It is time to talk about my husband’s favorite novice Spanish reader. He has read a few of the books that I’ve brought into our home, but it did him laugh out loud. Boasting 105 unique words in it’s 69 pages and 10 chapters, Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro is a real winner! In his words, “I like how this book has high word frequency, they show you a word and then use it a bunch of times in the next few pages. This lets you learn it.”
This book is written by Carol Gaab; and is part of a series of books that begin with a 7 year-old Brandon in Brandon Brown Dice la Verdad. Best of all, the Brandon Brown series is published in several different languages. At FluencyMatters.com I also found it in German, Italian, French, Latin, and Chinese. I am certain that I’ve seen it in English, too, I just can’t figure out where.
I love that this story is written about a nine-year-old, because half my students are nine themselves. That makes this book more relatable to them than many of the other novice readers. (Side note: isn’t it a constant struggle to find that perfect balance of age and language-level appropriate books!?) Back to the story at hand, this is the age-old tale of what a kid would do to have a dog. I think everyone can relate to asking your parents for a pet of your own, but that crazy Brandon just never can let things be. His shenanigans in this story do not disappoint and are engaging enough to keep a grown man groaning and laughing at his outlandish choices. I know that I would have imagined making the same choices Brandon does as a young girl, but I never would have actually done it! Good thing too, because it doesn’t exactly go well for Brandon. I don’t want to spoil the story, so suffice it to say, he misses the mark a bit on the whole dog-ownership thing.
I’ve read four of the Brandon Brown books, but don’t own Brandon Brown Hace Trampa yet, and can say that they maintain a consistent level of interest and simplicity across the whole series. Carol Gaab certainly has a gift for telling stories that readers of all ages can be intrigued by, while avoiding complex structures or other linguistic barriers to beginning students. Any selections of higher-than-novice words or word chunks are translated in footnotes at the bottom of the page where they are first seen, which is a rare occurrence. I feel that their rarity shows Gaab’s deft hand at recognizing when simplifying language would betray the integrity of the story (at best) and disenfranchise the reader (at worst). Her experience shines through her words and builds the comfort and desire to persevere that all beginning students need when learning to read.
Another big boost for this beginning reader is the illustrations throughout the book. I took about two minutes to flip through and count them. There are (plus or minus one) 65. I’ll remind you that this book only has 69 pages. There are several pages with two illustrations, but even more with just one. Basically, you can open this book to any page and see between one and three different illustrations. There are just enough to let you follow the story, even if you struggle with the language, while not giving all of it away. This is not a graphic novel, it is a very meticulously illustrated reader, to be clear. Plus, I like the style of plain black line drawings that are so generously scattered through this book. I love how they convey the story in the simplest form while not being distracting or overly informative. Again, I feel like this is a shining example of how Gaab understands and meets the needs of her ideal target audience.
My only question would be: how does that all important 14-year-old Spanish student respond to such simple graphics? Even the cover is a very simple drawing, albeit in color. I’m not sure whether or not those finicky tweens and teens would flock to this book based on the cover. If you can speak to this, please leave a comment below! I’d love to know your thoughts! Thank goodness for me, my kids are his age, and will pick it up for one simple reason: they also want their own dog.