The 2015 Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book Finalists

Easy Reader

A Pig, a Fox, and a Box (Penguin Young Readers, Level 2)
by Jonathan Fenske
Penguin Young Readers
Nominated by: Linda Baie

A Pig, a Fox, and a Box will delight young readers. It’s rhyming text and simple illustrations guide the reader through the silly adventure of a tricky fox and a gullible pig. With a box, a wig, and a pile of rocks, Fox tries to play a trick on Pig. But each trick results in an injury for Fox. In the end, Fox decides that although he enjoys tricks he is done for the day. The story is told within conversation bubbles adding to the overall humor of the story as the reader is in tune with each character’s thoughts and feels like they are in on the jokes. Simple sentences and high frequency words make this an easy read for beginning readers.

Juliana Lee, Juliana Lee, Crafting Stories

Don’t Throw It to Mo! (Mo Jackson)
by David A. Adler
Penguin USA
Nominated by: Ashley Martin

Diverse characters in everyday situations make this easy reader relatable to young readers, but it’s the humor and bright, cheerful illustrations that will draw in even non-football fans.

Mo’s the smallest kid on the football team but that’s only because he’s the youngest. Still, he spends most of his time on the bench with Coach Steve. For the big game, Coach Steve has a plan. He butters a football for Mo to catch. Everyone thinks Mo has butter fingers! When Mo goes into the game, no one thinks Mo can catch the ball. Will he?

Mia Wenjen, Pragmatic Mom

In, Over and On the Farm
by Ethan Long
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: StorytimeKatie

Ethan Long’s stories have a minimum of words but each delivers a punch line. The book’s thick pages, lift the flaps and cartoon-like illustrations draw young readers into a four-way farm animal friendship. In the first story, hen’s coop is crowded with friends who want out of the rain. Hen has to assert authority to regain control of who goes IN! the coop. Next, a fence poses problems. Hen can’t jump OVER! or go under the fence. Cow has a solution. Finally, riding ON! the tractor looks like great fun! It is, until the tractor hits bump. Young readers will be charmed by three very short stories about a hen, cow, goat and pig going In! Over! and On! (the Farm).

Mia Wenjen, Pragmatic Mom

Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly (Passport to Reading, Level 3: Ling & Ting)
by Grace Lin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Identical twin sisters Ling and Ting share a silly sense of humor and a wonderful sense of imagination. In this, their third book, the girls make a series of goofy jokes about everything from growing cupcakes in the garden to swinging higher than the trees (which, of course, can’t swing at all!) The sense of humor is perfectly suited to an early elementary audience, and the illustrations help contextualize each silly joke for the reader. Kids will giggle all the way through this book!

Katie Fitzgerald, Story Time Secrets

National Geographic Readers: Rosa Parks (Readers Bios)
by Kitson Jazynka
National Geographic Children’s Books
Nominated by: Maria Marshall

This intermediate easy reader biography not only covers Rosa Parks’ historic act of civil disobedience, it explains her life before and after the event and includes the historical context. The book offers a simple explanation of segregation and sets the scene for the pivotal moment by relating everyday things, like the cost of chocolate and games children played, to modern-day equivalents. The easy reader also includes information on Parks’ lifelong dedication to civil rights and brings events to life in a way that young readers will understand and relate to current events. With economical language, photographs, and clear sources, Jazynka has created an excellent introduction to Rosa Parks for beginning readers.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

National Geographic Readers: Slither, Snake!
by Shelby Alinsky
National Geographic Children’s Books
Nominated by: Jennifer

This early non-fiction reader published in the National Geographic Kids series is labeled a pre-reader, designed for ‘kids who are ready to read’. It gives pre-readers engaging information about snakes. Written in simple sentences, one per page, the facts are supported by close-up, color, photographs. A total of six snakes from around the world are featured in this book. Each snake highlights one characteristic of its group. There is a map of the world, which shows where each of the snakes discussed lives and a drawing activity to label your own parts of a snake at the end of the book.

Juliana Lee, Juliana Lee, Crafting Stories

Picture Perfect (Sofia Martinez)
by Jacqueline Jules
Picture Window Books
Nominated by: Katie Fitzgerald

Sofia has two older sisters, and she is tired of being in their shadow. Sofia feels like they all look the same, and with school pictures coming up, she hatches a plan to stand out. This story is full of close-knit family who accept Sofia no matter how she feels. The text is full of Spanish vocabulary, which are defined at the end of the story along with some discussion questions and writing prompts.

Susan Murray, From Tots to Teens

Early Chapter Book

Big Bad Detective Agency
by Bruce Hale
Nominated by: Becky L.

Incorporating many familiar fairy tale characters, Big Bad Detective Agency is uniquely funny. The Big Bad Wolf is accused, once again, of trashing the home of the Three Little Pigs. Although he has been known to huff and puff and blow down a house or two, Wolfgang (which is the wolf’s actual name) insists on claiming his innocence in this latest accusation of breaking and entering. And it seems that the prince’s guardsmen are too busy guarding the kingdom to investigate this crime further, leaving Wolfgang to defend himself. In a land where “heroes were not entirely good” and villains were sometimes “just misunderstood”, Wolfgang, with the help of the lesser-known fourth little pig, Ferkel, set out to clear his name. Amid characters like Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, and many others, Wolfgang and Ferkel stumble through Fairylandia collecting clues and uncovering the real culprit.

Beginning chapter book readers will dive into this book and come out asking for more. The resurgence of familiar storybook characters and the wacky new situations they find themselves in, will surely entertain the novice reader. The strong use of satire and wit to build on and tear down typical fairy tale assumptions, this story will appeal to both male and female readers.

Juliana Lee, Juliana Lee, Crafting Stories

Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail [Hardcover]by Kate Messner
Scholastic Press
Nominated by: Jennifer Schultz

Sam Abbot and his family are getting ready to set out on the Oregon Trail, but Sam isn’t very excited, since they’ve had to leave their old dog, Scout behind. Little does he know he will soon find a new friend…fast-forward to the present and Ranger, a friendly golden retriever, is digging in the yard. He’s smart and obedient, but failed out of search-and-rescue training because of his lack of focus. But when Ranger digs up a mysterious tin box and gets transported back to the Oregon Trail, his training will come in useful. He misses his family and is confused by the strange place he finds himself, but he quickly becomes part of Sam’s wagon train and helps them travel the Oregon trail through dangerous rivers, illness, and many other adventures until they reach their destination and Ranger finds his way back home. At 144 pages, this is the perfect length for kids who are ready to start moving on from beginning chapters. The story doesn’t gloss over the dangers and tragedies of the trail and there is death, disease, and other perils, but they’re presented in a way that focuses on the families and their courage, rather than the horrors they endure. The story is interesting and exciting without being sensationalized and Ranger makes a good narrator of events, as well as adding his own perspective. An author’s note at the end fills in more about the historical context and includes lots of information, quotes, sources, and suggestions for further reading. This unique blend of history and animal fiction will be a hit with early chapter readers of all ages.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

Dory and the Real True Friend (Dory Fantasmagory)
by Abby Hanlon
Dial Books
Nominated by: Sara Ralph

Dory is just preparing to enter kindergarten, and her sister and brother warn her against bringing her imagination to school. They tell her that her imaginary friends and foes should stay at home, but that in order to have friends, she should “be herself”. Her siblings try to instruct her in what she should do, but when she truly is herself, she discovers her one real true friend. A book with humor, lots of imagination, and a fun family.

Susan Murray, From Tots to Teens

Lulu and the Hamster in the Night
by Hilary McKay
Albert Whitman & Company
Nominated by: Sherry Early

Whether they are long-time Lulu fans or brand-new to the series, beginning readers are sure to enjoy the humor in this beautifully written story of hamster hi-jinks! Lulu and her cousin Mellie have just acquired a classmate’s hamster when they are invited to spend the weekend at their Nan’s house to celebrate her birthday. Convinced that the rodent should not be left alone, they secretly bring him along to Nan’s, even though they both know Nan is afraid of hamsters. Everything goes fine at first, until Nan’s dogs take an interest in the hamster, and then, by accident, he escapes! Kids will sympathize strongly with Lulu’s love for animals, and they will laugh out loud as she and Mellie try to solve their problems without letting Nan find out what’s going on.

Katie Fitzgerald, Story Time Secrets

My Pet Human
by Yasmine Surovec
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Mindy R

A nameless cat is perfectly happy with his life. He has friends, he has places he can get food, he has his independence. He doesn’t need humans. After all, he could only put up with a very special human and he’s sure such a human doesn’t exist. But then someone moves into the new house….and she has TUNA. The cat simply must have some. He’s just staying for the tuna. And the boxes. And the back rubs. And….maybe he doesn’t need to leave just yet? The cat, his friends and new family are a diverse group and they all find a happy home in sometimes unexpected places. Heavily illustrated with black and white drawings, this is a delightful beginning chapter book that will draw early chapter readers in and keep them giggling and sighing until the last page.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1 Clover’s Luck
by Kallie George
Nominated by: Vikki

Taking care of animals was a popular theme in Early Chapter Books this year, but this one stood out with its mix of magical realism, well paced adventure, and lovely pencil illustrations.

Clover stumbles into a magical part of the woods and gets hired as an assistant at magical animal pet shelter. Unicorns, dragons, and other fantastical creatures are under her care since Mr. Jams, the owner, is away on her first day of work! In addition to taking care of the animals, Clover must stop an evil witch from stealing any of the animals as well as match up prospective owners with their perfect pet. It’s a summer where Clover discovers that she just might have good luck, after all!

Mia Wenjen, Pragmatic Mom

West Meadows Detectives: The Case of the Snack Snatcher
by Liam O’Donnell
Owlkids Books
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

Myron is starting at a new school, and is dreading it. But then he becomes involved in a mystery when food starts disappearing from the school kitchen, and it is up to him and his new friend Hajrah to solve it. Myron is autistic and the way his brain works helps him be an excellent detective. This book lays out a mystery that is relatable for all children and fun to solve.

Susan Murray, From Tots to Teens

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