For my money, there is nothing more magical than the moment someone realizes they are reading “all by myself.” Their face lights up as though they just got the best gift ever.
Truth be told, they did … just ask any of us who are passionate about literacy and who love to read. Finding those just-right books to engage and encourage new readers is so important. It is also why the Aggie and Ben series by Lori Ries is one of my favorites. For perspective: these are the books you turn to after you’re child has mastered Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems.
Aggie and Ben (series) by Lori Ries; illustrated by Frank W. Dormer (Charlesbridge )
Titles in this series (links go to Big Universe product page)
- Aggie and Ben; Three Stories
- Aggie Gets Lost
- Good Dog, Aggie
- Aggie the Brave
Ben, our narrator, and his adorable dog Aggie grab the interest – and hearts – of his listeners right away. A boy-and-his-dog story is timeless, yet each one is fresh, with humor and that surprise ending. They are similar to Elephant and Piggie, but for the reader with a little more vocabulary who is ready for a more complex story.
These are illustrated, short chapter books that could also double as short stories. Although it can be helpful to read the chapters in order, you don’t have to. More importantly, each book in the series stands on its own, so they don’t have to be read sequentially. Although this is billed as a book series for kids in Kindergarten through Second Grade, the stories are perfect for reading with young listeners not yet ready to read, as well as mixed-age audiences. They also offer a nice way to introduce the chapter concept to that audience.
On The Reading Tub you can read the reviews our families wrote for Aggie and Ben; Three Stories (2009 review), Good Dog, Aggie (2009 review), and Aggie the Brave (2010 review). Rather than republish those reviews here, I wanted to draw out the key thoughts about each book from the parents and kids who read them. Although we didn’t review Aggie Gets Lost, I’m guessing the sentiment would be consistent with what we HAVE read.
When Dad takes Ben to the pet store, he must decide what kind of pet he wants: a A bird? a mouse? a cat? No, a dog. Aggie. Once Aggie is home, she and Ben are inseparable. Ben follows her every move and Aggie follows Ben everywhere. Aggie has a lot to learn, and Ben is happy to teach her … even when he hears a growl in the dark.
- Our daughter immediately saw herself and HER dog in the stories. Since that first time when we read the book together, she has picked it up herself to read.
- The author effectively not only speaks with a child’s logic, but has their sense of humor, too. The illustrations fill most of the pages, helping to keep the text to a minimum.
- The image-to-text balance makes it enticing to read the whole thing in one sitting.
- Parents who want to talk about the responsibility of owning a pet could (with a little stretch) find the stories helpful.
Good Dog, Aggie
Ben is trying to train Aggie, who just flunked out of obedience school. When he says sits, she runs; when he says run, she runs. Aggie doesn’t want to sit or stay, and she is causing trouble. Finally, Ben decides Aggie is just not a good dog. He takes Aggie and his little red ball to the park only to learn that she has her own way of deciding when she wants to sit.
- Ben is a boy who is easy to relate to. Aggie is adorable … and made even more so by Ben’s attempts to train her. Anyone who has tried to train a dog will empathize with Ben’s frustration.
- This is a text-heavy easy reader, but there is plenty of white space and the chapters give natural stopping points to talk about prediction and review what has already happened.
- This is a good transition book for kids who need a paragraph or two of text but aren’t ready to move away from illustrations.
Ben and his mom are taking Aggie to the vet to be spayed. Aggie is scared; Ben is brave … until he learns that he’ll be going home without Aggie. Ben hopes that by going to bed in the afternoon tomorrow will get here faster and they can pick up Aggie sooner. Ben is happy, but sad. Now Aggie has to be a “quiet” dog for two weeks. No running around. How can Ben help Aggie be brave now?
- This story, in particular, will resonate with any family who has a pet going to the vet for surgery and/or overnight. Ben is an “all kids” character who is brave (but then not), happy (but then sad), and always compassionate.
- Aggie is a dog, but the experiences are equally apropos for cats or other animals who go to the vet. This is great for sharing with young kids, kids learning to read, or older siblings reading for you.
- The main theme of the book is what happens at the vet, but there are lots of things to explore: Ben’s feelings (and Aggie’s too), how Ben finds ways to help Aggie feel better, and friendship. This would be a good book for helping kids understand empathy and compassion.
As you might guess, the families who read and reviewed these books have one recommendation: Aggie and Ben is a must-have for book series for building reader confidence.