Chapter Book Extraordinare: THERE’S A BOY IN THE GIRLS’ BATHROOM

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom
by Louis Sachar
Scholastic Inc.
Ages 8 and up

Everyone is special, and everyone has at least one hard spate during school years. Before the beloved Holes, Louis Sachar wrote There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, published in 1987, long before the emotional welfare of school children became more part and parcel of the education system. In this title, we have Bradley Chalkers, and no one likes him except the newfangled school counselor Carla. Carla has newfangled ideas that don’t jive with everyone. Bradley’s behavior seems to fit what we now call an autism spectrum disorder. He ends up spending time with Carla. Jeff, a new student, and popular Colleen also need counselor visits.

Events that transpire create a tense read, yet offer insight, loads of humor, and an imperfect but satisfying ending in which all the characters grow in a way that is not at all corny. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom is a wonderful book to share with third graders and beyond, and is usually a good deal ($4) via the classroom Scholastic book order’s ritual.


Monkeys and Crocodiles Play Baseball
by Angel Krishna
Illustrations by Angel Alvarez
Global Publishing Group
Ages 4 and up

My kids are getting older, and our reading time is more devoted to chapter books, etc., therefore blog posts are not as frequent—actually they’re quite tardy. Recently I saw some press on a newish picture book, Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler. I had great expectations but didn’t review it, ‘cuz it was a dud, hollow, pretentious.

Another book dropped in my lap—Monkeys and Crocodiles Play Baseball. The title is clunky, but I like that. Not fancy storytelling, just the lowdown on how two different species who are usually enemies in the animal kingdom resolve a problem, and eventually coincide in their shared habitat. And play together. The old adage of less is more works best for this book, as the lesson theme (getting along) provided is blatant. There’s just enough text to keep interest, and the illustrations take care of the magic. The art is simple, bright and cartoony, but at the same time luscious and layered with expressive line work and textured shapes that give the whole storybook depth. A pleasure to read and regard!

MAX THE BRAVE: Great Read Makes Great Gift for Season

Max the Brave
by Ed Vere
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Ages 3 and up

Though this is a perfect all-occasions book, this review is a late-to-the-party attempt to celebrate all things autumn, October and Halloween. Max is a black cat, and there is a monster within the pages of Max the Brave, so it is just as fine a Samhain book as any being promoted in 2015.

I love kids-book characters that look effortless, as if their presence on the page is a miraculous, accidental occurrence like the Veil of Veronica. Max looks like nothing more than a black thumbprint with approximated feline appendages, but this scribble of cat is graphically gorgeous, as is the rest of the art, book layout, page composition and delectable endpapers. And! bright hues to please burgeoning bookworms under 3 years old. Max the Brave is a lovely keepsake hardcover, a great gift book, aromatic upon the first crack open to enjoy cuddled up on a crisp fall day.


In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse
by Joseph Marshall III
Illustrations by James Yellowhawk
Amulet Books/Abrams
Ages 10 and up

With poignancy, In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse recounts the history of important Lakota warrior Crazy Horse through the eyes and ears of modern-day Lakota youngster Jimmy McClean. Jimmy takes a road trip with his grandfather Nyles High Eagle, and learns of his Lakota heritage, especially about Crazy Horse. The duo travels to the landmarks significant to the Lakota, such as the spot where the Battle of the Little Bighorn took place. During each visit, Jimmy listens to his grandfather tell the stories about their people, often with a heavy heart. An excellent book on the Lakota history and culture.

Sick of Eating Brains? Try PEANUT BUTTER & BRAINS

Peanut Butter & Brains
by Joe McGee
Illustrated by Charles Santoso
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Ages 4 and up

A young zombie gets tired of eating brains in Peanut Butter & Brains. He craves the human comfort lunch staple of peanut butter and jelly, sniffing it out in a little girl’s brown bag. This tale is cute, just what the mad scientist ordered for the October 2015 fright season.

Even cuter are the elegant illustrations. This book would be a good investment, as each read would provide an opportunity to be immersed in zombie details, zombie jokes, and a zombie-human hybrid world.

Good stuff, brains and all!


The Way to School
by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International
Second Story Press
Ages 6 to 9

In this nonfiction pleasure, exuberant, beautiful children are shown venturing to school via mountain paths and caves, across rising river waters, in precarious gondolas above a ravine, even on the high side of a sinking bridge. The Way to School accomplishes much here, emphasizing the importance of an education no matter how hard the journey, at the same time enlightening Western pupils of how their global peers look, dress, smile, and traverse to class. Photography of breathtaking geography is gorgeous (as remarked by my test group participant), and I appreciate the country identification of each image. Proceeds of book sales go to Plan International’s Because I am a Girl fund, so all the better to purchase and enjoy, especially for the classroom.


Fifteen Dollars and Thirty-five Cents: A Story About Choices
by Kathryn Cole
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Second Story Press
Ages 5 and up

With the school year just beginning, there will be anxieties and conflicts aplenty on campuses everywhere. The problem of personal property and money gone missing is ever-present. Fifteen Dollars and Thirty-five Cents gets down to the bone of this reality, depicting eventual choices that will help young readers navigate their own right-from-wrong situations. Life lessons aside, the book’s adorable art—innocent kids in a multicultural classroom drawn with beautifully scratchy, sweeping lines and eye-pleasing hues—and juicy drama will keep youngsters transfixed.


Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
by Natasha Yim
Illustrations by Grace Zong
Ages 4 and up

Clever, clever adaptation of the ancient, never-boring bear tale, poured elegantly into the gorgeous setting of Chinese New Year. The premise delivers scrumptiously, helped greatly by Grace Zong’s super-lovely, eye-popping paintings, pages so colorful, detailed and vivid (luscious panda heads and scallions) they will make you hungry. Which is a good thing: this title will inspire encore perusals for the comforting, relatable story of protagonist Goldy Luck’s visit to her neighbors the Three Pandas. More points for the inclusion of a sweet, informative Author’s Note from Natasha Yim and recipe for Turnip Cake, a food significant to the events of Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas.


Gettin’ Through Thursday
by Melrose Cooper
Illustrated by Nneka Bennett
Lee & Low Books Inc.
Ages 6 and up

While recently acting as a Wandering Focus Group Participant in the library (or a Mystery Book Borrower?), my child perused the shelves and selected Gettin’ Through Thursday by Melrose Cooper. Once home and set up for storytime, he remained still with rapt attention as Cooper’s story unraveled (enhanced perfectly with Nneka Bennett’s realistic, gorgeous art). Main character André lives with his mother, brother and sister. Mama is a lunch lady, and payday is always on Friday. Thursdays are tense as the family stretches their food and necessities mighty thin. When André’s sister reports there is nothing to drink, Mama directs her to the faucet. When his brother finds no toothpaste, Mama hands him a box of baking soda. They get through each Thursday just fine.

André makes honor roll, and Mama had promised “a royal party” for such an occasion. The announcement, however, comes on a Thursday, thwarting André’s party hopes. But like her honor-rolled son, Mama is a smart, resourceful person who orchestrates an imaginary party, followed the next day—Friday/payday—by another celebration with cake, ice cream, and the works.

Of course top-notch Lee & Low Books—committed to representing diverse voices—put out Gettin’ Through Thursday in 1998! The pages are dreamy and poetic, yet communicate emotions and worries common to millions of families, probably the reason my Mystery Book Borrower checked it out.

MARILYN’S MONSTER: Peace, Love, Harmony for Monsters, Kids and Marilyns

Marilyn’s Monster
by Michelle Knudsen
Illustrated by Matt Phelan
Candlewick Press
Ages 4 and up

The world that Marilyn lives in is ideal, a world where everyone eventually enjoys the rite of passage of being paired up with a monster. The monsters act more like guardian angels than scary creatures. Though the humans throughout Marilyn’s Monster (by Michelle Knudsen, author of classroom favorite Big Mean Mike) are very normal by Planet Earth’s standards—doing very normal things like going to school, gardening, eating sandwiches—the event of finding one’s monster is totally expected and great. It’s like losing one’s first tooth or receiving first communion. So all the kids get their monster (each varying in size, color, texture, etc.), but the arrival of Marilyn’s monster is delayed! The outcome and Marilyn’s marvelous fashion sense (thanks to Matt Phelan’s dreamy watercolor and pencil drawings) make this tale worthy of reading time.