July 24, 2015

InterstellarInterstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt

As readers of Litforkids know, we are enamored of Cinderella in all her retellings updates, and original glory. (See: Book Flight on CinderellaCinderella Around the World ;   and  Cinderella Revisted. ) So our interest is naturally piqued when we see titles like Interstellar Cinderella.

We can’t help but think that Underwood has read Cinder, the YA novel by Marissa Meyer.  Like Cinder, our Cinderella hero in this early reader version is a “stellar” repair mechanic for rocket ships and space vehicles.  Rather than an android sidekick, our younger heroine has a robotic mouse named Murgatroyd who helps her tinker with spaceships.  All the trappings of the original tale are here:  evil stepmother and step-sisters, fairy godmother (here, a fairy god-robot), and a Grvaity-Free Ball.  In a surprise twist, Cinderella turns down the prince’s marriage proposal, but agrees to be his chief mechanic.  Our summer readers enjoyed the rhyming text and the graphic novel-type illustrations.  This reader appreciated the focus on Cinderella’s abilities to do things rather than wear things.  Check it out!



A WRINKLE IN TIME: The Graphic Novel

July 18, 2015

WrinkleA Wrinkle in Time:  The Graphic Novel by Madeline L’Engle and Hope Larson

Fifty years ago, Madeline L’Engle’s ground-breaking novel was first published.  Of course, since then it has been hailed as a classic and winner of the Newbery Award.  What a fitting way to celebrate this incredible tale–by creating a graphic novel version.  Once I held the graphic novel in my hands and looked through the pages, I realized that the format provided the perfect illustrations for this amazing and beloved tale.  But that may only be because Hope Larson is the illustrator and clearly holds the novel and its themes in deep respect.

If you haven’t revisited the novel in a while–or have kids you’d like to introduce to Madeline L’Engle, I highly recommend it.  Remember the young Meg and Charles Wallace, and Calvin at the start of their odyssey?  I appreciated being re-introduced to the three Mrs.:  Who, Whatsit, and Which.  United, they are powers that can fight off the dark forces of the universe.  This classic has aged well, too, with a strong female protagonist, as well as intriguing science fiction elements.

It’s got me on the lookout for similar graphic renditions of old favorites.  Let is know when you come across your own re-visioned treasures!

July! Time for More Ice Cream and Hot Dogs

July 10, 2015

It’s fitting that July has been named the month to celebrate hot dogs and ice cream.  For more on the history of these two delicious summer foods (as well as a book or two. . .), check out our blog:

July is National Hot Dog–and Ice Cream–Month.

We’re also recommending a couple of new books to complement your feast.  Enjoy!

Ice-Cream-SummerIce Cream Summer by Peter Sis

If you are interested in a visual treat to go along with your love of ice cream, look no further.  Peter Sis has created an ode to ice cream as his narrator details the joys of his summer learning adventures to his grandfather; the illustrations show ice cream scoop-shaped waves, sand castles with cone turrets, baseball fields with ice cream sandwich bases.  The pastel colors are the perfect palette for this delectable picture book.  And every page really does teach something about ice cream!


Two-Hot-DogsTwo Hot Dogs With Everything by Paul Haven

Not a brand-new book, but new to us.  Because it’s perfect for Jacob, baseball player extraordinaire, soon-to-be third-grader into chapter books and good read alouds.  We think Molly will like it, too, as she is a die-hard LA Dodgers fan.  (Not to mention, Molly is the name of one of the heroes of the book!) The characters are both engaging and a bit quirky.  Danny Gurkin, the main character, is committed to his team and has lots of crazy ideas to help them break the curse that seems to be keeping his team of sluggers from winning.  A surprsing amount of suspense, not to mention humor.  A terrific summer read–and of course, you’ll love that hot dogs are a key plot device!

Ninjas Revisited: Three More for Young Readers

July 3, 2015

Last summer, we were all about Ninjas.  Molly and Jacob had ninja outfits to do battle with (and learn from) Ninja Master Uncle Cory, and of course we complemented our stealth and adventures with books about ninjas.  Read all about it in our post Super Ninjas! 

This summer, we may have moved on to all things Pirate (stay tuned).  But we also hope to revisit our ninja role-plays and supplement our reading with new additions, like these:

LittleLittle Kunoichi, the Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida

 “Shugyo is the way; The goal: better, not perfect;Practice and have fun”
Little Kunoichi is trying to be a good ninja, learning at “Secret Ninja Girl School,” but it is very challenging!  Luckily, she meets a friend, Chibi Samurai, who goes to a special school, too:  The Samurai Dojo Institute.  They decide to “train like crazy” together using “shugyo,” as they prepare to showcase their special skills at the Island Festival.  A simple tale, but with lots of visual humor in the watercolor illustrations. The end notes also inform about details in the pictures  interested readers can go back and find (like the baby in a peach from the traditional folk tale Momotaro). A great addition to any ninja’s picture book collection.


Ninja!Ninja!  by Arree Chung

If you are into the everyday life of contemporary kid ninjas, this is the book for you.  Of course, many brothers sneak through the house stealthily to tease a sister or steal her snack. . .but it works so much better if you employ your ninja skills!  Dressing the part (in all black fighter garb), and using an unbreakable ninja rope (aka jump rope) make it all the more cunning, courageous, and impressive. The cartoon-like format is a plus, as is the the large illustrations that show the boy’s imagination.


WinkWink:  The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C.Phillips

Who knew there were so many ninja schools for children, at least in the pages of picture books?  In this case, Wink attends the Summer Moon School for Young Ninjas.  Wink struggles with the first two lessons–being silent and being stealthy.  But when he gets the hang of it and puts the two together, he is both proud. . .and disappointed. Nobody notices!  Well, because nobody is supposed to notice ninjas.  But that doesn’t sit well with Wink.  He wants to be, well, noticed.  He is a bit flamboyant and actually craves the spotlight.  His energy surges through the illustrations as he learns his own special talents can make for him being a very nimble ninja indeed. And you can follow his adventures in the follow-up book,  Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap.



YA Summer Reading: New and Intriguing

June 26, 2015

Summer Reading!  A delightful and not-so-guilty-pleasure.  Treat yourself by toting these new YA books with you to the lakeside, the beach, the mountains, your cozy reading nook at home, or wherever you are carving out time for your summer reading.  We loved them! AvaThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton A 2015 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist Sixteen-year-old Ava is in most ways a normal teenager. Of course, there is the little matter of those wings she was born with. . . Her quest to understand her peculiar bird-like wings takes her back two generations to view the world through the eyes of her grandmother Emilienne and her mother Vivianne.  They both suffer broken hearts; will their suffering play out for Ava as well?  The elements of magical realism that Walton creates are the perfect vehicle for exploring the nature of love–both loving and being loved.  Read this book–then talk with your friends about it!


CarnivalThe Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley Flashback to the grunge scene in the early 1990’s.  A move from Chicago to Ireland (Bray to be exact) uproots our young heroine, Maggie, when her mother marries her latest boyfriend and Maggie is transplanted.  But it isn’t so far from her beloved music; she makes a journey to Rome to hear Nirvana in concert.  A realistic and close-up view of the trials of adolescence, meeting quirky and intriguing people from different cultures, falling in love, and finding your own voice.  Unforgettable travelogue romance–and of course, rock music.  Did I mention it’s a (multiple) award-winner? ALA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Chicago Weekly Best Books of 2014 A Michael L. Printz Honor Award Winner Winner, 2014 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014 Finalist, William C. Morris Award


SunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson A 2014 Cybil Award Finalist A 2015 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Book Jude and Noah are fraternal twins, a girl and boy who grow up close as siblings can be, and sharing their passions for artistic expression.  We learn of their close relationship, and also their estrangement through alternating chapters told from each twin’s perspective. The fascinating aspect of it is the two timelines; Noah’s chapters taking place when they are 13 and Jude’s when they are 16.  Truly, art and wonder fill each page as the twins grapple with grief, romance, rivalry, and friendship.  My favorite book I’ve read all year (Ruth here).  If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?



June 16, 2015

CleopatraLooking for the latest good graphic novel series for young readers?  Look no further than Cleopatra in Space.  We reviewed Cleopatra in Space #1 Target Practice when it first came out, and we are delighted to announce #2 in the series: Cleopatra in Space:  The Thief and the Sword  by Mike Maihack.

Cleopatra’s latest adventure is hot off the presses.  In her first book, she recovered an ancient and powerful sword.  When it is stolen by a mysterious thief, our heroine is determined to get it back.  She also is continuing to learn more about the prophecy that names her savior of the Galaxy.  All the while, attending school with her new friends at Yasiro Academy.  Cleopatra is a terrific character; she has a confidence, feistiness, and sense of fun that makes her appealing.  I also love the layout of a futuristic Egypt complete with cool pyramid skyscrapers.  Highly recommended for 8 to 12-year-olds who love graphic novels.

SLOTHS: A Trio of Books to Delight Young Readers

June 6, 2015

slothsWhen Cory  (Uncle Cory to Molly and Jacob) mentioned his fondness for sloths, I started sleuthing into what’s unique and intriguing about them.  Turns out they are truly fascinating critters.  It’s not a myth that they are slow-moving–and appear to be, well, on the lazy side.  They literally sleep about 20 hours out of 24!  And when they do move, it’s verrrry sloooowly, dragging their bodies along.  Unless they are attacked by a predator; in that case, “sloths turn from sluggish to slugger, biting fiercely, hissing, slashing with their claws, and shrieking.”  Interested enough to learn more to share with your family or students?  National Geographic Kids has a great page dedicated to sloths.

This trio of sloth picture books will bring smiles to your kids’ faces (like the smiling 3-toed sloth!), and might make them as fond of sloths as Cory!

Sparky!Sparky! by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

“You can have any pet as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed,” replies a tired Mom to a little girl who begs for a pet.  So with the help of her friendly librarian, the young narrator finds “Sloth” under “S” and orders one.  When he arrives, she tries to make him a bit more responsive, but finds he is best at playing games like “Statue” with her.  Undaunted, she puts on a show:  The Trained Sloth Extravaganza.  But Sparky, her “trained” sloth, is true to character and the show is a bit dull.  The text is simple, yet with moments of humor; the watercolor and pencil art is subdued but appealing.  An off-beat tale of friendship.  And winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award.


sloth“Slowly, Slowly, Slowly” Said the Sloth by Eric Carle

The sloth does everything slowly, slowly slowly.  All the other animals in the rain forest ask him, “Why are you so slow?…so quiet, …so boring?”  When one asks why he is so lazy, he does respond that he is  not lazy; he just likes to do things slowly, slowly, slowly. With Eric Carle, you can’t go wrong with delightful collage images, and the foreword by Jane Goodall is a wonderful introduction to the Amazon rain forests and the role of sloths within their environment.


little-slothA Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke

Through Cooke’s amazing photography, readers get to hang out with  the residents of Avarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, the world’s largest sloth orphanage.  These rescued infants are incredibly adorable.  The descriptions are well-phrased to delight the adults reading the book to little ones:  “The Bradypus, or three fingered sloth, is the Muppet with the medieval haircut and Mona Lisa smile.”  The photos are truly irresistible to all ages; the cuteness index is off the charts.  The rescued infants and a few older companions were introduced in a documentary film, Too Cute! Baby Sloths, made by Cooke for TV’s Animal Planet. If you like this picture book–and this little flight on sloths–the documentary may be your next step!



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