The Princess Protection Program by Alex London

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The Princess Protection Program
Author: Alex London
Published February 13th, 2024 by Greenwillow Books

Summary: Every fairy tale ends with its characters living happily ever after, right? A valiant prince quests long and hard to reach the castle where the sleeping princess lies. And with a kiss, he will awaken her.

But what if the princess does NOT think a kiss from a stranger is a very pleasant way to wake up? Yuck!

When Rosamund flees her prince, a Door of Opportunity opens, and she steps through to the Home Educational Academy (the HEA for short). Rosamund has found the Princess Protection Program, where fugitive fairy tale princesses escape unwanted affections, untimely ends, and all the other perils of their stories.

But as Rosamund adjusts to life in the real world and makes her first real friends (Rana, who left her story after an incident with a frog; Sirena, a former mermaid; Cindy and Charlie, who didn’t want to get married after just one dance; and others), she has more and more questions. Does anyone ever graduate from the HEA? Why doesn’t anyone seem to remember former students? Is the kindly fairy headmistress all she appears to be? Is anyone? And the most important question of all: Can Rosamund change her story?

Acclaimed and bestselling author Alex London weaves together several beloved fairy tales in this fast-paced, funny, and slyly subversive adventure about finding your place in the world and taking control of your own story. The daring escapes, sinister monsters, familiar friends, and surprise twists will keep even reluctant readers glued to the pages. The Princess Protection Program is for fans of the Never Afters and the Descendants series, The School for Good and Evil, and the Fairly True.

About the Author: Alex London is the acclaimed author of more than thirty books for children and teens. His middle grade novels include The Princess Protection Program, Search & Rescue, Dog Tags, and two titles in the 39 Clues series. For young adults, he’s the author of the cyberpunk duology Proxy and the epic fantasy series Black Wings Beating, which were both named to numerous best-of-the-year lists. He has been a journalist and human rights researcher reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, a young adult librarian with the New York Public Library, and a snorkel salesman. He lives with his husband, daughter, and hound dog in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Visit him at calexanderlondon.com.

Instagram:
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media
Greenwillow/Harper: @harperkids
Alex London: alexander_london

Facebook:
Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media
Greenwillow/Harper: HarperKidsBooks

Twitter/X:
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch
Greenwillow/Harper: HarperKids
Alex London: @ca_london

Review: I am such a fan of twists on fairy tales, especially when they are unique and like none I’ve read before, and The Princess Protection Program fits this! The idea of princesses being able to leave to our world and automatically go to a school with a fairy godmother protecting them from monsters that are trying to eat them to return to their tales is the perfect new twist for fairy tales. I loved getting to know all of the princesses (and Charlie!) and learning about everything with them. The characters are what make the beginning of the book, but then the twist of the story happens and it breaks the plot open and also adds in so much chaos at the end of the book that the end just speeds by as the conclusion nears. Fans of the books I listed below will definitely love this one!

Tools for Navigation: This book is filled with allusions and allegory; there is so much to unpack! Rosamund’s journey also fits the Hero’s Journey!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why would the princesses want to leave their story?
  • Which princess do you think had the worst fate in their story?
  • What other princesses/characters can you think of that might have wanted to leave their story if they had a chance?
  • Why do the professors not like all of Rosamund’s questions?
  • Were any of the princesses different than what you expected reading their fairy tales?
  • Did you see the twist coming?

Flagged Passages: Chapter One: Beauty Awakened

Once upon a time, there was a young princess, as kind and curious as she was clever, who a witch cursed into a deep and endless sleep. Her castle sat silent in a clearing at the center of a deep, dark wood for a hundred winters and a hundred springs. Around it the forest teemed with poisonous flowers and enchanted thorns. The castle would have sat like that for a hundred more winters and a hundred more springs, had not the prince, as valiant as he was brave, found it at last.

He hacked his way past the poisonous flowers and the enchanted thorns. He dodged hungry shadows and fearsome beasts, fought cursed fungus, and forded a river of nightmares. He even outwitted a witch’s riddle, which, much to his surprise, wasn’t all that tricky.

If you don’t keep me, I break. What am I?

“Um, a promise?” he’d answered.

“Are you certain?” the witch cackled at him. “If you answer wrong, you shall never escape these woods!”

He puffed out his chest.

“I am certain, witch!” he bellowed. The witch shrieked, then vanished in a puff of green smoke. Beyond her, the thorned vines parted to show his way to the castle in the clearing.

He had expected all this to be harder. It was his destiny, after all, and destiny should not be so easy.

Inside, the castle was still. Golden light streaked through stained glass windows. He made his way to the chapel, where he would find his princess. He had been promised this princess in visions and dreams, and even by his very own fairy godmother. The princess would be his one true love from the moment he first laid eyes on her until his last, dying day.

He really hoped she was pretty.

And there she was, the cursed Princess Rosamund, asleep in a bed that stood upon a dais surrounded by wildflowers and an abundance of soothing lavender. She was drenched in golden light, as lovely as the day she’d fallen into that deep sleep one hundred years ago.

“A true beauty,” he whispered to himself, relieved. “Sleeping perfection.”

He knelt before the dais and said a quiet thanks, for he was a polite prince, and grateful that all his dreams were coming true.

Then he rose, stepped up beside the bed, and stood over the sleeping princess, whose story he had been told since childhood: a witch had cursed her father’s kingdom to perish and her to sleep until she was awoken by a kiss of the truehearted.

Well, this prince knew his heart was true.

“My entire life has led me here,” he told the sleeping princess. “I swear to you, I shall love you better than the moon loves the sunset, better than boats love the rising tide, better than a flower loves the . . . err . . . um . . . something? Not dew. Bees, maybe? Err . . .”

He’d forgotten his oath, even though he’d practiced it for the entire quest. Then again, it was not his words that mattered, but the truth in his heart and the passion in his kiss. The oaths were just for posterity, a word

he didn’t really understand anyway. Posterity didn’t have chapped lips and body odor from all that questing. The prince did.

With no further ado, he pressed his lips to the sleeping princess’s and held them there with his eyes closed for a count of three, which was how long his squire had told him a real kiss was meant to last. The prince had never kissed anyone before, not even the squire who’d suggested they practice. He wished he had practiced now. He didn’t know if he was doing kissing right at all.

He opened first one eye and then the other.

To his delight, the princess had opened her eyes, both of them, and was staring up at him with a look of deep passion.

Or was that surprise?

“Fear not, princess,” he told her softly. “It is I, Prince Percy the Valiant, and it is my destiny to wake you and marry you and love you for the rest of our blessed lives.”

Her eyes narrowed. Her forehead furrowed.

“Am I not all you dreamed of these hundred years?” he asked her, his confidence faltering. He had not considered that she might not think him pretty.

“Um,” she said, which was not the most inspiring first word of their life together, but she had been asleep for a long time.

He leaned back, giving her space as the color returned to her cheeks, the focus to her eyes. He could give her a moment to come to her senses. He himself was a beast first thing in the morning, as she would surely learn in the course of their marriage.

To his surprise, she sat bolt upright. Like an unbroken mare kicking out at a new rider, she shoved him off her bed and sent him tumbling from the dais. He nearly fell over onto his princely posterior, which was not at all the first impression he preferred to make.

“Princess!” he called as she leapt in bare feet down to the chapel floor. The wildflowers around her withered as the magic faded.

She looked him up and down, brow still furrowed.

Then she ran.

Read This If You Love: Fairy Tale Reform School by Jen Calonita, Disney Twisted Tales, Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer, Books by Jessica Day George, Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski

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

The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants by Philip Bunting

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The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants
Author & Illustrator: Philip Bunting
Published March 19th, 2024 by Crown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Take a peek under the rock, and discover what we can learn from the world of the ant, in this delightful blend of nonfiction and inspirational humor by author-illustrator Philip Bunting!

There are ten quadrillion ants in the world, and yet I bet you never thought they could teach you anything. But these tiny creatures can do big things when they work together–just like people!

With his signature humor and graphic illustrations, Philip Bunting delivers facts, laughs, and heart all in this special book that teaches that the answers to many of life’s biggest questions can be found in your own back yard (once you’re ready to look).

★ “This overview of ants combines cleverly designed graphics and a funny text to convey major concepts about the familiar insects.” —The Horn Book, starred review

About the Author: Philip Bunting is an author and illustrator whose work deliberately encourages playful interaction between the reader and child, allowing his books to create a platform for genuine intergenerational engagement and fun. Philip’s books have been translated into multiple languages and published in over thirty countries around the world. Since his first book was published in 2017, Philip has received multiple accolades, including Honors from the Children’s Book Council of Australia and making the list for the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2018. He lives with his young family on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Visit his website: philipbunting.com.

Instagram:
Philip Bunting: @philip.bunting
Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

Facebook:
Philip Bunting: N/A
Random House Children’s Books: Random House Children’s Books
Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media 

Twitter/X:
Philip Bunting: N/A
Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Review: This book is a joy! Anyone who has read a book by Philip Bunting knows that his work excels at bringing play into the reading to make the book a bit silly, interactive, and full of informational magic. The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants is the same. I loved the little jokes throughout the book that will definitely get readers giggling, the illustrations are just so playful and perfect for the book, and I learned so much about ants! It definitely is a multi-purpose book, for pleasure and for learning, which will be a winning read aloud!

For more about the book and to hear from the author, visit his interview, “Using Well-Placed ‘Humour’ as a Trojan Horse for Information,” on Fuse 8.

Tools for Navigation: There is so much in this book that is PERFECT for science which makes it an amazing cross-curricular tool. My first though is I think it would be awesome to see students use this book as a mentor text to create their own book about another insect which would include research, science, creative writing, and visual art.

The vocabulary in this book is wonderful as well, both when it comes to science and just tier 2 words such as nuptials, mandibles, reproduces, fragrant, and more.

Oh, and math, there is something here for you too! When looking at the number of ants, it compares human vs. ant weight which would be a fantastic math problem!

Discussion Questions: 

  • If there are ten quadrillion ants in the world and 8 billion people in the world, and they weigh about the same, how much do each set weigh?
  • Do you think the queen is the most important ant in the colony?
  • Why are ants so important for the world?
  • What can we learn from ants?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Informational books with humor

Recommended For: 

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

Educators’ Guide for The Partition Project by Saadia Faruqi

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The Partition Project
Author: Saadia Faruqi
Published: February 27th, 2024 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: When her grandmother comes off the airplane in Houston from Pakistan, Mahnoor knows that having Dadi move in is going to disrupt everything about her life. She doesn’t have time to be Dadi’s unofficial babysitter—her journalism teacher has announced that their big assignment will be to film a documentary, which feels more like storytelling than what Maha would call “journalism”.

As Dadi starts to settle into life in Houston and Maha scrambles for a subject for her documentary, the two of them start talking. About Dadi’s childhood in northern India—and about the Partition that forced her to leave her home and relocate to the newly created Pakistan. As details of Dadi’s life are revealed, Dadi’s personal story feels a lot more like the breaking news that Maha loves so much. And before she knows it, she has the subject of her documentary.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for the author:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about The Partition Project on Saadia Faruqi’s website.

Flagged Passage: View an excerpt HERE.

Recommended For: 

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Remember Us by Jacqueline Woodson

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Remember Us
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Published October 10th, 2023 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson brings readers a powerful story that delves deeply into life’s burning questions about time and memory and what we take with us into the future.

It seems like Sage’s whole world is on fire the summer before she starts seventh grade. As house after house burns down, her Bushwick neighborhood gets referred to as “The Matchbox” in the local newspaper. And while Sage prefers to spend her time shooting hoops with the guys, she’s also still trying to figure out her place inside the circle of girls she’s known since childhood. A group that each day, feels further and further away from her. But it’s also the summer of Freddy, a new kid who truly gets Sage. Together, they reckon with the pain of missing the things that get left behind as time moves on, savor what’s good in the present, and buoy each other up in the face of destruction. And when the future comes, it is Sage’s memories of the past that show her the way forward. Remember Us speaks to the power of both letting go . . . and holding on.

About the Author: Jacqueline Woodson (www.jacquelinewoodson.com) received a 2023 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. She was the 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and in 2015, she was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She received the 2014 National Book Award for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award, and a Sibert Honor. She wrote the adult books Red at the Bone, a New York Times bestseller, and Another Brooklyn, a 2016 National Book Award finalist. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She is the author of dozens of award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a four-time National Book Award finalist, and a three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her books include Coretta Scott King Award and NAACP Image Award winner Before the Ever After; New York Times bestsellers The Day You Begin and Harbor MeThe Other Side, Caldecott Honor book Coming On Home Soon; Newbery Honor winners FeathersShow Way, and After Tupac and D FosterMiracle’s Boys, which received the LA Times Book Prize and the Coretta Scott King Award; and Each Kindness, which won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Jacqueline is also a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Review: Remember Us may be a historical fiction book, taking place in the 1970s, but Sage’s story is timeless. In the book, you have so many layers to look at. First, Woodson’s vignettes are beautifully crafted which makes the book such a wonderful read. Then you have the layer of the fires in Sage’s neighborhood and fire in her own life. There is also her love of basketball, and her amazing talent, as well as the questioning about her identity this leads to. Finally, it is a story of family and friends with Sage’s mom and Freddy playing star roles. All of this leads to a multi-layered novel that is a truthful look at growing up and remembering the past.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: Check out this Educator’s Guide from Penguin Random House!

Flagged Passage: 

After the year of fire
vines rise up
through the rest of our lives
of smoke
of flame
of memory.
As if to say
We’re still here.
As if to say
Remember us.

1

The moon is bright tonight. And full. Hanging low above the house across the street where an orange curtain blows in and out of my neighbors’ window. Out and in. And past the curtain there’s the golden light of their living room lamps. Beyond that, there is the pulsing blue of their tele­vision screen. I see this all now. I see a world continuing.

And in the orange and gold and blue I’m reminded again of the year when sirens screamed through my old neighborhood and smoke always seemed to be billowing. Somewhere.

That year, from the moment we stepped out of our houses in the morning till late into the night, we heard the sirens. Down Knickerbocker. Up Madison. Across Cornelia. Both ways on Gates Avenue. Down Ridgewood Place. Rounding the corners of Putnam, Wilson, Evergreen . . .

Evergreen. Sometimes a word comes to you after time has passed. And it catches you off guard. Evergreen. The name of a family of trees. And the name of a block in Brooklyn. Evergreen. Another way of saying forever.

That year, nothing felt evergreen.

Palmetto. A word that has never left me. A word that in my mind is evergreen. Palmetto. The name for both a stunning tree and an oversize cockroach. Palmetto was also the name of a street in my old neighborhood. And that year, Palmetto Street was burning.

2

That was the year when, one by one, the buildings on Palmetto melted into a mass of rock and ash and crumbled plaster until just a few walls were left standing. Walls that we threw our balls against and chased each other around. And at the end of the day, when we were too tired to play anymore, they were the walls we simply sat down by and pressed our backs into, staring out over a block that was already, even as we stared at it with our lips slightly parted and our hands shielding the last of the sun from our eyes, almost gone.

We said Well, nothing lasts for always, right?

We said One day even the whole earth will disappear.

We were just some kids making believe we understood.

But we didn’t. Not yet.

We didn’t understand the fires. Or life. Or the world.

But we knew that neighborhood was our world.

And we knew . . . our world was burning.

Read This If You Love: Jacqueline Woodson’s books such as brown girl dreaming and Harbor MeTroublemaker by John Cho, The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, The Unsung Hero of Birdsong USA by Brenda Woods

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**Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for providing a copy for review!**

Educators’ Guide for The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo

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The Puppets of Spelhorst
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Julie Morstad
Published: October 10th, 2023 by Candlewick Press

Summary: From master storyteller Kate DiCamillo comes an original fairy tale—with enchanting illustrations by Julie Morstad—in which five puppets confront circumstances beyond their control with patience, cunning, and high spirits.

Shut up in a trunk by a taciturn old sea captain with a secret, five friends—a king, a wolf, a girl, a boy, and an owl—bicker, boast, and comfort one another in the dark. Individually, they dream of song and light, freedom and flight, purpose and glory, but they all agree they are part of a larger story, bound each to each by chance, bonded by the heart’s mysteries. When at last their shared fate arrives, landing them on a mantel in a blue room in the home of two little girls, the truth is more astonishing than any of them could have imagined. A beloved author of modern classics draws on her most moving themes with humor, heart, and wisdom in the first of the Norendy Tales, a projected trio of novellas linked by place and mood, each illustrated in black and white by a different virtuoso illustrator. A magical and beautifully packaged gift volume designed to be read aloud and shared, The Puppets of Spelhorst is a tale that soothes and strengthens us on our journey, leading us through whatever dark forest we find ourselves in.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy The Puppets of Spelhorst educators’ guide I created for Candlewick Press:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about The Puppets of Spelhorst on Candlewick’s page.

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont by Nick Brooks

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Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont
Author: Nick Brooks
Published: October 4th, 2022 by Union Square Kids

Summary: Something cool happening in Ferrous City? Not a chance.

Until one day . . . when self-proclaimed genius inventor Ethan Fairmont runs into an abandoned car factory to avoid a local bully and accidentally stumbles across his ex-best friend Kareem, new kid Juan Carlos, and an extraterrestrial visitor. Cheese (the alien) is stuck on Earth in need of some serious repairs, spicy snacks—and absolute, total secrecy. That’s easier said than done when mysterious agents descend on Ferrous City to search for Cheese. With time running out and their family and friends in potential danger, can Ethan, Kareem, and Juan Carlos pull off an intergalactic rescue before they’re all found out?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle

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Love Radio
Author: Ebony LaDelle
Published: May 31st, 2022 by Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers

Summary: Hitch meets The Sun Is Also a Star in this novel about a self-professed teen love doctor with a popular radio segment who believes he can get a girl who hates all things romance to fall in love with him in only three dates.

Prince Jones is the guy with all the answers—or so it seems. After all, at seventeen, he has his own segment on Detroit’s popular hip-hop show, Love Radio, where he dishes out advice to the brokenhearted.

Prince has always dreamed of becoming a DJ and falling in love. But being the main caretaker for his mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and his little brother means his dreams will stay just that and the only romances in his life are the ones he hears about from his listeners. Until he meets Dani Ford.

Dani isn’t checking for anybody. She’s focused on her plan: ace senior year, score a scholarship, and move to New York City to become a famous author. But her college essay keeps tripping her up and acknowledging what’s blocking her means dealing with what happened at that party a few months ago. And that’s one thing Dani can’t do,

When the romantic DJ meets the ambitious writer, sparks fly. Prince is smitten, but Dani’s not looking to get derailed. She gives Prince just three dates to convince her that he’s worth falling for. Three dates for the love expert to take his own advice, and just maybe change two lives forever.

Love, Radio is a 2024 Project Lit Book

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy Love Radio‘s educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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