I’ve got three books today, all short on pages yet long on interest.
Any of them could be read aloud to children ages 4-5 and up, or handed to an independent reader looking for something to finish in a sitting or two.
Hippopotamister, a graphic novel by John Patrick Green published in 2016 by First Second
Opening this jolly graphic novel is like opening a new pan of watercolors — colorful and anticipatory!
The City Zoo is in quite a sad state of disrepair, so Red Panda and Hippo set off to find jobs and make new lives among the humans. Red Panda exudes confidence, though he leaves disaster in his wake, getting fired from one job after another. Hippo’s the trusting sidekick, oblivious to his mammoth talents in every assigned task.
Eventually Hippo tires of the job hunt and returns to the zoo where his newly-acquired skills bear some surprising fruit!
The shortest word count on today’s list, plus cheerful illustration work and a warmly humorous story line combine to make this a breezy treat. Grab it for reluctant readers, too!
Wendel and the Robots, written and illustrated by Chris Riddell published in 2015 by Macmillan Children’s Books
This short adventure is sort of a disguised picture book. Its trim size — about 6″x7″ — makes it look like a Slightly-More-Important, tiny chapter book, just the ticket for a sturdy new reader, perhaps.
Chris Riddell is the master of the fantastical for youngsters. Unusual stories of quirky oddities seem to pour from his pen.
This one’s about an inventive mouse named Wendel who designs a couple of robots to help him keep his workshop clean and all manner of chaos results!
Scrumptious language, with endearing and crazed illustrations that woo us effortlessly onward make this a winner.
Saluki, Hound of the Bedouin, by Julia Johnson, illustrations by Susan Keeble published in 2005 by Stacey International
By far the longest of today’s stories at 55 pages, this jewel comes from the UK, from the hand of an exceptional storyteller with extensive time spent in the Middle East. It reminds me quite a lot of the short, international stories created by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham such as Cloud Tea Monkeys.
That’s because the setting — the Sahara Desert — and its Bedouin cast of characters are gorgeously embroidered upon the fabric of the storyline, as it were, while silky-smooth language effortlessly unreels a fascinating tale.
Hamad is a Bedouin boy, eager to join the men hunting with their Saluki hounds and hooded falcons. Join him as he awaits a new litter of pups, discovers which is to be his, learns the patience necessary to train her, and encounters serious testings for both himself and his devoted dog, Sougha.
Copious cultural details are masterfully woven into the story. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Hamad and learning about this vanishing way of life. Keeble’s gorgeous watercolors gleam with sunlight and heat and further our understanding of these people and their homeland.
Read this one to ages 5 and up in installments, or hand it to a reader undaunted by the sprinkle of Arabic vocabulary. A glossary is included.