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

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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

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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.

Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies by Christian Trimmer, illustrated by Jessie Sima

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Image result for snow pony trimmer amazon

Image result for snow pony trimmer amazon

Summary:  Snow Pony is a beautiful snow white pony who loves and is loved by (almost) all the humans and animals on the farm.  Queenie (another pony) is jealous of Snow Pony, and creates a trail of apples to lead her away from her home. Snow Pony gets lost and ends up in a barn with seven miniature ponies, who invite her to live with them.  She grows to love them, but misses her old friends. One day, her favorite human tracks her down and convinces her to come back home. She brings the miniature ponies along with her, and they all live happily ever after…even Queenie.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A fun retelling of Snow White with cute illustrations and a sly humor adults will appreciate at least as much as kids.

Cons:  I recoiled in horror at the sight of what I thought was Queenie’s fate, but turned the page and was reassured by the final illustration.

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

The Turtle Ship by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Colleen Kong-Savage

Published by Shen’s Books

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Image result for turtle ship rhee

Summary:  Sun-sin lived in a small village in Korea; there weren’t any other children close by, so his closest friend was a turtle named Gobugi.  When Sun-sin heard about a contest sponsored by the king to design a battleship, the boy looked to his turtle for inspiration. He convinced his parents to travel to the royal palace, where Sun-sin was ridiculed for trying to compete with the adults.  But when Gobugi protected himself against an attack by the palace cat, the king saw the value of the turtle’s shell, and, like Sun-sin, was able to envision transforming the idea into a ship’s design. Years later, Sun-sin became a navy admiral and defeated 130 ships with just thirteen of his Turtle Ships.  An afterword tells the history of the Turtle Ship and Admiral Yi Sun-sin’s contributions to its design. Includes an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, and a photo of a Turtle Ship in a museum. 32 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  An interesting blend of Korean folklore and history, meticulously researched.  The collage illustrations are rich and detailed, and the lessons of persevering and staying true to your vision make this a good choice to share with kids.

Cons: It seemed like a pretty big leap for the king to come up with a ship design after watching the cat attack the turtle.

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