Thacher Hurd Candlewick Press 2009
No ATOS score available Ages 5-7 according to Kirkus Reviews
Brightly colored, oversized, happy, incorrigible frogs each having a unique identity, delight in breaking common adult-imposed behavioral norms, among them, “smelling yucky, staying up late, painting on the walls, and kissing their girlfriends.”
Bad Frogs is definitely a read aloud due to the fact that the vocabulary load is beyond the abilities of the K/1 audience to whom it will appeal. Repetitive, short simple sentences or phrases in oversize font support the meaning conveyed by the illustrations, presenting an opportunity for a whole-language reading lesson. The mischievous yet smiling expressions of the brightly colored oversize frogs engaged in outlandish behavior should provide enough contextual clues for most children to realize that these are not behaviors to be imitated. Frogs look directly at the reader, providing a sense of immediacy. No previous life experience or background knowledge
Children have belly-laughed through the entire book when I have read this to K/1 classes, taking vicarious pleasure in the “badness” of the frogs’ activities. At first I was a little worried about reading a book that, from another perspective, could be viewed as a field guide for inappropriate children’s behavior. So far no backlash has been reported about behavior inspired by exposure to this book ☺.
Eating Up Gladys
Margot Zemach – author Kaethe Zemach—illustrator Scholastic 2005
ATOS score Interest Level: LG Book Level: 2.7
Fed up with the bossy nature of their older sister, Gladys, younger sisters Rose and Hilda decide to cook her for dinner. When Gladys gets stuck in the cooking pot, Hilda and Rose successfully take over Gladys’s chores and all three girls have happy a night together.
Organization is clear and chronological. For independent reading, the vocabulary load is at the end of second grade level although the simple storyline, straightforward characters and explicit meaning make this book appropriate as a read aloud to a K/1 audience. Graphics are enjoyable but not necessary to understanding the text. Language is familiar and contemporary.
This could be an easy, instant drama exercise in which students take on the roles of the older bossy sister and the two younger sisters seeking revenge.
Margot Zemach is the mother of Kaethe Zemach.
A Big Guy Took My Ball
Mo Willems Hyperion 2013
ATOS score Interest Level: LG Book Level: 1.0
When Gerald decides to get back a ball that has been taken from Piggy by a “big guy”, he finds out that the ball really belongs to the big guy whale who relates that no one will play with him because he is so big. So, they invent a game that can be played by all three, Gerald, Piggy, and the Whale.
Organization is clear and chronological. Story line is linear with an explicit meaning. Vocabulary load consists of easy to read, sight word. Illustrations are essential to understanding since emotions are graphically conveyed through the facial expressions and body language contained in the minimalist repetitive line drawings that occur throughout the text. No previous knowledge or life experience necessary
The comedic elements of repetition, facial expression and body language, used in combination with simple text and line drawings effectively convey critical childhood problems and solutions to these problems.
Willems addresses critical social emotional issues such as rejection, empathy, body size, and acceptance but is so funny about it that kids don’t realize what he is doing.
Part of the Elephant and Piggy series.
Willy The Dreamer
Anthony Browne Candlewick Press. 1997
ATOS score Interest Level: LG Book Level: 1.8
While dozing in his armchair, Willy the chimp, nattily dressed in a white button-down shirt, a multicolored vest and green pants, begins to dream. Through vivid illustrations and just a little bit of prose readers follow Willie as he dreams of the past and the future. In his happy dreams, Willy is a singer (who looks like Elvis), a giant, a painter, an explorer, and a king. In Willy’s frightening dreams, he is a beggar, faces monsters, and is being chased but cannot run. Reassuringly, Willy wakes up and winks on the last page, letting the reader know that although they may seem it, dreams are not real.
On one level Willy The Dreamer can be understood as the simple story of the many different kinds of dreams Willy has while napping. Large-font black text is minimal, used to support the colorful images of Willy’s various dreams that are executed in a childlike surrealistic style.
On a more mature level, Willy The Dreamer is an homage to and parody of surrealism and cultural icons. Familiar figures such as Elvis and Alice in Wonderland show up in Browne’s illustrations that imitate famous surrealistic paintings by artists such as Rousseau and Dali. The banana that appears in every dream is humorous touch for both children and adults.
• All children need reassurance about dreams.
• This is one of those “childrens” books that can be enjoyed and appreciated by adults.
• A perfect lead -in to an art class at any level.
• One of the Willy books series by Anthony Browne
The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale
Jan Brett. Putnam. 1989.
ATOS score Interest Level: LG Book Level: 3.9
One by one a bear, rabbit, mole, fox, mouse, hedgehog, owl, and badger crowd into a boy’s lost mitten in the middle of a snowy forest. When the bear sneezes, all of the animals and the mitten fly into the air causing the animals to return to their houses and the boy finds his mitten that has become much larger having served as a temporary home for all the animals.
Graphics are essential and text almost unnecessary to understanding this story that uses a cause/effect device to move it from beginning to end. Colorful, detailed illustrations evoke an old world winter setting indicative of the Ukrainian folktale upon which The Mitten is based. Each double page format is composed of three story frames. The largest frame, located in the center, tells the central story. The smaller frame on the left illustrates an ongoing event simultaneous the central frame. The right hand side frame hints at the effect of the left hand frame, which then is the central frame on the next page. Text is sparse but rich with animal specific words (muzzle, bristles, snout) and sensory detail (a waft of warm air). Some background information about winter climates is necessary to understanding of the story
Reading The Mitten to lower elementary classes can be challenging because the students get so excited with the details and predicting what will happen on the next page. However, this is such a great book that it should be included in class literature just to ensure that all kids have the opportunity of knowing it. The mitten is also a wonderful one-on-one adult child opportunity.
This book can be used to teach
• Cause and effect,
• Animals and their habitats
• Seasons and climate . For example: Compare and contrast Nikki’s play activities with those in a different climate region
Dooby Dooby Moo
Doreen Cronin- author Betsy Lewin –illustrator Atheneum Books For Young Readers 2006
ATOS score Interest Level: LG Book Level: 3.1
Farmer Brown’s animals want the trampoline that is first prize for the talent show that will take place at the County Fair. In secret, they all rehearse their acts at night in the barn. Farmer Brown suspects they are up to something but can’t figure out what it is.
Although there are not many words in the text that is done in large sized bold fonts, vocabulary load is above the reading level of the K/1 crowd who would most enjoy the simple, humorous plot in which farmyard animals outwit Farmer Brown. Illustrations, especially the facial expressions of exasperated Farmer Brown and the barn animals are crucial in understanding the humor of the story. This is also a good lap book since there are many lines meant strictly for adults.
It always seems to be a toss-up about which reader laughs harder, the adults or the children.