published June 28, 2015 in the Raleigh News and Observer
Summer is the perfect season for book gobblers. Below find new books in series that will satisfy literary appetites.
Hillary McKay pens a seventh adventure, Lulu and the Hamster in the Night (Whitman, ages 5 and up). At 7, Lulu looks after her growing stable of pets “as if they were the most important things in the world. And to her they were.” Bratty Emma, bitten by her hamster, hands him over in a smelly cage so full of litter, Lulu can barely see Ratty. Determined to give Ratty a happy adjustment, Lulu smuggles him on an overnight to her grandmother Nan’s. Luckily Nan, not a rodent fan, is forgiving when the cats frighten Ratty, who escapes and starts a chaotic chase that even involves the police. McKay’s short books have depth, warmth, humor, caring characters and dramatic situations that capable Lulu solves.
Wendy Mass’ 8-year-old Archie Morningstar was, at first, shocked to discover his cabbie father drives an interplanetary taxi. But by this third adventure, Archie’s Alien Disguise (Little Brown, ages 6 and up), he’s ready to travel to a medieval-seeming planet with his father and the brilliant Pockets. Pockets may look like a large house cat, but he’s a special agent with technology and fast talk that gets the team out of trouble. Despite his annoying alien disguise of three long arms, Archie’s antics end in saving the princess. Invention, exploits and humor are all strong in this series.
Sara Pennypacker’s Completely Clementine (Hyperion, age 6-8) is the seventh and last in this series. As usual, there’s plenty of drama and hilarity in several whimsical situations, made funnier with Marla Frazee’s illustrative levity. As Clementine waits for her third sibling to be born, she struggles giving her dad the silent treatment, drawing him pathetic animals labeled with sad slogans meant to turn him vegetarian. Pennypacker promises her sassy, lovable character will have cameos in her new series about Waylon, the “scienciest” boy in Clementine’s third grade.
Rita Williams Garcia ends a trilogy with Gone Crazy in Alabama (HarperCollins, ages 8-12). Delphine, the heroine, is responsible for her rambunctious younger sisters as they spend the summer in 1969 Alabama. They stay with their grandmother, Big Ma, their great-grandmother, and Uncle Darnell, whose Vietnam PTSD is “mostly gone.” Garcia balances glorious sensory descriptions and singing dialogue with complex conflicts as the girls learn hidden truths about their family history, survive a tornado, get into the middle of their elders’ quarrels and suffer their own sibling battles.
Maureen Johnson’s The Shadow Cabinet (Putnam, ages 13 and up) is the third in her spooky series. Rory, the heroine, is deeply involved with the Shades, an underground London policing service that seeks out ghosts. Rory has a power no others possess, and while she’s still trying to understand it, she’s thrust into a leadership role opposing the cold-blooded baddies, siblings Sid and Sadie. Johnson is superb at description, intensifying action and twisting the plot with surprises that shock.