Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade

Spy Penguins are on the scene!

At the beginning of the school year, Macmillan sent me a box of new fiction to check out; I’ve been working my way through it, but had to take some time to post about the Spy Penguins books by Sam Hay, with illustrations by Marek Jagucki. These books are hilarious and loaded with wacky adventures! I read both books in the series so far (there’s a third one coming in September 2020), and have started reading the first book to my kiddo. He’s thoroughly enjoying them. So let’s take a look at the newest dynamic duo, The Spy Penguins.

Spy Penguins, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Marek Jagucki, (Sept. 2018, Feiwel & Friends), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250188380

Ages 7-11

The first book in the new Spy Penguins series introduces us to Agent 00Zero and Q, better known as Jackson and his best friend, Quigley. They’re two young penguins who have big dreams of joining the FBI (Frosty Bureau of Investigation). Jackson wants to be a field agent, just like his Uncle Bryn, while Quigley wants to be the gadget guy, creating all sorts of cool inventions, just like his cousin, Sunny. The problem? They’re a little young, a little dorky, and have a gift for getting into trouble. But when rare fish start disappearing from the aquarium, jeopardizing their friend’s Lily’s dad’s job and reputation, the two agents-in-training get down to business! But can the two crack the case AND avoid being the next to disappear?

Spy Penguins is just fun to read. There’s some good world-building, with penguin-related vocabulary (flipper and ice-related terms, krill-sized problems), and creative backgrounds for the side characters, like Jackson’s Type-A mom, who is a “truth magnet” that can track you down and whose temper is measured in shark levels, or Jackson’s father, a more creative type who constantly creates new rooms to add on to the family home. Jackson and Quigley make a great and lovable team, and the action and fast-paced storytelling will ensure that kids will want to spend time with these two – and their extended group of family and friends – again. Black and white illustrations add to the fun and the story, providing a visuals and a solid framework around the story.

Spy Penguins: The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Marek Jagucki, (Sept. 2019, Feiwel & Friends), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250188588

Ages 7-11

Jackson and Quigley are back, and just in time! Jackson’s Uncle Bryn, actual member of the FBI (Frosty Bureau of Investigation), has been hypnotized and is on a crime spree! The two wannabe-agents-in-training have to figure out what happened to Uncle Bryn, prove his innocence, and dodge Jackson’s mom, who still has them on punishment from the last adventure!

Picking up immediately after the events of the first Spy Penguins novel, The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream begins with Jackson and Quigley scrubbing seagull poop as part of their punishment, meted out by Jackson’s mom. But things take a turn when they stop at the ice cream parlor and meet Uncle Bryn and two other FBI agents, who are eating a weirdly glowing ice cream and don’t acknowledge the two. Sure, it’s strange, since Uncle Bryn is Jackson’s favorite uncle; when they discover that Uncle Bryn is wanted for robbery, they know something is REALLY up. Loaded with more gadgets, delicious (and mind-altering) ice cream, and new ways of trying to avoid Jackson’s mom, The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream is every bit as much fun as Spy Penguins. More characters get fleshed-out backstories, including Quigley’s tech whiz cousin, Sunny and antagonist Hoff Rockhopper. The inventions are straight-up hilarious this time around, including a hat that’s supposed to deflect seagull poop and a suit made of sardine poop that should (emphasis on “should”) render the wearer invisible. The illustrations and fast-paced, fun writing will keep readers coming back for more.

If you have readers who love Snazzy Cat Capers, introduce them to Jackson and Quigley. If these characters all existed in the same universe, I’d be thrilled. (CROSSOVER!)

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate

Stella meets more Night Sprites in Tooth Bandits!

night spritesTooth 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.

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Knit-Knotters: A New Fairy Tale from Scholastic’s Branches!

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?

spritesStella & 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!