Three Billy Goats Buenos by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Miguel Ordóñez

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Image result for three billy goats buenos

Image result for three billy goats buenos

Summary:  The familiar story of the three billy goats gruff is told in rhyming text with a few dozen Spanish words incorporated into the story.  A glossary of the Spanish words appears at the beginning of the book so readers can refer back to it. The story is simple, but includes a twist when the biggest goat discovers the troll has a thorn stuck in her toe.  His sympathy brings a few tears to the troll’s eyes, and the goats work together to remove the thorn and apply some soothing herbs. There’s a happy ending for all four of the new amigos.  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  Susan Middleton Elya has produced another winning retelling of a familiar folktale that incorporates Spanish words and culture.  The rhyming text and simple, geometrical illustrations will make this an appealing choice for even the youngest readers.

Cons:  I didn’t care for the illustrations as much Juana Martinez-Neal’s in La Princesa and the Pea.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Published by Greenwillow

Image result for lalani of the distant sea amazon

Summary:  Lalani lives in a village suffering under a drought.  She takes a trip up the forbidden mountain near the village, and meets a strange man there who grants her wish for rain.  Unfortunately, he causes the rain to fall without ceasing, and when flooding begins, the villagers blame Lalani. Meanwhile, her mother has fallen ill with mender’s disease, an illness that is nearly always fatal.  Lalani decides to travel over the sea to the fabled land of Isa. Many men from her village have sailed away in search of this land, but have never returned. Her voyage turns out to be perilous, but she is kind to all the strange creatures she meets, and they help her get the help she’s seeking.  Her friends at home take care of some difficult situations there, so that everyone is reunited for a happily-ever-after ending. 400 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  I wouldn’t be surprised to see this win the Newbery medal or honor.  It’s a beautifully written book with amazing world building that is based on Filipino folklore.  There are many interesting characters (human and otherwise), settings, and legends that fans of folklore-inspired fantasy are sure to love.

Cons:  While I can appreciate the mastery at work here, this genre is just not my cup of tea, so I really had to push through to the end.  If you liked The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill or Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, you will undoubtedly love this.  If you didn’t, come sit next to me.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Lion and Mouse by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng

Published by Groundwood Books

Image result for lion mouse jairo amazon

Image result for lion mouse jairo amazon

Summary:  Aesop’s famous fable is retold with a few modern twists and some attitude.  A “very lovely” lion who is “like a sun” lives in a forest with a mouse who is “a busybody and a glutton”.  One day the mouse goes into the lion’s cave; the lion almost eats him, but changes his mind. When the lion is caught in a trap the next day, it’s the mouse who frees him. But this story continues as the two continue to trade favors.  At first it’s with a feeling of obligation, but soon they are simply being kind to one another. In fact, they end up getting along so well that they live together for the rest of their lives. 32 pages; ages 4-7.

Pros:  You can never have too many versions of a classic folktale, and kids will get a chuckle out of the illustrations and tongue-in-cheek text.

Cons:  It doesn’t quite measure up to Jerry Pinkney’s version, in my opinion.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child: A Worldwide Jack and the Beanstalk Story by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Image result for fearsome giant fearless child

Image result for fearsome giant fearless child

Summary:  As they did with Cinderella in Glass Slipper, Golden Sandal and creation stories in First Light, First Life, Paul Fleischman and Julie Paschkis have created a story that weaves together elements from Jack and the Beanstalk type stories all around the world.  These are all tales in which a child–often the smallest or youngest in a family–uses courage and cleverness to outwit a villain like a giant or witch.  Each illustration identifies the country from which that particular element of the story originates. A map on the endpapers shows all the countries. Whether the hero grows to full size, becomes king, or gains the respect of his family, the story always has a happy ending.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  This book would be a perfect ending to a study of Jack and the Beanstalk tales; it’s not meant to be read as another re-telling, but rather as a way to appreciate both the variety and similarities of all these stories.  The folk art-style illustrations give it an international flavor.

Cons:  I’ve always felt that “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman” was an awkward rhyme.  Why not “Fee-fi-fo-fan” or “Fee-fi-fo-fun”?

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

 

Acorn Books by Scholastic

Published by Scholastic

Image result for yeti and unicorn amazon

Image result for hello hedgehog amazon

Image result for crabby book amazon

Image result for friend for dragon pilkey acorn

Summary:  Similar to the Branches imprint, Scholastic now has Acorn, books for emerging readers.  They’re described as being at a Grade 1 Scholastic Reading Level, which translates to about a Level J in the Fountas and Pinnell world.  There are four series so far: Hello, Hedgehog! by Norm Feuti, featuring a friendly hedgehog and his guinea pig pal; Unicorn and Yeti by Heather Ayris Burnell, the somewhat surreal pairing of an extra-sparkly unicorn and a yeti; Crabby by Jonathan Fenske, all about a really crabby crab; and a reissued Dragon series by Dav Pilkey.  Each series has 2-3 books so far, each 48-64 pages long, with almost all the words in the form of cartoon bubble dialogue.  A final page offers extension activities, such as directions on how to draw a character and a writing prompt. 48-64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  If the Branches series are any indication, these are sure to be a hit.  Cute, friendly, and mildly humorous characters paired with a graphic novel look and cartoon bubble dialogue seems like a recipe for success.

Cons:  At the risk of sounding like a cranky old librarian, I wonder if kids will even know what quotation marks are in another generation.

If you would like to buy the first Hello Hedgehog book, click here.

For Crabby, click here.

For Yeti and Unicorn, click here.

For Dragon, click here.

I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Straw Into Gold: Fairy Tales Re-Spun by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Sarah Gibb

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Image result for straw into gold mckay amazon

Summary:  Hilary McKay has created new stories based on ten well-known fairy tales, including Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, and more.  Each story has at least one twist; for instance, Rapunzel’s tale is told from the point of view of her twin son and daughter and Hansel and Gretel tell what happened to them in essays for their new teacher on “What I Did In the Holidays”.  Some of the mysteries readers may have wondered about are solved, like what is up with Rumpelstiltskin and that strange king who demands that his bride be able to spin straw into gold–then never asks her to do it again after they’re married (I personally have wondered a lot about Rumpelstiltskin over the years).  The stories are not connected to each other, and can be read on their own or as a collection. Includes an author’s introduction and a brief bibliography. 304 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  These humorous and interesting tales would work well with folktale units, and might inspire kids to try their own.

Cons:  Full disclosure: I only read about half the stories in the collection.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.