Learning to read can be an exhausting affair for little ones. There are so many new words to stretch out and recognize that it's easy to get burned out after a page or two.
That's why it's so great to find beginner books that explore ideas they can relate to, and make them feel happy and accomplished.
This spring, I've highlighted five beginner series that are certain to reduce wiggles at reading time. Some are silly, others sweet, and all are fast-paced and irresistible to look at.
Max Spaniel (Two Books)
Written, illustrated by David Catrow
Orchard Books, 2009-2010
$6.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages
A goofy, lovable pooch named Max tries to convince everyone that he's not a dog in this side-splitting series about chasing your dreams.
In every book, Max gets a wild hare to be something new and gets in one funny predicament after another.
In Dinosaur Hunt, he struts about like a great hunter and ends up creating his own prey out of garden tools, then in Funny Lunch, Max declares he's a great chef, only to realize he's made a pizza mess.
Catrow's illustrations are incredibly funny and keep readers giggling.
Elephant and Piggie (12 Books)
Written, illustrated by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children, 2007-2010
$8.99, ages 4-8, 64 pages
A fun-loving pig and straight-laced elephant quibble about how to go about things, but always make up in this charming graphic series by Caldecott Honor winner Willems.
Elephant, a sobering fellow with spectacles, is sometimes frustrated by Piggie's blithe approach to life, but by story's end Piggie always gets him to loosen up and see the bright side of things.
In one adventure they decide to hide out and surprise each other, only to find themselves alone and sad that the other has left them behind.
In the latest book, Can I Play Too?, due out June 8, Gerald and Piggie meet a snake who wants to play catch, but wonder how he can play without arms.
In each mini drama, Willems uses short, pithy dialogue, speech balloons, fun sound words, and hysterical facial expressions to keep readers eager to read on.
Benny and Penny (Three Books)
Written, illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes
Toon Books, 2008-2010
$12.95, ages 4-8, 32 pages
In this delightful graphic series, two mice siblings learn to apologize, forgive and make friends as they play and explore.
In Just Pretend, Benny refuses to let little sister Penny play pirate with him, then calls her a crybaby for being upset about it, only to feel badly when he can't find her.
In The Big No-No, the siblings accuse a hedgehog neighbor girl of stealing their pail, only to realize they jumped to conclusions and owe her an apology.
In the latest, The Toy Breaker, they try to hide their toys from cousin Bo because he always breaks them, then discover a way to play so that nothing gets damaged.
Readers will relate to their squabbles, and along the way, learn how to make up with their own buddies. The format, a series of simple panels and talk balloons, makes the stories skip along.
Cork & Fuzz (Six Books)
Written by Dori Chaconas,
illustrated by Lisa McCue
Viking Juvenile, 2005-2010
$13.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages
A short muskrat and a tall possum discover that friends can be very different and still have fun adventures together in this gentle series reminiscent of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad.
In the first five books, the scrappy pair learn about acceptance, good sportsmanship, compromise and standing up for a friend while getting into all manner of mischief.
In the latest adventure, The Babysitters, Cork loses track of a baby porcupine he's babysitting and it's up to Fuzz to help find him.
Exciting adventures and adorable pictures keep readers coming back for more. (This is such an adorable pair, parents will want to track down stuffed toy look-alikes to surprise their readers.)
Astroblast #1: Code Blue
Written, illustrated by Bob Kolar
Cartwheel Books, 2010
$5.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages
A space monkey gets flustered when an alarm goes off in the Astroblast Snack Shack and none of his crew is there to make treats in this first book in a clever new series.
It's up to readers to round up the monkey's crew before a crowd of googly-eyed aliens line up to buy Milky Way shakes and Creamy Moon cakes. But first they'll have to navigate through a maze, dig for moon stones, locate missing tools and untangle wires.
Kolar, author-illustrator of Racer Dogs, combines a rousing rhyme, bold illustrations and fun puzzles that break up the text.