Tag Archives: Mo Willems

Early Reader Chuckles

Somewhere between the insipid and obsolete Dick and Jane books and the latest preschool television-character phenom lies a wonderful collection of early or emergent reader books.  These books not only emphasize age-appropriate character development, but also infuse the reading with clever facial expressions and witty lines even you as a parent or adult facilitator would appreciate.  In short, they are not mind-numbingly dull.   My apologies to Dick and Jane and the BOB books.  Authors like Arnold Lobel have intuitive books with beloved characters who speak in repetitious ways without boring their readers, young or old.  Thank you, Mo Willems, Arnold Lobel, Kate Di Camillo, and others for providing us opportunities to share a giggle together on the sofa, growing closer, growing in literacy.  Here are our favorite early reader chuckles.

MO WILLEMS

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The Elephant and Piggie series is a brilliant blend of facial expressions, font choices and speech bubbles.  The text is simple.  The plot is basic.  The vocabulary is repetitious.  The personalities are HUGE.  I dare you not to laugh at Elephant’s irritated expression, or Piggie’s elated grin.  There are many choices to choose from in this series.  Truly, any of them will instantly become your favorite.

 

 

 

ARNOLD LOBEL

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This classic series is priceless for many reasons.  Written in simple sentences, replete with endearing illustrations, these very early chapter books are also full of life lessons and sweet reminders of friendship.  There is always a reason to giggle at Toad’s worries and Frog’s laid-back approach to trouble. Cut out a pair of toad or frog foam feet for your young reader and turn these brief stories into fun, impromptu plays.  These two will always be our friends.  Titles in this series include Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad.

 

 

KATE DICAMILLO

DSC_0001_2636Just look at that face – pure exhilaration!  This is how Mercy Watson approaches most adventures.  From wearing a pink tutu to an adventurous Saturday drive the “porcine wonder” of Deckawoo Drive charms her owners, readers and sometimes even her grumpy elderly neighbors.  Each adventure includes giggles, mishaps and a tall stack of hot buttered toast.  Honestly, I would read these stories even if I didn’t have a young one next to me.  Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) deftly places humor in simple sentences.  And Chris Van Dusen’s glossy, gouache illustrations only add to the merriment.

 

Go ahead, let your little one read to you.  You will not be bored.

In Season

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of each.

                                 -Henry David Thoreau

If I may take this quote horribly from its context, I enjoy its apparent sound, severed though it may be from its original body.  Our family lives in a part of the world which truly experiences the variety of seasons.  While we struggle at this time of year not to complain and bemoan being shut up indoors, or shoveling the driveway yet again, I am inspired by God’s creativity and regularity in fulfilling his promises of creation.

The day is yours, and yours also the night;

you established the sun and moon.

It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;

you made both summer and winter.

Psalm 74:16-17

We may be covered in snow and ice, yet the daffodil and crocus are indeed slowly rousing themselves from an exceedingly long winter’s slumber.  They may not be visible here in the Midwest, yet we have the promise of their existence.  Their return is imminent.  By faith and hope I look forward to a dot of yellow appearing in between the browns and greys. Even now  I smile as I notice the buds swelling, coloring the trees out front.  Sandhill cranes have been spotted.  The robins have returned, not in full numbers, but occasionally they sing their sweet songs in the mornings.

G has been wanting to step outside a bit more.  I ache for the day – may it be soon-  when we can walk through the wooded trails, seeking out newly migrated birds, shoots and buds about the trees.  The boys are ready to mount their bicycles and taste a bit of pre-teen freedom.

While we praise the Creator for all his handiwork, we are particularly mindful at this time of changing seasons, transformative times.  Good and Holy One, may you renew my heart as the rest of the world awakens from its dormant, frozen state.

And so, here are a few preschool books on the wonders of the changing seasons which G and I would like to share with you.  All four of these gems are beautiful in their brevity, as well as inviting illustrations.  There is so much to draw readers in on each page that G and I can write our own stories through our discussion of the pictures.

First Comes Spring by Anne Rockwell moves the reader through each season with Bear Child.  The same neighborhood scene is displayed for each season and the same question is posed, “What is everyone doing?”  G loves to name everyone’s activities.  “They are jumping in puddles/camping/ picking pumpkins/sledding.”

Circle of Seasons by Gerda Muller is a gorgeous book with a nostalgic feel.  The illustrations have an endearing 1940s flavor, although the book was originally printed in the Netherlands in the mid 1990s.  The text is simple, focusing on the cyclical nature of seasons.  G and I drew circles in the air to show how spring always comes back around.  The children’s expressions as they laugh, play and learn make you want to join right in.
City Dog, Country Frog is a story told by Mo Willems and with watercolor illustrations by Jon J. Muth.  These are among two of my favorites creating children’s books today, but usually with very different styles.  Here we have a sweet story of friendship wrapped in the context of the changing seasons.  There is a bit of a surprise ending that could help initiate some gentle discussions with your preschooler.
Finally, Carry Me! by Rosemary Wells is a lovely, shimmery bedtime read.  Written in sections, the author encourages parents to carry, talk and sing to their children throughout the seasons of the year.  This book has quite organically become part of our family vocabulary.  Once I wrap G up in his towel after bath time, he invariably asks, “Carry me.”  As we dance down the hall to his bedroom we sing together, “Carry me over the river.  Carry me under the sea.  Twirl me away in the evening air.  Fall asleep with me in your chair.”  Sweet memories regardless of the season.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air…..
Spring, we eagerly await your return.  We already love your every leaf.  May we be compared to a
“tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:3