Primary readers will cheer these determined everygirl heroines as they face — and conquer — relatable challenges, from learning a new language to speaking up to clueless parents.
Author Jacqueline Kelly first introduced readers to aspiring naturalist/veterinarian Callie in the middle-grade novels The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. Now younger readers have a chance to get to know Callie in an engaging new standalone series, Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet. The first entry, Skunked!, is a comfortable and humorous family story in which her one-year-younger brother adopts an abandoned baby skunk. The second book, Counting Sheep, finds Callie putting newfound skills into practice as she helps the town veterinarian with a lamb’s difficult breech birth. Details in Jennifer L. Meyer’s generous black-and-white illustrations reinforce the historical setting, highlight the action, and underscore Callie’s scientific interests. (Holt, 6–8 years)
Juana Medina’s eminently read-aloud-able chapter book Juana & Lucas introduces a young girl living in Bogotá, Colombia, who loves many things: her city, her family, reading, Brussels sprouts, and her dog, Lucas. Juana does not like school, though, and especially not her English class — until her grandfather announces that they will be traveling to the United States to visit Spaceland. Juana’s determination to “work muy, muy hard” to learn English provides a loose framework for what follows. The first-person narration is distinctive, filled with understated humor and frequently interspersed Spanish words; dynamic ink and watercolor illustrations capture Juana’s energy. (Candlewick, 6–10 years)
Princess Cora’s royal parents have the best of intentions, but their queen-in-training schedule for Cora is both exhausting and lonely. She longs for a dog to keep her company, and her fairy godmother delivers a pet: a crocodile. It’s not particularly cuddly (“I bite”), but it is devoted to Cora (“I’ll only bite people you don’t like”), and when the girl decides that a break is what she needs, the crocodile takes her place. The seven spry chapters of Laura Amy Schlitz’s Princess Cora and the Crocodile — accompanied by Brian Floca’s delicate yet witty illustrations — detail Cora’s much-needed day off and the crocodile’s humorous attempts to impersonate her. By the end, Cora’s parents (who are actually quite progressive in their beliefs about a young lady’s powers) have seen the error in their methods with only minimal biting required. (Candlewick, 6–8 years)
Dani’s determination to be happy weathers another challenge in Rose Lagercrantz’s Life According to Dani, follow-up to My Happy Life and sequels. Dani is having a great time vacationing with her best friend Ella’s family while her single dad recovers from a bicycle accident. But then Dad arrives for a visit with a cast, a wheelchair, and — to Dani’s horror — a nurse who turns out to be his girlfriend. Dani, angry and jealous, is not ready to give up being “everything” to her father. True-blue Ella comes to the rescue, and Dani’s dad, who has been a bit of a dolt, gets his act together. Eva Eriksson’s scratchy line drawings support the emotional arc of the story in a way that is useful to the emerging reader. The world according to Dani is one that holds disconcerting surprises, drama, humor, play, and flashes of pure joy. (Gecko, 6–8 years)
From the January 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.