Sunday, January 26, 2014

Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books I'm Raving About

The 2013 Cybils finalists have been announced!

"All the children at my school," I tell people, "are 100% illiterate when they arrive in August, but, by the time they leave us three years later, they are 100% literate. That's a 100% success rate."

I'm a librarian at a PreK-2 school.  Our tiny folks are just learning to make their way through text and it's my job to find the best books for them. It's a challenge. Simple enough to read. Complex enough to be interesting. Tricky.

Happily, this year I served on the Cybils panels for Easy Readers and for Early Chapter Books. These books, I think, are perfect for the children at my school.

Here are some I loved from this year's crop of Cybils:

Life of Ty: Penguin Problems by Lauren Myracle

Ty is ignored these days; Mom is all wrapped up in caring for the new baby. Somehow Ty, usually a well-mannered little boy, wanders off while on his field trip and finds and takes home a baby penguin.

Lovely story, with lots of great aha moments.

A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems

A big guy takes Piggie’s ball. Of course Elephant feels confident he can get Piggie’s ball back from the fellow. Then he sees the big guy...and this big guy is really, really big.

Another perfect Mo Willems tale. Does Mo Willems ever swing and not get a hit?

Joe and Sparky Go to School by Jamie Michalak with illustrations by Frank Riemkiewicz

Oh dear. Before you know it, Sparky finds himself on top of a school bus and Joe must climb on back of the bus to rescue him.

And is school ever a strange place?! Yes, it is, especially to a turtle and a giraffe.

Fun, fun, fun.

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes

Penny finds a marble in her neighbor’s yard and is filled with trepidation about finding it and taking it home with her without telling her neighbor about it. A little story with big drama and a happy ending.

The Meanest Birthday Girl by Josh Schneider

I don’t ever remember reading books about mean girls when I was a little reader, but I seem to be reading more and more about them these days and I’m glad. It’s Dana’s birthday and she is a mean girl. One of her friends gives her an elephant for her birthday. It’s not a good gift. Dana seems to deserve it somehow, and she suffers greatly before finally, in a mean gesture, giving it as a birthday gift to another friend.

Dodsworth in Tokyo by Tim Egan

Dodsworth and the duck go to Tokyo. Everything is mysterious and delicious and cleverly fun. The duck has trouble fitting in, as usual, and accidently breaks things and knocks things over, but all is good in the end. I really liked this little trip to Tokyo with Dodsworth and the duck.

My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz with illustrations by Eva Eriksson

What a happy matchup between writer and illustrator! And it is so refreshingly lovely to read a story about a happy child, Dani. Yes, she suffers a setback in her happiness when her best friend moves away, but we know that will only be a small setback somehow. Yes, a refreshingly lovely book. A genuinely lovely book.

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary Mckay

Lulu and her cousin go with Lulu’s parents rent a house for a vacation by the sea and encounter the Dog from the Sea. It’s a homeless dog who scavenges for food and water and who has alienated himself from all the residents by digging in their trash. Lulu and her cousin lose their hearts to this dog. You know what’s going to happen and you are glad it does.

Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat by Anna Bradford with illustrations by Elanna Allen

Violet tries to make a ladybug happy, but she accidentally kills her. Violet’s sister desperately needs an idea for her science fair project. These two little plot lines twist and curve around each other and result in a wonderful little story.

Kelsey Green, Reading Queen by Claudia Mills with illustrations by Rob Shepperdson

Is it wrong to love a story so much just because the main character is an enormously obsessive reader? I’m not sure, and I’m also not sure that anyone other than enormously obsessive readers would love this book quite as much as those of us who are such do and will. Nevertheless, even if you are not, I would hope that you would admire the character growth of little Kelsey, who sets aside her own personal goals to help her class achieve its goal.

It’s a marvelous tale, I think. I love it.

Others I recommend:

Here's the complete list of all the Cybils Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book nominees.

Here are the Cybils Easy Reader finalists and Early Chapter Book finalists.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?


  1. Dodsworth in Tokyo looks perfect for my granddaughter. What fun!
    Book Dilettante

  2. I have read and loved all the Dodsworth books. My favorite is probably Dodsworth in Paris (of course!)

  3. Thanks - I now have a few on hold for my own li'l readers!

  4. These all look wonderful! I didn't read books about mean girls as a kid, either, but there were definitely some MEAN girls! lol

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

  5. That girl really is a mean girl. And she doesn't turn magically into a nice girl like she would have in lots of children's books.

  6. These all look good. Have a great week!

  7. These look terrific. THANKS for sharing.

    I "KNOW" you are an amazing librarian and the children LOVE you.

  8. like your 100% success rate!
    and what an awesome job to have for developing readers !
    Way to go Deb =)

  9. I feel happy to have a job that is perfect for me.


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