April 23, 2014

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On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sequels, Prequels, and Companions: Oh My!

As trends and genres continue to evolve, one thing remains a constant: the return of beloved characters and stories. Whether it’s a sequel, a prequel, or a companion novel that walks alongside the original, books that connect to each other continue to be fan favorites.

Coming back to well-known characters and settings is also helpful to youngsters. Since they already know the backstory, struggling readers can concentrate on the new problem. Revisiting the familiar can also give fans a comforting feeling. How many times have you snatched a book off the shelf when you realized it was the next title in a favorite series? Get ready for long lines and pre-orders for these new entries in popular series.

This fall brings familiar characters back into our lives. Interestingly enough, several of these returns are not just the annual next-book-in-the-series. Many of these favorites-to-be are long-awaited sequels, prequels, or companions written by award-winning authors.

Puzzling On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sequels, Prequels, and Companions: Oh My!BERLIN, Eric. The Puzzler’s Mansion. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. ISBN 9780399256974. JLG Level: ME : Mystery/Adventure Elementary (Grades 2-6)

Winston Breen returns in Book Two of The Puzzling World of Winston Breen series. During a weekend at a famous pianist’s mansion, Winston and his friends intend to solve the puzzles. When the prizes are stolen, the boys want to solve the mystery as well. Full of word games and other conundrums, this fast-paced mystery keeps readers guessing. Unique characters with their own agendas add to the entertainment value of the story. Who is stealing the prizes? Why would a famous musician give away his prized possessions? And how can a tiny toy piano be a clue?

Readers will want to go to the author’s website to print out the puzzles sprinkled throughout the book.

Chickadee On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sequels, Prequels, and Companions: Oh My!ERDRICH, Louise. Chickadee. Harper, 2012. ISBN 9780060577919. JLG Level: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3-5)

This latest installment in the Birchbark House series picks up four years after Book Three. Time has passed, as Omakayas is now a young mother with eight-year-old twins. In 1866, Chickadee is picked on by an older man from their extended tribe. Makoons defends his brother’s honor by playing a prank. The bully’s sons retaliate by kidnapping Chickadee. In a story that takes the family from Minnesota to the Great Plains, readers will learn about the culture and history of the Ojibwe while rooting for the family to be reunited. An assortment of multigenerational characters and periodic spots of pencil sketches add to this painless lesson in history.

coalharbor On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sequels, Prequels, and Companions: Oh My!HORVATH, Polly. One Year in Coal Harbor. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012. ISBN 9780375969706. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5-7)

In this companion book to the Newbery Honor book Everything on a Waffle (Farrar, 2001), Primrose Sharp returns for another year of adventure. “It is a terrible thing to have pockets of emptiness where something or someone should be.” Filling those holes is just what Primrose wants to do. She thinks Uncle Jack has a hole that should be filled with Miss Bowzer. Zed, the new foster boy, comes along and fills a hole that Primrose didn’t even know she had. After all, everyone needs a best friend. And then there is the big question: Should Primrose allow herself to be arrested?

Horvath’s wit and wisdom continue and each chapter concludes with recipes.

caddy On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sequels, Prequels, and Companions: Oh My!MCKAY, Hilary. Caddy’s World. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012. ISBN 9781442441057. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5-7)

Already a JLG selection and three starred reviews, Caddy’s World continues the story of the Casson family which started with the award-winning, Saffy’s Angels (S&S/McElderry, 2002). In this prequel, Caddy is a mere 12, taking center stage in the coming of age story. Moving, changing schools, new siblings, and boys all figure into the plot with classic McKay-humor and poignancy. With the premature birth of baby sister, Rose, Caddy’s father becomes the stay-at-home-dad he has seldom been. For the four friends, “AlisonRubyanBethanme,” life is a struggle, with each problem driving them further apart.

Those who have read the other five books will be glad to see the return of the chaotic Casson family. Newcomers will be first in line to read the series.

thirdgrade On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sequels, Prequels, and Companions: Oh My!SPINELLI, Jerry. Third Grade Angels. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012. ISBN 9780545387729. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2-4)  

In 1991, Spinelli published Fourth Grade Rats (Scholastic), introducing George “Suds” Morton to his readers. Third Grade Angels backs Suds up to third grade in this long-awaited prequel. His teacher will give a monthly prize to the best behaved student in her class. Suds wants to earn the halo, but being good all the time is not so easy. Does it count when I’m kind at home? What if the new boy gets me in trouble? Suds tries hard, but will it be enough?

Spinelli’s book is a great read aloud with enormous potential for class discussion. Don’t we all want to win the prize?

For ideas about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.



  1. Barb Gogan says:

    The Winston Breen book is the third in the series–there is also The Potato Chip Puzzles

    • Deborah B Ford says:

      A Prize for you! You are exactly right. It was sitting right here on my desk too. All three books are JLG selections.