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!

Review: Olivia and the Pet Project

The Basics

Title: Olivia and the Pet Project
Author: Adapted by Lauren Forte; Screenplay by Matt Negrete
ISBN: 9781481428965
Copyright Date: 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reader Brand: Ready to Read
Level: Level One Star Reader!
Series: (Olivia and Her Ducklings, Olivia and the Kite Party, Olivia and the Rain Dance, Olivia and the Snow Day, Olivia Becomes a Vet, Olivia Builds a House, Olivia Goes Camping, Olivia Measures Up, Olivia Plants a Garden, Olivia Plays Soccer, Olivia Takes a Trip, Olivia Trains Her Cat)


Olivia’s dog Perry is misbehaving. When Olivia’s friend refuses to play with her and Perry until Perry is better trained, Olivia opens up a dog charm school.

For a book adapted from a screenplay, it makes a pretty good reader. The text is large and has two to three sentences per page which is on par for a Level One reader. I do think that the full color background on each page was distracting to the text in a couple of page spreads.

While the readers are not nearly as charming as the picture books, Olivia’s fans will definitely follow her into the beginning readers.

Series to Know: Brownie & Pearl

Series Info



  1. Brownie and Pearl Hit the Hay (2013)
  2. Brownie and Pearl See the Sights (2013)
  3. Brownie and Pearl Get Dolled Up (2014)
  4. Brownie and Pearl Step Out (2014)
  5. Brownie and Pearl Grab a Bite (2014)
  6. Brownie and Pearl Go For a Spin (2015)

Links: Brownie & Pearl on || Brownie & Pearl on S&S || Cynthia Rylant

Reviews: Horn Book (for the readers); School Library Journal & Horn Book (for the picture book versions)


This is a difficult Difficultly section to write about. All of the Accelerated Reader and Lexile scores available are for the picture book editions of the books. Average AR was 1.00 based on seven books and average Lexile was AD100L based on two books.

I looked at both the picture books and reader editions of the four following books: Brownie and Pearl Hit the Hay, Brownie and Pearl See the Sights, Brownie and Pearl Step Out, and Brownie and Pearl Go for a Spin. Hit the Hay and See the Sights omit sentences from the picture books in the reader editions. “She is already snuggly.” from Hit the Hay and “Brownie gets her handbag. Pearl gets her mouse.” from See the Sights. Most of the books also change the contractions from the picture books to full words in the readers. Which is helpful, but does change the score potential for both AR & Lexile.


These are a great beginning reader series and I think it was a very smart move to re-publish them as readers. The picture books are lovely and I do miss the full panel illustrations in some spreads, but the text was always a beginning reader text to me.

I’m not sure is there are any plans for more Brownie and Pearl released as only readers. I can imagine that a child who is already familiar with the picture books will not find any real challenge in the readers, especially if they have the storyline memorized.

More Brownie and Pearl?

Well, original Brownie and Pearl:

  1. Brownie and Pearl Step Out
  2. Brownie and Pearl Get Dolled Up
  3. Brownie and Pearl See the Sights
  4. Brownie and Pearl Take a Dip
  5. Brownie and Pearl Make Good
  6. Brownie and Pearl Grab a Bite
  7. Brownie and Pearl Hit the Hay
  8. Brownie and Pearl Go For a Spin

These were originally published from 2009 to 2012. The readers began in 2013.

Dates to Remember

It looks like a paperback set will be coming out on October 13, 2015. I just hope that they also release the last two Brownie and Pearl adventures in reader format, too!

Brand: Ready to Read



After extension research on Simon and Schuster’s business website and the Ready to Read website, I still have no idea when the brand was created. The very first Henry and Mudge book published in 1987 has the Ready to Read Level 2 on its cover, which is the earliest S&S series that I know of.

[Also, according to my library’s catalog, Macmillan used the term “Ready to Read” prior to 1987, beginning in 1973. This is, of course, incomplete research because it is just based on the 77 libraries’ holdings in our consortium.]

The “Ready to Read” website was created in 2005, according to

The most recent re-boot of the “Ready to Read” brand occurred in 2011, with the star levels being introduced.



The are four levels in the “Ready to Read” series.

  • Pre-Level One: Rising Star Reader — Shared reading, familiar characters, simple words
  • Level One: Star Reader — Easy sight words and words to sound out, simple plot and dialogue, familiar topics and themes
  • Level Two: Superstar Reader — Longer sentences, simple chapters, high-interest vocabulary words
  • Level Three: Megastar Reader — Longer & more complex story plots and character development, variety of challenging vocabulary words, more difficult sentence structure

I’m a crazy statistics person, so I went through the Lexile and Accelerated Reader websites to give you an idea of how these programs [that I don’t necessarily agree with][1] compare to the “I Can Read” levels.[2]

Pre-Level One Rising Star Reader:
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood series had a 260L and 0.5AR average. [3]
Brownie and Pearl series had a AD140L and 1.0AR average.

Level One Star Reader:
Olivia series had a AD368L and a 1.7AR average.
Katy Duck series had a 415L and a 1.4AR average.

Level Two Superstar Reader:
World of Eric Carle series had a 522L and 3.3AR average. [4]
Henry and Mudge series had a 431L and 2.4AR average.

Level Three Megastar Reader:
History of Fun Stuff series had a NC920L and 5.6AR average. [5]

The only place that Fountas and Pinnell (Guided Reading) appears is in the recommendation app that I’ll write more about later.

Characters and Authors

Familiar Characters Based on Picture Books: Olivia, Trucktown, Eloise, Brownie and Pearl, Katy Duck, Bugs/Bugland (Carter)

Original Series: Twins (Weiss), Inch and Roly, Max & Mo, Robin Hill School, Friday the Scaredy Cat, The Really Rotten Princess

Classics: Eric Carle, Henry and Mudge, Puppy Mudge, Annie and Snowball, Pinky and Rex

Media Tie-Ins: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Mike the Knight, Rabbids Invasion (Game), How to Train Your Dragon, Kung-Fu Panda, The Smurfs, Yo Gabba Gabba

More Information

My favorite discovery on the “Ready to Read” site is their Assets section which includes certificates, activity guides, and other incentives to help beginning readers. I think this section could be a great help to a ton of librarians looking for activity pages as passive programs.

Another great resource for librarians to be aware of is the App available on the site. By answering a few quick questions (gender, age, grade, Lexile, Guided Reading, and interests) — all of which are able to be skipped — will generate a selection of recommendations for “Ready to Read” books. This is a great place to start if you have absolutely no idea what to recommend, especially if a parent gives you a Lexile or Guided Reading level.

“Ready to Read” also has a Facebook page, but no Twitter or Pinterest as far as I can tell.

I also signed up for both the Parents email listserv and the Educators email listserv. I’m interested in seeing what the difference is between the two. And these actually accepted my work .info email address!


I don’t think that assigning students to read within a certain level based on tests is beneficial. I believe all reading is good reading. That being said, these programs are based on text and sentence difficulty which is useful in trying to standardize reader levels across the various brands.

So, I chose the series by looking at which books had the most statistical data available. I eliminated books that were media tie-ins (The Smurfs, Rabbids Invasion, Dreamworks’s Home) and also limited each grouping to a single author. Which means that since I evaluated “Henry and Mudge”, I did not evaluate “Annie and Snowball”.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood only had one book available on Lexile — “Thank You Day”, so it’s not a true average.

All of the Eric Carle book data was actually taken from the picture book information. Only two readers had information available (“Pancakes, Pancakes” in Lexile & “The Greedy Python” in Accelerated Reader.)

The NC in the Lexile means Non-Conforming score. Basically that the score is atypical for the type of material the book is. It was also the only Lexile score available for the series.