Monday, September 18

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

This post seems to be a bit dominated by small rodents. But don't worry, I threw in a ghost story, just to keep you on your toes.

There's a Pest in the Garden
Written and illustrated by Jan Thomas

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-0544941656
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: June 6, 2017
Age: Grades K - 2
Format: library book

Themes: vegetables, gardening, animals, humor

There’s a pest in the garden and he’s eating all the vegetables! The beans, corn, and peas are rapidly disappearing! Good thing, then, that Duck has a plan to save the day (well, sort of).

I'm always a fan of Jan Thomas because I'm always a fan of funny books. And boy did this one fit the bill! I love it when a story takes unexpected, hilarious turns, which this book does beautifully. The illustrations feature her traditional characters and style, with bold colors and lines simply done. Really, the story is short, sweet, and great for beginning readers--and also totally hilarious. As a readaloud, this would be a lot of fun to encourage predictions and questions from your storytime crowd. Definitely recommended.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Fergus and Zeke
Written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Heather Ross

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0763678463
Publisher: Candlewick
Date of publication: June 13, 2017
Age: Grades 1 - 3
Format: library book

Themes: field trips, mice, classroom pet, museums, friendship

Fergus loves being the class pet in Miss Maxwell’s classroom. He does everything the students do, until the teacher plans a field trip to the museum — without Fergus! He doesn’t want to miss the fun, so he stows away in a backpack and sets off for an adventure. When he arrives at the museum, Fergus finds it a little overwhelming — huge and full of exciting things to see. Luckily, he meets a new friend, Zeke, who knows the ropes, and together they explore everything from moon rocks to butterflies to a giant dinosaur skeleton ("A playground!" says Zeke). But when the time comes for the bus to leave, Fergus is worried that he’ll be left behind. Will he make it back to school to take his place as class pet once more?

A traditional story of friendship that has all of the classic elements. These two mice are hardly alike, but of course, opposites attract and they enjoy a simple adventure, much in the vein of Frog and Toad. I was not overly wowed because its traditional feel also means that it felt a tad unoriginal and predictable. However, it could make for a good pre-field-trip read or is a great recommendation if for a reader that's really into mice books (because, my goodness, there are a lot).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Ghost Attack
(Monster Itch #1)
David Lubar

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0545873482
Publisher: Scholastic
Date of publication: June 27, 2017
Age: Grades 2 - 4
Genre: Mystery, Horror
Format: library book

Themes: ghosts, allergies, cousins, mystery

When Alex and his cousin Sarah are visiting their grandparents, Alex gets terrible red, itchy hives. Yikes! He's allergic to a ghost! Even worse, the ghost won't leave him alone -- he wants Alex and Sarah's help. Can they solve the ghost's mystery and get rid of Alex's awful rash before it ruins everything?

A little creepy at the beginning, an intriguing mystery in the middle, and thoroughly satisfying by the end--a fun read to recommend! A touch of humor keeps things light as Alex and Sarah figure out the clues to helping a haunting ghost. It keeps readers engaged; it's easy to solve the mystery right along with the characters. While I do hope these two main characters gain a little more depth in the subsequent sequels (there's little hints about their strong loyalty to each other, even as the play jokes and have fun, which I think is brilliant and should be further developed), I admit that it's a great story and perfect for the upcoming Halloween season.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

A True Home
(Heartwood Hotel #1)
Written by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1484731611
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: July 3, 2017
Age: Grades 2 - 5
Format: library book

Themes: mice, hotels, forest animals, courage

When Mona the Mouse stumbles across the wondrous world of the Heartwood Hotel in the middle of a storm, she desperately hopes they'll let her stay. As it turns out, Mona is precisely the maid they need at the grandest hotel in Fernwood Forest, where animals come from far and wide for safety, luxury, and comfort. But the Heartwood Hotel is not all acorn souffle and soft moss-lined beds. Danger lurks, and as it approaches, Mona finds that this hotel is more than a warm place to spend the night. It might also be a home.

You know when you feel all warm and cozy with your hot chocolate by the fire and a blanket in your lap and loved ones all around? That's what this book does to you. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but this is definitely a heart-warmer. Mona is so sweet, brave, and kind (maybe too much so a time or two, even?), and her past so tragic, that you can't help but love her. The story itself is well developed, with Mona gaining more and more courage with each opportunistic event, culminating in a fantastic climax. Truly, this was a joy to read and I highly recommend it (it's especially perfect for fall).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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