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Wild Swans is a colorful, empowered adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale

Wild Swans, retold by Xanthe Gresham Knight/Illustrated by Charlotte Gastaut, (March 2018, Barefoot Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781782853626

Recommended for readers 7-11

The latest adaptation of Grimm’s Wild Swans is a beautifully illustrated, empowering retelling where a young woman breaks a spell to save her brothers, and assumes her place as queen of her kingdom. Young Eliza and her eleven brothers live with their father, the king, and their stepmother, the queen, who also has a gift with magic. When a plague devastates the land, Eliza’s stepmother turns the 11 brother sinto swans, so they can fly away from the plague, and sends Eliza to a remote village, untouched by the disease. Years later, Eliza receives word that the queen was able to discover a cure, but it was too late to save herself or the king. The kingdom is in chaos, and it’s up to Eliza to cure the plague and assume the throne, bringing peace back to the land. Throughout her adventure, she’ll befriend a young king, work her fingers raw to knit special shirts for her brothers to break the spell, and hold her own against a mob of villagers who think she’s a witch. All in a day’s work for a fairy tale heroine!

The artwork is stunning. There’s vibrant and angular artwork throughout the book, with gold and black drawings pacing the text between color panels. Eliza is a brave and focused heroine who doesn’t rely on a prince or king to marry her to gain her throne – she and the young king are dear friends, committed to one another as companions. She even declines an offer to serve as his new advisor, because she’s got a kingdom of her own to run. This is a nice addition to fairy tale collections, and great for a nice, empowering read.

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Posted in Fiction, Horror, Media, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Realistic Fiction, TV Shows, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Part Lois Lane, Part Nancy Drew… Introducing Cici!

Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer in Training, by Joris Chamblain/Illustrated by Aurelie Neyret, Translated by Carol Burrell, (Nov. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626722484

Recommended for readers 8-12

Cici’s dream is to become a novelist. She journals her thoughts and ideas, and constantly people watches, much to the chagrin of her mother and friends. Cici doesn’t see it as being nosy; she figures that you need to understand what’s inside of people in order to write about them. But when she starts digging further into people’s lives and expecting her friends to lie to her mother to cover up her “investigations”, they let her know that they’ve had enough. Can Cici learn to be a good friend and an attentive writer?

Originally published in France under the French title Les carnets de Cerise (2012), this is Cici’s first English translation and includes two stories. In the first story (title), Cici discovers an older man walking through the forest every Sunday, covered in paint and lugging cans of paint back and forth. In Hector’s Journal, she tries to get to the bottom of a mystery involving an older woman who takes the same library book out every week. Both times, Cici goes after her subject with gusto, but is often insensitive to her friends and mother. It isn’t until her mentor, a local author, steps in to have a heart to heart with Cici that she finally understands that she’s been using people, and starts taking others into consideration. Kids will recognize themselves and their friends in Cici, especially as she goes through the frustration of disagreeing with Mom and falling out with friends.

The graphic novel is a mix of graphic storytelling and journaling, with doodles, scrapbook pieces, comments, and notes throughout the book. The art is realistic with a soft touch, and Cici has a very fun and eclectic style that will appeal to middle graders. She complains about her friends throughout the book, and with seeming good reason: one girl is in a perpetually bad mood, and Cici herself can be exasperating (mind you, I say this as a 46 year -old mother of three, not a tween). In short, kids will identify with or see their friends in these characters, and dive into Cici’s adventures – and maybe start journaling on their own.

In my neverending quest to create programs that I can booktalk with, Cici’s Journal is a nice fit with a writer’s program I want to test out. Put this one with your Dork Diaries, Amelia’s Notebooks, Wimpy Kid books, My Dumb Diaries, Kate the Great, Origami Yodas, and Popularity Papers.

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A Jollytologist tells us Secrets That Kids Know… That Adults Oughta Learn

Secrets Kids Know… That Adults Oughta Learn, by Allen Klein, (Sept. 2017, Viva Editions), $16.95, ISBN: 9781632280534

Recommended for grownups – kids already know this stuff

Kids are like little Buddhas. I remember taking my then 4 year-old to his karate lesson in the dead of winter, steering his baby brother’s carriage through 2 or 3 inches of snow, internally swearing like a trooper, when he turned to me and asked for ice cream after his lesson. I thought he was nuts, and said so: “Are you kidding? It’s 18 degrees out!” He looked at me like I was the dope and said – slowly, so I’d understand – “Mommy. When it’s cold out, the ice cream doesn’t melt.” His logic was flawless, and he absolutely got his ice cream that day.

Allen Klein respects the wisdom and innate joy that children have, and wants us to feel that way, too. Secrets Kids Know… is a collection of essays, observations, and anecdotes on how we can follow a kid’s lead and embrace simple joys, rediscover our natural curiosity, and not be so darned serious all the time. Black line drawings by Klein’s daughter, Sarah, set off each chapter and bring a cozy feel to reading. He speaks to us as a Jollytologist – it’s his job to be jolly! – and uses his background as a motivational speaker to make you want to be happy. And that alone is pretty darned great.

I’ve got a five year-old whose transition to Kindergarten isn’t going as magically as I’d like it to, so I dug into this book with vigor. I do find that I’m making more of my time home with him; trying to see things through his eyes and laugh more with him, even though there are still some days where I just want to let wolves raise him and call it a day.

I’m going to put a copy of Secrets Kids Know… in my Parenting section and see if I can booktalk it up with some parents. Check out Allen Klein’s webpage, where you can watch his TED Talk, read his blog, and read more about the Jollytologist himself. 

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Take a trip downtown on public transportation with The Way Downtown

The Way Downtown, by Inna Gertsberg/Illustrated by Mike Lowery, (Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771385527

Recommended for readers 8-12

This fun book to public transportation introduces readers to the subway; light rail transit; buses, and ferry boats as five different characters head to a mutual venue in the imaginary city of Zoom. Robbie is a 7 year-old boy visiting the city; a secret agent, Theodore Rybka, is on a secret mission – but loves to stop for a cup of tea; the Zanies are a family of digeridoo and juggling performers; Dr. Brody is a scientist, excited about her newest discovery, and Boris is a seeing-eye dog who takes good care of his companion. Maps, facts, and a diverse urban crowd make this a good additional purchase for transportation shelves.

 

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MAD Magazine gives Superman a Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, no Fun, Really Bad Day, by Dave Croatto/Illustrated by Tom Richmond, (Oct. 2017, Mad Magazine), $14.99, ISBN: 9781401276119

Recommended for readers 5+

MAD Magazine, I love you. I grew up laughing at your Star Wars parodies, your Spy vs. Spy comics, and  host of jokes I probably didn’t get until I was older. And now, you bring me a series of superhero parodies based on childhood classics. You get me. You really, really get me.

The fun began with last year’s Goodnight, Batcave: narrated in the gentle bedtime style of Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight, Moon, we peeked into Batman’s bedtime routine. Now, we get Superman having the lousiest day ever in the style of Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and it is hilarious. Whether he’s listening to kids argue over who the better hero is – Batman or The Flash – or being relegated to monitor duty by the Justice League, Superman has the same petulant, endearing voice that makes Alexander such a fun storytime read. Supes tends to get dinged a lot by Batfans (cough, cough) that  call him a boy scout, and seeing that reflected here is just perfect. Lois and Jimmy Olsen get sent on super cool assignments, while Clark goes to a flower show. Where Alexander is ready to move to Australia, Supes is ready to abandon it all for the Fortress of Solitude. But as with all the best bedtime stories, Ma is there to tell him that some days are like that, and sends him off to bed – and hopefully, a better day the next day.

Tom Richmond’s classic MAD-style artwork meets Ray Cruz – the illustrator on Judith Viorst’s Alexander books – gives an instantly recognizable feel to the story – even the cover is a perfect sendup of the original. This is absolutely perfect for a Superhero Storytime, or just a really fun laugh-along. Read it in the same pouty voice that you use for Alexander, and make sure to be extra offended by the Batman-is-Better inferences.

What’s next? Make Way for Lanterns? Where the Amazons Are? I NEED MORE.

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Great books for Toddler Storytime!

Just Like Me, by Joshua Seigal/Illustrated by Amélie Falière, (Sept. 2017, Flying Eye Books), $13.99, ISBN: 9781911171119

Recommended for readers 2-4

Can you rub your tum? Can you stretch up high? Join a little girl and her fuzzy friend as they play a game of Just Like Me with colorful animals! Tap your foot like a rabbit, stretch your neck like a giraffe, or spin like a dog: this book is made for a storytime activity or an animal storytime. I’d pair this with Eric Carle’s Head to Toe, Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance, and Lindsey Craig’s Dancing Feet for an interactive, physical toddler time. The colors are bright and the bold, black text makes it easy to read along as you show off the story.

 

 

 

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A Creepy Crawler Crossword from Education.com!

I’ve got another Education.com goodie today! This cute, bug-themed crossword is a fun way to get some spelling practice. Looking for more exciting educational games that are sure to have your child asking to play again? Check out all the spelling games from Education.com! Click here to download the crossword puzzle, and here for the answer key.  They’ll look similar to these mazes:

I’ve been using a lot of Education.com resources at the library these days; they’re great passive programs to offer the kids – coloring, mazes, crosswords, matching games – and the site is searchable by grade, age, and activity. Thanks to Education.com for the fun freebie!