A Trio of New Recommended Early Reader Chapter Book Series

March 31, 2017

We are always on the lookout for new series to recommend and share with our early readers friends.  Chapter books are especially welcome; these texts have the benefit of connecting a longer story through chapter segments that retain the same characters and keep the reader engaged.  Even with stories that are written for kids to read on their own without adult help, the best of this genre retains well-written prose and imaginative and appealing illustrations.  Here are a few contemporary series that we have found delight early readers–and are also great read-alouds for the slightly younger set.  Enjoy!


Rabbit and Robot, The Sleepover by Cece Bell

There’s something appealing about odd couple friends:  think Frog and Toad or Elephant and Piggy.  There’s a new pair of friends for your reading pleasure:  super-logical Robot and fussy compulsive Rabbit.  But friends they are, and rabbit couldn’t be more excited about their first sleep-over!  And he has it perfectly planned, with a detailed list of activities:  make pizza, watch TV, play Go Fish, go to bed. But Rabbit didn’t take into account that Robot prefers nuts and bolts on his pizza.  There are several other mishaps and not quite connections in their sleepover, but friendship prevails.  Bell is a terrific cartoonist, and her illustrations are just right for the humor and engagement of the story.  Expect numerous calls for re-readings! And luckily, there are more in the series:  checkout Rabbit and Ribit and Robot for the follow-up adventure, and be on the lookout for book number#3 soon.


Juana and Lucas by Juana Medine

Juana is a delightful new heroine who hails from Bogota, Columbia.  Her dog Lucas is the best amigo a girl can have, and joins her in many adventures. I love the Spanish words used throughout the tale, as well as Juana’s account of learning English for her special trip to Florida.  The way illustrations help make the meanings clear is masterfully done.  Full spreads are delightful, in which Juana uses words and pictures to tell us us why, for example, she strongly dislikes her school uniform or why Mami is the most important person in her life. Magical! It’s only been out for a few months, but more in the series are in the works.  Stay tuned!


Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

Dory is a little firecracker who gets into trouble in the tradition of Junie B. Jones or Ramona.  Her family’s nickname for her is Rascal; can you guess why?  Dory is blessed ( her older siblings would say cursed) with a very active imagination, which helps her keep track of the menagerie of monsters in her house as well as the evil Mrs. Gobble Gracker, who steals baby girls.  Luckily, she always has her banana at the ready to make calls for help to her Fairy Godmother Mr. Nuggy.  This series is both charming and funny, for adult readers as well as the children it’s written for.  The illustrations make it an almost graphic novel, with loads of pictures and word bubbles to pore over on each spread.  Three books in the series so far, and we can’t wait for more!





March 24, 2017

Snow White:  A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

The story of Snow White is one of the most famous and often retold of fairy tales, across cultures and with a range of up-dates and adaptations. (You might enjoy our Snow White flight for the whole family.)  Recently, award-winning graphic novelist Matt Phelan created a stunning retelling set in Depression-era Manhattan.  It’s a surprisingly fitting time frame and the atmosphere is just right.  Samantha’s father is the King of Wall Street, who sends her off to boarding school. When Samantha’s mother dies, the King marries the Queen of the Follies–a real beauty, but a pretty terrible step-mother!  When Samantha (our Snow White, gaining the nick-name from her birth mother) flees from Mr.Hunter who has been hired to kill her, she is taken in by diverse street kids who call themselves The Seven (yes!  it’s perfect!)  The story itself is very true to the original, but is told mostly through the stunning black and white graphics–quite a bit like a silent movie.  I love the important and well-placed splashes of red that heighten the drama.

Lovers of graphic novels as young at ten will be drawn to this unique little book.  Highly recommended!

LITTLE RED by Bethan Woollvin: A New Retelling for Early Readers

March 18, 2017

Little Red by Bethan Woollvin

We’re always on the look-out for updated and innovative fairy tales, especially when the revamp is both humorous and irreverent.  In Little Red, the dark woods, the long trip, and especially the villainous wolf  “might have scared some little girls. But not this little girl.” Readers will delight in this repeated refrain.  And our contemporary heroine doesn’t need to wait for the Woodsman to come and save her; she carries her own axe into Grandma’s cabin and is quite capable of dealing with the wolf herself. Observant readers will note that Little Red, on her way back home through the woods, has a warm wolfskin rather than a red cape.  The illustrations are modern–bold and graphic.  Kids as young as four years old that we know have demanded repeated rereadings, and it’s a good recommendations for early readers as well.

If you appreciate retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, you might visit our Bookflight:  Little Red Riding Hoods

as well as Little Red Riding Hood Around the World.

THE HIRED GIRL: Award-winning Historical Fiction for Teens

March 11, 2017

hired-girlThe Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Winner of the 2016 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction
A 2016 Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award Winner
Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

You know you are in good hands with Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz.  In The Hired Girl,  readers are treated to a realistic visit to the United States in the early 20th century.  Our heroine is the young Joan Skraggs, who labors for her family farm in rural Pennsylvania, caring for her brothers and father, who care little for her.  Her one solace is reading the few books she has been able to gather, gifts from a teacher who recognizes her talents.  To complement the books, she also relies on writing her own story in a journal that becomes the narrative of the novel.  The story takes place mostly in Baltimore, where Joan becomes “Janet” after running away from the farm.  She works for a wealthy Jewish family and learns about keeping kosher, navigating social classes, and first love, not to mention the world of art, literature, and her own indomitable strengths.  There is humor, adventures, interesting characters, not to mention fascinating glimpses into an earlier time period.  I found Joan to be a compelling and intriguing young woman, and imagine middle school readers will delight in her coming of age tale as well.


March 4, 2017

blandThe Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters:  The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Jen Hill

Looking for an adventure story with a sense of humor and unique characters?  Look no further than this brand-new series for middle readers.  Jaundice and Kale Bland are the sisters of the title, and they are, not to put too fine a point on it, rather bland. They prefer to avoid excitement, thank you very much.  At the beginning oif the sage, they are patiently waiting at home for the return of their missing parents.  It’s been years since they left on an errand, but the Bland Sisters are patient.

But their lives change when they are kidnapped by a crew of pirates, all female and bound for adventure on the high seas.  Of course, it also includes a mystery that might just lead to their missing parents!  Filled with puns, sly humor of the Lemony Snicket variety, and wacky illustrations.  If your family enjoys quirky, witty books, this one might top your wish list!

THE BAD GUYS by Aaron Blabey: For Little Readers With a Great Sense of Humor (and Their Families)

February 25, 2017

the-bad-guysThe Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

Meet Mr. Wolf, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Shark, and Mr. Snake.  They want to convince the world (and definitely their readers) that they are not Bad Guys.  Mr. Wolf, a spokesperson of sorts, talks directly to his audience in this part beginning chapter book, part graphic novel. While he admits his rap sheet ( a full-page illustration) shows him to have had some unfortunate and misunderstood run-ins with Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, he insists he is actually a Good Guy.  In order to make a more convincing case, he embarks on a quest with a few of his carnivorous friends who hold similar reputations (and equally long rap sheets).  As they rescue a cat from a tree, the illustrations are hilarious, with exaggerated sharp teeth and wide grins, the Guys terrify–but rescue–the kitty.  Then a larger rescue operation ensues.  It reminds me of Aaron Reynolds’s Carnivores  (See Carnivores, A Review)and Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and would make a great readaloud for the primary grades.  And it looks to be a series, with a couple of new adventures coming out this year for our four Bad–I mean Good–Guys!

CARVE THE MARK by Veronica Roth: New Series for Teens (and Lovers of YA)

February 18, 2017

carveCarve the Mark by Veronica Roth

A new science fiction/fantasy novel that begins a new series. . .just what we need in this bleak mid-winter weather.  As she did in the Divergent series, Veronica Roth creates a believable and complex world, with characters that are both intriguing and nuanced in their histories and motives.  There are similarities as well–the people who populate this planet (and universe) have special talents–currentgifts in the book’s language.  Some of these gifts give the holder great power over others ( like the ability to steal memories and replace them with your own); others make the recipient vulnerable to others’ control.  The narrative focuses on the two main characters as the story unfolds.  Akos is a native Thuvhe, the more peace-loving nation on the planet.  His loyalty is unending, especially to his family.  Cyra is a Shoetet, the brutal family that rules the other part of the planet.  And not just any Shotet; her brother is a brutal tyrant, shaped to rule by fear and intimidation.  What happens when Akos must fulfill the destiny his mother (an oracle) predicts and becomes a salve to the Shotet rulers?  Friendship,, love, new loyalties, not to mention adventure, suspense, and intriguing landscapes and possibilities.  I read it practically in one witting and look forward to the next installment.  Let us know what you think!