(Note to reader: I am going to overuse the colon in the post. Sorry).
Here's what, in my experience, kids who are learning to read like: graphic books. So I think this is an absolutely wonderful idea: graphic books designed for the early reader. This is the premise of a new series called Toon Books ("bringing new readers to the pleasure of comics"), and when the publishers asked if I would like three of these books to review, I said, "Yes please!"
So the following arrived: Stinky, by Eleanor Davis, Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever, by Dean Haspiel and Jay Lynch, and Jack and the Box, by Art Spieflman (yes, the same Art who wrote the Maus books). They are really beautiful, high-quality hardcovers, with simple stories and easy words to read. They were greated with much interest by my eight year old. It was the sort of happy interest that results in said child choosing to curl up on the sofa and read, followed by such strong pleasure in one of the books (Stinky) that he asked if he could start his own blog so as to write his own review of it (here)!
I liked Stinky very much as well. It's the story of a swamp monster, who regards humankind with loathing. When a boy invades the swamp, the monster tries to drive him out, but despite all the yucky swamp-ness he throws at the boy, the boy doesn't leave. In the end, they are friends. A very nice easy reader indeed.
Sadly, we both liked the other two titles less well. I found the Jack that lives in the box scary as all get out, and Mo and Jo, about two kids who fight each other while learning to use their super powers to work together to fight crime, not my cup of tea. But this is not to say that other kids might not like them lots, and I will be looking out for other titles in the series, because I do think it's a brilliant premise.
Here's the Publisher's Weekly article announcing the series back in 2007.
Here's a review of the first three in the series, from Comics Worth Reading.