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These four books are all part of the HarperCollins I Can Read! series. The brand has been around for over 50 years and instrumental in helping young people learn how to read. These four titles feature an abundance of wonderful characters as depicted by award-winning authors and artists.

A Birthday for Frances is a Level 2 reader: "high-interest stories for developing readers." Gloria is having a birthday soon, and all her friends are very happy for her--everyone except Frances. Frances can't understand why everyone else has birthdays but he doesn't. Anyone familiar with children's books will recognize Russell Hoban's delightful characters aimed at readers 4 - 8 years of age.

Dixie Wins the Race is the fifth in the series featuring Dixie, the lovable and even-tempered dog. This Level 1 I Can Read! title is aimed at beginning readers. The sentences rarely stray beyond four or five words, and each word should already be familiar to the reader aged 4 - 8 years of age.

Batman versus Man-Bat, rated Level 2, is described as "reading with help." Even the title suggests a higher degree of difficulty for the 4 - 8-year-old reader. The story itself is more developed and mature as it relates to a half-man, half-batlike creature that attacks legendary Gotham City:

Then the creature bit through the grappling hook cable. Batman tumbled onto a roof garden. The creature escaped into the night.
Pretty heady stuff for a four-year-old. This is a challenge and well worth it.

And finally, It's Christmas! is aimed at children who have begun "reading alone." The plot here is more engaging--more characters and more storylines to follow--and will challenge more experienced readers. The book is made up of a dozen little poems that are both witty and winsome. From one of the lengthier odes called "Our Christmas Tree":
Daddy took me to the forest
for our Christmas tree today,
he said that we'd enjoy it
and we'd hardly have to pay.

We were wearing scarves and mittens,
all our very warmest clothes,
but our cheeks soon looked like cherries
and our fingers nearly froze.

We hunted through the forest
for a tree that was just right,
by the time we finally found one
we were both an awful sight.

I was shivering and shaking,
Daddy shook and shivered too,
I was colder than an iceberg,
Daddy's face was turning blue.

Daddy finally chopped that tree down,
but the way he did was dumb,
when it fell, it knocked him backwards
and he cut his nose and thumb,
Daddy also sprianed his shoulder,
banged an elbow, scraped a knee,
as I helped him up, he muttered,
"Son! Next year we'll buy our tree."
Admittedly, that may be a bit graphic for a five-year-old, but with the the abundance of video games and violent television shows, maybe it's not so bad. One strange element of this poem--and the others poems here--is the punctuation: the commas at the end of every line don't belong. But these books are aimed more at teaching the youngster how to read as opposed to writing.


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  Steven Rosen/2012 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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