Good new books for beginning readers
Kids' books: A roundup of new offerings for beginner readers includes "Cat the Cat," "Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same" and "Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies."
Scripps Howard News Service
When his classic book, "The Cat in the Hat," was published in 1957, Dr. Seuss began a revolution in the beginner-book industry.
More than 50 years later, that revolution still is ongoing. While "The Cat in the Hat" and many other books by Dr. Seuss and his followers offered a fun alternative to the "Dick and Jane" primers, there still are too many dull, banal books published for beginning readers.
That was the consensus at a program titled "Move Over, Dick and Jane," which was offered in late June at the American Library Association's annual conference, in Washington.
The good news is that, in the past few years, there's been a renewed effort to improve books for beginning readers. Perhaps the most important effort has been the creation of the Geisel Award, named for Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. First presented in 2006, the Geisel Award is given annually to the best books for beginning readers; several honor books also are usually chosen.
Despite the Geisel Award, however, experts lamented at the ALA program that there still is a dearth of good beginning-reader books. Ginny Moore Kruse, a noted children's-literature expert who helped shape the Geisel Award criteria, said that publishers of such books just don't seem to be getting the message.
As a result, Kruse contended, there still are very few innovative, inventive and imaginative books deserving of the award. In particular, there are few award-eligible nonfiction books, a category of books that many beginning readers particularly prefer.
We'll see what happens when the winner of the 2011 Geisel Award is announced in January. Meanwhile, here's a look at some good new books for beginning readers:
• Many parents know Mo Willems as a picture-book genius who creates books like "Knuffle Bunny"and "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus." But Willems also has become a star in the world of beginning readers for his "Elephant and Piggie" series. Two volumes in that series have won Geisel Awards.
Now Willems offers beginning readers ages 4-7 a brilliant new series featuring a cast of characters with simple and silly names: "Cat the Cat," "Hound the Hound," "Duck the Duck,"etc. The books are slightly larger than traditional books for beginning readers and have bold colors and an easy-to-read font.
But the best thing about this new series is how funny the stories are. Kids will laugh at the absurdity of the characters' names in "Cat the Cat, Who Is That?" (Baltzer + Bray/HarperCollins, $10.99) as Cat the Cat cheerfully introduces them to her friends. Then young readers will collapse in giggles as they see the expression on Cat the Cat's face when she realizes that she has no idea who the final character is. He's obviously not one of her friends — yet. But Cat the Cat quickly recovers herself and the book ends on a final note of hilarity.
The other books in the "Cat the Cat"series so far are: "Let's Say Hi to Friends Who Fly!," "What's Your Sound, Hound the Hound?"and "Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep!"(Each $10.99.)
• The irrepressible Fly Guy finds a new friend in "Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl!"(Scholastic, $5.99). Featuring the trademark shiny foil cover of the "Fly Guy"series, this book shows the fun that ensues when Fly Guy and his human friend, Buzz, bond with Fly Girl and her human friend, Liz. As usual, author/illustrator Tedd Arnold's story is silly but fun while his illustrations — complete with huge-eyed characters — are appropriately wacky. (Ages 4-7.)
• Cocoa the horse loves his friend, Cowgirl Kate. But he gets a bit jealous when Kate pays lots of attention to the new animals — a puppy, a calf and some baby owls — that have joined their farm family. In "Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies" (Harcourt, $15), author Erica Silverman tells an engaging story that is further fleshed out by illustrator Betsy Lewin's fluid watercolors. (Ages 5-8.)
• Ling and Ting are identical twins — at least outwardly. But, as author/illustrator Grace Lin shows in "Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same" (Little Brown, $14.99), the two girls have very different personalities. Their differences shine through from the book's beginning when the girls get haircuts. Quiet Ling's haircut is uneventful, but Ting sneezes just as the barber cuts her bangs and suddenly, the two girls no longer look exactly the same! Young readers will enjoy the everyday adventures of these twins, as well as Lin's colorful illustrations. (Ages 5-8.)
• Annie and her pet rabbit, Snowball, have a lovely day at the home of Annie's new friend, Sarah, in "Annie and Snowball in the Magical House" (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, $15.99). Author Cynthia Rylant's story is entertaining, while Sucie Stevenson's illustrations add some gentle humor. (Ages 5-7.)
Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com
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