Penny and Her Doll is the second book in a new easy reader series from Kevin Henkes (after Penny and Her Song). I missed the first book, but I was happy when the second one turned up on our doorstep, because we LOVE Henkes' "mouse books" in my house. While the most famous of these is Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, my 2 1/2 year old favors the titles from A Box of Treats, little holiday treats featuring Lilly and several of her friends. We know them all by heart.
Anyway, Penny and Her Doll is about young mouse Penny, big sister to a pair of twin babies, who receives a beautiful new doll in the mail from Gram. Penny is thrilled with the doll, but finds coming up with an appropriate name for this new family member a bit of a challenge. Not to worry, though, she finds the perfect name in the end.
Although this story is aimed at new readers, I have to say that Baby Bookworm adores it. As do I. I think that this speaks to Henkes' considerable skill. Many easy readers are so pared down that they aren't interesting to anyone, and are instead a vehicle for a child striving to decode words. Not so for Penny and Her Doll. While certainly not complex, the three-chapter story is entertaining in a gentle way, as when gardening Mama dryly observes "I do not have a favorite weed", and when Penny rejects her parents' lame naming suggestions with "No. No. No. Nothing was right." Or this:
""Beautiful," said Mama.
"Wonderful," said Papa.
The babies made baby noises.
Of course Penny and Her Doll does work as an easy reader. Henkes uses very short sentences, and plenty of repetition, to guide the reader. Like this:
"Penny unwrapped the doll.
The doll had pink cheeks.
The doll had a pink bow.
The doll had a pink dress with big buttons."
Later Papa praises the pink cheeks, pink bow, and pink dress with big buttons. And Papa and Mama try to use these attributes to help in naming the doll. Any new reader would certainly be well-versed in the word "pink" by the end of the book. Everything in the story is pre-schooler-friendly, from Penny's mother's garden to the tour of the house that she gives the new doll.
Henkes' warm illustrations help to make the book accessible to new readers, too. Fans of the other mouse books will be made right at home by Penny's smiling face. Henkes also fills the book with interesting and welcoming backgrounds, colored tiles in the bathroom, floral wallpaper in the babies' room, stripes in the kitchen, and so on.
In short, this is going on our keep shelf (ok, shelves), to be enjoyed now and used later on, when Baby Bookworm is ready to start reading books for herself. I plan on picking up a copy of the earlier book, too. This is a top-notch early reader (though a bit more girl-friendly than boy-friendly, given the subject matter and the pinkish flowery cover). Highly recommended. And yes, both Penny books are on the 2012 Cybils nomination list for Easy Readers.
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: August 21, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).