Geisel Roundup: A Seed Grows, Fish and Wave, Gigi and Ojiji, Owl and Penguin

The 2023 Theodore Seuss Geisel honors books for beginning readers focus on friendship, family, and nature.

A Seed Grows by Antoinette Portia. Neal Porter Books , 2022. 40 pages.

Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 0-4

Recommended For: Ages 0-8

Concept books for this age group about (books on concepts such as number, the water cycle, seeds, colors, etc.). It might be tempting to pass this one by as just another addition to a full library shelf. But A Seed Grows is worth a second look, and perhaps even a third. Spare, simple text is accompanied by vibrant paint and collage illustrations. The story opens with a sunflower seed falling to the ground. Portis traces the seed’s life cycle until it grows into a magnificent sunflower plant—a plant that provides for birds, who eat the seeds, and who also allow seeds to fall to the ground. And the cycle continues. Back matter includes more explanation about the sunflower’s growth, but it is not overwhelming. Young children may be inspired to paint their own sunflowers even as they might join the birds in planting some. A delightful, sunny book.

NOTE: A Seed Grows is also a Sibert Honor Book for informational text.

Overall Rating: 4


Fish and Wave by Sergio Ruzzier. Harper Alley (I Can Read! Comics, Level 1), 2022, 48 pages.

Reading Level: Easy Reader, ages 3-5

Recommended for: Ages 2-5 as a read-aloud, 4-6 for independent readers

“That day, Fish was up early. He was looking for a friend to play wth.” But the ocean is empty except for a little wave with a friendly smile. At least, she seems friendly, but waves have a habit of rising, and when this wave rises, Fish finds the game a little too rough. But soon the two find a way to have fun together while still being themselves. The “I Can Read! Comics” series begins with a two-page instruction on how to scan the peculiar medium of comic books. Both the introduction and the text are to be read together as the beginner sounds out some of the words. Fish and Wave is a fun story to be enjoyed by all levels.

Overall Rating: 4


Gigi and Ojiji by Melissa Iwali. HarperCollins (I Can Read! level 3), 2022. 32 pages.

Reading Level: Easy Reader, ages 4-8

Recommended For: Ages 4-8

Gigi is so excited! Her grandfather is coming to live with them; he’s coming all the way from Japan. Gigi practices her Japanese words and dreams up the things they will get to do together: reading stories, playing tag, and teaching her dog new tricks. But when Gigi and her mom pick up Ojiji from the airport, their different cultures intrude. Ojiji doesn’t open Gigi’s gift. He doesn’t hug her. And he laughs when she tries to say something in Japanese. Grandchildren and grandparents can have special relationships, but even when both come from the same general culture, misunderstandings can erupt. Gigi’s mother helps bridge the gap, and by the end, Gigi and Ojiji are well on their way to a wonderful relationship together. This is a charming easy reader that manages to include cross cultural elements even as it’s firmly grounded in a fairly typical American child’s experience. A solid offering for newly independent readers, and one that libraries will do well to stock!

Overall Rating: 4


Owl and Penguin by Vikram Madan. Holiday House (I Like to Read Comics), 2022, 36 pages.

Reading Level: Easy Readers, ages 4-6

Recommended for: ages 4-6 independent readers

Owl and Penguin are best friends, but can’t always participate in the same activities. Owl can fly, for instance, while Penguin can’t fly at all. Penguin enjoys cold, wet weather, while Owl would rather stay inside (even though it’s boring). When mutual fun stalls on reluctance or inability, “Owl (or Penguin) has an idea.” “Owl (or Penguin) can help,” and the friends figure out how to have fun together. Owl and Penguin adapts more of a comic-book format than the other beginning comics in this roundup, using panels, speech balloons, and thought balloons liberally augmented by images. The vocabulary is a bit stilted, reminding veteran readers like me of Dick-and-Jane, but the three stories are imaginative and fun.

Overall Rating: 4

Read more about our ratings here.    

Also at Redeemed Reader:

Review: See our review of this year’s top Geisel winner, I Did It!   

Review: More Geisel roundups from 2022, 2021, and 2013.          

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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