McPhail’s newest in the I Like to Read series hinges on pivot grammar.
Pivot grammar—with one word substituted in a repeated sentence—is perfect for the very youngest beginning readers. Frontmatter depicts a chubby, white preschooler toting a turtle around before the story begins. Then just 10 statements, all starting, “I hug my…” tell a complete bedtime story. Illustrations showing the targets of the grinning hugger’s affection make each new word absolutely clear. Winsome and astonishingly patient animals calmly endure the child’s enthusiastic attention. Most of the illustrations feature just the child and the creature, person, or object that’s being hugged floating in framed white space. Midway through the book, after the pattern is established, two double-page spreads with more background and details invite new readers to linger and add their own observations. “I hug my rock” features a beach scene. On a tree-hugging spread, a pigtailed brown-skinned child peeking around the fence hints at what comes next: “I hug my friend.” Sometime between hugging dad and hugging mom, the child changes into pajamas, then hugs teddy bear and pillow before falling happily asleep. Or maybe not. A final page with just the words, “I hug” shows the pajama-clad child hugging teddy while gazing at the moon.
Ideal for the newest of new readers, this tender title’s usefulness may be limited to a very narrow developmental window, but it’ll do yeoman work within it. (Early reader. 4-8)