“Skunked: Calpurnia Tate Girl Vet,” by Jacqueline Kelly

A heroine returns, spunky, animal-lover Calpurnia Tate who first sprung from the pen of Jacqueline Kelly in 2009 with “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate,” a Book Buzz Pick, perfect for readers in fourth through seventh grades.

Calpurnia’s adventures are now available in a new chapter book series for younger readers, ages 7-10. Kids love series, and it certainly takes the guesswork out of discovering a title to suggest to them when they latch onto a series they enjoy. Calpurnia is sure to charm them in “Skunked: Calpurnia Tate Girl Vet.”

Calpurnia is a protégé of her grandfather, who teaches her everything he knows about the natural world. She continues to have her crosses to bear, however, six to be exact — the number of brothers the girl has to contend with. That’s enough to make a tomboy out of the most feminine of ingénues. In “Skunked,” Callie has her hands full with her brother Travis, who’s 11 1/2.

The antics begin when Travis hears something that sounds like a kitten in the hollowed-out section of an old tree. Upon further inspection, he realizes it’s an abandoned baby skunk. Of course there’s a rescue, one supported by Calpurnia, and an attack by the family’s dog, the pooch getting a “direct hit” resulting in a powerful cleansing. Naturally the parental unit knows nothing about Stinky the Skunk, or Winky the Runt, another abandoned skunk Callie and Travis rescue.

The story is set in Texas in 1901, the era of one-room schoolhouses. Callie and Travis experience all there is to learn about their little stinkers in a book grandparents will be happy to share, a story that evokes a simpler time.

Entertaining and informative with facts about a number of animals included, “Skunked” also features detailed pencil sketches that give a face and personality to the Tates. Watch for the next book in the series, “Counting Sheep,” to be released on April 4.


“Little Big Girl,” by Claire Keane

Retro artwork combines with a charming tale certain to captivate in “Little Big Girl” by Claire Keane, the breezy story of “Matisse . . . a little girl in a big world.” This sweet book should hold big appeal for the preschool and kindergarten set.

There’s no end to the magnificent moments Matisse has, simple things loom large in her mind. Trips to the supermarket are just plain fun, as is traveling “across her big city.”

One day, Matisse’s mommy gets a special delivery, one that could have upset the applecart for an only child — but not Matisse. When her baby brother arrives it’s a delight for this petite will-o’-the-wisp. Along with the joy of having a cooing baby to burp and diaper, Matisse has a startling realization. There’s now someone smaller than her in the household.

It’s obvious this family addition has made Matisse’s life complete in a book that’s both heartfelt and happy.

Art smarts run in the Keane family — the author’s father is a Disney artist and her grandfather, Bill Keane, created the long-running comic strip “The Family Circus.”

Claire Keane based “Little Big Girl” on the relationship she observed with her own children. Lucky lady!