To date, only one easy reader–FROG AND TOAD TOGETHER–has been recognized by the Newbery committee, so the chances of one breaking through seem improbable, if not downright impossible. But if last year taught us anything it’s that miracles can and do happen, occasionally.
One of the problems is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Easy readers don’t win Newbery recognition so publishers don’t think to send them to the committee. (Bad publishers!) The bloggers at Guessing Geisel recently listed their favorite contenders for SLJ. How many of these do you think the publishers sent to the committee? How many did the committee search out and read on its own? How would they even know where to look (aside from the aforementioned Guessing Geisel) since these books tend to be under starred by review journals? (Bad reviewers!) It would be a diligent committee member, indeed, who made the effort to track them down, let alone advocate for them.
I only note two easy readers with multiple starred reviews this year, both of them comics from Toon Books: BENNY AND PENNY IN HOW TO SAY GOODBYE and THE REAL POOP ON PIGEONS. Of course, there are always picture books such as THEY ALL SAW THE CAT or NANETTE’S BAGUETTE (okay, I’m the only one touting this one as an easy reader, but still). And at the top of the Geisel range, THE PRINCESS IN BLACK series appears to be eligible, too. So there’s quite a bit to get excited about if you start looking at books for emergent readers.
If any series deserves Newbery recognition it is Elephant & Piggie, and–lo!–the final book in the series was published this past year to very little fanfare. Some might argue that THE THANK YOU BOOK is hopelessly dependent upon the previous books, and while it’s true that long time fans will welcome the parade of cameo appearances by various characters, anybody who has witnessed an Oscar acceptance speech should be able to relate to the story. A knowledge of previous books does enhance the reader experience, but doesn’t impede the neophyte. Moreover, I love the return of the broken fourth wall from WE ARE IN A BOOK!, a book many cite as one of the stronger entries in the series.
Fortunately, THE THANK YOU BOOK doesn’t have to compete against the other books in the series. It doesn’t even have to compete against other Elephant & Piggie books this year. The E&P voting bloc–please, dear God, let there be an E&P voting bloc on the Newbery committee!–will not be split between two to three books. This is a dark horse, to be sure, but I personally could definitely nominate and vote for this one!
But! Mo Willems has created an E&P spinoff series and I’m very intrigued by the first couple of entries–WE ARE GROWING by Laurie Keller and THE COOKIE FIASCO by Dan Santat. They deserve a post of their own. So until next time . .