Early Reader Success: Hey Jack!

Hey Jack 1Hey Jack! The Best Birthday Party Ever by Sally Rippin

This was recommended to me as one that was a good choice for early readers. It’s easy to see why – it’s engaging, with short chapters and lots of illustrations. The varying font size makes it easier for newer readers to read with appropriate inflection and emphasis, and the lightly tinted pages are also helpful for them.

While G liked the book, and read it in one sitting, it wasn’t as ideal of a book for him like his adored Wheelnuts. I think if I’d have given him this about a year ago he’d have loved it – now it’s a little bit too easy for him. Because it is a much easier read than Wheelnuts, if you have a reader who isn’t quite ready for those books, this one might be a better fit. It’s roughly at a second grade reading level.

The Best Birthday Party Ever is book one in the Hey Jack! series, and it’s a companion to the original series about Jack’s best friend, Billie B.

And a heads-up: many Usborne books are available in public libraries, so don’t forget to check your local branch if you see me mention ones that sound intriguing.

Disclosure: This is an Usborne book, and I’m an independent consultant for them (i.e., I sell them). I’m still going to give you my honest opinion on their books though, because every book isn’t right for every reader. If you buy from my link I’ll receive a commission, which goes to support the blog and my homeschooling adventure. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: Crimes and Mathdemeanors by Leith Hathout
Two years ago: Book Review: Beyond Bath Time by Erin Davis
Three years ago: Books Read in 2012

What the Kids are Reading (in December 2015)

December 2015 Picture Books

We did read more Christmas books than those listed below; these are just the new-to-us ones I tried from the library. One of these days I should make a complete listing of the Christmas books, instead of having them scattered across various posts from different years. Maybe that’ll happen for 2016. 😉

A Tale of Two BeastsA Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton

Probably my favorite from the month – I loved the double perspective this one provides, as the story is told twice, once from the viewpoint of the little girl, and once from the animal’s point of view. The way the illustrations are also adjusted for each recounting is really clever too. The kids liked it as well, and have asked for it repeatedly.

AnimallyAnimally by Lynn Parrish Sutton

Very sweet story, with lots of fun adverbs plus of course all the great animals. I can see why this one was recommended to me so highly.

There's a Mouse about the HouseThere’s a Mouse about the House by R. Fowler

I got this one because of a relative raving about how much her children loved it when they were growing up. Initially, I was skeptical about how much my kids would like it, but I didn’t need to be – my kids are OBSESSED with putting the little mouse through each page’s slot. The one drawback is that the mouse is easy to lose, even with the little pocket on the front cover (ask me how I know this.) At least the back cover has a template for making your own replacement mouse. 🙂

Old AbeOld Abe, Eagle Hero: The Civil War’s Most Famous Mascot by Anne Lee

Good as an older picture book, as it’s got more text on each page. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for material about the Civil War that doesn’t get into graphic detail, but just touches on the time period, or if you’ve got animal lovers. Otherwise, it’s not a must read or one that I’d suggest for younger readers, as it likely won’t hold their interest. My 6 year old thought it was ok,; my 4 year old didn’t stick around for more than a page or two. I’ll try it again with them in another year or two.

Blue Whale BluesBlue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas

Cute story, and the kids were amused at the “wrong” names and uses for various items they easily recognized (the upside down shopping cart that the Whale calls his bike, etc.). They also thought it was hilarious when Whale is sad that his “bike” is “all wet.”

Johnny Appleseed the Story of a LegendJohnny Appleseed: The Story of a LegendJohnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend by Will Moses by Will Moses

A school book for G, and he liked it, and he liked telling daddy about what he’d learned about Johnny Appleseed. Nice illustrations too, but it’s not a toddler or preschooler-targeted picture book: it’s very text-heavy, and is unlikely to keep their interest. As a readaloud for a first grader, it’s excellent.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan ToomeyThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan ToomeyThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

New to us all this year, and what a wonderful book! Both the story and illustrations are lovely, and I want to buy a copy to add to our regular advent reading rotation. The 4 year old wasn’t that interested in it, but I think by next year she’ll like it.

Christmas OrangesChristmas OrangesChristmas Oranges by Linda Bethers, illustrated by Ben Sowards by Linda Bethers, illustrated by Ben Sowards

Gorgeously illustrated, but I wasn’t expecting to get choked up by the story. It’s another picture book that’s better for 6 & up at least, both because of the amount of text, and because of the themes discussed.

Click Clack Ho Ho HoClick, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho!Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

I adore Click Clack Moo and others by Cronin and Lewin, but this one wasn’t one of my favorites of theirs. I’m also not a big fan of Santa-focused books though, so that plays a huge role in my feelings. Try it from the library (most medium to larger ones should have a copy) and see if it’s a good fit for your family before buying it.

Llama Llama Holiday DramaLlama Llama Holiday DramaLlama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney by Anna Dewdney

My first Llama Llama book, and maybe I shouldn’t have picked this one as my introduction to the series? I was unimpressed with it. Thinking I should give Llama Llama another try, because I know they’re hugely popular, and maybe this was just not representative of what they’re usually like.

Disclosure: Several of these are Usborne books, and I’m an independent consultant for them (i.e., I sell them). I’m still going to give you my honest opinion on their books though, because every book isn’t right for every reader. If you buy from my link I’ll receive a commission, which goes to support the blog and my homeschooling adventure. Non-Usborne titles are linked to Amazon, and those are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Early Reader Success: Desert Dustup (Wheelnuts Series #1)

Desert DustupDesert Dustup (Wheelnuts #1) by Knife and Packer

Let me start by saying that I have *not* read this entire book. I was flipping through it when my son all but ripped it out of my hands. Then he proceeded to spend his afternoon quiet time reading it. Yes, the entire almost-100-page book. And for him, this is a *very* big deal. He can read – he’s good at it – but he still doesn’t choose to do it, unless I’m making him or offering him no other options.

This book though? He read all on his own, and willingly, and then came to me to request that I get him the sequel.

So yes, the book is silly. It’s not great literature. It’s like a cartoon, put into book form.

But it’s also really, really engaging and appealing for my 6 year old boy, and got him excited to read. So I wouldn’t recommend it if you’ve got solid readers who don’t “need” this sort of text, but if you’ve got reluctant readers who would enjoy this format (lots of illustrations, very short chapters, fast-paced action) this is probably my son’s favorite book that he’s read himself. At least until he gets book #2, Spooky Smackdown. (And if you’re wondering about the age range for it, it’s suggested for ages 7 – 10.)

Disclosure: This is an Usborne book, and I’m an independent consultant for them (i.e., I sell them). I’m still going to give you my honest opinion on their books though, because every book isn’t right for every reader. If you buy from my link I’ll receive a commission, which goes to support the blog and my homeschooling adventure. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: A Scholar of Magic
Two years ago: Joy to the World: Advent Activities for Your Family
Three years ago: Favorite Books of Hope & Redemption

What the Kids are Reading (in September 2015)

I Always ALWAYS Get My WayI Always, ALWAYS Get My WayI Always, ALWAYS Get My Way by Thad Krasnesky, illustrated by David Parkins by Thad Krasnesky, illustrated by David Parkins

Read daily (often several times a day) for weeks – my daughter especially loved it. Fun language and great illustrations, plus a satisfying conclusion.

Where is the Green SheepWhere Is the Green Sheep? Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek

Deceptively simple, but it has wonderful repetition. Why did it take me so long to read a book by Fox?

Double Trouble in Walla WallaDouble Trouble In Walla WallaDouble Trouble In Walla Walla by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Salvatore Murdocca by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Salvatore Murdocca

I did eventually have to stash this one in the library bag, after about a dozen readings, because the kids adored it. The language is so. much. fun. But after all those readings, my tongue was tired of being twisted, and I had had enough. Well illustrated, and I need to look into Clements’ other books, because this one was such a hit.

Higher HigherHigher! Higher! (Leslie Patricelli board books)Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelli by Leslie Patricelli

No surprises here – it’s a typical Patricelli book. (That’s not a complaint.)

Over in the WetlandsOver in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story by Caroline Starr Rose, illustrated by Rob Dunlaver

Beautifully written, with great rhythm so it’s fun to read aloud. The illustrations are lovely, although some of them are so dark (appropriately for the topic, but my kids still thought they couldn’t see anything on those pages). A better fit as an older picture book – my six-year-old enjoyed it a lot more than his four-year-old sister.

0-439-70049-3Where’s Walrus?Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage by Stephen Savage

Really amusing wordless book. Both kids were hugely entertained by finding the walrus, and imagining what he was doing in each scene.

This Little ChickThis Little ChickThis Little Chick by John Lawrence by John Lawrence

Enjoyable read with lots of fun opportunities to make animal sounds. That always makes for a popular book here. 🙂

The Busy Little SquirrelThe Busy Little SquirrelThe Busy Little Squirrel (Classic Board Books) by Nancy Tafuri by Nancy Tafuri

A cute enough story about the seasons, but it suffered a bit in comparison to some of the better ones we’ve read recently. I was underwhelmed by the illustrations, and Where’s Green Sheep and This Little Chick had more interesting repetitive structures.

Farmer DuckFarmer DuckFarmer Duck by Martin Waddell, illustrations by Helen Oxenbury by Martin Waddell, illustrations by Helen Oxenbury

Another one where they liked it but didn’t LOVE it like others.

Q is for DuckQ Is for Duck: An Alphabet Guessing GameQ Is for Duck: An Alphabet Guessing Game by Mary Elting and Michael Folsom, illustrated by Jack Kent by Mary Elting and Michael Folsom, illustrated by Jack Kent

My son was very entertained by the riddles in this, especially since he figured them out easily.

Wolf Won't BiteWolf Won’t Bite!Wolf Won't Bite! by Emily Gravett by Emily Gravett

I loved the illustrations in this one, and my kids loved repeating the “Wolf Won’t Bite!” refrain, but they were a little bit traumatized by the ending. And my kids are not generally sensitive readers at all

Squid and Octopus Friends for AlwaysSquid and Octopus: Friends for AlwaysSquid and Octopus: Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu by Tao Nyeu

This is a nice bridge book as it’s a longer picture book, divided into four “chapters.” It reminded me of another book, but I can’t figure out which one, and that’s been driving me batty since finishing this one. It’s cute, but not one I feel any significant desire to borrow again.

Ten Nine EightTen, Nine, Eight Board BookTen, Nine, Eight Board Book (Caldecott Collection) by Molly Bang by Molly Bang

A gentle bedtime book – I liked the counting-down aspect. I think it was a little too gentle for my older two, and they weren’t interested in it. Maybe they needed to have heard it for the first time as younger kids?

Wodney Wat's WobotWodney Wat’s WobotWodney Wat's Wobot by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

I didn’t like reading this one out loud (had a terrible time with actually reading a “w” sound instead of an “r” sound), and was glad the kids seemed mostly indifferent towards it. It went right back into the library bag.

The Crown on Your HeadThe Crown on Your HeadThe Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman by Nancy Tillman

The illustrations are pretty (although not my preferred style), but some of the text was so sappy and saccharine that I found myself all but rolling my eyes while reading it. This one also went right back into the library bag after one reading.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
Two years ago: Cooking the Book: Weelicious (Broccoli Pesto) by Catherine McCord
Three years ago: Library Love

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Bookroo: A Bookish Subscription Service

bookroo box and wrapped booksSeems like subscription boxes are all the rage right now, and it’s easy to understand why. New items sent right to your door? How fun!

But beauty boxes aren’t my thing, and even clothing ones don’t tempt me that much. I’d rather spend my money on books and things for my kids.

Now a subscription box of kids’ books? SIGN ME UP.

H with Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep-Over 2Literally, sign me up. I jumped at the chance to try Bookroo. No, this post isn’t sponsored by them (although they did give me a discount code to try them. And I also have a discount for you to try them too!) I was just that enthusiastic to try what looked like such a fun product.

Before I signed up, I checked out what books they’ve been sending in the past. What fun would it be if it’s all old familar books we already have read or own? Nowhere near as much fun as it’d be if they were new discoveries.

Glancing over previous boxes, I found one – ONE – title that we already read, let alone owned. And that solitary title is an absolute favorite, so that speaks well to their taste.

H reading Hugless DouglasSo, we’re trying it out. I signed up for a three-month subscription, and they’re nice enough to let me alternate between picture books and board books.

Our first month’s delivery arrived, and it was all I could do to hold off the kids long enough to get a picture. I had thoughts of taking an unboxing video but that wasn’t happening. Too much excitement by the big kids! (How convenient it is for me that two picture books = one for each kid to immediately claim. Board book subscriptions come with 3 book in each box.)

boo_headIf you want to try Bookroo, you can get $4 off a subscription. Where I think think Bookroo really shines is for gifts – they make it super easy, and the packaging is nice. I would have been delighted to get this as a baby shower gift, and I love the idea of sending this to friends who have new babies.

And a reminder: This post is not sponsored by them, and I’m not an affiliate. They did give me a discount code to use to try their service, but you can also get a discount too: If you click over to them using my link, you’ll automatically get $4 off your order.

Early Reader Success: Ling & Ting

Ling and Ting Not Exactly the SameLing & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! (Passport to Reading Level 3) by Grace Lin by Grace Lin

This was a great early reader chapter book. It had six chapters, and they could easily be read individually. Individually as in my son could read the chapter on his own, and as in each chapter could be read without needing to remember what had happened in previous chapters. There was a slight story line that carried through the entire book, but it wasn’t essential for appreciating individual chapters.

My best guess puts my son at an early 2nd grade reading level, and he was able to manage this book with little trouble. One chapter was just enough to provide practice for him, without overwhelming him with TOO MUCH READING. (Which is totally a thing with him). There’s also plenty of white space on the pages, and lots of illustrations, which helps him. He’s at kind of a delicate spot as far as reading goes – he can do it, but he needs the formatting of the book to help him out too. Not too much text on any one page and chapters that aren’t too long, or else he wants to give up before he starts. This book was perfect for him right now.

Plus it was gently humorous, and he liked that.

Highly recommended for early readers. It’s not one I’d recommend as a read-aloud, as it’s definitely one for kids to read for themselves.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Quick Lit July 2015

Favorite Picture Books so far in 2015To go along with last month’s list of my favorite books of the first half of 2015, here are some quick looks at what have been our favorite picture books for the year so far. Because I’m always on the lookout for great books to read to my young ones, so maybe you are too. 🙂

The Seven Silly EatersThe Seven Silly EatersThe Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman by Mary Ann Hoberman

Great language and wonderful illustrations made this silly book super fun for us all.

DruthersDruthersDruthers by Matt Phelan by Matt Phelan

Imaginative and I loved how my kids discovered the fun of the word “druthers” thanks to this book. Hearing a 3 year old talk about what she’d do if she had her druthers is hilarious.

Bear Snores OnBear Snores OnBear Snores On (The Bear Books) by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

I love the clever use of text in Wilson’s books – how the varying font sizes helps my son see why I’m emphasizing what I do when I read it. Plus, it’s just a cute story.

John Philip DuckJohn Philip DuckJohn Philip Duck by Patricia Polacco by Patricia Polacco

A little history with our reading. Polacco is one of my favorites, and her books always captivate my kids.

How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the WorldHow to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the WorldHow to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty, illustrated by Marc Simont by Faith McNulty, illustrated by Marc Simont

My son was OBSESSED with this book for several months. I had to read it so often I think we all about had it memorized, and he still talks about certain events from the book.

The Story about PingThe Story about PingThe Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese

I adored this book, and my kids really liked it. So yes, I liked it more than they did. 🙂 Cute little duck, and the story led to some great teachable moments.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

7QT on birthdays, baseball, essential oils, and of course books

Seven Quick Takes

— 1 —

G at firstI think I already mentioned how my son is playing baseball now. He’s so excited, and will tell anyone he can that he has 5 practices and 13 games. He’s got new shoes as well to go along with the rest of the brand new uniform.

No cleats, just new tennis shoes, as his old ones had holes in the toes and let sand in. Why did they have holes in the toes? Because he continues to use his shoes as breaks when he rides his scooter.

Although it didn’t really matter that he had holes in the toes, because he needed to move up a size anyway. The kid has enormous feet.

— 2 —

My daughter has started giving me her list of what she wants for her birthday, and the other day when she added one more thing to it, I reminded her that she might not get that exact item, but we’d get her something she’d like. Her plaintive response: “Only ONE thing?”

It was all I could do not to laugh.

And then her big concern was that she gets the same number of things as her brother. Why does that not surprise me?

— 3 —

What she really insists she wants is a blue mermaid and a purple mermaid. And that they be soft, not hard. Her brother wants Legos (he’s going to be disappointed, because what he really wants is the big police stationLEGO City Police 60047 Police Station, and we’re not spending that much). I keep steering him to smaller, cheaper sets and seeing which one he wants most, because he just says “I want this one and this one and this one and this one….” The boy loves his Legos!

— 4 —

They’re also both giving me ideas for the baby, and are in disbelief when I tell them that they baby isn’t getting much besides a few books. I wouldn’t even worry about getting her new books, except some of my favorites for babies have been so well loved by the older two that they’re in tatters.

— 5 —

AAR Level 3 Progress ChartMy son flew through his last reading lessons in level 3, and then was horrified that I didn’t have level 4 ready and waiting. Well, no, I didn’t expect you to do 19 lessons in 5 days, so I hadn’t ordered it already. It arrived Wednesday however, and he was ready to dive into it immediately.

Instead I was the mean mom and have made him wait until we did a final review of the word cards he’d had trouble with. “Semicircle” is officially the hardest one for him from level 3. I thought it would be “pilgrim” or “titles” but he finally got those. Why those three caused him so much trouble I’m not sure, but they did.

— 6 —

April YLEO ER orderIf you follow me on Instagram you’ve already seen this, but I got some FREE essential oils recently, thanks to Essential Rewards points. Yay for essential oils, and yay for free ones!

And for my last ER order, I got Dragon Time massage oil, Valor, Lemon, Raven, and RC. I feel lucky – I got my order for Valor in just before it went out of stock for the season. Love that oil, and I’d passed along a bottle so I’m so happy I was able to replace it.

— 7 —

Blue BirdsI mentioned on Tuesday my birthday reading plans. And then I got zero reading time in, thanks to kids. Oh, well, the books will still be there waiting for me. I am in the midst of reading
Blue BirdsBlue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose, and it’s fabulous. I’ve slowed down a bit because it’s so good and so quick to read I’m intentionally setting it aside so I don’t gulp it down in one big binge read.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t The Lyceum!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Recent Readaloud: Dolphin Adventure

Dolphin AdventureDolphin Adventure: A True StoryDolphin Adventure: A True Story by Wayne Grover, illustrated by Jim Fowler by Wayne Grover, illustrated by Jim Fowler

The story-telling isn’t the best (it’s serviceable, but not phenomenal), and if I were rating it on my own I’d probably give it 3 stars. However, my son’s enjoyment of it made me bump up the overall rating I gave it on GoodReads to 4 stars. He was a fan – so much so that when he realized there was a second book following this one, he insisted that we had to get it because he needed to hear it too.

My verdict:
An amazing true story, I appreciated how it opened up several areas of discussion. Plenty of illustrations and very short chapters make it a good choice for kids new at listening to chapter books. It’s easy enough that it would also work for newer readers – not complete beginners, but somewhat new to reading chapter books.

The kids’ verdict:
My son immediately requested to read the second book, Dolphin Treasure. My daughter was only slightly interested in it, and mostly just wanted to see the pictures. So, good for my five-year-old, not so good for my three-year-old.

[Read more…]

Early Reader Success: Watch Me Throw the Ball

Watch Me Throw the BallWatch Me Throw the Ball!Watch Me Throw the Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems by Mo Willems

We’re huge Mo Willems fans in this house – especially his picture books featuring the PigeonDon't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems, Knuffle BunnyKnuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion (Knuffle Bunny Series) by Mo Willems, or EdwinaEdwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems the dinosaur- they’re all so much fun. I’ve read them over and over and over and still don’t get tired of them, they’re such great books.

It’s no surprise his early reader books are also big hits. My son thinks they’re funny, and they’re short enough that he doesn’t get discouraged and give up before he even starts.

(That’s really his biggest reading problem right now. He can read pretty well, but too much text on a page and he’s convinced he’ll never manage it. He does better with short sentences and paragraphs with a larger font size and plenty of white space around the text blocks.)

The Elephant and Piggie series books are perfect for him right now. Engaging stories, humorous illustrations, and plenty of space on each page so he’s not overwhelmed with text overload.

What he really liked doing with this book was tandem reading with me – he’d read Piggie’s lines, while I’d read Elephant’s. Then we’d immediately switch roles and re-read the book. Reading it that way completely delighted him!

We’re looking for additional titles in this series, as these are so wonderful for early readers. Happily, my library system has lots to choose from so we won’t run out of titles any time soon.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!