Chapter Books: Fairy Moms and Pulverizing Princesses | February 2018 Xpress Reviews

Four chapter books explore magical moms sharing wisdom; a princess with knightly aspirations; and a shy student uplifting her loved ones in this month's Xpress.

Agee, Jeri Anne. The Gift: The Life and Times of Birdie Mae Hayes. illus. by Bryan Langdo. 112p. Sky Pony. Jan. 2018. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781510724532; ebk. $4.99. ISBN 9781510724549.

Gr 2-4 –Birdie May Hayes lives in a small town in Alabama with her parents and her little brother, Bubba. Her best friend, Sally, lives nearby, and a new boy has recently moved in who seems like a potential friend. When Birdie May starts getting premonitions about what will happen in the future, her life takes a twist. The illustrations are charming, but the text is lackluster. VERDICT An absence of conflict, a slim plot, and choppy dialogue make this one to skip for most collections.–Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, MA

Kinsella, Sophie. Fairy Mom and Me. 160p. Random. Jan. 2018. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781524769895; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781524769901.

Gr 1-3 –Ella’s mom works in an office, goes grocery shopping, makes cupcakes, and also happens to be a fairy. With a twist of technology, her mom’s cell phone becomes a Computawand V5, but some silly situations and messes arise when Mom calls up the wrong fairy code or Spell App. Fairy Mom’s brief chapters portray day-in-the-life vignettes for Ella and her family, including mishaps preparing for a dinner party, dealing with a fairy flu, and going on Ella’s field day. Fairy Mom may not be as good at magic as Aunty Jo or Grandmother, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to share life lessons and fairy magic with Ella. With an abundance of zany catchphrases, Fairy Mom takes Ella through the cycle of making mistakes and then making them right. While some of the incidents may be a bit predictable, the sweetness of the story will hold readers’ attention to the end. Simple sentence structure, well-paced chapters, and intermittent illustrations will keep new readers engaged. Fairy Mom’s focus on family and friendship make this a beginner chapter book that can be shared or read independently. Family activities and discussion questions are included. VERDICT An accessible and upbeat magical tale perfect for newly independent readers seeking something beyond Daisy Meadows’s “Fairy” books.–Jamie Jensen, Wayne Cox Elementary School, Roanoke, TX

Krulik, Nancy. Princess Pulverizer: Grilled Cheese and Dragons. illus. by Ben Balistreri. 144p. Penguin Workshop. Jan. 2018. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780515158328; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780515158311.

Gr 1-4 –Princess Serena wants to quit attending the Royal School of Ladylike Manners, change her name to “Princess Pulverizer,” and become a knight. Her father, King Alexander, is willing to entertain this bold move but insists that she first go on a Quest of Kindness. This task should involve acts of bravery and generally being unselfish and self-sacrificing, which are not this pint-sized dynamo’s strong suits. The princess quickly finds the perfect opportunity to make her mark; a smelly, dull-witted troll has stolen the Queen’s jewels, and the princess decides to steal them back. She cleverly finds her way into the troll’s lair but her plan soon goes horribly awry. A very ineffectual and weepy young knight (along with his embarrassingly gassy dragon, Dribble) attempts to rescue the princess and instead causes them all to end up prisoners. Despite the odds, this unlikely team eventually triumphs and is soon on to the next adventure. Krulik (“Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo”) has introduced a spitfire new heroine with plenty of humor and outrageous shenanigans. Balistreri’s illustrations display his animation background and enhance the absurdity factor admirably. VERDICT A strong series opener and a solid choice for those looking to increase their early chapter book holdings.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, MI

Kunce, Craig. Ellie Anders. illus. by Craig Kunce. 128p. Windhill. Dec. 2017. pap. $14. ISBN 9781944734107.

Gr 1-3 –Ellie Anders is an unexceptional child. She keeps to herself, has only one good friend, and avoids the spotlight as much as she can. When given a class project—to talk about the most important person in her life—Ellie blanks. Not only does she struggle narrowing the few people in her life down to the one who is most important, she dreads presenting her project to the class. Each of the chapters focus on an important individual in Ellie’s life. Readers are drawn into the story trying to guess who Ellie will choose for her presentation. The simple illustrations throughout the book nicely complement the gentle tale. VERDICT A good story for children transitioning from easy reader books to chapter books, and a solid recommendation for shy or introverted young readers.–Davia Schmidt, Queens Public Library, NY

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