Archive for the ‘Beginning Chapter Books’ Category

Review of Princess Cora and the Crocodile, by Laura Amy Schlitz

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

by Laura Amy Schlitz

illustrated by Brian Floca

Candlewick Press, 2017. 74 pages.
Starred Review

I am quite sure Princess Cora and the Crocodile is going to be one of my favorite books of the year. It’s a nice twist on your typical fairy tale scenario. This is a simply told beginning chapter book with abundant illustrations on each page – but the story is worth reading not only for beginners, but also for people who have been reading for years, and also for people who aren’t able to read yet.

I like Princess Cora – she’s just trying to do what’s right and follow the rules. Brian Floca portrays her as a good girl. But oh, the spark of mischief in the crocodile’s eyes when things start happening!

Here’s the scenario: The King and Queen love Princess Cora from the day she’s born. But then they realize that she will be Queen some day. They must teach her! They must train her!

By the time Cora is seven years old, she’s being trained every minute. Her nanny makes sure she’s always tidy and makes Cora take a bath – and wash herself thoroughly – three times a day.

The Queen teaches Cora that a princess must be wise. Every day she takes Cora to the tower room to read books about how to run the kingdom.

The books were so dull that Princess Cora yawned until her eyes were full of tears. Sometimes she asked silly questions, just to liven things up. Then the Queen frowned an awful frown and said, “Now, Cora, that is inappropriate!”

The King is in charge of her physical training. He’s turned the old castle prison into a gym and has Cora run in circles and skip rope up to five hundred. A future queen must be strong!

Princess Cora wanted her parents to be happy. She worked hard at being clean and strong and wise. But deep inside, she was angry. Sometimes at night, when she was alone in bed, she whispered, “Skipping rope is stupid! And I’m sick, sick, sick of those boring books! When I grow up, I’m never going to take any baths. I’m going to be dirty!”

These thoughts scared her, but she couldn’t stop thinking them.

One night a new idea crept into her head. It was different from the others, because it was a happy thought. She whispered, “What if I had a dog?”

When she presents this idea to the nanny, the Queen, and the King, they are not in favor. So that night she writes a letter to her fairy godmother, saying how much she wants a pet.

Savvy readers will realize she should have been more specific.

The next morning, there’s a box at the foot of her bed, with a crocodile inside! And he’s a crocodile with an attitude.

As they talk over how the crocodile can help, they decide that he will take her place and give Princess Cora a day off. He puts on one of her dresses and yarn from the mop as a wig.

“You’re perfect!” said Princess Cora. “Do you know, I think this might work? At least, it might work with Nanny. She never wears her glasses. And Mama’s always reading. And Papa’s always looking at his watch.”

“Of course it will work,” said the crocodile. “Now, I’ll stay here and be Princess Cora, and you run along and have fun.”

No one had ever told Princess Cora to run along and have fun, and she almost didn’t know how. But she dressed herself in the flash of an eye and ran down the castle steps and out the back door.

And thus the real fun begins. We see each adult get an appropriate comeuppance from the crocodile. Or inappropriate as the case may be. My favorite part is when the crocodile sings this song to the Queen:

“I am Princess Cora’s pet –
Am I her favorite croc? You bet!
Inky-stinky, dry or wet.
And I am inappropriate!”

Meanwhile, Princess Cora is having a lovely time in the woods. I love the way Brian Floca draws her, getting gradually dirtier, with a scrape on her elbow, but clearly having a wonderful time.

And yes, everything comes right in the end, and the process of this happening is beautiful.

And it’s all done in simple language for kids ready for chapter books, in seven chapters, with marvelous illustrations on each page.

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 Yours Sincerely, Giraffe, by Megumi Iwasa

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe

by Megumi Iwasa
illustrated by Jun Takabatake

Gecko Press, 2017. First published in New Zealand in 2016. 102 pages.

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is a light-hearted chapter book perfect for beginning readers.

Giraffe is bored. When he finds a bored pelican who is starting a delivery service, Giraffe decides to write a letter. He tells Pelican to give it to the first animal you meet on the other side of the horizon. That turns out to be very far away.

But Pelican finds a seal who delivers mail to Penguin. So Giraffe and Penguin start a correspondence.

They don’t understand each other terribly well. But how can you expect a penguin whose only companion is a whale to understand what a long neck is?

Giraffe decides that he’s going to try to dress up like penguin. He takes all penguin’s descriptions and does his best – with very funny results.

This story is good, sweet fun.

geckopress.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Princess in Black Takes a Vacation, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

princess_in_black_takes_a_vacation_largeThe Princess in Black Takes a Vacation

by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2016. 88 pages.
Starred Review

Oh, how I love the Princess in Black! This is the fourth book about frilly and pink Princess Magnolia, who disguises herself as the Princess in Black to fight monsters with ninja moves.

In this book, I was happy to see the Goat Avenger finally step up to help out. We found out about him in Book One. But even if you haven’t read Book One, you’ll find out what’s up:

The Goat Avenger was the same height as her friend Duff. He even had the same smile. But it couldn’t be Duff. Duff did not wear a mask.

The Princess in Black is tired. She has fought fifteen monsters this week. So the Goat Avenger offers to protect the goats while she takes a vacation.

However, no sooner does Princess Magnolia start napping on the perfect beach, than a giant sea monster surfaces.

Maybe if I just lie here the monster will go away, thought Princess Magnolia.

“ROOOAAARRR!” said the sea monster. “EAT PEOPLE!”

The people on the beach screamed.

Fortunately, Princess Magnolia has brought her disguise along with her beach gear. And fortunately, there’s a handy bathing tent where she can change.

Can the Princess in Black save the day against a giant sea monster? And will she ever get a vacation? And can the Goat Avenger protect the goats from monsters?

This series is just so much fun. I love the cartoon-like illustrations. The monsters are monstrous, but not too scary. The language is simple, perfect for beginning readers, but full of humor. I like the way the Princess in Black does use ninja moves (again my favorite is Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash!), but she also tells the monsters to behave, and that they are not allowed to eat goats or people.

Even though there’s a princess on the cover, these books are for kids of any gender. My co-worker’s five-year-old son loves them, as will any kid who likes superheroes or ninja moves or feeling powerful.

squeetus.com
candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Story of Diva and Flea, by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

story_of_diva_and_flea_largeThe Story of Diva and Flea

As Told & Shown by Mo Willems & Tony DiTerlizzi

Hyperion Books for Children, 2015. 70 pages.
Starred Review

I like beginning chapter books that actually have an interesting story, which anyone will like. There’s a place for stories that appeal to young children, and this is written in a simple style. But it’s an interesting story, whatever your age.

This book is set in Paris, where Mo Willems lived for awhile. It tells about Diva, a little dog who lives with the gardienne of a grand old apartment building.

Diva took her job seriously. Every day, she would exit the grand front door, trot across the small courtyard, and stand at the building’s front gate. From there she watched and guarded, and guarded and watched.

And if anything ever happened, no matter how big or small, Diva would yelp and run away.

Diva was very good at her job.

It also tells about Flea, a large cat who lives on the streets of Paris.

Flea did have a fixed occupation, however. He was a flâneur. A flâneur is someone (or somecat) who wanders the streets and bridges and alleys of the city just to see what there is to see. A great flâneur has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always more to discover.

Flea was a really great flâneur.

When Diva meets Flea? Diva (with much hesitation at first) learns about a big world of things to discover, and Flea (with much hesitation at first) learns about the comforts of Friends and Home.

Tony DiTerlizzi’s art (gently colored) adds just the right touch to this story and gives it the flavor of Paris. There’s a nice double-page spread when Diva sees the Eiffel Tower for the first time.

hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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’s Best Move, by John Himmelman

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

bunjitsu_bunnys_best_move_largeBunjitsu Bunny’s Best Move

by John Himmelman

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2015. 120 pages.

Bunjitsu Bunny’s back! This is a beginning chapter book with lots of chapters, but simple drawings on every page, and only a few sentences. So it’s a quick read, but will give beginning readers a sense of accomplishment. And it has what I like best in beginning readers – stories that all ages will enjoy, nothing watered down for kids.

The first chapter is the same as in the first book. I’ll quote the entire thing, to give you an idea of how simple and short these stories are:

Isabel was the best bunjitsu artist in her school. She could kick higher than anyone. She could hit harder than anyone. She could throw her classmates farther than anyone.

Some were frightened of her. But Isabel never hurt another creature, unless she had to.

“Bunjitsu is not just about kicking, hitting, and throwing,” she said. “It is about finding ways NOT to kick, hit, and throw.”

They called her Bunjitsu Bunny.

I didn’t think the stories in this book were quite as consistently clever as the ones in the first book, but that’s a tiny quibble. More stories about Isabel, Bunjitsu Bunny! Many of them, again, are about avoiding a fight when that’s the best route. Some are about learning a lesson. Some are about enjoying the journey. Some are about persistence.

The Bunjitsu Code is at the back, explicitly stating the ideas expressed in these simple stories:

I promise to:
Practice my art until I am good at it. And then keep practicing.
Never start a fight.
Do all I can to avoid a fight.
Help those who need me.
Study the world.
Learn from those who know more than I do.
Share what I love.
Find what makes me laugh, and laugh loudly. And often.
Make someone smile every day.
Keep my body strong and healthy.
Try things that are hard for me to do.

A nice message and simple stories. Another wonderful volume for beginning readers.

mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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?

Review of The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

hungry_bunny_horde_largeThe Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde

by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2016. 90 pages.
Starred Review

A third book about the Princess in Black! She’s a pretty and prissy princess in pink most of the time, but she has a secret identity – she’s the Princess in Black! She fights monsters with ninja moves!

As this book begins, Princess Magnolia is going about her ordinary business, ready to have a princessly brunch with her friend Princess Sneezewort. But then her glitter-stone ring rings! The monster alarm!

When the Princess in Black arrives at the goat pasture, where the hole leading to Monsterland opens, she doesn’t see anything scary. She sees a whole throng of fluffy purple bunnies.

The bunnies don’t look threatening. In fact, they look adorably cute. But there are hundreds of them. And they are terribly hungry. They eat all the grass in the goat pasture. Then they eat an entire tree. They eat a goat horn. They have their eyes on the Princess in Black.

In this case, it is Blacky the Pony (the secret identity of Frimplepants the Unicorn) who saves the day. The bunnies of the hungry bunny horde all speak the language of Cuteness.

Cute sniffles. Cute wiggles.

Cute hops. Only other cute animals could understand.

And that was why Blacky understood.

Because Blacky was not just Blacky the pony.

He was also Frimplepants.

Frimplepants the unicorn.

And Frimplepants the unicorn was as cute as they come.

This book came in at just the right time, when I was scheduled to read to a third grade class on Read Across America Day, and this book seemed perfect. Third graders might believe themselves to be too sophisticated for picture books (even though I know better). This book has 12 chapters and 90 pages. The text I quoted above covers three pages, and there are illustrations on every page (or at least every spread). So the book is accessible for someone who hasn’t been reading long but is ready for chapters – and there’s absolutely nothing boring about it.

And what I love about it is that the story is good enough that younger children who can’t read yet will love it, and older children who are completely capable of reading longer chapters will enjoy it as well. And adults won’t get tired of reading it either. There is much humor in the situation of cute bunnies creating such havoc.

Why should something easy to read and simple to understand be boring? The Princess in Black is the opposite of that.

squeetus.com
candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/hungry_bunny_horde.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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?

Review of My Pet Human, by Yasmine Surovec

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

my_pet_human_largeMy Pet Human

by Yasmine Surovec

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2015. 108 pages.

Here’s a delightful beginning chapter book with lots of pictures, told from the perspective of an adorable kitty.

There are five chapters. In the first one, “Mr. Independent,” the cat introduces himself.

I’m a lucky cat. I live a carefree life.

This is my territory. I know these streets like the back of my paw. Lots of cats are tied down by staying with their pet humans, but not me. I’m my own cat, and the only one I have to look out for is myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The cat knows how to get food from various humans along his route.

It took me a while to master “the Look,” but it’s essential to getting what I want from humans. And let’s just say, I always get what I want. I mean, who can resist this face? I’m adorable.

Of course, the pictures show the wide-eyed look, which is indeed adorable.

The cat has friends (a dog, a rat, another cat) who all have pet humans. But he likes not being tied down.

Then a family moves into the abandoned house across the street from the tree where the cat likes to sleep. He happens to be hungry, and a window is open.

The young human inside proves to be easy to train, with enough rewards for good behavior. Her mother, however, is a different story.

Kids will enjoy this easy-reading tale, told from a slightly different perspective. The language isn’t dumbed down, but there are enough pictures, it almost has the feel of a graphic novel, and is very non-threatening.

This is a nice twist on your standard new-to-the-neighborhood story. What does it take to find the perfect pet human?

mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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?

Review of The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

perfect_princess_party_largeThe Princess in Black
and the Perfect Princess Party

by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2015. 90 pages.
Starred Review

The Princess in Black is back! This time it’s her birthday. Twelve princesses and their pets have come for the party, which Princess Magnolia wants to be perfect. But every time Princess Magnolia gets ready to open presents, the monster alarm goes off!

The Princess in Black must fight the monsters and send them back to Monster Land. But Princess Magnolia doesn’t want her guests to know that she is really the Princess in Black. Not even the ever-so-good-at-hiding Princess Sneezewort. Princess Magnolia keeps coming up with different activities – hide-and-go-seek, races, a labyrinth, to cover up for her absences fighting monsters.

My only disappointment? I was hoping to see Duff the Goat Boy investigate his own monster-fighting powers. But there will be more books. There is time for that.

Like the first book, this one will span a wide age range. An easy reader, it will booktalk well with the younger grades of elementary school. Boys and girls both enjoy these books. Yes, Magnolia’s a princess, but she’s also a superhero! My two two-year-old nieces will enjoy it because there are plenty of pictures. And plenty of princesses as well.

This is a wonderful series with plenty of imaginative touches. There is repetition so helpful for beginning readers and simple language, but humorous twists which reward reading. The party keeps on getting interrupted, and readers will enjoy the way things slightly change each time.

Book Three is out — I was going to post its review when I realized I hadn’t posted this one yet! All are wonderful and bring something new to the party!

squeetus.com
candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com, and then given to my niece.

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 Lindbergh, by Torben Kuhlmann

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

lindbergh_largeLindbergh

The Tale of a Flying Mouse

by Torben Kuhlmann

English text by Suzanne Levesque

NorthSouth Books, 2014. 92 pages.

Lindbergh is a long-form picture book, for lack of a better way to describe it. We’ve got a story of a little mouse for whom life has gotten bleak in Germany. He wants to go to America, but faces many obstacles. After it proves to difficult to get on a ship, he decides to fly. Successive inventions (paralleling the history of human flight) finally result in a tiny plane capable of crossing the Atlantic.

The story is simple, but the detailed, lavish illustrations make this book a feast for the eyes. The painting of the mouse taking off with an owl bearing down on him will give you goose bumps!

There’s a short history of aviation at the back, and I feel confident there are details in the drawings about actual flying machines which escaped me, but won’t necessarily escape avid child readers.

This is a beautiful book. Children who enjoy poring over detailed paintings will be richly rewarded.

northsouth.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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?

Review of Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, by John Himmelman

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

bunjitsu_bunny_largeTales of Bunjitsu Bunny

by John Himmelman

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2014. 120 pages.
Starred Review

Isabel was the best bunjitsu artist in her school. She could kick higher than anyone. She could hit harder than anyone. She could throw her classmates farther than anyone.

Some were frightened of her. But Isabel never hurt another creature, unless she had to.

“Bunjitsu is not just about kicking, hitting, and throwing,” she said. “It is about finding ways NOT to kick, hit, and throw.”

They called her Bunjitsu Bunny.

That is the entire text of the first chapter. The rest of the book consists of short stories about Bunjitsu Bunny, with plenty of pictures. My favorites are the many stories that explain how Isabel finds a way NOT to kick, hit, or throw. Though when necessary, she is quite good at those things.

The stories are short and easy to read, but they are full of cleverness and interest. We’ve got a powerful and wise ninja – and she’s a bunny girl! These are wonderful for kids who are ready for chapter books.

mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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?