Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Kicking off 2022 YA with a bang: The Bone Spindle

The Bone Spindle, by Leslie Vedder, (Jan. 2022, Razorbill), $18.99, ISBN: 9780593325827

Ages 12+

This fantasy YA is heavily inspired by Sleeping Beauty, with a touch of Red Riding Hood, and a lot of adventure. Fi – short for Filore – is a treasure hunter with a curse on her head. Actually, it’s on her hand, but it’s a terrible one. Shane is an exiled female warrior who loves fighting and pretty girls. The two unlikely partners end up working together to free a kingdom when Fi pricks her finger on a bone spindle and discovers Briar Rose, the prince whose kingdom is under a sleeping curse until Love’s first kiss awakens him. Briar’s body is asleep, but his magic allows him to appear to Fi, leading her to his kingdom: if she can make it through the perilous thorns and other dangers that await.

The first in a new YA fantasy duology (or trilogy!), The Bone Spindle is a fantasy adventure that flips traditional fairy tales and gender roles, giving readers strong and smart female protagonists and a gentle hero with a mysterious dark side. Fi is afraid to fall in love after a terrible ex left her in a bad spot, but Briar is so awkward and sweet that she wonders what will happen when she finally gets to his kingdom to deliver his kiss. Shane comes from a warrior kingdom, but she’s chosen exile. She loves the heft of her axe and the smile on a pretty girl, but her partnership with Fi means she’ll put herself at risk for a friend. Fantasy readers, LGBTQ+ readers, romance readers, all will find something to love in The Bone Spindle – enjoy spotting the influences as you read.

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

Not all heroines need capes: Blancaflor!

Blancaflor: The Hero with Secret Powers – A Folktale from Latin America, by Nadja Spiegelman/Illustrated by Sergio García Sánchez/Introduction by F. Isabel Campoy, (Sept. 2021, TOON Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943145553

Ages 8-12

I love getting a new TOON Book to review, and I love when simultaneously publish Spanish and English versions, so my Corona families can enjoy them together! Blancaflor is a graphic novel retelling of a Latin American fairy tale. Blancaflor is the daughter of an ogre who’s been playing a long game with a not-so-bright prince who accepts a foolish bet. Blancaflor intervenes on the prince’s behalf, quietly saving the day, while the prince thinks he’s just that lucky. Eisner award nominee Nadja Spiegelman (Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure) and artist Sergio García Sánchez breathe new life into this folk tale, giving it a sense of humor and decidedly feminist spin. It also quietly addresses the “invisible labor of women”, and how we rarely take credit for our accomplishments without being nudged. The colorful story is compulsively readable, and Blancaflor is a heroine we can all cheer for as she outsmarts her father and saves the day for her beloved. A note from Nadja Spiegelman expands on the “Girl as Helper in the Hero’s Flight” story that shows up in many folktales worldwide, and the history of the Blancaflor story in Latin American tales. An intro in the beginning touches on how we update fairy tales for the 21st century and offers ideas for storytellers to create their own tales. This is the kind of graphic novel my library kids need.

Blancaflor has been chosen as one of the New York Times Best Children’s Books of 2021, and has a starred review from The Horn Book. It’s the next installment in the Folktales from Latin America series, available in both Spanish and English editions.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Redlocks and the Three Bears flips fairy tales for fun

Redlocks and the Three Bears, by Claudia Rueda, (Nov. 2021, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452170312

Ages 3-5

Claudia Rueda’s newest story is a sweet, humorous take on Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and that old trope of the Big Bad Wolf. Mama Bear is just about to get the porridge on the table when a knock sounds at the Bear Family’s door: it’s Little Red Riding Hood, and there’s a bear after her! Baby Bear convinces his parents to give Red some shelter; porridge is eaten, chairs get broken, a bed is too soft… but is the Big Bad Wolf really that bad? Redlocks takes a compassionate look at the maligned image of the Big Bad Wolf, who always finds himself in trouble throughout fairy tales, and offers readers some food for thought on how bad reputations can hurt.

The story offers a fun take on the Goldilocks story, with Little Red Riding Hood taking on some of Goldie’s actions in the story; narrated by Baby Bear, we get an empathetic storyteller who just wants to make others feel better. Colored pencil illustrations are soft and use warm colors with expressive characters and gentle movement moving the action forward. Mama’s porridge recipe is part of the back endpapers, and looks like it was written by Baby Bear himself.

A fun cameo from The Three Little Pigs and a twist ending will have readers chuckling, and the easy-to-read, unfussy storytelling is great for a readaloud. Grab your flannels for Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs for this one!

Visit Claudia Rueda’s author website for more of her illustration work and information about her workshops.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Wrong Fairy Tale is a side-splitting new fractured fairy tales series!

Jack and the Three Bears (The Wrong Fairy Tale), by Tracey Turner/Illustrated by Summer Macon, (Jan. 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-161-1

Ages 4-7

Once upon a time, in the Land of Fairy Tales, three bears go out for a walk while they wait for their porridge to cool down. But there’s a giant beanstalk outside, and Baby Bear scampers up to explore! He discovers a castle, and a little boy named Jack, making off with a hen that lays golden eggs and is on the run from a mean giant… but WAIT! The Bears are in THE WRONG FAIRY TALE! Can Jack and the Bears elude the giant, keep the hen, and save themselves, or are they all destined to be Giant Food? Kids will love this new twisted take on two favorite fairy tales – invite them to point out what’s wrong when you start reading! The artwork is loaded with fun little details: the giant’s kitchen has a full shelf of cookbooks, and he’s got some cookies and muffins in the oven, which makes you wonder, when you consider what he normally uses for flour. It turns out, Mama Bear is pretty good with a chainsaw, too. A hoot to read with your fairy tale fans – if you have fans of Josh Funk’s “It’s Not…” series, they’ll love this new series.

 

Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs (The Wrong Fairy Tale), by Tracey Turner/Illustrated by Summer Macon, (Jan. 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-160-4

Ages 4-7

So we just read about the three bears, but where was Goldilocks? Glad you asked! In this adventure, Goldilocks – a cute little blonde girl with wild ponytails and a bear sweater dress and leggings – spots a brick house with a sign out front that says, “Notice to Wolves: GO AWAY”. Well, not being a wolf, she decides to pop in and say hello, and that’s how she meets the Three Pigs, who are hiding in a cupboard from who they think is a wolf. As she digs into the porridge they have out on the table, the three pigs put their heads together and realize that Goldilocks is IN THE WRONG FAIRY TALE – just as the Big Bad Wolf shows up! Well, he can’t blow the brick house down, but he’s going to try and come down that chimney, so Goldilocks grabs some straw left over from one of the other pig’s homes, and uses it to start a fire in the fireplace. Day saved! Cartoony, colorful artwork and frenetically paced storytelling make this too much fun to read, and more fun to listen to. Fractured fairy tales fans will love this.

Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Fairy Tale time! The Tale of the Valiant Ninja Frog

The Tale of the Valiant Ninja Frog, by Alastair Chisholm/Illustrated by Jez Tuya, (Dec. 2020, Kane Miller Books), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-179-6

Ages 4-8

Alastair Chisholm and Jez Tuya are back with another fairy tale! Last year’s The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears was so much fun, the author-illustrator decided to come back for more. This time, Jamie – the boy from The Prince and the Witch… – is on a camping trip with his dad and younger sister, Abby, and it’s time to tell a story by the fire. The Prince, the Witch, the Thief, and the Bears return, along with Barry, a thumb-sized ninja frog that the Witch keeps safely tucked away. But Abby doesn’t think it’s fair to Barry to miss out on all the action, so she takes control of the storytelling and lets Barry the Ninja Frog have a grand adventure! The storytelling is such fun, and like The Prince and the Witch…, the kids steer the plot of the story with hilarious results. The story has an empowering message for kids and adults alike: don’t discount the little one. And the ending? Well, let’s just say I’ll be waiting to hear from these two again in about a year… Digital artwork is colorful and cartoony, and kids familiar with the characters will be delighted to see them in action again. Put together a great fractured fairy tales display with the two Chisholm/Tuya books and the Josh Funk It’s Not… series and let your kiddos go wild, telling you their own stories.

 

Posted in picture books

Delightfully Different Fairy Tales put a modern spin on the classics

Delightfully Different Fairy Tales, by David Roberts & Lynn Roberts-Maloney, (Oct. 2020 Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1843654759

Ages 4-7

Illustrator siblings David Roberts and Lynn Roberts-Maloney have come together to put a modern, vintage spin on three classics fairy tales: Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty. Each is set in a different 20th century (give or take…): Cinderella takes place in the Roaring ’20s, Rapunzel, in the 1970s, and Sleeping Beauty, in the 1950s and beyond. The storytelling incorporates moments from each time frame, and the art – THE ART! – is filled with nods to each decade. Cinderella’s evil stepmother and stepsisters have cloches and Louise Brooks-like bobbed hair; the dressing gowns are fabulously glamourous and the headdresses are incredible. Rapunzel has that long, flower child straight hair that was so popular in the 1970s, spins David Bowie’s iconic Aladdin Sane album on her turntable and has Saturday Night Fever, Abba, and Elton John posters on her wall. Her Prince Charming is in a band called Roger and the Rascals, and he sports platform shoes of his own. Sleeping Beauty has a decidedly modern spin as Annabel, our Beauty, comes of age in the mid-20th century, pricks her finger on a turntable needle and falls into a deep sleep; her aunt turns Annabel into a rose and herself into a light, that she may shine on her through her slumber. When a young girl browses the story of Sleeping Beauty one thousand years later, she’s convinced it’s a true story, awakens Annabel, and introduces her to the sci-fi world Annabel dreamed of as a child. The artwork is gorgeous; it has a Tim Burton-meets-The Questioneers type of style that’s playful and fun to read. (Note: David Roberts is the illustrator of the Questioneers series!) Give your fairy tale fans a dose of nostalgia – or introduce them to the 20th Century – with this volume.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

A CYBILS graphic novel rundown

I know, being on the CYBILS first round, I can’t give TOO much away about graphic novels I’m reading, but I did have these on my TBR before I was nominated to judge, so… I’ll just talk them up a wee bit. To whet your appetite for what’s coming.

Softies: Stuff That Happens After the World Blows Up, by Kyle Smeallie, (Oct. 2020, Iron Circus Comics), $15, ISBN: 9781945820489

Ages 10-14

This is sort of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with a dose of stuffed animals tossed in for good measure. Earth blows up: kablooey, just like that. But there’s a survivor! Kay, a thirteen-year-old girl, is floating around in space when she’s rescued by Arizona, an alien space-junk collector, and his cybernetic pet Euclid. Arizona looks like a cuddly pink space stuffie that you’d find on the shelves in Target, and Euclid would definitely have his own action figure. There are laughs to be had, especially when Kay explains where she’s from, time and again, to blank faces – we’re not that well-known in the universe after all – and the levels of bureacracy that pop up time and again, as the new friends make their way through space. Softies is comprised of short stories, put together into one volume. The artwork is cartoony and very kid-friendly; the material is probably better suited for higher middle grade to middle school. There are some chuckleworthy moments and some sweet moments as Arizona and Kay try to figure things out together in this new relationship they’re forging. The storytelling has some lags, but overall, kids will get a kick out of it. Good to have for those tough-to-pin-down middle school collections.

 

The Magic Fish, by Trung Le Nguyen, (Oct. 2020 Random House Graphic), $23.99, ISBN: 9780593125298

Ages 12+

Told in parallel narratives between fairy tales and real life, The Magic Fish is the story of Tiến, a Vietnamese teen who loves his family but lives with a secret that he fears will change things. He’s gay, and doesn’t quite know how to come out to them. He shares stories with his parents, particularly his mother, and we can see the story within the story here: each is about suffering, and eventually, rising above difficult circumstances, which mirrors not only Tiến’s life, but his mother’s escape from Vietnam to America and her longing to be with her mother. The artwork itself is breathtaking; the fairy tale scenes are incredible, dreamlike; Tiến’s reality is realistically drawn with fleshed-out characters and expressive body language. Sensitive, beautifully drawn, and perfect for teen collections. The Magic Fish has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and is an Indie Next pick.

Witches of Brooklyn, by Sophie Escabasse, (Sept. 2020, Random House Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593119273
Ages 8-12
I LOVED this magical story! Effie is a kid whose mom has passed away, and she’s brought to Brooklyn to live with her aunt, Selimene; a woman she’s never met before. Selimene and her partner, Carlota, are two “herbalists” who just seem plain weird to Effie, until she discovers that the two women are… shhhh… witches. Good witches, to be sure, but witches! And shortly after arriving, Effie discovers her hands start glowing and that she’s a witch, too! Could this day get better? You bet – she makes two great friends in school, and when she arrives home, discovers that her favorite pop star, Tily Shoo, is in her house in need of Selimene and Carlota’s help. Everything is fun about Witches of Brooklyn, which also has wonderful storytelling and statements about family. Great artwork, great character development and storytelling, and  – let’s hope – more to come. Give this to your Lumberjanes readers and while you’re at it, hand them a copy of Emma Steinkellner’s graphic novel, The Okay Witch.
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, by Maggie Stiefvater/Illustrated by Morgan Beem, (Oct. 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401293239
Ages 12+
Twin brothers Alec and Walker Holland are sent off to spend their last summer before college with their rural cousins after catching their father having an affair. Alec, the studious one, buries himself in a lab where he continues working on a project that takes everything in him – a bit literally – to keep going, while Walker hits the social scene. The two brothers find themselves diverging this summer, with tensions and memories forcing their way between the two. And the swamp… well, that’s just waiting for someone, isn’t it? Maggie Stiefvater is an amazing YA writer, and Morgan Beem has a nice list of comics illustration to her credit. She creates an eerie atmosphere with her green and murky artwork, giving Maggie Stiefvater’s creepy storytelling a wonderfully oogie vibe. I’ll be honest, the story dipped for me a few times when Alec gets caught up in his botany discussions, but the overall storytelling is strong and macabre; very American Gothic.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, by Josh Funk

Josh Funk returns with the latest in his It’s Not A Fairy Tale series with a sassy little girl who’s one step ahead of the narrator. Get ready, friends, because…

It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, by Josh Funk/Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor,
(10/2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542006668
Ages 4-7

Little Red is a little girl who lives with her family in a little cottage in the woods, so when the Narrator shows up and starts telling her to put on a red cape and go visit her sick grandmother in the woods, she’s got questions. Lots and lots of questions: why is the Narrator sending a little girl with a giant basket into the woods all alone? Why does she have to wear red? And why does she have to walk, when she usually takes a carriage? Regardless, she listens to the narrator and heads off to Grandma’s, in spite of being concerned about the Narrator’s willingness to keep putting her in danger, and meeting an amusing, if unexpected, cast of characters. The story of Red Riding Hood is turned on its head as the Narrator becomes flustered and Red keeps pointing out big problems in the story.

With different fonts to denote different speakers (Narrator in conversation mode versus Narrator in story narration mode, plus word balloons for character dialogue), expressive sounds and snappy back and forth banter between characters, the laughs come fast and frequent for readers here. Edwardian Taylor’s artwork is hilarious fun, loaded with little extras, exaggerated expressions, and fairy tale cameos aplenty.

The This is Not a Fairy Tale series is just too much fun, and a welcome addition to fractured fairy tale collections. The kids in my library love them – especially when I give Narrators and characters different, increasingly manic voices. You can’t read these with a serious voice, and that is a good, good thing. Let yourself be as silly as you want to be – your littles will appreciate it.

 

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s do it. I’ve got a great giveaway thanks to Two Lions/Amazon Publishing.

Two Lions is offering all three books in the It’s Not a Fairytale series–It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood  to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses only, please). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

 

Like the characters in his books, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go—so he writes his own. He is the author of many popular picture books, including the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor. He lives in New England with his family. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com.

 

Twitter @joshfunkbooks

Instagram: @joshfunkbooks

 

Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator of multiple children’s books, including Race!, written by Sue Fliess; the Toy Academy chapter books, written by Brian Lynch; and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, written by Josh Funk. He lives in Texas with his partner and their four dogs. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com.

Twitter: @edwardiantaylor

Instagram: edwardiantaylor

Tumblr: Edwardian Taylor

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Bo the Brave knows that monsters aren’t always that easy to spot

Bo the Brave, by Bethan Woollvin, (Apr. 2020, Peachtree Publishers), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-182-9

Ages 3-7

Any day I get to talk about a new Bethan Woollvin book is a good day. She creates fairy-tale heroines that upend all existing conventions, whether it’s the witch getting the goods on bratty Hansel and Gretel, or Little Red Riding Hood saving the day on her own. Her new book, Bo the Brave. stars another young girl who teaches readers that monsters aren’t always fairy tale creatures – they’re much closer.

Bo is a young girl who wants to be a monster hunter like her brothers. When they tell her she’s too little, so she strikes out on her own. On her travels, she meets a griffin, a kraken, and a dragon, all of whom seem much nicer, and certainly more helpful, than she’s been led to believe. In fact, the dragon is a mother, grieving because her baby’s been kidnapped by monster hunters! Bo, pretty sure she knows exactly who the culprits are, leads her new friends to the rescue: while delivering a stern lecture to her brothers. Bo the Brave has learned that rumors and hearsay are deceiving and can lead to a lot of misunderstanding and heartache. In this story, it’s her brothers that “were certainly acting like monsters”, not the griffin, the kraken, or the dragons!

That’s the best part of Bethan Woollvin’s storytelling. She takes a look at who the real monsters are, like Hansel and Gretel; she has heroines who save themselves – they have no time to deal with that whole helpless girl foolishness – like Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. Bethan Woollvin’s heroines have no time to waste, waiting for someone to rescue them and no patience to follow someone who doesn’t value them for who they are. They’re out there on their own, using their brains and their own common sense to save the day, and teach some valuable lessons.

The endpapers illustrated Bo the Brave’s evolution, too: the front endpapers are a map, pre-journey, where Bo notes where the “horrid forest monsters”, “scary cave beasts”, and “slimy sea monsters” are, along with her “stinky brothers’. The back endpapers are edited to show that her “stinky brothers” are actually her “monster brothers”, and each of the new friends she’s made have their rightful names noted on the map.

Bo the Brave has a starred review from School Library Journal, and is essential reading.

Posted in Fantasy, picture books, Preschool Reads

The Great 2019 Read-Down: Fairy Tales

I love a good fairy tale, and the end of 2019 brought some fun new ones. Here are two of them.

If the Shoe Fits…, by Deborah Guarino/Illustrated by Seth Hippen, (Nov. 2019, Schiffer Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764358432

Ages 5-8

This fun take on Cinderella is the story of Murray, a humble shoemaker who meets a fairy godmother on a very special night. The fairy godmother’s out of magic, and needs some help in the form of a pair of shoes, so her poor godchild could make it to the royal ball. But Murrays clerk, Mona, has designs on being a royal bride herself, and when word gets out that the prince is trying to track down the mysterious woman who left her shoe behind at the ball, she begs Murray to make a shoe in her size, so she can make the big switch and land her prince. Murray, who’s desperately in love with Mona, complies, even though it breaks his heart, but never fear – the fairy godmother isn’t letting anyone take the day away from her godchild!

Told in rhyme, with a sweet Happily Ever After for everyone, is an adorable fractured fairy tale that kids will enjoy and get a good laugh from. The characters are goofy and kind, and the rhyme cadence is instantly familiar once you start reading, letting you fall right into the storytelling. Animator Seth Hippen’s art is cartoony and exaggerated, and loads of fun to look at as you read this progressively crazier fairy tale. Fractured fairy tale lovers will get a big kick out of this.

 

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears, by Alastair Chisholm/Illustrated by Jez Tuya, (June 2019, Kane Miller Books), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-849-0

Ages 4-8

This book is a RIOT. It’s a fairy tale with The Princess Bride-type humor and takes on fairy tale tropes with delight. A child named Jamie gets ready for bed, and Dad sits down to tell a bedtime story to Jamie’s liking. What we get is a laugh-out loud story of a prince who sets out to rescue a princess – who doesn’t need rescuing, THANK YOU VERY MUCH – and a witch who can turn things to stone or jello, and hideous broccoli castles. Jamie has opinions throughout Dad’s story, which changes events in the telling, and ends with a drowsy kiss goodnight and the promise of more stories to come. My second grader loves the Interrupting Chicken books, and had a ball reading this one with me.

Jez Tuya’s digital artwork adds so much fun and color to this fun, colorful story! Big, expressive eyes, little nuances like the story’s characters showing up as toys in Jamie’s room, and wink/nudge moments throughout the storytelling make this artwork and story a great marriage.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears is officially one of my bedtime go-tos, and I’m eyeing it for a potential stuffed animal sleepover kickoff in 2020.