In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

Published by Greenwillow

Summary:  The husband-and-wife team that brought you When Spring Comes have teamed up again with this look at fall.  Squirrels, acorns, apples, pumpkins, and beautiful falling leaves are all featured in the close-up paintings rendered in the brilliant hues of the season, accompanied by only two sentences of text that stretch over the whole book.  A girl and her dog move throughout the book.  By the end, they are gazing at a white sky, ready for the first snowfall.  40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  A perfect introduction to the season.  We can only hope there will be similar homages to winter and summer.

Cons:  The first sentence stretches on for 19 pages, which may not be the best modeling for how to avoid run-ons.

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (The Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell

Published by Little, Brown

Summary:  In this nearly wordless book, a cat runs away and gets chased by an alligator, bear, and chicken (in that order).  The story unfolds alphabetically, but kids will have to figure out what the word is for each picture.  There’s a happy ending, as a unicorn distributes valentines; the cat waves goodbye to his friends, uses an X on a map to get home, gives a gigantic yawn, then catches some zzz’s.  The whole alphabet is listed on the last page, along with a list of all the words shown in the story.  48 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:  An intriguing introduction to the alphabet, engaging readers who will have to both figure out the word for each letter and the story those words are telling.

Cons:  The title doesn’t exactly roll right off your tongue.

Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale by Corey Rosen Schwartz, pictures by Deborah Marcero

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Summary:  What if Cinderella had a twin?  It would make the work easier, as they could divide the chores.  And each one could handle one of the evil stepsisters.  Even going to the ball wouldn’t be so bad, as long as they were willing to divide the jewelry and share the coach.  But the prince is a different matter.  There’s only one Prince Charming.  He has a great time dancing with both Cinderella and Tinderella until midnight, finds the glass slipper, and winds up at their home.  Forced with a difficult decision, the twins bring back their fairy godmother, who magically creates a twin prince.  Before long, there’s a double wedding, then Cinderella and her prince go on to rule the land, while Tinderella and her prince go on to win all the highest math awards.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Schwartz’s infectious rhymes from her ninja fairy tales are back to entertain readers with an unusual and fun twist on the Cinderella story.

Cons:  While the pictures are cute, I missed the Dan Santat illustrations from the previous tales.

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J. Muth

Published by Scholastic Press

Summary:  Stuffed animals Mama Lion and Tigey are ready for the big car race, going up against such stiff competition as Bun Bun, the Flying Pandinis, and the Knitted Monkeys.  When the flag waves, they’re off, and Mama Lion and Tigey take the lead.  Losing a wheel sets them back, though, and they’re grateful when the Pandinis take a break from the race to help them.  They enter once again, and the race becomes closer than ever as they approach the finish line (with the Knitted Monkeys trying a few unscrupulous tricks to win).  The finish proves perfect for everyone, as Mama Lion and Tigey learn that winning isn’t always the most important result.  56 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Jon Muth takes a break from his Zen picture books to create a detailed world of stuffed animals and a memorable race.  Gentle lessons are inserted through the story, reminding readers that the journey is more important than the final destination and friendships are more valuable than finishing first.

Cons:  American children may not know what a “spanner” is when one is used to repair the broken wheel.

Confessions from the Principal’s Kid by Robin Mellom

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary:  What would it be like if the principal was…your mom?  Allie give an insider’s view, sharing her stories of staying after school with a small group of kids (the Afters) whose parents all work at school.  It’s fun to have behind-the-scenes access to school, but a drag to have to stay after every day.  Plus, Allie’s best friend Chloe hasn’t spoken to her since an incident in fourth grade where Chloe thought Allie ratted her out to her mom.  Allie’s got some other problems, too–her overworked mom isn’t as much fun as she was when she was a teacher, and Graham–another old friend and fellow After–is acting weird.  Author Robin Mellon draws on her own experiences as a principal’s kid to explain the ups and downs of that role.  272 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Fans of Dork Diaries and other realistic school stories will enjoy Allie’s authentic voice as she shows readers what it’s like to have the insider track at school.  Short chapters keep the action moving quickly.

Cons:  Allie occasionally sounds a little wise beyond her years.

Creepy Pair of Underwear! By Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary:  Jasper Rabbit, the protagonist of Creepy Carrots! is back in a spine-tingling tale of underwear gone bad.  He convinces his mom that he’s old enough to handle a creepy pair of underwear, but when he wears them to bed, he discovers they glow in the dark.  He quickly changes to white, burying the creepy pair in the hamper.  The next morning…he’s wearing the creepy underwear!  He tries throwing them in the trash, mailing them to China, and cutting them into shreds, but they keep coming back.  Finally, Jasper takes them on a long bike ride (the creepy carrots make a guest appearance), and buries them deep in the earth.  Will they come back again?  Or has Jasper finally succeeded in ridding himself of this creepy pair of underwear?  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Just in time for a Halloween story hours comes this perfect blend of spooky and funny from the Caldecott Honor winning team that brought you Creepy Carrots!  Any child who doesn’t want to read this book upon seeing the cover should probably be checked for a pulse.

Cons:  Well…creepy underwear is kind of a con.

What Makes a Monster? By Jess Keating, illustrated by David DeGrand

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Summary:  From the team that brought you Pink Is for Blobfish comes this collection of animals that can seem “monstrous”.  Each two-page spread features a photo of the animal, a brief description of the animal and what makes dangerous or deadly, a sidebar with facts like diet and habitat, and another interesting fact or two.  Many of the animals have monster-sounding names like the assassin bug, the horror frog, and the tyrant leech king.  And some of them are downright creepy, like the cordyceps fungus that takes over insects’ brains, causing them to self-destruct.  The final page is the seemingly obligatory inclusion of humans with a catalog of how we are wreaking havoc on the planet.  Includes a page connecting animals to famous monsters (e.g., Dracula and the vampire bat), a page explaining how what we see as scary is really an animal’s way of protecting itself, and a glossary.  48 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  The gross-out factor combined with striking graphics and appealing page layouts makes this a surefire nonfiction hit.

Cons:  An introductory page would have been nice to give an overview of the book before diving into the first animal.