Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Beginning Chapters Without Tears (of boredom)

Overheard at a blogger party last weekend: "We are starting to read those easy chapter books, you know the ones? And oh my god, I hate them, they are sooooo boooooring!" Save the yawns for your long-winded neighbour's latest ramblings, parents. There are better things out there.

First off, I would like to point out that picture books run such a large gamut of simple to sophisticated that you can skip these beginning-to-read books entirely if you are so inclined, without worrying that you are missing a step. That said, they are a nice introduction to the chapter format for a reader who might not yet be up to some longer readings. They also often come in series, making it easy to find more of something you and your child have enjoyed. So if you are looking for some fun stuff, here are a fistful of suggestions that are a little more fun or substantial that the early readers you might have been encountering.

Friendship Stories:

This is a major theme among this level of book, because they are aimed at kids whose main concern at that point is about leaning to navigate social relationships at school, in daycare, and in other settings where they might run into other children. A few great series are:

  • Houndsley and Catina and Houndsley and Catina and the Birthday Surprise, by Marie-Louise Gay
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends (and many others in the series), by Arnold Lobel
  • Poppleton (and others in the series), by Cynthia Rylant, ill. Mark Teague. Cynthia Rylant also writes Beginning-to-read series Mr. Putter and Tabby and Henry and Mudge, both of which are also friend-themed.
  • Big Dog, Little Dog (and other "Fred and Ted" books), by P.D. Eastman. He is hilarious, and I love all his stuff, but these have more story than the popular Go Dogs Go and so on.

***I would also like to add in James Marshall's George and Martha stories here, even though they are picture books. Hey, it's my column. You'll forgive me when you read them. They are hilarious.

Early Mysteries:

  • "Young Cam Jansen" series, by David Adler
  • Nate the Great (and others in series), by Marjorie Sharmat, ill. Marc Simont
  • "High Rise Private Eyes" series, by Cynthia Rylant

Funny Ones:

  • Amelia Bedelia (and others in series), by Peggy Parish. I know, I know, there are people who think these are stupid, but there is something about the long windup for a bad pun that cracks me up.
  • "Elephant and Piggie" series, by Mo Willems. These feature the same kind of light-on-text cartoon-y style as his famous pigeon books, drawing on his animation background.
  • Harry and the Lady Next Door, by Gene Zion, ill. Margaret Bloy Graham. The other Harry stories are, oddly enough, in picture book format.

Dr. Seuss has, of course, a million offerings in this category of book. Some are crazy-making, but some are truly great. Green Eggs and Ham is a perennial favourite, for example. These are best for true fans of silliness.

Everyday Adventures:

  • Little Bear (and others in series), by Else Minarik, ill. Maurice Sendak. I hope the TV show hasn't ruined these for you quite yet, because the books have an old-fashioned, sweet charm to them.
  • Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
  • Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel

Wild Imaginings:

  • Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff.
  • Mouse Soup and Mouse Tales, by Arnold Lobel (collections of crazy little tales)
  • Commander Toad in Space (and others in series), by Jane Yolen, ill. Bruce Degen Ridiculous, funny, and pun-ny adventures in outer space.

For these titles and more, check out the "Beginning To Read" section in your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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