Scholastic's Hello Reader! series is an excellent at-home tool for both education and enjoyment. The titles are numerous and inexpensive, with an appealing range of reading levels, subjects, authors, and illustrators. Jeffrey Scherer's cartoon-style drawings are eye-catching in One Snowy Day (preschool-gr.1), a tale of animals banding together to build a new snowman and then saluting their new friend. The book is simple yet imaginative, as shown by a chipmunk balancing 10 cups, prompting the lively language, "Chipmunk juggled the cups." Reading primers have come a long way since the days of "See Spot run."
My son Will and I both give big thumbs-up to Zoom City (ages 1-up) and its vibrant illustrations for any car-loving toddler. Following the footsteps of his father, who drew the illustrations for Goodnight Moon, and his mother, a children's writer, Hurd has created a lively tale in which a dog family drives along a psychedelic-colored highway. The drive is hardly smooth "Faster!/Watch out! Too fast! CRASH!/DISASTER!" Tots will want to take this ride again and again.
I adore the writing of Daniel Pinkwater, plain and simple. Introduce a child to his wry humor and you'll have a hooked reader. Second-Grade Ape (illustrated by Jill Pinkwater, gr. 2-3) is a chapter book for more proficient readers. Freddie "Flash" Fleetwood finds what he thinks is a cat in the bushes, but turns out to be an ape. What will his parents and his teacher, Mrs. Hotdogbun, say about his new pet? With Pinkwater, the answers aren't always what you'd expect.
Check out the lovable terrier who appears in Don't Cut My Hair! (preschool-gr.1). Hans Wilhelm puts expressions on this canine that turn a text of few words into stories loaded with personality.
My son Will first paid attention to books with pictures of other babies, such as Maybe My Baby (photos by Paula Hible, newborn). Babies wear hats showing what careers they might choose astronaut or dancer, for instance with the reassurance that they'll always be loved, "whoever, however you are."
Calm children down with Charlotte Zolotow's Wake Up and Goodnight (illustrated by Pamela Paparone), two books in one. Read Wake Up, with a bear yawning, twin bunnies getting dressed, and a cat munching cereal; then flip the book over to enjoy Goodnight, in which the same crew gets tucked in. This book could easily become a beloved part of a child's nighttime ritual.