A Few Southwest Book Suggestions for Young Readers

Dec 21, 2012

Need a gift for a young reader? Arizona’s Book Reviewer, writer Ann Cummins has a few suggestions that have a southwestern flair.

What do you get if you put too much sugar in the hummingbird feeder? Birds gone nuts—that’s what you get.  Just ask Ellie Tsosie.

You may have met Ellie in the first two of Seth Muller’s wonderful trilogy for young readers, Keepers of the Wind Claw Chronicles.

If you have, you know the young Navajo girl not only learns the language of birds, she becomes the birds’ champion against evil.

In the last of the trilogy, The Great Gathering, warring species gather in Canyon de Chelly, near the famous Canyon del Muerto.

They’ve come to determine whether or not humans and animals should learn each others’ languages. 

The cougars don’t trust us.

The crows and the eagles want an alliance with humans.

And the trickster coyotes?  Well, they go back and forth. 

It’s a thrilling conclusion to a fantastic series:  The Great Gathering has adventure; it’s got Hopi and Navajo history; it’s got the vast beauty of Arizona’s northern desert.

It will captivate the 7 to 12 year old reader. 

Or, read it aloud to younger children. They’ll love the drunken hummingbirds babbling, “Hey, Hey, Hey, Huh, Huh, Huh, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Buzz, Buzz, Buzz.”


They say a child who grows up hearing rhymes will become a child who reads.  Flagstaff writer Michael Sampson writes to the young child’s musical ear in Chicka Chicka 1 – 2 – 3.  With charming singsong rhythms and repeating refrains, this picture book teaches children about numbers and counting.

Chicka Chicka 1 – 2 – 3, will there be a place for me?” 0 worries as the numbers 1, 2, and 3, race to the top of an apple tree. 

Poor Zero has cause to worry.  He’s not a number.  He’s just a Zero.  

Whimsy, rhyme, and vibrant illustrations in bold primary colors bring numbers to life in this dazzling first reader for the pre-school set.


And for the elementary school reader—or for the adult English speaker who longs to learn Spanish—I recommend a bilingual picture book by Monica Brown.  

In Marisol McDonald No Combina or Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match an imaginative child from a bicultural family likes to mess around.  Marisol is half Scottish, half Peruvian, and all American.  She eats peanut butter burritos.   She likes soccer, but she likes pirates, too.  In her games, soccer-playing pirates win the day.  

Mexican artist Sara Palacios uses mixed media with vibrant colors to capture Marisol in her mismatched costumes and lovably contrary ways.

With its complex sentences in two languages and its fun, colorful illustrations, Marisol McDonald No Combina opens up borders for the elementary bilingual reader.