Sir Ladybug by Corey Tabor

Published by Balzer + Bray

Summary:  Sir Ladybug is a modest knight who likes to hang out with his friends, Pell, a roly poly bug who serves as his herald, and Sterling, his trusty squire, who’s a snail with a shell that’s bigger on the inside than the outside.  Sir Ladybug claims that he will go on a quest when one presents itself, and soon enough his path crosses with a panicky caterpillar being chased by a “monster” (actually a chickadee).  The insects head inside Sterling’s shell to strategize and come up with a perfect solution: Sir Ladybug will bake his famous lemon cake which will take care of the chickadee’s hunger and save the caterpillar.  Surprisingly, this plan works, and the satiated chickadee declares them all friends.  68 pages; grades 1-3.

Pros:  Caldecott honoree Corey Tabor has created this fun new early graphic novel starring creatures who resemble some of the characters in Mel Fell.  The bugs are pretty cute, the story is pretty funny, and this is sure to appeal to graphic novel fans who enjoy books like Narwhal and Jelly.  Look for books 2 and 3 coming later this year.

Cons:  No lemon cake recipe.

Hide and Go Beak (The Great Mathemachicken, book 1) by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Charlie Alder

Published by Pixel + Ink The Great Mathemachicken 1: Hide and Go Beak: 9781645950325:  Krulik, Nancy, Alder, Charlie: Books

Summary:  Chirpy is an adventurous chicken, who, unlike her siblings, wonders about life outside the coop.  One day, the kids who feed the chickens leave the gate open for a minute, and Chirpy sees her chance.  She escapes from the coop and ends up following the kids on to the school bus.  At school, she’s fascinated by lessons on simple machines and counting by twos.  Returning home, she discovers that her brother Clucky has followed her lead and escaped the coop.  A fox is rumored to be on the loose, and the chickens are anxious to help Clucky get safely home.  Chirpy uses her new STEM skills to lead a team of chickens in making a fox trap.  When Clucky comes running with the fox hot on his tail, the chickens spring into action and trap the fox under a basket.  Safely back at home, they congratulate Clucky and name her The Great Mathemachicken.  Includes instructions for making a wheel-and-axle whirly-swirly toy.  96 pages; grades 1-3.  

Pros:  With 11 chapters, this will make beginning readers feel like they’re reading a “real” chapter book, yet the large font and plentiful illustrations make it a manageable task.  Chirpy is a bold heroine who proves the value of learning about STEM topics.

Cons:  I struggled to spell “mathemachicken”.

See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Published by Candlewick See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat: 9781536216295:  LaRochelle, David, Wohnoutka, Mike: Books See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat: 9781536216295:  LaRochelle, David, Wohnoutka, Mike: Books

Summary:  In this sequel to See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, the cat fills in for the dog who is out sick.  The narrator (referred to as “book”) has stories about the dog doing un-cat-like things like digging a hole, swimming, and protecting a sheep.  The cat is not pleased to be given these assignments, but finds some interesting ways to carry out her duties.  Dog appears at the end, just as the cat is about to faint under the stress of having to protect a sheep from a wolf.  Dog takes over, and Cat retreats to a hammock under the trees with a cold beverage in paw; “Now, THIS is the way to end a story!”  64 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  See the Cat is one of my favorite early readers, and the author-illustrator team has created another winner with these three stories that are sure to give new readers some laughs.  The first book won a Geisel Award, and this one is worthy of a similar honor.

Cons:  I missed Dog.

Frog and Ball by Kathy Caple and Spring Cakes by Miranda Harmon (I Like to Read Comics series)

Published by Holiday House

Frog and Ball by Kathy Caple: 9780823443413 | Books
Bound To Stay Bound Books, Inc. - Bookstore Spring Cakes (I Like to Read Comics): 9780823449354: Harmon,  Miranda: Books

Summary:  In Frog and Ball, Frog checks out a book about magic from the library.  On the way home, he comes across a deflated ball, and decides to try out the book to bring the ball back to life.  His magic works a little too well when the ball really does come to life and starts chasing him all over town, including a chaotic return to the library.  Frog finally manages to subdue the ball back into deflated submission, but when Rabbit comes along, it looks like things are going to start up again.

A family of cats has big cooking plans in Spring Cakes, but first they have to gather the ingredients: flour, honey, eggs, strawberries, and some magic roses.  Each item requires going to the source, so the kitties get a series of adventures, including a visit to the witch who has the roses.  Finally, it’s time to bake, and everyone who helped out gets to enjoy a picnic with some spring cakes.  Both books are 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I’ve long been a fan of the I Like to Read books, and was excited to hear that there was a new comic series (and grateful to Holiday House for the free copies!).  These are sure to be a hit with kids learning to read: the comic format is, of course, hugely popular and the stories are well-crafted with cute illustrations.

Cons:  One of the things I love about the I Like to Read series is that it includes books that look like “real books” (not like early readers) that are written at the earliest Fountas and Pinnell levels (A, B, C).  These comic books are at a higher F&P level (Frog and Ball is I and Spring Cakes is L).  I’m hoping Holiday House will come out with some that are for those earlier levels.

Training Day (El Toro & Friends) by Raúl the Third, colors by Elaine Bay

Published by Versify

Training Day | HMH Books
Training Day | HMH Books

Summary:  El Toro has a big match coming up, wrestling The Wall.  His trainer, Kooky Dooky, has lots of ideas about how to get him ready, but first he must get El Toro out of bed.  This proves challenging, as El Toro doesn’t want to eat breakfast, stretch, or go for a jog…he just wants to sleep.  Finally, though, he is ready for action and, cheered on by his fans, he zips through every challenge Kooky Dooky puts before him.  When it’s time for the big match, El Toro defeats The Wall with one big “Pow!”.  56 page; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Raúl the Third brings the fun of his ¡Vamos! books to this new early reader series that is sure to be a hit.  There are many Spanish translations of English words and phrases in the text, with the Spanish in a purple font to make it readily distinguishable.  Book 2 (Tag Team) was published simultaneously.  Let’s hope this is just the beginning.

Cons:  After all that training, I wish the wrestling match had been longer than a single page.

Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Published by Two Lions

Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides by Anna Kang
Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant Discuss Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides

Summary:  Hudson the dog and Tallulah the cat may be neighbors, but they could not be more different.  Hudson loves to dig, eat garbage, and play with other dogs at the dog park, while Tallulah prefers keeping clean and keeping to herself.  But when the two of them spot a puddle full of birds, the chance to chase and play is irresistible for both animals.  Soon they discover a few more pastimes they both enjoy, and by the end of the book, a friendship has been born.  40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  The team that produced the Geisel Award winning You Are (Not) Small has created a new book for early readers told through the illustrations and simple dialogue.  Kids will recognize and appreciate the dog-cat differences and enjoy being able to try out their new reading skills.

Cons:  This felt like it would have worked better in the traditional early reader format rather than as a picture book.

My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird by Paul Meisel

Published by Holiday House

My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird by Paul Meisel: 9780823443222 | Books
Paul Meisel-My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird

Summary:  A ruby throated hummingbird narrates a year in his life, starting on May 15 when he hatches out of an egg.  A few weeks later, he’s ready to fly, and spends the summer sipping nectar and fighting/playing with the other hummingbirds.  August 22: “I’m hearing a lot of chatter about a big trip soon.”  In September, he heads to Mexico, where he stays until the end of February.  By May 4, he’s back home again, and thinking about finding a mate.  Includes additional information about hummingbirds on both the front and back endpapers, as well as a glossary and a list of sources and recommended reading.  40 pages; ages 4-9.

Pros:  Paul Meisel and Holiday House have teamed up for a number of I Like to Read books, and this series feels like it could appeal to the same audience.  There’s just a sentence or two of text on each page, and the diary format makes it engaging and fun.  Yet there’s plenty of back matter that could make this a great research resource for older kids.  There are three other books in this series, which started in 2018.

Cons:  As you may recall, I’m not a big fan of using the endpapers for additional information.  Fortunately, the book I got from the library didn’t have a dust jacket, so nothing was covered up.

Doggo and Pupper by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charlie Alder

Published by Feiwel and Friends Doggo and Pupper (Doggo and Pupper, 1) (9781250620972):  Applegate, Katherine, Alder, Charlie: Books
Doggo and Pupper | Katherine Applegate | Macmillan

Summary:  Every night, Cat asks Doggo how his day was, and he responds, “Same old, same old.  Could have been worse.”  His comfortable routine is interrupted one day when Pupper arrives.  Pupper is full of mischief and has millions of questions.  When the humans decide to send Pupper to charm school, Doggo is relieved.  But school changes Pupper, and one night Doggo finds himself missing the old Pupper.  A sleepy human hands over the car keys, and the two dogs head off on a memorable road trip.  The final page lists Doggo’s guide to puppies, which includes “Puppies need lots of play.”  96 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  Beginning readers will have fun with this first chapter book that features funny illustration (that cover is irresistible!) and only a brief sentence or two of text on each page.  It’s called book 1, so we can hope there will be more Doggo and Pupper adventures ahead.

Cons:  Cat seems like a fun character who deserves a bit more time onstage.

The Pet Parade (Dear Beast, book 2) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry (released February 2)

Published by Holiday House

Dear Beast

Summary:  Simon the cat has heard that Baxter the dog is going to be marching in the pet parade with their boy, Andy.  Simon has been in this parade with Andy in years past, and writes a letter to Baxter trying to convince him to back out.  Baxter refuses, and Simon launches a spy mission to determine what their costumes are going to be, enlisting the help of a skunk, a snail, a crow, a squirrel, and the pet goldfish, Gradually, Simon comes to understand that he and Baxter have different roles in Andy’s life, and that Baxter might actually be the better choice for the parade.  The parade concludes happily, and it looks like book 3 of this series is in the works.  Includes a “Doggy Dictionary” to help decipher Baxter’s misspelled words.  96 pages; grades 1-3.

Pros:  Butler has come up with a winning idea to tell an entire story through animals’ letters.  Early chapter books readers will find the format appealing, the writing humorous, and the colorful cartoon-style illustrations helpful in figuring out what’s going on in the story.

Cons:  Thank you to Holiday House for sending me this advance copy, but I wish I had read book 1 first, since I wasn’t completely able to figure out Andy’s, Simon’s, and Baxter’s situation from this book.  This seems like a weakness since kids don’t always read books in order. Also, some may object to Baxter’s frequent misspellings which may cause some struggles for beginning readers.

The Great Bunk Bed Battle (Fox Tails) by Tina Kügler and A Magic Spark (Fairylight Friends) by Jessica Young, illustrated by Marie Vanderbemden

Published by Scholastic The Great Bunk Bed Battle: An Acorn Book (Fox Tails #1) (1)  (9781338561685): Kügler, Tina: Books
A MAGIC SPARK | Kirkus Reviews

Summary:  Two new series have been added to Scholastic’s Acorn imprint for beginning readers.  In The Great Bunk Bed Battle, Fritz and Franny are supposed to be going to sleep, but debate the merits of the top bunk vs. the bottom bunk.  After trying to convince their dog Fred to join one or the other, they wind up with a surprising solution for all three.  A Magic Spark features three fairy friends, Ruby, Iris, and Pip, who go to school together and work to figure out what each one’s special magic is.  Each book ends with a page showing how to draw a character and offering a discussion question.  48 pages and 64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Once again, the Acorn imprint has come up with new series that are fun, imaginative, and just right for early readers.  The foxes are funny, the fairies will appeal to the fairy/princess fans, and everyone will enjoy the cartoon-style format.

A fun aside about author Jessica Young: We have her Haggis and Tank series in our library, and one of our second grade students told us the book was inappropriate. Turns out she was referring to the spine label: we use F for fiction, followed by the first three letters of the author’s last name.

Cons:  I like how Scholastic’s Branches books have two different levels, and it seems like that’s needed here.  Fox Tails has 48 pages and three sections (kind of like chapters, but not exactly), while A Magic Spark has 64 pages, five real chapters, and quite a bit more text on each page. 

If you would like to buy The Great Bunk Bed Battle on Amazon, click here.

If you would like to buy A Magic Spark on Amazon, click here.