Friday, July 19, 2013

Spotlight on Easy Readers

Penny and Her Marble
by Kevin Henkes

This is the third book in Kevin Henkes’s new series of easy readers featuring Penny.  Each successive book in the series is a little longer than the previous one (the first book with two chapters, the second with three chapters, and this one with four short chapters).  And each book widens the view of Penny’s world -- starting with her home, then her garden, and now in Penny and Her Marble, she goes out into her neighborhood.

Penny is walking with her doll, Rose, when she spots a marble that looks just “like a piece of the sky” in Mrs. Goodwin’s yard.  The marble seems to say, “Take me home,” so Penny picks it up, puts it in her pocket, and rushes home.  But once she gets home, she starts to feel guilty.  Really guilty.  And she has to decide what to do about it.  While her parents are concerned, they are never intrusive, leaving Penny to solve the problem on her own.

Henkes is a genius at capturing childhood imagination and concerns.  We see that here as Penny turns a walk in her neighborhood into a trip to the city and a stroll in the forest, and her worry about the blue marble spoils her dinner and invades her dreams.

Watercolor and pen illustrations show Penny’s range of emotions from excitement and happiness to worry and fear.

Penny is a delightful character -- one that young readers will love.

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse
by Frank Viva

Mouse and a boy take an ocean voyage to Antarctica that is filled with grand views and animal sightings in this easy reader.  In the middle of all the adventure, Mouse, like the quintessential travel-weary child, wants to know, “Can we go home now?”  His repeated question, “Can we go home now?” adds giggle-inducing humor and a comforting predictability to the text.

Full pages alternate with pages broken into four panels where short questions and quick, silly answers keep the pace brisk.  The story is told entirely in dialogue, and pictures in many of the speech bubbles will aid new readers with unfamiliar words.

We know the trip has been a success when as the travelers sail homeward across the final endpapers, Mouse changes his question: “Can we go back there soon?”

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