Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

Ella and Owen: Dragon sibling adventures

Ella and Owen: The Cave of AAAAAH! DOOM! (Ella and Owen #1), by Jaden Kent, (March 2017, little bee books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1499803938

Recommended for ages 6-9

The first book in a fun intermediate series, dragon siblings Ella and Owen have two very different personalities. In their first adventure, bookish Owen is perfectly happy to be home in bed with a book, nursing a cold. More adventurous Ella has different plans: cave exploring! She lures Owen by promising him that there’s a chance to get ogre toenails for his collection. They explore some caves, tangle with an ogre and an evil vegetable wizard, and quite possibly, find a cure for Owen’s cold.

Kids in my library are warming up to this series. If you have Dragonbreath fans, introduce them to Ella and Owen. It’s silly, boogery fun, with black and white illustrations throughout. the second book in the series, Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster, is already available; the third (Knights vs Dragons) is out in May, and the fourth (Evil Pumpkin Pie Fight) is out in July.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade

Henry and the Chalk Dragon unleashes imagination!

Henry and the Chalk Dragon, by Jennifer Trafton/Illustrated by Benjamin Schipper, (Apr. 2017, Rabbit Room Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9780986381881

Recommended for readers 8-12

Henry Penwhistle is a young boy with an active imagination. He’s an artist and a dreamer who draws his quests in secret, afraid to share his art with anyone – even his best friend, Oscar. His mother used blackboard paint to transform Henry’s door into a canvas; a canvas on which he’s drawn a dragon. A dragon that has managed to escape and wreaks havoc all over Henry’s school! Henry, Oscar, and their classmate Jade – who chronicles the boys’ heroism in epic poetry – try to save their classmates and teachers and bring an end to the dragon’s mischief. What Henry discovers is something far deeper.

This book is so many things. It recognizes the dreamers, the artists, those of us who look at life a little differently. It’s a gentle squeeze, a hug, a reminder to us grownups that we don’t really have to give up our robots and superhero personas, just because we’ve gotten older. And it’s a call to action to readers – grownups and kids alike – to rethink ways of tackling problems. Henry has his own hero’s quest through Henry and the Chalk Dragon, as do – to a slightly lesser degree – his teacher, lunch lady, and principal, and he emerges as a very different boy at the book’s close.

Henry and his friends are stuck in dreary school life, but so are the grownups in that school. His principal, beaten down by the School Bored, tells Henry, “the world doesn’t care about your art… the world only cares about facts and numbers and budgets. I’m sorry, but it is my job to prepare you for the world you’re going to have to live in, Henry: the real world.” His lunch lady is an artist who wails that “everyone wants pizza, and meatloaf, and macaroni and cheese made from a box. A box! How can anything beautiful come from a box?” They’re artists and dreamers who’ve been worn down by the world around them, but Henry is here to show everyone, with a child’s innocence and imagination, that things are so much better than that. Finally, Henry and the Chalk Dragon is about the enduring power of friendship: Henry and Oscar spend the better part of the book working out an argument that took place before the events of the book, and Jade makes sure that Henry and Oscar know that the old boys’ club isn’t a formula that works for her; she’s going to be part of this adventure.

Give this book to your dreamers, artists, and adventurers. Give it to your teachers and your parents that used to be superheroes, and should be again.

Henry and the Chalk Dragon received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.

Would you like a chance to win your own copy of Henry and the Chalk Dragon? Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

About the Author

Jennifer Trafton is the author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic (Dial, 2010) which received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and was a nominee for Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award and the National Homeschool Book Award. Henry and the Chalk Dragon arose from her lifelong love of drawing and her personal quest for the courage to be an artist. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where, in addition to pursuing her love of art and illustration, she teaches writing classes, workshops, and summer camps in a variety of schools, libraries, and homeschool groups in the Nashville area, as well as online classes to kids around the world. To learn more, and to download free materials, visit jennifertrafton.com.

Praise for HENRY AND THE CHALK DRAGON:

★“A delicious face-off between forces of conformity and creativity run amok, spiced with offbeat names as well as insights expressed with eloquent simplicity.” —Booklist (starred review)

★“A perfect title to hand to young readers looking for laughs along with a wild and crazy adventure.”

—School Library Journal (starred review)

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Join the Dragonwatch!

Dragonwatch, by Brandon Mull, (March 2017, Shadow Mountain), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-62972-256-6

Recommended for readers 9-12

After a seven-year wait, the sequel to the Fablehaven series is here! Dragonwatch starts a new chapter in the Fablehaven saga. The dragons are sick of their sanctuaries. They feel like prisons, and they want their freedom. Celebrant, a dragon resident and co-caretaker of the Wyrmroost Sanctuary, is testing his boundaries a little too much for anyone’s comfort. The wizard Agad, tells Kendra, Seth, and Grandpa Sorenson about an ancient group, the Dragonwatch, charged with keeping the dragons confined to their sanctuaries. Agad is resurrecting the Dragonwatch, and he also needs new caretakers at Wyrmroost: Seth and Kendra. As long as they work and together, they are the next hope for Wyrmroost, but Celebrant isn’t going to take having children as his new co-caretakers that willingly. Seth and Kendra must work with the supernatural residents around them to secure a magical artifact before the dragons can overthrow Wyrmroost.

I picked up my first copy of Fablehaven years ago, and fell in love with the story: the characters, the worldbuilding, the action, and the story of a family living under some pretty wild circumstances. Imagine finding out that your grandparents were caretakers of a preserve for magical creatures? Dragonwatch is every single thing I love about Fablehaven and more. There’s new worldbuilding and mythology that builds on everything we know so far; there’s a new conflict on the rise that will test our favorite characters and introduce us to new ones, and there’s an enduring commitment to the heart of the series: the family at the center of the story. We meet two possibly recurring characters from that family: cousins Knox and Tess, who bring a little of the outside world back to the novel while getting their feet wet in the world of Fablehaven. We meet a host of new magical friends, including Celebrant, the powerful dragon at the heart of the new conflict.

You don’t need to be well-read on Fablehaven to dive into Dragonwatch. It’s a new series, so Mull touches on the main points that newcomers need to be aware of, while giving readers an entirely new story to fall in love with. Kids will want to read Fablehaven once they start Dragonwatch – they’ll need something to read while waiting for the next installment – but they won’t be left out if they haven’t read the previous books just yet.

Courtesy of Brandon Mull’s Dragonwatch pageBrandon Mull’s Dragonwatch webpage has an excerpt, readers’ guide, and the VR experience that I linked to back when we were getting Decked Out for Dragonwatch back in January. There’s also a downloadable event kit and a sneak peek at some of Brandon Dorman’s amazing black and white artwork that you’ll see in Dragonwatch. Fablehaven fans and newbies can enjoy getting caught up at the Fablehaven page.Fantasy fans, especially dragon fans, are going to love this series. Booktalk it, display it, print out goodies from the website and share them!

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Dragons pop off the page – for real! – in Dragon Hunters!

31409133The Dragon Hunters (The Dragon Brothers Trilogy, #1), by James Russell/Illustrated by Link Choi, (Apr. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-4861-1

Recommended for readers 5-10

Brothers Flynn and Paddy are on a rescue mission: their dog has been kidnapped by a dragon! Mom thinks it’s all part of their goofing around, but the boys are determined and set off to rescue poor Coco from the dragon’s clutches – hope they can get out unsinged!

The Dragon Hunters – originally published in New Zealand in 2012 – is a fun, rhyming fantasy tale for grade school level kids, but preschoolers will also appreciate the rhyming tale and the cartoony art. The dragon is bold, red, and mean, gorgeous in its sinister ferocity. Pages alternate with full color art and sketches (I’ve got an ARC – this may not be the case with the finished version), and the longer length of the tale gives it an old-school, epic poem feeling.

The best part of this book? The augmented reality! Download a free app for your tablet or smartphone, hold it over the map endpapers of the book, and see the map come to life! There’s a little bit of sound, but the real thrill is seeing the landscape come to life, complete with little dragon flying over the mountains and the steaming Putrid Plains. My little guy went nuts for it, and so did my coworker’s tween daughter. I tried to capture it using my phone camera, but the Dragon Hunters site does this far better justice than my overworked Samsung. Take a look:

The site also offers free coloring sheets, which makes my passive programmer’s heart SING.

The Dragon Hunters is the first in a trilogy, all of which are publishing this year. The Dragon Tamers hits shelves in June, and The Dragon Riders arrives in August. James Russell has a chapter book series called The Dragon Defenders coming out this year – let’s hope it reaches American shores, so middle graders can enjoy Paddy, Flynn, and Coco.

Artist Link Choi’s work on The Dragon Hunters was a finalist for New Zealand’s Russell Clark Medal for Illustration. See more of his illustration at his website.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Get #DeckedOutforDragonwatch!

Okay, Fablehaven fans, the next series is coming: Dragonwatch, by Brandon Mull, is coming in March – but the team at Shadow Mountain Publishing is sharing a book trailer TODAY, and I’ve got it right here. Enjoy.

Do you have a Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, or other VR device? Then make sure to check this out, too:

Finally, Shadow Mountain has a fun contest for my fellow dragon fans: Decked out for Dragonwatch! Here are the details:

Pay tribute to your favorite dragons! Send us a photo on social media and Brandon Mull may pick YOU as the fan most “Decked Out for Dragonwatch”!

If you love dragons, gather together your best dragon gear and unleash your imagination by creating a space in your home, classroom, library, or local bookstore that pays tribute to all your favorite dragons from Fablehaven and anywhere else in the universe.

Take a picture of your “Decked Out for Dragonwatch” space and send it to us via social media. Brandon Mull will choose the best, most creative spaces from submitted entries, and we’ll send those lucky fans and autographed copy of Dragonwatch plus a copy of The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven and Fablehaven Book of Imagination.

See the website for the five ways to enter and the official rules: http://brandonmull.com/decked/, and follow https://www.instagram.com/deckedoutfordragonwatch/.

Good luck, and watch this space for a Dragonwatch review soon!

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Dragon Waking measures friendship against power

dragon-wakingThe Dragon Waking, by Grayson Towler, (Aug. 2016, Albert Whitman & Company), $14.99, ISBN: 9780807517048

Recommended for ages 9-12

Thirteen year-old Rose Gallagher has a new friend, who just happens to be a dragon she names Jade. Jade can change her shape, taking on the form of a young teen girl, just like Rose; she can also take Rose soaring across the skies in her natural form. Jade is searching for a special rock that she calls the Harbinger but she’s not the only one. The Harbinger has the power to awaken all the dragons in our world from their 65 million year-old nap, and Rose and Jade are in a race to find the rock first.

Dragons soar and battle in the skies over Las Vegas, making this a fun fantasy tale for dragon lovers. The story takes place in our own world, imbuing our own planet with some magic of its own, rather than creating a fantastic new setting. Prehistory gets an amusing tweak as we learn that dinosaurs and dragons roamed the earth together at one point, and we have the longtime battle of good vs. evil, compassion and friendship versus a lust for power. The ending leaves the possibility of a sequel open. Readers can get a free extra chapter from the author’s website – don’t miss it!

The Dragon Waking is a good additional purchase for fantasy collections and dragon fans.

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.