Cybils: Easy Readers & Early Chapter Books
February 14th is generally devoted to all things hearts and love, but it is also the day the Children’s and Young Adults Bloggers’ Literary Awards (Cybils) are announced. With dozens of categories represented, each award comes after a series of two separate judging phases. This year, as in 2016, I was pleased to be on the second round judging panel for Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books (books ideally suited for children ages 4-7 year-olds). To read more about each of the finalists read on.
The size of this book might make it surprising to find it categorized as an easy reader. However, with only one to seven words per page, and a hefty dose of intricate pencil illustrations scattered throughout, this five chapter book (including a key at the back detailing Baby Monkey’s ever-shifting office accoutrements), this is indeed a book for young readers. The recurring sequence of events in each chapter reinforces the plot. Readers will also appreciate and even relate to the humor of Baby Monkey’s difficulty getting himself dressed.
(Note: This book was removed as a finalists by the Cybils committee after complaints that it was offensive to people of color.)
Corey R. Tabor
Balzer + Bray
Fox wants to be a tiger. Tigers are brave and fast. He devises a disguise. When he greets Rabbit and Turtle they are inspired by Fox and also create new characters for themselves. Unfortunately rain turns each of the costumed friends into a soggy puddle of paint, leaving them transformed back to their former selves. This particular spread, with raindrops entering at the top of the page; Fox, Rabbit, and Turtle anchoring the center page; and a reflective puddle near the lower half, is expertly rendered. With concise text and a sweet ending, this is an easy reader that beginning readers will long to return to.
A young girl and her family wait in the Emergency Room, anxious to get a diagnosis on her brother’s possibly broken foot. As they are taken from room to room they meet different doctors along the way. Any child that has been to a hospital will recognize the familiar setting. A list of nine specific doctors (Radiologist, Pathologist, Ophthalmologist, etc.) is provided at the back of the book, pulling out the factual bits from the story.
J. E. Morris
Maud the koala is ready for her birthday party. Yet she is confused to find her mother has only made 12 cupcakes. When she does a last-minute tally, Maud realizes she invited closer to 60 guests! What ensues is a bit of a muddle as she discovers that too many birthday guests make for a bit of birthday mayhem. The relatable scenario (birthday parties!) and graphic novel-style illustration panels are perfect for this age group. Caregivers will appreciate the author’s note about overwhelming situations as well.
HMH Books for Young Readers
With a bright orange cover this book immediately captures readers’ attention. But oh no, Dog’s toothbrush is missing! Donkey begins peppering Dog with questions about what his toothbrush looks like, then leads the quartet to what he thinks is Dog’s dental implement. With brief phrases and simple text, this is ideal for beginning readers (although the ending seems somewhat formulaic to me).
Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Mei loves her baby brother, Ming. As his 100th day of life approaches the family is getting ready to celebrate with traditional Chinese customs. Now if only Mei could figure out what gift to give her brother. Told in three chapters, featuring an array of diverse characters, this easy reader has a more advanced sentence structure (Dive into Reading, Level 5), with character conversations scattered throughout. This is definitely a book for children on the more advanced end of independent reading.
EARLY CHAPTER BOOKS
Harry N Abrams
Hugo is a Sasquatch being trained in all the ways to avoid humans. However, he secretly wants to see one in real life. When he sends off a note into the Wide World, he is surprised to get a response. Then a chance meeting with a boy, named Boone, leads him on an adventure he hadn’t anticipated. We look forward to reading the other books in this series.*
The fourth in a STEM-centric series, this book tells about how Zoey and her cat, Sassafras, care for and assist unusual animals. With a few scientific mentions scattered throughout the book, it felt like just the appropriate read for any eager and curious-minded child. While I haven’t read the other books in this series, it seemed to stand alone just fine.
Debbi Michiko Florence
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
At first Jasmine is thrilled to learn about the upcoming school talent show. That is until she starts to doubt the presentability of her talents (collage making and pounding mochi) on stage. With a flash of brilliance (and in perhaps one of the best conversations of the book), Jasmine’s mother recommends taiko—a Japanese drum—that she once played in college. With an instructor readily procured, Jasmine sets to work learning her routine just days before the talent show. Will she be able to remember it all on the big day? Find out in this third book in a series.
Having just moved into a new house, Daniel is bewildered to find a talking bat living in his attic bedroom. Soon the two begin to bond and form an unlikely, but fruitful, friendship. While many readers will appreciate the Star Wars references (particularly prominent in Megabat’s speech), I found it a bit excessive and thus diminished my interest in the book.
H. M. Bouwman
The title is slightly deceptive, as only Eleanor (with her family) moves into a duplex at the same time she discovers her fourth goldfish has died. Eleanor is warned about notbeing able to play superhero in her new house because of the noise, however she lives on the bottom floor— a fairly obvious disconnect (of which there are others in the book). Also, the immediate friendship Eleanor forms with Owen comes across as unlikely. Perhaps most irritating to me, however, was the non-stop Star Wars references. Unoriginal and lacking in character development, this book is not one I would recommend.
by Alice Kuipers, illustrated by Diana Toledano
With the inexplicable arrival of a powerful book, Polly Diamond (who does not like ballet or pink), quickly discovers that whatever she writes in her new book immediately turns into reality. With the swish of her pen, Polly is positive her problem are all over now. What she doesn’t anticipate is the literal and varied ways her words can be interpreted. With an affable and astute protagonist, the Polly series is bound to become a newfound classic.
* Indicates my personal favorite in each respective category.
** Often I am asked what are good read-aloud books for boys (ages 4-7), which I always struggle to answer. Now I am happy to readily recommend the Big Foot and Little Foot series.