How Rocket Learned to Read (Rocket)

by Tad Hills (Author) Tad Hills (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Series: Rocket
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.
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Kirkus Reviews

Hills's gentle, sweet tale is a paean to the joy of reading and the teachers that inspire it.

Publishers Weekly

With characters as memorable as those in Hillss 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. Hills uses expressive oil and colored pencil spot art (and a subtle sense of humor) to engage readers as Rocket becomes the birds pupil; the enthusiastic teacher wisely hooks Rocket on stories before interesting him in the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet.... Where it all begins. The illustrations emphasize Rockets responsiveness and wide-eyed curiosity as he learns letters (the bird holds up a worm while pointing to W) and progresses from there. Together they sang out the sounds that each letter makes and spelled the sounds they heard around them. If the details of Rockets transition can be nebulous (Soon they were spelling words) Hills still emphasizes the need for practice (Rocket thought about the birds sweet chirp while he sounded out words like D-I-G and W-I-N-D and C-O-L-D). The amiable characters and gentle text--as well as an alphabet banner the bird strings up--make this a decent primer for humans, too. Ages 37. (July) Copyright 2010 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2—n endearing white dog with black spots loves chasing leaves and chewing sticks. He also loves napping under his favorite tree. Then his sleep is interrupted one spring day by a tiny yellow bird that designates him her first student. Rocket wants no part of her lessons, but the bird is determined to teach him to read. She returns each day, hangs an alphabet banner from the trees, and gushes, "Ah, the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet." Then she begins to read a story, stopping at an enticing part. Overcome by curiosity to hear more, Rocket eventually enters into the bird's lessons, and the two have a grand time using the "mighty, gorgeous alphabet" to spell out all the things in Rocket's world. The bird leaves as winter approaches, but Rocket continues practicing, spelling everything in sight. And when Bird returns the following spring, a tail-wagging, eager-to-read student greets her with joy. The illustrations, rendered in oil and colored pencil, offer full pages, spreads, and oval vignettes. They depict Rocket in all his various moods, from diagonal brows raised in displeasure to delight at his teacher's return. Adults will love the bird's enthusiasm, her use of stories, and her ability to associate lessons with Rocket's everyday life to win over her reluctant pupil. Youngsters will find this addition to Hills's cast of adorable animal characters simply irresistible.—"Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT" Copyright 2010 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A New York Times bestseller

A 2010 Parents' Choice Silver Award

An Autumn 2010 Children's Indie Next Pick

"A perfect picture book for kids 3-7."  —CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, September 12, 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." —THE BOSTON GLOBE, October 3, 2010

Tad Hills

Tad Hills is the author and illustrator of the highly acclaimed New York Times-bestselling picture books Duck & Goose; Duck, Duck, Goose; Duck & Goose Go to the Beach; How Rocket Learned to Read; and Rocket Writes a Story. He has created numerous Duck & Goose board books, among them the ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book What's Up, Duck?; Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas!; Duck & Goose Colors!; and most recently, Duck & Goose, Let's Dance! The Rocket series includes a board book, Rocket's Mighty Words, and two leveled readers, Drop It, Rocket! and Rocket's 100th Day of School. Tad lives in Brooklyn with his wife, their two children, and a dog named Rocket. Visit the author online at

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Schwartz & Wade Books
Publication date
July 27, 2010
BISAC categories
JUV002040 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Birds
JUV047000 - Juvenile Fiction | Books & Libraries
JUV002070 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Dogs
Library of Congress categories
Golden Sower Award
Honor Book 2013 - 2013
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2011 - 2011
Parents Choice Awards (Fall) (2008-Up)
Silver Medal Winner 2010 - 2010
Irma S. & James H. Black Award
Winner 2011 - 2011
Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Virginia Readers Choice Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Monarch Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2013

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