Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What's Up, Chuck? by Leo Landry

Images from
Sculptor Chuck Wood has won first prize in the Best of the Forest art contest for three years running, and he expects to continue the trend. When new artist Scooter Possum moves to town, Chuck is initially welcoming, but begins to feel threatened by Scooter’s skill at creating Jackson Pollack-style abstract paintings. Can the two remain friends, or will the competition drive them apart?

This book, with its eight short chapters and slightly more challenging vocabulary, is on the higher end of the beginning reader spectrum. Readers who are growing more confident in their ability and are ready to take on transitional chapter books will readily embrace a book like What’s Up, Chuck?, especially since books at this level can be just as difficult to find as books for the earliest beginners. The sentence structure here is generally simple, and though some of the vocabulary might be challenging to beginning readers, difficult words are introduced slowly and in many cases repeated throughout the text (“gnawing” is a good example of this, as it is introduced on the first page, but appears twice later in the book). And, while this book has the feel of a transitional chapter book, the page count is a modest 48, placing it well within the Geisel criteria. Like the Princess in Black series (discussed in an earlier post), What’s Up, Chuck? features full-color illustrations on nearly every page, which serve to both underscore elements of the story, and to break up the text into friendlier, more manageable chunks.

But will beginning readers enjoy this reading experience? I believe so. The text includes some great humor, particularly in the form of a couple of groan-worthy knock-knock jokes, and the kids will be able to relate to the characters, especially Chuck and his complicated feelings about his new friend, and about (spoiler alert!) coming in second place in the competition. Chuck’s work appeals to his friends in the forest, and to the judges of the Best in the Forest art contest. Will Chuck hold similar appeal for this year’s Geisel committee? Only time will tell!

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