Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Review and Giveaway: The Adventures of Henry Whiskers

Animal adventure books are guaranteed fun for readers, and mice are a consistently popular choice. Look at some of the most beloved, enduring children’s books: Stuart Little, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Rescuers, The Tale of Desperaux, and Babymouse, who’s growing up with her readers, having started with an elementary school character whose moved to middle school. There’s even a picture book that introduces younger readers to a young Babymouse. Mice are cute, tiny enough to get into places we can’t even fathom, for exciting adventures – and yet, small enough to be defenseless in a dangerous world. Kids can identify.

That said, we’ve got a giveaway for two books in a fun new series: The Adventures of Henry Whiskers! One lucky winner will receive copies of both Henry Whiskers books by Gigi Priebe–book 1, THE ADVENTURES OF HENRY WHISKERS, and book 2, THE LONG WAY HOME. (U.S. addresses). Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway today – ends September 7th! (Edit: The link was showing the contest had expired, so I’ve extended the deadline to September 7th and updated the link.

 

The Adventures of Henry Whiskers, by Gigi Priebe/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Jan. 2017,  Simon & Schuster Kids), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4814-6574-8

Recommended for readers 7-10

Henry Whiskers is a fun intermediate series starring a family of mice living in the drawers at the base of Queen Mary’s Dollhouse in Windsor Castle: quite possibly, the most famous dollhouse in the world. When the tourists are gone for the day, the mouse families wander the castle; for 25 generations, the Whiskers family have been caretakers of the dollhouse, and Henry Whiskers, son of the last caretaker, takes his job very seriously. He may be young, but has a deep sense of duty to the Whiskers legacy, living up to his father’s reputation. Henry can often be found reading the miniature classics in the dollhouse library when he’s not helping his mother take care of his family. In this first story, Henry and his cousin, Jeremy, set out in search of Henry’s sister, Isabel, who goes missing when the dollhouse is sent for cleaning. They’ll face off against Titus, the castle cat, and meet the rats who live in Rat Alley and aren’t fond of the mice at all. Henry shows bravery, a strong sense of justice and equality, and not only saves the day, and works to foster understanding between his own community and the rats.

 

The Adventure of Henry Whiskers: The Long Way Home, by Gigi Priebe/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Aug. 2017, Simon & Schuster Kids), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1481465779

Recommended for readers 7-10

Henry’s latest adventure takes him outside the castle walls and into the city of London itself! He discovers an old map in the library, but he and Jeremy are caught by the palace cook, who believes she’s doing a good deed by sending them far away from the castle, so they won’t find their way back. Yikes! Henry learns more about his father and meets new animals on his latest escapade, while Mother worries about her son at home.

The Henry Whiskers books are just right for more confident chapter book readers who have a sense of adventure. Henry is a good little role model that readers can identify with, overcoming obstacles while making sure to look out for others as he goes. Daniel Duncan’s black and white illustrations add to the enjoyment of the narrative, and a photo of Queen Mary’s Dollhouse gives kids an idea of how big the dollhouse (and drawers) really is.

 

Source: NicolTallis.com

 

Check out this video, which provides a peek into the dollhouse. Stunning, isn’t it?

 

Gigi Priebe is the mother of three, the founder of Stepping Stones, an award-winning children’s museum in Norwalk, Connecticut and the author of The Adventures of Henry Whiskers, the first in her middle grade series. When she is not writing–or rewriting–she is a philanthropic advisor and community volunteer in Fairfield County, Connecticut, where she lives with her husband, a cat named Tigger, a dog named Clover, and probably some mice. To learn more and to download a free curriculum guide, visit gigipriebe.com.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, programs, Storytime, Summer Reading

Storytime: Nobody Likes a Goblin, by Ben Hatke

nobody-likes-a-goblinNobody Likes a Goblin, by Ben Hatke, (Jun 2016, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626720817

Recommended for ages 5-10

If you read my stuff enough, you know there are a few authors and illustrators that I adore; Ben Hatke is one of them. From Zita the Spacegirl to Mighty Jack and Little Robot, he creates fun, exciting characters, very human stories, and beautiful art. I am eternally grateful that he has also started sharing the love with picture book readers; first, we had Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and now, Nobody Likes a Goblin.

It’s the sweetest little book about a homebody goblin who lives in his cozy dungeon and hangs out with his best friend, Skeleton. One day, a gang of dumb old adventurers barges in, loots Goblin’s treasure, and makes off with Skeleton – RUDE. Goblin sets out to rescue his friend despite the oft-repeated cautionary advice, “Nobody likes a goblin.” But Goblin doesn’t care, because he has a friend to save!

goblinImage Source: GoodReads

How cute is this book? It’s got adorable messages about friendship and being brave, not worrying who likes you or not, and just doing what you do. I decided to read this one to some of my slightly younger kids on a preschool-aged summer camp visit a few weeks ago, and they seemed to enjoy it. They kind of “ewwww’d” my poor Goblin at first, but when I told them that he was just a nice little guy and didn’t bother anyone, they were more sympathetic. By the end of the book, they were cheering for him. I encouraged them to hiss and boo the adventurers who were mean and went into poor Goblin’s house, breaking things up and stealing his toys, and was that very nice? NO.

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Preschool Reads

The Seven Princesses: A fairy tale about sisters and your own space

seven princessesThe Seven Princesses, by Smiljana Coh (May 2017, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9780762458318

Recommended for ages 4-8

Once upon a time, there were seven princesses, all with diverse interests, who did everything together. But one day, they had the biggest fight in the entire history of princess fighting, and they all decided to build their own towers and be on their own. But that wasn’t the answer, either; the princesses really missed one another. What’s a princess to do?

Smiljana Coh’s book about sibling rivalry is a great story for preschoolers to early school-age kids, because it gets to the heart of sibling arguments: sibings are largely together day and all night, and space eventually gets tight, no matter what the living situation. Arguments are bound to happen; kids are all too quick to say things like, “I never want to see you AGAIN!”, but eventually, love wins out, and things get smoothed over. She also captures the feeling everyone around kids feel when there’s sibling unrest: the palette goes from soothing, happy pastels to washed out, sad, sepia-toned art, and she addresses how painful the sound of silence can be. When the princesses reunite, there’s joy in the kingdom again!

I also love that the princesses are such great girl-power figures for younger readers: the multi-ethnic princesses are interested in math, building, music, fashion design, gardening, animals, swimming, and the arts; one princess creates the blueprint for a grand castle layout. The royal parents show up in the beginning and end of the book; other than looking lovingly at one another and their kids, there’s not much of a role here, except to show a beautifully diverse family.

I can’t wait to put this into storytime rotation, especially since princess books are aces with my crowd. I’d spotlight this with both Kate Beaton’s Princess and the Pony and Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer; let girls see how amazing they are with these fun and fabulous role models.

Smiljana Coh is a Croatian author and illustrator. You can follow her on Facebook or check out her author website for more information.

Follow the Seven Princesses blog tour!

5/18 Anastasia Suen

5/20 Kid Lit Frenzy  

5/21 Mom Read It

5/23 Reading Through Life

5/24 Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

Posted in Fantasy, Humor, Tween Reads

Book Review: Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Recommended for ages 9-12

Princess Celie lives with her brother, sister and parents at Castle Glower, a castle that’s alive much in the way Hogwarts is – rooms crop up when they’re needed, and new staircases and passages appear seemingly at will. When her parents, King Glower and Queen Celina leave to attend their eldest son’s graduation from wizard school and are reported missing after their carriage is attacked, Councilors and foreign dignitaries show up and start ordering Celie’s brother Rolf – the heir to the throne – around. The Glower children, the castle staff, and Castle Glower itself all sense that something’s wrong, and work together to get rid of the evil prince that’s trying to take over Castle Glower – and bring their parents home safely.

Jessica Day George is great at writing princess books without all the saccharine included- her heroines are smart, funny, and can keep their heads about them when things are going crazy. Celie is no different, nor is her older sister, Lilah, which is a pleasant change from the “one beautiful and dumb, one smart and resourceful” sister that tends to pop up in YA and ‘tween literature. Their brother, Bran, is an intelligent boy who can defend himself verbally and allies with his siblings and staff to brainstorm solutions and make things happen. Ms. George provides good character development and the action is well-paced. While mostly girls will likely gravitate to this book, there are strong male and female characters for young readers to be inspired by.

Jessica Day George’s website has a section dedicated to Tuesdays at the Castle, in addition to her other books, appearances and news.

Posted in Fantasy, Tween Reads

Book Review: Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac (Dial Books, 2011)

Recommended for ages 10-13

Prince Rashko, a 14-year old prince, is frustrated by his family. They’re so dumb. His parents are kind, but simple; his older brother Paulek, while a near-perfect warrior, is content to let Rashko do all the heavy thinking. They all live in Hladka Hvorka, a castle rumored to have magical origins, and there is peace in Rashko’s parents’ land – until Rashko’s parents disappear, and the Baron Temny shows up, expecting his young hosts to accommodate him and his entourage. The Baron also brings his ‘daughter’ with him as a potential bride for Paulek, who is thrilled to have company. Rashko suspects that neither there is more to both the Baron and his daughter, and works to find his parents and keep Hladka Hvorka in his family’s name.

Running parallel to Rashko’s story is the story of the legendary warrior Pavol, a hero in Rashko’s land. Orphaned when an evil king took his parents’ land and murdered them, Pavol is raised by a husband and wife living in the magical woodlands on the outskirts of the castle, and trained for the day he will avenge his parents’ deaths. This legend eventually converges with Rashko’s story, and he learns that Hladka Hvorka holds even more secrets than he imagined.

Author Joseph Bruchac is Native American and Slovakian, and draws upon his Slovakian heritage for Dragon Castle. The book contains phrases and words in Slovakian, always reinforced in English, and includes a glossary in the back. It is a great way to introduce younger readers to a new language within a fantasy setting.
 
The story is woven like a classic hero’s tale, with adventure and humor in equal parts. Rashko comes across as a bit petulant and stuck-up at times, particularly in the beginning of the book when he spends most of his time lamenting his superior intelligence and his parents’ and brother’s abject stupidity, but he’s an adolescent – he’s written well. He also realizes, as he gets deeper into his family’s background, that there is more to his parents – and possibly, his brother – than he ever thought possible, and this gives him pause.
 
Having two male main characters is a great way to bring this adventure fantasy to male readers; supplemental female characters will not draw any female readers in that weren’t planning on reading it already, but Dragon Castle is a strong fantasy tale that should appeal to boys and girls who enjoy fantasy, complete with evil sorcery, dragons, and castles.
 
Joseph Bruchac’s website focuses mainly on his music and poetry and features .mp3 files for listeners to enjoy. There is some information about his books and schedule available.