Both this title and its companion are good for reinforcing word families and building reading confidence, but sometimes a...

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LAZY BEAR, CRAZY BEAR

Bolger and Hodson explore phonics in cartoon form.

New readers encountering the opening sequence—“Cave Bear / Wave Bear // Lazy Bear / Crazy Bear”—will hardly be aware that they are supposed to be learning basic phonics because they will be giggling over the “wave” bear in surf shorts and the “crazy” bear with scissors cutting down the “lazy” bear’s hammock. On subsequent pages, the “crazy” bear, wearing an easy-to-see red-and-white–striped shirt as well as an offensively vapid smile, wreaks mild havoc. From the opening long A, each vowel is explored in subsequent chapters with occasional glosses from Gran, a bespectacled human grandmother who explains phonics rules in speech bubbles: “Long vowels say their own names.” Some of the vocabulary is quite challenging (“creature,” “relief,” “fuel”), adding an unexpected level of difficulty. Companion title Gran on a Fan uses rhyme to make its point with short vowels, but some of the choices (“bomb,” “mob,” “rob,” “cops”) take this book for emergent readers to some dark places that slapstick visual humor cannot save.

Both this title and its companion are good for reinforcing word families and building reading confidence, but sometimes a phonics book is just a phonics book . (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-228598-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Thank you, Gerald and Piggie. We’ll miss you

THE THANK YOU BOOK

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Piggie is “one lucky pig,” and she’s determined to make sure she thanks “everyone who is important to” her in this, the final Elephant & Piggie book.

Gerald is sure his friend will forget someone—“someone important”—but Piggie assures him, “It will be a THANK-O-RAMA!” Piggie proceeds to thank the Squirrels for their great ideas, Snake for playing ball, and the Pigeon “for never giving up.” Piggie thanks and thanks: “I am a thanking machine!” She thanks character after character, even the Flies (“Any time, dude!”), as Gerald continues to interject that she’ll forget “someone VERY important.” Finally Piggie runs out of thanks, and by this time Gerald is steamed. “I goofed,” Piggie says in itty-bitty type, before lavishing thanks on Gerald. But that’s not whom Piggie forgot to thank! A classic Willems tantrum later, Gerald reveals the “someone important”: “Our reader.” Of course. “We could not be ‘us’ without you,” says Gerald, earnestly looking out from the page, and Piggie chimes in, “You are the best!” As Elephant & Piggie books go, this isn’t one of the strongest, but it is a validating valediction to fans of the two characters, who have won Willems two Geisel Medals and five Honors. Yes, Gerald and Piggie have ushered countless readers into literacy, but as they rightly note, reading is a collaborative act.

Thank you, Gerald and Piggie. We’ll miss you . (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7828-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2016

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Sweet—and savory.

THE KEEPER OF WILD WORDS

When a girl visits her grandmother, a writer and “grand friend,” she is seeking something special to share at show and tell on the first day of school.

Before Brook can explain, Mimi expresses concern that certain words describing the natural world will disappear if someone doesn’t care for and use them. (An author’s note explains the author’s motivation: She had read of the removal of 100 words about outdoor phenomena from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.) The duo sets out to search for and experience the 19 words on Mimi’s list, from “acorn” and “buttercup” to “violet” and “willow.” Kloepper’s soft illustrations feature green and brown earth tones that frame the white, matte pages; bursts of red, purple, and other spot colors enliven the scenes. Both Mimi and Brook are depicted as white. The expedition is described in vivid language, organized as free verse in single sentences or short paragraphs. Key words are printed in color in a larger display type and capital letters. Sensory details allow the protagonist to hear, see, smell, taste, and hold the wild: “ ‘Quick! Make a wish!’ said Mimi, / holding out a DANDELION, / fairy dust sitting on a stem. / ‘Blow on it and the seeds will fly. / Your tiny wishes in the air.’ ” It’s a day of wonder, with a touch of danger and a solution to Brook’s quest. The last page forms an envelope for readers’ own vocabulary collections.

Sweet—and savory. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7073-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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