"Mom, can we read this one?" These days, whenever I hear that question, there's a pretty good chance one of my boys is holding up one of the books from the Billy and the Mini Monsters series, Usborne books written by Zanna Davidson and illustrated by Melanie Williamson. My boys were captivated as soon as I pulled the books out of the box they arrived in, and their love has only grown since then.
Billy is a boy (I would guess around 10 years old) who finds five tiny monsters living in his sock drawer. He winds up saving their life in the first book when they get trapped in the washing machine, and they swear their allegiance to him for life. Captain Snott, Fang Face, Trumpet, Gloop, and Peep may be monsters, but they're actually pretty cute, more so than scary - and Billy takes to them instantly.
Each book in the series focuses on a different adventure Billy has with these mini monsters. Wherever they end up, trouble seems to follow - at school, during swim lessons, moving house, at a party, even at the airport. The monsters and Billy work together to ultimately sort out their problem, and life continues.
Although the monsters tend to complicate Billy's life, they also help him grow and learn important lessons. At school, Billy learns to not be intimidated by a bully. At a birthday party, Billy realizes his sister isn't actually that bad, and they can have fun together. At his swim lessons, the monsters help Billy overcome his fear of heights and diving off the diving board. The situations may seems silly on the surface, but the bigger lessons are meaningful and relevant to kids.
"I love you endlessly like the Cape Cod sands. I love you dramatically like the bare Badlands. I love you intensely like Niagara Falls. I love you immensely like the Grand Canyon's Walls." For those of you who love Animally, this is another winner for your shelves!
Americanly, written by Lynn Parrish Sutton and illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg, celebrates love through the bounty of America's famous landmarks and landscapes. Sutton's sing-song rhyming couplets paired with Greenberg's whimsical illustrations create an instant winner that is both sweet and educational.
"Boy couldn't hear, but he was happy. He spoke with dancing hands and he drew pictures for people in the sand. His parents loved his stories... but the villagers didn't understand."
Boy, by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries, is a beautiful story for many reasons. It tells the story of a feuding king and dragon, and a little boy who helps them see (or perhaps hear) past their differences. The story may be simple, but the message runs deep. In a society where it seems we are so often more interested in being right than being heard, we all need to stop and pay attention to the child who simply wants to understand, "why are you fighting?" And then take the time to talk it out.
The illustrations in this sweet picture book are crisp and powerful; everything about the book is thoughtful and filled with meaning. I'm a big fan of books where the illustrations tell the story as much as the text, because it means kiddos who don't yet read can still find meaning in the story.
It's that book where something as simple as dancing hands helps us understand each other a little better.
"It is a map." Let me tell you, that humble sentence is an exciting one. It's exciting because my son read it all by himself! As a confirmed book addict, I have been waiting, waiting for the day my kids can read because I know how empowering it is to lose yourself in a story. And, thanks to the First Reading Library, that day is on the horizon!
The Usborne My First Reading Library is a collection of 50 - yes, 50! - leveled books that will lay the foundation for literacy with your kids. The first 22 books are leveled very intentionally. They start with "dual reader" books with some text on the page for you to read and a very simple phrase or sentence for your young reader to practice. From there, you progress over 15 levels to books your kids can practice reading independently, still with simple sentence structure and vocabulary.
Buy the Usborne My First Reading Library here! (paperback in cardboard case, $79.99)
Other reading series to consider:
Hi there! I'm Christine - Usborne Books & More independent consultant, kids' book fan, English teacher, mom of two boys.