Should Fly Guy, Elephant and Piggie, Biscuit and Puppy Mudge make room in the growing field of very beginning readers for Gus? Maybe…
In this third book about Gus (Gus Gets Scared and Gus Makes a Friend, both 2011), newly emergent readers can practice recognizing sight words, playing with inflection and mastering repeated vocabulary all while discovering how this pleasant rhino prepares for a special day. Though the simple sentence structure contains only single-syllable words, the colorful cartoon art cues young readers and cleverly augments the text. Remkiewicz, well known for illustrating the Froggy series, proves from the first page that this is no typical day-at-school title. While the text reads “Gus goes to school,” the framed page shows daddy rhino and Gus passing a florist's shop with a huge sign that proclaims “Mom’s Day.” Tension arises during craft time when Gus and a spunky blue elephant compete for creating the most impressive bead necklace: “ ‘See my beads!’ says Tess. / ‘See MY beads!’ says Gus. / ‘NOW see my beads!’ says Tess. / ‘Now see MY beads!’ says Gus.” The page turn reveals an “Oops!” as all but one of Gus’s beads spill to the floor. No need to worry—Mom loves it.
This may not have the laugh-out-loud humor or silly sweetness found in many titles of this kind, but Gus has great appeal, and the story provides just the right level of challenges for those just beginning to read. (Early reader. 4-6)