Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions is no Hogwarts, but the book is a good choice for fans of Harry Potter or The Lightning Thief–anyone who likes a little supernatural in their middle-grade fiction. The plot is simple: someone is trying to sabotage Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions, and Runt Higgins, underdeveloped werewolf, has taken it upon himself to discover the culprit. It will take a clever reader to figure it out. The characters are fairly static, but the writing is solid, there are fun illustrations by Joe Sutphin, and the whole notion of a school designed to train the minions who will later go to work for evil overlords is pretty funny.
My Lady Jane just might end up on my top ten list this year. It’s such a delightful novel. It takes a page and many characters out of the history of the Tudor monarchs, then mixes in comedy, romance, alternate history, and some supernatural shapeshifting. Think of it as The Princess Bride meets Jane Austen meets Monty Python. The occasionally intrusive narrators are hilarious, and there is strong character development, plotting, and writing.
Ah, Ballet Cat, how I love you. In her third outing, she and Goat try to outdo each other in an effort to impress Grandma and pin her down about just which talent is her favorite favorite–ballet or magic. Luckily, Grandma knows how to manage the two fierce competitors. Wonderful fun, as always.
Sometimes I’m not sure if the world needs another bedtime story, but Chris Haughton’s Goodnight Everyone is a really good one. I am wild about the saturated colors he uses: this book is glorious fun to look at. And the writing is also really strong.
Jake adores his new puppy, Kamik, but he’s frustrated by Kamik’s strong will and apparent disobedience. It takes a lesson from his grandfather to help him understand that many of the qualities that frustrate him in Kamik are actually what make a good sled dog. The grandfather also shares some wisdom about gentle training techniques and building a relationship with your dog. Inuit culture is accurately represented in this story that will have strong appeal for dog lovers and new pet owners. Qin Leng’s illustrations are sweet. The font choice is really unfortunate: it’s a fairly text-heavy book anyway, and the font is going to make it very challenging for early readers and those with reading processing disorders.
One of my students brought this exquisite ABC book to class, and I could not get enough of it. ABC in 3D is a work of art as well as an impressive feat of book design. It’s not a book that’s going to hold up to much circulation, as the 3D paper features are quite delicate. But it’s a must-see.
Maribeth Boelts consistently tackles ethical questions and issues of class in thoughtful ways. Ruben’s birthday is coming up, and his friend Sergio is pressing him to ask for a new bike. But Ruben knows his family doesn’t have the money. He finds himself in a sticky ethical situation after a lady at the grocery store drops a dollar on her way out. Ruben tucks it away without really looking at it–and discovers after he gets home that it’s a $100 bill! Boelts captures the tension between Ruben’s desire to keep the money and use it to buy a bike and his knowledge that keeping the money is wrong. The story is engaging, and there is plenty to discuss.