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More Series and Sequels

By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
 | Aug 14, 2017

Once readers have been introduced to characters in a picture book or novel, they can enjoy following them to new adventures in the series. This week we review recently published, greatly anticipated sequels, first books in new series in a variety of genres, and the latest books in episodic series. There are also several final books in series, which may lead readers to seek out the earlier books for rereading.

Ages 4–8

Barkus. (Barkus #1). Patricia MacLachlan. Ill. Marc Boutavant. 2017. Chronicle.

BarkusIn five short episodic chapters, a big brown dog named Barkus (a gift from Uncle Everton, who claims Barkus is “the smartest dog in the world”) proves that he is the perfect companion for Nicky. Barkus sneaks out of the house and follows her to school and becomes the class dog, celebrates a noisy birthday party with three dog friends, adopts a stray kitten, and enjoys listening to Nicky tell a bedtime story as he snuggles up with the kitten, Baby, during a backyard campout. Young readers will eagerly await the next book in this colorful, warmly humorous early chapter book series featuring this canine charmer.

—CA

Be Quiet! Ryan T. Higgins (Mother Bruce). 2017. Disney Hyperion.

Be Quiet!Rupert the mouse gets to create and star in a “visually stimulating” wordless book, but his disruptive mouse friends, Nibbs and Thistle, with their imaginative antics and constant chatter (which appears in speech bubbles) are driving him crazy. “I said BE QUIET. This book is wordless!” This not-so-wordless picture book with cartoon-like illustrations—created with textured clayboard, graphite, ink, and Photoshop—includes a wealth of wordplay, jokes, and clever usage of literary elements such as onomatopoeia. Young children will also enjoy Mother Bruce (2015) and Hotel Bruce (2016) while waiting for the fourth book in the series, Bruce’s Big Move (expected to release on September 26, 2017).

—NB

Ellie in Concert. Mike Wu. 2017. Disney Hyperion.

Ellie in ConcertIn this sequel to Ellie (2015), Ellie the elephant lulls Lucy the giraffe to sleep amidst the sounds of the zoo at night, including the hippo’s SNORTs, the monkey’s OOOHs, and the rhino’s GRUMPs, by organizing an orchestra of all the noisy animals, who perform Betty Bluebird’s lullaby. Soft illustrations, created with watercolor, gouache, pencil, and digital media, complement the gentle story of friends working together to solve a problem. Check out the author's website (theartofmikewu.com) to listen to “Betty’s Theme” and “Ellie in Concert Suite,” composed by Andrew Jimenez.

—NB

The Good for Nothing Button (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!). Charise Mericle Harper. 2017. Hyperion/Disney.

The Good for Nothing ButtonWhen Blue Bird and Red Bird press the red button that Yellow Bird insists is “a good for nothing button,” they report their reactions. For example, Blue Bird says, “The button is SO easy to press. It surprised me!” and Red Bird points out, “A surprise is NOT nothing.” When Yellow Bird repeatedly presses the button to show that it cannot make him calm, mad, happy, surprised, scared, icky, or anything else, Red Bird and Blue Bird announce that they know what the button does. “The button makes you funny!” And so begins a button-pressing game in which they all are funny together. Reading this cartoon-style story, which is introduced by Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie, will be loads of fun for beginning readers.

—CA

Ages 9–11

The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1). Adrienne Kress. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

The ExplorersFollowing the intriguing introductory statement “This story begins . . . with a pig wearing a teeny hat,” 12-year-old Sebastian, a methodical genius with a photographic memory, and 11-year-old Evie, a lonely orphan, converge on the members-only Explorers Society for different reasons, but soon combine resources to search for Evie’s missing grandfather, who is a member of the mysterious Fillipendulous Society. Unfolding from the viewpoints of both children, this comedic adventure is filled with non-stop twists and turns. The clever mystery, with its detailed black-and-white penned illustrations, occasional footnotes, and humorous asides from the author, leaves entertained readers ready for the sequel.

—NB

Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls (Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls #1). Beth McMullen. 2017. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

Mrs. Smith's Spy SchoolTwelve-year-old Abigail Hunter’s amateur sleuthing leads to the discovery that the boarding school her mother has enrolled her in is also a recruiting ground for the Center, a hush-hush spy organization. She is astounded to learn that her mother is one of its top agents and has disappeared while in pursuit of a dangerous criminal, the Ghost, “who is wanted all over the world by everybody.” After a crash course in Spy Training 101, Abigail becomes “bait” in the Center’s plan to locate her mother. When the plan goes awry, Abigail remains determined to find her mother. Nonstop action, accompanied by lots of humor, makes this book a page-turner. Fans of spy stories will be looking forward to Abigail’s next mission.

—CA

The Sands of Shark Island (School Ship Tobermory #2). Alexander McCall Smith. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

The Sands of Shark IslandThe 12-year-old McTavish twins, Fee and Ben, return to the Scotland-based boarding school/schooner Tobermory excited for the new term, where they will learn not only seafaring basics such as knot-tying, nautical chart reading, and navigation skills but also “land subjects,” including math, science, and history. This term the Tobermory’s destination is the Caribbean Sea so there will also be opportunities for other activities such as scuba diving and kitesurfing. When they dock at Green Bay Island, the Tobermory takes on a new student, Mike, an islander who has had to interrupt his education to support his family. Following clues from a chart in an old sea chest leads to high adventure and a dangerous encounter with a present-day pirate on Shark Island and the solution of the mystery of the disappearance of Mike’s father and other islanders.

—CA

Ages 12–14

The Great Wave of Tamarind (The Book of Tamarind #3). Nadia Aguiar. 2017. Feiwel and Friends.

The Great Wave of TamarindIt has been seven years since Penny Nelson visited Tamarind with her older siblings, Simon and Maya. Now at the age of 12, she must return to the magical island on her own. Beloved Granny Pearl has identified signs of a potentially devastating event that will occur in Tamarind in the immediate future that only Penny can prevent. Penny bravely journeys out into the ocean and mysteriously crosses the Blue Line that will allow her to reach Tamarind. With the help of two young islanders, she competes in three dangerous challenges to select the next Bloom Catcher, who is to retrieve the magical Bloom from a coming Great Wave that will save Tamarind from destruction by a devilish mandrill. Aguiar’s spectacular world-building in this beautifully crafted quest/survival story set on the lost island of Tamarind brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.

—CA

Life, Loss, and Lemonade (Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair #8). Laurie Friedman. 2017. Darby Creek/Lerner.

Life, Loss, and LemonadeSometimes life is unfair. The pottery store in which Alice planned to celebrate her 15th birthday burns down, her grandmother is readmitted to the hospital for a collapsed lung following her cancer treatment, and her best friend, Sophie, is moving. In addition, Alice’s almost-boyfriend, Leo, announces he is leaving for Costa Rica and won’t be around this summer. She also carries the burden of secrets—why Brynn dropped her as a friend; that Sophie invited her boyfriend, Billy, to visit her in New York but didn’t mention it to Alice; and that Billy isn’t sure about going to visit Sophie—all while dealing with the impending loss of her grandmother. April must dig deep to find strength and solutions in this final installment of the series. Life, Loss, and Lemonade is a satisfying stand-alone novel, which may lead readers to earlier books in the series.

—NB

Ages 15+

Blacksouls (Blackhearts #2). Nicole Castroman. 2017. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

BlacksoulsAs this reimagined historical sequel to Blackhearts (2016) opens, after biracial Anne sails across the Atlantic Ocean on the Providence to Nassau, a Caribbean island rife with political intrigue, treachery, and piracy, to reunite with her love, Edward “Teach” Drummond (the future pirate known as Blackbeard). Once in Nassau, Anne is whipped and jailed when she warns the governor (who doesn’t believe her) that his wife is poisoning him. On his voyage to Nassau as first mate on the Deliverance, a Drummond merchant ship, Teach confronts the incompetent and cruel captain to save the crew from fiery deaths at the hands of enemy Spanish ships. Upon landing, he is threatened with the accusation of mutiny, a crime punishable by death. Blackmailed by Nassau’s Governor Webb into carrying out a dangerous mission in exchange for his own life and those of his crew— and with rescued, injured Anne smuggled aboard from a prison cell into his new ship’s quarters—Teach must decide who to trust in this swashbuckling revenge tale of adventure, betrayal, and deceit.

—NB

Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2). Cassandra Clare. 2017. Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.

Lord of ShadowsIn this sequel to Lady Midnight (2016), Los Angeles Institute Shadowhunters regroup after warlock Malcomb Fade’s death opens the portal for demons to reenter their realm. Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorne continue to fight their love curse, while Mark Blackthorne (home after his captivity in the faerie Hunt) struggles to find his place among his Shadowhunter half-siblings. The Seelie faerie Queen coerces Emma, Julian, Mark, and Cristina (a visiting Shadowhunter) to leave the L.A. Institute to find the Black Volume of the Dead, a spellbook she can use against the Unseelie King, the Lord of the Shadows (not knowing that he will stop at nothing to get his hands on it) in exchange for ending the divisive Cold Peace Treaty between Shadowhunters and Seelie Court faeries. Will the quest of the young Shadowhunters be successful and peace be restored, or will it be too late to undo the horrifying events that have been set in motion?

—NB

Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from 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.

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