Category Archives: Beginner Chapter Books

2017-2018 OTTER Award Nominees!

The OTTER Award – Our Time To Enjoy Reading – is sponsored by the Washington Library Association: School Libraries Division.  A newer book award established in 2015, the committee is pleased to announce the 2017-2018 nominated titles.

  • The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Inc.)
  • Lola Levine Is Not Mean! by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (Little, Brown)
  • The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose) by Victoria Jamieson (Macmillan/Henry Holt)
  • The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers (Candlewick)
  • I am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Penguin/Dial)
  • All Paws On Deck (Haggis and Tank Unleashed) by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks (Scholastic Inc.)

The goal of the OTTER Award is to highlight titles that encourage children to continue reading as they transition from picture books to longer chapter books.  Our motto is “books kids like, not books adults think kids should like”, and student feedback is taken into consideration when selecting the nominees.  A maximum of six titles are selected each year.  Nominated books should include developmentally-appropriate content, vocabulary, layout, and appeal.  Voting occurs in late April, and children should read at least two of the titles on the list. The winning title is announced in May.  For more information, please visit www.wla.org/the-otter-award.

Official press release: OTTER-press-release-2018

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder

Does anyone else start reading a book by flipping to the author info page at the back to learn about a new writer?  Because I do.  Finding a way to connect with the author – from things we like to do to places we live – is part of my reader identity. This may be why I struggle to engage in ebooks…but that’s another post.

Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

In Charlie & Mouse, the author page didn’t disappoint. Laurel Snyder lives in my childhood hometown of Atlanta, GA (though I’d love to ask her, “where in Atlanta?”, as GA folk usually live in a suburb – for me, Marietta). Even better, Emily Hughes is down the road from my new home in London on the shores of Brighton. These blurbs hooked me. Even better was the story they created together.

Siblings Charlie and Mouse star in four short, illustrated chapters showcasing an ideal life as a kid.  From waking up Mom in the early morning to conjuring up a plan to earn money to interacting with neighbors, these brothers are exactly what young readers need: a breath of reality in an overstimulating world. Snyder makes some lovely, forward-thinking choices in characterization: Mouse chooses to wear a pink tutu, their couple next door are Mr. Eric & Mr. Michael, and the boys themselves are mixed-race. These choices, though, are noticed almost as an afterthought, as the story’s engaging plot line and characterization are strong.  Add in the full-color illustrations from Emily Hughes and this story is a winner for sharing as a read-aloud or independent reading. The boys truly shine with the addition of their grandfather in the sequel, Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy. Two worthy additions to the newly-expanding transitional reader market, this is a must-purchase for all libraries.  Share with ages 4-10.

Charlie & Mouse releases April 11, 2017.  Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy releases October 3, 2017.

Two of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Chronicle/Abrams booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Best of 2016: Early Readers, Graphic Novels, Nonfiction…

Broad category here, so please forgive me. As usual, I didn’t read enough nonfiction. Or graphic novels (to my daughter’s chagrin). I did read lots of beginner readers/transitional books, and these are exceptional.  Here are some great choices from 2016:

Best retelling of a fairy tale in graphic novel format: Snow White by Matt Phelan

Best cover of the year that also happens to be a stellar graphic novel for young readers: Narwhal: unicorn of the sea! by Ben Clanton

Best for super-fans of Ezra Jack Keats (um, ME!): A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Best use of language to describe the essence of seasons: When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

Best nonfiction story to use to develop growth mindset among students: Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s super-soaking stream of inventions by Chris Barton

Best math concept book since The Greedy TriangleThe Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat

Best gift for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week: The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

Best realistic portrayal of divorce through a child’s eyes: Weekends With Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Best “bad boys…but not really” story: The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau

Best must-read of the year as chosen by my 7-year-old son: Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

…and now, a little lagniappe.

What is lagniappe?  A bonus or unexpected gift. Also, a little bit of my Louisiana years coming out. 🙂

I didn’t read much YA this year (shame on me!), but these stood out:

Three completely different stories, characters, problems – but similar in that they’re each unforgettable. Like YA? You won’t be disappointed by these.

Happy reading, y’all!

Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series

Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series

The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat & We Are Growing by Laurie Keller

Elephant and Piggie are back, introducing each offering in their new series for emerging readers. In Santat’s The Cookie Fiasco, four friends are tasked with sharing three cookies.  Fairness and sharing are the stars of this, as is the spectacled squirrel who shouts, “We need equal cookies for all!” But sharing three cookies is harder than it looks, especially when hippo accidentally breaks the cookies when she’s nervous. In Keller’s “We Are Growing”, blades of grass celebrate being the tallest, the curliest, and the silliest. But one blade thinks he’s is nothing special, until his friends help him realize his strengths.   Releases 09.20.16. (Ages 4+)

One of the titles shared at Build a Better Collection, part of PSESD’s 2016 T-L Summit.

Ballet Cat series by Bob Shea

Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants! by Bob Shea

Ballet Cat loves ballet, especially with her friend Butter Bear. But Butter Bear does not want to do super-high leaps. Excuses and diversions only work for so long, as Butter Bear ultimately admits she’s embarrassed to leap and for others to see her underpants. Self-confidence and friendship shine in this series. (Ages 4-8)

One of the titles shared at Build a Better Collection, part of PSESD’s 2016 T-L Summit.

Top 10 Fiction of 2016

The chapter books, as they’re often called, are the first thing you see when walking in our library. Shelves line the walls. Series sit off to one side. Sasquatch and OTTER Award titles are shown face-out on mobile carts and the circ desk. And we have multiple copies of state award nominees. These are our Top 10 Fiction from 2016.

rump-true-story-of-rumplestiltskin

10. Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

What kid doesn’t like a story called Rump? Or, for that matter, what adult? This was loved by many book groups this year. A 2016 Sasquatch nominee.

the-screaming-staircase

TIE 8. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Slightly scary and spooky = solid hit. With many high level readers in our building, this was huge among 4th and 5th graders. A 2016 Sasquatch nominee.

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TIE 8. The Popularity Papers #2 by Amy Ignatow

No Wimpy Kid on this list…because most of my students own them. Popularity Papers, though, is the perfect read for fans of the series.

terrible-two-mac-jory

7. The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett

Fact: I hand this book out to every kid I can. It’s funny. Clever. A perfect 8-12 read. Plus, Mac Barnett is one heck of a guy.

jinx-sage-blackwood

6. Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Yet another 2016 Sasquatch nominee. One of the smartest fantasies of the last couple of years…and the students agreed.

prairie-thief

5. The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley

Never would I have imagined this to be in the top 10…but tons of 3rd graders read and loved it.  Or it could be the gnome on the cover. Gnomes are cool. A 2016 Sasquatch nominee.

the-princess-in-black

4. The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale

Behold, the mighty Princess in Black! She slays the top five with the first book in her series. (Also: tons of boys love PiB. LOVE THIS!) An OTTER Award nominee.

star-wars-jedi-academy

3. Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

The winner of the 2016 Sasquatch Award for WA State, this Star Wars spoof was in the right place at the right time. New Force Awakens movie = new generation primed for Star Wars everything. And this book delivered.

oneforthemurphys_low-res-copy

2. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

“Page 32 will make you want to throw this book.”  That’s part of my booktalk, and a huge part of why so many students read up to page 32, then couldn’t put it down. A 2016 Sasquatch nominee.

tales-of-bunjitsu-bunny1.Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman

This ninja-bunny slayed the year with over 100 circulations. The bold cover, short stories, and numerous illustrations made it a favorite of students from K to 5.  An OTTER Award nominee (and winner)!

Fore more Top 10 in 2016:

2016 Top 10 Nonfiction

2016 Top 10 Graphic Novels

2017 OTTER Award nominees

Otter Award Logo Color

The nominated titles for WA State’s first annual OTTER Award!

  • The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Jelly Bean: Shelter Pet Squad #1 by Cynthia Lord
  • Let’s Get Cracking! by Cyndi Marko
  • Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner
  • Rise of the Earth Dragon by Tracey West
  • Hilo: Book 1 by Judd Winick

The OTTER Award is intended to support children as they transition into chapter books. As this happens at differing ages/grades, we have chosen not to limit its eligibility to specific elementary ages/grade levels.

Voting will happen in April. We expect nominees to be announced in late March/early April in the future. For more info, please visit the official OTTER website!

A huge THANK YOU to my OTTER Award co-chair Monica Hodges and the four committee members from across WA State. With flexibility and determination, we met via Google Hangouts to deliberate over the best books for all young readers.  Because this is the OTTER goal: to be a nominee, it must be a book KIDS like, not a book adults think kids like.  And if my children (grades 1&3) are any reflection of the students in WA State, our young readers will find something to love in this nominee list.

As you – and your children/students – read the nominees, let me/the committee know what you think. We love feedback!  🙂