Monday, December 19, 2016

The Andy & Sandy Books by Tomie dePaola and Jim Lewis

In When Andy Met Sandy, two lonely children at a playground each consider approaching the other, but decide against it. “I bet she has lots of friends,” Andy thinks, while Sandy supposes, “I bet he wants to play by himself.” When the two encounter a playground element that cannot be used by just one child, they end up playing together and soon become friends. Their friendship continues in Andy & Sandy's Anything Adventure when Sandy comes over to Andy’s house and the two play dress-up, and Andy & Sandy and the First Snow, when they play outside together on a winter day.

As beginning readers, these books contain many elements that will contribute to a successful reading experience. The sentences are short and simple, and no sentence is carried over a page turn. The font is large (though it features my pet peeves, “a” and “g” that do not look like the print “a” and “g” that beginning readers are taught to write), and there is plenty of white space. The illustrations are likely to be a major draw for dePaola’s many fans, and they do a very good job of demonstrating the story and providing support for potentially new or difficult vocabulary. The books also include a fair amount of repetition.

The one point at which these books fail, for me, is plot. Though the books are pleasant enough, I don’t see in them the “stimulating” reading experience or the “page-turning dynamic” called for in the Geisel criteria. Creating dramatic tension in a beginning reader is difficult, and in this case, I do not feel that the authors have been successful. There’s plenty of other stuff to like about these books, and perhaps those markers of excellence will outweigh the weakness of plot.

While I think that these titles are certainly worth a look from both the committee and from readers of this blog, will any of them stand out as the best of the year? My gut feeling is “no” – what do you think?

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