Even by our own admittedly lax South Carolina standards, it’s been a weird winter. The weather has been, at irregular intervals, mild and punishing, temperate and torrential. The through-line here is that we have had ample time for indoor reading over the last several months—silver lining and all that.
This, at least, was a fortunate turn, because we’ve had no shortage of reading materials compliments of our friends at Scholastic. Here’s a list of the new and upcoming books that have helped keep my children occupied—and me (relatively) sane—throughout the season.
Yo-kai Watch Chapter Book #2: Komasan and Komajiro in the City, adapted by Kate Howard
While the best part of my family’s lingering Yo-kai Watch obsession is easily the spectacular video games, the animated series is certainly no slouch—my favorite part being the continued misadventures of my hillbilly brethren Komasan and Komajiro. December saw the release of the second Yo-kai Watch Chapter Book, which just so happens to translate these animated shorts into an easy-to-read paperback. The central conceit here is that older brother Komasan constantly attempts to impress his younger brother Komajiro with displays of his street savvy, only to inevitably be outdone by the younger bumpkin. In the end, though, both these supernatural hayseeds are not-so-subtly reminded that, while the big city is definitely exciting, there’s nothing more important than family, making it another perfect shared reading experience. Oh my swirls, indeed!
Yo-kai Watch Reader #2: The Legend of Shogunyan, adapted by Maria S. Barbo
Coming in at half the length of Komasan and Komajiro in the City, The Legend of Shogunyan is the ideal easy-reader for younger Yo-kai Watch fans. Like the first entry in the Yo-kai Watch Reader series, it retells another story from the cartoon, in this case, the events surrounding the arrival of Legendary Yo-kai Shogunyan. It’s a quick, colorful read designed specifically for first- and second-graders.
The Puppy Collection: Piper’s First Show, by Susan Hughes, illustrations by Leanne Franson
My little girl is crazy about animals, so Scholastic’s Puppy Collection was an easy sell. Piper’s First Show is actually the fifth book in this canine-centered series, so I already find myself on a mission to locate the previous volumes. Unfortunately, The Puppy Collection itself is a Canadian production not readily available down here in the States. However, the previous volumes have been re-released right here in the US of A under the new name Puppy Pals. This breezy 88-page paperback concerns itself with animal-loving friends Kat, Maya, and Grace as they attempt to train Piper, a four-month-old Bernese mountain dog, for her first puppy show.
The Puppy Collection: Cricket’s Close Call, by Susan Hughes, illustrations by Leanne Franson
Despite its dire-sounding title (and the brief appearance of two rough-looking bikers and one sick grandma), Cricket’s Close Call is another feel-good chapter book for dog-crazy youth. This time around, the trio of friends is tasked with looking after a rambunctious Yorkshire terrier. My 8-year-old devoured this one with particular gusto… and she’s been warning me about the dangers of dogs eating chocolate ever since. Look for Cricket and Piper to join the other Puppy Pals this spring.
Pokémon Classic Collector’s Handbook
As I’ve mentioned before, Pokémon reference guides are like gold in this house—a wise investment that’s sure to pay off. The coolest thing about this edition from late 2016 is that it concerns itself not with the latest Alolan pocket monsters but with the original 151. It’s a great Gen-1 resource complete with imperial/metric measurements, pronunciation guides, a foldout poster, and even a checklist. If you’ve recently set your young trainer loose on your old Game Boy with a copy of Pokémon Red or Blue, this book is the perfect throwback companion piece.
Yo-kai Watch Essential Handbook
Packed with stats and facts about over 240 Yo-kai, this handbook is a beautiful guide to the world of Level-5’s Yo-kai Watch franchise. It opens with a brief introduction to Yo-kai Tribes and Medals, and then it goes on to provide a robust view of many of the supernatural soldiers you know and love. In addition to basic facts concerning attacks and Soultimate moves, it digs deeper with notes about potential evolutions and fusions, favorite foods (which can help players befriend wayward Yo-kai), and even specialty icons to denote which creatures have appeared in seasons one and two of the anime.
SlappyWorld: Slappy Birthday to You, by R.L. Stine
If my daughter’s thing is animals, my son’s equivalent passion is all things horror. Of course, he’s just turned twelve, so he cut his teeth on R.L. Stine’s seminal Goosebumps franchise. While he’s slowly growing out of it and into the more modern, more visceral frights of Five Nights at Freddy’s and the like, the series still clearly holds a place in his heart. In fact, he was thrilled to get an early peek at SlappyWorld, a brand new spin-off featuring Stine’s evil dummy as a next-generation Crypt Keeper. Slappy predictably opens and closes this first book in the new property, Slappy Birthday to You, which, coincidentally, also stars the marionette as its featured baddy. Like my boy, the tale’s Ian Barker has also just turned 12, but things take a definite turn for the worse when his father surprises him with a gift of the aforementioned malicious mannequin. While it’s technically the ninth book in Stine’s Night of the Living Dummy saga, don’t feel like your kids are missing out if they haven’t read the previous chapters. Demonic toys are, after all, a fairly self-explanatory (and, apparently, enduring) standard in horror fiction.
Review materials provided by: Scholastic