I was a first round judge for The Cybils Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books this past fall which meant that I read about 50 Easy Readers and 80+ Early Chapter Books that were nominated by the general public. Our group then came up with the short list, and then round two judges picked a winner in each category.
To keep track of each book, I kept notes on each book, rating it on a 5 point scale. I share my notes below of the books I liked the most (4.5 or 5/5). Our group then held online discussions via email on books that we liked, culminating in an online discussion to pick the short list. It’s interesting that that strong reactions to books could go either way. A good example is The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman … I loved the film noir detective story but not everyone agreed with me. Charlie Bumpers vs. The Perfect Little Turkey is another book that I loved especially for its boy appeal — our list felt girl audience heavy — but our group tried to be gender neutral.
PickyKidPix loves Katie Woo even though she discovered this series in 5th grade while messing around in her school library. She encouraged me to continue with the Katie Woo book giveaways because she wants to spread the love, and copies come my way that land in her room. I told her that a spinoff series about Pedro was coming out. She approved.
In celebration of the new Katie Woo spinoff series, Pedro, I’m doing a huge giveaway!
EIGHT Winners for Katie Woo or Pedro Early Chapter Book Giveaway
I’m not sure what children’s publishing rule of thumb seems to dictate that hamsters sell Early Chapter Books but when I judged the first round Cybils, there were a surprising amount of hamster themed books in this category. This, of course, let me to search out more Early/Easy Chapter Books with hamsters as characters as well as picture books.
Why do you think Early Chapter Books and hamsters go so well together? Is this publishing gold or a knee-jerk “copy what’s working” strategy to find an escaped hamster? Are hamsters really the Houdinis of rodents or are we short-changing rats, moles, mice and other furry creatures?
My search for hamster books was prompted by this video below. It turns out that hamsters have flexible hips that allow them to take sharp turns easily, even doing a complete U-turn in a tight space. And let’s not discount their ability to stuff food into their cheek pouches. The pouches, which secrete no saliva, extend down to their hips! Read more…
When PickyKidPix was in 5th grade, she fell in love with the Katie Woo series but it’s not what you think. She and her friend Griffin liked to hang out in the Early Chapter Book corner of the library during library time. I would imagine that they were screwing around, as they tend to do. Their friend Avi found them there, and low and behold, were the Katie Woo books.
At first, instead of looking for a book to check out, they would read the Katie Woo books and act out the parts. You’d think that my daughter, being the only female AND Asian-American would be Katie Woo! No, “that’s racist, Mom,” says my daughter. She was the narrator because that part has the most lines.
My daughter is in the center and Griffin is to the right. Two members of the Katie Woo Club.
Griffin, who is bi-racial (and proud of it) African-American, was Katie Woo. Avi played all other characters. This library time diversion morphed into the Katie Woo Club, an exclusive club that my daughter assures me everyone wanted to join. Membership was exclusive to the three original founding members though, something that reminded me of Katie Woo, except that she would be nicer and would relent to let in new members. Read more…
I’m excited to be judging first round Cybils this year in the categories of Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books. There were over 50 entrants for Early Chapter Books this year and we just finished picking the short list. Now, round 2 judges will take over to pick the final winners — 1 in each category!
There were some standout Early Chapter Books that had diversity in the mix and I wanted to highlight the best Early Chapter Books I’ve read so far. How about you? What Early Chapter Books are you loving? Please share!
New Great Early Chapter Books with Diversity Characters
I’m not sure why but Early Chapter Book are like newborn clothes; they are either GIRL or BOY. What happened to gender neutral? My favorite book out of all these Early Chapter Book is Lulu and the Hamster in the Night but I can’t imagine a boy picking up this book and reading it. This genre of books felt a little girl audience heavy as well. I’m not sure if this is a new trend or just a fluke.
Lulu and the Hamster in the Night by Hilary McKay
It’s interesting that there were quite a few animal adoption themed Early Chapter Books this year but this is exactly the kind of Easy Chapter book that I wish there were more of. Lulu and Mellie just happen to be girls of color but that’s not the point. Their adventure as rescue pet adopters is perfectly pitched. I’m really impressed with this series — last year, another Lulu book made the short list.
The plot is a classic sit-com; the girls stay at their grandmother’s house but with their rescue hamster but as she doesn’t allow furry animals, they have to hide the hamster during their weekend stay. The hamster, of course, gets out and has to be rescued. What makes this book sing is the pacing of this very sweet story that is wonderfully descriptive without ever dragging the plot down. I hope this one gets a win this year! [easy chapter book, ages 6 and up]
I’m really excited about this new series of early chapter book from Scholastic called Scholastic Branches.
The Branches line is solely made up of series. They want young readers to return to their favorite characters again and again—because that is how they build reading stamina and confidence!
There is a Branches book for every kid! According the Kids and Parents Reading Report™: Fifth Edition 73% of kids believe that they would read more if they could find more books that they like. With 14 different series and counting Branches delivers on providing kids with plenty of choices, so every reader can find the perfect book for them.
Does your kid love to laugh? Perfect! There is the zany and hilarious Kung Pow Chicken.
Does your reader love a fantastical adventure? Dragon Masters has it all: Dragons, a Dragon Stone, a king, a wizard, and magic!
How about a spooky story? Eerie Elementary will have your young readers on the edge of their seats!
4 Early Chapter Book Giveaway!
I’m giving away four early chapter books from Scholastic Branches to one lucky winner! Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter.
My husband had it all figured out. The Women’s World Cup was going to be held in Canada and if we got really lucky, we would be able to watch USA Women’s National Team if they made the quarter finals. We watched all their games with excitement! The scores were tight but we were going to see them in Ottawa!
We had never been to Ottawa but had visited Montreal five times and Toronto once. Ottawa is Canada’s capital and famous for a fried dough treat called a Beavertail. It comes topped with an assortment of sweets including Nutella and candy. My kids were delighted to sample it!
The drive up took 10 hours due to an accident involving a semi truck transporting gas that shut down the highway such that everyone shut off their cars for nearly an hour.
We also stopped midway in Burlington, Vermont which is a lovely stop for foodies! Farm to table was invented here I think!
It wasn’t easy finding great multicultural easy readers! My town library has about 49 cubic feet of easy readers — an entire wall — but about half have animal characters and most of the remaining books do NOT have characters of color. From my search that day, I’d say that about 2% of the square footage were multicultural books. I culled through all of these plus ran through the Geisel award-winning books and came up with my ten favorites.
Some of favorite Easy Readers include Little Bear, Mr. Putter and Tabby, Henry and Mudge, anything by Arnold Lobel, Fly Guy, Elephant and Piggie, Biscuit, and Dr. Seuss, but sadly, none of these books have diversity characters. I can understand that the animal based Easy Readers can not, but Mr. Putty could have a friend who isn’t white, right?! And Henry with his big dog Mudge could too. It doesn’t have to be a big deal; the friend just happens to be of color (and sometimes I prefer it that way). So just a thought to plant out there…let’s hope in 2016, Henry and Mr. Putter make new friends of color. Read more…
I am thrilled to be judging the Cybils in the category of Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books but mum’s the word on my opionion of the short list until the winners are announced on February 14th (also International Book Giving Day!).
All I can say is that this is a great list for emerging readers and newly independent readers. I’ve read the entire list there is something great about every single book! Feel free to find at your local library!
Cybils 2015 Best Easy Readers