Written and Illustrated by Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010
Rocket loved to play. He loved to chase leaves and chew sticks. He loved to listen to the birds sing.
The plot in a nutshell: Rocket meets a bird who loves to teach and, although he is resistant at first, he learns how to read
This is another book that I picked up for dog month, before I realized I had already reviewed enough books to round out the month. But this is a good book for kids going back to school, so it’s a good time to post it now.
Rocket is settling down for a nap when a little yellow bird mistakes him for a pupil at her newly established school. He tries to keep his distance, but she starts reading a story and he is interested, in spite of himself. He comes back the next day and she starts teaching him the alphabet. He keeps learning and when she flies away for the winter, he uses that time to practice and learn more. When she comes back, he is eager to learn and they settle down to read books together.
I loved helping my kids learn to read. It’s teaching a skill, but it’s so much more than that. Once you unlock that door, it’s like an open invitation to every book you ever loved. Author/illustrator Tad Hills gives me the impression that the yellow bird in this book feels the same way. When Rocket is initially uninterested in learning, the bird doesn’t beg or force the issue, she just starts reading a book that piques Rocket’s interest and he’s hooked. It’s a great story that I think kids, especially those learning to read, will relate to.
The artwork, done in oil paint and colored pencil, is equally wonderful. We get to see Rocket and the bird through a few seasons and the colors in the background are beautiful. Mr. Hills conveys so much through Rocket’s facial expression, which is surprising when you look at how simple his face is. Rocket is a lovable character and I was glad to discover that he’s gone on to feature in three more books, in which he increases his vocabulary and even writes a story of his own. For the tech savvy, How Rocket Learned to Read has an interactive iPad app.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it’s almost impossible not to learn from an enthusiastic teacher who involves you in the lesson.