50 Below Zero by Robert Munsch
Robert Munsch is one of my favorite children’s authors. As a former preschool teacher, he always seems to know exactly how to keep his audience giggling. In 50 Below Zero, main character Jason has to deal with a sleepwalking father who won’t stay put. Silliness abounds as he finds his dad all over the house and eventually outside in the snow. 50 Below Zero is a level H book. It has quite a few words on each page, but there is a lot of repetition.
Our library offers many Munsch books on Tumblebooks, a program that provides music, narration and some animation for hundreds of children’s books. The narrator who performs Munsch’s books is great. It’s worth checking at your library to see if Tumblebooks is available to you. Other books that have been leveled written by Munsch include:
The Boy in the Drawer (Level H)
Angela’s Airplane (Level I)
The Dark (Level I)
Love You Forever (Level I)
Mortimer (Level I)
Pigs (Level I)
Show and Tell (Level I)
Thomas’ Snowsuit (Level I)
Moira’s Birthday (Level J)
Purple, Green and Yellow (Level J)
Stephanie’s Ponytail (Level J)
Wait And See (Level J)
From Far Away (Level K)
Millicent And The Wind (Level K)
The Paperbag Princess (Level K)
The Sand Castle Contest (Level K)
Something Good (Level K)
Smelly Socks (Level O)
A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems
Piggie’s ball has been “taken” by a big guy. She needs backup. Enter Gerald, her faithful elephant friend. What ensues is a case of mistaken ownership, mistaken size and mistaken judgment. All is handled with Willem’s characteristic wit and kindness. A Big Guy Took My Ball is one of 25 books in the Elephant and Piggie series. All are hold- your-belly-while-you-laugh silly. It may be because it was the first title I read in the series, but my favorite is still There is a Bird on Your Head. Other titles that have been leveled are:
Are You Ready To Play Outside? (Level G)
My New Friend Is So Fun! (Level G)
Should I Share My Ice Cream? (Level H)
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
Compare your hand to that of a gorilla’s, your eye to that of a giant squid, your foot to that of an African elephant. As the title suggests, various animals are shown, in part or entirely, at their actual size. This book offers something for everyone in the family. The pictures alone are enjoyable, and the one-sentence facts (written at a Level H) add another layer of interest. For the more advanced reader, there are additional facts on each animal included in the back of the book. We’re big fans of Steve Jenkins in this family. Everything he writes is incredibly interesting. If you like this title, be sure to check out What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? (Level L).
Are We There, Yeti? By Ashlyn Anstee
Approximate Level E
This is a humorous tale that plays on that phrase so often heard on long car rides (or in my case on car rides that last over 3 minutes.) Yeti has a simple but lovable face, and the details in the scenes the kids drive by will likely tickle those who are into illustrations. My favorite page is near the middle of the book when the kids have had it and are breaking down with cries of, “I’m hungry!” “I’m bored.” I’m thirsty!” and “I have to go to the bathroom!” My son’s favorite was probably the next page when the kids in the story revolt screaming, “ARE WE THERE, YETI?” I have to admit, there isn’t much of a story line here – just kids going somewhere and then coming home, but the pictures are fresh and the language is just right to make it worth at least a read or two. It gave us a chance to giggle while my son practiced reading the few words he could. I used this more as a shared reading book when I read it with my son, but it could probably be read by a level E reader.
Because I Stubbed My Toe by Shawn Byous
Approximate Level H
Because I Stubbed My Toe is a cumulative tale that will likely spark conversations centering on optimism. What good could possibly come from stubbing one’s toe? Read and find out!
Big Bug by Henry Cole
Approximate Level A
I love the way this book gets kids thinking about perspective while at the same time providing emergent readers text they can tackle all on their own. I couldn’t find a guided reading level on it, but this was one of the first books my beginning reader picked up and read straight through on his own. A great addition to any emergent reader’s library.
The Big Fib by Tim Hamilton
A couple kids are playing with a neighbor’s boxes and the neighbor gets mad. The kids end up telling a fib. It turns out OK in the end, but may not be for everybody. It wasn’t my son’s favorite, but it might be a good story to share with a child who has trouble telling the truth because they end up resolving the problem in a healthy way.
Billy & Milly Short & Silly
Listed as Level A (I feel it’s at least a Level B)
This book takes various words in a word family and turns them into short stories. For example, the first group all end in –oop. The text reads “Stoops, Hoops, Scoops, Oops.” The story illustrated shows two kids (one with a basketball) sitting on their stoops while the ice cream van is driving up. The next picture shows the boy playing basketball. The girl is watching him while eating her ice cream. The last picture shows the boy’s basketball in her ice cream. It’s a clever concept, but most of the word families chosen are too advanced for beginning readers to handle on their own. When sharing this one with a beginning reader, the adult should expect to read the first few stories completely, and then read at least the first word or two of each successive short story. The following word families are in the book: -ock, -ape, -ike, -at, -eam, -ack, -ee, -ame, -oom, -unk, –ow, and –op. The illustrations are great. This might be a good book to share as an example of how to make your own short story using a word family.
Brown Bear or Black Bear? by Heather Warren
Approximate Level E
Did you ever wonder how to tell the difference between a black bear and a brown bear? After all, some black bears are brown and some brown bears are black. It can get confusing. This text does a fantastic job of helping young readers sort all that out using simple text and illustrative photos. Honestly, this is the best explanation of the difference between the two that I have ever read. This is another text in the Training Wheels series that I love so much. In keeping with the series’ overall quality, this text features amazing photography and pairs interesting content with simple text.
Approximate Level H
This Caldecott Honor Book is a story of a child looking for some attention from his family. He gets it when the lights go out. The illustrations, especially those of the stars, might inspire a little art time after reading. Though the book has some more advanced sight words and a few words that are difficult to decode (lights, busy, quiet), most pages feature few words, and many of the words are either easy sight words or they are easily decoded. I included it on the Level H list, but it could word well as shared reading for a child who is reading below that level.
Blue Sea by Robert Kalan
Listed as Level A (I feel it’s closer to a Level C)
This relies quite a bit on pictures to tell the story. A little fish gets chased by a successively bigger fish. Then by swimming through various obstacles, the biggest fish gets stuck, then the next biggest and so on. In the end, the little fish swims away. The whole story is told using various combinations of 15 words. The first time the words are introduced, a beginning reader is going to need support to read most of them, but if that reader likes a challenge, he might find the book fun. My son liked it.
The Bravest Cat! The True Story of Scarlett by Laura Driscoll
This can be a tear-jerker, depending on the reader. The story centers on a mother cat, Scarlett, who saves her five kittens from a burning building and suffers terrible burns as a result. Scarlett and four of the kittens live and are eventually adopted out to loving families. It’s a hero tale most will love.
Cat on the Mat by Brian Wildsmith
OK. It starts out as the quintessential boring beginning reader, but it actually has a story line. As more and more animals sit on the mat, the cat runs out of space and is forced to do something. With just the right reader at just the right level, this book will likely bring at least a small chuckle to most kids. Kudos to Wildsmith for creating a humorous story for the very earliest of readers.
Cat the Cat Who Is That? by Mo Willems
Approximate Level E
A sweet, silly story about friendship. The characters’ expressions and silly body language capture the energy of the 3 to 7-year-old set. Cat the Cat Who is That? is probably Willem’s lowest level beginning reader. Expect some more difficult sight words (it’s, maybe, there), and a couple words your level D reader won’t likely be able to handle without help (pleasure, dude). Overall, a most enjoyable read by a fantastic children’s author.
Chicken and Cat Clean Up by Sara Varon
Approximate Level C
Readers are likely to empathize with the cat in the story, a character who tries hard, but makes mistakes regardless. The reader also gets to celebrate when the cat experiences success for being herself. This could be considered a wordless picture book, but it also has a number of words contained within the illustrations. I included it on the Level C book list, because the words that are included contain a good number of blends and digraphs. While a level A reader could enjoy the wordless picture portion of the story and likely figure out some of the words from context and first letter knowledge, I think a reader with a bit more experience could enjoy the book even more.
Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black
Approximate Level H
Children proficient in listing multiple synonyms for one’s rear end might find this book an easy read. Those lacking in vocabulary such as derrier, keister, or gluteus maximus might find it a bit more challenging. In either case, my guess is all children will find this book particularly amusing (as will fun-loving adults!) Cleverly illustrated, and told with just two words per page, Chicken Cheeks could easily be used as shared reading with low level emergent readers too.
The Chocolate Tree by Traci Dibble is part of the Training Wheels series put together by former reading specialist Jane Hileman. With specific photos and simple text, it tells where chocolate comes from and how it is made. It’s a topic that holds interest because it’s new information for most kids. In essence, this text provides very early readers an opportunity to gain new knowledge from a book they can read on their own. It’s what good readers expect to be able to do when they pick up something to read, but it’s not something new readers are often given. I’m so glad there are authors out there providing high quality content for beginning readers.
Approximate Level I
A cat continues to gobble up all in his path (including the old lady who eventually adopts him) until he swallows a bee. Silly. The illustrator uses special fonts throughout this book, making some of the text stand out. Because of this, it might be a good one to try reading to a less advanced reader, pausing occasionally to allow them to chime in.
Duck, Duck, Moose! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Approximate Level A
The troublesome but lovable moose in this story is sure to get a few laughs from kids. Told with only two words (duck and moose) this story is accessible to the newest of readers.
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