Posted in Preschool Reads

Hello, Door gives a fun new twist to a classic tale

Hello, Door, by Alastair Heim/Illustrated by Alisa Coburn, (Jan. 2018, little bee), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0536-9

Recommended for readers 3-7

A wily fox sneaks into an opulent home and starts helping himself to food, furnishings, and valuables, greeting each item as he goes; he’s in for a big surprise once the owners return in this fun retelling of The Three Bears!

Alastair Heim creates a fun, repetitive rhyming story where kids can thrill to the fox’s antics and laugh when he gets caught. I’ve test-run this with my picture book storytime; the kids cackled with every “Hel-LO!”: windows, sinks, sandwiches, drinks, and more; you can have a great time switching up the different ways to greet each item he comes across, making it progressively sillier, leading up to the return of none other than The Three Bears, who exact hilarious retribution. The story reminds me of the funniest Warner Brothers cartoons I loved growing up – parents will get just a big a laugh out of this story as the kids.

Alisa Coburn’s art is vibrant, with fun details for sharp-eyed readers (notice the book in the bedroom). The cover, made up of Georgian doors spelling out the book’s title, is eye-catching and gives us an idea of what’s going to happen: that wily fox is already sneaking around. Hello, Door is going to make a fun read-aloud for your next storytime.

Find out more about Alastair Heim and his books at his author webpage. Enjoy more of Alisa Coburn’s illustration at her webpage.

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

The Dam Keeper: from screen to page

The Dam Keeper, by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, (Sept. 2017, :01First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626724266

Recommended for readers 8-12

A young pig learns from his inventor father how to maintain the dam that keeps their village in Sunrise Valley safe. When Pig’s father disappears, it falls on Pig to keep the dam intact and the village safe. He’s an outcast at school, teased and ridiculed, but he never strays from his task. But a black fog is coming, threatening the Valley and the dam. Pig, with his new friend, Fox, and the reluctant Hippo, come together to answer the threat and discover what’s on the other side of the dam.

Based on the 2015 Oscar-nominated short, The Dam Keeper, this adaptation by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi – cofounders of the animation studio Tonko House – is breathtaking. They manage to give a graphic novel a stunning landscape, where the art comes alive for readers and the empathy for their main character is bottomless. Kondo and Tsutsumi create deep characters with Pig, Fox, and Hippo; one can’t help but fall in love with them and root for them.

You can rent The Dam Keeper online through YouTube and sign up for e-mails at the Tonko House website. It’s a beautiful little film that the graphic novel expands upon and enhances. A definite must-add to collections; I can’t wait to see what happens in Part 2.

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, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Parenting ain’t easy for The Big Bad Fox

big-bad-foxThe Big Bad Fox, by Benjamin Renner, (June 2016, First Second), $15.99, ISBN: 9781626723313

Recommended for ages 7-12

The Fox really isn’t that big or that bad… at least, no one at the barnyard seems to think so. The chickens beat up on him every time he shows his face, and he’s really getting hungry! Together with the Wolf, the two predators hatch a plan: steal some eggs, wait for them to hatch, then eat the chicks while they’re still young and defenseless! Failproof, right? Sure: for the Wolf, anyway; he goads Fox into doing all the work.

The Fox manages to steal some eggs, and sits on them until they hatch, but the unexpected happens when the chicks think he’s their Mommy – and he ends up falling in love with the little ones! Meanwhile, back at the barnyard, Momma Hen is sick and tired of the lazy barnyard dog who’s supposed to be protecting them, so she gathers a group of hens and forms a Fox Extermination Club!

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This is a laugh-out loud, adorable story for intermediate and middle grade readers. Parents will get a kick out of this one, too – Fox learns some real lessons in parenting here: he doesn’t get much sleep, and they’re all over him all the time. We see Fox grow as a parent and a character – he never really had it in him to be a bad guy, after all. This book is straight out of Foghorn Leghorn-era Looney Tunes, and I loved every second of reading it. Benjamin Renner’s watercolors are adorable, giving the characters a soft, cartoony look, with giant google eyes. The wolf is dour and narrrow-eyed, but never too harsh for little ones.

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This one’s great for your humor loving readers, your animal fiction fans, and your graphic novel fans. A definite add to the shelves.

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.

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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.