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  • How Rocket Learned to Read
  • Written by Tad Hills
    Illustrated by Tad Hills
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On Sale: July 27, 2010
Pages: 40 | ISBN: 978-0-375-98922-3
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On Sale: January 21, 2011
Pages: 40 | ISBN: 978-0-375-98564-5
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE & AWARDS PRAISE & AWARDS
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
RELATED VIDEOS RELATED VIDEOS
Synopsis|Reader Reviews
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Synopsis

Learn to read with this New York Times-bestselling picture book, starring an irresistible dog named Rocket and his teacher, a little yellow bird. Follow along as Rocket masters the alphabet, sounds out words, and finally . . . learns to read all on his own!

With a story that makes reading fun—and will even help listeners learn to read—this book is ideal for kindergarten classrooms and story hour or as a gift for that beginning reader. Fresh, charming art by Tad Hills, the New York Times bestselling author/illustrator of Duck & Goose, will make this a favorite.

And don't miss the instant #1 New York Times Bestseller, Rocket Writes a Story.

Table of Contents

Review, THE BOSTON GLOBE, October 3, 2010:
"[HOW ROCKET LEARNED TO READ] may persuade tentative kindergarteners that school is worth a try; teachers and librarians will love it."
Tad Hills

About Tad Hills

Tad Hills - How Rocket Learned to Read

Photo © Courtesy of the Author

Tad Hills grew up in Norwell, Massachusetts, with a love of wildlife and nature. Surrounding his childhood home were many acres of fields and forests where he and his brother and sister would explore, build forts out of sticks and hay, and pick blueberries and grapes. His mother taught 4th-grade science for the Audubon society and often brought home animals. Raccoons, snakes, owls, and turtles were common guests in their house. His love of nature and wildlife is reflected by his favorite books from his childhood: Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal, The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward, and chapter books by Thornton Burgess.

All of the grown-ups in his life encouraged Tad’s creativity. He spent a lot of time with his grandmother, who was also an artist. They made books, drew and painted pictures, visited galleries and museums, and sat in her garden. She encouraged Tad to look at the world from different angles. She was delighted when, instead of seeing a pansy, he saw a monkey’s face, or instead of a puddle of spilled milk, he saw an elephant. She marveled at his art and, although she was an accomplished painter, wished that she could paint like him–a notion he understands well today. “Every day I wish that I could make art with the simplicity and fearlessness that my kids do.

“My mother always encouraged my artistic endeavors. We had a playroom that was always buzzing with activity. It was never tidy for long–a reality my mother accepted after weighing the relative benefits. This is where I’d spend much of my time drawing, painting, and building and making things. I come from a long line of engineers on both sides, so my interest in making things almost feels like it could be genetic.”

As an adult Tad still makes many of the same things he made as a kid. Alongside his kids–Elinor, age 10, and Charlie, age 8–he’s made marionettes, jewelry, a tree house and Halloween costumes. “There is nothing more exciting to me than building something from nothing without a blueprint or directions. And using unlikely–and better yet recycled–materials makes it even more exciting. I really couldn’t tell you how a car engine worked but I could make a nice one out of cardboard and toothpicks.”

Tad’s interest in art drew him to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he studied painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, creative writing, and poetry, but his greatest education came with the arrival of his children. “Spending time with my kids helps me remember what it's like to be a child. I try to capture that innocence and enthusiastic vision of the world in my books. I want kids to see themselves in my characters.

“I find the process of creating a book similar to making sculpture. It is a constant adding and taking-away. The words and pictures are like pieces of clay. Some ideas come from experience and observation and some seem to come from thin air. Sometimes an idea builds out of an overheard conversation, or sometimes an idea comes to me when I’m cooking dinner. The real trick is to take all those ideas, like chunks of soft clay, and build something. Throughout the process the sculpture may hold itself upright, or more likely it might sag in places, or even collapse completely. The tough part is getting all that clay to stand up and not sag or collapse. Standing, of course, isn’t all there is: you have to make sure that it is fun and interesting from all angles, because kids will be walking around it, squinting at it, sniffing it, touching it–inspecting it from all sides.

“As an author and illustrator of children’s books, my greatest satisfaction comes from visiting schools. The kids’ excitement and enthusiasm for books is very real. I especially enjoy the responses I get from children when I ask if they have any questions or comments. ‘Where do you get your ideas? What’s the difference between a book and a story? My birthday is June 12th. How do you make the cover shiny? My Dad has socks like yours. Do you have an agent? Do you write the story first or draw the pictures? How do you make a book?’ But what I love most is when a lower school kid smiles and says proudly, ‘I’m writing a book.’”
Praise | Awards

Praise

A New York Times bestseller

A 2010 Parents’ Choice Silver Award

An Autumn 2010 Children’s Indie Next Pick


Review, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, September 12, 2010:
"A perfect picture book for kids 3-7."

Review, THE BOSTON GLOBE, October 3, 2010:
"A picture book all about the joys of reading could easily turn preachy and dull. But “How Rocket Learned to Read’’ defies gravity. Rocket is lovable, the little feathered teacher adorable. Hills tells his sprightly story as needed, not one word more or less. His pictures flow with soft color and movement. Hills makes this a story of friendship. It may persuade tentative kindergarteners that school is worth a try; teachers and librarians will love it."

Review, KIRKUS REVIEWS, June 15, 2010:
"Hills’s gentle, sweet tale is a paean to the joy of reading and the teachers that inspire it."

Review, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, June 14, 2010:
"With characters as memorable as those in Hills’s Duck and Goose series, this good-natured story shows readers how Rocket, a spotted puppy, becomes a beginning reader, thanks to a little yellow bird."

Review, SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, July 2010:
"Youngsters will find this addition to Hills’s cast of adorable animal characters simply irresistible."

Awards

WINNER 2010 Parents' Choice Silver Honor Book
WINNER 2011 Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices
WINNER 2010 New York Times Bestseller
WINNER 2010 Publishers Weekly Bestsellers
WINNER 2011 IRA Teachers' Choices
WINNER 2010 Chicago Public LibraryÂ’s Best of the Best books
FINALIST CBC Awards & Honors
FINALIST Bank Street Child Study Children's Book Award
FINALIST IRA Children's Choices
WINNER Irma Simonton Black Award
FINALIST Virginia Young Readers Program Award
NOMINEE South Carolina Children's Book Award
NOMINEE Nebraska Golden Sower Award
WINNER 2011 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Honors Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide



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