J. J. Tully certainly stays busy these days. One would think a retired search-and-rescue dog could laze around the yard and enjoy a peaceful afternoon nap. However, J. J. does not know that luxury. Sugar, Poppy, Dirt, and Sweetie make up the Chicken Squad and they always keep things interesting. These four fuzzy little chicks are constantly getting into mischief and it’s J. J.’s job to keep them out of trouble.
It seems like a normal day for the Chicken Squad until Tail the squirrel dashes into the chicken coop with a huge dilemma. Tail has seen something in the yard that is BIG and SCARY! What could this big and scary thing be? The chicks try to get more information from Tail but it is an extremely difficult task as the squirrel keeps fainting from being scared. Will the chicks learn what this big, scary object is and protect everyone in the yard? The Chicken Squad is certainly up to the task!
This is a comical delight for young children who are beginning to read longer books. The black and white illustrations by Kevin Cornell enhance the story by perfectly depicting the range of zany emotions that each character experiences. The drawings are also paced throughout the story to break up the text for readers just starting with chapter books. If you enjoy these wacky chicks you can read more about them in their next adventure called The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken, or check out some of their previous escapades in the J. J. Tully Mysteries.
Posted by: Katie
No one would ever call Donovan Curtis a gifted student. In fact, even average might be considered a generous label for Donovan’s academic abilities. However, when a seemingly harmless prank goes horribly wrong and there is a mix-up with some paperwork in the Superintendent’s office, Donovan Curtis finds himself on a very prestigious list of students who are being transferred to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. Not wanting to ruin a good thing (or face the consequences of his actions), Donovan does his best to skate by under the radar in his new school for as long as possible, but being ungifted in a class of geniuses is not easy to hide. As his teachers and fellow classmates grow more and more suspicious, Donovan must work harder to become an indispensible member of the robotics team and his class in general or face being found out as an impostor or worse. Along the way, Donovan’s new classmates, teachers, and even his family come to realize that people are gifted in a variety of ways, and sometimes it can be the least likely addition that can make all the difference. Donovan may not be book smart, but he knows plenty about being average, and average may be exactly what the students at the Academy really need.
Told from multiple points of view, Ungifted is more than just the story of Donovan trying to keep his head above water at the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. Unlikely friendships are formed, fences are mended, and stereotypes are smashed in this clever, funny and often heart-warming story of friendship and acceptance. Gordon Korman does a wonderful job giving each narrator a distinct voice. Donovan and his classmates are the stars of the story, but even among those stars, super-genius Noah Youkilis is a stand-out with his quirky fashion sense, obsession for trying to get kicked out of the Academy, and a newly ignited passion for wrestling. This is a fun, fast-paced read for middle school students looking for realistic fiction along the lines of Wonder without the heavy subject matter.
Posted by: Staci
M. T. Anderson has a talent few other authors can boast: he can suck in a reader like nothing else. Hilarious YA novel about competing burger chains? Yep. Picture book biography of Handel? Check. Middle grade fantasy about (among other things) mechanical goblins? No problem. Historical fiction written in next-to-perfect 18th century diction? Of course! An increasingly long series of books written as a pastiche of historical series books, with perfect understanding of the series tropes, characters that appeal to modern readers, and extremely affecting (and hilarious) stories? Why do you even ask?
He Laughed with His Other Mouths is the latest in Anderson’s Pals in Peril series. This one focuses on my favorite of the three main characters — Jasper Dash: Boy Technonaut! In the 1930s and 40s, Jasper starred in his own series of sci-fi adventure novels (and movies, and t.v. serials and advertisements, etc), but now he lives in Pelt with his single mother (Jasper was created by a highly concentrated beam of information projected from the region of the Horsehead Nebula), and tries, with the help of his friends Lily and Katie, to fit in the modern world.
After a disastrous science fair project (it didn’t even try to take over the world! AND people laughed at him!), Jasper feels so low that he decides, over the objections of his mother, to transport himself to the Horsehead Nebula to see just who it was that originally sent that concentrated beam of information. Was it his . . . father? Or was it Something Else? This rash decision will have drastic consequences not just for Jasper, not just for his mother, Lily, and Katie, but FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD!
CAN YOU STAND to find out what Jasper discovers in the Horsehead Nebula?!
THRILL to outer-space hijinks!
SHIVER at the desperate danger!
DON’T WAIT to read this fabulous book, filled with, I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear: “Even more death rays! No, really! Way, way too many death rays”!
Posted by: Sarah
I’m just going to put it right out here – I LOVE the Elephant and Piggie books!
Gerald, the elephant, and Piggie, the pig, are best friends. Piggie tends to be frivolous, while Gerald tends to be serious. They have a wonderful friendship.
Piggie pretends to be a frog, which just totally confuses Elephant. Piggie hops around like a frog, she ribbits like a frog and she announces out loud that she is a frog. Gerald, who is a very literal elephant, says, “I was sure you were a pig. You look like a pig. And your name is Piggie.” Then he begins to worry that he, too, will turn into a frog. Oh my, he might have to eat flies!
The problem is that Gerald doesn’t understand what it means to pretend. Piggie patiently explains about pretending and then she invites Gerald to be a frog with her.
Oh, would you like to know if Gerald joins Piggie in pretending to be a frog? You should know that I NEVER give away endings! RIBBIT! RIBBIT!
Posted by: Wendy
Comparisons to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events are unavoidable with The Templeton Twins titles, a new series by Ellis Weiner, but there are not many children who will complain about the similarities. Like Snicket’s books, these titles feature an intrusive narrator who adds levity, humor and the occasional educational lesson for the readers. As well as providing important background information and hilarious definitions of vocabulary words featured in the books, the narrator poses nonsensical “Questions for Review” at the end of each chapter that are one of best reasons to read these books.
In addition to the intrusive narrator, the Templeton Twins also contend with a delightfully evil villain like the Baudelaire children do in the Series of Unfortunate Events. The Templeton Twins face Dean D. Dean, a scorned former student of their father’s and master of disguise, who attempts to steal credit for their father’s many fabulous inventions. In book 2, Professor Templeton is working at the Thespian Academy of the Performing Arts and Science (TAPAS) to develop new spotlight technology. The invention is nearly complete when Dean D. Dean swoops in to take credit by wooing the school’s Dean and former stage actress, Gwendolyn Splendide. It is up to the twins (and their ridiculous dog) to prove the spotlight is 100 percent their father’s invention.
The story is enhanced by illustrations that are similar in style to an architect’s blue prints, cryptic puzzles, and many hilarious footnotes by the narrator. While not an entirely new concept, this book will have many fans among elementary-school aged readers and it deserves every one of those fans.
Posted by: Kelly
Fans of Mo Willems tongue-in-cheek humor will not be disappointed with his first attempt at a fairy tale send-up. Goldilocks and the Three Bears is fractured beyond belief by Willems as the bears are replaced by three dinosaurs, Mama, Papa and “some other dinosaur visiting from Norway.” The dinosaurs cook chocolate pudding and leave it out at varying temperatures to lure an unsuspecting “succulent child” which works like a charm on Goldilocks. She doesn’t care about the temperature of the food since chocolate pudding is good at any temperature. Zany chaos ensues as Goldilocks realizes that she has, in fact, fallen into a trap set by dinosaurs. She realizes this mostly because the dinosaurs are peering at her through the window of the house and gloating with the anticipation of eating a little girl. Goldilocks escapes through the back door as the dinosaurs rush through the front, and reminds the readers of the very important moral “if you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”
Certainly a story for a child who is familiar with the classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears this might be even more enjoyable to readers of Mo Willems work, as readers can search for his other characters which sneak into the scenes of this story, including the very famous Pigeon.
Posted by: Kelly
Traction Man is here again!
The star of Mini Grey’s previous books, Traction Man , and Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog, returns in an adventure that will take him to the beach–but not in the way that you might expect! While everyone else is having a quick dip in the water before lunch, Traction Man is kidnapped by Granny’s dog, and neither his faithful Scrubbing Brush nor his mighty panoply of equipment can prevent it! What will he do??
The granite-jawed Traction Man (obviously a toy, but so much more!) and noble, anthropomorphized Scrubbing Brush’s trip back to safety involves another dog, frighteningly-accessorized dollies, raspberry-ripple ice cream, and a large quantity of seaweed.
As in all previous outings, Mini Grey’s hilarious illustrations and comic-style text boxes pack an astonishing amount of detail onto each page, while never distracting from the story. While a summer story, this book would be perfect for those going on a winter vacation to warmer climes, or just for someone who wants a little bit of warmth injected into their November.
Posted by: Sarah