Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spend a relaxing read At the Pond

At the Pond, by David Elliott/Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536205985

Ages 3-7

David Elliott adds to his poetry series with At the Pond, a meditation on a day in the life of all the animals who live in and around the pond. Red-winged blackbirds sing and a family of mallards have a morning swim; dragonflies buzz by and a water snake guards her nest. It’s a lovely glimpse at the natural world, alternating beautiful lyrics and amusing wordplay. One spread illustrating a frog’s lifecycle from tadpole to frog reads, “Polly! / Polly! / Pollywog! / Golly! / Golly! Golly! Frog!”; another, a reflection on a water strider: “…enigmatic / but prolific. / Each day / he writes / his story / in rippling / hieroglyphics”. Amy Schimler-Safford’s mixed media illustrations create spread after spread of alluring images with deep greens, blues, and browns setting the background for brilliant pops of color. A gorgeous book for nature lovers and a great accompaniment to discussions on ecosystems. Back matter includes more information about the flora and fauna that makes an appearance in the book.

Publisher Candlewick has a downloadable teacher’s guide for companion books in the poetry series. Education.com has coloring sheets and activity sheets to extend pond-related learning.

Posted in Fantasy, mythology, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Myth of the Minotaur? That’s BULL.

Bull, by David Elliott, (March 2017, HMH Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544610606

Recommended for ages 13+

You may know the myth of Theseus, the Minotaur, and the Labryinth, but I guarantee you’ve never read it like this. Told in verse, with each character’s voice using its own poetric form, from sonnets and stanzas to split couplets.  Poseidon acts as a kind of narrator, boastful and smug, laying out the lay of the land for readers: how Minos wouldn’t sacrifice a bull to him, so he decided to take it out on his wife and son. We have Minos, who’s not winning any father of the year awards; poor, insane Queen Pasiphae, who loves her baby boy and loses her mind when he’s taken from her; Ariadne, Minos’ daughter who just wants to take her brother, Asterion – the Minotaur – away from the hell he’s living, Daedalus, the engineer of the labyrinth, and last but never least, Asterion, the voice of the Minotaur himself.

There are inevitable Hamilton comparisons to be made, and this is a good thing: it’s a modern, compulsively readable, update of the classic myth, full of dark humor, angst, and betrayal. Elliott fleshes out the story by giving his take on the characters’ internal dialogue; most notably, Asterion’s growing despair and rage, also depicted by the progressively darker pages on which his dialogue runs. I’d love to see this staged, and I’m sure many, many high school and college students will, too.

Bull received (well-deserved) starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Language and situations may give some more conservative readers pause, but it is a Greek myth, after all.

Author David Elliott’s webpage has more information about the author and his books, plus information about author visits. There is also a link to Mr. Elliott’s Pinterest page, where readers can find more links to information about the players in Bull and their mythology.