Thursday, October 27, 2011


Hills, Tad. How Rocket Learned to Read. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2010. ISBN 0-375-85899-4. $17.99 US/$20.99 CAN

Rocket, a black and white spotted dog, has no interest in learning to read. He simply wants to nap under his favorite tree! But a little yellow bird’s clever use of suspense propels Rocket to want to learn to read. The story follows Rocket’s experience as he learns his letters, sounds out words, spells new words, and finally, reads on his own.

The book has a well-balanced mix of easy spelling words like “dig,” “wag,” “sun,” and “melt,” and more difficult story words. The text is far enough above a beginning reader’s instructional level that it would need be read to the child, but includes many spelled-out words, so the child participate in the story-telling as well.

The author has an ironic sense of humor. For example, when Rocket learns that napping is not allowed at school, he moves his nap to a nearby bush. Many reluctant students may identify with Rocket’s impulse!

Hills’ illustrations are bright and cheerful. Each page is filled with bright outdoor colors, and the changing of the seasons is beautifully represented, particularly Hills’ depiction of “mud,” the harbinger of spring. Rocket’s facial expressions, while simple, are unfailingly endearing. Overall, the story is delightful, both for reluctant and eager early readers.

Marisa Behan

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