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

Elem. – The Shark Report (Benny McGee and the Shark Book 1)

Anderson, Derek. The Shark Report (Benny McGee and the Shark Book 1). Penguin Workshop, 2020. 978-0-593-09338-2. 64 p. $15.99. Grades 1-3.

Benny McGee is scared of swimming in the ocean because of sharks. He knows a lot about sharks because he is learning about them for a school report. When a shark appears at his house, Benny doesn’t know what to do. His father suggests Benny invite the shark in, so he does, thus beginning his friendship with the shark. When Benny’s shark report is due and he realizes he never wrote it, he decides to take Mr. Chompers with him to school as his report. But, Benny forgot today is also the day the deep-sea fisherman is scheduled to visit his class.  When the deep-sea fisherman sees Mr. Chompers, Benny must decide which is more important: his report or his new friend.

THOUGHTS: This early chapter book is a fun, fact-filled read.  Anderson includes lots of accurate information about sharks while keeping the narrative light-hearted. Emerging readers will enjoy Mr. Chomper’s shenanigans while also connecting with Benny’s fears and how he overcomes them. Book 2 of Benny McGee and the Shark, We are Famous, is also available now.

Early Chapter Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Easy Readers – Princess Cora; Good for Nothing Button

Schlitz, Laura Amy. Princess Cora and the Crocodile. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-4822-0. $16.99. 74 p. Gr. 1-3.

Immediately upon her birth, Princess Cora’s parents, the King and Queen, began educating their daughter to one day assume the crown. Cora is subjected to thrice-daily baths, a tedious exercise regime and hours reading boring books on how to run a kingdom.  Neither her nanny nor her parents will listen to any of Cora’s objections to her daily routine. Even her request for a dog is soundly denied (dogs are dirty and time-consuming). Frustrated and at her wit’s end, Cora writes a letter to her fairy godmother asking for a pet. Due to her lack of specificity, and apparently the godmother’s wicked sense of humor, Cora is shocked to find she has been sent a crocodile. The crocodile smiles and tries to assure Cora he can eat everyone who annoys her. Cora tries to convince the crocodile that she does not wish him to eat her parents; she just wants a day off. So the crocodile dresses as Cora and takes her place, with predictably hilarious results. Beautiful illustrations throughout by Brian Floca add to the charm of the book. THOUGHTS:  A delightful story sure to charm beginning readers, and one no doubt appreciated by any child who feels over-scheduled.   

Easy Reader; Fiction       Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Harper, Charise Mericle.  The Good for Nothing Button! Hyperion Books for Children, 2017. 9781484726464. Unpaged. $9.99. Gr. K-2.

In this latest book in the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series, we meet three birds who are examining a red button that appears to have no function.  Yellow Bird declares that this button does nothing when pressed, but Blue Bird and Red Bird want to test it out for themselves.  Blue Bird feels a sense of surprise when he presses it, so states that the button does indeed do something.  Yellow Bird does not have the same experience and says that she actually feels sad.  The experimentation continues with Yellow Bird, who begins to feel angry, but the trio comes to realize that the button makes them seem funny.  This is a silly story, but one that will hold the interest of children and make them laugh out loud.  Yellow Bird shares some characteristics of Mo Willems’ Pigeon, such as his tendency to become upset easily.  Elephant and Piggie are seen reading this book on the endpapers and title page. They introduce the story and encourage us to read it as they are doing. Pigeon is harder to find, but appears on the back cover.  Harper’s illustrations of the birds are whimsical and are done in the cartoon style of Willems’ drawings.   Thoughts:  This is a must-have for all elementary collections.  Emerging readers will enjoy the story as they develop their fluency skills.  Librarians will need to decide if they will place these with Willems’ other books or classify them by the author’s name.  The other two books in this series, The Cookie Fiasco and We are Growing!, are by different authors.

Early Chapter        Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD




New from Mo Willems


Willems, Mo. The Story of Diva and Flea. New York, NY: Hyperion Books, 2015. 978-148472284-8. 66 pages. $14.99. Gr K-3.

Personalities often clash like cats and dogs, yet there is a middle ground where true friendship can find harmony. Such is the story of two French creatures in Mo Willems excellent stand alone beginning chapter book, The Story of Diva and Flea, ably illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi. Diva, a skittish guard dog, resides in an apartment complex in Paris; meanwhile, Flea is a wandering adventurer cat who lives life on the streets. When the two clash by the fence, they come to empathize and see new perspectives on life. The presentation is careful to show courage and challenges from both sides, and the view from the creatures provide entertainment for the reader as well as a good moral. The French setting and phrases add a “joie de vivre” for this touching tale.  THOUGHTS: Die hard fans of the Pigeon or Elephant and Piggie will not recognize much of Mo in this tale, but it stands alone as an interesting story. Also, the language and reading level are better suited as a class read aloud for K & 1st graders, while 2nd & 3rd graders would certainly enjoy the challenge.

Animal Fiction; Early Chapter    Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District

Super Fly (an early chapter book)

Super Fly

Doodler, Todd H. Super Fly: The World’s Smallest Superhero! New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2015. 978-1-61963-379-7. 115p. $15.99. Gr. 1–3.

Eugene Flystein is a fourth grade fly who’s just moved to the town of Stinkopolis with his family. Eugene takes after his inventor father, and he spends all his free time reading and jotting down ideas for inventions in his Top-Secret Robot Notebook. On the first day of fourth grade, he befriends a flea named Fred and has a run-in with the class bully, a cockroach named Cornelius. After school, Eugene shows Fred his best invention to date: the Ultimo 6-9000, a machine that increases physical strength and intelligence by 9,000 times in just six seconds. The friends devise a plan to use the Ultimo-6-9000 as a defense against Cornelius if he bothers them again. But, their plan goes awry when they accidently hit Cornelius with the invention, making him the most feared and dangerous bully ever. There’s only one way to stop Cornelius: Eugene must invent a way to morph into Super Fly!

Early Chapter Book    Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York Co.


This title’s brief chapters and short sentence structure will appeal to beginning chapter book readers. The cartoonish black-and-white illustrations and gross-out humor will also hook reluctant readers.  In my school, the most popular audience for this title has been boys who gravitate towards the Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta titles.