Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem

 humphrey cover

Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem (Humphrey’s Tiny Tales)

By Betty G. Birney, Illustrated by Priscilla Burris

 

Published by: Puffin Books (August 28, 2014)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were four books in this series.

 

SQUEAK-SQUEAK-SQUEAK!

Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem (Humphrey’s Tiny Tales) brings the popular middle grade series down to the chapter book level with the same characters and format. Humphrey is still the hamster in Room 26, he still goes home with students on weekends, and he still is both endearing and a hero by the end of each book.

I love the older Humphrey series, so I was truly excited to see this in the chapter book format. That said, I like it… but I don’t love it.

First, the good stuff. The text has an easy rhythm that will keep newly independent readers entertained. (“The bus was bumpy and thumpy. I slid from one side of my cage to the other.”) The layout is classic chapter book, with big typeface, lots of white space and illustrations no more than every three pages apart. Children will find these books an easy first dip into the read-alone arena.

My disappointment is perhaps less about what’s wrong than what is missing. The original, older Humphrey series is truly hilarious, inventive and alive with personality and drama. These, perhaps because they have been simplified so much, are not just Humphrey light, but washed-out Humphrey.

Still, I’d recommend them to kids who love humor, animals and need an easy introduction to chapter books. The fact this series could lead those same readers to the middle grade Humphrey books makes me GLAD-GLAD-GLAD.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

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Year One Re-Post #9: Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret

Originally published in October 2013. I find Heidi one of the freshest new characters in the chapter book world.

heidi cover

HEIDI HECKELBECK HAS A SECRET

By Wanda Coven, Illustrated by Priscilla Burris

Published by: Little Simon (January 3, 2012)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review, there were 10 books in the Heidi Heckelbeck series.

Heidi Heckelbeck is magic. But don’t tell your little reader—the big reveal is in the last line of the first book in the series.

In fact, the whole of Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret leads up to a denouement in the second book, Heidi Heckelbeck Casts a Spell. See the utter genius of the marketing plan? Rather than make a chapter book that is too big, this series runs like separate parts of the same story. Yes, each piece is complete unto itself. But if a kid is hooked, she WILL NOT stop at one book.

It’s almost kind of cruel, isn’t it? Much how we all had to wait for each Harry Potter installment, Heidi Heckelbeck’s story is filled with unrequited expectation. Ah, but the anticipation is half the joy, and I give only kudos to the author for this inspired, pint-size version of the magical, multi-book saga.

The text, done with refreshingly contemporary language, is a very easy read. There is absolutely no mistaking Heidi’s world for those classic chapter books of another decade. Add in the zingy, silly illustrations that dot almost every page, and even very reluctant readers will find a way through each page… and then the next… and then the next book.

Also, props go to the interesting idea that Heidi is a previous homeschool kid who now has to integrate into real school. Unique, and filled with the drama you’d expect. All those tough transitions place Heidi squarely in the real world, with problems any kid can recognize. From bullies to clueless teachers, Heidi has some difficult stuff to work through, which she does with grace… once she makes a few haunting mistakes.

As a note, this is listed as a Halloween book, which it technically is not. But the Halloween overtones and references abound, so if a kid is into that theme, Heidi delivers quite the treat. And she’s got some tricks up her sleeve to boot.

Now that’s a sweet haul for any day of the year.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Magical Heidi Heckelbeck

heidi cover

HEIDI HECKELBECK HAS A SECRET

By Wanda Coven, Illustrated by Priscilla Burris

Published by: Little Simon (January 3, 2012)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review, there were 10 books in the Heidi Heckelbeck series.

Heidi Heckelbeck is magic. But don’t tell your little reader—the big reveal is in the last line of the first book in the series.

In fact, the whole of Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret leads up to a denouement in the second book, Heidi Heckelbeck Casts a Spell. See the utter genius of the marketing plan? Rather than make a chapter book that is too big, this series runs like separate parts of the same story. Yes, each piece is complete unto itself. But if a kid is hooked, she WILL NOT stop at one book.

It’s almost kind of cruel, isn’t it? Much how we all had to wait for each Harry Potter installment, Heidi Heckelbeck’s story is filled with unrequited expectation. Ah, but the anticipation is half the joy, and I give only kudos to the author for this inspired, pint-size version of the magical, multi-book saga.

The text, done with refreshingly contemporary language, is a very easy read. There is absolutely no mistaking Heidi’s world for those classic chapter books of another decade. Add in the zingy, silly illustrations that dot almost every page, and even very reluctant readers will find a way through each page… and then the next… and then the next book.

Also, props go to the interesting idea that Heidi is a previous homeschool kid who now has to integrate into real school. Unique, and filled with the drama you’d expect. All those tough transitions place Heidi squarely in the real world, with problems any kid can recognize. From bullies to clueless teachers, Heidi has some difficult stuff to work through, which she does with grace… once she makes a few haunting mistakes.

As a note, this is listed as a Halloween book, which it technically is not. But the Halloween overtones and references abound, so if a kid is into that theme, Heidi delivers quite the treat. And she’s got some tricks up her sleeve to boot.

Now that’s a sweet haul for any day of the year.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….