How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills (Schwartz and Wad Books/Random House)
Rocket is an ordinary dog who loves naps, sticks, and smelling the neighborhood, and sees no need for books. As the title suggests, the suspense of this charming book is gentle. Rocket learns to read the way many children do, over a course of time we see pass with the seasons. First he’s enticed by a story with an ending he longs to know: will a dog find his favorite bone? His bird friend and enthusiastic teacher guides him through sounding out letters, but must migrate before “The grass became crunchy. Soon Rocket’s classroom disappeared under the snow.” Rocket is by then fascinated, and practices letters by dashing around leaving tracks in the snow. He latches onto small words he likes, sounds out letters, repeats, and finds patterns. We get not only a reassuring story about reading, but one of friendship and seasons, and of course, a very cute spotted dog and yellow bird.