Thursday, May 16, 2013

Short and Sweet (mostly)

Selecting early-readers, chapter books or short novels for grades 2/3 to 5 can be tricky.  Varying reading abilities makes it challenging to find interesting stories that aren't too difficult or too easy to read.  Illustrations are good, but this group is moving out of picture books so you don’t want too many.  Lots of white space on each page and large text are also helpful for the novice reader. I'm big on humour, too.

Here’s a few of my current favs for early readers (grades 2/3 to 5) with varying difficulty of texts.

I love these books.  They are short and 
snappy with fantastic illustrations by Lane Smith.  Lulu is a pretty self-centred little girl who does learn (eventually -- and with some interesting experiences along the way) that being nicer to those around her (Mr. B, the Dogs, Fleischman) gets her more than being overly bossy and tyrannical. Great narrator, too.

I'm late to discover Bad Kitty but am glad I've found her. Lots of exaggerated circumstances cause Bad Kitty to become more and more nervous and frighten of goofy, well-meaning Uncle Murray.  His inexperience around cats means he’s not aware of her ‘tender’ feelings and hair trigger reaction time. The illustrations add a lot to the visual humour.

Stuart Goes to School by Sara Pennypacker
I’m a big fan of the Clementine books by this author (check out Clementine and the Family Meeting for a great intro to this clever little girl and her family) and hope Stuart’s story would be as good.  Stuart is a worry wart plain-and-simple.  Nothing is too big or small to cause Stuart to fret.  Add a magic cape and life of this grade 3 student gets really interesting. Though I thoroughly enjoyed this very short book for it’s hyperbole I found it a bit more ‘message-y’ than the Clementine books.  The slap stick humour will appeal to this grade level easily.

Though I really liked this one I do have one complaint.  “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.”  This is great.  This is fantastic but I can’t figure out why the Nigerian-born author didn't specify which country in Africa.  We don’t get a lot of books written about African characters by African writers and African countries have a tendency to be lumped together with little acknowledgement of the wide diversity on this continent. However, that being said the narrator’s voice, the plot (Anna travels to Canada to visit her maternal grandmother in the winter), and the descriptions of her African family are well done and draw us into Anna’s adventure. 

A few other honourable mentions are Sadie and Ratz by Sonta Hartnett, Say What? by Margaret Peterson Haddix and Fat Bat and Swoop by Leo Landry.  These certainly have elements I look for in early readers, but I found them a bit more message-y.  I think kids will find the premise and humour in each enjoyable, regardless.


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