A continuation of my series on the main categories of easy readers. Here is the rough breakdown in which many early readers fit:
- Cute stories involving one main (usually animal) protagonist (i.e. Little Bear books)
- Stories about two best friends, usually animals and usually incompatible and/or quite different at first glance (i.e. Frog and Toad)
- Super simple words/text and, sometimes, zany plots/illustrations (i.e. Dr. Seuss books)
- Person + Pet: the more unlikely the “pet,” the better (i.e. Danny and the Dinosaur)
Stories about two best friends–usually unlikely companions–abound in easy reader land. Arnold Lobel is the standard by which we measure most new additions to the landscape, but there are many worthy pairs in their own right. As far as I know, each of the pairs below have their own series. Only one book in each series is pictured; there are many more, but these are the ones my kids and I have read and enjoyed. (one final note: I have found ALL of these easily in my public library)
Frog and Toad
GO. READ. THESE. NOW. with or without your kids. Oh, the life lessons we find in Frog and Toad books. The humor, the pathos, the true-to-life experience that Lobel somehow manages to communicate through this lovable pair. You cannot read these books too much.
George and Martha
Another lovable pair that I remember fondly from childhood (especially the one in which George pours his split pea soup into his loafers so he won’t have to tell Martha he doesn’t like it…). Text is quite short, but vocabulary is a touch more challenging than something like Frog and Toad. These may be shelved with picture books, but they work nicely as early readers.
Bink and Gollie
Another series that may be shelved in picture books or even juvenile fiction, these work best as read alouds and for kids who have good sight-reading ability. They are not phonetic and include some wonderfully rich vocabulary. Bink and Gollie are the absolute newest on the scene here; book 2 (pictured) comes out in June…
Zelda and Ivy
Laura McGee Kvasnosky
A foxy pair–these two fox sisters have little romps and even run away to their own backyard. Kindergartners will enjoy these (and slightly older kids as well).
Mouse and Mole
Wong Herbert Yee
My favorite pair of the contemporary lineup–the ones that, in my mind, come closest to the Frog and Toad dynamic. Mouse is a girl and Mole is a boy; they have quiet little adventures and are just the best of friends. They do not reference school activities at all which makes them a great series for younger kids learning to read (i.e. 3 and 4 year-olds).
Houndsley and Catina
Another quiet pair, Houndsley is a boy and Catina is a girl. These two learn like the rest of these wonderful pairs how to be better friends to one another.
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same
So far, we only have one book in this series that I know of. (See, I’m hoping it will turn into a series). Ling and Ting are identical Chinese-American twins, but they are not exactly the same. A wonderful multicultural addition to the easy reader crowd.
Elephant and Piggie books
OK, I said Mouse and Mole were my favorites, but that’s not entirely true. I cannot imagine our reading lives right now without Elephant and Piggie. Oh, the stories about them! The friendship dynamics! The characterization! Perfect for those just learning to read who can also sight read some bigger words. Very little text and emotive pictures make them fun read alouds and fun independent reads.
Sam and the Firefly
P. D. Eastman
This is a single book (not a series), but it’s a fun read nonetheless. New readers enjoy trying to sound out words like “thermometer” (a genius inclusion because you can sound it out!), but most of the vocabulary is typical easy reader style and very phonetic/short word-based. Sam is an owl, and he makes a new firefly friend–but the firefly learns that some tricks are fun and some are downright mean or dangerous….
The Best Nest/Flap Your Wings
P. D. Eastman
These don’t really fit the “best friends” category, but they are both about a pair: Mr. and Mrs. Bird. In The Best Nest, Mr. and Mrs. Bird are looking for a new home. In Flap Your Wings, Mr. and Mrs. Bird raise a very strange looking “baby bird” (it’s really an alligator), but they are devoted parents. Incidentally, Mrs. Bird also features in Are You My Mother?
Mr. and Mrs. Green
A married pair, like Mr. and Mrs. Bird, these two emulate all the classic pair dynamics that we love in easy readers. Delightful and funny.
High Rise Private Eyes
Can’t have a lineup of easy readers without mentioning Rylant! This is a nice twist on the easy reader pair theme; two friends are detectives and solve little mysteries. This series is a nice option for those learning to read in kindergarten-1st grade and up (as opposed to those precocious 4 year olds out there).
Cork and Fuzz
I’ll admit that Cork and Fuzz aren’t at the top of the list. Still, they are worth mentioning because they provide a nice addition for the slightly more difficult end of the easy reader spectrum.
Rose and Riley
This series, like the Cork and Fuzz books, just doesn’t “work” for me. I’m willing to admit that my taste isn’t the only one that matters, though ☺, and this pair is better than much of the trite easy reader twaddle out there.
All cover images from goodreads
What are your favorites? What have we missed?