Age-appropriate stories about friendship and impromptu adventure make easy reader books relatable and entertaining. With welcoming texts and complementary illustrations in engaging formats, these titles starring characters both beloved and soon-to-be-beloved have something to offer emergent and newly independent readers.
In Kevin Henkes’s Penny and Her Marble, the mouse’s third early-reader outing, she spies a marble on Mrs. Goodwin’s lawn. “The marble seemed to say, ‘Take me home.'” And so Penny does, even though, as the illustrations clearly show, she knows this is something she shouldn’t do. She hides her marble and dreams about her furtive act, along with the increasingly escalating (imagined) consequences. Ultimately, Penny finds her own resolution. A respect for the early reader’s emerging skills beautifully matches Henkes’s respect for his character and this common crisis of childhood. (Greenwillow, 5–8 years)
Part picture book, part graphic novel for new readers, Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci follows two duck neighbors on their path to discovering that they have more in common — like an aversion to migrating — than they first thought. Sara Varon’s cartoon illustrations in spring colors perk up this lively friendship story that shows it’s more fun to be different than “normal,” and most fun of all to be different with a buddy. (First Second/Roaring Brook, 5–8 years)
Encapsulated in each of twenty-seven one-page comic-strip dramas, Benjamin Bear’s world is one of challenges both philosophical and physical in Philippe Coudray’s Benjamin Bear in “Bright Ideas!” New readers will be served by the balance of story between speech bubbles and precise illustrations. This companion to Benjamin Bear in “Fuzzy Thinking” rewards what young children are already good at (scrutiny), encourages a new skill (reading), and enlarges the imagination (priceless). (Toon/Candlewick, 5–8 years)
In Joe and Sparky Go to School by Jamie Michalak, giraffe Joe and best friend Sparky the turtle, who live at Safari Land, take an unexpected field trip to a school after they accidentally board a departing bus full of “noisy short people.” Four accessible chapters with limited but lively vocabulary, a large font, and Frank Remkiewicz’s carefully placed illustrations amount to a humorous, high-interest package that will be a hit with newly independent readers. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)
From the July 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.