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!**

This review was featured by Twinkl in their article Magical Books for Kids to Beat the Summer Reading Slide!

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.

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Discussion Guide for How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra

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How to Heal a Gryphon
Author: Meg Cannistra
Published: October 4th, 2022 by Inkyard Press

Summary: To save her family, she’ll have to make a dangerous bargain and tip the scales off balance.

With her thirteenth birthday just around the corner, Giada Bellantuono has to make a big decision: Will she join the family business and become a healer or follow her dreams? But even though she knows her calling is to heal vulnerable animals, using her powers to treat magical creatures is decidedly not allowed.

When a group of witches kidnaps her beloved older brother, Rocco, and her parents are away, Giada is the only person left who can rescue him. Swept into the magical underground city of Malavita, Giada will need the help of her new companions to save her brother—or risk losing him forever.

Review: In the first book of the Giada the Healer series by Meg Cannistra, we enter a world where magic is real and mythical creatures exist and we get to meet Giada, a thirteen year old girl from a family of healers. She has magic, just like the rest of her family, but unlike them, her magic works best with animals. She knows she is going to have to tell her family that she wants to work with animals, not humans, but she has been putting it off trying to figure out how to break it to them without them being too upset. But before she can get a chance, she finds herself in the most important fight of her life–one against the witches underground to save her brother. Through this journey, will Giada be able to show that her passion is just as important as tradition?

Readers will love Giada and her story. It is paced so well, with a balance of plot-driven and character-driven elements, a body-positive message throughout, and the magical system & world building is intertwined with aspects of Roman mythology and Italian folklore. I also particularly love the lesson found within the book about passions: Giada’s internal struggle of passion versus expectation is one that so many readers will connect with, and Giada will be a great guide for those in similar situations. 

I was lucky enough to be able to create a discussion guide for Cake Creative Kitchen and Inkyard Press for this book and educators will find that Cannistra’s novel includes imagery and descriptive language, complex characters, an opportunity to look at cause and effect, thought-provoking reflection opportunities, a quest-focused plot that follows the hero’s journey, and more elements that allow the reader to deeply delve into the text. 

This book will definitely leave any reader wanting more, but they’re in luck! The second book in the series, How to Save a Unicorn, is waiting for them! Happy reading everyone!

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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Author Guest Post: “Create Your Own Dragons: Fantastical Creatures Shaped by the Natural World” by Kacy Ritter, Author of The Great Texas Dragon Race

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“Create Your Own Dragons: Fantastical Creatures Shaped by the Natural World”

One of my favorite parts about writing fantasy is drawing inspiration from anywhere—including geography, ecology, and biodiversity. While creating the alternate modern world for The Great Texas Dragon Race, I aimed to introduce kids to diverse dragon species, each intricately shaped by their habitats in Texas and beyond.

In this article, I’ll outline how I used real-world creatures and climates to develop a few of the dragons in The Great Texas Dragon Race. From arid deserts to vast mountain ranges, each dragon possesses unique traits inspired by its specific habitat. I hope these mythical beings will fire young readers’ imaginations while also serving as a reminder of the boundless wonders of our own natural world. You can even try a similar exercise with students who are hesitant to “get excited” about ecosystems!

Species: Cyan Mountain Dragon
Habitat: The Rocky Mountains
Inspirations: Bald Eagle; Side-blotched Lizard

How I Created It:

The fierce Cyan Mountain Dragon was designed as a creature born to soar above the lofty peaks of the Rocky Mountains. I wanted this mighty dragon to easily navigate the rugged mountain terrain by allowing it to blend in with the sky. Stealing from the majestic traits of a bald eagle, I gifted this dragon with exceptional eyesight, allowing it to spot prey high above the peaks.

Species: Mexican Free-tailed Dragonette
Habitat: North, Central, and South America
Inspiration: Mexican Free-tailed Bat

How I Created It:

My Mexican Free-tailed Dragonette borrowed heavily (and I mean, really heavily) from its inspiration, the Mexican free-tailed bat, which lives all across the Lone Star State. (I even had these bats living outside my home in a bat house we installed. . . Yes. We put it there. On purpose.) Resembling a bat in size and appearance, I imagined these fuzzy brown dragonettes with scales peaking through their fur as a nod to their reptilian heritage. Equipped with a pig-like snout and expert echolocation, I wanted these tiny dragons to have unique features which would allow them to thrive in my alternate world just like bats.

Species: Texas Coral Viper
Habitat: Southern United States (and, umm, Texas)
Inspiration: Texas Coral Snake

How I Created It:

The Texas Coral Viper in The Great Texas Dragon Race is stolen from its real-life venomous prototype, the Texas Coral Snake. Its markings of red, black, and yellow (which are also the colors of the “bad guys” in the race… hmmm…) serve as a warning to potential threats. I added to the features of a typical Texas coral snake, both nocturnal and solitary, to make it more “dragon-like.” These additions included ivory fangs the size of golf-clubs and an underdeveloped set of wings. But just like the Texas coral snake, its fangs also release deadly venom.

Species: Purple Lightrage
Habitat: Domesticated
Inspiration: My dog and cats… No, really!

How I Created It:

My dog and cats inspired this adorable dragon, by I added cobalt blue horns and tiny wings. Its slender frame and wriggly nature make it fun and endearing—a far cry from what most kids think of when they think of dragons. (Because, come on… who doesn’t want a cute little bacon-loving dragon to curl up at the end of their bed at night?)

A Final Note

My hope is that young readers and writers will realize they don’t have to create something out of thin air if they don’t want to. Sometimes, the basic subjects we learn in school can give us fantastic ideas for developing fantasy creatures. This is an exercise I will begin using in school visits this Fall. If you want to try this exercise with your students, ask them to start with a location and build their own dragon based on what it would need to thrive in that location. Maybe they’ll pick a snowy peak, a massive forest, or a backyard. Either way, the world is their oyster dragon.

Published August 1st, 2023 by Clarion Books

About the Book: Thirteen-year-old Cassidy Drake wants nothing more than to race with her best dragon, Ranga, in the annual Great Texas Dragon Race. Her mother was a racing legacy, and growing up on her family’s dragon sanctuary ranch, Cassidy lives and breathes dragons. She knows she could win against the exploitative FireCorp team that cares more about corporate greed than caring for the dragons.

Cassidy is so determined to race that she sneaks out of her house against her father’s wishes and enters the competition. Soon, Cassidy takes to the skies with Ranga across her glorious Lone Star State. But with five grueling tasks ahead of her, dangerous dragon challenges waiting at each one, and more enemies than allies on the course, Cassidy will need to know more than just dragons to survive.

About the Author: Kacy Ritter is a fantasy geek who has lived all across the Lone Star State. She holds degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas, and currently resides in Houston with her partner and their daughter. She daylights as a healthcare professional, and loves writing at the intersection of fantasy and Texas Americana.

Thank you, Kacy, for this fun look into your inspiration!

If You Meet the Devil, Don’t Shake Hands by Sylvia Whitman

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If You Meet the Devil, Don’t Shake Hands
Author: Sylvia Whitman
Published September 19th, 2023 by Fitzroy Books

Summary: Twelve-year-old Gavin Baker, son of a warrior, is a born worrier. With his father serving overseas, Gavin assumes that he’ s already imagined the worst that can happen— until he shakes hands with his best friend Javi’ s long-lost grandfather and finds himself trapped in the old magician’ s ailing body. Help! As the trickster takes over Gavin’ s life, fooling the girl of his dreams and even his own family, Gavin wonders if the imposter is a better version of Gavin than Gavin himself. He has to convince Javi that the real Gavin now has hairy knuckles and a love of Pablo Neruda’ s poetry. Then the boys can try some tricks of their own. But will the two friends be able to reverse the old devil’ s magic? Or will both of their families get their hearts broken?

About the Author: Sylvia Whitman, a writer and educator, has published articles, a picture book, and nonfiction & fiction children’s books. A folklore and mythology major in college, she has always liked proverbs, particularly this one: “A book is a garden carried in the pocket.” She lives with her husband and two kids in Arlington, Virginia. Visit her at SylviaWhitmanBooks.com.

Review: This twist on Freaky Friday looks at the heart of family trauma and perspective. It was fascinating to see how the switch into an unwelcome visitor led to a conclusion that I would not have guessed. Through the eyes of Javi’s returned abuelo, but with Gavin’s narrative, we learn the truth of the past and the present. Though the story focuses on Gavin and “El Diablo,” there are side stories that add heart to the story and flesh out the supporting character. Whitman does a wonderful job showing the reader both reasons for sympathy and anger while validating all of the emotions of all of the characters.

Tools for Navigation: This book will be perfect for middle school classroom and school libraries. Middle school readers are going to be enthralled by the concept of the book and want to figure out how it all shakes out.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think El Diablo and Gavin switched places?
  • How did the switch affect both of them?
  • What do you think happens next, after the end of the book?
  • How do you think the story would have been different if Gavin and El Diablo hadn’t switched places?
  • Through the flashes of El Diablo’s memory coming through, what do you believe happened in the past? Do you think Javi’s abuelo is as devil-like as they’ve all assumed?
  • Do you agree with the tactics that Gavin uses to reach the conclusion of the book?
  • What do you believe the theme of the book is?

Flagged Passages: “El Diablo’s hand is still waiting for mine.

Should I tell him my last name? He’s Javi’s granddad, after all. Or should I make one up?

Say nothing. Smile. That’s Mom’s advice.

It’s rude if I don’t shake, though.

When we touch, Javi’s grandfather gives me a shock so strong I can hear the snap. Before I can pull back, he clamps his left hand over the shake, trapping me. His eyes bore right into mine.

“What are you good at”—he gulps a quick breath—“Gavin?”

I don’t know. My whole arm is tingling—no, stinging—like after it goes to sleep and then starts to wake up. I want to shake it out. I pull back slightly, but this guy is not relaxing his grip. He’s acting like a diablo, not an abuelo.

I’m about to yelp for help when El Diablo says, “Good with the girls?”

At that, both Javi and I snort.

“Science,” Javi says. “School.”

So is Javi. He’s good at everything.

“A smart one,” El Diablo says to me. “What else?”

I wait for Javi to speak up, but he doesn’t. Outside of class I’m not much of anything.

My dad is always telling me that I should take some risks—not stupid ones, like stealing a car or smoking dope, but expanding ones, like reading a book you’ve never heard of or tasting food you can’t pronounce. Right after Dad went downrange, I tried some borscht that a lady from the family support center gave us, but when Mom explained beets made it purple, I spit it back into the bowl and just ate rolls for supper.

Now the pins and needles are spreading across my collarbone and down my left arm. My blood is bubbling like soda fresh from the can. Isn’t this a symptom of a heart attack?

I yank my hand, but El Diablo holds tight. “Sports?” he asks.

“Your grandson’s the soccer star,” I say. Now let go of me.

Javi shakes his head.

“You are,” I insist. “You’ll make the team this year. They need another goalie.”

“Not if I don’t practice,” Javi says.

“Get your friend here to shoot on you,” El Diablo says.

“He won’t,” Javi says. That’s not true. I’m just careful. I read somewhere that soccer’s the fifth most dangerous sport, with 22.12 injuries per 100,000 participants.

“Before I came to this country, I played striker for El Brujos,” El Diablo says.

Given that he’s sitting down and practically panting, I find it hard to believe that he once covered a field. Javi’s always telling me that soccer requires incredible conditioning. He even found some story about soccer players living longer to convince me to try out with him for the Crossroads team. But he forgot to factor in sudden cardiac death, concussions, and dementia.

I expect El Diablo to start reminiscing, or making up stories, about his athletic career, which I can tolerate as long as he relaxes his grip on my hand. I need it for scratching since it feels as if approximately 250 ants have crawled under my shirt and are marching down into my pants. At six legs per ant, I have roughly 1500 roaming itchy spots.

“Would you mind…letting go?” I ask in my most polite desperate voice.

“You’re a smart boy, Gavin,” he says. “Smart is good. Wise is better.”

I try to signal SOS with my eyebrows, but Javi thinks I’m just puzzled by the comment.

“What’s the difference?” Javi asks.

“Smart knows facts,” El Diablo says. “Wise understands people.”

“Sir—my hand. I think maybe the circulation’s cut off,” I say. But it’s not just my hand; every nerve cell in my body is cut off and in flames.

Still gripping, El Diablo leans toward my ear and whispers, “You have something I want.” (Chapter 4)

Read This If You Love: Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers, The Switch by Anthony Horowitz, Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**

Review and Educators’ Guide!: The Witch of Woodland by Laurel Snyder

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The Witch of Woodland
Author: Laurel Snyder
Published: May 16th, 2023 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with a story of one girl’s quest to answer the seemingly unanswerable questions about what makes us who we are.

Hi, whoever is reading this. I’m Zipporah Chava McConnell, but everyone calls me Zippy.

Things used to be simple—until a few weeks ago. Now my best friend, Bea, is acting funny; everyone at school thinks I’m weird; and my mom is making me start preparing for my bat mitzvah, even though we barely ever go to synagogue. In fact, the only thing that still seems to make sense is magic.

See, the thing is, I’m a witch. I’ve been casting spells since I was little. And even if no one else wants to believe in magic anymore, it’s always made sense to me, always felt true. But I was still shocked the day I found a strange red book at the library and somehow…I conjured something. A girl, actually. A beautiful girl with no memory, and wings like an angel. You probably don’t believe me, but I swear it’s the truth.

Miriam is like no one else I’ve ever met. She’s proof that magic is real. And, it’s hard to explain this part, but I just know that we’re connected. That means it’s up to me to help Miriam figure out what she is and where she came from. If I can do that, maybe everything else in my life will start to make sense too.

Anyway, it’s worth a try.

About the Author: Laurel Snyder is the beloved author of many picture books and novels for children, including the National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Charlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in writing for children and young adults program. Laurel lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.

Review: Zippy was so happy; her best friend Bea and her bonded over magic and everything has been Bea and Zippy since then and it has been wonderful. Then 7th grade begins and Bea is different and Zippy is not. This leads to Zippy feeling socially isolated and just so different than everyone else, a feeling that so many middle schoolers & those us of who went through middle school, will understand. This is the feeling that the book starts with–Zippy just wants someone who understands her again. This is the foundation for the rest of the book.

Laurel Snyder’s middle grade writing always enchants me, and Witch of Woodland is no different. Her characters in Witch are so easy to connect with (including her parents, who I love are included in such a realistic way), the magic she includes is captivating and unique, and her stories are unlike anyone else’s. What got me the most about this book, though, is Zippy. Zippy is special. She is a walking contradiction, just like many early teens are: she is strong and weak, confident and insecure, magical and human, quiet and loud, angry and optimistic… she is all of this and more, and none of that changes, though she evolves and grows in a way that she is just a better version of her same self. Zippy makes this book, everything else just supports her.

I want to note with this review that I am not Jewish, so I did not comment on the religious aspects of the book as I do not have the prior knowledge to do so. However, I did learn a lot about Jewish religion and faith through this book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the publisher-shared Educators’ Guide :

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

Nic Blake and the Remarkables #1: The Manifestor Prophecy by Angie Thomas

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The Manifestor Prophecy
Author: Angie Thomas
Published April 4th, 2023 by Blazer + Bray

Summary: Internationally bestselling superstar author Angie Thomas makes her middle grade debut with the launch of an inventive, hilarious, and suspenseful new contemporary fantasy trilogy inspired by African American history and folklore.

It’s not easy being a Remarkable in the Unremarkable world. Some things are cool—like getting a pet hellhound for your twelfth birthday. Others, not so much—like not being trusted to learn magic because you might use it to take revenge on an annoying neighbor.

All Nic Blake wants is to be a powerful Manifestor like her dad. But before she has a chance to convince him to teach her the gift, a series of shocking revelations and terrifying events launch Nic and two friends on a hunt for a powerful magic tool she’s never heard of…to save her father from imprisonment for a crime she refuses to believe he committed.

“All the brilliance you’d expect from Angie Thomas: a page-turning plot, pitch-perfect characters, heart and substance, and real stakes that real kids will care about—plus magic! This is one of those rare books that will instantly become the best friend you didn’t know you needed. Nic Blake and the Remarkables is nothing short of a triumph. When’s the next installment, please?” — Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series

“Packed with humor and bursting with heart and imagination, Nic’s story will enchant readers of all ages!” — B.B. Alston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Amari and the Night Brothers

“Exploding with heart, humor, and all things Black Girl Magic, Nic Blake and the Remarkables is a triumph of friendship and Black Southern folklore and history.’ — Dhonielle Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Marvellers

“This book is no-holds-barred, fly by the seat of your pants (and other methods) trip to the corner of Thrill Street and Wonder Avenue. Nic Blake is amazing!” — Kwame Mbalia, author of the Tristan Strong series

About the Author: Angie Thomas is the author of the award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling novels The Hate U GiveOn the Come Up, and Concrete Rose as well as Find Your Voice: A Guided Journal for Writing Your Truth. She is also a coauthor of the bestselling collaborative novels Blackout and Whiteout. Angie divides her time between her native Jackson, Mississippi and Atlanta, Georgia. You can find her online at www.angiethomas.com.

Review: This book is a dream of Angie Thomas’s. She wanted to create a book that was for a younger her who LOVED fantasy. This book allows her to world build, and she hopes to bring her readers the same joy that she felt reading fantasy (https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/90215-pw-talks-with-angie-thomas.html), and I am happy to say, that she does just that (and more because she includes history, too)!

Although the world building is great and it is right up the alley for students who love middle grade contemporary fantasy adventures and the pacing is perfect, which keeps the reader reading, it was Nic Blake’s voice that truly sold me. It is fantastic! She is sassy and strong and witty! She is someone you root for right away and also trust as a character, which is important in these types of fantasy novels.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Nic deal with her life turning upside down? What does this tell you about her character?
  • How does the author intertwine history within her fantasy novel? What do you think her purpose of doing this is?
  • What folklore influences Thomas’s story?
  • What are the different character traits of the trio? How do they complement each other? How do the three of them compare/contrast to the original trio of Nic’s mom, dad, and godfather?
  • How does Nic’s story compare to the hero’s journey?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton, Amari series by B.B. Alston, Tristan Strong series by Kwame Mbalia, Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros, Dragons in a Bag series by Zetta Elliott, Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Spark Point Studio for providing a copy for review!**