Posts tagged early readers

Newt is a superb book full of wit and charm.


Early reader

Ages 4-7

By Matt Novak

48 pages

HaperCollins Publishers




Matt Novak has written several books for children, picture books and early readers. He’s also been a puppeteer, a teacher and a Disney artist—he worked on Rescuers Down Under and Beauty and the Beast—so he’s had a lot of experience with reaching children.

Everything about Newt is utterly charming. The pleasingly warm art glows with life. The straightforward text is heartening and funny. And Newt himself is an irresistible salamander in a sporty jersey and a jaunt in his step. What’s not to love?


Newt is out walking and enjoying a beautiful day.


‘“What a perfect day.” Newt said. “I wish I could keep it for always.”’

When he encounters a “perfect” red flower he decides to dig it up and take it home and keep it for always. But once home he realizes he does not have a pot to plant it in. Newt goes in search of a pot and meets a plump mouse carrying a nutshell, a nutshell that looks like a perfect flowerpot.


The mouse offers to give Newt the nutshell. First the mouse needs to water his flower, but where his flower should be there is just a hole in the ground! Newt does not say anything. He goes home and plants the flower, and it does not look so perfect anymore.

‘”It looks different.” He said.”’

When Newt and the flower arrive back at the hole, the mouse was still there and they planted the flower together. It was a perfect day.



“One morning Newt found a strange, fuzzy bug on his doorstep.”


The bug—a round, fuzzy creature with two sets of ten eyes and eight legs that run straight across its body—is pathetically adorable. Newt offers him some food but insists the bug must go home after eating. The bug ate, but he did not go home.

After meeting a bird (sporting a Hawaiian shirt) accompanied by a beautiful pet butterfly, Newt decides to try to spruce up his bug.


Next Newt meets a joyous rabbit with a pet cricket, and the cricket can play music! Newt sets out to see if his bug has any talents.


He doesn’t.

Next Newt meets a contended mole riding on a big ant, so he tries to ride the bug but the bug does not move.

‘“You are not beautiful, talented or strong.” Newt said. “What kind of bug are you?”’

Then the soft bug jumped into Newt’s arms and made a nice buzzing sound and Newt held the bug.


“You are my bug, and that is enough.”


It was night, but Newt was awake. He peered at the moon through a gap in his curtains.

‘“You look scared.” Newt said.”’

Newt shares with the moon some of the things he does when he feels scared. After describing each comforting activity Newt opens the curtains a bit more; the moon rises in the sky.


He assures the moon that shadows in the room are not as scary as they seem and opens his curtains wide; the moon is high above the house.


Newt is superb book full of wit and charm, and one worth sharing with the whole family.


Buy the book!

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

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Delight in the world of Poppleton.



Early Reader

Ages 4-7

By Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Mark Teague

56 pages

Blue Sky Press



Cynthia Rylant is a gifted writer and has written books for all ages. In 1993, she won the Newberry Award for her book Missing May. Another of her titles, Van Gogh Café, was one of the first books I reviewed here. Having penned multiple books for beginning readers, she’s no stranger to this age group. Young readers may be familiar with her books about Henry and Mudge or Mr. Putter and Tabby, two of her other beginning readers series.

Rylant’s text in Poppleton is simple and concise and the stories are filled with humor and warmth. There are three short chapters, each containing a separate story. As with Rylant’s other beginning reader series, the Poppleton books focus on the merits and importance of friendship.

Mark Teague is a prolific illustrator with a crisp, cartoonish style. His watercolor and pencil illustrations in Poppleton are lively and colorful.  Capturing the comical aspect of the text, Teague portrays that comedy adeptly in the facial expressions and body language of the characters.

Poppleton is a pig: he was a city pig but now he’s a country pig. He used to jog; now he gardens. Instead of taking taxis, he takes naps.

He’s learning to adjust to country life and he’s made some new friends. And though he enjoys the company of his new neighbor, Cherry Sue (a llama), her constant invitations are a bit intrusive.  If only he could find a way to say no without hurting her feelings.

When Cherry Sue beckons him again in her signature way, Poppleton can take no more, and he soaks her with the garden hose! He immediately feels remorse and explains to Cherry Sue that, sometimes, he just wants to be left alone. It’s then that Cherry Sue confesses, after all her neighborly invitations, she’d also been feeling obligated to continue the practice. She was trying to find her own way out of the situation! So Poppleton soaks himself with the hose, and the two become best friends.

Poppleton’s favorite day of the week is Monday; Monday is library day and Poppleton takes library day very seriously. To prepare, he packs his bag: eyeglasses for reading, book marker for holding his place, pocket watch for the slow parts, tissues for sad parts, and lip balm for the dry parts.

He heads to the library, picks a table all to himself and buries his nose in an adventure book.

At the end of the day, he thanks the librarian, packs his things and slowly walks home, “all dreamy from so much adventure.” Library day is the best day of all.

Fillmore (a goat) is sick in bed and needs to take a pill. Poppleton is trying to help his friend but Fillmore can only take his pill if it’s hidden in food—sweet and soft food, with raspberry filling, and chocolate on top.

Cherry Sue donates her Heavenly Cake to the cause. Filmore doesn’t want to know which piece of cake contains the hidden pill, but after eating nine pieces he knows it’s in the tenth and will eat no more.

Now he wants something lemony, with coconut; Poppleton starts to feel ill too. It takes three days and twenty-seven cakes before the two friends feel well again.

There are seven books in the Poppleton series and all seven are in my personal library. Each time I revisit them, I am reminded of their virtue and am left with a feeling of happiness and delight.

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