About a year and a half ago, a friend recommended that I check out the Zoey and Sassafras series by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay, to read with my older daughter. Trusting this friend, I bought the first in the series sight-unseen and excitedly opened it to read with my daughter, but she wasn’t into it… Never afraid to abandon books, I put it aside, but I had taken enough of a look at it that I knew we’d be revisiting it when the time was right.
Fortunately for me, the time was right earlier this spring, when I picked Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows up to read to both girls before bed one night, and they LOVED it! Even more fortunately, I had the foresight to grab the rest of the series from the library just a few days before they shut down for shelter-in-place. We absolutely flew through all 7 books in the series, and all of us (husband included) wish more books about Zoey and her scientific adventures had already been written! Read on to see what makes the Zoey and Sassafras series unique.
To start, you need to know that Zoey and Sassafras books tell the story of a young female scientist (always clad in her overalls and “Thinking Goggles”), her cat, and the magical forest animals that live near her house and desperately need her help. Zoey is tenacious, creative, and curious, and no matter the problem (sometimes she’s solving a mystery, sometimes she’s running experiments, sometimes she’s helping magical animals), Zoey’s focus is always on how she can make things better (either by helping the animals or by helping the environment).
I love that these are indeed chapter books targeting children relatively new to chapter books (they do have some illustrations, and the type-face is slightly bigger than in most middle-grade novels — the target age ranges is 6-10, rather than 8-12), but they feel like proper chapter books, rather than early chapter books. While illustrations are scattered throughout, many pages don’t have any illustrations, allowing readers making the transition to pictureless novels to feel success.
The Zoey and Sassafras books also provide good insight and inspiration into the scientific process and using science to answer questions, solve problems, and learn about the world. My girls naturally picked up on a lot of the scientific vocabulary Citro includes, but for those that need help, a Glossary provides definitions for those words. And, as a parent, I greatly appreciate that Citro’s focus is on the science and the helping, rather than a young girl’s social interactions… More than enough chapter books focusing on friendships already exist for young girls, and it was nice to have a break and turn our brains to the other things that girls can do, too, without needing to worry about the snarky comments and other things that creep into books for girls at such a young age.
So how much do we love the Zoey and Sassafras books? When we started the series, I bought the first one, but grabbed the other 6 from the library just before it closed… Let me tell you, we loved them so much that once we finished the series, I immediately ordered the other 6 for us to own, knowing these were books we’d revisit over and over again!
If you liked this, check out:
- The King and Kayla series by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers (for a more beginner chapter book feel)
- The Animal Planet Adventures Chapter Books
- The Questioneers Chapter Books by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts (for slightly older readers)
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