Thursday, August 05, 2021

Books for Younger Readers

I try to keep the focus of this blog books for readers in grades 6 through 8, but I occasionally get distracted by other things. One thing I personally adore is beginning chapter books, and I am an absolute sucker for anything involving illustrations of dogs. Here are some great choices for elementary aged readers. 

Higgins, Cam. Home is Where the Heart Is (Good Dog #1) 
December 15th 2020 by Little Simon
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In the first book in this charming new early chapter book series, we meet Bo, who lives on a farm with his humans, Imani and Wyatt, and their parents, Jennica and Darnell Davis. Bo is still a puppy, and still figuring out how he needs to behave on the farm. He gets some help in this from Nanny Sheep, a very kind and patient older ewe, but is often abetted in his puppyish ways by friends like Zonks, a pig with whom he rolls in the mud. While Bo knows that mud is absolutely delightful as a frolicking medium, he also knows that his humans like him to be clean, so he is patient when he has to be bathed. After his latest bath, however, he realizes that his identification tag, a gift when he was adopted, is missing! Using techniques he has learned to alert humans that he must go outside, Bo ventures off into the farmyard to investigate. He follows clues from Zonks to the chickens, who think the sheep might have it. After pouncing on the sheep because they look soft like clouds, Bo finds that they don't have the tag, either, but think that perhaps Blue the bluejay might have it. He doesn't, but after meeting up with his friend Scrapper and searching for monsters Scrapper is sure are in the woods, he returns home to continue his search. There, he meets the evil barn cats King and Diva, who send him to the attic. Luckily, friendly spiders look out for our small investigator and lead him to his tag. Will Bo be able to alert his humans to its whereabouts?

Young readers who have finished Butler's Kayla and King mysteries will love Bo's adventures. He's an adorable dog who means well, and is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast of animals and humans. The Davis family is Black, and their small farm has a traditional complement of animals. While the cats might be a bit stereotypical, Nanny Sheep is quite level headed. Scrapper, who was born with three legs, is obsessed with monsters and wants Bo to help him locate monsters. Imani and Wyatt are caring and gentle with Bo, who is generally well behaved, if a bit rambunctious. 

I can't say enough about how adorable the black and white pencil illustrations are! Bo's facial expressions are animated and priceless, and his eyes convey so much emotion!The barnyard comes to life with all of the classic Old MacDonald animals.  Combined with the smaller trim size (5.5" x 7.5") and the bright covers, I can see these books becoming quite the favorite of an animal obsessed youngster. 

This is a great US version of farm life, similar to the UK Jasmine Green series, but more from the dog's perspective. Give to readers who enjoy a light mystery like Robert Quackenbush's Henry the Duck or Sherlock Chick

Higgins, Cam. Raised in a Barn (Good Dog #2) 
December 15th 2020 by Little Simon
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

It's a beautiful day, so Bo and his new friend, the colt Comet, decide to have a race. Comet gets distracted, and Bo wins, exulting just a little too much. Nanny Sheep takes him to task about being a good winner, and Bo apologizes. He also thinks that he should help more around the farm, so in order to make amends with Comet, he decides that he will show Comet how to be a "good horse". Of course, Bo knows little about being a horse, so he shows Comet things like rolling in the dust, which is not helpful, especially when Imani and Wyatt have to take Comet to a pony parade and have just groomed him! He also teaches Comet to chase off the evil squirrels, which ends up NOT to be a good thing. Comet's parents step in to let the two know that while Bo's teaching might not be great, Bo IS a fantastic friend. When Comet gets to the pony parade, some of the lessons from Bo end up being helpful in surprising ways. 

The illustrations by Ariel Landy capture the young animals' joy in racing around the farm yard, dealing with pesky squirrels and cats, and in doing a good job at the pony parade. There are illustrations on every page, which leads to the text being formatted in a great way for emerging readers. Each page has four to five sentences in 18 point font, and there's plenty of white space, which means the pages turn very quickly-- something young readers like to see!

Bo is such an enthusiastic and kind friend; when Nanny Sheep points out to him that he isn't kind about his victory, he really takes to heart how he treated Comet. While not all of his ideas work out, he always tries to do better and listens to people and animals who know more than he does, and adjusts his behavior accordingly. 

Readers who have enjoyed other heavily illustrated animal tales, such as Dr. Kittycat, will enjoy reading about Bo and his adventures, and horse enthusiasts will want to add this book to add this to a list of horse books that includes Potter's The Sea Pony, Hapka's Ponies of Chincoteague, and Haas, Jessie. Bramble and Maggie

Higgins, Cam. Herd You Loud and Clear (Good Dog #3) 
December 15th 2020 by Little Simon
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

It's shearing time at the Davis farm, and Bo really wants to be helpful with the sheep. After playing hide and seek with his friend Puffs and always winning, the two have a little disagreement, which they solve by deciding to play a game that Bo has never played before, so he won't have an unfair advantage. Bo has started to have some chores around the farm, and makes sure that he helps Wyatt and Imani out the next day. Darnell asks Bo to help round up the sheep to be sheared, but they won't listen to him! Bo struggles with trying to do his job until Nanny Sheep steps in and gives him some pointers. This helps, but when Puffs goes missing, Bo must use all of his skills to help find his friend and get him back home. 

This early reader series has so much to recommend it-- great characters, fun story lines, and the most appealing animal illustrations! Bo is an enthusiastic puppy who sometimes gets himself in trouble but always tries to learn how to be better. 

I went to the Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck, New York a couple of years ago, and this book would be perfect for young readers to see before going to that! There's lots of good information about shearing (the Baa Baa Shop-- ha!) sheep as well as herding them, although Bo never does find out why the sheep can stay so fluffy while he gets bed head after a brief nap! 

This series is perfect for readers who aren't quite strong enough for Klimo's Dog's Diary books or Mile's Puppy Place series, but want to know more about working dogs and have liked Stier's A Dog's Day. I really enjoy the fact that the books are all a little different, and not formulaic; the first book in the series is a mystery, the second a good friendship tale, and this third book shows Bo working. Three additional volumes are being released in October 2021, and I am looking forward to Fireworks Night, The Swimming Hole, and Life is Good, which involves a snow day!

Miller, Kirsten. Everything You Need to Know When You Are 10
January 26th 2021 by Harry N. Abrams
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

My daughter recently reminded me that I once told her the best day of your entire life is the first day of summer vacation when you are ten. This isn't entirely wrong. Ten year olds are just about human, and are tall enough to complete most tasks around the house. They are still excited to learn new things and take on more responsibilities. I would have loved this book when I was ten, because I would have doggedly worked my way through every activity in this. Today's children often crave more direction when they are not involved with screens, so this would be a good book for actual ten year olds as well!

This starts with a list of things every ten year old needs, like a library card, a calendar, and a key chain, as well as teaser items like crickets and some vegetable soup. My favorite pages involved doing useful stuff; laundry, cooking, and making a backyard salad (my mother would NOT have been thrilled with that one!). There is also a lot of information that can be filed under social emotional learning, like what to do if someone has a crush on you (which I wouldn't have put first in the book), what to do if you don't like your name, and how to be a really good friend. My favorite section was the one on finding a secret lair; even though I was lucky enough to have my own room growing up, I was particularly fond of hiding out under the built in desk in my room, with a blanket strung across the drawers!

From an educational perspective, I sort of wish there had been a table of contents and an index, and that the book had been arranged into chapters of broad categories; life skills, food and cooking, emotions, outdoors, etc., because learning to use those parts of a book is yet another skill children need, but young readers will be fine with the way the information is arranged. 

The sections on cyber safety, being at home alone, and what to do if you are followed are handled in an age appropriate way that won't scare young readers, while gently making them aware of being careful. There are a couple of brief explanations of pulling pranks that I, as an adult, didn't much care for; if my children had wasted perfectly good vegetable soup pretending it was vomit, it wouldn't have ended well. In general, though, this is a graphically pleasing compendium of interesting stuff. 

This would make an excellent gift for someone turning ten, along with a box with some of the more exotic supplies that parents might be less likely to provide, like drink umbrellas, deodorant, a black light, and even some baked or fried crickets! (Or cricket based snacks, like those from the authors of Project StartupChirps

1 comment:

  1. Excellent ideas for my 9-year-old and 5-year-old nephews!