that seem real to all little children. Very well done, with a lovely ending. Reminding us that the things in the night aren’t all scary.

Brooke Freebairn, The Brook List

Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too!: Ready-to-Read Graphics Level 3
by Chang, Maggie P., illustrated by Chang, Maggie P.
Simon Spotlight
Nominated by: Katie Michols

Taiwanese – American Geraldine Pu loves her lunch box with a big personality and its own name – Biandang. Her grandma, Amah, fills the lunch box with curry and tofu which Geraldine enjoys until a boy teases her and says her food stinks. When others join in, Geraldine becomes embarrassed and asks Amah to make her a sandwich. The sandwich is a Chinese bao and the other students continue to make fun of her “weird” lunch. Eventually, she meets a Jamaican boy who has brought a fruit called “stinking toe.” They share and develop a friendship while enjoying their stinky lunches.
This book does a great job of introducing different cultures, families, and foods. It provides a great starting point for discussions on inclusion, bullying, and friendship. The charming illustrations are filled with humor and children will enjoy reading the text in the speech bubbles. Mandarin and Taiwanese words are included with pronunciation and definitions. There’s also a recipe for pork bao. There is so much to love about Geraldine and her lunch box!

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Kitty and Dragon (Volume 1)
by Hashimoto, Meika, illustrated by Reid, Gillian
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Kitty and Dragon is a winsome book containing three stories about friendship between a little kitty and a lonely, but friendly dragon. Kitty lives in a very noisy barn. All the animals make noise at night and Kitty can’t get any sleep so she decides to look for a new place to live. She eventually finds a cave and a new friend. Dragon is happy for company and invites her to stay.

In the next two stories Kitty gets a cold and Dragon nurses her back to health. Then their roles are reversed. Kitty likes it very very tidy in the cave but Dragon is very messy. They couldn’t be more opposite when it comes to mess vs. tidiness.

Beginning readers will love these sweet stories and whimsical illustrations by Gillian Reid which capture Kitty’s and Dragon’s personalities and humor. Kitty and Dragon has the nostalgic look of older picture books and whimsy that will captivate young readers.

Highly highly recommended for new readers and beginning chapter book readers grades 1 and 2. This is a perfect gift for any young reader and bound to become a favorite.

Pamela Thompson McLeod, Books by Pamela Thompson

See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat
by LaRochelle, David, illustrated by Wohnoutka, Mike
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Dog is sick so Cat steps in to take his place. Unfortunately, the bossy book expects Cat to do dog things which Cat is not too keen about. Cat is expected to dig, swim, fetch, and guard the sheep from a wolf.
I wasn’t quite sure about this book until I shared it with young beginning readers. They couldn’t stop laughing at the hilarious illustrations and the predicaments the cat finds himself in. It is a book about being true to oneself but also the importance of helping out as best we can. This is one that children will read over and over again.

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Yasmin the Librarian
by Faruqi, Saadia, illustrated by Aly, Hatem
Picture Window Books
Nominated by: Jenna

Yasmin discovers science in this continuation of the Yasmin series.
The pending science fair worries Yasmin because she is not sure what project she will present. In the true scientific process, plan, do study, act – Yasmine works on her project. Jasmin’s father makes a suggestion from his own Science Fair days. When that project doesn’t pan out for Jasmine, an accidental discovery presents just the right project for her Science Fair.
As with all the books in the Jasmin series, author Saadia Faruqi and illustrator Hatem Aly have teamed up for a delightful read. The text is age-appropriate and relatable for readers. The illustrations are colorful and effortlessly show the diversity in Jasmin’s world. The fun facts listed at the end of the book serve as conversation starters to allow readers to learn a little about Pakistan culture.

Pam Jones-Nill, Pam Jones-Nill Children’s Author

Early Chapter

A Long Road on a Short Day
by Schmidt, Gary D. and Stickney, Elizabeth, illustrated by Yelchin, Eugene
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Becky L.

I read this book before the Christmas holiday and it filled me with the holiday spirit. I re-read it for this blurb and I love this book today as much as I did when I originally read it.

Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney have captured the Christmas Spirit in a very comforting, pure, and relatable story. The idyllic illustrations by Eugene Yelchin bring readers into the story. The story follows Samuel and his father, looking to get milk to f as they work to trade a knife with community members for assorted other valuables. The trading continues as the storm rages on. Until Samuel’s father finally trades for the item his mother wants most, a milk cow. Through snowstorms, cold weather, they accomplish their goal – all on a Long Road on a Short Day.

Pam Jones-Nill, Pam Jones-Nill Children’s Author

Audrey L and Audrey W: Best Friends-ish: Book 1 (Audrey L & Audrey W, 1)
by Higgins, Carter, illustrated by Mann, Jennifer K.
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

It’s hard for Audrey when a new Audrey joins their class and mixes things up. Now with final initials tacked on, Audrey W and Audrey L are new friends, navigating the tricky waters toward becoming better, maybe even best friends. While the idea is one we can probably all relate to in our personal elementary years, Carter Higgins gives the characters spunk, relatable fears, and lovable energy.

Brooke Freebairn, The Brooke List

Sydney and Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World
by Davies, Jacqueline, illustrated by Hocking, Deborah
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Katie Michols

When two mismatched friends set off from their cozy burrow to explore “the whole wide world,” readers will eagerly join along on their adventure. Written in short chapters, Sydney, a contented skunk, and Taylor, a hedgehog with grand ideas, encounter a fierce dog, frogs who think the explorers are hilarious, and find themselves lost due to their poor map reading skills. Their perseverance leads them back to the comforts of home in this gentle and beautifully illustrated chapter book which is sure to become a classic.

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Too Small Tola
by Atinuke, illustrated by Iwu, Onyinye
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Beth Mitcham

Young Nigerian Tola lives with her brother and sister who call her “too small Tola” because she is the youngest. Each of the three short chapters shows how Tola’s size doesn’t prevent her from doing big things. A shopping trip with their grandmother becomes an adventure as they are asked by neighbors to bring back additional things and Tola worries how they will carry it all. But frequent snack and rest stops gives Tola the strength to finish her tasks and earns the admiration of her siblings. In the second chapter, Tola needs to collect the water they need from the local well but needs to stand up to a bully. When she stands her ground, the community comes together to support her. Finally, her mathematical abilities enable her to help the local tailor who has been injured, resulting in her earning money and the dress of her dreams. The short chapters are perfect for young readers who will enjoy learning about a new culture while seeing that family relationships are similar no matter where in the world you are and that you don’t need to be big to make a difference

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Yasmin the Scientist
by Saadia Faruqi
Capstone Press
Nominated by: Maria Marshall

A very easy reader with a beautiful cultural angle. I loved learning a little about Yasmin’s world, watching her struggle with the science fair (really, most of us do). Yasmin breaks down big jobs into simple pieces, showing that science is all around us. The Urdu words mixed in are fun, especially with the glossary at the end. Many of us are so used to seeing the occasional Spanish or French words in our texts – why not a little more understanding of our Pakistani neighbors? Great representation in a remarkably accessible format for young readers.

Brooke Freebairn, The Brook List