Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl

ellieultra

Image Credit: Stone Arch Books (Capstone), Gina Bellisario/Jessika von Innerebner

What a cute series!

Ellie Ultra is super in every way but when she switches from home school to public school, she suddenly feels out of place. She’s a little too strong, quick and brilliant for her teachers and classmates, so making friends is more difficult than she expects. It doesn’t help that Dex Diggs is a bully (and most definitely a budding-super villain)! When Ellie “borrows” her parents’ Ultra Remote invention, she can finally turn off her “super” but being “ordinary” doesn’t feel quite right. When evil Captain Blob & the Goo Crew invade her classroom, she has to make a difficult decision. Should she continue to fit in by suppressing her powers, or let them loose and save the day??

This book is very fast paced; the story whooshes by in a flurry of action. Though the pace is fast, Bellisario does a nice job of fleshing out her characters. Ellie’s parents are engaged, supporting and loving of their super girl. Ellie is always eager to help others, no matter what. Her selflessness makes her a good person, and a good super hero-in-training. Kids can relate to the issues Ellie faces in this book like being different, fitting in, making new friends and going from home school to public school. Von Innerebner’s digital illustrations are vivid and engaging. I love how she illustrates Ellie; her expressions and body language showcase her confidence and can-do attitude.

I love that Ellie is a Black girl! This series has a healthy dose of “black girl magic” especially since Ellie is a super hero! It’s so great to see. Bellisario also includes a glossary, discussion points and writing exercises to help children connect the story to real life. It’s not easy settling into a new space when you feel different from everyone else. It’s also not easy when the people you desperately want to connect to make you feel odd. There’s a lot to discuss in this story!

I hope you’ll check this one out! It’s a nice new series for beginning readers and if your child enjoys this one, there are three more in the series!!

 

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd Grade and up
Great for: Friendship, Confidence, Family, Beginning Readers, Super Heroes, Black Girl Magic, Determination, Problem-Solving, School Life
Book Info: Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl by Gina Bellisario/Illustrated by Jessika von Innerebner, 2016 Stone Arch Books (Capstone), ISBN: 9781496531445

 

The Great Pet Escape

GreatPetEscape

Image Credit: Henry Holt and Company (MacMillan), Victoria Jamieson

What do YOUR pets do when you’re gone? Plan escape? World domination? Sniff their butts?

Victoria Jamieson’s (winner of the Newbery Honor for Roller Girl) brand new graphic novel about three classroom pets and their clever plan to escape their elementary school is pure fun. Ringleader GW is a tenacious hamster with cute, lovey-eyes during the school day but as soon as the kids are gone…flee to the secret laboratory!! Little do the kids know, GW is an inventor and is super determined to convince friends Biter and Barry to escape. Unfortunately, they meet their match in a tyrant mouse named Napoleon who strives to keep things nice and orderly. There’s something to be said for seniority! >_<

What shines about The Great Pet Escape is the writing; witty lines, clever jokes and snappy banter between characters make for a fun read! Jamieson has stepped up her humor and I’m loving it; kids will get a kick out of how silly this book is. As usual, her art is great! With bold colors, exciting panels and characters with great expressions, this one is a hoot.

Another thing I love about this book is that it’s a great option for budding readers. I’m always looking for quality beginning readers and this is now on my “to-recommend” list for adventurous young readers who want to laugh out loud! I hope you’ll check out The Great Pet Escape and enjoy the shenanigans!

 

Recommended for: Age 6 and up
Great for: Humor, Animals, Friendship, Determination, Rivals, Ingenuity, Teamwork, Inventions, Imagination, Graphic Novel
Book Info: The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson, 2016 Henry Holt and Company (MacMillan), ISBN: 9781627791052

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret

BalletCatSecret

Image Credit: Disney Hyperion, Bob Shea

I’m sitting in a coffee shop cracking up while reading this book. How’d it take me this long to read it?? I really don’t know. Bob Shea is a special, random guy. So special.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret captures the adorable hilarity of friendship, expectations, and childhood. You know how sometimes you worry too much about what someone you care about is going to think if you “let them down?” That’s what Sparkles the Pony feels like. The story starts out with Sparkles asking Ballet Cat what she wants to play, to which she replies “You pick, Sparkles.” Haha, but not really.  -_-  Sparkles wants to do something other than play ballet. He suggests doing crafts, playing checkers, making lemonade but Ballet Cat always has a reason why that’s not a good idea…

BalletCatSecret2

Image Credit: Disney Hyperion, Bob Shea

As they twirl and dance and play ballet (like they do EVERY DAY), Ballet Cat can tell that something’s wrong but Sparkles doesn’t want to tell her his secret secret! Maybe they won’t be friends anymore if he does! Little does he know, Ballet Cat has her own secret secret too (psssst it has something to do with friendship!).

Bob Shea’s writing is relaxed and reads like a real conversation between friends. His art is loose, sketchy, bright and fun. He only uses a few colors in the entire book but they pop so well (and there’s GLITTER on the cover!!). He’s also great at drawing expressions! You can clearly see Sparkles’ agony and Ballet Cat’s surprise. I really enjoyed this book and I hope your beginning reader will enjoy it too. It’s also a great read-aloud!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Friendship, Best Friends, Secrets, Worry, Love, Play, Ballet, Trust, Animals, Humor, Read-Aloud, Beginning Readers, Relationships
Book Info: Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea, 2015 Disney Hyperion, ISBN: 9781484713785

Written and Drawn by Henrietta

Written&amp;DrawnByHenrietta

Image Credit: Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC), Liniers

“A box of colored pencils is as close as you can get to owning a piece of the rainbow.”

Written and Drawn by Henrietta is about the unpredictability of storytelling, going with the flow and letting your mind take you on a journey. Henrietta is just as surprised about what happens in her story as readers are! We get to follow her creative process and listen in on her discussions with her cat Fellini as she writes and illustrates an EPIC story.

This funny and clever book actually starts on the front endpaper. Henrietta shares wisdom about the power of books. Next we see her holding a shiny new box of pencils which she’ll use to create the title page of her story about a three headed monster with only two hats. Her protagonist “Emily” seems very stressed about the noises coming from her wardrobe and Henrietta even scares herself! Hahaha. Her story progresses and Huey, Dewey and Louie Bluie (the three headed monster) accompanies Emily into the wardrobe (It was made in Narnia, see…) where adventure awaits. Henrietta knows all the tricks to make an engaging story.

Written&amp;DrawnByHenrietta2

Image Credit: Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC), Liniers

Liniers’ writing and illustration are excellent. But when you read this book, you won’t think about him because he creates a loveable character who has complete control of the reins of this book. He’s mastered the “Kid Art” style of illustration and the pages are alive with bold strokes, gnarly teeth and wild colors. Henrietta is confident in her skill and it’s fun to see the story develop. TOON BOOKS are special because they’re comic leveled-readers. Many kids are into comics and graphic novels these days and I can’t recommend this TOON Book enough. I have my fingers crossed for another installment of Henrietta’s story. I hope your child will love this book and be inspired to create!

 

P.S. Be sure to read Liniers’ dedication. 🙂 It’s very sweet. AND this book is also available in Spanish!

 

Recommended for: Age 6 and up
Great for: Discussion, Humor, Clever, Friendship, Puns, Relationships, Storytelling, Suspense, Writing a Story, Storyboarding, Inspiration, Creative Thinking
Book Info: Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers, 2015 Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC.), ISBN: 9781935179900

Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten

FC_BC_9780545666725.pdf

Image Credit: Scholastic Inc., Katherine Cox/ Vanessa Brantley Newton

Katie Fry is one smart cookie with a knack for solving mysteries. This Level 2 Beginning reader is a great short story for building confidence in reading. Katie is very modern and relatable and kids will enjoy following her adventures in her neighborhood. Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten is the first in a series and in it we meet Katie and her family. She practices her detective skills on her dad and finds his glasses…on top of his head! Katie, being the thoughtful entrepreneur she is, sets up a booth to help people solve mysteries. Before she knows it, she’s on a case to find a missing kitten named Sherlock!

Vanessa Brantley Newton is one of my new favorite illustrators because her digital/mixed media illustrations have so much life to them. She’s great at creating characters with personality and spunk. Katie Fry, with her brown skin, curly natural hair and flower dress reminds me of my little cousin. THAT is the beauty of a diverse book; a child can see a reflection of themselves in the story and might even be inspired to be the best private eye on their street, just like Katie Fry.

If you like this book, there’s a sequel called Katie Fry Private Eye: The Missing Fox! If you enjoy mystery picture books like me, check out my reviews for Shark Detective and Hermelin the Detective Mouse. Happy Sleuthing!

 

Recommended for: Kindergarten-2nd grade
Great for: Humor, Friendship, Animals, Cats, Mystery, Girl Power, African-American, BlackGirlsRock, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Family, Community, Encouraging Reading, Beginning Readers
Book Info: Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten by Katherine Cox/Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, 2015 Scholastic Inc., ISBN: 9780545666725

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!

LingandTing

Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Grace Lin

I have a thing for Grace Lin’s art. Let me just get that off my chest. I already love her book Dim Sum for Everyone! and this one doesn’t disappoint.

Ling and Ting want everyone to know that they are not the same. They may be “identical” but they really aren’t the same. In this beginning chapter book, each chapter is a different episode in their lives. Ling can’t really sit still but Ting can. At the barber, Ting has a big sneeze and he snips her hair a little too much! Ting is a little forgetful but she’s also very imaginative. They’re both very caring towards each other and they like to tell good stories.

Grace Lin includes cultural details like making dumplings but the book doesn’t focus on “Being Chinese” The girls are simply girls who are silly and…happen to be Chinese. This is refreshing because children’s books that feature children of color are often historical stories or ones that pointedly focus on ethnicity. Those books definitely have their place but it sure is nice to simply read a great story featuring diverse characters!

Lin’s art style is beautiful; it’s obvious she spends a lot of time painting each illustration. Her paintings are full of bold lines and blocks of color and Ling and Ting’s expressions are very cute and funny. This is a great beginning chapter book series and if you enjoy this one, Ling and Ting have several more adventures!

 

Recommended for: Kindergarten- 2nd Grade
Great for: Twins, Siblings, Sisterhood, Family, Diversity, Cultural Diversity We Need Diverse Books, Chinese Americans, Chinese Food, Food Culture, Friendship, Individuality, Girl Power, Beginning Readers
Book Info: Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin, 2010 Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ISBN: 9780316024525

The Stories Julian Tells

StoriesJulianTells

Image Credit: Bullseye Books (Alfred A. Knopf), Ann Cameron/Ann Strugnell

The Stories Julian Tells is fantastic. It’s a story full of poetic lines, vibrant imagery and is simply magical. It opens with Julian and Huey’s father making a lemon pudding for their mother; you’ve never seen such enthusiastic cooking! He says “Leave the pudding alone!” and then almost instantly falls asleep on a chair. His boys disobey of course, one taste leads to another and before they know it, the whole pudding is gone! The Stories Julian Tells features several interconnected stories that showcase Julian’s fantastic stories, his brother Huey’s imagination, their parents’ love for them and friendship. I love the Catalog Cats! Who knew invisible cats help your garden grow?

StoryJulianTells2

New Cover…cute but I’m partial to the original

This short novel is an excellent example of a story that features a family of color but doesn’t focus on the fact that they are a family of color and is not “historical.” They’re just a super cool Black family in the 80s! Perhaps many readers grew up with this book and love it. Ann Strugnell’s illustrations are magical and suit the story perfectly. Newer editions have an “updated” cover but I really love the original. The Stories Julian Tells is a great read aloud book and is also good for the classroom; so many discussions to be had about Julian and Huey and their fabulous stories.

 

Recommended for: 1st Grade and up
Great for: Diversity, Fantasy, Friendship, Morals, Discussion, Family, Read-Aloud, African-American
Book Info: The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron/Illustrated by Ann Strugnell, 1989 Random House Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780394828923

Good Crooks: Missing Monkey!

Image Credit: Egmont USA, Mary Amato/Ward Jenkins

Image Credit: Egmont USA, Mary Amato/Ward Jenkins

In Good Crooks: Missing Monkey!, Billy and Jillian Crook just want to do something nice for someone; you know, a good deed. This is no easy task because their parents are crooks and expect the worst from them!!  >_<  Early one morning, Billy is lured to the zoo for Volunteer Day and his sister catches up with him. Unfortunately, mom and dad find them…and steal a monkey! Before they know it, their parents have taught the monkey the art of pick pocketing and he’s a natural, a little too natural and causes all kinds of trouble!

This book is fast paced and hilarious. The humor is so clever and dry. I love the relationship between the twins; it may seem that Jillian is the brains of the pair but don’t count Billy out, he has a few tricks up his sleeve! Jenkins’ art is very cool and compliments the story well. Though they aren’t color illustrations, they add an extra element to the story and might convince reluctant readers to pick up the book!

Good Crooks is a beginning chapter series and beginning chapter books are great transitional books for kids who are becoming more confident in their reading yet aren’t quite ready for longer chapter books. This is the first in a series and I highly recommend it for a family read-aloud and for young readers who love humor and unconventional stories…oh and crazy monkeys. There are even activities in the back of the book! If you get hooked on Good Crooks (trust me, you will), be sure to check out the next two books in the series, Dog Gone! and Sniff a Skunk!

Recommended for: 1st/2nd Grade and up
Great for: Siblings, Friendship, Twins, Humor, Animals, Adventure, Read Aloud
Book Info: Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato/Illustrated by Ward Jenkins2014 Egmont USA, ISBN: 9781606845097