I write for children which means I read all types of children’s stories. Middle grade novels, cataloged in libraries under juvenile fiction, are my favorite. A subset of this category is chapter books.
Chapter books help transition the readers who are moving out of picture books but who aren’t quite ready for those longer middle grade novels—with harder sentence structures, larger vocabulary, and more complex concepts.
The chapters, in chapter books, are incredibly short which encourages readers to progress to the end of the book. These books are generally fast paced, funny, and fraught with zany, relatable characters that kids will love.
Ellie May on April Fools’ Day by Hillary Homzie and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler meets all the above requirements; but don’t ask me what I think….ask a third grader. Harmony is that third grader. She and I have been reading together as mentor – mentee for the last year. We met when she was in second grade. She hated reading. Now, she LOVES it!
Welcome to Bookworm Betty—a first chapter read and review.
Me: This is a brand new chapter book, hot off the press! Would you like to read the first chapter together?
Harmony: Yes!! (she says, leaning WAY back in her chair). “Ellie May on April Fools’ Day”…I like April Fools’ Day. My dad played a trick one year on us…”by Hillary Hom?”
Harmony: Hillary Homzie. My mom said Ellie May plays pranks. She read this.
Me: Maybe your mom read another of Ms. Homzie’s books. This one is brand new. It just came out.
Harmony: I like pranking.
Me: Me too. Okay, let’s read.
Harmony: hey…this is Ellie May (pointing to one of the characters in the illustration next to Chapter One)
Me: How do you know that is Ellie May?
Harmony: Because I saw her on the front cover. Chapter One – The Funniest
Harmony holds on to the table and rocks her chair back and forth. Zoom! She’s off reading so fast my head spins; meanwhile, my hand continuously reaches for her chair seat to stop her rocking.
Me: Harmony, watch the punctuation….Slow down. I can’t understand what’s going on.
Harmony: “….Ava said during morning sharing. She stood next to Ms. Silva…” Know how I knew Ms. Silva’s name?
Harmony: Because it’s like my last name…DiSilva (BIG smile)
Me: It is, isn’t it? Okay, keep reading so we know what happens.
Harmony: (on she goes)“……It’s time for everyone to put your hands in your laps,” said Ms. Silva. “Lock them and freeze them.” (she stops, sits up straight and still, hands clasp in her lap, mouth closed, lips locked…but only for a second). I know how to do this, see.
Me: You sure do. Keep going.
Harmony: (she reads on, until)”….clasped my hands together, and tried to think about them being frozen like ice cubes or popsicles…” I don’t want to be a Popsicle. I’d be eaten.
Me: I think you’re safe…it’s too cold outside to eat a Popsicle. (She gives me that what-the-heck-are-you –talking-about look and continues reading fast, then faster, then even faster).
I can’t help thinking that she’s never going to comprehend any of this.
Harmony struggled a bit with the words theater, allergen, and organic but she had no trouble with demonstrated, ingredients, or eruption. She took them in stride and sounded them all out with little help from me. After a discussion about not liking mashed potatoes or black beans, but liking chocolate chip cookies, a lot; and with a final discussion regarding the proper picking up of doggie doo-doo after her dog goes outside, we came to the end of chapter one…but wait
Harmony: Chapter Two – Giddyup
Me: Whoa! You read that chapter so fast I couldn’t keep up (She gives me a full-toothed grin), but we don’t have time for Chapter Two. I need to ask you some questions. Tell me, what did you think of the first chapter?
Harmony: I like it! I want to read more!
Me: What did you like about it?
Harmony: I like that Ellie May is going to give someone a disgusting present. I like that Ava is having a birthday. I want to read more.
Me: Anything else?
Harmony: Mo’s funny and he’s pranking. I like the illustrations, too. (She flips back to the first set of illustrations and begins to discuss what is going on in the scene).
Me: What would you have changed if you could?
Harmony: I would call it Monday Onday….Funday doesn’t really rhyme with Monday.
Me: A near rhyme, I suppose…(I get another what-the-heck look).
Harmony: Do I get to take it home and read it?
Me: I need to read it first. Then I’ll bring it back and you can take it home.
Harmony: I like that. I want to read more.
There you have it folks…Harmony and I both proclaim Ellie May on April Fools’ Day by Hillary Homzie a GOOD book and we highly recommend it for read aloud or for silent reading.