Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Small Readers: King & Kayla and the case of the secret code by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

The Buddy Files have been one of the most popular beginning chapter book series at my library, in book clubs and for recommendations. So I was interested, if a little skeptical, when I saw they were doing a younger series with some similar characters. A lot of chapter book series like Judy Moody, Hank Zipzer, Humprey, and others have been translated to younger chapter books or easy readers with varying success. The main problem is often that they don't stand alone - you have to be familiar with the characters already to be interested in reading them.

I found this series to stand alone perfectly. King, a golden retriever, enjoys solving mysteries with his human Kayla. If only she could understand him! He tries to teach her a new trick (giving a dog cheese!) but no luck. When Kayla receives a mysterious note, King knows just how to solve the mystery. But will Kayla understand the answer? Or will she and her friend have to solve the code the hard way?

Meyers' pictures show a diverse cast of kids, led by dark-skinned Kayla, and a humorous and smart dog with adorably floppy ears. It's just the right amount of illustrations for an easy reader and has a friendly, hand-drawn flavor. The simple text fits is just right for an intermediate reader who hasn't yet graduated to chapter books. There's a gentle flavor of humor and a simple but fun mystery to resolve, neither of which take away from the mechanics of reading.

Verdict: This delightful new series has everything I've been looking for - good reading level for intermediate readers, diverse characters who take a main role, animals, humor, and a mystery. Patrons seem to agree with me as the first two books have been flying off the shelves and kids are waiting eagerly for the next installments! I look forward to using these in book club next year and introducing kids to King's earlier adventures and then his later mysteries as Buddy.

ISBN: 9781561458783; Published 2017 by Peachtree; Purchased for the library

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