Review: When Andy Met Sandy

The Basics

Title: When Andy Met Sandy
Author: Tomie dePaola and Jim Lewis
ISBN: 9781481441551
Copyright Date: 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reader Brand: N/A
Level: N/A
Series: Andy and Sandy (Andy & Sandy’s Anything Adventure)


Andy and Sandy are both playing at the same playground. Neither of them knows each other and wonders what it would be like to play together. Is there some toy at the playground that needs both of them to work?

I was very excited to see these new readers featured at ALA Midwinter in Boston this year. Tomie dePaola was a childhood favorite. I ate up the Strega Nona books, but my favorite was always The Art Lesson. dePaola’s signature art makes this reader (and its companion) a success. dePaola has a great way of capturing a child’s world on their level. I absolutely adore the endpapers in these books which feature crayon drawings of Andy and Sandy’s adventures.

The text is large and placed against a white background. Each page has one or two short sentences: “Yes! Would you?” The words will be familiar to children and the setting will help children sound out potentially tougher words like “seesaw” and “tunnel”. I would feel comfortable handing this to a new beginning reader.

I did wonder how readers will view the different skin tones. Since it isn’t specified in the text, readers do not know if Andy is a person of color or just has a different skin tone than Sandy. We may find out more if the series progresses. I thought it was worth noting.

Definitely worth purchasing a copy for most public libraries.

Review: Zach and Lucy and the Museum of Natural Wonders

The Basics

Title: Zach and Lucy and the Museum of Wonders
Author: The Pifferson Sisters (Jennifer Bradley and Stephanie Guerra)
ISBN: 9781481439367
Copyright Date: 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reader Brand: Ready to Read
Level: Level 3
Series: Zach and Lucy (Zach and Lucy and the Yoga Zoo)


Zach and Lucy decide to start a museum of natural things in the basement of their apartment complex. But when their grumpy neighbor Mrs. Blankenship shows up, can she find something that she likes in the museum?

First of all, the positives: Zach and Lucy appear to be a biracial or blended family and that is a huge positive in my books. Diverse beginning readers are one of the hardest requests to fill for our patrons. I thought that the storyline was good and appropriate for a beginning reader — new vocabulary like “specimens” are defined in the text in a kid-friendly way. The text is solidly a “Level 3” and is comparable to Henry and Mudge in terms of difficulty, although Zach and Lucy in shorter in word count.

My only concern with the book is that the text varies significantly from page-to-page and that might frustrate a beginning reader who thinks the book is good for them on a one sentence page only to get the book home and find eight/nine sentence page spreads. Hopefully, parents/caregivers will pay attention to the “Level Three” classification.

Zach and Lucy already have a second book on the publishing schedule and I hope more will follow.

Review: Berkley, the Terrible Sleeper

The Basics

Title: Berkley, the Terrible Sleeper
Author: Mitchell Sharmat
ISBN: 9781481438339
Copyright Date: 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reader Brand: Ready to Read
Level: Level Two
Series: N/A


Berkley is a bear and he is a terrible sleeper. He can’t even sleep through the night, so Momma and Poppa Bear are really worried about what will happen to Berkley over the winter. Will he be able to fall asleep?

I was utterly charmed by Berkley and his inability to sleep. The illustrations are lovely and really bring the characters to life. My favorite part on my re-read was watching Momma and Poppa Bear grow more worried and tired as the book continued on. Some of the text is slightly obscured since as it’s printed over the backgrounds, but not enough to hinder me as an adult reader. It might prove difficult for a child.

The plot twist alone is worth a purchase for libraries looking to buy stand-alone beginning reader titles instead of the more traditional series.

Review: A Mystery Comes Knocking

The Basics

Title: A Mystery Comes Knocking
Author: Albin Sadar
ISBN: 9781481420372
Copyright Date: 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reader Brand: Ready to Read
Level: Level 2
Series: Hamster Holmes (Combing for Clues, upcoming On the Right Track)


Hamster Holmes is on the case! When Corny O’Squirrel hears a knocking at his door only to find no one there, it’s up to Hamster Holmes and his side-kick Mr. Watt to solve this mystery. What will the team discover when they spend the night at Corny’s?

This new mystery series is wonderful since I always have readers asking for mysteries. I loved the inside jokes to hamster life (drinking from his water bottle, thinking while running on the wheel) and thought that added a special flair to the book. The text is about the same as other books in the Ready to Read level 2 brand books.

I’m curious as to how Mr. Watt speaking in Morse code is received by readers. Is it a frustration or an added “mystery” for them to solve?

Recommended for libraries looking to increase their beginning reader mystery options.

Review: The Tiny Seed

The Basics

Title: The Tiny Seed
Author: Eric Carle
ISBN: 9781481435765
Copyright Date: 1987 (text), 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reader Brand: Ready to Read
Level: Level 2
Series: The World of Eric Carle


A tiny seed travels through the four seasons trying to grow into a plant. But animals want to eat him, another plant blocks him from the sun, and people can step on him or pick him — will he ever become a flower?

“The Tiny Seed” was originally published as a picture book in 1987. I was able to get a copy of both to compare as I read. The reader is trimmed down in length, but most notably possibly upsetting lines such as: “One seed falls into the water and drowns” was changed to “One seed falls into the water”. Additionally, the line “And the little plant dies” was also removed from the reader edition.

Overall, I think the large amount of text in the reader fills up too much of the page and there really isn’t enough white space to make this a successful beginning reader. It works much better as a picture book.

Review: How to Defend Your Dragon

The Basics

Title: How to Defend Your Dragon
Author: adapted by Ellie O’Ryan
ISBN: 9781481437110
Copyright Date: 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reader Brand: Ready to Read
Level: Level 2
Series: Dreamworks Dragons (All About the Dragons, Dragon Mountain Adventure, How to Build a Dragon Fort (upcoming 2/23/16), How to Pick a Dragon, How to Raise Three Dragons (upcoming 9/29/15), How to Start a Dragon Academy)


The village of Berk thinks that Thor is mad at Toothless the dragon for living with them after a series of storms threaten their safety. Will Hiccup be able to save his friend?

If that summary made absolutely no sense to you, no worries. It will make sense to your young patrons though! I don’t know about you, but “How to Train Your Dragon” the movie and subsequent television show is doing nothing but gaining popularity at my library. I did a bit of research to help review this title. It’s based off one of the television episodes, so while the words may be harder than very easy readers, kids familiar with the franchise will have no problems reading the names of their favorite characters and maybe even remembering the episode for extra reading help.

It’s hard to judge media tie-ins against traditional beginning readers because their existence and success depends on the success of another medium (television, movies, games, etc.). If your library has large amounts of “How to Train Your Dragon” fans then I would say go for this title. If not, you can probably skip it. I think it would be too difficult for most readers without that background knowledge.

Series to Know: The World of Eric Carle

Series Info

The first five Eric Carle Ready to Read readers.

The first five Eric Carle Ready to Read readers.


  1. Have You Seen My Cat? (2012)
  2. The Greedy Python (2012)
  3. Pancakes, Pancakes (2013)
  4. Rooster Is Off to See the World (2013)
  5. A House for Hermit Crab (2014)
  6. Walter the Baker (2014)
  7. The Tiny Seed (2015)
  8. The Foolish Tortoise (2015)

Links: World of Eric Carle at Ready to Read || Eric Carle’s Website || Richard Buckley’s page at Simon & Schuster

Reviews: Horn Book (as readers)


All of these readers were published as picture books first. Some of the text has been altered and some words have been simplified. All of Carle’s art has been resized and the layout has occasionally changed to accommodate the larger traditional text of the beginning reader.

Lexile average was 560L based on three books, one of which (Pancakes, Pancakes) was Adult-Directed. Only one book (The Greedy Python) had a reader specific AR test at level 2.7. Many of the other titles have scores, but I only averaged in the scores that were specifically for the beginning readers since the text was changed from the originals. While each book does not have a Guided Reading Level (Fountas and Pinnell) assigned to it, the Ready to Read brand gives a range for each level which you can find here.

Interestingly enough, the World of Eric Carle books span three of the Ready to Read levels.
Pre-Level One (ranges from A, B, C, D, & E): Have You Seen My Cat?
Level One (ranges from F, G, & H): The Greedy Python, Pancakes, Pancakes, & Rooster is Off to See the World
Level Two (ranges from I, J, & K): A House for Hermit Crab, Walter the Baker, The Tiny Seed, & The Foolish Turtle


Is there ever enough Eric Carle? I don’t think so. However, the classic picture books will always be my favorite since they showcase his art much better than these trimmed down versions. Some of the books work well as beginning readers while others are best left in picture books.

More Eric Carle?

Penguin Young Readers Eric Carle readers.

Penguin Young Readers Eric Carle readers.

I’ve only tracked the Ready to Read brand above. There are also three Eric Carle readers available from Penguin Young Readers:

  1. The Very Lonely Firefly (2012)
  2. The Very Busy Spider (2014)
  3. The Very Quiet Cricket (2014)

The Very Quiet Cricket is a Level Three readers while the other two are both Level Twos readers. No Lexile scores were available for these readers, Accelerated Reader average was, the Level Two books were both Guided Reader (Fountas & Pinnell) level I and the Level Three book was Guided Reader (Fountas & Pinnell) level K.

Dates to Remember

I don’t have any for you to bookmark right now. It seems like the Ready to Read Eric Carles are published two a year in the spring. So keep an eye out for them in 2016!