Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Houndsley & Catina, Cork & Fuzz, Joe & Sparky, Annie & Snowball, Mr. Putter & Tabby, Cowgirl Kate & Cocoa

When Arnold Lobel introduced Frog and Toad to the world of easy readers, he set the pattern for a classic format that continues to pop up in easy readers again and again. In my group-Cybils-review today, I have several examples of that format.

First, the latest in the Houndsley and Catina saga, Plink and Plunk. This is closest to the F&G model, with two animal friends who enjoy doing things together but sometimes have differences. The illustrations are swashy with lots of blues and greens and the different animal characters are beautifully drawn. This is labeled as a "level 3" at my library, roughly 1st/2nd grade.

Verdict: A classic series that beginning readers will enjoy.

Houndsley and Catina: Plink and Plunk by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
ISBN: 978-0763633851; Published August 2009 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library
Our next story has a similar reading level and follows the F&G model as well. Cork and Fuzz, a muskrat and opossum, are good friends. But in Finders Keepers, Fuzz's love of collecting causes a problem when he insists on keeping Cork's green stone. Another cozy animal friendship story, pretty much the same reading level as Houndsley and Catina. My favorite, favorite part is the illustrations. Lisa McCue's characters are so delightfully fuzzy without being too cute. The color scheme here is greens and browns, settling in autumn.

Verdict: I discovered this series for our library recently and it's very popular!

Cork and Fuzz: Finders Keepers by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Lisa McCue
ISBN: 978-0670011131; Published July 2009 by Viking; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library
Now, we have something a little different. For the kids who like the classic F&G but want something with a bit more zing, hand out the inimitable Joe and Sparky! Sparky is a stay-at-zoo turtle, while Joe likes new experiences and adventures. Their wild day out of the zoo is full of silly misunderstandings, sly humor, and the warm friendship of a classic F&G. Kids will enjoy giggling over Joe's innocent enjoyment as he leaves havoc behind him and Sparky's nervous protestations as he tries some new experiences.

Verdict: Lots of bright colors, especially yellows, make this wacky easy reader shine on the shelf!

Joe and Sparky Get new wheels by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
ISBN: 978-0763633875; Published March 2009 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Next, we have the Cynthia Rylant adaptation of the F&G with human friends and animal pets. In the latest Annie and Snowball (friends of Henry and Mudge) Annie finds something special: a bird's nest! Rylant perfectly captures the delight and fascination of watching the bird build the nest, lay eggs, and hatch out a family. There are plenty of touches of gentle humor. A warm and friendly story, Rylant easy reader fans will approve! Annie and Snowball is a lower reading level than the previous easy readers we've looked at, a level 1 or 2 in our library (can't remember exactly at the moment) about kindergarten to 1st grade.

Verdict: A popular series with fans of Henry and Mudge. Workable, if nothing out of the ordinary

Annie and Snowball and the cozy nest by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
ISBN: 978-1416939436; Published February 2009 by Simon; Review copy provided by the publisher

The second Rylant continuation we have in our nominations, is another addition to the equally popular Mr. Putter and Tabby series. Mr. Putter and his friend Mrs. Teaberry are very different characters, but they do have fun together! Mrs. Teaberry's latest educational and fun idea doesn't turn out quite like either of them expects; but it's certainly fun!

Verdict: This is the funniest of the Mr. Putter stories I've read and it's a welcome addition to non-traditional characters in children's literature. The reading level is perfect for 1st through 2nd grade.

Mr. Putter and Tabby spill the beans by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
ISBN: 978-0152050702; Published August 2009 by Harcourt; Borrowed from the library

Finally, we have a nice blend of the F&G and the Rylant Diversion with Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa - a girl and her talking horse. In this story, Cocoa decides to investigate the house; after all, her place is with Kate so she must belong in Kate's "stall"! Some things about the house are nice, but Cocoa realizes she belongs in the barn after all. This is a popular series at my library, full of the gentle friendship of an F&G with the added human touches of Rylant and lot of little laughs. The watercolor illustrations bring out the perky character of Cocoa and her faithful friend Kate perfectly.

Verdict: Excellent for the horse-loving 1st or 2nd grader.

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Horse in the house by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
ISBN: 978-0152053901; Published April 2009 by Harcourt; Borrowed from the library

Overall Verdict: And there you have it, six easy readers in the classic pattern! These are all great choices for the beginning reader looking for a fun series to read. The series are excellent quality throughout and perfect for the emerging reader!

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