Monday, September 5, 2011

3. I Can Read!

Charm new words right out of your child with two clever readers and a picture book to spur them on.

Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking (Level 2), written and illustrated by Philippe Coudray, Toon Books, $12.95, ages 4-8, 32 pages. In this adorable book of comic gags, a loopy bear looks at life from the far side. Benjamin Bear is a problem-solver, and no matter what life throws at him, he works it out in an endearing, offbeat way. In one strip, Benjamin gets lost in a maze, but feels lucky that at least he has his apple with him. And indeed it is a lucky thing for soon ants wander through the maze to the apple and provide him a trail out. In another, Benjamin is too nervous to fly a glider off a cliff so he frees a dog from a gate so it will chase him off the edge. Benjamin never misses a beat, and he's as clever as he is silly. When he happens upon a sliver of moon in the park, he assumes that the moon must be hungry since he's skinny. So, he offers him fruit to make him full. Every page is a new cartoon with four to seven panels. Some panels have conversation bubbles with short sentences and sound words, others are wordless. Here and there, a rabbit friend hops into a comic to bounce off humor or to keep him company.  Readers will be drawn to Benjamin's silly, matter-of-fact approach to problem-solving and to how comfortable he is in his own fur.

Should I Share My Ice Cream? (An Elephant and Piggie book), written and illustrated by Mo Willems, Hyperion, $8.99, ages 4-8, 64 pages. Elephant is giddy with anticipation because he just bought himself an ice cream cone. But then he realizes he didn't get an ice cream for his best friend Piggie and he's stumped about what to do. Should he share his "awesome, yummy, sweet, super, great, tasty, nice, cool" cone with Piggie? Hmm, that's a tough one, especially now that Elephant is ogling it and looping his trunk around the cone like a scarf. There are, after all, some really good reasons for not sharing, he tells himself, trying to sound convincing. Like the possibility that Piggie won't like this flavor and the fact that Piggie isn't even there right now! But just as Elephant is about dive in and eat it, tender thoughts of his friend sneak up on him and he freezes: Suppose Piggie is somewhere all alone feeling sad? OK, now Elephant just has to find her and give her some of his ice cream. But has he waited too long? Fifteen books into the series and Elephant and Piggie are as irresistible as ever. Coming Oct. 4: Happy Pig Day!

I Will Not Read This Book, by Cece Meng, illustrated by Joy Ang, Clarion, $16.99 (hardback), ages 4-8, 32 pages. How do you spur a reluctant reader to read? Try giving him a book about exactly how he feels. In this charming picture book, a boy lists all the things he imagines his mom might do to make him read. Every punishment is outrageous and more far-fetched than the last, reflecting how worked up he's getting. First, the boy imagines his mom hanging him upside down by one toe. Soon he's got her dangling him off a cliff in a lightning storm while a monkey tickles his foot and a dragon blows smoke in his eyes.  "I will not read this book," he insists, before replaying all of scenarios he imagined before then adding one more. But suppose while he's hanging there, a speeding train barrels toward him and he sneezes and his mom drops him? What then? Well, let's say mom reaches out to catch him then offers to read with him. Would reading be so scary then? Here's a book that captures all the angst of child struggling to read and in one vicarious purge, lets out all of the worry and fear, and makes it safe to try.

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