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More Sequels and Series

By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
 | Jul 22, 2019

This week’s column features first books in new series and the latest books in episodic series that can be read in any order as well as standalone titles that will entice readers to earlier books. We’ve included picture books and early chapter books for younger readers and books in a variety of genres for older readers. All are perfect for summer reading.

Ages 4–8

A Is for Elizabeth (A Is for Elizabeth #1). Rachel Vail. Ill. Paige Keiser. 2019. Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan.

A Is for ElizabethIn this spinoff from Rachel Vail’s Justin Case series, little sister Elizabeth is excited about her first homework assignment: “Make name posters.” She is not so excited that the name must be your own name. Since her teacher Ms. Patel’s rules of class organization involve doing everything in alphabetical order, annoying Anna’s poster will be first in the wall display. Because Elizabeth gets creative with spelling and uses small sticks and stones and lots of runny glue to make the letters, her name ends up looking like “AAbAmmm!moxooo!Eoo’oAth!” How Elizabeth turns her disastrous project into a protest against alphabetical order and then into a lively class discussion on rules and fairness will delight readers and leave them eager to discover what happens next in Class 2B in simultaneously published Big Mouth Elizabeth.

Dinosaur Farm! Penny Dale. 2019. Nosy Crow/Candlewick.

Dinosaur Farm!In Penny Dale’s latest dinosaur adventure, farmer dinosaurs are hard at work operating heavy equipment on Dinosaur Farm. Dinosaurs plow the soil; feed livestock; build fences; fertilize fields; harvest crops; and scrub, clean, and pack up produce before traveling to the farm show with their animals and crops. On the final double-page spread, all the dinosaurs celebrate. “Happy dinosaurs cheering, cheering for Dinosaur Farm. Dinosaur Farm, the BEST in the show! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!” Young children will enjoy looking for the two piglets who escape from their pen and can be found hidden in the colorful, richly detailed rural scenes throughout the book. The ten dinosaurs and nine farm machines featured in the book are identified on the endpapers.

Harold & Hog Pretend for Real! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #6).Dan Santat. 2019. Hyperion/Disney.

Harold & HogIn this latest entry in the metafictive Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series for early readers, when best friends carefree Harold and careful Hog spy Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie reading Harold & Hog Pretend for Real!, they decide to pretend they are Gerald and Piggie. Harold dons a pair of glasses and pops a paper snout on Hog. However, there are personality problems. Hog points out “I am too CAREFUL to be Piggie!” and Harold realizes “I am too CAREFREE to be Gerald!” Can they be best friends if they cannot pretend to be best friends? Yes, if they switch the glasses and paper snout. The book concludes with a cameo appearance by Willem’s Pigeon and with Elephant and Piggie pretending to be Harold and Hog.

Waylon! The Most Awesome of All (Waylon! #3). Sara Pennypacker. Ill. Marla Frazee. 2019. Disney-Hyperion.

Waylon!On June 14, fourth grader Waylon hopes to meet astrophysicist Dr. Margaret J. Geller when he presents his Sound Waves: Good Vibrations project at the Boston Science Expo. Neon, his sister, is directing her original performance at the Beantown Repertory Theater with their fatherplaying the main role, and Mom won’t disclose her mysterious appointment on the family calendar for that day. Things get more complicated for Waylon when Dad is summoned to Hollywood about selling the screenplay he’s worked on for two years, and Waylon volunteers to save Neon’s play by substituting for him in a role that’s sure to embarrass him for life. And his friend Mitchell will present Waylon’s science project and be the one to meet Dr. Geller. Marla Frazee’s expressive black-and-white drawings add to the story's excitement. 

Ages 9–11

The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter (Mad Wolf’s Daughter #2). Diane Magras. 2019. Kathy Dawson/Penguin.

The Hunt for the Mad Wolf's FatherAfter rescuing her five older brothers and Grimbol (her “Mad Wolf” father), 12-year-old warrior Drest is on a quest to help her best friend, Lord Emerick Faintree, recapture his castle from his treacherous uncle, Sir Oswyn Faintree, who has put a “wolf’s head” (a bounty for capture or killing) on her. With the uncle and his knights after her, Drest must stay ahead of all of them as she clears the way for Emerick, who has been injured, to claim his legacy. Immersed in nonstop adventure, danger, and political intrigue, this feisty heroine strives to win the respect of her father as a warrior to be reckoned with instead of being ordered to stay hidden safely away and relegated to women’s work. Back matter includes a glossary and author’s note detailing relevant history in 1210 Scotland.

Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets (Mr. Penguin #2). Alex T. Smith. 2019. Peachtree.

Mr. PenguinWhile on a mission to recover the Enigma Stone for Professor Stout-Girdle, Mr. Penguin, his sidekick Colin (a kung fu master spider), Edith Hedge (a resourceful human friend), and her pigeon Graham crash their plane near the village of Schneedorf-on-the-Peak on a snowy mountaintop. Rescued by Dieter and Lisle Strudel, their agreement to help solve a case involving missing pet rodents (including Dieter’s hamster, Colonel Tuftybum) soon finds them at a remote, thought-to-be-abandoned fortress on a neighboring mountain and facing Dr. Mesmero, a hypnotist with a diabolical plan to take over the world. Readers of this delightfully silly chapter book will eagerly await Mr. Penguin’s next adventure set up by a surprise meeting during a victory celebration at the Haus of Strudel with Sir Reginal Spy-Glasse, Chief Undercover Investigator from B.U.M. (the Bureau of Unsolved Mysteries).

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe (Sal & Gabi #1). Carlos Hernandez. 2019. Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion.

Sal & Gabi Break the UniverseIn this Cuban-flavored coming-of-age sci-fi adventure, 12-year-old Sal Vidón, new student and magician, makes a splash at Culeco Academy of the Arts during his first week when he accidentally taps into the multiverse and threatens its delicate balance by transporting a dead chicken from another dimension into the locker of Yasmany Robles, the school bully. Student body president Gabi Reál sets out to expose Sal’s brujo tricks in the school paper, but their lives intertwine unexpectedly at the hospital where her newborn brother struggles for his life and Sal entertains sick children. Sal’s physicist father, his helpful American Stepmom, versions of his dearly departed mother (Mami Muerta) from parallel universes, and Principal Torres (and friends, family members, and teachers) round out the quirky ensemble in this quick-paced, fun-to-read series opener filled with bilingual banter, Cuban food, magic, friendship, and humor— while also dealing with issues of abuse and illness.

Stephen Curry (Epic Athletes #1). Dan Wetzel. Ill. Zeke Peña. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

Stephen CurryWardell Stephen Curry II was born in in 1988, in Akron, Ohio, and grew up in North Carolina, where his father, Dell, played for the Charlotte Hornets. Steph, who loved basketball, was a good ball handler and shooter but usually the smallest player on the court. He worked tirelessly to develop his talent and became an outstanding player at Davidson College. His dream of playing for the NBA came true when he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2009. Sports journalist Dan Wetzel’s account of Curry’s career from an overlooked high school player to three-time NBA champion on a team with the prospect of winning more championships includes exciting accounts of games and an abundance of quotes (from Curry, coaches, teammates, and others) and is accompanied by Zeke Peña’s comic-style paneled artwork.

Ages 12–14

Freedom Fire (Dactyl-Hill Squad #2). Daniel José Older. 2019. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic.

Freedom FireTwelve-year-old Magdalys Roca, from the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York, flies south on the back of Stella, her giant pteranodon, with a group of friends to find her older brother, Montez, lost in the Civil War. Swept into the Battle of Chickamauga in Tennessee alongside the dino-mounted Louisiana Native troops, her developing skill in using mental telepathy to direct Stella and other pterobacks becomes evident. After saving General Ulysses S. Grant’s life, Magdalys is recruited by him to form a special regiment of dinowarriors while she searches for her brother in this alternate historical fantasy series. Back matter includes “A Note on the People, Places & Dinos of the Dactyl Hill Squad” (which differentiates fact and fiction in the story) and “A Note on Weapons.”

The Tornado Scientist: Seeing Inside Severe Storms (Scientists in the Field). Mary Kay Carson. Ill. Tom Uhlman. 2019. Houghton Mifflin.

The Tornado ScientistIn their latest Scientist in the Field book, Mary Kay Carson and Tom Uhlman introduce readers to “tornado scientist” Robin Tanamachi, whose fascination with tornadoes as a child led to her career as a research meteorologist and radar expert. A lively narrative and an abundance of captioned photographs cover Tanamachi’s activities, from storm chasing in Tornado Alley in the Midwest to her present research with the Vortex-SE team surveying the hard-to-predict severe storms of Dixie Alley in the Southeast. Numerous text boxes and diagrams provide additional information on the science of tornadoes such as the EF Rating Scale and weather radar scans. Back matter includes a glossary of words and acronyms; websites on tornadoes, research, and tornado safety; sources of quotes and a selected bibliography; and an index.

Ages 15+

King of Scars (King of Scars #1). Leigh Bardugo. 2019. Imprint/Macmillan.

King of ScarsNikolai Lantsov, the young king of Ravka, strives to heal the fractured kingdom he’s inherited. At the urging of General Zoya Nazyalensky, he’ll choose a wife at a gala event to forge political alliances and plan for producing an heir to secure the throne and Ravka’s future. With a monster growing within him, those closest to Nikolai cover for his absences and random slaughter of animals. Before the ball, he must travel to the Shadow Fold to destroy the source of the Darkling’s power that has infected him while Isaak, his “double,” carries on business in the court as usual where an insurgency is brewing. In this complex fantasy adventure, reminiscent of “Beauty and the Beast,” readers will root for Nikolai to overcome his affliction in time to save his kingdom.

Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English, Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily. 

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