Tag Archives: easy readers

Early Readers – Anakin in Action!

Anakin and his student Ahsoka are on a mission. They need to rescue Rotta, the baby Hutt. But enemy droids and the evil Ventress will do anything to stop the Jedi. Can they manage to escape and save baby Rotta?

This is a DK Readers Level 2 book, intended for children “beginning to read alone.” There are three or four sentences on each page. Every page is illustrated with what look like screen captures from the television show Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Most pages also have small information boxes that give one or two sentences of information about a specific topic, such as droid soldiers or Jedi Knights.

As a librarian, I can attest to the fact that young boys LOVE Star Wars. Turning the Star Wars adventures into early readers is a brilliant move. (Turning them into early chapter books for second and third graders is just as canny and money-making, I’m sure.) While this series is not the ultimate in carefully crafted text, it more than supplies its intended purpose, which is to get beginning readers excited to pounce into a book. While there are some words or vowel/consonant pairs that might be a bit difficult for an early reader, presumably the target audience will already be familiar with words like Ahsoka or droid or rancor.

I’ve stocked up on as many books from this series of Star Wars early readers as I could get my hands on. As I was pulling the new books out of the box I practically started a riot as a couple of first grade boys caught sight of what I was unpacking and immediately started laying claim to “first dibs” on the various books. So while it may not be likely to win a Geisel award, it will win you a zillion and one “cool” points if you put this book into the hands of your favorite Star Wars-loving first grader.


Easy Reader – Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day

Wagner is not having a good day. First he is late for school, then it turns out to be April Fool’s Day. Everyone else thinks the pranks are hilarious, but gullible Wagner isn’t laughing. His day gets worse when Pearl doesn’t want to be his partner in gym. When Wagner gets sent to the nurse’s office, he comes back with bright green dots all over his body, making the rest of the class very nervous. But Wagner gets to have the last laugh in this early reader.

This book is a Dial Easy-to-Read Level 2 book intended to be a “reading together” book. There are four to six sentences on each page and illustrations on each page. Contractions and dialogue are both used. The story is both cute and plausible.

The illustrations, done in pen, ink, watercolor and colored pencils, are pleasing and amusing. Some pictures have backgrounds, but many are displayed against a white backdrop. The body language of the animals is very clear, and the expressions on their faces are priceless. This book will be an excellent choice for more confident beginning readers, whether or not the month is April.

Early Readers – Thanksgiving Beast Feast

As many families across the United States sit down to their Thanksgiving meals today, we review a book with a holiday theme. Emily and Harry are looking forward to Thanksgiving. They learn about how the first Thanksgiving was giving thanks for all of the food that the Pilgrims were able to grow or hunt. Then they notice that the animals near their house have no food. They decide to create a Thanksgiving Beast Feast so that the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks will have a reason to celebrate as well.

This is a Holiday House Reader Level 2. The book indicates it is a good level for first and second graders, which seems about right. This is a more advanced early reader. There are three short chapters. Most pages have between four and eight sentences on them. While most two-page spreads have words and text on both pages, sometimes there is a picture on one page and the entire opposite page is filled with text.

The illustrations complement the text, reflecting what is going on in the words. While the illustrations do not have the same polish or level of mastery many other books showcase, they are still appealing. I do not think that the outfits the American Indians are wearing in scenes from the past are accurate reflections of the clothing that would have been worn at the first Thanksgiving, which is a shame.

This is a cute story, and one that emphasizes helping others during the holiday season.

Early Readers – Snow Trucking

The trucks of Trucktown are delighted when it snows and snows and snows. It’s a snow day! They have fun messing around in the snow, dumping it here and there, having snowball fights, and sliding around. At the end of the day the trucks realize that in amidst all of their playing, they have completely cleared the roads of snow.

Jon Scieszka is a man on a mission. He wants to get boys reading. To that end, he has created an entire franchise of books about trucks, on the grounds that boys love trucks. There are several picture books about his Trucktown, and now there are early readers as well.

This book identifies itself as a “Ready to Roll” Level One. There are very short sentences, often no more than two or three words. Only one or two sentences are on each page, making it appropriate for readers who are only just beginning to read on their own. The illustrations are colorful, with lots of shading and detail. They are consistent with the illustrations from the picture book series (which is not always the case when making the jump from one readership to another.)

Early Readers – Lulu and the Witch Baby

Lulu Witch does not like Witch Baby. Witch Baby takes all of attention and messes up Lulu’s things. So one day while Mama Witch is away at the market, Lulu decides to try casting a spell on the Witch Baby. It appears that the spell is successful, and at first Lulu is jubilant. But then she starts to feel bad about how much Mama Witch will be upset. She tries to reverse the spell. Can she do it?

This I Can Read book appears to be aimed at more advanced beginning readers. The 5-8 sentences on most pages. There are often two-page sections where one page has a picture while the other page is filled completely with text, although most pages have both text and a picture. No contractions are used.The illustrations are well suited to the story. The facial expressions clearly display Lulu’s quick travel through various emotions, and the Witch Baby is just the right balance of wicked baby and adorable baby.

The story is cute, and addresses jealousy issues that many children feel. I think Lulu’s emotional reactions to the Witch Baby, and her subsequent actions appeal to children. Some parents may take issue with the fact that Lulu says she “hates” the baby or that later she justifies not telling her mother that the baby was lost because it was “not really the truth. But it was not really a lie.” This is a situation many children have already experienced however, and those children will surely love this story.

Early Readers – The Runaway Pancake

A family of hungry children begs for pancakes … but the first pancake gets up and starts rolling away. A chase ensues, with more and more people and animals going in to try to catch the pancake. But in the end, it is a wily pig is the one who manages to trick the pancake and eat him.

If you’re thinking this story sounds awfully familiar, you’d be right. The Runaway Pancake has many variations and versions, the most well-known to American audiences is generally that of the Gingerbread Man. This version is slightly different, and so the ending may come as a surprise even to children who’ve cut their teeth on the Gingerbread variation. Thus the book is not only an entertaining read, but could also be used as a jumping off point for a discussion on oral storytelling and the ways many traditional tales have more than one “official” version.

This book is an Usborne First Reading: Level Four. Most pages have two or three sentences. The paragraphs are indented and formatted using standard conventions. On most pages there are thought and/or speech bubbles adding extra information to the main text. Each page is full-color. The black text is usually, but not always, positioned in white space. The illustrations are engaging and colorful, with pictures that support the text.

Early Readers – Swamp Monsters

Two swamp monsters decide to play at being children, complete with child masks, when to their surprise a field trip arrives in the swamp. Realizing that the teacher is a substitute and won’t realize they aren’t supposed to be a part of the class, the monsters hop onto the bus as it leaves. Once at school, the monsters have a harder time fitting in, since they constantly misunderstand orders: one monster eats his “lunch” money, while another one, told to take his seat, picks up a chair. Eventually the monsters get tired of living like real children, and quickly head back to the swamp.

Although this book is over twenty years old, it still holds up as a favorite amongst children learning to read. The subtle humor of monsters pretending to be humans (instead of humans pretending to be monsters) coupled with the broader Amelia-Bedelia-like silliness means there is something for almost everyone to enjoy. As is true of many older titles, the colors are more subdued than are usually seen in modern titles, but this works very well, as much of the action is centered around drag swamp monsters.

This book is for more advanced early readers, with six to nine sentences on each page. Most two-page spreads have pictures on both pages and words on both pages, but it is not unusual for there to be one large picture with lots of text on the opposite page.

Early Readers – Goose and Duck

A little boy finds a goose egg. When the goose hatches, it imprints on the boy, believing he is the goose’s mother. Later, he finds a duck egg, and the same things happens. Generally, they have a good time together. Then the autumn comes and the adult birds join flocks and fly south for the winter because “That’s how it is with birds.”

This is an I Can Read Level 2 book. There are about three sentences on each page. The sentences are generally short and simple. There are repeated points where “and” is used as the first word in a sentence, which may or may not upset some grammarians. The language is fairly simple and appropriate for a beginning reader. The illustrations are colorful and engaging. The pictures reinforce what is going on in the text.

Early Readers – Danny and the Dinosaur

On a trip to a museum, Danny befriends a dinosaur. The two of them wander around town, having fun and playing with other children. At the end of the day, the dinosaur has to go back to the museum, and Danny has to go in for supper. But they both agree it was a fantastic day.

Written fifty years ago by Syd Hoff, this book remains a staple of early reader collections. What child, after all, has not fantasized about dinosaurs coming to life, fully capable of talking and having fun? It’s not hard to see the appeal in the plot. The illustrations are also engaging. The colors are more muted than those typically used in modern early readers, but in many ways this is what helps to set the book apart from other choices. Some of the pictures are just brown, white, and black, while others have full color, and appear to have been done with colored pencils. Sometimes an illustration is helped by a quieter color palette, and this appears to be the case here.

Since the book was published in 1959, I feel I must mention that the beginning scenes in the museum might be offensive to some people. When Danny arrives at the museum he “saw Indians. He saw bears. He saw Eskimos.” The juxtaposition of two stereotypically rendered native peoples – both being referred to with terms that are not accepted by all members of these communities – with an animal is a subtle insult. It also reinforces the idea that these cultures are found only in museums, rather than being a part of the living culture of today’s world. While I doubt it was Syd Hoff’s intention to send these messages, fifty years later we need to be aware of the effect the words and images can have in a different cultural climate.

Early Reader – Baseball Ballerina

A little girl I’m going to call Kate loves baseball more than anything. But her mother wants her to be more girly, so she signs Kate up for baseball. Mary Anne – another baseball player, has also been signed up for ballet lessons, and at first the two girls commiserate with one another. But when Mary Anne is chosen to be the Dandelion Queen in the big recital, it seems to Kate that Mary Anne is starting to – gasp! – like ballet. All Kate can think about is what the boys on the baseball team will think when they find out she’s also a ballerina.

This is a Step Into Reading Step 2 book. Most pages have 3-4 sentences. There are three “chapters”, each one a few pages long. The pictures are colorful and support the text, appearing sometimes as figures against a white backdrop, and sometimes with colored backgrounds.

The implied gender roles – “Mom thinks baseball is for girls” – are subverted by Kate’s obvious love of baseball and distaste for ballet. While her either/or attitude might be a little disheartening, it’s also entirely realistic, and Mary Anne provides a character who is equally happy on the baseball field and at the ballet recital.