Category Archives: Chapter books

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

It’s a gift to be able to write for children.  It’s really impressive, though, to be able to write in an authentic child voice: to represent the conversations, behaviors, and internal monologues with developmentally-appropriate actions, thoughts, and dialogue.  A few authors and characters spring to mind as exceptional examples, including Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Kevin Henkes’s Billy Miller.

They have some company with Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Julia Marks.  Sloan impressively nails both a solid kid-friendly plot line and authentic voice and actions in Short.  

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

It’s summer vacation, and Julia’s brother wants to audition for the local summer play.  She does not.  Julia has far more important things to do this summer, like writing letters to her friends and mourning her dog Ramon’s death.  But she tags along to the audition, reads for a part, and is surprised to learn that she’s cast in the production of The Wizard of Oz…as a Munchkin.  This is a sore point, as she’s shorter-than-average and a bit sensitive about it.  Following through in the role – with the support of fellow cast members and little adults – Julia learns what commitment means as she discovers the strength of community, both on stage and in her town.  By getting out of her comfort zone, she starts daydreaming less and doing more – both in the play and in the real world.

Sloan has crafted Julia’s world with a deft hand: it can be scattered at times as Julia flits from one thought to another.  However, this is what makes Short exceptional: it is all-kid. What child doesn’t jump from one idea to the next?  Consider this passage:

Julia’s loss of her dog is a big part of who she is – Ramon is woven through the narrative – and her flitting thoughts about his smell, collar and the carving are as authentic as Ramona cracking an egg on her head or Billy’s fear of performing poetry stage.  High praise, there.

Share with ages 8-12.  Highly recommended, especially for teachers looking for a read-aloud with strong voice.

Short released January 31, 2017.  Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for an advance copy.

Cheers, y’all! –arika

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

Recommending books – to students, teachers, colleagues, friends, neighbors – is the bread and butter of any librarian worth her or his salt.  But as a librarian MOM, it’s a bit different.  Because Mom comes first, and not often will one’s child take mom’s advice – be it about slowing down on the slick grass or wearing a coat on a rainy day or trying a new title – without some resistance.  However, ‘resistance is futile’: this librarian mom doesn’t give up when it comes to books. My two children are starting to figure this out.  Case in point: James Nicol’s The Apprentice Witch.

At ALA in Orlando in June, I’d picked up a pre-release copy. Printed on 8×11 paper and bound by plastic combs, logic said that a book shared in such an early state must be exciting. After a quick read, the first person that came to mind was my daughter – this was similar to some of her favorite books.  But she was not interested in Mom’s opinion, even with a stellar booktalk.  So I tried a new tactic and started reading it aloud one night (this, by the way, is a great trick).  Within two chapters she was hooked, and so was my 7 year old son.  That night, they stayed up and she read aloud to him about Arianwyn and her “friends”.  She finished it less than a week later to rave review.  See for yourself.  🙂

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

summary & review by JMD, age 9

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol is a fascinating book to read. A young girl that is about 16 years of age named Arianwyn is becoming a witch, and according to schedule, every young girl that is her age that she can test to see if she can become a real witch. Everything seems to be going right when then something goes wrong… Arianwyn fails the test. Her punishment is to protect a small town, Lull, that Arianwyn soon finds out is a town with big problems.

I enjoyed reading The Apprentice Witch because there is a lot of magic and fantasy put into the book and those are things that I look for when I look at books. I recommend this book for ages 8 and up. Also, this book is for fans of the series Upside-Down Magic and Fairy Tale Reform School.

The Apprentice Witch is out July 25, 2017 in the US and released July 6, 2016 in the UK

And a little side note: It was serendipitous that I picked up this advance copy at Scholastic’s Chicken House reception. Chicken House is Scholastic’s publishing arm for titles originally published in the UK.  Little did I know at that time that I’d be moving to the UK!

 As seen at the 2017 London Book Fair at the Scholastic booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

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

Jacky Ha-Ha by Patterson & Grabenstein

Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein

With six sisters, a mom serving in Operation Desert Shield overseas, and a busy lifeguard dad, Jacky is desperate for attention. But when the spotlight turns on her, her stutter takes over (hence the Ha-Ha).  To deflect from her anger, she uses sharp jokes, goofy pranks, and has an overall daredevil attitude. But a caring teacher persuades Jacky to take theatre over a month of detention, changing the course of her life forever. A novel introduced by a successful adult Jacky looking back on her youth.  (Ages 8-12)

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

 

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

Gertie’s desperate for greatness in her small Southern town – because then, she’d be noticed and remembered. Her dad’s off working on an oil rig for weeks at a time and her birth mother, who abandoned her at birth and doesn’t acknowledge her existence, is about to move. Her five phase plan is set to start of the first day of fifth grade. There’s just one problem: a new Hollywood-type girl, stealing Gertie’s friends and fame.  Releases 10.04.16. (Ages 9-12)

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

Demon Dentist by David Walliams

Demon Dentist by David Walliams

Young Alfie’s rotting teeth are in desperate need, but he’s terrified of the town’s new dentist. He thinks Miss Root is pure evil…and he’s right.  Waking up after his visit, he finds she’s pulled ALL of his teeth!  To save others from the same fate (or worse), he pairs with friend Gabz to end Root’s shockingly (yet kid-pleasing) grotesque behavior. With evil adults, plucky children, minimal adult involvement (save Alfie’s dad and social worker) – and black and white illustrations reminiscent of Quentin Blake – this Dahl-ish read is a huge UK hit. (Ages 8-13)

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

Full of Beans by Jennifer L Holm

Full of Beans by Jennifer L Holm

Beans’s home island of Key West is in despair: his dad has gone North, looking for work and has left him in charge as the man of the house. Beans is collecting cans and pulling fire alarms to earn a few pennies when the New Dealers arrive, intent on reimaging his town into a tourist destination. A prequel that stands alone. Releases 08.30.16. (Ages 8-12)

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