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 Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Aleks Mickelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well reunites Zaria Fierce and friends!

Aleks Mikelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well, by Keira Gillett/Illustrated by Eoghan Kerrigan, (July 2017), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1942750086

Recommended for readers 9-13

Keira Gillett couldn’t leave us hanging after Zaria Fierce’s last adventure, Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Slippers. And thank goodness! The friends have reunited for a new adventure, but this time, Aleks, a changeling approaching his 16th birthday – and the deadline to decide whether to embrace his human family or retain his fey abilities – is the star of the show. It all starts on a crazy morning: Aleks’ mom loses her car keys, which he finds in the fridge. It’s only the first in a series of increasingly chaotic events that culminates in his unpleasant fey sister, Nori, making an appearance; she tells him that Fritjof, a chaos dragon, is trying to escape and wreak havoc on the world and that he and his friends must help stop him. Aleks finds himself pulled into an adventure that he really didn’t want to be on, dealing with a sister he really doesn’t want to know in this latest installment.

I have wanted to know more about Aleks since I first read that he was a changeling – and that his grandmother is, too! Readers won’t be disappointed; we learn more about Aleks’ origin here, and I love the inner conflict raging with Aleks as he realizes that there is no black and white situation: he initially thinks it’s not a big deal at all to give up his fey gifts, but learns that not only can his ability to find things be a huge help, he learns that his fey side is very much a part of him. Don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone? Aleks may just have to learn that lesson that hard way. I loved seeing how the group of friends has matured – crushes are a big part of the story now! – and how new friends from the previous series are now part of the group, like Hector, the Hart of the Forest. Big plus: my favorite wyvern, Norwick, is back, as is my favorite curmudgeon, Mr. Brown(ie). Take a look at this graphic, from illustrator Eoghan Kerrigan’s DeviantArt page:

A fellow blogger, Brenda at Log Cabin Library, put it perfectly when she said, “There’s just something so comforting about returning to Zaria and the gang”. I couldn’t agree more. Keira Gillet’ts writing gently draws you into a fantasy world via modern-day Norway; the group of friends are as familiar to me as they are to one another. I enjoy reading their back and forth teasing, and catching up with what they’ve been up to since I last spent time with them. When the action starts, I’m ready to join the group on their new adventure. Eoghan Kerrigan has outdone himself with his beautiful fantasy illustrations, and fantasy cartographer Kaitlin Statz provides a map that really helps make this world more real; there’s a lovely Narnian/Tolkienesque feel to a book that starts off with a good map.

You don’t need to have read Zaria’s trilogy in order to jump in with Aleks Mikelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well – there’s enough exposition throughout the book to update you – but if you want to feel more a part of things, I’d highly recommend it. A nice addition to middle grade fantasy shelves. Ms. Gillett had a midnight release party for her latest book that I, sadly, had to miss (I was so close, too… darn need to sleep); if you missed it, too, you can watch it right here, thanks to the magic of YouTube. Sign up for Keira Gillett’s author newsletter and get 10 free downloads of Eoghan Kerrigan’s work, too!

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 Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

Eric Orchard’s Bera the One-Headed Troll is great graphic storytelling

bera_1Bera the One-Headed Troll, by Eric Orchard (Aug. 2016, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626721067

Recommended for ages 8-14

Bera is a happy and solitary troll, living on her little island where she harvests pumpkins and has an owl to keep her company. She finds herself on the run when she saves a human infant – an infant that other trolls and goblins want for themselves! Now Bera has to keep the baby safe until she can find the parents and reunite the family. It’s a big job, but Bera has a lot of heart and is more than up to the task.

Bera’s another great story from Eric Orchard, who gave us Maddy Kettle’s adventure with the Thimblewitch almost two years ago. Now, Orchard gives us the story of a solitary troll who finds herself called upon to stand out when she makes the decision to save a human baby that’s ended up in the land of trolls. This isn’t something she sought out, but she won’t let an innocent be harmed: it’s a great message for kids; don’t worry about standing out from the crowd if you feel something is wrong. Protect and defend those who can’t defend themselves. I love the storytelling, I enjoy Orchard’s art, and once again, great graphic storytelling brings an important message to readers in a powerful yet sweet fashion.

First Second publishes great graphic novels for all ages. This is another great selection to add to graphic novel collections.

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