Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast in The Great Caper Caper - a review 11.16.22

The Great Caper Caper by Josh Funk
Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast:
The Great Caper Caper
written by Josh Funk
illustrated by Brendan Kearney
published by Union Square Kids

There is a mystery in the refrigerator again, but this time our heroes, Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake, are in the dark!  No, literally, they are!  The Great Light above is missing, yet, there seems to be just one area that's all aglow.  As our heroes arrive at the one shining light in the fridge, they find a large, and familiar-to-readers sign welcoming them to "Las Veggies"!  It's here in this large tower that all of the light is to be found, yet the owner of the area, Count Caper, is not about to back down!  While Count Caper admits to nothing, he relies on his "food popularity" to make everyone doubt the probability that he actually took the light.  And here's where the caper takes off.  Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake gather their allies and in Ocean's 11 style, come up with a heist to solve the problem!  And just like in the movies, there are twists and turns that will shock the readers :)  Or at least make it very entertaining!  

Filled with new characters and a new plot line, this addition remains true to the series yet gives us many new reasons to come back to it!  I loved the addition of the Animal Crackers characters - those are still some of my favorite snacks (sorry, Animal Crackers).  I had a feeling many young readers would not know what a caper is so before reading the book to readers I would suggest doing an image search and give readers a little background about the delicacy.  Young readers will be able to infer about them, but this gives youngsters a little heads up!  And of course I can't talk about the ending, but *the ending*!!  I really loved it and think kids will carry the message in their hearts!

Earlier this year, our reading team introduced the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series to our kindergarten classes.  They loved the mysteries and the characters.  I enjoy reading the rolling rhymes to young readers - there's something about the rhythm that keeps readers following along!  After sharing the newest installment, I asked the kindergartners some questions:

* What is your favorite part about the series? *
  • "Friends solving the mystery with friends!"
  • "When they figure out the villain in the books."
  • "Baron von Waffle!  I love everything about him!"
  • "I like that the mysteries are in the refrigerator"!

* Why should teachers and librarians read these books to kids? *
  • "The mysteries are so exciting!"
  • "Because these books are funny-awesome!"
  • "Because kids like them and they are funny."

* What should happen in the next Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book? *
  • "Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast find something in the refrigerator that doesn't belong, like a toy!"
  • "They celebrate holidays in the refrigerator!"
  • "Sir French Toast has gone missing and they have to go out of the fridge to find him." 

Love these answers!  Mr. Funk, in case you have any writer's block, these kids have you covered!  And you heard it from the kids, these books are "funny-awesome", so if you don't have every copy of this series, go find them!

Of course, if the advice of 5 and 6 year-olds isn't enough, this book was also selected as an Indies Kids Next Pick!  Here's what the reviewer says:
“The fifth installment in the Lady Pancake series features a madcap caper that kids will love. Parents can look forward to some humor that is, undoubtedly, aimed at them. Definitely a book the whole family will want to read over and over!” — Audrey Beatty, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury, CT

Celebrating its book birthday this week, be sure and find a copy of The Great Caper Caper for your library!

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A roundup of new chapter books - 11.15.22

One of my favorite type of books to find are chapter books.  These are books that are a necessary bridge for readers who are going up the reading ladder from picture books and early chapter books (think Henry and Mudge and Frog and Toad) and before they continue up the ladder to middle grade novels.  Here are some newer books and series you may want to check out!

   The New Friend Fix   Off-Key
Catalina Incognito series
written by Jennifer Torres
illustrated by Gladys Jose
This magical realism series is so fun!  Meet Catalina, she's a perfectionist and always has some ideas in her head.  For her eighth birthday, she receives an old sewing kit from her tia abuela.  She had been hoping for something else, but when she finds out it's a magical sewing kit, Catalina gets some great new ideas!   

Witches of Peculiar series
 written by Luna Graves
Meet twins Bella and Dee.  These sixth graders have finally come into their witch powers over the summer, and now they're thrilled to be invited to YIKESSS (Yvette I. Koffin's Exceptional School for Supernatural Students).  They'll finally fit in, but when their magical proves to be a little difficult to control, will they be able to stay at the school?  Will the other students accept them?  Not scary, but perfect for readers who are ready for all things Halloween!

   The Lurking Lima Bean   The Not-So-Itsy-Bitsy Spider   
Night Frights series
written by Joe McGee
illustrated by Ted Skaffa
In the town of Wolver Holler, there's always something just a little spooky and strange happening.  Each book in the series focuses on a different child living in the town and the spooky event that happens to them.  These stories definitely have a little bit of a scare to them compared to the Witches of Peculiar books.  I know there will be some readers that are happy to get a good scare in!

Alley and Rex 
written by Joel Ross
illustrated by Nicole Miles
Meet Alley.  He's really good at extreme schooling - meaning all of the rules of a traditional school are a bit of a challenge.  Meet Rex.  He's pretty much the opposite of Alley.  Unlikely friends, yes.  Good partners, possibly!  I like this series because the kids are in sixth grade, which means it's a very short read (135 pgs) for those older readers who are looking for something short.

Elf Academy series
written by Alan Katz
illustrated by Sernur Isik
Meet Andy, an elf in Santa's Workshop.  To me, he's a cross between Buddy the Elf and Hermie the Elf (you know, the misfit elf from Rudolph).  He has a heart of gold but always wants to do something a little different!

Life in the Doghouse series
written by Crystal Velasquez
illustrated by Laura Catrinella
Inspired by Danny Robertshaw's and Ron Danta's real life rescue (and subject of the documentary Life in the Doghouse, each book focuses on a different dog that is at the rescue home.  The stories follow the dogs as they try and fit in with their adopted families.  The stories are narrated by the dog so the readers know the dogs' thoughts and feelings.  Perfect for all of our dog lovers!

   Super Spinach   
Adventures in Fosterland series
written by Hannah Shaw
illustrated by Bev Johnson
Another foster story, this one features cats, kittens, and other animals!  A perfect companion to the dog-loving series above!

The Astronomically Grand Plan      Hydroponic Hijinks
Astrid the Astronaut series
written by Rie Neal
illustrated by Talitha Shipman
A STEM series with a female lead, yay!  Astrid loves all things to do with space and can't wait for her chance to learn and explore more.  But first she has to put her hearing aids in to help her hear better throughout her day.  Love that hearing aids are a part of the story, and not the focus.  Astrid is part of the Shooting Stars club at school and gets the opportunity to learn more about all things space.  Each book has a storyline with that but also focuses on friendship and getting along with others.

Audrey L and Audrey W series
written by Carter Higgins
illustrated by Jennifer K Mann
A series about friendship, identity, and last name initials!  Audrey has always figured out a way to notice things and notice what is great about everyone.  She knows she's the best Audrey in her class... until another Audrey moves in.  Now she's Audrey L, someone who needs an initial to stand out.  Surely she won't be friends with this new Audrey?

J.D.  series
written by J. Dillard
illustrated by Akeem S. Roberts
I love this series about all things hair!  Celebrating all things Black hair, this series is sure to give some new styling ideas, and maybe inspire a new entrepreneur!  

Miles Lewis series
written by Kelly Starling Lyons
illustrated by Wayne Spencer
I hope by now you are familiar with author Kelly Starling Lyons' Jada Jones series.  Now she gives us Jada's friend (so yes, we do see more of Jada), Miles Lewis.  Miles goes to the same school as Jada and his thing is science (probably why they are friends).  So whenever something comes up where he gets to put his science brain to the test, Miles is there.  Whether it's ice skating (physics) or the science fair, Miles is ready for a little competition.  With his family and friends always there to help him, or pick him up when things haven't gone his way, Miles is a friend all readers will want to meet.  Love seeing a young, Black boy represented in this chapter book series!

Are you making lists for books you hope to receive?  Make sure these series make the list - your readers will thank you!

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

It's Not The Three Little Pigs - a review 11.02.22

Every year the second grade team does a unit on fairy tales and they always include It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk.  And every year, after they read that book, all of my Josh Funk titles are wiped from the shelf.  Luckily, I stock extra copies.  This year I'll have a new title for the series.

It's Not The Three Little Pigs
written by Josh Funk
illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
published by Two Lions

There are parts of the story that will feel very familiar: straw and stick houses, a wolf.  I always enjoy the detailed illustrations by Edwardian Taylor in each book of the series.  Wait until you see the blueprints for each house!  Just pouring over those took a lot of time!  And parts that will feel familiar to this particular series: a narrator who is interrupted a lot, colored talk bubbles for the characters, and a story that doesn't go quite as the traditional story goes.
For example, there is a fourth pig in the story.  Her name is Alison and she in particular enjoys interrupting the narrator!

Are you looking for a brick house?  A big, bad wolf?  Well, the story has some changes in store for those traditional parts.  I won't give anything away, but I will tell you I laughed through the entire book.

Some teaching ideas:
  • these are must-have books for any fairy tale unit.  Have students search for the traditional elements of the fairy tale vs. what has been changed.
  • do you teach quotations?  Take a portion of the story and rewrite it using proper punctuation for quotations.
  • the blueprints for each house are perfect for some makerspace engineering ideas!
  • check out the plot elements!  With the changes in the story, how does that change the plot?
  • time to work on some fluency!  Thinking about each character's traits, how do you think the character would sound?  Act it out using expression!
This is a series that works perfectly for ELA, math, and science elements!  I'm excited to have this next installment for our library.

But don't take just my word for it!  Additional praise.....

“Those who love to make up their own stories will be inspired, and readers who march to the beats of their own drums will be delighted. Will leave readers as happy as a pig in mud.” ―Kirkus Reviews

More about author Josh Funk:

Like the characters in his books, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go―so he writes his own. He is the author of a bunch of picture books, including My Pet Feet, illustrated by Billy Yong; the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney; How to Code a Sandcastle, illustrated by Sara Palacios; and Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude, illustrated by Stevie Lewis. He lives in New England with his wife and children. Learn more about him at and follow him on social media:

Facebook:  Josh Funk Books

Instagram: @joshfunkbooks

Twitter: @joshfunkbooks

More about illustrator Edwardian Taylor:

Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator of multiple children’s books, including Hey, You’re Not Santa!, written by Ethan T. Berlin; Goldibooks and the Wee Bear, written by Troy Wilson; the Toy Academy chapter books, written by Brian Lynch; and the It’s Not a Fairy Tale books, written by Josh Funk, among other titles. He lives in Texas with his partner and their three dogs. Learn more about him at and follow him on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter @edwardiantaylor.

More about Two Lions publishing:

Instagram: @amazonpublishing

Twitter: @AmazonPub

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy!

Instagram: @blue_slip_media

Facebook: Blue Slip Media

Who wants a copy of this book?  Two Lions is offering a giveaway of TWO titles from Josh Funk’s It’s Not a Fairytale series:  It’s Not the Three Little Pigs and It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood  (U.S. and Canada addresses).  Winner will be selected on Wednesday, November 9th!

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

New Kids and Underdogs - a review 11.01.22

"We all need each other.  Because we are all sort of one, but also sort of not one.  Basically, we are a pack...of roots." 
                    - New Kids and Underdogs by Margaret Finnegan pg. 212

New Kids and Underdogs by Margaret Finnegan
New Kids and Underdogs
by Margaret Finnegan
published by Atheneum Books

Are you looking for a book that will grip your readers?  Look no further!  This heartprint story and the unforgettable characters will keep readers turning the page and leave feeling a little smarter and like they've made another friend.

Fifth-grader Robyn is the perpetual new kid.   In fact, she's gone through being new at so many schools, she's now made up some rules for herself.  Rules that will perhaps help her avoid previous mistakes and help her succeed at her new school in California.  Robyn wants so badly to succeed because this school, finally, is supposed to be the school that she is going to stay at.  Being new and fitting in could be the book all alone.  But, every plot needs to have foils.

Foil #1:  Dogs.  Robyn has two Jack Russell terrier mixed rescue dogs: Fudge and Sundae.  The love and friendship between the dogs and Robyn is a beautiful thing.  The dogs are so loving, and are a wonderful unit between them and Robyn.  Each dog has their own challenges.  They were both rescued from a place that created trauma and an environment that did not allow either dog to thrive.  Fudge is deaf and partially blind.  He relies on Sundae, especially when in an unfamiliar environment.  Sundae suffers from anxiety and being with Fudge helps calm that fear.  Both challenges bring up the subject of living - and thriving - with a disability.  Robyn understands her dogs challenges, but also comes to learn more about the range of disabilities and challenges of her peers.  The subject of disabilities is well done and author Margaret Finnegan brings up great viewpoints.  She helps readers understand, through the characters, that they are more than their disability.  It's part of who they are, but there are many other parts that make up the person/animal.

Foil #2:  Agility training for dogs.  Right away, Robyn comes across an agility class being held nearby for dogs.  Both her and Sundae are entranced by what they see.  Robyn looks into it, but the instructor does not think her dogs can do it based on one thing: their disabilities.  But it's the instructor's grandson, Nestor - Robyn's classmate - who sees more than the dogs' disabilities.  Nestor starts training the dogs himself and instead of it being called agility class, it's ability class.  I love the twist that makes all the difference for the dogs and Robyn.  It's through these new classes that Robyn learns more about herself and makes her go back through those new kid rules she had established.  One of my favorite quotes, "Dog training wasn't a way to impose a person's will upon a dog.  It was about learning to communicate with another species and learning to listen as that species communicated with you." - pg. 234.

All of these things come together to make a wonderful story.  I loved so many lines that made me pause and think about them.  Lots of great social-emotional lessons and things to talk about when thinking about people - the parts you see on the outside and what you don't see on the inside.  This book makes a great read aloud and is easy to book talk.  No doubt it will be a favorite among readers!  Be sure to send readers to Margaret Finnegan's website, she has lots of resources and linked below are tips to train dogs!

More praise for New Kids and Underdogs:

A thoughtful story about learning to look beneath the surface and be a better friend.” —Kirkus

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Margaret Finnegan is the author of We Could Be Heroes and Susie B. Won’t Back Down, both Junior Library Guild Selections. Her other works have appeared in FamilyFun Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, and other publications. She lives in South Pasadena, California, where she enjoys spending time with her family, walking her dog, and baking really good chocolate cakes. To learn more, and to download free discussion guides, visit

Twitter: @FinneganBegin

Instagram: @finneganbegin

Just like the kids in New Kids & Underdogs, you can ability train your dog! Check out the fun tips here!

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy.

Instagram: @blue_slip_media

Facebook: Blue Slip Media