Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Small Readers: Miss Bindergarten and the Best Friends by Joseph Salte, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

This book continues the trend of rewriting or expanding popular picture book series into easy readers. Miss Bindergarten's alphabetical and colorful kindergarten adventures would have made no sense as an easy reader back when they were originally written, but now that many schools and parents are pushing kids to read at ages 4 and 5, there's definitely a market for them.

This story features two of Miss Bindergarten's students, Emily the elephant and Vicky the...muskrat? I'm going with muskrat. Each day they find more and more things that match; on the first day they wear blue coats, on the next yellow boots, etc. Miss Bindergarten remarks that they look like twins and the two happily proclaim that they are, indeed twins. When some of their classmates point out all their physical differences, they admit that they are not twins; but they are best friends!

Wolff's illustrations, like the picture books, feature a plethora of bright, cheerful colors and patterns. I think she did a really good job of simplifying the illustrations for the easy readers, since the books tend to be rather crowded in that respect (not the kind of classroom I'd personally like to work in, but a lot of teachers do have a similar design).

Penguin's level 2 readers are rather easier than some publisher's, and suitable for a strong, beginning reader. It's not unrealistic to expect some five year olds to be at this point, although they will probably be in the minority. Older readers will probably find the art and storyline a little too young for them.

Verdict: This is a colorful, simple book that nicely blends a message about friendship and differences with the concept of same and different. It's not likely to find a really broad audience, due to the combination of a slightly more complex text and younger plot-line and setting, but if you have a lot of fans of the series and/or a population of very young, strong readers, it would be a good purchase.

ISBN: 9780803739895; Published 2014 by Penguin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to a backlist of easy readers to order at some point

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