For the first months of 2017, I was immersed in reading children’s books. They soothe my soul; they provide mentoring for my own writing; and I have the opportunity to share the best with my blog readers. 2016 provided a variety of excellent children’s titles, but I am most excited about sharing the best nominees of Easy Readers and Early Chapter books. What a surprise when I met prize-winning authors in competition with new authors.
The creativity of well-illustrated books with original texts was obvious in this judging assignment. Mo Willems and Kate DiCamillo were nominated in this eclectic mix of 10 titles for me to choose the “Best Of,” as shared with children’s bloggers in CYBILs (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). I was honored to be among teachers, parents, and fellow bloggers led by the creative Jodie Helliker Rodriquez, whose “Growing Book By Book” blog has always amazed me with her own creativity and sharing.
Wait until you get the winning book for Early Chapter Books in your hand. It is appealing from the cover illustration featuring Mango Allsorts and her new pet. Look for a black and white and lavender cover! Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig begins a new series by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy. What originality! Faber’s endearing new character Mango Allsorts finds a Malaysian tapir stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. The setting is a busy city and Mango, on her own most of the time, discovers a strange sight as she walks home from karate class. It’s “not a pig” is lying down on the busy street camouflaged in the white stripes of the highway! This book of four experiences with new friends, Mango and her tapir Bambang, is difficult to describe. It would not be the same without the original illustrations by Vulliamy. I want to purchase all the Mango books in the series. Each new book uses a different palate than the original lavender highlighted in this debut.
Mo Willems’ titles turned out not to be written by him. Remember Go Dog Go, the P.D. Eastman title confused as a Dr. Seuss favorite? That little Cat in the Hat in the corner of the cover made readers think we had another Seuss winner. Of course, Eastman had his own classic even with “I Can Read It All By Myself” series stamp on the corner of the cover. Mo Willems did the same thing, adding his name to the title page of a book series called “Elephant and Piggy Like Reading! Despite the appealing title, We are Growing and The Cookie Fiasco were not my favorites. Check them out from your library and see if you agree.
In the category of Easy Readers I discovered Snail and Worm: Three Stories about Two Friends by Tina Kugler! This debut title is definitely an easy book for new readers. The illustrations are delightful. Kugler’s characters share values of friendship, pride and understanding. Her tongue-in-cheek pictures with Snail and Worm’s animated and inanimate friends will resonate with her intended audience. Repetition in the text will help these readers. This book was the winner for the Easy Reader judges from CYBILS nominees for 2016.
My second favorite Easy Reader is a longer story. The Infamous Ratsos by Kara La Reau is at first funny, cute and endearing when the Ratso brothers try to be tough like their single Dad. I can see why it was nominated by the CYBILs first round of judges. Readers will identify with the bullying scene, the plans to be mischievous, and the bonding with the father. At the second reading I wasn’t certain if parents reading with their children would find the situations funny. Who is going to buy this book? We judged it too long for early readers; still reluctant older readers may enjoy the high jinx of these rat hoodlums. There is a lesson by the end and the main characters all learn that being bad is not good!
Kate Di Camillo’s latest entry in the Early Chapter books category was a fun read. She writes about neighbors of the popular pig Mercy Watson. Baby Lincoln and her aged sister Eugenia are unusual characters introduced in Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Adults will understand Lucille’s need for a “necessary journey,” but I am uncertain whether children ages 6-9 will find these strange characters engaging. DiCamillo is an expert in plot, dialogue and voice, as well as a challenging vocabulary. This title didn’t spark my interest as much as Faber’s Mango and Bambang book did.
What children’s books do you recommend from your reading in 2016? As usual, your comments and suggestions are welcome.
Happy Reading in 2017!