It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Anticipated Publication: September 19, 2017 by Two Lions
Goodreads Summary: A fresh take on a young Jack who is not keen on climbing any beanstalks and would much prefer to tell his own story.
Ricki’s Review: This book is hysterical. My four-year-old and I love reading it. (I am not entirely sure he understands that it is a fairy tale retelling, but he still adores it.) Every night, it is the first book he picks to read together. The book has an unnamed narrator who insists on telling the traditional “Jack and the Beanstalk” story. Jack has other plans, though. He and the giant decide that they don’t want to follow the traditions of the story. As you can see below in the flagged spread, Jack pushes back on the tale. I laugh every time I read this. My favorite part is the appears of Cindy (Cinderella), who invites Jack to her ball. Josh Funk is an incredible author, and I will read anything that he writes. This is a fantastic book for teachers to use in their classrooms.
Kellee’s Review: Trent loves the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. They must read it at his school because he knew the whole story, and I think it is hilarious that he argues with me about what is happening in the book. We’ve talked about how this is a different Jack story but he, like the narrator, just really wants Jack to do what he is supposed to. I love the way that Josh Funk has broken the 4th wall and has the narrator talk to the characters; it is such a unique way to twist the fairy tale and makes it so hilarious. I look forward to reading this to Trent and students for many years.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Most obviously, this book would be great to kick off a unit on writing fairy tale retellings. It teaches students to break the mold and repurpose stories to add humor and intrigue. It would also be fun to pair this story with other fairy tale retellings to ask students: What did the authors do to revision the stories? How are they successful?
Check out a book trailer, collector’s cards, and more at https://www.joshfunkbooks.com/
Discussion Questions: How does Jack break our expectations?; How are Jack and the Giant different from the narrator? Who did you find yourself rooting for?; How does the author add humor to the story?; How is the text structured to help the reader follow both the narrator and Jack?; What other fairy tales could you retell?
Read This If You Loved: Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
About the Author and Illustrator:
**Special Thanks to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for Providing Copies to Review*
Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw
Author: Todd Calgi Gallicano
Published August 29th, 2017 by Delacorte Press
Summary: A new action adventure series set in our famous national parks! Enter the world of the Department of Mythical Wildlife, where our protagonist, Sam London, is tasked with protecting legendary animals that secretly live amongst our treasured wildlife.
Haunted by a dream of a mythical gryphon, Sam London uncovers an ancient secret that will change the way he sees the world forever. Recruited by Dr. Vance Vantana, an eccentric zoologist and park ranger sent by the government, Sam is whisked away on an adventure that takes him to the farthest reaches of the globe. Along this journey, Sam learns an incredible truth: mythical creatures are real and living among us in our national parks. A special department in the U.S. government ensures that their existence remains hidden.
But Sam’s dream is an omen that the secret may now be in danger. Someone seeks the power to expose these creatures and overthrow humankind–and that power can only be found in a magical talisman known as the gryphon’s claw.
“A fun-filled start to a series that is sure to keep lovers of Rick Riordan running to the shelves.”-SLJ
“A death-defying, globe-spanning adventure, packed with creatures out of folklore and myth….[Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw is] a solid series opener and debut for Gallicano, who stocks his story with engaging characters, human, and otherwise.”-Publishers Weekly
Review: I could not stop raving about this book as I read it! I tweeted about it, talked to everyone I saw about it, and even mentioned in a couple of IMWAYR posts. You know why? Because it is so much fun, the plot is so well-crafted, and finally my fans of Riordan’s mythological adventures are going to finally have a book that they’re going to love has much as his books. However, I don’t want you to think this is a Riordan copy-cat. It is a totally unique adventure with mythical creatures. I loved the combination of mythologies from different cultures, humor!, the new explanation of mythical creatures living with us yet hidden among us, and the inclusion of national parks in Sam’s story.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw will be a perfect new addition to mythology units in middle school to share along side Percy Jackson and other Riordan words. Gallicano even included a glossary of the mythical creatures that will be a wonderful asset to classrooms. However, I feel that primarily the book will be found in students’ hands.
Discussion Questions: What do you think the cliffhanger means?; What character traits does Sam posess that helped him in his adventures?; Which mythical creature would scare you the most? Which mythical creature would you want to have in your house? Which mythical creature would you want to hang out with?; Do you think Phylassos did the right thing in hiding his identity? About getting Sam London involved in the adventure?; Discuss Chriscanis and his journey in the book.; How did Sam’s story fit the Hero’s Journey?
Flagged Passages: “The flapping of the creature’s massive wings sent up a swirling column of dust that blanketed the plateau and rose hundreds of feet into the air. In Death Valley, these whirlwinds of dirt were often called sand augers — twisting, dust-filled tornados that fed off the desert floor as they moved across the landscape. Sam had forgotten about this part of the dream and closed his eyes and covered his mouth a moment too late. When he heard the wings slow and felt the haze begin to settle, he cautiously opened his eyes. They instantly stung from the dissipating cloud of dust, and he coughed as particles of desert sand forced their way into his throat. But it was all suddenly worth it–the stinging, the coughing, the lying, the possible grounding for eternity–for what he saw standing before him was truly extraordinary. Phylassos had returned.”
Read This If You Love: Mythology, Mythical Creatures, Adventure
**Thank you to Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review!**
Snow White: A Graphic Novel
Author: Matt Phelan
Published: September 21, 2016 by Candlewick
A Guest Review by Emily Baseler
GoodReads Summary: Award-winning graphic novelist Matt Phelan delivers a darkly stylized noir Snow White set against the backdrop of Depression-era Manhattan.
The scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words “Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL.” In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil.
Review: Matt Phelan reinvented the “happily ever after” with this retelling. I identify as a Disney Classic enthusiast but I was pleasantly surprised with the ending. The illustrations are gorgeous with distinct intentionality. More mature themes such as death, assassination, murder were evaluated within a historical context to create an incredible murder mystery story at the level of a middle grade reader.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be an excellent text to hand a more reluctant reader. There is limited text the reader is asked to interpret the illustrations and structure. In literature groups, students could potentially discuss the use of metaphor, oenomania, author/illustrator’s choice, and compare/ contrast the original fairytale with the retelling. This is also a text I would recommend to a student who has shown an interest in the graphic novel genre to read independently.
Discussion Questions: Why do you think the author choose to use red in selected illustrations? How did this choice influence you as a reader?; Why do you think the author choose to break apart the chapters this way?; Even though there were few words, how did you interpret the mood, tone, and voice of characters?; Did you find yourself needing to interpret the illustrations to understand the plot? What was that experience like for you as a reader?; How is this retelling of the classic fairy tale of “Snow White” different than the original? What did you notice is similar?
Flagged Passage: “My name is Snow White, but my mother didn’t call be that to be funny. She would say that the snow covers everything and makes the entire world beautiful” (Ch. 10)
Read This If You Loved: Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff, Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
Thank you, Emily!
Story Path: Choose a Path, Tell a Story
Author/Illustrator: Madalena Matoso
Published March, 2017 by Kane Miller EDC Publishing
Summary: Where you go, whom you meet, what you do next — it’s all up to you…
Travel along the story path and discover an enchanted world where princess battle with hairy monsters and vampire cats zoom through the galaxy on silver unicorns!
This innovative picture book allows you to choose your own characters, settings, and plots at every turn. With quirky illustrations by the award-winning Madalena Matoso, this is an imaginative storytelling experience for children of all ages.
Review: I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was younger because it made you part of the story to an extent that other books didn’t because you get to be the actual creator of the plot. Story Path does just this but for a younger audience! The author set up the book in a very friendly way that gives lots of options but also is easy to follow. On each page, the story continues with a beginning of a sentence like “One day, they were riding along on their…” and the reader then gets to pick from a set of illustrations. This spread includes options like a two-headed dragon, rocket ship, horse, boat, or an elephant. Then after the choice is made, the author included guiding questions to ask the reader like “What did you choose? What noise did it make? How fast was it? Where were they going?” This helps add even more to the story that the reader is creating.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could take narrative writing to a new level in the early elementary classroom! As students are first learning how to write stories, Story Path can help guide the writers through characters, setting, and plot yet each writer would have a different story.
Discussion Questions: What story did you create? Why did you pick what you did? What can you add to your story?
Read This If You Loved: Choose Your Own Adventure books, Journey trilogy by Aaron Becker, Henri Mouse by George Mendoza
**Thank you to Lynn at Kane Miller for providing a copy for review!!**
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Published April 2, 2013 by Little, Brown
Guest Post by: Nichole Pitruzzello
Summary: Laszlo is afraid of the dark. But is the dark afraid of Laszlo? They live in the same house, with the same creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs. But the dark mostly stays in the basement…until one night, when it doesn’t. Laszlo walks through his house, as the dark converses with him, on a journey to overcome his fear.
Review: In his unique writing style, Lemony Snicket takes an eerie childhood fear and personifies the dark in a soothing way. John Klassen’s illustrations are a wonderful compliment to the story of Laszlo, using black space and warm colors to enhance the mood. I’m very impressed by the way they take a concept that many children fear, and transform it into a friendly, calming presence. I cannot wait to add this book to my library!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers can use this book as a mentor text for a variety of mini lessons. Lemony Snicket personifies the dark, uses vivid language to talk about Laszlo’s house, and creates suspense through a blend of dialogue and narration. In addition, it’s an excellent book to teach a lesson about overcoming one’s fears. There’s so much that this book can add to a classroom!
Discussion Questions: What are some places that you are scared of, and why are they scary? Was the dark really scary? How did the dark help Laszlo? Why shouldn’t we be afraid of the dark? What should we do when we are afraid of something?
Read This If You Loved: Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly, Singing Away the Dark by Caroline Woodward, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket
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
**Thank you to Al at Amazon for providing copies for review!**
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.
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)
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**
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