Posted in picture books

Tales from the TBR: Sterling and Nugget the Dragon by Judd B. Shaw & Marrieta Gal

Sterling and Nugget the Dragon (Sterling the Knight #1), by Judd B. Shaw/Illustrated by Marrieta Gal, (Dec. 2022, Morgan James Kids), $9.95, ISBN: 9781631959356

Ages 4-7

A boy named Sterling believes that he must fell a dragon to become a knight. Nugget is a dragon who has no idea that the villagers nearby are terrified by him. When Sterling heads to Nugget’s cave to slay the beast, he discovers something quite different: Nugget is no fierce, man-eating dragon, but a friendly dragon who’s injured wing is causing him great pain. Morality wins the day as Sterling tends to Nugget’s injury; the two become friends, and decide together to show the villagers that bad reputations aren’t always earned. A story of kindness and compassion, Sterling and Nugget the Dragon is a delightful read for younger children, while teaching them a good message: it’s not always about the dragons you slay, but the dragons you save, that makes one a knight. Cartoon artwork is colorful and cheerful. A good additional addition to collections.

 

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book bundle: Back-to-School Strong

I’m back after a brief staycation! How’s everyone doing? I needed to get some time before my little guy goes back to school, and help get my teen settled for his first week of college. I thought I’d start off my grand return with some books about feelings, emotions, and inner strength as our kids head back to school, so let’s see what we’ve got.

Born to Sparkle : A Story About Achieving Your Dreams, by Megan Bomgaars/Illustrated by Pete Olczyk, (Sept. 2021, Flowerpot Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781486721108

Ages 5-8

Megan Bomgaars, a leading Down syndrome spokesperson, artist, and star of A&E’s reality TV show Born This Way, gave a powerful speech in 2010 called “Don’t Limit Me”, which inspired this book about working hard and finding your sparkle. It is unshakeable in its upbeat tone, filled with inspiring thoughts for readers: “You can sparkle. / There are no limits. / Anything is possible. / Don’t limit yourself”. The important thing here is that Megan Bomgaars follows through and lets readers know that you have to work for it, nothing that “dreams are not like wishes. You can’t just wish upon a star and then wait”, letting readers know that there are no limits but those which we place on ourselves. Colorful illustrations show a cartoony group of jungle animal friends supporting a young lioness who wants to share her sparkle and be a singer. Sparkly endpapers and a glittered texture cover make this an eye-catching, texture-friendly book for young readers, and a great storytime read. Kids starting the new school year could use this wonderful dose of encouragement.

Learn more about Megan Bomgaars by visiting her Instagram page @meganbomgaars.

 

Be Strong, Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Jen Hill, (Aug. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN 9781250221117
Ages 3-6
Tanisha, a young girl of color, faces down the rock-climbing wall at school. Her friend Cayla can easily climb it, but Tanisha struggles doesn’t reach the top. This gets her thinking about strength and what her family says about strength. Different members of her family see strength in different ways, from showing up to help neighbors, speaking up to make changes where you see problems, and never giving up. Tanisha mulls this advice over and decides to be strong: she helps other kids at school, whether with classwork or with feeling lonely; she takes up playing an instrument, and keeps practicing. She also understands that being strong also means accepting a helping hand, because “when I’m not strong enough alone, I can be strong with someone else”. A powerful, eloquent statement for kids to hear, Be Strong is the companion book to Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill’s 2018 book, Be Kind and is an essential for preschool and early classrooms.
Teaching children that strength takes so many forms – including knowing when to ask for help! – is an important and necessary lesson in creating strong, kind future adults. Gouache artwork shows a diverse group of people helping one another: a neighborhood comes together to help families who have lost their homes and lobby for safer streets. Illustrations show that doing the right thing isn’t always the easy decision, as we see Tanisha watch friends play outside as she stays indoors during recess, helping friends with math work. Images like this are so important, because we know that sometimes we’re split in what we want to do versus what we know we should do: it’s honest and affirming to see images like this, and know that Tanisha made the truly selfless decision to show up for what she knows is being kind and strong. Great for starting discussions, Be Strong is a great book for getting the school year off to a strong start.
Be Strong has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster, by Manka Kasha, (Sept. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250618795
Ages 4-7
A Small Knight feels pressured by their parents to be a perfect princess, but that’s not what they see for themselves. They want to go on adventures with their Teddy Bear! Worrying about how to explain this to their parents brings on an Anxiety Monster that follows Small Knight everywhere until the Knight and Teddy realize that they have to save themselves on this one. They set off on a journey and discover that the answer to defeating the Monster lies inside themself.
This is such a good book for kids to see: a nonbinary child lets all children see themselves in Small Knight’s place; the scribbly menacing anxiety monster that only Knight and Teddy can see – and that parents dismiss as imagination or “just part of being a princess” – understands that kids feel unheard or told to just endure some things as “part of childhood”; the understanding that the key to defeating the monster lies with Knight believing in themselves to call out the monster lets kids know that they have all the tools they need to beat their own anxiety monsters, no matter what those forms take. Told as a fairy tale, the watercolor and ink illustrations give us softly colored kings and queens, an adorable knight with a soft blue shirt, helm, and sword, and an anxiety  monster that kids can draw on their own and defeat in any type of class or library exercise. The artwork shows us a young hero on their journey, and it’s a hero that all kids can look up to.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster is a Kids’ Indie Next List Pick.
When I See Red, by Britta Teckentrup, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791374949
Ages 3-5
A beautiful and moving meditation on anger by Britta Teckentrup, When I See Red takes readers through a young girl’s anger from beginning to end. In verse, we view her anger as a storm, untamed; the artwork dramatically whirling and spinning our heroine in the middle of her own emotional storm. She roars at the sea, her anger giving rise to tornadoes and hurricanes; we understand that anger can be a force for confidence as we see her rage propel her above the waves, allowing her to stand tall. When I See Red is about the cleansing power of unbottling rage, using one’s words, not forcing things down where they can hurt us (or unleash our own anxiety monsters!). Beautiful verses weave the girl’s anger into something powerful, propelling her forward, until, anger spent, her “monsters and dragons have disappeared”. Rage as a journey and a tool for moving forward, this is an excellent book to explain the power of positive self-expression for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
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 Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Tween Reads

More holiday shopping ideas!

The days are creeping closer – Hanukkah starts this evening! – but I’ve got your back with more book gift ideas! Read on, and get yourselves to a bookstore, stat.

Where’s Waldo? Destination: Everywhere!, Featuring 12 Classic Scenes by Martin Handford,
(November 2017, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763697266
Good for all ages!

This is a gift that’s perfect for kids who love mazes, puzzles, and those Seek and Find/I Spy books, or older teens and adults who grew up with old school Waldo. Destination: Everywhere! celebrates THIRTY YEARS of Where’s Waldo – pardon me while I go lay down after writing that – and showcases 12 of Waldo’s favorite adventures, plus a brand new challenge to keep us on our toes. This one’s going to my now 14-year old, who plagued me with I Spy books all hours of the day and night, as a toddler and preschooler. And I’m telling the 5 year-old that his big brother can’t wait to find ALL THE WALDOS with him. Muah hah hah.

 

Weird but True! Christmas, by National Geographic Kids
(Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781426328893
Good for readers 6-12

One thing my kids, my library kids, and I have in common is a love of these NatGeo weird facts books. Weird but True! Christmas keeps it real for the holiday season, with full-color photos and crazy factoids like this one: “The town Gävle, Sweden, erects a giant straw goat at Christmas. The Yule Goat has its own social media account.” That social media account is @gavlebocken on Twitter, by the way. You’re welcome. There are 300 facts in here, including Christmas customs from around the world, weird and slightly gross animal facts, and Christmas decorating statistics. Perfect size for a stocking stuffer, and kids can’t get enough of these books.

 

Harry Potter: Magical Film Projects – Quidditch, by Insight Editions,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9587-3
Good for readers 7-10

This is just so cool. Black line drawings from the Harry Potter universe on acetate pages let you create your own reader’s theatre. Shine a flashlight, light bulb, or cell phone light through the window, and project images onto a wall, screen, your little brother or sister, anywhere, to create your own shadow theatre! Short, Quidditch-related scenes from three books in the series (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Half-Blood Prince) are broken out into script format, letting readers become Harry, Oliver Wood, Ron, or Cormac McLaggen. A final panel lets you draw and project your own Quidditch team. Give this book to a Potterhead, along with a dry-erase marker, and get ready for the love.

 

 

History’s Mysteries, by Kitson Jazynka, (Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 9781426328718
Good for readers 9-12

I loved this kind of stuff when I was a kid – okay, I still do.When I was a kid in the ’70s, Dynamite Magazine released these cool guides – digest-sized books – loaded with stories about Amelia Earhart, Anastasia, and other spooky, true stories. I watch Mysteries at the Museum on Travel Channel. I’m a sucker for a good, unsolved mystery; bonus points if it’s creepy. History’s Mysteries is the closest I’ve seen to my beloved Dynamite guides in a long time. Kids will love these quick, fully illustrated case files on a screaming mummy, a 50-foot snake slithering around Africa, missing Irish crown jewels, and more. An interview with archaeologist Chris Fisher gives kids some insight on the exciting – and sometimes, not so thrilling – parts of the job. Stick a calendar, plus a ticket for a local museum exhibit in here and you’re set.

 

Just Joking, by National Geographic Kids,
(Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426328794
Good for readers 6-10

Another home-run with my kids and my library kids. Yes, many of these jokes will make you groan: that’s the POINT. There are crazy facts (rats laugh when they’re tickled), puns that will make you wince, but giggle while you do it, full-color photos, and truly, terribly funny, jokes like this gem: Who did Darth Vader summon when craving ice cream? Storm Scoopers. See? You winced, but you laughed.

 

Knightology, by Dugald A. Steer/Illustrated by Ollie Cuthbertson, Fabio Leone, David Demaret,
(Nov. 2017, Candlewick), $24.99, ISBN: 9780763698485
Good for readers 7-12

The latest entry in Candlewick’s Ology series looks at the knights of old. Legend has it (actually, the publisher’s note says it, but I’m setting a mood here) that two children, while playing, discovered a book set into a mysterious stone. The book appears to be a secret book about knights from Elizabethan times, printed here for readers to read and discover more mysteries within. Beautifully illustrated, with margin notes, flaps and hidden notes throughout, this is a gorgeous gift book about the myths and legends surrounding the burial site of none other than King Arthur.  Put a plush dragon on the wrapped gift and put your feet up.

 

Don’t Wake the Yeti!, by Claire Freedman/Illustrated by Claudia Ranucci,
(Sept. 2017, Albert Whitman), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1690-4
Good for readers 3-7

I didn’t forget about the little ones! What better way to greet the holidays than with the tale of a Yeti who’s just looking for a friend? This rhyming story stars a young girl who finds a Yeti under her bed – but he’s more afraid of her than she is of him! It’s a reader’s guide to the proper care and handling of one’s own Yeti, including details on how to get around that whole Mom finding out business. The illustrations are adorable: the Yeti is hardly a menacing figure; he’s covered in long, white fur, has a goofy, toothy smile, and big, blue eyes. Originally published in the UK, the story has a touch of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to it – see if the little readers catch the rhythm!

 

Away We Grow!: Poems for Baby’s First Year, by Jeremy Eisler,
(March 2017, self-published), $12.99, ISBN: 9780989389075
Good for new parents

This is a sweet stocking stuffer for a mom-to-be or a new mom. There are 32 short poems, all celebrating milestones in a baby’s first year; that first grasp of your finger, that big gummy smile; that first, unimpressive meal: “In my mouth and out again / Down my cheeks and off my chin / I think I’ve had my fill of peas… / Now I would like my bottle please!” They’re simple and sweet, ready to welcome parents and babies on a new adventure together.

And that’s that for now!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Storybook Knight: Great messages on many levels!

storybookThe Storybook Knight, by Helen Docherty/Illustrated by Thomas Docherty (Oct. 2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-3814-8

Recommended for ages 4-8

Bookish Leo would love to sit and read all day, but his parents insist that he must fight – he’s a knight, after all. Saddling up his horse, Ned, with books and sandwiches, Leo heads out into the world to find a dragon in need of taming, and encounters a host of other storybook beasts, all of whom learn that sometimes, a good story is the best diversion of all!

The Storybook Knight is written and illustrated by the same duo that gave us The Snatchabook, now an award-winnign storytime standard. Kids will love the rhyming text and fantastic story of a gentle knight who finds a less violent way to bring peace to a nearby village. There’s a sense of excitement as Leo embarks on his quest, where he proves, time and again, that a good book can remedy most ills. It’s a gentle story that makes for a great bedtime, storytime, or anytime story.

Thomas Docherty’s acrylic inks and watercolors, on hot pressed watercolor paper, provide a real fairy tale look and feel to the artwork, with pastoral scenes and fantastic creatures. I love his griffin (even if he is a bit vain), and the dragon is big, orange-red giant with a heck of a temper. When Leo finally arrives at his destination, he discovers a huge mess, with dragon poop-lined streets that will get the kids giggling even as they cringe at the stinky destruction wrought by the fiery brute. Mr. Docherty has a gift for wonderful facial expressions – we see the grouchy dragon soften immediately, once Leo threatens to toss a book with lots of dragons into the trash unless he cleans up his act. The griffin and troll each start out fierce, but turn into smiling, even preening, gentlemen once presented with a book starring someone like them.

And that’s the final gift that Storybook Knight gives us: it shows readers how wonderful it is to find yourself represented in a book. In its own way, The Storybook Knight is a fantasy championing of the need for diversity in children’s lit. Read this book with your fantasy books – maybe Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great or If I Had a Gryphon – and display books for your community nearby, so kids can find pictures of families that look just like theirs.

Great addition to storytime collections!

Helen Docherty’s author website includes free, downloadable resources that work with many of her books. You can also learn more about school visits and author talks, and find more information about her books.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Humor, Preschool Reads

There’s a Sword in the Stove! But who left it there?

sword1The Sword in the Stove, by Frank W. Dormer (May 2016, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481431675

Recommended for ages 4-8

Harold the Knight runs off to the bathroom as his buddy heads to the kitchen for some dinner. He peeks into the stove, only to find – HOLY HADDOCK! There’s a sword in the stove! Who would put a sword in the stove? The knight and the chef run through questions and scenarios as they uncover more armor hidden in the stove, leading up to an answer that is as hilarious as it is morbid. This lends itself to a wonderfully loud screwball storytime with knights, dragons, and cookery. Bonus points for introducing kids to words like “rapscallion” and phrases like “Holy Haddock!” and “Wobbling Wizards!”

Watercolor cartoony art and a nice large font, with illuminated manuscript-type emphasis on the first letter in each exclamation makes this a fun read-aloud for readers and audiences alike. Make it silly, make it fun!

Frank W. Dormer has an author website where you can take a look at more of his art, check out his Tumblr, and get in touch. Take a look at some more of the art from The Sword in the Stove, below.

 

sword2

 

sword3