The Chestnut Challenge by Tracy Hecht & Josie Yee

There’s something extra magical about discovering a book through a child, and I must confess, it’s been a blast diving back into The Nocturnals Grow & Read series by Tracy Hecht and illustrated by Josie Yee with my niece. Jo is almost four, and while the Grow & Read series are targeted at various age groups, she has become a fast fan of them all, even the ones geared for slightly older kids. She may not be able to read them on her own quite yet, but they’ve become a staple of her daily storytime.

In fact, it is not uncommon for her to be heard shouting, “I am Bismark the Brave!” while running around the house. (She has dubbed Mommy Dawn the fox, and Daddy Tobin the pangolin.)

I was already a fan of these books for kids and early readers. The cast of nocturnal animal characters are absolutely charming, and Hecht uses them not only to help kids learn to read (and to love reading), but imparts other important lessons along the way. The latest book, The Chestnut Challenge (a Grow & Read Level 3 book), is about cheating and understanding that playing games is about having fun, not winning. I am an even bigger fan after seeing Jo connect with these books on such a deep level.

I love that my niece can reap all the benefits these books have to offer — while also discovering a whole new world to play in with her imagination. This kiddo has the greatest imagination I’ve ever seen, but a lot of her make believe play is based on her primary obsession (Disney), and while I’m a big fan of the Mouse House (and I definitely encourage the obsession), it’s really remarkable to see her connect to these other characters in such a significant way.

Huge thanks to Fabled Film Press for sending this review copy my way, and for including the plush Dawn (which my niece now brings just about everywhere, even to her dance classes).

The Chestnut Challenge is available now. Here is the official synopsis:

Now children ages 5-7 can join the trio of unlikely animal friends in a new Grow & Read Early Reader story with the Nocturnal Brigade.

In The Chestnut Challenge, Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark, a loud-mouthed sugar glider, and Dawn, a serious fox, are playing a game of Chestnuts when Chandler, a conniving chinchilla, challenges Tobin for the title of Chestnut Champion. However, after a series of strange distractions occur, the Brigade begins to suspect that something is not quite right. Chandler is a competitive chinchilla…but could he also be a cheater?

Readers will delight in an entertaining animal adventure while learning about playing games for fun and displaying good sportsmanship.


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