Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Two Little White Fish books make for a fishy storytime!

Little White Fish Is So Happy, by Guido van Genechten, (March 2017, Clavis Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-6053-7326-3

Recommended for reads 2-6

Little White Fish is so happy! His mom is here to pick him up and take him home! He says goodbye to all of his friends, and heads home with his mom.

Kids will love Little White Fish’s excitement – who doesn’t love when Mommy comes to take them home? Children who spend the day with a daycare provider, whether it’s daycare or a caregiver, will recognize the joy of going home, the routine of saying goodbye to friends, and the playful fun of running up ahead of Mom on the way home. Alternate caregivers can easily switch “Mom” to “Grandma”, “Dad”, or any name during a read-aloud.

 

Well Done, Little White Fish!, by Guido van Genechten, (March 2017, Clavis Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-6053-7327-0

Recommended for readers 2-6

Little White Fish teaches readers that everyone has a talent in this story. Little Crab can cut sea grass with his claws; Turtle can carry a heavy rock on his back, and Sea Urchin can do somersaults. Little White Fish watches each of his friends perform aquatic feats with some amazement – and maybe a little envy – until he discovers that he can swim really well, even in ways his friends can’t. His friends encourage him and cheer him on as he finds his special knack, teaching readers that encouraging your friends and cheering them on is far better than being jealous or feeling bad.

Each of the books feature bright black backgrounds on each page, allowing the bright white Little White Fish (and the soft coloring on his head), to stand out and catch little eyes. Little White Fish’s friends are all brightly colored, and the textured colorwork really gives the sea creatures and their environs a nice depth.

Both books, originally published in Dutch in 2016, are additions to Guido van Genechten’s Little White Fish series, which spans both picture and board books.

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Middle Grade Mermaid Stories!

Mermaid stories are insanely popular. Debbie Dadey’s Mermaid Tales series is always out over here; I have early readers and middle graders constantly asking me where they can find more mermaid books, and YA has a whole category of mermaid books. If you’re of a certain age (or your parents are), like me, you remember the movie, Splash, which is getting a reboot with Channing Tatum as a mer-guy now. There’s something fascinating about the world under the sea.

The Little Mermaid, by Metaphrog, (Apr. 2017, Papercutz), $13.99, ISBN: 9781629917399

Award-winning graphic novelists and Eisner Award nominees Metaphrog – aka Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers –  are award-winning graphic novelists who have crafted a graphic novel retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.  For those of you who only know the Disney version, heads up: this is not that version. There’s no happy singing crab, Bette Midler is not a fabulous underwater witch with killer vocal cords, and the ending is very different than you may expect. The Mermaid – unnamed here – falls in love with a young prince whom she saves from drowning, and makes a bargain with a witch in order to grow legs and be with him, but the price is high.

Metaphrog create beautiful art to tell the mermaid’s tale. With shades of blues and greens, they weave magic, loneliness, and mystery into their story. The waves seem to lap off the cover, beckoning the reader to come in and read their tale. This adaptation beautifully translates this powerful tale. Pair this one with Metaphrog’s graphic adaptation of Anderson’s The Red Shoes and Other Tales.

Fish Girl, by Donna Jo Napoli/Illustrated by David Wiesner, (March 2017, Clarion), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0547483931

Another Little Mermaid retelling, Fish Girl tells a different, slightly darker tale. The Fish Girl is an attraction in a seaside exhibit; the proprietor refers to himself as Neptune, god of the oceans. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Neptune isn’t all that he claims to be, and the circumstances under which he keeps Fish Girl in captivity are unsettling, bordering on menacing. A girl visits the exhibit one day and catches a glimpse of the fish girl; the two strike up a secret friendship as Mia – the name Fish Girl’s friend bestows on her – wants more than life in a tank, and begins pushing her boundaries.

This is a more modern update of the classic fairy tale, with unsettling implications. Neptune is not a benevolent sea god; he’s not a loving father figure, and I found myself fighting a panicky feeling – most likely reacting as a parent – because I wanted Mia to get away from him. The story is intriguing, and will draw readers in, keeping them riveted until the last page is turned.

While I normally love David Wiesner’s artwork – Art & Max, Flotsam, Tuesday, you name it – this isn’t his usual artwork, where the colors blend and shade to provide depth and dimension. It’s still beautiful artwork, but it’s more flat here, really letting the story take center stage. His use of sea colors is lovely, and he creates a loving relationship between Mia and her guardian, the octopus.

I’d suggest these for higher middle graders – 5th and 6th graders – because the overall content may be upsetting to younger readers. Would I let my kids read them at that age? Yes, but that’s me. Read these first, and let that be your guide; make sure your younger readers know that these are different ways of telling the Disney story they may be familiar with.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Narwhal & Jelly: Besties under the sea!

narwhalNarwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, by Ben Clanton, (Dec. 2016, Tundra Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781101918715

Recommended for ages 5-8

Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal is a wild imagination. Jelly is… not. That’s okay by Narwhal, they both bond over a mutual love of waffles, parties, and having adventures! Together, the two friends recruit other sea friends into their own little group and read the best book ever – so what if it doesn’t have words or pictures? They have imagination!

This hybrid intermediate novel/graphic novel is perfect for beginning readers (psst… and grown-ups) who love silly jokes, adorable art, and fun. Kids will enjoy this Odd Couple under the sea, and learn that friends don’t have to enjoy all of the same things to get along. The art is squeal-worthy adorable, and the dialogue between the two friends is light and fun. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea has hit it big with readers, too: the book has received multiple awards and praise, including a starred Kirkus review, designation as the Best of the Year in 2016 by both Amazon and Kirkus, and was put on the Texas 2×2 Reading List.

 

If you lovsupernarwhaled Narwhal’s first book, get ready: Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt (May 2017, Tundra, $12.99, ISBN: 9781101919194) is coming in May! In their second outing, the two best friends become super heroes – now, if they could just figure out what their powers are… As with the first book, Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt features three short stories connected by the overall plot thread: in this case, being a superhero and a friend. Friendship, imagination, and self-esteem are enduring themes.

Ben Clanton has some fun extras available online. His website links to his Instagram, if you want to see even more of his art as he posts it; the site hosts his blog, which spotlights even more of his artwork, including this awesome “Jellin'” piece:

jellin

There’s also a Narwhal and Jelly site, with comics, printables, jokes, and early art mock-ups. This is a super-fun set to add to your graphic novels and intermediate books, and you can display with the veritable plethora of narwhal-related books coming out, like Jessie Sima’s Not Quite Narwhal and Wendell the Narwhal by Emily Dove. Make a display and feature some non-fiction narwhal and jellyfish-related books, or get a whole sea life shelf up, featuring fiction and nonfiction for some related reads.

Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Tristan Hunt is back in The Shark Rider!

The boy who can talk to sharks is back at Sea Camp for another year in The Shark Rider!

When we last saw Tristan Hunt, he’d had a heck of a summer. He’d just learned that he was part of a very special group of kids: kids with underwater talents, whether it was the ability to speak to sharks, echolocation, the ability to communicate and change color like an octopus, or more. Invited to Sea Camp, a special summer camp that helped these kids develop their talents and do rescue work for the environment, Tristan and his friends ended up on the radar of J.P. Rickerton, a billionaire who leaves a trail of environmental havoc wherever he goes. This time out, though, the kids are a year older, a little more in command of their skills, and jump right into the adventure waiting for them.

tristan hunt

Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, Book 2: The Shark Rider, by Ellen Prager, (May 2015, Mighty Media Press), $49.95, ISBN: 978-1938063510

Recommended for ages 8-12

This time, there’s an emergency situation near the British Virgin Islands. Fish are dying in large groups, and sponge are disappearing from the area. Tristan and his friends are dispatched to the scene to see what they can find out. Is J.P. Rickerton on the scene again? You have to read it to find out, but I will tell you that there’s another wacko billionaire businessman making his appearance in The Shark Rider! Some of our favorite sea creatures are back this time, too, including Hugh’s buddy, Old Jack the Octopus, but there are some new animals on the scene, too, including a vegetarian shark and a mantis shrimp with an anger management issue. Who may be my new favorite minor character ever, and possibly my new spirit animal.

Ellen Prager ramp up the action in this second book, throwing the kids right into the heart of things. Where the first book was a little bit of Harry Potter with a dash of Percy Jackson, The Shark Rider adds some James Bond to the fun, with but she also gives us new gadgets (robo-jellies!), intrigue, and filthy rich villains. We also learn more about our oceans and the animals we share them with, including some very British sharks whose personalities are a bit more buttoned-up than the Bahamian bunch we met last time, but still witty and up for a tussle with the bad guys. You’ll root for the good guys, hiss at the bad guys, and have a blast reading this story.

Don’t forget, author Ellen Prager is a marine scientist and children’s author, with an author webpage that budding conservationists and marine biologists will love!

Make sure to read The Shark Whisperer and The Shark Rider by May – Stingray City is coming!

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians: Middle Grade marine adventure!

shark whispererTristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, Book 1: The Shark Whisperer, by Ellen Prager, (May 2014, Mighty Media), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1938063442

Recommended for ages 9-13

Twelve year-old Tristan Hunt is kind of a klutz. He trips and falls a lot, which garners him a lot of teasing at school and disappointed glances from his father at home. The luckiest thing happens to him, though, when he falls into a shark tank while vacationing with his parents in the Florida Keys – not only does he emerge unharmed, but shortly after the incident, he receives an invite to a very special summer camp – a summer camp where all the campers learn that they have special talents when it comes to the ocean and the creatures that live there. Tristan can communicate with sharks – that’s a pretty handy talent to have! – and once he’s in the water, he’s not a klutz at all.

That’s not all, though. The camp staff not only teach the kids to hone their abilities, but use them to protect and rescue sea life. They’re supposed to wait until they’re older and receive more training before they qualify for missions, but when critical mission pops up and the team is short-staffed, Tristan and his friends may have to save the day.

This is the first book in a middle grade series that Mighty Media was kind enough to send me, and I am thrilled that they did. With hat tips to both Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, this summer camp for gifted kids is packed with adventure and wonder – the kids are thrilled, yet nervous, about discovering and embracing their new abilities. There’s some great information about various forms of sea life in here, making this a must-read for kids with an interest in sharks, dolphins, octopuses, or any other sea creature. Once it’s established that the kids can communicate with the animals, they each exhibit their own personalities, which adds some fun to the mix (and the sharks with Jamaican accents are hilarious).

Author Ellen Prager is a marine scientist and children’s author, so she brings a great deal of expertise and knowledge to the book. Budding conservationists are going to want to have this book in their collections, too. Ellen Prager’s author webpage offers more information about her background, beautiful photos, fun facts, and printable puzzles to share.

The series is also perfect for your more conservative students and readers. It’s clean, the kids are respectful to adults and one another (mostly), and the adults are fun to be around while exhibiting concern for the kids’ welfare. We’ve got a villain who cares nothing for life outside of his own interests, and has the resources to make enough trouble for the Sea Guardians that we know he’ll be around for at least another book.

This is a fun series for both boys and girls that may have been missed when it hit shelves last year – make sure to give it a look and consider adding it to your shelves this year. I’m always a fan of finding a little magic in my tween realism when I can find it.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout! by Teri Sloat/Illus. by Reynold Ruffins (Henry Holt, 2002)

there was an old ladyRecommended for ages 3-7

The book puts a new spin on the popular cumulative tale, There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly,  this time, telling the story of an old woman who begins by swallowing a trout, and goes on to ingest a salmon, an otter, a seal, a porpoise, a  walrus, a whale, and finally, the entire ocean. The story, told in rhyme, is increasingly funny as the old woman swallows increasingly larger sea animals. Reynold Ruffins depicts the Pacific Northwest setting of the story through brightly colored double-paged spreads inspired by folk art. The action words are silly and will keep young listeners giggling as they “slippity-flippity-flop”, “splish and splash”, and squeal along with the old woman. The rhyme and rhythm of the story make it a very good read-aloud candidate.

This story would be a good companion story to the original, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. It would also be a good addition to a cumulative tales read-aloud, with old favorites like The House That Jack Built. This is a great chance to use a felt board to illustrate the different animals that the Old Lady eats; there are also popsicle stick puppet printables on Making Learning Fun that storytime attendees can color and bring home to play along with.

The author’s webpage offers downloadable printables and games, art galleries, and information about school visits.