Awhile back I compiled a giant list of short novels — under 100 pages — to suit a variety of readers. You can find that here.
I’ve also compiled a list of all the early chapter book titles I’ve reviewed over the years on Orange Marmalade. You can find that here.
Today I’ve got a half dozen more swell books for readers who aren’t in the market for a tome. Several are sequels to books I’ve loved earlier, and in those cases I’ll link to the earlier volumes for you. In each case, it’s best to at least start with the first volume.
First up, a young boy who’s always full of zesty plans:
Sam the Man & the Rutabaga Plan, written by Frances O’Roark Dowell, illustrated by Amy June Bates
published in 2017, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Sam the Man & the Dragon Van Plan — published in 2018; 143 pages
There are a lot of things I love about Sam. He’s friendly, hard-working, optimistic, and quite the Idea Man even though he’s still just a second-grader.
We first met Sam in the midst of his attempts to become a chicken-raising expert.
In these two books, Sam’s problem solving and perseverance are again put to the test when he is a) assigned a rutabaga of all things for an extended second grade class project and b) trying to convince his parents to replace their old worn out minivan with a monster truck. Okay, if not a monster truck, a minivan with a super-cool paint job transforming it into a dragon-mobile!
Warm family dynamics, several wonderful neighbors, and Sam’s classmates all provide opportunities for Sam to interact respectfully, kindly, honestly, with steady good humor. The Sam books make fantastic read-alouds as well. A fourth book is due out this fall featuring a Secret Detective Club! Don’t delay! Get acquainted today! Ages 5 and up.
Cody and the Heart of a Champion, written by Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
published in 2018 by Candlewick Press
Cody is another of my favorite young people. We’ve encountered her several times already (find reviews of the first two volumes here) as she navigates the ordinary ins and outs of life. There is such a warm steadiness in these slice-of-life stories. Cody is an utterly relatable character, a keen observer and loyal friend, a kindhearted kid from a satisfyingly commonplace family — trucker Dad, working mom, beloved older brother.
In this latest installment Cody is coaxed onto a soccer team by her dear friend, Pearl, who has somehow become seriously enthralled by their fellow classmate, Madison, soccer star and world class bossy-boss.
As Cody improves her footwork, she also copes with Madison’s intensity, Pearl’s insecurities, some mysterious behavior from her best friend, Spencer, and puzzling interactions between her dear brother, Wyatt, and his girlfriend. In her own sweet time, Cody gains understanding and delivers her charming, wise insights. Simply peachy, for ages 7 and up.
Dory Fantasmagory: Head in the Clouds, written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon
published in 2018 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Then there’s Dory, a hot mess of a little gal whose potent combination of earnestness, wild imagination, and moxie fizz over into her world like a well-shaken can of Orange Crush. I laugh out loud whenever I read about her head-first encounters with life. You can catch up with a couple earlier volumes here and here.
Only Dory can spin a poofy winter coat, a game of Candyland, and one loose tooth into something so wild and wooly, so peppered with outrageous conversations with Mrs. Gobble Gracker, so head-spinningly frenetic as this!
Hilarious, inventive, and astonishingly endearing for ages 6 and up.
New Shoes, written and illustrated by Sara Varon
published in 2018 by First Second
I have thoroughly enjoyed Sara Varon’s delightful graphic novels. You can find my review of her volume Bake Sale here.
If I told you this one takes place in Guyana and features a donkey named Francis who’s the best shoemaker in the village; swoonworthy Miss Manatee, the Queen of Calypso; a tricky little monkey named Nigel; and a trio of toothy rainforest denizens who are quite fed up with Nigel’s trickery…
…you might wonder how anyone could pull such an odd assortment of story ingredients neatly together! However, Sara Varon has done it with warmth, humor, zest, a dash of rainforest facts, a pinch of environmental care, and a sunny, page-turning pace.
Varon’s fascinating scrapbook at the end of the story brings us colorful photographs of Guyana, a location dear to her heart. I’d hand this to anyone ages 7 and up. Refreshing as a pineapple cooler, this would make a great splash of something different for summer reading and an especially attractive choice for reluctant readers.
Big Foot and Little Foot, written by Ellen Potter, illustrated by Felicita Sala
published in 2018 by Amulet Books
Deep in the northern forests, a community of Sasquatches lives including one young fellow named Hugo. Hugo attends the Academy for Curious Squidges, “squidge” being the official, technical term for a young Sasquatch, in case you weren’t aware. It’s almost time for the annual Frog Moon Festival at which time Hugo’s class will be on stage performing Acts of Bravery. What fear might Hugo choose to conquer?
In a neighboring part of the North Woods lives a young human named Boone. Sasquatches are not supposed to interact with humans. They’re far too dangerous! And humans tend not to believe in Sasquatches, especially not the kind who write secret letters to humans. When Big Foot and Little Foot encounter one another, then, it’s quite the hullabaloo!
A zesty plot, colorfully-imaginative world, and two flawed but endearing new friends spice up this adventure story that’s great for reading aloud or handing to independent readers ages 7 and up. And hurray! A second Hugo and Boone episode is due out this fall.