Archive for March, 2018

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

LAST TWO FINALISTS IN EASY READER AND EARLY CHAPTER BOOKS

Easy Reader

JUST RIGHT…

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy

Written by Laurel Synder

Illustrated by Emily Hughes

This is the second book in a series. One thing I would like to suggest is that the author gives a brief introduction to the characters for those who did not read the first book. Two brothers named Charlie and Mouse hear a knock at the door. They are delighted to find that their grandfather “Grumpy” has come to pay them a visit. Grumpy tells them that they are getting big. Charlie agrees, but his younger brother Mouse says he is just “medium.” That leads to a delightful discussion on what the word medium means. The next morning the boys launch a plan to pounce on their grandfather, but he is already awake. The boys find a way to implement their plot. When their parents go out for the evening Grumpy entertains them with pizza and movies. They set up a fort and request a song from Grumpy, but their plans go awry with Charlie coming to the rescue. When the time comes for Grumpy to leave, the boys find it difficult to say goodbye and use a blanket as a cover-up.

This story is well-written and helps children understand emotions that are difficult to put into words. At just under fifty pages, this book is a good fit for children who are ready to transition from speech bubbles and easy readers to a traditionally laid out chapter book. There is plenty of space between the lines to make it easy to follow. Soft watercolor illustrations fit well with the storyline. Teachers might want to read each chapter separately for kindergarten or first-grade readers.

EARLY CHAPTER

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS…

Heartwood Hotel: The Greatest Gift

Written by Kallie George

Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Mona, the Mouse, is an orphan who lives and works as a maid in the Heartwood Hotel. As the story opens, most of the winter animal guests are turning in to hibernate. The staff is about to celebrate with the St. Slumber party hosted by Mr. Heartwood. The employees celebrate with a feast and exchange of gifts.

Tilly, the Squirrel, is Mona’s best friend and roommate is Tilly. Their quiet, winter season is disturbed by the arrival of the haughty, Duchess Rabbit who makes unreasonable demands. Then a mysterious thief begins to steal food supplies. A food delivery truck goes missing. When the vents are clogged, Tilly and Mona slip out to investigate. They are shocked to discover a neighboring community of which they were unaware.

The personified animal communities exemplify the best and worst of human nature. Decisions need to be made that will affect the welfare of all. Readers learn the importance of weighing self-interest versus family and community. Black and white illustrations remind me a bit of Beatrix Potter. I found myself wishing there were more of them. Lots of dialogue and twists and turns keep the chapter book lively. While this book is classified as an early chapter book and can be enjoyed by early readers, I believe the length and plot depth make it more suitable for a third or fourth-grade audience. Look forward to checking out other books in the series.

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TRAINING FOR THE FUTURE

The Innovative Engine

Written by Jim Gribble

Illustrated by Jack Gribble

This book is a unique tale combining technology, fairy tales, and student writers. The Innovative Engine grew up in New York City hearing the tales of the little engine that could. One day she received a letter from a teacher with a special request that she readily accepted. A group of student bloggers would board her at Grand Central Station. There they would begin a nationwide trip stopping at cities, farms, and lake country to learn about innovation and write about their discoveries.

After stopping at Washington D.C. and receiving a tour of the Capitol, the students travel west to explore old technology and experiment with new ideas. The Innovative Engine is then equipped with solar panels, the students learn about using magnets for transportation, and how to transform the engine into a vegetable garden to feed the hungry. At the end of their journey, the President greets them and thanks them for blogging about their discoveries.

Readers find a pleasant mix of traditional characters, a dose of upcoming technologies, and meet some student journalists of the future.  Illustrations and images that were drawn by the students for their blog entries are included. The plot is unique, fanciful and creative. Particularly recommended for middle-grade students, but an enjoyable read for all ages.

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#WinnerWednesday

Two more winners in the Easy Reader and Early Chapter categories:

Easy Reader

ONE SENTENCE SAYS IT ALL

I Like the Farm

Written and illustrated by Shelley Rotner

 

 

 

 

This book is a Step A Guided Reading book which features one sentence I like the…… Blanks are filled in with the names of familiar farm animals. There are full-page multicultural photographs of a child with the associated animal. Especially recommended for preschool and kindergarten children just beginning to read who love animals.

 

 

Early Chapter Book

No Need to Be Perfect

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Written by Laura Amy Schlitz

Illustrated by Brian Floca

Poor Princess Cora is a victim of parents who are obsessed with her development into the role of future ruler of the kingdom. Cora is beset with a nanny who is obsessed with cleanliness and forces her to take three baths a day, a mother who forces her to read boring books all day, and a father who wants her to be strong and forces her to skip rope every day. When Cora requests a dog for a pet, her parents are horrified. She writes a note to her fairy godmother asking her to intervene. To her surprise and dismay, the next day a crocodile is delivered to her in a cardboard box.

This crocodile assures her that he will take charge and teach her tormentors a lesson. He demands only to be fed cream puffs as payment. So, Cora escapes into the woods for a day of adventure, climbing trees, eating strawberries, picking buttercups, and getting dirty. In the meantime, her pet crocodile is taking revenge on the nanny, the queen, and the king. At the end of the day when Cora returns she makes her request once more. What has happened at the castle? Have the adults learned a lesson? How will Cora be treated in the future?

This story presents the inner conflicts of Cora, and the adult versus child conflict clearly. Cora is a strong female role model, who is also obedient and respectful. The soft watercolor illustrations with a vintage feel are soft and appealing. The crocodile character adds humor and a hint of naughtiness. I would especially recommend this chapter book for second and third graders who are comfortable with the seventy-page length and some challenging vocabulary.

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SANTA’S HELPER

The Search for South Pole Santa: A South Pole Santa Adventure (Book 1 in a series)

Written by Jingle Belle Jackson

 

This book combines a bit of magic, romance, holiday traditions, and fantasy in a whimsical adventure. There are two main plots: Sandra’s story detailing her life on a tugboat named Mistletoe moored on an island in the South Pacific, and the contest Santa Claus decides to hold to find a second Santa to cope with the world’s exploding population of children.

Sandra’s parents are missing and presumed dead. They had recently enrolled her in the St. Annalise Academy where the students are all gifted, whether they be human or part supernatural. Throughout the story, Sandra learns more about her lineage and special talents. At the same time, readers are introduced to her new friends. When Sandra learns about the contest for a second Santa, she immediately applies. Cappie, her guardian, and her island friends encourage her. Readers are taken on a colorful journey to the North Pole, where they participate in the fun-filled but grueling competition to determine the winner. There are lots of twists and turns, holiday magic and fun, mixed in with a bit of romance and coming of age in both parallel plots.

In the end, what will Sandra’s future hold? Will she learn how to cope with the loss of her parents, her talented friends, and the boy who seems to disdain her? Who will win the Santa competition? Stay tuned for more answers in the next book of the series.

This book was a fun read. It is highly recommended for middle grade and young teen readers. Adults looking for a light holiday read will also enjoy if willing to suspend reality for a few hours.

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#Wednesday’s Winners

Two more finalists in the Cybils Bloggers’ Literary Awards:

Easy Reader

HUNGRY THIEVES

There’s a Pest in the Garden

Written by Jan Thomas

 

Another easy reader in the farmyard friends’ series. Duck, Sheep, Dog, and Donkey are upset that there is a pest invading their garden. He is eating their favorite and not so favorite foods like beans, corn, peas, and turnips. Duck thinks he has a plan, but it turns out that all the animals must work together to find a permanent solution to keep pests out.

The familiar characters and speech balloons allow readers to follow the simple dialogue and story plot. Children are led to understand that cooperation and working together is the way to solve a common problem. Recommended as an early stage independent picture reader or read aloud.

 

 

 

 

Early Chapter Book

RISING TO THE OCCASION

Survivor Diaries: Overboard!

Written by Terry Lynn Johnson

This book is part of a series that focuses on real-life survival stories to teach important life-saving skills. In this book, Travis and his family are vacationing in Washington. At the beginning of the tale, the family is sailing on a fifty-foot whale-watching boat with other tourists. While the group is preoccupied sighting whales, a huge wave capsizes the boat. Travis frantically yells for his family; he finds himself under water. Marina, the captain’s seaworthy daughter is nearby.

Travis is wearing a wetsuit and Marina has a life jacket, but her wrist is broken. As they drift farther away from the wreckage, Marina keeps Travis calm. After many hours and no rescue, they are finally thrown ashore on a beach. Hypothermia is setting in and Marina is becoming sick and disoriented. Travis must learn to overcome his fears, follow Marina’s instructions, build a fire, set up a shelter, and find water. The next morning with no rescue in sight, Marina sees eagles flying overhead and remembers an island that has a camera studying the nest. But can Travis overcome his fear of heights and somehow scale the tree to let humans know of their plight?

This is a story of adventure and courage. Marina and Travis undergo personality transformations and role reversals. Perhaps even more importantly, readers are taught how to survive if thrown overboard, avoid hypothermia, and learn basic survival skills. Hopefully, these will never need to be employed. There are a few powerful black and white illustrations that assist readers to visualize the adventure. The author includes a US Coast Guard approved section on illustrated, step by step survival techniques. While this book has been classified an early chapter book, I believe that the eight to twelve age range is a good target audience for this book.

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SCARED AND LONELY

Of Feathers and Friends (Clean Adventure)

Written by Darlene Hoggard Davis

This chapter book addresses many issues confronting today’s families. Tyler has been sent to live with his Grandmother until his newly separated parents can work things out. He feels trapped and unloved because he has been torn away from his life and friends in the city. Tyler decides to run away. He finds a tree-house that belongs to Cody and Jenna. These siblings have their own problems, a mean babysitter who mistreats them and parents who are seldom home. When Cody and Jenna decide to help Tyler, he distrusts them. The only friend he has is an injured sparrow. After several mishaps, Cody and Jenna move Tyler to an old shed, where Jenna, a local foster child tries to help him when he is injured. The story progresses with many twists and turns. In the end, children and adults learn how to believe and trust in one another.

This story is targeted for grades K to 6. I believe it is best suited for children in the eight to twelve age group, who will appreciate and understand all the issues in the storyline. There is a Christian focus, but the book is not preachy. This book would make an excellent read-aloud book for discussion on many social issues.

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#Cybils #Finalists #KidReads

Finalist in Easy Reader Category

AN IMPORTANT MESSENGER

Tooth Fairy’s Night

Written by Candice Ransom

Illustrated by Monique Dong

 

 

 

This is a Level 1 Step into Reading book for preschoolers and kindergarten children learning to read. The storyline is perfect for this age group as most children are beginning to lose baby teeth. The Tooth Fairy is illustrated as an adorable character who assiduously performs her duties. The author uses lots of familiar objects like stuffed toys, pets, moon and stars. This book is written in simple rhyme with nice large print font and vivid colors. I would have given it five stars, but the rhyme structure seemed difficult in a few spots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finalist in Early Chapter Book Category

A WORKING VACATION

The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation

Written by Shannon and Dean Hale

Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Princess Magnolia has been busy battling monsters all week. As she prepares for sleep, the monster alarm sounds once again. She hurriedly dresses in her black costume and slides down the chute to the goat pasture, where a monster is threatening to eat the goats. The Princess is surprised to find someone dressed as The Goat Avenger; he looks suspiciously like her friend Duff. The Avenger suggests that Magnolia needs to take a vacation. He vows to stand guard while she is gone,

Princess Magnolia agrees and the next day she is off on her bicycle to the beach. Here she meets Princess Sneezewort. Suddenly, the tranquility of the day is broken by a giant sea serpent who is threatening to eat people. Of course, the princess immediately dons her costume and rises to the threat. Will The Princess in Black meet the challenge?

At the same time, readers are following The Goat Avenger in a parallel story as he strives to protect his goats. He sets traps for unsuspecting thieves. A squirrel is caught in one of his traps, but the tables are soon turned on The Goat Avenger. Is he successful in guarding the goat herd while the princess is away?

Lots of lively dialogue and large print size make this book appealing to young readers. Many of the colorful illustrations are full page. Onomatopoeia and action scenes move the story along quickly with just enough challenging vocabulary. Especially recommended for children for children ages six through eight.

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