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Chapter-book chums

As new readers head back to school, these recent chapter books will help cement a love of read-it-yourself stories.

King, an exuberant dog, introduces himself in the initial two entries of a new early-chapter-book series by Dori Hillestad Butler: “Hello! My name is King. I’m a dog. This is Kayla. She is my human.” Each story is a mystery; King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats concerns the theft of some dog biscuits, and King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code concerns a substitution cipher. Each book allows plenty of room for predictions and provides a glimpse into the great payoff reading can deliver. Generous, plot-reinforcing illustrations by Nancy Meyers support new readers. (Peachtree, 5–8 years)

During the New Year’s holiday, relatives gather at the L.A. home of eight-year-old Jasmine, star of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen. For two days, everyone pitches in to make mochi, the Japanese sweet rice cakes that are good luck to eat on New Year’s. Everyone, that is, who is at least ten years old. This first in a series by Debbi Michiko Florence handily introduces a plucky, strong-willed girl whose family traditions may be new to many readers but whose frustrations will be familiar to nearly all. Elizabet Vuković’s humorous illustrations help young audiences picture the mochi-making process. (Farrar, 5–8 years)

Arriving to school late on the first day of a new science unit on vegetables, Sam, star of Frances O’Roark Dowell’s Sam the Man & the Rutabaga Plan, is discouraged to find that he’s been assigned the rutabaga. How will he write a story from the rutabaga’s point of view…and what the heck is a rutabaga anyway? Dowell paints a realistic picture of second-grade life, and Amy June Bates’s sketchlike black-and-white illustrations add depth and emotion. This series also provides a strong model of how to make real-world science an engaging part of each day. (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 5–8 years)

Unconventional friends James (a human boy) and Marvin (a beetle) head to school in Trouble at School for Marvin & James by Elise Broach. Artist Marvin is especially enthusiastic about meeting art teacher Mr. Chang. Told from a beetle’s-eye point of view, their day is all fun and games until Marvin accidentally winds up in the garbage. Short, punchy sentences; Kelly Murphy’s lively pen-and-ink drawings; and large type make the book accessible to new chapter-book readers. (Holt/Ottaviano, 5–8 years)

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



Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.



  1. Doreen Cronin’s Chicken Squad series is also a great one! Dark Shadows–the recent one–is hysterical. “Fine, we’ll do it the easy way.”

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