Mirror Magic

Do you believe in magic? Mia and her friends do! And when they meet the Star Animals, a whole world of magical adventures unfolds in this new chapter book series, accompanied by black and white illustrations throughout.

Mia and her Star Animal, a fox named Bracken, must use their special powers to stop the forces of dark magic. Mia’s older sister has started acting strangely and the Star Animals sense dark magic is at work. Soon Mia discovers that the new compact mirror that her sister, Cleo, has been using must be to blame. Can the girls use their newfound Star Magic to help make things right?

Mirror Magic will appeal to young readers who love animals and magic. The story focuses on Mia, but it also revolves around her two friends, Lexi and Sita. Most of the story centers on the girls meeting the magical animals and learning how to use their own magic. However, Mia’s sister, Cleo, adds suspense and mystery to the story and in the end, the girls discover that a Shade has been manipulating Cleo.

In the story’s climax, the Star Friends and their animals, fight with the Shade. The scene with the Shade is scary and may upset some readers. Despite this, Mirror Magic does an excellent job of introducing the main characters, the magical animals, and the conflict with Violet, who turns out to be a Star Friend too. Mirror Magic sets up a world that is slightly predictable, but also full of mystery and adventure.

Mirror Magic is the first in a chapter book series that focuses on three friends—Mia, Lexi, and Sita—who are illustrated with different skin tones. The cute black and white illustrations appear every two to seven pages. Even though Mirror Magic will appeal to readers who are six and up, younger readers may have a difficult time with the more advanced vocabulary.

Star Friends will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Rescue Princesses Series and The Rainbow Magic Series. The story portrays Mia’s family in a positive manner, and while Mia and her friends are kind, they are not perfect. The girls clearly want to help others and they are even planning a baked food sale with the proceeds going to help an organization that protects endangered animals. The simple plot and sweet characters will appeal to animal loving early elementary readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Mia’s sister had a magical compact with a Shade trapped inside. When Mia looks into the mirror, “The handsome face and sympathetic brown eyes melted away under her gaze, becoming a gray skull with glittering red eyes.” Mia throws the compact on the ground and “gray smoke started to seep out through the cracks in the broken glass. . . The smoke swirled together and formed a very tall, thin figure with gray skin, a skull-like face, and ragged clothes. The figure’s slanted eyes glowed red in his bony face.”
  • When the Shade is set free, he steps towards the Star Friends. Bracken (a magical fox) “growled. . . Darting forward, he grabbed the Shade’s leg with his teeth. At the same moment, Willow [a magical deer] charged and butted the Shade.” The Shade swiped “at them with his long nails.”
  • Mia jumps in to help the animals fight the Shade. “She threw herself at the Shade. He stood his ground and, as she hit his chest, he threw her backward as easily as if she weighed no more than a piece of paper.” The Star Friends and the Shade’s fight is described over four pages.
  • Violet captures the Shade in her phone. “The Shade’s face pulled into a grimace as the camera on her phone flashed. With a scream he dissolved into smoke and was sucked into the screen of the phone.” Violet sends the Shade back into the shadows.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • OMG is used as an exclamation once.

Supernatural

  • Magical animals from another world come into the human world looking for a Star Friend. Each animal must “find a human child to be your Star Friend—a child who is kindhearted enough to use magic for good and brave enough to defeat someone using dark magic. When you meet a child. . . speak to him or her with your thoughts. If they are open to magic, they will hear you.”
  • The magical animals can appear and disappear. They also each have a unique magical ability.
  • Dark magic also exists in the world. “It comes from the ground, and it is magic that can be used to hurt people and make them unhappy.”
  • Cleo has a mirror that has a Shade in it. “Bad people can conjure Shades—evil spirits who exist in the shadows.” It brings misery and unhappiness. “It can also be trapped inside an object, like a necklace, book, or toy that the person using the dark magic will give to someone they want to harm in some way.”
  • The Shade in Cleo’s mirror pretends “to be that person’s friend, but then they start twisting their minds, making them jealous and angry.”
  • Mia’s magic allows her to “see what’s happening elsewhere really clearly, and you’ll be able to hear what’s being said and look at the details of a scene.” She can also see the past and future.
  • Sita has the ability to “comfort people and heal them.”
  • Lexi’s magical abilities have to do with agility. “She’ll be able to do things a normal human couldn’t.”
  • Violet is a Spirit Speaker who has “the magic ability to command spirits.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Save the Sanctuary

Former Army rescue dog, Sgt. Rico, a bomb-sniffing Malinois, is on his first mission in Washington, D.C. to save The Sanctuary animal shelter from the evil Mr. Mocoso. But does Rico have what it takes to lead the Pawtriots to victory and save his fellow canines?

Throughout the story, Army values—loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage—are demonstrated through the animals’ actions. In addition, the importance of putting the mission first is reinforced when Chaps, a disabled military dog, gives his life so his friends can escape. In the end, it is the military’s values that allow Rico to become a hero by helping him realize that “soldiers don’t give up on themselves and they don’t’ give up on their fellow animals.”

Army sayings and terminology are used throughout the story. For example, when Rico feels like giving up, another military dog says, “I need you to embrace the suck.” Each time an army word or phrase is introduced, Rico explains what it means. For example, Rico explains that north south is “Army-talk for ‘nodding your head when you understand something.’”

Each chapter starts with the location, date, and military time which makes it easy to follow the timeline. Black and white illustrations appear every 1 to 6 pages and show the animals in action as well as some of the dangers they face—including the villain, rats and crocodiles.

Even though Pawtroit Dog is an illustrated chapter book, it hits on some difficult topics that may upset readers. For example, the dog catchers, which are called “Snatchers,” chase after the animals with the intent to capture and kill them. However, the animals manage to stay safe because they help each other and work as a team. The overall theme that is reinforced repeatedly is “it doesn’t matter if you’re small, young, weak, or even missing a leg—it’s what’s on the inside that counts. You have to have heart! That’s what makes a true Pawtriot.”

Save the Sanctuary is an action-packed story that revolves around two, three-legged military dogs. Readers will enjoy seeing Rico’s growth from a despondent dog to a true hero with a mission. Readers who want a patriotic story that is told from a dog’s point of view should put this highly entertaining story on their reading list. If readers like Pawtroit Dog, they should check out the G.I. Dogs Series by Laurie Calkhoven, which is also told from a dog’s point of view.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While on a mission, Rico accidentally sets off a bomb. “The explosion was so loud that for two weeks all I could hear was ringing in my ears. . . The blast took away my front left leg and my sense of purpose. And worst of all, it took Kris away from me.” The blast is illustrated and shows Rico and Kris being thrown from the impact.
  • Mocoso was angry with his pet monkey, Simon. “He grabbed Simon by the throat and squeezed him so hard that he turned blue. Simon managed to escape and nobody’s heard or seen him since.” Later, Rico finds out that Simon is at the zoo.
  • In order to intimidate Rico, Hans (a dog) approaches Rico and “presses his big wet snout against mine, but I don’t back down. Then he pushes me. I stumble to the ground because I don’t have the balance I used to without a front leg.”
  • The Snatchers “snatch up” the animals from the sanctuary and take them to the pound. Rico watches “as they snatch up each of my fellow animals with pole nets and lock them up in cages, one by one.”
  • While at the pound, “the Snatcher grabs the helpless cat by the scruff of its neck and hauls it away.” Rico realizes that the pound is a “kill shelter. If an animal isn’t adopted in thirty days, then that’s the end of the line.”
  • The animals break out of the pound and run from the Snatchers. The Snatchers finally locate the animals and try to capture them. Rico sees “the Snatchers tear through the woods and start racing towards us. Three of them have hand cannons that shoot nets. A Snatcher fires one at use and I watch it fly through the air.”
  • The animals make mud balls and hurl them at the Snatchers. “Penny quickly sends another one across the field, hitting another Snatcher in the face and sending him tumbling to the ground.” Rico and Sawyer create a diversion. Rico and Sawyer “weave in and out across the field as the Snatchers try to snag us with their nets.” The animals go into the sewers to escape the Snatchers. The scene is described over four pages.
  • While in the sewers, the animals are surrounded by rats until “suddenly a deafening roar breaks the chaos of the chase. . .The ground shakes and the water ripples as a massive reptile, the size of a crocodile, covered in scars and sludge stomps his way towards us.”
  • A dog named Chaps tries to stop the reptile from hurting the others. Rico sees Chaps. “He’s exhausted struggling to catch his breath and has cuts all over his snout.” Chaps gives Rico his prosthetic leg and then Chaps gives Rico “a soldier’s salute and turns to face the Beast. We all watch as he charges right at the massive reptile . . . I knew that was the last time any of us would ever see Chaps. But he went out like a true soldier and put the mission first.”
  • The animals break into Mr. Mocoso’s mansion in order to find a will. When Mr. Mocoso sees them, “Simon swoops down from the chandelier, sending Mr. Mocoso to the ground knocking him out cold.”
  • Mocoso’s Doberman Pinschers surround Rico, but then his friends arrive and surround the Pinschers. Rico tells his friend, “Franny, tie them up so they can’t follow us. And don’t worry, once Mr. Mocoso wakes up, he’ll free them.”
  • When Franny ties up the Pinschers, she uses an electrical wire. The wire starts a fire, and Rico saves Mr. Mocoso and his dogs.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Two mean dogs, Hans and Heinz, call Rico a “three-legged freak.”
  • Heinz calls the animals at the sanctuary knuckleheads.
  • One of the animals calls Mr. Mocoso a jerk.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Mia Mayhem Gets X-Ray Specs

Mia Mayhem is learning to control her x-ray vision! She can’t wait to see through walls and crack secret codes. There’s only one problem: her glasses are way too big, clunky, and totally not cool! But she knows that if she wants to keep up with her classmates, she’ll have to adjust quickly. Will Mia be able to look past her obstacles and see things through?

A large part of the storyline follows Mia and her classmates as they try their supervision. Mia doesn’t want to admit that she doesn’t have x-ray vision. Instead of being truthful, she lies and says she sees “an elephant with a hot dog.” In the end, Mia learns that she “should have never guessed during the eye exam and pretended to know something when [she] didn’t.”

Mia Mayhem Gets X-Ray Specs has a diverse cast of characters which includes a girl who wears prosthetics. In addition, Ben and his seeing-eye dog, Seeker, make an appearance, which gives an added dose of interest. Readers will note how Seeker assists Ben. The story also shows how Ben’s blindness helps him hone his other senses, which in turn helps him with this supervision.

Young readers will enjoy the book’s format which has oversized text and black and white illustrations on every page. The large illustrations are often humorous, and they also help readers follow the story’s plot. Mia Mayhem Gets X-Ray Specs has an easy-to-understand plot that is perfect for emerging readers. However, some readers will need help with some of the advanced languages, with words such as connection, recognize, squinting, and officially.

Readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy the silly storyline in Mia Mayhem Gets X-Ray Specs. Mia’s enthusiasm and friendliness make her a fun and likable protagonist. Even though Mia Mayhem Gets X-Ray Specs is part of a series, the books do not need to be read in order. While the story doesn’t have any life lessons, the Mia Mayhem Series will make emerging readers excited to see what type of mischief Mia gets into next, and with 12+ books in the series, readers will have plenty of adventure to look forward to.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • A boy yells at Mia, “Nice job using your loser vision.”

Supernatural

  • Mia finds out that “super-sight usually kicks in at age eight. . . You’ll soon be able to do awesome things like x-ray through walls and see in absolute darkness.” Later, she stares at a wall and then “a blast of heat lasers came out of my eyes! In just one shot, I burned through five walls. . .”
  • Because Ben is blind, he uses his other super senses such as being able to feel vibrations that lead him to his seeing-eye dog. Ben says, “I may not have regular vision like you, but I’m sensitive to echoes.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Long Road to Freedom  

Ranger is a time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training. In this adventure, he goes to a Maryland plantation during the days of American slavery, where he meets a young girl named Sarah. When Sarah learns that the owner has plans to sell her little brother, Jesse, to a plantation in the Deep South, it means they could be separated forever. Sarah takes their future into her own hands and decides there’s only one way to escape – to run north.

Told in third-person, Long Road to Freedom includes the inner thoughts of both Ranger and Sarah. Sarah’s thoughts add suspense by focusing on her fear of being caught and sent back to her master’s plantation. Ranger perceives other characters’ emotions through smell, which conveys people’s feelings to the reader in a non-scary way. For example, when Jesse runs into the forest alone, Ranger goes to look for him. “Jesse’s scent was still there, with a mix of new smells that make the hair on Ranger’s neck stand up. Deer. Blood. And wolves.” Unfortunately, Jesse is snotty and stubborn. His behavior almost attracts the attention of slave hunters. Jesse’s attitude is annoying, and readers may wonder why he isn’t willing to save himself.

Long Road to Freedom explores the Underground Railroad in kid-friendly terms. As they run north, Sarah and Jesse find safe passage with people who are willing to hide them. When a group of men tries to bully their way into a barn where the two children are hiding, Ranger alerts the neighbors. When the bad men are surrounded, they back down. Ranger thinks, “They didn’t have tails to lower, but Ranger understood that they were submitting. The challenge was over.”

The Ranger in Time Series format will appeal to young readers. The book has large text and full-page, black-and-white illustrations that appear approximately every six pages. The author’s note includes information about the historical people and places in the book, as well as a list of resources for readers who want to learn more about the Underground Railroad.

Even though readers will learn many facts about the time period, the facts are integrated into the plot, so the book never feels like a history lesson. Readers will fall in love with Ranger, who loves squirrels, his family, and helping people in need. Long Road to Freedom uses a lovable dog and a unique premise to teach readers about history.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Sarah and Jesse are hiding in a barn when a group of men appears, demanding to see what’s behind the stacked hay. The farmer tries to stop the men but is unable to. Ranger knows the kids are in trouble so he “leaped out at him. The man started and fell. Ranger stood over him, barking his toughest bark. He turned and saw another big man holding Mr. Smith with his arms pinned behind him.” Ranger jumps on the man holding Mr. Smith, who manages to free himself from the man’s grasp.
  • Ranger wakes up the neighbors, who come to Mr. Smith’s aid. “Men and women streamed into the barn, carrying farm tools—axes and hoes and pitchforks.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Ranger travels through time with the help of a first aid kit. When the first aid kit hums, Ranger puts the strap over his head. “The box grew warm at his throat. It grew brighter and brighter… He felt as if he were being squeezed through a hole in the sky. . .” When Ranger opens his eyes, he is in the past.

Spiritual Content

  • Sarah heard stories about the Quakers helping runaway slaves. “But when Master Bradley brought Reverend Hayworth to give a sermon on the plantation, he preached how slaves ought to obey their masters. He said those who didn’t would see the wrath of God along with the overseer’s whip.”

The Crystal Rose

The snow sisters’ parents have been kidnapped by the Shadow Witch! The only way to save them is to find the orbs containing the magical Everchanging Lights before the witch steals the lights’ power for herself. But the Shadow Witch, Veronika, will do anything to reach the lights first.

On their second quest, the girls face a dark, icy journey to find the crystal rose and the blue orb. Will their magic be strong enough to overcome the Great Glacier and all the dangers hidden there?

The beautiful cover with three sisters and a pet polar bear will draw readers into the story. However, the magical sisters who face non-frightening danger will captivate readers. The second installment of The Snow Sisters Series has the three sisters—Hanna, Ida, and Magda—racing through a dangerous, icy landscape. The girls’ magic helps them stay safe from the Shadow Witch and even Oskar, the girls’ pet polar bear, helps them along their way.

Even though their mother has instructed them to search for the orb, the girls do not tell anyone about their quest. Instead, they sneak out of the castle and borrow horses without permission. At the end of the quest, their governess, Madame Olga, sees the girls coming in from outside. “Madame Olga hadn’t realized they had been out all night. She just thought they’d gotten up early and been out in the garden.” The girls allow Madame Olga to believe the falsehood.

The Crystal Rose has charming black and white drawings that help readers follow the plot. The large illustrations appear every 1 to 4 pages. Throughout their journey, the sisters show bravery and use problem-solving skills. The Snow Sisters Series will entertain young readers who love princesses, magic, and snow.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Magda uses her magic to turn into a mouse. When the cook sees the mouse, she “grabbed a broom and swept it angrily at Magda. . .Magda dodged the broom just in time and turned and ran.”
  • In an attempt to kill the girls, the Shadow Witch causes an avalanche. “Hanna used her magic to lift the thick sheet of ice above them like a roof. . . the thundering snow swept over the top of them, battering at the sheet of ice and the sides of the boulder.” The girls are not injured.
  • While walking through the woods, the Shadow Witches cause the wind to blow and knock ice crystals onto the sisters. A branch “swept through the air and straight toward the little polar bear. . . Ida screamed, and without a second’s thought, she flung herself in front of the cub. The branch hit her full in the chest. . .” Everyone is able to safely get out of the woods.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The magical lights called the Everchanging Lights “kept everything in balance and made the island such a wonderful place to live.”
  • Freya’s sister, Veronika, is trying to steal Freya’s magic. Freya tells her daughters, “She is using spells to try to take my magic. I can feel it!”
  • The Shadow Witch “closed her eyes and began to chant strange words. Images appeared on the surface of the ice.” The Shadow Witch is using her magic to spy on the three sisters.
  • Each of the three sisters has a unique magical talent. “Hanna had discovered she could move things using her mind, Ida had the power to bring objects to life when she drew them, and Magda could transform into any animal or bird that she saw.”
  • Using magic, Freya can communicate with the three girls. “The girls held their breath as an image of their mother’s face gradually formed in the snowflakes.” Freya tells the girls where they can find the missing orb.
  • Oskar is the girls’ pet polar bear. “All Nordovian polar bears had the ability to change size.”
  • Magda uses her magic to change into a bird. The magic felt like “a tingle.” Later, she changes into an arctic fox.
  • Ida uses her magic to create a rope. “The air shimmered, and suddenly a rope appeared just as she had drawn it.”
  • To get the orb, the girls need to open the crystal rose without touching it. Hanna “drew on her magic and felt it welling up inside her. Focusing on the rose, Hanna willed the petals to open. Magic surged through her, strong and powerful and the petals began to peel back. . .”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Ty’s Travels: All Aboard

Ty is ready to play, but everyone is busy. Daddy is cooking. Mommy is folding clothes and brother is doing homework. Even though no one can play with him, Ty decides to use his imagination and take a trip on a train. Soon, everyone is jumping into the fun.

Ty’s Travels is part of the My First I Can Read Series, which uses basic language, word repetition, and illustrations that are ideal for emergent readers. Each page has 1 to 4 simple sentences with large, brightly colored illustrations. Ty’s imagination comes to life in illustrations that look like crayon drawings. Plus, the cute illustrations will help young readers understand the plot.

Ty’s Travels is perfect for young readers who are learning a new skill. Readers will enjoy the repeating onomatopoeias such as chugga-chugga-chugga and clickety-clack. The repetition, onomatopoeia, and short sentences make the story fun to read out loud. Another positive aspect is that Ty’s two-parent family is shown in a positive light. The simple plot and relatable conflict will capture young readers’ attention as they learn to read on their own. Best of all, the story will encourage readers to use their imagination.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

The Snoring Princess

Princess Rosa is missing! The Princess disappears from her palace on the day a hundred-year sleeping spell is set to end. If Princess Rosa is not back by sunset, the spell will start all over again! Kara and Zed—along with a fairy from the palace—go looking for her. But can they find Princess Rosa before the sun sets?

Kara, Zeb, and a magical pig are off on their next mission—finding Zeb’s missing royal messenger bag. Along the way, they stumble across a tower and discover Princess Rosa is also missing. While The Snoring Princess is an imaginative retelling of Sleeping Beauty, the story is a little disjointed and most of the events do not make sense. For example, Kara and Zeb find Princess Rosa who continues to sleepwalk down a cliff and then float down a river all without hurting herself or waking up. While some of the events are silly, many of them are unbelievable even for a fairy tale.

The Snoring Princess is part of Scholastic’s Branches early chapter books, which have easy-to-read text and illustrations on every page. The story uses short descriptions and dialogue to keep the story moving at a fast pace. Black and white illustrations appear on every page and help break up the text into manageable sections. The engaging pictures will help readers follow the plot. Plus, the book ends with four reading comprehension questions and one activity. Even though The Snoring Princess is part of a series, each book can be read as a stand-alone.

Unfortunately, in The Snoring Princess, Kara and Zeb solve the mystery more by chance than by following the clues. However, young readers who are familiar with the Once Upon a Fairy Tale Series will enjoy seeing Kara and Zeb back in action. In the end, a lying fairy does the right thing by telling the truth. The conclusion reveals an unexpected villain, who isn’t evil. Despite the plot’s flaws, readers who are transitioning to chapter books will enjoy the book’s illustrations and the silly magical pig. If your child loves fairies, check out both the Candy Fairies Series by Helen Perelman and Disney: The Never Girls Series by Kiki Thorpe.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Kara grabs a fairy, the fairy “shot red sparks at Kara’s fingers.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The story takes place in Sleeping Beauty’s world, where magic exists. Sleeping Beauty is “the princess who was cursed by an evil fairy when she pricked her finger on a sewing needle. The curse made her fall into a deep sleep for one hundred years.”
  • Zed and Kara meet a fairy who tells them, “Fairies can actually change shape and size. It’s one of our magic powers.” Later the fairy uses his magic to make a hat. The fairy “raised his hands and wiggled his fingers. Sparks of magic danced between his fingertips. Then a small sun had appeared in Leon’s hands.”
  • The fairy “held his hands over the water and wiggled his fingers again. Sparks began to fly from his fingertips. Slowly, the bottom of a boat appeared. Then the sides. Then the oars. Then the anchor.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Chicken on Vacation

Zoey the chicken needs a vacation and she wants to take her barnyard friends, Sam and Pip, with her.

Zoey knows you don’t need to go to the shore to have the perfect beach day. . . but you do need a great imagination and a treasure map! Will Zoey lead her barnyard pals to buried treasure?

When Zoey and her friends get to the beach (the pond in their backyard) they each have fun doing different things. Pip floats around on his duck floatie. Sam swims in the mud. And Zoey rides her surfboard (the dock). They build sandcastles and look for buried treasure. The animals use their imagination to go on a great adventure. And in the end, Pip and Sam love the treasure they find—a pie!

Chicken on Vacation is an adorably cute story that shows readers the power of imagination. Told with simple sentences and humor, Chicken on Vacation will keep young readers entertained. Each page has 1 to 4 sentences and a large illustration. The story is ideal for readers who can read on their own, but who may still need a little help.

Chicken on Vacation will have readers giggling as Zoey pretends that everyday objects are something totally different. For example, a tractor becomes a lookout tower, and an old fence becomes a shipwreck. Readers will look forward to seeing where Zoey’s imagination takes them. Readers who love humorous stories should also check out Splat the Cat and the Duck with No Quack by Rob Scotton.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Bo’s Magical New Friend

Bo Tinseltail loves going to Sparklegrove School with the other unicorns. Every unicorn has magical power. Bo is a Wish Unicorn with the power to grant wishes. Bo has lots of friends, but one thing Bo wants more than anything is a best friend. When a new unicorn named Sunny Huckleberry pops into the forest, will Bo’s big wish finally come true? And what will Sunny’s unicorn power be?

Young readers who are ready for a glittery-good new series need to check out Bo’s Magical New Friend. The first installment of The Unicorn Diaries Series introduces all the unicorns and their magical powers. As part of the early chapter book line, Branches, the text is aimed at newly independent readers. Bo’s Magical New Friend is told in a blend of diary entries and speech bubbles. The blended text makes each page manageable for young readers. Plus, some of the words appear in bright pink text for added emphasis.

Bo wants a best friend, so he’s especially happy when Sunny appears. To earn a patch, all of the unicorns need to use their magical power to help someone. Bo really wants to use his power to help Sunny. However, Sunny gets upset because he thinks Bo is pretending to be his friend to earn a patch. In the end, Sunny and Bo talk about their conflict and discover that friendship is more important than badges.

Bo’s Magical New Friend is packed full of magic. However, in the next book, Bo and the Dragon-Pup, the unicorns are able to problem solve without relying on magic. Readers will fall in love with the unicorns’ world which comes alive in brightly colored illustrations. Bo’s world is “glitterrific,” and readers will happily imagine a place where sunbeam ice cream, dream dust, and twirl drops are served for dessert.

The story revolves around a relatable conflict and fun characters—Sunny and Bo. When Mr. Rumptwinkle introduces Sunny, he reminds the class, “I’m sure you remember how scary everything was when you were new. So please be kind to Sunny and help him find his way around.” Even though Sunny has a hard time discovering his magical power, he always looks on the bright side and makes others laugh. If you’re looking for a book series that will captivate readers, The Unicorn Diaries will not disappoint.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Trolls capture Bo and Sunny. “We got swept up in a net.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • All the unicorns have a special power. Bo is a Wish Unicorn that “can grant one wish every week.” The other unicorns have powers such as flying, healing, shapeshifting, size-changing, etc.
  • Unicorns do not have parents. “We’re not born like other creatures are. We just pop into the world on really starry nights.”
  • Rumptwinkle turns into a mouse.
  • Sunny discovers that his unique power is turning invisible.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Ty’s Travels: Zip Zoom

Ty’s excited to try out his new scooter, so his parents take him to the park. As Ty attempts to ride, he imagines crowds watching him. Ty imagines that riding a scooter would be easy, but he wobbles. He doesn’t zip and zoom. However, Ty’s family encourages him to keep trying. Ty’s just about to give up when a girl stops her scooter and offers to help. With the help of his new friend, Ty learns how to zip and zoom on his scooter.

Young readers will relate to Ty, who tries hard to ride his scooter, but fails at first. Ty’s experience shows how learning a new skill can be difficult, but with practice, anyone can achieve their goal. The story blends Ty’s experience with his imagined experienced which allows readers to understand Ty’s goal. The conclusion shows Ty and his new friend racing together.

Ty’s Travels is part of the My First I Can Read Series, which uses basic language, word repetition, and illustrations that are ideal for emergent readers. Each page has 1 to 4 simple sentences with large, brightly colored illustrations. Plus, the cute illustrations will help young readers understand the plot.

Ty’s Travels is perfect for young readers who are learning a new skill. Ty’s two-parent family is shown in a positive light. As Ty struggles to ride his scooter, his family cheers him on and encourages him to keep trying. The story’s message is clear: Don’t give up. The simple plot and relatable conflict will capture young readers’ attention as they learn to read on their own.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Bo and the Dragon-Pup

Bo Tinseltail lives in Sparklegrove Forest, where lots of other magical creatures live. Bo and the other unicorns learn about dragons at school, but they have never seen them before. That is, until now! A blanket and a pair of glasses go missing from school, and the clues lead to the dragon caves! Will Bo and the other unicorns meet a scary creature there? Or will they make a brand-new friend?

The Unicorn Diaries Series is part of the early chapter book line Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. Bo and the Dragon-Pup is told in a blend of diary entries, speech bubbles, lists, and diagrams. The blended text makes the story choppy, but it also makes each page’s text manageable for young readers. Plus, some of the story’s unique, fun words, such as “glitterrific,” appear in large green font. While most of the vocabulary is easy to read, readers may need help with some words such as thingamabob, Mr. Rumtwinkle, and magnifying.

Readers will be attracted to Bo and the Dragon-Pup because of the rainbow of colors used on each page’s illustrations. However, they will keep reading because of the fun format and interesting characters, such as mermaids, talking animals, and a blue ogre. Chapter one introduces the main characters, Sparklegrove forest, and also gives interesting facts about dragons and unicorns.

Bo and the Dragon-Pup is a magical book that revolves around a fast-paced mystery. As the unicorns try to solve the mystery, they follow clues and work together. Readers will fall in love with the mischievous dragon and the helpful unicorns. If you’re looking for a glitterific book that makes reading fun, Bo and the Dragon-Pup is the book for you. Mystery-loving readers should also add Wallace and Grace and the Lost Puppy by Heather Alexander to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A hedgehog tells the unicorns, “A pesky little dragon threw me up in the air like I was a beach ball! Then he giggled and flew that way.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • All the unicorns have a special power. Bo is a Wish Unicorn that “can grant one wish every week.” The other unicorns have powers such as flying, healing, shape-shifting, size-changing, etc.
  • Before the unicorns begin to search for clues, “Scarlet used her thingamabob power to magic up detective hats and magnifying glasses for all of us.”
  • The baby dragon, Scorch, wishes that he could make fire. One of the unicorns grants his wish. “Suddenly, Scorch breathed huge rainbow-colored flames.”
  • When Scorch accidentally sets the parade decorations on fire, “Jed used his Unicorn Power to make it rain. He put out the fire in no time.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Princess Lessons

Sasha, a flying horse, has just discovered that she is princess of the flying horses! But before she can attend to any royal duties, she has to take a difficult Princess Test. To make matters worse, plant pixies are trying to capture Sasha so they can use her magic wings. If the pixies steal too many feathers, a flying horse becomes too weak to fly. Can Sasha pass the Princess Test and stop the pixies from stealing the flying horses’ feathers?”

Verdant Valley is a magical place where horses live. However, danger is at Verdant Valley’s door. In order to help, Sasha studies to pass her Princess Test. However, the skills that Sasha learns aren’t skills of character. In order to pass the Princess Test, Sasha “pranced and flew. She ate and drank in a princess-y way. She won the staring contest. Flowers stayed in her mane when she ran. She remembered the ancient battles and the song of the giant snail.” While young readers will enjoy the tale, the story portrays Sasha as a typical princess who needs to be “fancy.”

Princess Lessons shows the importance of not keeping a secret if the secret puts someone else in danger. When Sasha prepares to leave Crystal Cover, Sasha asks her friend, Kimai, to keep a secret. However, Kimai tells the secret to the safety patrol. At first, Sasha is upset that Kimai didn’t keep the secret. Kimai says, “I am your friend. I broke my promise only because it’s not safe for you to leave.” Later Sasha forgives Kimai and realizes her friend did the right thing.

Princess Lessons has a high-interest topic—horses and pixies. The story’s nine short chapters, large font, and black-and-white illustrations make Princess Lessons accessible to young readers. Plus, the book’s large illustrations will help readers understand the plot.

Young readers will relate to Sasha as she tries, and fails, to learn new skills. While Sasha does not always do what’s right, she clearly cares about others. The conclusion ends abruptly, without solving the problem of the plant pixies, so readers will be eager to see what happens in the next book, The Plant Pixies. If you’re looking for a book series that young readers will love, the Tales of Sasha series will keep readers engaged with 12+ books to choose from.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Sasha tries to leave Crystal Cover, two green horses “threw two long, silver ribbons at her. One ribbon wrapped around one of her hind legs. The other ribbon wrapped around her nose. . . Together, the green horses gently pulled Sasha down to the Crystal Cove beach.” The two horses were trying to protect Sasha.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • A spell was put over Verdant Valley to keep the plant pixies away, but “the spell must have been broken when you went through the big trees.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles

Amy lives and breathes horses, but all her horses are in books or in her head. When Amy goes on a picnic with her friend Hannah’s family and hears a horse neigh nearby, Hannah thinks Amy is imagining things. But then Hannah hears a neigh, too! What is a horse doing in the park? With a little help from Mona at the Rainbow Street Shelter, Amy makes sure the horse is safe and sound. She almost hopes the owner never turns up, so that she can keep visiting the pony . . .

Amy and Hannah don’t know it, but two thieves have horesenapped Midnight and his companion, Pebbles. To cover their crime, the thieves disguised Midnight, then leave Pebbles in the forest! Left alone, Pebbles is hot and hungry. He wonders if anyone will find him.

Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles will steal the hearts of anyone who loves horses. The beginning of the book alternates between Amy’s and Pebbles’ perspectives. While some readers will have some difficulty with the transitions, the changing point of view creates suspense. Plus, Amy is a relatable and likable protagonist who dreams of owning a horse, even though the dream is completely unrealistic for her family. When Amy finds the horsenapped Pebbles, her kindness shines. Amy’s story highlights the importance of doing what is right, even if the act is not rewarded.

Younger readers may need help with some of the more difficult vocabulary. However, the short chapters, large font, and illustrations make Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles a good choice for reading to your child. Large black-and-white illustrations appear every 2 to 3 pages. The illustrations will help readers visualize the characters as well as understand the plot.

In Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles, Amy, and her friend are kind and obedient animal-loving characters. When Amy tries to help Pebbles free himself from barbed wire, she is afraid. Despite this, Amy “was still trying to sound calm, but her voice was squeaky and her hands were trembling. . .She was never going to be able to help this horse if she kept crying.” Amy realizes that in order to help Pebbles, the horse will need to trust her. Amy’s actions help save Pebbles and reunite him with his human family. In the end, Amy’s dream comes true in an unexpected way. The sweet conclusion will leave readers with a smile and fill their nighttime dreams with horses.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Midnight and his companion horse, Pebbles, are horsenapped. “Before the stallion knew what was happening, a rope had been thrown around his neck and looped over his nose into a halter. . . . The horse’s eyes rolled with fear.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • One of the thieves calls Midnight a “black devil.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Fair and Square

In Chapter 1, Unicorn and Yeti talk about their favorite shapes—stars, squares, and circles. Using these shapes, the two friends create a village in the snow. Yeti likes triangles because “lots of my favorite things are triangles, like trees and ice cream cones.”

In Chapter 2, Unicorn and Yeti are both painting, but they paint differently. Yeti looks at Unicorn’s picture and feels bad about his own paintings because he thinks they look messy. But Unicorn likes Yeti’s paintings. She says, “My paintings only look like what we see. Your paintings are fancy. They look like magic!” Even though the two friends paint in different ways, both of their artwork is beautiful.

In Chapter 3, Unicorn and Yeti are sharing a pie. Yeti cuts the pie in half, but Yeti cannot eat all of his pie. Yeti offers the rest to Unicorn, who is hungry. Unicorn worries that “I will get more pie than you. That will not be fair.” In the end, Unicorn eats the rest of the offered pie because, “If I eat your pie, then we will both be full. Fair and square.”

Children who are learning to read will enjoy reading about Unicorn and Yeti’s adventures, which teach about friendship. The text is easy to read and when each character talks, their words appear in different colored quote boxes. Each page has a full page of illustrations and contains three or fewer sentences. Beginning readers should be able to read the text alone and will enjoy flipping through the story multiple times to look at the colorful pictures.

The Unicorn and Yeti Series is perfect for all young readers, even the ones that become a little bit wiggly after a short time. Each book shows readers how to be a good friend, and encourages readers to embrace their own uniqueness. Fair and Square will introduce shapes, sharing, and show that things do not need to be the same to be beautiful. The story uses simple language to introduce important topics and each story is so much fun that readers won’t get bored.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

A Magical Friend

Pippa has always wanted a pet pony. Princess Stardust has always wanted a pet girl. So when they meet in a magical place called Chevalia, they decide to become best friends. Chevalia is an island where ponies can talk; an island that only real pony lovers can find. But now, the ponies need Pippa’s help. The eight special horseshoes that give the island its magic have gone missing. Can Princess Stardust and Pippa work together to save Chevalia?

While finding the missing horseshoes is important, Princess Stardust is so excited to have a human pet that the missing horseshoes become unimportant. Instead of trying to solve the mystery, the princess takes Pippa on a tour of Chevalia. The mystery takes a back seat as Pippa learns about the interesting magical world and is introduced to several important characters. In the end, Princess Stardust and Pippa find one of the missing horseshoes. The story ends by setting up the next book in the series, where the search for the horseshoes will continue.

Younger, horse-loving readers will enjoy meeting magical ponies. Cute black-and-white illustrations appear every 3 to 5 pages and will help the reader visualize the story’s characters—seahorses, ponies, and even a winged horse. Princess Stardust is light and fun; a contrast to Pippa, who is focused on finding the horseshoes. The intriguing topic and interesting characters will draw young readers into the story; however, the story lacks a life lesson or a theme that would elevate A Magical Friend to a must-read book.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Oh, horseflies,” is used as an exclamation.
  • One of the ponies curses by saying, “Prancing ponies.”

Supernatural

  • Every year, on Midsummer Day, the ponies must perform a ceremony. “It’s the time when our ancient horseshoes must renew their magical energy. If the horseshoes are still missing in eight days, then by nightfall on the eighth day, their magic will fade, and our beautiful island will be no more.”
  • Pippa goes to the sea and discovers sea horses. “Gently, she moved her fingers to get one of the seahorses to swim to her hand. The tiny animal was almost there when, suddenly, with a loud whoosh, the water rose up in the shape of the head and front legs of a galloping horse.” Two giant seahorses appear and take Pippa to the magical island of
  • The giant seahorses tell Pippa, “We’re taking you somewhere very special, where time exists in a bubble. You can stay there as long as you like and you won’t be missed, for time will not pass in your own world.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Keeker and the Springtime Surprise

It’s springtime in Vermont, and Keeker and Plum have discovered all kinds of surprising things on the farm. Keeker finds a baby bird on the lawn. Plum has a new roly-poly family of groundhogs living in her field. But the biggest surprise of all is the discovery that Keeker’s mom’s horse is going to have a baby. With all of the excitement, Keeker and Plum get tired of being ignored. Keeker decides staging a play will be just the thing to win back her parents’ attention, and the play’s ending is even more exciting than Plum or Keeker could have imagined!

Get ready for some springtime silliness as Keeker and Plum help a family of groundhogs. Readers will relate to Keeker, who feels like her parents only care about their horse, who is going to deliver a foul any day. Keeker’s frustration of being ignored is balanced by the comic way Plum tries to hide the groundhogs from “Keeker’s dad [who] didn’t like groundhogs at all; he always yelled and waved his arms at them.”

With cute baby animals, a silly horse, and a determined protagonist, young readers will enjoy Keeker and the Springtime Surprise. The story has a relatable conflict and a healthy family unit. However, one negative aspect of the story is Keeker’s attention-seeking behavior. For example, once when her parents weren’t giving her attention, Keeker “lay down on the ground and worked up a gigantic tantrum. . .she sobbed, flailing her arms around” and later she “stamped her foot a little.”

Keeker and the Springtime Surprise is told in five short chapters and has a simple plot. Large black and white illustrations appear on almost every page. The illustrations will help younger readers visualize the characters and events in the story. Beginning readers will need help with some of the more advanced vocabulary such as absentmindedly, clanky, and eventually.

The Sneaky Pony Series will appeal to young readers who will laugh at Keeker’s wild imitation. The story’s plot jumps around, and young readers will not understand the reference to Don Quixote. However, the conclusion is sweet and happy for everyone, including the hedgehogs. If you’re looking for a book with a more positive protagonist, Maggie and the Flying Horse by E.D. Baker would make a better choice.

Sexual Content

  • When the horse, Pansy, is getting ready to have a baby, Plum “hoped being pregnant wasn’t something you could catch, like a cold.”

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Keeker gives Plum a hug, the horse says, “Stop strangling me, you crazy girl!”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Uni Brings Spring

Uni lives in the forest where she loves to visit her animal friends. Spring has finally arrived, and the animals are enjoying the warm air. But then a winter storm blankets everything in snow. All the forest animals are cold and hungry. How can Uni help her friends?

Readers will fall in love with Uni, a kind-hearted unicorn who wants to help her friends. One of the best attributes of Uni is her caring nature. When her friends are cold, Uni realizes that magic cannot solve the problem. However, Uni finds other ways to help her friends such as helping Robin put more leaves in her nest and helping a baby bear find his mother. The happy conclusion highlights how Uni’s actions helped her friends.

The contrast between the seasons becomes apparent through the full-page illustrations. Each page that illustrates spring has bright, cheerful colors. But when the snowstorm hits, the illustrations are predominantly white and blue-grey. Every page has 1 to 3 short sentences that readers will need to sound out.

Uni Brings Spring is perfect for young readers familiar with sight words. However, parents may need to help their child with unfamiliar words. All animal lovers will enjoy seeing Uni help others. Young readers who love unicorns should also read the Unicorn and Yeti Series by Heather Ayris Burnel.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Uni finds a magical icicle that caused winter to come back. “Uni’s horn can handle this icicle. One touch of Uni’s horn makes the icicle glow. Now rainbows dance on the cave walls.” Winter leaves.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Christmas in Camelot

Jack and Annie are on their most exciting mission yet! It begins with a simple invitation to spend Christmas Eve in Camelot, a magical place that exists only in myth and fantasy. What Jack and Annie don’t know yet is that the invitation will send them on a quest to save Camelot itself—not just from destruction, but from being forgotten forever. Can they succeed, even though Camelot’s greatest knights have failed?

When Jack and Annie arrive at Arthur’s castle, they find the kingdom has been robbed of all joy. The Christmas Knight appears with a warning—someone must go on a quest to retrieve the Water of Memory and Imagination. Only Jack and Annie are willing to go on the quest. The Christmas Knight tells the kids a riddle, which will help them succeed. However, their journey is filled with danger and magic.

Readers will relate to Jack and Annie, who want to fight to save Camelot. Despite the characters’ young age, they work together to complete the quest. With a little imagination, a little magic, and a lot of bravery, the two kids are able to save Camelot. While the setting is in Camelot, King Arthur and his knights only appear at the very beginning and end of the story. However, readers will enjoy trying to solve the riddle and seeing how Jack and Annie persevere until the end.

Proficient readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy Christmas in Camelot’s fast-paced plot. The large text and black and white illustrations every 2 to 7 pages make the story accessible to young readers. The large, detailed illustrations bring the characters and monsters to life. The author’s note includes the Celtic Myths that Christmas in Camelot was based on. The back of the book also includes fun Christmas craft activities that readers can enjoy.

Anyone who wants to add a little magic and mystery to the holidays will enjoy Christmas in Camelot. Even though the story is part of the Magic Tree House Series, the book can be read as a stand-alone. For more time travel and historical fiction, add the Imagination Station series by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Jack and Annie must fight the Keepers, four monsters that look similar to dragons. “The four Keepers hissed louder than before. Great balls of blue fire exploded from their mouths and nostrils! Jack and Annie slashed the air with their fiery weapons, jabbing at the Keepers. They fought fire with fire, blue flame with purple flame.” The monsters retreat back into their caves.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • King Arthur and his knights “were gnawing meat off bones and slurping wine from heavy goblets.”

Language

  • Darn is said once.

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie have a magic tree house that allows them to travel to the past. The two kids find an invitation in the tree house. When Jack holds the invitation and makes a wish, the magic works.
  • A “Dark Wizard” cast a spell over Camelot that “robbed Camelot of all its joy.”
  • In order to break the Dark Wizard’s spell, Jack and Annie must travel to the Otherworld, “an ancient, enchanted land beyond the edge of earth.” The two kids must bring back a cup of the Water of Memory and Imagination.
  • When King Arthur tries to stop Jack and Annie from going on a quest, the Christmas Knight “raised his gloved hand in the air. In an instant, the room fell deathly quiet.” Everyone was frozen in place.
  • The Christmas Knight gives Jack and Annie a cloak that makes them invisible.
  • Jack and Annie fight the monsters. The kids drink the Water of Memory and Imagination and the water gives Jack bravery.
  • Jack drops the cup of Water of Memory and Imagination. Then, “a golden cloud was rising from the cracks between all the stones of the floor. . . It soared across the dark room like a bright light, then swooped back out into the night.” The water unfreezes King Arthur and his knights. The water also brings laughter and celebration back to Camelot.
  • A white stag helps the kids on their journey. When they return to Camelot, the stag turns into “an old man with a long white beard.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Winter Wonders

It’s Christmas time at Whispering Pines, and everyone is buzzing with excitement—especially since Cat and Mr. Henry are getting married! Delia and Willow have been appointed junior bridesmaids, and there’s a flurry of things to do.

The counts are whipping up a sweet feast of desserts, and they’re determined to top it all off with an extra-special gift for the couple. Meanwhile, Delia can’t wait to share Saugatuck’s festivities with Willow. But when the wedding treats go missing and a blizzard collapses the Food Pantry roof, can Willow and Delia keep Christmas from snowballing into a disaster?

Bake delicious recipes alongside Delia and Willow, as the entire Bumpus clan teams up to save the day in the final installment of this scrumptious series.

Delia and Willow want to give Cat and Mr. Henry the perfect gift, but they just can’t seem to agree on anything. Most of the story comes from this conflict, in addition to Willow being afraid to cook because of a previous disaster. While their family makes quick appearances, readers who have not read the previous books will not connect with them. Unfortunately, most of the family’s appearances do very little to move the plot forward.

Winter Wonders shows the importance of helping those who are less fortunate. Delia and Willow both help at a food pantry and are eager to make Christmas treats to share with those in need. However, their young age makes some of the events unbelievable. For example, the two girls make enough food for a hundred guests.

Cheerful black and white illustrations appear every 2 to 5 pages. While the illustrations focus on Delia and Willow, they also include many of the family members. One character uses several puns and Cat uses fun sayings such as, “I’ll be back, quick as a snowman on ice skates.”

Young readers who love to cook will find Winter Wonders interesting and will enjoy learning new recipes that celebrate winter. However, the slow pace and lack of conflict may cause readers to become quickly bored. If you’re looking for some winter fun, Diary of an Ice Princess by Christina Soontornvat will take you to a magical world while it teaches positive lessons.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The girls wanted to make a lobster dinner for Cat and her fiancé, but when the lobsters arrive, the girls didn’t expect them to be alive. Willow’s dad explained, “They’re supposed to be alive before we cook them. Then when the pot is nice and hot, we drop them into the boiling water.” The girls decide not to cook the “creepy crawlers.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth

When Job Day is announced at her school, Junie B. says her job will be the best job in the world and can do all sorts of things. The problem is, when asked what her job is, Junie B. has no idea. Realizing her big fat mouth has gotten her into trouble, Junie B. is frantic to come up with the best job in the world. Will she live up to her classmates’ expectations? Or will she get laughed out of the classroom?

Junie B. is a spoiled child with no respect for others’ boundaries. She shouts, she calls people dumb, she demands to get her own way, and she does not listen to her parents or teachers. After headbutting another classmate in the stomach, her main thought is, “And guess what? I didn’t even get caught!”

While Junie B. Jones is the main character in all of the Junie B. Jones books, readers do not need to read the books in order. Easy vocabulary and simple sentence structure make the story accessible to young readers. Black and white illustrations appear every five to ten pages and will help readers understand the plot.

Young readers will think Junie B.’s behavior is funny; however, parents will not want their children to emulate her behavior. If you’re looking for an entertaining book series with positive life lessons, check out the Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Junie B. doesn’t like Jim. “I made a fist at him. ‘How’d you like a knuckle sandwich, you big fat Jim?’”
  • Junie B. threatens to “knock [Lucille] on [her] can.”
  • Junie B. “butted that mean Jim in the stomach with [her] head. And guess what? I didn’t even get caught!”
  • When a “stupid ant” bites Junie B. Jones, she kills it. “And so I had to drop a rock on his head.”
  • One of Junie B. Jones’ classmates explains a hard hat. “You have to wear it when you’re building tall buildings. Or else somebody might drop a hammer from way up high. And it could hit you on the head and kill you . . . Ricardo just kept on talking about other stuff that could fall on your head and kill you.”
  • Junie B. pinches a classmate when he doesn’t give her what she wants. “I wanted the mop. Only that stupid head Jim wouldn’t let go of it. And so I had to pinch his arm.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • A police officer comes to the school in preparation for Job Day. “He told us some other stuff that cops do. Like give our dads speeding tickets. And arrest drunk guys.”

Language

  • Junie B. Jones calls things and people “dumb” frequently. For example, she says“I never even heard of that dumb word careers before.” Another time she thinks, “I couldn’t get any peace and quiet. ‘Cause everybody kept on talking about dumb old Job Day.”
  • Junie B. Jones calls people “stupid” often. Once she says, “You stupid head Jim!”
  • Junie B. Jones says heck several times. For example, “I won’t know what the heck we’re talking about.”
  • A boy calls Junie B. Jones stupid. Later, when she announces to the class that she wants to be a janitor, “they called me the name of stupid.”
  • Junie B. Jones says darn it several times. When she is mad, she says to herself, “Darn it, darn it, darn it.”

Supernatural

  • It’s revealed that the Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters in Disney Land are fake; that they are people in costumes.

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Morgan Lynn

 

 

Case of the Sneaky Snowman

Who wears a blue scarf and old rubber boots, and has broccoli for a nose? It’s Sherlock — Nancy, Bess, and George’s snowman! The girls are thrilled to be on winter vacation and take part in all of the season’s activities. Nancy’s friend Deirdre has even transformed herself into Madame Chocolata, a fortune-teller who predicts the future by reading hot cocoa marshmallows!

But the wintry days get a little too chilly after many of Deirdre’s visions come true. Sherlock even goes missing — just as predicted! Can the Clue Crew put a freeze on this mystery before it snowballs out of control?

Case of the Sneaky Snowman is a fast-paced story that will have readers trying to figure out the clues to the mystery. Even though the Clue Crew are trying to discover what happened to their snowman, the story also focuses on Bess’s upcoming skating performance. Madame Chocolata predicts that Bess will fall during the performance. Based on this prediction, Bess worries that she is a “loser” and a “baby” who should drop out of the show. However, in the end, Bess performs without making any mistakes.

Mystery lovers will enjoy keeping track of all of the clues and seeing if they can figure out who the culprit is. Nancy and her friends are able to discover the logical reasons behind all of the mysteries in the story. The conclusion wraps everything up nicely and will leave readers laughing. One positive aspect of the story is that Nancy and her friends stay within the bounds that their parents have set for them. Even though they want to solve the mystery, they don’t rush their investigation or jump to conclusions.

Black and white illustrations appear every 2 to 5 pages, which break up the text and help readers visualize the events in the plot. The last page of the book gives directions for making a snowflake out of beads. This modern version of Nancy Drew will entertain readers. Even though many characters appear throughout the Nancy Drew books, each story can be read as a stand-alone.

Readers should grab a blanket, a cup of hot chocolate, and snuggle up to the Case of the Sneaky Snowman. Readers who want to add more mystery to their reading list should check out the King & Kayla Series by Dori Hillestad Butler and The Mysteries of Maisie Hitchins Series by Holly Webb.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Someone starts throwing snowballs at Nancy and her friends. “Another snowball whizzed over Nancy’s head. It burst on the ground, splattering egg all over the snow. The girls ducked as more eggy snowballs flew by fast and furious.” The snowballs stop flying, but the girls do not know who was throwing them.
  • George throws a snowball at a person dressed as a snowman. George “swung back her arm and hurled it across the street. It hit the snowman on the shoulder with a loud thonk!” The snowman’s head falls off.
  • Someone tries to steal Nancy’s dog.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Bess is worried about messing up during an ice skating show. She says, “I’m such a loser.”

Supernatural

  • Deirdre says, “Some fortune-tellers read palms. Others read tea leaves. But I, Madame Chocolata, read the marshmallows in hot chocolate!” Later, the Clue Crew prove that Deirdre’s predictions do not come true.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Blizzard of the Blue Moon

In order to save a hidden unicorn, Jack and Annie time travel to New York City during the Great Depression. The siblings must find where the unicorn is hidden. In order to save the unicorn, they have to find it before the blue moon.

As they look for the unicorn, Jack and Annie get lost in a snow storm. They ride in the subway, find help in Belvedere Castle, and go to an art museum. During their adventure, two people follow them. Jack and Annie think the people are their friends, but they aren’t. Instead, the mysterious people are trying to capture the unicorn.

While the kids are lost in New York, most of the suspense is created by the people following them. In the end, Jack and Annie discover a dark wizard has sent these two people to capture the unicorn. Most of Blizzard of the Blue Moon lacks action, and there are several unrealistic events. However, finding the unicorn adds magic and whimsy to the story and produces a happy conclusion.

Proficient readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy Blizzard of the Blue Moon’s mystery. While the siblings do not spend much time at each stop, readers will get a glimpse of some historical places. An author’s note includes the information about the Great Depression and the places Jack and Annie visit.

The large text and black and white illustrations every 2 to 7 pages make the story accessible to young readers. The large, detailed illustrations bring the characters to life. As the eighth book in the Merlin Missions Series, fans of the Magic Tree House Series will enjoy this new adventure. However, this part of the series should be read in order because several characters return from the previous books.

Jack and Annie are likable characters who both want to help others. While the story has mystery, none of the events are scary. However, some parents might not like how Jack and Annie use a “rhyme” book to cast spells. With magic, mystery, and two siblings who fight for good, the Magic Tree House series has wide appeal. With 50+ books, the Magic Tree House Series will keep younger readers entertained for years. Readers who want to spend more time jumping into the past should add the Time Jumpers Series by Wendy Mass to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A boy pushes Jack, who falls into the snow.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Annie says “Oh, darn” one time.
  • A girl tells the unicorn, “You are coming with us, stupid, like it or not.”

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie use a book of rhymes. When one of them say a rhyme, it helps them. For example, when Annie is lost in a storm, Jack uses a rhyme. He says, “Treasure forever must never be lost! Um-motta cal, um-motta bost!” After he says the rhyme, Annie appears.
  • A unicorn was “rescued by magic weavers in the Netherlands. To keep him safe, they used their art to hide him in their tapestries.”
  • On the night of the blue moon, the unicorn will come out of the tapestry when someone says his name. A girl says, “Come, come, my lovely Dianthus, stand up now. Come out of that old rug. . .” After she says the unicorn’s name, he appears next to the girl.
  • A girl tries to catch the unicorn by putting “the black rope around the unicorn’s neck.”
  • To keep the unicorn safe, Jack reads the rhyme book. “Known from high, out of the sky, Ee-no-fain-ee-ro-lie.” Fog covers the ground and keeps the unicorn safely hidden.
  • After Jack and Annie walk through Central Park, statues begin to move. For example, “When they passed the statue of the winged angel, Jack thought he saw her move her great wings.”
  • In order to keep the unicorn safe, Jack turns the girl and her friend into ducks. Merlin tells them that the spell will wear off in a few days.

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Silver Secret

Can the Snow Sisters stop the evil Shadow Witch from turning their world dark forever?

Ida, Magda, and Hanna’s mother, Freya, is the keeper of the magical Everchanging Lights that protect their island. But when a selfish witch curses their mother and tries to steal the power for herself, only the Snow Sisters can find the lights and save their kingdom. Find out if the girls can discover their own powers and recover the pink light before it’s too late!

The Silver Secret employs interesting topics—princesses with a magical power and a magical polar bear—to draw readers into the story. Even though the beginning of the book explains a lot of background information, the story is still fast-paced and interesting. The girls’ mother appears in a magic snow globe and says, “Veronika wants the magic of the Everchanging Lights for herself. . .but I managed to protect it before she could trap me. . . My daughters, you must find these orbs.”

Even though the sisters are used to having servants help them “with everything,” the girls are determined to do the quests on their own, so they sneak out of the castle in the middle of night. Every time the girls are in danger, one of the sisters uses her magic to solve the problem. As they look for the orb, the sisters’ comments often sound snobbish. For example, the girls know their governess would not like them trekking through the snow. Hanna says, “She would demand that Gregor take us to find the snow hawk in Nordovia’s finest sleigh, with hot chocolate breaks every half an hour!”

The sisters find one orb and safely return to the castle. The conclusion sets up the second installment of the series, The Crystal Rose. The Silver Secret has charming black and white drawings that focus on the three sisters. The Snow Sisters Series will entertain young readers who love princesses and magic. However, the Diary of an Ice Princess Series by Christina Soontornvat and the Candy Fairies Series by Helen Perelman would be a better choice if you’re looking for an entertaining story with life lessons.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Veronika, Freya’s sister, uses her magic to ambush Freya and her husband. “Magnus ran to help [Freya], but Veronika stabbed her staff into the ground and shouted a vicious-sounding spell. Instantly, gnarled tree limbs burst out of the snow and weaved themselves around him.”
  • Veronika and a wolf find the girls. “As the wind grew to a harsh cry, a rumble worked its way through Oskar’s throat, and he lunged at the wolf. But he was no match for the beast, and a gigantic paw knocked him flying. Oskar yelped and slumped into a snow drift, dazed.”
  • Gregor comes to the girls’ aid. “Gregor leaped forward and grabbed the wolf’s tail. With a huge effort he began to pull the wolf back by its fur—but with one mighty swing of its body the wolf flung Gregor into a tree.”
  • The girls try to escape from the wolf by climbing a tree “but the wolf’s sharp teeth caught her sister’s boot and began to drag her down.” Magda turns into a snow hawk and escapes.
  • To get the wolf away from her sisters, Magda turns into a squirrel. She “sprang onto the wolf’s back and bit down hard on its ear!” Magda uses her magic to shake snow onto the wolf. “The beast disappeared beneath the snow. . .”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The Snow Sisters’ mother is the Keeper of the Lights. “The magical Everchanging Lights sustained and protected the island.” Their mother also has the ability to “momentarily freeze time.”
  • Veronika uses a curse to “drain Freya’s magic from her.”
  • Freya appears in a snow globe and talks to the girls. The sisters “just listened to their mother’s familiar voice and watched the light pouring from the globe.”
  • Ida can make her drawings come to life. Ida uses her magic to make snowshoes.
  • Oskar, a magical polar bear, is able to “magically grow in size.”
  • Hanna’s magic allows her to move things with her mind.
  • When the girls use their magic, they feel a tingle.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Stinky Spike and the Royal Rescue

Can Stinky Spike sniff out a missing royal pup?

Stinky Spike and Captain Fishbeard are thick as thieves and ready for adventure! That is, until they’re captured! When Princess Petunia offers Spike a chance to find her lost puppy and free Driftwood’s crew, Spike is the top dog for the job. How hard could it be to find one fluffy royal pooch?

Stinky Spike takes center stage in a silly tale that has Stinky Spike and a princess looking for a lost puppy. While Stinky Spike’s love of putrid smells is a unique premise, the dog’s bad body order becomes less humorous as the story progresses. Stinky Spike is clearly the hero of the story, but he doesn’t use investigative skills and there are no clues for mystery-loving fans to follow. Another disappointing aspect of the story is that the pirates do not play a large role in the story’s plot. Despite this, younger readers will still enjoy Stinky Spike’s adventure.

Stinky Spike and the Royal Rescue has fun, brightly-colored illustrations that will tickle readers’ silly bones. Even though the story focuses on animals, the humans that Spike meets a diverse group of pirates. Plus, Princess Petunia has dark hair and brown skin. Stinky Spike and the Royal Rescue is told in three chapters and each two-page spread has 4 to 7 sentences. While early elementary readers will enjoy the story, they may need help with the story’s vocabulary.

Stinky Spike is a unique main character who has very few heroic qualities but still saves the day. The high-interest topic—dogs and pirates—will cause readers to pick up the book while the silly plot, large illustrations, and many animal characters will keep readers interested until the very end. Readers who want to learn more pirate facts should set sail to the library and check out Pirate Pedro by Fran Manushkin.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Stinky Spike, the princess, and a flock of parrots attack the pirates who have stolen the princess’s puppy. “The flock of seabirds flew at the pirates. They dove after their pirate hats. They pecked at their pirate beards. They clawed at their shiny silver buckles.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • King Seabreeze calls the pirates “bumbling buccaneers.”
  • A bear calls Stinky Spike and the princess “troublemakers.”
  • Spike yells at a parrot, “Watch where you’re flying feather-neck.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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