Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

A touching portrait of a Canadian strongman: The Great Antonio

antonio_1The Great Antonio, by Elise Gravel (Oct. 2016, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-08-9

Recommended for ages 6-8

Antonio Barichievich was a bear of a man: he weighed as much as a horse, once wrestled a bear, pulled passenger buses full of people, and could eat 25 roast chickens and a dozen donuts in one sitting. He was also a beloved figure: an immigrant from Eastern Europe who loved his adopted country of Canada and its people. He was a wrestler and a strongman; he was a kind and gentle soul who twirled kids around on his gigantic braids, who lived simply, and could often be found in his neighborhood donut shop.

Even if you’re not familiar with The Great Antonio – I wasn’t, before this – this is a sweet tribute to a beloved public figure. The book is accessible to anyone, because it’s a story about a larger-than-life person who did larger-than-life things. Add bright and bold illustration to a story about a man that some people thought of in Paul Bunyan-type terms, even joking that he may have been from another planet – and you have a modern tall tale for a new audience.



A note from the author/illustrator at the end of the book explains her interest in Antonio. She “illustrates a little “About Me”, showing readers things she likes, like fart jokes, grumpy unidentified things, and strong and funny girl characters, which assures that I should probably become BFFs with her, because I like those things too, and my kids and the kids in my library know it. This will make life so much easier when I booktalk this book (and try to find more of her illustrated books in the US).

Check out Elsie Gravel’s website for more of her artwork and books. The Great Antonio‘s page on TOON Books will also have a link to an educator’s guide closer to pub date, so keep it bookmarked. The Great Antonio is a Level 2 TOON Book, so it’s appropriate for readers in grades 1-2 (but you can read it to younger – my 4 year old loved seeing Antonio swing kids from his braids and wrestle a bear). If your kids’ school uses Guided Reading, the book is appropriate for levels G-K, and it’s a Lexile BR-240.

As a biography, it’s pretty niche, at least here in the U.S., but as a story about a person who touched lives and made headlines, it’s a great read.  I love the art and the story, so I’ll see how this one does in my collection, especially with some booktalking/storytimes.

Here’s more excerpts from The Great Antonio:






Meet the Wyverns in the Zaria Fierce Trilogy August 22, 2016

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Middle Grade,Tween Reads — Rosemary Kiladitis @ 2:52 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Hi, all! I’ve fallen a bit behind in my posts – I was a bit too ambitious in my Summer Reading – so please forgive me. Here, I’ve got a great author post from Keira Gillett, author of the Zaria Fierce Trilogy, who’s going to talk about one of my favorite mythical creatures, the Wyvern. Enjoy!

Good day everyone! I’m so happy to be back here hanging out with Rosemary and all of you. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Keira Gillett and I am the author of the Zaria Fierce Trilogy, which is about a young girl who moves to Norway and discovers that trolls and things from her fairytale books really do exist. Along her journey, Zaria and her friends encounter all sorts of beings and creatures. Today I’ll be talking about three of them – the wyverns.

Now traditionally, wyverns are two-legged winged dragons. I already had dragons in the books, so I used the wyverns as beasts of burden. I made them hybrid creatures so that they could live in the far north of Norway and still be part reptile. My hybrid wyverns are able to regulate their core temperatures, spew fire under various conditions, and some of them can even fly.

Let’s start with the first wyvern. I call this wyvern a winter-wyvern. The most famous one is Norwick, who helps Zaria and her friends throughout the books. What sort of creatures might you expect to be smushed together to make this creature? I’ll give you a hint, here’s Eoghan Kerrigan’s illustration of Norwick in the books:

If you guessed saber-tooth tiger/snow leopard, bear, bat, and wyvern you would be 100% right! How many did you guess correctly?

Winter-wyverns are the only ones that can fly. They have bear-claw feet with dragon scales, a body that’s a mix of bear and tiger/leopard, a saber-tooth tiger head, snow leopard markings, and bat wings. They can comfortably fly two people and can pull a heavy load over short distances. In duress they’ve been known to spew fire, but it takes some time for them to build up to that, making them highly susceptible to attacks by trolls who employ devious tricks against them.

Now the second wyvern is a water-wyvern. In book three we meet one for the very first time guarding the entrance to some terrible dwarves and their city-state of Malmdor. His name is Vingar and he’s very upset because he’s too big for the quarry lake the dwarves stuck him in. Knowing that he must live in the water, what animals do you think make up a water-wyvern? Hint, here’s a picture that Eoghan drew of Vingar for the book:


If you guessed seahorse, shark, eel, crocodile/alligator, and wyvern, you would be correct! How many did you guess right at first glance?

Water-wyverns have seahorse faces filled with rows and rows of serrated shark teeth. His roar of rage would send you scurrying under the covers if you could hear it. Grr… Their body is the shape of an eel with small limbs like a crocodile/alligator. Their legs let them propel their bodies onto the short to snap at unsuspecting prey coming in for a drink of water. However they can’t stay out of the water for very long. They have smooth shark skin that cuts into the delicate skin of its prey at the merest brush. Vingar never used his inner fire in the books, but water-wyverns are able to spit boiling hot water at victims, but only under the water, and only when extremely vexed. Thank goodness!

In the book, Vingar has an unfortunate run-in with Zaria and her friends and gets shrunk to the size of a small dog. Now his roar of rage is much much cuter sounding. I’m told that when he got small I wrote some of his mannerisms and behavior after my dog, Oskar. I don’t know about you, but I would totally prefer a run-in with my dog vs a run-in with Vingar. I mean, just look at his cute little face.



The last wyvern is a weather-wyvern. Do you sense a alliteration theme going on yet? This wyvern is introduced within the heart of Malmdor. The original ones in Norway were gifts from Vikings who found them while on their travels to the eastern countries along the Mediterranean. Knowing that they come from a different part of the world, somewhere hot and dry, what do you think they look like? Hint, here’s a statue of one that the kids come across while they’re underground. This one is a bit cheating for me because I know what makes up the head, but go ahead and guess anyway, let’s see what you can extrapolate from Eoghan’s drawing.


The weather-wyvern is a combination of thorny lizard its body, road runner feet (if you said bird that counts), and jerboa (tail). Now the head, which you can’t see is lizard-like with great big and tall goat horns. How close were you to the truth?

The weather-wyverns are used by the dwarves to stoke their great forges and furnaces. Weather-wyverns are the only wyverns that can spew fire easily whenever they want it. They prefer burning hot and dry spaces, which means they live in the forges and furnaces. It’s a win-win as far as the dwarves are concerned they get magically hot fires that last for ages, the weather-wyverns are treated well and given homes to suit their needs.

Of the three wyverns, which is your favorite? If you created a hybrid wyvern, what animals would you use to make one up? I’d love to hear your thoughts, be sure to leave a comment!

Thanks again Rosemary for having me here at Mom Read It.

Zaria3Book Three in the Zaria Fierce Trilogy

Summary: “Nothing can save you now, Princess.”

How can anyone be tricked twice? Isn’t there even a saying about that? Zaria Fierce is determined to get things right this time and with the Drakeland Sword in her possession she’s ready to take on trolls, dragons, and whatever else may come… but first she and her friends are going to have to figure out just how much trouble they’re in at home.

Release Date: July 1, 2016

Available in E-book, Paperback, and Audiobook (Coming Soon)

Praise for Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes (Book 3):

“That’s the great thing about the Zaria Fierce trilogy: adventure is fast, furious, and loaded with Norse mythology, but the friendship between Zaria and her group of friends is the heart that drives this story.” Rosemary, Mom Read It

“I think the Zaria Fierce series mixes together all the things that I love about reading fantasy books, there is a sense of good versus evil, strong friendships, dragons, gorgeous illustrations, a captivating world, a perfect middle-grade book for someone looking for an action packed story filled with Norse mythology.” – Brenda, Log Cabin Library

Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes was a spectacular conclusion to a great trilogy (though the ending left the door open for more adventures). Filled with magic, a great story line, amazing and real characters, wonderful settings and beautifully explored themes, Keira Gillett created a trilogy that I will always cherish and will visit anytime. If you like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Spiderwick Chronicles or simply love a book filled with Norwegian folklore and fantasy, then this is the ultimate series for you to read, devour and lose yourselves in.” – Ner, A Cup of Coffee and a Book


Hector was right that the group wasn’t far from Malmdor. They reached the entrance before night fell, and in the gloomy dusk that slipped around them like a cloak, they reached the edge of the forest and stopped. Below them in a wide clearing was an abandoned quarry filled with water.

The lake was nestled at the bottom of a deep, steep pit. Its deep blue water was smooth and glassy, protected from wind by the rocky walls and surrounding forest. Zaria could see the lakebed in the shallower areas. Something large swam in the center, too deep to see clearly.

“What is that?” asked Filip, having spotted the creature at the same time.

Hector said, “It’s a water-wyvern.”

“Is that like the Loch Ness Monster?” asked Christoffer. “Cool. No wonder they can’t find it in Scotland.”

“You haven’t seen a winter-wyvern,” Zaria said. “I bet it’s more like Norwick.”

“The flying snow leopard-bear-bat thing you told me about? Even better,” Christoffer said, rubbing his hands together in glee. “Do we get to meet it?”

“Is it friendly?” worried Geirr.

“The beastie is not friendly,” said Hector, grimly. “And yes, we will be meeting it. Water-wyverns are wild, unpredictable creatures. This one is particularly nasty. It was captured and transported to this quarry lake over a century ago. It can’t escape – water-wyverns aren’t able to live out of water for very long. This makes it very angry. The lake is too small for him.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Geirr said, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “So, can it eat us?”

Hector nodded. “It once devoured an entire legion of dwarf handlers because they smelled bad. They’ve showered regularly ever since.”

Geirr looked at Zaria. “Why?” he moaned. “Why do we have to meet it?”

“Look on the bright side, mate,” Filip said, clapping Geirr on the back. “Maybe we get to ride it.”

Hector shook his head. “The water-wyvern is the guardian of Malmdor. Its job is to keep out all trespassers.”

Christoffer sighed, disappointed. “Too bad. I would have loved to ride him.”

“Will we have to feed it to get by it? What does a water-wyvern eat?” Aleks asked, readjusting his backpack and bow.

“It eats whatever it can catch,” Hector said forebodingly. “We’ll have to be careful as we near the shoreline. A water-wyvern might not have much in the way of limbs, being adapted to the water, but it has enough leg-power to propel itself onto the shore and attack.”

“At least it can’t fly,” said Geirr, relieved. “Small favors.”

Zaria and her friends gasped as it breached the surface, blowing out a large stream of air. The water-wyvern was magnificent with a gray-and-white pattern. It had a seahorse face, with a long snout, and no ears. The top of its head bore a wavy crest that trailed down its neck.

As the creature dove beneath the water, it flipped its body into the air. There were no scales anywhere on it, as far as she could see. Zaria half-expected a whale fluke, but its tail looked like an eel’s. The thing was massive, at least four times bigger than Norwick, and hideous.

They stood there, watching the shifting, undulating, shadow in the water. Aleks wore a pensive frown, his brown eyes narrowed. “Does it have a name?”

“The dwarves call it Vingar.”

Keira Gillett author pictureAuthor Bio: Keira Gillett is a technical publications librarian, book blogger, world traveler, artist, and now author. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing and Painting. From an early age her mother instilled a love of the written word, as such she has always been a big reader. Her first book, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, is about a young girl who must complete a quest to save her friend from a nasty river-troll.


Social Media: Twitter (keiragillett), Facebook (zariafiercetrilogy), Pinterest (zariafierce)


Animal Planet’s Animal Atlas is a passport to the world’s habitats August 21, 2016

animal-planet-animal-atlas-hardcover-book-658_670Animal Planet Animal Atlas, by Animal Planet (May 2016, Animal Planet), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1618931658

Recommended for ages 7-10

I have tons of animal nonfiction books in my library, and I have a bunch of really good books on habitats, too.  What Animal Planet’s Animal Atlas does it bring together explanations of different biomes/habitats, and the animals who live in them on each continent and in the oceans of our world.

The atlas begins with a map to present the major biomes of the world, and describes each biome: alpine, desert, marine, grassland, rain forest, temperate forest, tundra, and taiga. Animal tour guides for each continent take readers through a look at different animals that inhabit each biome on each continent, and features like ROAR (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) – Animal Planet’s initiative, dedicated to improving the lives of animals worldwide – empower kids with knowledge about how humans are working to change the world for the better through conservation and protective measures. Surprisingly Human boxes provide facts about the similarities between animals and people. Each continent section ends with a spotlight on an animal from the area, giving readers a close-up look at animals like the bald eage, anaconda, or Sumatran tiger. Spotlights include a Where in the World section, where maps detail the animals’ living areas; Animals Facts, and information on what they eat and how animals adapt best to their environments.

Combining colorful illustration and full-color photographs of over 200 animals, the atlas is a great resource for young readers. It’s got information ready at a glance for my Corona Kids, who come in asking for books about various habitats and then, what animals live in those habitats. It’s a strong companion book for slightly bigger kids, who will need more in-depth books to complete a report, but it’s a great starting point for anyone who wants a little more info on different habitats, and who may not realize that different continents have so many different biomes. A brief glossary and index round it all out.

This is a good addition to primary nonfiction collections if you have strong books that provide more detail that kids can jump to if they want to go further into a topic. Or, if you’re like me, and your kiddo just loves learning about different animals, where they live, and what they eat, it’s a nice add to your bookshelf. The passport and guide animal features add a cute touch that brings something different and fun to learning. Hmmm… now, I’m thinking of an animal program for my Discovery Club… learning about a new animal each week, and stamping a “passport” with an animal sticker or stamp… I’ve got to talk to my Discovery Team!


Gina Damico’s Wax: You’ll never look at a candle the same way again. August 20, 2016

waxWax, by Gina Daminco, (Aug. 2016, HMH Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544633155

Recommended for ages 12+

Welcome to Paraffin, Vermont, home of the Grosholtz Candle Factory. The town stinks. No, really, it does; imagine all those different scents in the air all the time, and what they must smell like when combined? Seventeen year-old Poppy is so tired of Paraffin and their candle tourism, but she and her bestie end up touring the factory one day, for giggles. She ends up discovering some batty old woman talking about living wax, and gives Poppy a candle that will protect her. When gets home, there’s a naked teenage boy in her trunk. A boy who looks suspiciously like a wax figure that she saw in the batty old woman’s workshop. He doesn’t really know much about who or what he is, but he answers to the name, Dud. A fire destroys the workshop, and with it, any chance for Poppy to talk to the woman and discover more, but no worry: she’s going to find out what’s really happening in the town of Paraffin soon enough. People are starting to act a little odd. A little… waxy.

Wax, like Damico’s previous book, Hellhole, combines horror with humor, with laugh-out-loud results. If you’re like me and love horror comedies like Evil Dead: Dead by Dawn and Return of the Living Dead, with a little less gore, you’re going to enjoy Wax. There’s something really horrific going on in the town of Paraffin, but with a sarcastic lead character like Poppy and a sweet, but dense sidekick named Dud, just sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s some true creepiness here; it’s not all snorts and giggles, so horror fans, if you want a break from gore and just want some good storytelling, pick up this book.

I loved Wax because there’s a good story and good characters, and it reminded me a little bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets one of my favorite cult films from the late ’80s. Does anyone remember Waxwork? I have such great memories of being in college, staying up all night, and watching movies like Waxwork and the Puppet Master movies from Full Moon Entertainment. If you haven’t treated yourself to a viewing of Waxwork, I highly encourage it. Here’s the trailer.

But back to the book. Give this to your morbid humor fans who enjoy a little chuckle with their scares. Please booktalk this one with Damico’s Hellhole, because I feel like that book doesn’t get the love it deserves. Quirk Books has a great list of horror comedies that you can display, too, and don’t discount the tried and true work horses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Have teens who love movies? Have a horror fest with the cheesiest of cheese! My teen and I bonded over Evil Dead 2, and my tween understands the power behind the phrase, “Hail to the King, baby”.

Shop Smart, shop S-mart, and consider adding Gina Damico to your horror collection if you’re a fan or have fans in your patronage.



In The Gallery, art speaks volumes – who’s listening?

galleryThe Gallery, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, (June 2016, Dial Books), $16.00, ISBN: 9780525428657

Recommended for ages 10+

It’s 1929, and 12 year-old Martha has gotten herself thrown out of school for the rest of the school year. Her Ma certainly isn’t going to let her sit home and do nothing, so Martha ends up going to work as a maidservant for Mr. Sewell, the wealthy owner of a major New York newspaper, and his reclusive wife, Rose. Martha’s mother is in charge of the household and oversees all the staff, and Rose isn’t getting any favors by being Ma’s daughter: she’s put straight to work in the kitchen, scrubbing, sweeping, and mopping. She also hears a lot of talk from the servants in the house, who say that Rose is crazy, but Martha isn’t buying it: there’s more there than meets the eye, especially because Mr. Sewell gives her the creeps. When she discovers the Sewell gallery, a conversation with Alphonse – a servant who also seems to know more than he’s letting on – confirms Martha’s suspicions. By learning more about the art that Mrs. Sewell sends down from her locked room to be displayed in the gallery, Martha puts together the real story about what’s going on at the Sewell house.

The only thing better than the story taking place in The Gallery is the fact that it’s based on a true event. Ms. Fitzgerald’s captivating author’s note at the end of the story fills in some crucial details about the story, the true story that inspired it, and more information about events taking place at the time the story unfolds. The Jazz Age, on the brink of the stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression, had anarchists, performers both glitzy and outrageous, defined separation of classes, and a lot of backstabbing, both professionally and personally. It was a fascinating time, and The Gallery is a fascinating look into some of that era.

The Gallery is a metaphor for there being more than just face value to things. Martha sees past Mr. Sewell’s exterior, to be sure, but there’s also a touching subplot about a girl coming of age in the middle of this madness, and realizing that her father isn’t the person she thought he was, either.

Every single character in this book is interesting; the story’s pace is perfect, with just enough exposition, then a slow but consuming buildup to the big finale. The bookend story that frames the entire narrative is just so good, and brings readers full circle. This is a great book to introduce to middle schoolers who want something… more. You know the readers: they want something, but not what everyone else is reading. They aren’t really sure what they’re in the mood for, but they want a good book. This is that book. Suggested books I’ve seen are Chasing Vermeer and The Westing Game, neither of which I’ve read, but have heard great things about. As they’re art-related mysteries, display them together. I’d also suggest The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, an excellent Jazz Age re-imagining of the beloved fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and also includes an autocratic, wealthy male figure that wants to keep the girls in his life locked away so he doesn’t have to deal with them.

Definitely worth the add to your collections. I’m thinking of gifting this to the eldest’s girlfriend; she loves a good story. It’s lovely when there are readers all around you!




This Fall, Natumi Takes the Lead!

natumiNatumi Takes the Lead, by Gerry Ellis with Amy Novesky, (Nov. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2562-5

Recommended for ages 4-8

I completely dropped the ball on World Elephant Day last week; I was away with Husband and my brain was on vacation. I’m so sorry, because in addition to my loving elephants, I wanted to let you all know about a great book that’s coming out from NatGeo Kids in early November.

Natumi Takes the Lead is the true story of a young elephant who was orphaned, rescued by a farmer and sent to an orphanage. Sounds like a Disney film, right? But it’s so much  more than that, because this story happens too often. Poachers and hunters still slaughter elephants for their ivory tusks or for big game trophies, leaving young elephants, like Natumi, to fend for themselves.

Pages 3-4

Natumi is also a powerful story of a shy elephant who gains the confidence to become the leader of her new little family group. With the love and nurturing she receives from her rescuers at the orphanage, she gains confidence and takes the lead in bringing her new family back to the wild: a protected African preserve.

Pages 20-21

I first discovered Natumi at PLA earlier this year, and fell in love with the beautiful photos and the elephant’s story. NatGeo has a way of making these animals more realistic than any animated movie character. NatGeo, through beautiful, empathetic writing and photography, brings out the personalities of the world’s animals, and their stories motivate readers to take action. The best part is that NatGeo tells kids HOW they can take action: by learning more about their world, and providing resources to help kids do just that.

Resources at the end of the book include a map of Natumi’s home and where the elephant’s live in Africa; lists of organizations, websites, and books; facts about elephants, and an infographic on elephant growth, to give readers a frame of reference about Natumi’s age and size when she was orphaned and where she’ll be as she ages.

Natumi isn’t due out until November, but it’s a great addition to your younger nonfiction sections, and a great book for young animal lovers.





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