Archive for the ‘Beginning Chapter Books’ Category

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.

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Review of Charlie and Mouse, by Laurel Snyder

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Charlie & Mouse

by Laurel Snyder
illustrated by Emily Hughes

Chronicle Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Early readers about two friends are classic. In this one, we follow the adventures of two brothers. We’ve got four simple stories about everyday events. The stories feel familiar, are abundantly illustrated. They’re easy to read and leave you with a smile.

I like the way the first story, “Lumps,” begins with Charlie poking lumps after he wakes up. The first lump is Mouse. The next lumps are Mom and Dad.

All the lumps claim to be sleeping at first, but how can you be sleeping if you are talking? And today is the day of the neighborhood party!

The next story, “The Party,” sees the whole family setting off to the neighborhood party. They pull Blanket in the wagon. Dad brings cookies.

I like the way the kids are dressed. Charlie’s got a cape and a pink pointed hat and a magic wand. Mouse has two antennae, a fringed leather vest, cowboy boots, and a tutu over his pants.

As they walk to the party, they pass many neighborhood kids, who join them. When they get to the playground, no one is there. But the whole neighborhood has come, and the party is wonderful.

In the next story, “Rocks,” Charlie and Mouse want to make some money and try selling rocks. People don’t want to buy rocks, but they will pay to have Charlie and Mouse take away rocks. But they’re so tired, they end up spending their money on ice cream.

Finally, in “Bedtime Banana,” the kids think of a new treat that should happen at bedtime. The book ends with Charlie thinking what a nice lump is in bed next to him.

This book is in the tradition of easy reader twosomes. It deals with simple friendship and everyday events. The language is simple without being remotely boring. The pictures illustrate what’s going on and add humor and life. This will be a treat for kids who can read it themselves.

I like the statement in the Author’s Bio on the back flap: Laurel Snyder has two sons, and she “would like to state for the record that while none of these stories are exactly true, none of them are exactly untrue either.”

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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Review of The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate

by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2017. 90 pages.
Starred Review

A fifth book about the Princess in Black! I like the way she’s maintaining her secret identity, but now her friends are emulating the Princess in Black with their own attempts to fight monsters.

At the start, the Princess in Black and the Goat Avenger drive a monster back into Monster Land. But then the Princess in Black has mysterious plans and must leave. What she doesn’t tell the Goat Avenger is that she has a playdate with Princess Sneezewort.

But a very sneaky monster follows her to Princess Sneezewort’s kingdom! It interrupts the playdate. Princess Sneezewort, inspired by the Princess in Black, becomes the Princess in Blankets. (After all, blankets make a good disguise.) As it happens, she discovers exactly the ninja skills needed against a super-sneaky monster.

I like the way these books inspire everyone to become a hero, battle monsters – and then celebrate together!

squeetus.com
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 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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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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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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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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