Reina Ramos Meets a BIG Puppy

HarperCollins. (I Can Read 2). May 2023. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063223158; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780063223134.
PreS-Gr 2–Reina loves Saturdays with her friend Lila in the park, where they practice gymnastics. While initially excited to hear Lila is getting a dog, Reina is alarmed when she meets him, proclaiming, “I run far away from Chico, the biggest dog ever.” Reina insists she is not afraid of Chico, even as she avoids him. Mounting tension between the two girls is finally resolved when they each admit a potentially embarrassing fear: Reina is afraid of big dogs, and Lila is afraid of cartwheels. The girls agree: “let’s say no pressure.” Reina becomes comfortable with Chico at a distance, particularly as an audience to gymnastics, and Lila focuses on low-to-the-ground forward rolls. The fears of the two girls are incredibly relatable for young readers, as is Reina’s initial denial of her fear and its manifestation in feelings of avoidance and jealousy. The fact that these fears are acknowledged without any attempt to “fix” or “get over” them is highly validating for children. The text is suitably challenging for intermediate early readers, with length per page and complexity increasing slightly throughout. Frequent dialogue will encourage familiarity with its typical punctuation and patterns. Four Spanish words used by Lila, Reina, and her mother are listed with translations in a glossary. The text is enhanced with colorful and emotive illustrations. Reina has light brown skin, Lila is Black, and other characters are portrayed with a variety of skin tones.
VERDICT Broad appeal and an engaging emotional journey make this an excellent addition to any early reader collection. Recommended for first purchase.

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