There’s nothing like a familiar protagonist, setting, and illustrations to make easing into a new book a smooth ride for young readers. Two of these chapter books are entries in popular series; one is a sequel to an award-winning book from New Zealand; and one, while not part of a series, will be sure to attract fans of its well-loved author.
In Ivy + Bean: No News Is Good News, the girls want some cash, and Bean’s dad suggests they create a newspaper about life on Pancake Court. After they successfully collect money from their neighbor-subscribers, the friends realize they had better go find some newsworthy stories — and do they ever. Like Ivy and Bean, author Annie Barrows and illustrator Sophie Blackall feed off each other’s creativity with hilarious results in this eighth entry in one of the funniest young chapter book series around. (6–9 years)
Gooney Bird on the Map, written by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Middy Thomas, is the fifth book in the series. With February break on everyone’s mind, the conversation in Gooney Bird Greene’s second grade class constantly turns to three students’ fabulous vacation destinations. In this story about a sensitive subject, big-hearted Gooney Bird predictably comes up with the perfect group project to help everyone happily refocus on schoolwork. (6–9 years)
In Friends: Snake and Lizard, the beguiling pair introduced in Snake and Lizard now share a burrow and are business partners, too, “Helper and Helper.” Different as their habits and appetites are, their relationship involves the ongoing negotiation that gives this chronicle much of its humor. The two bicker constantly; still, the outcomes are fair, reasonable, and often capped with a delightfully ironic twist. Gavin Bishop’s colorful spot art reinforces the affectionate characterizations and the humor in this wise and funny text by Joy Cowley. (7–10 years)
Though not part of a series, Kindred Souls will be warmly greeted by Patricia MacLachlan’s many fans. Ten-year-old Jake has a close relationship with his grandfather, eighty-eight-year-old Billy. The mysterious arrival of a stray dog that glues itself to Billy adds a touch of magic that hangs in the air after Billy’s death, when we hear a rumor of a stray dog turning up at an ailing woman’s home in the next town. These are time-sculpted themes, and MacLachlan gives them her particular stamp of plain speaking and poetry. (7–10 years)