The Princess in Black: A Beginning Chapter Book

Princess in Black

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham – “Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret?”

Why should you read this book?
ML immediately gravitated to this book because black is currently her favorite color.  Plus, you can tell from the cover this isn’t your typical princess.  ML informed me recently she doesn’t like princesses anymore… except Elsa and Anna.  I’m pretty certain her tune will change in March.  Her dad is surprising her with a daddy/daughter trip to Disney.  When he approached me about taking her, I had one request, “Please take her on It’s a Small Word.”  It was my favorite ride when I visited Disney forty plus years ago.

An important note to parents of boys.
This book should be read with boys too.  The author explains why better than I could on her blog post “Boys and the Princess in Black.”

Slumber Party: My Friend is Crazy

I’m a little upset with my friend.  My “go to” excuse for not having a slumber party with over three kids at our was our house is too small.  Not going to work now.  My friend’s place is the same size.

The first slumber party I remember attending was at Laura’s house.  Sometime that night, her mom threatened to pop us with a wooden spoon if weren’t quiet.  The next morning we watched Saturday morning cartoons.  If I remember correctly, it was the premiere of the Smurfs, September 12, 1981.  (Thank you Wikipedia for confirming this.) Laura’s birthday was in September; so I’m sure my memory is correct.

Can’t write a post without recommending some books.  Second graders still love being read picture books; and are proud of their ability to read chapter books.  I’ve included both.


What! Cried Granny:  An Almost Bedtime Story by Kate Lum and pictures by Adrian Johnson – This my favorite story to read to kids about a sleepover for two reasons.  One… it’s funny.  Two… it’s at his grandmother’s house.  For many children, spending the night with grandparents is their first sleepover experience.  “When her grandson Patrick arrives for his first sleepover, Granny’s resourceful efforts to provide him with a bed, pillow, and other necessities result in a sleepless night for both of them.”

Froggys Sleepover

Froggy’s Sleepover by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz – The story line and illustrations in Froggy books are always funny and a delight to share with a group.  The stuff he packs for the sleepover are quite noisy.  The sleeping bag “sloofs” and the pillow “poofs.”  “Froggy is excited about his first sleepover, but a series of events sends Froggy and Max back and forth between their houses, until it seems they will never fall asleep.”  They finally fall asleep at 9 a.m.  Hoping this isn’t my friend’s reality.

Rabbit Robot

Rabbit & Robot:  The Sleepover by Cece Bell – Rabbit is looking forward to Robot coming over for a sleepover.  He’s written out a plan for the evening.  1. Make pizza.  2. Watch TV.  3. Play Go Fish.  4. Go go bed.  However, things do not go as planned.  A clever story deserving of the Theodor Seuss Giesel Honor it received.

Marigold Lake

The Critter Club:  Liz at Marigold Lake by Callie Barkley and illustrated by Marsha Riti – This is a perfect series for the birthday girl and friends.  They are animal crazy!  The Critter Club is made up of “Four best friends who band together to form a rescue shelter to save lost and lonely animals in their town. Amy, Ellie, Liz, and Marion each have different personalities and interests, but they all have one thing in common: a serious love of animals.” In book seven, “Liz is excited her three best friends are visiting her family’s cabin at Marigold Lake, but something seems to go wrong with every activity she plans.”


I can’t forget to mention Sleepover With Beatrice and Bear by Monica Carnesi.  I featured it a few posts ago.  Another great sleepover picture book.


Second Grade So Far – Once Again, ML’s Teacher Has A Greater Influence on The Books ML Chooses to Read Than I

ML’s not big on answering questions about school.  Especially, “What happened at school today?”  She will usually tell me if she had music, art, PE or one of the other specials.  I’ve asked her this every night since kindergarten.

I’ve added two questions this year,  “Did your teacher read a book to the class?” and “What did you read today?”  So far, she’s answering these questions; and I’m pleased with the answers.



How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague – “A schoolboy tells his class about his summer vacation, during which he joined a group of cowboys and stopped a cattle stampede.”


My Teacher Is Monster

Busy night with the final StrollerThon planning meeting at our house.  I forgot to ask what the teacher read.  We did read a book together.  My Teacher is a Monster! No I am Not. by Peter Brown.  ML assured me her teacher is not a monster.  I already figured that out.


“I can’t remember because I read two chapter books.  A Jack and Annie book.  And a Mercy Watson book.  Well almost two.  I have another chapter in the Jack and Annie book.” For those unfamiliar with the term Jack and Annie book.  It’s the Magic Tree House series.




The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith – “Mean Jean is the biggest bully on the playground until a new girl arrives and challenges Jean’s status as the Recess Queen.”  I’m learning from ML’s teacher too.  I have a post on picture books about bullying in draft form.  I’ve added this book to the list.


Mercy WatsonMercy Watson Princess

Once again, ML’s teacher is more influential in getting ML to read great books than I.  For over a year, I’ve encouraged ML to try a Mercy Watson book by Kate DiCamillo  and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.  Last night, ML informed me she has read two so far this school year.  She’s eager for me to bring the other four books in the series home from the library.

There are several books I am dying for ML to read.  I purchased paperbacks of a few of these.  Looks like the best way to get her to read them is to donate them to the classroom library.  I’m bringing our copy of Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee to Open House Wednesday night for the class to enjoy.


After Ivy + Bean – A Booklist for Eleanor

My friend requested some series ideas for her daughter, Eleanor, when she finishes the Ivy + Bean books written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  Eleanor is on book nine.  Time is of the essence  as there are only ten books in the series.  All the books I recommend below are on similar reading levels and include illustrations.  I’ve featured picture books by illustrators of most of these series.  The combination of high quality stories and engaging illustrations make an early grades chapter book desirable to children bridging the gap from picture books to chapter books.

Like Pickle Juice On Cookie









Like Pickle Juice on A Cookie by Julie Sternberg and illustrated by Matthew Cordell – I don’t think ML and her friends will be able to resist a book where the first chapter states, “I had a bad August.  A very bad August.  As bad as pickle juice on a cookie.  As bad as a spiderweb on your leg.  As bad as the black parts of a banana.  I hope your August was better.  I really do.”  The main character’s name is Eleanor just like ML’s friend.  There are two more books in this series with equally funny titles.  Like Bug Juice on a Burger and Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake.


Nikki Deja

Nikki and Deja by Karen English and illustrated by Laura Freeman – Nikki and Deja are best friends who happen to live next door to each other.  As a former teacher, the author understands the trials and tribulation of being a third grader.  Along with the importance of friendship.  With only five books in this series, I hope another is published soon.

Judy Moody

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Peter Reynolds – Judy Moody has been around for 14 years, and she continues to resonate with elementary school students.  She’s funny, fiesty and always in a mood.  The illustrations are authentic.  Just like Judy Moody’s brother Stink, I’ve seen ML lie upside down on the couch with her head touching the floor and her legs against the back of the couch.  There’s a reason titles continue to be published.










Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Middy Thomas – I’ve posted about Gooney Bird before.  Click on Gooney Bird Greene to see the post.


Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and pictures by Marla Frazee – No series post for a second grade girl is complete without mentioning the Clementine books.  All you have to do is read this quote from page one.   “Someone should tell you not to answer the phone in the principal’s office, if that’s a rule.”

Looking forward to seeing which books Eleanor decides to try.  ML’s on an Ivy + Bean kick right now, wanting to read all of them.  I’ll put Eleanor in charge of recommending ML’s next series.


Career Day – I Booktalked Branches – A New Group of Beginning Chapter Books

Today I surprised ML and visited her class to tell about what I do at my job.  She was super excited and helped me with the story time.  We did a shared reading of an Elephant & Piggie book and the puppet show we performed for the incoming kindergarteners yesterday.  Not only did I perform a story time, I booktalked.  For those of you in the non-library world, it’s telling a little bit about a book to entice readers.  I chose a new group of beginning reader chapter books by Scholastic Books to highlight called Branches.  The students were intrigued by the books.  Hopefully, they will visit the public library this summer and check some out.  I consider the most important part of my job getting books to readers.

There are eight series in this collection.  I’ve read snippets from four of the series.  Descriptions of the series are straight from Scholastic’s website. Plus a sentence on what I think will appeal to readers from the books I’ve physically laid my hands on.


Kung Pow Chicken by Cindi Marko – “Gordon Blue was an ordinary second grader — until he became the superhero known as Kung Pow Chicken! Now he battles bad guys all over town!”  Readers will like the colorful pages, and the intermixing of traditional text with comic book bubbles.


Looniverse by David Lubar – “A magical coin makes Ed’s universe go more than a little loony in this edge-of-your-seat series.”  Readers will like the quirky stories and the funny illustrations.


Lotus Lane by Kyla May – “These fun diaries give readers a glimpse into the fabulous Lotus Lane Girls Club.”  Readers will like the diary format and the illustrations interspersed throughout the diary entries.

Monkey Me

Monkey Me by Timothy Roland – “Thanks to a wacky banana, energetic Clyde turns into a monkey when he gets excited!”  Readers will like the combination of narrative text and comic strip format.

Dragon Masters

Dragon Masters by Tracey West and illustrated by Graham Howells – “Dragon Masters has it all!  Dragons, a Dragon Stone, a king, a wizard, and magic!”

I am glad to have additional beginning chapter books to share with readers this summer beyond my regular go tos… Magic Tree House, Flat Stanley, and Rainbow Magic.

Libraries can’t buy every book.  Other series in the Branches group, I’ve yet to read include…


Boris by Andrew Joyner – “Adventure is always just around the corner for this enthusiastic warthog.”


Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe by Susan Nees – “Missy does everything the super-duper-royal-deluxe way in this irresistible series about a girl with a big personality!”


The Notebook of Doom by Troy Cummings  – “Alexander Bopp has just moved to a new town where he uncovers all sorts of monsters!”


Rainbow Magic Books


I did not introduce ML to the Rainbow Magic books on purpose. I knew she would learn about them from her peers. She did, and they can’t get enough of this series. The girls are requesting specific titles from the library, trading books, even devouring a book in one day.

As a person who read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on, I can’t complain about these formulaic books. They built my reading confidence.

A few years ago, I read a book from the Rainbow Magic series. I don’t remember which one, but felt like I should as a children’s librarian. With 140 titles, you would think they would run out of fairy ideas soon. But a series already sporting titles Claudia the Accessories Fairy, Jade the Disco Fairy, and Scarlet the Garnet Fairy; and with Layla the Cotton Candy Fairy and Kayla the Pottery Fairy in the queue to be released in early 2014, most likely has more titles ready for publication.

Any ideas for new fairies to add to their series? Maybe some cleaning fairies? Daisy the Dusting Fairy, Vera the Vacuum Fairy, Lisa the Laundry Fairy and Bernice the Bathroom Scrubbing Fairy.

Top Secret


I emailed Kevin Sherry about his book I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean. He emailed us a sneak peak of his upcoming work.

One is a picture book called Turtle Island. The other is a beginning chapter book. The Yeti Files: Meet the Big Feet.

The beginning chapter book is going to feature biped creatures. Think bigfoot, abominable snowman, and other such creatures. There will be diagrams and comic book elements. I know it will be a hit. ML and one of her friends are always looking for bigfoot.

Do you know what a yeti is?

You Mean I Get to Keep It?

When your mom works at the public library, you read many different books. But they belong to the library and must be returned. We own many picture books and easy readers. But we didn’t have any non-library chapter books until yesterday.

For graduation, I bought ML a variety of beginning chapter books. When she opened the present, she asked, “Do I have to return them to the library? Yea! I have my very own Flat Stanley book”

What beginning chapter books are a hit at your house?

Repetition is Good

ML reads me at least one book a night. Every night this week she has read the same book. Except the infamous “No Books . . . Go Straight To Bed! I Mean It!” evening.

The book is Little Mouse and the Great Big House by Phyllis Conable. It’s an easy reader book with lots of rhyming and repetitive phrases. To become fluent readers, repetition is key.

Some books ML loves to read over and over are

Put Me In the Zoo by Robert Lopshire
Too Many Cats by Lori Haskins
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
No, David! by David Shannon
I’m The Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

What are your children’s favorite books to read again and again?