The Geisels: A Beginning-Reader Roundup

This year’s Theodor S. Geisel Honor Books: The Bear in My Family, Ty’s Travels, What about Worms!?, and Where’s Baby?

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award (named for guess who?) is given by the ALA for “the most distinguished beginning reader book. Easy readers have come a long way from “See Spot run.” Today’s books feature outstanding art, less-than-strict adherence to leveled word lists, and lots of fun. Megan reported on the winner, See the Cat, on Thursday. Today we’re Johnny-on-the-spot with all four honor books (bless my local library for having all of them)!

The Bear in My Family by Maya Tatsukawa. Dial, 2020, 32 pages.

“I live with a bear.” What could be good about that? The bear is loud, bossy, strong, and always hungry, and all those qualities bear down (no pun!) on our helpless protagonist. His mother disregards his protests and tells him to go play. But . . . when those loud, bossy, strong, and even hungry qualities come down on your side, living with a bear isn’t so bad. The surprise ending won’t take grownups by surprise but beginning readers will be delighted. And they probably can’t wait to try reading the book to you.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom! by Kelly Starling Lyons, pictures by Nina Mata. HarperCollins, 2020, 32 pages.

Ty has a new scooter and can’t wait to ride it. He imagines himself zipping and zooming along with competitors in a race, but doesn’t realize it takes a little practice first. Instead of zip-zoom, he goes wobble-wobble, and finally boom! He’s ready to give up, until a girl stops and offers a few tips. They finish the imaginary race together, new friends. This is a “My First” leveled reader, meant to be shared with an adult who helps the beginner sound out words. The illustrations cleverly represent Ty’s imagined racetrack as stick figures and chalk drawings, adding context to a simple story about persistence.

Overall Rating: 4

What about Worms!? (an Elephant and Piggie Like to Read book) by Ryan T. Higgins. Hyperion, 2020, 55 pages.

Yay! Elephant and Piggie introduce this book, so it’s got to be good. Our story begins with a big, brave tiger who is afraid of nothing. Except worms. Because worms are slimy, wiggly, and their tops are indistinguishable from their bottoms. Worst of all, everything the tiger likes, such as flowers and apples, could be infested with . . . worms! What about books? Those too—and when the tiger beats a retreat, the worms appear and the story turns top to bottom (or bottom to top, since there’s no difference). The book-within-a-book will intrigue beginning readers, and the Elephant/Piggie speech-balloon format will seem like a familiar friend as they follow along (look for a surprise appearance by the Pigeon).

Overall rating: 4.5

Where’s Baby? by Anne Hunter. Penguin Random House, 2020, 32 pages.

Baby Fox is missing! Papa Fox doesn’t see him anywhere, so he goes on a hunt, calling out “Ba-by!” Up the tree, inside the log, in the hole, under the water, over the hill . . . there’s always someone occupying those spaces, but never Baby. Of course, it’s perfectly obvious on every page where Baby is, and maybe Papa Fox knew all along. It would be fun to read this one together, with your beginning reader taking the part of Papa Fox with his refrain of “Ba-by! Are you . . .” A warm-hearted family story.

Overall rating: 4

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