Today I’ve got two sets of easy readers: Super Easy and Almost Ready for Chapter Books.
First, I went looking especially for the easiest of easy readers.
This is …yawn…not quite what we’re looking for either.
If you’ve got a Very Beginning Reader, you know how frustrating it can be to find good stuff they can actually read.
Some books say they’re for Folks Just Starting Out yet are full of ten-dollar words like “although” and “guess” and “popsicle.”
I had some lickety-split readers in my household, but none of them began by reading words like that.
It is a little like having Size Zero. What is that about anyway? Sounds like a size for a ghost!
If “just beginning” kids are reading some of the level 1 readers out there, then the first few books on my list today would be in the negative numbers. These easiest of the easy readers are terribly difficult to write, but a few brave souls are tackling them and coming up with delicious material to gobble up in that quest towards reading.
I browsed my library shelves and came up with some terrific titles, and here, in order of difficulty, is what I found:
Wet Pet, by Harriet
Ziefert, illustrated by Yukiko Kido
published in the U.S. in 2013 by Blue Apple Books
This is part of the Flip-A-Word series for super-duper beginners.
Using die-cut peepholes, various consonants appear in front of short-vowel word endings such as j-et, w-et, p-et and n-et.
Each page has just one word, illustrated in a bright style that looks a bit like Hello Kitty/Sanrio designs. The words are then combined to create illustrated phrases — wet pet, pets in a jet, and so on.
Splendid beginning reading skills. A few consonant digraphs are used such as sh-, cl- and cr. Ideas for making your own flip-a-word and other activities are included.
I See, You Saw, written and illustrated by Nurit Karlin
published in 1997 by HarperCollins
A clever use of homonyms allows this brief story to use a tiny vocabulary, while introducing kids to the spice and play of words.
Can you see the fly fly? Can you see the duck fish the fish? How about if I saw the see saw?
You get the idea. Seesaw and quack are the hardest words.
Little Ducks Go, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
published in 2014 by Holiday House
Holiday House has an excellent line of books for beginners in a series called I Like to Read. I reviewed one of their titles quite awhile ago called See Me Dig which I loved.
This one is by award-winning author/illustrator Emily Arnold McCully. It follows the dicey journey of a family of mallard ducklings who get swept down a water grate — yikes! — and how they are rescued.
All that story, written in early vocabulary words, then illustrated with McCully’s beautiful watercolors. It’s a much more sophisticated look and story than many beginning readers.
Hardest words are quack, goes, hears.
Bake, Mice, Bake! by Eric Seltzer, illustrated by Natascha Rosenberg
published in 2012 by Penguin Young Readers
These perky mice run the Cakes and More shop which makes them busy, busy, busy.
They crack, whip, pour, drip, cut, chop, drop, mop…and create some seriously yummy confections for all their customers.
Charming mice. Charming shop. As you can see from the activities of the mice, this book employs pleasant rhyming which helps a bit with the trickier words.
Readers will need to know their digraphs and silent e to read this. Beyond that, hardest words are everything, cherry, and smooth.
Steve and Wessley in The Ice Cream Shop, written and illustrated by J.E. Morris
published in 2014 by Scholastic, Inc.
Steve is a rat who likes ice cream. He spies some delicious cones in a shop, but he can’t seem to get the door open. If he would just read the “Pull” sign, his problems would be over! (Haven’t we all done this?!)
His friend, Wessley comes by, thank goodness, and saves the day.
Funny stories are kids’ favorites. This one is marvelously comical both in storyline and in goofy illustrations. Reading signs, speech bubbles, and onomatopoeia sound effects is great fun, especially that line-up of c-r-a-z-y ice cream flavors!
Hardest words include: walked, favorite, together. There is at least one other Steve and Wessley story, The Sea Monster, equally as good.
Clara and Clem Under the Sea, written and illustrated by Ethan Long
published in 2014 by Penguin Early Readers
This is a really clever book, written entirely in speech bubbles, by the same guy who brought us Up, Tall, and High. It features two kids — Clara and Clem — who have several other adventures under their belts if you’d like more.
As Clara and Clem happily swim along in the ocean, they encounter various creatures — dolphins, eels, a swordfish, a giant whale and lots more. But an encounter with a shark requires a zippy rescue!
The text of this book is extremely brief. Clara and Clem are quite the laconic duo! Yet, the words they use (dolphins, giant, swordfish, trouble) are not easy. It definitely helps to use the pictures as clues. Still, for kids working to read phonetically, it contains few words they’ll be able to sound out in the early stages of reading.
Colorful cartoon illustrations, happy and spunky storyline, and unboring vocabulary — that’s what you get. You’ll have to decide just when and if this fits the bill for your child.
The second batch of books today are longish stories employing a sophisticated set of reading skills. Several of them are broken into chapters. They’re just right for readers who are almost ready to launch into short chapter books but are still daunted by the length of those or the volume of text on a page.
Again, in order of difficulty:
Camping: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure, written and illustrated by Keith Baker
published in 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Mr. and Mrs. Green are going camping!
Mrs. Green is an old hand at this. Mr. Green is a newbie. He’s quite jazzed about it until they head out into the “dark, mysterious woods.” Sheesh!
All turns out happy and comfy in the end, with a snuggly sleeping bag, twinkling stars, and the music of croaking frogs to sleep by.
Great story, with about the same level of difficulty as the Frog and Toad or Mr. Putter stories. There are other fine Mr. and Mrs. Green adventures if you haven’t already found them.
Commander Toad and the Space Pirates by Jane Yolen, pictures by Bruce Degen
published in 1987 by Putnam and Grosset
Commander Toad and his good ship Star Warts have a number of terrific space adventures which you may not know of if you didn’t have children in the 80s and 90s.
They are ripping good tales and especially nice to hand a reader who yawns at the sight of darling puppies and cute mice. My son read them all.
These are a tad more difficult than a Frog and Toad level.
Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken, by Sarah Dillard
published in 2014 by Aladdin
Warren is bored out of his mind by all the non-stop pecking his kind do, every day, all the days of their lives. He wants something more.
He meets Millard the rat, who is also looking for something out of the ordinary — he’s tired of eating the same old pickings from the trash cans.
When Warren overhears Millard say he wants Special Chicken, he’s wildly happy! He’s found a kindred spirit! Can he discover and foil Millard’s dastardly plot before it’s too late?
Graphic novel formatting makes this excellent story feel more like a “real” book and less of an easy reader, yet the text is at about the same level as the previous stories. It would be an outstanding choice for a late-blooming reader. 60 well-designed pages long.
There’s a sequel out: Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day
Dodsworth in Rome, written and illustrated by Tim Egan
published in 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
The whole Dodsworth series is a joy. This episode sees Dodsworth and his duck off to visit the great sites of Rome, and as usual, the duck keeps muddling his way into lots of trouble.
More advanced, juicy vocabulary and of course, a fabulous setting! Travel with Dodsworth — you won’t be sorry.
Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover, written and illustrated by Cece Bell
published in 2012 by Candlewick Press
Rabbit has invited his pal Robot for a sleepover, but he’s forgetting one important thing: How to be a good host.
He’s so busy planning what he likes to eat and do, he can’t see that Robot may have different tastes. Luckily Robot is a patient friend, and after a bit of a rough start, it still winds up being a good day.
A lively story and vivid characters light up this contemporary story line, plus you get to read Robot-speak! At 50 pages long, this falls into the beginning, easy chapter book category.
Tales for Very Picky Eaters, written and illustrated by Josh Schneider
published in 2011 by Clarion Books
James is not at all fond of broccoli, mushroom lasagna, lumpy oatmeal…well, you’ve got to give him that one.
His father, who does the cooking, is unfazed by his objections. He may offer a rich alternative for James, such as…dirt! Dirt which “has been walked on by the most skilled chefs wearing the finest French boots.“
Or, he may suggest James have mercy on the troll in the basement who has worked “all night long perfecting his recipe” for lasagna.
Whatever his father’s ploy, it always wins the day, and James caves in.
Josh Schneider masterfully uses over the top, comic storytelling to greatly amuse young readers. 47 pages long, and the most demanding of the books today. Great launching point for longer texts.
Hope you’ve found something that works for you!