Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea! by Ben Clanton

Published by Tundra Books 

Summary:  Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky fellow with a perpetual grin on his face (right under his horn).  He meets up with the more serious Jellyfish (“Jellyfish? Hee hee! That sounds funny!”), and the two become unlikely friends.  There are three stories in this beginner graphic novel.  The friendship happens in the first one; Narwhal delivers horns to various sea creatures and creates a pod (“Podtastic!”) in the second; and Narwhal shows Jellyfish how a blank book can be an interesting read in the third.  In between the first two stories are two pages of Really Fun Facts about narwhals and jellyfish, and in between the third and fourth is “The Narwhal Song” which involves limited lyrics and a considerable amount of hand clapping.  Good news for fans: it looks like the second Narwhal and Jelly Book will be out next May.  64 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Elephant and Piggie aficionados will enjoy stepping up to the world of Narwhal and Jelly.  The humor is similar and the reading just a level or two above.

Cons:  The artwork is pretty primitive with a somewhat limited palette.

Snail Has Lunch by Mary Peterson

Published by PIX 

Summary:  Snail is happy living in his rusty bucket.  Filled with dirt and grass, it has everything he needs.  Every day his friend Ladybug stops by to tell Snail the news from the garden and to try to convince him to sample life outside the bucket.  But Snail is stubborn until one day, the pail is grabbed by a human, and Snail is unceremoniously dumped into the outside world.  Ladybug leads him to the garden, and there he learns what tasty treats he has been missing, and even makes a new friend or two.  At the end, Snail ends up back in the bucket (now filled with yummy strawberries), but with a lesson or two about the outside world under his belt (or shell).  64 pages; grades K-2.

Pros:  A delightful book for beginning readers, illustrated with cute and humorous animals (I loved the sequence of the gopher eating an eggplant).  Kids will enjoy the mix of regular text and cartoon bubbles.

Cons:  At 64 pages, this will require some stamina from emergent readers.

We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller and Mo Willems

Published by Hyperion Books for Children 

Summary:  Several blades of grass are astonished that they are able to grow.  Each one finds a reason to be superlative: tallest, curliest, silliest, crunchiest.  Only Walt has trouble thinking of a word to describe himself.  The other blades are supportive, but try as he might…nothing.  Meanwhile, a lawn mower is seen approaching, and before long, all of the blades have gotten a surprise trim.  No longer are they tall or curly.  A couple of pink critters (slugs?) assure them that they will grow again, while Walt grabs a rake and suggests a clean-up.  As he starts to rake, he realizes what he is…the neatest.  64 pages; grades K-2.

Pros:  Part of a new multi-author series, “Elephant & Piggie Like Reading”.  Not only does this have the look and feel of an Elephant & Piggie book, but the famous duo is pictured at the beginning and the end, reading the book.  The illustrations are simple and cartoony, with the whole story told in dialog.  Sure to be immensely popular with the emerging reader crowd.

Cons:  Blades of grass just don’t have quite the personality of cute elephants and piggies.

Pedro, First Grade Hero by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon

Published by Picture Window Books 

Summary:  Katie Woo’s friend Pedro has his own new series.  This collection contains four stories, which are also available as individual books.  Pedro collects bugs, tries out for soccer goalie, starts a mystery club with his friends, and runs for first grade class president.  Katie is a pretty prominent character in every story, along with several of their classmates.  The last four pages, “Joke Around With Pedro”, contain jokes in keeping with the themes of the four stories.  96 pages; grades K-2.

Pros:  A great choice for newly independent readers, this feels like a chapter book, but reads like an easy reader, with just a few sentences of text on each page.  There are plenty of cheerful illustrations, and an ethnically diverse cast of kid characters.

Cons:  First graders Pedro and Katie are way more civil in their presidential election than some other politicians we know.

Rabbit & Robot and Ribbit by Cece Bell

Published by Candlewick Press 

Summary:  When Rabbit goes to visit Robot, he’s dismayed to find that Robot has another friend over, a frog named Ribbit.  Ribbit’s vocabulary is limited to a single word, “Ribbit”, which Robot is able to understand using his frog translation software.  Rabbit starts feeling jealous, and pretty soon Rabbit’s and Ribbit’s emotions are running so high that Robot overheats himself trying to interpret them all.  When Robot collapses, Rabbit and Ribbit have to work together to learn how to revive him.  In the end, the three friends discover that three isn’t really a crowd and learn to play together.  48 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  The sequel to Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover, this long easy reader/short chapter book with cartoon illustrations and silly dialogue is just right for emerging independent readers.

Cons:  Let’s hope Cece Bell doesn’t wait another 2 ½ years before writing another Rabbit and Robot book.

Living in…Brazil by Chloe Perkins, illustrated by Tom Woolley

Published by Simon and Schuster 

Summary:  Kids will find out what it’s like to live in Brazil, courtesy of an enthusiastic narrator whose home is in Recife, on the coast.  He takes readers on a tour of Brazil, describing its geography, natural features, and some of the cities.  Then he focuses on his own home, giving kids a look at what his typical day is like.  Additional information about Brazil is conveyed through what the narrator learns about in school.  The last page has a picture of the Brazilian flag and some fast facts.  32 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Part of a new Living in… series, this book would be enjoyed by kids who like learning about other cultures.  The series would also work well for a classroom research project on different countries.

Cons:  A detailed map of Brazil and some photos would have been nice additions.

Moo Bird by David Milgrim

Published by Scholastic 

Summary: Four birds wake up in their nest; there are three “tweets”…and a “moo”! The moo bird is pushed out of the nest with the suggestion that he go find some cows. Off he goes, crossing paths with a pig, a horse, and a sheep, all of whom send him on his way. Even finding a cow proves disappointing, as she just thinks he’s confused. He starts to head back to the nest, wings drooping and black cloud over his head, when he finds another moo-er. It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 32 pages; ages 4-6.

Pros: With comic style illustrations and just a few words per page, this is a sure winner for those at the earliest stages of reading.

Cons: I am so busy painting my new house that Moo Bird is about the longest book I have time to read.