I gave so much attention to all the chapter books that I’ve been digging around for BalletBoy, that I thought Mushroom’s reading efforts deserved a similar listy post. One of the nice things about early readers is that, unlike chapter books, many of the best offerings are less stereotypically gender segregated. After all, any kid can appreciate most of Dr. Seuss, Elephant and Piggie, and the like. And girls can probably appreciate these too, but I think they’re especially good for boys.
The Commander Toad series by Jane Yolen
Commander Toad’s ship is the “Star Warts.” On some level, that little piece of information sums up exactly what makes this series appealing. Yolen tells the silly space epic story of toads in space with pretty much the same attitude as the old Muppet Show sketch “Pigs in Space.” BalletBoy enjoyed these and soon Mushroom will be able to as well.
The Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant
All the Cynthia Rylant series are excellent, but this one is the sweetest. Henry is a boy and Mudge is his oversized, slobbery dog. The stories are very simple, but they have that depth that you want from a little story. Rylant doesn’t ever condescend to her readers.
The Cat on the Mat is Flat and The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow by Andy Griffiths
This is a easy reader that was formatted like a chapter book. Each volume contains several extremely easy, almost phonics-based stories full of rhymes. They’re very silly. The drawings look like Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants kids drew them. The pages play with type by making the words bigger or smaller or even changing the font. It’s an innovative little idea, obviously targeted to reluctant boy readers (though my less reluctant Mushroom still enjoyed it). Basically, I really liked this new discovery.
The (early only!) Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain
You all know I loathe the new, moralistic Berenstain Bears, right? But the really early readers like Bears in the Night and Inside, Outside, Upside Down are classics. And the slightly harder titles like The Bear Scouts, The Bears’ Vacation, The Bears’ Picnic, and others are also amusing and funny. Small Bear knows all while Papa makes mistakes. The rhymes are cute, the language is simple, but the stories are actually pretty funny. I think there’s something sort of boyish about all the trouble Papa Bear leads Small Bear into. But watch out for the newer ones, which are not as well written.
The Fly Guy series by Tedd Arnold
These are super short, yet the stories are very amusing. A boy named Buzz has an unusual pet, a housefly called Fly Guy, who can say the boy’s name (no surprise there!). Together, they have adventures. Both my boys like them well enough to read them over and over again. Only Elephant and Piggie get more love in our house among the early readers.