3 Charming Chapter Books for Independent Readers | May 2018 Xpress Reviews

Rambunctious rodents and cute critters rule the day in these series for newly independent readers.

Burnell, Cerrie. Harper and the Night Forest. 160p. (Harper: Bk. 3). Sky Pony. Mar. 2018. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781510734838.

Gr 1-4 –Harper returns for this third book in the series featuring a musical prodigy who has the unique ability to play any instrument that crosses her path. Harper and her friends in the City of Clouds come upon the disgruntled Wild Conductor, who is on a quest to find the mystical Ice Raven. He must locate and charm the enchanted animal to lead his orchestra, thus allowing him back into the Circus of Dreams. The children journey to the Night Forest, where they learn of a family who guards the trees that hold fairy tales. The enigmatic Ice Raven happens to be at the center of an unfinished fairy tale—and the creature will remain trapped there until the story can be completed. In this longer installment of the series, Burnell provides more depth to her storytelling while still making the text accessible to early chapter readers. Lyrical prose continues to weave throughout the novel, which mirrors the musical theme. VERDICT Devotees of the previous books will be charmed once again by the heroine and her magical companions in this increasingly complex series for newly independent readers.–Claire Moore, Manhattan Beach Library, CA

Copons, Jaume. Alex and the Monsters: Here Comes Mr. Flat! 136p. CrackBoom! Bks. Apr. 2018. pap. ISBN 9782924786093.

Gr 2-4 –Alex struggles with organization—his room, his homework, and his schedule. One tough Friday, he winds up clearing out the school library storeroom as a punishment and discovers an abandoned stuffed animal monster named Mr. Flat. The librarian lets him keep it. Later in Alex’s room, Mr. Flat comes to life and tells Alex he used to live in a book until an evil man named Dr. Brut removed him. Mr. Flat loves stories and books, and he and Alex embark on a marathon read-aloud session of the children’s literature canon, including Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Misfortune strikes this new friendship when Alex’s frustrated mom cleans his room and takes Mr. Flat to the school’s secondhand toy sale fund-raiser. Alex’s race to get him back adds much-needed drama to the plot. Told through first-person narration and colorful cartoon art with speech bubbles, the story takes place over the course of one weekend. Small font and narrow margins make the book feel unnecessarily overwhelming, though the cartoons help to provide some respite from the text blocks. Mr. Flat is an appealing character, and Alex has spirit, but the other characters remain rather one-dimensional. The book was translated from Spanish to French to English. VERDICT Awkward design choices and one-dimensional characters will make it challenging for this story to find its audience.–Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Sherry, Kevin. Remy Sneakers and the Lost Treasure. 128p. (Remy Sneakers: Bk. 2). Scholastic. Apr. 2018. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781338034615.

Gr 1-3 –After someone breaks into his house, Remy Raccoon and his rodent friends set out to find a stolen prized possession, his family journal. A cat named Buttercup convinces Remy he saw a creature who looked like a furry alligator steal it. Under the guise of helpfulness, Buttercup leads Remy and his friends into danger. But when Buttercup is double-crossed and ends up trapped, they all band together, escape the sewers, and uncover the true plot behind the journal heist. Lively illustrations and lightweight text may provide encouragement for young readers building stamina or help to keep reluctant readers engaged. VERDICT Young fans of graphic novels, adventure stories, and Sherry’s Yeti Files will enjoy this second installment of the series.–Lindsay Persohn, University of South Florida, Tampa and Polk County Public Schools.

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