Sprinstubb, Tricia. Cody and the Fountain of Happiness
April 14th 2015 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Cody is ready to enjoy summer even though her mother is up for a promotion as head of footwear and works long hours, and her father is a long distance trucker and not home all that often. She gets to stay with her older brother, Wyatt, who is pretty nice as far as older brothers go. She also meets Spencer, who has come to stay with his grandmother, when his cat Mew Mew runs away. Cody is not looking forward to going to summer camp, so is glad when it is canceled, but she has to have a babysitter when Wyatt goes to a science camp. Her sitter turns out to be the sparkly Payton Underwood on whom her brother is crushing! Cody tells Spencer that she will hypnotize Mew Mew so he won't run away again, but the cat does take off and is lost, but luckily Cody finds him in her back yard. Her mother is a bit stressed and beset by the "whim whams" on occasion, but Cody has a strong family, good friends, and is generally a happy and well adjusted little girl.
Strengths: The had a very B is for Betsy vibe to it, with the simple text and cute pictures, and I can see it being very popular with emergent readers. I would almost classify this as an Early Reader book more than middle grade. Very pleasant and happy book.
Weaknesses: Not a lot happens, and for my demographic, Cody doesn't have as much independence as is usually required. I worried about the mother's stress level-- cradling an ash tray in times of stress seems like a plea for help! Cody doesn't worry about her too much, so I will try not to as well!
McDonald, Megan. Stink Moody in Master of Disaster
10 March 2015, Candlewick Press
Copy from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
The books in this early reader series featuring characters from the Judy Moody books are set up very much like I Can Read Books. Each two page spread includes illustrations and no more than one page of that devoted to text. This might seem like an odd and picky thing to address, but this is often the "sweet spot" for reluctant or beginning readers.
There are just three chapters in this book, and each one deals with a different situation in Stink's life. As such, there is not a lot of character development, although Stink does learn a lesson about patience when he misses seeing a comet because he is rummaging through a backpack and looking at a book. He also learns that it is more of a threat to his well-being to blow a fuse by using too many appliances in his basement Asteroid Shelter than it is to get hit by an asteroid, and struggles with indecision when naming a star.
The big draw to these early readers is the humor with which the characters approach the situations. The illustrations help a lot with this. In bright, clear drawings, Stink is shown with his tinfoil cape, camping in the backyard, or just working at the kitchen table. The bright colors and vivid expressions on the characters' faces give struggling reads clues as to what is being said in the text. Since illustrations appear on every page, I can see prereaders "telling" these stories to caregivers using the pictures, since there are enough details for children to use to pull information from them.
While the market for these is clearly emerging readers, I have found these books to be just right for some of my 6th grade students who are struggling with reading. Again, the balance between pictures and words is crucial, the large print is helpful, and the humor makes this a book that even older children can enjoy.