Top Secret Anniversary: A Branches Book

Scholastic. (The Party Diaries: Bk. 3). Oct. 2023. 80p. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781338799903.
K-Gr 2–In the latest installment of “The Party Diaries,” Priya is tasked with planning a surprise anniversary party for her parents. In simple text and colorful illustrations, she walks through the steps of learning about her parents and planning the party. She highlights how she is feeling about each step, often showcasing multiple emotions at once. As every party she plans results in a donation to an endangered animal, extra content about manatees is woven into the plot. This emotional and environmental education is paired with party decor instructions, recipes, and discussion questions that add a lot of interactive value to this deceptively simple beginning chapter book. The author, illustrator, and main character are Indian, and their culture is authentically featured. At the center of this book are loving relationships among family and friends that will charm readers. Artwork is a basic cartoon style that nonetheless radiates joy. Even for a beginning chapter book, the writing is stilted at times; it is primarily diary style but also includes lists, text message strings, fact sheets, and social media post style content. Combined with the color and fast pace, this title will engage readers used to a multimedia experience.
VERDICT While not a first purchase, this is a cheerful addition to a beginning reader collection, particularly for libraries that own the others in the series.

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