Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season
written by Jessie Haas; illustrated by Alison Friend
2014 (Candlewick Press)
Source: Preview copy provided by the publisher
It's fall and Bramble the horse feels great. The air smells like apples and is filled with bright colors. Bramble is enjoying prancing around and pretending to be scared at every loud noise. Her owner, Maggie, comes home from school and saddles her up for a ride around the neighborhood. Unfortunately all of Bramble's prancing makes Maggie nervous and the ride gets cut short. As they walk back home, they pass Mr. Dingle's front yard and this time Bramble is actually scared. A scarecrow stands in the yard. Maggie gently explains that there is nothing to fear. She leads Bramble into the yard and shows her the scarecrow. The thing is not moving which puzzles Bramble. What she finds out is that a scarecrow is not scary at all and it tastes good too.
With Spooky Season, Maggie and Bramble have now appeared in three terrific chapter books for beginning readers. Each book features three or four connected short stories that are accessible and interesting for early readers and especially those who are horse lovers. Maggie is a winning character who is patient with her charge Bramble. She is responsible and follows through on solving her problems instead of complaining and giving up. One great example is in chapter two of Spooky Season. Bramble hears a big sound behind her and throws Maggie. As she sits on the ground, Maggie has to decide whether or not to get back up on Bramble. She does get back up, but it takes a little time. This is a nice touch because it shows young readers that you can be a little afraid as you face your fears. Readers will be able to easily connect to Maggie as they have to be patient with the many new things in their lives as well. They will also relate to Bramble, who likes to be contrary until she feels comfortable with a situation. This fits beginning readers to a T. They can be a bit squirrelly on occasion too.
Finding good early chapter books is not easy, but it is a necessary task for classroom teachers. Readers eager to try out chapter books will find the Maggie and Bramble series a great place to start.