Fanfare for a New Year

Welcome 2012!!

There is no better way to wake up on January 1 than to know that fellow kidlit bookworms are checking out all of the CYBILS short lists. Really. Is there ANYTHING more exciting than the prospect of new books to read?

Dear Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book Judges,

We have spent the fall talking about books in our category and narrowing the choices to finalists.  I am happy to report that the panelists did NOT make it easy for you. But that’s their job, right?

This year we have four Easy Reader finalists and five Early Chapter Books on the short list.  So without further ado, I present you their thoughts on the books they selected.

Easy Reader Finalists

Aggie Gets Lost
by Lori Ries
illustrated by Frank W. Dormer
Charlesbridge, 2011
series: Aggie and Ben

Aggie and Ben are back for a new adventure in the fourth installment of this endearing series. Ben takes a restless Aggie to the park for a game of fetch, but Aggie gets lost when the ball is thrown too far.

Lost dog stories are common, but this story outshines them all with its artistic language and complementary illustrations. Through the use of short, simple, and emotionally packed sentences, Ms. Ries is able to capture a moment in time. This writing style is effective in engaging the reader, and will have them treasuring every word. The layout  is well-suited for beginning readers; most sentences are on their own line. Kids will enjoy this book and adults will remember what it is like to see the world through the eyes of a child.

blurb by Darshana Khiani, Flowering Minds

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Dodsworth in Rome
written and illustrated by Tim Egan
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011
series: Dodsworth

Dodsworth and his sidekick Duck have taken early readers on fun-filled journeys through New York, Paris, and London. In this fourth book, the comical duo take readers on a tour or Rome and a bit of adventure when their suitcase with all their money goes missing.

This book is one of a kind in uniting great characters, clever text, and an international setting in an early reader format. Kids will enjoy Duck’s hi-jinks which keep serious-minded Dodsworth on his toes. Conversations of this duo are reminiscent of classic Frog and Toad stories. The humor is subtle and comes out naturally through the dialogue and personalities of these two friends. Readers will become immersed with the sites, smells and culture of Rome. Pick up this book and go on a mini-vacation!

Blurb by Darshana Khiani, Flowering Minds

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I Broke My Trunk
written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children, 2011
series: Elephant and Piggie

Gerald (Elephant) and Piggie are back at it in I Broke My Trunk!  As Gerald spins his crazy story Piggie attempts to find the conclusion to just how exactly her best friend may have broken his trunk.  In his characteristic style Mo Willems weaves a tale that is entirely unpredictable and easily enjoyed by multiple age groups.  Early readers will giggle their way through this fresh new addition to the series.

blurb by Danielle Smith, There’s a Book

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Frog and Friends (I Am a Reader)
by Eve Bunting
illustrated by Josee Masse
Sleeping Bear Press, 2011
series: Frog and Friends

In this trio of charming stories, Frog investigates a strange orange object, re-gifts a blue scarf, and convinces a runaway hippo that takes up residence in his pond to return to the zoo. The affable amphibian solves these problems with help from his woodland buddies, Rabbit, Possum, Raccoon, and Squirrel.

Sure to elicit chuckles, Frog and Friends abounds in humor that is never forced but evolves naturally from the situation. With its briskly-paced action and snappy dialog, this easy reader has perfect pitch and will leave readers wanting more. The vividly-colored illustrations are imaginatively rendered and add greatly to the book’s appeal.

blurb by Catherine Nichols, The Cath in the Hat

Early Chapter Book Finalists

Clementine and the Family Meeting
by Sara Pennypacker
illustrated by Marla Frazee
Hyperion Books for Children, 2011
series: Clementine

Clementine is Ramona Quimby, Shirley Temple, and Anne of Green Gables all mixed together and living in an apartment building in Boston with a super dad and an artist mom and a little brother named Broccoli (or some other vegetable name).

In the fifth book in the series, Clementine’s family is experiencing some changes. But according to Clementine’s Awesome Dad, “It will be fine, we’ll adapt. Because this how we roll, Clementine, this is how we roll.” And adapt they do, which is why book number five may be the best yet of the Clementine saga. Ms. Pennypacker takes an old situation, welcoming a new child into the family, and gives readers a fresh take on the subject as Clementine finds her place in the family secure in the midst of change.

blurb by Sherry Early, Semicolon

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Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus!
by Atinuke
illustrated by Lauren Tobia
Kane Miller Books, 2010
series: Anna Hibiscus

The wonder of snow, dogs that live inside houses, tangled woolen tights, the sting of prejudice. Ann Hibiscus experiences all these and more when she journeys from her native Africa– amazing Africa–all the way to Canada to spend Christmas with her maternal grandmother.

A master storyteller, Atinuke packs a lot of life lessons into four chapters. Yet the book, the fourth in the series, is never didactic and the morals go down as smoothly as the steaming hot chocolate Anna sips throughout her stay. Lauren Tobia’s cheerful ink illustrations help bring Anna’s experiences in the icy North to life.

blurb by Catherine Nichols, Cath in the Hat

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Just Grace and the Double Surprise
written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011
series: The Just Grace Series

Just Grace and the Double Surprise is a delightful read that not only independent readers will enjoy, but listening ears will as well. Follow Grace’s entertaining train of thought as she uses her “empathy powers” to help her best friend Mimi through a disappointing situation.

This is the seventh in the Just Grace series and it’s easy  to see why it continues to be a great source of enjoyment and education to early chapter book readers.   Just Grace and the Double Surprise is a charming book that will help children understand the value of supporting their friends & family as well as coping with disappointment.

blurb by Danielle Smith, There’s a Book

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Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
by Julie Sternberg
illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Amulet Books, 2011

It’s the summer before third grade and it’s as bad as pickle juice on a cookie.  Eleanor’s babysitter must move away and Eleanor is heartbroken.  Natalie has come to be her new sitter, but it is just not the same.

This is a charming story with an important message of hope, acceptance and friendship, all in the midst of dealing with missing someone you love.  Eleanor is a believable character, abounding with an honest and authentic voice.  The illustrations perfectly enhance the feel of Eleanor’s world and refine her well defined personality.  As every page is seamlessly connected to the next, Like Pickle Juice On A Cookie leaves you wanting more!

blurb by Sheila Richburg, BooksNhand

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The Trouble with Chickens: A J.J. Tully Mystery
by Doreen Cronin
illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Balzer + Bray, 2011
series: J.J. Tully Mysteries

Meet J.J. Tully, a retired search-and-rescue dog, who is promised a cheeseburger in exchange for helping a chicken named Millicent find her missing children. J.J.’s strong voice, deadpan tone, and wry sense of humor drive this hilarious early chapter book, engaging readers from page one and keeping them hooked until the last plot twist.

Cronin builds a wonderfully creative world in this story, imagining rules that define how animals behave and interact, and developing personalities that perfectly suit the real-life behavior of dogs and chickens. Not only is this book laugh out loud funny, with clever turns of phrase and well-timed punchlines, it is also a really sophisticated story that shifts between points of view, tricks the reader with red herrings, and comes together in a clever surprise ending.

blurb by Katie Ahearn, Secrets and Sharing Soda

Ta da! That is the panel’s list! We shared some wonderful discussions, opened our eyes (and minds) to the different ways we see books … and would not compromise on offering  Amanda Furman, Stacey Loscalzo, Katie Davis, Zoe Toft, and Ashley Barrineau the very best of the bunch in literary quality and kid appeal. I think that shows in their blurbs.

As you can see, they have presented you with some very fun reading and hard decisions. Over at the Cybils site you’ll find these blurbs and the short lists for all of the other categories!

Happy Reading!



NOTE: Book cover images and book titles link to The Reading Tub has an affiliate relationship with Amazon and can earn a few sheckles if you purchase through the link … but please don’t feel obligated!