I was in the children’t section of the library and I couldn’t resist checking out a whole stack of easy readers. I have been focusing lately on books geared to the fourth to sixth grade reading level, but I was in the mood for something innocent, silly, and fun that picture books portray so well. I was in the mood to create multiple daydreams all at once.
The Sheep of the Lal Bagh by David Mark and illustrated by Lionel Kalish. Come to a park in India called the Lal Bagh and meet the lawn mower, a sheep named Ramesh. People come to the park to relax and to see Ramesh. But when he is replaced with a real lawn mower, he feels betrayed and runs away. The mayor soon realizes the situation and sends out a search party to find him. In addition to a cute story, the playful and detailed drawings give the reader a taste of Indian culture and tradition. I recommend it highly.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz. Alexander is having a bad day and doesn’t think anyone cares. It can be daunting to a child when they feel that way. This story can help a child realize that it is normal to have a bad day and that it is not the end of the world.
A Prairie Alphabet by Yvette Moore and illustrated Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet. Realistic paintings explore life on the prairie through the alphabet. This book even includes a glossary of cultural descriptions and an index of words by letter. I was impressed by the book’s uniqueness. For example, the words representing the letter “i” are: icicles on an irrigation sprinkler.
Alligators and Music by Donald Elliott and illustrated by Clinton Arrowood. This is a story that describes a symphony orchestra in detail. Each musical instrument is personified and tells a story about themselves. The illustrations of the instruments are drawn with accuracy and the language used to describe them flows with elegance. The story is unique, informative, and very fun to read. This would be great to read to a group of students in a music class.
“Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” by Patricia Thomas and illustrated by Wallace Tripp. The story is told in whimsical rhyming stanzas. Although the book is illustrated in black and white for the most-part, the animated drawings come to life with movement and funny facial expressions. You should definitely read this if you want a silly book that will make you laugh. This would be great to read to kindergartners and for first and second graders to read by themselves.
Down the Back of the Chair by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Polly Dunbar. This story is so silly and the drawings are so outrageous you will laugh at loud. I could totally relate to the frantic disorganized nature of the father as he proceeds with his day. It is a treasure hunt for Dad’s car keys… down the back of the chair!
The Christmas Tree Tangle by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Anthony Kerins. A little kitty gets stuck in a towering Christmas tree and, in an attempt to save it, is followed by a cat, a dog, a goat, and pigs. They all get stuck as well. It is up to a young girl to save them. This story is told in rhyming stanzas and is very fun to read at Christmastime.
The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee. Felix Clousseau is an unknown and mysterious painter who wins a contest, becomes famous, and then gets sent to prison when his paintings come to life and wreak havoc on the town. But all is not lost when the very last of his paintings redeems all the damage that has been done and Clousseau is released. The story reads like a mystery which is why I love it. The illustrations engage the reader’s curiosity. Various hues of color from dull and drab to soft and bright effectively set the mood on each page.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. (1990 Caldecott Honor book) It is the fist night of Hanukkah and Hershel of Ostropol encounters a sleepy village that does not have even one candle lit. He is recruited to rid the town of oppressive goblins so they can resume celebrating Hanukkah and stop living in fear. In the spirit of cultural diversity, I think it is important to introduce a variety of literature to children including stories about Jewish holidays.
The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz. (1980 Caldecott Honor book) This is a humble story with the moral, “Sometimes one must travel far to discover what is near.”
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe. (1988 Caldecott Honor book) The drawings in this book are beautifully detailed. The author was inspired by ruins in Zimbabwe when he illustrated it. The story was inspired by south African folklore. Two sisters travel to see the king as candidates to be the next queen. This is a great story to teach the value of being generous and kind.
It Takes A Village by Jane Cowen-Fletcher. Visit an open-air market in Africa as a girl searches for her brother. Colorful drawings depict life and culture on market day in a rural African village.
A Really Good Snowman by Daniel J Mahoney. Jack is constantly bothered by his little sister, Nancy. He just wants to be left alone. He plans to enter the snowman contest with his friends, but of course Nancy wants to tag along. At first he ditches her, but when he sees how she is struggling (with the snow and with bullies), he feels compassion and helps her. This would be a good book to read to siblings.
The Perfect Clubhouse by Daniel J Mahoney. A group of friends decide to build a clubhouse together so that they have a space of their own. All though they agree on the building materials, they don’t seem to agree on anything else. As they proceed with the project, they discover that they each have a slightly different agenda and are not working as a team. By the end of the story, they work out their differences. This is a good story for modeling good behaviors for friendship.
Armadillo by Mary Elise Monsell and illustrated by Sylvie Wickstrom. This is a nice story of how friends take care of each other.
The Mouse & Mrs. Proudfoot by Albert Rusling. This is a story about a mother and daughter who do not realize how good they have it until things get worse.
A Sunday Stroll by Paul Borgese and illustrated by Jane Arimoto. With fun and playful illustrations, this is a tale of friendship. There’s nothing sillier than a centipede putting on 100 socks and 100 shoes.
Badger’s Bad Mood by Hiawyn Oram and illustrated by Susan Varley. This is a story of how friends help each other. In this case, Mole helps Badger get over the bad mood he is in and finds a way to make everyone feel appreciated.
Say Hello, Vanessa by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and illustrated by Lillian Hoban. This is a very sweet story about making friends as told through the eyes of a smart but shy little mouse. The simple drawings are in black and white but contain wonderful details. This would be a good story for the first day of school and for students to take turns reading aloud.
Naomi Knows It’s Springtime by Virginia L. Kroll and illustrated by Jill Kastner. Impressionist oil paintings depict springtime as experienced by a girl who is blind. The storytelling is very sweet and tender.
Space Witch by Don Freeman. Tilly Ipswitch decides she wants to fly to outer space to scare people on Halloween so she builds a spaceship, the Zoom Broom, loads up her cat, Kit, and flies off in search of another inhabited planet. It is a fun little adventure. It was published prior to the first moon landing and the depictions of the space ship and space suit are pretty funny compared to how we depict those things in books and movies today.
My Name Is Gabriela, The Life of Gabriela Mistral by Monica Brown and Illustrated by John Parra. This is a bilingual children’s story of the life of Gabriela Mistral who, in 1945, became the first Latin American writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. It tells of her passion for learning, teaching, and poetry.