PRINCELESS: Another Graphic Novel for Young Feminists

April 2, 2016

PrincelessPrinceless:  Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated  by M. Goodwin

From the time she is a little girl, Princess Adrienne Ash has chafed at the constraints of her family–and kingdom’s–definition of the role of princess.  Not a big fan of frilly dress-up, and certainly not one to wait to be saved by someone, she is still locked away on a tower by her parents on her 16th birthday.  The plan is for her to sit there, guarded by a dragon, until rescued by a handsome prince.

But our plucky heroine has no intention of living out this fairy tale, and takes matters into her own hands.  Quick synopsis: Adrienne discovers a sword in her tower and recruits the dragon, Sparky, over to her side. They set off to free Adrienne’s sisters, all trapped in their own towers, and along the way befriend the resourceful but strange blacksmith, Bedelia. This series has it all:  terrific artwork, interesting characters and snappy, funny dialogue.  Whitley’s writing is a perfect blend of adventure and humor, addressing serious social issues without being preachy.

And the good news continues:  Adrienne’s adventures continue in several more graphic novels–6 at this writing with more to come.  This spring is a good time to get started!


March 25, 2016

Diva-and-FleaThe Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, illustrated by Tony Di Terlizzi

A new book by Mo Willems is as good as a spring bouquet:  a breezy light treat to share with both toddler-age (as a readaloud) or young readers ready for the next step into chapter books.  I loved the characters; both  are life-long Paris residents, but from very different backgrounds.  Flea is a flaneur–or streetwise alley cat., while Diva, a small dog, is a bit more sheltered at his Paris home.  Yet the two become friends, sharing adventures, as well as their very different worlds. The chapters are short, the story both cute and meaningful, and the illustrations add a Parisian flavor (along with the occasional French word or phrase).  Simply delightful!


And a bonus:  check out the NYTimes for Mo Willems:  The Art of the Picture Book

One for You and One for Me: AN AMBUSH OF TIGERS

March 18, 2016

We both love to savor words–the sound, the fascinating meanings, the way they play off each other. . .Luckily for us, there are many new books for both new and experienced readers that delight in language celebrations.  So we have chosen one for you  (a picture book that introduces the younger set to the fun of collective nouns) and one for me and the adult word lovers out there who will appreciate a compilation of the intriguing terms that describe groups of animals.  Enjoy!

TigerAn Ambush of Tigers by Betsy Rosenthal, illustrated by Jago

Even young children have likely heard of a flock of sheep or a herd of cows, but what about an ambush of tigers, or  a rumba of snakes, a labor of moles?  The illustrations are a perfect match for helping remember these whimsical words:  a bouquet of pheasants is pictured sprouting from a vase; a bed of oysters is snoozing away on its comfy bed, and a rumba of snakes dances across the page. The iambic pentameter verses are a fitting ode to the wonder of words in this delightful new picture book.


MumurationA Mumuration of Starlings by Steve Palin

Lots of new words to add to your collection, like a cete of badgers,  a grist of bees, and the title surprise, a mumuration of starlings.  And such a pleasure to learn the stories behind the words, often as far back as the middle ages.  Author Steve Palin has beautifully illustrated and given the background to about fifty different animals and birds with interesting collective nouns — and listed 420 of them in his glossary. Dig in and enjoy this celebration of words and history.


YA Series Updates: RED RISING and RED QUEEN

March 12, 2016

Two YA series that have been causing some serious binge reading among YA readers (including some of us older adults) are the Red Rising and Red Queen series.

(For our earlier reviews of these first books of a series, check out RED RISING: Making Dystopia Fresh and Red Queen in New Series for Tweens and Teens  .)

2016 has seen both these YA stars with the latest installments recently published.  (And Hollywood is already in pre-production for Red Rising, so you’ll want to be thinking of your casting choices as you read!)

Morning-starMorning Star by Pierce Brown

We found Morning Star to be a very satisfying conclusion to a fast-paced and well-told series.  It’s hard to talk about the book without including spoilers, but I’ll do my best.  Suffice it to say, there are some sweet moments and some heart-breakers–as well as some more than surprising plot twists that readers don’t see coming.  Thrilling space battles–and ingenious plans for escape, clever dialogue, and surprising depth to a range of characters as they grow and change. Some tantalizing elements of philosophy, too.  Devotion to honor is portrayed as possible to be either courageous or an easy out–or both.  What is the purpose and power of revenge?  Readers–and audiences–will be talking about this classic series for years to come.


Glass-swordGlass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

The Red Queen series also deals with a stratified society, but in this case, it is blood color that segregates the characters.  Mare, the heroine and Red Queen of the series–continues to lead a rebellion.  She’s the perfect person for this as her blood is the red of the common folk, but her abilities would mark her as a Silver blood. Her power to control lightening makes her a terrifying enemy to the Crown, yet she needs much more than this powerful weapon.  This second novel is fast-paced and filled with battles, strategy, and lots of betrayal.  I didn’t love it as much as the first book, but enough so I am looking forward to Book 3.


Hedgehogs: A Flight

March 4, 2016

hedgehogsHedgehogs!  Our whole family loves them (almost as much as those adorable sloths!)  Lisa re-invigorated our interest and we couldn’t resist dipping back into a favorite family readaloud from 30 years ago:  the delightful Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.  But as always, there are more books to engage the whole family in this flight about a curious and interesting creature.  Enjoy!

Family Readaloud:

Mrs.-TiggyThe Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter

If you haven’t read any of Beatrix Potters’ classics, none better to start with than this charming tale first published in 1905.  A little girl named Lucie has lost her pocket handkerchiefs, and wanders high into the hills, discovering a little hidden home.  When she knocks on the door, she finds a little woman who does all the laundry for the neighborhood animals, washing and ironing their “garments.” After spending a lovely day helping Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Lucie discovers that the laundress is indeed a hedgehog! But was it true–or was it all a dream?  Enjoy the lyrical text and beautiful illustrations Potter’s readers have come to love.  A fine introduction to the hedgehogs in literature for the whole family!


Infants and Toddlers:

New-ArrivalThe New Arrival by Vanya Nastanlieva

Sam the hedgehog is on a quest for two important things:  a home and a friend.  Home, a lovely hollow at the base of a tree, is discovered quickly, but a friend proves more difficult to find.  He looks everywhere, but can’t see the wealth of possibilities around him–though we as readers are treated to clues through the lovely illustrations.  After a bit, Sam decides to post notices reading “Wanted: A Friend. Hedgehog at the Hollow Tree,” using his quills to tack them to trees. Soon, not only is he still friendless, he is bald to boot.  Happily, the other animals welcome him to the woodland and give him a knitted pullover (called a jumper here) to keep him warm until his quills grow back.  Lots of cute animals and heart-warming moments in this sweet book.

Pre-K through Grade 2

Learn-hedgeHedgehogs:  Amazing Pictures and Facts About Hedgehogs by Breanne Sartori

Non-fiction books can be a great complement to the literary delights of any subject.  This slim book brings to light a lot of interesting information about the hedgehog, like:  how  many spines they have, where they live, what they eat, all about the hedgehogs snout, how they defend themselves–and from whom,  and more. . .  Dig in!


HedgieHedgie’s Surprise by Jan Brett

Who doesn’t love Jan Brett’s picture books?  Her illustrations are charming without being sentimental, and her writing is appealing to readers and young audience alike.  This story, set in Denmark, is filled with needlepoint patterns of Scandinavian designs that frame the characters reacting from the borders.  Such a cool idea–and invites rereadings to pore over the pictures and meaning. Hedgie the hedgehog stars in this tale Hedgie stars  about a little Tomten (ancient gnome)  who gets tired of porridge for breakfast and starts stealing Henny’s eggs. But Henny wants a brood of chicks, so she enlists Hedgie’s help to trick the Tomten. She substitutes an acorn, a strawberry, a mushroom and finally a potato in her nest. But nothing stops that Tomten until the little hedgehog hides in Henny’s nest: when the Tomten reaches in to get his morning treat, all he gets is a handful of prickles!  This one is a great addition to your home library.


helpful-hedgehogThe Very Helpful Hedgehog by Rose Wellesley

Isaac is a sweet little hedgehog–and like Sam (above), doesn’t seem to have friends.  One day, an apple falls from a tree, and you guessed it–sticks in his prickles.  Alone, he can’t get the apple off–but help comes in the form of a donkey–who becomes a new friend. A delightful story about being open to surprising new friendships.


DarcyDarcy the Flying Hedgehog by Shota Tsukamoto

Darcy, named after the bassist for the The Smashing Pumkins, this cute and definitely, well, spiky, pet hedgehog became a genuine social media phenomenon.  The author/photographer/owner started photographing his little friend throughout her day–and night.  You’ll see Darcy basking in her owner’s hand, posing with a pineapple, pinecone or cactus, hiding from toy soldiers or snoozing fitfully. And readers of all ages will love the print, in both English and  (mostly) Japanese. For more information, you can check out the the Instagram photos.


hedgehog-fogHedgehog in the Fog by Yuri Norstein, illustrated by Francesca Yarbusoba

This special book was created on the basis of a famous Russian cartoon by Norstein and Yarbusova. The film of this story came first–30 years ago. In 2003, an international film jury in Tokyo declared ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’ to be the best animated film of all time. It is about the adventures of the philosophical little Hedgehog on his way to meet with his friend Bear.  Along the way Hedgehog enters into a mysterious fog in which he encounters a horse, a dog, an owl, and a fish. The illustrations are phenomenal: Francesca Yarbusoba is an award-winning artist, the wife and collaborator of Yuri Norstein. Exhibitions of her artworks successfully showed in museums in Russia, France, Japan, and beyond. She is the recipient of the Great Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Fine Art.  So enjoy hedgehogs through the artistic integrity of this fine little book.

Teens and Adults:

dilemmaThe Hedgehog’s Dilemma:  A Tale of Obsession, Nostalgia,and the World’s Most Charming Mammal by Hugh Warwick

Hugh Warwick is an environmental writer and photographer.  Readers are fortunate that he turned his considerable talents to an exploration of the relationship between the hedgehog and man, and how the hedgehog became so beloved.  It’s a combination of memoir, nature study, and environmental investigation, all written with fascinating details and philosophical thoughts on human’s relationship to the world of nature.  I found it a thoroughly enjoyable light and interesting read that was peppered with Warwick’s wry sense of humor as he described everything from chasing hedgehogs across the English countryside as an undergradute biologist to his introduction to the American Hedgehog Olympics. A perfect companion to the stunning array of available hedgehog picture books.  Enjoy!


PHOEBE AND HER UNICORN: A Great Graphic Novel for Young Feminists

February 27, 2016

phoebePhoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

We are always on the lookout for new graphic novels for young readers–especially when they are part of a series.  Phoebe and her unicorn–the amazing  Marigold Heavenly Nostrils– is such a treat, with two books out and a third in the series due in May.  You’ll want to read in order, at least I suggest you start with the first one, since it is here that Phoebe meets Marigold.  Phoebe is a somewhat awkward, but definitely precocious (and appealing) 9-year-old. And Marigold has her own brand of narcissism mixed with a healthy dose of sarcasm.  Phoebe frees  a unicorn held captive underwater by a magic spell. In exchange for her freedom, the unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils grants Phoebe one wish, namely that the two will become best friends.  Their friendship complicated, because most people can’t see Marigold, as she is protected by a “Shield of Boringness.”  While the antics of the two are sure to delight young readers, there is a lot of side dialogue that will go straight over their heads (for example: “Terrible Vortex of Meh” and “summon your inner unicorn.”)  I don’t see that as a problem at all, but readers should be fore-warned.  I found the stories both funny and cute–not to mention touching.



February is STILL Library Lovers Month

February 20, 2016

Yes, we wrote about Library Lovers Month last year–and we are still delighting in the seasonal celebration in 2016.  If you missed it, in 2015, we recommended:

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise:  How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debbie Atwell

This year, we would like to suggest a series that is sure to delight–and reaffirm your love of libraries:

LibraryEscape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

In many ways, this book for the 8-12-year old range is a kind of updated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Luigi Lemoncello, game-making genius, is constructing a new library.  Kyle Keeley is a fan of all kinds of games–especially video games. Imagine his delight when wins a coveted spot as one of twelve kids invited for an overnight sleepover in the library, hosted by Mr. Lemoncello and riddled with lots and lots of games.  But come morning, the contestants are surprised to find the doors locked; the only way they can escape is to solve clues and figure out secret puzzles.  It takes wit (including puns!), teamwork, and skill to succeed.  And what a cool library!  And you’ll want to learn about what happens next, in the sequel:  Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, just out last month.

For more Library Love, check out these past posts:

Cool Libraries of the World

Library Mouse

Library Love

More Library Love



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