For the past four years, I have had the honor of announcing the Early Reader and Chapter Book Winners of the Nerdies. Before I write the post, I look over the previous year’s announcement. Are there trends? Do certain authors show up year after year? Were there any surprises? Have we increased the number of diverse books for children in the age range of 6 to 8 year olds?
What I discovered was fascinating, well at least fascinating to me and I hope it will be for you as well.
Let’s start with a perennial favorite. Mo Willems has been recognized with a Nerdy for at least one and sometimes two Elephant and Piggie books since 2011. (Note: In 2011, Picture Books and Early Readers were a combined category.) This year marks the 9th and final Nerdy for Elephant and Piggie in The Thank You Book.
The Thank You Book by Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion)
If you are already sad about missing two of our favorite book friends, never fear, we get to celebrate a new series called Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! In this new series, Elephant & Piggie lp;introduce and wrap up the book that they have enjoyed reading. Both new Elephant and Piggie Like Reading books made it onto this year’s Nerdy list. With this new series, we also get to see two new author/illustrators be recognized for their foray into writing for beginning readers. Congratulations to Dan Santat and Laurie Keller for capturing the hearts of new readers with The Cookie Fiasco and We are Growing!
The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat, Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion)
We are Growing! By Laurie Keller, Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion)
Three other series that have been consistent favorites of Nerdy Book Club members include Bob Shea’s Ballet Cat, Abby Hanlon’s Dory Fantasmagory series and Shannon and Dean Hale’s The Princess in Black series. In the past couple of years, every book in each of these series have earned Nerdy Awards. This year, we recognize Dory Dory Black Sheep by Abby Hanlon, Shannon and Dean Hale’s two new Princess in Black books – The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde and The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation, and Bob Shea’s Ballet Cat Dance! Dance! Underpants! It is not hard to see why children enjoy these books.
Dory Fantasmgory: Dory Dory Black Sheep by Abby Hanlon (Dial Books)
The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Illustrations by LeUyen Pham (Candlewick Press)
The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Candlewick Press)
Ballet Cat Dance! Dance! Underpants! by Bob Shea (Disney-Hyperion)
Another frequent Nerdy Award winner is Kate DiCamillo. This year, DiCamillo earns her fourth Nerdy Award for the third book in her Tales from Deckawoo Drive: Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Children who are familiar with DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series will celebrate Baby Lincoln getting her own book and storyline. Children will enjoy Baby Lincoln as she sets out on an unexpected journey; however, I suspect the adults who may read this as a read aloud or alongside their young reader will appreciate Baby’s journey even more.
Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? By Kate DiCamillo; Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick)
One of the comments that I have read in regards to our Early Reader and Chapter Book Nerdies is “Where are the diverse books?” Though there is some diversity represented in Early Readers and Chapter Books, there has not been a truly diverse book in this category up until this year. The Nerdies congratulate Juana Medina on her first Nerdy Book Award for her new Early Chapter Book, Juana & Lucas. The book takes place in Colombia and features a Latina main character who is fluent in Spanish and is learning English. Readers begin to see how their lives may be similar and different from Juana and the book takes children beyond the borders of the United States.
Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina (Candlewick Press)
Next up, let’s congratulate Salina Yoon on her second Nerdy for this year. Her picture book, Be A Friend won a picture book Nerdy, and her new early reader series Duck, Duck, Porcupine has endeared itself to young readers and their adult Nerdy Book Club partners.
Duck, Duck, Porcupine! By Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury Books for Children)
Other first time Early Reader and Chapter Book winners also include Cece Bell, Linda Urban, and Kara LaReau. Each of these four new books feature memorable characters, humor, and relatable stories. Friendship and life’s lessons play out in various ways as characters learn to work together, respect one another’s feelings, and overcome misunderstandings. With limited number of words and pages, these authors expertly craft stories that will resonate with children and certainly result in a few smiles and laughter.
Rabbit & Robot and Ribbit by Cece Bell (Candlewick)
The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau; Illustrated by Matt Myers (Candlewick Press)
Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban; Illustrated by Katie Kath (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Rounding out the winners of the Early Reader and Chapter Book Nerdy Awards is Brad Metzler’s I am Jane Goodall. Though this is Metzler’s first Nerdy, this isn’t the first time that Jane Goodall was featured. In 2011, Patrick McDonnell’s Me…Jane won a Nerdy. I am Jane Goodall like it’s predecessor provides readers with an introduction to the famous anthropologist and primatologist in a very accessible format.
I am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer; Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial Books)
Early Reader and Chapter Books may not always get the recognition that picture books do. Nor do the authors have the luxury of more pages and in-depth storytelling available to authors of middle grade novels. Additionally, readers in this age group often move quickly through this category as their reading confidence and skills grow. However, if you have skipped over this category of books in the past, consider a book gap challenge or a book-a-day challenge and give some of these wonderful stories a read.
Alyson Beecher is a Literacy 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 on her blog: Kid Lit Frenzy