Light fare for emergent chapter-book readers who’ve exhausted the Magic Tree House series.


From the Magic on the Map series , Vol. 1

A magical camper van whisks twins Molly and Finn to a dude ranch for a mystery mission.

This first in a beginning chapter-book series blends cozy sibling adventure with a geography theme. The Planet Earth Transporter literally introduces itself to Molly and Finn as they explore the spacious van parked in their Ohio driveway. The rising third-graders, illustrated with white skin and friendly demeanors, find themselves transported to Colorado by the PET in a matter of minutes. Gentle black-and-white illustrations break up text as the pair are deposited at Snowflake Ranch until their “work is done.” The careful balance of dialogue and somewhat-advanced vocabulary throughout will build confidence among emergent readers as they see newer words paired with context clues. Normative gender roles are reinforced: Maternal Helen prepares all the food in the mess hall, Finn is physically brave and a sports fan, and Molly is timorous and book smart. When the ranch’s prize cow, Snowflake, is wrestled by “rogue cowboys” during a cattle drive, Molly, Finn, and newfound friend Ella break off from the grown-ups for a rescue operation. Ella, the lone dark-skinned character depicted, lives part-time in Colorado with her ranch-hand father and with her mother in Florida. Backmatter includes fun facts about Colorado, suggesting that each book in the series will focus on a different U.S. state.

Light fare for emergent chapter-book readers who’ve exhausted the Magic Tree House series. (Adventure. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63565-166-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.


From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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