Happy and Honey. by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Jane Chapman. 2001. Simon Spotlight. 32 pages. ISBN: 9780689842351
Happy and Honey is a Pre-Level One Ready-to-Read book, and the first title in the Happy Honey series. Honey, a playful orange kitten, wants Happy, the sleepy dog, to play with her, but he would much rather nap. Honey tries to give Happy her ball, her toy, and even a kiss, but Happy doesn’t budge. Honey is a persistent little cat, however, and by the end of the book, the two pets happily chase one another around the house.
Though the text in this story is easy to read, the structure of it is also fairly sophisticated.
The book can easily be divided into three parts. In the first section, Honey offers various things to Happy. Each page begins with the words “Wake up, Happy!” The second sentence on these pages states what Honey wants to give to Happy:”Honey has a ball for you. Honey has a toy for you. Honey has a kiss for you.” Finally, the page ends with the sentence, “Go away, Honey!”
In the second section, there is just one instance of "Wake up, Happy", followed by a series of things that Honey wants to do: “Honey wants to wash your tail. Honey wants to wash your ears. Honey wants to wash your nose.” The third and final section does not focus so heavily on repetition. Rather, the dog and the cat play happily together until the story’s conclusion.
Repetition is a great way for kids to reinforce new words and new sentence structures. Repeating the same type of sentence for several pages in a row also makes it easy to introduce just one new word at a time. For brand-new readers, this is a nice approach because it doesn’t overwhelm them with lots of new vocabulary all at once, but it also doesn’t allow the story to stagnate and stop moving forward. The repetition also helps to build up the suspense of the story - will Happy eventually give into Honey? What will it take? These questions become the reason the reader keeps turning the pages, and the action sequence at the end of the story rewards all the build-up with an exciting finish.
Like the simple text, the illustrations are also uncluttered. The reader sees only the two animals, and just the few small props mentioned by the text. By omitting any background details, the illustrator helps the reader focus on the images that can best help them decode the text. There is no question as to what is happening on each page, because there are no distractions from the main action being described in the text.
I am amazed at the number of easy readers out there that focus on relationships between animals. I have to wonder sometimes whether kids find those dynamics as interesting as adults think they do. Kids do tend to love animals, but I do think there are probably some other topics out there that would lend themselves to interesting stories. Still, though, Happy and Honey is an excellent easy reader for kids just starting out, and even little ones who aren’t yet recognizing words on their own can enjoy it.
I borrowed Happy and Honey from my local public library.