Long before a child is able to comprehend a lengthy text, the desire to read one is tremendous. For the beginning reader, a chapter book is one giant step in that direction. Thankfully, today’s authors are providing a plethora of award-worthy easy readers. Many of the following selections could be contenders for next year’s Theodor Geisel Award (which is given annually to the most distinguished book for beginning readers).
DALEY, Michael J. Pinch and Dash and the Terrible Couch. illus. by Thomas F. Yezerski. Charlesbridge. 2013. ISBN 9781580893794. JLG Level: E+ : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).
Pinch is reading a cookbook when the doorbell disturbs him. It’s Push and Shove, movers who have a couch delivery for him. “Where do you want it?” they ask. “I don’t want it at all,” cries Pinch. His Aunt Hasty needs him to store the couch until she can find a big house to put it in. He, however, doesn’t care for the couch’s color, style, or softness, and especially its daring splashes of red. What’s worse is that Pinch can’t get to his beloved snug chair. The couch is much too big for his small living room. He and Dash try to rearrange the room, but just tire themselves out. The cushions are just right for Dash, and in his exhaustion, he falls fast asleep. All that work just makes Pinch hot, so he sticks his head out of the window. Fluttering curtains with a dash of red give him an idea. Now where did he put Push and Shove’s phone number? Five short chapters will keep beginning readers engaged in a plot that will have them laughing as well.
DiCAMILLO, Kate and Alison McGhee. Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever. illus. by Tony Fucile. ISBN 9780763634971. JLG Level: E : Easy Reading (Grades 1-3).
At last Gollie finds proof in a family photo album that she has royal blood. Her extraordinary discovery leads to a change in her lifestyle. No longer will she be making pancakes for her best friend Bink. “Royalty does not cook for others.” Bink has no intention of supporting her pal’s new role. With a ceremonial flare, Gollie decides to venture into a kingdom all alone. Wearing her royal attire, the self- crowned queen skates through her neighborhood encouraging the members of her empire, including. the local entrepreneurs, owners of Eccles’ Empire of Enchantment. That same eclectic couple returns in the third chapter by helping Bink and Gollie discover a way to remain best friends, and receive the kudos that sixty-six hundred gold stars wouldn’t give them. Bink stars in her own chapter while trying to grow taller than Gollie. Best Friends Forever follows the ups and downs of friendship with lots of dialogue and great illustrations to support young readers.
HAAS, Jessie. Bramble and Maggie: Give and Take. illus. by Alison Friend. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763650216. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).
In this second installment of the series, Maggie wants to take Bramble for a ride. The horse has other ideas. She doesn’t think she should always do what the little girl wants―there should be some give-and-take. So she fights being bridled until she is bribed with a carrot. Adventures continue as they explore the neighborhood. Mr. Dingle is hoping for a nice, quiet horse. Once again, Bramble has other ideas. She eats his flowers and makes lots of noise. The neighbor already has a hen that’s keeping his yard in an uproar. Maybe Bramble is lonely. Maybe he would like a hen for a friend. Maybe Maggie would like to have his hen, and his life could be peaceful once again. Everyone would be happy. Readers will be happy to see the return of their favorite characters.
HENKES, Kevin. Penny and her Marble. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2013. ISBN 9780062082046. JLG Level: E+ : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).
Strolling through the neighborhood, Penny finds a marble in the grass near the edge of Mrs. Goodwin’s yard. No one is looking. No one is watching. She slips the marble into her pocket and races home. Her new treasure is as blue as a piece of sky. But something worries Penny―Was Mrs. Goodwin looking for the marble? Should she have asked for it? She can’t stop thinking about it. Her self-imposed guilt makes Penny’s stomach hurt. She can’t eat her dinner. Everything reminds her of marbles. That night she dreams that Mrs. Goodwin comes looking for it. In the morning, she knows what she has to do. Penny can’t carry the burden any longer, so she puts it in her pocket and goes to her neighbor’s house. With a smidge of a surprise-ending, Henkes strikes a chord in the heart of any child who has found a treasure. Penny’s fans will rejoice in her honesty and cheer for her decisions.
SCHNEIDER, Josh. The Meanest Birthday Girl. illus. by author. Clarion. 2013. ISBN 9780547838144. JLG Level: E : Easy Reading (Grades 1-3).
“It was Dana’s birthday and she could do whatever she liked.” What she likes is calling Anthony names and pinching him. She also enjoys dessert, so she eats her own and Anthony’s too. After all of her friends stop by with birthday presents, there is a knock at the door. Opening it, she sees Anthony. “What are you doing here, you ickaborse?” It seems he has come to bring her a present. It’s a beautiful white elephant with toenails painted her favorite color. She doesn’t know what to say. Anthony tells her to take care of it. And she does. The other kids are jealous. “Not everyone deserves an elephant,” says Dana. She realizes keeping her new pet outside will never do, so she brings it inside to sleep in her bed. When the elephant needs more breakfast, she gives it hers. On the school bus, Gertrude picks on Dana when her ’s empty stomach grumbles. It turns out that caring for a big white elephant is a great deal of work. When the exhausted birthday girl falls asleep at school, Gertrude eats her dessert. How can she deal with Gertrude who bullies her more every day? What can she do about her pet? Maybe Anthony isn’t such an ickaborse after all. Readers will laugh out loud, while adults will see the “aha moment” and be able to use Dana’s story to teach a valuable lesson.
For strategies about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.
Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.
This article was featured in School Library Journal's Extra Helping enewsletter. Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to your inbox for free.