Frank and Bean by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Published by Candlewick

Image result for frank and bean jamie michalak

Image result for frank and bean jamie michalak

Summary:  Frank is enjoying a solitary camping trip, working on his writing, when Bean pulls up in his RV and starts tooting his trumpet, banging his drum, and singing.  Frank is annoyed, but Bean is so unrelentingly upbeat that the hot dog starts to unwind a bit. He enjoys one of Bean’s jelly-filled donut holes, and even secretly writes a poem about it.  When Bean discovers this, he makes up a tune to go with it, and the two new friends decide to form a band: The Chili Dogs. 48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A friendship story in the spirit of Frog and Toad, with Frank playing the straight man to Bean’s jokester.  Although the text is perfect for new readers, the chapters will make them feel like they’re reading a “real” book.

Cons:  Although this is billed as book 1, I don’t see a sequel available yet.

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

I Am a Super Girl! (Princess Truly, book 1) by Kelly Greenawalt, illustrated by Amariah Rauscher

Published by Scholastic

Image result for i am super girl kelly

Image result for i am super girl kelly

Summary:  In this new entry in Scholastic’s Acorn books for early readers, Princess Truly uses her super powers to fix a ruined birthday cake and to rescue a dog and cat who have gotten tangled up in the birthday balloons and floated away.  Her cape, rocket boots, and magic curls allow her to fly and create things with her magic. She always uses her superpowers for good and encourages her friends to find their own powers. Readers who want more can look for Princess Truly’s two picture books and look forward to books 2 and 3 in this series, available in December and March.  48 pages; ages 4-6.

Pros:  Rhyming text and fun adventures make this a good choice for beginning readers.  As always, Scholastic seems to have a good sense of what kids love to read.

Cons:  I wish the majority of the Acorn and Branches books were not quite so gender stereotyped.  The sparkles, rainbows, and purple tulle throughout this book were just a little too sugary sweet.

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

Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories (Mister Shivers book 1) by Max Brallier, illustrated by Letizia Rubegni

Published by Scholastic

Image result for mister shivers brallier amazon

Image result for mister shivers rubegni

Summary:  Mister Shivers begins his book with a letter to the reader, relating how he found a box on his doorstep that contained a tree branch, a doll’s eye, a piece of an old quilt, and a toy’s rusty head.  Beside the box was a dead mouse. He is sharing the five stories that were in that box. A brother and sister go into a house and find a creepy doll…that talks. A girl is annoyed with a long hair in the back of her throat…until the doctor grabs it and pulls out a dead mouse.  A boy’s mother buys a creep statue that always has to be wrapped in a quilt. When Oliver forgets to bring his toys inside, the unhappy toys seek revenge. Finally, a girl is told that the nighttime scraping sounds he hears is caused by a branch, but she wakes up to find her window scratched on the inside.  Includes instructions for drawing Buddy [the creepy] Bear. 64 pages; grades K-2.

Pros:  Most scary story collections for this age group are silly, but some of these tales are genuinely creepy.  I confess that those vengeful toys freaked me out a bit, and the endings of that and the scratched window one were certainly unsettling.  The dark, somewhat gothic illustrations channel Edward Gorey, adding to the spooky fun. I can almost guarantee this series will be a huge hit with newly independent readers.  Book 2 is due out July 2020.

Cons:  While many will love this book, some kids may be truly scared by these stories.  Proceed with caution!

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

 

Smell My Foot! (Chick and Brain, book 1) by Cece Bell

Published by Candlewick

Image result for smell my foot chick brain

Image result for smell my foot chick brain

Summary:  Chick is a polite chick who meets the more literal-minded Brain.  In a series of humorous episodes, Chick tries to teach Brain manners, pretty much to no avail. What Brain really wants is for everyone to smell his foot.  Turns out, it smells pretty great…at least one of them does. Even Spot the dog agrees. What Spot really wants, though, is to lure Chick to his house so he can have a nice chicken dinner.  Fortunately, Brain is there to save the day…and it turns out his other foot doesn’t smell quite as good. 72 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Non-stop goofiness, a graphic novel format, and a character in heart-covered boxer shorts with a big brain sitting atop his head: I predict this new series will be flying off the shelves.

Cons:  I still haven’t gotten invited to dinner with husband-and-wife-children’s-book-superstars Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell.

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

Save the Cake! by Molly Coxe

Published by Bright Owl Books

Image result for save the cake coxe amazon

Image result for save the cake coxe

Summary:  Snails Kate and Nate try to figure out how to transport their homemade birthday cake to Grandpa Jake while avoiding a snake they’ve seen.  After missing a plane and a train, they take a boat and sail across the lake. When they get there, Grandpa Jake introduces them to his best friend–the snake!  This is part of a series that introduces kids to different phonetic sounds. In case you can’t figure it out from my description thus far, the sound featured here is the long A.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A fun and somewhat unique way to introduce and reinforce phonics.  The illustrations are photos of fabric creations that may inspire kids to try to craft their own.

Cons:  These only seem to be available in paperback and library bindings.  At $21 each for the hardcovers, I’m probably going to pass on them for my library.

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

 

Acorn Books by Scholastic

Published by Scholastic

Image result for yeti and unicorn amazon

Image result for hello hedgehog amazon

Image result for crabby book amazon

Image result for friend for dragon pilkey acorn

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.

Motor Mouse by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Published by Beach Lane Books

Image result for motor mouse rylant amazon

Image result for motor mouse rylant amazon

Summary:  The Mr. Putter and Tabby team has created a new early chapter book about Motor Mouse, an adventurous mouse who drives a delivery car for a living.  In the first story, he and his friend Telly are disappointed when the cake store where they usually celebrate Fridays is closed. A hedgehog guides them to a pie store, and they broaden their culinary horizons.  Next, Motor Mouse hires a taxi to take him down Memory Lane, where he reminisces about old friends and makes a new one. Finally, Motor Mouse and his brother Valentino go to the movies together and have to figure out the best way to share their popcorn.  When they do, they celebrate by going out for ice cream. 64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  These cozy, mildly humorous stories are perfect for beginning readers who have already made friends with some of Rylant’s other creations like the aforementioned Mr. Putter and Tabby, Poppleton, and Henry and Mudge.  Plus, they’ll get to read about a lot of good food.

Cons:  While this seems to be targeting the easy reader audience, it’s in the larger picture book format, which will make it a bit tricky to shelve in many libraries.

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