Yippee-i-ee! Sparkle Slam! Two Surefire Early Readers

BookendsLynn and Cindy: One of the great delights in publishing the last few years has been the attention to early readers and the quality books being provided for them. Here are two about young dreamers that we think would make awesome holiday gifts. It’s never too early to think about the gift of books!

Leroy NinkerLynn: Fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson—and who isn’t—will remember reformed burglar Leroy Ninker. Now Leroy stars in his own wacky story, Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (2014). Leroy works at the Bijou Drive-In Theater where his favorite movies are westerns. Leroy knows that being a cowboy is who he is meant to be. He has the hat and the lasso and the boots but something isn’t right. Then his friend Beatrice points out that what Leroy needs is a horse! A well-timed ad in the newspaper leads Leroy to Maybelline, an aged but affordable horse with three specific needs:  compliments, grub, and plenty of company. Leroy decides Maybelline is just what he needs but he quickly discovers that taking care of a horse is harder than it looks! Still, Maybelline quickly becomes the horse of Leroy’s heart and they will both immediately win readers’ hearts, too. Sweet and funny, this is a perfect delight for young readers ready to lasso a new challenge. Yippee-i-ee!

I am so grateful that today’s children have options
beyond the standard leveled books that fill
so many primary classrooms.

Princess in BlackCindy: Authors of books for beginning readers are my heroes. I am nostalgic for my Dick and Jane primers, but am also so, so grateful that today’s children have options beyond the standard leveled books that fill so many primary classrooms. And speaking of heroes, let me introduce you to The Princess in Black (2014) by Shannon and Dean Hale. Princess Magnolia by day, she becomes Princess in Black when monsters threaten. Her unicorn even sheds its flowery, pink gear and transforms into a brave horse, Blacky, to help save the kingdom from escaped monsters.

The story has just the right complexity for the young readers who will be concentrating on decoding the text, and they will enjoy knowing more than Duchess Wigtower does about the Princess’s secret identity. By the end of the story, a sidekick called the Goat Avenger is born, meaning more fun to come in the sequels that are sure to follow. The Hales’ collaboration on Repunzel’s Revenge (2008) and Calamity Jack (2010) delighted older readers and now their talents combine with charming and humor-filled illustrations from LeUyen Pham to enchant beginning readers. Princess Pounce! Sparkle Slam! Indeed!




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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