Eva's Treetop Festival
Scholastic Branches, 2015 72 pgs
Owl Diaries series #1
Scholastic has recently launched a new line of books for children graduating from early readers and transitioning into chapter books. All of the various series have eye-catching illustrations on every page, child-friendly scenarios, are a lowish reading level and are less than one hundred pages. The Owl Diaries series features a cute and lively owlet named Eva and capitalizes on the current popularity of this nocturnal bird. Eva Wingdale decides to launch a Bloomtastic Festival to celebrate the coming of spring. She plans to include a talent show, bake off, art exhibit, and fashion show. After getting her teacher's permission Eva starts all the work necessary to pull off the event in just one short week. Unfortunately, her friendemy, Sue Clawson, (or as Eva refers to her: Meany McMeanerson) wants to get involved and is not happy or supportive when Eva wants to run the festival entirely on her own. After a stressful week, Eva finally gives in and asks her classmates to help. All of Eva's friends rush to the rescue, including the dreaded Meany, and the festival all comes together. All the participants have a wonderful time at the big event, except for Eva who experiences some technical difficulties. Eva feels like a huge failure until Miss Featherbottom knows just what to do to save the day.
Written in a diary format with very few words per page, it is no surprise that this series, as well as other Branches titles, have been very popular in my library. The transition to chapter books can be a big jump and this series helps to bridge the gap. The book is divided into distinctive chapters, which will get readers going in the right direction, and is longer than a traditional early reader, yet the vocabulary and reading level are still low. Along the lines of the Mercy Watson series, there is a place for these books and they are most welcome. The Owl Diaries series will appeal more to girls than boys. Eva's problems are pretty straight forward and easily solved, yet still provide a conflict and allow for discussion. The illustrations are cute, colorful, and plentiful, using patterned collage to create and almost funky retro-70's vibe. Elliot adds humor to the story, relying heavily on puns, which will both entertain and empower kid's cleverness as they are able to figure out the jokes. A bonus page at the end includes discussion and comprehension questions that can be used by both parents and educators. Although we have most of the Branches books at my library, this series and The Notebook of Doom have been the most successful circulators. Recommended for the intended age group both for the entertainment value and the developing literacy hole it fills.