Archive for the ‘Beginning Chapter Books’ Category

Review of My Pet Human Takes Center Stage, by Yasmine Surovec

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

My Pet Human Takes Center Stage

by Yasmine Surovec

Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 100 pages.

Oliver’s back! He’s the cat with the pet human, Freckles.

In this book, Freckles goes to school and Oliver decides to tag along. This gets Freckles to join the Fur-Ever Friends Club, where she decides to foster a kitten.

Oliver is not excited about sharing his human with a kitten! To make matters worse, Freckles has plans for Oliver and the kitten to participate in a pet talent show put on by the club.

This book has five chapters with pictures on every page. The dialog is all done with speech bubbles, but there is some narration from Oliver’s perspective as well, so it’s not quite a graphic novel.

But it is a delightful and funny chapter book for beginning readers. They will enjoy how the world looks from the perspective of a cat.

catversushuman.com
mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring, by Rebecca Bond

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Pig & Goose

and the First Day of Spring

by Rebecca Bond

Charlesbridge, 2017. 48 pages.
Starred Review

This is a beginning reader in the classic “two friends” tradition. We learn how Pig meets Goose on the first day of Spring.

Here’s the start of the book and the story “A Spring Morning”:

It was spring at last.
Pig was in a good mood.
“The sun is shining!” said Pig.
“The sky is blue!” said Pig.
“Goody gumdrops!” said Pig.
“I am going to have a picnic by the pond.”

Pig is anthropomorphic, wearing a dress and gathering things from her cozy home into a picnic basket. On the way to the pond, Goose lands beside her. She admires how well Goose flies, so Goose offers to teach her.

You can figure out how the flying lesson will end up! But I like the way they collapse into a pile of good-hearted laughter after they try it. And then they go together to eat the picnic by the pond.

The second story is “A Picnic Lunch.” They share lunch and talk about how spring is the best season but then agree that all the other seasons are best, too. Pig naps in the sunshine and dreams of flying like Goose. When she wakes up, she learns that Goose can also swim. What an amazing new friend she has!

That story ends with Pig inviting Goose to the party she’s having that evening, her First-Day-of-Spring Party.

The final story is about the party. Pig introduces Goose to her many friends. Pig made wonderful food to eat, tells delightful stories and jokes, and laughs and dances with her friends.

After the party, Goose tells Pig how wonderful she is – and I like that the author doesn’t have to explain to the reader why that is, they’ve already seen how delightful she is. Even her exuberant cry (repeated often) of “Goody Gumdrops!” tells us how enthusiastic she is about her joys.

[I used to like to say “Goody Gumdrops!” when I was a kid. Made me wonder if Rebecca Bond is the same age as me. Well, she’s 8 years younger, but that’s not too far off. Do kids today say “Goody Gumdrops!”? Maybe now they will.]

This is a picture book about friendship and about simple joys. And I like the way it shows us that each friend has something of their own to offer.

I’m glad we can peek in on the start of this beautiful friendship.

[Note: I was looking up Rebecca Bond’s website and discovered, sadly, that she died August 2, 2017, at 45 years old. So the friendship of Pig and Goose will only be developing in our imaginations.]

charlesbridge.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Sofia Martinez: My Fantástica Family, by Jacqueline Jules

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Sofia Martinez

My Fantástica Family

by Jacqueline Jules
illustrated by Kim Smith

Picture Window Books (Capstone), 2017. 96 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely beginning chapter book. There are three stories with three chapters each. There are full color beautiful pictures throughout.

I like the story because it’s about a great big family. I have a great big family, and these are rare in children’s books. This particular family is Hispanic and they have brown skin. Their speech is peppered with Spanish words (printed in red and defined in the back), but otherwise these are simply fun family stories.

In the first story, the whole big family is going to spend a week at the beach. Sofia decides to pack games instead of very many changes of clothes. (This won my heart right from the start.) When they get a rainy day, Sofia’s a hero.

The next story deals with making a Time Capsule for the family – and Sofia’s curiosity about it. (I was a little confused and didn’t realize they were back home from their trip. But I eventually figured out about there being three separate stories. There’s a big title page for each story, so I could have paid more attention to clues like that.)

The final story is about the whole family going shopping for school supplies and the preschool-age cousin getting lost in the store.

Again, this is all done with big colorful pictures, simple language, short chapters, and Sofia’s personality shining through. This is a great new heroine for kids ready for chapters.

capstonekids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Case in Any Case, by Ulf Nilsson

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

A Case in Any Case

by Ulf Nilsson
illustrated by Gitte Spee

Gecko Press, 2017. Originally published in Sweden in 2016. 108 pages.

A Case in Any Case is part of the Detective Gordon series. It’s a gentle woodland mystery series for readers ready to begin chapter books. It’s got twelve short chapters with abundant colorful illustrations, and is very child-friendly.

Police Chief Gordon, a toad, is trying to retire. He has left Detective Buffy in charge of the woodland police station. She is a small mouse. She tries to be brave when she hears a mysterious scrabbler outside the station at night. But she thinks perhaps she should call in Detective Gordon.

Police Chief Gordon is not enjoying retirement. In fact, he finds himself drawn back to the police station….

But when the two meet up, they don’t get a chance to investigate the mysterious visitor, because two small children are missing! In the investigation that follows, the talents of both officers are needed to save the day.

This is a classic friendship early chapter book – with a mystery twist. It’s a gentle read, with subtle humor, but leaves you smiling when you’re done.

geckopress.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny, by John Himmelman

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny

by John Himmelman

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2017. 122 pages.

I still say that John Himmelman’s books about Bunjitsu Bunny are perfect for readers who are just becoming fluent enough readers for chapter books. There are pictures on every page, and not a lot of words, so even though there are more than a hundred pages, the book is not daunting. And each chapter is a self-contained story, and most of them have some kind of pay-off or surprise ending, so reading them is rewarding.

Now I’ll admit that there’s nothing excitingly new about this new volume, and it doesn’t matter what order you read the books in. So I’m not struck with new enthusiasm about this series or itching to tell you about an especially clever new story.

However – collectively, the books are wonderful. I’m so glad they exist. Kids who already love reading about Bunjitsu Bunny will be happy for a set of more stories.

A bunny who’s skilled at bunjitsu and can conquer every foe, except maybe herself. What could be better?

mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Mister Cleghorn’s Seal, by Judith Kerr

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Mister Cleghorn’s Seal

by Judith Kerr

HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2016. First published in Great Britain in 2015. 94 pages.
Review written in 2016.

I’m going to list this book with Beginning Chapter Books, but there aren’t actually any chapters. However, the pace, length, and reading level are consistent with other Beginning Chapter Books. There are black-and-white drawings by Judith on every spread, keeping young readers interested.

The story opens with Mister Cleghorn sitting on his balcony watching the sunrise, wondering how he will get through the whole day.

I should never have sold the shop, thought Mr Cleghorn, even though the people who bought it had paid him a tidy sum. Whatever am I going to do with myself?

While he is watching passersby, he sees the janitor of his building scold a little middle-aged lady for bringing her sister’s canary into the apartment building. “No pets!” shouted the janitor. “You know the rules! No pets in the flats!”

Later that day, Mr Cleghorn gets an invitation to visit his cousin and his family. Cousin William is a fisherman, and William’s son Tommy has been watching a cute seal pup by the shore. Mr Cleghorn takes an interest in the pup as well.

Then one morning he found the little pup lying listlessly on its rock. It looked up for a moment at the sound of the oars, but turned its head away at once and lay down again. It seemed sad and thinner than before.

William tells him that some seals were shot the day before, and the pup’s mother must have been one of them. It can’t live without its mother, so they should put the pup out of its misery. But Mr Cleghorn can’t bear to let the pup be shot, so he decides to take it home with him. He plans to take it to the zoo right away.

Next comes the adventure of getting the pup home and figuring out what to feed it. Once there, he needs to hide it from the janitor.

When he accidentally leaves the water running with the pup in the tub – he meets his downstairs neighbor, the lady with the birdcage. She becomes his ally in hiding the pup from the janitor. Her father was a vet, and she even knows the keeper at the local zoo.

But when the two of them go to the zoo, it has a new owner and has fallen into disrepair. The rest of the book is about trying to find a permanent home for the seal pup, yet keep him hidden while they are looking. The eventual solution makes everyone happy.

This is a nice book for animal lovers. Unfortunately, the true story in the author’s note in the back about the seal Judith Kerr’s father kept doesn’t have a happy ending, so it dampened my enthusiasm a bit. But perhaps her way of finishing will appease young readers:

I always loved this story. I wished I could have known the little seal, and I wished more than anything that the story could have had a happy ending. Perhaps that is why, more than a hundred years later, I have made up a different story, which has one.

I’m thinking of this as a quieter version of Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Charming.

harpercollins.co.uk

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy, by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy

by Laurel Snyder
illustrated by Emily Hughes

Chronicle Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

It’s another beginning chapter book about Charlie and his little brother Mouse. In this book their grandfather, Grumpy, comes to visit.

This book hits just the right note, telling about interactions of the boys with Grumpy. There are four short stories. The parents don’t come into it at all (except being referred to a bit), but each story is strictly between the boys and Grumpy.

My favorite story is “Pouncing.” Here’s how it begins:

Charlie woke up.
Mouse woke up.
“Grumpy is here!” said Charlie.
“Should we pounce him?” asked Mouse.
“Of course!” said Charlie.
They snuck downstairs.

Grumpy was in the kitchen.
Grumpy was drinking coffee.

Mouse looked sad.
“Why are you sad?” Grumpy asked Mouse.
“We wanted to pounce you,” said Mouse.
“So pounce me!” said Grumpy.
“We can only pounce
when you are sleeping,”
said Charlie.
“It is a rule,” said Mouse.
“That makes sense,” said Grumpy. “But you will have to get up very early to catch me sleeping.”

As the story continues, Grumpy “rests his eyes” and his nose begins to snore. I like that the author doesn’t tell us what the boys decide to do. We know what will happen!

There’s all kinds of charm in these stories. They’re suitable for a beginning reader to read themselves or for a young one to listen and enjoy. Grandparents will especially enjoy reading these to their grandchildren.

laurelsnyder.com
chroniclekids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon, by John Himmelman

Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon

by John Himmelman

Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 120 pages.

Bunjitsu Bunny’s back! Isabel the Bunjitsu master is back in this third book of short stories about fighting well and knowing when not to fight.

As before, most of the short well-illustrated chapters have some kind of kicker to the story. My favorite is “The Floating Rabbit” where their teacher challenges them to get from one circle drawn on the floor to another on the other side of the room without touching the floor. Isabel figures out to ask her friends to carry her.

“Sometimes,” said Isabel, “friends can help us do things we cannot do on our own.”

There are 13 short chapters in this book. The print is large and there are pictures on each spread, so this is a perfect choice for kids ready to start chapter books.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Poppy Seed Cakes, by Margery Clark

Friday, June 1st, 2018

The Poppy Seed Cakes

by Margery Clark

with illustrations by Maud and Miska Petersham

Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics, 2013. First published 1924. 157 pages.
Starred Review

Last year I wrote Project 52 – each week reflecting on one year of my life. Which brought back memories. And one of the memories was about which chapter books I read when I was still small, before we moved away from Seattle.

One of those first chapter books was The Poppy Seed Cakes.

I hadn’t read The Poppy Seed Cakes in years. But remembering it made me want to get a copy and hold it in my hands and read it over again. So I looked on Amazon and was delighted to find an Everyman’s Classics edition.

Once the book arrived, I read it immediately. All the pictures and page decorations are there! And I remember every single one and greet them all as old friends. There are many full-page illustrations, alternating between color and black and white. But there are also decorative patterns on each page, with each chapter having its own theme, and the pattern enclosing the text. For example, the chapter “The White Goat,” has a stylized picture of a goat parading across the top of the page. “Erminka and the Crate of Chickens” has chickens across the top, and “The Picnic Basket” has a goose reaching for a picnic basket.

The only thing wrong with this book is its bright yellow cover. I’m pretty sure my grandma’s copy was red. And that’s another thing. I’m not so sure any more that I did read this book from the library in Seattle. But I specifically remember reading it at my grandma’s house in Salem, Oregon – and I think maybe my great-grandmother had a copy as well. (However, that means my mother had read it as a child, so there’s a very good chance she did check it out for me from the library. Which would explain my memory of it as one of the first chapter books I got from the library.)

I am very sad I didn’t think of ordering this book when my own children were small, because I find it’s a book that begs to be read aloud. In fact, I’ll admit that I read some of it aloud even when sitting in my own home all alone. The phrase “Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka,” which appears over and over just doesn’t want to remain silent in your head.

The stories are old-fashioned and quaint – but do stand the test of time. And the language! First we have stories about Andrewshek and Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka. Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka asks him to do something while she is gone – and Andrewshek consistently chooses to do something else – with varying results. Though they usually manage to deal with said results.

Then we have stories about Erminka and her red topped boots. They are her brother’s, and they are too big, so wearing them gets Erminka in trouble more than once.

At the end of the book, the stories come together when Erminka comes for a tea-party at Andrewshek’s house. With poppy seed cakes.

All the animals can talk in this book. Each story is child-sized and matter of fact, and the animals are child-like in their responses. Here’s how the last story ends:

Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka spread a clean white table cloth on the table under the apple tree in the garden. She brought out two plates of poppy seed cakes and five cups and saucers and five spoons and five napkins. Then she went back into the house to get some strawberry jam.

The white goat and the kitten and the dog and the two chickens came and sat down on the bench beside the table under the apple tree in the garden. They sat very quiet with their hands folded.

“If we behave nicely,” said the white goat, “perhaps Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka will let us join the tea-party.”

Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka came out on the porch with a bowl of strawberry jam in her hand. She saw the white goat and the kitten and the dog and the two chickens sitting quiet on the bench, with their hands folded.

“Well! Well!” said Auntie Katushka. “Some more friends have come to our tea-party. I hope they will like poppy seed cakes and strawberry jam, too.”

And they did.

Simple stories and simple concerns, with a happy ending. Though a modern child probably won’t hang out with geese and goats and chickens like Andrewshek and Erminka, they will understand how easy it is to be distracted, the lure of new boots, and the delight of eating poppy seed cakes.

randomhouse.com/everymans

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

The Wild Robot

by Peter Brown
read by Kate Atwater

Hachette Audio, 2016. 4 hours on 4 CDs.
Review written in 2016.

This is a simple story about a robot that survives a shipwreck and washes up on an island. There Roz learns to live among the animals, to act like them and speak their language.

After an accident kills a family of geese – except for one egg – Roz feels responsible and adopts the gosling, who imprints on Roz when he hatches. In order to bring up the gosling, Roz needs help from the animals of the island. She works even harder at adapting to their wild ways and making the island her home.

When I first checked out this book, I was impatient with the simple sentences and mistook it for a simplistic story. I had more patience with the audio book and found more depth than I had expected. This book is geared for kids just beginning to read chapter books, but for those, it asks some fascinating questions about what it means to be alive and what it means to feel emotions and how to make friends when you are seen as different from everybody else.

I enjoyed the audiobook so much, I think this would also make a good classroom readaloud for an early elementary classroom. There would be plenty to talk about. The language and story are simple, but they do make you think. This would also do well for a family bedtime story when a child is ready for a book with many chapters.

One odd thing about the audiobook is that there is accompanying music and sound effects at the beginning and at the end. It wasn’t clear to me why the sounds suddenly started up again on the last CD. I did think the sound effects enhanced the story, but was curious why they were only there for part of the story.

The audiobook includes a pdf of illustrations, but of course that’s not a real substitute for seeing the pictures as you read the story. Which brings me back to thinking this would be an even better readaloud than it is an audiobook.

Now, I have a lot of quibbles about a robot having emotions, or if things would really go this way, but for a simple chapter book with a lot of depth, The Wild Robot is a lovely offering.

peterbrownstudio.com
HachetteAudio.com

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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