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31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Eighteen – Easy Books of 2017


It’s haiku. It’s poetry. It’s harder than original Twitter. Creating a quality easy book, whatever the reading level, is an art. Today, I’m throwing them all into a pile. The easy books that use only the simplest of words. The ones ones that veer closer to early chapter books (a category we’ll explore further tomorrow). However you like to define them, these are the books that I seriously believe are the most difficult to write. Give them your full respect, even as you hand them to your 5-year-olds.

For a more complete consideration of the easy books out this year, check out the Guessing Geisel blog, which I believe has at some time discussed all the books mentioned on this list at one time or another. Also check out Travis Jonker’s post today (coincidence!) predicting the Geisel winners.

2017 Easy Books

Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan


Hope you like yourself some Boutavant because this sucker is Boutavanteriffic! Now with 90% more Boutavant.

Honestly, there’s not much more to it than your standard big-dog-wrecks-havoc-with-family’s-orderly-life. But what is life without the classics, eh? The stories are fun and the art a pip. Good stuff.

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder, ill. Emily Hughes


Like Barkus this falls into those Frog & Toad level early early early chapter books. Only, in this case, instead of vest-wearing amphibians it’s two brothers having some very small, contained adventures in Hawaii. Snyder’s writing is at its best (personally, I love it when the mom asks if a bedtime banana is a “thing”) and if you haven’t encountered Emily Hughes before then you’re in for a visual treat. This is a hard one not to love. I’ve even heard it bandied about for Newbery consideration, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper


Yet another entry onto my Books I Most Regret Not Reviewing in 2017 list. You can hardly blame me. This easy book (part of the Elephant & Piggie series and just as simple in its text and wordings) actually ends up getting a bit deep on the reader. If something is nothing then can that nothing truly be said to start something? What is “nothing”? Yep. Being and Nothingness: Easy Book Philosophical Ponderings. That’s this book, it is.

King and Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats by Dori Hillestad Butler, ill. Nancy Meyers

King and Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse by Dori Hillestad Butler, ill. Nancy Meyers

King and Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code by Dori Hillestad Butler, ill. Nancy Meyers




I don’t think that there’s any point where kids aren’t into mysteries. But if you want to get them to Encyclopedia Brown, or even Cam Jansen, consider this detecting duo as a stepping stone. Told from the perspective of the very doggie dog King, we get a true canine view of these cases, with all the limitations therein. If I had to pick a favorite I’d be torn between Missing Dog Treats and Mysterious Mouse. Both are good. Dog Treats may have a leg up, if only because if feel like there’s some additional info we could have used with Mouse. But no objections to this charming series.

Meet Woof & Quack by Jamie A. Swenson, ill. Ryan Sias


I am SUCH a sucker for an easy book that dares to do a twist ending. I mean, the deck is stacked against the author from the start anyway, and then to throw in the unexpected? I’m in awe. Even though The Good For Nothing Button is part of the Elephant & Piggie imprint, Swenson’s book here feels like it’s a soul sister to the original Willems books. Or maybe I just like to see exploding cakes on the page. Maybe.

A Pig, a Fox, and Stinky Socks by Jonathan Fenske


It seems weird to me that in spite of the fact that Jonathan Fenske is a Geisel Honoree, I really hadn’t run across his books until this year. And what a loss to me! I had him pegged as a former animator, but as far as I can tell he’s far more an artist of the gallery-kind, if you know what I mean. Fancy paintings and the like. Fortunately, the man seems blessed with a skewed sense of humor that will hold him in good stead for years to come.

Pig and Goose and the First Day of Spring by Rebecca Bond


What a gentle delight! If you’re looking for a book that restores your faith in the commonalities between us all, that’s a tall order to place on a little easy book but I think Pig & Goose are up to the challenge. The story is a very lovely look at how two friends that admire one another greatly can see the true beauty within one another thanks to close and careful observation. Treat yourself and seek this book out.

Snail & Worm Again by Tina Kugler


The funniest easy book on this list. Possibly I may be saying that because it pokes my own personal sense of humor square in the kisser (oh, I’m just mixing and dicing the metaphors today!). Still, I love the art, the writing, and, most of all, the humor. And if the Geisel Award committee doesn’t give it something this year, I will be a seriously perturbed and peeved puppy.

There’s a Pest in the Garden by Jan Thomas


From a personal standpoint, Jan Thomas can do no wrong. And this new easy book series she has coming out does everything right. Plus it’s fuuuuuuuny!  If you need an easy book to read aloud to a big group, please meet my first suggestion.

What’s Your Favorite Favorite by Bob Shea


And here’s my second suggestion for easy books that can be read to groups! Funny how that works. If Goat here looks a tad familiar, that may be because he was last seen fantasizing about making criminals eat his cloven justice in Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great. Now he’s competing with Ballet Cat for their grandma’s LOVE! The fact that “grandma” is a small hound? Hello, illogical logic! My favorite kind.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations

December 3 – Wordless Picture Books

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – CaldeNotts

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – Translated Picture Books

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Poetry Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Comics for Kids

December 21 – Older Funny Books

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Fiction Reprints

December 30 – Middle Grade Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Is the Laurel Snyder of Charlie and Mouse the same as the Laurel Snyder of Orphan Island? Which is also being talked about for Newbery consideration?