President George Washington

When George Washington was young, his mother would not let him go to sea. But later, George became a hero when he led the Continental Army in battle and helped America win its freedom from England. He was elected the first president of the new nation and tried his best to keep the country at peace. George Washington was one of the greatest men of his time. 

President George Washington covers George’s life, starting when he was nine years old and living in Virginia. The story explains how he became chief of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War and the first president of the United States. The story ends with his death. While the book does not go into great detail, readers will learn interesting facts about George Washington and see how he became one of America’s heroes.

The book uses large text, short chapters, and simple vocabulary to make it accessible to readers in first and second grade. Each page has two to seven simple sentences and a large illustration. The earth-toned pictures bring George’s world to life. While the war scenes are not graphic, the scenes of soldiers fighting Native Americans may upset some readers. The back of the book includes important dates and suggested reading.

Adler gives readers a brief look into George Washington’s life and will help readers understand why George Washington was considered “first in war, first in peace, and the first in the hearts of his fellow citizens.” Beginning readers who want to learn more about colonial days will find President George Washington educational and engaging.

Sexual Content 

  • None

Violence 

  • During the French and Indian War, George Washington said, “I have heard the bullets whistle, there is something charming in the sound.”
  • The story has several pages that show George Washington and his army fighting Native Americans in the French and Indian War. In addition, the illustration for the Boston Tea Party shows people dressed up as Native Americans with feathers in their hair.

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content 

  • None

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs

There once was a little dog named Tray. He lived in England with his owner, Mary Ann Anning. Besides Mary Ann, Tray loved one other thing: he loved to dig for dinosaur bones. Together he and Mary Ann found small bones, big bones, and even entire skeletons! People came from all around the world to see the bones they found. This is the true story of Tray, the dog that dug for dinosaurs. 

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs will please young readers who love dogs and dinosaurs. This true story shows how Mary Ann and Tray worked together to find dinosaur fossils. Throughout her life, Mary Ann studied and searched for dinosaurs. At first, they found small fossils, but eventually, they also found an ichthyosaur that is still displayed in the British Museum in London.  

Mary Ann and Tray’s activities come to life in large illustrations that often include pictures of the fossils they found. The illustrations are drawn using the muted browns and greens of nature. Occasionally, the many people that came to meet Mary Ann and Tray are pictured, which introduces readers to the fashions of the early 1800s.  

As part of the Ready-To-Read Level Three Series, The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs is best suited for confident readers who are ready to tackle more challenging vocabulary and sentence structures. The story has a more complicated plot and deeper character development than books in lower levels. Most pages have approximately six sentences with illustrations that break up the text.   

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs will entertain readers as it shows how Mary Ann and Tray turned their passion for finding fossils into a lifelong adventure that impacted the field of paleontology. The story is perfect for young readers that love dinosaurs. Readers who want to learn more about dinosaurs and finding fossils should check out the picture book Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern. If you’re looking for a fun, fictional book about dinosaurs, The Dino Files Series by Stacy McAnulty is sure to please.  

  Sexual Content 

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Violence 

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Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman

The woods are dark and dangerous. Slave catchers are out with their dogs. But high above the trees, the North Star shines down. Harriet Tubman is glad to see the North Star. It points the way to freedom. Tonight Harriet is helping slaves escape on the Underground Railroad. Will they make it? Find out in this exciting true story.  

Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman highlights the bravery of Harriet Tubman and the people who risked their lives to hide runaway slaves. The story uses kid-friendly language to show the hardships Harriet and others faced. While the story doesn’t give detailed descriptions of the abuse that enslaved people endured, young readers may find the beatings and other violence upsetting. Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman will introduce readers to this difficult time in history.  

The story doesn’t just focus on the abuse of enslaved people; it also shows the kindness of those who helped the enslaved people on their journey north. For example, “A Quaker named Thomas Garrett owned a shoe store. He had a secret room for runaways to hide in behind a wall of shoe boxes. When the runaways were ready to leave, he gave each a pair of shoes.” Harriet Tubman’s story reinforces the theme that people must stand together and fight for what is right.  

As a Step into Reading Level 3 book, Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman is intended for readers in second and third grade. However, the grade levels are only guides; children will progress through the steps at their own speed, developing confidence in their reading. Each page of Harriet’s story has a large colored illustration that will help readers understand the plot. The story uses oversized text and has two to seven sentences per page.  

The true story of Harriet Tubman will inspire children by showing Harriet’s determination and bravery. Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman is a fast-paced, suspenseful chapter book that will engage young readers. If you’d like another engaging story that focuses on history, check out Pioneer Cat by William Hooks and Attack at the Arena by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker. 

Sexual Content 

  • None

Violence 

  • When enslaved people disappeared, the bossman “and his dogs would come after them. If they were caught, they would be beaten. . . maybe to death.”  
  • When Harriet was seven, she worked for Mrs. Cook winding yarn. “Sometimes the yarn broke. Then Mrs. Cook got out the whip.” Mrs. Cook would call Harriet a “stupid girl.”  
  • Many slaves worked in the tobacco fields. “If they didn’t work fast enough, they were beaten.” 
  • When Harriett was a teenager, an enslaved person ran away. “The bossman threw a weight at him to stop him. But it hit Harriet instead. Harriet wasn’t the same after that.” 
  • While leading people to freedom, one man decided he wanted to go back. “Harriet stood in his way. If the slave catchers caught him, they would beat the secrets of the Underground Railroad out of him. Harriet couldn’t let that happen. She pointed her gun at the man.” Afterward, the group “trudged on.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

  • While Harriet was trying to escape to freedom, “a group of slave hunters were approaching . . . She prayed the hunters wouldn’t see her. Somehow they never did.” 
  • Harriet went back to the south to free other slaves. “She was going to free her people, just like Moses in the Bible.” 

Pigeon Hero!

In a town in Italy during World War II the people surrendered without firing a shot. But American warplanes are due to arrive, and the radio’s broken, so no one can tell them to call off the attack! G. I. Joe, a carrier pigeon, is the only one who can take the message to the Americans. Will he make it in time to save the town? 

The story of G.I. Joe is told in kid-friendly language and focuses on G.I. Joe’s dangerous flight. Despite the difficulties, G.I. Joe is able to deliver his message and then return. When he returns, “Joe carried a new message. The planes would not come! The town was safe.” Readers will enjoy seeing G.I. Joe complete his mission and be rewarded with a medal.  

As part of the Ready-To-Read Level 2 Series, Pigeon Hero! is intended for children who can read independently. The story is told using short chapters. Each page has four to seven sentences of various lengths; however, most sentences are short. G.I. Joe’s story has a complex plot that takes place in different locations. Each page has a full-colored illustration that will help readers visualize the story’s events. Several pages show German soldiers firing machine guns at G.I. Joe. Towards the end, two pages focus on the joy the townspeople feel when G.I. Joe returns with a new message. 

Readers who are interested in animals or war will find the story of G.I. Joe interesting. The short story highlights G.I. Joe’s bravery as he overcomes obstacles to deliver the message. G.I. Joe’s ability to save the day will leave readers with a smile. Plus, the last page of the book gives more information about the amazing things that war pigeons were able to do. Children interested in birds may want to take a step into the past by reading Ancient Animals: Terror Bird by Sarah L. Thomson. However, if you’re looking for a more motivational story, Bird Boy by Matthew Burgess would be a better choice. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • British soldiers plan to have a big battle with the Germans. But when the soldiers arrive, the Germans flee. Several soldiers are shown with their weapons. 
  • German soldiers try to shoot G.I. Joe. “G.I. Joe heard machine gun fire. The enemy below was shooting at him!” 
  • A hawk tries to eat G.I. Joe. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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Word Travelers and the Taj Mahal Mystery

Eddie and Molly-Jean (MJ) are next door neighbors and best friends. One Saturday, Eddie’s mom sends him up to the attic to get his great-grandpa’s most prized possession (a book, of course). Eddie and MJ are suddenly transported to India where they must use their word knowledge to solve a mystery and help a new friend save his school.  

From an educational standpoint, Word Travelers is an excellent book to use as an introduction to new words, because there are many words defined throughout the story. Each word is shown in bold text and there is a glossary at the end of the book. The vocabulary lessons are mostly integrated into the story. For example, when discussing shampoo, Dev looks up the word and reads “shampoo comes from Hindi. That’s one of the many languages we speak in India.” The readers are also told that “the Hindi word champo originally meant to press or rub, like during a massage. Over time, the word was adopted into English to describe the way we rub our hair when we wash it.” A new word appears every one to five pages, which may be overwhelming for some readers.  

Some readers may be bothered by the unrealistic events. For example, when Eddie and MJ travel to India, they appear in a bedroom. A boy named Dev finds them and instead of acting suspicious of the two strangers, he immediately begins telling them about his problem. Later in the story, Eddie, MJ, and Dev hurry to “board the last dinghy to Sea Palace.” But once they get there, they row the dingy to the palace themselves, which makes no sense. Not only that, but at one point MJ rows the dingy by herself while the two boys sleep. There are several more events that may leave readers scratching their heads. 

Word Travelers has diverse characters who work together to solve a mystery. However, most of the problem-solving comes from a magical book titled Awesome Enchanted Book and takes little effort on the kids’ part. Still, young readers will enjoy the black and white illustrations that appear on almost every page. Plus, the illustrations help readers visualize the story’s events. When the villain appears for the first time, his stereotypical appearance makes it clear that he is the bad guy. Even though there is a clear villain, he is never scary, but instead adds suspense to the story.  

Most young readers will not be able to read Word Travelers on their own. The book is written at a 5.9 reading level, which is higher than most young adult books’ reading level. Readers will need help pronouncing and understanding many of the words that are being introduced. However, Word Travelers is worth reading and discussing with a child because of its educational value. One positive aspect of the book is that occasionally MJ talks about historical people that she admires, such as Mae Jemison, the first Black female astronaut. This may spark readers’ interest in learning more about these historical people. If you’d like a book that teaches about vocabulary but is more accessible to younger readers, The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds and the Polly Diamond Book Series by Alice Kuipers & Diana Toledano would be good choices. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Eddie tells a bad joke. Afterward, MJ says, “As you can see, my best friend is a little kooky in the coconut.”  
  • Heck is used twice. 
  • The villain calls someone a fool.  

Supernatural 

  • Eddie and MJ find the Awesome Enchanted Book which takes them to another place. When they start talking about the origin of the word pajamas, “the Awesome Enchanted Book began floating above their heads, spinning faster and faster, until poof!—the room was filled with a swirling haze of smoke.” 
  • The villain tries to open the Awesome Enchanted Book. He was “trying with all his might to open it. But the book wouldn’t budge.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • Eddie exclaims, “Holy cow!” Hearing him, an adult tells him, “In many cultures and religions, people believe cows are holy. And throughout India, people treat cows in that way.”

Silver

Rachel dreams of racing huskies, just like her father. So when she gets a tiny puppy for her birthday, she names him Silver for his shiny coat and vows that he will be the fastest lead dog in Alaska. But one day, Silver disappears. Rachels sets out to find him, following the tracks of a large animal into the forest. Snow begins to fall. An eerie howling breaks the silence. Then Rachel realizes she is tracking a wolf, that she is all alone, and that night is falling. 

Silver brings the harsh Alaskan winter to life. Through Rachel’s daily life, readers will be able to imagine the winter weather, the isolation, and the importance of huskies. Since the story is told from Rachel’s point of view, there is little suspense or action. Even though dogsledding is an important part of Rachel’s life, there is very little action pertaining to the dogs. The pace doesn’t pick up until the end of the book when Rachel realizes that Silver is missing. Since there is so little action, some readers may struggle to read the entire book.  

While Silver was written for young readers, the difficult vocabulary and mature tone may make Silver difficult for some readers. However, the format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and black and white illustrations that appear on almost every page. The Stepping Stones Series is specifically written for young readers and the books allow readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics.  

Readers interested in dog sledding or learning more about Alaska will enjoy Silver. While the story lacks action, Rachel is a caring girl who loves dogs and takes good care of Silver. Plus, her two-parent family is shown in a positive light. Readers craving a more action-packed book that features dog sledding may want to check out Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Those interested in learning more facts about dogs and how they help humans should add Dog Heroes by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce to their must-read list. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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The Big Freeze

The time has come for Princess Lina to choose her magical weather specialty. Her cousin, Jack Frost, makes amazing snowflakes. Her Uncle Lee forms ice caves in glaciers. Her Great-Aunt Sunder creates winter storms on polar seas. Everyone has chosen something so impressive. Lina’s not sure what she’s going to do—but she’s determined to make her mark in a big way! 

To complicate matters, Lina’s teacher has assigned an art project. Lina is disappointed that she can’t use science because she isn’t artistic. Everything Lina tries turns out to be a big mess. After several failed attempts to create art, Lina uses magic to make her project, but she wonders if that is cheating. Lina thinks, “One of Ms. Collier’s rules was that we were supposed to do our projects without any help. But she didn’t say anything about using magic, right?” 

The Big Freeze is told from Lina’s point of view, which helps readers understand her conflicts. Readers will relate to Lina’s difficulty at school and her desire to make her family proud. Lina writes in her diary often, which allows the readers to understand her thoughts and feelings. Lina’s best friend, Claudie, also tries to help Lina by giving advice. The two girls’ friendship is sweet and Claudie’s words are always encouraging and positive. 

One of the reasons Lina has difficulty completing her project is because she wants it to be perfect. In the end, instead of copying someone else’s art form or turning in a project that was made by magic, Lina writes a poem and turns it in late. Lina learns that “there’s no such thing as a perfect piece of art” and that she “needed to cut [herself] some slack.” 

Readers will be drawn into the book because of the cute illustrations that appear in black, white, and light green. The illustrations appear on almost every page and the pictures help readers understand the plot because they show Lina’s activities. The Big Freeze uses simple vocabulary, plus several pages contain a list. The paragraphs contain three or fewer sentences and have a variety of graphic elements to break the text into small portions. The easy-to-read story has relatable conflicts and interesting characters. Lina’s grandfather is a major character, and he has a “big, booming voice [that] can get a little intense.” To emphasize how loud Lina’s grandfather is, his words appear in large green font and all capitals.  

Readers who love princesses and magic will find The Big Freeze to be an entertaining book. The end of the book gives directions on how to make a snowflake that has “the power of patterns.” Both parents and children will be pleased with the kind and encouraging characters who don’t expect each other to be perfect. For more magical reading that has kind characters check out the Candy Fairies Series by Helen Perelman and the Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

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Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

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Supernatural 

  • Everyone in Lina’s family has a magical power. Her mom and grandfather are Windtamers and can control the weather. “Mom’s job is to bring the spring rains. Granddad is the North Wind.” 
  • Lina is a Winterheart, “which means my powers are all about ice and snow.” 
  • Lina uses her magic to make a perfect ice sculpture of herself. She also uses her magic to make it snow.

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Green Ghost

It’s Christmas Eve, and Kaye’s family is on the way to her grandmother’s house in a swirling snowstorm. Suddenly the car hits a patch of ice, slides across the road and skids into a snow-filled ditch! Through the car window, Kaye spots a light in the woods. Its glow leads her and her parents through the blizzard. They find a warm cabin, a kindly old woman named Elsa, and a green ghost who needs Kaye’s help!  

A long time ago, when Elsa was three, her sister Lillian wanted a beautiful Christmas tree rather than the ugly Junipers that her father brough home every year. So, Lillian and Elsa go into the snowy woods to find a tree. However, when Lillian finds the tree, she is unable to cut it down. By the time Lillian gives up, Elsa is shivering cold. Lillian can’t carry Elsa home, so she wraps Elsa up in her jacket, crawls under the tree, and snuggles up to keep Elsa warm. While Elsa survives, Lillian dies.   

By the time Kaye meets Elsa, she is an old woman who lives by herself. Like Elsa’s sister, Kaye wants a beautiful Christmas tree, not the artificial tree her grandmother planned to get. Kaye’s story parallels Lillian’s story and, in the end, Kaye learns that having a beautiful Christmas tree isn’t what is important. Christmas isn’t about the tree or the decorations, it’s about spending time with the people you love.  

The Green Ghost is full of suspense which will keep young readers flipping the pages until the very end. Even though The Green Ghost is a ghost story, the ghost’s appearance isn’t frightening. Before Kaye realizes that Lillian is a ghost, Kaye follows her into the woods. Kaye wonders, “What if this girl was playing a trick on her? What if she was trying to get Kaye lost in the woods? Could she find her way back to Elsa’s alone if she had to?” While the story revolves around a ghost, the story has a happy ending. 

The Green Ghost’s format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and illustrations. The story goes back and forth between the early 1930s when Lillian was alive and the present. The two points of view are easy to follow because the chapters from Lillian’s time begin with the date and have a gray boarder around each page. This book is part of the Stepping Stones Series that is specifically written for beginning readers. The series allows readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics. 

If you’re looking for an engaging Christmas story with a positive message, The Green Ghost would be fun to read wrapped in a blanket on a cold night. If you want to add another Christmas-themed book with a positive message to your child’s reading list, check out Winter Wonders by Kate Hannigan. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Kaye and her family skid off the snowy road. “And they were sliding back across the road again. The car slid, and it turned, too . . . like some kind of carnival ride.” The car is stuck so they walk to a nearby house for help. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Blasted is used several times. For example, Kaye and her family are driving through a snowstorm. When Kaye starts asking her father questions, he snapped, “We’re in the middle of blasted nowhere.  

Supernatural 

  • A ghost appears to Kaye. “A small, pale face appeared. . . a lighted face. . . The light—or face, whatever it was—called to her. Not with a voice. . . Still, the light called as clearly as if it had said, ‘Come.’” 
  • Lillian, the ghost, appears as a little girl and leads Kaye into the forest where she stops by a tree. Then, “Lillian stepped back toward the line of trees and disappeared. She simply vanished.” 
  • Elsa tells Kaye that the ghost is her sister who died. “When I was a girl, Lillian visited me every year, right around Christmas. . . And then she and I would walk out together to see this tree.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • Elsa tells Kaye and her family, “it was surely an angel who had brought them to her on this stormy night.” 

Into the Storm

After their victory in Texas, the Pawtriots are en route back to their home in Washington, DC. But when a massive storm on the Atlantic Ocean rolls in, Sergeant Rico and his unit are forced to take shelter on a mysterious island in the Caribbean.

While on the island, the Pawtriots meet M—the leader of the island’s animals. M tells them the story of the thrice-cursed pirate Sea Wolf, his crew, and his ship, the Calico Jack. When Sea Wolf and his crew are brought back to life, it’s up to the Pawtriots to defeat the pirates and return peace to the island.

While aboard a Coast Guard Ship, Rico and the Pawtriots meet two brothers: Jet and Jag. While Jag is a “hard-liner” who follows all the rules, Jet breaks rules at every opportunity. The two dogs add interest to the story, but they also give mixed messages. At times rules are followed, but others believe “that some rules are meant to be broken.” Sometimes breaking the rules cause problems, but other times breaking the rules is the only solution.

Rico and the Pawtriots follow Army morals. For example, to save the Pawtriots, Rico agrees to serve Sea Wolf. Rico thinks, “When I was in the Army, there were times when sacrifices had to be made for the greater good and the sake of the mission. This is one of those times.” Because of Rico’s leadership and courage, the Pawtriots are successful in eventually defeating Sea Wolf.

Into the Storm begins by recapping the events from the previous book, Everything is Bigger in Texas. While chapter one is heavy on the military lingo, the sayings are explained. For example, Rico explains that “debrief you” is “Army-talk for ‘getting up to speed on the details of the mission. . . and quickly.’” Despite this, younger readers may struggle with the advanced vocabulary such as makeshift, flotilla, interceptor, and liaison.

Each chapter starts with the location, date, and military time, which makes the timeline easy to follow. 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 Sea Wolf, the Kraken, and the various characters. The back of the book also includes the Soldier’s Creed, and a glossary of Army terms.

the Pawtriots fight and defeat supernatural pirates, and throughout the story, Rico leads his unit and reinforces the importance of duty, respect, courage, and helping others. As the Pawtriot Dogs Series progresses, readers will have to remember a large cast of characters whose personalities are not well developed. Readers will enjoy Into the Storm because it is a suspenseful story that follows a group of heroic dogs. Dog-loving readers who want more fun adventures should add the Puppy Pirates Series by Erin Soderberg to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Sea Wolf throws Jet off a tower. Rico says, “All I can do is watch as she crashes into a cluster of tall trees below, helplessly clawing at the branches in a desperate effort to slow her fall. She hits the ground hard. . .”
  • Sea Wolf commands his crew to attack the Pawtriots. The fight is not described, but Rico is captured and put in chains.
  • The Pawtriots must face a kraken that has “twelve long, slimy tentacles with suction cups that can pull your skin clean off and fangs that will rip you to shreds.” Rico describes how “a tentacle sweeps my legs out from under me. . .the wet rock presses up against my fur. I try to wrestle free from the Kraken’s grip on my tail, but it’s useless.”
  • Someone kills the Kraken to save Rico. Rico sees “Penny, who has Sea Wolf’s sword in her paw. It’s covered in Kraken blood.”
  • The Pawtriots are in a cavern that starts to collapse. Rico is the last to exit. “I am squeezed in between rocks. . . I wiggle my body and shimmy as fast as I can, falling out of the tunnel onto ground just as the tunnel caves in completely.”
  • Sea Wolf makes the Pawtriots walk the plank. As they struggle to remain afloat in the ocean, they are saved.
  • To defeat Sea Wolf, the “Pawtriots don’t hesitate, and in an instant, they’ve swarmed the Cutthroats, engaging them in fierce paw-to-paw combat.” No fighting is described.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Sea Wolf calls someone a “treacherous bilge rat.”
  • Sea Wolf calls his crew, “Yellow-bellied sapsuckers.”
  • Sea Wolf calls his former first mate a “backstabbing traitor.”

Supernatural

  • Rico and the Pawtriots end up on a cursed island. While there, a cat tells the story of the “Thrice-Cursed Pirate Sea Wolf” and his ship, the Calico Jack. Sea Wolf’s sword, ship, and crew were cursed. Sea Wolf’s “very soul was trapped inside the eternal flame. . . If the bell were ever to be run, then Sea Wolf would have until sunset to raise his crew, his ship, and retrieve his sword before the flame dies out and Sea Wolf with it.” Someone rings the bell and reawakens Sea Wolf and his crew.
  • When Sea Wolf reappears, “his eyes are bloodshot, and the moon paints his gray fur with an ominous glow.”
  • Sea Wolf’s “strength grows with each passing minute that his lungs draw breath.”
  • The Sea Wolf’s first mate was cured with immortality. She says, “Being alive forever gets old. I’m tired. Very, very tired. And the only way I can rest is if Sea Wolf rises and falls.”
  • In the end, Sea Wolf is defeated and “Sea Wolf vanishes.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Let’s Play, Crabby!

Plankton wants Crabby to play a game. Plankton tries to get Crabby to play Simon Says, Tag, and Hide-and-Seek. But Crabby does NOT want to play with Plankton. Will Plankton give up? Or will Crabby finally play along?   

Beginning readers will fall in love with Plankton’s enthusiasm and Crabby’s grumpiness. This easy-to-follow, silly plot comes to life in the brightly-colored artwork that appears on every page. The pages are broken into colorful panels, which makes it easy for readers to follow along. Plus, the colorful speech bubbles make it easy to understand who is speaking.  

Let’s Play Crabby is perfect for children who are learning to read. The text uses simple sentences and easy vocabulary, and the speech bubbles are color-coded to distinguish each speaker. Each page contains five or fewer sentences, which makes the story accessible to new readers. 

Let’s Play Crabby is full of humor and has a silly, surprise ending. With easy-to-read text, a comic-story format, and full-color artwork on every page, the book will boost reading confidence and fluency. Readers will laugh their way through the book and will be eager to read another Crabby story. Beginning readers who love Plankton and Crabby can learn more about friendship by reading The Unicorn and Yeti Series by Heather Ayris Burnell.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair

Polly and her magic book, Spell, have all kinds of adventures together because whatever Polly writes in Spell comes true! But when Polly and Spell join forces to make the school fair super spectacular, they quickly discover that what you write and what you mean are not always the same. 

Polly Diamond focuses on a spunky protagonist who loves to learn new words. When a new word is introduced, the text explains the definition as well as a word’s multiple meanings. The story also briefly explains syllables, alliterations, adjectives, similes, puns, and palindromes. While Polly gives examples of each type of word, readers will most likely not remember all the lessons because they are not reinforced throughout the story. However, with an adult’s help, Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair would be a great educational tool. 

Polly Diamond’s format will appeal to beginning readers. The text is broken up with cute black and white illustrations that appear on every page. Occasionally, Polly includes a list. For example, after Polly’s classmate Shaylene is introduced, Polly writes “a list of annoying things about Shaylene.” Another positive aspect of the book is the use of alliteration and onomatopoeias that make reading the story aloud fun. In addition, the back of the book has a two-page list of books that readers might enjoy. 

To add silliness to the story, Polly writes her wishes in her magic book, Spell. Often, Spell comes up with an unexpected interpretation of Polly’s requests. In this story, the students begin turning into different creatures such as dragons and fairies. This creates a bit of chaos that will leave readers smiling. However, some readers might feel overwhelmed because the story’s plot crams in too many words and too many events.  

Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair is a fun book that has many positive attributes. Polly Diamond’s two parent family is portrayed in a positive light. The book introduces new words and will make readers think about how their words can be misinterpreted. Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair will appeal to many readers because it includes a magical book, a funny Sploosh Monster, and a spunky protagonist. If you’re looking for another educational book, the Yasmin Series by Saadia Faruqi explores different topics such as being a superhero, being a writer, and being an explorer.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • One of the students turns into a squirrel. When the squirrel sees Polly, she throws a nut at her. 
  • Spell creates a “splashy, splooshy Puddle Monster…It is HUGE!” Polly tries to get rid of the monster. “I throw myself forward and try to vanquish it. The puddle screams and splooshes away down the block.” 
  • A Puddle Monster shows up at the school. Polly tries to vanquish it again. “I swipe my shiny dictionary from the pile. I swoosh it around my head. . . The Puddle Monster screams and runs away.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None

Supernatural 

  • Polly Diamond has a magic book. Everything Polly writes in her book comes true. For example, “If I wrote Anna is a muffin in Spell, then, POP!, Anna would turn into a muffin!” 
  • At the school book fair, Polly uses Spell to create fun. Below are some examples. Not all of the magic is listed below. 
  • Polly asks Spell to make a Pop-Open-A-Book-Corn stall. The principal, “Mr. Love, picks up a book and opens it. As he opens the pages, out pops lots and lots of popcorn! Pop. Pop. Pop!” 
  • A student paints a fairy on Polly’s sister’s cheek. “The fairy from my sister’s cheek zings to life.” The student then paints “more little fairies, and they all zip and spark to life and fly around Anna’s head.” 
  • The students begin turning into different creatures based on what they have painted on their faces. For example, Polly’s sister “begins to glow. Anna is turning into a fairy!” A boy starts to glow and then “the scales painted on his face start to glow. . . [He] is turning into a green dragon. . . with TWO HEADS!” Another student turns into a squirrel.  

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Ice Wreck

In 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out for the South Pole. They never made it. Within sight of land, the ship ran into dangerous waters filled with chunks of ice. Then the sea froze around them! There was no hope of rescue. Could Shackleton find a way to save himself and his men?

Ernest Shackleton is an admirable explorer who demonstrates bravery and quick thinking. Even though the expedition to the South Pole was not a success, Shackleton and all of his men survived the brutal cold after their ship sank below the ocean. Ice Wreck explains Shackleton’s experiences through nonfiction text. Unlike a story, Ice Wreck only focuses on Shackleton and contains no dialogue or suspense.

Ice Wreck’s format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and illustrations. The book contains photographs of the expedition as well as full-color drawings that appear every 1 to 2 pages. The Stepping Stones Series is specifically written for young readers and allows readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics.

Ice Wreck is an excellent choice for parents and teachers who want to introduce non-fiction reading to their children. Ernest Shackleton’s quick thinking and dedication to his men highlight the qualities of a great leader. To learn more about Shackleton’s expedition, Ice Wreck can be paired with Race to the South Pole.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While stranded on an ice flow, the men were running out of food. “One sad day, there wasn’t enough left to feed the dogs. Soon they would starve. The men had to shoot them.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Night of Soldiers and Spies

Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, travels to Colonial America to help the patriot cause!

Ranger’s next mission finds him in the middle of the Revolutionary War. There, he meets Isaac Pope, a fisherman turned soldier for the Continental Army. When General George Washington needs a spy to cross into enemy territory, Isaac is chosen for the dangerous task. Ranger must help Isaac remain safe and undetected, or the battle—and their lives—will be lost.

Even though the main protagonist, Isaac, is young, he shows determination and bravery. He willingly goes into enemy territory even though he knows it will be dangerous and difficult. Isaac is part of the Continental Army, and his regiment is assigned to ferry soldiers across the river. Even though Ranger is afraid, he accompanies Isaac on his spying mission. Ranger saves the boy’s life when he alerts others that Isaac is in danger, but more often, Ranger comforts Isaac by just being with him.

Even though General Washington was a pivotal person in the Revolutionary War, Night of Soldiers and Spies doesn’t portray him as a perfect hero. Instead, the story includes Washington’s flaws, creating a realistic, well-rounded individual. “General Washington himself had argued that black men shouldn’t be recruited as soldiers,” but the Army was in desperate need of men, so slaves were allowed to fight. Under Washington, “the enslaved men who fought for the Continental Army. . . were still considered property. They were sent back into slavery by the country they’d helped to found, and never tasted the freedom for which they’d fought.”

Night of Soldiers and Spies is an entertaining and educational story that has a unique perspective because it focuses on a golden retriever. The third-person narration adds interest while reducing some of the story’s scariness. Full-page, black-and-white illustrations appear approximately every six pages. Even though Ranger’s story is fictional, facts are woven into the story. The end of the book has additional information about the Fourteenth Continental Regiment and a list of more resources. Readers interested in history and war may also enjoy the Boys of Wartime Series by Laurie Calkhoven.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Isaac is crossing a half-frozen river, the ice begins breaking. “Isaac plunged into the icy river. It was so cold he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t even think. But he caught another slab of ice floating by and held on.” Ranger gets Isaac help.
  • On a bitterly cold night, the Continental Army marches towards the enemy. “Ranger sniffed the air as they walked. It smelled of ice and river water and tired men. . .Some had worn out their shoes and left bloody footprints in the snow.”
  • A Hessian regiment fired on the Continental Army and Isaac is shot. “A burning pain seared through Isaac’s leg. He dove behind a fence and pressed his hand to his thigh. It was wet and warm with blood. . .” A doctor operates on Isaac’s leg, and he recovers.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Colonel Rall calls the Continental Army’s men “country clowns.”

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.
  • Isaac has a good-luck charm. “It was just a short length of knotted rope, but its’ rough, scratchy feel always reminded him of home.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Fitz and Cleo Get Creative

Cleo is a ghost who loves books. She wants to be like the characters in her books because they have awesome adventures, daring escapes, and epic battles. After watching a movie, she and her ghost brother Fitz decide to make a movie of their own—with their cat Boo’s help. First, they must write the movie script, which is really hard. Then they will need a band, artists, and actors. Will Fitz and Cleo be able to put all the pieces together and create movie magic? 

Readers will fall in love with the two ghosts, who are friendly, adorably cute, and make every day an adventure. While some of the events are random—such as finding images in clouds—most of the chapters focus on Fitz and Cleo making a movie. Through their activities, readers will learn about the movie-making process: making sets, sewing costumes, writing a script, and finding actors. Readers will also be introduced to the Rube Goldberg Machine, which is “a complex mechanical device, where one simple action causes another simple action.” While things don’t always go the way the two ghosts plan, they always encourage each other. 

Readers might miss Boo because he doesn’t play a large role; however, this leaves room for three new characters: a vampire, a werewolf, and a fish creature. Adding Fitz’s and Cleo’s friends adds interest and creates some humor. While all the characters are typically scary creatures, in Fitz and Cleo all the monsters are cute and friendly.  

The siblings’ adventures come to life in large, colorful panels similar to a graphic novel’s panels. The illustrations use bright colors and simple backgrounds that will appeal to young readers. Although the illustrations are simple, the ghosts’ emotions are clearly conveyed. Plus, some of the illustrations are humorous, such as Cleo dressed up like a rock star and Fitz’s mishap that makes him all colors of the rainbow. 

Fitz and Cleo’s chapters range from five to eleven pages. Each page has two to eight short sentences. Unlike the first book in the series, Fitz and Cleo Get Creative isn’t a collection of everyday life. Instead, each chapter relates to the next. While most of the text is easy to read, adults may need to help readers with some of the words such as nigh, nimbostratus, generations, and summon. There are also plenty of silly moments. For example, when Fitz ask Cleo for a pencil, she tells him she doesn’t have one. “But I do have this replica Viking battle-ax! You can carve your ideas into stone.” 

Fitz and Cleo Get Creative will entertain readers because of the relatable conflicts, the friendly ghosts, and new characters. Even though the story revolves around making a movie, young readers will relate to the siblings, who don’t always agree and make mistakes. Even when things don’t go as planned, Fitz and Cleo persevere until they reach their goal—making a marvelous movie. Readers who love Fitz and Cleo can find more ghostly friendship fun by reading Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliot.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Together

Unicorn and Yeti make every day adventurous. When they see how the seeds fly and the bugs zoom, they decide to go zip, zigzag, and zoom too. On another day, Unicorn decides it would be fun to copy everything Yeti says. At first, Yeti thinks it’s funny, but then he gets mad. When Yeti gets upset, Unicorn apologizes, saying, “I am sorry. I am being a copycorn. It is not fun for you.” In chapter three, Unicorn and Yeti dress up “fancy” and go to a tea party.  

Unicorn and Yeti is a fun series designed for children who are learning to read. Together contains easy-to-read text. Each page has illustrations and contains no more than four sentences. When each character talks, their words appear in different colored quote boxes. Beginning readers should be able to read the text alone and will enjoy flipping through the story multiple times to look at all the colorful pictures. 

Young readers will be drawn into the book because of the adorable cover art, but they will stay because they are entertained by Unicorn and Yeti’s funny stories. Readers will learn about how seeds move and are replanted, as well as how copying someone can be annoying. One of the best aspects of the story is that Unicorn and Yeti demonstrate positive communication skills and apologize when necessary. Even though the book is short, it packs in positive messages about friendship as it makes readers giggle. Readers who love Unicorn and Yeti will find even more sparkly friendship-themed adventures in Rebecca Elliott’s Unicorn Diaries. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Blue Ghost

Liz is staying with her grandmother in her old house in the woods of northern Minnesota when one night a noise awakens her. It is someone calling her name, calling for Elizabeth. Liz opens her eyes. There is a blue ghost in her room! What does the ghost want from her? 

The Blue Ghost pulls readers into the story right from the start. Even though the story focuses on a ghost, the ghost tugs at readers’ curiosity instead of scaring them. When the ghost beckons to Liz, she follows the ghost into the past where Liz meets one of her relatives, a young girl named Elizabeth. When Elizabeth mistakes Liz for a guardian angel, Liz doesn’t correct her, because trying to explain the truth would be confusing. Instead, guided by the ghost, Liz is able to help Elizabeth care for her baby brother who is sick with the croup. Once the baby is out of danger, Liz returns to the present. 

The Blue Ghost isn’t just a ghost story; it is also a story about family connections. Through Gran’s stories, Liz learns about the history of her family. This knowledge helps Liz when she goes back in time. However, Liz is surprised to discover that Elizabeth does not know how to read. While Elizabeth is embarrassed by her inability to read, Liz encourages her by saying, “[You] could learn very quickly.” Once Liz returns to the present, she discovers that Elizabeth not only learned how to read, but she also became a doctor!   

Readers will enjoy the mystery surrounding the blue ghost as well as the sweet relationship between Liz and Gran. Through Gran, Liz learns about her ancestors who built the house and the importance of family connections. While the two have some fun moments, the story’s tone has moments of sadness. However, sadness is not portrayed in a negative light, but as a natural part of life. Gran teaches Liz that “tears are probably the best cure for a touch of sadness. Or the second best, anyway.” According to Gran, the best way to get over sadness is “sharing your bit of sadness” with someone you love.   

Readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy The Blue Ghost’s format because of the short chapters, large font, and illustrations. This book is part of the Stepping Stones Series that is specifically written for beginning readers. The series allows readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics. 

The Blue Ghost is an engaging story that gives readers a peek into the past and shows that it is never too late to learn. The story focuses on Liz, who is a curious and likable protagonist who wants to learn about her family’s past. While Gran takes a secondary role, the relationship between Gran and Liz is endearing and readers will enjoy seeing how Liz is able to help Gran. Unlike many ghost stories, Liz doesn’t keep her experience a secret. Instead, the book ends with Liz sitting down to tell her Gran all about her ghost. The Blue Ghost is a surprising ghost story because there is no scare factor. Instead, readers will be eager to see how Liz’s willingness to follow the blue ghost allows her to help in an important way.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • A ghost appears in Liz’s bedroom. At first Liz sees a blue light. Then, “It seemed to form a person, a woman . . . the woman grew more solid. She floated right over Liz’s head. . . She motioned, as if she wanted Liz to follow. Then she vanished.” 
  • When the ghost appears again, Liz follows her through a wall. Liz “kept expecting to bump into the wall. She didn’t. . . Slowly she opened her eyes and drew in a long, slow breath. . . she was in a log cabin.” When Liz went through the wall, she was transported back in time.

Spiritual Content 

  • The girl in the past believes Liz is an angel because “Mama always told me I had a guarding angel. And here you be!” 

Biscuit Meets the Class Pet

Hop, hop! There’s someone new at Biscuit’s house. Nibbles, the class pet, has come for a visit. Nibbles likes exploring Biscuit’s home and wants to play with all of Biscuit’s toys. Biscuit isn’t sure if he is ready to share with Nibbles, but soon Biscuit realizes that he likes having a visitor after all! 

Biscuit is uneasy about sharing his toys with Nibbles, but when Nibbles disappears, Biscuit helps his little girl find the bunny. Readers will wonder where the bunny hopped off to, and they will laugh at the cute conclusion. Young reader will relate to Biscuit, who isn’t sure he wants to share his toys with Nibbles. Plus, they will enjoy seeing Biscuit search for the lost bunny.  

As part of the My First I Can Read Series, Biscuit is perfect for emergent readers. The story uses basic language, word repetition, sight words, and sweet illustrations. Each page has one to three simple sentences and many of the pages have just two words. Plus, the large pastel-colored illustrations are cute and focus on the two animals. 

 Biscuit Meets the Class Pet will appeal to young readers who love animals. As part of the My First I Can Read Series, the story will help build reading confidence in emergent readers. Plus, there are 35+ books in the Biscuit Series that cover many different topics. Readers who love rabbits will also enjoy Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson and Saving Kate’s Flowers by Cindy Sommer. 

 Sexual Content 

  • None 

 Violence 

  • None 

 Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

 Language   

  • None 

 Supernatural 

  • None 

 Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Escape from the Roller Ghoster

The Kersville Amusement Park is always a good time, but it also gives a new meaning to the term “thrill rides.” That’s because, in addition to being a popular destination for heart-pounding fun, the park is also just a little bit haunted. Join Desmond and Andres as they try to enjoy their day at the amusement park while being chased by ghosts! Warning: You must be this tall to read this book. 

Throughout most of the story, Desmond and Andres are running from one activity to the next. When they challenge the ghosts to a contest, the boys beat the ghosts, which is unrealistic. However, it does lead to some silly moments. Desmond tells Andres, “You know how we’re feeling right now? Well, that’s probably how the ghosts feel.” Once the boys realize how the ghosts feel, Desmond and Andres are able to come up with a creative solution that makes both the people and the ghosts happy.  

Escape from the Roller Ghoster’s plot is lacking, but readers will still enjoy Desmond’s and Andres’s silly antics. Each book in the Desmond Cole series is a separate story and the books can be read in any order. The story is told in ten short chapters with easy-to-read vocabulary that is perfect for emerging readers. A black-and-white illustration appears on almost every page. The illustrations are often humorous and use exaggerated facial expressions so readers can tell what the characters are feeling. 

Even though Desmond and Andres are completely different, the two boys are best of friends who work together to rid the amusement park of ghosts. Full of silly moments, this non-scary ghost story will appeal to a wide range of readers. Readers who love ghost stories should also grab a flashlight, a blanket, and a copy of Ghost Attack by David Lubar. Similar to Escape from the Roller Ghoster, Ghost Attack uses humor to make young readers smile. 

Sexual Content 

  • In order to escape the ghosts, Desmond and Andres go on the “scariest ride at the park: the Tunnel of Love.” The illustration shows couples hugging and one couple kissing.  

Violence 

  • While playing a game, “instead of using the baseball, the sneaky ghost shot a fireball that hit the stack of bottles and turned them all to ash!” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • While on one of the rides, the ghosts were “fraidy-cats.” 

Supernatural 

  • When Desmond and Andres go on a ride, a ghost winks at them. Then, “A ghost just asked us if we were having fun.” The ghosts continue to follow the two friends throughout the park. Later they find out that the ghosts were not real. Instead, the ghosts where “a leftover hologram from our Halloween show last year.”  
  • Desmond hands Andres a pair of glasses. “Suddenly, all [Andres] could see were ghosts! They were playing games, eating food, and riding rides.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Disney Frozen Polar Nights: Cast Into Darkness

Two months after the events of Frozen 2, the Arendelle sisters are still adjusting to their new roles. Elsa rules over the Enchanted Forest but admits, “even now that I’ve taken my place among the spirits, magic isn’t always easy.”  Meanwhile, Anna is newly engaged and new queen of Arendelle. While in the midst of planning for the annual Polar Night’s Festival, Anna takes a break to visit her sister alongside Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven. Around a campfire, Kristoff recalls the legend of a different pair of royal sisters, how one drowned the other in a jealous rage. The murdered sister arose as a zombified creature—a draugr—a “‘soulless monster ready to seek revenge against those who did it wrong.’”

After Kristoff finishes the story, a mysterious storm blows in, and when he and Anna return to Arendelle the next day, something is amiss. Storms keep coming, the sky grows darker and darker, and everyone seems to be losing their memories. It seems the draugr from the story is real and after them. Anna and Elsa must embark on a quest to figure out how to stop the creature before it’s too late.

Disney Frozen Polar Nights is told from the alternating third-person perspectives of Elsa (written by Mancusi) and Anna (written by Calonita). The two authors seamlessly blend the chapters and the story flows well. The reader gets a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of both sisters and is able to have a better understanding of their relationship with each other as a result. Through the characters’ actions, the franchise’s theme of sisterhood and the importance of family are brightly showcased.

Anna, Elsa, and the other characters stay true to how they were portrayed in the films. The bond between the sisters is well illustrated, and their dynamic is charming, with Anna being more impulsive and Elsa being more grounded. Because of their differences, they balance each other out and bring out the best in each other. Anna’s romance with Kristoff is also very sweet, and it’s charming to watch them interact because they show how much they care about each other.

The plot revolves around Anna and Elsa figuring out the truth of what happened between the sisters from Kristoff’s story. It is a bit predictable that the circumstances around the death of the younger sister differ dramatically from the story that spread, and that this misinformation is the primary cause of the spiritual unrest. However, the journey is still enjoyable and is certain to captivate the target demographic.

Fans of Frozen will be swept up in this story that so vividly captures the Frozen world and characters. Disney Frozen Polar Night is a dramatic tale, but characters like Olaf provide some humor along the way to balance things out. The spooky story contains some imagery and tense moments that might be scary for certain readers. However, readers who appreciate monsters and mystery will enjoy the familiar characters and simple plot. Readers who are looking for kid-friendly ghost stories should add The Trail of the Ghost Bunny by Linda Joy Singleton to their reading list. Readers who love fairytale-inspired stories can jump into other fairytales by reading the Whatever After Series by Sarah Mlynowski.

Sexual Content

  • Anna and Kristoff kiss multiple times. The kisses are not described in detail. For example, the most detailed description depicts Kristoff “kissing her deeply” during an emotional reunion between the two at the end.

 Violence

  • Kristoff tells a legend of sisters Inger and Sissel. In a jealous rage, Inger “snuck behind [Sissel] and shoved her in [a river].” Inger watches as Sissel went over a waterfall and drowned.
  • While running from the draugr, Anna hits her head on a rock and injures her ankle. Elsa notes the “blood crusting in her sister’s hair.”
  • Elsa nearly drowns after falling into a river. As the current drags Elsa, she was “gulping river water too fast, choking and sputtering as she [tries] to find the river’s bottom . . . her feet only [kick] uselessly.” Anna saves her.
  • Elsa and Anna witness a vision of Sissel’s drowning. The vision reveals that the drowning was in fact accidental. Sissel tried to hold onto a branch by the riverbank for support but “the branch broke free. Sissel’s body was tossed like a rag doll over the [waterfall]. Inger screamed in agony, collapsing to the ground.”
  • A pirate ship shoots cannonballs at a ship that Anna and Elsa are on. Elsa needs to get to the ship to deliver a message. She rides there on the Nokk (a horse-shaped water spirit) while fighting the onslaught with her ice powers. “The cannonballs hit the ice in front of them . . . shattering [them] into a thousand pieces.” Elsa manages to get to the ship unscathed and stop the attack. The attack is described over four pages.
  • Plagued by memory loss, an Arendellian general named Mattias draws his sword and attempts to attack Sissel (still in the form of a draugr). He says, “I will slash you down where you stand.” As he charges Sissel, Elsa shoots an ice wall in front of him. He bounces “off the ice, falling backward and landing hard on the ground,” stopping from harming Sissel. He is not seriously injured.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Elsa lives in the Enchanted Forest, home to the wind, fire, water, and air spirits who appear at certain points throughout the story. The fire spirit Bruni, for example, takes the form of a salamander that can catch fire at will.
  • The plot revolves around Sissel’s spirit coming back as a vengeful creature known as a draugr. Draugrs are “creatures of old folklore, and they supposedly cause terrible storms when they show up.” The draugr “haunts Arendelle and [steals] memories to try and make people stop thinking [her sister] murdered her.”
  • The group hears mysterious moaning in the night and when they go to investigate, their tent is knocked down by an apparent supernatural force.
  • The draugr appears to Anna and Elsa. It is described as “clearly human shaped . . . [with] blackened skin, misshapen bones . . . and green slime oozing from its pores.” The creature calls for its sister, and Anna and Elsa attempt to fight it off before running. It eventually vanishes but appears to the sisters a couple more times. It never harms them.
  • Eventually, Anna learns that the draugr isn’t really a ghost, but rather a “reanimated, decayed corpse… [that] didn’t receive a proper burial.”

Spiritual

  • None

Ghost Ship

The puppy pirates listen carefully as Puggly tells the story of Growlin’ Grace and her crew. Growlin’ Grace was determined to track down an evil sea slug. But when the pirates discovered that the slug was “bigger, stronger, and slimier than anything those pirate pups had seen before. . . Growlin’ Grace’s crew turned the ship around” and sailed away.   

After the scary story, Wally is pranked by a couple of pugs, who accuse him of being more puppy than pirate. How can Wally prove he’s as fearless as the rest? Spending the night on an abandoned pirate ship should do the trick! But when Wally and his human friend, Henry, climb aboard, they soon discover the ship might not be so empty after all. . . 

Young readers will enjoy the spooky story that has some suspense without being too scary. However, much of the story revolves around Wally and Henry exploring the ship and wondering if ghosts are real. Instead of having an action-packed story, Ghost Ship’s plot slows down and only picks up at the very end when Wally and Henry play a prank of their own. Still, readers will enjoy the pirate talk and cute word play such as pug-glorious. 

One negative aspect of the story is that Growlin’ Grace’s crew are called weirdos. When Wally and Henry meet two descendants of Growlin’ Grace’s crew, the pups call each other “Weirdos” because “that’s what Growlin’ Grace used to call her crew. She liked that she had a pack full of odd dogs who thought a little differently. They all had strange personalities and even stranger ideas about pirating life.” While Growlin’ Grace was using the term in a positive way, adults may want to take this opportunity to discuss the negative connotation of the name and if this type of name calling is appropriate.   

Ghost Ship isn’t as action-packed as the other books in the series. However, young readers will still enjoy the spooky adventure. The black and white illustrations are adorably cute and will help readers understand the story’s plot. With short chapters, large text, and illustrations every one to five pages, Puppy Pirates is the perfect series for readers ready for chapter books. Plus, the end of the book has four pages that show how to draw a puppy pirate and how to use a key to unlock a code. 

Ghost Ship will teach young buccaneers that the most important treasure is being with friends. And while this is a ghost story, the only ghosts that appear are puppies who are pulling pranks. Readers who love dogs should also check out All Paws On Deck by Jessica Young and  Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog by Peter Meisel; both pirate-themed books use humor to engage young readers. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Wally and Henry go on a ship they believe is abandoned. Then, “a white figure popped out of the shadow and flew straight at them. . . Wally growled and yipped, grabbing for the ghost with his teeth.” The supposed “ghost” disappears. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • After frightening Wally, Puggle calls him a scaredy-pup. 
  • When one of the characters gets frustrated, he yipped, “Graggle! Stinkbug! Plink!” 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

First Grade Jitters

Here is the story of a young boy who is about to enter first grade and doesn’t know quite what to expect. Will his friends be there? Will he have to know how to read and spell? What if he can’t understand anything his teacher says? Looks like a case of the first grade jitters! 

An unnamed boy worries about school and all the what-ifs that could happen. While most of the boy’s worries are relatable, some are silly. For example, the boy asks, “What if I can’t understand what the teacher says? She might say, ‘Oogly, boogly.’” With the help of his parents and his friends, the boy realizes that he has nothing to be scared about. 

Bright, realistic illustrations use small details to highlight the boy’s worry. For example, in one picture his shoulders are slumped as he kicks a rock. By the end of the story, the boy is jumping with joy and has a big smile on his face. Even though First Grade Jitters is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has zero to seven simple sentences that make the story easy to understand. 

Any child who is worried about going to school will relate to the boy in First Grade Jitters. The story will reassure readers that there is nothing to be afraid of. If your child is worried about attending school, First Grade Jitters will help calm his or her fears. Readers may also want to read Danbi Leads the School Parade by Anna Kim, which is a school-themed story about friendship. 

 Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Fitz and Cleo #1

Meet Fitz and Cleo. They’re ghosts, siblings, and friends. This is their first book filled with eleven (that’s more than ten!) fun-filled adventures. Join them as they go to the beach, fly paper airplanes, play baseball, do science, and adopt a cat! 

Much like Casper the Friendly Ghost, Fitz and Cloe are adorable, friendly ghosts that readers will love. The two ghosts make everyday mundane events into something fun. The siblings’ adventures come to life in large, colorful panels similar to a graphic novel’s panels. The illustrations use bright colors and simple backgrounds that appeal to young readers. Although the illustrations are simple, the ghost’s emotions are clearly conveyed. Plus, some of the illustrations are humorous, such as a pink fairy pig with wings, and the cat Mister Boo who loves to sleep on Fitz’s head.  

Fitz and Cloe’s chapters range from three to eight pages. Each page has two to eight short sentences. The story is fun to read aloud because most of the text is comprised of dialogue; plus, there is plenty of onomatopoeia. While each chapter contains humor, there are also plenty of sweet moments. For example, while looking at other planets through a telescope, Cloe tells Fitz that Earth is the best planet “because you’re on this planet Fitz. And Mister Boo is on this planet. We’re on this planet TOGETHER. So it HAS to be the best!” 

If you’re looking for an entertaining book that will appeal to young readers, then Fitz and Cloe is the perfect book for you. The two ghosts and their cat make everything from playing baseball to flying paper airplanes into a fun adventure. Plus, young readers will relate to the siblings, who get brain freezes, spend a day at the beach, and play with a ball of yarn. Small details in the illustrations make the story even more engaging.  

Even though each chapter of Fitz and Cloe is short, readers will be eager to continue until they reach the end of the siblings’ adventures. The story has widespread appeal because of the everyday conflicts, the ghost protagonists, and an adorable cat. Another one of the story’s positive aspects is that the two siblings are kind to each other. For more fun reading, check out the Unicorn and Yeti Series by Heather Ayris Burnell. 

 Sexual Content 

  • None 

 Violence 

  • None 

 Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

 Language   

  • None 

 Supernatural 

  • None 

 Spiritual Content 

  • None 

 

Wish Trap

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

Violet and her star animal, a wildcat named Sorrel, must use their special powers to stop the forces of dark magic. But when a run of bad luck hits the local gym team, the Star Friends suspect that dark magic is behind it. Are their Star Magic skills strong enough to hold back the dark magic?

Unlike the first book in the series, Mirror Magic, Wish Trap has a scarier tone. When girls on the gymnastic team start getting injured, the Star Friends discover that a Shade tricked Paige, a girl who didn’t make it onto the gymnastics team, into making a wish. The Shade, who is trapped inside a garden gnome, starts hurting the girls on the gymnastic team. In a multichapter conclusion, the Star Friends try to capture the Shade after it locks two girls in a burning shed. No adults come to help the children escape the locked shed. Unrealistically, the Shade is defeated, and everyone is safe, but the Shade’s vicious behavior gives the story a dark tone that may leave readers with nightmares.

The Star Friends Series is a chapter book series that focuses on four friends—Mia, Lexi, Sita, and Violet—who are illustrated with different skin tones. The cute, black and white illustrations appear every two to seven pages. Even though Wish Trap will appeal to readers who are six and older, younger readers may have a difficult time with the more advanced vocabulary and the descriptions of dark magic.

While Mirror Magic focused on the girls meeting their Star Animal and learning about magic, Wish Trap focuses more on the friends, especially the tension between Mia and Violet. The animals rarely appear, but they are still instrumental in defeating the Shade. Readers will relate to the girls, who use their magic for good. Another positive aspect of Wish Trap is that it highlights the dangers of jealousy. Readers who love animals but want to avoid reading about dark magic should check out the Pet Rescue Adventures Series by Holly Webb and the Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro.

Sexual Content

  • None

 

Violence

  • A Shade is causing girls on the gymnastics’ team to have accidents and hurt themselves so they can no longer perform. For example, the Shade causes a girl to fall off the monkey bars and hurt her wrist.
  • The Shade spooks a horse that almost runs into Lexi.
  • A garden gnome comes alive. It peeks out of a tree. “Sita screamed as the branches parted and a pottery face grinned down at them. Its eyes glowed red beneath its bobble hat. . . The gnome cackled and jumped hard on the branch he was standing on. CRACK! The branch broke and fell, crashing down right onto Lexi and hitting her head.” Sita uses magic to heal the wound.
  • The Wish Shade locks Lexie and Sita in a shed and sets it on fire. “Violet ran to a water faucet on the side and started to fill a bucket with water to try and douse the bonfire. . .”
  • As the Star Friends try to help Sita and Lexi, the gnome “shoved” Mia. “She fell inside the shed… the door had been slammed shut, and she heard the bolt being pushed across the outside.”
  • When the gnome jumps on the birdbath, Lexi “chucked the apple at the gnome. It shot through the air with perfect accuracy and hit him square on the forehead. . . the gnome lost his balance and fell backward. There was a cracking noise as he broke into pieces.”
  • The Shade tries to get away. Bracken, the fox, “bit the Shade’s leg and hung on tight. The Shade hissed and swiped down with his sharp claws.” The friends grab “the Shade’s bony arms, pinning his hands down.” Violet then commands the Shade to “return to the Shadows.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

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.
  • Mia’s magic has to do with sight. “If she looked into a shiny surface, she could see things that were happening in other places.”
  • Mia and her friends need to fight dark magic. “People who used dark magic could conjure horrible spirits called Shades from the shadows. The Shade would then either be set free to bring chaos and unhappiness wherever it went, or it could be trapped in an object and given to someone whom the person doing dark magic wanted to harm.”
  • Lexi’s magic allows her to heal injuries.
  • Violet can shadow-travel. She “learned to use shadows to travel wherever I want. I just imagine where I want to go, and then I come out in the nearest patch of shadows by that place.”
  • The girls want to fight a Shade, but they’re not sure what kind it is. “There are all different kinds of Shades—Nightmare Shades, Ink Shades, Wish Shades. Some live in mirrors and talk to people and make them do bad things, like that Mirror Shade. Others can bring bad luck or trap people in different ways.”
  • When Mia tries to use her magic to see the Shade, she discovers that “the person using dark magic may have cast a spell so they can’t be seen by magic.”
  • Aunt Carol was Mia’s grandmother’s best friend. Aunt Carol uses crystals to do magic.
  • Paige, who was not chosen to be on the gymnastic team, meets the Shade that is in a gnome. She explains, “I should wish I was on the gymnastics team. I thought it would bring me good luck—I didn’t think he’d bring everyone else bad luck!” The gnome says, “Once a wish has been made, it can’t be stopped.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Everything’s Bigger in Texas

Join former US Army rescue dog sergeant, “Rico” Ricochet, and his fellow Pawtriots on this larger-than-life mission as they travel to Texas to rescue a litter of kidnapped puppies. While in Texas, they will have to fight the Seven Pooches Gang, a giant spider, and a flash flood. Is there anyone they can trust in the Lone Star State?

Young readers may be confused by the complicated plot. For example, in order to save her puppies, Daisy lies to the Pawtriot dogs. When they discover Daisy’s lie, Daisy says she didn’t have a choice. The group is upset over the lie and Smither the snake says, “Everyone hasss a choice, you chosss to lie.” However, Rico stands up for Daisy by saying, “The end justifies the means.” While Rico encourages the others to forgive Daisy, he downplays Daisy’s responsibility for leading the group into danger.

The first book in the series, Save the Sanctuary, reinforces Army values in a clear manner. However, Everything’s Bigger in Texas’s message is more complex and may be confusing. For example, when the Pawtriot dogs are in a situation that looks hopeless, Rico thinks “false motivation is better than no motivation.” In addition, Dagr, the leader of the Seven Pooches Gang, runs away from danger. As he is leaving, he says, “Moral superiority doesn’t keep you alive.” While Rico never leaves his friends behind, the story doesn’t expand on Dagr’s comment.

Army sayings and terminology are used throughout the story. For example, when Rico needs the dogs to focus, he says, “‘Lock it up’ . . . That’s Army-talk for ‘be quiet.’” Each time an army word or phrase is introduced, Rico explains what it means. Plus, 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 ultra-big spider that may scare readers.

Even though Pawtriot Dogs is an illustrated chapter book, the story introduces some difficult concepts and explores revenge and body shaming. Revenge is Dagr’s main motivation for kidnapping Daisy’s puppies. Dagr wants to kill Chaps, but when Chaps dies Dagr wants to kill Chaps’ friends instead. One way or the other, the only way Dagr will be satisfied is when someone dies. The story also briefly introduces body shaming. Dagr makes fun of one of the dogs, calling him “tubby pup.” But Rico stops the teasing because he “can’t stand for bullying—especially when it’s about another dog’s body.”

Rico and the Pawtriot dogs face dangers with courage and work as a team in order to help Daisy. When the Pawtriot dogs disagree on helping Daisy, Rico reminds them, “But once you start taking the easy road, it’s almost impossible to ever take the hard one.” In the end, Daisy and her puppies are saved; however, the story ends with a cliff-hanger that will have readers reaching for the next book in the series, Into the Storm.

Sexual Content

  • None

 

Violence

  • Dagr & the Seven Pooches Gang kidnap Daisy’s puppies and hold them for ransom.
  • While on a cargo plane, one of the dogs accidentally opens the cargo hold. The dogs grab hold of a crate that slides out of the plane. “We’re falling through the sky like a rock, hurtling toward the Earth and running out of time. . .I look below me and all I can see is water. It looks like we’re going to crash right into a river. . . We hit water—hard.” All the dogs survive. The scene is described over four pages.
  • An army of armadillos throw cactus arrows at the dogs. Rico wants “to lead a counterattack, but we’re completely exposed. They’re closing in on us. . . I watch as the armadillos snarl with their mouths full of drool as they inch closer to us, just waiting to strike. . .” It turns out that the armadillos cornered Rico and his friends for Dagr and his gang. The scene is described over three pages.
  • Dagr takes the Pawtriot dogs to an old mine shaft where he says a huge spider lives. Dagr says, “I watched three of my buddies get tangled up in a web faster than you could say ‘shoo fly, don’t bother me.’ And let me tell you, that nasty spider is bigger and badder then you could even imagine.”
  • When Penny doesn’t believe Dagr, he “growls and launches at Penny, hitting her like a freight train and tackling her to the ground. . .” Dagr presses down on Penny, but eventually lets her go.
  • The spider comes after the Pawtriot dogs. “The Pawtriots scatter sprinting away in different directions. . . the spider shoots its webbing—a jet stream of sticky liquid silk—at us.”
  • Most of the Pawtriots escape the spider, but “the spider nails [Rico] with a shot of its web, sending me crashing down onto the catwalk below. . .I start crawling back up to safety on the second level.” The spider falls into the depths of the mine and the dogs survive. The scene is described over five pages.
  • Dagr and his gang take Penny. When the Pawtriot dogs find her, they see Penny “who is in the middle of the room and chained to the floor along with Daisy’s three puppies.”
  • Dagr and Rico fight. “Then I turn and charge at Dagr. Without hesitation, he snarls and charges at me. We both leap forward at each other and collide hard in midair. . .Dagr bites down on my ear.” As Dagr talks he “spits my blood out of his mouth.” In the end, Dagr runs away.
  • A flash flood washes Dagr and the Seven Pooches Gang into the Gulf of Mexico. They are “floating on top of a small tree branch. There isn’t enough room for all of them, and they start fighting among themselves . . . they start falling into the muddy water, vanishing. . .” They all die.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Dagr calls Rico a coward and a chicken.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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