New Books for Emergent Readers

Elementary classroom teachers and librarians will want to add these titles to their collections.

Silly animals and speech bubbles abound in these easy readers inspired by some favorite series. Many of the titles will appeal to our youngest students, offering opportunities to master simple stories before moving on to longer and more complex texts. No doubt about it—elementary classroom teachers and librarians will want to add of these titles to their collections.



HECHT, Tracey. The Slithery Shakedown. illus. by Josie Yee. (The Nocturnals Grow & Read Early Reader). Fabled Films Press. Apr. 2018. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781944020170. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781944020163.

A sugar glider with the moniker Bismark the Brave, a pangolin called Tobin, and a red fox named Dawn collectively known as “The Nocturnal Brigade,” are ready for their second exploit in this exciting new series. The trio meets their match in a blue slithery snake on the hunt. Though each on their own poses no threat, the hungry reptile decides that together, they are “tough stuff” and retreats, shedding his skin as he goes. Bismark uses the victory skin to fashion uniforms for the Brigade.… “Bold in adventure. And best of all, brave!” Two pages of fun facts about nocturnal animals in general, as well as those in the story, are included.

LEHRHAUPT, Adam. Chicken in Mittens. illus. by Shahar Kober. HarperCollins. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062364159. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780062364142.

When Zoey the chicken opens the barn door to a winter wonderland, she is inspired to become an Arctic explorer. She convinces her reluctant friend Sam the pig to join her; Clara the cow reminds them to wear their mittens, which they put on their heads—“Not what I meant,” she remarks as they take off for the North Pole. As they wiggle under the fence, Sam doesn’t notice that his “mitten” is caught, nor that it is unraveling as they go. Zoey flies down a hill on Sam’s back, and they have a close encounter with a yeti, who turns out to be the scarecrow, whom the naïve friends are amazed to see on the North Pole. Satisfied with their adventure, they decide to head home, but how will they get there? “‘We follow your string…Leaving it was a good idea, Sam!’ ‘I’m smart like that,’ said Sam.”

LONG, Ethan. Dance, Dance, Dance! illus. by author. (Horse & Buggy). Holiday House. Jul. 2018. lib.ed. $17.20. ISBN 9780823438594.

Buggy watches in amazement as his friend kicks and flings himself this way and that—cane in hand, rose in mouth. “What are you doing?” he wonders. “I am dancing. I am the best dancer. I have the best dances.” Horse entreats his friend to dance with him, but Buggy is reluctant, “I do not hear any music” and besides, “I just ate.” He finally performs some fancy moves of his own and declares, “There. I danced. Are you happy now?” But, alas, Horse cannot be happy if his friend is not. He fetches a boom box and turns on a song, commanding, “So turn off the frown. Start getting down!” Buggy starts to boogie, but horse collapses… “‘What are you doing?’... ‘I am resting. All that dancing tired me out.’” These two silly friends rival Elephant and Piggie with their shenanigans; a speech-bubble text makes this a natural for readers’ theater.

MACK, Jeff. Mr. Monkey Bakes a Cake. illus. by author. (Mr. Monkey) S. & S. Jul. 2018. Tr $8.99. ISBN 9781534404311.

In this first book in the series, Mr. Monkey bakes a banana cake and decides to enter it in a cake show in the hope of winning a ribbon. The trip to the event involves a number of close calls—he is almost hit by a hippie biker, a grandma on a trike, a baby on a hobby horse, and a cowboy on a hot dog car—all of whom are also bringing cakes to the show. Narrowly escaping those traffic incidents, the creature is then pursued by a flock of birds, an angry dog, and a hungry gorilla. Each time that he avoids danger comes the refrain, “The cake is safe. Or is it?” When Mr. Monkey finally arrives, the show is over and all the ribbons have been awarded, but all’s well that ends well thanks to the gorilla, a banana, and a little girl…or does it? The text is comprised of monosyllabic utterances in speech bubbles along with short, simple, repetitive narrative.

MCCULLY, Emily Arnold. Min Makes a Machine. illus by author. Holiday House. Jul. 2018. $14.99. ISBN 9780823439706. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780823439713.

Dedicated “To all problem-solving girls,” this Level E guided reading title featuring three elephant friends begins with a problem. After a game of tennis, Bess and Ann are too hot to play. Min uses a leafy branch to fan them, but what they really want to do is go for a swim. The watering hole is empty, so Min finds a well, the water there is deep down at the bottom. The resourceful pachyderm spirals and glues a hose around a long tube and places the tube in the well. “This is the hard part,” she explains and proceeds to turn and turn and turn the tube until the water begins to spray and fill the pool. Ingenuity, determination, and a refreshing dip save the day.

TABOR, Corey R. Fox the Tiger. illus by author. HarperCollins. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062398697. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780062398673.

Fox so wishes he were a big, fast, sneaky tiger that he paints himself with black stripes and goes on the prowl. Turtle is not fooled, but Fox’s disguise prompts him to don stripes, helmet, and a number to become Race Car. Rabbit follows suit and transforms to Robot; then the rain comes. Costumes are washed away, and Fox is wet and sad…until Squirrel comes along. “‘Wow! A fox!’’ says Squirrel. ‘Foxes are big…fast…[and]…sneaky. Foxes are the best!’” Turtle agrees, and Fox is happy to be himself. New readers will delight in the animals’ efforts and will probably have ideas of what they would like to be—for Halloween—and ideas on how to accomplish the transformation.

THOMAS, Jan. My Toothbrush Is Missing. illus. by author. (The Giggle Gang). HMH. Jan. 2018. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780544966352.

Dog, Donkey, Sheep, and Duck are friends whose clueless misunderstandings rival those of “Amelia Bedelia,” though this series will be easier for emergent readers with its bold, colorful illustrations and large speech bubbles. In this entry, Dog searches for his toothbrush with Donkey’s well-intentioned help. “What does a toothbrush look like?” he queries. It has bristles, but it’s not Fat Cat…a long handle, but it’s not a broom…and it’s red, but not an egg beater. Each of Donkey’s guesses may be preposterous, but the punch line will have readers rolling on the floor.

YOON, Salina. That’s My Book! And Other Stories . illus. by author. (A Duck, Duck, Porcupine! Book). Bloomsbury. 2017. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781619638914.

In the title story, Big Duck and Porcupine are bored, while Little Duck is absorbed in a wagon full of books, which he generously agrees to share. To his dismay, the pair use the books as a stage, for dominoes, to balance on Big Duck’s head, and for building. Still, in the end, no one can resist the power of a good book. In “Let’s Have a Talent Show!” Big Duck tries to impress Porcupine with his many talents. Poor Porcupine can’t stand on one leg or do a headstand, but he agrees to try to build a stage to showcase his friend’s many “talents.” While Big Duck is impressed with his own performance, all eyes are on Porcupine’s stage. In “Dress-Like-a-Pirate Day” Little Duck and Porcupine are playing pirate, but Big Duck sees his sibling’s eye patch and imagines he’s lost an eye. She decides to doctor him until she realizes her mistake, and without a beat, she declares both friends to be “…SEASICK!” Yoon’s signature bold, color-saturated illustrations and large, speech-bubble text will appeal to new readers.


CARBONE, Courtney. This Makes Me Happy. illus. by Hilli Kushnir. (Rodale Kid Curious Readers). Rodale Kids. Apr. 2018. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781635650570. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9781635650389.

In this series entry, a young girl narrates her exciting day on a class trip to a country fair. A roller coaster ride, face painting, pie-eating contest, jelly bean guessing game, and petting zoo are all terrific, but a nut allergy prevents her from buying a treat at the bake sale. She feels left out until her teacher confides that she, too, has allergies and asks her to help collect the money. As she thinks about her day, she realizes that, despite her disappointment, it was a great day. “What makes YOU happy?” The first-person narrative allows the story to explore feelings without sounding didactic. A perfect choice for social-emotional learning curriculums.

LIGHT, Kelly. Louise Loves Bake Sales. illus. by author. HarperCollins. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.47. ISBN 9780062363664. pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780062363657.

“Did you know food can be art?” When the first grade announces a bake sale, Louise can’t wait to make a rainbow of cupcakes. As she gives her little brother a lesson in mixing food colors, he gets carried away, and soon they’re left with nothing but gray frosting—until the tyke’s robot costume inspires her to make Robo Cakes—toothpicks, marshmallows, berries, and a little creativity is all it takes. Readers will recognize the brunette-bobbed character with her round red spectacles from the popular picture book Louise Loves Art (2014). A great choice for educators teaching about “happy accidents.”

MORRIS, J.E. Fish Are Not Afraid of Doctors. illus by author. (Maud the Koala). Penguin Workshop. Apr. 2018. Tr $8.99. ISBN 9781524784430.

While Maud and her mother visit the doctor’s office for her checkup, she becomes interested in a fish tank in the waiting room. When the little koala learns that fish don’t go to the doctor or get vaccinations, she wishes she were one. After several unsuccessful attempts to hide from the feared doctor, Maud’s imagination takes her on an underwater journey that ultimately results in a successful visit. Appealing anthropomorphized characters, humor, and a partial graphic format set this easy reader apart.

SNYDER, Laurel. Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy . illus by Emily Hughes. Chronicle. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781452137483.

In this sequel to the 2018 Geisel award-winning title about two endearing brothers, Grumpy, aka grandpa, comes for a visit. On his arrival he exclaims, “Charlie and Mouse! ...You are getting so big!” While Charlie can read, swim, and eat three hot dogs...with mustard, his younger brother announces that he is only “medium,” which means no mustard among other things. At lunchtime the old man confides that when it comes to hot dogs, he, too, is medium. As the day ensues, the three learn more about each other, including that when Grumpy babysits it means pizza, forts, and movies. However, at bedtime, the man doesn’t know the right bedtime song, and Charlie inadvertently sings him to sleep. Finally, it is time for Grumpy to leave, and Mouse announces that, “Blanket is sad because of the rain.” When reassurances fall flat Charlie admits that Blanket is not the sad one…he is. A group hug followed by a forgotten toothbrush prompts the boys to write a letter with the postscript, “Come back soon.”

YOO, Paula. The Perfect Gift. illus. by Shirley Ng-Benitez. (Confetti Kids) Lee & Low. Jan. 2018. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781620145678. pap. $5.95. ISBN 9781620145685.

Mei’s family will soon celebrate her little brother Ming’s 100th day with a big party. Her grandmother colors dozens of eggs red to give the guests for good luck, while the girl’s mother gives her red invitations to distribute. Mei wants to give her brother the perfect gift—Padma suggests a truck, and Henry, a drum—but the baby doesn’t do much yet, and, besides, toys are expensive. The day of the party, Mei is still undecided and feeling blue. Grandma assures her that “The perfect gift comes from the heart,” and, suddenly, the girl knows just what to give. Short, simple sentences and colorful, appealing illustrations add to this heartwarming family story.

Barbara Auerbach is a SLJ reviewer and contributor to SLJ's enewsletter Curriculum Connections.

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