Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The epic tale of Ronan the Librarian

Ronan the Librarian, by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie/Illustrated by Victoria Maderna, (Apr. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250189219

Ages 3-7

To truly enjoy this writeup, please click here to enjoy The Anvil of Crom from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack, courtesy of Spotify and

The mighty Ronan was a barbarian invader, raider, and trader. He led his people and pillaged the best jewelry, precious metals, weapons, you name it. If you wanted to trade for it, Ronan had it. But when one of Ronan’s raids turned up a chest  of books, he was baffled. Barbarians don’t read, right? What was he supposed to do with these things? No one else wanted them either! Until… well, one night he figured reading a sentence won’t hurt. Maybe a paragraph. A page? Every reader worth their salt knows what happens next: a true disregard of bedtime; Ronan becomes a Reader and seeks out books on all of his pillages from then on. And again, like any true book fan… his collection threatens to overwhelm him. After all, no one else wants the books: Barbarians don’t read! So Ronan builds a library, and decides to entice his fellow barbarians into reading. Like any bookworm knows, one of the best parts about loving books is sharing them with friends! This hilarious, wonderful story about barbarians and books is perfect storytime reading (I’ve got one coming up myself): it’s got adventure, barbarians, and books! Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie create a story that book lovers will relate to, and give a wink, nudge, come to the Book Side for those kids who don’t think they’re readers… yet.

Victoria Maderna’s artwork is cartoony fun, with so many little moments to love: the Viking ship toppling over with books (I feel seen); Ronan riding into battle, axe held high in one hand, book wide open in his other hand; Ronan curled up with a cup of tea amidst his towering pile of books (so precarious!), the swirling, dreamlike story of Odin coming to life as it leaps from a book Ronan reads out loud to his fellow barbarians, and – one of my favorite pieces in the whole story – the bulletin board Ronan puts up in his library, with notes like “Keep Out: This Goat” (sharp-eyed viewers will notice the goat snacking on some books, a few spreads earlier), “Closed During Raids”, and a cautionary “Swords Make Terrible Bookmarks”. Clearly, library signage hasn’t seen the need to evolve much.

I’m gushing with love for Ronan the Librarian because it’s just too much fun and it’s all about discovering the joy of books and reading. Insta-buy for your collections if you don’t already have it. Consider it an investment in your class visits for life. Make sure to visit the authors’ website, and find activities, guides, and more information about their books!

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Fifth Vertex – a young warrior discovers his true power

fifthvertexThe Fifth Vertex, by Kevin Hoffman (Aug. 2014) $11.99, ISBN: 978-0990647911

Recommended for ages 14+

Urus is a boy born into a warrior society, but he’s failed his warrior tests and is about to branded as a public burden – until all hell breaks loose. At the same time, an orphaned girl named Cailix, who has been living as a servant among a society of monks, finds herself on the run after a strange group of men slaughters her caretakers. What follows is a hero’s journey that will reveal to both Urus and Cailix who they really are: Urus comes from a line of Sigilords, who wield the power to create using ancient symbols, and Cailix discovers more about her origins than she could have ever imagined.

This is new fantasy series, self-published by the author, that really takes the classic hero’s quest and runs with it. Urus, who is deaf, must learn to rise above his low self-esteem and take control of the gifts he possesses – gifts only recently revealed to him. Cailix discovers her own gifts possess devastating power – but if used for good, can she turn things around? The two must figure these questions out while under the gun to save their world from a group of sorcerers determined to destroy five hidden vertices that protect their world.

This was a good read and a good start to a new fantasy adventure series for teens. There is a lot of slaughter and blood here – Urus’ society is a warrior society, and they’re fighting a band of sorcerers who use blood magic, so expect a bloodbath. If that’s not your thing, then this is not your series. I have no issue with it, and I thought the way Mr. Hoffman worked Urus’ deafness into the story, interweaving his with his signing ability as a sigilord, was really well done.  We’ve got some multiculturalism in the character descriptions, a strong female lead, and a few different hidden origins and conspiracies, all laying the groundwork for subsequent books. It’s a good start for fantasy fans who want something new to read.