Tag Archives: easy chapter books

Detective Duos

18 May

First there was Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Then, we had Mike Stone (Karl Malden) and Steve Keller (Michael Douglas) in The Streets of San Francisco. If you mashed up Stone & Keller with Frog & Toad, you’d have  Detective Gordon and Buffy, the heroes of  Detective Gordon: The First Case written by Ulf Nilsson and illustrated by Gitte Spee

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Detective Gordon is an aging detective, fond of cakes, and prone to falling asleep. Buffy is his new assistant, eager and anxious to get out the pistol. They are working together to solve the mystery of the nuts that are disappearing all over the forest. Detective Gordon, though getting older, has learned important lessons.

I was a little concerned at first with the pistol that was locked in the cabinet. Buffy keeps asking if they are going to use it. Detective Gordon keeps telling her “no”. Finally, he explains,

“To take the pistol one must be very wise and very careful. It’s dangerous.”

Buffy jumped up and down angrily. The thieves were disappearing between the trees. But she badly wanted to have the pistol.

She would have it.

“But you are very wise and very careful, chief.”

Detective Gordon held up his finger. He had something very important to say.

“The one who is really wise and very careful doesn’t take it with him!” said the detective. “It’s dangerous.”

Far, far away, they could hear the thieves laughing. But Buffy wouldn’t give up.

“Why is it in the glass cabinet then? Why don;t you throw it away?”

“In case someone finds it and hurts themselves. It is safest locked up in the police station.”

The entire book is full of philosophical conversations like that. But what makes me really love the book is the stamp.

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Every paper the detective duo write on requires an official stamp. The stamp they use has a crown in the center, through Detective Gordon doesn’t really know why “but it seemed powerful and no one had questioned it”. It makes a satisfying KLA-DUNK sound and that is good enough.

This is a charming  book for readers just venturing into chapter books.

A Talent for Poeticals

22 Jan

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“Leroy Ninker was a small man with a big dream.” He wanted to be a cowboy. Alas, he worked at a drive-in and all he could do was watch cowboy movies. He had the gear: hat, boots, lasso and tracking abilities. But he lacked a horse.

When he finally gets the gumption to look for a horse, it is love at first sight. Maybelline is old and eats a lot of grub. She gets lonesome quick and “is the kind of horse who enjoys the heck out of a compliment”. But love at first sight is a powerful thing and Leroy and Maybelline ride off together, after a few poetical compliments.

Thins go swimmingly, until a thunderstorm occurs and Leroy forgets the third rule: Maybelline gets lonesome quick. Leroy quickly turns on his cowboy tracking skills to find his beloved happily munching grass on Deckawoo Drive. Yippie-i-oh!

In a similar vein to the Mercy Watson  series,  Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is the first book in a new series by Kate DiCamillo. I am excited about this because I anticipate a whole farmyard worth of animals ending up on Deckawoo Drive, home of Mercy Watson, porcine wonder. DiCamillo has just the right touch on these early chapter books. They are funny, but touch on serious themes. If you loved Mercy, you will certainly love Leroy & Maybelline.

Easy chapter books

20 Nov

One of our easier OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books) titles is The Trouble With Chickens by Doreen Cronin.

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All the adults who have read it think it is wonderfully funny. The 4th graders I know who have read it like it less. I think they think it is beneath them. It is an easy chapter book and thin. Yesterday, at our OBOB meeting, one student actually said to me, “I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but I do. I choose them if they have bright colors and are thick.”

I haven’t really followed the adventures of JJ and the chicks since the book came out in 2011. Since then, Cronin has publish one other JJ Tully mystery,  The Legend of Diamond Lil (2012).

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She has also created a spin off series about the chicks, The Chicken Squad, two books of which were published this year.

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These are even easier chapter books than the JJ Tully mysteries, with a larger font, but still maintaining the chapter book format.

If you have kids ready to move on to chapter books, give JJ and the Chicken Squad a try.

Pigeonholing an author

4 Sep

I am sometimes surprised, and often excited when an author I thought of as one thing, writes outside my idea of them. In my mind, Lauren Myracle is a YA author, mostly because the first book of hers that I read, Shine, was targeted at that age group. She is often edgy and frequently controversial. According to the American Library Association, Myracle’s books were the most challenged books of 2009 and 2011. Her books continue to be challenged in school libraries, usually for scenes of alleged sexuality, homosexuality, or alcohol use.

Just to keep us on our toes, she has now entered the world of easy chapter books.  The Life of Ty:Penguin Problems returns to characters from The Winnie Years Series, focusing on Winnie’s younger brother, Ty.

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Ty is s sensitive seven-year old. he has two older sisters and one baby sister. He’s stuck in the middle and feeling a little forlorn. Although the plot is more or less what you’d expect of a chapter book for this age group, what I like is how Myracle turns stereotypes upside down.

Ty is s sensitive male character. The rowdy and naughtiest lid in class is a girl. Nothing really earth-shaking, but planting seeds for kids to see the world beyond how it is so often portrayed. This book will be a less controversial than other Myracle has written and I think a lot of young readers will really enjoy this new series.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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