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Friendly feuds

Around the same time children are making brave first steps as independent readers, they’re also enlarging their friendship sphere. These four new early chapter books humorously tackle some classic friendship conflicts young readers may encounter — and model some possible resolutions.

landry_what's up chuckThe answer to the titular question of Leo Landry’s What’s Up, Chuck? is: green-eyed jealousy and self-doubt. Woodchuck Chuck creates stunning wooden sculptures, which he proudly enters every year in the Best of the Forest art contest. But then Scooter Possum, a painter, arrives in Woodland Forest and nabs the contest’s top prize. It takes Chuck’s friend Fawn to remind him of what matters: the joy he takes in making art. Numerous earth-toned watercolor and pencil illustrations accompany the eight short, episodic chapters, mirroring important points in the action and accentuating the characters’ emotions. (Charlesbridge, 6–8 years)

sturm_ape and armadillo take over the worldAs James Sturm’s early-reader comic Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World opens, it’s clear from the characters’ body language and their speech-bubble text that red cape–wearing Armadillo and his friend Ape are in the middle of a fight. Armadillo: “We have an evil plan! You agreed to it!” Ape: “Well, I changed my mind.” Readers will appreciate this pitch-perfect humorous push-and-pull between disagreeing parties. Clear digitally colored panel illustrations make the characters’ imaginative scenarios easy to follow. Bonus comics below the main story and an appended multi-panel sequence give these oddball (and not very evil) child stand-ins more room to bicker — and make up. (TOON, 6–8 years)

shea_ballet cat what's your favorite favoriteFans of Bob Shea’s Ballet Cat series know that the girly-girl pink feline’s thing is…ballet. In Ballet Cat: What’s Your Favorite Favorite? we learn that Goat’s thing is magic — and that both children are dying to impress their grandma (and outdo each other). “Magic is Grandma’s favorite,” proclaims Goat, a.k.a. “The Great Goatini,” who is powder-blue and wears a bright red cape in the colorful illustrations. “Ballet and magic are both her favorite,” insists Ballet Cat. What’s Grandma to do? Ultimately, everyone goes home happy — even readers, who may themselves have played the “who’s your favorite?” game without really wanting to know the answer. (Disney-Hyperion, 6–8 years)

harper_mae and june and the wonder wheelJune, protagonist of Charise Mericle Harper‘s Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel, is on the lookout for a new friend, one who is “fun! friendly! full of adventure!” Two things happen: a new family moves in across the street, and Grandma Penny sends June the unexpected gift of a do-it-yourself “Wonder Wheel.” The wheel provides June with lighthearted challenges that lead her to interact in new ways with her classmates, including new neighbor Mae. All is not smooth sailing, however, as June’s nemesis, April, starts to compete for Mae’s friendship. A bright and breezy tone, short chapters, comic illustrations by Ashley Spires, and generous-sized font add to the book’s appeal for newly independent readers. (Houghton, 6–8 years)

From the March 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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