Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Two more #Nocturnals easy readers bring laughs and love!

The Nocturnals: The Best Burp, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Apr. 2020, Fabled Films Press), $12.95, ISBN: 9781944020323

Ages 4-6

Another fun night out with the Nocturnals has Bismark (of course) competing in a burping contest with a new friend, Bink the Bat. As Bismark and Bink bicker (hee hee… alliteration is fun), Dawn emerges to suggest that maybe a burping contest isn’t the way to be their “best selves”. A cute story about recognizing that burps are natural, but sometimes, polite behavior calls for an “excuse me”, The Best Burp also has a cute side joke that involves my poor buddy, Tobin, as the butt (the burp?) of the joke when Bismark and Bink try to blame the other for the burping contest, which leaves them both pointing toward Tobin, who’s standing the in the middle. Adorably fun with a nice lesson about manners, to boot. Kids will love (and cafeteria aides will relate to) the characters and the tempting fun of the burping contest. Parents, educators, and caregivers will appreciate Dawn, ever the voice of reason, stepping in to negotiate more polite behavior.

 

The Nocturnals: The Weeping Wombat, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Aug. 2020, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020330

Ages 5-8

Can you believe this is the eighth Nocturnals adventure? This time, we’ve got a sensitive story about Walter, an emotional, highly sensitive wombat who’s made fun of because he has a tendency to cry easily. The Nocturnals friends rally around Walter, letting him know that they all cry sometimes – even Bismark, who gets emotional just thinking about his Grandpa Guffy. Walter feels so much better after Dawn wisely explains that weeping is “just another way to show how we feel”, and that it can even make us feel better. A very sweet story about sensitivity and emotions, The Weeping Wombat is a nice addition to social-emotional learning texts for storytime.

Each book has a Nocturnals Fun Facts section that introduces readers to the Nocturnals. Don’t forget to visit their Nocturnals website, which is updated often and has great resources for homeschooling and nature camp activities. You’ll find Nocturnals character masks, book club questions, sight words games, and Common Core, Science, and Social-Emotional Learning Guides, all free and available for downloading.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Nocturnals Easy Readers are back with The Tasty Treat and The Kooky Kinkajou!

Regular readers know how much I love Tracey Hecht’s The Nocturnals series from Fabled Films Press. There are four great middle grade novels about the three adventuring animal friends, and there have been four easy readers so far, which has been fantastic for my second grader, who loves reading them. There are positive messages in each book, and the Fabled Films friends have really put the time in to create lesson plans and learning games that address kindness and compassion among kids, using the series’ characters to communicate the message. Here’s a look at the two latest books in the Nocturnals series.

The Nocturnals: The Kooky Kinkajou, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Sept. 2019, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020248

Ages 4-7

The Nocturnals Brigade meets a Karina, a careening kinkajou, while stargazing one night. Naturally, Bismark is his usual churlish self at first, but Karina leads the group through imaginative play through the forest, enchanting them with her exciting way of seeing things: a weeping willow tree becomes a rainfall; bent tree, a rainbow. Even Bismark can’t stay cranky with Karina’s contagious enthusiasm and creative way of looking at things. Nocturnals fun facts and new words make up the back matter. This makes a good readaloud for preschoolers, indulging and encouraging their imaginations and creative play, and is a Grow & Read Level 3, making it spot-on for newly independent readers.

There are great moments for discussion within the story. Bismark always makes for good “what not to do” moments; Tobin’s sweet innocence makes him the first to commit to Karina’s game, and makes him the perfect character to inspire readers to see shapes in the clouds, make up stories with the stars, and jump over rocks in an imaginary riverbed. Josie Yee’s art really captures the playful spirit of each character, making them soft, approachable, and cuddly for younger readers (especially my son, who made off with my plush Dawn months ago). Another win for my favorite group of nocturnal friends!

The Nocturnals: The Tasty Treat, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Oct. 2019, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020309

Ages 4-7

The friends share a tasty treat – a pomelo, a favorite that shows up in many Nocturnals books – in this Level 1 reader. Short, simple sentences make this a good choice for pre-readers and new readers to start with, giving them some new vocabulary words and introducing them to the Nocturnals. The story revolves around Dawn, the fox, as she seeks and finds her friends one evening. Bismark has a pomelo, which he graciously offers to share, and the friends sit down to a pomelo picnic. Nocturnals fun facts reinforce character traits and introduce new words. Josie Yee’s artwork always makes the Nocturnals feel like cozy friends that kids will love spending time with. Bismark’s wide-eyed, exaggerated facial expressions are perfect for his blustering character with a heart of gold; Dawn’s all-knowing fox always has a slight smile, like she knows something most don’t (especially Bismark), and Tobin is the picture of shy but sweet, with eyes that gaze upward and a shy smile on his face.

This is a good introduction to The Nocturnals for new readers, and a great way to illustrate sharing.

The Nocturnals webpage has educator resources and activity kits, with Common Core activities and discussion questions and science activities that meet Next Generation Science standards. Activity Kits include word games, printable masks, and face-painting kits.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Meet Pippa Park, a new middle grade book from Erin Yun and Fabled Films!

Pippa Park Raises Her Game, by Erin Yun, (Feb. 2020, Fabled Films Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1944020262

Ages 9-13

Korean-American seventh grader Pippa Park’s is a juggler: living with her older sister and brother-in-law, rather than her Mom, in Korea, she juggles the weight of their expectations; she juggles her responsibilities at home and school, and she juggles schoolwork with her first love, basketball. She receives an unexpected basketball scholarship to an affluent private school, Lakeview Private, and decides to reinvent herself: she doesn’t want to stand out as the “scholarship student”, especially among the rich kids, and especially among the members of the basketball team – her former middle school’s rivals! But reinventing herself comes with a price, and Pippa discovers that she’s getting further away from the person she wants to be while trying to keep pace with the Royals, Lakeview’s version of Queen Bees/Mean Girls/the In-Crowd. She can’t turn to her sister; she can’t turn to her best friend, who won’t talk to her anymore; and she certainly can’t turn to the Royals. When a series of antagonistic social media messages start showing up, threatening to expose Pippa’s real life, she really feels lost.

Inspired by Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a relatable middle grade story about a middle schooler dealing with the school stress, family stress,  an unrequited crush (with his own family stress), and the stress of keeping her real life secret from her glam friends at school. She’s witty and dorky and just wants to do the right thing, but why is the right thing so hard to do? We want Pippa to get it right, because she’s us.

Kudos to Erin Yun for making The Royals a complex, smart group of characters, too! They’re not vapid Mean Girls, even if some of them – not all, by the way – are straight-up stereotypical. First off, they’re not cheerleaders! Let’s hear it for breaking the stereotype! They are unapologetically feminine, and they’re all business on the basketball court, showing readers that real girls don’t always wear pom-poms; sometimes, they slam dunk. There’s an interesting subplot with Pippa’s tutor-turned-crush, Eliot, and his family’s long-standing emotional baggage, which feeds nicely into Pippa’s main story.

Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a slam-dunk for middle grade readers. It’s smart, funny, and gives readers a heroine they can root for.

Psst… keep your eye on the Pippa Park GoodReads page. Maybe add it to your “To-Read”. I’ve got word there may be a giveaway coming in a few weeks.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

The Nocturnals teach kindness with The Peculiar Possum

The Peculiar Possum: The Nocturnals (Grow & Read Early Reader, Level 2), by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Oct. 2018, Fabled Films Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781944020194

Ages 4-7

This latest Nocturnals adventure has the group investigate a prowler! A prowler that wants pomelos, the fruit that Bismark and Tobin love so much! But when they discover that the prowler is actually a sweet little possum named Penny, Bismark is… well, predictably, rude. Judging her on her looks, he’s hurtful and mean, until Dawn and Tobin step in to give him a lesson in being kind. To his credit, Bismark recognizes that he was out of line and apologizes to Penny. Does this mean that the Nocturnals have a new friend joining the ranks? Future books will tell…

The Peculiar Possum is a story about kindness, and maybe, a little bit of tough love. Bismark is the outspoken blowhard of the Nocturnals (I say that with the greatest affection, mi amigo), but he oversteps in this story, insulting Penny and making her feel terrible. Dawn and Tobin step in, gently reassuring Penny – Tobin even shares his own scent gland issues with her, to make her feel better about her scent – and call Bismark out on his cruelty, pointing out his own differences. Once faced with the impact his words make, he gains an understanding of their power, and works to make things better. It’s an impactful message, especially when kids are faced with bullying at progressively younger ages.

Josie Yee’s art is adorable. Penny the Possum is big-eyed, and her body language is curled up, pensive; Bismark is overbearing, his small stature at odds with his larger than life personality. Dawn and Tobin are soft and kind. Fun Nocturnals Facts and a glossary of “peculiar” words from other languages make up the back matter.

The folks at Fabled Films Press, publisher of The Nocturnals, have developed a fun Kindness Game based on The Peculiar Possum. I was lucky enough to lead a storytime group through a round of the game, which is kind of like Simon Says meets reading comprehension. It gets kids up and moving, and it gets kids thinking about the physical effects that hurtful words, as well as supportive and appreciative language, have on all of us. You can download a copy of the game for free, and try it with your own storytime groups.


Thanks to everyone at Fabled Films, especially Stacey and Gisselle, for inviting me to be part of The Kindness Game. 🙂

Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Nocturnals for every reader!

My favorite group of nighttime dwellers, The Nocturnals, have two adventures to enjoy! Let’s see what mouthy Bismark, thoughtful Dawn, and sweet Tobin have been up to since we last met.

The Nocturnals: The Hidden Kingdom, by Tracey Hecht and Sarah Fieber/Illustrated by Kate Liebman,
(Feb. 2018, Fabled Films Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1944020118
Recommended for readers 8-12

The Nocturnals assemble in their fourth adventure to locate the source of a drought that’s ravaging their forest. The water is disappearing, animals are sick and possibly dying, and animals are convinced there’s an evil spell at work: tumbleweeds attack, sticks seemingly run away, and there’s no water to be found! Dawn, the fox, doesn’t believe in magic and knows there’s something afoot, and Tobin is desperate to save his friend, Cora, a sick wombat who needs water… FAST. What the friends discover is a hidden kingdom – right in front of their very eyes! Can they save the day, and the lives of their forest friends, once again?

This latest Nocturnals adventure has even more illustrations throughout, adding great resting points and visual interest for readers. I love the little touch of insect art throughout the book, directly tying into the storyline. Tobin, my favorite pangolin, gets some nice character development, and yes, fear not: there are fart jokes to be had, making for a laugh out loud reading selection. The theme of friendship continues to be the uniting thread in this series, and Hidden Kingdom also explores the frustration of being ignored and overlooked. There are minor consequences for acts that could have resulted in serious harm to others, but there is a concerted effort to emphasize positive solutions versus punitive measures; I think that’s an important discussion to have with kids. Were they happy with the outcome? What could have been done before the drought, to address the hurt feelings? Animal adventure fans will dig in and enjoy this latest chapter in the Nocturnals saga, and, as always, there are many opportunities for discussion here. Good characters, great humor, and a nonstop sense of adventure will keep kids coming back for more.

The Nocturnals: The Slithery Shakedown, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee,
(April 2018, Fabled Films Press), Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-16-3 OR Hardcover, $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-17-0
Recommended for readers 5-7

The next Nocturnals Easy Reader is coming in April! I was so happy to see The Moonlight Meeting debut last year, because I always felt like younger audiences would get a kick out of these characters; particularly Bismark, the sugar glider with the larger-than-life personality! In The Slithery Shakedown, Bismark is menaced by a snake, who wants to snack on him! Thank goodness Dawn and Tobin are there to show the bully that no one messes with their friend. The Slithery Shakedown opens up the chance to talk about bullies, the importance of taking a stand, and the strength found in numbers. I’d even pair this with a reading of Kathryn Otoshi’s brilliant book, One, as part of a respect for all/anti-bullying storytime and discussion.

Josie Yee’s art makes the trio of friends adorable and soft for younger readers, and with deep colors and strong outlines to define her characters. A section about nocturnal animals and nighttime fun facts adds some nonfiction to this Level 2 reader (for grades 1 and 2). Having these books available in easy reader and novel formats also introduce the chance to have older readers and younger readers enjoy different Nocturnals stories and workshops together.

So… when do we get Nocturnals board books? Just sayin’…

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction

A Nocturnals Easy Reader! The Moonlight Meeting

The Nocturnals: The Moonlight Meeting, by Tracey Hecht & Rumur Dowling/Illustrated by Waymond Singleton, (Sept. 2017, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-14-9

Recommended for ages 5-8

YAY! One of my favorite recent middle grade series is expanding to easy readers! The Nocturnals: The Moonlight Meeting introduces younger readers to my favorite Nocturnal group of friends: Tobin, the pangolin, Dawn, the fox, and last but never least, Bismark, the sugar glider (don’t dare call him a squirrel). An unlikely pomelo fruit brings the three new friends together, as Tobin – forever hungry – and Bismark disagree over ownership rights. Readers get a fun dose of fart humor thanks to sweet Tobin, who’s a bit nervous and has… well, a bit of a reaction. (Readers familiar with Tobin and the latest middle grade Nocturnals story, The Fallen Star, will enjoy the reference.)

Waymond Singleton’s artwork is perfect for an easy reader audience, giving the group more definition and providing an animated feel. Bismark is all wide eyes and open mouth; Tobin’s glance is shyly cast downward, and Dawn is ever gentle and ready to step in to help. As with the middle grade novels, The Moonlight Meeting emphasizes friendship, teamwork, and sharing. Fun Facts at the end of the book provide descriptions about the real-life Nocturnal counterparts. The brief sentences and easy dialogue make this a great step for readers who are ready to move on from Level 1 readers. A leveling guide on the back of the book, similar to the Step Into Reading series, explains each leveled step for parents and caregivers. This works well with a preschool or kindergarten read-aloud, too.

I can’t wait to introduce The Nocturnals to my storytime group. The group’s website at Nocturnals World is a treasure trove of information for caregivers and educators, featuring curriculum guides, library resources, discussion guides, and activity kits. If you’ve got animal fiction fans, get them hooked early and add The Moonlight Meeting to your easy readers.

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade

Happy #Nocturnals Day!

It’s the Nocturnals, Book 3: The Fallen Star‘s book birthday today, and I’d like to shine a (soft) spotlight on my favorite Nocturnal, Tobin! Fabled Films put together a little writeup about pangolins that I thought I’d share with you. Enjoy!

In The Fallen Star, the third installment of the non-episodic middle grade series, The Nocturnals, all of the forest’s pomelos have been inexplicably poisoned. Iris, a mysterious aye-aye, claims that monsters from the moon are to blame. When Tobin the pangolin falls ill, the Nocturnal Brigade must race to find answers, and the cure, before this possibly unearthly predicament threatens to harm them all.

Tobin is one of the main characters of The Nocturnals series, and many of our readers write to us saying that they have never heard of the critically endangered pangolin before reading our books. Here are some interesting facts about pangolins that help inform and develop Tobin’s character.

Pangolins are funny-looking creatures, but everything about them is designed to help them survive and protect themselves. All of their physical features perform a specific job.

Pangolins look like they wear an armor, and that’s because they are covered in scales made of keratin, which is the same thing that our human fingernails are made of. Just like our fingernails, the keratin on a pangolin is hard and forms a protective shell. Whenever Tobin is scared, he curls up as a way of protecting himself.

Not only does Tobin curl himself up for protection with his scales when he’s scared, but he also sprays something smelly to ward off predators. This smell comes from the scent glands on his tail end. Remember when Bismark complained how stinky Tobin was when they first met? That was because Tobin sprayed something because Bismark had startled him. When Tobin is afraid, he sprays an unpleasant smell from his scent glands. This reaction also helps deter the thing that he’s afraid of. Tobin is sometimes embarrassed by this bad smell, but he shouldn’t be, because spraying that smell helps him survive (especially if the smell has been enhanced by a poisoned pomelo, like in The Fallen Star!).

Pangolins have very poor eyesight. When Tobin first meets the bats in The Mysterious Abductions, he thinks that they’re the same creatures as Bismark because he can’t see very well. But Tobin has other senses like smell and hearing that compensate for his poor eyesight. His very long snout makes his nose very sensitive. Instead of seeing something, he can detect its presence by smelling it.

To read more about pangolins and their special features, check out these resources:

“Mammals.” Animal Encyclopedia: 2,500 Animals with Photos, Maps, and More! Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2012. 47. Print.

(http://www.iucnredlist.org/ ;

(http://animaldiversity.org/)

(Macdonald, David W. “Pangolins.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Mammals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2009. 476-77. Print.)

 

Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

The Nocturnals Return in The Fallen Star

The Nocturnals (Book 3): The Fallen Star, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Kate Liebman, (May 2017, Fabled Films Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781944020057

Recommended for readers 8-12

The lovable group of Nocturnal sleuths is back in their third adventure, this time with high stakes: the forest’s pomelos have been poisoned, and the flowers that cure the sickness are disappearing! As the group watches a star fall one evening, they meet a mysterious aye-aye, Iris, who declares that the forest is being invaded and monsters from space have poisoned the pomelos! Dawn, ever the thoughtful and skeptical fox, is suspicious, and seeks a more down-to-earth reason, but things become more tense when they discover that animals in the forest are getting sick, including poor Tobin, who’ve all eaten pomelos. The blue flowers that help cure the sickness are disappearing, and a strange blue glow shows up right before the flowers start disappearing. This sounds like a job for the Nocturnals!

This third book in the animal friends series takes no prisoners: things are tense, with the friends racing against time to help their sick friends and find out the truth behind the poisoned fruit and disappearing cure. Bismark is in full narcissist with a heart of gold mode, proclaiming he speaks alien (and then slipping and admitting it was gibberish) and wooing Dawn every chance he gets. Dawn is still the most focused and perceptive member of the group, and sweet, gentle Tobin is the source of possibly the greatest fart joke in the history of children’s literature, giving readers much-needed comic relief throughout the white knuckle moments The Fallen Star is filled with.

We also meet some more animals in this book; most notably, an Aye-aye named Iris, and the woylies, a group of small marsupials who pitch in to help the Nocturnals. You can find more information about Aye-ayes at Zooborns.com, and Whiteman Park, a conservation center in Australia, has a downloadable fact sheet available on the endangered woylie.

This Aye-aye has its eyes on you! (source: Zooborns.com)
Woylie: Now say it with an Australian accent! (Source: whitemanpart.com.au)

Teamwork, friendship, and determination sees the friends through this latest adventure, and there’s a lovely message about tolerance that is especially important reading.

Things have started taking off for Nocturnals since the first book published last year!  The Nocturnals World website offers Boredom Busters, face painting tips, and a wealth of educational resources for classrooms and libraries, and the New York Public Library, in conjunction with Fabled Films, launched a read-aloud writing program in New York City public schools.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Nocturnals reunite and face The Ominous Eye

nocturnalsThe Nocturnals: The Ominous Eye (Nocturnals #2), by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Kate Liebman, (Sept. 2016, Fabled Films Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-03-3

Recommended for ages 8-12

The three friends we met in The Mysterious Abductions are back! In this latest Nocturnals adventure, Dawn, the serious fox, Tobin, the sweet and nervous pangolin, and Bismark, the overconfident sugar glider, try to get to the bottom of a frightening jolt that shakes the earth. They meet a tuatara named Polyphema, who seems to know a lot more than she’s letting on. Polyphema talks about a Beast responsible for the earthquake and destruction, and how it will strike again if the animals don’t listen to her. Dawn seems to be the only one who doesn’t trust Polyphema; Bismark is smitten, and poor Tobin is just nervous.

Nocturnals is a fun animal series. This second book introduces some conflict into the small group of friends, illustrating that teamwork doesn’t always come easy, and that trust must be earned. Animal fiction fans will enjoy meeting more exotic animals in this book – I never knew what a tuatara was, or that they really do have a third eye! This little tidbit makes Polyphema an even more interesting character, making her insights and visions more believable to the animals in the story.

tuatarasource: The Quantum Biologist

This is a good follow-up to the first book, and yet newcomers to the series can jump right in without having read the first book (but read it – it’s good!). Kate Liebman’s color illustrations add to the text, giving the reader a nice frame of reference for some of these new animals he or she will meet during the course of the book.

nocturnals_1 nocturnals_2 nocturnals_3

Animal fiction fans will enjoy this series. See if you can put out some animal atlases and have the research where the novels take place! Talk up nocturnal animals, and ask the kids to identify more nocturnal animals. Use the educator resources available on the Nocturnals website, especially the printable animal fact cards, to help them along. There’s a third Nocturnals book coming in March 2017, too – mark your calendars!

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions introduces a new bunch of woodland friends

nocturnals_1The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Kate Liebman (April 2016, Fabled Films), $15.99, ISBN: 9781944020002

Recommended for ages 7-12

Animal fiction fans, get ready: there’s a new group in town, and they only go on adventures at night. The Nocturnals, or as they refer to themselves, the Brigade, are Dawn, a smart and serious fox; Tobin, a very sweet pangolin, and Bismark, a loud, well-meaning but self-centered sugar glider. (Don’t call him a squirrel or a bat!) Shortly after the three meet, they find themselves investigating a mystery: animals are disappearing! As the Nocturnals search for answers, they meet other animals along the way that will help them – but can they avoid being kidnapped by the mysterious culprit?

The Nocturnals is a fun, packed with humor and a little shot of adventure for intermediate and middle grade readers. Color artwork by Kate Liebman adds interest and kicks off each chapter, and she captures the various personalities created by author Tracey Hecht. Bismark is almost hilariously over the top, slipping into different languages, professing his love for Dawn, the fox, and making sure everyone within earshot knows he’s the star of the show, if only in his imagination. Dawn is observant, often serious, and quick to figure things out (she is a fox, after all), and Tobin is the kind peacemaker who finds his self-esteem on this first outing.  Book 2, The Ominous Eye, is due out in September.

I like the positive messages in the book – teamwork and keeping promises among them – and I like the use of animals we don’t normally discover on adventures: sugar gliders, wombats, and tobins! The book provides a great opportunity to introduce these animals to children’s vocabulary, and indeed, The Nocturnals website has some excellent educator resources available, including printable animal fact cards, book club questions, coloring sheets, and resources for ELA and Science education. I was excited to see a book club script suggestion, so I can get my readers busy acting the parts out (since book discussions don’t work with my kids, this is an interesting and fun project to approach them with). The Nocturnals website also offers to send a free cape for your stuffed animal if you join their Brigade!

Animal fiction is great for intermediate and middle graders – The Nocturnals should be a good fit with collections. Booktalk and display this with your Erin Hunter books (Warriors/Seekers/Survivors), the Spirit Animals series, and Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole and Horses of the Dawn series.

Take a look at the book trailer for The Mysterious Abductions.