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Just the two of us

Four funny, episodic books for emerging readers feature dynamic duos — human, invertebrate, and everything in between.

Laurel Snyder’s beginning chapter book Charlie & Mouse is filled to the brim with sincere, slice-of-life sibling moments. In four chapters, the two eponymous brothers have a party on the playground, attempt to sell rocks to the neighbors, and wheedle mom into giving them an extra bedtime snack (after they’ve already brushed their teeth!). Oodles of white space and a large font size combined with helpful repetition in the text support new readers and create momentum that builds to each page turn and chapter’s end. Emily Hughes’s graphite illustrations in muted tones radiate humor and heart. (Chronicle, 5–8 years)

In Rebecca Bond’s Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring, Pig decides to have a picnic by the pond. As she skips along, a white dot in the sky catches her attention. “The dot got bigger and bigger. The dot came to land right by Pig! The dot was not a dot at all. It was a goose!” Thus begins a humorous story of a special friendship, presented in three short chapters. While the limited vocabulary consciously aids emergent readers, the text remains smooth and expressive. The line-and-watercolor illustrations capture the spirit of the story while providing visual cues to help readers along. (Charlesbridge, 5–8 years)

The invertebrate buddies of Tina Kügler’s Snail & Worm return in Snail & Worm Again, another series of three brief and entertaining stories for new readers. In “Snail’s Wings,” Snail thinks he’s suddenly sprouted wings; “The Mirror” revolves around a case of mistaken identity; “Snail Is Sad” is a meditation on what makes us each unique. The all-dialogue text — color coded by creature — features easy-to-read sentences with subtle repetition. The clean illustrations manage to bring great variety to a limited setting (a small patch of ground), and each story has a patter-y rhythm that sets up a humorous and rewarding payoff. (Houghton, 5–8 years)

When globetrotting Uncle Everton sets off on a new voyage, he leaves Barkus — the “smartest dog in the whole world” — with Nicky and her family. In five concise chapters, Barkus and Nicky change the classroom dynamics at school, host a canine birthday party, find a kitten, and camp out in the backyard. Friendship and family are at the heart of this easy reader, with its large text and generous line spacing. Patricia MacLachlan’s first-person narrative gives the story a homey feel, while Marc Boutavant’s illustrations, in bold, vivid colors, pop. After finishing Barkus, fans of Mercy Watson and similar animal stories will be begging for more. (Chronicle, 5–8 years)

From the August 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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