Series are perennial favorites for readers of all ages. This column includes reviews of series books in a variety of genres and formats for young readers. There are first books in new series, much anticipated sequels, the latest books in some episodic series that can be read in any order, and the final books in a wordless trilogy and a long-running popular series.
Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf (Chicken Little #2). Sam Wedelich. (2021). Scholastic.
On the title page of Sam Wedelich’s clever picture book tale in cartoon format, Chicken Little, a cute, white-feathered chick with oversize, red eyeglasses and snazzy red cowgirl boots, empathically asserts, “I am so NOT scared of any wolf!” Just as she admits on the following double spread that she’s never even seen a wolf, she collides with a big, furry, gray creature. When the word about Chicken Little’s encounter with a big bad wolf gets back to the barnyard, the frightened fowl have a fight or flight debate over what to do. When they decide they must fly the coop (even though everyone knows chickens aren’t very good at flying), Chicken Little opts for a Sherlockian investigation and confronts the wolf. Learning that the wolf has been ostracized from his pack because he’s a vegetarian and is looking for a place to belong, Chicken Little convinces the other chickens that he is actually super nice. They decide to let the wolf join them and, at a pot-cluck dinner, they all agree with Chicken Little that fur and feathers are better together. Readers will also have fun reading Wedelich’s first picture book, Chicken Little: The Real and Totally True Tale (2020). (PreK-Gr 2)
Curious About Insects (Discovering Nature #3). Cathryn Sill. Illus. by John Sill. (2021). Peachtree.
This third entry in the Sills’ board book Discovering Nature series offers preschoolers an introduction to basic facts about insects. Each page features a stunning realistic watercolor illustration showing a species of insect (identified by common name) and a simple statement about insects: characteristics, where they live, what they eat, and how they move. For example, an illustration of two common whitetail dragonflies hovering over cattails is paired with the sentence “Some insects fly.” The format of one short sentence along the bottom of the page focuses attention on the illustration. The final statement of the small book, “It is important to protect insects . . . and the places where they live,” encourages further discussion about insects. Young children curious about the natural world will also enjoy the earlier books in the series: Curious About Birds (2020) and Curious About Mammals (2020). Curious About Fish, the fourth book in the series, will be available in August. (Preschool)
The Farmer and the Circus (The Farmer Books #3). Marla Frazee. (2021). Beach Lane.
In this final book of Marla Frazee’s Farmer Books Trilogy, the little clown and the monkey who enlivened the solitary life of the farmer in The Farmer and the Clown (2014) and The Farmer and the Monkey (2020) are both back at the circus. Wordless, beautifully-crafted double spreads clearly show that they both miss the farmer and the farm. The little clown refuses to wear a clown costume, opting for overalls and the farmer’s big black hat. Together, the clown and the monkey mix playing farmer with circus activities. When the circus tent goes up on the prairie, they get a big surprise: The farmer, wearing the clown’s red hat, arrives for the first performance. After the little clown introduces the farmer to his mother, romance blossoms between the two. With a joyous send-off from the circus, the little clown, his mother, the monkey, and the farmer become a happy family on the farm. There’s a lot to discover in Frazee’s detailed black pencil-and-gouache illustrations. To fully appreciate how the books in the trilogy are linked, you’ll want to read them again and again. A boxed set of the Farmer Books is being released this week. (PreK-Gr 2)
Go Wild! Sea Turtles (Go Wild! #1). Jill Esbaum. (2021). National Geographic Kids.
Jill Esbaum opens this first book in National Geographic Kids new Go Wild! Series with “Graceful glider. / Seagrass nibbler. / Mollusk muncher. / That’s a sea turtle!” The engaging, accessible text, accompanied by full-color photographs of turtles identified by common names and labeled diagrams, introduces young readers to basic facts about sea turtles: habitat and global distribution, the seven types of sea turtles in the world’s oceans, characteristics, and life cycle as well as their endangered status and how people around the world are working to save them. There’s also a “How You Can Help” section, tips for parents, and a glossary. The second book in the series, Go Wild! Pandas, will be published in June. (PreK-Gr 2)
I Want My Mummy! (Ms. Frogbottom’s Field Trip #1). Nancy Krulik. Illus. by Harry Briggs. (2021). Aladdin.
Tony, the narrator of this first book in Nancy Krulik’s new chapter book series, welcomes readers to class 4A with an added “Beware of the map.” Students in Ms. Frogbottom’s class must be prepared at all times to have her dip into her copious backpack and pull out a giant Magic Map. When she points to a location, the class is whisked away to that faraway place where they’re sure to meet frightening creatures and get into all kinds of trouble. In I Want My Mummy! a spontaneous field trip to Egypt finds the class riding across the desert on camels and learning about the Nile, pharaohs, pyramids, and ancient burial rites. Things get scary when Tony and his friends are trapped in a tomb. They must get an angry mummy to return to his sarcophagus and solve an ancient riddle to unseal the tomb before reuniting with Ms. Frogbottom and safely returning to their classroom. Sidebars of “Frogbottom Facts” and a glossary add to what readers learn about ancient Egypt. They can immediately join class 4A on a field trip to Scotland in the simultaneously published Long Time, No Sea Monster and anticipate more misadventures later this year on trips to Romania in Fangs for Having Us! (out in July) and Iceland in Get Hold of Your Elf! (out in September).
Ivy and Bean Get to Work! (Ivy and Bean #12). Annie Barrows. Illus. by Sophie Blackall. (2021). Chronicle.
In the final installment of Annie Barrow’s popular early chapter book series about best friends second-graders Ivy and Bean (first introduced in Ivy and Bean in 2006), Emerson Elementary School is hosting a Career Fair, which the Principal explains is an opportunity for them to meet people with many different kinds of jobs. With “When I Grow Up, I Want to Be . . .” papers in hand, Ivy, Bean, and most of their classmates soon discover that Herman the Treasure Hunter has the only job they are interested in. They also decide not to wait until they are grownups to pursue treasure hunting. Without a metal detector like the one Herman uses, Ivy and Bean must rely on their “special senses” and shovels. While their classmates are having success, all Ivy and Bean have are lots of holes in their backyards. But in true Ivy and Bean fashion, when everyone displays their findings on Treasure Show Day, the best friends come up with a clever solution and can walk back to their classroom declaring “We’re rich, rich, rich!” (PreK-Gr 2)
King & Kayla and the Case of the Gold Ring (King & Kayla #7). Dori Hillestad Butler. Illus. by Nancy Meyers. (2021). Peachtree.
Playing in the snow with their friends Mason and Asia leads King, a big, lovable dog, and his human, Kayla, to their seventh case. When they come inside to warm up with hot chocolate and marshmallows while Kayla’s mom puts wet coats, hats, and mittens in the dryer, Asia discovers that her gold ring is missing. As Kayla makes lists of everything they know and don’t know about their new case, King reasons that crows like to steal shiny things. His attempt to sniff out the location of the nest of his suspect, a crow that watched them while they played, leads to banishment in the laundry room and his discovery of the missing ring. Case solved. The King and Kayla books, told from exuberant King’s point of view in five lively and humorous chapters with expressive cartoon artwork on every page, are a great choice for readers transitioning from easy-to-read books to chapter books. (PreK-Gr 2)
Sad, Sad Bear (Bear’s Feelings #3). Kimberly Gee. (2021). Beach Lane.
Mommy is going to work. Bear is going to Cub Care. And this makes Bear “very . . . very . . . SAD. WAAAH!” But under the care of a supportive teacher, Bear makes friends, enjoys classroom activities, takes a hike, has a picnic lunch, sings the clean-up song, and naps during quiet time. When Mommy comes to pick him up, Bear is eager to tell her all about his day, says goodbye to his new friends, and looks forward to coming back again. This engaging picture book with its brief text and expressive illustrations, rendered in black Prismacolor and colored digitally, is perfect for reading to young children going to day care or preschool for the first time. Consider sharing Kimberly Gee’s earlier books about feelings, Mad, Mad Bear! (2018) and Glad, Glad Bear! (2020), too. (Toddler)
Spi-ku: A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs. Leslie Bulion. Illus. by Robert Meganck. (2021). Peachtree.
In her latest science-poetry book, Leslie Bulion presents a “clutter of short verse” about spiders. An introductory poem, “Araneae All Around,” and a section on the differences between spiders and other members of the Class Arachnids are followed by topical double-page spreads with one to three poems and Robert Meganck’s realistic digitally-rendered illustrations of species exhibiting the special characteristics and behaviors introduced in several expository paragraphs. “Spectacular Silk” features three short, witty poems about the golden silk orbweaver, the spitting spider, and the desert blond tarantula that each weave prey-trapping webs. The golden silk orbweaver, for example, is described by the haiku “sun-shimmer silk / calls six-legged web guests— / dinner!’ Back matter includes a glossary, notes on poetic forms used by Bulion, identification of the spiders pictured in the illustrations by their common and scientific names, a guide to spider hunting, resources for further study, and a chart showing the relative size of the various spiders against a No. 2 pencil. Readers will also enjoy exploring Bulion and Meganck’s other science-poetry books: Leaf Litter Critters (2018), Superlative Birds (2019), and Amphibian Acrobats (2020). (Gr 3 Up)
Sydney & Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World (Sydney & Taylor #1). Jacqueline Davies. Illus. by Deborah Hocking. (2021). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Young readers are introduced to two unlikely friends in Jacqueline Davies’ first book in a new chapter book series, complemented by Deborah Hocking’s colorful, richly-detailed illustrations done in gouache and colored pencil. Sydney, a skunk, is content to read and nap in the cozy burrow he shares with Taylor, a hedgehog, who sometimes has Big Ideas. When Taylor declares his desire to see the Whole Wide World, Sydney reluctantly agrees to an expedition to Places Unknown to make his friend happy. With Taylor plotting their route on his map of the Whole Wild World, they leave the burrow “feeling wild and fearless and free.” Leadership on their grand expedition shifts, however, as a series of misadventures, such as frightened Taylor rolling up into a spiky ball and Skunk dealing with a fierce dog by squirting it with his stinky musk, occur before they return safely to their burrow. Readers can look forward to more adventures with Sydney and Taylor in Sydney and Taylor Take a Flying Leap (out in August 2021) and Sydney & Taylor and the Great Friend Expedition (out in February 2022). (PreK-Gr 2)
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).