On my weekly trips to the library with Sprout, one of the first sections we hit is the easy reader shelves. These books -- a step above picture books, a step below full-on chapter books -- are great for reading readiness. Many of them are broken up into small chapters, short stories really; Frog and Toad is a good example. The vocabulary used is generally pretty basic, particularly for the first readers, and when I read them with Sprout I make sure to run my finger along the text to help connect the dots between printed and spoken words. He loves the character titles, and we usually bring home at least one or two of the Thomas books (here's the current favorite, which I suspect I'm going to have to break down and buy because he loves it SO MUCH).
But, the thing about easy readers is that it can be tough to find multicultural titles. This is definitely a segment of kidlit that is screaming for diversity -- for every Little Bill title there's a dozen Barbies or Caillous. Authors take note: let's have some culture here please!
Enter Grace Lin. I've been a huge fan of Lin ever since I read her semi-autobiographical novel The Year of the Dog for my kidlit class last year. She's got a great sense of humor, which comes through in her characters, whose escapades echo Ramona Quimby in all the best ways. She writes fantastic girls -- curious, mischievous, smart and inventive girls whose world a reader will recognize as much like their own. And best of all, her characters are usually Chinese, like Lin herself, but her plots aren't always about race. Refreshingly relatable and always fun!
Ling and Ting is no exception. The title characters are twins, but no one can tell them apart. Until they get haircuts, that is -- then there is one big difference. And when you get to know the girls through the pages of this book, you'll see that though they are similar, they are NOT just alike. Which is fine with these sisters, who really like being their own unique people! Kids will love Ling and Ting for lots of reasons, not least because of their spunky personalities. Lin mixes in lovely notes of Chinese-ness -- the girls make their own (scrumptious-looking) dumplings, and talk about the relative ease of using chopsticks -- along with library books and magic tricks. Really, there's something here for everyone! And beginning readers especially will be proud of themselves for reading through this "chapter book" all on their own.
Ling and Ting may not be exactly the same in every way, but they are both completely adorable. Don't wait until your little one is learning to read before you check out these hilarious twins. Ling and Ting is destined to be an easy reader classic!
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin, published by Little, Brown and Company
Ages 5-8 (or younger, if you read together)
Sample quote: "Ling and Ting are twins. They have the same brown eyes. They have the same pink cheeks. They have the same happy smiles. People see them and they say, 'You two are exactly the same!' "