It’s my favorite time of the year. I get to announce the winners of the Early Readers and Chapter Books for the Nerdies. I had so much fun going through each of these titles and I think both teachers and young readers will also enjoy each of them too. I am also excited to share that all of these books are part of book series, which will give readers more books to love. 

Gigi and Ojiji by Melissa Iwai (HarperCollins) – After reading this book, I had to share it with my good friend’s daughter. Her first response – “Where was this book when I was little?” It wasn’t that long ago that she was in 1st grade and would have loved to see herself and her Ojiji in a book. In book 1, Gigi meets her grandfather, or Ojiji, for the first time and has to learn more of her grandfather’s culture and ways to communicate with him. 

Yasmin the Doctor by Saadia Faruqi, Illustrated by Hatem Aly (Picture Window Books) – Yasmin is back and this time with the goal of being a doctor. Faruqi does a fabulous job of introducing readers to various professions. This time Yasmin needs to solve the problem of why her Baba’s eyes and back are hurting. With some good questions and some of her own experience, she comes up with the exact cause of her father’s pain. 

Fox and Chick: Up and Down and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier (Chronicle Books) – Fox and Chick are definitely one of my favorite friendship pairs. They remind me so much of Frog & Toad. This easy chapter book contains three short stories that will make readers smile and laugh out loud. Will Chick be able to get down from a tree? How many snowflakes is enough to play in the snow? And how big should they make the bookcase? Well, if you want enough space for the 13 titles on this list, you will love the size of the bookcase Chick makes. Don’t miss the first three books in the series. 

Sir Ladybug by Corey R. Tabor (Balzer & Bray) – Sir Ladybug and his friends, a roly poly bug and a snail, are always ready for a quest. In this first book in the series, Sir Ladybug must help a caterpillar from being eaten by a chickadee. The focus of the book is on friendship, teamwork, and creatively solving problems. And maybe a lemon layer cake can change someone’s perspective. I look forward to diving into Sir Ladybug and the Queen Bee (Book 2). 

Cornbread & Poppy at the Carnival by Matthew Cordell (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) – Matthew Cordell is well-known for his picture books, but I am so glad that he has entered the world of easy chapter books. Cornbread and Poppy may be very different but together they make a great friendship pair. In Book 2: Cornbread and Poppy at the Carnival, Poppy introduces Cornbread to the fun and adventures at the local carnival. Cornbread might be better at carnival games but Poppy helps her friend overcome his fear of the Ferris Wheel. Of course, the two friends learn to work through a conflict over a lone peanut. Don’t miss book 1 in the series. 

King and Kayla and the Case of the Lost Library Books by Dori Hillestad Butler, Illustrated by Nancy Meyers – King and Kayla have been solving mysteries together for awhile. Each book is a stand alone mystery that shows readers how Kayla and her best dog solve the case. In the latest book, Kayla has misplaced a library book and the pair know they won’t be able to check out additional titles at the library if they don’t find the book. King and Kayla teach readers that in order to solve problems they need to gather facts, look at the evidence and work together to save the day. 

Our Friend Hedgehog: A Place to Call Home by Lauren Castillo (Knopf Books for Young Readers) – Hedgehog and her stuffed dog, Mutty, live on a tiny island (Hedge Hollow) with their animal friends and Annika Mae. In the most recent story, Hedgehog meets other hedgehogs for the first time. This is confusing to Hedgehog. Does this mean that she must now live on Hedgehog Island with the other hedgehogs? What will happen to her friends in Hedge Hollow?  Castillo does a fabulous job to help Hedgehog and readers to understand…

Families come in all shapes and sizes.

Sometimes they are joined by birth, and other times they are chosen…

Readers will want to read this book more than once and join in with the storytime with Hedgehog and Owl and her friends in Hedge Hollow. If you haven’t read Our Friend Hedgehog, The Story of Us, consider reading both books. 

Pets Rule! My Kingdom of Darkness by Susan Tan, Illustrated by Wendy Tan Shiau Wei (Scholastic, Inc.) – This book had me laughing within the first few paragraphs. Ember, a rescue dog, is adopted by the Chin family. Ember may be a small dog but he has a big goal of being the Evil Overlord and making the family and their other pets his minions. Ember has a lot to learn about his new family, and neighborhood bully, Smelly Steve and his pet squirrel, Masher. When Ember’s small human Lucy is in trouble, Ember doesn’t hesitate to go to her defense, and Lucy learns to stand up to the local bully to protect Ember. I am so glad that I am on winter break so I can jump into Book 2 of Pets Rule! 

Fenway and the Bone Thieves by Victoria J. Coe, Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) – I always enjoy when favorite book series are adapted for younger readers. Thank you Victoria J. Coe for introducing younger readers to Fenway and Hattie. Fenway and the Bone Thieves is the first of two easy chapter books. New readers to Fenway will quickly fall in love with this energetic and adorable pup. In the first book, Fenway convinces his family to purchase him a bone. Just when he thinks he is going to enjoy the bone, a bunch of sneaky squirrels offer a variety of distractions. How will Fenway outthink the squirrels and help his family understand that he isn’t being a troublemaker? Readers chuckle as they read through these new adventures with Fenway. 

JoJo Makoons: Fancy Pants by Dawn Quigley, Illustrated by Tara Audibert (Heartdrum) – JoJo Makoons is back for a second year. If you haven’t read the first JoJo Makoons (Used to Be Best Friends), you will want to check out both books at the same time. JoJo is back and she is excited to be going to her aunt’s wedding. The only problem…don’t you need to be fancy to go to a wedding? JoJo starts a list about what it means to be fancy but JoJo learns that part of being fancy is being herself. I love JoJo and her view of the world, and I also love learning more about her Ojibwe Community and her pride in learning the Ojibwe language and culture. 

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books) – Marisol Rainey is also back for a second year on the Nerdies. Marisol is good at Food Tag, but she isn’t good at kickball. When Coach Decker announces that they will be learning to play kickball, Marisol is not happy. Marisol wishes her dad was home and could teach her how to play kickball. One of the things that I love about Marisol is that Entrada Kelly doesn’t shy away from exploring big feelings and acknowledging the reality that children experience anxiousness and worry. With the help of her family and friends, Marisol takes on her challenges at school and with kickball and learns some new lessons.  

Oh, Sal! By Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books) – We have met Sal’s older brother, Billy in previous books (The Year of Billy Miller and Billy Miller Makes a Wish) but Sal now has her own book. Henkes gives readers a view of the Miller household but this time from the eyes of Sal. As the book opens, readers learn that Billy and Sal have a new baby sister. Sal is learning to navigate the world of being a middle child, sharing her mother with the new baby, and on top of it all searching for a pair of her new favorite underwear. There are a lot of emotions in this book that many young children will relate to and understand. And just the right amount of humor to keep the book balanced. 

Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun by Hena Khan, Illustrated by Wastana Haikai (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) – Khan takes readers back to the Saleem family but this time from the perspective of Zayd’s older sister, Zara. When a new girl, Naomi, moves into the neighborhood, Zara can’t help but feel a bit jealous. This leads the two girls to try to break some records to get into the Guiness Book of Records. Soon they learn that it isn’t easy to break world records but it can be a lot more fun to create new records.  If you love book one of Zara’s Rules, you will be excited to know there is a second book in the series and a third that will be coming out in 2023.

Alyson Beecher is an educator in Southern California.  She has a serious book addiction and hosts the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge on Wednesdays. You can find her on Twitter as @alysonbeecher and on her blog: Kid Lit Frenzy