There’s nothing quite as exciting for young readers as mastering chapter books. Books for newly independent readers come in all shapes and sizes, and this season brings some wonderful new titles, as welcome as the first flowers of spring.

A messy dilemma
Spring, of course, is also the time for bunnies, and from Katherine Hannigan, best-selling author of Ida B, comes the endearing story of Emmaline and the Bunny featuring illustrations by Hannigan herself. Emmaline wants a bunny more than anything else. But she is the most untidy person in the very tidy town of Neatasapin, where the mayor has banned all animals. Emmaline feels lonely and isolated and a bit, well, different—she even digs holes in the dirt! As it happens, the bunny she hopes to befriend turns out to be as untidy, and as lonely, as Emmaline herself. Hannigan’s charming tale will appeal to messy children everywhere, and will also make a great read-aloud for their not-so-neat parents.

Saddle up, mate
For young horse lovers, a new series launches this year with Horse Crazy 1: The Silver Horse Switch written by Alison Lester, with illustrations by Roland Harvey. Set in Australia, where it was first published, this engaging title includes a glossary of Australian terms. (Double-dinking, for example, means two people riding on one horse.)  Bonnie and Sam (short for Samantha) are horse-crazy kids in the rural town of Currawong Creek. Sam’s father is a policeman. One day they make a fascinating discovery: her father’s horse seems different somehow. Could it be that a brumby (a wild horse) has decided to exchange places with the policeman’s grumpy mare? Can this new horse face the emergencies that come her way? A second title in the series, Horse Crazy 2: The Circus Horse, is also available, giving young readers another reason to ride along with Bonnie and Sam.

All by myself
How much should parents help with homework? That question is at the heart of the humorous story How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills, with pictures by Heather Maione. When Oliver’s teacher tells the class that one person with a big idea can change the world, Oliver wonders how he could ever come up with a big idea of his own—his parents help him too much! Ever since he started school late because of being sick, his parents have worried so much about him (and his grades) they won’t let him do anything without help, even build a space diorama. But when Oliver and Crystal team up together for the space diorama, everything is about to change. Kids—and some parents (you know who you are!)—will appreciate this warm and humorous story about one family’s struggle for balance.

Meeting in the middle
Speaking of parents, Kate Feiffer’s first chapter book, The Problem with the Puddles, illustrated by Tricia Tusa, boasts two unforgettable parents in Mr. and Mrs. Puddle, who cannot agree on anything—including a name for their daughter. Her mother calls her Emily; her father calls her Ferdinanda. Everyone else calls her Baby. Of course, that’s not the only thing the Puddles agree to disagree on. Like the new first family, the question of what kind of dog to get becomes a major family decision. In the case of the Puddles, since they can’t agree, the next best thing is simply to get two dogs, a big one and a little one—both named Sally. Young readers will savor this rollicking adventure that eventually brings a family together on a street that perhaps belongs in our nation’s capital: Compromise Road.

Deborah Hokinson’s new book, Home on the Range: John A. Lomax and His Cowboy Songs, is a Junior Library Guild selection.

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