It happens every year in first grade: the chapter book craze. Honestly, I'm always a little sad to see it. To me, it's somehow like letting go of your childhood a little too early. There are so many amazing picture books. Picture books that make you laugh. Picture books that make you cry. Picture books that make you stop and really think.
Parents brag about it, "My child is reading CHAPTER BOOKS." For kids, it seems to be some significant entry into the reading club. I usually try to not sweat it as I see the chapter books start creeping into book piles of these beginning readers. They proudly carry them around as if to say, "See I can read long books. I'm a reader too." The truth is, they may spend a few minutes with the book, but most readers quickly return to their picture books.
The challenge of chapter books for young readers is they require students to be able to sustain reading for longer amounts of time. Among other things, readers have to be able to follow multiple characters, understand dialogue, consider the connection among events to the main idea of the story, and have strategies for going back when the reading doesn't make sense. Because of the "chapter book craze" I'm always careful to not read chapter books too early as a read aloud. Because I know the chapter book craze will happen despite my best efforts, I am also always on the lookout for books with a chapter book appearance but with supports for my young readers.
Recently I met Cleo, and she just might help me out. On a trip to Cover-to-Cover I received an ARC copy of Uh-Oh, Cleo: I Barfed ON Mrs. Kenly by Jessica Harper and illustrated by Jon Berkeley. Let's be honest, kids are going to like this book right away because it has the word "barfed" in the title. Just reading the word aloud will elicit screams of joyful disgust.
Though this is the third book in this series, it is the first time I have read about this character. Young readers enjoy books with well developed characters and being able to follow them in a series is a bonus for most readers. Cleo tells her story of how it happened. Cleo has a history of getting carsick, so overeating pancakes before climbing into the back seat of a crowded car was likely not a good idea. You can imagine where the story goes from there. You can't help but empathize with Cleo's uncomfortableness and embarrassment in her situation. Like all of us, Cleo perseveres through the barfing incident to enjoy the party with her friends.
I could see some of my voracious first grade readers enjoying this story. While many text features in this beginning chapter book support young readers, they will have to be savvy with their knowledge of text structures to understand the events of the story. I can't wait to check out the published copy of this book to see how the illustrations support the text (no illustrations in the ARC copy).
Cleo is a fun character who is a lot like many of the young readers who will pick up a copy of this book. I'm going to be honest, what teacher can resist the quote on page 44-45, "Then I did this thing I do sometimes. I thought of what happened that day like it was a story, like a tiny book inside me."? Now I'm going to have to read the rest of the Cleo books.