Posted in lift-the-flap, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Happy Belated Easter!

Hi all!

I’ve lapsed a little in my posts, and I apologize. I’ve had some health wackiness going on that’s left me a little run down, but I’m fine, honest. Today, I’m starting off with two Easter books – yes, Easter was yesterday (tonight, actually, as I write this), but there’s still Greek Easter in May! So add this adorable book to your basket – and crack your eggs and make a wish.

Dragon’s Easter Egg Hunt, by Priddy Books US, (Dec. 2020, Priddy Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781684491278

Ages 1-3

It’s an Easter Egg Hunt, and your kiddos are invited! Dragon has seven magical eggs to hide for Easter: can you help him out? Die-cut eggs are easy to pop out, and lift the flaps throughout the book instruct kids where to hide different eggs, and reveal fun fairies, unicorns, and other fun reveals. Colorful and playful, the book lets keep play with color and encourages hand-eye coordination and matching skills practice – different eggs go to different spreads – while letting them explore again and again. The flaps, eggs, and pages are sturdy and will hold up nicely. If you’re keeping a copy for your library, plan to make some backup eggs! Adorable and fun for all the littles!

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ellie’s Dragon and childhood magic

Ellie’s Dragon, by Bob Graham, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211139

Ages 3-7

Little Ellie discovers a tiny dragon atop an egg carton while at the grocery store with her mother, and immediately takes him home and names him Scratch. Ellie’s mother doesn’t see him, nor does her teacher, but all her friends do. As Ellie gets older, her relationship with Dragon begins to change: she’s paying less attention to him, more interested in birthday parties and music, and he begins fading away. A bittersweet story about the magic of childhood and growing up, Ellie’s Dragon is a good reminder to us grownups not to let the spark of magic fade as we grow up, and a reassurance to kids that they are absolutely clued in to moments that adults overlook. Award-winning author and illustrator Bob Graham tells a magical story, accompanied by his dreamy watercolors; Scratch is a tiny green dragon with bits of yellow and pink; his wings gently flap and he gives off a little plume of smoke. Ellie leads him along on a leash, attracting the attention of kids everywhere she goes, and Scratch lovingly indulges them, eating birthday candles and snuggling with them at naptime. You’ll ache when you see Scratch left behind as Ellie grows up and away from him, but don’t worry – our childhood friends don’t fade away; they move on to someone else who needs them. A gentle story for kiddos moving up from toddlerhood to preschoool and Kindergarten. Remind your Kiddos to always look for their dragons and unicorns, and to keep their everyday magic close.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Katie O’Neill follows up The Tea Dragon Society with The Tea Dragon Festival

The Tea Dragon Festival, by Katie O’Neill, (Sept. 2019, Oni Press), $21.99, ISBN: 978-1-62010-655-6

Ages 8-12

The Tea Dragon Festival takes place in the universe introduced in the Eisner-winning The Tea Dragon Society (2017) and is a prequel of sorts, featuring two characters from the first book. Taking place in a mountain village called Silverleaf, Tea Dragons are small dragons that live with the villagers; the villagers care for them, even pamper them, and harvest tea leaves that the dragons grow on their bodies. Each dragon is named for the teas they produce: we’ve previously met Jasmine, Roobios, and Chamomile, and The Tea Dragon Festival debuts some additional dragons: Fennel, Marshmallow, and Mountain Chamomile.

A girl named Rinn goes into the woods to gather ingredients and discovers a real dragon, fast asleep. Upon waking, Aedhan – the dragon – explains that he was sent to protect Silverleaf, but dozed off. But he’s ready for the barley tea celebrations at the next Tea Dragon Festival! The only problem is… the barley tea celebration happened 80 years ago. To lift Aedhan’s spirits, Rinn brings him back to the village and introduces him to everyone, including her Uncle Erik and his companion, Hesekiel, who previous Tea Dragon readers will remember. The couple are younger here, and are still in their bounty hunting days; they deduce that the bounty they are hunting – a mysterious forest creature who can put people to sleep for decades. While Erik and Hesekiel seek out the bounty, Rinn includes Aedhan in festival preparations, and endears him to the village – and vice versa.

This is just a lovely, uplifting story. Katie O’Neill once again gives us a world where diverse characters live and work together in harmony; we have fluid gender identities and diverse characters, even diverse species, living among one another in peace. It’s a visually beautiful story, with verdant forest colors and lush landscapes. Aedhan is a shape-shifting dragon who looks stunning, majestic, in flight and shifts into a softer, humanoid form to interact with the Silverleaf inhabitants. Back matter includes a note about tea dragons and dragons, and an Alpine Tea Dragon Handbook, introducing three new tea dragons from the story. A wonderful fantasy that will make readers happy.

The Tea Dragon Society webpage has a cast of characters, an almanac of tea dragons, and the tea dragon webcomic! Add to your friendly list of links for kids!

Katie O’Neill is an Eisner and Harvey Award-winning graphic novelist. Visit her webpage for more about her books and illustration.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The team-up I’ve been waiting for: Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl!

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke, (Sept. 2019, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250191731

Ages 8-12

The latest Ben Hatke graphic novel brings together two of his best series: Zita the Spacegirl and Mighty Jack. It’s a team-up he teased in 2017’s Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, and I have been waiting patiently for two years to find out what was going to happen.

After Zita and her friends arrive from their space-hopping adventures, Jack and his family have been housing and feeding the group. Lily, Jack’s neighbor, who helped him fight the giants and rescue Maddy, his sister, is on edge, though. Is she jealous of Zita, or is there something more to it? Meanwhile, the giants are growing stronger and getting ready to invade above-ground: the gate between worlds is growing weaker, and they’re ready to use it to their advantage. Zita, Jack, Lily, and Maddy have to get ready to battle once more.

I’ve been a fan of Ben Hatke since 2012, when I first read Zita the Spacegirl. I love Hatke’s art, I love his storytelling and world-building, and I love sharing his books with the kids at my libraries. Hatke is a great storyteller, giving each of his characters a rich backstory and exciting quest. He also weaves the fantastic with the everyday, giving us robots, dragons, giants, goblins alongside a terrified mother, the complexity of navigating tween friendships, and the frustration of being “ordinary”.

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl is a wonderful chapter in the Zita/Jack saga. Is it the end? Well… you just have to pick it up and read it for yourself. Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Get ready for summer with Rosie the Dragon, her friend, Charlie, and a giveaway!

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves, by Lauren H. Kerstein/Illustrated by Nate Wragg, (June 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542042925

Ages 4-8

A boy and his dragon have fun and practice pool safety at a local pool. Charlie is a boy of color who has a pet dragon named Rosie. They’ve stayed up all night, preparing for this (Rosie’s last pool outing didn’t turn out so well), and they’re ready. They arrive at the pool, read the rules, and get in the pool, but it’s still tough for Rosie! Dragons aren’t great at sharing, and fingers tend to look really tasty to a hungry dragon. Finally, the two start having fun, blowing bubbles, giving rides around the pool to the other kids, and swimming across the pool. Rosie even manages a cannonball before Charlie realizes that she’s eaten the very snack that gives her wicked dragon breath: Oh No! Clear the pool!

How cute is this story about pool safety? Rosie is remarkably similar to toddlers and preschoolers that I know, between her fear of the water and reluctance to share. Kids will see themselves in this story, either as Rosie or Charlie, and there are great, teachable moments about being safe around the water. Reading the rules is a great way to help kids gain awareness of being safe at the pool, for starters, and reminding kids that running at the pool is a great way to get hurt or hurt someone else. Silly moments like the bubble blowing, flutter kicks that cause a tidal wave, and – reminiscent of Dragons Love Tacos – the skunk candy that brings on wicked dragon’s breath just make this an absolutely hilarious, light summer read-aloud. Nate Wragg’s digital artwork is bright, colorful, and adorable, with a big, friendly-faced, red dragon and her human friend and foil. The bold font makes this an easy read-aloud, and the kids I read it to at my Saturday storytime fell in love with Rosie and her antics. Have a dragon puppet? Put it on let Rosie come to life for the kids. A fun book for a summer circle time!

Want a chance to win your own copy of Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves? Try your luck with this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Tween Reads

Keira Gillett wraps up Aleks Mickelsen’s trilogy with the Eighth Fox Throne War

Aleks Mickelsen and the Eighth Fox Throne War, by Keira Gillett/Illustrated by Eoghan Kerrigan/maps by Kaitlin Statz, (May 2019, self-published), $14.99, ISBN: 9781942750123

Ages 10+

The second trilogy in Keira Gillett’s Zaria Fierce series is loaded with the epic battles, dragon fights, and complex relationships that have defined the series, but most important, the friendship between the core characters: Aleks, Zaria, Christoffer, Geirr, and Filip, the original group of friends from Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, have been through a lot together: kidnapping by trolls; magical fantasy worlds and the discovery that Zaria and Aleks are royalty within this magical realm; fantastic beasts (who always seem to know where to find them), and epic battles, just to name a few. In this last Aleks Mickelsen adventure, Fritjof, the chaos dragon, is still causing trouble in Niffelheim, and Aleks and his friends – the original gang, plus stag lord Henrik, Airi the raven, Aleks’s fey sister, Nori – are ready to take him down. If they can get through the army of dwarf ravagers on their trail and past the warring fey courts, that is.

Aleks continues to grow as a character in the Eighth Fox Throne War. Ever conflicted over whether to embrace his fey gifts or abandon them to remain human, he makes decisions based on the good of a people who don’t want him: he’s a changeling, and is on the receiving end of a lot of prejudice and anger. The fact that he’s king isn’t helping. There’s intrigue and war on a previously untold level here, so upper middle graders and middle schoolers are more the target audience for this series. The characters have grown up, are experiencing first love (Filip and Zaria, now Aleks and Saskia, a Winter Court fey and love interest), and are in fights for their lives and the lives of both Niffleheim and the modern world.

Relationships are at the heart of every Keira Gillett fantasy, and that’s what makes these books so good. The high fantasy aspects – the dragons, the epic conflicts, the grandiose ceremonies – they’re brilliant, but the emotion, the investment in these characters and their ties to one another, is what makes it all come together. Eoghan Kerrigan’s artwork is as fantastic as ever, bringing Keira Gillett’s incredible creatures and characters to life ; Kaitlin Statz’s maps help readers place themselves in the story.

Aleks Mickelsen and the Eighth Fox Throne War is a strong conclusion to another character arc in the Zaria Fierce series. Give this series to your high fantasy fans and watch them ask for more. (Ahem… nudge your Magnus Chase readers to explore this one!)

Author Keira Gillett is having a virtual book launch party on May 23 from 10:30-midnight! Put on your pajamas and join for a book reading, trivia, bingo, and a Q&A session!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Big Nate meets Medieval Times: Max and the Midknights

Max and the Midknights, by Lincoln Peirce, (Jan. 2019, Crown Books for Young Readers), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-101-93109-7

Ages 8-12

From the creator of Big Nate comes Max and the Midknights, a story about Max, a troubadour in training who really wants to be a knight; a mean king, and a group of kids determined to make things right. Throw in a magic sword and a bumbling magician, and you have Max and the Midknights, a clever blending of graphic novel and middle grade novel. Max and Uncle Budrick visit Budrick’s childhood home in the kingdom of Byjovia, only to discover that the kind King Conrad is missing and presumed dead, and his awful brother, King Gastley, is on the throne. The villagers all seem cruel and distant, and routinely rounded up and thrown in Gastley’s dungeons. Max and new friends Kevyn, Millie, and Simon, hatch a plant to save Budrick and have some exciting adventures on the way, including some interesting background on Max, epic poetry, dragons, and haunted forests.

The book is loaded with humor, very likable characters, and adventure. Big Nate fans will be happy to see Nate show up in the book’s very beginning: Max and the Midknights is his book report. I loved spending time with Max and friends, and I’m hoping to see another installment soon. Put this right up there with Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney (both of whom blurbed Max), and Jeffrey Brown’s books. This could be the book that gets your reluctant reader to embrace fantasy fiction!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

AH-CHOO! Dragons Get Colds, Too!

Dragons Get Colds Too, by Rebecca Roan/Illustrated by Charles Santoso, (Feb. 2019, Bloomsbury Children), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681190440

Ages 3-6

A little girl’s dragon catches a cold, so, as any good dragon parent would do, she seeks help from a book, where a doctor explains the steps in how to cure your dragon. Each spread has featured steps in the process of caring for one’s sick dragon, and the visual gags that illustrate, in hilarious detail, the girl taking the book’s advice. For instance, when determining if your dragon has a cold, be careful and do NOT use tissues. They’re flammable, after all; that said, since dragons don’t wear sleeves, you should keep an extra shirt handy since, “dragon snot tends to be rather gooey”. The girl sits on her dragon, in mid-sneeze, with clothing flying around as it shoots gooey, green boogers all over the page.

The dialogue is written out as a medical manual: the “steps”, plus additional notes with “facts” and “tips”, all of which serve as an amusing foil to the illustrations, where the girl cares for her picky, moody, sick buddy. Any parent who’s read a medical manual knows that theory versus practice are two very, very different things; something our protagonist discovers along the way. The bright artwork and upbeat illustrations are great fun, and the endpapers extend the story all the way through: the beginning endpapers and title page show the dragon frolicking with his friend, then laying down, looking under the weather. At the book’s close, the dragon is flying high again, feeling great… until the closing endpapers, when we see the girl sneeze. The cartoony The doctor featured in the medical manual is a woman of color, and the girl treating her dragon is white.

Dragons Get Colds Too is adorable fun. It can pair with Adam Rubin’s Dragons Love Tacos for kids who love silly dragons, and it can be part of a sick day readaloud with Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too, by Katy Duffield, and Philip C. Stead’s classic, A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Teen, Toddler Reads, Tween Reads

Need a gift? Give a book!

Now that the discount coupons are hitting inboxes, it’s a great time to stock up on books to give for the holidays. Here’s a look at some more books that will delight the readers in your life!

For the Little Ones:

Baby’s First Cloth Book: Christmas, Ilustrated by Lisa Jones & Edward Underwood, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $18, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0275-5

Ages 0-2

It’s Baby Boo’s first Christmas! This 8-page book is soft and squishy, perfect for exploring little hands and mouths. Baby Boo enjoys the snow, builds a snowman with Daddy, goes back inside to warm up by the fire and gaze at the Christmas tree, and at night, Santa drops off presents! The plush book is soft, and the page featuring the snowman is crinkly; perfect for play time and engaging your little one’s senses. The colors are bright, with gentle-faced animals and people. The book comes in its on add Park, Farm, and Zoo to the list.

 

Ten Horse Farm, by Robert Sabuda, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $29.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-6398-8

Ages 5+

You don’t have to be a kid to love Robert Sabuda; his paper engineering is stunning to see. Ten Horse Farm is a full-color, pop-up counting book where each spread stars a different horse engaging in some kind of activity: racing, resting, jumping, or bucking. Let your kiddos count the horses as you go, and use this book in storytime to bring wonder and surprise to your readers. This fits in nicely with a horse storytime, farm storytime, animal storytime… any time storytime. Inspired by rural America, Robert Sabuda even named his upstate New York art studio Ten Horse Farm. Sabuda books are timeless gifts.

Ten Horse Farm has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

For the Dinosaur fan:

Dragon Post, by Emma Yarlett, (Dec. 2018, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-818-6

Ages 6-10

If you’re a regular reader here, you know I LOVE Emma Yarlett. Her Nibbles the Book Monster books are required reading in my home, and the kids at my library and my son’s Kindergarten class can’t get enough Nibbles. Dragon Post has the same fun spirit as we meet Alexander, a young boy who finds a dragon in his home. He’s excited, naturally, but he’s also a little concerned about fire safety. So he writes a series of letters, as different questions pop up for him. The best part? We get to read the letters!

This is an interactive book, with envelopes (lightly toasted) and letters you can pull up and read for yourself. The story is hilarious as Alexander’s predicament grows, and just when it takes a bittersweet turn, we get the hope of a sequel. The laser-cut correspondence is a fun addition to the story, and the full-color, cartoony artwork will appeal to readers. The scrawled black text reminds me of Oliver Jeffers’ lettering. Absolute fun for the holidays. If you’re buying this for your library, put it an extra copy in your storytime reference to keep one safe. This one will be loved quite a bit.

For the adventure seeker:

Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco/Illustrated by Joy Ang, (Sept. 2018, Workman), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1-5235-0354-4

Ages 8-12

Here’s one for the kids who love the offbeat, quirky, and awe-inspiring things in life: Atlas Obscura is the kids’ companion to the website and adult guide book and is all about 100 of the most “weird but true” places on earth. Discover the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan (it’s a drilling accident gone terribly wrong), then head to Germany to ride a rollercoaster in the Wunderland Kalkar – an abandoned nuclear power plant. Check out the world’s seed bank in Norway, or visit an underwater museum near the Canary Islands.

Full-color illustrations offer an incredible point of view, and each site includes a locator globe and longitude and latitude (ahem… program in a book). A packing list – in case you’re so motivated – and explorer’s tips, along with alternate travel routes, methods of travel by speed, and height comparisons of attractions from biggest to smallest help with travel planning, and a list of further reading will have your world explorers putting up maps and pins in their rooms. This is just way too much fun. Give this to all the kids you normally hand your National Geographic gifts to, and you’ll be the favorite for another year running.

A World of Cities: From Paris to Tokyo and beyond, a celebration of the world’s most famous cities, by James Brown, (July 2018, Candlewick Studios), $25, ISBN: 9780763698799

Ages 8-12

Visit 30 of the world’s most famous cities with this book as your guide! It’s an oversize book with two- or 3-color tourism poster artwork and facts on each spread. Did you know Dubai has its own archipelago of artificial islands? Or that Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are stored in a safe-deposit box in New York City? There are tons of fun facts here, all assembled to create a stylized art book that takes armchair travelers to the bright lights and big cities of the world.

This is a follow-up to James Brown’s A World of Information, for anyone who’s a fan of infographics style information delivery.

 

For the animal lovers:

Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courageous Animals, by David Long/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Nov. 2018, Faber & Faber), $22.95, ISBN: 978-0-5713-4210-5

Ages 9-13

I loved the companion series to this book, the more human-focused Survivors, that came out earlier this year, so I dove into Heroes when the publisher sent me a copy. If you and your kids loved Survivors, you’re going to love Heroes, with 33 stories of courageous animals (and an epilogue about London’s Animals in War Memorial). It’s more than an “I Survived” starring animals; these are stories about how we rely on animals to survive and to thrive. There’s Rip, the terrier who rescued people trapped in the rubble of the London Blitz during World War II: “…somehow having Rip around made things more bearable… if Rip could cope with the war, so they [the people]”; and Mary of Exeter, a messenger pigeon who spent five years carrying messages back and forth between England and France during World War II and who’s buried alongside Rip and Beauty, another WWII hero dog profiled here. Kerry Hyndman’s illustrations are all at once intense and beautiful, and David Long’s tributes are filled with respect for these companions. Read with a box of tissues nearby. Give to your animal fans and your adventure story fans.

 

Fly With  Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories, by Jane Yolen, Heidi EY Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple, (Oct. 2018, NatGeo Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3181-7

Ages 8+

A compendium of all things bird for your bird-readers and watchers, Fly With Me has everything you’d want to know about birds: the physical characteristics, history (dino birds!), state bird profiles, songs, migration, and birding in your own backyard are just a few areas. There’s an emphasis on conservation and activism, and the section on birds in the arts is fantastic for your budding artists. The photos are jaw-dropping, with colors that burst off the page, and gorgeous illustrations. Endpapers are loaded with bird-related quotes, including one of my favorites: “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like  duck, it must be a duck”. Back matter is loaded with additional resources. Pull some of the poems out and use them in your storytimes!

 

For the poetry reader:

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters/Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $40, ISBN: 9781536202472

All Ages

There’s a poem for every single day of the year in this book. From January 1st through December 31st, greet each day with a poem and a beautiful illustration. Poets include Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Ogden Nash, ee cummings, and John Updike, and poems are indexed by poet name, poem title, and first lines. This is a gorgeous gift: the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, with cold winter scenes, green fall forests, and colorful, shell-covered beaches. Start the day off, or end a day, snuggled up with a poem.

This one’s a great gift for grownups, too – librarians and teachers, put this on your wish list and you’ll be thrilled to add new poems and fingerplays to your storytimes. I’m currently trying to think of hand movements to add to Alastair Reid’s “Squishy Words (To Be Said When Wet)” (August 4th).

Sing a Song of Seasons has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

The Poetry of US: More Than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the United States, Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, former US Children’s Poet Laureate, (Sept. 2018, NatGeo Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3185-5

All Ages

This is another incredible poetry volume, all celebrating the United States: it’s a love letter to the country, compiled by former US Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. Organized by region: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Rocky Mountain West, Pacific Coast, and Territories, over 200 poems celebrate the natural beauty of our lands and our rich cultural and diverse history. “Never Say No” by Laurie Purdie Salas is all about the perfection of a Philly cheesesteak, while Linda Sue Park’s “Asian Market” – showcased here in both English and Korean –  is a tantalizing tribute to the smells and sights of eating at an Asian food market. Reuben Jackson’s haunting “For Trayvon Martin” is side by side with J. Patrick Lewis’ “The Innocent”, a poem for Emmett Till. “Spelling Bee”, an acrostic by Avis Harley, is a nod to the Scripps Spelling Bee, and Allan Wolf’s “Champion Betty” celebrates a competitor at the Westminster Kennell Club Dog Show. There are poems about beaches and forests, Disney and weddings; there are poems in Korean and Spanish, and poems that shine a light on how far we have to go. It’s America, and these voices are why it’s beautiful.

For your reader who loves the classics:

Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli, by Katherine Rundell/Illustrated by Kristjana S. Williams, (Oct. 2018, Walker Books), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536205275

Ages 8-12

The flap of Into the Jungle says it best: “To turn the page of The Jungle Book is to long for more tales of Mowgli the man-cub, Baheera the panther, Baloo the bear, and Kaa the python”. Into the Jungle is a companion to the classic Rudyard Kipling book, enriching readers with five more stories about Mowgli and his companions: “Before Mother Wolf Was a Mother, She Was a Fighter”; “Bagheera’s Cage”; “Baloo’s Courage”; “Kaa’s Dance”, and “Mowgli” all bring back fan favorite characters and deliver themes of empathy, kindness, and understanding across species, cultures, and genders. Katherine Rundell has given Kipling’s classic – and, by extension, his fans – new life, and new relevance in a world very different – and sadly, not so different – from 1894.

Illustrations are full-color and created in collage, using Victorian engravings, to give an historical feel with incredible texture. Humans and animals alike share expressive faces and body language, and the lush Indian jungle unfurls itself to readers, beckoning them to join them in the pages. A gorgeous gift book.

I hope that helps with some shopping lists! Happy Holidays, all!
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

The Goblin Princess: Dust that house, and untrain your dragon!

Originally published in the UK, The Goblin Princess is a sweet chapter book series perfect for kids who are ready to branch out from easy readers. Let’s meet The Goblin Princess and her family.

The Goblin Princess: Smoky the Dragon Baby, by Jenny O’Connor/Illustrated by Kate Willis-Crowley, (Oct. 2018, Faber & Faber), $8.95, ISBN: 9780571316588

Ages 7-10

Matty is a goblin princess, but she’s also the odd goblin out in her family. She’s always being told to untidy her room, and eat up her slug porridge; her family – like most goblins – is also terrified of pretty things, like kittens and butterflies, and reading fairy tales are sure to give them nightmares, but Matty just doesn’t fit in. When the family dragon, Sparks, lays an egg and a sweet little blue dragon emerges, Matty falls in love. But little Smoky is polite and sweet, and the untraining her father, the Goblin King, calls for doesn’t quite take. Luckily for Matty, little Smoky finds some talent in burning the toast (a goblin delicacy)! When Matty and her family go on a goblin family picnic at the Dragon Lagoon, Matty and Smoky have a little side adventure of their own, meeting nasty hobgoblins and kind Forest Fairies (who aren’t at all terrifying) – and maybe Matty can convince her family that she and Smoky are just naughty enough after all!

The Goblin Princess: The Grand Goblin Ball, by Jenny O’Connor/Illustrated by Kate Willis-Crowley, (Oct. 2018, Faber & Faber), $8.95, ISBN: 9780571316601

Ages 7-10

The next book in the Goblin Princess series picks up fresh off the heels of Smoky the Dragon Baby. The royal Goblin Family is preparing for the Grand Goblin Ball, but there’s trouble afoot: the hobgoblins are planning to crash the party and CLEAN! And PAINT! And worst of all, they’re planning to capture Smoky! Luckily, some of the Forest Fairies overheard the plot and warned Matty in time. Matty and Smoky join forces with their new friend, Dave – a Frog of Mystery and Magic – to beat the hobgoblins and save the party! Recipes for Scary Potato Faces, Ghoulish Goblin Drinks, and Peppermint Cream Bugs let readers plan a Goblin Ball of their very own!

The Goblin Princess books are sweet, entertaining, and upbeat. Kids are going to get a kick out of the backwards world that the goblins live in: messing up your room? Eating sloppily and having food fights? Untraining your dragon and being an irresponsible pet owner? It sounds awesome, right? Which makes poor Matty and Smoky outsiders in their worlds, and sets the stage for some hilarious happenings. Kate Willis-Crowley’s watercolor artwork adds an incredible cute factor to the storytelling, with adorable characters like Smoky the Dragon and Matty the Goblin, and great visuals for events like the Goblin buffet, complete with Key Slime Pie and Mice Cakes.

Pictures all come from Kate Willis-Crowley’s blog.

I enjoyed the first two Goblin Princess stories, and look forward to the third one, The Snow Fairy (it looks like it was just published in the UK… can we get a copy stateside soon?) Readers who love enjoy fantasy will enjoy the close friendship between Smoky and Matty, and get a kick out of Smoky’s baby talk. The bad guys aren’t terribly bad. The hobgoblins, for instance, really just want Smoky around to warm up their food; nothing truly nefarious (unless you count cleaning and painting the Goblin castle: that’s just horrible). Give this to your Unicorn Princesses/Hamster Princess/Princess in Black fans.