Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Person + Pet: Winning Beginning Reader Combos

I've had a soft spot in my heart for early readers because some of my all-time favorite read aloud early memories (and independent reading memories) center around 4 particular books/series: Little Bear books (Minarik/Sendak), Frog and Toad books (Arnold Lobel), Cat in the Hat and similar Seuss titles, and Danny and the Dinosaur. As my children begin to progress through these early readers on their own!!, I'm noticing that the new kids on the block are following some of the same patterns as these old classics. Here is the rough breakdown in which many early readers fit:
  1. Cute stories involving animal protagonists (i.e. Little Bear books)
  2. Stories about two best friends, usually animals and usually incompatible and/or quite different at first glance (i.e. Frog and Toad)
  3. Super simple words/text and, sometimes, zany plots/illustrations (i.e. Dr. Seuss books)
  4. Person + Pet: the more unlikely the "pet," the better (i.e. Danny and the Dinosaur)
Here's a quick run down of the some of the best representations in the Person + Pet category (some new, some old). Stay tuned for the remaining categories! (I'm starting with this category in honor of Danny and the Dinosaur: this was the first book I ever read on my own, and I remember it VIVIDLY.) Updated 5/04/12 to add Rotten Ralph.

Danny and the Dinosaur
Syd Hoff

Danny goes to a museum and longs for the dinosaurs to be real. Guess what!? One comes to life; he and Danny have a busy, fun-filled day until the dinosaur must return to the museum.

Mr. Putter and Tabby books
Cynthia Rylant, author
Arthur Howard, illustrator

Mr. Putter and cat, Tabby, (and their neighbors, Mrs. Teaberry and dog, Zeke) are arguably the most popular Person + Pet books around (OK, except for Ms. Rylant's other amazing books about Henry and Mudge, but I'll get to those). Somehow, these funny, gentle stories about two old people and their faithful animal companions are cherished by children. I haven't figured out why kids are drawn to books about old people, but I suppose we'll just chalk that up to Rylant's talent and enjoy the ride.

Henry and Mudge books
Cynthia Rylant, author
Sucie Stevenson, illustrator

Henry and his giant dog, Mudge, are enormously popular with early readers--whether they start reading at age 3 or age 8. Somehow, Henry and Mudge are consistently fresh and delightful, whether you're reading the 1st or 20th book of their adventures. And, if you have a daughter whose favorite color is pink, be sure to check out the...

Annie and Snowball books
Cynthia Rylant, author
Sucie Stevenson, illustrator

Sensing a theme here? Rylant knows her early reader crowd. Annie is Henry's cousin, and her pet is a white rabbit named Snowball. Annie loves pink, dressing up, and being very girly in general. A nice complement to Henry and Mudge for sure. But, what if your daughter wants to read books about a girl who's a little more rough and ready?

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa books
Erica Silverman, author
Betsy Lewin, illustrator

Cowgirl Kate's pet is a horse named Cocoa--but don't think that because Cocoa is a horse, she doesn't want to come into the house. Cocoa is a quirky horse; Cowgirl Kate is always having to talk sense into her (important things like why the barn is better than a house, why Cocoa can't come to school, why Cocoa should wear her rain sheet, and other life lessons).

Buzz and Fly Guy books
Tedd Arnold

I think only Arnold could have pulled this off: Buzz is a funny kid who has a pet fly... yep, that's right. A pet fly. And, as you may imagine with a pet as small and ... well... bug-like as Fly Guy, Buzz and Fly Guy have their fair share of zany adventures (such as Buzz's grandma eating Fly Guy!). A sure fire winner, especially with boys.

Pedro's Burro
Alyssa Satin Capucilli

A nice, more multicultural addition to the easy reader lineup. I confess that I don't know if this will be a series or not, but it's a nice story about a boy named Pedro and the burro who finds him (instead of the other way around). Very approachable text for emerging readers. (Same author as the wildly popular "Biscuit" books)

Rotten Ralph
Jack Gantos

Rotten Ralph is really the star, but since his owner, Sally, is his faithful sidekick, they also fit in the Person + Pet category. The artwork isn't my style, but it is very kid-friendly. And Ralph is a significant change of pace from the rest of the above lineup. (Some Rotten Ralph books are picture books; some are easy readers)
(all cover images from

What others should we add to this list? 
We want quality writing and quality illustrations--
harder to come by in easy reader land than you might think!

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love comments! Prove you're a real person, please.