November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Goofy Pets, Daring Detectives, and a Drama Queen| Chapter Books Series Update

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Just in time for summer reading, here’s the latest roundup of new and forthcoming series continuations for independent chapter book readers.

1606-ChapSeriesCVsBrezenoff, Steve. The Case of the Missing Mom. illus. by Lisa K. Weber. 128p. (Museum Mysteries). Stone Arch. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $25.82. ISBN 9781496525178.

Gr 2-4 – A team of diverse young detectives—museum geeks one and all—solve mysteries happening in the different museums of Capitol City. The idea of kids with almost complete access to various museums night or day is appealing and the mysteries, if slight, introduce new chapter book readers to elements of the genre. Occasional full-color illustrations add to the appeal of these adventures. Each book includes additional facts dealing with the subject matter, as well as discussion questions, writing prompts, and a glossary.

Brown, Monica. Lola Levine, Drama Queen. illus. by Angela Dominguez. 88p. (Lola Levine). Little, Brown. Jan. 2016. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780316258425.

Gr 1-3 –Shalom! Lola, a spunky half-Jewish, half-Peruvian girl, faces a new challenge: drama class and the class play. Lola considers herself a dramatic person and dreams of being the star of the show, but when Lola freezes up at her audition, she gets cast as Squirrel #2, a nonspeaking part. Still, the show must go on. Young readers will identify with Lola’s plight and root for her throughout. Charming black-and-white illustrations bring the characters to life. Fans of characters like Clementine and Judy Moody will love Lola, too, and the book includes cultural details that make this series a good choice for everyday diversity. Now out in paperback.

Brown, Judy. The Pet Factor. illus. by Judy Brown. 214p. (Petbots: Bk. 3). Picadilly. Jul. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781848124318.

Gr 3-6 –Everyone at Oakhill Primary School is gaga over the new pet competition show The Pet Factor, including the Petbots—Archie the cat, Flo the bird, and Sparky the mouse. When their human friends decide to audition with their pets, the Petbots tag along for fun. But when pets start disappearing or being suddenly withdrawn from the competition, the Petbots must help investigate what is going on. Black-and-white spot illustrations depict both human and animal characters throughout the book. This humorous British import will appeal to animal fans and readers of wacky mysteries.

Dixon, Franklin. The Missing Playbook. illus. by Matt David. 96p. (Hardy Boys Clue Book: Bk. 2). ebook available. Aladdin. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481451789; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781481451772.

Gr 2-4 –Baseball season is about to start up and Frank and Joe Hardy are especially enthusiastic about their team’s chances this year since their coach has an awesome new top-secret playbook. When the playbook goes missing at the team’s pre-season cookout, the Hardy boys are on the case. All the basic elements of a mystery story are here—clues, suspects, motives, evidence—and readers get a chance to solve the mystery before turning to the last chapter to find out the answer. Clues are shared both in the text and in the occasional black-and-white illustrations, allowing readers to see some of what the Hardy boys are seeing. Young sleuths who aren’t quite ready for the original “Hardy Boys” tales or who want a more modern mystery will find much to appreciate here.

Earhart, Kristin. Outback All-Stars. illus. by Erwin Madrid. 144p. (Race The Wild: Bk. 5). Scholastic. May 2016. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780545940641.

Gr 2-5 – Sage and her diverse group of friends from the Red Team are back to compete in The Wild Life All Stars Showdown, a race through remote areas of the world to seek out and photograph animals. This leg of the race takes them to Australia with the competition stiffer than ever. This is a fun adventure story that will particularly appeal to young animal enthusiasts. Sections at the end of each chapter give additional information about related subjects and black-and-white illustrations include full-page race scenes and illustrations of animals found throughout the book. While readers who have followed the team on their previous adventures will most appreciate this installment, kids obsessed with animal facts will still find much to love here.

Eyre, Lindsay. The Spelling Bee Scuffle. illus. by Sydney Hanson. 144p. (Sylvie Scruggs: Bk. 3). Scholastic. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545620314.

Gr 3-5 –When the fifth graders try to steal the fourth grade ballfield on the playground, the kids agree on a bet: whichever grade wins the all-school spelling bee will get the field for the rest of the year. But when the fourth grade spelling champion doesn’t qualify, Sylvia wishes all bets were off and considers cheating to win back the ballfield for her friends. This school story about competition and friendship delves into some sticky ethical conundrums, making it a good choice for discussion with students. Expressive illustrations bring the characters to life. Hand this to fans of realistic contemporary stories like the Franklin School Friends.

Hopper, Ada. Don’t Disturb the Dinosaurs. illus. by Sam Ricks. 128p. (The Data Set: Bk. 2). Little Simon. Apr. 2016. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781481457316.

Gr 1-3 –The kids of the DATA (Danger! Action! Trouble! Adventure!) Set are at it again and this time Dr. B’s time machine has sent them back to the Jurassic Period. Detailed and specific dinosaur facts will please dino aficionados, and this is a good series for science-minded kids. It’s nice to see a trio of Latino children as the heroes in a sci-fi adventure story, and plentiful black-and-white illustrations break up the text and move the action along quickly. A quick recap of the first book helps this installment stand alone, although readers will want to seek out the first book to learn more about these characters. Kids who are not quite ready for “Magic Tree House” will enjoy these time-traveling adventures.

Luper, Eric. The Spy’s Secret. illus. by Lisa K. Weber. 128p. (Key Hunters: Bk. 2). Scholastic. May 2016. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780545822060.

Gr 2-4 –Cleo and Evan are on to their next adventure in the magic library beneath their school. The key they received at the end of their last mission unlocks a spy story—Cleo and Evan must rescue Agent Dearth from the Viper and hopefully find some clues about their lost librarian, Mrs. Hilliard, along the way. Nonstop action and doses of humor make this series installment read like a Saturday morning adventure cartoon as the friends use both book smarts and physical prowess to complete their mission and earn the next key. Occasional full-page black-and-white illustrations add to the cartoon feel of this series. Kids who have read the first book in the series will be clamoring for the next installment.

McDonald, Megan. Judy Moody and the Bucket List. illus. by Peter H. Reynolds. 176p. (Judy Moody). Candlewick. Aug. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763679958.

Gr 2-4 –Judy Moody discovers her grandmother’s bucket list—a list of things she wants to do before she dies—and decides to create her own list of things to do before starting the fourth grade. Some items (inventing something, earning triple stickers on her homework) are more achievable than others (visiting Antarctica), but along the way Judy will learn that getting to her goals is half the fun. This latest installment has the heart and humor that readers have come to expect from Judy and will please fans and newcomers alike.

Northrop, Michael. The Final Kingdom. 192p. (TombQuest: Bk. 5). Scholastic. Mar. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780545723428.

Gr 3-7 –After escaping from prison and seeing a vision of New York burning, Alex and Ren have to stop the Last Order by recapturing the Lost Spells, even though recapturing them may cost Alex his life. A labyrinthine underground prison, mummies rising from the sand, and evil spirits guarding treasures make for nonstop action in this series finale. Plenty of information about Egyptian myths is weaved seamlessly into the story, making this a good choice for budding Egyptologists. Fans of Percy Jackson will enjoy this series for the characters’ friendly teamwork and the incorporation of mythology.

Parish, Herman. Amelia Bedelia On the Job. illus. by Lynne Avril. 160p. (Amelia Bedelia Chapter Books). HarperCollins/Harper. Mar. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780062334138.

Gr 1-3 –Amelia Bedelia’s class is learning about occupations and when her dad talks about pitching to a client and working on slides, Amelia figures out what he does for a living: he’s a baseball coach! But when her class goes on a field trip to the corporate park, Amelia discovers the truth about her father’s job and she just might come up with her best idea yet. This series brings classic Amelia Bedelia humor to the chapter book set with plenty of small black-and-white spot illustrations on every page to break up the text. Kids graduating from the original “Amelia Bedelia” books or looking for a story with plenty of good-natured humor will enjoy this series.

Potter, Ellen. The Sea Pony. illus. by Qin Leng. 128p. (Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Bk. 3). Knopf. Aug. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780553499315.

Gr 1-3 –When Piper’s fairy tree brings her a bosun’s whistle (a whistle used to signal crew on a ship), she wonders what to do with it. Can it help her find the family’s skiff, which was blown out to see during a wicked bad gullywhumper (a bad storm)? It turns out, it can, when Piper meets a seal that seems to respond to the whistle and it leads her and her dad to where the skiff was stranded. The standard spunky girl getting into scrapes storyline is elevated by the unique northeastern island setting and lobster fishing plotline. Cute, expressive black-and-white illustrations add to the appeal of this sweet story. Fans of like Louise Trapeze or Amber Brown may enjoy this.

Siegal, Ida. Undercover! illus. by Karla Peña. 124p. (Emma Is On the Air: Bk. 4). Scholastic. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545687126; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780545687102.

Gr 2-4 –When investigative reporter Emma Perez finds a mysterious note in a lost library book, she knows this is her chance to really help someone. Her investigation will take her undercover in one of New York City’s libraries and she just might get to the bottom of her “anonymous source” who’s been sending her clues. Written by a journalist, this volume includes details of a young investigative reporter’s life. Emma is both determined and fashionable, as depicted in the black-and-white illustrations. Emma and her parents speak Spanish, so Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled throughout their dialogue. Though general mystery readers can still enjoy this book, it’s best for those who have followed Emma’s previous investigations.

Styles, Walker. Undercover in the Bow Wow Club. illus. by Ben Whitehouse. 122p. (Rider Woofson). Little Simon. May 2016. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781481463034.

Gr 1-3 –Rider Woofson, dog detective extraordinaire, and the rest of the P.I. Pack have a new case: rock star David Bow-Wowie’s priceless instruments have been stolen—he claims by a ghost! To solve the case, the dogs investigate, collect evidence, and interview suspects. Featuring many different breeds of dogs and other animal characters, this mystery series is great for young dog lovers. The pun-filled plot and supernatural suspects (which turn out to be red herrings) will appeal to fans of “Scooby Doo.” Black-and-white illustrations on nearly every page break up the text and add to the cartoony feel of the book.

Warner, Sally. Ellray Jakes Stands Tall. illus. by Brian Biggs. 146p. (Ellray Jakes). Viking. Apr. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780451469137.

Gr 2-4 –When the third graders at EllRay’s elementary school become obsessed with basketball, EllRay is bummed to be the shortest kid in his class. Although he’s just as good at the drills as the other kids, he’s worried that no one will want him for their team. When EllRay lets slip that he thinks basketball should be something he “should be naturally good at” as an African-American boy, his dad has a discussion about race with him, bringing some serious moments to this humorous book. Cartoon-style black-and-white spot illustrations lend themselves well to the humor in the story. Young readers just starting their own team sports will identify with EllRay’s efforts and doubts.

Warner, Penny. The Hunt for the Missing Spy. 168p. (The Code Busters Club: Bk. 5). Darby Creek. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781512403046.

Gr 3-5 –The Code Busters Club takes over Washington D.C.! Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. travel to our nation’s capital with their class to see the sights. On the agenda is an exciting visit to the International Spy Museum. The prospect of encountering an institution dedicated to making and cracking codes makes them very happy. Along the way, they encounter someone sneaking around in the shadows following them everywhere. Can it be an actual spy? As in the other volumes in this award-winning series, there are lines of dialogue written in code. Readers are encouraged to consult the keys in the back matter to crack the codes. Answers are provided for those who may be stumped. The members of the club are racially and ethnically diverse. This is a great edition to any chapter book collection, especially those focusing on STEM activities.

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Abby Johnson About Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson is the youth services manager at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library in Southern Indiana. You can find her on the web at abbythelibrarian.com.

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