In the Stacks: New books for young readers

New Early Readers and Illustrated Fiction for young readers and their bigger reading partners.


“Frog and Fly,” written and illustrated by Jeff Mack.

Poor Fly! He just can’t win against Frog, who loves flies … to eat. Or can he? In this series of six short and slurpy stories, Fly and Frog have very brief, easy-to-read dialogues designed for early readers. Each story is like an extended joke, the kind parents will be groaning at as their kids double over laughing. Set in graphic novel format, the illustrations and actions are as clear and cartoony as the punch lines, with a bit of wordplay thrown in. Brilliantly done!

“Piglets Playing: counting from 11 to 20,” and “Busy Beavers: Counting by 5s,” by Megan Atwood, illustrated by Sharon Holm.

There are plenty of books for beginning counters, but what comes after 10? Here are two books for early readers that go on to explore the higher numbers. Eleven, for example, and eventually all the way up to 50! In “Piglets,” Mother Pig’s 10 pink piglets are joined, one at a time, by 10 spotted piglets, who race, wrestle, bounce, and splash their way into the pen. A number line across the bottom of the page shows the numbers from 11 to 20, with the current page’s pig count highlighted and a cumulative addition equation in the corner. In “Busy,” a family of goggle-wearing beavers build a dam with bundles of five sticks at a time. Again, the bottom of the page features a number line marching across, current number highlighted, and an addition equation in the corner. Each book has a short glossary at the back and lists a website with links to math games.

“The Quiet Place,” by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small.

Moving to a new house can be hard. Moving to a new country and having to learn a new language can be even harder. Isabel and her family move from Mexico to the United States, and Isabel practices the English she’s too shy to speak by writing to her aunt, telling her about the joys and difficulties of settling in to a new home. Early on, Isabel is given a refrigerator box that is her quiet place – until it falls apart in the rain. But as she accompanies her mother around her new town, Isabel begins collecting other boxes to serve as quiet places, and by the time this quietly enchanting story ends, she feels at home both inside and outside her quiet place. Small’s illustrations hint that Isabel is up to something throughout the story, but just what it might be isn’t obvious until readers unfold the delightful double-gatefold pages at the end.

“Mousterpiece,” written and illustrated by Jane Breskin Zalben.

When Janson, a little mouse living in a museum, ventures into the modern art wing, she sees things she’s never seen before. Pictures cut out of colored paper. Portraits made of triangles and squares. Landscapes made up of nothing but dots. Overwhelmed by all the art, she finds an easel and paints and begins imitating the styles of the art she sees around her and soon has taught herself to paint like Seurat, Warhol, Matisse, Calder, and other great names. But one day she discovers the walls of her favorite gallery have been emptied in preparation for renovation, making a perfect place for Janson to paint. And paint she does, filling the empty walls with her work. The story is light, focusing more on the art Janson sees and the joy of creating, but pair this with other painting books like Ish by Peter Reynolds and keep the crayons and paper handy.

“Infinity and Me,” by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Have you ever thought about what’s beyond the farthest star you can see? And what’s beyond that? And that? You’ve wondered about infinity (and possibly even made yourself dizzy doing it). Eight-year-old Uma wonders, too, and begins asking her friends and family what they imagine when they think of infinity. Her friend imagines driving around and around and around a racetrack that looks like a napping “8”. Uma’s grandmother pictures a family tree, whose roots spread out forever as new generations are born. And Uma wonders whether a recess that stretched to infinity would actually be any fun. Without a doubt, infinity is a tough concept to believe in, but Hosford’s story makes it accessible and Swiatkowska’s charmingly wacky pictures make it appealing. The appended author’s note adds further descriptions of infinity given to Hosford by young children. For kindergarten kids and older to scratch their heads over.


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Margaret Brady Fund scholarship applications now accepted

Area students pursuing artistic excellence may apply for scholarships as part of the Margaret Frans Brady Fund.

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