Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

cowgirl-kate-and-cocoaCowgirl Kate and her horse, Cocoa, are good friends who spend time riding, and counting and herding cows.  Like most friends, they disagree sometimes – for instance:  is it time to eat, or time to count cows?

When Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa ride into the pasture, Cocoa needs a drink of water, then an apple, then another apple before he can herd cows.  When Cocoa then is too full to do anything, Cowgirl Kate tells him the story of how they came to be together.  After the story, Cocoa is ready to work.

Other adventures include counting cows together – Cocoa interrupts the counting to eat grass, and Cowgirl Kate tries to get high enough in a tree to see to count the cows – and Cowgirl Kate giving Cocoa a surprise gift that he tries to eat before realizing it is something to wear.

cowgirl-kate-and-cocoa-insideIn the final chapter, Cowgirl Kate sleeps in the barn one night.  She crawls into her sleeping bag.  Cocoa asks her to fluff his straw.  After she fluffs the straw, Cowgirl Kate crawls back into her sleeping bag.  Cocoa is hungry.  Cowgirl Kate gives him three carrots.  Cocoa needs more water.  Cowgirl Kate fills his water bin.  When Cowgirl Kate crawls back into her sleeping bag, she cannot sleep. Cocoa sings her to sleep.

This is a cute book for beginning readers.  Betsy Lewin’s (think Click Clack Moo) colorful illustrations appear on every page.  The story is told in four chapters.  This is a sweet – and sometimes silly – story about friendship and working together.

Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time

Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time by James Howe,                              illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay

Houndsley-and-Catina-quiet-timeHoundsley and his friend, Catina, find themselves snowed-in for a day (with the first snow of winter).  Catina worries at first – she has things to do before the concert that evening.  Houndsley loves the quiet and isn’t worried at all.

Houndsley loves the way the world looks and feels while it is snowing.  He calls it the “quiet time.”  When Catina continues to worry, they decide to practice for the concert (Houndsley plays cello, and Catina plays clarinet), just in case there is a concert that evening.

Before they began to play, Houndsley said, “Listen, Catina.  Can you hear it?”

“Hear what?”

“The quiet.  It is almost like music.”

Later, Houndsley suggests they pretend they are on an island – they can’t go anywhere, but they have things on the island with them.  They read poems to each other, then try writing their own.  They bake cookies.  They play board games.  They build a fire and talk about things they see in the fire.  They sit quietly thinking.  They go outside to get more logs for the fire and end up playing in the snow – making snow creatures.

They snowshoe to the gazebo with their instruments.  The musicians seem to feel the quiet time too – and play softly to the audience.

This is a sweet book for beginning readers.  It is told in three chapters.  There are color illustrations on every page.  It captures the sense of magic and quiet that sometimes comes with a day of snow.

Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole

Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole by Wong Herbert Yee

upstairs-mouse-downstairs-moleMouse and Mole are neighbors, sharing the same tree.  They are friends, and they have their differences.  But, as friends, they try to work out any conflicts with some creative problem solving.

Mole sweeps his hole every morning to keep it tidy.  Mouse sweeps her house every evening – and the dirt falls down into Mole’s hole.  When Mole complains, they come up with a solution.  Together they sweep Mouse’s house, then sweep Mole’s hole.

Mole invites Mouse to lunch.  But, Mole’s hole is dark (Mouse can’t see very well), and damp (Mouse shivers), and she doesn’t like worms.  Mouse invites Mole to dinner.  But, Mouse’s house is bright (Mole can’t see very well), and the smell of Limburger cheese makes his stomach upset.  The solution:  Mole gives Mouse some candles to bring to his hole, and Mouse gives Mole a pair of sunglasses to wear when he visits her house – and they go out for cheesecake and worms.

These are sweet stories – told in four chapters – with colorful illustrations on each page.  The overall feel reminds me of the Frog and Toad books (by Arnold Lobel), with friendship and interesting ways of looking at situations.  This is a good book for young readers who are ready for paragraphs and short chapters.

The Blue Hill Meadows

The Blue Hill Meadows by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Ellen Beier

blue-hill-meadowsWillie Meadow lives with his family (mother, father, and big brother) in Blue Hill, Virginia – a green valley with mountains and lakes nearby. Things in Blue Hill seem to belong to a simpler, slower time.  This is a book about Willie and his family, told in four stories.

In the first story, the family adopts a stray dog.  They name her Lady, and they all dote on her in their own ways.  The mother brushes Lady’s coat.  The big brother wakes up early to feed her and take her outside.  The father sneaks her ice cream.  Willie seems to understand Lady the most.

“And when Lady wanted to play, Willie knew how to be a dog for her and tug and jump and roll.  Willie didn’t mind being a dog and sometimes wished he could stay one a good long while.”

When they realize that Lady will have puppies, the family is thrilled.  They find good homes for the puppies, and keep one for themselves (along with Lady of course).

In another story, the father in the family (Sullivan) takes a day fishing trip with one of his sons.

“Sullivan liked to take the boys fishing one at a time (‘to get to know them on their own,’ he’d say), and this delighted Willie.”

On the day of the fishing trip, Willie and his father wake up at dawn, eat a big breakfast, and set off.  They rent a boat on a lake, and spend the morning happily (and quietly) fishing together.  They have a grilled cheese lunch at a nearby restaurant where they talk and tell stories.

In the third story, the weather report says eight inches of snow is coming – and people get carried away, closing shops, getting off the roads, and sending children home early on the school buses.  Willie Meadow is supposed to take a bus home.  But, the buses park in different places and he can’t find his bus.  By the time he finds his teacher to help him look, all the buses have already driven away.  Willie and his family (who come to get him at his teacher’s house) end up waiting out the storm at Willie’s teacher’s house – playing games, making cookies, and playing with cats).

In the final story, Willie’s teacher reminds his students that Mother’s Day is coming.  Willie is worried about this, and wonders how to find the perfect gift for his mother.

“This year he could think only of one thing:  he must give his mother a gift that meant something.”

Two days before Mother’s Day, Willie finds his mother staring out the window watching a large wild rabbit.  And, Willie knows what to do – get her the rabbit.  But, since Willie knows his mother wouldn’t want a wild rabbit in a cage, Willie wants to make the rabbit stay around.  So, on Mother’s Day, Willie plants a garden for the wild rabbit, right under his mother’s tree.  It is the perfect gift.

This is a book of sweet stories of family life, perfect for beginning readers ready to move on to chapter books.  There are small, colorful illustrations on every page.  The text is in longer paragraphs.  There are four chapters.  The stories are full of family comfort and caring, told in Rylant’s flowing, easy-to-follow style.

Iris and Walter

Iris and Walter by Elissa Haden Guest, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Iris-and-WalterIris’s family moved from the big city to the country.  Iris was sad because she missed things from her old life – like roller skating in the long hallway, tango music at night from a neighbor’s apartment, playing baseball after dinner with the neighborhood children, and her big front stoop.

Iris’s mother and father tried to cheer her up by suggesting ways she could play.  Iris did not cheer up.  Iris’s grandfather asked her to take a walk with him.  While walking, Iris told her grandfather that she hates the country because there are no children.

“Iris, my girl, there must be some children somewhere,” said Grandpa.

“Do you think so?” asked Iris.

“I know so.  We shall have to find them, Iris.  We shall be explorers!”

Iris and Grandpa walked until they found a huge tree.  A ladder came down as they stood under the tree talking, and Iris climbed up.  Iris found a tree house and a boy her age in the tree.

“Hey, Grandpa, there’s a kid up here named Walter!” yelled Iris.

“How wonderful,” said Grandpa.

And it was.

Iris and Walter became good friends.  They played together everyday and taught each other things – like how to roller skate in the house, and how to ride a pony.  Even though Iris still thought about her old life in the city, she was happy in the country because there were fun things to do, and a new friend to share in the adventures.

This is a good book for beginning readers – or for anyone facing a move to a new town.  Even though Iris is sad at first, her family is there to try to comfort her.  I particularly like that Iris’ grandfather tells her “You may tell me anything” when they go walking and Iris confides in him.

Iris and Walter has colorful illustrations on every page.  There are four chapters.

Bramble and Maggie

Bramble and Maggie by Jessie Haas, illustrated by Alison Friend

Bramble-and-MaggieBramble is a horse who gives riding lessons in a riding ring.  But, Bramble is getting bored of riding around and around the ring while Mrs. Blenkinsop tells the riders what to do (and they tell Bramble what to do).

Bramble expresses her boredom by slowing down, or walking backward instead of forwards, or going too fast, or, just not doing anything at all.  Mrs. Blenkinsop realizes that Bramble is bored with being a riding lesson horse.  Mrs. Blenkinsop tells Bramble she won’t have to do any more riding lessons – and that Bramble needs a person of her own.

” A person of her own.  Bramble liked that idea.  But not just any person.  She would have to be picky.”

And, Bramble is picky.  Two families with children come to look at Bramble, but she does not want to go live with them.  One family talks about their riding ring.  One family wants a horse that is a jumper.  Bramble finds ways of telling the families they aren’t for her.

Maggie and her parents come to look at Bramble.  Maggie instantly falls in love (even though she knows she should be picky).  Bramble is picky.  But, after riding together – Maggie asks to ride outside of the ring – Bramble decides that Maggie is the person for her.

Maggie gets everything ready for Bramble to come and live with her.  Bramble settles in, and Maggie takes care of her – and learns what Bramble likes.

“I have a horse!  Maggie thought.  And she has me.”

This is a fun story for a beginning reader with colorful illustrations on every page.  There are four chapters.

Library Lion

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

library lionThis was a huge favorite in my house for many years.  A lion, a library, friendship, and some rules – a wonderful story.

One day a lion walked into the library.  One of the librarians, Mr. McBee, saw the lion and ran to a different part of the library to tell Miss Merriweather, the head librarian.  Mr. McBee did not believe a lion should be in the library.  Mr. McBee ran into Miss Merriweather’s office.  She advised him not to run in the library.

“But there’s a lion!  said Mr. McBee.  “In the library!

“Is he breaking any rules? asked Miss Merriweather.  She was very particular about rule breaking.

“Well, no,” said Mr. McBee.  “Not really.”

“Then leave him be.”

The lion wandered around the library, and finally fell asleep in the story corner.  When it was time for story hour, the story lady started reading to the children.  The lion woke up and listened to the stories.  When story hour was over the lion waited for another story, then roared when there weren’t any more stories.  His loud roar brought Miss Merriweather out of her office to see who was making the noise.

“If you cannot be quiet, you will have to leave,” she said in a stern voice.  “Those are the rules!”

A girl asked Miss Merriweather if the lion could come back for story hour the next day if he promised to be quiet.  The lion stopped roaring and looked at Miss Merriweather, who said that a nice quiet lion would be allowed to come back.

The lion came back early the next day.  Miss Merriweather told him that story hour started at 3pm, and that he could be useful until then.  She asked him to dust the encyclopedias until story hour.  The next day the lion came back early again.  He helped Miss Merriweather lick the envelopes on the overdue notices.  Soon, the lion came every day – doing things to help, then waiting in the story corner for story hour.

One day Miss Merriweather stood on a stool in her office to get a book from a high shelf – and reached up a little too far.  She fell.  She asked the lion to go get Mr. McBee.  The lion ran to the circulation desk and tried to get Mr. McBee’s attention.  Mr. McBee (who still did not approve of lions in libraries) ignored him.

“Finally, the lion did the only thing he could think of to do.  He looked Mr. McBee right in the eye.  Then he opened his mouth very wide.  And he roared the loudest roar he had ever roared in his life.”

Of course, Mr. McBee jumped up and ran to tell Miss Merriweather that the lion had broken the rules.  He discovered that Miss Merriweather had fallen and broken her arm.

The lion knew he had broken the rules, and he knew that meant he had to leave.

The next day the lion did not come to the library.  He didn’t come in the many days that followed.  Miss Merriweather was sad – she missed the lion.  Eventually Mr. McBee went looking for the lion, found him (sitting outside the library, looking in), and told him that there was a new rule at the library:

“No roaring allowed, unless you have a very good reason – say, if you’re trying to help a friend who’s been hurt, for example.”

The lion came back to the library the next day – and was welcomed back by happy children and librarians, and a very happy Miss Merriweather.

“Sometimes there was a good reason to break the rules.  Even in the library.”

Enjoy sharing this book.  My daughter always wanted to make the sounds for the lion roaring (a sad roar for the end of story hour, and a REALLY loud roar for getting Mr. McBee’s attention).

Miss Rumphius

Miss Rumphius, story and pictures by Barbara Cooney

miss rumphiusWhen Alice was a little girl, she lived in a city by the sea where she helped her grandfather with his paintings.  Her grandfather told her stories of faraway places he had seen in his travels.

Alice told her grandfather that she, too, wanted to travel and to live by the sea when she grew old.  Her grandfather said she must do one other thing as well:  she must do something to make the world more beautiful.

Alice grew up and set out to do those three things.  She moved to another city and worked as a librarian.  There she was called Miss Rumphius.  She began to travel, and saw a tropical island and met interesting people. She climbed mountains, saw jungles and deserts, saw lions and kangaroos, and made friends with new people.  Then one day, she hurt her back getting off a camel.

 “Well, I have certainly seen faraway places.  Maybe it is time to find my place by the sea.”

So, Miss Rumphius settled in a house by the sea where she could see the sun rise and set.  She started a little garden.  She was almost happy.

“But there is still one more thing I have to do,” she said.  “I have to do something to make the world more beautiful.”

But, Miss Rumphius didn’t know what that could be.  She became ill and had to stay in bed.  She could see the flowers she had planted in her garden – lupines – and wished she were well enough to plant more.

When she was well again, Miss Rumphius discovered that the wind and birds had carried seeds from the lupines in her garden to the other side of the hill.  Then she got an idea.  She ordered bushels of lupine seeds and carried these seeds in her pockets.  As she walked all over the area that summer, she scattered lupine seeds.

The next spring lupines bloomed everywhere.  Every year there were more and more lupines.  Miss Rumphius had found a way to make the world more beautiful.

This is a sweet story (with colorful illustrations that draw readers in) about a woman who sets out to live her life in a certain way, and does just that.  What can you do to make the world a more beautiful place?

Keeker and the Sneaky Pony

Keeker and the Sneaky Pony by Hadley Higginson, illustrated by Maja Andersen

This is a good book for readers who are ready to move beyond the beginning reader books, but who feel a little intimidated by longer chapter books.

Keeker is an eight-year-old girl who desperately wants a pony.  She has taken riding lessons, been to riding camp, and read books on horse care.  But, she thinks she’ll never get a pony of her own.

Plum is a Shetland pony who loves to eat and gallop around.  She is a little bit sneaky.  And, she doesn’t think about girls.  When Keeker’s parents buy Plum and bring her home, Keeker and Plum don’t hit it off right away.

“My OWN pony,” thought Keeker.  “I love her already.”

Plum stared at Keeker.

“Whose girl is this?” thought Plum.

Keeker waits while Plum gets comfortable in her new home.  Finally the day comes when Keeker can ride Plum.  They have an adventure that involves sneaky pony antics, a forest, ferns, and a bunch of blackberries – and ends with Keeker and Plum becoming friends.

“I’m glad I got a girl,” thought Plum as she burbled away.  “With a little more training, she’ll be just right.”

The text is easy to read, with illustrations on almost every page.  There are three pages of Pony Facts at the end of the book – written in a simple, friendly style. This is the first book in the Sneaky Pony series.

Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend

Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson

One morning in February, Henry woke up and looked out of his window and found wet yuck.  It was one of those gray days that isn’t Winter (with snow and exciting outdoor fun), but really isn’t anything else either.

What to do on a gray, wet weekend?  Henry was bored.  His big dog Mudge was bored.  Even Henry’s father was bored.  Then, Henry’s mother had an idea — a fun, creative, whole-family idea.  They could use the cardboard boxes the new refrigerator and the stove came in to make a castle.

“It has to have turrets,” Henry’s father said.  “And a drawbridge.  And Buttresses.  And flags.”

“Dad,” said Henry, “it’s just a refrigerator box.”

“Not for long,” said Henry’s father.

They got to work building the castle in the basement – planning, cutting, stapling, and painting.  Henry’s big dog Mudge joined them and chewed on a boot.  Suddenly it wasn’t a long, boring weekend anymore.  When the castle was finished, Henry and his father pretended to be knights, and Mudge was the king.

This is my favorite of the Henry and Mudge series.  I love the idea of the entire family working on such a fun, creative project.  Like the other Henry and Mudge books, this one is perfect for beginning readers.