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Shhh! I'm Reading!

By Skye Deiter and Carolyn Angus
 | Apr 08, 2019

What began as a celebration of National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day  on April 12 (the birthday of popular children’s book author Beverly Cleary) has become an annual month-long celebration. Join in the D.E.A.R. celebration by dropping whatever you are doing to read on April 12, or for a period of time each day during April. Better yet, keep the celebration going throughout the year.

Ages 4–8

The Alphabet of Peculiar Creatures. Katie Abey. 2019. Kane/Miller.

The Alphabet of Peculiar CreaturesFrom Axolotl to Zebu, Katie Abey’s informational picture book features unusual and curious creatures for all 26 letters of the alphabet. Colorful, cartoonlike illustrations introduce the peculiar creatures and their scientific names and phonetic pronunciations. The brief, child-friendly text of interesting facts about the animals (such as a Binturong smells like popcorn, an Ermine changes coat color seasonally, and a Yeti Crab can grow food in its own claw hair) makes this book an excellent springboard for further investigation by young researchers interested in learning more about these peculiar creatures and other animal oddities on our planet.

Breaking the Piggy Bank (Craftily Ever After #6). Martha Maker. Ill. Xindi Yan. 2019. Little Simon/Simon & Schuster.

Breaking the Piggy BankWhen Bella, Sam, Maddie, and Emily discover supplies are running low at the Craft Clubhouse, they decide to make money by opening a stand where they will sell agua fresca, a fruit drink. The crafty friends prove to be resourceful as they prepare for their business venture, using only the materials they have while combining their talents in cooking, carpentry, artistry, and design. Finally, the stand is ready to open…or is it? The young entrepreneurs must find a way to make things right and attract some customers—and fast, before all the ice melts! Back matter shows readers how to make a piggy bank from a plastic bottle (one just like “Mr. Oinkers”).

Fast Fox and Slow Snail (Early Bird Stories). Lou Treleaven. Ill. David Creighton-Pester. 2019. Lerner.

Fast Fox and Slow SnailFast Fox and Slow Snail like to move at different paces. When Snail suggests they go for a walk, Fox replies, “I never walk, I run.” He races ahead, leaving his small friend behind. Meanwhile, Snail walks on, enjoying the pleasant things he sees, including a flower, a bee, and moss on a log. When the two friends finally reunite, Fox realizes all he missed out on and agrees, “Let’s go slow.” The format of this inviting Early Bird Story with short sentences, some dialogue in speech bubbles, and brightly colored artwork featuring woodland animals with alliterative names makes it a good choice for young readers. Back matter includes a five-question comprehension quiz and guided-reading level information.

Mr. Monkey Takes a Hike (Mr. Monkey #3). Jeff Mack. 2019. Simon & Schuster.

Mr. Monkey Takes a Hike“He runs. / He ducks. / He climbs. / He swings. / He jumps. / He falls.” Mr. Monkey loses the video game he is playing. “GRRR!” A small yellow bird (just like the one in the game) enters through a window, watches as Mr. Monkey loses again, and flies away with the game controller. In pursuit of the bird, Mr. Monkey has a series of silly misadventures before returning home with the controller. “And now... / he’s ready... / to win!” Or is he? The limited vocabulary and repetition of the narrative and colorful cartoon illustration with one-word interjections in speech balloons make this action-packed story perfect for emergent readers.

Party Pigs! (Ready-to-Read). Eric Seltzer. Ill. Tom Disbury. 2019. Simon Spotlight/Simon & Schuster.

Party Pigs!A simple rhyming text and comical illustrations make this an enjoyable book for beginner readers. The story begins as two pig families start the days by waking up, eating breakfast, and making plans to get together. The pig families greet each other in excitement by the lake and the party begins. “Pigs slip. / Pigs slide. / Pigs take / a big pig ride.” The afternoon is filled with pigs splashing in the water, chomping and burping, drawing and playing games, and, after a much-needed nap, bouncing on a trampoline. When the party is over, the pig families say their goodbyes and head home, taking with them the memory of a fun-packed day—just the kind of day young children enjoy.

A Piglet Named Mercy. Kate DiCamillo. Ill. Chris Van Dusen. 2019. Candlewick.

A Piglet Named MercyA Piglet Named Mercy is a delightful picture-book introduction to the “not-at-all ordinary” piglet who accidentally makes her way to the ordinary home of ordinary Mr. and Mrs. Watson on ordinary Deckawoo Drive just as Mrs. Watson begins to wonder if they aren’t “just the tiniest bit too predictable” and wishes something different would happen. The piglet immediately begins to transform the predictable lives of the Watsons and their elderly neighbors (Eugenia Lincoln and her younger sister, Baby Lincoln). Young children can continue reading about the adventures of this charming “porcine wonder” in Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen’s early chapter book series about Mercy Watson.

Shhh! I’m Reading! John Kelly. Ill. Elina Ellis. 2019. Tiger Tales.

Shhh! I'm Reading!Having just reached an exciting part in the book she is reading, Bella turns down Captain Bluebottom’s invitation to join the Windy Pirates on an adventure even after he tries to convince her that “a voyage to Devil’s Island, a duel with Nobby Nasty, and then home again with a ship full of booty” is better than a book. She also turns down Maurice Penguin (who tries to entice her to perform with a troupe of dancing penguins) and Emperor Fabulon the Wobbulous (an octopus who wants her to help defend the Earth from invading aliens) with emphatic “I AM BUSY READING!” declarations. When she finishes reading the “BEST BOOK EVER!” and announces that now she is ready to go on an “INCREDIBLE” adventure, Bella is in for a big surprise.

Ages 9–11

Max & the Midknights. Lincoln Peirce. 2019. Crown/Random House.

Max & the MidknightsThis graphic novel/fantasy hybrid by the creator of the popular Big Nateseries seamlessly transitions between prose and comic panels as Max, a young girl aspiring to be a knight, narrates tales of her knightly adventures with three unlikely friends, the self-dubbed Midknights. What starts as a quest to save Max’s troubadour uncle from evil King Gastley quickly turns into a mission to fulfill a prophecy that could save the city of Byjovia. Along their journey, the Midknights encounter a semi-retired wizard, an evil sorceress, the late king's commander of knights, a fire-breathing dragon named Bruce, and a surprise prisoner in the Forgotten Tower. Middle grade readers will enjoy the witty puns and humorous details on every page.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Gary D. Schmidt. 2019. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

Pay Attention, Carter JonesOn the morning of Carter Jones’ first day of sixth grade, a mysterious man shows up at the Jones’ front door, introducing himself to Carter, his mother, and three younger sisters as their new butler. The British butler, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, explains he was left to the family as part of an endowment from Carter’s recently deceased grandfather. Carter is reluctant to conform to the butler’s expectations of his becoming a gentleman, and when cricket is introduced to him early one Saturday morning, he grows even more skeptical—until cricket turns into a schoolwide sensational sport at Longfellow Middle School. Now, Carter Jones must “pay attention” if he is to help deal with family troubles and lead his team, Team India, to their first victory.

Ages 12–14

Missing! Mysterious Cases of People Gone Missing Through the Centuries. Brenda Z. Guiberson. 2019. Godwin/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

Missing!Brenda Z. Guiberson explores the intriguing stories of six famous unsolved cases of missing persons: Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa, airplane hijacker D. B. Cooper, child author Barbara Follett, aviator Amelia Earhart, ex-Mason William Morgan (who planned to publish a book about the secrets of the Freemasons), and Edward and Richard (King Edward IV’s sons, who were prisoners in the Tower of London). The text, illustrated with captioned photographs, maps, and drawings, includes profiles of the missing persons and details of what is known about their disappearances as well as searches for new clues and reexaminations of old ones over the years. Back matter includes a bibliography and index.

The Moon. Hannah Pang. Ill. Thomas Hegbrook. 2019. 360 Degrees/Tiger Tales.

The Moon“For many thousands of years, humankind has looked up to the skies in awe, gazing in wonder at the Moon.” The Moon explores this fascination with the Moon and how it affects our lives and the world around us through an engaging, well-organized text and stunning, full-color artwork. Information on the science and history of research on the Moon from the work of early astronomers to current lunar exploration programs and the possibility of human colonization of the Moon is presented in an accessible format. Equally fascinating is the wealth of Moon-related folklore, mythology, and fiction included. A glossary of terms and a glossary of people are appended.

Ages 15+

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America. Ibi Zoboi (Ed.). 2019. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

Black EnoughIn an introduction, editor Ibi Zoboi provides background on the origin of this anthology of short stories: her invitation to Black authors “to write about teens examining, rebelling against, embracing, or simply existing within their own idea of Blackness.” The result is an outstanding collection of stories by contemporary black authors (Ibi Zoboi, Renée Watson, Varian Johnson, Jason Reynolds, Justine Booth, and 12 others) about a diverse group of teens dealing with issues related to what it means to be young and Black in America today. The appended Authors Biographies section may lead teen readers to other works by the authors of these compelling stories.

Skye Deiter is an elementary classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and a recent graduate from Pennsylvania State Harrisburg’s Masters in Literacy Education Program.Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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