Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Little Wings 4: The one and only Willa Bean by Cecilia Galante, illustrated by Kristi Valiant

This is yet another beginning chapter book series combining a sententious plot, saccharine fantasy, and an over-the-top female heroine (white of course). That doesn't mean there's anything particularly wrong with this series, just that it's definitely nothing new.

Willa Bean is a cupid who will eventually "help Earth kids....if they feel mad, sad, or just plain stuck." She goes to Cupid Academy with her "flying friend", an owl named Snooze, and all the Cupids live in the clouds.

Willa Bean is obsessed with things being "onlies" and is really upset when a new girl shows up with a bigger owl with glasses. Now Snooze is no longer the only owl. After lots of little contretemps, Snooze shows her that they are all special in their own way.

I don't need any more series like this and although I'm sure it would circulate, at least initially, I have other series that do as well or better. I only add new series once a year in October/November in preparation for my annual series weeding and reorganizing in December. So what am I looking for in a series? To put it in perspective, these are the new beginning and intermediate series I added to our collection in 2012, to the best of my recollection:
  • Bloodlines - for a more mature audience than most of my series, but I have older kids who are reluctant/poor readers who browse the series for things to read. These are war stories with nonfiction and I think some graphics in them.
  • Club CSI - a little higher reading level than most of my series, but kids here really like the mystery/science mash-ups
  • Club Penguin - popular internet site/cartoon tie-in. By the time they fall apart, the show won't be popular any more.
  • Disney Princesses - My own personal opinion aside, I buy what's popular and these are popular
  • EllRay Jakes - African-American main character, very funny and realistic
  • Encyclopedia Brown - I replaced all the old hardcovers with paperbacks and moved them to the series. These never go out of style.
  • Heidi Heckelbeck - popular new series about a little girl's everyday school problems, but she's also a witch.
  • I survived - hugely popular historical fiction/disaster books from Scholastic
  • Lego - Hero Factory, Lego Ninjago, chapter books. Massive popular appeal.
  • Super Chicken Nugget Boy - Captain Underpants read-alike
  • Mermaid Mysteries - very sad there turned out to be only 4 of these. They have the fairy/fantasy element without too much pink glitter
  • Superhero chapter books - I get these from Capstone. I already had a bunch of Batman and Superman, I added Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. These are well-written as well as popular and include nonfiction bits and writing prompts/questions
As you can see, my new series are about evenly divided between super popular subjects like Lego, Disney, Club Penguin, and superheroes and books with something new and interesting about them that will grab kids' attention. The two series closest to Little Wings would be Mermaid Mysteries and Heidi Heckelbeck, but both have more going for them than just the fairy element and they aren't so sickeningly sweet, so they appeal to a larger audience.

Verdict: If you need more fairy element beginning chapter series, this one is no worse than any other. However, if, like me, you have a surfeit of this type of books, pass on and get something a little more interesting like Heidi Heckelbeck or Princess Posey.

ISBN: 9780375869501; Published December 2012 by Random House; Review copy provided by publisher

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