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From limited word banks to graphic-novel elements, these books have plenty of tools to support emerging readers — and entertaining stories that are worth the effort. For more on easy readers, see the upcoming March/April 2018 Horn Book Magazine article “An Easy Reader Renaissance.”

Witty wordplay, snappy dialogue, and rich watercolor and collage illustrations combine in Bryan Collier’s first early reader It’s Shoe Time!, part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series. A young African American girl puzzles over the “right shoes” to wear for a day out with her father, as a varied cast of googly-eyed footwear humorously vies for her attention. The hallmarks of this successful series (including a cameo by Gerald and Piggie) are all present; Collier’s sophisticated illustration style, here entertainingly mixed with the zanier shoe illustrations, and the realistically depicted female protagonist of color make this entry a stand-out. (Hyperion, 5–8 years)

Several wordless pages launch Liniers’s Good Night, Planet (also published in Spanish as Buenas Noches, Planeta). A sentient stuffed animal named Planet is up for nighttime adventure with the family dog and a mouse who wants to show them “the biggest cookie ever,” which turns out to be the moon. Thin, sketchy ink lines and masterful crosshatching are complemented by a beautiful watercolor palette that adds depth and mass to the forms; dynamic and varied panel design makes for an engaging early-reader comic. (TOON, 5–8 years)

Where’s Halmoni?, Julie Kim’s gentle and humorous graphic novel for younger readers, is told through dialogue, sound effects, and visual narrative. Siblings Noona and Joon smell the wafting aroma of their grandmother Halmoni’s red bean soup, but Halmoni herself is missing. The pair follows clues to a bedroom closet, which transports them to a magical world featuring characters and imagery from Korean folklore. A glossary matches English text to each illustration featuring Korean text, and more information about the folktale characters and the author’s interpretations of them are provided in the back matter. (Sasquatch/Little Bigfoot, 5–8 years)

In Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy, sequel to Laurel Snyder’s picture-book/easy-reader hybrid Charlie & Mouse, four chapters detail small moments shared by two brothers and a visiting grandfather-figure, Grumpy. Together they discuss being “medium” (it’s that in-between age when you’re no longer little but not yet a big kid), hang out in a blanket fort, and more. Grumpy’s love for the boys — and theirs for him — shines through. The exuberant text is large and clear against plenty of white space. Thoughtful word repetition ensures that the chapters build with a steady rhythm. Emily Hughes’s soft, muted illustrations with energetic outlines match the story’s balance of cozy and playful. (Chronicle, 5–8 years)

From the January 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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