2014 Nerdy Awards for Early Readers and Chapter Books Announced by Alyson Beecher
Early Readers and Chapter Books may be one of the most overlooked age categories in books. Unless you have children in this age range or teach this age group, you may never really pick up an early reader or early chapter book. Picture Books appeal to and are read by all ages. The artwork in picture books often rival works of art that you find hanging in museums. Young Adult novels are devoured nearly equally by both teens and adults. Middle Grade novels draw in readers from all age ranges and walks of life oftentimes for simply being good storytelling. Wherein with a novel, an author has the length and time to develop both their characters and plot to draw in readers in for an afternoon or evening of pleasure and entertainment, early readers or chapter books do not have that luxury. With a minimal amount of words and pages, the characters and story must come alive and grab a reader and make them want to read it over and over again.
I applaud the authors who take on the challenge of writing books for children in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. These young readers are vastly different. You may have a first grader who is reading full length chapter books and others that are still working on decoding words and reading stories with simplified language. However, one thing this age group is united by is their love for animals, humor, silly antics, imagination, mysteries, and friends.
Our Nerdy Award winners in the category of Early Readers and Chapter Books are some of the best at writing for drawing in new readers. Mo Willems continues to show up on this list because he is a master at creating characters that children love and at addressing topics that are meaningful to this audience and to the adults who often read these books aloud, over and over again. In MY NEW FRIEND IS SO FUN, Willems tackles the issue of a new friend and how that impacts other friendships including insecurities and jealousy and he does it with just the right balance of emotion and humor. In WAITING IS NOT EASY!, the frustration and impatience that comes with having to wait for a good thing is makes the reader struggle with wanting to jump to the end of the book and see the surprise or to stick with Gerald as he must wait until it it time for Piggie to reveal her surprise.
Every one of these ten titles has an element of humor that filters throughout the story being told. However, Doreen Cronin, Kate DiCamilo, Shannon Hale, Judith Viorst, and newcomer Abby Hanlon make it seem easy to mix humor with a good story. Whether it is chicks solving mysteries or secret identities, or an imagination or a quirky horse run wild, readers will find themselves chuckling as they read. Cronin’s lovable, inquisitive chicks are back in their own series, THE CHICKEN SQUAD: THE FIRST MISADVENTURE, as they try to help squirrel solve a mystery about the “big and scary”. Shannon Hale shows readers that not all princesses are what they seem in THE PRINCESS IN BLACK and Judith Viorst’s sassy Lulu is back and this time training to be a spy from her new babysitter who is not all that she appears to be in LULU’S MYSTERIOUS MISSION.
In LEROY NINKER SADDLES UP, Kate DiCamillo introduces readers to some new characters in the world of Mercy Watson and Deckawoo Drive, Deckawoo Drive, where we meet Leroy, who dreams of being a cowboy, and his co-worker Patty LeMarque, who tells him every cowboy needs a horse, and Maybelline, the horse. There is no lack of adventure as Leroy and Maybelline finally make it to Deckawoo Drive. Abby Hanlon’s first early chapter book, Dory Phantasmagory, introduces readers to Dory, the youngest of three children, with a very overactive and wild imagination. Readers will giggle with Dory as she battles monsters and tries to find ways for her older siblings to include her in their fun and games, while having her own adventures.
In the final grouping of books for the slightly older readers of this age range, I give kudos to Cynthia Lord, Kate Messner, and Julie Sternberg for being able to realistically portray the stories of this age group without needing to go over the top. These authors have given us three likeable main characters with newcomer Suzannah (SHELTER PET SQUAD), Marty (MARTY MCGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS), and Eleanor (LIKE CARROT JUICE ON A CUPCAKE). Whether it is navigating friendship challenges, good intentions, or taking on new responsibilities like caring for pets and finding them new homes, readers will experience the emotions and fun of growing up.
Whether you are looking for something for those just beginning to read for for those who are transitioning to longer chapter books, you will find an amazing read with each of these books.
My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion, June 2014)
Waiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion, November 2014)
The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 2014)
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, August 2014)
Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale (Candlewick, October 2014)
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon (Dial, October 2014)
Lulu’s Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 2014)
Shelter Pet Squad #1: Jelly Bean by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic, August 2014)
Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets by Kate Messner (Scholastic, January 2014)
Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg (Abrams, March 2014)
Alyson Beecher is the Literacy and Curriculum Specialist with the Pasadena Unified School District in California. She has a serious book addiction and celebrates books as part of the Nerdy Book Club. You can find her on Twitter as @alybee930 and her blog: Kid Lit Frenzy