Elem. – The Not-So-Tiny Tales of Simon Seahorse (Series Fiction)

Reef, Cora. The Not-So-Tiny Tales of Simon Seahorse. Little Simon, 2021. $17.99 ea. 118 p. Grades K-3. 

Simon Says. 978-1-665-90368-4.
I Spy…a Shark! 978-1-665-90371-4.
Don’t Pop the Bubble Ball! 978-1-665-90374-5.

This new chapter book series for elementary readers features ocean dwelling protagonist Simon Seahorse. Simon lives with his family (Dad, Mom, and 11 brothers and sisters) near the ocean town of Coral Grove. When not attending Coral Grove Elementary, he enjoys hanging out with his best friend Olive Octopus, telling stories and going on adventures. In Simon Says, Simon takes one of his treasured possessions, a lucky pearl, with him to school for “sea and tell.” Naturally, being a storyteller, he enjoys embellishing the story of his pearl a bit when it’s his turn. After he arrives home from school, he realizes that the pearl has gone missing! Together with his friend Olive, and some help from Mr. Green, the turtle trolley, he goes on a journey to Shipwreck Station (aka the ocean’s lost and found) in the hopes of locating his pearl. In I Spy…a Shark!, Simon and his friends are afraid of sharks (they’re worried about being eaten). So, when Simon and Olive spy a shark while working on a school project in Coral Jungle, they are understandably frightened. But Zelda the shark doesn’t want to eat them; she is there to pick a bouquet of coral for her mother’s birthday. Simon and Olive help her choose the best coral for her bouquet and in return she invites them to Shark Point to attend her mother’s birthday party. As a result, they have another amazing story to tell their classmates. The text in each volume is accompanied by digital B&W illustrations on each page.

THOUGHTS: This early chapter series is sure to be popular with readers. Though Simon is a seahorse, many of the situations he finds himself in will be relatable to elementary students. After all, who hasn’t panicked when they think they have lost a treasured possession? Or realized that the preconceived ideas they had about someone were incorrect? 

Early Chapter Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Word Travelers and the Taj Mahal Mystery

Haldar, Raj. Word Travelers and the Taj Mahal Mystery. Sourcebooks, 2021. 978-1-728-22205-9. 128 p. $5.99. Grades 1-3. 

Best friends Eddie and Molly-Jean (MJ) enjoy spending their Saturdays together playing games, watching movies, and having sleepovers. One day, a discussion about the meaning of the word “pajamas’’ leads the pair to discover an old book on word origins compiled by Eddie’s great-grandfather, a famous etymologist. When they open the book (which they nickname the Awesome Enchanted Book) to the entry on “pajama” they are magically transported to India, the country where the word originated. There they meet Dev, who is searching for an ancient family treasure in order to rebuild the local school, which was destroyed in a recent typhoon. Eddie and MJ team up with Dev to find the treasure. But they have competition–Mr. Raffles, the villain of the story, is also on the hunt for the riches! Working together, they decipher clues (with the help of the Awesome Enchanted Book, of course), race across the city, explore hidden passageways, and try to outsmart Mr. Raffles–but will they locate the treasure? Readers will learn about Indian culture as well as many words originating in the country. Bold words in the text can be found in a words origins glossary. The first volume in a projected series, readers will look forward to Eddie and MJ’s next adventure.

THOUGHTS: While readers may be drawn in by the mystery/adventure elements of the plot, they also will enjoy learning about the field of etymology and the origins and history of many words we use in everyday life. This series would be an ideal suggestion for fans of The Magic Treehouse books. Recommended.

Mystery          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – King & Kayla and the Case of the Gold Ring

Butler, Dori Hillestad. King & Kayla and the Case of the Gold Ring. Peachtree, 2021. 978-1-68263-208-6. 47 p. $6.99. Grades K-2. 

The King & Kayla mystery/detective series for young readers is back with another enjoyable installment. As the story opens, narrator King (a dog) and Kayla (his human) are playing outside in the snow when they are joined by some friends. Kayla’s friend Asia shows the group the special ring she is wearing that used to belong to her grandmother. After they finish playing, the group goes inside Kayla’s house, where they dry off, eat a snack, and settle down to watch some television. Suddenly Asia realizes her ring is missing! Working together the youngsters (and King) embark on a search for the ring. In order to solve the mystery, they must employ skills including teamwork, gathering facts, and analyzing clues. The text is accompanied by numerous pencil and digital illustrations by Nancy Myers.

THOUGHTS: This delightful early chapter book will hold great appeal for readers. It serves as an excellent gateway to mystery/detective stories and could also be used in lessons about problem solving. The book also incorporates humor through the character of King, who can be somewhat excitable and is always ready to enjoy a snack. Recommended.

Early Chapter Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

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

divaandflea

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.