Currently viewing the category: "Fantasy"

Cowboy Car
Author: Jeanie Franz Ransom
Illustrator: Ovi Nedelcu
Anticipated Published: April 11, 2017 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: A little car with a big dream…

Ever since Little Car was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, he’s wanted to be a cowboy. Cowboys get to drive the range, wear big hats, and sleep under the stars. Everyone tells Little Car that cars can’t be cowboys, but he can’t stop dreaming of rounding up lil’ dogies by day and talking around the campfire at night. So Little Car packs his trunk and heads Out West. Vroom! Can he prove he has what it takes to be a true cowboy? Join Little Car as he zooms into the hearts of kids everywhere.

Ricki’s Review: A car that dreams of being a cowboy! This was a fun story to read with my boys. The illustrations are quite charming, and Little Car made me smile. He refuses to give up, despite the obstacles he faces. My three-year-old asked a lot of great questions while we were reading the book, and we were able to talk about the car’s perseverance. I particularly liked all of the puns in the book. While the puns were completely over my sons’ heads, it made the reading even more enjoyable for me. This book has a theme that we constantly try to relay to our students—not to give up despite what the world throws at you. It would be a great addition to any classroom.

Kellee’s Review: What a cute story about following your dreams even when everyone doubts you! This is a message that is so important to share with kids because throughout their life there are going to be those who doubt them; however, I want Trent to know that as long as he works hard, wants something enough, has a good plan, is realistic about speed bumps ahead, and goes for it, he can live his dream. This is a theme that is found in picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels because kids need to be reminded of this. Life shouldn’t be about what others expect of you but what YOU expect for you. Little Car embodies this message by doing something that everyone doubted he could do and he did it his own way. I know this story will be one that teachers and parents will want to share with their kids (and their kids will love it because who doesn’t love cars and cowboys!).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to connect the theme of this story to real-life individuals today or in history. They might consider other people who have faced struggles and who have persevered. It would be neat to have each student learn about a different person of their choosing. This would add variety and remind students that they should not give up in the face of adversity.

Discussion Questions: What challenges does Little Car face? How does he overcome them?; What do Little Car’s parents think? How does he respond?; What other people (current or historical) have faced struggles? How did they overcome these struggles?

Flagged Passage: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys,’ everyone told Little Car.”

Read This If You Love: Race Car Dreams by Sharon Chriscoe; Race Car Count by Rebecca Kai Dotlich; Busy Trucks on the Go by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta; Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by by Sherri Duskey Rinker; The Racecar Alphabet by Brian Floca; Alphabeep: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson; The Three Little Rigs by David Gordon; Ten Little School Cars by School Specialty Publishing

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**Thank you to Al at Amazon for providing copies for review!**

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Henry and the Chalk Dragon
Author: Jennifer Trafton
Illustrator: Benjamin Schipper
Published April 4th, 2017 by Rabbit Room Press

Summary: In the town of Squashbuckle, just about anything can happen, and when Henry Penwhistle draws a mighty Chalk Dragon on his door, the dragon does what Henry least expects–it runs away. Now Henry’s art is out in the world for everyone to see, and it’s causing trouble for him and his schoolmates, Oscar and Jade. If they don’t stop it, the entire town could be doomed! To vanquish the threat of a rampaging Chalk Dragon, Sir Henry Penwhistle, Knight of La Muncha Elementary School, is going to have to do more than just catch his art–he’s going to have to let his imagination run wild. And THAT takes bravery.

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.

Critical Praise: 

★“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)

Review: I love any book that promotes imagination, and it isn’t too often that you find a novel that is all about keeping your imagination. Henry’s story is a Pleasantville one–he lives in a boring town and takes boring classes, but when he closes his door, his imagination goes wild. It is when his imaginative Chalk Dragon escapes and wrecks havoc on his school does the power of an imagination really start to show. 

On a side note, and only some of you will understand this, but the cover of Henry and the Chalk Dragon is matte and SO SOFT!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Along with a read aloud, the text gives lots of opportunities to discuss imagination, art, and creative writing. Also, chunking the text to fit the most opportune times will lead to some great writing and art prompts.

Discussion Questions: How did the principal end up the way he is? How do we know that he was not that way when he was younger?; Was Henry’s class/school doing the best thing to promote Vegetable Week?; Which adults understand Henry and his imagination? Which hinder him?; How does the power of Henry’s imagination cause havoc on the school? How does it save the school?; What does Henry’s chalk dragon coming to life symbolize in the grand scheme of things?; What is the lesson that the author is trying to teach us about imagination and growing up?

Flagged Passages: “Henry recognized the curve of those horns and the arrow-tipped tail. He recognized every sharp green flick of scaly skin, every zigzag of the bony spines running down the creature’s back. It was his dragon. Just as he had imagined it. Just as he had drawn it. Here it was, standing in front of him! There was something brand new in the world, and he had put it there!

There is a kind of fear that squeezes your heart with an icy hand and freezes you into a popsicle. But there is another kind of fear that is thrilling and hot, that makes your fingers tingle and your toes tickle each other inside your shoes until you want to leap over the Empire State Building. Henry was afraid with this kind of fear, and it felt good.

The dragon stared back at him–up and down, from his sneakers to his shiny helmet. It did not look afraid of Henry. It spread its wings proudly. It stretched its scaly neck as high as it would go. Its mouth widened slowly into a dragonish grin.

How long had Henry been waiting for this moment? Here he was, in his shiny suit of armor, with a sword in his hand. And here was a real live dragon–a dragon who could knock the house down with a few flicks of its tail, who could eat his mother for breakfast, who could send a ball of fire bouncing down the street. He knew exactly what he had to do.” (p. 32-33)

Read This If You Loved: The Journey Trilogy by Aaron BeckerHarold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, Other picture books that spark imagination

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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Pig the Pug
Author: Aaron Blabey
Published: July 1, 2014 by Scholastic

A Guest Review by Rebecca Welch

Summary: Pig is a greedy dog and does not want to share his toys with his housemate, Trevor. Trevor thinks it would be a great idea if him and Pig shared toys because then they would be able to play together. Pig does not give in and gathers all of his toys so Trevor can’t get to them. A mishap occurs that makes pig realize the importance of sharing and friendship.

Review: This book is great for any elementary school classroom! I absolutely loved it and thought that the message at the end was applicable to any group of young children. The rhyming makes the book great for a fun read aloud and the illustrations are fantastic. There was also a bit of humor. I highly recommend this picture book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be great to teach rhyming because each page rhymes. You could talk about the moral of a story and use it as a segway to students’ writing about a time where they learned an important lesson (moral). You could have students determine the meaning of the idiom “flip a wig” by the using context clues and then study other common idioms afterwards. In addition, you could introduce character traits and determine the traits of Pig and Trevor. You can also practice making predictions by predicting what will happen to Pig. It would also be a great classroom discussion facilitator on sharing and the importance of friendship.

Discussion Questions: How do you think Trevor may be feeling when Pig won’t share his toys?; What does it mean to be greedy or selfish?; What do you predict will happen to Pig?; Can we think of any times that we have been greedy or selfish?; What does “flip a wig mean”?; What is the moral of this story?

Flagged Passage: “I know what your game is, you want me to SHARE! But I’ll never do that! I won’t and I swear!” (p. 7).

Read This If You Loved: Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty

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Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm
Author: Jonathan London; Illustrator: Andrew Joyner
Published: March 1, 2017 by Two Lions

GoodReads Summary: Get ready for a rainy-day adventure with Duck and Hippo!

Duck and Hippo may be completely different, but they are best friends. When playful Duck invites careful Hippo to go for a walk in the rain, they have trouble sharing Duck’s umbrella. But Duck and Hippo won’t let that stop them. Soon they are puddle-jumping and sailing down the river! Until…WHOOOSH! A terrible wind sends the umbrella flying up, up, up into the air, with one friend holding on. What will Duck and Hippo do now? Jonathan London’s charming text and Andrew Joyner’s delightful art bring to life two lovable friends in this fun new series.

Our Review: We are huge fans of the Elephant and Piggie series and Frog and Toad series. They are staples in our households, so when we read these books, we were truly delighted! Duck and Hippo show readers that opposites attract—and they make for a wonderfully fun adventure. Ricki read this book with her three-year-old, and he was giggling hysterically at the drawings. It’s a winner.

The charming story will capture readers from beginning to end, and the language is written in a way that will be very helpful for beginning readers. It takes a lot of skill for an author to write text that is humorous and engaging yet also helpful for beginning readers to master language. London does this perfectly.We will be hanging on to these books tightly as we wait for our sons to be a bit older to learn to read. We recommend you get your hands on this book because it will surely be a popular series in classrooms.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We love the concept of opposites attracting. Students might begin by considering other examples of characters in literature who have been paired together. They might form small groups and design their own story of two very opposite characters who might attract. We’d love to be in a classroom on a day that students were sharing these stories!

There’s more fun with Duck and Hippo in the free downloadable activity sheets: https://www.andrewjoyner.com.au/activities/

Discussion Questions: How are Duck and Hippo different? How are they similar? How does that make for a great adventure?; Why do you think the author chose to have Duck and Hippo in a rainstorm? Why does this make for a fun read?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems; The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel; Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion

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Giveaway!
Two Lions is offering a copy of Duck and Hippo to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses).
About the Author and Illustrator:
Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including the bestselling Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Many of his books explore nature, among them Flamingo Sunset, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica, illustrated by Julie Olson. He is currently writing a middle-grade series, which started with Desolation Canyon, illustrated by his son Sean London. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more online at www.jonathan-london.net.
 
Andrew Joyner is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist based in South Australia. He has illustrated a number of picture books, and he wrote and illustrated a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. He has also illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others. Learn more online at www.andrewjoyner.com.au.

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip for providing copies for review!**

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Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite
Author: Stacy McAnulty; Illustrator: Edward Hemingway
Published: February 7, 2017 by Two Lions

GoodReads Summary: Mr. Fuzzbuster knew he was Lily’s favorite. They did everything together. Naps. Story time. Walks. And more naps. But now four more animals lived in the house.…

To prove he’s still Lily’s favorite, Mr. Fuzzbuster will have to ask her, but will her answer surprise him? This funny, heartwarming story is for every child who has ever wondered if there’s a favorite in the house.

Ricki’s Review: This was a very fun book to read aloud to my son. It reminded me of my childhood—my siblings and I often fought over who was the favorite child. The dramatic hooks at the end of each page make for a silly, giggly read aloud. Mr. Fuzzbuster has a hysterical personality that kids will surely adore. I have a feeling that this book will get funnier and funnier after each read aloud! The illustrations and humor will have readers begging for more Mr. Fuzzbuster.

Kellee’s Review: Unlike Ricki, my siblings and I didn’t have to fight about who was the favorite–I knew I was! 😉 [We’ll see if they read this review!] So I may be a bit like Mr. Fuzzbuster who is just loves his owner, Lily, so much that he cannot imagine his life without her. Kids will definitely relate to Mr. Fuzzbuster, and the book will also be a great chance to talk about how sometimes there are no favorites–a lesson that is taught in such a fun way that the reader won’t even realize they are being taught something! And the cartoonish, humorous illustrations just add to the fun of this book. Hemingway has such a distinct style of illustrations that are just so eye-catching and exciting to read. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to make predictions at the end of each page. Because of the dramatic hooks, it would make predictions very enjoyable. I tried doing this with my three-year-old and while he is a bit young, we think we might be able to use this book for predictions in the near future! He slowly caught on!

Did you know Mr. Fuzzbuster loves writing notes? He wants to send cards to young readers across the country.  Maybe he will be your favorite. More information can be found at http://www.stacymcanulty.com/fuzzbuster-email.

Discussion Questions: Who is Lily’s favorite?; Why does the book end the way that it does?; Why do we feel a strong desire to be the favorite? How may this be harmful?

Flagged Passage: “Mr. Fuzzbuster knew he was Lily’s favorite. They’d been together since he fit in a teacup and she fit in diapers.”

Read This If You Loved: Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall, Barkus by Patricia MacLachlanMemoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian,  One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, Ballet Cat by Bob Shea, Cat the Cat by Mo Willems

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Giveaway!
Two Lions is offering a copy of MR. FUZZBUSTER KNOWS HE’S THE FAVORITE to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses).
About the Author and Illustrator:
STACY MCANULTY is certain she’s her mom’s favorite. Her younger brother disagrees. She’s the author of Beautiful, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. Originally from upstate New York, she now lives in Kernersville, North Carolina, with her three children, two dogs, and one husband. She doesn’t have a favorite. You can find her online at www.stacymcanulty.com.
 
EDWARD HEMINGWAY is certain he’s Stacy McAnulty’s favorite illustrator, although the illustrators of Stacy’s other books may disagree. Edward himself is the author and illustrator of the children’s books Bump in the Night, Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship, Bad Apple’s Perfect Day, and Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus. Originally from Bozeman, Montana, he now lives in Brooklyn where he teaches creative writing at the master’s level at SVA in Manhattan. If he has any favorite students, he’ll never tell. Learn more about him online at www.edwardhemingway.com.

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip for providing a copy for review!**

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“Imagination”

Perhaps the greatest tangible gift that we can give to a child comes in the form of a book.  Let us consider, for a moment, the wonderful mind of a child, bearing in mind also that the attention span for many youngsters is short-lived.  How do we keep their young minds involved right from the get-go? How do we keep them from staring out of the window momentarily distracted by a cute puppy, an ice-cream vendor’s ringing bell or a friend they have seen passing by?

How do we do this?  We fire up the magical imagination, for imagination by its very nature is a sort of magic.  Someone once said, and I’ll paraphrase here, that imagination is more important than knowledge… it may have been Einstein — rest assured it was a very smart cookie!  My personal belief is that many good things stem from, what Henry the Fifth referred to as ‘imaginary forces.’

I wrote the first Jorie story, Jorie and the Magic Stones because it had frolicked and played around in my head for a long time, and I just had to put it down into the pages of a book.  Being an ‘only child’ or ‘fille unique’, as the French would say, I think I understood Jorie feeling so alone, and her subsequent reaching out to her best friend Rufus, a young boy, also very much alone.  Further,  the appeal of enchanted cities below a deep body of water, had always intrigued me since I was a young child.

I believe this story, the first in the trilogy, teaches children about those noble attributes of friendship, courage, loyalty, and standing up for what you believe in, in a unique and exciting way.  In spite of all their hair-raising adventures, and somewhat scary exploits, Jorie and Rufus come to realize that good will always vanquish evil… it is the stronger of the two in the final analysis, and these two extraordinary children still manage to separate their ‘magical world’ beneath the Tarn, from the world of reality, with their grandfather and great aunt in the world above the Tarn.  Perhaps this book will fire up our children, and create more desire to read… creating more understanding, and more learning. This is the author’s profound wish… and hope.

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About the Book: Jorie and the Magic Stones is the first book in a new chapter book series by A. H. Richardson. Children everywhere will love this adventurous fantasy of Jorie and Rufus, two orphans from very different walks of life, who meet by chance, find a mystic book with four magical Druidic words that provide the key to an astonishing adventure that will plunge them, quite (literally) into another world beneath the dark waters of the Tarn.

When Marjorie went to live with her frosty maiden aunt, she couldn’t imagine the adventures she would have with dragons — good and bad — and all the strange creatures that live in a mysterious land beneath the Tarn. The spunky 9-year-old redhead forges an unlikely friendship with an insecure young boy named Rufus who lives with his crusty grandfather next door. When Jorie — for that is what she prefers to be called — finds a dusty ancient book about dragons, she learns four strange words that will send the two of them into a mysterious land beneath the Tarn, riddled with enchantment and danger. Hungry for adventure, the children take the plunge, quite literally, and find themselves in the magic land of Cabrynthius.

Upon meeting the good dragon, the Great Grootmonya, Jorie and Rufus are given a quest to find the three Stones of Maalog — stones of enormous power — and return them to their rightful place in Cabrynthius. Their mission is neither easy nor safe, and is peppered with perils in the form of the evil black half-dragon who rules the shadowy side of the land. They have to deal with a wicked and greedy professor, the tragic daughter of the bad dragon, caves of fire, rocky mountainous climbs, and a deadly poisonous butterfly.

Jorie must rely on her wits and courage to win the day? Can she do this? Can she find all three Stones? Can she save Rufus when disaster befalls him? Can she emerge victorious? She and Rufus have some hair-raising challenges, in which they learn valuable lessons about loyalty, bravery, and friendship.

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About the Author: A.H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an author.

She published her first book, Jorie and the Magic Stones, in December 2014, and has written a sequel to it titled Jorie and the Gold Key at the request of those who loved the first ‘Jorie’ story. She is currently working on the third book in the series.

She is also the author of Murder in Little Shendon, a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick,  Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. She has more ‘who-dun-its’ planned for this clever and interesting duo… watch for them!

A.H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

To learn more, go to https://ahrichardson.com/

Thank you for reminding us about the importance of imagination!

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wishapick

Wishapick: Tickety Book and the Black Trunk
Author: M.M. Allen
Published June 16th, 2015 by CreateSpace

Summary: Darkness. Utter blackness. Was this why his mother had refused to let Jack unlock his father’s old trunk? It had been two years since his dad had died, and all Jack could think about was examining whatever treasures were stored inside the beloved trunk. But when he finally lifted the lid, he didn’t just fall in—he fell through it into a pit of rattlesnakes!

Trying to recall his mother’s stories about “the Breath of All Good Things”—anything to shed light on his current situation—Jack wishes he’d paid better attention rather than mock the tales as childish myths…and that he’d waited to enter the trunk with his sister, Lilly, so they could at least face this together.

Like L. Frank Baum’s Oz and C. S. Lewis’s Narnia, M. M. Allen brings to life the fantastical world of Wishapick—a land of courageous animals ruled by a cruel rattlesnake king who has condemned the villagers to live without light. Chosen as the reluctant hero to save the villagers, Jack must face terrifying creatures and overwhelming odds if he wants to help his new friends—and return home himself.

Be sure to check out the companion music CD, Wishapick, for purchase or download from http://deborahwynne.com/

Review: Wishapick is a fun introduction to the world of fantasy reading, and I think a lot of young readers will enjoy Jack’s story and will find themselves wanting to read more fantastical stories. The summary compares the story to Oz and Narnia, but I actually compare it more to Wind in the Willows and other anthropomorphic stories like Redwall. I also think fans of Spiderwick Chronicles will like the adventure. I am also a big fan of a multi-point of view story when done well, and I liked how the author used Jack and Lilly to tell the story because it allowed us to see all sides of the adventure. 

In addition to Jack’s story, the book has a companion CD which brings out some of the mood and tones that the story carries.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Wishapick will be a wonderful addition to any classroom, school, or home library–anywhere the right readers will find it.

Discussion Questions: What character trait did Jack have at the beginning of the book that made him not able to save Wishapick right away?; How did Lilly’s inclusion of the story affect the adventure?; Why did the author choose to switch between points of view?; How does the music help with your interpretation of the story?

Flagged Passages: “He expected his feet to land on the floor of the trunk, but he found himself in a free fall. The lid of the trunk slammed shut above him. The blackness closed in, and the tiny lights he had seen when he first peered into the trunk were gone. He frantically kicked his legs and clutched desperately at the air with his hands. His chest felt tight as a drum, so tight he could barely catch his breath. A groan of despair erupted inside of him. He waved his arms about, trying to slow his fall. As he thundered downward, he felt something with his fingertips, like dirt–no, it was slimy, maybe mud?” (p. 6)

Read This If You Loved: The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black, Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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