Tooth Bandits (Stella and the Night Sprites #2), by Stella Hay/Illustrated by Lisa Manuzak, (March 2016, Scholastic), $4.99, ISBN: 9780545820004
Recommended for ages 6-8
Stella is at a sleepover where her friend loses a tooth. Exciting, right? Her friends fall asleep, knowing the tooth fairy will come put a coin under pillow, but Stella has her special glasses and discovers a little Night Sprite named Piper, who steals her friend’s coin! Piper needs a coin to decorate her scooter, like all the Sprites do. With a loose tooth of her own, Stella is worried that Piper will steal her coin, too! She needs to come up with a solution to keep all the kids’ Tooth Fairy booty safe.
This is the second book in the Stella and the Night Sprites series from Scholastic’s early chapter book line, Branches. Stella’s got a pair of magic glasses that let her see a little more than normal glasses do, and she’s been using her ability to teach mischievous little sprites ways to cause a little less havoc. It’s an easy to read series, with short chapters, cute illustrations, and discussion questions at the end of each book, so you can talk to your kids about the book and hear what they’ve got to say!
After reading the first book in this series, Knit-Knotters, I suggested making knit-knotters as a companion craft; I feel like I need to keep on top of my game, so I’ll suggest a scooter printable that kids can color in and decorate with stickers of their own. A Google Images search on “scooter printable” yields some adorable results, like this Hello Kitty printable, and you can even teach kids how to make their own heart-shaped paper clips.
Stella is getting glasses – and she’s not sure how she feels about them. When she puts them on, though, she starts seeing things very differently – like the glasses were enchanted! That night, Stella discovers that her tangled and knotted hair isn’t her fault, but the fault of a knit-knotter sprite named Trixie, whose job it is to tangle up kids’ hair! If Stella lets her tangle her hair, she’ll have to get a haircut, and she doesn’t want that! Can she and Trixie figure out a deal that will work out for both of them?
Stella & The Night Sprites, Book One: Knit-Knotters, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Turine Tran (Jan. 2015, Scholastic), $4.99, ISBN: 9780545819985
Recommended for ages 6-8
This is another series under Scholastic’s Branches line, made for newly independent readers. When kids are growing out of Easy Readers but aren’t quite ready to dive into chapter books, Branches is the way to go. I’ve read a few of these, and they’re great for young readers who are ready for a little bit more. The books are illustrated and have easy to read, short chapters with fun storylines. Stella and the Sprites is adorable, with a fun, fantasy storyline about mischievous sprites and fairies and a little girl who can think really fast on her feet. A discussion guide with questions is available at the end of the book, so parents, read along with your kids, then talk about the book!
Branches Books are great for literacy programs at the library, too. I’ve got a need at my library for a literacy program for younger grades, so my shopping cart will be full of these come budget time this month. They’re an easy enough read for kids, and we can discuss it right here at the library – maybe even make some knit-knotters of your own with toothpicks, beads, and glitter glue!
Eerie Elementary is a school with a secret – it’s ALIVE! Possessed by the spirit of Orson Eerie, the school is locked in an eternal battle to eat the children of Eerie Elementary, and only Sam Graves, the Hall Monitor (and his mentor, janitor Mr. Nekobi) stands in the way of that happening. Along with his friends, Antonio and Lucy, Sam battles the forces of evil and keeps Eerie Elementary safe.
Eerie Elementary #3: Recess is a JUNGLE!, by Jack Chabert/Illustrated by Sam Ricks (Jan. 2015, Scholastic), $4.99, ISBN: 9780545873529
Recommended for ages 8-10
This time, though, old Eerie may have our group of friends where he wants them. While Sam, Antonio, and Lucy are kicking a soccer ball around at recess, the ball gets away from them. They chase after it, only to discover themselves in a foggy jungle! The grass and trees come alive, trying to keep them in, and when they make it back to the school grounds, they find themselves in a giant hedge maze – while the jungle gym comes to life and heads toward the school to devour the students! No, my friends, it’s not just the school that’s alive: it’s everything on the school grounds! Will Sam and his friends be able to rescue the students of Eerie Elementary this time?
This series is just too much fun. For kids who are ready to something a little spooky and fun, but aren’t quite ready to tackle Goosebumps yet, this is the series to give them. The Branches books are perfect for young and developing readers, with illustrations on every page and short, fast-paced, easy to read chapters. This is the third book in the Eerie Elementary series, and they just get better as they go. You don’t need to read the series from the beginning, either – there’s a sentence or two worth of summary in the story that tells new readers what they need to know, and they’ll be happy to pick up the first books after they’re done.
There’s a good Branches page on the Scholastic site that provides links to all the Branches series, plus links to classroom and parent guides. Pair these with the discussion questions at the back of the book and have a great book chat with the little readers in your life!
The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders (Olive & Beatrix #1),by Amy Marie Stadelmann (Aug. 2015, Scholastic), $4.99, ISBN:9780545814805
Recommended for ages 5-8
Olive and Beatrix are twin sisters, but they’ve got one thing that makes them very different – Beatrix is a witch, and Olive is more of a scientist. To get back at prankster Beatrix, Olive and her best friend, Eddie try to play a prank on Beatrix involving spiders, which backfires in a BIG way!
This is a fun, new Easy Reader chapter book series; part of Scholastic’s Branches line for newly independent readers. There are bright, colorful pictures on every page, bold, easy to read text, and an interesting, fast-paced story loaded with excitement and humor. There are even discussion questions at the end fo the book, to spur some conversation. Scholastic is offering a nice PDF excerpt of Olive & Beatrix on their Branches website, so you can check it out for yourself before you buy.
I really like the Branches books. I’ve got a few of the series on my library shelves, including Eerie Elementary, The Notebook of Doom, and Lotus Lane. The kids love them, and the fact that they’re easy chapter books really helps bridge that Easy Reader-Intermediate gap I sometimes find my readers experiencing. Plus, I’ve got kids coming in, younger and younger, asking for “spooky stories”. This will be a big addition to my Easy Reader shelves for those brave little readers!
This is the first series for author Amy Marie Stadelmann, but she’s got a great resume – she works on Nick Jr. preschool programming! She’s worked on shows like The Wonder Pets and Team Umizoomi, so she knows what kids like and she knows how important learning and literacy is. Check out her author website for a look at her illustration portfolio.
Eerie Elementary #1: The School is Alive! (A Branch Book), by Jack Chabert (Scholastic, June 2014). $4.99, ISBN: 9780545623926
Recommended for ages 7-10
Scholastic is great for putting out affordable series that keep kids reading, and Eerie Elementary is firmly in that camp. The first book in their new Eerie Elementary series, The School is Alive! introduces us to elementary school student, Sam Graves, and his friends, Antonio and Lucy. The school year is starting, and Sam is bemoaning the fact that he’s been named a Hall Monitor. On his first day of duty, he almost sinks into quicksand on school property and hears strange noises coming from the school itself. He finds out pretty quickly that the school is alive, and it’s evil – and that the Hall Monitor is the last line of defense in keeping the students safe. Naturally, his friends think he’s crazy, but he’s determined to see his job through and keep his friends and fellow students out of the clutches of the evil school building.
The series is part of Scholastic’s new Branches line of books – chapter books aimed at newly independent readers. The books feature illustrations on every page, easy-to-read text, and fast-paced stories. I liked seeing main characters of elementary school age; many characters in series books are in middle school or older, relegating elementary school characters often to the role of annoying younger sibling. Establishing these characters early on will connect with readers new to chapter books and give them some exciting reading. I can’t wait to get these on my shelves for my younger patrons who are ready for a thriller, but have a hard time finding them at their reading level.