New Easy Readers in the Library: September, 2016

I’m going to start posting here about the books that I acquire for my library. For those of you who don’t know I have a private subscription library in my home, mostly for homeschoolers, although others who are interested in quality books are welcome to visit or to join. I have a lot of older books that are no longer available from the public library as well as some new books that I think will stand the test of time.

Here’s an annotated list of some of the new/old books I’ve acquired (from thrift stores, used bookstores, library sales, donations) in the past month:

Biscuit by Alyssa Capucilli. Biscuit the puppy doesn’t want to go to bed. Cute story with very simple vocabulary for beginning readers.

Henry and Mudge Get the Cold Shivers by Cynthia Rylant.
Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps by Cynthia Rylant. In the first story, Henry and his dog friend Mudge each have a sick day, and Henry takes care of Mudge in the same way Henry’s father takes care of Henry when he is ill. In the Bedtime Thumps, Henry and Mudge visit Henry’s grandmother’s house in the country and hear alarming nighttime noises. I really enjoy Cynthia Rylant’s picture books and easy readers. The stories are simple and relatable, and the characters are the same.

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman.
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Horse in the House by Erica Silverman. The Billy and Blaze books by C.W. Anderson or the Bucky series by Reichert or other cowboy easy readers are good for boys and girls who are interested in reading stories with horses and ranch life featured, but a series with a cowgirl is a nice addition to the easy reader section of the library. Kate and her horse Cocoa count the herd, ride the range, and even explore the idea of a horse in the house in these two books, each with three very short chapters.

Poppleton in Winter by Cynthia Rylant.
Poppleton Everyday by Cynthia Rylant. Ms. Rylant again succeeds in creating a kid-friendly, delightful character in Poppleton the pig, as in these two books he gazes at the stars, chooses a new bed, goes sailing with a friend, measures his icicles, sculpts a bust, and goes for a sleigh ride.

The Golly Sisters Go West by Betsy Byars. May-May and Rose are the singing, dancing Golly sisters who entertain their way across country while traveling west in a covered wagon. In this book, there are six short, funny stories about the Golly sisters and their adventures.

Eric Liddell: Running for a Higher Prize by Renee Taft Meloche. A fairly easy, rhyming biography of the famous runner and missionary of Olympic fame and featured in the movie, Chariots of Fire.

George Muller: Faith to Feed Ten Thousand by Renee Taft Meloche. Another rhyming missionary biography for “young readers.”

The Nutcracker Ballet by Deborah Hautzig. In simple language, children can follow the ballet’s story from the opening Christmas Eve party scene to the closing scene in which Marie and her Nutcracker prince bid farewell to the Land of the Sweets.

Mr. Brown Can Moo: Can You? by Dr. Seuss. All about noises by the master of easy readers.

Good Work, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish. I always enjoy the mix-ups and wordplay in Amelia Bedelia’s adventures.

Sailor Jack by Selma Wasserman.
Sailor Jack and Bluebell by Selma Wasserman.
Sailor Jack and Homer Pots by Selma Wasserman.
Sailor Jack and Bluebell’s Dive by Selma Wasserman. Sailor Jack is a submariner, and Bluebell is his parrot in this old, classic easy reader series.

If you have a beginning reader, I can recommend any or all of these, mostly series, to usher them into the world reading. Have fun exploring with Cowgirl Kate or Sailor Jack or Amelia Bedelia or any of the other multitude of easy reader characters. Who’s your favorite? (I’ll admit to a special fondness for the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel and the Little Bear books by Else Homeland Minarik.)

The Big Book of Animals of the World by Ole Könnecke

This large board book groups pictures of animal by continent or part of the world, beginning with the Arctic and continuing on to North America (Canada), Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, North America (Southwestern USA), and finally, under the ocean surface. The Last page spread has a map of the world with continents labeled so that children can see where the animals live that they have been viewing.

The pictures of the animals fall somewhere between cartoonish and realistic. There’s probably enough characteristic features that children might be able to recognize the various animals at the zoo or in their natural habitat, but the illustrations are still fairly small and stylized. And for some reason, perhaps to create interest, each two page spread has a picture or two of mice dressed in clothes and doing things like painting a picture or riding a camel or sunbathing. The only words in this book, originally published in German, are the English animal names printed under each animal picture and a few physical features that arenalso labeled, such as glacier, desert, savannah, and oddly enough, “chainsaw”, “garbage”, and “ant hill”?

Little children and even older animal lovers would probably enjoy this Richard Scarry-type word book, but I can tell you from experience that adults who are anything like me will tire quickly of repeating the names of the animals over and over again. With no narrative or story, the book is only of limited interest to the adult reader—which makes it a problematic book to have in the house. Usborne sells a lot of these word books, too, and I hated them when my children were little. My preschoolers, who weren’t reading for themselves, kept wanting me to “read” the books to them. But without a story, I was bored stiff.

Still The Big Book of Animals of the World might keep your children busy on a rainy day, or you might be a different kind of parent/teacher/reader than I am. Enter at your own risk.

What’s New in My Library?

I have a private, subscription library in my home—sort of a school library for literature lovers and homeschoolers. It gives me an excuse to purchase and rescue those treasures of books that I find in the thrift store or at the garage sale. I bought lots of books this week, first at the Books Bloom seminar with Jan Bloom, then at the thrift store. Something for everyone!

Picture books:
Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan. A dingo captures a wombat and decides to make himself a gooey, brewy, yummy, chewy wombat stew. But the wombat has a few tricks up his sleeve. This is a great Australian classic picture book for those who want to make a quick trip Down Under.

Moy Moy by Leo Politi. Politi was an Italian American author and artist who was both a devout Catholic and a pacifist. His books celebrate cultural diversity and children living within those diverse cultures. Moy Moy is a Chinese American girl living in Chinatown in Los Angeles. Most of Politi’s books are set in California, near Los Angeles and feature loving families, ethnic celebrations, and colorful scenes.

Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. “the slow soft sprinkle, the drip-drop tinkle, the first wet whisper of the rain.” A rain poem, with beautiful illustrations by James Endicott, this book is one of the many recommended in my preschool curriculum, Picture Book Preschool.

Also, I found paperback copies of the Picture Book Preschool books Galimoto by Karen Lynn Willliams, A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Doberman, and The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack.

Easy readers:
The Littles by John Peterson. I also bought copies of The Littles Take a Trip, The Littles to the Rescue, The Littles and Their Amazing New Friend, The Littles Go to School. These books about “little people” are for beginning readers who are not quite ready for The Borrowers, my favorite little people series.

Shoes for Amelie by Connie Colker Steiner. The story of a French farming family during World War II who take in and hide little Jewish girl named Amelie, based on the true story of the rescue of Jews by the people of the French region of Plateau Vivarais-Lignon.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. I didn’t have a copy of this classic Dr. Seuss romp, but now I do. In fact, most of my Dr. Seuss books were read to death by my eight lovely children a long time ago, so if you have any to donate, they would be well-loved and well read, I’m sure.

Middle Grade Fiction:
The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport by Laura Lee Hope. The first of the Bobbsey Twins series, and I have a few others in the series in the library, too. If you have any of these books you’d like to donate to Meriadoc Homeschool Library, I’d be happy to have them.

The Fox Steals Home by Matt Christopher. In this sports story Bobby plays baseball and deals with his hurt over his parents’ divorce.

The Thief by Nancy Rue. This episode in the Christian Heritage Series, The Williamsburg Years, shows readers the deep enmity in the 1780’s between loyalists to the British crown and patriots who were determined to make a new nation, separate from England. Can the two sides ever come to agreement on anything, even the meaning of right and wrong?

The Black Stallion Legend and The Black Stallion Revolts by Walter Farley. I now have five of the many Black Stallion books in my library. If you have any others you’d like to donate, I have some horse-loving readers who enjoy these books.

The Rescuers by Margery Sharp. The mice of the The Prisoners Aid Society rescue a Norwegian poet, with Miss Bianca as interpreter and Bernard, the humble pantry mouse, and Nils, his partner, as mice-to-the-rescue.

The Mississippi Bubble by Thomas Costain. One of my favorite history writers tells the story of land speculation and emigration gone crazy in France and French Louisiana in the 1700’s. Speculative and economic bubbles are nothing new, as this true history in the Landmark History series demonstrates.

The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss. A family in the 1950’s adopts a diverse group of children of mixed race and heritage. This book was one of my favorites as a teen, and although we never adopted children, I think the lessons learned of acceptance and indiscriminate love from this book and other similar stories helped me to understand and affirm the multi-racial families of many of my friends and neighbors.

Corn Is Maize: The Gift of the Indians by Aliki.

How Animals Talk by Susan McGrath. National Geographic Books for Young Explorers.

More Than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life by Laurie Carlson.

Kids Around the World Create! The Best Crafts and Activities from Many Lands by Arlene N. Braman.

Collecting good books is such a fun hobby, or maybe even a calling or vocation. I am immensely thankful that I get to preserve and share these books with my community. (These are only few of the books I found this week. I’ll tell you about more in another post soon.)

Christmas in Ohio (?), c.1994

From Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake by Cynthia Rylant.

“Mr. Putter loved to give Christmas presents. He started thinking about Christmas presents in July. He liked to think of what he could give to the grocer and to the librarian, and to the postman. Mr. Putter also had to think of what he could give to his neighbor Mrs. Teaberry. This was the hardest of all. He usually had to think about this all the way to December.
Mrs. Teaberry liked strange things. She liked coconuts made into monkey heads. She liked salt shakers that walked across the table. She liked little dresses for her teapots. Mr. Putter could live with monkey heads and walking salt shakers and dressed-up teapots. But Mr. Putter could not believe hat Mrs. Teaberry liked fruitcake. He could not believe that anyone liked fruitcake. . .
He thought Mrs. Teaberry should have a good cake for Christmas. . . And one night as he and Tabby sat dreaming at their snowy window, that is what he decided to gee Mrs. Teaberry for Christmas. Mr. Putter would bake her a Christmas cake. It would be a cinch.
The cake was not a cinch.”

This series of easy readers by Cynthia Rylant has the distinction of being about an elderly man and his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, and his cat Tabby. Most children’s books are about children. But I have seen lots of kids enjoy these simple stories about an old man and his simple joys and problems. I enjoy them, too. The other books in the series are:

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea
Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog
Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears
Mr. Putter and Tabby Fly the Plane
Mr. Putter and Tabby Row the Boat
Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train
Mr. Putter and Tabby Toot the Horn
Mr. Putter and Tabby Paint the Porch
Mr. Putter and Tabby Feed the Fish
Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold
Mr. Putter and Tabby Stir the Soup
Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book
Mr. Putter and Tabby Make a Wish
Mr. Putter and Tabby Spin the Yarn
Mr. Putter and Tabby See the Stars
Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race
Mr. Putter and Tabby Spill the Beans
Mr. Putter and Tabby Clear the Decks
Mr. Putter and Tabby Ring the Bell
Mr. Putter & Tabby Dance the Dance

I wish I had all of these in my library, but at any rate I do have Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake–just in time to inspire me to bake something for Christmas.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Cybils 2013 Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books

I served on the judging panel for this Cybils category two years ago, and I was introduced to some wonderful books and authors for the 8 and under crowd. Here are a few 2013 nomination suggestions for this category:

Odd Duck by Cecil Castllucci. Friendship, weirdness, and ducks. NOMINATED as a Graphic Novel.

All About Ellie (The Critter Club) by Callie Barkley. What does it take to be a star? What does it take to be a friend?

Bowling Alley Bandit (Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut) by Laurie Keller. Talking pizza, break-dancing bowling pins, and a doughnut, Arnie the Doughnut Dog, who sings karaoke.

Squirrels on Skis by J. Hamilton Ray. Reviewed at Becky’s Book Reviews.

A Pet Named Sneaker by Joan Heilbroner. Reviewed at Becky’s Book Reviews.

Dig, Scoop, Ka-boom! Joan Kolub. Reviewed at Becky’s Book Reviews.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Drop the Ball by Cynthia Rylant. Reviewed at Becky’s Book Reviews.

Ten Things I Love About You by Daniel Kirk. Reviewed at Redeemed Reader.

White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan. Reviewed at Redeemed Reader.

I may add more as I come across them. Go, read, nominate.

12/12/12: Themes of My Life

These are the twelve themes or ideas or motifs that God has placed in my heart, and consequently the 12 Big Ideas that appear most often here on Semicolon.

1. Books. I have a houseful of books I read lots and lots of books, probably over 100 per year. I love books; I live inside books. I write about books here at Semicolon a lot. Some of my favorite booklists (may be helpful for last minute Christmas gifts?):
Reading Out Loud: 55 Favorite Read Aloud Books from the Semicolon Homeschool.
History and Heroes: 55 Recommended Books of Biography, Autobiography, Memoir,and History
Giving Books: Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction.
Giving Books: FOr the nieces and other girls in your life.
Nine Series for Nine Year Old Boys.
Narnia Aslant: A Narnia-Inspired Reading List.
Books for Giving (to kids who want to grow up to be . . .)
Best Spine-Tinglers
Best Journeys
Best Laughs
Best Crimes

2. Family, particularly large families. I have eight children. Five are grown-ups, and three are still growing. Actually, we’re all still growing. I don’t write as much about my children as I do about my books, privacy and all that jazz. But having a large family and seeing God through the joys and difficulties of large family life is one of the major themes of my life.

3. Community. Through family, yes, but also through the church, the neighborhood in which I live, and even through the blog-world, the experience of community is very important to me. I’m interested in community as an ideal, and I’m also interested in little communities that form around hobbies, intellectual pursuits, ethnic identities, and other kinds of people-glue. I want to know how a subculture develops around a shared interest like bicycling or collecting butterflies or playing Scrabble (Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis) or any other random interest, how those communities work and how they coalesce, what the rules are and how they resolve conflict.

4. The Bible. God’s Word has been a part of my life since I was a preschooler, and my mother read to me from the book of Genesis. I still remember how exciting and suspenseful the story of Joseph was, and how I wanted to know what would happen next. I have read the Bible numerous times, studied it alone and in groups, and still I find treasure, hope, reassurance, and life in the words of history, prophecy, poetry, gospel, and letters in the Bible. The Bible is the central book in my life, by which standard all the many, many other stories that I read stand and fall.

5. Prayer. God is still working out this theme in my life. I’m 55 years old, and I still long to know what it means to really, really pray. If God knows and has preordained everything that happens, why pray? I think part of what it means is to communicate the desires and depths of my heart in language, that God-given means of communication and organization. If I can put my inchoate feelings and thoughts into words and tell them to a God who really, really cares, then I participate in the creation of meaning somehow. I participate in God’s work on earth through prayer.

6. Language. We create community through language. God communicates with us and we with Him, mediated by language. The Word became flesh. What does that mean? We are creatures who speak a language, and that means something. One of my life’s quests is find out what it means to be a language-using creation and how to use those words to communicate truth.

7. Story-telling. One theme leads to another: from books to the Bible, to prayer, to language, to storytelling. Maybe they are all one grand motif that defines how God is working in my life.

8. History. I love family history, especially my family history, but others, too, if they have stories to tell. History is the story of how God created, how He creates in the events of our lives, and what it all means.

9. Singing and Poetry. Music, in general is nice, but singing, alone or with other people, is what I most love, what makes me feel alive. That’s why I did the 100 Hymns series: I love songs with words and poetry put to music. This theme ties into my fascination with language and words, but the melody adds another dimension.

10. Homeschooling. Education in general is a theme in my family and in my life. I pray that I will be always learning, always educating myself and others about the wonderful world where God has placed us. I believe that as a family we were called to homeschool, not because homeschooling ensures God’s blessing or favor nor because homeschooling is always better than any other way of educating young people into adulthood, but rather because it fits with the other themes and concerns of my life: the community in family, the immersion in language and story-telling, the transmission of God’s truth to another generation.

11. Evangelism and missions. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, in GA’s and Acteens, two SBC missions organizations for girls. I am still immersed in the idea of how the gospel is spread to other people and cultures and active in supporting missions and missionaries.

12. Jesus. Last, not because he is the least of my life themes, but rather because He is the foundation. If I wrote a book, Jesus would be the underlying theme, perhaps unnamed as in the Book of Esther, but always present, always at work, always the Rock upon which everything else rests. In Him, we live and move and have our being.

You can see these themes embodied in this list of 52 things that fascinate me. Now it’s your turn. What are the themes of your life? Where has God led you to focus your energies and talents? What is it that wakes you up in the morning, draws you into study and/or action, makes you who you are?

Russell Hoban, author, b.1925, d.2011

Author Russell Hoban died Tuesday, December 13th in hospital in London. Hoban is best known as the author of the Frances books: Bread and Jam for Frances, Bedtime for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances, A Bargain for Frances. We use Frances-isms in our house all the time.

Being careful isn’t nice; being friends is better.

“How do you know what I’ll like if you won’t even try me?”

“That is how it is, Alice. Your birthday is always the one that is not now.”

More favorite Francesisms.

However, as much as I adore all the Frances books, another book called Nothing To Do may be my favorite Hoban picture book. I say “may be” only because I can’t get my hands on a copy, and so I haven’t seen the book in twenty years. In the story, Little Charlotte is bored and can’t find anything to do until her father gives her a talisman that will always keep her busy.

I had no idea, but Mr. Hoban also wrote adult novels and several children’s and young adult novels. “Mr. Hoban’s final book, a young adult novel called Soonchild, about passing stories from one generation to the next, is forthcoming.” (Washington Post obituary) “He had once ruefully observed that death would be a good career move: People will say, ‘yes, Hoban, he seems an interesting writer, let’s look at him again’.” (Wikipedia, Russell Hoban)

Russell Hoban was a fine author and a creative mind. He will be missed.
Fuse #8 Interview with Russell Hoban, November 11, 2010.

Giving Books: Mystery Series for Young Readers

The Milo and Jazz Mysteries by Lewis B. Montgomery.
The Case of the Stinky Socks.
The Case of the Poisoned Pig.
The Case of the Haunted Haunted House.
The Case of the Amazing Zelda.
The Case of the July 4th Jinx.
The Case of the Missing Moose.
The Case of the Purple Pool.
I read the seventh and most recently published book in the series, The Case of the Purple Pool, because it was one of the books nominated for the Cybils in the Early Chapter Books category. Milo and Jazz are detectives-in-training, but even with the benefit of their lessons from Dash Marlowe, Super Sleuth, the two youngsters are stumped when someone turns the neighborhood swimming pool water purple. How? Why? And will it happen again? I figured out the solution to the mystery within pages, but young readers might just have to exercise their brains to solve this one. I think mystery fans ages 6-10 will enjoy this series.

The First Kids Mysteries by Martha Freeman.
The Case of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Dog.
The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar.
10-year old Cammie and 7-year old Tessa have a very important mom and a very lively dog. Hooligan, the dog, lives up to his name and creates havoc wherever he goes. And Mom, well, Mom is the President of the United States. So Cammie and Tessa and Hooligan live in the White House with their mom and dad and Hooligan and Granny and Aunt Jen and her son, Nate, and Granny’s canary who doesn’t have a name—yet. In the Case of the Diamond Dog Collar, Hooligan receives a gift from the president’s dog in a neighboring country, and one of the twelve fake diamonds on the collar goes missing. Cammie and Tessa must put on their detective hats and go to work to find out where the (fake) diamond could be. This series is a little more challenging for readers, so I’d suggest it for ages 9-12, especially if those mystery fans are still prefer shorter books.

Young Cam Jansen Mysteries by David Adler.
Young Cam Jansen and the Dinosaur Game.
Young Cam Jansen and the Missing Cookie.
Young Cam Jansen and the Lost Tooth.
Young Cam Jansen and the Ice Skate Mystery.
Young Cam Jansen and the Baseball Mystery.
Young Cam Jansen and the Pizza Shop Mystery.
Young Cam Jansen and the Library Mystery.
Cam Jansen has a photographic memory, and that’s one of the things that makes her such a good detective. Some people nicknamed her “The Camera” because she remembers things just like a camera, and then they just called her “Cam.” These books are beginning, level two readers for very young readers. If your reader finishes these and wants more Cam Jansen, there are a slew of Cam Jansen mysteries that are in the “Early Chapter Books” category, second to fourth grade reading level.

Then, there are these classic series that still hold the attention of young readers:

The Boxcar Children series.
Encyclopedia Brown series.
Nate the Great series.

Sunday Salon: Books Read in November, 2011

Easy Readers for Cybils:
Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
No. 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Tugg and Teeny: Jungle Surprises by J. Patrick Lewis. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Almost Zero: A Dyamonde Daniel Book by Nikki Grimes. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books. Semicolon review here.
Daisy Dawson at the Beach by Steve Voake. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
The Greatest Sheep in History by Frances Watts. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books. Semicolon review here.
Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue by Jacqueline Jules. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books. Semicolon review here.
Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar by Martha Freeman. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
The Tricky Tooth by Fran Manushkin. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Toys Come Home: Being the Early Experiences of an Intelligent Stingray, a Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Scab for Treasurer? by Trudi Trueit. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
The Trouble With Chickens by Doreen Cronin. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Marty McGuire by Kate Messner. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
The Snow Queen by Sara Lowes. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Marvin Monster’s Monsterific Adventures by Tabatha Jean D’Agata. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Sammy Squirrel and Rodney Raccoon To the Rescue by Duane Lawrence. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books. Semicolon review here.
Sophie the Zillionaire by Lara Bergen. Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books.
Splat the Cat: Good Night, Sleep Tight by Rob Scotton. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
Max Spaniel: Best in Show by Dana M. Rau. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
Butterflies by Nic Bishop. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
Dinosaurs Don’t, Dinosaurs Do by Steven Bjorkman. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
The Lion and the Mice by Ed and Rebecca Emberley. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
Katie Woo Has the Flu by Fran Manushkin. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
Happy Pig Day by Mo Willems. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers. Semicolon review for all three Mo Willems’ books here.
Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today by Agnes Rosenstiehl. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
Patrick in a Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.
A Green, Green Garden by Mercer Mayer. Cybils nominee: Easy Readers.

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction:
Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine. Semicolon review here.
The Night of the Burning: Devorah’s Story by Linda Press Wulf.
Choosing Up Sides by John Ritter.
The Storyteller’s Daughter by Jean Thesman.
Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me by Timothy Tocher.
Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan. Cybils nominee: Middle Grade Fiction. Nominated by Rebecca Herman.Semicolon review here.
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden. Nominated and shortlisted for the INSPY Awards, Literature for Young People category.
Crosswire by Dotti Enderle.
Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron. Definitely for older YA.
Orchards by Holly Thompson.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr. Review coming soon.

Adult Fiction:
Pattern of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand.
When She Woke by Hilary Jordan. My review at Breakpoint.
Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford.

Unplanned: The dramatic true story of a former Planned Parenthood leader’s eye-opening journey across the life line by Abby Johnson with Cindy Lambert. Semicolon review here.
The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma.
Tales of an African Vet by Dr. Roy Aronson. Review coming soon.

Elephant, Piggie, and Mo Willems

Cybils nominees: Easy Readers.
Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems. Nominated by Sarah at Page in Training.
I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems. Nominated by Becky of Becky’s Reviews and Young Readers.
Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems. Nominated by Danielle Smith at There’s a Book.

What is there to say about Mo Willems and his easy reader creations, Elephant and Piggie? The books are deceptively simple, a long comic strip in book form. However, this form is not so simple to conceive, write, and illustrate well. I’ve seen attempts by other authors fall flat. Mr. Willems has the gift or the genius or the 99% perspiration or something.

In Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Gerald Elephant obsesses over whether or not to share his ice cream with his friend Piggie, until the issue becomes moot when the ice cream cone falls splat on the ground. Of all the elephants in children’s literature, Gerald is the Charlie Browniest. But unlike good old Charlie Brown, Elephant has a friend in Piggie, and in this story Piggie saves the day.

The story of how I Broke My Trunk begins with Elephant and a bandaged trunk. Of course, Piggie (and readers) want to know how Elephant broke his trunk, but hold on, because it’s a long crazy story. Suffice it to say that “two hippos, one rhino, and a piano on your trunk are very, very heavy,” and very, very funny. But that’s not even the whole story.

Happy Pig Day! Is it just for pigs, or can Gerald Elephant celebrate Pig Day, too? Again, I am reminded of what Charlie Brown could have been if he had had even one faithful friend. (Peppermint Patty doesn’t count. She couldn’t even get his name right, and she was undependable.)

The exciting thing about these books is that beginning readers of all ages can enjoy them over and over again. My fourth/fifth grader whose reading skills and interest leave a lot to be desired loves Elephant and Piggie. She reads the books to herself, reads them to her dad, reads them again to herself, and chuckles softly. Then she tells me to read them or else she reads them to me. Elephant and Piggie and other books like them are what the Sunday comics were to another generation. How many adults can say they learned to love reading and stories from their reading of the comic strips on Sunday mornings?

*These books are nominated for a Cybils Award, and I am a judge for the first round thereof. However, no one paid me any money, and nobody knows which books will get to be finalists or which ones will get the awards. In other words, this review reflects my opinion and Z-baby’s and nothing else.