How Rocket learned to Read by Tad Hills Schwartz&Wade, 2010.
I don't think there is a Tad Hills book that I don't love. Rocket is an action dog. He just wants to run and play but, while taking a nap one afternoon, he finds himself drafted as the first student of a little yellow bird who wants to be a reading teacher. Starting with the alphabet she hooks him with the power of a story by reading aloud. Soon Rocket is recognizing letters and words all around him. When the little yellow bird has to fly south for the winter, what will Rocket do? His teacher's words, "Don't forget! Words are built, one letter at a time!" are a comfort to Rocket and any child just learning to read.
"Dog loves books. He loved the smell of them, and he loved the fell of them. He loved everything about them..."Finding a way to share his love is more difficult though when he decides to open a bookstore and no one comes. Dispirited, he remembers that as long as you love books you are never really alone. Creatures and characters from the stories keep him company until a real customer comes in one day. Then he really has someone to share his love with.
The truth and brilliance of this book take my breath away. This is a not a sentimental testimonial to the joys of reading but a realistic and oh-so-humorous tribute to those kids who challenge librarians every day by declaring, "I don't like to read."
This declaration is often a plea as they really DO want to find the right book to read but they are afraid it will never happen. The young girl in this story is one of those kids. Reading does not interest her. The librarian, Miss Brooks, never gives up though. She is relentless in her efforts to make the match between book and reader. When it does not happen she is non-judgmental and just keeps trying.
The crisis arises during Book Week as each student must share a book they love. What happens if you do not love a book?
Emberley's Miss Brooks is a zany, costumed, book loving, cheerleader who is not offended at the child's lack of interest. Her demented "Hungry Caterpillar" costume is worth the price of the book. The child's slouchy, short stature and pulled down hat/hands in her pockets demeanor, tell us a great deal about her expectations for reading success. Later, her jubilant face tells the rest of the story when she does find the right book at the right time that is worthy of her attention. The book she loves is a perfect match full of warts and snorts.
Calvin Can't Fly: the Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Keith Bendis. Sterling, 2010
The European Starling has an interesting history in North America. Since the birds were purposely introduced here in 1890 their numbers have increased to levels that put them in the "pest" category, just ask any purple martin lover. A nearby road near my home that is swarmed by starlings at certain times of the year and resembling a scene from Hitchcock's The Birds. It is very freaky.
Calvin is a thoughtful and quite endearing starling though. Calvin loves to read. While the rest of his large family is learning how to fly, he is at the library. He does not learn to fly and his relatives mock him, calling him a "nerdy birdie" "geeky beaky" and "bookworm. He reads everything. "His books took him to places wings never could. And his heart fluttered with excitement." Calvin's book learning pays off when he saves the lives of all the birds in the flock.
Illustrator Keith Bendis's cartoon starlings are comical and expressive. The flock swirls and swoops in formation just like the ones near my house. His Calvin is pensive, comical, hurt and triumphant. This book is a keeper.