Hybrid novels are all the rage with young readers, who love the mix of pictures and text in a chapter book.
Wondering what exactly IS a hybrid book? Think of the massively popular "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books by Jeff Kinney or the "Dork Diaries" books by Rachel Renee Russell.
Or think of their antecedents: the "Magic School Bus" books by Joanna Cole or the "Captain Underpants" series by Dav Pilkey. For the most literary hybrid, try "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick, or Selznik's newest hybrid book, the just-published "Wonderstruck."
What's so great about hybrids? In hybrids, the pictures must be "read" as much as the text, something many kids love as an extension of their highly visual world. For reluctant readers, the pictures in hybrids give them major clues about the story, eliminating much of the frustration they can feel in trying to make sense of the words.
While young readers await the latest installment in the "Wimpy Kid" series ("Cabin Fever" will be published Nov. 15), here is a look at some other new hybrid books for kids:
Last year, when author/illustrator Tom Angleberger published his wonderfully quirky first book, "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda," it was an immediate hit with "Wimpy Kid" fans, who loved the connections that Angleberger made between middle school and "Star Wars" -- all due to a "talking" Yoda paper finger puppet that dispenses real-life advice.
Now, Angleberger continues the series with "Darth Paper Strikes Back" (Amulet, $12.95, ages 8-12). In this book, Dwight, the "voice" of Origami Yoda, is threatened with expulsion from McQuarrie Middle School -- all because of another student named Harvey who hates Yoda and is the "voice" of a Darth Paper finger puppet. Tommy, the series' main narrator, joins forces with Dwight's other friends to try to convince the local school board to allow Dwight to stay at McQuarrie. But it looks like Darth Paper will vanquish Origami Yoda -- or will he?
As in his first book, Angleberger uses the device of having different students tell their versions of what is happening through a diarylike combination of text and drawings. In addition, Angleberger shows how to create an origami Yoda and Darth Paper, and also provides directions on how to play a simple but highly entertaining "Star Wars" battle game with nothing but paper and pencil.
Overall, "Darth Paper" offers further proof that Angleberger really understands middle-schoolers and the daily dramas that engulf them, while still finding the humor inherent in their situations. Fans of the series will be happy to know that, on the book's last page, a drawing of Yoda saying "The End ... This Is Not!" indicates that Angleberger plans to continue the series.
With her "Amelia" books, author/illustrator Marissa Moss was one of the original creators of the hybrid novel. Now Moss offers a new series, using the same format -- handwritten text and doodles on lined notebook paper -- that she uses with such success in the "Amelia" books.
Moss' new series is called "Daphne's Diary of Daily Disasters" and, with pink pages and a fourth-grade heroine, it's definitely geared to girls ages 7-10. So far, there are two books in the series: "The Name Game!" and "The Vampire Dare!" (Simon and Schuster, $8.99 each).
Daphne is quite a likable character and her daily ups and downs will resonate with young readers, who also will enjoy her lists and doodles. It looks like Moss, who also does the "Max Disaster" hybrid books, has another hit series on her hands.
Life isn't always predictable, as Grace and best friend Mimi learn in "Just Grace and the Double Surprise" (Houghton Mifflin, $14.99, ages 7-10). In this latest installment in the "Just Grace" series, author/illustrator Charise Mericle Harper details what happens when Mimi's long-awaited adopted sister turns out to be a little boy named Robert, and when Grace gets a female dog whose name is Mr. Scruffers.
Eventually, of course, Grace and Mimi sort out everything, with some help from Robert and Mr. Scruffers. Readers will particularly enjoy the wonderful friendship between Grace and Mimi and how it expands to include these two newcomers.
And don't forget to check out these other new titles in popular hybrid series:
-- In "Bad Kitty Meets the Baby" (Roaring Brook, $13.99, ages 6-10), author/illustrator Nick Bruel provides an uproarious look at Bad Kitty's reaction to the newcomer in her midst.
-- Vordak the Incomprehensible is back and as wackily evil as ever in "Rule the School" (Egmont, $13.99, ages 8-12), another inventive superhero spoof written by Scott Seegert and illustrated by John Martin.
-- Danny Dragonbreath, a young dragon, and his iguana friend, Wendell, are trapped in a haunted house on Halloween with classmate Christiana Vanderpool in "No Such Thing As Ghosts" (Dial, $12.99, ages 7-10), the latest in the popular "Dragonbreath" series written and illustrated by Ursula Vernon.