Early Readers


Illustrated by Bob Kolar
Candlewick Press

Frank likes peace and quiet. He likes his tent, his pencil, and writing in his secret notebook. Bean likes noise. He likes his bus, his trumpet — toot, toot! — and making music. Loud music. But Bean is missing something: he does not have words. What will happen if Frank shares his words with Bean?

An Amazon Best Book of the Year

A Florida 2020-2021 SSYRA JR Award Nominee

An Amazon Teachers’ Pick

A Cybils Award finalist

A Junior Library Guild Selection

“A hilarious tale of hot dog meets bean….The Bert-and-Ernie–esque odd-couple pairing results in countless laugh-out-loud exchanges.” —Kirkus

“Kolar’s (Trucker and Train) sleek, animation-style digital art and Michalak’s (the Joe and Sparky series) highly performative dialogue build to a manic hilarity that makes these pals, as Bean might say, ‘half cool and half amazing.'” —Publishers Weekly

“An engaging and humorous tale of two friends whose personality differences lead to growth as well as some fun adventures.” —School Library Journal

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Illustrated by Bob Kolar
Candlewick Press, July 2022

Kids will gobble up this hilarious second adventure starring Frank and Bean, who prove that, win or lose, true friends can make any competition go down easy.

Frank likes peace and quiet. He likes his tea, his book, and his yoga mat. He is just settling in to enjoy them, when . . . honk! honk! honk! Here comes Bean with his new food truck! It is fun on wheels! It’s a rolling party! Bean is going to Food Truck Friday to sell his donuts. Bean’s donuts have zip. They have zing. They are sure to win the competition! Frank has something to sell, too. He has oatmeal. Oatmeal is boring. It needs zip. It needs zing. What if Bean’s donuts could help Frank’s oatmeal? What if donuts and oatmeal could work together, just like friends? 

Dry wit meets stylish, comical artwork as introspective Frank and gregarious Bean return in a tale for anyone who likes food, unlikely friendships, and laugh-out-loud funny adventures.

A Junior Library Guild Selection

An Amazon Editors’ Pick, A Best Book for Ages 6-8

“The sly humor in the illustrations will tickle the funny bones. . . . [The four chapters] balance repetition and humor while building kids’ reading skills. Load up on zip and zing: Oatmeal mornings will never be the same again.” —Kirkus


Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Candlewick Press

An adventurous giraffe drives off with his friend, a cautious turtle, to see the world in an endearing comedy of errors perfect for early readers!

Sparky is a turtle who likes to stay inside his shell. Joe is a giraffe who likes to stretch his neck and see the world. When a car appears one day at the famous cageless zoo where they live, the two set off on the ride of their lives, with Joe behind the wheel and Sparky hanging on for dear life. From the shopping mall to the car wash to the take-out burger joint, Joe and Sparky cause mayhem everywhere they go. Young readers will love sharing the road with this unlikely pair in a string of adventures that are by turns innocent, charming, and laugh-out-loud funny.

A Kirkus Best Children’s Book of the Year 

A Chicago Public Library Best Children’s Book of the Year

A Junior Library Guild Selection

★ “Children . . . will laugh out loud at the innocent assumptions Joe and Sparky make as they explore the world outside Sparky’s shell. Utterly charming!” —Kirkus, starred review

“A silly, action-packed tale!” —School Library Journal

“New readers will delight in meeting this lovable duo!” —JLG Monthly

“Goofy adventure and side-splitting humor for new readers. . . . Kids will not be able to read a page without laughing aloud.” —Common Sense Media

“This is sure to be a hit!” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Every mile of this wild trip goes over the limit with energy and good humor. . . . These two friends . . . readily join the ranks of Arnold Lobel’s FROG AND TOAD. . . . Emergent readers will surely look forward to more adventures down the road.” —Esme Raji Codell

“It’s chuckle time. . . . Silly watercolors are in sync with the clever writing.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“This four-chapter book offers likeable characters and . . . is sure to keep readers laughing.” —Children’s Literature


Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Candlewick Press

When fun-seeking Joe, a giraffe, takes a reluctant Sparky, a turtle, on a wild ride across the famous cageless zoo to see a mysterious box displaying a talent show, the two decide they must compete to be the next famous pair. But what are their talents? Joe can run fast, wiggle his ears, and touch his nose with his tongue (not to mention drive a car). But Sparky doesn t know what his special skill is. Can the enthusiastic encouragement of Joe the World s Best Talent Finder help the retiring Sparky become a star?

A Bankstreet Best Book of the Year

An Amazon Teachers’ Pick

★ “This warm buddy story is just about perfect for new readers . . . This little treasure is one that will get passed around.” —Kirkus, starred review

“Michalak and Remkiewicz have written another enjoyable book about two friends who bring out the best in each other.” —School Library Journal

“Writing a simple, clear chapter book for young people just graduating from easy-readers is quite a task. . . . Here, with a book long enough to feel like an accomplishment but short enough not to be intimidating, Michalak has hit the right balance.” —Virginian-Pilot


Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Candlewick Press

The endearing and mismatched pals accidentally latch onto a big yellow bus and leave the cageless zoo for their first trip to school. 

Sparky the turtle may be cautious, but when the strange vehicle full of noisy short people pulls away from Safari World, he finds himself stuck on the bus’s roof just the same. Luckily his giraffe friend, Joe, is adventurous enough to take a running jump, too! When they arrive at school, they discover that there’s a lot to learn, like the fact that the restroom is full of little magic “ponds,” that you’re supposed to count the peas, not eat them, and that the goal of the day seems to be to get a star. But just when Joe fears that he may have to go home starless, Sparky reminds him of all the ways that his loyal friend already shines. 

Readers will roll over laughing — and find lots to relate to — in this hilarious new adventure.

The Library of Congress/Center for the Book 52 Great Reads for Kids 

An Amazon Best Book of the Year

A Cybils Finalist

★ “Perfect for the newly independent reader and makes a fine bridge from Amelia Bedelia to Ramona. Limited but lively vocabulary, a large font, and carefully placed illustrations—all in a humorous, high-interest package—will make this a hit.” —The Horn Book, starred review

“Michalak will have readers giggling over the silly exchanges and comedic misunderstandings that follow as Sparky and Joe attempt to fit in at school.” —Publishers Weekly

“This is an engaging choice for students who are beyond the easy-to-reads and not quite ready for longer chapter books.” —School Library Journal

“5 things I love about this easy reader:

  1. It’s one of the freshest easy readers I’ve read lately.
  2. The animals’ point of view is so much fun! ‘The noisy short people got on the bus.’ That, of course, is a school bus.
  3. Both main characters are so likable! Sparky, the cautious turtle, and Joe, the adventurous giraffe, are endearing and funny. I’d like them to live in my yard!
  4. They end up at school, and kids will love seeing school through their eyes. My favorite part is the ‘magic pond’ they discover, which repeatedly empties and refills. this is potty humor at its best!
  5. The art is fabulous—bright and funny, with incredibly expressive animals.”

Laurie Purdie Salas, author of Bookspeak! Poems about Books


Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Candlewick Press

One day Joe, the exuberant giraffe, decides to throw a party for his pet worm, Wiggy. There’s just one problem: Sparky the turtle is not entirely sure if Wiggy even exists! What will happen when every animal in the zoo shows up to Wiggy’s party with presents and cake? Worm or no worm, this silly, satisfying tale is sure to leave new readers smiling. 

A Junior Library Guild Selection

An Amazon Teachers’ Pick