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Rocket and Friends

How Rocket Learned to Read

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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.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Tad Hills

76 books110 followers
“Whenever I picture myself [as a child],” says Tad Hills, “I am doing art. I spent a lot of time on my own making things, drawing, and painting.” Hills was not consciously trying to become an artist, rather his motives were innocent and pure. “I liked making things,” he says.

As a graduate of Skidmore College in New York with a degree in art, Hills describes himself as the ultimate freelancer. He’s done some acting, made jewelry, makes fake teeth for stage productions, dabbled in interior renovation, and illustrated book jackets for adult trade books. But Hills’ break into children’s publishing coincided with his wife Lee’s new position as the art director for Simon and Schuster’s children’s book division. “Lee used to ask me to try illustrating some books she couldn’t find an illustrator for,” Hills says. When Lee moved to Random House to start her own imprint with long-time friend and associate, Ann Schwartz, she encouraged Hills to write his own picture books. “I started with four stories,” says Hills. His break out book, Duck and Goose (Schwartz and Wade, 2006) was one of them.

The idea for Duck and Goose started with only a title—The Silly Goose, the Odd Duck and the Good Egg. As Hills developed the story, he realized his egg would have to be rather large to support Duck and Goose so they could hatch it. Hills also had to consider what would hatch out of such a large egg. A dinosaur? An ostrich? Additionally, Hills floated the title by his son’s kindergarten class and was rewarded with blank stares. Hills took the hint and changed his egg to a ball, and changed the title.

“For me, the writing is really difficult. I stare at a blank page for hours,” he says. “When Lee comes home and asks me about my day, I say it was okay. I wrote one sentence. . .But when I’m in the zone, I literally hear the dialogue between [Duck and Goose]. They were telling me what they wanted to say! That is the best feeling. That is when it’s not work. It’s fun!”

Hills paints with water-soluble oil paint on paper, using colored pencils for the last details. Although Hills’ Duck and Goose characters look simple enough, he drew hundreds of ducks and geese before finding a style with which he was comfortable. “The first ones [I drew] were older looking,” he says. “They looked like cigar-smoking tough guys.” Over a matter of months, Hills finally pared down Duck and Goose to their essential elements—circular heads, long rectangular legs, triangular feet, and door-shaped beaks. “When I apply the eyebrow,” he says, “I can express what Duck is feeling.”

As Hills’ two children grow, he finds himself drawn to how kids treat each other. “I didn’t tolerate meanness or injustice as a kid,” he says. In Duck, Duck, Goose (Schwartz and Wade, 2007), Hills creates a friendship triangle by introducing a new duck named Thistle. Together Duck, Goose, and Thistle give Hills’ observations a voice and provide several conversation starters for parents and children.

Hills writes from his home in Brooklyn, New York. Some days he doesn’t write at all, but tries to stay receptive to what he’s experiencing. “Most of my ideas come to me when I’m not looking,” he says. “It’s hard to get yourself to a point where ideas are out there and you can grab them.”

from http://www.patriciamnewman.com/hills....

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5 stars
2,915 (46%)
4 stars
2,045 (32%)
3 stars
1,051 (16%)
2 stars
222 (3%)
1 star
68 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 546 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,234 followers
February 24, 2011
I was smiling throughout this adorable book because the illustrations, particularly of Rocket the dog, are so expressive. Rocket’s facial expressions are a hoot; they are so cute.

If the story is read to kids who love books and/or are eager to learn to read, I think this is a fabulous book. (If the book is used to try to coerce or entice reluctant readers or reluctant listeners, I’m not as big of a fan of it.) But, I’ve always loved books and reading, and dogs, and I’d have always loved this book.

The story is so funny and sweet, Rocket is an endearing character, and it’s a book about learning to love learning and books/stories and learning ABCs and reading. I loved Rocket’s journey from wanting to play and be left alone to eager student to independent learner and more advanced student, and got a kick out of how he continued his studies even after his teacher, a bird, has flown south for the winter.

This is my first Tad Hills book but I see he’s written many other books, and I’m now eager to check them out. I loved this book.

Great extra!: On the back inside cover, in the author’s bio section, there’s a photo of the author-illustrator with the real Rocket, who the reader is informed has not yet learned how to read.

I kept thinking of Snoopy and Woodstock; I liked them too., and also Harry the Dirty Dog and other beloved by me fictional canines.
Profile Image for La Coccinelle.
2,251 reviews3,563 followers
March 6, 2019
What a cute little story! How Rocket Learned to Read is a tale about an ordinary dog who encounters an extraordinary bird. All Rocket wants to do is take a nap, but the little yellow bird wants to teach him to read. When Rocket ignores her, she starts to read a story out loud and eventually draws him in. She then proceeds to teach him the alphabet, and then to sound out words. Soon, they're spelling all kinds of things. But as winter approaches, school draws to a close and the little yellow bird flies south. Rocket is left on his own to put his new knowledge to good use.

The story is cute, but the pictures are even cuter. Rocket looks so soft and cuddly that you just want to give him a hug. His early reluctance about learning to read gives way to enthusiasm when he realizes just how much fun it can be. The illustrations of him learning new words and how to spell them are some of my favourites in the book.

This is a very cute book about a reluctant reader who eventually comes around with the help of a special friend and teacher. I would definitely recommend this one!

Quotable moment:

Early the next morning, Rocket rushed to his classroom. As he waited, he spelled W-A-G.

Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
October 14, 2019
Tad Hills, creator of the popular Duck & Goose picture-books, delivers an adorable tale of a puppy who discovers the power of words in How Rocket Learned to Read. Exhausted, after a busy morning spent chasing leaves, all Rocket wanted to do was take a nap. Instead, he found himself being hailed as a prospective student by a little yellow bird, eager to teach him the alphabet, and convince him of the delights of reading. Undaunted by his lack of enthusiasm (and by his pointed removal from the immediate vicinity), the bird began to read aloud, gradually unfolding the suspenseful story of Buster the dog, and the mysterious something he found buried under the lilac bush. Cutting off the tale at a dramatic moment (what a canny bird!), she kept the surreptitiously attentive Rocket in suspense, ensuring that he would return for another session...

Engaging and accessible, this tale of an avian Scheherazade boasts both an appealing story - one that will be very encouraging for younger children who long to be able to read themselves, and inspirational for those who wonder what the big deal about reading is - and cute illustrations. Done in oil paint and colored pencil, the artwork here has a sweet, expressive quality that is very charming. Rocket's expressions are really quite droll, at times! Recommended to younger children who are just getting going, learning the alphabet, and to fans of Tad Hills' cute-as-a-button visual style.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,342 reviews
February 16, 2011
This was such a wonderful surprise! I haven't read any of Tad Hills' work before but I'm definitely going to read more of it now.

This is the gently humorous, inspiring and heartwarming story of how a young pup named Rocket became interested in the wonderful world of words. His teacher is a wise, bright-spirited yellow bird and she entices him with fascinating stories in books so that he understands why words are important and powerful and necessary. Then, when she flies south for the winter, Rocket continues to revel in his ABCs.

The story is grand, the illustrations are charming! Read this book! :-)
Profile Image for Ann.
511 reviews
February 23, 2011
Okay, I loved this!

Rocket is an adorable little dog who, one day, finds himself in the company of a very persuasive birdie. The little yellow bird decides it is going to be Rocket's teacher, and the first thing Rocket learns is how to read.

I love the way this story approached education and reading - instead of demanding that Rocket "needed to learn his ABCs" the little birdie instead introduces Rocket to the wonder of stories found in books, so that Rocket *wants* to learn to read so that he, too, can partake of such glorious stories.

As I was reading, I kept thinking, "This book should do this. They should address that." And every time, the book did! It was fantastic!

This delightful story, matched with these truly enchanting illustrations, made this a wonderful picture book. I believe it will delight young listeners/readers, as there are bits that will make them want to read to the end. Great for anyone just starting to learn to read, and great for anyone hesitant to "get into reading."
Profile Image for Hannah Layman.
35 reviews28 followers
October 17, 2020
A sweet story of a dog who makes a friend and discovers the joy of reading.
Profile Image for Steve T..
1,339 reviews
June 4, 2017
Author: Tad Hills
Illustrator: Tad Hills
Title: How Rocket Learned to Read
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books
Date: 2010
Age range of intended reader as stated by book or publisher’s website: 3-7
Age range as you see it if that differs from what the book claims: Same; could also be useful with slightly older reluctant readers
Brief assessment of the book’s quality (artistic, literary, intellectual merit) – no more than two sentences: There’s a lot of text for a short book, but the illustrations are very accessible for children. The message about learning to read is wonderful.
Brief assessment of potential use of book with young readers, if applicable (storytime, curriculum support, summer reading list, etc.) – no more than one sentence: This would be an excellent book to help get pre-literate and barely-literate children engaged with the reading process, particularly with the alphabet and sounding out the words Rocket is spelling.
Brief assessment of books’ appeal to potential readers - no more than two sentences: Despite the large amount of text, the illustrations do an excellent job of conveying the main ideas of the story throughout.

Dr. Vandergrift's framing statements for illustrations:
What really caught my eye was that Rocket’s images looked soft enough to pet.
That artwork shows the emotion and engagement of Rocket really well.
I'd like to see more of Mr. Barker!
That artist is really skilled at including texture within images to add softness.
I am a little confused by whether the letter being spelled with leaves by the bird is an incomplete V or the start of W or something else.
If I had to characterize this illustration in one word, that word would be expressionistic.
Profile Image for Sierra.
55 reviews4 followers
September 3, 2012
From the cover of this book to the very last page the illustrations are adorable, super kid-friendly and vivid in color use! I thought the meaning and message behind the plot was cute! Rocket is cute dog who has a little yellow bird as his teacher. I love the way this story approached education and reading - instead of demanding that Rocket "needed to learn his ABCs" the little birdie instead introduces Rocket to the wonder of stories found in books, so that Rocket *wants* to learn to read so that he, too, can partake of such glorious stories. As I was reading, I kept thinking, "This book should do this. They should address that." In addition, every time, the book did! It was fantastic! As the book progressed, I fell in love with the hymning aspect of “wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet” sayings that were repeated every so often! I would highly enjoy reading this to a class full of kindergartners especially and even 1st graders! I would not use this book as a way to force children to need to know the alphabet but instead use it as a way to show the importance of the alphabet for lifelong learning! An ideal book to be read aloud, this story practices spelling a few simple words, as well as introducing onomatopoeia, sounds spelled out as words. Literacy, phonics, and friendship are tied together! This story also describes independent learning outside of the classroom, as Rocket continues to practice his skills after the bird has migrated for the winter. In addition, this book is also a tale of the cycle of seasons, marking transitions with illustrations and words to spell, such as “m-e-l-t.” Overall fantastic!!!
Profile Image for Nicole.
55 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2012
This book is absolutely adorable and I highly recommend it to K and 1st grade teachers. It is all about a little dog named rocket who loved his life of chewing sticks and taking naps under the same tree everyday until one day when everything changes. One afternoon while trying to take a nap under his favorite tree, a small yellow bird approached him and said she was happy he had joined her class. Rocket explained to the bird that he didn’t come for any class and that he just wanted to take a nap so he moved and tried to fall asleep. Rocket was having a very hard time falling asleep because he could hear the bird singing a book about an unlucky dog named Buster who had lost his bone. At this point, Rocket was curious and really wanted to know the ending of the book—he wanted to know if Buster found his bone, but all of a sudden just before the ending the book stopped. The next day Rocket showed up to the birds class and the bird taught rocket how to read so he too could read books like the bird. In the end of the book Rocket is a reading and spelling wiz. It is an adorable story and perfect when talking with your students about how important reading is and how great learning to read on your own is. I would read this book to k through 1st grade.
21 reviews
February 16, 2014
Opening: Have you ever learned something new? What have you learned about? In our story today, Rocket the dog meets a bird who loves to teach. At first Rocket doesn't think he will like learning, Have you ever not liked learning? Well the bird in this story helps to change Rockets mind, and when he does he changes Rockets life for the better. Let's read to find out what happens to Rocket in the story, How Rocket Learned to Read.

Opening Moves:
Invite personal connections.
Raise questions to spark curiosity.

Rational: This book is sweet story about learning. It is a great book to use at the beginning of the year to introduce helping others with learning. The students love the cute illustrations and spelling/sounding out along with the story. The bird and dog in the story create a friendship and Rocket is taught the gift of reading. The students can relate with the storyline of learning new things as well as the level of spelled words in the story It is a class favorite, guaranteed!

(2010, June 14). Publishers Weekly. http://www.booksinprint2.com.leo.lib....#
1,140 reviews
October 27, 2010
Follow along as Rocket masters the alphabet, sounds out words, and finally ... learns to read all on his own. Fresh, charming art by Tad Hills, the author & illustrator of Duck & Goose, will make this a favorite. (Goodreads summary)

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills is an encouraging picturebook about learning to read and the love of reading.
(Apparently also marketed as an easy reader, some of the vocabulary is above easy reading level).

The text moves the story along nicely, but the pictures are the stars here. The illustrations were done in oil paint and colored pencils. Rocket is shown experiencing many emotions as he works to learn to spell and read.

Parts of the story made me think of City Dog, Country Frog, and I'm glad the little bird returned in the Spring. It's on the edge of being too sweet, but I still liked it a lot.

For listeners ages 4 to 7 and readers grades 1.5 and 2.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.2k reviews277 followers
January 10, 2013
There's an old saying that when the student is ready, the right teacher will arrive, and that's exactly the case in this book. Rocket, an exceptionally cute little black and white dog, has settled down for a nice relaxing fall nap when a yellow bird intent on being a teacher arrives. She sets forth a few class rules and begins to teach her student to read, using many practices commonly followed by emergent and early literacy teachers. First of all, the yellow bird reads aloud to Rocket and leaves him hanging so he can't wait for her to read more the next day. And so it goes. By the end of the book, Rocket and his dedicated teacher have a stack of books, which they read together, and he's learned to sound out letters. Most of all, though, he's learned to love reading. Young readers will enjoy this adorable title, partly because of Rocket's personality and whimsical expression in the oil paint and colored pencil illustrations. This would be an excellent first day of school read aloud.
Profile Image for Krista the Krazy Kataloguer.
3,873 reviews268 followers
April 30, 2017
Rocket is a playful, busy dog whose life changes when he meets a yellow bird who teaches him the alphabet and reads stories to him. This is like the playful child who enters school and finds a whole new world opening up. It's a simple story that will give preschoolers a heads up as to what they might learn in school and will show them that it will be fun. I liked the way the bird enticed Rocket, who was initially uninterested, to join the class, by reading a story aloud, within Rocket's hearing, but not revealing the ending. The way Hills draws Rocket makes him so cute in some pictures that I wanted to reach into the story and pet him! My only complaint about the illustrations is that the bird looks like a canary, and if you want to be realistic, it should really have been a goldfinch if you wanted to keep her yellow. Aside from that, a good choice for preschool readalouds.
Profile Image for Sarah.
40 reviews3 followers
September 8, 2010
Rocket has had a busy day and is ready for a nap when a little yellow bird arrives and wants to teach him how to read. Rocket isn’t sure he wants to be the bird’s student -- there are sticks to catch and dog things to do, but he’s soon hooked on the little bird’s story times about a dog named Buster, and soon he has developed a friendship with his teacher and is learning to read himself. This is a great book to share with any child who is learning to read - it helps children and caregivers develop pre-reading skills (spelling out easy words on the page which Rocket sounds out). It also shows that learning to read takes time, and that it can be a lot of fun. Brightly colored illustrations vary from small vignettes to full page spreads and are appealing--children and adults will love to share this one together!
Profile Image for Ashley.
14 reviews1 follower
January 17, 2013
Audience: The audience for this book would be primary grades. Kindergarten to second grade would enjoy this book because it is about learning how to read.

Appeal: This book is appealing to kindergartners up to second graders because they too much like Rocket are in the process of learning how to read. They are learning from a teacher and practicing independently to master such skills. Students can connect to listening to stories, learning the alphabet, learning to say and spell words, using words to form sentences, using sentences to create a story, and reading to understand the meaning of those words.

Application: I would use this book in the classroom to make students feel comfortable at their level of literacy and to explain the process of how we all learn how to read.

Award List: Nebraska Golden Sower 2012-2013

Copyright: 2010
Profile Image for Carolynne.
813 reviews25 followers
September 18, 2012
Who has not known a gifted and enthusiastic teacher who, Scheherezade-like, entices a reluctant student to start reading with an unfinished tale? Except in this case the student, Rocket, is a fluffy dog and the teacher is a tiny yellow bird. This is a cheerful account of some of the earliest steps in the reading process (the first word Rocket learns is spelled with a G and a lot of R's!). When his teacher flies away for the winter, Rocket keeps up his skills by spelling out the world around him, including his friends' names. Completely delightful, this could be used to inspire beginning readers, to teach the alphabet, even onomatopoeia. The illustrations are colored pencil and oil paint. Lexile measure is AD600. For young children.
Profile Image for Betty Ortega .
50 reviews
November 19, 2016
* Book Summary
How Rocket Learned to Read is a story about how a bird teaches a dog (rocket) how to read. The little yellow bird did not give on when teaching Rocket to read. At first Rocket was not very thrilled about learning to and instead he wanted to sleep.
Irma Black Award (2011), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Book (2010)
* Grade Level/ Interest level
* Appropriate Classroom Use
This would be a cute book to use during a carpet read.

*Student Who Might Benefit From Reading
All students; students who enjoy reading about animals

* Small Group Use
* Whole Class Use
This book would be great to use when students are first learning to read.

*Related Book In Genre
Rocket Writes a Story
*Multimedia Connections
Profile Image for Angela.
1,184 reviews23 followers
January 27, 2010
Tad Hills has lent his talented mind and hand to a wonderful new picture book about learning to read. In this new literary adventure, we follow Rocket as he discovers the joys of reading. Rocket's teacher is an enthusiastic, motivated and cunning little yellow bird who could convince the most reluctant reader to jump right in. Beginning with the alphabet, then learning to construct words, and finally, Rocket and the little yellow bird share the joy of discovering stories. A must for book-loving parents and teachers.
Profile Image for Laura.
2,047 reviews39 followers
March 21, 2011
A little yellow bird teaches Rocket the dog how to read. Rocket, a charming puppy, doesn't want to go to school but is interested in the little yellow bird's story. After convincing the puppy to come to school, the little yellow bird teaches him the alphabet and the sounds that each letter makes. The bird flies south for the winter but Rocket continues to practice his reading skills. My favorite part is when Rocket spells his friends' names. A cute story about a sweet friendship and a little dog who learns to love reading.
Profile Image for Kathleen Ferrel.
16 reviews
June 5, 2012
How Rocket Learned to Read This is a very cute story about a puppy who learns to read (as the title indicates). I enjoyed the illustrations and I especially loved how the author incorporated a little yellow bird, the puppies teacher, who makes reading and learning fun for the puppy.

This book would appeal to elementary children (grades K-3rd) who are learning to read, interested in learning to read or just simply enjoy reading! This book is from the Golden Sower Award list.
Profile Image for Matthew.
245 reviews2 followers
October 23, 2014
I was intrigued to see how everything would play out and I enjoyed the banter between the bird and the dog. I gave it three stars because my boy became very anxious about finishing the book. Looking back, the pace seemed rather slow and the words could have probably been cut in half. I write this to a book that is all about how a dog learns to read. I know, I know. More words = more opportunities to practice. I just thought the story could have been shortened and still accomplished the same wit and humor the author intended.
Profile Image for Emily Patterson.
Author 2 books7 followers
November 28, 2010
This delightful story features a quirky yet recognizable pair (the initially reluctant student and the enthusiastic teacher) in the unlikely form of a dog and a little yellow bird. The text, a charming hymn to the "wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet," begs re-reading as much as the charming, tranquil illustrations invite a second look. A creative introduction to reading through onomatopoeia and a fun read-aloud for both children and adults.
Profile Image for Glenda.
650 reviews43 followers
May 8, 2011
The best thing about this book is what Tad Hills doesn't say about how his dog Rocket learns to read. Rocket doesn't sit in front of a computer screen, an "educational" children's show, or a canned curriculum program to learn to read. Rocket learns to read by experiencing the world, and his teacher is a bird. Read: nature, Hills' nod to Thoreau, who went to the woods to learn. This is a fantastic picture book.
Profile Image for Maggie Gilmore.
40 reviews
October 26, 2016
The little puppy named Rocket met a bird friend who starts to teach Rocket how to read.
He isn't thrilled about it a first, but he get's engaged into the stories and doesn't stop spelling words.
This book would be used for a K-2 classroom to get them excited for reading.
Profile Image for The Library Lady.
3,651 reviews538 followers
October 21, 2010
It's tickling my saccharine meter ever so subtly, but I'll give it a pass as this is a story with which many young reluctant readers may identify.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
979 reviews108 followers
July 20, 2011
This wonderful children's book tells the story of how a little yellow bird taught Rocket the dog the joy of books and reading!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 546 reviews

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