A story about a boy and his gecko helps beginning readers develop confidence and fluency.
Relatively complex text on the left-hand page paired with two lines of simpler text in a larger font on the right-hand page invites shared reading between caregiver and learner (as explained in a foreword). Challenging words highlighted in bold on the left are used again on the right, reinforcing the concept and encouraging success. The text reads smoothly whether children are reading just the right-hand page or hearing and reading the entire story. Plot is not sacrificed to this instructional format. When Matt, a brown-skinned boy with straight black hair, sneaks his new pet into school, his classmates, a diverse group, display a range of reactions to the predictable chaos that ensues while at the same time supporting their friend in his secret. Kim at first holds Kecko and manages to keep from shrieking when his tail breaks off in her hand. (Matt explains gecko physiology to reassure her.) A boy’s response to a gecko on the wall is simply “cool.” These somewhat stereotypical responses are balanced by all the children’s efforts to keep their teacher, a light-skinned woman, from discovering the escapee. Tension builds when Kecko lands in Mrs. Jackson’s hair and then when she just barely avoids sitting on him. When she finely learns the cause of the uproar, she turns the surprise visitor into a teaching opportunity.
A success on two levels that’s worthy of repeat readings. (Early reader. 5-8)