November 17, 2017

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Chapter Books: Sherlock Sam and Police Dog Fizz Jump into Action | June 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Gibbes, Lesley. Fizz and the Dog Academy Rescue. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781610676137.

––––. Fizz and the Handbag Dognapper. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781610676151.

––––. Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781610676120.

––––. Fizz and the Show Dog Jewel Thief. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781610676144.

ea vol: illus. by Stephen Michael King. 80p. (Fizz the Police Dog). Kane Miller. Mar. 2017. pap. $4.99.

Gr 1-3 –This new series introduces young readers to a bighearted, small-statured hero with dreams of becoming a crime-fighting powerhouse. His challenges range from going up against competitors four times his size in Police Dog Tryouts to rooting out a subtle saboteur in The Dog Academy Rescue, from masquerading as a beauty queen in The Show Dog Jewel Thief to solving a dastardly string of disappearances in The Handbag Dognapper. Fizz’s adventures are essentially straightforward whodunits but with imaginative and whimsical glimpses into the canine lifestyle and various riffs on the value of family, friendship, teamwork, and even seeing the strengths in one’s rivals—in Fizz’s case, a literally massive adversary named Amadeus. The vocabulary and lighthearted themes are accessible to elementary grade readers while providing an engaging story. The experience is enhanced by King’s vibrant, well-integrated illustrations, reminiscent of Quentin Blake’s work in Roald Dahl’s books. VERDICT A bit fluffy, like a sweet-natured lapdog. With all the excited energy of a happy puppy, these books are a fun and furry bunch.–Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Kear, Nicole C. Have No Fear! illus. by Tracy Dockray. 144p. (The Fix-It Friends: Bk. 1). Imprint. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250115775; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781250085849.

Gr 1-3 –The first in a planned series featuring Veronica Conti, an outgoing seven-year-old who wants to solve conflicts, including her new friend Maya’s problem: a fear of bugs. While her heart is in the right place, Veronica’s plans leave something to be desired, and everything goes disastrously awry. Maya’s problem and some of the resulting action in the book are somewhat contrived and the solutions pat. However, the premise, an idea of a series about a group of friends helping others in need, makes up for some of the title’s minor shortcomings. VERDICT A serviceable if not memorable beginning chapter book.–Kaela Cochran, Lincoln Township Public Library, Stevensville, MI

Krulik, Nancy. Crash! illus. by Louis Thomas. 96p. (The Kid from Planet Z: Bk. 1) Grosset & Dunlap. May 2017. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780448490120.

Gr 1-3 –This is the first in a new series of beginner chapter books about the Zander family from Planet Z. They crash-land on Earth and have to pose as humans while repairing their ship, except for commander Zeus, who blends in better as a cat. Meanwhile, Zeke Zander hides his antennae under a hat and starts school; high jinks ensue. This is light and amusing fare, with some mild commentary on the tension between fitting in and being oneself. The short chapters and gentle, humorous adventures will engage early readers and reward their efforts. Most spreads have at least a spot illustration to break up the text. The monochrome line drawings are casual and cartoony, complementing the text. Zeke is brown-skinned, though his racial and ethnic background is not mentioned in the text—only his status as an alien from Planet Z. VERDICT A pleasant addition for collections seeking to expand their easy chapter book sections.–Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Low, A.J. Sherlock Sam and the Sinister Letters in Bras Basah. illus. by drewscape. 144p. (Sherlock Sam: Bk. 3) Andrews McMeel. Nov. 2016. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9781449486143.

Gr 1-3 –Junior detective Sam and his friends, aka Sherlock Sam and the Supper Club, are back on the case in their third mystery set in Singapore. Police officer Siva needs Sam’s help finding out who is sending menacing letters to a boy at the Enterprise International School. Are the letters part of the latest game called Chain Mail? And why do all the letters threaten the boy’s father, a local award-winning author? Science-loving Sam; his sidekick robot, Watson; his friends; and his sister use their skills and curiosity to solve the mystery. This title featuring a diverse cast of characters has accessible writing, large font, and black-and-white illustrations throughout. Back matter includes a glossary and a list of characters and activities related to food and games from the book. VERDICT This latest installment starring the appealing junior detective will be welcomed where others in the series are popular.–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

Montalbano, Andrea. Out of Bounds. 176p. (Soccer Sisters: Bk. 1). glossary. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Apr. 2017. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781492644811.

Gr 3-6 –An empowering first entry in a female-centric soccer series focusing on putting personal values before fitting in with the cool kids. Makena (Mac) Walsh defines herself through soccer, particularly her close bond to her “soccer sisters” on her team. Her teammate Chloe leaves the league for ballet summer camp, and Skylar joins the team as her replacement. Skylar is the embodiment of cool, with her spiky, multicolored hair and temporary tattoos. Mac quickly falls under her spell, both on and off the field. But Skylar isn’t just a risk taker; she’ll do anything to win or get her way. Mac quickly realizes the thrill of excitement is too close to the fear of discovery. When high jinks escalate to lying to her family and friends, Mac must choose between Skylar’s friendship and her soccer sisters. With a professional soccer background, Montalbano grounds the story with details and writes fast action scenes. The book targets soccer players specifically, but sports lovers of all kinds will be able to orient themselves using the handy glossary of terms. Characters are likable and well developed, with particular resonance for female readers. The length and simplicity make this selection ideal for reluctant readers. VERDICT A general purchase for its exploration into an underdeveloped genre, and a solid recommendation to soccer fans and sporty kids.–Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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