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Easy reading

With summer coming to a close and school peeking its head around the corner, children can get into the swing of things with the following titles about kid-friendly subjects, from dance and princesses to raccoons and robots.

shea_ballet catIt’s that age-old childhood dilemma: “What do you want to play today?” In Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, pals Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony struggle to find an activity upon which they can agree. Ballet Cat only wants to dance. Long-suffering Sparkles admits, “Sometimes I don’t want to play ballet!” Bob Shea’s first easy reader contains an economy of both words and art with deceptively simple yet exuberant illustrations — and it’s funny to boot. Frog and Toad, Henry and Mudge, Gerald and Piggie: make room. (Disney/Hyperion, 5–8 years)

hatke_little robotA lonely little girl, star of Ben Hatke’s mostly wordless graphic novel Little Robot, finds a tool belt along with a mysterious box in the woods. Inside is an adorably uncoordinated robot, just the right height and temperament to be a companion. Unfortunately for the two of them, the warehouse notices that unit 00012 is missing, and a large, menacing robot is sent to reclaim it. Unframed panel illustrations give an expansive quality to this lively, entertaining book. Well-plotted and -paced, this engaging story of loneliness, bravery, and friendship builds to a satisfying (and sweet) conclusion. (Roaring Brook/First Second, 5–8 years)

dicamillo_francine poulet meets the ghost raccoonIn Kate DiCamillo‘s Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon, animal control officer Francine takes a call about an unusual, shimmery (and possibly talking) raccoon on a house roof. The wacky plot comes smartly together with humorous insights bolstered by Chris Van Dusen’s lively illustrations. Familiar characters lead the story to its climax on Deckawoo Drive, resulting in the raccoon’s capture, the restoration of Francine’s self-esteem — and lots of toast. For new chapter-book readers looking for a bit more of a challenge, this second entry in Mercy Watson spinoff series Tales from Deckawoo Drive continues to explore the neighborhood and all its fascinating and comical local characters. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)

potter_piper green and the fairy treeAuthor Ellen Potter puts her own stamp on the spunky-quirky-stubborn girl story in Piper Green and the Fairy Tree. Piper, resident of Peek-a-Boo Island, Maine, is about to start second grade. Her new teacher looks (and walks—swish!) like a princess, so Piper assumes she’ll have a tinkly voice and won’t mind about the monkey-face earmuffs Piper always wears; but Ms. Arabella does not live up to expectations, and soon Piper is in trouble. Very brief chapters and frequent illustrations by Qin Leng swiftly advance the story, as does Piper’s — yes — spunky, quirky, stubborn first-person narration. (Knopf, 5–8 years)

From the August 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Siân Gaetano About Siân Gaetano

Siân Gaetano is assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @KidLitChick.

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