Friday, September 2, 2016

Review: Groovy Joe - Ice Cream and Dinosaurs, by Eric Litwin

In the beginning, there was Pete the Cat
and he loved his white shoes
and it was good.

Oh, the critics didn't think it was good, but what do critics know? The children and the teachers knew better.

Then there were Pete's buttons, and his school shoes, and last but not least, Christmas. And it was all good.

But some changes came to Pete, and there was sorrow in the land.

But lo! There came the Nut Family!

And they were good, in their own right - but something was still missing.

Until now.

Introducing Groovy Joe! Everything you loved about the original Pete the Cat; the humor, the cadence, the personality, the instant I-must-use-this-in-a-story-time, all with a scruffy goatee (illustrated by none other than Tom Lichtenheld, who has also illustrated books by...well, just about everybody.)

I stopped and read the first pages aloud to my coworkers before I even got to the rest of it myself: "Groovy Joe saw something yummy. Groovy Joe started rubbing his tummy. Groovy Joe was living the dream. He had a spoon and a tub of doggy ice cream." Obviously, Groovy Joe has the right priorities in life. And can you feel the rhythm already? I want to tap my hand or foot as I'm reading it.

My first real test audience was two brothers, around 5 and 7, who were in looking for Pete the Cat books. I read Groovy Joe out loud to them, and right away they were predicting, saying lines with me, singing the chorus, and even dancing with me a little at the end. Nailed it! All those pre-reading and reading skills that teachers and librarians obsess over?

- phonemic awareness? check!
- vocabulary? check!
- narrative skills? check!
- making inferences? check!
- predicting? check!
- text clues for expression? check!
- print motivation? check and check!

True to Litwin's interest in early literacy and music, there are also numerous resources for readers and teachers alike on his web site and over at Scholastic. Remember the Polka Dot Pants Dance? Music for the Groovy Dance is already up, with a video coming soon...and what's this about a contest in the future??

Lichtenheld's illustrations bring the story to life, with a sense of fun and whimsy that match Litwin's writing perfectly. (Chipmunk in shades playing a spoon. Must. make. reappearance. in future books.)

Because there will be future books, hopefully many!

And there was much rejoicing in the land*.

*Srsly folks. Librarian sites going crazy right now.

Stay tuned for an interview with Eric Litwin, including news about his upcoming titles, dance contest, and more!

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist. 

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