Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Fairy tale meets the half pipe: Beauty and Bernice

Beauty and Bernice, by Nancy Viau, (Sept. 2018, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764355806

Ages 8-12

I continue my quest to read down my TBR and feature great backlist for your readers advisory and your booklists. This time out, I’ve got another Nancy Viau book, Beauty and Bernice. Twelve-year-old Bernice Baransky is a skater girl. She’s a grunge-loving whiz on a skateboard, on the verge of middle school, and she’s got a crush on fellow skater Wyatt – not that she can do anything other than nod when he calls her “Dude”. Enter Odelia, a new transplant to the neighborhood, who appears dressed in princess gowns and decides to make Bernice her new best friend and project. She’s determined to teach Bernice her guide to the “Social Graces”, with lessons on hygiene, posture, and manners, and Bernice reluctantly goes along for the ride, teaching Odelia that she can let loose a little, herself. Both spend a summer learning about one another while volunteering with Smile Academy, a summer camp for children with Down syndrome. A kind story that brings a little everyday magic to realistic fiction, this has some surprises that will make readers smile. The subplot with the girls volunteering – and encouraging their friends to help – with the Smile Academy gives nice depth to the characters and allows for Bernice’s character growth.  If you have skater fans, sell the detailed discussions on skateboarding.

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

Space Opera: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, by K. Eason, (Oct. 2019, DAW), $26, ISBN: 978-0-7564-1529-7

Ages 14+

The first in a duology, How Rory Thorne Broke the Universe starts out with a hard fairy tale line: the new princess is born to the Thorne family line, and fairies come to bestow gifts on her. One fairy is pretty teed off that her invitation… got lost in the mail, let’s say, but there’s no spindle and no curse here. She bestows a dubious gift on the princess; the gift to see through lies of flattery and kiss-uppance. Rory is the first female baby to be born to the Thorne line for a while, so her birth throws things into a bit of a tizzy; it’s a tizzy that’s even more stirred up when a terrorist attack kills her father and the king of a neighboring planetary federation. Her mother gives birth to a male Thorne heir around the same time, which gives us an antagonist to watch out for in the next book.

Rory’s betrothed to the prince of the neighboring federation, and sent to live there while she waits to turn 18 and become his wife. Meanwhile, the Regent –  not her betrothed’s mother, since she also managed to get killed off – is a sleazy minister with his own power game at play. Rory, her body-maid (a badass half-cyborg named Grytt), her Vizier, Rupert, and two guards under Grytt, Thorsdottir and Zhang, keep an eye on things, because the Regent is up to no good. When the Vizier is arrested after trying to poke around and find out the Regent’s deal, Rory takes over and discovers a plot that will have major consequences for Rory, her family, and their corner of the universe. She enters her own Game of Thrones to outwit, outplay, and outlast the Regent.

Rory Thorne is a great character. She’s a smart, savvy teen princess who is ready to defend herself and throw down with anyone who gets in her way. But the book falls a little flat for me. There’s a great deal of worldbuilding, but tends to drone on at points and left me putting down the book to find something else to pique my interest between chapters. Is it YA? It’s definitely YA crossover material. Nothing too violent or overt for teen audiences, but it may not hold your usual readers’ attention. Talk this up with your space opera readers.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

August Picture Book Rundown

Loretta’s Gift, by Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Alea Marley, (Aug. 2018, little bee books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1499806816

Recommended for readers 4-8

Loretta is a little girl who’s so excited when she learns that her aunt and uncle are having a baby! Everyone is busy getting ready for the baby; making things, buying things, preparing a room, but try as she might, Loretta can’t seem to make the perfect gift. When Baby Gabe is born, Loretta feeds with him and plays with him; she adores him and he has the biggest smiles for her. At Gabe’s first birthday party, Loretta is sad that she doesn’t have a gift for him yet, but when he falls and hurts himself, Loretta knows just what to do. Turns out, love is the best gift of all.

This gentle story is a sweet way to show kids that the best gifts aren’t bought; they’re already with us. Loretta’s capacity to love Gabe, to make him smile and laugh, and to comfort him, is a gift that means more to him than any toy that will break or be forgotten. The story delivers this message in the most loving of ways, while showing readers about the exciting preparations made for a new baby: the room decorating, the knitting, the collection of family photos, even wrestling with putting together the crib. Getting ready to welcome Gabe involves the whole family. Loretta’s parents makes the wonderful statement that “Babies are a celebration… of love. Of Life. Of hope”, and Loretta’s first response is to look at her aunt’s belly and wonder if all of that and a baby could fit in one belly? It’s an adorable and perfectly childlike reaction.

The artwork is warm, with earthy shades of green, orange, and muted, darker colors; there are some great textured patterns that make me think there may be some collage here. The illustrations give a comfortable, close feel to the story.

Loretta’s Gift is a nice addition to New Baby collections, and a good big brother/sister/relative gift idea.

 

How to Cook a Princess, by Ana Martinez Castillo/Illustrated by Laura Liz, Translated by Ben Dawlatly (Aug. 2018, nubeOCHO), $16.96, ISBN: 9788494692642

Recommended for ages 7-10

Dark fantasy fans with a morbid sense of humor, this one’s for you. No handsome princes are saving the day here: he’s likely to end up in a stew or as a side dish (with frog legs, to be precise). Gingrich the witch is famous for her recipes, and she dishes all here, where she cooks up the best of fairytale royalty. You’ll learn what kitchen utensils are best (a cage should have 12 padlocks and 2 chains, to prevent sneaky princesses from escaping) and how to trap a princess; there are recipes, like the Snow White Stew, which also gives a shout-out to the dwarves for their skill in rearing organic, free-range princess; and there are tasty treats, like little pigs, fairy godmothers, Puss in Boots, and, yes, Prince Charmings. It goes without saying that this hilarious book is best served with a side of tongue in cheek. The pencil artwork is loaded with gasps from horrified – or, really, more very annoyed – princesses and dark shades. This is a book of fairy tales for kids who don’t think they like fairy tales. Booktalk this one with The Lunch Witch graphic novels. How to Cook a Princess was originally released in Spanish in 2017.

 

A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade/Illustrated by Melanie Demmer, (Aug. 2018, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Ages 5-8

Pluto is a happy little planet; he’s one of the famous Nine and life’s all good until the day the news breaks: he’s not a planet anymore. He’s confused and sad, and wanders around the universe trying to figure out where he fits in: can he be a comet, like his buddy, Haley? How about a meteoroid or an asteroid? Just when Pluto doesn’t think he fits in anywhere, he meets a whole new group of friends who are just like him: the dwarf planets! This book is just adorable, and it’s my son’s favorite of the BookExpo 2018 haul. It’s a smart approach to explaining Pluto’s history to readers, with a timeline (1930 – Pluto’s a planet! 2006 – Nope, it’s not!) and information on what makes Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea dwarf planets, as opposed to part of the Big Nine. With an upbeat messages about identity, acceptance, and friendship, and adorable artwork, this is a must-add to your planet books. (We sing They Might Be Giants’ “How Many Planets?” planet song – modified to include all the dwarf planets, Haley’s comet, and a few galaxies – at home, after reading this one.)

 

 

The Truth About Dinosaurs, by Guido van Genechten, (Aug. 2018, Clavis Publishing), $18.95, ISBN: 978-1-60537-423-9

Ages 5-10

A chicken walks readers through its family history to prove that they are descended from dinosaurs. Family resemblances include has similar feet and feathers, in addition to that whole egg-hatching business. Presented as a family album, The Truth About Dinosaurs is a fun introduction to dino science for readers, with an accessible illustration of evolution from dinosaur to modern-day birds, and ends with the chicken hatching a rather large dino egg. Guido van Genecthen uses earth tones and his cartoony look to make non-threatening dinosaurs, and the green chicken is an amusing host to the book. The scrapbook features BC dates when showing off the “family photos” throughout history, and each dinosaur’s weight appears on tags that look like amusement part tickets. It’s a cute, additional add for your dino collections.

 

Maximillian Villainous, by Margaret Chiu Greanias/Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, (Aug. 2018, Running Press Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780762462971

Ages 5-8

Poor Maximillian Villainous! He’s from a long line of villainous monsters, but he doesn’t have it in him to be mean. He always finds a way to make up for things his family does, like giving Santa Claus the keys to the family car when his father stole Santa’s sleigh, or sending Mother Nature to a spa when his mother stole her powers. But when his family threatens to get rid of his pet bunny – it’s not a suitably villainous sidekick – he promises to succeed at three evil tasks to make things right. He’s got to steal something; make someone cry, and gain fame by being devious. What his family doesn’t realize is how open to interpretation that is! Maximillian Villainous is a sweet story about being true to oneself, accepting who you are – even if that’s different from how those around you think you should be – and the wonderful power of kind acts. The storytelling is light and plays with interpretation, and the artwork reminds me of Richard Scarry’s bold colors and big facial expressions. Pair this one with Mo Willems’ Leonardo the Terrible Monster for some monsters that aren’t really very monstrous.

 

That’s a taste of what August has in store. What books are you excited for?

Posted in Toddler Reads

First Stories bring toddlers into fairy tale fun!

Author Dan Taylor and publisher Silver Dolphin Books have debuted the cutest interactive board books to introduce toddlers to some of the most popular, beloved fairy tales:

Beauty and the Beast, $8.99, ISBN: 978-1626868977

Belle the Beauty becomes the Beast’s “guest” in place of her father, where she eventually sees past his beastly exterior (see what I did there?), he throws her a lovely feast, and they fall in love, breaking the curse and letting him because a handsome prince again.

 

Cinderella, $8.99, ISBN: 978-1626868984

Cinderella is treated horribly by her horrible stepsisters, but her Fairy Godmother steps in and declares that she shall go to the ball! She runs off at the stroke of midnight and forgets her shoe, but the handsome prince tracks her down. Try as her stepsisters might, they can’t get the shoe on, but it’s a perfect fit for Cinderella!

 

Rapunzel, $8.99, ISBN: 978-1626869004

A handsome prince sees poor Rapunzel trapped in a tower by a mean old witch who uses Rapunzel’s hair to get up and down the walls. When the prince tries to climb up to meet her, the witch snips Rapunzel’s hair, sending him flying over the edge! It’s okay, though – Rapunzel and the prince get their happily ever after at the end

Each book is only about 10 pages (and that includes front and back covers), and the pages are sturdy – they’ll hold up to multiple readings, which is a good thing, because each page has something fun for little hands to explore: slide Cinderella away to her pumpkin coach before midnight, scroll through the delightful food offerings Beast offers Beauty at dinner time, or help the prince and Rapunzel reunite at the end of the story! The art is very sweet and bright. The books are loaded with fun things to do and see, a perfect introduction to fairy tales for storytime for boys and girls alike.

 

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

An overscheduled princess takes a day off: Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Princess Cora and the Crocodile, by Laura Amy Schlitz/Illustrated by Brian Floca, (March 2017, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-4822-0

Recommended for readers 4-8

A king and queen have a baby that they coo and marvel over – until they realize that she’s clearly not ready to run an entire kingdom. From that moment on, Princess Cora’s life is a nonstop schedule of lessons, physical training, and nonstop bathing (seriously, her nanny’s got a bit of a complex). Cora writes to her fairy godmother in desperation, and the response, while not necessarily what Cora expected, is exactly what she needs. A crocodile shows up to take Cora’s place for a day; while Cora takes a day off to enjoy being a kid, the crocodile sets to teaching the king, queen, and nanny a thing or two.

Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz and Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca have joined their considerable forces to create a book that parents need to read (cough, cough, and education administrators, cough, cough) as much as their children do. Princess Cora and the Crocodile is all about the stresses our kids face today: the lack of time to enjoy being a kid, doing kid things. The king and queen are so stressed out about what Cora’s not ready for, they strip the joy not only from Cora’s childhood, but rob themselves of the chance to enjoy watching Cora grow up; of playing on the floor with her as an infant, climbing trees and running around their considerable lands with her, of reveling in the carefree fun that parents should embrace.

When Cora’s fairy godmother sends a crocodile to her family, the croc immediately – if a bit roughly – sets to whipping Cora’s family into shape, with hilarious results. While the croc wreaks havoc at home, Cora spends the day picking strawberries, climbing trees, even stepping in a cow pie, and enjoying every moment of it. Every. Unscheduled. Moment. Brian Floca’s ink, watercoor, and gouache artwork is fun, hilarious, and every bit as free and joyful as the story’s text.

Image courtesy of Brian Floca

Parents, read this one. Please. It’s as much for us as it is for our kids. Schlitz and Floca created this fairy tale to let kids know that it’s okay to be a kid, but the message here is for us adults, because we’re the ones who can make the changes kids need to be happy – to be kids – again.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Illustrator Brian Floca has a fantastic webpage, with lots of online extras, information about school visits, and upcoming events.

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

And they lived happily ever after…

princess-princessPrincess Princess Ever After, by Katie O’Neill, (Sept. 2016, Oni Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781620103401

Recommended for ages 9-13

Princess Sadie is so over the princes and their lame rescue attempts that she quietly sabotages her own rescues – that is, until Princess Amira happens along. Mohawked and determined to strike out on her own, in no mood to settle down to standard princess life herself, Amira frees Sadie and gives her self-esteem a much-needed boost. Joining forces, the two princesses face a jealous sorceress who has a very personal grudge with Sadie, and discover that they can create their own happily ever after, no princes necessary.

I adore this story. It has so many empowering messages, I want to hand copies of them out to every kid I see, every classroom I visit. It’s a story of doing it yourself; of self-esteem and loving yourself; of the freedom to love. The cartoon art is bright, happy, and even includes the cutest little dragon to fall in love with, because at heart, this is a princess story. It’s soft and feminine while delivering a strong, gorgeous message. Display and booktalk this with the Princeless and Lumberjanes series of comics and trade paperbacks – and read them yourself! They’re fantastic!

princess_1princess_2

This book has received a lot of buzz, including a lovely Lambda Literary review and a 2016 Best Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels nomination from the CYBILS. It was also awarded best book/graphic novel and shortlisted for best overall comic in the first annual Autostraddle Comic and Sequential Art Awards. Visit Katie O’Neill’s website to see and read more about her work.

This is an important book to have in your collections, and an adorable fantasy tale on top of it. Why wouldn’t you want a one-two winner like this?

princess_3princess_4

Art courtesy of StrangelyKatie.com

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Preschool Reads

Disney Princess: Dream Big is a hit!

Back in July, I had a cover reveal for one of the latest books in the Put Me in the Story series, Disney Princess: Dream Big! I’m really excited, because I just received my copy in the mail, and it’s a beauty.

dream-big

Since I’d gotten softcover copies of the NatGeo books for my son back in June, I decided to check out the hardcover for my niece, who is just discovering Disney Princesses. I’m thrilled with the quality of the book! It’s a gorgeous, sturdy hardcover with quality pages that will stand up to repeated readings.

Dream Big puts readers on a mission: visit each Princess in the book; discover their dream; and check off the Princess’s name on the back of a passport that’s included in the book. You can cut out the passport – treat the book like a journal!

There are 11 Princesses in all to visit, from Ariel to Tiana. Each spread spotlights one Princess, gives a little bio on the Princess, and ends with a mention of the Princess’s dream, and an invitation to the reader to share her/his dream, too. For instance, Belle loves her books, and each one takes her on a new adventure. There’s a list of Belle’s favorite book genres, and a space for your reader to list her favorite books.

20160929_192411

The art is beautiful, colorful, and inviting. Kids are engaged by the direct invitation to connect through the text and activities in the book.

20160929_192359

20160929_192348

A final spread sums up the Princesses’ strengths and dreams, and asks readers to connect the Princess with her big dream. Readers are also invited to write or draw their own special dreams and how to make them come true. It’s a fun way to capture a moment in time that kids will look back on and smile at one day. Think of it as bullet journaling for the preschool set.

20160929_192424

As with all Put Me in the Story books, you upload pictures of your little one and give the site the name you’d like to use; they will generate a story featuring your little one that becomes a keepsake. Dream Big is a great gift, and I can’t wait to give this to my little Princess. You can get your own copy of Dream Big at the Put Me in the Story site, and seriously, look around the site; they have some great books, both fiction and non-fiction, that kids will love.

Full disclosure, I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review. But I plan on adding a few Put Me in the Story books to my Christmas shopping list, because I love them and think they’re beautifully done.

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Preschool Reads

The Seven Princesses: A fairy tale about sisters and your own space

seven princessesThe Seven Princesses, by Smiljana Coh (May 2017, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9780762458318

Recommended for ages 4-8

Once upon a time, there were seven princesses, all with diverse interests, who did everything together. But one day, they had the biggest fight in the entire history of princess fighting, and they all decided to build their own towers and be on their own. But that wasn’t the answer, either; the princesses really missed one another. What’s a princess to do?

Smiljana Coh’s book about sibling rivalry is a great story for preschoolers to early school-age kids, because it gets to the heart of sibling arguments: sibings are largely together day and all night, and space eventually gets tight, no matter what the living situation. Arguments are bound to happen; kids are all too quick to say things like, “I never want to see you AGAIN!”, but eventually, love wins out, and things get smoothed over. She also captures the feeling everyone around kids feel when there’s sibling unrest: the palette goes from soothing, happy pastels to washed out, sad, sepia-toned art, and she addresses how painful the sound of silence can be. When the princesses reunite, there’s joy in the kingdom again!

I also love that the princesses are such great girl-power figures for younger readers: the multi-ethnic princesses are interested in math, building, music, fashion design, gardening, animals, swimming, and the arts; one princess creates the blueprint for a grand castle layout. The royal parents show up in the beginning and end of the book; other than looking lovingly at one another and their kids, there’s not much of a role here, except to show a beautifully diverse family.

I can’t wait to put this into storytime rotation, especially since princess books are aces with my crowd. I’d spotlight this with both Kate Beaton’s Princess and the Pony and Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer; let girls see how amazing they are with these fun and fabulous role models.

Smiljana Coh is a Croatian author and illustrator. You can follow her on Facebook or check out her author website for more information.

Follow the Seven Princesses blog tour!

5/18 Anastasia Suen

5/20 Kid Lit Frenzy  

5/21 Mom Read It

5/23 Reading Through Life

5/24 Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Teen

Cover Reveal: Charmed! (Fairy Tale Reform School #2)

Last year, Jen Calonita introduced us to Fairy Tale Reform School with her first book, Flunked. This year, Gilly and her friends are back for more with Charmed! Read on for an excerpt and your chance to win an advanced reader copy of your own!

cover75608-mediumFairy Tale Reform School: Charmed

Author: Jen Calonita

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Publishers: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

About Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:

Charmed is the exciting sequel to the wildly popular Flunked — second in the brand new Fairy Tale Reform School series where the teachers are (former) villains.

It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun.

Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her.  As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom.

Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…

About Jen Calonita:

Jen Calonita has published more than a dozen novels, has seen her works translated into nine languages, and is the recipient of the Louisiana Young Readers Award. When Jen isn’t plotting, she lives in New York with her husband, two sons, and their feisty Chihuahua, Captain Jack Sparrow. Visit Jen at jencalonitaonline.com.

Website

@JenCalonita

Fairy Tale Reform School Facebook

Excerpt from Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:

Miri’s voice crackles through the magic mirrors in Fairy Tale Reform School. “Let the first annual Wand What You Want hour begin!”

Wands begin popping up in kids’ hands as we walk through the halls, and we all cheer. Pop! My wand arrives in my hand—long, dark-gray, and nicked like it’s seen a few battles. Hmm…what to try first… I’m just about to test the wand out, when I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Instinct tells me to dive out of the way. When I look up, I see a classmate spelling the troll next to her. The girl turns into an ice sculpture. Geez, that was close. I better stay alert.

Pop! Pop! Pop! Kids begin casting all around me. The crowded hallway is suddenly full of talking woodland creatures, toads, fireworks, and a pretty impressive cloud raining licorice. Kids are cheering and fighting, and the sound of all those wands working is enough to give me a headache. I hurry away from the spell zapping, looking for somewhere to practice alone.

Slurp!

The chaotic hallway disappears behind me, and a new empty hall arrives in its place. I happen to know this hall leads to the school courtyard so I hurry down it and head outside. Ahhh…this is more like it. The warm sun is shining bright high above the castle walls, making me wistful for adventure. I can never sit still for long.

“Pardon the interruption! We hope you are enjoying your wand experience, but remember, all wands disappear at the hour mark so choose your magic wisely,” Miri says. I’m relieved to find no mirror in the courtyard, which means she can’t see what I’m up to. That magic mirror is forever tattling on students for bad behavior. “As a reminder, flying is not advised.”

“Not advised, but she didn’t say it was against the rules,” I say to myself. I flick the wand over my stuffy, uncomfortable pale-blue uniform and turn it into a comfy peasant shirt and pants. I swap out my ugly school shoes for my beloved lace-up boots. Now that I’m comfortable, I get to the task at hand. I’m sure an actual spell would work better, but since I don’t know one, I just imagine myself flying, and Bam! I’m slowly floating up, up, up in the air. Score!

A Pegasus flies by me pulling a coach with four students in it.

Hi, Gilly!” they shout and wave.

When you save your school from a wicked fairy, people tend to remember your name. Even if you don’t remember theirs.

“Hi!” I say, lying back like I’m floating on a cloud. Wow, this is relaxing. I stretch my arms wide and—oops!

My wand falls from my grasp. Uh-oh. I begin to plummet, spinning faster and faster with no sign of stopping. Before I can even think of a way to break my fall, whoosh! I feel my body hit a blanket and bounce up, then land again on a magic carpet.

“Ten minutes into Wand What You Want, and you’re already having a near-death experience?” my friend Jax asks. His curly blond hair looks white in the bright sunlight. He casually

Pre-Order Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:

Amazon

Apple

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

Enter to Win an Advance Copy of Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed: a Rafflecopter giveaway!

//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.jsSee where the magic began in Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked:

cover54597-mediumAmazon

Apple

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound  

 

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Teen, Tween Reads

Once Upon a Zombie – these aren’t the fairy tales you’re used to!

once upon a zombieOnce Upon a Zombie: Book One – The Color of Fear, by Billy Phillips and Jenny Nissenson (Oct. 2015, The Toon Studio Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781935668343

Recommended for ages 12+

Caitlin Fletcher and her wonderkid sister, Natalie, have moved to London with their dad to try and start their lives over. Caitlin’s and Natalie’s mom disappeared four years ago, and Caitlin suffers from severe anxiety, and starting over at a new school, where the mean girls have no qualms about letting Caitlin know she doesn’t measure up, is causing more anxiety than ever. The one bright spot is Jack, the super-cute boy at school who’s been friendly to her and invites her to a school dance, but a phone mixup lands Caitlin alone, in a cemetery, where she falls down the proverbial rabbit hole and lands in a fairy tale universe! The only drawback is, in this universe, all of the inhabitants are blood-eyed zombies, living under a strange curse. The fairy tale princesses we all know and love – Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty – have been sent to find Caitlin, because she holds the key to restoring order in their world and saving her own. But how is Caitlin, who’s two steps away from a panic attack, supposed to save an entire world, let alone herself?

Where do kids go after Goosebumps? Right here. This first book in a new series is a great way to ease younger horror fans into the zombie genre. The horror is slightly ramped up, with gorier descriptions of the living dead princesses and inhabitants of the fairy tale world, and there are allusions to zombies doing what zombies do best – Cinderella has to be yelled at to stop sniffing at Caitlin on a few occasions – but we’re not leaping into full-on gore and horror just yet. The secondary characters are familiar; we’ve grown up with them and heard about them for generations, so readers will get a kick out of this latest twist on the fractured fairy tale genre. There’s just enough romance to keep middle school girls happy, especially if they like their adventure light on the romance and heavy on the action.

Related to the book and mentioned in the story is the site, UnexplainableNews.com, a tabloid site the kids love checking out and aspire writing for. Direct your readers here (and check it out yourself) for some fun “news videos” on the zombie sightings happening all over the world that garner mention in the book.

Once Upon a Zombie is good fun for readers who love things that go bump in the night, but are ready to be just slightly more scared. Shelve it with a display of Monster High books!