Friday, April 14, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca

From the moment she was born, Princess Cora’s parents have been training her how to be a Queen. The nanny makes sure that she takes baths so regularly that there is no dirt in sight. Cora’s mother, the Queen, makes sure that Cora studies so that she will be wise. But the books are so boring, Cora finds herself yawning. Her father, the King, makes sure that Cora grows into a strong queen, so he trains her to skip rope. Between the nanny, the Queen, and the King, Cora life is scheduled to the minute and no fun at all. So when Cora thinks that a family dog will help liven things up, she writes to her fairy godmother.
Dear Godmother,
Nobody listens to me. My mother and father won’t let me have a pet and Nanny says I don’t even want one. But I do. And I’m sick and tired of everything.
Please help me.
Princess Cora

What her Fairy Godmother sends isn't any old golden retriever...Cora gets a crocodile. And since Cora has had enough with the bathing, boring lessons, and rigorous exercise, the Crocodile so kindly offers to dress as Princess Cora for a that the real Cora can have the day off from “Queen training” that she’s always wanted.
Hilarious, fun and charming, Princess Cora and the Crocodile is an early chapter book that makes a wonderful read aloud for the whole family. This is a book that might be read a chapter a night over the course of a week.

Author Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrator Brian Floca are a heavyweight team. Schlitz won a Newbery Award in 2008 for her book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, as well as a Newbery Honor in 2013 for her book Splendors and Glooms. Brian Floca won the Caldecott Medal in 2014 for his picture book about trains entitled Locomotive. With Schlitz’s words and Floca’s illustrations, Princess Cora and the Crocodile will become a classic.

Flora and the Chicks A Counting Book by Molly Idle

Has spring fever hit? For Flora, it means that her chicks have hatched! When she goes to feed the mother hen, the hen walks off the page...leaving Flora to count the newly hatched chicks! This counting book is full of exciting surprises behind every flap. From 1 to 10, Flora must take care of the little chicks as they hatch, but it gets harder to hold all the chicks in one place! When the 10th chick hatches, the mother hen returns, and all the chicks, and Flora, are happy to see her. Molly Idle’s character, the little girl Flora, has several other wordless picture books, including Flora and the Flamingo, Flora and the Penguins, and Flora and the Peacocks. The illustrations are so expressive that the reader has no trouble understanding Flora’s thoughts. In Flora and the Chicks, Flora will help children learn to count with the help of ten fluffy chicks!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Andrea Offerman

M.T. Anderson’s take on Athurian legend in Yvain: The Knight of the Lion is magnificently illustrated by Andrea Offerman in a most stunning graphic novels. Chrétien de Troyes is the original author of Yvain, le chevalier au lion, written in the 13th century. Most of the stories that readers associate with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table stem from the epic poems of Chrétien de Troyes.
Sir Yvain is a knight in King Arthur’s Court, and when Sir Calogrenant returns from the enchanted forest of Brocéliande gravely injured by wounds from a mysterious Red Knight, Yvain quietly leave Arthur’s castle to avenge his cousin, Calogrenant. Yvain, too, pours water over a stone in the enchanted pool in the forest of Brocéliande. Amidst a turbulent swirling storm, the Red Knight emerges to challenge Yvain for disturbing his dukedom. Yvain, defending himself and avenging his cousin, delivers some fatal sword blows to the Red Knight, and he chases the Red Knight on horseback as he rides into his own castle. The Red Knight, it turns out, is the Lord Esclados, and Yvain is now trapped in his enemy’s castle with many who are looking for the man who killed their lord.
The sorceress Lunette takes pity on Yvain, and to hide him from those who would want him dead, turns him invisible. It is while invisible that Yvain falls in love with the Lady Laudine, the widow of Lord Esclados. She is a commanding presence, with fiery red eyes and a mane of red hair. Laudine wishes to avenge the man that killed her husband, but Lunette poses the question of who is the better knight--the one who died or the one who did not? Laudine has to concede that Yvain is the better knight, and since her castle is now unprotected, she must consent to marry Yvain, even though everything shown through the illustrations indicates that it is a marriage of political necessity.
When Gawain, another knight and cousin of Yvain, comes to visit Yvain, he challenges Yvain’s knighthood, saying, “Throw off your harness, old man, spit out your bit, and prove you’re still a warrior, not a dreamer.” Yvain, feeling pressured to prove himself, begs for Laudine to allow him to travel and compete to defend his knighthood. Laudine, disdainful, agrees, saying, “I grant you permission to leave, but there’s a time limit: one year to the day. Understand? If you come back after that, my love will absolutely turn to hatred.”
Yvain sets out to prove his valor among the other bumbling knights. And when he is fool enough to not return in the time limit set by his wife...that’s when things get interesting.
For fans of Arthurian lore and legend, M.T. Anderson’s Yvain: The Knight of the Lion is a masterpiece with Yvain, Laudine, and Lunette as a compelling cast of characters. Offerman’s striking illustrations bring this ancient story into the 21st century, making it appropriate for the modern young reader.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel by Kimberly Willis Holt

When thirteen-year-old Stevie Grace’s life is uprooted from Taos, New Mexico to live with the grandfather she never knew existed in Little Esther, Texas, she is not happy about landing at the Texas Sunrise Motel. The motel is rundown and the people that live there are charming, if a bit odd. Little by little, Stevie starts to trust the community around her, as they welcome her. There’s Miss Violet, who always wears clothes from the “Lost and Found collection” at the motel, and who loves classic movie marathons. Horace and Ida, both in wheelchairs, are constantly complaining about the broken washing machine and threatening to leave. Arlo and Roy, a father and son who help with the upkeep of the motel, are also among the first to befriend Stevie. Stevie begins to learn who her mother was as a young girl, as she is tutored by the elderly and narcoleptic Mrs. Crump, who also taught Stevie’s mother too. The trouble is, Mrs. Crump falls asleep before Stevie gets to ask her anything! And when Stevie’s aunt invites her to stay in Louisiana, she is torn between living with her father’s sister, or returning to her grandfather and the Texas Sunrise Motel, where a little garden she has planted is starting to bloom.

Kimberly Willis Holt won the National Book Award for her middle grade novel, When Zachary Beaver Comes to Town. Her stories are always filled with humor and heart, and Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel for kids 8-12 is no exception.

Kimberly Willis Holt

Friday, March 17, 2017

This House, Once by Deborah Freedman

Deborah Freedman, an architect turned picture book writer and illustrator, has written and illustrated a new picture book that takes a poetic look at houses and homes. This House, Once explores all of the elements that go into the history of a house and asks the reader to think, “where do you live, and what was your home, once?”
The house on the cover is drawn page by page, and brick by brick, the illustrations appear. The first lines read: “This door was once a colossal oak tree/about three hugs around/and as high as the blue,” and on the opposite page is a square door with a red doorknob. Turn the page, and that door is now a square in an oak tree. The house, blanketed in snow, has a warm fire that warms the house from within, and the bricks and the stones and the slate are all drawn individually, and then come together to create a beautiful home.
Freedman’s illustrations evoke splashing in the mud, looking up high at the tall oak tree, and sitting cozily in front of a fire during a blizzard. This gorgeous book makes you think about your own history, and how often, what the earth gives us, we need to give back in return.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Dance by Matthew Van Fleet

Are you ready to….dance? Shake a tail feather with Matthew Van Fleet’s adorable interactive board book, titled DANCE. The entire premise of the book is that a little newborn chick does not know how to dance, so it is up to the other older and wiser animals to teach him!

From the first page, you’ll be clapping your hands to the beat.

“Hey, Chickie Baby,” said the rhino at the door. “How ‘bout we shake some tail feathers out there on the floor?”
“I’d love to,” said the little Chickie Baby, “but I can’t. I just hatched yesterday and I don’t know how to dance.”

Hula Hippo teaches Chickie how to shake, Bunny teaches the Bouncy Bunny Hop, Gator teaches Chickie the Gator Mashed Potater. There are even tap-dancing pigs! Make all the animals dance by pulling on the tab. By the end of the book, you’ll be shaking, tapping, hopping and bopping around. Get up and DANCE with Matthew Van Fleet’s newest interactive board book. Find the song that accompanies the book at VANFLEETBOOKS.COM

Friday, February 24, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

“It took seven years to get the letter right.”

This is the first line of Carval, the enchanting and mysterious Y.A. novel written by Stephanie Garber.

Every year for seven years, Scarlett writes a letter to the master of Caraval, Master Legend. She begs him to visit the Isle of Trisda, so that she can give her sister Donatella the best birthday present ever: a ticket to Caraval. Scarlett and Donatella grew up listening to their grandmother’s stories of Caraval. And on the eve of her marriage, Scarlett writes one last letter to Master Legend, telling him she’s given up, and that it will be the last letter she writes. And in return, she receives tickets to attend Caraval with her sister and her fiance, a man she has never met.
Caraval is both spectacle and dangerous game. Nothing is as it seems in the world of Caraval, and nobody is to be trusted. Scarlett has decided that going to Caraval is too much of a risk, and would ruin her chances of escaping a brutal father. So her sister arranges for Scarlett to be kidnapped, with the promise that she will be returned before her wedding in ten days time. When Scarlett arrives at Caraval, she learns that this year’s game at Caraval is to find Donatella, who has gone missing.

Luscious description, funny and vibrant characters, and a mystery at every turn, readers will find themselves sucked into the world of Caraval that Garber has created. For fans of The Night Circus, readers will not be able to put Caraval down.

Stephanie Garber, author of Caraval