Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Reviews: Early Readers

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel (1970). 64 pages.
Frog and Toad are certainly a dynamic duo. This book contains five short stories of the two best friends’ adventures. Actually, “adventures” is too strong of a word, as Frog and Toad don’t do too much. They lose buttons, try and get out of bed and tell each other stories. Despite the fact that the stories seem like they should be mundane, Frog and Toad are so quirky that the stories become fun. Not only that, Arnold Lobel’s mostly brown and green illustrations enhance each tale. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see what a Toad looks like standing on his head?

We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems (2010). 57 pages.
I really enjoy Willems’s Elephant and Piggie series. They are short, simple books with simple illustrations, but lots of character. In We Are in a Book! Elephant and Piggie become self aware that they are being read. While this can come across contrived, Willems pulls this off with lots of fun. We Are in a Book is a great read-along book. The characters laugh about making the reader say funny words (like “banana”) aloud, making the reader a part of the book experience. Not since Kilgore Trout met Kurt Vonnegut Breakfast of Champions have I enjoyed characters realizing that they, indeed, are in a book.

Little Bear by Else Homelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak (1957). 67 pages.
Little Bear includes four sweet stories about a young bear. Each story is pretty simple for early readers, yet creative and engaging. One of my favorite parts of the Little Bear stories is that Mother Bear is so loving to her son, yet also has a sense of humor in playing along with his games. Theirs is a sweet, uncomplicated relationship. Sendak’s illustrations definitely add to the stories. The mostly black-and-white illustrations that include a splash of color let the reader into the imagination of the story. For example, the reader gets to see what Little Bear imagines when he believes he is flying to the moon, even though he really just jumped off of a small tree. This is a classic that should be included in early reader collections.

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