This is a continuation of my reviews of books by Arnold and Anita Lobel. I broke the long list into groups, and this is the group of four Early Readers that I read with my son. For the record, I have recommended a few of the Lobel books for the Best Of list, including Frog and Toad and Mouse Tales. Also for the record, my son is at about the Early Readers stage of reading, but I read these books with him.
Note: All these books have that simple, duochromatic, watercolor, cross-hatch illustration thing going. The illustrations are really from another time, but are well done.
Also note: These books can be read with a child in one sitting, like something between a picture book and a very short chapter book.
Owl at Home
Definitely not my favorite Lobel book, and I don’t think that anyone would claim it is. Among other things which are a little lean (like charm, spark, plot, and language), it’s kinda dark and disturbing. Basically, it is about a haunted house and a disturbed tenant, but a little quirkier and lighter than you might expect from that pitch. I don’t know any kids–or learning readers–who would enjoy the quirk or the idea, but you could recommend it to your indie friend who’s feeling down.
Now, this one is one of my favorite Lobel books. All the way through, I enjoyed the sweet relationship between the boy and his uncle, and by the end I also loved quirky Uncle Elephant almost as much as the little elephant does. It has some sadness in it and some more difficult–but subtle–themes.
Ehn. Take it or leave it. The story has its good points and more average points. I could see some small children really liking the simple, soft story and asking for it over and over again, but more than not it is going to be too random and old-fashioned for most of them. It is also at the easy end of Early Readers, like a long picture book.
Grasshopper on the Road
As with many of Lobel’s books, you really get the sense that the story is about much more than just imaginative silliness. In Grasshopper on the Road, the musings on people’s crooked personalities–worry-worts, workaholics, etc.–barely hides behind the oversimplified story: a grasshopper walks down the road in search of adventure and he encounters other bugs along the way. Then again, it’s another soft and cute story from Lobel. Recommend.