Archive for the ‘Beginning Chapter Books’ Category

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.

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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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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 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.

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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.

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Review of The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, by Alice Dalgleish

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

bears_on_hemlock_mountain_largeThe Bears on Hemlock Mountain

by Alice Dalgleish
illustrated by Helen Sewell

Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1952.
Starred Review
Newbery Honor Book, 1953
ALA Notable Book

Today I was shifting Juvenile Fiction books in the D’s and I saw this book, and couldn’t resist checking it out. I took it home and read it, having to say the refrain aloud:

THERE are NO BEARS
ON HEMLOCK MOUNTAIN,
NO BEARS AT ALL.
OF COURSE THERE ARE NO BEARS
ON HEMLOCK MOUNTAIN,
NO BEARS, NO BEARS, NO BEARS,
NO BEARS AT ALL.

Of course, the main reason I love this book so much is that I remember my mother reading it to me. I remember all the suspense building as Jonathan’s mother and Jonathan say this refrain to themselves, and everyone is thinking about bears. I remember how the crunch, crunch, crunch of the snow changes to drip, drip, drip, which means Spring is coming, and how Jonathan hopes the bears don’t know it. And then how incredibly scary it is when Jonathan hides under the big iron pot and the bears start scraping in the snow around it.

I also love what I hadn’t remembered – that this is a story of a great big extended family – a little bit like the one I have. When my mother read it to me, we still lived near my grandma, who was good at making cookies, as Jonathan’s mother is in the book.

It’s rather astonishing to me, reading it now, at how well this story holds up 63 years later. About the only thing that couldn’t happen today is that nobody needs to cut wood to keep a fire going for cooking to get done. Oh, and probably Jonathan’s father and uncles wouldn’t come with guns to shoot the bear.

This is a chapter book – but a chapter book short enough to read aloud, as I well remember. The suspense is incredible, if child-sized. Bottom line, it’s the story of an eight-year-old who is now big enough to go over a big hill in the snow all by himself to his aunt’s house – because of course there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain.

And that story will never grow old.

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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 Completely Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

completely_clementine_largeCompletely Clementine

by Sara Pennypacker
pictures by Marla Frazee

Disney Hyperion Books, New York, March 2015. 178 pages.
Starred Review

The only thing awful about a new Clementine book coming out is that it looks suspiciously like the final book in the series. I do not want to say good-by to Clementine any more than she wants to say good-by to her teacher, Mr. D’Matz.

Yes, Clementine is finishing up her third grade year. I like the way Marla Frazee has even drawn her on the cover looking older. Though I read the book in an advance reader’s copy, and will definitely have to check out the final version in order to appreciate Marla Frazee’s always brilliant finished art.

The big drama of this book is that Clementine is not speaking to her father. He ate meat loaf, and Clementine has become a passionate vegetarian. She won’t speak to her father, but she will draw him pictures of sad animals in terror of being eaten.

Some big things happen in this book that were anticipated in earlier books. Margaret’s mother is getting married. Clementine’s friend Joe has grown. School is letting out for the summer. And Clementine’s mother is about to have her baby.

When I first heard about a new baby coming, I wanted it to have a food name. My name is a fruit, which I used to hate but now I like. I call my brother vegetable names to make it fair, which he used to hate but now he likes too. So I thought our new brother or sister should have a food name too, so he or she wouldn’t feel left out.

My dad said yes, because he’d always wanted a kid named Noodle. “It’s so good,” he pleaded, “for either a boy or a girl!” But my mother said Absolutely not!

Then I tried a compromise, which means nobody wins, but nobody loses, either. “How about a thing-name then? Let’s give the baby a name that’s also a thing, at least.”

My father loved this idea too. My mother rolled her eyes at all his suggestions: Lug Nut, Pencil, Q-tip, and Noodle again. But she didn’t hate the thing-name idea. “Dawn,” she said, “that’s a lovely name. Or maybe Colt, if it’s a boy.”

“So do you want to hear them?” I asked.

“Maybe later. We still have two weeks. I have a feeling the perfect name will show up by then.”

And it’s not really a spoiler to say that indeed it does.

This is a grand completion to a wonderful series especially right for second and third graders. (But which adults also can’t help but love. So if you’re looking for a wonderful read-aloud, look no further.)

sarapennypacker.com
marlafrazee.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

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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