Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
Young children love reading series. Once they have been introduced to characters, they enjoy following them through new books in a series. In this column we review much anticipated sequels, the latest books in episodic series, and a first book in a new series that readers will enjoy reading again and again.
Best Friends Forever! (Stick and Stone #2) Beth Ferry. Illus. by Tom Lichtenheld. (2021). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Stone agrees to join Stick on a quest to discover his family tree. “They wander, explore / through forests galore. // Through valleys and creeks / and high mountain peaks.” Stick fails to find the tree from which he broke off, and they are lost until Pinecone comes to their rescue. Although Stink is disappointed over not finding his family tree, he’s reassured by Stone’s “Stick! Your family’s ME!” The endpapers of this delightful friendship story told with a simple rhyming text and cheery mixed-media illustrations show a repeated pattern of Stick sprouting a single leaf from different types of trees (labelled with their common names). (PreK-Gr 2)
Charlie & Mouse Lost and Found (Charlie & Mouse #5). Laurel Snyder. Illus. by Emily Hughes. (2021). Chronicle.
In four short chapters about things being nowhere and somewhere, brothers Charlie and Mouse find Mouse’s missing Blanket—and a big dog they think is lost. Charlie and Mouse love the dog (they name Silly), but their cat, Kittenhead, doesn’t. They are sad when a boy comes to claim Silly (whose name is actually Millie), but are happy to find a puppy (they name Boop) in a box in a bush while on a walk with their parents to get ice cream cones and take it home. Young readers won’t want to lose time catching up with Charlie and Mouse in the first four books in this engaging early reader series. (PreK-Gr 2)
Cookies for Breakfast (Interrupting Chicken #3). Ezra Stein. (2021). Candlewick.
Still sleepy, Papa vetoes the little red chicken’s plan of having a breakfast in bed of cookies, but agrees to read a nursery rhyme book to her. By the second rhyme, Chicken is changing last lines. “There was an old woman / who lived in a shoe. / She had so many— / Cookies, she gave me a few!” Her metafictive disruption is revealed with a turn of the page showing Chicken interacting with the rhyme’s characters. After her interruption of two more rhymes, David Ezra Stein’s laugh-out-loud story ends with Chicken’s creation of her own illustrated poem, “Chikn’s Rime,” in a notebook with lined pages—that Papa interrupts with a super loud tummy-growl “RROARRR!” and an offer to make them a breakfast treat. (PreK Up)
Egg Marks the Spot (Skunk and Badger #2). Amy Timberlake. Illus. by Jon Klassen. (2021) Algonquin.
When rock scientist Badger explains to Skunk that there is no specimen for A in his alphabetically-arranged Wall of Rocks because his treasured Spider Eye Agate was “stolen, filched, purloined” years ago by Cousin Fisher at the Weasel Family Reunion, Skunk proposes an agate-finding expedition. Their pleasant camping trip to Badger’s favorite rock-finding spot on Endless Lake becomes an adventure involving a dinosaur egg embedded in amber in a cave and an unexpected encounter with Fisher, now a treasure dealer, who has employed a pack of Norway rats to excavate the fossilized egg. This second adventure of Skunk and Badger is a good choice for both independent reading and reading aloud. (PreK Up)
Hickory Dickory Dock (Sing Along with Me!). Illus. by Yu-hsuan Huang. (2021). Nosy Crow.
The mouse runs up the clock and then down again on the hour at one o’clock to four o’clock in this nursery rhyme in the Sing Along with Me! series of board books with sturdy, easy-to-manipulate sliders for toddlers to push and pull while they enjoy
Yu-hsuan Huang’s colorful, richly detailed cartoon illustrations. There is a QR code to scan on the back of the book to listen to and sing along with instrumental and vocal versions of the traditional rhyme. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was published simultaneously. (Preschool)
Ivy Lost and Found (Book Buddies #1). Cynthia Lord. Illus. by Stephanie Graegin. (2021). Candlewick.
Children’s librarian Anne rediscovers her old doll, Ivy, in a box in the attic and adds her to the Book Buddies shelf of toys that can be checked out. When eight-year-old Fern goes to story time with her younger stepsiblings, Ethan checks out Piper (a flying squirrel stuffed toy), Sophie gets Lilyanna (a princess doll), and at the insistence of Sophie, Fern checks out Ivy, who doesn’t want to be borrowed. A backyard adventure with the toys helps both Ivy and Fern adapt to changes in their lives. Youngsters will be eager to share another early-chapter-book adventure with a Book Buddy in Marco Polo Brave Explorer (available March 2022). (PreK Up)
Judy Moody in a Monday Mood (Judy Moody #16). Megan McDonald. Illus. by Peter H. Reynolds. (2021). Candlewick.
Judy Moody is in a blue mood over Mondays until her third-grade teacher, Mr. Todd, turns Monday into Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. She enlists the help of her brother, Stink, and friends to make every day of the week memorable by creating holidays such as Dress Up a Vegetable Day, Happy Feed a Ninja Squirrel Day, and Wear Purple for Peace Day. By the time the new week rolls around, however, she has come to realize that “when a holiday comes every day, it’s not so special anymore . . . and sometimes a good old Monday is all the adventure you need.” Newly independent readers will enjoy reading the previous books in the series, which began with Judy Moody Was in a Mood (2000).
Motor Mouse & Valentino (Motor Mouse #3). Cynthia Rylant. Illus. by Arthur Howard. (2021). Beach Lane.
A simple, humorous text and colorful cartoon artwork take young readers on three new adventures with Motor Mouse and his brother, Valentino. In “The Flight of Uncertainty,” timid Motor Mouse goes on a hot-air balloon ride with Valentino and Horatio, a penguin neighbor, and finds the excursion amazing. In “A Scooter of One’s Own,” Motor Mouse tries to teach Valentino to drive a motorcar, and Valentino introduces him to the joys of riding his scooter. In “Assorted Amusements and Prizes,” they enjoy the rides and yummy treats at Funfair, but have no luck at winning a prize until, just before heading for home, they try the Ding-the-Bell game and both win a prize. “It was a marvelous end to a marvelous day.” (PreK-Gr 2)
Muchos Changes (Juana & Lucas #3). Juana Medina. (2021). Candlewick.
Juana and her dog, Lucas, live in Bogotá, Colombia, with her Mami and stepfather, Luis. Juana finds she is going to be a big hermana and that her mom has signed her up for patinaje camp—and she doesn’t even know how to roller skate! When Mami’s pregnancy problems put her on bedrest, Juana, supported by her abuelos, prepares to be the best sibling ever. This third book in Juana Medina’s chapter book series supports young readers with a lively text with some Spanish vocabulary and humorous ink-and-watercolor illustrations, several as labeled pictures (descriptions of skate components, features of an amazing nearby park, and what babies need). (PreK-Gr 2)
One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea and Moth (One Mean Ant #3). Arthur Yorinks. Illus. by Sergio Ruzzier. (2021). Candlewick.
An ant, a fly, and a flea, the stars of Jim’s Flea Circus, are tired of performing their death defying act every night and twice on Sunday. When not on stage, the acrobatic trio is kept in a cage. Ant comes up with an escape plan: to flee as a moth causes a distraction by flying away from a light bulb when it is turned on instead of right toward it during his act. The One Mean Ant trilogy, with Arthur Yorinks’ text full of clever wordplay and Sergio Ruzzier’s expressive cartoon illustrations, ends with one last grand performance as the four google-eyed insects—Ant, Fly, Flea, and Moth—safely fly toward the light of the full moon. (PreK Up)
Road Crew, Coming Through! (Construction Site #6). Sherri Duskey Rinker. Illus. by AG Ford. (2021). Chronicle.
“Six mighty friends are on their way / to help with something BIG today. / They’re off to work on something new . . . / to join the big ROAD-BUILDING crew! / (There’s a GIANT job to do!).” Excavator, Skid Steer, Dump Truck, Big Bulldozer, Cement Mixer, and Crane Truck team up with Compactor, Scraper, Grader, Roller, Striper, Water Truck, and Paver to build a “SUPERHIGHWAY, MEGA ROAD!” AG Ford’s illustrations, rendered in Neocolor wax oil crayons, show the visual story of highway construction—step-by-step—in double-page spreads, single pages, and panels that complement Sherri Duskey Rinker’s rhyming text. Back matter discusses the need for planning for the movement of wildlife when designing human transportation routes. (PreK-Gr 2)
See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat. David LaRochelle. Illus. by Mike Wohnoutka. (2021) Candlewick.
Max reads a book that instructs the reader to “see the dog,” but what he sees is a cat. In “See the Dog,” a cat steps in for a sick dog and performs doggy actions (running, barking, and digging a hole—with an excavator!). In “See the Lake,” the cat protests as he swims across the lake to get a stick. In “See the Sheep,” the cat must protect sheep from a wolf. However, with a twist, the dog appears in the book to rescue the sheep, and the cat recovers in a hammock. David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka’s ironic role-reversal companion to See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog (2020) provides some satisfying belly laughs. (PreK-Gr 2)
Sydney & Taylor Take a Flying Leap (Sydney & Taylor #2). Jacqueline Davies. Illus. by Deborah Hocking. (2021). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Taylor (a hedgehog who is always ready for an adventure) wants Sydney (a skunk who would rather stay at home in their burrow reading) to help him with his latest Big Idea: to become the “World’s First Flying Hedgehog.” After several zany failures, an unexpected and dangerous final attempt is successful, but only because of Sydney’s timely rescue. Told in eleven short chapters with engaging digitally edited gouache-and-colored pencil artwork, this early chapter book will leave young readers wanting to spend more time with this funny duo by reading Sydney and Taylor Explore the Whole World (published simultaneously) and Sydney and Taylor and the Great Friend Exhibition (out in February 2022). (PreK-Gr 2)
¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge (World of ¡Vamos! #3). Raúl the Third. Colors by Elaine Bay. (2021). Versify.
Thousands of people cross Puente Libre every day to a city in another country where people on one side speak Spanish and on the other most speak English, and in both places many speak both languages. When Little Lobo’s delivery truck loaded with party supplies and a band headed to the big celebration (¡La gran celebración!) gets stuck in a traffic jam on the bridge, he and his pal Kooky Dooky help organize a spontaneous celebration of eating, singing, dancing, and whacking pinatas. “That night, on a bridge between two countries, La Celebración came to everyone.” Raúl the Third smoothly incorporates Spanish vocabulary into both the quick-paced text and richly detailed illustration in this picture book in graphic novel format. Back matter includes a glossary and a note from the author. (PreK Up)
Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa California. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.
These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG).