Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Fairy House Cooking, for fairies and pixies and fun

Fairy House Cooking: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes & Fairy Party Fun!, by Liza Gardner Walsh, (June 2017, Down East Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-60893-641-0

Recommended for readers 4-12

If there’s one magical creature whose popularity is eternal, it’s fairies. Fairy House Cooking is perfect for fairy-themed parties, playdates, or… you guessed it… library programming.

This is a beautifully constructed and photographed cookbook. It’s spiral-bound, so it may take some licks in circulation if you’re putting this in a library; it does help keep the book turned to your recipe while you’re cooking, though, so that’s a big plus, especially for developing chefs. Recipes are rated by difficulty: one fairy wing for, “you got this”, which I love. And which helps make this book perfect for younger creators (and perfect for my no-bake library programs). Two wings is a little more of a challenge – have a grownup in the room. Three wings, you definitely need a grownup and some teamwork to get the job done. Pleasantly, there’s equal time given to recipes of each difficulty level, so little ones can really make some fun recipes, like pretzel and fruit wands and nut-free bird’s nest cookies. There’s sections on safety, allergies, and cleaning up, and author Liza Gardner Walsh uses empowering words to boost kids’ confidence as they read; the words are bolded through the text and Walsh includes a special note on making mistakes, and how it’s okay. It happens. (Don’t ask me about the time I used baking soda to coat the table and roll out my holiday cookies, when I ran out of flour. Just don’t.)

Recipes are collected under five different chapter umbrellas: Fairy Mornings (breakfast foods); Foods Inspired by Fairies and Fairy Homes (featuring some of the most adorable food photography ever); Fairy Foraging (working with fruits… and flowers!); Fairy Parties (finger foods, party foods and drinks); and Recipes for the Fairies and their Friends, a section that encourages your kiddos to get out in there in the backyard and play; create something that the fairies and their friends would like to nibble on – from bird popsicles and birdseed cookies to mudpies of all types. There are recipes for fairy face paint and fairy dust, and everything here is good for the planet: the fairies wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are fun sidebars and callouts with tips to make your projects extra fun, and the photography is vibrant and colorful, with kids working together to make their recipes come together. Boys feature here, too, so make sure to make your party equal opportunity fun. A list of resources and websites links readers to more cookbooks for kids. Make a full-blown fairy day by letting kids make fairy doors, fairy wings, and any number of fairy crafts you can find. Pinterest has OODLES of ideas.

Definitely time for a fairy program at my library.

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Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Do Fairies Bring the Spring? Let’s find out!

Do Fairies Bring the Spring?, by Liza Gardner Walsh/Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, (Feb. 2017, Down East Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-60893-633-5

Recommended for readers 3-7

Do fairies bring the spring? This adorable picture book poses the question while infusing nature with a little bit of magic, as Liza Gardner Walsh’s rhyming text suggests that fairies are behind the scenes, working to bring spring to the world. Suggestions for attracting fairies to your own gardens in the spring, at the end of the book, encourage you to dig into nature with your little ones and take care of your little corner of the world.

Hazel Mitchell’s illustrations of diverse, adorable little fairies and their woodland friends infuse this Spring story with all the charm and wonder that makes a preschool/Kindergartner story a success.

Invite some magic into your life this spring with this sweet springtime story! Little ones will love the soothing rhyme and the adorable pictures. Encourage parents to get outside with their little ones and enjoy nature while respecting it –  no littering, please! This is a great story to read and follow up with a planting activity, whether it’s going out in the yard with your little one, or planting some seeds in recyclable egg cartons and bringing them home to start a container garden. Hand out fairy coloring sheets, or print small fairy pictures out on card stock, let the kids color them in, and mount them on popsicle sticks to give your new  plants extra fairy protection!

Liza Gardner Walsh is a former librarian (whoo hoo!) and has a companion book, Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? (2015). Her website, Moss & Grove, encourages parents and kids to get outside and embrace nature. See more of illustrator Hazel Mitchell’s work at her website.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

A little bedtime Shakespeare: Mabel and the Queen of Dreams

mabel_covMabel and the Queen of Dreams, by Henry, Joshua, & Harrison Herz, (July 2016, Schiffer), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764351372

Recommended for ages 4-8

Little Mabel is an expert at not going to sleep. After she’s gone through her usual routine of excuses, she asks for a bedtime story. Mom is too happy to oblige, and spins a tale about the Fae Queen, who paints children’s dreams, but will only visit when Mabel closes her eyes, Mabel’s mom describes the Fae Queen and her hazelnut chariot; her dragonfly steed, and the dreams she paints. The words wrap themselves deliciously around Mabel – and the reader’s – imagination, drawing us into the Fae Queen’s world and leaving us all waiting for a visit.

I love this book. I love that a bedtime story for children is inspired by Shakespeare! The Fae Queen comes from Romeo & Juliet, in a soliloquy spoken by the character Mercutio, when he describes how a fairy queen influences  dreams. Lisa Woods’ artwork adds another dimension to the story, with subdued colors and sketch-like illustration; the children’s dreams are portrayed as children’s drawings with bright colors, taking us into their imaginations to see mermaids, superheroes, astronauts, and brave knights. The Fae Queens’ fantasy elements are sweet and inviting, and my favorite part – when Mom tells Mabel how she will feel the Fae Queen’s presence in different ways – are beautifully rendered. I read this to my little one and tickle his nose and neck as the Fae Queen describes hovering and traveling over Mabel. The entire story creates a bedtime experience, lending itself to sweet nighttime cuddling and the promise of a dream adventure. An author’s note at the end gives readers Mercutio’s full speech, and Hamlet’s “What dreams may come” speech.

This book is a wonderful addition to bedtime bookshelves and collections. It’s a hit in our home.

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I was thrilled to be able to ask author Henry Herz a few questions about Mabel and the Queen of Dreams – read on!

MomReadIt: I love that you adapted Shakespeare for a picture book audience! What inspired you to create a bedtime story and use the Queen of the Fae as a character?

Henry:  There is something that tickles my funny bone about taking a familiar folk tale and tweaking it. Fractured fairy tales are quite popular – consider INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA by Deborah Underwood or NINJA RED RIDING HOOD by Corey Rosen Schwartz. The idea popped into my head to write a picture book based on a scene from Shakespeare. As I researched, I came across that oft-forgotten (at least by me) scene in Romeo and Juliet in which Mercutio waxes poetic about the little fairy queen Mab. Queen Mab affects sleepers’ dreams as she flies past, and I thought, what a great premise for a bedtime picture book. Plus, I love getting young readers interested in fantasy, and the idea of writing an urban fantasy bedtime picture book was irresistible. I hope that MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS may spark in young readers some interest in reading more Shakespeare.

MomReadIt: Is your main character named Mabel as a nod to Queen Mab?

Henry: That is correct. In my story, Mab is a sleep-resistant girl. In the original, tiny fairy queen Mab’s hazelnut chariot is drawn through the air by a dragonfly. And we have the original Shakespearean soliloquy by Mercutio as an author’s note, so that young readers can compare the original with this modern version.

MomReadIt: I see that your sons are co-authors. How did they contribute?

Henry: They’ve been co-authoring with me since they were about 8 and 10 years old when we first collaborated on our self-published high fantasy early chapter book, NIMPENTOAD. I draft the stories and they review them, giving me feedback from a young reader’s perspective. They have also been instrumental in selling the book at book fairs, farmers markets, etc. They’re even better salesmen than they are writers. Although now that they’re 14 and 16, doing this with Dad isn’t as cool as it used to be…

MomReadIt: I hope we’ll see some more classic works for little ones from you and your family in the future. Thank you so much!

Henry: Thank you very much, Rosemary. We appreciate your support! Readers interested in learning more about our books can visit our website at www.henryherz.com.

 

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

Imelda and the Goblin King: This ain’t Labyrinth.

9781909263659_edb38Imelda and the Goblin King, by Briony May Smith (Oct. 2015, Nobrow), $17.95, ISBN: 9781909263659

Recommended for ages 5-8

Imelda is a young girl living in an enchanted forest, surrounded by the local fairies she calls friends. But the awful Goblin King appears to kidnap the Fairy Queen, and the fairies ask Imelda for her help. Now, it’s up to Imelda to get rid of the Goblin King for good!

Another winner from Nobrow! This debut by Briony May Smith is a fun fairy tale with a strong female main character and eye-catching, bright art that fills each spread with movement and interest. The Goblin King is suitably dour and fierce looking, and his little minions look just as distasteful. Imelda is a great fairy tale heroine, rosy-cheeked and pink-dressed, but she’s no passive princess locked in a tower, waiting for a prince – she’s got a plan to turn the Goblin King into a worm, and she enlists the fairies to do it.

I also love the great fairy tale font. It’s very bold, with emphasis on the “stomps” and exclamations of “Goblin King!” It’s a different font that makes the story as interesting for a reader as it does for the audience in a read-aloud.

A fun fairy tale for school-age kids, this one will be a fun addition to collections where fairy tales do well. I’d pair this one with Kate Beaton’s Princess and the Pony for a read-aloud on princesses who can save themselves, thank you very much. Put this on a shelf with Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, too – the kids will love it.

Have a look at more of the artwork from Imelda & The Goblin King:

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

Knit-Knotters: A New Fairy Tale from Scholastic’s Branches!

Stella is getting glasses – and she’s not sure how she feels about them. When she puts them on, though, she starts seeing things very differently – like the glasses were enchanted! That night, Stella discovers that her tangled and knotted hair isn’t her fault, but the fault of a knit-knotter sprite named Trixie, whose job it is to tangle up kids’ hair! If Stella lets her tangle her hair, she’ll have to get a haircut, and she doesn’t want that! Can she and Trixie figure out a deal that will work out for both of them?

spritesStella & The Night Sprites, Book One: Knit-Knotters, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Turine Tran (Jan. 2015, Scholastic), $4.99, ISBN: 9780545819985

Recommended for ages 6-8

This is another series under Scholastic’s Branches line, made for newly independent readers. When kids are growing out of Easy Readers but aren’t quite ready to dive into chapter books, Branches is the way to go. I’ve read a few of these, and they’re great for young readers who are ready for a little bit more. The books are illustrated and have easy to read, short chapters with fun storylines. Stella and the Sprites is adorable, with a fun, fantasy storyline about mischievous sprites and fairies and a little girl who can think really fast on her feet. A discussion guide with questions is available at the end of the book, so parents, read along with your kids, then talk about the book!

Branches Books are great for literacy programs at the library, too. I’ve got a need at my library for a literacy program for younger grades, so my shopping cart will be full of these come budget time this month. They’re an easy enough read for kids, and we can discuss it right here at the library – maybe even make some knit-knotters of your own with toothpicks, beads, and glitter glue!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Uncategorized

Hamster Princess is back, and she’s saving twelve dancing princesses!

hamsterprincessHamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic, by Ursula Vernon (March 2016, Dial Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780803739840

Recommended for ages 8-12

Babymouse fans, where are you? Come on over and check out the adventures of Princess Harriet Hamsterbone, a hamster princess with enough snark and sass to stand toe to toe with our favorite Mouse.

Written by Dragonbreath series author Ursula Vernon, Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic is the second book in this new series about a hamster princess who has a battle quail, a poncho of invisibility, and a best friend, Prince Wilbur, who she totally does not like like that, okay? She’d rather be cliff-diving than sitting at court any day of the week.

Of Mice and Magic finds Princess Hamster bored stiff now that all the local monsters have retired. She happens upon a fairy who tells her about twelve mice princesses – daughters of a very odd king with loads of issues – who are cursed to dance all night long. She offers to help break the curse, but she may have gotten herself in too deep when she comes up against a witch that’s really calling the shots.

This series is fantastic! I’ve been a fan of the Dragonbreath series for a while, and the kids at my library agree; the series is in constant circulation. I can’t wait to introduce them to Hamster Princess – she’s awesome for boys and girls alike, thanks to Ursula Vernon’s snappy dialogue, loaded with side-of-the-mouth snarky comebacks and a great graphic novel/chapter book hybrid format. It’s everything we love about Danny Dragonbreath, with a new twist on a beloved fairy tale. Where Dragonbreath’s art is largely green, black, and white, Hamster Princess glams it up a bit, with shades of purple and pink thrown in with the black and white. Princess Harriet is a great heroine – she’s smart, independent, can think on her feet, and can fend for herself. I love her, and I can’t wait for the kids in my library to meet her.

Ursula Vernon writes the Dragonbreath series, along with other great books for kids. Her website offers an FAQ, her blog, and a shop where you can check out some of her amazing artwork. While Of Mice and Magic won’t be out until March 2016, you can get started with the first book in the series, Harriet the Invincible, right now!

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

Kill Me Softly – fairy tales don’t always end in happily ever after

Kill Me SoftlyKill Me Softly by Sarah Cross, (2012, Egmont USA), $9.99, ISBN: 9781606843239

Recommended for ages 14+

Mira Lively has been raised by her godmothers ever since her parents died in a fire at her christening. They’ve kept her pretty sheltered, and Mira is tired of their secrets. She decides to run away to the Louisiana town of Beau Rivage right before her 16th birthday, to find her parents’ graves and feel a connection with them. Things don’t exactly go as planned.

She ends up in Beau Rivage, and finds herself in a casino, where an obnoxious guy named Blue, and his friend Freddie, try to get her to another casino/hotel. She ends up meeting Blue’s brother, Felix, who manages the hotel, and offers her a free suite to stay in.

From there, Mira is swept into a group of teens who have big personalities. They all seem to be hiding something from her – something goes beyond their inside jokes, and they all keep trying to get her away from Felix, especially Blue. Gradually, Mira discovers that the teens in Beau Rivage – herself included – are special. Sentenced to live lives that play out according to fairy tales chosen by actual fairies, they include Jewel, who coughs up flower petal and jewels; Viv, a Snow White whose stepmother will one day send Viv’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, a Huntmans after her to cut out her heart, and Rafe, a crass jerk who will one day transform into a Beast, his curse only breakable when he gets a Beauty to fall in love with him.

Mira’s got a Curse, too – and her 16th birthday is fast approaching. Spending time in Beau Rivage, Mira learns about her Curse, and the curses of everyone around her except for Felix’s and Blue’s – but she needs to find out before it’s too late.

I like fairy tales, and I like stories that turn fairy tales upside down. In that respect, this was a quick, fun, read. But the characters are a group of teens that make some of the worst decisions and are just awful people. Mira decides – at 15 – that a 21 year-old man (Felix) is her true love, even though she’s only known him for a couple of days and everyone she meets tries to warn her away from him. Viv treats Henley – the Huntsman who happens to be her boyfriend when she feels like it – like dirt, flirting with other guys right in front of him and sending him off into a violent rage. Shouldn’t she want to be on his good side?

Speaking of Hensley, his anger issues have anger issues. He starts breaking up cars in a parking lot after seeing Viv flirt with other guys. And she stays with this guy? She also continues living with her stepmother – a woman who will try to kill her at some point – WHY?

Princes marry their Snow Whites, then drug them up because they can’t be excited by them if they’re awake. This, my friends, is really disturbing.

Like I said, Kill Me Softly is a fun read, but if you’re looking for great character study, this isn’t the place. I understand that things need to play out a certain way in this world, but at some point, common sense needs to enter the game.

Sarah Cross’ author page offers links to her social media, plus short stories taking place in the world established in Kill Me Softly. She also links to her Fairy Tale Mood Tumblr, where she posts fairy tale inspiration.