My latest PAL Award winner, Pig Has a Plan, actually makes learning to read fun. Having just returned from time with a 4 1/2  and 6 year-old at various stages of learning to read, I listened to both boring and quite clever beginning readers. In this tale, Pig approaches the mud puddle outside the barn, stretching his arms, and yawning to “Pig wants to nap.” We know just what he desires but his friends have plans of their own. Hen wants to saw, Cow wants to gab, Cat wants to pop (balloons) and so on as each animal joins the farm field busy making noise as they inflate balloons, construct a picnic table, mix a cake, sip the drinks, and bop to the music. Finally Pig has a plan for his nap, in spite of his surprise birthday party that has been assembled around him. Ethan Long’s delightful cartoons carry the clever story of few words to excite kids about reading books.

Not only is this book a catchy early reader, but it provides some great language lessons too. Each page is an opportunity for prediction–what is hen making, why is Cow gabbing (inviting everyone to the party!), or what is rat mixing? What changes are taking place from page to page in our friend pig’s illustration? What do we know from the drawing? He’s stretching and ready for a nap, opening eyes alerted to hen’s sawing, resting his head on his hand, or getting frustrated at pup bopping illustrated by some teeth showing. My little clients had the biggest challenge describing how he executed his plan and finally took a nap among all that noise!