Archive for the ‘Beginning Chapter Books’ Category

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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Review of Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Mango & Bambang

The Not-a-Pig

by Polly Faber

illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

Candlewick Press, 2016. 135 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a beginning chapter book – four chapters with abundant pictures – that is most unusual and utterly charming.

We first meet Mango Allsorts, a girl who is good at all sorts of things.

She had a nearly black belt in karate, and she could jump off the highest diving board at the swimming pool without holding her nose, use the Sicilian Defense when playing chess, and wiggle her ears while sucking on a lollipop.

She was also learning to play the clarinet. Sometimes the sounds that came out of the bottom were not exactly the sounds Mango had meant when she blew into the top, but Mango knew that she just needed to keep practicing and soon she would be good at that, too.

Mango had a lot of time for practicing; her papa’s long hours balancing meant she had to find her own things to do. Becoming good at those things kept her busy. And being busy was important, living in a very busy city, full of other busy people being good at things.

Because otherwise Mango might have been a little lonely.

It was on a Wednesday that everything changed. It’s important to note that it was a Wednesday. A Wednesday can seem a bit of a humpish, nothing-y sort of day, but even humpish sorts of days can hold the unexpected.

In this case the unexpected was a hump.

As a matter of fact, the unexpected is a tapir who is blocking all traffic in the city, hunkered down on a crosswalk because he thought he saw a tiger.

Mango knows how to be calm and listen. She talks gently to the tapir and invites him to her home for banana pancakes.

It takes much coaxing and reassurance, and some false starts, but Mango gets Bambang to trust her and come home with her for a visit.

Walking home with her new friend, Mango found herself feeling not perfectly certain what having a tapir come to stay might involve.

And that was a very exciting feeling indeed.

The remaining chapters deal with the adventure of having a tapir as a long-term visitor and best friend. First, Bambang finds a pool that suits him, then he deals with a sinister Collector, and finally he gives Mango exactly what she needs to be able to play her clarinet in a concert.

I liked the writing style from the moment I opened the book, and a story about a girl and her friend the tapir is certainly something new. Best of all, the spine of the book has a prominent number 1 on the top, so I’m pretty sure there are more adventures to come.

Beginning chapter books often seem rather boring to adults, since they are generally concerned with everyday things that are important to young children. Well, when the topic is fitting a tapir into those everyday concerns, things rapidly get quite interesting. There are pictures on every spread, and this book provides ample rewards to a reader ready for new adventures.

candlewick.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 Pets on the Loose! The Great Pet Escape, by Victoria Jamieson

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Pets on the Loose!

The Great Pet Escape

by Victoria Jamieson

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2016. 64 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a graphic novel just right for kids who are ready for chapter books. It’s by the brilliant Newbery-Honor-winning Victoria Jamieson.

This book is about the classroom pets of Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School. GW, a mouse, explains his fate at the beginning:

Three months,
two weeks,
and one day.

That’s how long I’ve been stuck in this terrible prison, otherwise known as . . .
a second-grade classroom.

I was captured along with my friends Barry and Biter. I haven’t seen them in months. We’re being held in separate cells.

GW has devised a clever plan to escape, including an elaborate contraption to get the door open. When he escapes one night, he goes to rescue Barry, a rabbit, and Biter, a guinea pig, as well.

Barry’s the first grade classroom pet, but he seems to have gone soft in prison. Still, when GW breaks him out, he goes along.

Barry tries to warn GW about Biter:

She’s . . . she’s doing hard time in the worst cell block in this place. Her jailers torture her nearly all the time with stupid songs and crazy behavior . . . .

You don’t mean . . .

Yes, I’m afraid I do . . . .
Biter is in KINDERGARTEN.

Sure enough, Biter has even changed her name to “Sunflower.” She says, “Here in kindergarten, we talk a lot about feelings, and, well . . . I’ve come to realize I have some anger issues.”

Well, that’s the beginning. GW and Barry do convince Sunflower to come along, on the strength of their friendship. But then they meet the fourth grade class pet, Harriet, and her mouse minions. Harriet is planning to sabotage the school lunch.

What follows is a grand and dramatic food fight.

Classroom pets on the loose! Jokes about school! Mayhem in the school cafeteria in the night! All in graphic novel format! There’s not one kid you’ll have to coax to read this book.

And best of all, it shows all the signs of being the first book of a new series, Pets on the Loose!

victoriajamieson.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 Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package, by Kate DiCamillo

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package

Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Volume Four

by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Candlewick Press, 2017. 101 pages.
Starred Review

Tales from Deckawoo Drive is a spin-off from Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series, telling stories about the other people who live on Deckawoo Drive. I haven’t read them all, but I wasn’t lacking any knowledge I needed to thoroughly enjoy this one.

Eugenia Lincoln is an elderly lady who lives down the street from Mercy Watson, with her sister, Baby Lincoln. Here is how she’s described when the book opens:

Eugenia Lincoln was a practical person, a sensible person. She did not have time for poetry, geegaws, whoop-de-whoops, or frivolity.

She believed in attending to the task at hand.

Eugenia Lincoln believed in Getting Things Done.

Baby Lincoln, Eugenia’s younger sister, loved poetry, geegaws, and whoop-de-whoops of every sort and variety.

She was especially fond of frivolity.

“We are diametrically opposed,” said Eugenia to Baby. “You are woefully impractical. I am supremely practical.”

But then, one day, an unexpected package arrives with Eugenia’s name on it.

Naturally, there’s plenty of fuss and bother and speculation about opening the package. Inside is an accordion! Baby Lincoln has heard that they can be a pathway to great joy.

But Eugenia wants none of it! She tries to send the accordion back with no luck. She places an ad to try to give it away. Instead, a colorful character comes to her door planning to give her accordion lessons.

One thing leads to another – all in very silly ways – and it turns out that Eugenia Lincoln has a natural gift for accordion playing.

This is a wonderful beginning chapter book with an engaging story that rewards discovery, not too many words on a page, and plenty of pictures throughout. And it’s always a delight to read about a curmudgeon set on a pathway to great joy.

candlewick.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 Lulu and the Cat in the Bag, by Hilary McKay

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Lulu and the Cat in the Bag

by Hilary McKay
illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago, Illinois, 2013. First published in the United Kingdom in 2011. 84 pages.

I don’t know how I missed this third book about pet-loving Lulu!

Lulu and her cousin Mellie’s parents have gone on a trip, so their grandmother Nan has come to stay with them. Nan is not a fan of pets, but she does love gardens. She’s not happy with their two dogs, Sam and Rocko.

The book begins with a bag on the doorstep, and the bag ends up holding an enormous marigold cat.

Nan is not happy about an enormous marigold cat turning up, and is relieved when it soon disappears. But the cat comes back. This cat likes flowers and knows how to keep the dogs out of the garden. Maybe Nan is warming up to it.

This is another gentle chapter book that any animal-lover will appreciate.

albertwhitman.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.

What did you think of this book?