February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Little Bit Of This… Hybrids | Great Books

Fans of Jeff Kinney, Dav Pilkey, and Renée Russell have spoken: hybrid fiction, which blends text with picture book and graphic novel elements, is here to stay, and readers want more. Publishers have embraced the genre and responded to requests with a slew of new titles and series. Below is a list of some recent or forthcoming offerings for elementary through middle school.

Angleberger, Tom. Inspector Flytrap. illus. by Cece Bell. 112p. (Inspector Flytrap: Bk. 1). Abrams/Amulet. 2016. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781419709487. pap. $5.95. ISBN 9781419709654.
Gr 2-5–Move over, Sherlock Holmes, and make way for Inspector Flytrap—a talking, cruising, mystery-solving Venus flytrap, and his ravenous assistant, Nina the Goat. Together the two zoom through town on the potted plant’s yellow skateboard solving “Big Mysteries.” The clever sleuth and sidekick identify a mysterious greenish-yellow blob on a famous painting (don’t ask), discover the owner of the giant stinky shoe ruining a cookie shop’s business, inadvertently locate a missing pickle paperweight, and find true love. Now, if only Nina would stop eating the evidence…. Readers will devour this hilarious romp from a winning team. The fun continues in Inspector Flytrap in the President’s Mane Is Missing and Inspector Flytrap in the Goat Who Chewed Too Much.

BIXLEY, Donovan. Hot Air. illus. by author. 112p. (Flying Furballs: Bk. 2). Upstart. 2017. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781927262542.
Gr 2-5–The Cat Allied Troops (CATs) battle the power-hungry DOGZ to save Europe in a fur-lined tale set against the backdrop of World War I. In this second series entry, following Dogfight, the heroic Claude D’Bonair and his friend Syd Fishus travel to the Swiss Alps to sabotage the enemy’s new secret weapon and evil plot—and immobilize their Air Corps. Colorful characters, humor, and wordplay abound. Copious black-and-white illustrations and diagrams, reminiscent of those in the ever-popular “Geronimo Stilton” titles, offer readers plenty to pore over. For history buffs and fans of action and high jinks alike.

Fleming, Candace. Ben Franklin’s in My Bathroom! illus. by Mark Fleming. 272p. (History Pals). Random. 2017. Tr. $13.99. ISBN 9781101934074.
Gr 2-5–It’s summer, and Nolan attempts to keep his little sister, Olive, out of trouble as their recently divorced mom struggles with writer’s block. However, the morning a mysterious package arrives—a crystal radio set from the 1920s—the children inadvertently summon Ben Franklin to the 21st century. Kids will eagerly join the siblings on this wild ride chock-full of laughs, adventure, and information about the Founding Fathers and delight in the four mini comic books included within.

Fry, Michael. How To Be a Supervillain. illus. by author. 320p. Little, Brown/Jimmy Patterson. 2017. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780316318693.
Gr 4-6–Twelve-year-old Victor Spoil is a disappointment to his supervillain parents—he’s just too good. In a world where all battles are scripted and all outcomes are fixed by The Authority, things go haywire when the tween is apprenticed to The Smear, a seemingly lame supervillain. Conversely, Octavia Sparkle, apprenticed to another villain, is a superhero trainee with a bad attitude. In an action-packed adventure about heroes, villains, and family expectations, the ultimate message is, “We all have a little bit of good and a little bit of bad in us…and it’s up to us to decide which part wins!”

Gravel, Elise.Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere. illus. by author. 176p. HarperCollins. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780062351265.
Gr 2-5–Olga prefers animals to people; they “don’t pollute the planet…steal your erasers and call you names.” In this journal-style book, Olga includes observations on and sketches of an assortment of critters. After discovering a new species, she dubs it olgamus, but her efforts to care for the baffling furball result in unexpected relationships with a goth librarian, a quirky grocer, a boy named Chuck (and his dog, Mister), and the “Lalas,” her neighbors, who refer to her beloved pet as “the Fart Balloon” and perform a makeover on the creature involving pink dye and nail polish. A hilarious—and offbeat—hybrid for young scientists and animal lovers alike.

Griffiths, Andy.The 65-Story Treehouse. illus. by Terry Denton. 384p. (Treehouse Books). Feiwel & Friends. 2017. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781250102461.
Gr 3-4–“This treehouse of yours/Is an unsafe construction/And I must insist/On its total destruction.” So proclaims Inspector Bubblewrap when the tree house in question fails his safety inspection. It’s complete with a birthday room, a cloning machine, TREE-NN (Treehouse News Network), an ant farm, and so much more, but the one thing best friends and roommates Terry and Andy forgot to address was a building permit. When they decide to use their time machine to travel back to secure the permit, the duo encounters dinosaurs, cave people, mummies, and Roman gladiators. Can they save their tree house and meet their latest book deadline? This fifth title in the series is filled with wacky action, over-the-top humor, and more illustrations than text.

Johannes, Shelley. Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker. illus. by author. 160p. Disney-Hyperion. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781484767382.
Gr 2-4–Beatrice is happiest upside down, and her brain is full of “maybes, what-ifs, and could-bes.” She and her best friend Lenny Santos, both undercover ninjas, have big plans for third grade, but a summer visit to the Philippines and a new best friend seem to have given Lenny a case of amnesia. First days are never easy, but Beatrice manages to use her unique perspective to turn a bad situation right-side up.

Parisi, Mark. Marty Pants: Do Not Open! illus. by author. 256p. HarperCollins. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780062427762.
Gr 3-5–When Marty finds a note that says, “An alien is observing you,” he’s convinced that his teacher Mr. McPhee is plotting world destruction. Plus, his crazy cat, Jerome, wants to eat his face, and his annoying teenage sister has a new boyfriend—neighborhood bully and nemesis “Peach Fuzz.” Can Marty use his artistic prowess to save the planet? And who is that intriguing new girl who shows up at the most inopportune times? Readers will love the riotous hero of this new series.

Ruzzier, Sergio. Fox & Chick: The Party; and Other Stories. illus. by author. 56p. Chronicle. Apr. 2018. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781452152882.
K-Gr 3–This inaugural series volume about two unlikely friends features three delightful stories, each presented as a comic. In the first chapter, Fox is busy reading when Chick knocks on his door. While not in the mood to entertain, Fox does allow his friend to use the bathroom but becomes concerned when Chick doesn’t come out. Readers’ curiosity will turn to laughter and surprise when Fox finally opens the bathroom door. The middle story has the saucy little bird questioning his friend’s vegetarian diet, and the final tale, “Sit Still,” involves an attempted portrait. The winning combination of Ruzzier’s signature ink-and-watercolor illustrations and humor in an easy reader/comic format is guaranteed to garner fans.

Selznick, Brian & David Serlin. Baby Monkey, Private Eye. illus. by Brian Selznick. 192p. Scholastic. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338180619.
PreS-Gr 1–Adorable Baby Monkey is a private eye who solves case after case after first searching for clues, taking notes, eating snacks, and—most challenging of all—putting on his pants. The sleuth finds missing jewels, pizza, a clown nose, and a spaceship before tackling the most important case of all. This deceptively simple chapter book mystery offers Selznick’s signature art, minimal text in a supersize font (just right for beginning readers), and a terrific story. A key to illustrations referencing famous people, movies, and paintings; an index; and a bibliography are appended.

Smy, Pam. Thornhill. illus. by author. 544p. Roaring Brook. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626726543.
Gr 5-9–Two lonely girls—one a ghost from 1982, one a contemporary only child living with an inattentive father—meet in this powerfully dark tale of the dire consequences of bullying and neglect. Readers learn Mary’s heartbreaking story from her diary while alternately seeing Ella’s life illuminated in pictures. Taking inspiration from Brian Selznick’s illustrated works and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Smy’s novel is a page-turning gothic tale that will enthrall and horrify readers.

VerNon, Ursula. Harriet the Invincible. illus. by author. 256p. (Hamster Princess: Bk. 1). Puffin. 2015. Tr $7.99. ISBN 9780142427019.
Gr 3-5–Mighty Girl meets Sleeping Beauty in this series entry by the author of the popular “Dragonbreath” titles. When Harriet learns that she was cursed at birth by the Wicked Fairy Ratshade, she realizes that she is now invincible—“And so Princess Harriet spent the next two years cliff-diving, dragon-slaying, and jousting.” Other stories featuring the fearless rodent offer fractured accounts of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “Rapunzel,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and “Cinderella.”

Vivat, Booki. Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes. illus. by author. 224p. (Frazzled:
Bk. 2). HarperCollins. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780062398819.
Gr 3-7–“If something CAN go wrong, it definitely WILL!” states sixth grader Abbie Wu. At home, her sister’s new cat treats Abbie like enemy number one; at school, the girl is forced to share a locker with her nemesis, Jessica Wyatt. While best friends Logan and Maxine’s efforts to help fall short, Abbie’s science teacher’s Invention Convention inadvertently provides the answer to all of her problems. Humorous cartoon illustrations and speech bubbles break up the text, making this a quick read and perfect pick for reluctant readers.

Barbara Auerbach is a SLJ reviewer and frequent contributor to SLJ‘s enewsletter Curriculum Connections.

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