I’ve got eight short chapter books that are simply mahhhvelous, today. I thoroughly enjoyed each one.
Some are vintage, some brand new. I’ll arrange them by Approximate Age of Listener/Reader.
Cowboy Pug: The Dog who Rode for Glory, written by Laura James, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans
published in 2017 by Bloomsbury
Lady Miranda and her trusty Pug are back! This entertaining episode includes high-jumping horses, a blustery bull, runaway trains, a bad card trick and a police chase!
Read Captain Pug first to be introduced to the characters of this fabulous, heavily-illustrated series for new, sturdy readers. Listeners ages 4 and up.
Princess Cora and the Crocodile, written by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press
Princess Cora is bored to tears by the dull, regimented life her royal parents insist is necessary so she’ll be fit to rule the land one day.
Enter one fairy godmother to the rescue. Her mode of help? A crocodile!! So toothy! So nibbly! How will this bulgy fellow with such an unwieldy tail fit into the princess’s dress and fool the royal household so Cora can escape for a day of frolic and freedom?
Hint: All does not go as smoothly as one might hope! So delightful and funny. It reminds me of The Christmas Crocodile. Brian Floca’s watercolors bring the whole chaotic day to life with sunny flair. Read it to ages 4 and up. Hand it to ages 7 and up.
Mouse House, written by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Adrienne Adams
first published in 1957; reissued by the New York Review Children’s Collection
Once upon a time there was a prime little doll house, and one little mouse named Bonnie who was tired of the squashed quarters of her extensive mouse family.
Find out what happens when Bonnie discovers an unimaginably fine domestic situation in this vintage charmer from Rumer Godden. Read it aloud in a couple sittings with children ages 5 and up.
See You When I See You, written by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated by Julia Marshall
first published in Sweden, English edition published in 2017 by Gecko Press
This is the latest book in this vibrant Swedish series about Dani. If you haven’t met her before, you really need to begin at the beginning as her wranglings with life as well as her relationships with her widower father, her best friend Ella, and her dad’s new girlfriend, Sadie, unfold throughout four previous volumes.
Here, Dani and Ella unexpectedly meet up at the Skansen Zoo where both of their classes have field trips on the same day. The eruption of joy at being together is followed by Dani landing, mostly innocently, in a whole pot of trouble. There are a number of fences to mend and as always with Dani that’s done with humor and bittersweet honesty. Read these with children ages 6 and up.
Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker, written and illustrated by Shelley Johannes
published in 2017 by Disney Hyperion
I love me a good story about these wonderfully-original children who don’t easily fit into a world of Rules, Lines, and Conventions. Think Dory Fantasmagory. Astrid Lindgren’s Lotta. Dick King-Smith’s Sophie. And one little guy I wish more of you knew, Rebecca Caudill’s Charley Cornett.
Beatrice Zinker is one of those dear ones who manage to turn classrooms upside down and leave disaster in their wake without the slightest of ill intention. This story of her supreme efforts to manage some tricky friendship twists captured my heart. Johannes’ sproingy illustrations add immensely to the ethos of this top-choice story. Ages 7 and up.
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, written by Anne Michaels, illustrated by Emma Block
published in 2015 by Tundra Books
The cover of this book provides a perfect sense of its feel — charming, magical, sunny, elegant, sweet.
Miss Petitfour travels by tablecloth! With one hand she holds tightly to a lovely colorful cloth, ballooning with air and wafting her around the village. The other hand grasps the paw of Minky, first in a sixteen-cat line, as they sail to one adventure after another.
There are five outings to be exact. Mixed up in these fantastical days are copious tea-tables of sweets, one snazzy red sports car, Coneybeare’s Confetti shop, an epic Festooning Festival, quite a few Literary Digressions, and even a little sugar-twist of romance!
Anne Michaels is known for her poetry. This book shines with her love of words and an unusually sophisticated tone for a contemporary children’s book. Emma Block’s pristine illustrations gladden the pages exceptionally. Read it aloud to children who are strong listeners, as young as age 6, or hand it to a true wordsmith ready for a challenging vocabulary, perhaps ages 9 and up. Grown up persons will enjoy this one, too!
Jim at the Corner, written by Eleanor Farjeon, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
first published in 1934; reissued by The New York Review Children’s Collection
Jim is an old sailor, retired from his ship Rocking-horse. He spends his day on a street corner, regaling a young boy named Derry with epic tales of his days at sea.
These stories are superb, and the tender heart that grows in that little boy for this old salt is dear. Derry’s turn to spread sunshine in Jim’s life, just as Jim has done for him, brings a lovely conclusion to this story from a pair of children’s literature’s Great Ones. Read it to good listeners, ages 6 and up. Hand it, with it’s tricky dialects, to sturdy readers ages 9 and up.
A Drink of Water and other stories, written by John Yeoman, illustrated by Quentin Blake
first published in 1960; reissued in 2017 by Thames & Hudson
Finally, this is a collection of stories by a UK writer that have a witty, fable-like quality to them. Each one stands on its own. There’s a little monkey who figures out a clever trick in order to get a drink of water. A dog and a bear who cooperate cunningly to get what each wants. A vain bird. A mongoose who learns from a jungle band that perhaps the grass was greener on the first side of the fence after all.
Nicely told with a rich vocabulary, and with Quentin Blake’s energized illustrations as the cherry on top. Read them to ages 6 and up. Hand them to enthusiastic readers ages 9 and up.