cover image How Rocket Learned to Read

How Rocket Learned to Read

Tad Hills, Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-85899-4

With characters as memorable as those in Hills’s Duck and Goose series, this good-natured story shows readers how Rocket, a spotted puppy, becomes a beginning reader, thanks to a little yellow bird. Hills uses expressive oil and colored pencil spot art (and a subtle sense of humor) to engage readers as Rocket becomes the bird’s pupil; the enthusiastic teacher wisely hooks Rocket on stories before interesting him in “the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet.... Where it all begins.” The illustrations emphasize Rocket’s responsiveness and wide-eyed curiosity as he learns letters (the bird holds up a worm while pointing to W) and progresses from there. “Together they sang out the sounds that each letter makes and spelled the sounds they heard around them.” If the details of Rocket’s transition can be nebulous (“Soon they were spelling words”) Hills still emphasizes the need for practice (“Rocket thought about the bird’s sweet chirp while he sounded out words like D-I-G and W-I-N-D and C-O-L-D”). The amiable characters and gentle text—as well as an alphabet banner the bird strings up—make this a decent primer for humans, too. Ages 3–7. (July)