Party animals

Newly independent readers will go wild for these animal adventures with a hearty helping of wacky, slapsticky humor.

coudray_goofy guide to penguinsA Goofy Guide to Penguins by twin-brother team Jean-Luc Coudray and Philippe Coudray supplies "everything you never, ever asked about penguins!" In an early-reader, four-panels-per-spread graphic-novel format, young Emperor penguins ask and answer silly questions: "How do penguins know that they've reached the South Pole?" When they see a sign pointing north in every direction, of course. The focus is on the zany, but kernels of truth can be found if one looks closely. Crisp illustrations rendered in a cool palette match the frigid setting. Back matter provides "100% genuine, real facts about penguins!" for readers looking to expand their knowledge. (TOON, 5–8 years)

cronin_into the wildGoodhearted and demented chicks Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie — a.k.a. The Chicken Squad — investigate their third mystery in Into the Wild: Yet Another Misadventure. What is that new structure in the corner of the yard, and who lives there? For some reason, based on chicken logic, discovering the answers to these questions involves false mustaches, flip charts, and the writing of poetry. Author Doreen Cronin is a master of comic misunderstandings, while illustrator Stephen Gilpin rises admirably to the challenge of portraying such scenes as a chicken doing the backstroke while wearing a marshmallow life preserver. (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 5–8 years)

kugler_snail and wormAuthor/illustrator Tina Kügler introduces two unlikely pals in Snail & Worm: Three Stories About Two Friends. Worm is down-to-earth, while Snail is a dreamer; the odd couple bonds over small victories (Snail climbs a flower while Worm cheerleads) and common interests (both have unusual pets). Simple text, all in color-coded dialogue, includes some good jokes that rely gleefully on the mixed-media illustrations to provide their punch lines: Snail, from atop the flower, eyes on shell, says, "Wow! I can see my house!" The pictures' varied format keeps things lively while helping to direct the eyes of readers looking for a laugh. (Houghton, 5–8 years)

jamieson_great pet escapeTrapped for over three months in a "terrible prison, otherwise known as…a second-grade classroom," feisty class hamster GW finally completes his Hairy Houdini Escape-O-Matic invention. GW races to release the other two members of his Furry Fiends gang — bunny Barry and guinea pig Biter — but much to his dismay, GW discovers his friends have "gone soft in prison." Jailbreaks, a food fight, and other zany high jinks ensue in Victoria Jamieson's laugh-out-loud graphic novel The Great Pet Escape. Pen-and-ink panels in a bright palette have a crisp and tidy feel, in neat contrast to all the mischief and mayhem. (Holt, 6–9 years)

From the June 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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