Tag: early reader (page 1 of 1)

The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp

It takes a certain sort of magic to write a book that appeals to a whole family: preschooler to middle-schooler, adults as well. But The Fabled Stables, Jonathan Auxier’s newest book, has that magic. Auggie is a child with a job (but not the kind of job mentioned in Auxier’s other book Sweep). He works in the Fabled Stables as caretaker of one-of-a-kind animals.

The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

When I first ordered this book I expected it to be—like Auxier’s other books—a chapter book for older kids. But no! The Fabled Stables is a chapter book for young readers, every page of it exuberantly illustrated by Olga Demidova. My older daughters loved finding the Easter eggs linking the Fabled Stables to Auxier’s Peter Nimble books; my younger daughters, who have not yet received their invitations to Peter Nimble’s world, adored everything else about the book.

The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

Best of all, The Fabled Stables seems to be have a sequel already in the works, so we have many more delightful evenings of reading to look forward to.

The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp
Jonathan Auxier; Olga Demidova (2020)

Tales of Buttercup Grove (Series)

Our six year old is learning to read. I’ve watched this process and helped it along twice before, but each time it strikes me like magic, watching as the letters become blends, then words, then sentences, then whole stories! My daughter knows just enough now to pick words out of the pages of picture books and announce proudly, “Mom! That says planting seeds.

And for this season, I find that some of the best books to tuck into bed with her are the little ones like Beatrix Potter’s or Elsa Beskow’s—the ones that say with their very size and weight, “I am made just for you.” They look too small in my hands, but just right in hers.

Tales of Buttercup Grove (Series), by Wendy Dunham | Little Book, Big Story

Among her many favorites are the Tales of Buttercup Grove books. These books are warm and cozy, small and sweet, with a few words, some woodland animals, and wide, white margins. Wendy Dunham has written a collection of four short books, one for each season (though we only own two). These books each carry a message about God and the Christian life, but rather than feeling preachy or awkward, that message reads like a part of the story, like something that grew from the story naturally.

Tales of Buttercup Grove (Series), by Wendy Dunham | Little Book, Big Story

These are the books Phoebe tucks into her bag to look through in church, and that I find hidden in her bedsheets at night. She cannot read them all to herself yet, but she can show me which page says planting seeds, and that’s a great place to start.

Sunflower Summer: God Gives Us Friends When We Need to Wait
Wendy Dunham; Michael Sparks (2018)

A Windy Spring Day: God Gives Us Friends When We’re Afraid
Wendy Dunham; Michael Sparks (2018)

Anna Hibiscus

I have a bittersweet relationship with early reader chapter books. I say “sweet” because those chapter books are legion: my daughters can check out seven books in a series and savor them throughout the week, and I don’t have to pre-read every one.

Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Story

But I also say “bitter” because many of the early reader series tend to be a bit flat: they incorporate interesting historical or geographical elements, but the characters remain pretty static and the stories tend toward the formulaic—I suppose they must if they’re to have fifty or more books per series. The more of these we borrow from the library, the more I find myself willing to settle for fewer books of better quality.

Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Story

Anna Hibiscus is the first early chapter book I’ve found that strikes both the educational and the character-rich chords at once. Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa (“Amazing Africa!”) with her Canadian mother, her African father, her twin baby brothers, and all her aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. She doesn’t travel through time or make a single pun on the word “mouse,” but Anna Hibiscus does long for snow, love her family, and learn a bit about how truly wealthy she is.

Atinuke paints an enchanting picture of urban life in Africa through the musical language of her characters and through sweet stories about Anna herself, while Lauren Tobia’s illustrations portray a family life that is rich and vibrant, even in black and white drawings.

Anna HiAnna Hibiscus, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Storybiscus, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Story

I found myself actually wanting to read these books aloud to my daughters—rare praise for a genre that caters toward independent readers! There aren’t many books in this series, which gives me hope that the rest of them will be as well-written (and charmingly illustrated) as the first.

Anna Hibiscus
Atinuke, Lauren Tobia (2010)

We Are in a Book!

Today’s featured book is a little off topic, but for a very special reason. There’s no theological depth to it, no stirring images of God, no Gospel, but it’s a book that has won the heart of our whole family and has endeared itself to one particular little girl who, as I write, is sleeping in popsicle PJs, her arm slung around her dad’s funky old teddy bear.

Her name is Sarah. And today, she turns three.

So I thought we’d celebrate by toasting one of her all-time favorite books, We Are in a Book! We have loved all of the Elephant & Piggie books so much that finding a new one at the library creates an anticipatory buzz throughout our whole house. “Papa, we got a new Elephant & Piggie! Come see!”

But there’s only one book in the series that we’ve felt compelled to own, partly because it is wonderful and partly because Sarah memorized the whole thing and took to flipping through it, “reading” the story in her own toddler way (while Mitch and I spied on her from the kitchen, quaking with suppressed laughter).

The premise of the book is uniquely hilarious, but I can’t tell you about it without dampening its charm, so I’ll tell you instead that it reduced my husband and I (and the many guests who had the book dropped in their lap with a pleading, “You read this to me?”) to unbecoming laughter—tears, snorts and all.

We Are in a Book! | Little Book, Big Story

At three, Sarah already has excellent taste in books: I frankly can’t imagine anyone that this book wouldn’t appeal to, so I give We Are in a Book! the heartiest of recommendations. (It’s always a mercy when the girls attach to a book that we actually enjoy rereading every few minutes.)

We are in a Book!
Mo Willems (2010)