During the summer months, parents are looking for reading material for their school-aged children. Some gravitate to classic books or best selling authors while others seek out new authors or new series. One new author worth exploring is Michele Jakubowski. She recently published two unique children’s book series. One is geared to early readers, Perfectly Poppy, while the other, Sidney & Sydney, is written for a slighter older chapter book audience.
During Michele’s interview earlier this week, she mentioned that her children’s experiences are the source of some of her ideas. As a result, her content appears up-to-date. If you choose to share any of these books with your kids, I’d love to hear from you.
Michele sent me copies of some of her books in exchange for this interview and an honest review. She is participating in a book giveaway. See below for details.
(Picture Window Books, a Capstone Imprint, 2014).
Currently, there are two books available in this series. The first one is subtitled Third Grade Mix-up and the second is called Dodgeball, Drama, and other Dilemmas. The third book will be released later this summer and is called Big Dog Decisions.
According to the Amazon website, lower elementary students are the targeted audience for these easy chapter books. The two main characters, Sidney (a boy) and Sydney (a girl), are eight-year-old kids who are in third grade. These characters’ perspectives are revealed in alternate chapters. At the beginning of the book, Michele assists the reader by providing short bios with headshot illustrations. A brief summary of the characters’ similarities and differences is included at the end of the book. Confusion between the voices of Sidney and Sydney are minimized by the use of the graphic headshot at the start of each chapter. Colorful chapter pages and illustrations by Luisa Montalto help young readers navigate through the story.
In the first book, the characters are introduced to one another when they meet during the first day of class. Michele focuses on the apprehensions most kids feel on the first day of school. The interest is further heightened by the confusion associated with having two people in the class with the same name. Even though the relationship that develops between Sidney and Sydney is predictable, the books maintain an easy going pace. A little less than halfway through the book, Sydney’s inner thoughts are revealed.
Am I actually getting along with the new kid? A new kid who is a boy? The same new kid who shares my name and embarrassed me today? Weird! (Page 52)
In addition to focusing on the budding relationship between the two characters, the author introduces the reader to conflicts between siblings and the challenges faced by a child coping with diabetes during Halloween. Gomez, one of the main characters’ classmates, candidly states,
“It’s hard to collect all that candy and not eat it. That’s one reason why I don’t really like Halloween.” (Page 73)
At the end of the story, Sidney and Sydney work together to create a memorable and inclusive Halloween party for Gomez.
Dodgeball, Drama and other Dilemmas continues with the two characters in Mr. Luther’s third grade class. The brief bio at the beginning of the book will help readers who did not read the first book. The title of the book informs readers of the ongoing theme of coping with a fellow student who shares the same name. In this second book, the reader continues to follow the relationship between Sidney and Sydney. These characters are further developed via their words and actions. Class competitions such as a dodgeball game and a spelling bee highlight a variety of kid responses. The lessons learned from each experience are sincere and not overwhelming. Not everyone can be a winner and kids have to learn to deal effectively with disappointment. However, as a mother of 4 sons, I rarely observed children share their awards with their peers. The kids in this story model this ideal behavior.
Sydney stated, “What good is winning if you can’t celebrate with your friend?” (Page 66)
During tryouts for a school play, the spotlight once again shines on the main characters. Sydney earns the female lead role and Sidney is selected as the male understudy. It is no surprise when the male lead gets sick and Sidney is asked to take over the role.
The duo has a stellar performance. At the end of the book, both are proud of their accomplishment.
Sidney says, “I’m not sure if we’ll do another play together, but me and Sydney really do make an incredible team.” (Page 124)
This is a perfect entry point for the next book in the series.
(Picture Window Books, a Capstone Imprint, 2014).
There are currently 4 books in this series- Beach Bummer, Snowy Blast, Talent Trouble, and Party Pooper. Each of these easy reader books revolves around a young girl named Poppy. In Snowy Blast and Beach Bummer, Poppy exhibits a strong attitude that will appeal to kids who may be reluctant to engage in outdoor activities.
It takes a considerable push from Poppy’s mom and older brother, before she will venture outside during a snowy day. Within no time Poppy appreciates the fun associated with playing in the snow with friends. Similarly, Poppy experiences several frustrating moments before she enjoys a warm day at the beach. Her change in attitude is conveyed through her actions and words.
On the last page, Poppy says, “My beach bummer is now a beach blast. I like the beach again.” (Page 26)
The books in this series include a glossary of new words, a list of thought provoking questions, a page devoted to foods, and a list of appropriate activities for the setting of the book. The simple illustrations by Erica-Jane Waters provide picture clues and help to break up the amount of text on each page.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, July 13 will be eligible for a book giveaway. Michele will send the randomly selected winner an autographed copy of one of her books.