Now available in paperback, Franklin Endicott and the Third Keyis the latest installment in Kate DiCamillo’s popular Tales from Deckawoo Drive series. In this early chapter book, which is divided into eight chapters and a coda, the story focuses on Frank.
Frank worries about everything, a trait that many kids (and adults, including this reviewer) will be able to relate to. It is one of these worries, which Frank has recorded in his book of worries, that leads him to his neighbors’ home to do some research using the Lincoln sisters’ . . . encyclopedias! No internet here! How refreshing to read about a child doing research the old-fashioned way and how respectful to see that Frank refers to his neighbor as Miss Lincoln, instead of by her first name. A priceless detail. Eventually, Frank accompanies Miss Lincoln to Buddy Lamp’s Used Goods to get a copy of a key made; this is where the “mystery” begins as Frank discovers a third key after returning home. Charged with the daunting task of returning to Buddy Lamp’s shop alone to give back the third key, Frank must be fearless enough to handle the puzzle that has landed on his not-so-brave shoulders.
Chris Van Dusen’s black-and-white illustrations rendered in gouache jump off the page with the detailed facial expressions of the different characters which no reader will be able to resist viewing in contemplation.
With Mercy Watson the pig, a star of her own series, appearing in this title as well, children will be delighted to see her join the cast of characters with a significant role. And as for that book of worries to which the reader was first introduced at the beginning of the story, it gets replaced in a manner of sorts by a different one (courtesy of Buddy Lamp), resulting in an unexpected and heartwarming ending that spans the generations between young Frank and his elderly neighbor.
Robin Newman’s third early chapter book in the wonderful Wilcox & Griswold Mystery series takes us to Ed’s farm as the mini-sized MFIs (Mouse Food Investigators), along with readers, try to solve The Case of The Bad Apples. For kids who crave seeing justice being served, the MFI’s motto, found on the opening end papers, is a rhyming reassurance: “Whatever the food, whatever the crime, we make the bad guys do the time.”
Fans of fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek detective-style fiction will find all they’re looking for in this latest installment featuring Detective Wilcox, a policemouse, and Captain Griswold. Porcini the pig has been poisoned and he believes it’s from the mysterious case of apples anonymously delivered to him. Of course, he finished most of the fruit, but his hefty appetite is nothing new, and likely not the reason he’s so green about the gills (or snout). Surely someone’s out to get him.
Following standard MFI procedure and employing all the relevant vocabulary (defined in notebook paper style spot art) over the course of five chapters, the rodent pair conduct their investigation leaving no pigsty, truck, or stone unturned. To find the culprit, the MFI team must study all the clues and interview a few farm residents whose names arise as suspects. First, there’s Sweet Pea, the piglet next door. Then there’s Herman the rat, and finally, there’s Hot Dog who may provide a missing link to all the evidence. A few red herrings (or apples) thrown into the mix add to the rising tension. Who, the mice wonder, would want to harm Porcini? Could it be any of the animals who Porcini’s accused of stealing his food?
As Wilcox and Griswold collect the evidence they also rely on a cast of characters such as Dr. Alberta Einswine (the best name ever) from Whole Hog Emergency Care, Fowler the Owl, Yogi the Goatee, and in forensics, Dr. Phil, the groundhog. Newman uses wordplay so well that young readers will LOL as they follow the case looking forward to reading whatever clever dialogue or description may appear on the page.
Zemke’sillustrations add to the humor and suspense. There are maps, diversions and, clues aplenty for wannabe Poirots and Marples including me, and yet I still fell for the satisfying surprise ending. The art clearly depicts the action which can help newly independent readers discern the context.
Each book in the Wilcox & Griswold Mystery series can be read as a standalone, but once a child reads one they are going to want to read the other two. Just the facts.
I recommend The Case of The Bad Apples for beginning readers, reluctant readers, and for anyone who wants a fun, pun-filled farm and food-focused caper that will keep them on their toes (or hooves).
Click here to order a copy of The Case of The Bad Apples. e Disclosure: Good Reads With Ronna is now a Bookshop.org affiliate and will make a small commission from the books sold via this site at no extra cost to you. If you’d like to help support this blog, its team of kidlit reviewers as well as independent bookshops nationwide, please consider purchasing your books from Bookshop.org using our affiliate links above (or below). Thanks!
“I like the idea that anything is possible, don’t you?” (Stella to her teacher, p. 7)
In Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem, Stella Suzanne Endicott, is one of those glorious young children who finds the whole world and all of life absolutely amazing. A wonderfully engaged, curious and imaginative child, she lives in the same neighborhood as that awesome pig, Mercy Watson, and other characters on Deckawoo Drive. On the first day of school, she meets her new teacher, Tamar Calliope Liliana, and thinks the teacher’s name “… sounded like the name of a good fairy in a deeply satisfying story … “ Her “arch nemesis” is Horace Broom, a big know-it-all, whom she finds most annoying.
When Miss Liliana asks the students to write a poem using a metaphor, “Stella had a feeling that she was going to be very, very good at coming up with metaphors.” Unable to work at home, due to her brother’s hovering (he sometimes reminds her of Horace), she goes to visit Mercy Watson and curls up beside her on the couch. As everyone knows it is
“… a very comforting thing to lean up against a warm pig.” e
e The next day she and Horace have a disagreement over Mercy Watson. Horace, a literal type, refuses to believe a pig could live in a house and sleep on the couch! Stella angrily assures him that Mercy Watson does! Miss Liliana sends the arguing pair to Principal Tinwiddie’s office (“the toughest sheriff in town”). Horace, greatly frightened of the principal and of a blemish on his academic record, flees from the office and hides in the janitor’s storage closet. Stella races after him and, as she steps inside the closet, the door closes and the two are locked in. Did I mention that poor Horace is also claustrophobic? While they wait to be rescued, Stella comforts him. A glow in the dark map of the solar system gives Horace the opportunity to help Stella learn the names of the planets, and keeps his mind off of his fears. They share the things they love best: Horace, who wants to be an astronaut, loves telescopes, Stella loves metaphors. By the time they are rescued, both are fast friends.
With an almost lyrical narrative, a gently humorous, but thoughtful story, and delightfully quirky characters, this early chapter book is pure DiCamillo. Van Dusen’s gouache illustrations humorously enhance the narrative. DiCamillo helps children see the value of imagination and creativity and that trying to understand that annoying person could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. As Stella always says: “anything can happen …”
Fergus and Zeke and the Field Day Challenge is the third in Kate Messner’s series of two beloved class pets in Miss Maxwell’s class. As fans of the earlier volumes know, these two mice enthusiastically join their human counterparts in all school activities from science experiments to sculpting with clay with humorous and adorable results.
When Miss Maxwell announces the upcoming, school-wide Field Day, the excitement is electric and captured in both Messner’s narrative and the diverse faces in Ross’s expressive illustrations. Who will jump the highest and run the fastest? Who will win the limbo contest or the sack race? The children-and the mice-excitedly prep for the event.
On the morning of the competition, the two mice secretly hitch a ride in a student’s backpack as the children eagerly set out to the field. The first content is the limbo. “How low can you go?” the students ask each other. Well, it turns out mice can go pretty low and Fergus and Zeke handily win that contest. However, as they join the other competitions, Fergus and Zeke quickly realize they have a much bigger challenge on their hands … um paws … they’re too small to compete with the much bigger students! The hula hoops are too big, they fear being trampled in the 50 yard dash, water balloons are too heavy to toss, and let’s not even consider kickball. However, soon they figure out how to bring kids size sports down to mouse size players.
Readers will be delighted (and relieved) to see how Fergus and Zeke rise to this field day challenge and find substitutes for equipment that’s much too big for them: acorns instead of water balloons, a high jump bar constructed from twigs, a discarded plastic bag for the parachute games, and a lost bracelet for the hula hoop contest. The two have so much fun that they fail to notice the class has returned to school without them. How will they get back to their second story classroom? And what will happen if the students notice they’re gone? Well, the pair demonstrate their ingenuity once again, finding that a plastic bag may be useful for more than just a parachute game.
Messner, winner of the 2012Golden Kite Award(andmany others), has written an upbeat, straightforward, and engaging story. The vocabulary is action packed and accessible. The books’ themes of friendship, school days, sports, and pets are appealing for 5-8 year-old readers who are done with early readers but not yet ready for chapter books. Caregivers and teachers may want to point out the story’s positive images of friendly competition and how the two mice problem solve and collaborate to overcome challenges.
Ross’sdigitally-created and cheerful illustrations support the light-hearted narrative and provide visual clues for young readers transitioning to chapter books. Fergus and Zeke and the Field Day Challenge is a charming addition for families and libraries looking for more offerings in a transitional chapter book format.
On Saturday mornings the beloved characters of this series, Houndsley the dog, Catina the cat, and Bert the big white bird, meet and walk to the library together. At the library, Houndsley assists students learning to read, Catina participates in a yoga class, and Bert is a library volunteer who helps reshelve books. After their visit, they return to Houndsley’s house for tea and fresh baked muffins.
On this occasion, they notice that Trixie, the librarian, seems unlike her usual upbeat self and the friends become concerned. Soon they find out that Trixie plans to retire to pursue her dream of performing in a circus. “it is never too late to try something new,” she tells the friends. However, since there is no one able to replace her, the library will have to close. The trio are shocked and saddened, but quickly busy themselves with creating a “special” gift for Trixie’s retirement party. Houndsley and Catina have no problem coming up with an idea for Trixie’s gift. Gay’s homey watercolors depict Houndsley pouring over a recipe book with a steaming cup of tea and Catina strolling through a quaint small town to pick up supplies. However, Bert is unable to think of anything and wonders what he could bring Trixie “… for all the happy Saturday mornings she had given him.”
On the day of the party, the three friends meet at Houndsley’s house. He has baked delicious muffins: pumpkin chocolate chip, blueberry buttermilk, cranberry orange, and more. Oh what a feast! Catrina brings a special circus outfit that she has made for Trixie’s next career. Poor Bert still has not thought of a gift. However, just as he leaves his house, he suddenly realizes what he can bring. What special gift could he get at the last minute? Why himself, of course! Inspired by Trixie’s belief that anyone can learn something new, Bert decides to attend library school so he can take Trixie’s spot and keep the library open. Everyone gives a big cheer (perhaps even bigger than the cheers for Houndsley and Catina’s gifts). Soon the closing sign on the library door is changed to read: “This library will not be closing.”
This is the sixth in a series of touching friendship stories with gentle life lessons woven in. I love how this story draws on library values of bringing people together and creating a community while weaving in concepts of caring and supporting people. Howe’s story also introduces retirement, new careers, and adult education, life changes even young children are likely to see in their families.
The three short chapters listed in the table of contents give this transitional reader the feel of a chapter book. Vocabulary and concepts are more advanced, but appropriate and accessible for children who are almost ready for full length chapter books.
Adding to the book’s appeal are Gay’s whimsical and endearing illustrations. The bright and homey watercolors, packed with intricate details, perfectly fit the story’s quiet and charming tone. Children will be so busy pouring over the details in Houndsley’s messy kitchen, the visit to Trixie’s backyard, or Catina’s adorable red-trimmed house, that they might forget to read the story! But, no matter, they’ll want to return to this lovely neighborhood again and again.
As a librarian I was touched by Howe’s dedication. He writes: “in memory of Winnifred Genung, my first librarian – and to all librarians past, present, and future. Where would we be without you?”
Thanks James and Marie! Authors and illustrators like you make our job of promoting reading and literature to children so easy!
THE JUDY MOODY BOOKS HAVE
A DEFINITELY COOL NEW LOOK AND WE WANT YOU TO WIN COPIES!
ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY
FOR TWO SETS OF PRIZES. THEY’RE WILD!
We’ve teamed up with Candlewick Press, publisher of the ever-popular Judy Moody books written by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, to celebrate the relaunch of all 13 titles in the series. Earlier this month Judy debuted a new look on her covers, likely inspired by her tiger-striped pajamas, all featuring attractive, bold colors plus a page of sassy Judy slang-style stickers. And, if that’s not exciting enough, book #14, the totally fab Judy Moody and The Right Royal Tea Partycomes out in September and crikey, we cannot wait! Candlewick’s also updated the companion Judy Moody website so check it out here (www.judymoody.com) to stay in a Judy Moody state of mind.
If you love Judy Moody like we do, pick up all of these majorly entertaining early chapter books, ideal for ages 6-9, at your local independent bookstore. It takes just one chapter to get hooked. That’s no surprise since Judy delights readers in more than 20 languages and her younger brother Stink does okay for himself, too. Read my interview with author Megan McDonald from a few years ago on the 10th anniversary of the Stink series of books by clicking here. McDonald shares so many awesome insights into Judy and Stink that you don’t want to miss it.
What’s so special about Judy Moody? For starters, over 34 million copies of the Judy Moody books have been sold around the world! Also, this spunky third-grader has been around almost 20 years in Mr. Todd’s 3T classroom and still going strong, probably because her ever-changing moods and her spirited personality resonate with so many kids. She’s always getting up to something so “not-boring” that it’s hard to resist turning the pages to find out what will ensue, where, and with whom.
From frenemy Jessica Finch and little bro and “scene-stealer” Stink, to pals Rocky and Frank, Mr. Todd, Mom, Dad, Grandma Lou, Toady and cat Mouse (to name just a few), the fully realized and engaging cast of characters makes for some hilarious and always surprising reading. Perfectly unpredictable and not one to sit still or sit out when an adventure’s around the corner, Judy offers convincing clues in her book titles for a good idea of what antics she’ll get involved in. And it’s easy to root for her happy endings. Every book is packed with interesting back matter whether that’s fun factoids, interviews and timelines not to mention Judy Moody’s Not-Webster’s New World College Dictionary, First Edition and SO much more.
GIVEAWAY: One Good Reads With Ronna reader will win an entire collection of the way-not-boring Judy Moody titles (1-13) and the awesome sauce, specially designed Judy Moody tote bag as seen in the above photo (MSRP $77.87 and free promotional tote.) A runner-up will receive the first three most definitely not-boring books to try out (MSRP @ $17.97). Entrants must be from the US and Canada (no PO Boxes please). All prizes will be mailed from the publisher. Just in case you are not familiar with all the books, below is a comprehensive list. Please note that Book #14 is not included in the giveaway. This giveaway ends at midnight PDT on Tuesday, May 8, so Monday May 7 is the last full day to enter. No lie! Scroll down now for the Rafflecopter and good luck!