Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy Pride! King & King

King & King, by Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland, (March 2003, Tricycle Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781582460611

Recommended for readers 3-7

This fairy tale about two kings living happily ever after is a classic. When I still worked in the publishing industry, I was a marketer on the InsightOut Book Club, and we were all thrilled to see a book for kids. We hadn’t seen one since 1989’s Heather Has Two Mommies, by Lesleá Newman, and 1990’s Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael Willhoite. For someone to write a book letting explaining that love is love to kids made my fairly new mom (I was pregnant with my second at the time) heart beat even more happily. Originally published in The Netherlands in 2000, King & King arrived on American shores in 2003. A crown prince lives with his mother, the queen, and their crown kitty; the queen is getting tired, though, and wants her son to get married already, so he can become king and she can finally retire. She’s had it with his stalling: she wakes him up and lets him know how it’s going to go; the prince reluctantly agrees to meet some potential spouses. It doesn’t really go well. The crown kitty seems to be having a blast, performing along with the princesses, but the prince is pretty miserable: until the last princess walks in, escorted by her brother. BAM! It’s love at first sight between the two princes. The two marry, the queen retires, and King & King live happily ever after, sharing a kiss (obscured by a heart over the joining of their mouths) at the end.

King & King is a celebration of love, versed as a fairy tale to make it extra child-friendly to 2003 audiences, but it still holds up today. The mixed media artwork is colorful, even a touch chaotic, giving readers plenty of little details to wander the pages for: Crown Kitty is always up to something; rocket, hot air balloons, and planes fly through the sky; an explosion of hearts herald the meeting of the princes. The character drawings look almost childlike, increasing the appeal to kids. The couple’s adventures continue in 2004’s King & King & Family.

King & King received a starred review from Kirkus, and was on the ALA’s Top 10 List of Most Challenged Books in 2003 and 2004. Read more about the challenges to the book here.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Tween Reads

Fantastic Fairy Tale: The Prince and The Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang, (Feb. 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626723634

Recommended for readers 10+

In a Parisian town, during what looks like a Renaissance period, Frances is a brilliant dressmaker who slaves away in drudgery until she’s hired to work for the crown prince, Sebastian. It’s only when Frances arrives at the palace does she realize that Sebastian has a secret: he loves to wear extravagant, lavish dresses and go out on the town! Together, he and Frances craft a persona, Lady Crystallia, and hit the streets of Paris together; Lady Crystallia makes a splash on the Paris fashion scene, and Frances finds her talents in demand. But to go public with her talents puts Sebastian’s secret at risk.

This is a great modern fairy tale. It challenges gender identity, it’s got great characters, the art is soft realistic with a touch of the fantastic, and a touch of sweet romance that will make you just sigh, “Aww!” Frances is a lovable character who I felt for, and Sebastian put my emotions through the ringer as he went through his own stress. Each chapter is set off with a dress pattern, keeping readers in the overall story. Give this one to your readers who loved Princess Princess Ever After, your Lumberjanes fans, and anyone who appreciates a good, modern fairy tale.

The Prince and the Dressmaker won’t be out until February, but you can pre-order now (and check out more amazing art).

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Imelda and the Goblin King: This ain’t Labyrinth.

9781909263659_edb38Imelda and the Goblin King, by Briony May Smith (Oct. 2015, Nobrow), $17.95, ISBN: 9781909263659

Recommended for ages 5-8

Imelda is a young girl living in an enchanted forest, surrounded by the local fairies she calls friends. But the awful Goblin King appears to kidnap the Fairy Queen, and the fairies ask Imelda for her help. Now, it’s up to Imelda to get rid of the Goblin King for good!

Another winner from Nobrow! This debut by Briony May Smith is a fun fairy tale with a strong female main character and eye-catching, bright art that fills each spread with movement and interest. The Goblin King is suitably dour and fierce looking, and his little minions look just as distasteful. Imelda is a great fairy tale heroine, rosy-cheeked and pink-dressed, but she’s no passive princess locked in a tower, waiting for a prince – she’s got a plan to turn the Goblin King into a worm, and she enlists the fairies to do it.

I also love the great fairy tale font. It’s very bold, with emphasis on the “stomps” and exclamations of “Goblin King!” It’s a different font that makes the story as interesting for a reader as it does for the audience in a read-aloud.

A fun fairy tale for school-age kids, this one will be a fun addition to collections where fairy tales do well. I’d pair this one with Kate Beaton’s Princess and the Pony for a read-aloud on princesses who can save themselves, thank you very much. Put this on a shelf with Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, too – the kids will love it.

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Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

A Curse of Ash & Iron – YA with a little steampunk, a little fairy tale

Ash & Iron eBook 1000A Curse of Ash & Iron, by Christine Norris (May 2015, Curiosity Quills Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1620078853

Recommended for ages 13+

Eleanor lost her mother when she was a child, and has been living under her evil stepmother’s thumb ever since. She’s a stranger to her beloved father; indeed, to everyone she once knew – her stepmother has managed to bewitch her so that no one will recognize her. Living as a servant in her own home and forced to wear a stranger’s face in public, Ellie is in for a bleak future until her childhood best friend, Ben Grimm, sees through the spell and recognizes her. Together, guided by a mysterious benefactor, Ellie may have a chance to regaining her life after all.

Heavily influenced by Cinderella, this steampunk fairy tale is great YA reading for girls who like a little steam power in their romance. Ellie isn’t a simpering, fainting Victorian heroine; she’s a smart, determined young woman who is darned angry about the way her life has gone, and she’s going to fight to get it all back. The evil stepmother is truly an awful human being – you’ll be waiting the entire book for a giant anvil to fall out of the sky and bean her, I promise you – and Ben, as the long-lost childhood friend, has his own subplot about his personal quest for independence that will put you firmly in his corner.

Great characters, steam and brass, and a familiar fairy tale feel to comfort you on days when you just want to be a kid again. A Curse of Ash & Iron is the book for your burgeoning steampunk collection. If your readers aren’t quite ready for Gail Carriger’s Finishing School assassins, they’ll love Ellie and her friends. Historical notes at the novel’s end will appeal to history buffs!

Author Christine Norris offers printable goodies on her website, along with some extra content geared toward librarians. Give her some love, she’s one of our tribe!

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Check out Cinderella’s Shoes by Shonna Slayton!

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Cinderella’s Shoes by Shonna Slayton

Release Date: 10/06/15, Entangled Teen

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Summary from Goodreads:

The war may be over, but Kate Allen’s life is still in upheaval. Not only has she discovered that Cinderella was real, but now she’s been made Keeper of the Wardrobe, her sole responsibility to protect Cinderella’s magical dresses from the greed of the evil stepsisters’ modern descendants. 

But Cinderella’s dresses are just the beginning. It turns out that the priceless glass slippers might actually exist, too, and they could hold the power to reunite lost loved ones like her father—missing in action since World War II ended. As Kate and her boyfriend, Johnny, embark on an adventure from New York to Italy and Poland in search of the mysterious slippers, they will be tested in ways they never imagined.

Because when you harness Cinderella’s magic, danger and evil are sure to follow…

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Don’t forget to add the first book in the series, Cinderella’s Dress, to your reading list!

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shonna slaytonAbout the Author

SHONNA SLAYTON is the author of the YA novels Cinderella’s Dress, (Summer 2014) and Cinderella’s Shoes (Fall 2015) published by Entangled Teen. She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona.

Author Links:

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From the Author… My Cinderella Shoes

#MyCinderellaShoes

In high school, one of my prized possessions was a pair of mint green Chuck Taylor All Stars. To fully understand the uniqueness of these shoes you have to know that I lived in a small town (aka very few stores, and none of them selling Chucks.)

I don’t know when my obsession with these shoes started. Probably from an ad in a magazine! But I so wanted a pair.

I couldn’t buy them off the internet because back in the day…no internet! *gasp*

Finally, on an unexpected trip to Calgary, Alberta during spring break I found a store at the mall selling Chucks. It took all the money I had with me, but I bought those shoes (and a T-shirt saying “Get your Yucks in Chucks.”) Then a few weeks later, one of my friends took a trip to Vancouver, BC and came back with a peach pair.

Being the same shoe size, we swapped one shoe each and wore two different colored shoes—mint and peach—until the end of the school year.

My feet grew a half-size since then, but I kept the Chucks. They are in one last box of my belongings left at my parent’s house. I thought maybe my daughter might want to wear a pair of retro shoes one day.

 

The History Behind the Story of Cinderella’s Shoes

Cinderella’s Shoes is set during the summer of 1947, and takes place mostly in Europe. Have you ever thought about what life was like in Europe after World War II?

Well, immediately after the war ended in 1945, life was about the same as it was during the war. Roads and railroads were still bombed out. Bridges were still out of commission. Food was still rationed. And the black market was still the place to get the products you really wanted.

People were angry. Some wanted revenge. And who exactly was in charge of keeping the peace?

This is the background my European characters are coming out of when my American characters arrive on the scene.

In my research, I read about many of the atrocities committed during the war, and those that were allowed to happen immediately afterward to “help” people deal with their emotions and settle back into regular, non-wartime life. (For example, Google: WWII head shaving.)

Various countries handled this change in power differently, and this transitional time led to the rise of communism in Poland, the heart of my Cinderella stories.

But Cinderella’s Shoes is mostly a fairy-tale story, so I don’t go into gruesome details, just hint at events that might have occurred in my character’s lives. However, I couldn’t avoid the setting, nor could I forget what I had learned. Neither could my characters.

 

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

Westly: A Spider’s Tale is a good, middle-grade fable

westlyWestly: A Spider’s Tale, by Bryan Beus (Sept. 2015, Shadow Mountain), $15.99, ISBN: 9781629720685

Recommended for ages 9-13

In a contained garden of a glass chandelier, a young caterpillar is born into royalty. Destined to inherit the crown of the Monarch Butterfly kingdom, he is spoiled and naïve until he emerges from his cocoon – and he’s not exactly what he expected. Instead of a regal monarch, he’s a spider. Horrified by his appearance and afraid he’ll be ostracized from butterfly society, he runs away and lives down below, among the “dirt eaters” – the bugs that live below, on the ground. Not knowing he comes from the arrogant butterflies, they take him in and teach him how to live – but what Westly doesn’t realize is that he holds the key to uniting both societies.

Blending a graphic novel feel with a moral fable storytelling voice, Bryan Beus’ debut novel is a great read for middle graders. It’s kind of A Bug’s Life meets The Ugly Duckling, with a kind-hearted, unworldly main character who goes on a classic hero’s journey to grow up, mature, and come into the leader he’s meant to be. There are wonderfully classic elements here: the villain, the wise old sage, and the curmudgeon with the heart of gold being just a few touchstones that children and adults alike with recognize and embrace. Black and white sketches throughout the book hold the reader’s interest and have a comforting, classic feel.

 

This is a solid choice for school libraries and classrooms, especially for middle grade read-alouds and units on fairy tales and fables. Animal fiction always does well in my library, so I know this one will be happily received.

Bryan Beus is the winner of the Kirchoff/Wohlberg Award from The New York Society of Illustrators. His author website offers a sneak preview of Westly‘s first two chapters, plus an adorable webcomic called Peter and Li. Westly is Mr. Beus’ first book, but I’m hoping to see more.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Spelled by Betsy Schow – an excerpt and a giveaway!

I recently reviewed Betsy Schow’s Wizard of Oz/fairy tale mashup, Spelled – now, you’ve got the chance to win your own copy, courtesy of Sourcebooks! Check out the excerpt below, and make sure to enter to win!

 SPELLED

Spelled, By Betsy Schow

Sourcebooks Fire

June 2, 2015

Advance Praise for Spelled

“A cute adventure with romance set in a world full of fairy-tale mash-ups. Readers will love Dorthea’s evolution from spoiled princess to strong, confident heroine… For Oz fans, this work is a great clean-read alternative to Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die.” –School Library Journal

“This wickedly funny, fast-paced adventure has it all: brains, courage, and heart. (Plus a kickin’ pair of heels.) .” –Jen Calonita, author of The Secrets of My Hollywood Life and Fairy Tale Reform School series

“Fairy tale survival rule #1, do NOT read this book late at night. You will wake up your entire family with loud laughter. Fairy tale survival rule #2, if you love the Wizard of Oz, clever fairy tale mash-ups, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what will happen until the very end, you MUST read Spelled.” –J Scott Savage, award winning author of Farworld, Case File 13, and the Mysteries of Cove series.

A hilarious and snarky reimagining of the world of Oz, along with many other fairy tales injected throughout, “Spelled” is one fabulous read…Kick off those silver slippers and tuck in with this wonderful tale!” —Senator Sipes, Lil Book Bug (Palmdale, CA)

Book Info:

Talk about unhappily ever after. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the not-so-charming prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving Dorthea with hair made up of emerald flames and the kingdom in chaos. Her parents and everyone she loves are stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed-off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | Kindle |  Nook

Betsy Schow:

Betsy Schow is the author of the memoir Finished Being Fat, and has been featured on The Today Show and in The Wall Street Journal. She lives in Utah, but travels the country with Color Me Rad 5k, and partners with nonprofits to teach kids creative thinking and how to reach their goals.

Website| Twitter

Excerpt from Spelled:

Most of the crowd had dispersed. The final few stragglers looked at me with the all­ too-common look of fear mixed with trepidation. Pix ’em. They were just servants. It wasn’t like their opinion mattered.

Only one remained, watching me with open curiosity. He looked to be in his late teens or was magically enhanced to appear so. He could have been a hundred for all I knew. I’d never seen him before in my life. He was handsome enough, for a commoner, even in his worn leather pants and cracked work boots. A foreigner, his hair was unruly and dark auburn, which complemented his tanned but dirt-smudged complexion, though the tall, dark stranger vibe was ruined by his piercing pale blue eyes.

Well, I’d had enough of being a sideshow for the day. “If you’re the new gardener, the hedges are overgrown and in need of a trim.” I pointed in the direction of my father. “While you’re there, you can help the king with the wisps.”

The young man’s expression clouded over, but he didn’t move.

I stamped my foot and pointed more forcefully. “Off with you. Courtyard’s that way. Be sure to clean those awful boots before coming back in.”

“Someone told me I’d find a princess of great worth here. One with the strength to be the hero this realm needs.” He stared at me with those unsettling blue eyes. They were cold, like ice water—made me shiver from head to toe. Then his gaze seemed to search even deeper. Finally, he looked through me, like I was nothing.

In brisk steps, he strode across the marble to the courtyard. But before crossing the threshold, he turned back to glare at me with his lip curled ever so slightly. “It seems she was mistaken.”

Just like that, I had been sifted, weighed, and found wanting.

I felt my own lip curl in response. How rude! Who the Grimm was this peasant to judge me? I was wearing a Glenda original. Original! Not some fairy-godmother knockoff worn by those servant girls turned royal. I was a crown princess, for the love of fairy, and no one dismissed me.

Before I could put the boy in his place—down in the dirt, where he belonged—a clatter came from behind, making me nearly jump out of my shoes. I checked and was relieved that Sterling had simply dropped his sword. By the time I looked back, the gardener was gone.

After stowing his blade, Sterling held up his shield, not in defense of the entrance but so he could look at his reflection. “Clearly he’s blind and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

I didn’t ask for Sterling’s opinion, but it made me feel better.

Until he opened his mouth again.

“Worth, pffft. I mean, look around at all the jewels. Your palace has everything you could ever want. Honestly, I don’t know what you’re fussing about. Why would anyone want to leave?”

Because a cage is still a cage, no matter how big or glittering the bars are.

And I would find a way free, no matter the cost.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance at a copy of Spelled!

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

Hinges, Book One: Clockwork City : a steampunk, fantasy fairy tale for all ages.

I recently read and reviewed the Image book, Hinges, Book One: Clockwork City for WhatchaReading, and had to crosslink here. This book is a gorgeously illustrated fantasy that kids, tweens, and teens will love.

Image is blowing my mind with the books they’re coming out with for all-ages. I love a good rated “T” or “M” book as much as the next comic book fan, but when there’s an intelligent, beautiful-looking book available for kids, I am all over it. We all started reading comics when we were kids, and we need to keep finding books that elevate the dialogue and bring them more into the fold. Hinges, Book 1: Clockwork City is one of those books.

Hinges: Book 1 - Clockwork City a modern fairy-tale that belongs on your shelf

A doll named Orio arrives in the city of Cobble. She has to choose a familiar, called an Odd, and it looks like one of the Odds has its eye on her. Bauble, who kinds of reminds me of Stitch from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, makes sure he ends up with Orio – to the displeasure of a few of the people she encounters.

Check out the rest of my review on WhatchaReading!