Review of The Princess in Black and the Bathtime Battle

The Princess in Black and the Bathtime Battle

by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2019. 90 pages.
Starred Review
Review written December 9, 2019, from a library book

I love the Princess in Black! These are simple chapter books with lots of pictures. They include fun stories about princesses who disguise themselves as heroes who fight monsters – and one goat boy who disguises himself as the Goat Avenger. They are rewarding for beginning readers and a whole lot of fun.

In this latest installment, the foe is a horrible stinky smell. How do you fight a smell?

As the Princess in Black and the Goat Avenger manage to blow the stink away, it goes into other kingdoms, so other heroes come and investigate. But that’s a good thing. When they discover that the source of all the trouble is a super-stinky monster, the stink is so bad, it takes all the heroes working together to clean up the stink.

I like the way Shannon Hale and Dean Hale use some of the same elements in each book – but add something new every time. In this book, the battle is about bathtime. And I love that all the heroes get to take part.

This book encourages the reader to think what kind of hero they can be.

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

This review is only on the blog.

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.

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 Chupacabras of the Río Grande

The Unicorn Rescue Society

The Chupacabras of the Río Grande

by Adam Gidwitz and David Bowles
illustrated by Hatem Aly

Dutton Children’s Books, 2019. 202 pages.
Review written November 13, 2019, from a library book

This is the fourth book in The Unicorn Rescue Society series about some kids and a very eccentric professor helping out mythical creatures. I have read the first book, but not any others before this one, and I don’t think that hurt my understanding of this one any, so it is the sort of series that you can jump in where you are.

In this case, there’s a chupacabras on the loose – a mythical creature that sucks blood from goats. Usually, they don’t kill their victims, simply taking a drink while the victim sleeps, but a small calf has been killed, with all its blood drained, and Professor Fauna wants to take a look, bringing Uchenna and Elliot along, of course.

The adventure is light-hearted and has some silly jokes, with the inevitable bad guy trying to beat them to the magical creature adding some tension. It’s not designed to be a child’s first chapter book, but neither is it far advanced, and has short chapters and plenty of pictures.

I did like the way this light-hearted fantasy adventure ended up overlapping with a serious political issue. The creation of a border wall and border fences disrupt territories for wildlife – and that turns out to be a problem for mythical wildlife, too.

I also like that the publisher took the issue seriously and treated the people of the region so respectfully that they put David Bowles on the authorial team. I loved what David Bowles said at the back of the book about that, so I’m going to include it here:

Writing about the border brings me a lot of joy, but also some worry. This is my community, full of my people – relatives and friends on both sides of the river. Our lives overflow with two cultures, two languages, two national identities. Trust me. You’d love it here.

But it’s easy for people to misunderstand what they’re not familiar with, so this book had to be not just about an amazing adventure in South Texas, but also about how easy it is for outsiders to get the wrong impression of my community. Heck, even those of us living down here don’t always agree about how this side of the border and that one fit together.

We couldn’t just pretend that some people aren’t nervous about the border. We also couldn’t ignore the fact that many border folks don’t like the choices the government is making.

So Adam and I decided to include that disagreement in the book. We know people who feel both ways about the barrier that’s been going up along the border in bits and pieces for years now. It was important to get a good look at those two sides without assuming that either group wants to hurt anyone.

As a Mexican American, I also wanted to make sure that the bilingual and bicultural nature of my people came through loud and clear. I am proud of my heritage, my roots along either bank of the Río Grande. And that also meant taking the chupacabras — pretty recent cryptids in the long history of creepy creatures in South Texas – and finding where they fit into the larger indigenous mythology of our ancestors.

I can only hope that the low whistling I hear drifting over the water as I write these words is a sign of their approval.

I, for one, approve of the care taken in a light-hearted fantasy chapter book. All the more reason for me to recommend this series.

UnicornRescueSociety.com
penguinrandomhouse.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/chupacabras.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 Hooray for Lolo, by Niki Daly

Hooray for Lolo

by Niki Daly

Catalyst Press, 2020. 86 pages.
Review written July 23, 2020, from a library book

Hooray for Lolo is a beginning chapter book set in South Africa with four stories about a little girl and her family, doing life.

There’s a story about a show-off friend and her birthday party, a really fun story about a library book that all Lolo’s friends love, a story about Lolo dealing with appendicitis, and finally a story of Lolo and her family taking care of a baby.

This is a joyful book about simple things important to a child’s world with plenty of pictures and simple sentences. I like the window into another culture, which also shows that day-to-day life is much the same.

catalystpress.org

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/hooray_for_lolo.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 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 Jo Jo Makoons, The Used-To-Be Best Friend, by Dawn Quigley, illustrated by Tara Audibert

Jo Jo Makoons

The Used-To-Be Best Friend

by Dawn Quigley
illustrated by Tara Audibert

Heartdrum (HarperCollins), 2021. 72 pages.
Review written March 12, 2022, from a library book
2022 American Indian Youth Literature Honor Book

This book begins a series about Jo Jo Makoons, who is an outgoing first grade girl who lives on an Ojibwe Native American reservation. Like so many wonderful beginning chapter books, it deals with things that will appeal to other first graders, including school issues and friends. Do Jo Jo’s friends still want to be friends?

There are eight chapters and plenty of illustrations. Jo Jo teaches the reader some Native American words, and I like the way she is delighted with her family, her friends, and her community.

There’s some kid-level humor when she sneaks her cat Mimi in her backpack and Mimi hides in a model tipi. And of course a school story is going to have some friend drama — it all comes out happy in the end.

Here’s a fun scene that shows Jo Jo’s way of thinking:

I like to do math thinking about my Ojibwe community. Like last week Teacher asked us to think about a math problem: Five people want to eat a bunch of four bananas. Each person can have only one. How many people don’t get a banana?

I answered, “Everyone gets some bananas.”

Teacher shook his head no. He said that one person would not get any bananas.

“But we all share what we have,” I said. “That’s what Native people do.”

Teacher didn’t say anything after that. See? I’m good at math.

This is a fun new series for kids ready for chapter books, and I love that Jo Jo’s pride in her people and her home comes through. There’s a blurb at the back for the organization We Need Diverse Books, which has a goal “to create a world where every child can see themselves in the pages of a book.”

dawnquigley.com
moxyfox.ca
cynthialeitichsmith.com
diversebooks.org

Buy from Amazon.com

This review is only on the blog.

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.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Stuntboy: In the Meantime, by Jason Reynolds, drawings by Raúl the Third

Stuntboy #1

In the Meantime

by Jason Reynolds
drawings by Raúl the Third

A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book (Atheneum Books for Young Readers), 2021. 268 pages.
Review written March 5, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Schneider Family Honor Book

Stuntboy is not quite a graphic novel, since it doesn’t use speech balloons — at least, not very many. But it does have drawings on every page and lots of variety in the way the text is presented. If a kid, like Stuntboy himself, is easily distracted, the fact that each page is different in this book should keep their interest going.

Stuntboy is Portico Reeves. He lives in a castle — well, at least in the biggest house on the block, what other people call an apartment building.

We learn early on that Portico sometimes gets the Frets.

What?
You’ve never heard of the frets?
You’re kidding, right?
The un-sit-stillables?
The worry wiggles?
The bowling ball belly bottoms?
The jumpy grumpies?
(Or the grumpy jumpies, depending on who you ask.)
The hairy scaries, or worse, the VERY hairy scaries?
No?
Maybe it’s because your mom probably calls it what Portico’s grandma calls it – “anxiety.”

Portico is a character impossible not to love. I love his bright outlook on life. He and his best friend are fans of superheroes, so they decide to be superheroes themselves. Stuntboy is a superhero who does the stunts for other heroes (like his friend Zola) so they don’t have to get hurt. Often those stunts involve bouncing off walls, and Stuntboy doesn’t mind practicing. And he’s happy to save heroes when they don’t even realize it.

But when Portico walks in on his parents having a fight and they ask him to go to Zola’s apartment “in the meantime,” he figures that’s the time in which his normally nice parents are being mean to each other. And the meantime starts happening more and more often.

And every superhero has a nemesis. Stuntboy’s is another kid in the castle, Herbert Singletary the Worst.

I’m excited this is only the beginning of this series about an extremely likable kid. This will keep young readers turning pages.

JasonWritesBooks.com
RaulTheThird.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

Buy from Amazon.com

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Where Dani Goes, Happy Follows, by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson

Where Dani Goes, Happy Follows

by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson
translated by Julia Marshall

Gecko Press, 2019. First published in Sweden in 2018. 181 pages.
Review written July 4, 2019, from a library book

For a book from a series called My Happy Life, I wasn’t prepared for how many sad things happen. This is the seventh book about Dani, a Swedish girl in year two at school. I was able to enjoy it without having read the earlier books, though it did make me want to read them.

Dani is indeed a happy little girl, but many sad things have happened to her. Her mother is dead and at the start of this book, her father is sad and decides to take a trip to Rome to see his mother. Dani will stay with her grandparents, as she did after her mother died.

Dani gets a wonderful idea. She will go see Ella, her best friend in the whole world, the friend who moved away.

But Grandma can’t drive her because her bridge friends are coming over. And Grandpa can’t drive her because his car is in the shop. So they arrange for Dani to ride the train to Northbrook all by herself. Ella’s mother will meet her at the station.

But things do not go according to plan.

And I know this is a series, and I hope this situation will be made all better in the next book – but I thought book as a whole shows a lot of disappointments for a book named Where Dani Goes, Happy Follows.

However, it’s still true that I loved Dani and loved the matter-of-fact approach to her adventures, which is just perfect for a beginning chapter book. This book has twenty-five short chapters with lots of drawings to accompany the words, and it’s perfect for kids beginning to read chapter books.

I did love looking at life through the eyes of a young Swedish girl. I plan to go back and read the whole series. And I guess I have to concede that despite some disappointments, the title is true – at least for me.

geckopress.com

Buy from Amazon.com

This review is only on the blog.

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.

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 Too Small Tola, by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

Too Small Tola

by Atinuke
illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

Candlewick Press, 2021. First published in the United Kingdom, 2020. 89 pages.
Review written April 6, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Too Small Tola is a short chapter book about a small girl named Tola, who lives with her older brother and sister and their Grandmommy in an apartment in Lagos, Nigeria. This is a brilliant chapter book, with a girl not wanting to be thought of as small navigating a very interesting setting.

I like the way this book, as good beginning chapter books do, is full of everyday concerns of a child the same age as a beginning reader. But the everyday concerns of a child in Lagos, Nigeria, are super interesting for an American child.

There are three stories in the book, with plenty of illustrations along the way. Here’s how Tola is introduced at the start:

Tola lives in a run-down block of apartments in the megacity of Lagos, in the country of Nigeria. She lives with her sister Moji, who is very clever; her brother, Dapo, who is very fast; and Grandmmommy, who is very-very bossy.

Tola is the youngest in her family. And the smallest. And everybody calls her Too Small Tola, which makes her feel too-too small.

In the first story, Tola goes shopping with Grandmommy. What makes it extra interesting is that she carries what they buy in a big basket on her head. But they end up with heavy loads for both of them and need lots of rest along the way – rest that comes with treats.

In the second story, “Small but Mighty,” their apartment doesn’t have water, so they must go fill their big jerry cans with water from the pump outside the apartments. But there’s a line, and Tola doesn’t want to be late to school, but she has to stop and help Mrs. Shaky-Shaky. That story has a wonderful reversal after a bully is mean to Tola, but Mrs. Shaky-Shaky thwarts the bully.

The third story has Tola helping their injured neighbor, a fine tailor, get measurements all over the city so he can make fine clothes for Easter and Eid. Tola is as good at taking measurements as the tailor himself, and the story tells about her brother taking her on his bike to different parts of Lagos, meeting many different people.

It’s all about a relatable kid in a wonderfully interesting setting. Tola is indeed small, but mighty!

atinuke-author.weebly.com
candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 A Long Road on a Short Day, by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney

A Long Road on a Short Day

by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney
with illustrations by Eugene Yelchin

Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2020. 60 pages.
Review written December 10, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

A Long Road on a Short Day is a gentle but engaging story for kids ready to start chapter books. There are twelve short chapters with large print. The pictures show us that the story is set in a time before cars, in a farming community that gets cold in the winter.

This is one of those stories about trading up, about making a series of trades and ending up with something much better than what you started with. But I love that everyone who makes a trade in this book is convinced they made a good trade. It’s a story about a community helping each other out and everyone ending up happier.

Here’s how the book begins:

Early on a white January morning, Samuel’s mother said, “I do wish we had a brown-eyed cow to give us milk for the baby.”

Samuel’s father set down his mug.

“And for your tea,” she said.

Samuel’s father smiled and got up from the table. He took his best Barlow knife from the mantel and said to Samuel, “Dress warm if you’re coming with me.”

Samuel ran to get his coat off the hook. “Where are we going, Papa?”

“To find that brown-eyed cow for your mother,” Papa said.

There’s a strong sense of time constraint, as each chapter ends with a reminder that it’s “a long road on a short day.” First they look up at gray clouds, then a dark sky, then a few snowflakes, then a dusting of snow, then thick and dark clouds, then a storm, then steady snow and a low sun with gusts of wind.

Finally, after a series of stops and a series of trades that each neighbor confirms is a good one:

The snow was falling fast and the light was almost gone when Samuel and his father turned toward home. They walked down Hurd Hill, past the tall white pines, past the Everetts’ farm, toward the Wire Bridge and town. “Come, Bossy,” said Papa.

Along the way, Samuel wishes several times that a brown-eyed cow wasn’t what Mama had wanted. So it’s all the more delightful when the final farmer throws in something special for Samuel.

The authors don’t have to tell us that Papa is clever and observant and knows his neighbors well. He manages the trades beautifully, and he and Samuel have an adventure of a day, even if it is a short one with a long road.

hmhbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Monster and Boy, by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Anoosha Syed

Monster and Boy

by Hannah Barnaby
illustrated by Anoosha Syed

Godwin Books (Henry Holt), 2020. 138 pages.
Review written August 22, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Monster and Boy is a charming beginning chapter book that tells about what happens after a mother tells her son during a bedtime story that there is no such thing as monsters.

The monster who lives under the bed and loves the boy hears the mother say this. He can’t resist. After the mother leaves, he decides to prove that she was wrong and shows himself to the boy. But things quickly get out of control.

“Hello,” the monster said.

The boy was silent. The monster thought maybe the boy couldn’t see him, so he made himself light up.

“Ta-da!” the monster said.

The boy took a deep breath and opened his mouth, and the monster knew he was going to scream.

The monster panicked. He did the only thing he could think of.

He swallowed the boy.

There’s a chapter discussing this with the reader. Then I like the part about what happens next:

The monster was instantly sorry that he’d swallowed the boy. The boy felt strange in his stomach, heavy and nervous. The monster did not like how it felt, and also he missed the boy terribly.

Then he heard a small voice from inside himself.

It was not his conscience. It was not his soul.

It was the boy.

“I’d like to come out, please,” said the boy.

“I’d like that, too,” the monster replied.

So their first problem is getting the boy out of the monster. But when they manage that, it turns out that the boy is now very small. So they must figure out how to get him back to his normal side.

This turns out to involve adventures downstairs (Monsters are terrified of going downstairs.) and an encounter with another monster – the boy’s little sister. Oh, and a swim in the toilet bowl.

It’s all wonderfully entertaining. The sentences are simple, and there are pictures on every page, but this story will make you laugh even if you mastered reading long ago.

The back cover says this book is introducing a new illustrated chapter book series, which is fantastic news for kids gaining confidence in their reading.

mackids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/monster_and_boy.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 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 Knights vs. Dinosaurs, by Matt Phelan

Knights vs. Dinosaurs

by Matt Phelan

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2018. 150 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 27, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Children’s Fiction – Fantasy

This one is silly fun with speculation: What would happen if knights had to fight dinosaurs?

Erec is a knight in King Arthur’s court, and he’s been bragging. The truth is, he’s never seen even one dragon. But all the knights start bragging when they get together, and he got carried away and claimed he’d defeated 40 dragons.

That gave Merlin an idea. He suggested that Erec go defeat a “Terrible Lizard” in a cave the next morning – Merlin would give him a map.

It’s probably just as well that some other knights didn’t want Erec to get all the glory. Because it turned out that Merlin put a time-traveling spell on the cave – and sent them all back to the time of the dinosaurs.

(Okay, the truth is that not all the dinosaurs that appear in this book lived at the same time. But that’s admitted at the back of the book and kind of beside the point. We’ve got knights fighting dinosaurs and living to tell the tale.)

There’s a nice twist that it turns out the strongest knight of them all is female. It’s a lot of good-hearted fun, including battles with dinosaurs.

This is an early chapter book and includes plenty of Matt Phelan’s illustrations. Some of the battles are told with panels, in fact.

Knights fighting dinosaurs and realizing they’re going to have to work together. What could be more fun?

mattphelan.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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

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?