November 16, 2018

Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? and Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Chris Van Dusen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 5:09 pm by suebe2

Where Are You Going Baby LincolnEugenia LincolnWhere Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?
Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package
by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press

If you have a young Mercy Watson fan on your hands, check out the chapter books about the fabulous characters on Deckawoo Drive.  I picked these two up at my local library because I’ve always appreciated the sisters, bossy Eugenia and spacy Baby Lincoln.

In Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?, Baby ends up going on a train trip without her big sister.  On your average day, Eugenia tells Baby what to do.  “Yes, sister” is Baby’s typical response.

But one morning Eugenia decided that they will make a list of goals for the day.  Eugenia loves making lists of goals.  And she’s perfectly willing to help Baby set her goals as well.  Goal number one – buy mouse traps.  But Baby hates the thought of trapping mice and refuses to write it down.

Soon she is up in her room where she finds a long unused suitcase.  Without a real plan, Baby packs the book that Eugenia has her reading, her toothbrush, her nightgown, reading glasses, and a sweater. Then she is off to the train station in search of adventure.

In Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package, a box arrives at the sisters’ home.  It is addressed to Eugenia. Eugenia doesn’t want to accept delivery. After all, she didn’t order anything.  But it has been bought and paid for and it is up to Eugenia to get to the bottom of things.

With the help of Baby and her neighbors, young Frank, Mrs. Watson and Mercy, she opens it to discover . . . an accordion.  Eugenia has never seen anything as frivolous or ridiculous in her life.  Who could possibly have sent her something like this?

In her quest to find the truth, Eugenia accidentally discovers that she has a real talent for making music.  Of course that means that people are going to dance and clap (ugh!), but when you have a song in your heart, sometimes you just have to play.

As always, DiCammillo has populated her stories with characters who are too silly to be believed but still manage to be wise and compassionate.  I love that there is much more to both sisters than is initially obvious and getting a look at their early lives and the love that motivates them both.

The short chapters and funny situations would make these books excellent read alouds for Mercy Watson fans.  Add them to your shelf this holiday season.


March 27, 2018

Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin, illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:06 pm by suebe2

by Ursula K. Le Guin
illustrated by S. D. Schindler
Orchard Books

“Mrs. Jane Tabby cannot explain why all four of her kittens were born with wings.”  So begins Catwings.  

The tabby cat has her theories but the why of the wings is not what’s important.  What’s important is that the city neighborhood is not safe for her kittens as they grow.  Dogs chase them, and, even worse, they attract the attention of people with their grabbing hands.  Wanting her young to be safe, and because it is the way of cats, she sends them on their way.

Fortunately Roger, James, Harriet and Thelma have been practicing with their wings.  Granted, kittens, especially well-fed kittens, are not built for flying and it quickly tires them out.  But they are able to use their wings to fly to the countryside where pavement and buildings give way to streams, grass and trees.

Unfortunately the young cats don’t realize that all birds are not small and easily startled.  It isn’t until James is attacked by an owl that they grow more cautious.

If you’ve never read the Catwings books by Ursula K. Le Guin, check them out. The publisher lists the reading level as preschool – 3rd grade which seems like an odd age spread until you read the books.  Pre-reading preschoolers will love the playful fantasy element.  Older independent readers will love the books’ small size, much like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The chapters are short but the language is poetic and complex enough to challenge a new readers.

As with so much Le Guin wrote, Catwings explores good and evil and “human” nature.  Given Le Guin’s beautiful language, the books would be a good gift for even an adult who loves fantasy and/or cats.  That said, young readers with similar interests are the books intended audience and will love that Le Guin does not write down to them, instead challenging her readers to stretch toward new heights.

A must have for the bookshelves of fantasy lovers and cat lovers alike.


December 27, 2016

The Pirate Pig by Cornelia Funke

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:44 pm by suebe2

the-priate-pigThe Pirate Pig
by Cornelia Funke
Random House

Stout Sam and his deckhand Pip ferry goods from island to island.  One day they find a barrel on the beach.  Inside they discover a pink piglet.  Julie may be afraid of water but the pig loves to sail with them.  At first they aren’t sure what is up when she starts squealing wildly but when they throw their nets overboard they haul in so much treasure that part of their regular cargo has to go.

Every time Julie squeals at sea, they find treasure.  They find so much that they throw back everything but the coins that they can spend.

But other people on the island notice their wealth and start to talk.  Just as Sam and Pip realize that what they have on their hands is a pirate pig, trained to find lost treasure, word about Julie reaches Barracuda Bill.

What will Pip and Sam do when the pirates steal their precious pig?  Worries about a spoiler alert?  Don’t be.  You know me, I’m not going to give the ending away.  You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

The leap from being read-to to becoming an independent reader is a tough one.  I know my son was reluctant to take the plunge.  Some kids don’t want to give up that together time even if you assure them that you will still read to them.  Others, I’m convinced, want the light-hearted, fun fare they find in picture books.  They can sometimes find it in early readers but that sort of thing can seem harder to find in chapter books.

The Pirate Pig fills that need for readers 7 to 10.  Part of what makes the book so fun is the frequent illustrations.  It isn’t as copiously illustrated as a picture book but there is an illustration on every spread (two open pages).

Share this book with your young reader.  Take turns reading, let him read it to himself, or let her read it to you.  Spend some time sharing your love of reading today.


March 30, 2015

Lulu’s Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:42 am by suebe2

Lulu’s Mysterious Mission
by Judith Viorst
illustrated by Kevin Cornell

If you’re looking for a chapter book with a spunky heroine, Lulu is the character for you.  In fact, she’s spunky to the point that she’s a spoiled brat, or, in the words of her babysitter, “an especially difficult child.”

Lulu’s parents decide to take a much-needed break from their little darling but don’t tell her until the day before they plan to leave on vacation.  Lulu is insulted that they have planned to go without her and immediately sets out to ruin their plans.

Fortunately, they have hired the very best.  Lulu has met her match and then some in combat boot wearing Sonia Sofia Solinsky, known by the code name of Triple S.  Not only does Ms. Solinsky keep Lulu from spoiling her parents’ vacation, she actually gets Lulu to cooperate.  Only by cooperating does Lulu get lessons on spy craft.

Lulu learns to repair, to infiltrate and to disguise.  She also gets a mysterious mission complete with a trail of rhyming clues and a prize at the end.  Lulu has such a great time with Ms. Solinsky that she’s actually looking forward to being baby-sat again and getting to go on more missions.  But when Mom and Dad get home, they’ve missed her so much that they swear they will never again leave without her.

Lulu’s next mission?  To convince them that they can and they will.

I’ll admit it — it took me a while to warm up to this story.  Lulu is, in short, a huge brat.  That said, the story is both fun and funny.  Lulu is disguised as a teen boy, a middle-aged woman and even a cow.  She has to see through Ms. Solinsky’s disguises and her mistakes in this area are too funny.

Readers will also enjoy hearing directly from the author.  In this series, Viorst makes a habit of speaking directly to the reader, peppering the reader with both warnings and encouragement to go on.

Cornell’s pencil and water color illustrations do a great job of bringing the characters to life and building on the humor.  I especially enjoyed the reunion scene at the end, between Lulu and her parents.

This book is an excellent format for a reluctant reader.  It is hard cover like a “big kids book” but the font size is fairly large which limits the amount of text per page.  Each page and each chapter becomes something they can easily conquer.  This book would also make a fun read aloud leading to discussions of what might happen next.


January 26, 2015

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DeCamillo

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:24 am by suebe2

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up
by Kate DeCamillo
Candlewick Press

For some reason, it has been a while since I picked up one of Kate DiCamillo’s books but I’m definitely happy to have made the acquaintance of Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.  

Leroy is a small man with huge dreams.  He works the concession stand at the Bijou Drive-in Theater.  While patrons watch the movie, he nibbles popcorn and stares up at the screen.  His favorites are the ones with cowboys.  In fact, Leroy is well on his way to becoming a cowboy himself.  He has his jeans, his lasso and his boots.  When he’s not at work, he even wears his very own ten-gallon hat.  But Leroy is missing one important thing.

Fortunately, coworker Beatrice Leapaleoni straightens him out.  What Leroy needs is a horse and Beatrice helps him page through the want ads.  It doesn’t take long before she’s found the perfect horse for Leroy.  “Very exceptionally cheap.”

Before long, Leroy is sitting atop Maybelline and soon he gets her home only to confront a problem or two.  One, he has no clue what a horse is supposed to eat.  Two, Maybelline is a bit to large to fit through the door of Unit #12 at the Garden Glen Apartments. Not to worry.  Leroy is certain that he and Maybelline can weather a night under the stars just like out on the prairie but when a storm blows up trouble ensues and soon Leroy is on foot, searching for his friend.

The search takes him to Deckawoo Drive.  Mercy Watson fans will immediately recognize that street — it is the home of none other than the porcine wonder, Mercy Watson.  Not surprisingly, Leroy encounters not only Mercy but also Mrs. Watson.  To find out what happens, I’m going to make you read the book, and you really should.

This isn’t exactly a sequel to the Mercy Watson series which was a very low-level chapter book with full color illustrations.  Leroy Ninker is a traditional chapter book with brief chapters and spot illustrations.  It is perfect for a new independent reader who likes word play and silly humor.

Young readers will love that Leroy is a small person with big dreams. They will also benefit from the message that you can make big mistakes and turn your life around.  Leroy was one of the burglars from the Mercy Watson books.  Fortunately, he’s left behind his life of crime to bring joy to horse and young reader alike.

Share this book with the new reader in your life.  It would also make a good book for reading out loud to either a class or a young book lover.


October 1, 2009

The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt by Megan McDonald

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 2:05 am by suebe2

madThe Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt by Megan McDonald


If you’ve got a young reader on your hands who plans to be a pirate for Halloween, pick up a copy of this fun mystery for a special treat.

This is another laugh aloud funny adventure for siblings Judy Moody and Stink.  This time they are hunting for the clues that will allow them to win the grand prize in the Pirate Island Treasure Hunt.  The competition is tough and Judy and Stink soon notice that they keep running into another sibling pair — Tall Boy and Smart Girl.

Who will solve the mystery first?  Maybe a special youngster in your life.  All of the clues are there and both boys and girls will enjoy pitting their detecting skills against the kids in the book and maybe even an adult reader.  McDonald sets up a good mystery, sharing all of the necessary clues with the reader.  But there are also red herrings and Judy and Stink make mistakes that may mislead the unwary.

Do you dare take the challenge?


September 18, 2009

Melvin Beederman, Superhero: The Case of the Bologna Sandwich by Greg Trine

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:45 pm by suebe2

melvinMelvin Beederman, Superhero: The Case of the Bologna Sandwich

by Greg Trine

art by Rhode Montijo

(Henry Holt)

Author Greg Trine has a slightly different take on super powers.  Sure, they’re great in many ways, but there’s a down side too.  Think about it — x-ray vision.  Seeing any negatives?  No?  Then squint and try again.

We meet Melvin just as he is graduating and being assigned his own city. Melvin gets the big prize — Los Angeles.

Melvin will give it his best shot but we’re talking about a real kid here.   He may be able to fly, run faster than a speeding bullet and stop a train, but some skills come more easily than others judging by the fact that he always takes five or more tries to launch himself into the air.

Before long Melvin has his special hid out set up and he’s busting criminals left and right.  He’s so busy that he’s actually a little relieved when he has to send his cape to the dry cleaners, but when he gets it back it is way too small and where have his super powers gone?

Melvin has to solve the cape mystery, earning a side kick in the process, and capture a pair of escaped criminals.  Will he succeed or will this be the end of Melvin Beederman?

A great book for reluctant readers — lots of action, lots of humor and fun word play.  The book will appeal to boys and girls alike since Melvin’s peppy sidekick is a girl named Candace.

Look out criminals and ho hum readers!  There’s a new crime fighting duo in town!


August 20, 2009

Dixie in Danger by Julie Sykes

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:52 am by suebe2

dixieDixie in Danger

by Julie Sykes



This is book #2 in the Pet Sitter series. 

This time around, Max gets a hasty phone call demanding his services as a pet sitter.  When he goes to meet his new client, he discovers a house full of wacky inventions including a hamster trail with a gym and natural garden. Dixie, the resident hamster, initially turns her back on him.

Max doesn’t take the slight to heart.  He’s sure Dixie is upset that her friend and owner has left town without her.  What he doesn’t count on is her ability for mischief, starting when she squirts him in the face with her water bottle so that she can escape.  When Max chases Dixie into what he assumes is an ordinary elevator, the two set off on a series of adventures and Max has to come up with his own invention to get the pair back home.

I have to admit that I was more than a little shocked when the hamster started talking.  Clever adult that I am, I didn’t read the books in order although the #2 on the spine should have been my first clue that this was the second book in the series.  If I had read them in order, I would have known that this was normal for The Pet Sitter books.

This book moves along at the same brisk pace as the first and is even more fun.  Give it to your young reader to keep them exercising those new skills.  And if they still seem hesitant, why not read with them?  That way you could laugh together and make gagging noises when Max finds out what Ancient Romans thought was good to eat.


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