Pete Likes Bunny

illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. 24p. Holiday House. Oct. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780823436538; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780823436873; ebk. $14.95. ISBN 9780823437344.
K-Gr 2—This early reader takes place in a classroom where the students and teacher are animals. Mrs. Pooch introduces the class to a new student, Bunny, who is assigned a seat next to Pete, who is a pig. "Pete stares at Bunny. He cannot help it./Bunny is perfect!/He thinks about Bunny all the time." The next day, when Pete sits next to Bunny on the bus, kids taunt him and disrupt the class, saying, "Pete likes Bunny!" Pete's mom encourages him to pick flowers for Bunny, and Bunny gives Pete some homemade cookies. Now when the class sings about Pete liking Bunny, the duo don't mind, "because it's true." The mature theme of a sustained crush brings to mind James Marshall's Fox in Love, which features animal characters in a longer beginning reader format. McCully's text is far simpler, and her watercolor cartoon characters have a lot of charm.
VERDICT Even kids who don't necessarily relate to the tender romance will appreciate the straightforward vocabulary, repetition, sight clues, and other elements that build fluency. A solid addition to most collections.

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