February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Chapter Books: A Class Pet Runs Amok, Adventures in the Toy Kingdom | July 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Hoena, Blake. Monster Heroes. illus. by Dave Bardin. 96p. Capstone. Jun. 2017. pap. $5.95. ISBN 9781623707835.

Gr 1-3 –Hoena introduces readers to four friendly and clever monsters who are not exactly what most readers would expect. Mina is a vegetarian vampire who drinks beet juice instead of blood. Will, a shy ghost who isn’t into scaring people, uses his invisibility to assist friends instead. Brian is a zombie who’d rather munch on tofu than brains. Linda, a witch, uses her magic to help others. These pint-size monsters are featured in four stories, each with three short chapters. Faced with problems, the monsters work together to save the day. Delightful full-color illustrations keep young readers engaged. Filled with simple dialogue, action, and controlled vocabulary, this title is ideal for students ready for independent reading. VERDICT The adventures of these lovable monsters will entice young readers. Purchase where there is a great need for beginning chapter books.–Laura Fields Eason, Parker Bennett Curry Elementary School, Bowling Green, KY

Messner, Kate. Fergus and Zeke. illus. by Heather Ross. 56p. Candlewick. Jun. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763678463.

K-Gr 2 –Fergus, a class pet mouse, does everything with Miss Maxwell’s students: listening to stories, solving math problems, and always following the rules. So when the class goes to the museum, Fergus stows away in Emma’s backpack. Fergus meets Zeke, a mouse who lives at the museum. At first they stick with the class, checking out the rocks, minerals, and butterflies. But Zeke convinces Fergus that Miss Maxwell’s museum rules are for people, not for mice, and the pair find themselves climbing through lions’ manes and checking out the view from the mouth of a T. rex skeleton. When the bus arrives to take the students home, Fergus considers staying but chooses Miss Maxwell’s classroom (and her rules) instead—and invites Zeke along. This is a charming tale that will evoke memories of museum visits in some children and give a taste of such a visit to others. The vocabulary is accessible to readers moving beyond the simplest texts and ready for a more complex narrative. Ross’s cheery digital line drawings mirror the text and enhance readers’ understanding. VERDICT An enjoyable addition to chapter book collections, especially where heavily illustrated works at this level are needed.–Mary Kuehner, Arapahoe Library District, CO

Parker, Danny. On the Story Sea. illus. by Guy Shield. 96p. (Lola’s Toy Box). Hardie Grant Egmont. Apr. 2017. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781760124373.

Gr 1-3 –Lola returns to her magic toy box and this time journeys to the Kingdom (where toys go when they’re not being played with by children) and joins a pirate ship. The crew are fishing for stories in the story sea but are thwarted by a submarine from the Plastic Prince. Lola must help her toy friends save the day and reclaim the stories. As in other titles in the series, references to classic literature abound and will delight readers who recognize them. This is another sweet, safe installment that doesn’t break new ground. Though it lacks originality, it is comforting and engaging. VERDICT Beginning chapter book readers will happily make their way through this gentle, heartwarming series as they build confidence in their abilities.–Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

Parker, Danny. The Patchwork Picnic. illus. by Guy Shield. 96p. (Lola’s Toy Box). Hardie Grant Egmont. Apr. 2017. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781760124366.

Gr 1-3 –When cleaning out a shed with her mom, Lola claims an old-fashioned toy box. After she and her stuffed clown hide in it, she realizes they have been transported to a magical place, the Kingdom, where all the toys go when children aren’t playing with them. Lola and her now animated toy clown join the famous teddy bear picnic. The picnic is interrupted by bad news that the Plastic Prince intends to conquer the Kingdom. Can Lola prove her worth and return to the Kingdom? This amiable beginning chapter book is the first in a new series about a young girl’s magical adventures. The lessons she learns in the Kingdom always seem to relate to her real life. While not original, this offering is engaging and will find an audience, especially with readers who appreciate traditional tales. Like other installments in the series, this one references classic and well-known works of children’s literature. VERDICT A charming beginning chapter book. This series starter will work well for young readers looking to jump into longer titles.–Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

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

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