Today, I’ve got a batch of Unusually Good Books for kids at early reading levels.
It can be tough to find just the right books for these guys, right? Some eager beavers tear through everything they see, making it hard to keep up with their insatiable appetites; some kids delay reading while their brains work on other, equally awesome skills, and as older beginning-readers, they need interesting stories at an easy level that don’t look like four-year-old material.
These books are in ascending order of difficulty. All are for beginners. I hope something jazzy and new will be just your child’s cup of tea.
Up, Tall and High! written and illustrated by Ethan Long published in 2012 by Putnam Juvenile
Pictures with pizzazz! Surprises galore! Flaps to lift!
Up, Tall and High! easily wins the prize for most unusual easy reader. I fell in love with it in about 5 seconds. It also won the 2013 Theodore Geisel Award for best beginning reader.
It’s got an extreme minimum of words but delivers generous rewards. Smiles, laughs, zesty characters, jolly friends, all dished up in a set of three snappy stories about some plucky bird friends.
This book is a nice option for older very-beginner-readers as its jaunty graphics are not baby-ish in the least. Long’s black outlines are full of bold energy, his bird characters have hilarious expressions, and the page lay-outs are untraditional. I love that the entire text is contained in speech bubbles. In lime, tangerine, grape, and lemon — the pictures have all the juicy appeal of a jar of gumballs. Brilliant work.
See Me Dig, written and illustrated by Paul Meisel published in 2013 by Holiday House
The title sounds like a stereotypical, 1960s reader — See Puff. See Puff sit. Sit, Puff! Sit! — but this book uses its extremely limited vocabulary to deliver one terrific story! I was blown away by how Meisel was able to craft such an enticing plot with such a tiny word list.
He does it by putting majorly exciting story elements into his illustrations. The pictures tell the vast bulk of the story, and guess what’s in them! Pirate ghosts! Angry bears! Buried treasure! Lurking crocodiles! And gobs of dogs, including one hero! Great fun for kids who are barely able to get that silent e. Check it out, and then grab his other title, See Me Run.
The Watermelon Seed, written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli published in 2013 by Disney Hyperion Books
What happens when a watermelon-loving crocodile swallows a watermelon seed? Out and out panic!
That’s the story line in this energetic book, winner of the 2014 Theodore Geisel award. Low word count, a few muscle-flexers such as “stomach” and “swallowed,” plus Pizzoli’s humorous art in watermelon pink and sour apple green. It’s not in the typical easy-reader format, which adds to the satisfaction in my opinion.
Boris on the Move, written and illustrated by Andrew Joyner originally published in Australia, 2011; published in the U.S. in 2011 by Scholastic, Inc.
Boris is a warthog. He lives with his swell parents in an old blue bus. Before he came along, his parents were quite the world travelers, so a bus suited them fine. Now it’s parked at Hogg Bay while they lead responsible lives. Boris yearns for some exotic travel adventures of his own, and finally one day, his parents fire up the bus. They’re on the move!
But, groan!…they’ve only pulled into the Greater Hogg Bay Conservation Park. Surprisingly, Boris is in for some hair-raising escapades there!
This zesty story in seven — seven! — teeny chapters plus an introduction — is humorous, exciting, and happy. Such enticing page-layouts — the text never intimidates; instead it’s engagingly sprinkled among the snappy, cartoon illustrations, and in bunches of speech and thought bubbles. A jolly, satisfyingly-thick, first book in a series of four about Boris, at about a second-grade reading level. Added bonus: directions for a DIY compass!
Urgency Emergency! Big Bad Wolf, written and illustrated by Dosh Archer published in Great Britain, 2009 by Bloomsbury; first American publication in 2013 by Albert Whitman & Company
Funny books — that’s what my son always requested. This one definitely gets two thumbs up.
Doctor Glenda is on duty at City Hospital. Nurse Percy is there as well, comforting someone small…in a red cape…who can’t find her grandma. Suddenly! Dwee-oh-dwee-oh! An ambulance arrives with a wolf(!) who is choking!!
Madcap emergency treatment ensues. What can that wolf be choking on? Can Nurse Percy overcome his fear of wolves to help this Very Suspicious Patient? Will the small, red-caped vistor find her grandma?
Hilarious, peppy storyline, with bold, humorous illustrations in electric blue, magenta, and orange crush. Lots of juicy words in here for someone who likes a challenge. A second Urgency Emergency book features the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Sounds like a grand time!
The “Penny” series, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes:
Penny and Her Song,published in 2012 Penny and Her Doll, published in 2012 Penny and Her Marble, published in 2013 all by Greenwillow Books
These easy-to-read books will be read and cherished — especially by little girls — for a l-o-n-g time to come. Henkes’ is a brilliant story-teller and his illustrations are as charming as a spring breeze.
Penny is a little mouse with a great big personality and a warm family.
In book One, she learns a new song which she wants very much to share with her family, but it’s hard to find just the right moment.
In the second book, she receives a darling new doll from Gram, but has to think very hard to come up with just the right name for her.
In the final installment, she finds a lovely blue marble in old Mrs. Goodwin’s yard, but is plagued with worries that it was wrong to take it.
Each of these tiny dilemmas is gently explored, while Henkes’ joyful watercolors in plentiful pinks and violets and lemon sherbet, decorate the pages. Captivating.