Cockamamie mysteries, confectionary disasters, well-meaning primates, and oddball friendships. All of the above abound in the following fantastically funny chapter book series entries.
Elise Broach’s new early chapter book series Masterpiece Adventures extends the antics of Marvin (a beetle) and James (a boy) from Broach’s middle grade book Masterpiece (Holt/Ottaviano, 8–11 years). In The Miniature World of Marvin & James, Marvin helps James pack for a trip to the beach. Then, with James away, Marvin has some adventures inside the house. The comical tone, relatable characters, and Kelly Murphy’s lively pen-and-ink illustrations in a brown and gray palette combine with short sentences to make the book perfect for younger readers. (Holt/Ottaviano, 5–8 years)
While retired search-and-rescue dog J. J. Tully (from The Trouble with Chickens) takes a nap, four of the chicks in his charge find themselves in a mess of trouble investigating “something big and scary in the yard.” Kicking off the Chicken Squad Adventure series, Doreen Cronin’s The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure combines straightforward sentences with Kevin Cornell’s expressive black-and-white illustrations on almost every page to support new chapter book readers. The zealous Chicken Squad has much to learn, but the chicks’ earnest mistakes create more than enough action, humor, and mayhem to suffice. (Atheneum, 5–8 years)
The title characters of Peter Catalanotto’s Monkey & Robot are back with four new humorous stories in More of Monkey & Robot. First, Monkey worries about what to be for Halloween; then, the unlikely duo take a trip to the beach; next, the two figure out the best use for a tire Monkey finds in the front yard; finally, Monkey is confused by the clock and unsure whether it is morning or nighttime. In all cases, patient Robot helps sort the whole thing out. Friendly black-and-white pencil and ink illustrations provide helpful visual cues, and lots of easy-to-decode text fills each page, making this a good bridge to chapter books for new readers. (Atheneum/Jackson, 5–8 years)
The third-grade star of author Claudia Mills and illustrator Rob Shepperson’s Annika Riz, Math Whiz, the latest in the Franklin School Friends series, is out to win the citywide Sudoku contest. However, she’ll have to out-Sudoku her rival Simon (who, series fans will remember, was also Kelsey’s biggest competition in Kelsey Green, Reading Queen). As always, Mills has her characters struggle with right and wrong behavior, and here Annika accepts that everyone is different and that sometimes simply trying is a worthwhile endeavor. (Farrar/Ferguson, 5–8 years)
From the May 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.