Elem. – Dear Beast: The Pet Parade

Butler, Dori Hillestad. Dear Beast: The Pet Parade. Holiday House, 2021. 978-0-823-44493-9. 80 p. $15.99. Grades 1-3. 

Dear Beast: The Pet Parade is book # 2 in the heartwarming early chapter book series by author Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrator Kevin Atteberry. Cat and Dog lovers will love this series about a jealous cat, a lovable dog, and an owner (a young boy) that has no idea his pets are pen pals. The series is portrayed and written as letters between the two animals, and the books are perfect for young readers transitioning into chapter books. In book # 2, Simon the Cat wants to maintain his pride and avoid wearing a costume for the annual city pet parade. Simon is content to sit this one out and encourages Baxter, the dog, to wear a costume and march with Andy in the city parade. But when Baxter keeps the outfit a mystery- Simon begins to worry that Baxter is up to no good. Can he be trusted? It’s up to Simon to save the day and make sure things go off without a hitch. The adorable storyline celebrates the joy of friendship, the love of pets, and the fun of writing letters.

THOUGHTS: Dear Beast is a charming series for beginner readers. The characters are fun and lovable, and the hilarious dialogue is presented through handwritten letters with spelling mistakes between the two furry characters with fun wordplay. I especially love that the book has a special note in the back that clarifies the characters’ misspelled words. I am eager to read more books in this delightful series and will recommend the series to others!

Early/Beginning Chapter Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

MG – All You Knead is Love

Guerrero, Tanya. All You Knead is Love. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-0-374-31423-1 375 p. $16.99. Grades 4-6. 

Twelve-year-old Alba does not want to leave New York City and move to Barcelona to live with a grandmother she barely knows or remembers. But her mother, a native from Spain herself, is not moving with her, nor is her alcoholic, abusive father. Alba is leaving behind a school she does not like, very few friends, and a home full of secrets and trauma. All You Knead is Love by Tanya Guerrero is a heartfelt story about finding one’s chosen family and discovering the passions stirring inside us. After arriving in a new country, Alba is surprised to find that she not only loves Barcelona but feels her most authentic self in this foreign land. She forms a close relationship with her grandmother, finds her first proper group of friends, and even experiences her first crush. Alba befriends a neighborhood baker who opens his kitchen as a haven to her; she begins to not only heal but thrive as his apprentice. Just as Alba discovers that she has a real passion and talent for baking bread, her beloved bakery faces an unexpected closure. Even more heartbreaking, her mother arrives in Barcelona after finally leaving her abusive relationship with Alba’s father. Alba becomes determined to save the bakery- and mend and heal the strained relationship with her mother.

THOUGHTS: All You Knead is Love seamlessly blends the right amount of culture, music, cooking, and the Spanish language into a vibrant setting that charms and delights. This story transported me to the streets of Barcelona and made me laugh and cheer for Alba and her chosen family. Tanya Guerrero writes with such sensitivity, and her authentic tone created a story with characters that will stick with me for a long time. This story was a gem!

Realistic Fiction          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Upper Elementary Fiction…The Pirate Pig; Princess Academy Bk. 3;


Funke, Cornelia. The Pirate Pig. New York: Random House, 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-37544-3. 56pp. $9.99. Grades 2–5.

This high seas tale features Stout Sam the sailor and his deckhand, Pip. The duo lives in a small beach hut, and they spend time ferrying cargo to the neighboring islands. Life is peaceful until the day a barrel containing a pig washes up on their beach. Since they can’t very well send the pig back out into the ocean, the kind-hearted sailors make room for her in their hut and name her Julie. Although Julie is afraid of water, Sam and Pip soon discover she has a hidden talent: her sensitive snout can sniff out underwater treasure. A treasure-sniffing pig is a hot commodity on the open seas, and before long, Julie is pig-napped by Barracuda Bill and his pirate crew. Sam and Pip must take on the meanest and greediest pirate of them all if they want to rescue their beloved pig. Although this title reads like an easy chapter book, it is not divided into chapters. However, colorful illustrations accompany every spread, and the pictures complement the dialogue-rich text. This title will appeal to adventure fans, and beginning chapter-book readers will be drawn in by the pirate lingo and diagramed ship illustrations.

Adventure         Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County SD

Although not as well-written as the Mercy Watson tales, this pig title will appeal to the same age-group. This book was originally published in German, but the translation is good, and it’s very readable in English. The vibrant watercolor illustrations enhance the story and bring the sailors, pirates, and pig to life.





Hale, Shannon. Princess Academy; The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy Book 3). New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 978-1-61963-485-5. 324p. $17.99. Gr. 4-7.

Miri has finally completed her year at the Princess Academy. Now she is dreaming of returning home to see her father and sister and her beloved Mount Eskel . Peder also plans to ask her father for her hand in marriage, but now the king has a special assignment for Miri. She must become a tutor to three sisters who are living on the far edge of the kingdom. Rumors of war have caused the king to try to make an alliance with the advancing Storan king. He has promised that King Fader may marry a royal princess, and these cousins are the only ones eligible. Miri must educate them in hopes that one of them will be chosen and save the kingdom from war. When she arrives, things are stranger than she imagined. The girls are almost wild, hunting and fishing to survive on their own. Their mother has died, and an evil village council man has been stealing their allowance from the king. Miri begins to get to know the girls and realizes that her letters are not being delivered, so no one knows the desperate conditions they are in. So Miri, showing true strength and determination from her Mount Eskel roots, starts to plan and learn as much as she can in the swampy town of Lower Alva and sets out to outwit the thieves, educate the princesses, and save the kingdom from war.

This is the third book in the series by Shannon Hale that began with the Newbery Honor title, Princess Academy. These books are wonderful books about girls using their own special talents to shine. Miri and the other girls at the academy all learn to use their gifts to benefit each other and their kingdom. This latest episode continues to show that by working with their strengths and supporting each other, girls can do anything. An exciting and empowering journey that resonates for girls of all ages!

Fantasy      Donna Fernandez, Calvary Christian Academy