Sunday, July 31, 2016

Magic Animal Friends

Granted, I picked up this series in medias res, so I am woefully ignorant of the riveting story wherein Jess and Lily first meet up with Goldie and travel to Friendship Forest. I don't know Grizelda's gruesome backstory-- did Jess and Lily drop a house on her? Is the Smurf's nemesis Gargamel her brother? So many unanswered questions. 

I can only assume that the last volume of this set takes a dark turn. The parents in Friendship Forest, unhappy that they are under constant threat of having their children morph into mess making monsters in thrall to the questionable motives of Grizelda, decide to take matters into their own hands. The next time the purple sparks fly, there is also the unmistakable tang of gunpowder in the air, and when the smoke clears, Ruby Fuzzybrush's mother is left standing with a gun in her paw amidst the dead bodies of Snippit, Hopper et al.  Distraught, Grizelda retaliates by using her magic to poison the flour at the Nibblesqueak bakery. Atrocities pile up, and soon Jess and Lily can no longer travel to Friendship Forest because Goldie the cat is behind bars, having been found lurking outside Grizelda's lair with a modified version of Mr. Cleverfeather's Shell Seeker.

Seems ridiculous when we apply human motivations to animals, doesn't it? Yet how many tragedies could be prevented if people felt compelled to behave in a civilized fashion?

The moral of the story is this: Don't try to read and write critical reviews of too many early reader series at one time!

26892097Meadows, Daisy. Olivia Nibblesqueak's Messy Mischief (Magic Animal Friends #9)
May 10th 2016 by Scholastic Paperback
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Friends Jess and Lily travel frequently into the magical Friendship Forest, invited there by Goldie the cat. When they go this time, a family of hamsters who run a bakery are working very hard to get delicious treats ready for a cake decorating contest. The animals helping out are all adorable, but soon cakes are thrown at the bakery, ruining a lot of the hard work. It's the evil witch Grizelda's horrible minions, who want to make the entire forest as messy as they have made Witchy Waste. One of them, a bat named Peep, casts a purple sparkle spell on Olivia, and soon she is marauding around with him, wreaking havoc. Jess and Lily need to discover three things about her in order to undo the spell before Olivia turns in to a bat! 

Even though I haven't read the previous books in this series, Jess and Lily's involvement with the Friendship Forest was nicely recapped, and there was a helpful map at the beginning of the book. The reading level on the book is stated as being appropriate for 3rd graders, but a younger child would find this appealing, perhaps as a read along, or with some assistance on more difficult words. 

The story is not nuanced, which makes it easier for beginning readers to understand. Grizelda and her minions are all unappealing and unabashedly evil, and the other animals are all cute and work to preserve social harmony. I was definitely put in mind of the Smurfs television series from long ago that the children I babysat wanted to watch! 

Readers who enjoy this author's fairy stories, or any of the Puppy Place series books will quickly become addicted to this comfortingly predictable series about magical animals. I can see a lot of hours being spent in recreating the world and stories of Friendship Forest in backyards with friends who are readers!

Meadows, Daisy. Evie Scruffypup's Big Surprise(Magic Animal Friends #10)
May 10th 2016 by Scholastic Paperback
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

It's Blossom Day in the Friendship Forest, and Jess and Lily are excited to join their friends for the Blossom-Drop candy hunt, but young Evie is put under a spell by Masha the Rat and is soon acting like the rat and messing everything up. Luckily, the girls have written down the spell that is used to reverse this curse, and get right to work finding Evie's favorite food, thing, place and her biggest secret. There is some trouble with this, since she loves Blossom-Drop candy and Grizelda's animals have ruined it all, but with the help of Evie's sister Hattie, they manage to take everything to Petal Dell and return Evie to her adorable puppy self before she becomes a rat permanently. 

While this embraces the formula of the previous book, the inclusion of Evie's sister is a nice change, and her secret shows a nice sisterly bond. I also liked that Evie is shown wearing glasses-- many young reader start wearing glasses in early elementary school, and it can be a difficult change. 

The line drawings that accompany the story are quite cute, and I can see the map being used as a starting place for a recreation of Friendship Forest. It would be easy to populate this with stuffed animals and baby dolls, and hours of play could result.

For readers who enjoyed Baglio's Animal Ark Pets or have finished all of Bentley's Magic Puppy series, Magic Animal Friends books offer a familiar story line, cute animals, and friends working together to help each other and their community. 

26892099Meadows, Daisy. Chloe Slipperslide's Secret (Magic Animal Friends #11)
May 10th 2016 by Scholastic Paperback
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Agatha Glitterwing is having a Craft Club in the Friendship Forest, so Goldie the cat brings Jess and Lily to visit. The girls have a good time making jewelry, but soon Snippit the crow is causing mischief, throwing nuts and sticks at the crafters. Soon, Snippit casts a spell on poor Chloe the otter, and she begins to join the crow in his mischief. Consulting the reversal spell that they found in Mrs. Taptree's library, Jess and Lily start to find Chloe's favorite things. One of them is a necklace she made, but it has gone missing. Thanks to Mr. Cleverfeather's invention,it is found in a huge pile of shiny objects that Snippit has taken from many members of the community. The girls also manage to find a water lily that Chloe likes to eat, and ask her friend Violet about her secret and favorite place. Everyone is relieved when Snippit's evil spell is reversed. 

At the end of each of these books, there is a short one page article on facts about the main animal. This is a nice inclusion of some nonfiction information. There is often also a puzzle or activity of some sort. 

Snippit is a particularly evil minion of Grizelda's, since he raises thievery to an art form, stealing shiny metal objects from nearly everyone in Friendship Forest. It is good to see the members of the community working together to get the items to the proper owner once the rather scatterbrained owl scientist and inventor, Mr. Cleverfeather, manages to locate all of them. The animals of Friendship Forest all are supportive of one another, so this serves as a good example for young readers. 

Since this series currently has about 14 books in it, getting the next book is an easy way to satisfy readers who have already finished the new The Magical Animal Adoption Agency books by Kallie George or the seven book Animalmagic series by Holly Webb. Be prepared to have beading supplies ready so that fans of Agatha Glitterwing can make their own creations to wear!

Meadows, Daisy. Grace Woollyhop's Musical Mystery (Magic Animal Friends #12)
May 10th 2016 by Scholastic Paperback
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In the middle of knitting blankets for the animals in the animal sanctuary, Jess and Lily are taken to Friendship Forest. Their escort, Goldie, has lost her trademark scarf. It was stolen and used to wipe up slime; a clear indication that evil is afoot and Gizelda's henchmen are up to no good! When the group goes to the Woollyhop shop to get a new scarf for the cat, they meet Grace, but she soon falls prey to an evil spell cast by Hopper the Toad. Soon, Grace is making a mess of the yarn, and the hunt begins for all of her favorite things. Friendship Forest is hosting a concert in which Grace is supposed to play the tambourine, but the secret that is uncovered is that she also sings very well. Since her favorite place is with her group, getting ready to perform, it's easy to undo the spell so that Grace doesn't become a toad and the concert can go on as planned. 

I liked the fact that Jess and Lily spent a little more time taking care of animals back in the real world and wish that brief instruction about knitting would have been included. This would be an excellent opportunity to get a young reader interested in fiber arts. 

Grace's friends in the choir are understandably upset when their secret is discovered, since they wanted their performance to be a surprise. Since this series does talk a lot about finding out the secrets of others, it is good that there is always some discussion about when it is appropriate to tell someone's secret. If the person is in danger of becoming a toad unless the secret is revealed, always tell!

Adorable talking animals who have adventures is a hallmark of this series, which I can see being popular with readers who liked Soderberg's Puppy Pirates books. Since there is also a mystery to be solved in every book, readers who enjoyed Mlynowski Whatever After series could be tempted by these titles as well. 


Jennifer said...

Thank you for taking one for the team and reading these. They fly off my shelf but I have so far not actually read one. My cataloger and I have made a lot of fun of the titles though...

Medeia Sharif said...

Cute covers. These look a bit too young for my students, but they look charming.

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