31 Days, 31 Lists: 2019 Easy Books
Call them easy books, beginning books, early readers, whatever term you prefer. Today, I’m highlighting the books that are best for new readers. Simple texts, simple sentences, simple words. None of that fancy dance chapter nonsense. Of course, is a great deal of variety even within Easy Books, so tread carefully.
Today, I am beyond pleased to praise the books that are, to my mind, the most difficult to write in the English language. Or, rather, to write well. This crew met the challenge and responded accordingly:
2019 Easy Books
Bright Owl Books – Blues for Unicorn by Molly Coxe
Bright Owl Books – Go Home Goat by Molly Coxe
Bright Owl Books – Greedy Beetle by Molly Coxe
Bright Owl Books – Lion Spies a Tiger by Molly Coxe
Bright Owl Books – Save the Cake! by Molly Coxe
The other day I presented my library’s 101 Great Books for Kids list to a group of librarians in Wilmette. My talk was accompanied by a local bookstore who brought along some of the titles I was talking up for folks to buy. Now my library’s list only included one Bright Owl Book, but the bookseller was such a fan of the series that she brought them all. And let me tell you, they got snapped up right quick. The Bright Owl Books were originally released about seven years ago as independently published titles. Now they’ve been picked up by Kane Press and this year Coxe released wholly new titles. Each book stresses a particular vowel sound. Look at the titles and you’ll be able to figure out which is which. Coxe’s model work is phenomenal and even the plots of the books are fun. Of the five listed here, I think Save the Cake is my favorite. First off – cake. So. You know. Right there. Then there’s the fact that using the long “a” sound it tells a pretty dang smart story. Kirkus pooh-poohed the writing, but I think that in this case they are mildly insane. These books are written remarkably well considering the limited word count AND the art is fantastic.
Charlie & Mouse Even Better by Laurel Snyder, ill. Emily Hughes
I know I don’t usually include sequels on my lists so this might all be a moot point, but I do honestly feel that this third Charlie & Mouse book stands alone. There’s a strange early reader elegance to it. Snyder appears to be the queen of the callback, and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to appreciate that the callback line is, “Mom is the best!” Or maybe I’m just biased in some strange, inexplicable manner.
Harold & Hog Pretend for Real! by Dan Santat
A show of hands. Who likes their easy books meta? You do? Then are you in luck, baby! Let’s see if I can break this down. A pig and an elephant read a book about a pig and an elephant that love the books about the first pig/elephant pairing. Got that? Santat just knocks this one out of the park. It’s wily and sly and very funny to kids learning to read, while also amusing us, the jaded adults. I like Elephant and Piggie but I wouldn’t mind reading more Harold and Hog as well.
By the way, is it sad that I only now, upon posting this, realized that “Harold” and “Gerald” rhyme? Whooboy . . .
Hello, Hedgehog: Do You Like My Bike? by Norm Feuti
See, I basically fell for Feuti’s style when he did that comic The King of Kazoo years ago. Figures he’d be able to knock an Easy Book out of the park. I’m crazy about this too. It is SO hard to write Easy, and he nails it on every level. How can I sell this to you? It features a skeptical hedgehog. There is, to my mind, nothing better in this world than that.
Hello, Hedgehog Let’s Have a Sleepover! by Norm Feuti
Harry’s just thrilled to be staying the night at his best friend’s house. But when Hedgehog reveals that they’ll be camping the background, things don’t seem so great anymore. As the mother of two kids who have both been doing some serious sleepovering in the last few months, I feel for Harry. Harry is an inveterate worrier. I am an inveterate worrier. And when you are an inveterate worrier is to good to have a friend like Hedgehog who can see through you to your fears and accommodate you accordingly. A lovely little book about empathy at work.
Jack Blasts Off! by Mac Barnett, ill. Greg Pizzoli
Okay. So I have a very strange relationship to the first two book in Mac’s Jack series (which, for the record, is fun to say out loud). The first book (Hi, Jack!) introduces you to Jack, a mischievous bunny. He gets in trouble with both the narrator and an old lady. The end. Fine but it sort of felt like the second coming of Rotten Ralph. Jack Blasts Off, on the other hand, is MUCH more interesting. Here we have a book that feels like it could have come out of a Looney Tunes episode. Jack and the dog Rex have so thoroughly pissed off the Lady of Book #1 that she throws them on a rocket ship and sends them into space with just enough gas to get to the moon. There they bug an alien, get chased by another alien, and are returned to the Earth by the first alien with strict instructions to the Lady that Jack and Rex are clearly her problem and she needs to stop sending her problems into the universe where someone else will have to deal with them (but, y’know, all this in an easy ready format without a lot of words). This book has this weird internal logic that I kind of dig. To each their own, right?
The Kid and the Chameleon by Shery Mabry, ill. Joanie Stone
A girl and a chameleon make a pass at friendship, find they have almost nothing in common with one another, and go for it anyway. I rather liked the first in this series. Without being too obvious about it, the book does a good job of showing what happens when you come across someone with a point of view so different from your own that you have a hard time comprehending what it is they are saying at any given time.
Poof! A Bot! (Adventures of Zip) by David Milgrim
Meet Mr. Milgrim. Or, as he should be properly known, the man who does not get enough credit for writing the simplest children’s books in the world. Wasn’t it Mo Willems who once said that the terms “simple” and “easy” are opposites? Milgrim’s work embodies just that. He creates books that are almost ludicrously simple in their texts, and gives them storylines that are funny and strange and interesting, with almost nothing accompanying them. If your earliest of readers aren’t familiar with Bot or Zip, see what you might be able to do in the area of remedying the situation.
Rafi and Rosi: Music! by Lulu Delacre
Lee & Low puts out this early reader series, and they have deemed the Rafi and Rosi books as “early fluent”. So don’t be handing them to your Green Eggs and Ham readers quite yet. I’ve a soft spot in my heart for this coqui brother and sister pair. This is by no means the first in the series, but it may actually be my favorite so far. There are three little stories covering three different kinds of music: bomba, plena, and salsa. Backmatter discusses each of these, as well as how to make a güiro. Words and phrases in Spanish are marked throughout. Of the stories, “Fiery Bomba” is probably my favorite. Why? Because it involves ants that go into pants. That’s about the level of my sophistication we’re dealing with here, folks.
Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell
An erudite bit of sophistication hitherto unseen in the world of easy books. Either that or it’s about getting people to smell your feet. One or the other. I’m sort of a sucker for Cece Bell, and this employs one of my favorite children’s book tropes (the conceited character too dumb to realize that they’re about to be eaten). Marvelous.
Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Funny Picture Books
December 7 – CaldeNotts
December 8 – Picture Book Reprints
December 9 – Math Books for Kids
December 10 – Bilingual Books
December 11 – Books with a Message
December 12 – Fabulous Photography
December 13 – Translated Picture Books
December 14 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
December 15 – Wordless Picture Books
December 16 – Poetry Books
December 17 – Easy Books
December 18 – Early Chapter Books
December 19 – Comics & Graphic Novels
December 20 – Older Funny Books
December 21 – Science Fiction Books
December 22 – Informational Fiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Unconventional Children’s Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers
December 29 – Older Reprints
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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