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Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Each of today’s picture books features fairly ordinary animal fare — dogs, ducks, wolves, a groundhog — but that’s the end of the commonplace as we pull out the stops on creativity and have some good fun!

Beginning with…

Little Wolf’s First Howling, written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Introducing one wolf pup and his irrepressible personality which bubbles up at the most surprising moments!

Tonight is a red-letter night for Little Wolf. It’s his first chance to howl at the full moon, to unleash that mournful AAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO! from mountaintop into starry skies. Big Wolf gives him a demonstration howl, then turns things over to the cub.

But what comes out is a dancing, prancing mixture of wolf and scat singer! Howls punctuated by diddily skedaddily bipping and boppitting!

Try as he might to lasso this thing, swirls of razzamatazz jazz just can’t stay out of Little Wolf’s howl. And you know what they say: If you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em!

A singing, swinging good time full of primal howls and prime beats, this one begs for gleeful participation from ages 2 and up.

Frankie, written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Frankie is the new eager-beaver pup just adopted from the shelter and headed for his new home.

He is greeted there…well, not exactly greeted…let’s say he encounters there the old, I’ve-been-here-awhile-sonny-and-don’t-you-forget-it dog, Nico. Nico is not amused by this new family member, least of all when Frankie enthusiastically tries to play with his toys and occupy his bed. Grrr.

It’s looking a bit bleak for Frankie when — surprise! — he receives his very own welcome-home-package from the family. Suddenly, it’s Nico who wants in on this sharing business!

With minimal text, almost entirely confined to thought bubbles for the two dogs, this could make a vibrant, untraditional early reader as well as a read-aloud that kids will memorize quickly and enjoy “reading” again and again by themselves. Doggy cheer, for ages 2 and up.

A Greyhound a Groundhog, written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

It’s nearly impossible, I think, to capture the essence of this book in a paragraph of mere words. The waltz of text and illustration which create a virtual whirlpool of dog, groundhog, and higgledy-piggledy language just won’t sit still long enough for that!

Suffice it to say that we start off with one staid, sleeping greyhound and one small, peeping groundhog and, just as an old-fashioned merry-go-round gradually picks up speed, the rhythmic text and racing, chasing creatures slowly, then wildly spin and churn themselves into a dizzying circle of mixed up animalia!

It’s a tongue-twisting, breathless blast of fun, brilliantly illustrated in surging, streaming, joyful abandon. Enjoy it with ages 4 and up. Older readers especially may appreciate the fanciful wordplay in this one.

On Duck Pond, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall
published in 2017 by The Cornell Lab Publishing Group

We’re quieting way down here, drifting back into the realm of reality, of quiet marshes with their water-loving populations of herons, frogs, and ducks.

Jane Yolen has written a lovely narrative-poem about a morning’s walk by Duck Pond, witnessing the small dramas of wildlife there. Ducks chittering. Water spattering. Turtles slipping from logs into the murky depths. Gangly-legged herons and quicksilver minnows, skitterish frogs and a shy bunny in the grasses, all play their parts in this hushed spectacle.

Taking the time to pause and absorb the flurries of panic, the calming of waters, the noiseless stillness, the hidden lives in this one small piece of nature, Yolen awakens us to these spellbinding communities, to the allure of nature’s small theaters.

I love this book and its appealing call to slow down and observe the natural world. Handsomely illustrated with watercolor scenes bathed in the rosy glow of dawn, the book includes back pages of information about specific ducks, birds, and other animals seen in the pictures. Share this window to wonder with ages 3 and up.

Animal Colors and More, written and illustrated by Katie Viggers
published in 2017 by POW!

I’ve loved Katie Viggers’ work in her previous books including Almost an Animal Alphabet, reviewed here.

Once again, the exquisite line, charm, humor, delicacy, and unexpectedness in this book about colors leaves me smitten.

Explore colors and patterns through pages of brilliant animal illustrations, plus have some fun naming colors, matching pairs, and naming species via the artwork on the endpapers in this engaging little book.

If I had toddlers, I’d snap up all 3 of Viggers’ books — alphabet, numbers, and colors. They are that good! Ages 15 months and up.

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As promised, here’s my list of the best under-100-pages chapter books I’ve read in the past months.

Be sure to check the Title index for 50 more great easy chapter books — some of my all-time favorites are already there!

I’ve tried to list these in a semblance of order from easiest (largest print, most space devoted to pictures) to most challenging (similar in difficulty to any chapter book but under 100 pages.)

Boris Gets a Lizard, written and illustrated by Andrew Joyner
published in 2011 by Scholastic
72 pages

The Boris books, coming to us out of Australia, are a complete delight. Colorful, energetic, friendly, heavily-illustrated, and perfectly suited to both boys and girls. Each one has a little craft project to go with the story. Click here to read more about this jaunty series.

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, written and illustrated by Ben Clanton
published in 2016 by Tundra Books
64 pages

This graphic-novel style book is predominantly visual, loaded with cheer and energy. Its ocean-dwelling characters sparkle with personality and the text incorporates some jazzy puns. Short, snappy, silly, but with cool science facts and an appeal to imagination tossed in for good measure. It’ll be a hit with older beginning readers as well. Sequel coming.

 

Agnes and Clarabelle and Agnes and Clarabelle Celebrate,  written by Adele Griffin and Courtney Sheinmel, illustrated by Sara Palacios
both published in 2017 by Bloomsbury
73 pages

Agnes the pig and Clarabelle the chick are two dear friends who support, cheer, and thoroughly enjoy one another all year long. Sweet, happy adventures, easily-solved problems, and sunny, perky illustrations make up these gems.

The Princess in Black, written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
published in 2014 by Candlewick Press
89 pages

The first in a dynamic series starring Princess Magnolia who chafes at prim and proper and thrills to action and heroics!  When the monster-alarm goes off, Magnolia ditches the tea and crumpets, dons her black super-hero outfit, and blitzes to the rescue! Brilliantly illustrated, captivating stories.

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog, written by Peter Meisel, illustrated by Paul Meisel
published in 2017 by Bloomsbury
73 pages

Spike is an enthusiastic dog with a keen appreciation for stuff that stinks! Working on the docks suits him perfectly, then, with all those fishy, seaweedy, scaley smells wafting in on the ocean breezes. Spike’s dockhand adventures take a wild turn when he’s washed out to sea and encounters sharks, whales, and a passel of pirates! Jolly good story, heaps of space devoted to jaunty illustations, large print, and at least one more Spike story available. Yo ho ho!

The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, written by Judy Blume, illustrated by Amy Aitken
published in 1981 by Yearling, Random House
39 pages

A darling, now-vintage read from one of the greats, Judy Blume, celebrating the specialness of that oft-overlooked middle child. Warm, happy, and really short. This makes a great transition away from the brightly-colored, illustration-heavy pages of some of the earlier titles on the list.

The Magician’s Boy, written by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Serena Riglietti
published in 2005 by Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon & Schuster
100 pages

Award-winning novelist Susan Cooper has written this delightful, short fantasy, polka-dotted with famous nursery story characters yet ratcheted up into an adventure worthy of kids in elementary grades. Fantastic writing, engagingly- formatted, with cool illustration work. Large print and plenty of white space make this one unimposing.

Maybelle in the Soup, written by Katie Speck, illustrated by Paul Rátz de Tagyos
published in 2007 by Henry Holt and Company
58 pages

My years in West Africa certainly didn’t make me susceptible to falling in love with a cockroach! But the irrepressible Maybelle won me over in a heartbeat anyway!

Maybelle is “a lovely, plump cockroach” who lives alongside her best bud Henry the Flea in the posh household of the most persnickety of folks, Myrtle and Herbert Peabody. This story zings along with the slapstick comedy of Laurel and Hardy. Large-ish print interspersed with gray scale illustrations. A hilarious, lively choice and there are several Maybelle sequels.

The Infamous Ratsos, written by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers
published in 2016 by Candlewick
57 pages

Two rat brothers, Louie and Ralphie, aim to be tough, tough, tough like their dad, but accidentally keep doing good deeds instead! Funny, full of moxie and heart, and not a bit cutesy. Large print, but black-and-white illustrations give it a more mature feel. Great choice for reluctant readers.

Busybody Nora, written by Johanna Hurwitz, illustrated by Debbie Tilley
published in 1976 by Harper Trophy (illustrations copyright 2001)
96 pages

A delightful vintage read set in a New York City apartment building with one extroverted child determined to build a community out of her disparate neighbors. Spunk, neighborliness, resourcefulness, and joy. A sprinkling of full-page, black-and-white illustrations break up the large-print text.

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot — Anna Bradford, illustrated by Elanna Allen
first published in Australia; first U.S. edition 2012 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
102 pages

Violet is an imaginative, loving girl whose attempts at self-sufficiency sometimes backfire and sometimes achieve brilliant results. I was rooting for her from page one. I love that this story revolves around family, and a warm, single-parent, working-hard-to-keep-up-with-the-bills family at that. Large-ish print, b&w illustrations, and several sequels.

More Stories Julian Tells, written by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Ann Strugnell
published in 1986 by Random House
82 pages

The Julian stories by Ann Cameron are some of my favorites. See my review of the first in this series here. This volume contains five more tales about this wonderful boy, his little brother, Huey, and best friend, Gloria. So much warmth, good humor, and real childhood crafted by a talented writer. I’m posting an older version of the cover as I like it so much better than the newer ones. The interior illustrations by Ann Strugnell are top-notch. Huey, Gloria, and even the dog also have titles from their point of view so search for more in your library.

Mouse Scouts, written and illustrated by Sarah Dillard
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
105 pages

The Mouse Scouts is like Brownies for mice and this little troop is hard at work earning their Sow It and Grow It badge. Heaps of cuteness, a spice of adventure, clever pages from the Mouse Scout Handbook, sequels featuring different badge pursuits, and on-line activity pages make this series especially suited to girls ages 5-9.

Mud Pies and Other Recipes, written by Marjorie Winslow, illustrated by Erik Blegvad
first published in 1961; republished by New York Review Children’s Collection in 2010
56 pages

This vintage charmer is a cookbook for dolls. It’s comprised of dozens of recipes to be happily concocted in the out-of-doors with ingredients harvested by the cooks — dandelions, seed pods, rainwater, minced grass.

Illustrated impeccably with Blegvad’s masterful pen-and-ink lines, it’s a lovely summons to imaginative outdoor play that will never grow old so long as children aren’t lulled into catatonic states via virtual electronic games. Challenging vocabulary but heavily illustrated. Hand it to an advanced young reader and send ’em outside.

Wolfie and Fly, written by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Zoe Si
published in 2017 by Tundra Books
86 pages

Renata Wolfman, aka Wolfie, is a solitary, unemotional gal, a lone wolf. Livingston Floot, aka Fly, is an extroverted, creative fellow.  A chance meeting of these two results in a superbly-imaginative afternoon. A blast of fun and personality with a promised sequel.

Hamster Magic, written by Lynne Jonell, illustrated by Brandon Dorman
published in 2010 by Random House
103 pages

Wishes gone awry. Talking hamsters. Siblings clandestinely coping with magical mayhem. Minnesota author Lynne Jonell’s adventurous tale reads like a junior-size version of Edward Eager’s and E. Nesbit’s stories. Delightful fantasy with several sequels in her Magical Mix-Ups series. Great intro both to Jonell’s other novels or to Eager’s and Nesbit’s classic works.

Mush, A Dog From Space, written by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater
text copyright 1995; illustrations copyright 2002; by Aladdin
55 pages

Daniel Pinkwater’s fizzing imagination has brought us so many wacky tales. This short account of Kelly Mangiaro and a talking mushamute from solar system Arfturus is splendid and eccentric. Great choice for older reluctant readers.

Seesaw Girl, written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng
published in 1999 by Clarion Books
87 pages

Linda Sue Park has become one of my favorite writers over the years. This was her first children’s novel, I think, and many years ago it was our introduction to her as well, a splendid piece of historical fiction set in 17th century Korea. 

Jade Blossom is the daughter of a noble family and as such has an extremely circumscribed life, tucked away from the eyes of the world in her family’s courtyards, unable to see and experience life outside of those walls. Her yearning to know more and cleverness in doing so are tempered by love and respect for her family and a commitment to bring them no shame.

Great story with mountains of rich detail about this time and place and lovely grey-scale watercolor illustrations.

My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood, written by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Peter Ferguson
published in 2010 by Candlewick Press
62 pages

Rosemary Wells’ narrative of one man’s life growing up in Havana, Madrid, and finally New York City, is redolent with beauty, artistry, home and homesickness, stability and change. The imaginative, poignant way this young boy copes with an abrupt move to the United States as his family flees the Castro regime, inspires both endurance and empathy.

I fell in love with this true story and its rich illustrations. A superb choice to read aloud as well. Enjoy it, and then if you live in Minneapolis, go out for a fine Cuban breakfast at Victor’s 1959 Cafe. Yum.

The No 1 Car Spotter and The No 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird — by Atinuke, illustrated by Warwick Johnson Cadwell
first published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012 by Kane Miller
110 and 94 pages

Written by the same phenomenal author as the Anna Hibiscus stories, these delightful, lively tales follow a young ingenious boy, his family, his friendships, life’s adventures, ups and downs, in his Nigerian village. Crammed with local flavor, resourcefulness, community and life! Funky, spirited illustration work brings it even more pep. More sequels are available.

The Pai-Pai Pig, written by Joy Anderson, illustrated by Jay Yang
published in 1967  by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.
48 pages

Here’s an out-of-print title that has retained its appeal. The story is set in Taiwan in the late 1950s. It was written by an American woman who lived there for a number of years and illustrated by a Taiwanese artist in evocative black ink drawings.

Pai-pai is the enormously festive celebration of Buddha’s birthday and the rich cultural detail here easily transports us to another culture. Although Taiwan itself has certainly changed, the chance to appreciate and delight in others’ ways of life is evergreen. A winning story if you’re able to find it at a large library as I did.

Candle Tales, written by Julia Cunningham, illustrated by Evaline Ness
published in 1964 by Random House
60 pages

Here’s another vintage story that’s aged surprisingly well. A small band of animals — squirrel, pig, dog, cat, mouse, and gull — note that crotchety Mr. Minikin owns hundreds of jolly birthday candles yet seems to be in need of a party. The six of them set about earning the candles for the surprise they’re concocting by telling stories. Original stories, all set in verse.

As the storytelling proceeds, a lovely warmth and camaraderie settles over Mr. Minikin and his household. Surprisingly modern rhythms and internal rhyming in the animals’ story-poems read almost like slam poetry in places. It’s a cheerful, funny, warmhearted read for those of you who can find a copy.

Starring Grace, written by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch
published in 2000 by Puffin Books
95 pages

Grace is an imaginative, warmhearted, honest girl whom some of you may have met in a couple of beloved picture books. This is the first of several chapter books starring Grace.  It’s crammed with creative play, respectful relationships, enthusiasm for life — what’s not to love about Grace?  Full page graphite drawings are sprinkled into the text.

Family Reminders, written by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by John Shelley
published in 2009 by Charlesbridge
101 pages

Don’t judge this one by its cover, please. Inside is an absorbing story set in the gold-mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado back in the 1890s. When Mary McHugh’s father is injured

in a mine accident, the family’s prospects are grim and the mood in their once-merry household just as depressing. Mary’s resolve to help her family through this tough time and the serendipitous way she discovers a new means for her father to flourish are heartening and will resonate with many children.

John Shelley’s interior illustrations are vigorous and arresting.

Clancy’s Cabin, written by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Barbara Steadman
first published in 1975; first U.S. edition 1995 by The Overlook Press
95 pages

I’m hoping to introduce you to Margaret Mahy, so this is the first of two stories by her in today’s list. This one’s an old-fashioned adventure with a pinch of Famous Five flavor, set in Mahy’s homeland, New Zealand. Siblings spending a summer holiday on their own in an old cabin on Clancy’s farm — what kid would not hanker after that? Introduce a hidden treasure and we’re off on a zesty journey! Great for boys or girls, and a happy read-aloud as well.

Lola Levine Is Not Mean, written by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
88 pages

Lola Levine is a great multi-cultural character with a Jewish father and a Latino-Catholic mom. She’s a sporty gal who loves to play soccer, gets along best with boys, struggles to fit in with the 2nd-grade girls, loves to write, and is certainly NOT mean. This is the first in a series starring a girl I’d love to know.

Daisy Dawson Is on Her Way!, written by Steve Voake, illustrated by Jessica Meserve
first published in the UK; first US edition 2008 by Candlewick
98 pages

A treat of a story incorporating magical-realism. Daisy Dawson is a tender-hearted animal-lover. One day, with the swish of a butterfly’s wings, she’s also able to understand and talk to animals! This sweeps her into all manner of happy, helpful intrigues with everyone from ants to dogs. Absolutely charming. Several sequels are available.

The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, written by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
first published in 1985; this edition by Puffin Books in 1998
79 pages

Roald Dahl’s riotous absurdity reigns in this short tale of one small boy dreaming of owning a sweet-shop to end all sweet-shops, and the spectacular Ladderless Window-Cleaning Company who are about to make their fortunes off of the 677 windows of Hampshire House. It gets crazier than you can imagine. Illustrated in full careening glory by Quentin Blake. A couple of “damnations” and “By Gad’s!” are included, courtesy of the excitable old Duke, for those who want to know. Fantastic fun, liberally sprinkled with Glumptious Globgobblers and other challenging vocabulary.

Tingleberries, Tuckertubs, and Telephones, written by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Robert Staermose
published in 1995 by Viking
96 pages

Speaking of riotous ridiculousness — Margaret Mahy was a genius at concocting cockamamie stories! This gem stars Saracen Hobday, a lad so shy he feels like “a limp lettuce leaf in the great salad of life.” And his bold as brass granny who hasn’t exactly fully retired from the detective business. And a wicked pirate named Grudge-Gallows. And don’t forget those tingleberries and tuckertubs. Immensely diverting! With boisterous ink drawings. If you don’t know Mahy, this is your golden opportunity to discover her. Such a snappy read-aloud!

Elsie Piddock Skips in her Sleep, written by Eleanor Farjeon, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
text first published in 1937; illustrations copyright 2000; this edition published in 2017 by Candlewick
96 pages

Pure joy! This classic fairy story by one of the masters of children’s literature is gorgeously packaged with airy, spritely illustrations by Charlotte Voake on lovely, creamy paper, and bound in a charming size. Perfect.

It’s the story of little Elsie Piddock who can skip rope as never so! In fact, she’s a born skipper. So much so that Andy Spandy, the fairy ruler, invites her for magical skipping lessons by the light of the new moon atop Mount Caburn. What’s accomplished by Elsie by means of her pluck and jumping rope — well you just have to read it to believe it. A marvelous David-and-Goliath tale, spun like sugar candy. Lengthy with some challenging dialect. A fine read-aloud.

Marzipan Day on Bridget Lane, written by Sylvia Cassedy, illustrated by Margot Tomes
published in 1967 by Doubleday and Company
62 pages

Marzipan Annie lives on Bridget Lane, “the narrowest lane in all of England” and there she whips up the most wonderful marzipan. “Marzipan gold as the beak of a daw, marzipan pink as the nose of a mouse, marzipan green as the eye of a cat, marzipan white as the throat of a goose.” Her tiny home overflows with confections so fine, they’re fit only for a king.

But does the king ever visit Bridget Lane? No, he does not. Marzipan Annie’s friends — although not royalty — would be happy to indulge themselves on her candies. The warmhearted solution to all of this will leave you cheering.

This delightful story, illustrated by the amazing Margot Tomes, really deserves to be brought back into print. I wish it were more accessible to you all, but perhaps a few of you will score and find a copy.  Challenging vocabulary.

Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight, written by Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer, illustrated by Elise Gravel
published in 2014 by Little, Brown and Company
98 pages

Science-fiction/fantasy is such a welcome genre in early chapter books. Archie’s dad drives a taxi — through outer space! On Archie’s first ride-along, adventures spring up at every turn! New planets! Alien bad-guys! Undercover cats! A rollicking read with a number of sequels.

Lulu and the Hamster in the Night, written by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont
published in 2013 by Albert Whitman & Company
97 pages

The Lulu books are some of my top-favorite early chapter books. I’ve reviewed a couple of these before but want to draw your attention to them again. Lulu is a dear, warm-hearted, animal-loving gal whose good intentions keep landing her in chaotic situations! Funny and tender, with a diverse cast of characters. I love Lulu!

Sprout Street Neighbors: A New Arrival, written and illustrated by Anna Alter
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
110 pages

As you see, I cheated on this page count. It’s definitely over 100 pages. However — the Sprout Street stories fit perfectly with these early chapter books. Their trim size and plentiful illustrations make the pages nicely accessible. Charming stories about a plucky group of friends who solve their problems with affection and aplomb. Love them! This is the second volume. I reviewed the first one here.

The Happy Orpheline, written by Natalie Savage Carlson, illustrated by Garth Williams
published in 1957 by Harper & Row
96 pages

The stories of the Orphelines in France begin here, not with 12 little girls in two straight lines, but with 20 little girls all happy as can be to belong to one another, to be one great family along with their caretakers, Madame Flattot and Genevieve. An outing to the pet cemetery to see the regal headstone of Zezette, a beloved former pet, results in one child getting lost, then meeting a wacky woman who thinks herself the Queen of France. She’ll careen along on a hair-raising moped ride and let dozens of dogs loose in the market before finally, joyfully being reunited with all those happy orphelines.

It’s quite a tale! My girls loved this when they were young. There are several sequels. Garth Williams’ lively line drawings decorate the pages magnificently. Some French words and place names will challenge young readers.

Sable, written by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Marcia Sewall
published in 1994 by Henry Holt and Company
81 pages

Karen Hesse is a brilliant writer and this short book shines with her superb craftsmanship. A tender tale of Tate and her loyal love for the stray dog, Sable, this one will touch the heart of animal-lovers. My daughter, Ingrid, would have read it a dozen times when she was small if I’d known about it.

A Picture for Marc, written by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
published in 2007 by Random House
98 pages

A brilliant, fictionalized biography of Marc Chagall, this short book is rich with insights into the meaning and value of art. Think of it as My Name is Asher Lev for elementary children. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Hand it to children who don’t need zip-zow action, especially those with artistic souls.

Rickshaw Girl, written by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
published in 2007 by Charlesbridge
79 pages + glossary

Mitali Perkins is a Kolkata-born author who writes wonderful multicultural titles for children. This is the story of Naima who longs to help her family economically but is hindered by her gender. Inspirational and packed with rich cultural details. Children will need to make use of the illustrated glossary to understand some Bangla words. Graphite drawings help immensely in picturing the setting.

Belling the Tiger; The Great Rebellion; Siri the Conquistador — written by Mary Stolz, illustrated by Beni Montresor
published in 1961 and 1963 by Harper & Brothers
64, 63, and 51 pages

Mary Stolz won a Newbery Honor in 1962 for the first title in this adventurous series. Asa and Rambo, two plucky mice, are originally charged with belling Siri the cat. Three books later, they’ve tamed a tiger, sailed the seas, led a rebellion against an overbearing chief mouse, and faced down their fear of a dog named Maximilian.

These vintage books are illustrated by the fabulous Beni Montresor, but are out of print. Vocabulary and syntax are more challenging than most contemporary titles for this age group. Find them for an advanced younger reader.

A Case in Any Case, written by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Gitte Spee, translated by Julia Marshall
published in Sweden 2016; first English edition 2017 by Gecko Press
104 pages

This is the third book in a delightful series coming out of Sweden.  I’ve reviewed the first one here. Detective Gordon, a lovable toad with a sizable sweet tooth, has taken a break from police work, leaving his office and Official Stamp to young Buffy, his side-kick, a mouse the size of a cinnamon bun. But when a new case heats up, Detective Gordon just cannot stay off the job. Magnificent personalities, clever storylines, and the fabulous Gitte Spee’s illustration work. Smallish print makes this one a lengthy read.

Basil of Baker Street, written by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone
first published in 1958; this edition 2016 by Aladdin
88 pages

A classic riff on Sherlock Holmes featuring the super-sleuthing mouse, Basil, and his trusty sidekick, Dr. David Q. Dawson. With the huge popularity of all things Sherlockian just now, it’s a great time to introduce kids to this ingenuous detective. Challenging vocabulary, some use of dialect, lovely period, stylized narrative, and Galdone’s fabulous drawings all make this a gem for young, advanced readers. There are several sequels.

House of Dolls, written by Francesca Lia Block, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
published in 2010 by Harper
61 pages

Despite its recent publication date, this book exudes an antiquated, sophisticated tone in its storytelling, pristine illustrations, and typography. It’s a very pretty book, and its fable-like message of love, loyalty, loneliness, and belonging is teased out beautifully as well. Challenging vocabulary and susbstance. A great choice for precocious readers, with a heavily-feminine feel.

Toys Go Out, written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
published in 2006 by Schwartz & Wade
117 pages

Despite its page count, I couldn’t resist including this marvelous, inventive, warm, funny tale of “a knowledgeable stingray, a toughy little buffalo, and someone called Plastic.” If you haven’t met this little crew yet, you ought to. It’s a bit like reading a Pixar movie.

The Better Brown Stories, written by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Fritz Wegner
published in 1995 by Viking
97 pages

The topsy-turvy plot in this short novel involves a hulking mechanical dog, maniacal milkman, mysterious kidnappers, a good dog named Timmy, free money, a harassed writer, and endless discombobulation. Intrigued?

The entire, comedic story is a piece of metafiction in which the characters, variously bored, upset, and forgotten by their author, literally rap on his door demanding alterations to the narrative. Which they receive and which never seem to turn out exactly as desired.

It’s a lengthy book, sprinkled with clever line drawings, demanding the ability to follow a convoluted plot and manage lots of Britishisms, but for advanced young readers it’s great fun. Literary references ranging from Sherlock Holmes to the Famous Five to Raymond Briggs’ Snowman are woven subtly into the story.

The Leopard Boy, written by Julia Johnson, illustrated by Marisa Lewis
published in 2011 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
87 pages

Looking for something with international flavor? This suspenseful story, set in Oman, will fill the bill. With its environmental theme, dicey danger, and unusual setting, it’s a great choice for slightly older readers. Very lightly illustrated.

The Marzipan Pig, written by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake
published originally in 1986; reissued by The New York Review Children’s Collection
43 pages

Oh so quirky, this series of random events is triggered by the unfortunate fall of a marzipan pig behind the sofa. Sophisticated vocabulary and style, unusual plotting, and small print make this a choice for confident, precocious readers. Quentin Blake’s loose, humorous illustrations and NYRB’s always- gorgeous packaging create great visual appeal.

The Whipping Boy, written by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Peter Sís
published in 1986 by Greenwillow Books
89 pages

Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1987, this is an exciting adventure reminscent of Twain’s Prince and the Pauper. The brat of a prince and his whipping boy who bears his every punishment run away from the castle and are ensnared in mistaken identities, surly rogues, medieval fairs, rat-infested sewer systems…phew! A blast for stout readers.

The Dream Stealer, written by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Peter Sís
published in 2009 by Greenwillow Books
89 pages

A blockbuster author-and-illustrator team created this exciting tale, festooned with magical realism. Set in a Mexican town, the story is populated with the denizens of nightmares, one very crafty dream-stealer named Zumpango, and an even craftier, stalwart little girl named Susana. Fantastic read for slightly older readers, especially those who’ve tasted and loved Harry Potter or other fantasies.

Salsa Stories, written and illustrated by Lulu Delacre
published in 2000 by Scholastic
75 pages PLUS 20 pages of recipes and an extensive glossary

I love this book, in which a young girl collects fascinating childhood memories from her Latino family members who have grown up in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, and Peru. Each of their stories references a beloved food; authentic recipes for each dish are gathered in the final pages of the book. A lengthy, challenging, and delightful read with an extensive glossary to help out with Spanish terms.

Juana & Lucas, written and illustrated by Juana Medina
published in 2016 by Candlewick
89 pages

Winner of the 2017 Pura Belpré Award, this book is packed with sunshine, a good dog, a warm family and — it’s set in Bogata, Columbia! I love that!! Juana is another child I’d love to know. She’s quite an optimist except when it comes to learning English — such a tricky language. But her grandfather’s fantastico reward for progress is just the enticement she needs. An unusual format and setting help make this book pure gold. Spanish words are sprinkled in the sophisticated text.

Oranges in No Man’s Land, by Elizabeth Laird, illustrations by Gary Blythe
published in 2006 in the UK; this edition 2008 by Haymarket Books
99 pages

 I tracked this book down through interlibrary loan after I read and admired Laird’s The Fastest Boy in the World, reviewed here. Based on the author’s time living in Beirut during the civil war, this is a poignant story. On display are the traumas, dangers, courage, heartbreak, and generosity of spirit a young girl encounters as she searches for help in a war-torn city. For emotionally-mature readers, it’s a sophisticated but short read.

That’s it. Cream of the crop of what I’ve read since January. But don’t forget to check out the exceptional choices already listed in my Titles Index.

If this post helps you, please share it! I’d love this list to benefit gobs of young readers!

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Over the last 5 months, I have been reading stacks upon stacks of short chapter books.

Thousands of pages later, I am ready to bring you a handy list, although what I arrived at is slightly different than where I thought I was going at the start.

My goal to begin with was to hunt down terrific chapter books for fledgling readers who have graduated from leveled easy readers but aren’t quite ready for just any ol’ chapter book. These folks need books that aren’t too daunting.

I didn’t look for books quite this small.

I made an arbitrary rule for myself in order to cut down the enormous number of options I might read: The book had to be under 100 pages. Thus I merrily set out. I discovered a couple of things, though, along the way.

One isn’t really a new discovery: I am not fond of rules.

Therefore I kept breaking my 100 page rule, fudging just a teensy bit here and a teensy bit there. All in all, though, the rule was very beneficial for me as it kept me from reading every single book that screamed at me to check it out. I really, really tried to turn a cold shoulder to the ones over 100 pages!

Me, coming home from the library.

The other thing was — okay this wasn’t really a new discovery either — that 100 page books span the gamut of difficulty, from illustration-heavy, text-minimal, zoopy stories to texts full of challenging vocabulary, complex plots, and almost no illustrations. Short chapter books are not just for budding readers.

Here, then, is my revised list of all the kinds of people that my 100-page-book list is for:

•new graduates of  leveled readers, to be sure

•older readers who struggle with reading or simply aren’t enthused about reading; short is less intimidating

•young-but-advanced readers who may be only 5 but are tearing through books — what can you hand them next?

•readers perfectly capable of tackling the entire Harry Potter series who might want something utterly different to zip through in an hour

•parents/caregivers looking for a short read-aloud

•Kindle-less readers who need something lightweight to tuck in a travel satchel

•children assigned to read x number of pages over summer vacation looking for ideas

In other words, a lot of readers might benefit from short chapter books of varied difficulty, but it’s tough to find them because one can’t search for books by length. The newer series are a cinch to spot, but older or stand-alone titles are tricky to find.

I dug through stacks of out-of-print books and read bundles of brand new books, searching for what I thought were the very best reads. I hunted for variety — animal stories, fantasy, diverse cultures, history, humor. There are still so many excellent titles out there that I missed but I have other reading journeys I’d like to go on so I’m ending this particular voyage and posting the best of what I’ve found tomorrow.

There are lots of easy chapter books already on my blog including some of my very favorite ones. Those are listed with links to their reviews in my Title index so do check them out.

I hope you’ll find something or a lot of things  that are just the right fit for the readers in your life. If you share this post with others, it will make my efforts all the more worthwhile, so please do!

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Just looking at this stack of books today warms my heart. Lush illustrations and tenderhearted characters bring a palpable response of peace, security, belonging, and healing.

These days are filled with turmoil and conflict, and assuredly children pick up on that. It’s the perfect time to snuggle up together and read reassuring, beautiful picture books.

The Way Home in the Night, written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi
first published in Japan in 2015; English edition published by Kids Can Press in 2017

Akiko Miyakoshi is making a name for herself with her gorgeous, flannel-soft, rosebud-tender illustration work and the rich themes of imagination and belonging thrumming through her books.  (See my review of The Tea Party in the Woods here.)

Here she explores the many varied life stories which surround us, the array of homes cocooning our neighbors, each holding an aroma of mystery, a tease of the unknown, and our common desire for repose.

As one little bunny goes for a quiet evening stroll with Mama, the glow of lamplight from within apartment windows gives glimpses of neighbors’ lives and piques curiosity. What are they talking about? What are they cooking up for supper? What happens next, after we lose sight of them? So many different narratives, yet ultimately bound together with deeply human needs — home, and a place to lay our heads to sleep.

Attuned to universal wondering, this hushed story will resonate deeply with young and old, ages 2 and up. Outstanding.

Little Fox in the Forest, a wordless book by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

My word! This book is flooded with wave upon wave of adorableness, kindness, and imagination, with one well-shot arrow of childhood angst piercing through to create pitch-perfect tension for preschoolers.

It’s the ol’ lovey-gone-missing plot, portrayed with panache. A little girl’s favorite stuffed fox accompanies her to the playground one day. While she’s enjoying a hearty swing, a real fox kit spies the toy, snatches it, and hot-foots it into the forest.

With determination borne of desperation, the little girl tracks her beloved fox, a host of darling woodland residents and one schoolmate assisting her. What they discover — a splendiferous woodland village that’ll set your heart a-flutter — plus one small, pathetic fox kit, leads to a resolution sweet as a butter cookie.

Could anyone not feel their heart flood with warmth upon reading this story? I think not. A perfect picture book for ages 2 and up.

Home and Dry, written and illustrated by Sarah L. Smith
published in 2016 by Child’s Play Inc.

Coming to us from Australia, this quirky charmer features the Paddling family whose home on a rocky outcropping of an island looks mighty idyllic; plus a rainstorm to end all rainstorms; and dear Uncle Bastian, a lonely old fellow whose busy life has heretofore superceded pleasant holidays but who has decided to finally pay a long-overdue visit to his family.

The collision course of events here — picnics and paddlings and Paddlings and predicaments — makes for a rollicking series of near-misses and thorough wettings until all ends in coziness, hospitality, belonging, and everyone “home and dry.”

With a plot and illustrations crammed with affection and the humble joy of home and family, this is a delight for ages 3 and up.

The Giant Jumperee, written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
originally published in the UK; first U.S. edition 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Two UK childrens’ literature rock stars teamed up to create this sunny, funny, jolly tale, and what a joy it is!

Something is lurking in Rabbit’s burrow! It calls itself the Giant Jumperee! Good heavens! What can it be?

Rabbit is affrighted! And as each of his animal friends stoutly offers to help remove this unseen monster, they become just as alarmed! After all, it shouts out such dire warnings!

When even Elephant is left cowering, Mama Frog calmly steps up to the challenge and what do you know — that Giant Jumperee is heading home to tea in a merry minute.  Timeless and happy, for young lapsitters, ages 18 months and up.

Time Now to Dream, written by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
published in the UK in 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick Press

Here’s another book awash in the perfection of Helen Oxenbury’s art, with a story brilliantly balancing delicious ingredients: tingly mystery, tenderness, bravery, sibling camaraderie, and the warmth of home.

Alice and Jack are enjoying a fine day when, coming through the forest, a sound disrupts their playtime. It’s a weird sound. An uncanny howl. It goes something like this, “Ocka by hay beees unna da reees…”

Is it the Wicked Wolf?! Into the shadowy woods they go with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity, only to discover a most surprising scene! For at the height of tension, sunlight and warmth break through.  Despite Jack’s worries, everything really is all right, and the dreams they dream tonight will be full of sweetness. Absolutely top notch for ages 18 months and up.

Like this? Helped by this? Share it with others or on your favorite social media site!

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It’s full-on May. Green swathes the earth, tulips paint gardens, socks and shoes lie discarded. Time for some fresh, glad picture books for hammock and lemonade time. Every one of these is guaranteed to be a juicy pleasure for thirsty, curious minds.

Everybunny Dance!, written and illustrated by Ellie Sandall
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Oh, these darling bunnies! Plump bottoms. Jovial splotchy fur. Cheerful capering. Just…irresistible.

How merrily they dance, play, and sing! UNTIL!! Egads! It’s a fox! Everybunny run!

When these worried-yet-sensitive bunnies see a tear trickle down that fox’s long nose, however, they respond with the sweetest bunnywarmth of all. There is so much gladness and good will in this book, you’ll feel your heart expand a couple of sizes. A gem for ages 18 months and up.

Under the Umbrella, written by Catherine Buquet, illustrated by Marion Arbona, translated by Erin Woods
originally published in French; English edition published in 2017 by Pajama Press

A sodden day brings out the grumpies for one curmudgeonly fellow, striding down the avenue under his black umbrella, scowling, dashing, spluttering…

Meanwhile, a lemon-yellow bakery window shining out upon the grey day attracts a little boy like a moth to lamplight, those mouthwatering mousses and razzledazzzle tarts beaming sunshine into his soul.

What happens when a gust of wind whooshes these two people together? A smile. A kind gesture. A spilling over of sweetness. This dynamic book will gladden you, not to mention precipitating a trip to the local patisserie! Striking illustration work emotes the changing moods of this story with tremendous pizzazz. A joy for ages 2 and up.

Round, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Roundness. Such a simple concept, carried out brilliantly by Minnesota poet Joyce Sidman, illustrated with tender warmth by the talented Taeeun Yoo.

This ambling exploration of round things gently unfolds in Sidman’s pristine text.  Words reflecting the incisive wonder of a child are pared down to those quiet, perfect few that resonate within the reader, stimulate more wonder.

Yoo’s print-like illustrations are impeccable, gracing every page with physical and emotional beauty that stops us in our tracks.

I adore this book — timeless, thoughtful, curious, warmhearted. Perfect for sharing with ages 18 months and up.

Mr. Postmouse Takes a Trip, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
originally published in French, 2016; English language edition 2017 by Kids Can Press

Mr. Postmouse stole my heart with his first round of deliveries, reviewed here.

Now he’s off for a whirlwind, ’round-the-world vacation with his family. Ever responsible, Mr. Postmouse brings along a cartful of parcels to deliver along the way.

Whether on a volcanic isle or at a desert oasis, the Postmouse family enjoys meeting new friends. What a jolly treat to visit these places with them! Best of all are the peeks into many, tiny, clever homes and shops along the way. Home in a cactus or a tiny yellow submarine. Home on a cloud or in a dragon’s lair. Darling wee furnishings and details make this a treasure to pour over with ages 2 and up.

Arthur and the Golden Rope, written and illustrated by Joe Todd Stanton
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

Welcome to a fabulous Norse tale about young Arthur of Iceland, a lad destined for epic quests from his earliest days.

When the brutish wolf, Fenrir, blots out the town’s great cauldron of fire, plunging them into icy darkness forever, it’s Arthur who’s chosen to venture off to Valhalla, track down Thor, and urge him to use his thunderbolt to rekindle their flame.

But oh! this is much easier said than done! Incredibly appealing panels of illustrations carry us into a legendary Nordic world as Stanton spins this wildly adventurous tale. This appears to be the only title available in the Brownstone’s Mythical Collection. I’m definitely hoping for more. Fantastic storytelling for ages 5 and up.

This House, Once, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

The door in this house once was part of “a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.”

Now there’s an intriguing thought. What about the foundation stones? The red bricks in the walls? Or these glass window panes?

What were all the things that make up this house, before they turned into our house?

Quietly thought-provoking, this dreamy book will spark ideas and questions and wonder about not only houses, but all manner of objects we take for granted. What were they once? How are they made? Who made them?

An immensely clever, ethereal prod towards wondering, for ages 4 and up.

Bob the Railway Dog: The True Story of an Adventurous Dog, written by Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Andrew McLean
published in 2015 in Australia; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

If you’re a dog lover, you’ll warm to this engaging story about a homeless dog adopted by a railway guard back in 1884 Australia.

It took no time at all for this shaggy dog named Bob to attach himself to Mr. Ferry, to learn how to hop aboard the caboose and ride the rails, to switch trains at will in order to see a sizable stretch of the Australian countryside.

Bob was welcomed everywhere, and you’ll welcome him into your hearts, too, as you steam along from Adelaide to Kalangadoo! Sweet story, handsomely illustrated with gentle watercolor illustrations that bring the era and the land to life. Ages 4 and up.

Tony, written by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin Stead
published in 2017; a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

If I handed you this book and you didn’t know it was new, you would likely guess it was a vintage picture book from, say, the 1940s. A velvet soft, yesteryear quietness breathes out from every ounce of it.

The poem which comprises the text was written by Ed Galing just prior to his death in 2013. It’s a reminiscing poem about a sweet-tempered white horse, Tony, who pulls the milk wagon for driver Tom on their early morning rounds. Straightforward, free of soppiness, rich with adoration for this beloved horse, Galing’s poem narrates the routine, cherished interactions between Tony, Tom, and a customer.

Erin Stead’s dove-soft pencil drawings sweep us into a sweet relationship with these three. Her palette of grey-green whispers, while patches of lamplight cast a welcoming glow in the cool dawn shadows. Every element is just so quiet.

I love quiet books, in a world too often dominated by loud, frenetic offerings for children. Soak in the beauty, the stillness, the human pace of Tony. A treat for ages 2 to 100.

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Last year marked the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. Those centuries saw London rebuild from tragic destruction…

…to the phenomenal city she is today.

A gorgeous book was published to commemorate the fire. That prompted me to scope out some other great titles available to those of us on this side of the pond, helping us explore the early history of our friends the Brits. The starting point of our journey today will be 1666 and we’ll travel farther back in time from there.

The Great Fire of London, written by Emma Adams, illustrated by James Weston Lewis
published in 2016 by Wayland

The striking illustrations in this book arrest our attention straight from the cover image to the final page. Phenomenal!

Walk through the streets of London during the terrifically hot summer of 1666, and witness the progress of the terrible conflagration that began in a baker’s oven and roared through the city over the next days.

Read excerpts from journals, meet Christopher Wren, discover the changes to firefighting that occurred as a result of the ruination, learn of the reconstruction to famous buildings — all in a concise, riveting narrative. History made eminently fascinating for ages 6 and up.

If this makes you hanker for a longer historical fiction account of the Great Fire, we enjoyed Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. It’s a great read/read-aloud for ages 8 and older. Out of print, but you can find copies in some libraries or buy from third party sellers on Amazon.

The Queen’s Progress: An Elizabethan Alphabet, written by Celeste Davidson Mannis, illustrations by Bagraim Ibatoulline
published in 2003 by Viking

Elizabeth I, Good Queen Bess, reigned from 1558 to 1603, giving her name to a dazzling era of culture and prosperity. This fascinating book about her is structured as an alphabet book, but don’t be fooled! Its rich content suits readers ages 7 through much older.

Every summer Queen Elizabeth took a holiday known as the royal progress. The queen, her courtiers, and hundreds of attendants left London in a caravan that stretched as far as the eye could see.” What made up this spectacular procession? What festivities took place along the way? Where did she stay? How did they feast? Who were her courtiers?

Packed with glittering detail, illustrated by one of the masters who takes us by the hand and plumps us down in the middle of Elizabethan England, this is a gem of a history book.

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets!, written and illustrated by Marcia Williams
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

Stepping farther back still…Elizabeth I was the last of the Tudors, a line of royalty whose rule began in 1485 with the crowning of Henry VII.

Marcia Williams’ jolly cartoon style makes the history of those 120 years most-appealing and accessible to young elementary children. Her colorful panels introduce all the Tudors plus a few extras such as Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Running along the bottom of the pages we witness the lives of the commoners. And a snappy little ferret named Smudge gives a running account from his point of view along the margins.

A jumble of fun that delivers a whole lot of information.

For more books specifically about Shakespeare, see my post: hey nonny nonny! ’tis Shakespeare’s birthday

Now let’s take a big leap back in time…

Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale Retold, written and illustrated by James Rumford
published in 2007 by Houghton Mifflin

Around the year 800, an epic poem about a hero named Beowulf was written down in the Anglo-Saxon language. A couple of centuries passed, England was conquered by the folks across the Channel, and the enormous changes to the Saxons’ language meant that soon very few could read that Olde English account.

Thankfully, some scholars delved into those decrepit manuscripts and brought Beowulf back to us in the early 1800s. This excellent retelling by James Rumford pays homage to its language of origin by using only words that can be traced back to ancient Anglo-Saxon. What a fabulous idea!  History and linguistics in one!

Rumford’s vigorous illustrations exude the warring spirit of this tumultuous, hair-raising struggle. A great introduction for brave children ages 7 and up.

The Secrets of Stonehenge, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
published in 2013 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

With this final book, we carom all the way back to Stone-Age Britain, some 10,000 years in the past, as we trace the mysteries and secrets of Stonehenge.

What was happening on this piece of wild land we now call the Salisbury Plain all those ages ago? What gods and goddesses did those ancient people worship? What is a “henge” anyway? When did people start constructing this one, and why?

How did they transport such mammoth stones? How did they set them in position? What archaeological discoveries at Stonehenge are revealing the secrets to its past?

Brief, clear text,  juicy tidbits of information in side-bars, and breezy, full-page, colorful illustrations will draw children as young as 5 into these questions and curiosities about the past.

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A Boy Called Bat, written by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso
published in 2017 by Walden Pond Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
192 pages

I thoroughly enjoyed this endearing story about a small boy with a huge heart, and one little, striped skunk.

Bat Tam is in third grade at Saw Whet School, chosen especially for him because the wonderful folks in charge accommodate Bat’s autism so well. In fact, Bat’s teacher, Mr. Grayson? You’ll all wish he lived next door!

Bat’s mom is a veterinarian and one day she winds up with a tiny, motherless skunk kit. Her plan is to care for it at home for about a month until the wildlife rescue center has a spot for it. Bat’s plan, within about a nanosecond of meeting this sweet little fella, is to keep it forever.

They are pretty cute, after all.

Earnestly attempting to grow into a capable skunk-owner while managing his autism plus the challenges of his parents’ separation is not an easy path for Bat, but with resourcefulness and immense heart, plus the support of some wise, empathetic adults, Bat succeeds. And wins our hearts in the process.

Excellent story, characters to love, and a great spotlight on autism. Read it aloud or hand it to ages 7 and up.

Cavern of Secrets, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by James Madsen
published in 2017 by Harper
320 pages

This is the second page-turner in Linda Sue Park’s Wing & Claw trilogy. I reviewed the series’ opener  here.

Though it’s been a year since that first book came out, I was immediately swept back into the world of Obsidia, where a young boy named Raffa Santana has been raised to be an apothecary, scavenging the Forest of Wonders for botanicals he can pound and mix into tinctures and powders imbued with marvelous healing capabilities. Raffa has discovered one particular vine whose properties can be used for surprising good, or immense evil.

The Chancellor of Obsidia is secretly engaged in using it for evil. It’s up to Raffa, his cousin Garith, best friend Kuma, and a handful of trustworthy others to stop her. The stakes are high and the obstacles daunting. Assisting them is an amiable, immensely-charming bat named Echo. Who talks.

The adventure and tension are definitely ratcheted up in this volume which has a cliffhanger ending. How will we wait until next year for the conclusion?! Excellent fantasy for middle graders and up and a choice candidate for reading aloud as well.

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