Acorn Books by Scholastic

Published by Scholastic

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Summary:  Similar to the Branches imprint, Scholastic now has Acorn, books for emerging readers.  They’re described as being at a Grade 1 Scholastic Reading Level, which translates to about a Level J in the Fountas and Pinnell world.  There are four series so far: Hello, Hedgehog! by Norm Feuti, featuring a friendly hedgehog and his guinea pig pal; Unicorn and Yeti by Heather Ayris Burnell, the somewhat surreal pairing of an extra-sparkly unicorn and a yeti; Crabby by Jonathan Fenske, all about a really crabby crab; and a reissued Dragon series by Dav Pilkey.  Each series has 2-3 books so far, each 48-64 pages long, with almost all the words in the form of cartoon bubble dialogue.  A final page offers extension activities, such as directions on how to draw a character and a writing prompt. 48-64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  If the Branches series are any indication, these are sure to be a hit.  Cute, friendly, and mildly humorous characters paired with a graphic novel look and cartoon bubble dialogue seems like a recipe for success.

Cons:  At the risk of sounding like a cranky old librarian, I wonder if kids will even know what quotation marks are in another generation.

If you would like to buy the first Hello Hedgehog book, click here.

For Crabby, click here.

For Yeti and Unicorn, click here.

For Dragon, click here.

Brute-Cake (The Binder of Doom book 1) by Troy Cummings

Published by Scholastic

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Summary:  Alexander Bopp, hero of The Notebook of Doom series, is feeling at loose ends as summer begins.  The Super Secret Monster Patrol (S.S.M.P.) has succeeded in clearing the monsters out of Stermont, and consequently, Alexander and his pals Rip and Nikki have drifted apart.  But when his dad signs him up for the Stermont Summer Maker Program (hey, that’s also S.S.M.P.!), he runs into Nikki again. Mysterious monster cards start appearing, and Alexander begins to suspect that a monster or two may have crept back into town.  Nikki and Alexander find Rip; they use their free binders from the new club to get organized; and just like that, the original S.S.M.P. is back in business. Includes a page of questions and activities. 96 pages; grades 1-3.

Pros:  Second and third graders everywhere will rejoice that the Notebook of Doom team is back for another series.

Cons:  Personally, one of these books was enough for me, but there are those who have read (and loved) all 13 of the original series.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

 

Recipe for Disaster (Didi Dodo Future Spy, book 1) by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Jared Chapman

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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Summary:  Cookie baker Koko Dodo (a character from Angleberger’s Inspector Flytrap series) has been robbed! His Super Secret Fudge Sauce has been stolen just hours before the big cookie contest that he always wins.  Enter Didi Dodo, a high-energy dodo on roller skates who calls herself a future spy.  She’s sure she can solve the case, and whisks Koko off on a whirlwind adventure, trying one scheme after another to track down the culprit, and leaving a path of destruction as they go.  The robber is tracked down, the cookies are baked, and Koko gets another trophy.  On the last page, Didi whips out a card reading “Dodo and Dodo, Future Spies,” ensuring at least one more book, which is scheduled for release in September. 112 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Kids will love the manic humor and energy of this new series by the much-loved Tom Angleberger.

Cons:  I liked the illustrations, but why didn’t Tom’s wife Cece Bell do them like she did for Inspector Flytrap?  Maybe she’s working on a sequel to El Deafo…we can hope.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Trapped in Room 217 by Thomas Kingsley Troupe

Published by Jolly Fish Press

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Summary:  When Jayla and Dion’s father gets a last-minute request to come do some work in Rocky Mountain National Park, the family goes on a week-long trip to Estes Park in Colorado.  They stay in Room 217 of the Stanley Hotel, which they soon learn is allegedly the most haunted room of a hotel rumored to be full of ghosts. On the first night, both kids see the ghost of a maid who seems to be looking for something in their room.  Further investigations and interviews with staff lead them to other ghostly encounters, including a creepy incident where they are trapped in a dark basement. Jayla’s wrong guess about what Room 217’s guest is looking for almost results in disaster, but with the help of some friendly hotel staff, peace is restored.  Includes a note from the author with more information about the Stanley Hotel. 136 pages; grades 3-5.

Pros:  Goosebumps fans will love this new series, which features real-life haunted places across the U.S. (Stephen King got the idea for The Shining when he stayed in room 217 of the Stanley).  The books are pretty short, with quite a few illustrations, making them a good choice for younger students and reluctant readers.

Cons:  The writing is a bit stiff, and there are some unexplained plot holes.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Five favorite early chapter books

Some of the books on this list are borderline early chapter/middle grade.  I have several third grade book clubs at my school, and I either have used or planned to use these books with those groups.  I would say they are good choices for enthusiastic readers in grades 2-4.

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

Published by Joanna Cotler Books

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Louie and Nora save Winslow the donkey, and deal with their own grief in the process. This book packs an emotional wallop in 176 pages with big font and a fair amount of white space.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win a few awards.

 

Survivor Diaries series by Terry Lynn Johnson

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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Fans of the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis will enjoy these contemporary survival stories of kids who have to stay alive in the snow, the ocean, the rain forest, and a dust storm.

 

Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream series by Hena Khan

Published by Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

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The dream Zayd is chasing is to be the first Pakistani-American player in the NBA.  His family is supportive, but doesn’t always understand why basketball is so important to him.  At 144 pages each, the first three books in this series are perfect for sports fans and will also broaden the horizons of readers who may not be familiar with the immigrant experience.

 

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Published by Greenwillow Books

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At 240 pages, this is the longest book on the list, but the characters and illustrations make it a good choice for third or fourth graders to read to themselves, or for younger kids to enjoy as a read-aloud.  Alix’s week at the beach with her family makes a satisfying summer read.

 

Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant

Published by Beach Lane Books

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A year in the life of Flora, a quiet, introspective fourth-grader growing up in Rosewood, Indiana in 1972.  There’s not a lot of action, but plenty for kids to connect to as Flora deals with a multitude of changes and learns to draw on her own strength.

 

 

Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan

Published by Greenwillow Books

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Summary:  When a group of boastful knights regale each other with slightly exaggerated tales at the Round Table, Merlin sends them off on a mission to slay the Terrible Lizard.  Knights Bors, Hector, Erec, and the mysterious Black Knight are joined by squire Mel on a quest that unexpectedly takes them back in time to the days of the dinosaurs. There they have one adventure after another with spinosauruses, triceratops, and more, all the while seeking the tyrant king, Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Along the way, some surprises are revealed about the knights and their squire, and they slowly learn to stop competing and start working as a team. After they finally meet and defeat their enemy, they learn that Merlin has been up to his old tricks, but they can’t help being pleased with the results. 160 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  With lots of illustrations and a few comic-style pages, this would be a good choice for those still getting their feet wet in the chapter book realm.  There’s plenty of humor and a couple of unexpected strong female characters.

Cons:  I probably didn’t appreciate the humor as much as, say, a nine-year-old might.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.