Mighty Reader and the Big Freeze

Holiday House. Jul. 2019. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823439928.
PreS-Gr 1–Hugo’s first day at his new school is going to be pretty exciting, according to his new book-loving friend Barkley—there’s a substitute teacher and an author visit. Soon though, it’s Hugo’s alter ego Mighty Reader who is in the middle of the excitement. When Barkley freezes after Mrs. Wulff asks him to read the visiting author’s new picture book aloud to the class, Mighty Reader zips into action “faster than the eye could see.” He gets Barkley’s favorite book to remind him he’s a reader, then gives him advice on reading the new title—“Look for words you know. Think about what is happening in the pictures…read the pictures.” Soon Barkley is reading like a pro; even the visiting author is impressed. But, “Who was that masked superhero? Mighty Reader, my hero!” Then what seems like a second chapter begins as the author takes questions and explains his writing process. On the bus ride home Barkley declares to Hugo a sentiment sure to resonate, “I don’t think you can have too many favorite books!” Hillenbrand’s comic book style with word balloons and panels along with spreads is very successful at conveying his concepts and moving the story along. There are quite a few books in the illustrations, and it’s fun to note that they are all actual titles by author/illustrator Hillenbrand. This story clearly has two parts—helping Barkley overcome his reading freeze and the author’s (clearly Hillenbrand himself) visit. Each are successful and could easily be read separately; the decision to combine them in one book was an interesting choice.
VERDICT This new title by the prolific author/illustrator combines overcoming the fear of reading aloud and how authors get their ideas and develop their books. Purchase as needed

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