Sunday, September 17, 2017

Two New Beginning Chapter Books

I may not have spent the summer writing much but I did read a couple dozen children's books, two of which, I will review today. The first is the 17th book in the Fly Guy series Fly Guy's Big Family written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold

Buzz finds Fly Guy drawing pictures of his family because he misses them. He decides to throw a surprise party for his friend. He makes up little signs inviting Fly Guy's family to the party. He puts them in all the places you'd expect to find flies: garbage cans, rotting fish and spoiled food. The first guest to arrive is Cuzz. Once Buzz assures him there are no Swatterzz in the house, he calls out "Okayzz!" and thousands of flies fly into the house yelling "Surprizze!!!" After Fly Guy hugs his many cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and finally his mother and father, it is time for dinner. Buzz has thought of everything: a garbage truck pulls up and dumps a load on the front lawn and the flies party in the garbage. 

Kids love this early chapter book series. It is funny, easy to read with a large font and only a sentence or two per page. The Sonoma County Library has sixteen copies.

Hilde Lysiak is a ten year old journalist who publishes The Orange Street News in Selinsgrove, PA. Now she is also the author of a new Branches series for Scholastic, Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog! Hero Dogis the first book in the series, Bear on the Loose comes out on Halloween and Fire! Fire! comes out the day after Christmas.

Hero Dog takes place on Orange Street. It is the day of the yearly bake off sponsored by the Kind Kat Cafe. Three of the past winners have their baked goods or ingredients stolen the morning of the bake off. Hilde is on the trail of the culprit. A good journalist tries to answer six questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? After each interview, Hilde writes the clues under those questions. Her sister, Izzy, is a photographer and together they sift through the clues and confront the perpetrator with the help of the hero dog, Zeus.

I am a big fan of Sue Grafton's Alphabet Mysteries, Hilde reminds me a bit of Kinsey Milhone, the private eye protagonist of the series. You get to see the step by step of solving the mysteries in each book much like a real PI would work. You get to see Hilde's method in this book, too.

Hilde's co-author is her father, former journalist Matthew Lysiak. The black and white illustrations are by JoAnne Lew-Vriethoff. There are pictures through out, a map of the Orange street neighborhood, the type is large and easy to read. There are one or two paragraphs on each page with 15 chapters versus three for the Fly Guy books. The Sonoma County Library has one copy. The book will also be available at Strawberry's Scholastic Book Fair this fall and at Yulupa's in the spring.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Creepy Pair of Underwear!

We met Jasper Rabbit before in Creepy Carrots. Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown team up again to bring us an older Jasper in Creepy Pair of Underwear!. Jasper and his mom go shopping for new underwear. She picks out white underwear but he spies some creepy underwear, "so creepy and so comfy". Could he have just one pair?

Mom thinks they are a bit too creepy but Jasper protests that they are cool not creepy and besides he is a big rabbit now. He wears his creepy underwear to bed. With the lights out, his cool new underwear glows a ghoulish green. After changing his underwear, he buries the creepy underwear at the bottom of his hamper. When he wakes the next morning, he is wearing the ghoulish underwear!
He throws them in the garbage can but when he gets home from school, they are in his drawer. He mails them to China, but they return, he cuts them up with his mom's good sewing scissors; they are gone for good. Just to be sure, he checks his room carefully, they is no creepy underwear. Stepping into the bathroom to brush his teeth he sees them hanging from the towel rack. 

It is time for serious measures; he takes the underwear and a shovel and bikes past Crackenhopper Field to Creekhanger Hill. He digs a deep hole at the very top of the hill and throws the glowing underwear in. He buries the creepy underwear and rides home. So all is well, right? Not so fast. There might be something worse than creepy underwear.

Peter Brown's artwork is black, white, grey and ghoulish green with just a touch of orange in Crackenhopper Field.

The Sonoma County Library has ten copies.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Newbery Medalist, Patricia MacLachlan, has written a charming beginning chapter book about a girl and her dog. Barkus is a gift from Nicky's Uncle Everton. Barkus is smart, he does tricks and he doesn't bite. Perfect! In five chapters, Barkus becomes class pet in Nicky's classroom, has a birthday party, finds and mothers a newborn kitten and goes on a backyard campout with Nicky and the kitten.
Dog lovers will love this book, I have had a dog like Barkus and I bet many of you have, too.

The full color illustrations by Marc Boutavant animate the story. The font is large and the words are well spaced. Emerging readers and older reluctant readers will find this beneficial. If you look closely at the tag on Barkus' collar, you will see it says "Book 1". A sequel is due out next year.

The Sonoma County Library has five copies. Great book for first and second grade classrooms.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jabari Jumps

In 1956, I convinced my father to part with the princely sum of $7 so I could swim every summer day in our municipal pool. Like Jabari, it took me awhile to get up the nerve to jump off the diving board. Gaia Cornwall has perfectly captured the process of gathering the courage to jump the first time in Jabari Jumps. 

Jabari decides that today is the day, he has passed his swim test and he's good at jumping. He and his dad watch other kids climb, it looks easy. He starts to climb the ladder, it is very tall. He's a little tired, he climbs down to do some stretches first. Maybe tomorrow would be a better day. Dad tells him it is okay to be a little scared but sometimes it can turn into a little surprise, too. Jabari starts his climb again, all the way up and onto the board to the very edge. We see what he sees, his toes on the edge of the diving board and the water far below. He is ready, he loves surprises. Off he flies into the water. He did it! He is a good jumper! High fives from dad and he is off to jump again.

The Sonoma County Library will have twelve copies by the end of the month. This book was published May 9 so it doesn't have an AR level yet. Most of the vocabulary is accessible to kids who read at the end of first grade beginning of second grade level. The font is large and bold with just a couple of sentences per page.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Drew Daywalt, author of The Day The Crayons Quit and The Day The Crayons Came Home has teamed up with Adam Rex to create The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. It is such a genius idea, I am surprised it hasn't been done before.

This is the story of three great warriors, Rock who lives in the Kingdom of the Backyard, Paper who lives in the Empire of Mom's Home Office and Scissors who lives in the tiny village of Junk Drawer. Each warrior has beaten all who have challenged them in their realms and leaves their homes to find greater challenges. Rock and Scissors meet in the great cavern of the Two-Car Garage. Scissors asks Rock if he is wearing his battle pants, Rock agrees to fight her. An epic battle ensues, Rock wins. Scissors is grateful to be beaten. Rock is less happy because there is no one to challenge him. Enter stage right is Paper. Rock challenges him to a duel. Paper wins. Rock thanks Paper for beating him. This time it is Paper who bemoans the lack of a worthy opponent. Enter Scissors. A great battle begins with Scissors victorious. The three warriors dance for joy and become great friends. Then begins round after round of  three-way battles. Battles so epic that children today still honor the warriors by playing...Rock, Paper, Scissors.

The Sonoma County Library has seven copies. Several second graders have read this book to me and had very little problem with the vocabulary. It does not have an AR level yet as it was just published on May 2. I am looking for someone to explain to me why it is inevitable that Paper beats Half Eaten Bag of Trail Mix.