Series are a perfect way to hook newer readers. They offer the opportunity to get to know an author’s writing style and their characters. This familiarity can motivate readers to seek out other books in the same series or those that are similar. The books in this column, whether they are the first, second, or twenty-sixth in an episodic or thematic series, will do just that.
Belly of the Beast (The Fabled Stables #3). Jonathan Auxier. Illus. by Olga Demidova. (2022). Amulet.
The Fabled Stables, located on an island at the top of the world, houses one-of-a-kind creatures. In the midst of worrying that his job as caretaker at the stables will not last much longer, young Auggie learns that another magical creature named the Shibboleth is in danger. Accompanied by an enchanted Stick-in-the-Mud named Fen, he travels through a portal to the evil Rooks’ lair to find the Shibboleth. Upon their arrival, Auggie meets a young girl named Veena with a magical book that holds the key to interacting with the Shibboleth so that it can be rescued safely. Olga Demidova’s lively full-color illustrations help bring the latest adventure in this beginning chapter book series to life. (PreK Up)
Catalina Incognito (Catalina Incognito #1). Jennifer Torres. Illus. by Gladys Jose. (2022). Aladdin.
Mexican American Catalina Castañeda pays great attention to detail and wants everything to be perfect. On Catalina’s eighth birthday, Tía Abuela, a famous telenovela actress, is in town for the grand opening of the children’s room named after her in the local library. When Tía Abuela gifts an old red velvet pouch containing sewing items to Catalina, she does not hide her disappointment well. However, she soon learns the sewing kit is magical and can provide her with a disfraz (disguise). When Catalina’s attention to detail leads her to notice that a ruby is missing from Tía Abuela’s Dragon Dress on display at the library, she is determined to find it and wonders if her newfound magic can help. Gladys Jose’s black-and-white drawings interspersed throughout the book enhance the text. The New Friend Fix, the second book in Jennifer Torres’s new chapter book series, was released simultaneously. (PreK Up)
Cornbread & Poppy (Cornbread & Poppy #1). Matthew Cordell. (2022). Little, Brown.
Two mice, Cornbread and Poppy, are best friends, even though they are very different. Cornbread is a planner and always prepared. Poppy, on the other hand, prefers to spend her time adventuring, rather than planning. When winter comes, Cornbread is ready, unlike Poppy who refused to prepare with him earlier. Knowing that he cannot let his best friend go hungry, Cornbread accompanies Poppy on an unsettling adventure up Holler Mountain in hopes of finding food. Matthew Cordell’s illustrations using pen and ink with watercolor are a charming companion to this sweet friendship story. Cornbread & Poppy at the Carnival, the second book in this early chapter book series, will be released in June. (PreK-Gr 2)
Elmer and the Talent Show (Life in the Doghouse #1). Crystal Velaques (with Danny Robertshaw & Ron Danta). Illus. by Laura Catrinella. (2022). Aladdin.
This new early chapter book series is inspired by true stories that come from Danny & Ron’s Rescue, featured in the documentary Life in the Doghouse. Elmer is a lively long-haired dachshund living at the dog shelter when Benny’s family visits in search of a dog to help Benny adjust to life in the new town where the military has stationed his mom. After the family adopts Elmer, Benny and Elmer participate in a pet training course that culminates in a talent show, and their bond grows through their experiences. Laura Catrinella’s black-and-white digital artwork illustrates important aspects of the story told from Elmer’s perspective. The second book in the series, Moose and the Smelly Sneakers, was published simultaneously. (PreK Up)
Geraldine Pu and Her Cat Hat, Too! (Geraldine Pu #2). Maggie P. Chang. (2022). Simon Spotlight.
In this second book of this graphic-novel series for younger readers, Geraldine Pu adores her cat hat, Mao Maotz. While at the hair salon with her Amah (grandmother), Geraldine browses a magazine with various hairstyles and decides that her black, straight hair is boring. She plans to change her hair by making it look more like her Amah’s. When her younger brother tries to copy her, unexpected consequences arise, and Geraldine learns a valuable lesson about the importance of being true to yourself. In the front matter, Maggie P. Chang explains how to pronounce the Chinese and Taiwanese words used in the book. Back matter includes a letter to readers from Mao Maotz and directions for creating a self-portrait. Using mainly speech and thought bubbles, this entertaining tale is conveyed with full color illustrations in panels. (PreK-Gr 2)
I Am Malala Yousafzai (Ordinary People Change the World #26). Brad Meltzer. Illus. by Christopher Eliopoulos. (2022). Dial.
Brad Meltzer tells of Malala Yousafzai’s role in changing the world. Malala grew up in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, where girls and boys were treated differently. Desiring more equality for girls, her father opened a school that allowed girls to attend. When the Taliban took control, they enforced more traditional customs, resulting in the closing of her father’s school. By then, Malala had a solid start to her education and a drive to fight injustice. She used her words to oppose the Taliban, despite their threats. One day after Malala’s school reopened, a member of the Taliban attempted to kill her. Ultimately, this provided opportunities to advocate for more equality for girls. In 2014, at the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She continues to promote girls’ rights to education through her international organization, Malala Fund. Christopher Eliopoulos’s comic-like illustrations provide additional context for readers. Back matter includes a timeline of key events and photographs. (PreK-Gr 2)
Marco Polo, Brave Explorer (Book Buddies #2). Cynthia Lord. Illus. by Stephanie Graegin. (2022). Candlewick.
Cynthia Lord’s second book in this early chapter book series introduces readers to Marco Polo, a small mouse originally given to children’s librarian, Anne, as a Christmas ornament that she thought looked like a brave explorer. Thinking Marco Polo deserves a chance at adventure, she makes him one of the book buddies at the library that can be checked out like a book. When Seth visits the library with his dad and younger brother, he is feeling nervous about his first sleepover that is coming up. In an effort to feel braver, he checks out Marco Polo to take with him to the sleepover. Marco Polo’s first adventure outside the library involving an encounter with a sneaky cat and some “missing” toys at the sleepover shows him that even brave explorers can be afraid, while Seth learns he is not the only one who needs a little help to feel brave. (PreK Up)
Racing Ace: Drive It! Fix It! (Racing Ace #1). Larry Dane Brimner. Illus. by Kaylani Juanita. (2022). Scholastic.
African American Ace is building her own go-kart and preparing to race it. After adding the finishing touch to crank the motor and putting on her lucky scarf, she is ready to go. Once the race starts, obstacles, such as a missing part and a rut in the track, endanger her chances of winning. Yet, Ace doesn’t give up. She is determined to win. Larry Dane Brimner’s simple and engaging text combined with Kaylani Juanita’s full-color illustrations create an ideal book for new readers. The second book in this early chapter book series, Racing Ace: Build it! Jump it!, will be released in June. (PreK-Gr 2)
Simon Sleeps Over (Dear Beast #4). Dori Hillestad Butler. Illus. by Kevan Atteberry. (2022). Holiday House.
Simon the cat and Baxter the dog (otherwise known as Beast) finally meet each other at Andy’s dad’s house. Much of their interactions, though, continue in the form of letters written to one another. Baxter wants nothing more than to have fun at the sleepover with Simon, while Simon would prefer to maintain his usual routine as much as possible. Their first meeting turns out to be a disaster, and Simon runs away. Can Baxter convince Simon to come back? Dori Hillestad Butler has written an amusing and heartwarming tale of how the introduction of a boy’s vastly different pets might transpire. Kevan Atteberry aptly portrays the characters through full-color digital illustrations that add to the enjoyment of this series for beginning readers. (K-Gr 2)
That Egg Is Mine!: A Silly Story About Sharing (Duck and Cluck #1). Liz Goulet Dubois. (2022). Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.
Duck and Cluck argue over a hughe blue-with-white-polka-dot egg. Cluck claims to have hidden it behind a ladder in the barn; Duck claims to have rescued it when it splashed into the pond after seeing it rolling down the road. Neither one is interested in sharing the egg. What will they do? Whose egg it? With full-color illustrations and a short, silly story with a surprise ending, Liz Goulet Dubois has created an easy-to-read series opener in graphic novel format that is perfect for new readers. The next book, I Like This Color!: A Silly Story About Listening for Kids, will be out in October. (PreK-Gr 2)
Up and Down and Other Stories (Fox + Chick #4). Sergio Ruzzier. (2022). Chronicle.
Fox and Chick do not always agree, but they are always friends. This book includes three short stories about the friends’ adventures. In the first story, Chick climbs up a tree but is unsure about getting down. Then, Chick is eager to go sledding, and Fox encourages him to wait until there’s enough snow. Lastly, Fox presents Chick with his first book, and Chick builds a bookcase to hold it. The friends’ interactions are funny and endearing. Gergio Ruzzier’s pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations add to the silliness of these stories about the unlikely friendship between a fox and a chicken written in comic-book form. Like the previous books in this series, Up and Down and Other Stories is perfect for emergent readers. (PreK Up)
Wangari Maathai (She Persisted #13). Eucabeth Odhiambo. Illus. by Gillian Flint. (2022). Philomel.
In this chapter book biography inspired by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger’s She Persisted, Eucabeth Odhiambo shares the life story of Kenyan Wangari Maathai (1940-2011). As members of the Kikuyu people, Wangari’s family centered their lives around nature, prompting her love of the environment. In a time when girls rarely attended school, Wangari went to school, developed a passion for science, and eventually earned her doctorate. She went on to use the confidence she gained through education to advocate for women and the environment. Finding that women living in rural areas were unable to get wood and other necessary natural resources, she was determined to help by planting trees and getting others to join her. She became known as “Mama Miti” (the mother of trees) as she began the Green Belt Movement. In 2004, Wangari Maathai, who faced much adversity in her persistent work against injustices, became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Gillian Flint’s black-and-white illustrations complement the engaging text well. (PreK Up)
Nicole Maxwell is an associate professor in the Elementary and Special Education Program at the University of North Georgia
These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG).