Rothman, Scott. Return of the Underwear Dragon. Random House Studio, 2021. 978-0-593-11992-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.
In this sequel to Attack of the Underwear Dragon (2020), Sir Cole has determined that the Underwear Dragon only tried to destroy the kingdom because he was unable to read the signs instructing him not to. Therefore, Sir Cole makes it his mission to teach the Underwear Dragon how to read. It is a difficult process, and both parties get so frustrated they want to give up. However, that’s when Claire comes along with her fire extinguisher, which she uses to put out the dragon’s flames of frustration. Sir Cole selects another book that the Underwear Dragon finds more interesting, and together, the trio continues to work towards its goal. Portraying the value of both literacy and perseverance, this humorous book definitely will resonate with young kids who are just learning to read.
THOUGHTS: Although this was not necessarily my favorite book this year, I did appreciate the humor and subtle messages portrayed by the story. Give this book to fans of Attack of the Underwear Dragon (2020) and/or students just learning to read.
Picture Book Julie Ritter, PSLA Member
Epstein, Adam Jay, and Ruth Chan. Have You Seen Gordon? Simon & Schuster, 2021. 978-1-534-47736-0. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.
Have You Seen Gordon is an interesting take on the concept of I Spy. The first few pages the reader is being introduced to finding Gordon; however, it becomes apparent that Gordon doesn’t want to hide. The characters are talking with the narrator throughout the second half of the book, until they come to an agreement about the ultimate direction of the book.
THOUGHTS: The fact that the characters spoke up about not wanting to fit in (or be found) is an unexpected piece of this book that I appreciated. The ending wraps the whole book up nicely and makes the reader feel like the ending came naturally.
Picture Book Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
John, Jory. Cat Problems. Random House Studio, 2021. 978-0-593-30213-2. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-2.
Told from the cat’s perspective, this hilarious story chronicles a day in the life of a house cat. This particular cat has a lot of complaints about his living situation: another cat is lying in his spot, he doesn’t have any food in his dish, he wants to go outside, and a noisy monster (the vacuum) is chasing him. The list of grievances goes on. Through the window, a squirrel scolds him for being so ungrateful. This doesn’t phase the cat, however, and he continues through his day with his amusing, authentic commentary on his surroundings. Despite his attitude, readers will fall in love with the protagonist, who is so unapologetically himself that it’s comical.
THOUGHTS: Fans of Penguin Problems (2016) and Giraffe Problems (2018) will love this hilarious new addition to the Animal Problems series. Cat lovers will also find this book endearing. Have children compare and contrast the feline protagonist with their own pets at home, or have them write a story from their pet’s perspective.
Picture Book Julie Ritter, PSLA Member
Wedelich, Sam. Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-35900-8. 40 p. $17.99. Grades PreK-3.
Chicken Little is known for his exaggerations, so when he meets the Big Bad Wolf and learns that he isn’t so big and bad, just misunderstood, roles change as the other chickens in the coop fear the big, bad wolf. The chickens argue about defending their coop or flying away and decide the best thing to do is flee, but Chicken Little convinces them to stay and look at the facts. The chickens learn about the wolf and decide to stay and welcome him to their coop instead of judging him.
THOUGHTS: This is an adorable fractured fairytale combination of Chicken Little and The Three Little Pigs (albeit without the pigs). The story focuses on not judging something one does not understand, but instead, learn about it, and then make a decision about what to do. This is a welcome story and lesson for all ages on kindness and misjudgement. The words and illustrations are very cartoonish with lots of white space. Speech balloons are used throughout to add banter and snarkiness from the chickens (and laughter from the reader). This is a great addition to character education lessons and fairytale units.
Picture Book Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD
Lazar, Ralph. Total Mayhem #1 Monday – Into the Cave of Thieves. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-77037-7. 208 p. $6.99. Grades 2-5
In Dash Candoo’s world, boring days do not happen. Before he even eats his breakfast on Monday he is attacked by “combat-ready scallywags and the two tailed Devil Cat.” When Dash gets to school he has other hilarious situations to deal with, which are shown off in funny illustrations. At the back of the book, there is an almanac which gives you more information about all the things that Dash and his friend use throughout the book.
THOUGHTS: This book is great for fans of Captain Underpants and will definitely be a favorite in any elementary library.
Humorous Fiction Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Archer, Micha. Wonder Walkers. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021. 978-0-593-10964-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
When two children head outside for a walk, there’s no shortage of things to wonder about. The more they explore, the more questions they have. “Is the sun the world’s light bulb?” “Are branches trees’ arms?” “Are roots the plant’s toes?” The simple text consists mainly of the children’s questions, and the straightforward writing encourages contemplation and discussion. The illustrations are the stars of this book. Stunning double page spreads were created with inks and collage using tissue paper and patterned papers. Archer also uses homemade stamps to create different textures and layers. From green patterned ribbons of grass to swirling underground root networks to patchworks of sunset sky, students will pore over the pages, noting new details with each repeated read.
THOUGHTS: Use this title to encourage students to become more observant and appreciative of the wide world around them. This is the perfect story to share after a nature walk, as students will make connections to things they noticed and things the children in the story encounter. Whether inspired by fields of wildflowers, changing leaves, or a burbling brook, students will have no trouble coming up with “wonders” of their own as they let their imagination soar.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Stutzman, Jonathan. Don’t Feed the Coos! Henry Holt, 2020. 978-1-250-30318-9. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-2.
When a young girl feeds some pigeons (or coos) in the park, she soon discovers that she cannot escape them. They follow her everywhere! Even worse, they poo all over everything. She tries desperately to make them leave, but nothing works. Just as she has accepted her fate as their caretaker, she finally discovers a solution to her problem. An amusing story accompanied by cartoon-like illustrations, this title would be an extremely entertaining read aloud for young children.
THOUGHTS: I read this title with my preschooler, and she got a big kick out of it. The illustrations are very reminiscent of Mo Willems’ pigeon books, so it would be an excellent choice for Willems fans. In fact, my daughter actually asked me to get some more pigeon books from the library after we read this title. This is definitely a worthy addition to any collection serving young children.
Picture Book Julie Ritter, PSLA Member
Lowry, Lois. The Willoughbys Return. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-42389-8. 182 p. $17.99. Grades 4-6.
The Willoughby family is back in this entertaining sequel. After being frozen in the snowy Swiss Alps for thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby have thawed, apparently none the worse for wear, except for being behind the times. The couple, who were not the most caring parents, decide to return home and reunite with their children, who are now technically older than them. During the time of their absence, all four children were adopted by Commander Melanoff, who married their nanny. The eldest son, Tim, succeeded the Commander as CEO of a successful candy company. At least, it was successful until the government banned all candy as unhealthy. Next door to the mansion lives the Poore family, who like their name, is in very reduced circumstances. They open a bed and breakfast and the first guests are Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby, whose stay is cut short after eating a salad of poisonous leaves prepared by the unwitting Mrs. Poore. Eventually, the Willoughbys are reunited and the parents thaw out their relations with their children, as they adjust to the new world of Google, FaceTime and Skype. Even the hapless Mr. Poore, an unsuccessful traveling encyclopedia salesman, returns home penniless, but with some glittery rocks, which will change his family’s life forever. The author speaks to the reader in occasional footnotes, which provide additional plot details or explain a reference.
THOUGHTS: This satirical “rags to riches” and “riches to rags” story is sure to delight fans of Lemony Snicket’s books and those who can appreciate a parody of those classic orphan stories.
Humorous Fiction Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member