March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

To the Forbidden City and Beyond, a Skateboard Party, and a Child Star’s Tribulations | Fiction Series Update

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Ain, Beth. Starring Jules (Third Grade Debut). illus. by Anne Keenan Higgins. 176p. (Starring Jules: Bk. 4). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780545443586.

Gr 2-4–Aspiring child stars, watch out—Jules Bloom is back in her fourth installment. The intrepid third grader has been cast in a sitcom but quickly discovers that the acting life isn’t all that it promises. Offscreen, the drama is ratcheting up, too: there’s teacher trouble and homework woes galore. Feisty and fun, Jules is a charmer of a protagonist who encounters—and overcomes—realistic, relatable obstacles.

Barshaw, Ruth McNally. Ellie for President. illus. by Ruth McNally Barshaw. 176p. (The Ellie McDoodle Diaries). Bloomsbury. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781619630611; ebk. ISBN 9781619632349. LC 2014005605.

Gr 3-5–In this sixth installment of the popular epistolary series, Ellie’s family encourages her to run for class president. She quickly throws herself into the campaign, but soon becomes wary of competing against her friends—and her secret crush. Purchase where McDoodle fans thrive.

Branford, Anna. Violet Mackerel’s Pocket Protest. illus. by Elanna Allen. 128p. (Violet Mackerel: Bk. 6). S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442494589; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781442494596.

Gr 2-4–Sweet and likable Violet and best friend Rose band together to protect their beloved oak tree, which is in danger of being demolished. The latest entry in this charming, Australia-set chapter book series will inspire readers to find their voices and advocate for their own causes, big or small.

Chabert, Jack. The Locker Ate Lucy! illus. by Sam Ricks. 90p. (Eerie Elementary: Bk. 2). Scholastic/Branches. 2014. lib. ed. $15.99. ISBN 9780545623964; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780545623957.

Gr 1-3–In this entry of the eerie early chapter book series, Sam and Antonio are on the hunt for Lucy, who has mysteriously disappeared into her locker. The legible text, high-interest story line, and Ricks’s generous and appropriately scary illustrations, make this title perfect for early elementary students looking for spine-tingling tales.

Coven, Wanda. Heidi Heckelbeck Gets the Sniffles. illus. by Priscilla Burris. 128p. (Heidi Heckelbeck: Bk. 12). S. & S./Little Simon. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481413633; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781481413626.

Gr 2-4–Heidi Heckelbeck can’t wait to attend the fall festival, but when an onslaught of sniffles threatens her fun, the little witch takes matters into her own hands and tries to cast a spell. Burris’s kid-friendly drawings appear on almost every page, making this enchanting title perfect for emerging readers not quite ready for Jill Murphy’s “Worst Witch” series (Candlewick).

Cronin, Doreen. The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken: The Next Misadventure. illus. by Kevin Cornell. 120p. (The Chicken Squad: Bk. 2). ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781442496798. LC 2013032099.

Gr 2-4–The four intrepid chicks, plus one deadpan dog detective, are back in their second adventure, this time confronted by the titular blue bird who needs help solving a horse-napping. Once again, Cronin’s slapstick humor and Cornell’s charmingly goofy illustrations create a winning tale that will leave young readers in stitches. This delightful series is a must-own.


Cummings, Troy. Whack of the P-Rex. 96p. (The Notebook of Doom: Bk. 5). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780545698962; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780545698955. LC 2013050556.

Gr 2-4–Alexander finds an extra-large footprint and wonders what kind of monster leaves such a large impression. Along with friends Rip and Nikki, Alex must locate and battle the infamous P-Rex. With short chapters, simple sentences, an abundance of black-and-white drawings that help break up the text, this series title is ideal for newly independent readers. The quirky humor and fast-paced story line will keep them turning pages.

English, Karen. Skateboard Party. illus. by Laura Freeman. 128p. (The Carver Chronicles: Bk. 2). Clarion. Dec. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780544283060.

Gr 2-5–From “Nikki and Deja” creators (Clarion), the latest entry in their new series focuses on third-grader Richard’s desire to show off his skateboarding skills at his friend’s birthday, and his inability to keep out of trouble at school. English’s on-target storytelling and Freeman’s black-and-white spot illustrations make this an accessible work for newly independent readers. The diverse cast of likable and relatable characters will resonate with kids.

Holub, Joan & Suzanne Williams. Ares and the Spear of Fear. illus. by Craig Phillips. 112p. (Heroes in Training: Bk. 7). S. & S./Aladdin. 2014. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781442488489.

Gr 2-4–The god of war marches forth in this latest installment of the series about the Olympians (portrayed here as children) and their attempts to escape their vengeful father, Cronus. This time, Ares takes the spotlight as he attempts to rightfully reclaim the spear of fear, a powerful weapon that fell into the wrong hands. This is an irreverent series (which SLJ previously called “a fun read…[for] those still too young for Percy Jackson’s adventure”), brimming with action, relatable characters, and hilarious kid-friendly dialogue.

Kennedy, Marlane. Blizzard Night. Bk. 3. Nov. 2014. ISBN 9780545530484.

––––. Volcano Blast. Bk. 4. Mar. 2015. ISBN 9780545530477.

ea vol: 128p. (Disaster Strikes). Scholastic. Tr $4.99.

Gr 2-4–Each book in this series features a group of courageous kids banding together to survive a natural disaster. In Blizzard Night, the setting is a remote part of the Michigan wilderness in the dead of winter. Jayden, Maggie, and Connor are forced to venture out into the blinding blizzard conditions when their family van crashes. In Volcano Blast, siblings Noah and Emma are on a vacation in Alaska when a long-dormant volcano suddenly erupts. Each action-packed tale concludes with a brief section containing additional facts and scientific information. A good read-alike for fans of Lauren Tarshis’s “I Survived” series (Scholastic).

McDonald, Megan. Amy Namey in Ace Reporter. Bk. 3. ISBN 9780763657154; ISBN 9780763672164. LC 2013953452.

––––. Frank Pearl in The Awful Waffle Kerfuffle. Bk. 4. ISBN 9780763657178; ISBN 9780763672133. LC 2013952831.

ea vol: illus. by Erwin Madrid. 64p. (Judy Moody and Friends). Candlewick. 2014. Tr $12.99. pap. $4.99.

Gr 1-3–Budding journalist Amy Namey is having a tough time sniffing out a juicy news story. Frank Pearl will do anything to finally win first prize in a contest. With the help of the indomitable Judy Moody, these two plucky kids each achieve their dreams in their own volumes. McDonald’s signature humor and Madrid’s delightful illustrations will appeal to the youngest of independent readers.

Paris, Harper. The Mystery in the Forbidden City. illus. by Marcos Calo. 128p. (Greetings from Somewhere: Bk. 4). S. & S./Little Simon. 2014. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781481403016.

Gr 1-3–Though twins Ella and Ethan were resistant to journeying across the world with their travel-writer mother in the series opener, The Mystery of the Gold Coin, they now relish their roles as globe-trotting detectives. In Beijing’s Forbidden City, the kids find an ancient map and attempt to follow it—only to become lost. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid duo in this lighthearted romp through the imperial palace. As with previous titles, which saw the kids visiting Venice, Paris, and Mumbai, this installment will dole out some solid facts, along with the adventure and intrigue.

Quinn, Jordan. Adventures in Flatfrost. Bk. 5. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481413893; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781481413886. ebk. $5.99. ISBN 9781481413909; LC 2013048044.

––––. Sea Monster! Bk. 3. $14.75. ISBN 9780606357784. $4.99. ISBN 9781481400725; $4.99. ISBN 9781481400749; LC 2013020707.

––––. The Witch’s Curse. Bk. 4. $15.99. ISBN 9781481400763; $4.99. ISBN 9781481400756. $4.99. ISBN 9781481400770; LC 2013028259.

ea vol: illus. by Robert McPhillips. 128p. (The Kingdom of Wrenly). S. & S./Little Simon. 2014.

Gr 1-3–Eight-year-old Prince Lucas and his best friend Clara, the daughter of the queen’s seamstress, are no strangers to adventure. With Lucas’s pet dragon Ruskin in tow, the courageous duo set out on more journeys, solving curses and searching for mysterious sea monsters, in these entertaining but tame, bite-size jaunts into the realm of witches, giants, and gnomes. Ideal for budding young fantasy fans and newly independent readers.

Tashjian, Janet. Einstein the Class Hamster and the Very Real Game Show. illus. by Jake Tashjian. 176p. (Einstein the Talking Hamster: Bk. 2). Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781627790260.

Gr 1-3–There are few aspects to school life quite as “aw-”-inspiring as the class pet, and they don’t come cuter—or smarter—than Einstein the hamster, whose trivia knowledge (and ability to communicate his expertise to student Ned) has landed Ms. Moreno’s class on a game show. Simple text, broken up by wacky, energetic drawings and sections revealing fascinating factoids from the aptly named Einstein, will hook kids and build their confidence and reading skills.

Warner, Sally. EllRay Jakes Rocks the Holidays! illus. by Brian Biggs. 160p. (EllRay Jakes: Bk. 7). Viking. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780451469090; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780147512512.

Gr 2-4–Though he’s the smallest kid in his class, EllRay Jakes is huge when it comes to heart: this is one protagonist that readers of all stripes will gravitate toward. In this funny yet poignant holiday tale, the African American boy fears that his principal is encouraging him to emcee the school’s winter concert merely as a nod to diversity. Warner perceptively addresses heavy issues such as race and culture as well as EllRay’s more typical anxieties relating to friendship, family, and stage fright. Another gentle but satisfying outing with EllRay.

Zöller, Elisabeth Brigitte Kolloch. Antonia and the Big Competition. illus. by Betina Gotzen-Beek. 88p. (The Rosenburg Riding Stables: Vol. 2). Sky Pony. 2014. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781628735970.

Gr 3-5–Antonia loves riding horses and her dream is to one day be a show jumper. But when her instructor enters her into a major competition, the young equestrian becomes increasingly anxious. Antonia worries about being the youngest competitor; she fears that her wild gelding, Elfin Dance, won’t yield to her control; and she’s dismayed to discover that mean girl Alina is also in the competition. Originally published in German, this series has recently been translated into English. The sentences are simple and straightforward, though more densely packed than most chapter books for this age group. Recommended for readers who can’t get enough “Horse Diaries” (Random).

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.