Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Series fiction gift ideas!

There are some nifty things about series fiction: there are usually a few published throughout a calendar year, and they’re usually reasonably inexpensive, so you can scoop up a few as a nice gift. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately.

Anna Hibiscus

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-678-6
Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-679-3
Love From Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-680-9
You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-681-6
Good for readers 6-8

This series is wonderful. While it is a running series, you won’t be lost if you don’t read in numerical order. I came in on books 4-8 and have the first four on request from another library; I was captivated by this slice of life series about a young girl who lives with her paternal, extended family, in Africa. The book celebrates African culture and community, family, and empathy. In Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus, Anna has returned to beautiful Africa after vacationing with her maternal grandmother in Canada. She’s thrilled to be home, gains a new pet, and eases back into daily life. Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! sees Anna and her family returning to her grandparents’ village, where life is slower; there’s no running water or electricity, and kids don’t go to school. Anna learns how to make new friends and learns from them even as she teaches. In Love from Anna Hibiscus!, Anna’s grandfather discovers that an old friend of his has passed away, leaving a young grandson, Sunny Belafonte, on his own. The boy is starving and steals in order to eat; Grandfather and Anna know they must intervene. You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! is the strongest book in this very strong series: Grandfather is becoming more and more tired. Anna is left to work through the grief that that comes with a death in the family. The books paint a beautiful picture of everyday family life and the compassion Anna and her family have for others. Anna and her family are African but for her mother, who is Anglo-Canadian; something that is communicated through illustration. The black and white illustrations throughout show a loving family and scenes of African life: Anna teaching village children to write the alphabet using sticks and the ground; Grandmother weaves a basket; the kids ride an uncomfortably crowded bus to Grandfather’s village. Originally published between 2012-2016 by Walker Books, the series is now available from American publisher Kane Miller. Give this set to kids and broaden their horizons.

 

Animal Planet Adventures

Dolphin Rescue, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-169-6
Farm Friends Escape!, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-416-1
Puppy Rescue Riddle, by Catherine Nichols, (Sept. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-008-3
Zoo Camp Puzzle, by Gail Herman, (Sept. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-009-0
Good for readers 6-10

Simultaneously available in hardcover or $5.99 paperback, this Animal Planet fiction series debuted earlier this year and blends fiction and nonfiction. I enjoyed the first two books, Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape!, earlier this year; I just read the next two, Puppy Rescue Riddle and Zoo Camp Puzzle, and can honestly say I get a kick out of this series. It’s a true series in that each book is its own separate adventure; there’s no crossover with other characters or locations, so every book stands alone and makes it easy to dive in and enjoy whatever appeals to readers. Don’t like farm animals much? No worries, just read another book. There’s a major plot running through each book and a mystery subplot that the characters must work together to solve: with Puppy Rescue Riddle, a group of friends volunteer at an animal shelter and have to find a puppy who’s gotten lost in a house; Zoo Camp Puzzle stars twin siblings, temporarily living with and being homeschooled by their father at a zoo while he works on a book. The twins notice that animals are going into hiding, and work to get to the bottom of the mystery. Zoo Camp Puzzle has fun word searches and puzzles throughout (which will necessitate a “Do Not Write in This Book” label on my library copy). Each book also has a cute flip book feature – flip the pages, and see dolphins swim, ducks waddle, puppies run, and zoo animals shuffle along.  The illustrations are in color, and full-color nonfiction sections throughout each book provide information on veterinarians, how animals react to changes in weather patterns, and more. The set is available in both hardcover and paperback. Great set for young animal fans.

 

Ella and Owen

Ella and Owen: The Cave of AAAAAH! Doom!, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (March 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0368-6
Ella and Owen: Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster!, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (March 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0369-3
Ella and Owen: Attack of the Knights vs. Dragons, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (May 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0372-3

Dragon siblings Ella and Owen are forever bickering. Owen is bookish and likes staying home, reading; Ella is adventurous and always ready to push the envelope. In The Cave of AAAAAH! Doom!, the two search for a cure for Owen’s cold, only to go up against an ogre and evil vegetable wizard. In Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster!, the siblings want to surprise their mom with a cake made of delicious stinky fish, so off they go. They end up turned into newts by a wizard named Ken, bargain with a pixie, and find a stinky fish monster: a very large, very grumpy, stinky fish monster. Knights vs. Dragons goes a little deeper as the dragons find a group of knights who hate dragons because they’ve followed a culture of hating dragons for years: fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have always hated dragons; that’s just the way it is, right? When the knights encounter a group of trolls who hate knights for the same reason – and are a lot bigger, stronger, and scarier than the knights are – Ella and Owen have a chance to teach the knights a valuable lesson about acceptance. This is a fun series – there are four in print at the moment – that kids who love dragons and silly fantasy will enjoy. There are black and white illustrations throughout, but, sadly, no recipe for stinky fish cake.

Unicorn Princesses

Unicorn Princesses: Sunbeam’s Shine, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Aug. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193267
Unicorn Princesses: Flash’s Dash, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Aug. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193304
Unicorn Princesses: Bloom’s Ball, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Dec. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193342
Unicorn Princesses: Prism’s Paint, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Dec. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-168119338

This series is a no-brainer for fantasy fans who love their unicorns and My Little Pony books. A human girl named Cressida is convinced that unicorns are real, happens upon the Rainbow Realm where unicorns live, and befriends them, receiving a magical key to re-enter their realm whenever she wants to visit. She helps the unicorns out with each visit. In Sunbeam’s Shine, a wizard’s mistake costs Princess Sunbeam her magic yellow sapphire, which causes her to lose her powers. The key to regaining them is to enlist the help of a human who believes in unicorns! In Flash’s Dash, the big Thunder Dash race is coming up, and Princess Flash lets non-unicorns compete for the first time. Cressida’s invited to take part, but the bumbling wizard (who’s also a lizard) casts a spell that covers the track in sticky goo. Bloom’s Ball has Princess Bloom trusting the wizard-lizard with a spell to deliver her special birthday ball invitation by mail, but an errant word brings on an army of quails who wreck the party, leaving Cressida to help salvage the day. In Prism’s Paint, that wizard – seriously, why is he even allowed to practice magic at this point? – changes Princess Prism’s power from turning objects different colors to removing color altogether. Cressida’s got to help find the rainbow to restore Prism’s power. The series is adorable, wacky, and full of good-hearted dilemmas, with black and white illustrations throughout. Bloom’s Ball and Prism’s Paint are due out on 12/26, making them good Kwanzaa gifts, or hold onto them for Little Christmas in January. There are two more books forthcoming in 2018. Trust me, someone you know loves unicorns. I have one little girl at my library waiting desperately for these next two books to come out. Want to mix it up a little? Consider some My Little Pony books, or anything in the Rainbow Fairies series by Daisy Meadows.

Happy reading and happy holiday shopping!

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Ballpark Mysteries goes to Cooperstown!

Ballpark Mysteries: Christmas in Cooperstown (Super Special #2), by David A. Kelly/Illustrated by Mark Meyers, (Sept. 2017, Random House), $5.99, ISBN: 978-0-399-55192-5

Recommended for readers 6-9

Confession time: While I steer a lot of my readers toward the Ballpark Mysteries books, I hadn’t read one until Christmas in Cooperstown. I’m really glad I did read it, though; despite not being much of a sports fan, I do enjoy a fun mystery, and Christmas in Cooperstown was just what I needed.

Best friends Mike and Kate are volunteering to wrap presents for a charity, Cooperstown Cares, at the Baseball Hall of Fame. As a thank you, they and their friends are invited to a sleepover at the Hall of Fame, which is pretty fantastic. It’s a good thing, too – Mike notices that the Honus Wagner card – a rare baseball card that can go for millions of dollars at auction – has been stolen and replaced with a fake! He and Kate have to track down the clues, find the card and the culprit, and deliver the charity’s gifts on time. Pretty big order!

Sports fans will really enjoy the tidbits of sports history here. I was interested in the science behind discovering the fake card, and using his dad’s business as a baseball card dealer opens the door to some fun trivia and facts throughout the book. “Dugout Notes”, a regular feature in the Mysteries, on Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame finish up the book, along with a recipe for All-Star Blue Chip Muffins, which have a little cameo in the story.

Readers can pick up Christmas at Cooperstown without having read other Ballpark Mysteries; there’s enough exposition that you can easily get into the groove of things. Black and white illustrations by Mark Meyers keep things interesting and moving along.

I got to meet David Kelly at KidLitCon this past weekend and he is the nicest guy! It’s always a bonus when you find out that an author is pretty darn cool on top of being a good writer. He was kind enough to pass on a set of his MVP series for my library kids, too!

MVP – Most Valuable Players – is another sports mystery series for intermediate readers; like Ballpark Mysteries, you can dive into each one separately, with no stress. In the first story, The Gold Medal Mess, we meet the MVPs on the opening spread, where we get their “stats” via an illustration and quick character description: Max is a great athlete and detective; Alice is an archery ace and animal lover; Nico can’t wait to practice and play; Luke loves to exercise his funny bone, and Kat, Luke’s twin sister, captures the best game-day moments on camera. The kids are getting ready for their annual school Olympics, but someone is leaving threatening letters, telling the school to cancel the Olympics or else. When things start going wrong on the big day, it’s up to the five friends to figure out who’s causing the trouble and save the day before someone gets hurt.

Each MVP book covers a different sport and features black and white illustration. The cast is a diverse, all-star group of kids with different interests and talents, and who work together to solve mysteries, help others, and take on bullies. Each book includes bonus facts on each featured sports: The Gold Medal Mess has Olympics facts and photos; other books have terms and diagrams. I’m putting these up on the “NEW” shelf tomorrow, and I expect they’ll be gone just as quickly as I get them up there. A good add to sports fiction and mystery collections!

 

 

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Realistic Fiction

#AnimalPlanetAdventures mix fiction and fact for maximum fun!

Animal Planet has great nonfiction for kids. I particularly love their Animal Bites series, which looks at animals from different habitats, and offers a rich mix of beautiful photos and easy-to-read facts. For those beginning readers who want to feel part of an animal adventure, Liberty Street – Animal Planet’s publisher, a division of Time Inc. Books – introduced Animal Planet Adventures chapter books earlier this year. I read the first two adventures, Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape!

Animal Planet Adventures: Dolphin Rescue, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-417-8

Dolphin Rescue introduces us to siblings Maddie and Atticus, who live off the coast of Maine with their single dad and volunteer at the local aquarium. While trying to solve a rash of trash dumping incidents happening throughout their town, they notice a pod of dolphins in the nearby cove, looking very distressed. They’ll need to use their knowledge of animals, plus their problem-solving skills to help the pod out.

 

Animal Planet Adventures: Farm Friends Escape!, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-416-1

In Farm Friends Escape!, we meet cousins Luke and Sarah, who spend every summer at their grandparents’ farm. This year, their grandparents put them in charge of running the farm’s petting zoo. They’re thrilled, even if they don’t always agree on how to get things up and running. A mysterious kid lingers around the farm, though; and while they’re trying to figure him out, they discover that somehow, the animals have all gotten loose! The cousins need to track down each of the petting zoo escapees, relying on their animal knowledge and deduction skills – and they need to figure out how they got loose in the first place.

Animal Planet Adventures is a great way to reach readers who may struggle with nonfiction, but love a good story. There’s a little bit of mystery in each storyline, so your series fiction fans who love books like Ron Roy’s A to Z Mysteries, Capital Mysteries, and Calendar Mysteries will gobble these up. Books are in full color – both story illustration and nonfiction sections – and feature the beautiful photography that we already love in Animal Planet books. Nonfiction sections are spread evenly throughout the book, so it flows with the overall narrative of the story, often fleshing out information contained in the plotline. I don’t know if future books (there are two more adventures – Puppy Rescue Riddle and Zoo Camp Puddle – releasing in September) will introduce more new characters or if we’ll meet Mattie, Atticus, Luke, and Sarah again, but the character pair-ups are fun and appeal to both boys and girls. I’ve just ordered a set of Adventures for my library, because series fiction and animal nonfiction is aces around here. Display with your series mystery fiction and your animal nonfiction – it all works!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

New spooky fun series! Bruce Hale’s Monstertown Mysteries!

werehyenaMonstertown Mysteries: The Curse of the Were-Hyena, by Bruce Hale, (July 2016, Disney/Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1325-9

Recommended for ages 8-12

It’s another day in Monterrosa, California, and buddies Carlos and Benny are in class with their favorite teacher, Mr. Chu. Who starts acting really weird. He’s laughing and growling, he’s quick to be angry and aggressive with students, and… well, you’ll read about the chicken incident. Carlos and Benny start investigating the situation, enlisting the help of their local comic book dealer and a classmate who elbows her way into the group, they discover that Mr. Chu has been bitten by a were-hyena, and unless they can find the alpha hyena in a couple of days – in time for the full moon – Mr. Chu is doomed to be a were-beast forever!

This is the first book in a new scary-fun series for middle graders by favorite, Bruce Hale, and it’s perfect for Goosebumps fans who are looking for new territory. The kids rule the stories, there’s great characterization, some laughs, and lots of excitement, adventure, and mystery. Adults take a backseat and let the kids get the work done, but they’re supportive and there to help, like Mrs. Tamasese, the former pro wrestler turned comic book shop owner.

There’s also some very nice diversity in the book, with characters of different ethnicities and abilities (including Mrs. Tamasese, who’s wheelchair-bound, but doesn’t let that stop her from going on adventures).

I loved the book, and think this one will work nicely with the kids here, who have read my Goosebumps collection (in both English and Spanish) until they fall apart. I introduced the Eerie Elementary books to my younger readers, and they’ve snapped them up; something tells me that Monstertown Mysteries are going to find a very happy home on my library’s shelves. The ending sets up for a series very nicely. There’s some fun black and white illustrations that will keep readers’ interest, especially once you get to the Big Bad Hyena.

Add this fun series (number two is due out in the Spring) to collections where spooky and fun go hand in hand. If you’ve got kids in your life who love creeptastic excitement, put this on your list.

Bruce Hale is a hugely popular children’s author: the Chet Gecko, the Underwhere, and School for S.P.I.E.S. series are just a few of his hits. You can check out his author website to learn more about his books, author visits, and find some cool downloads and activities.