Tuesday, August 15

Top Early Readers/Chapter Books of the Month (August 2017)

Here we have my favorite books that are aimed at the younger grade-school kids, from early readers to chapter books. Also, stay tuned for later in the week for a giveaway of another awesome chapter book series!

The Good for Nothing Button
(Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!)
Charise Mericle Harper (and Mo Willems)

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1484726464
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: May 2, 2017
Age: Grades K - 2
Format: library book

Themes: emotions, imagination, birds

"Yellow Bird has a button. It does . . . nothing! It is a good for nothing button. Red Bird and Blue Bird are excited to try the button. But when they press it, they discover that the button makes them happy. Happy is something! A flabbergasted Yellow Bird insists the button does nothing. But it sure does seem to be making him mad. Mad is something! The hilarious debate that follows takes readers on an emotional roller coaster that pokes at the power of imaginative play."

A bit of a strange concept for a story (characters arguing over a button that does nothing?), but my initial skepticism gave in to an appreciation for its exploration of different emotions. This easy reader is another "Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!" book, so it follows that same style of simple illustrations, word bubbles, and typographical variations (you know, when the character emotion is conveyed through different fonts or all caps—that sort of thing). I appreciate this style; it's easier for kids to read and comprehend character voice, especially their emotions (which is really important with this story, since it is all about emotions). While, overall, it wasn't particularly funny or ingenious, it's definitely a good read.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers
Written by John Dougherty, illustrated by Sam Ricks

My rating: ★★

ISBN: 978-1101996621
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Date of publication: February 7, 2012
Age: Grades 1 - 3
Genre: Fantasy, Humor
Format: library book

Themes: quests, brother/sister relationships, kingdom, humor, badgers

"Welcome to the kingdom of Great Kerfuffle! Great Kerfuffle is really great. And there's usually a kerfuffle (the clue's in the name really). This particular kerfuffle started the day Stinkbomb's twenty dollar bill went missing. Stinkbomb and his little sister Ketchup-Face know exactly who took it: the badgers. After all, they're called badgers because they do bad things; otherwise they'd just be gers.

"They bring news of the badgers' treachery to King Toothbrush Weasel (don't get us started on the story behind his name…), who sends them on a quest to rid the land of badgers. What follows is a full on kerfuffle-fest, containing:  one deep dark forest, a grocery cart in distress, a song about jam—and, of course, a band of very tricky badgers."

Ah, so, so ridiculous. But it's supposed to be, so thus, it is successful—funny how that works, huh? Really, there's an art to being ridiculous, and Dougherty has the skill. This book doesn't come off as stupid or annoying, as could be the case (the characters are named Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face after all). It's clever and snarky in a self-aware, yes-I-know-this-is-ridiculous sort of way. There's a lot of illustrations and typographical elements that further these elements. The climax is a little hollow (it's a little rushed and feels more like an afterthought) and there's less focus on character development. But really, the story was created to be a galavant into the silly, and so it is. I'd recommend this to reluctant readers especially.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

The Unlucky Lottery Winners of Classroom 13
Written by Honest Lee & Matthew J. Gilbert, illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0316464628
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Date of publication: June 6, 2017
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Humor
Format: library book

Themes: money, lottery, classroom relations, luck, humor

"When unlucky teacher Ms. Linda LaCrosse wins the lottery, she shares her winnings with her class--giving each student over a BILLION DOLLARS! You might think this was nice, but it was not. It was a nasty idea! With great money comes horrible allergies, steep taxes, exploding volcanoes, and other problems. As the students of Classroom 13 are about to learn, winning the lottery is not always lucky."

It honestly felt like I was reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School—it's a hilariously cheeky look into a classroom full of comically diverse characters. This story, though, is specifically about the lottery and what happens when different kids get their hands on a billions of dollars (each chapter is about a different kid in the class). So Lee really lets his creativity loose (and is his name really Honest Lee??), making for some funny, crazy, and even thoughtful situations. Really, it's less of a story—with a storyline with beginning, middle, climax and all that—and more of a collection of stories (again, like Sideways Stories). My favorite part, though, is the author's encouragement of kid readers to write their own chapter of what they'd do with a billion bucks. Creative, funny, and easy to recommend.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

(Survivor Diaries)
Written by Terry Lynn Johnson, illustrated by Jani Orban

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0544970106
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: July 4, 2017
Age: Grades 2 - 5
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: library book

Themes: survival, hypothermia, Pacific Ocean, lost children

"Eleven-year-old Travis and his family are on a whale watch off the coast of Washington when disaster strikes. The boat capsizes, throwing everyone into the ice-cold chaotic waves. Separated from their families and struggling to stay afloat, Travis and twelve-year-old Marina must use all of their grit and knowledge to survive."

Man, this book wastes no time getting the reader into a high-suspense, intense storyline. It's fast, action-packed, and informative, with a full survival story and useful facts in under 100 pages. Survival experts and Coast-Guard-approved-tips keep it authentic and educational. There are some sparse illustrations to help the story along, as well. Basically, kids will love it. I also appreciated the character development. While the main focus is the action, Johnson takes the time to share some character history, fears, and growth to make the whole story a bit more relatable. Really well done and easy to recommend, especially for fans of the I Survived series.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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