Two Must Have Early Chapter Books: The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale and Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo



The Princess in Black
Authors: Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Published October 14th, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Who says princesses don’t wear black? When trouble raises its blue monster head, Princess Magnolia ditches her flouncy dresses and becomes the Princess in Black!

Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret? From award-winning writing team of Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham, here is the first in a humorous and action-packed chapter book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am a sucker for girl power books. So much, I was part of writing three Nerdy Book Club Girl Power posts (here, here, and here). Princess in Black fits right in this these books. Although Princess Magnolia must live up to society’s expectations of a proper princess, in secret she fights crime, isn’t afraid of anything, and doesn’t wear pretty dresses. I love the idea that Magnolia can be a princess and all kick some butt. (I wish she could do it not in secret, but that wouldn’t fit the societal views of princesses in most fairy tales.) I know that the Hales wrote this book for their daughters, and I can see why they did: a great heroine, lots of action, funny, and colorful, fun illustrations. Princess in Black would actually be a perfect first introduction to the narrative elements and plot arc. It also just enough complex vocabulary that you could start a discussion about some of the words.

We Flagged: Chapter Two: “Princesses do not run. Princesses do not stuff frilly pink dresses into broom closets. Princess do not wear black. And princesses most definitely do not slide down secret chutes and high-jump castle walls. But then, most princess do not live near an entrance to Monster Land. Stopping monsters was no job for prim and perfect Princess Magnolia. But fortunately Princess Magnolia did have a secret. She was secretly the Princess in black! And stopping monsters was the perfect job for the Princess in Black.”

Read This If You Loved: Salem Hyde (series) by Frank Cammuso, Battle Bunny by Jon Sciezska, Fairy Tales

Recommended For: 

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leroy ninker
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen
Published August 26th, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Yippie-i-oh! Saddle up for the first in a spin-off series starring favorite characters from Kate DiCamillo’s New York Timesbest-selling Mercy Watson books.

Leroy Ninker has a hat, a lasso, and boots. What he doesn’t have is a horse — until he meets Maybelline, that is, and then it’s love at first sight. Maybelline loves spaghetti and sweet nothings, and she loves Leroy, too. But when Leroy forgets the third and final rule of caring for Maybelline, disaster ensues. Can Leroy wrestle fate to the ground, rescue the horse of his heart, and lasso loneliness for good? Join Leroy, Maybelline, and a cast of familiar characters — Stella, Frank, Mrs. Watson, and everyone’s favorite porcine wonder, Mercy — for some hilarious and heartfelt horsing around on Deckawoo Drive.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I must be honest: I have not read the Mercy Watson books, but luckily it does not matter because Leroy is just so darn loveable. His personality shines through the pages and you just are so happy that Leroy and Maybelline found each other. Also, Kate DiCamillo has a way with voice! I can always hear her characters talking in my head, and they each are so very distinct. I also love her use of vocabulary and humor–perfect! This one is going to be loved by many!

Discussion Questions: Why do you think that Maybelline is the perfect horse for Leroy?; Was Leroy truly prepared to have a horse? How do you know?; Why does Leroy want to be a cowboy?

We Flagged: Leroy Ninker said ‘Yippie-i-oh’ because Leroy Ninker had a dream. He wanted to be a cowboy.

On Wednesday nights, the Bijou Drive-In Theater ran a Western double feature, and Leroy Ninker Stood and watched in wonder as the great white expanse of the Bijou screen filled with purple mountains, wide-open plains, and cowboys.

The cowboys wore ten-gallon hats. The wore boots. They carried lassos. The cowboys were men who cast long shadows and knew how to fight injustice. They were men who where never, ever afraid.

‘Yippie-i-oh,’ Leroy Ninker whispered to the screen. ‘That is the life for me. A cowboy is who I was meant to be.'” (p.2)

Read This If You Loved: Lulu and the Brontosaurus (series) by Judish Viorst, Frankie Pickle (series) by Eric Wight, Bramble and Maggie (series) by Jessie Haas

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing copies for review**

1 thought on “Two Must Have Early Chapter Books: The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale and Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo”

  1. I was so delighted by this that I am buying a copy for the reluctant readers in my middle school library. After the recent posts by Ms. Hale, I may issue a challenge to all of my boys and have them read the book. And they will. My daughters would have adored this when they were small as well!


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