Showing posts with label fantasy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fantasy. Show all posts

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ten funny books to get you laughing (ages 4-13)

We all like doing the things we have fun with. Psychoanalysts might call this the "Pleasure Principle," but I call it common sense. So how do we help our kids discover the fun in reading? Here are ten books that tickle my funny bone, especially when reading them aloud with kids.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things, by Lenore Look: Asian-American second grader Alvin Ho is afraid of everything: elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’s there, he never, ever, says a word. This first book in the series is full of everyday adventures and misadventures -- from trying to get chicken pox, to hanging from a tree branch in a desperate attempt to grow taller. A great read aloud. (ages 6-10)

Bad Guys, by Aaron Blabey: Mr Wolf decides that he's fed up with always being the "bad guy," so he persuades Mr. Shark, Mr. Piranha & Mr. Snake that they need to do nice things for a change. The want-to-be good guys try hard to shed their carnivorous ways, rescuing a stranded kitty who's terrified of their point teeth. Kids are loving the hilarious antics, exaggerated illustrations and slapstick humor in this chapter book. (ages 6-10)

Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey: Kids can't get enough of George and Harold, and their superhero creation Dog Man. Originally of Captain Underpants fame, George & Harold show how Dog Man, with the head of a dog on the body of a police officer, battles crime and saves the day. Kids love the silliness, the explosions and fight scenes, and the encouragement to create their own outlandish stories. (ages 6-10)


Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon: Dory (called Rascal by her family) wants to play with her big brother and sister, but they complain that she's a pest. They try to scare her with a story about the witch Mrs. Gobble Gracker. Dory creates outlandish tales with her imaginary friend, tricks Mrs. Gobble Gracker and wins over her siblings. Families will recognize themselves in Dory's attention-getting strategies, her mom's exasperation or her siblings' bickering. A joyful, funny celebration of imagination and resilience. (ages 6-10)

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems, by Gail Carson Levine: Using William Carlos Williams's poem "This Is Just to Say" as her starting point, Levine spins a series of playful un-sorry poems. She uses famous characters like Snow White, Humpty Dumpty, the Little Engine that Could and Barbie to twist expectations and create laughs. "I, Rapunzel,/ and not the witch/ have lopped off/ my braid/ which/ you daily/ climbed/ to me/ Forgive me/ you're not worth/ the pain/ in my scalp." Subversively hilarious. Kids will love sharing this with friends, laughing together. (ages 8-12) 

Funny Girl, edited by Betsy Bird: As television comedy writers Delaney and Mackenzie Yeager explain in their opening entry, "Joke-telling is the greatest superpower a gall can posses." Being a comedian takes confidence--a combination of audacity and courage to put yourself out there. This collection of short personal essays, short stories and comics is terrific. In "One Hot Mess," Carmen Agra Deedy shares about the time her mother set a bathtub on fire to get rid of the germs, unwittingly melting the fiberglass tub in their new apartment. With this great range of stories, you're bound to find new authors you'd like to explore. (ages 9-13) 

Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein: One of my all-time favorite read alouds, a little red chicken keeps interrupting his papa's stories at bedtime, trying to save the day. When Papa starts reading Hansel and Gretel, little red chicken interrupts just as they are about to enter the witch’s house. Papa tries again with Little Red Riding Hood with exactly the same result. The interruptions bring laughter, and children love the repetition. Stein excels in comedic timing. A true crowd-pleaser. (ages 4-8)

Judy Moody, by Megan McDonald: Judy Moody is a favorite series because kids can relate to her struggles and her moods. Whether it's having a toad pee in her hand or losing her lucky penny,  Judy is always getting in a bad mood, at least for a while. Even better, each story ends with a satisfying climax. Judy realizes the power of friendships and keeps herself from throwing a tantrum. She rescues her homework, quite resourcefully, and even forgives her brother. (ages 7-10)

A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz: With dark humor, Gidwitz weaves together different Grimms' tales to create an original story starring Hansel and Gretel. I especially love the author's interruptions, where he pauses to talk directly to the reader. “This is when things start to get, well . . . awesome. But in a horrible, bloody kind of way." A terrific read aloud that will have readers alternating between laughter and suspense. (ages 9-13)

The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett and Jory John: Miles Murphy is known as the best prankster in his school, but now his family is moving and he dreads building his reputation in a new town. When he gets to school on the first day and sees the principal's car has been parked at top of the steps, blocking the school doors, Miles knows that there's already a prankster at this school. Can Miles out-prank this whoever is doing this...or maybe they can join forces. Written by a comedic duo, this series excels in deadpan humor in a school setting. (ages 8-12)

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, December 10, 2018

Ten terrific fantasy books (ages 4-14)

Many students are drawn to fantasies with richly imagined worlds. Here are some favorites for a wide range of ages -- enjoy getting lost in these wonderful worlds. This is an eclectic mix of picture books, graphic novels, middle grade novels and young adult fantasies. To explore a wider range, check out my Goodreads fantasy shelf.

As you look for fantasy books for children, please pay special attention to the variety of characters, legends and racial/ethnic groups represented.

Picture books

Journey, by Aaron Becker: In this sweeping wordless picture book, a lonely girl escapes to a magical world with the help of a red crayon. She travels through several worlds, friendly and hostile, discovering her inner strength as she escapes an army of warlords. Lush illustrations bring these imaginative worlds vividly to life.

The Man in the Moon, by William Joyce: This gorgeous, imaginative picture book opens the series for the Guardians of Childhood, introducing readers to the fantastical legend of the Man in the Moon (MiM). When the wicked Pitch, the King of Nightmares, kills MiM’s parents in an epic battle, the baby MiM is whisked to safety by his guardian Nightlight. As MiM grows up, he is determined to watch over the children of Earth, like Nightlight watched over him.

Ocean Meets Sky, by Terry Fan and Eric Fan: In honor of his grandfather who has passed away, young Finn builds a boat for the journey they always wanted to take. Finn then crawls inside to sleep and dreams of a massive golden fish who takes him on a journey, in search of the magical land of his grandfather’s stories. Filled with atmospheric blend of Asian imagery and dreamlike fantasy worlds, this beautiful, magical picture book immerses readers into a young boy’s search for healing.

Middle Grade Novels

Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi: When 7th grader Aru Shah lights the cursed Lamp of Bharata in her mother’s museum, she is thrown into the world of Hindu gods and mythical characters. Aru discovers she has been born with the soul of a Pandava brother, and she must use her powers to defeat the Lord of Darkness. Chokshi draws readers into an immersive world intertwining Hindu folklore, feminist outlook and action-packed thrills.

Endling: The Last, by Katherine Applegate: Perfect for fans of Erin Hunter’s Warriors series, Endling layers excitement, fantasy and probing questions about survival. Byx, a young dairne (imagine a human/dog mix), must survive alone after her entire clan is murdered by the power-hungry humans. With the help of two new friends, she seeks answers and the mythic Dairneholm in this epic fantasy novel.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin: Grace Lin blends Chinese folktales with an epic quest in this enchanting novel. Like her father, Minli is a dreamer and loves stories. Hoping to bring her family good fortune, she seeks the Old Man of the Moon, for he might be able to share his secrets with her. Lovely illustrations intersperse the main action and folktales, all influenced by traditional Chinese stories and art. Readers will be inspired by Minli’s courage, loyalty and quick thinking.

Graphic Novels

Chasma Knights, by Boya Sun and Kate Reed Petty: In this delightful graphic novel, Knights can “catalyze” with their toys, merging and mind-melding their powers. Young readers will empathize with outcast Beryl, who yearns to catalyze with toys, and imagine ways their toys can come to life in this inventive story.

Princeless #1: Save Yourself, by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by M. Goodwin: When Princess Adrienne’s parents lock her away in a castle guarded by a dragon to await rescue by a prince, she decides to take matters into her own hands. I love this feisty heroine--we have so few stories with characters of color, where race isn’t an issue. Readers are able to enjoy classic fairy tale setting in this graphic novel, while turning so many stereotypes and tropes on their heads.


Young Adult fantasies

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi: Seventeen-year-old Zélie must save her community of diviners from the king's vengeful genocide in this exciting blockbuster debut. I was captivated by the richly drawn fantasy world full of West Africa imagery, but the action-packed chase and shifting allegiances are what kept me hooked. The Legacy of OrÏsha will continue next spring, as Adeyemi releases the second in the series: Children of Virtue and Vengeance.

Warcross, by Marie Lu: Combining fast-action video game battles with intriguing underworld mysteries, Marie Lu hooks readers with a perfect series-opener. Emika Chen hacks into the immersive virtual reality game Warcross championship games, but instead of getting into trouble, she's invited to meet the game's creator, who's picked her for a top-secret job. As she uncovers a sinister plot, Emi must choose whom to trust. "Absolutely immersive. Cannot put this down," is what I wrote to myself as I zoomed through this.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Dactyl Hill Squad, by Daniel Jose Older -- historical fiction with social justice and dinosaurs! (ages 10-14)

I'm really excited to share Dactyl Hill Squad with my readers--my first copy went out today to a reader who loves Percy Jackson fantasies. Dactyl Hill Squad is a terrific mix of historical fiction, action-adventure and fantasy--with a strong underlay of social justice themes. Hand this to readers who want high energy books and a critical look at race relations.
Dactyl Hill Squad
by Daniel José Older
Arthur A. Levine / Scholastic, 2018
Amazon / Local library / Google Books preview
ages 10-14
Magdalys Roca chafes at the rules imposed at the Colored Orphan Asylum in Civil War era New York. Above all else, she cannot stand it when the matron calls her Margaret, instead of Madalys, her real name. Right from the opening page, readers know that Magdalys is strong-willed and proud of her Afro-Cuban heritage. But she also really wants to see the play at the colored theater, so she complies with the matron's demands.

Magdalys discovers that she has a special connection with the dinosaurs that are part of everyday life in this alternative history. She discovers that she can communicate with them mentally: they hear her wishes, and she knows how they are feeling. Dinosaurs and pterodactyls are both wild and tamed, serving people as beasts of burden and roaming free.
"It was only a few years ago that New York had passed a law granting black citizens the right to dinoride, and white people in Manhattan still bristled and stared when they saw someone with brown skin astride those massive scaly backs."
While Magdalys and her friends are seeing the play, riots break out on the streets and their orphanage is burned down. These riots are based on the Draft Riots of 1863. The children flee to Brooklyn, in a neighborhood called Dactyl Hill for all of the pterodactyls that fly over the homes. They find refuge with the Vigilance Committee, which, as Miss Bernice explains, "helps fugitive slaves make it farther up north and works to stop the Kidnapping Club from sending our folks south to bondage."

Once safe in Brooklyn, Magdalys and her friends form the Dactyl Hill Squad and set out to foil the Kidnapping Club, find Magdayls's brother and protect their friends. There's plenty of dinoriding, battles and near-escapes.

I especially appreciate how Daniel José Older weaves together complex topics such as race, power and gender in the Civil War in the framework of an action-packed, fantastical story. He provides fascinating historical background information in his author's note.

Given this, I do think that this story is best appreciated by kids who already understand some of the complexities of the Civil War and race relations in US history. My first reader who loved it had just finished reading Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains with his class, and this made a perfect follow-up. I wonder if the cover looks a little young--I imagine this working more with a middle school crowd.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, June 10, 2018

#SummerReading for 7th & 8th graders

Carve out time from your busy summer schedules for reading. Talk with your teens about their interests AND the importance of reading. The best way is to give them choice and power, and to make reading a priority.

Middle school is a time of great variety -- some kids want to reread their favorites from earlier years, and others are eager to try edgy YA. Go with their interests, and encourage them to keep finding books that make them want to read.
#SummerReading: 7th & 8th grade
click for full 2018 summer reading lists
Exciting Adventure & Fantasy
Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi
Miles Morales Spider-Man, by Jason Reynolds
Peak, by Roland Smith
Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy
Warcross, by Marie Lu

Powerful Nonfiction & Memoirs
The 57 Bus, by Dashka Slater
Because I Was a Girl, edited by Melissa de la Cruz
Boots on the Ground, by Elizabeth Partridge
Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral & Getting It Done, by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser
How Dare the Sun Rise, by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

All the Feels: Modern Teen Romance
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Just One Day, by Gayle Forman
Solo, by Kwame Alexander
When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

Graphic Novels We Love!
Amulet series, by Kazu Kibuishi
Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang
Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani
Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer L. Holm

Stories that Touch Your Heart
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Like Vanessa, by Tami Charles
Piecing Me Together, by Renee Watson
Refugee, by Alan Gratz
Rogue, by Lyn Miller-Lachman

Social Justice Reads
Ball Don't Lie, by Matt de la Pena
Dear Martin, by Nic Stone
Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, June 7, 2018

#SummerReading 2018 for 5th and 6th graders

Kids know that practice is important in developing any skill; our job as parents is making our expectations clear AND creating a positive environment to encourage practice. You'll have much more success persuading your kids to read if they are able to choose what to read.

Validate their reading choices, engaging them to think and talk about what they read. Prod them a little to try something new--I often like to talk about it in terms of having a varied reading diet. Here are some of my favorite books to hook 5th and 6th graders.
#SummerReading: 5th & 6th
click for full 2018 summer reading lists

Exciting Adventure & Fantasy
Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelley Barnhill
The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste
Peak, by Roland Smith
The Wonderling, by Mira Bartok

Funny Stories
Funny Girl, edited by Betsy Bird
Hamster Princess, by Ursula Vernon
Pickle, by Kim Baker
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger
The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett

Historical Fiction
Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Inquisitor's Tale, by Adam Gidwitz
The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani
Refugee, by Alan Gratz
The War I Finally Won, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Graphic Novels We Love!
Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang
Real Friends, by Shannon Hale
Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer L. Holm
The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag

Stories that Touch Your Heart

Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Like Vanessa, by Tami Charles
Rebound, by Kwame Alexander

Fascinating Nonfiction
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin
Boots on the Ground, by Elizabeth Partridge
I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
Marley Dias Gets It Done, by Marley Dias

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#SummerReading 2018 for 3rd & 4th graders

Kids read every day during the school year, sharing books they like with friends. Keep those reading muscles strong over the summer by feeding them a steady diet of fun books to read!

Here are some of my favorite chapter books, graphic novels and nonfiction for kids who have finished 3rd and 4th grades. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.
#SummerReading: 3rd & 4th
click for full 2018 summer reading lists
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.


Favorite Chapter Book Series (levels N-O-P)
Bowling Alley Bandit, by Laurie Keller
EllRay Jakes, by Sally Warner
I Survived series, by Lauren Tarshis
Jaden Toussaint, by Marti Dumas

Funny Stories (levels Q-R-S-T)
Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom, by Booki Vivat
Hamster Princess, by Ursua Vernon
Jake the Fake, by Craig Robinson
Timmy Failure, by Stephan Pastis

Adventure and Historical Fiction (levels Q-R-S)

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
Dash, by Kirby Larson
The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson
What Elephants Know, by Eric Dinerstein

Exciting Adventure & Fantasy (levels Q-R-S-T)
Endling: The Last, by Katherine Applegate
The Serpent's Secret, by Sayantani DasGupta
Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon
Wings of Fire, by Tui Sutherland


New Graphic Novels We Love!
5 Worlds: The Cobalt Prince, by Mark Siegel
Be Prepared, by Vera Brosgol
Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani
Secret Coders: Potions & Parameters, by Gene Luen Yang

Stories that Touch Your Heart (levels Q-R-S-T)
The 14th Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm
Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan
The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


Fascinating Nonfiction
Grand Canyon, by Jason Chin
Marley Dias Gets It Done, by Marley Dias
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, by Chris Barton

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Unicorn Rescue Society: Creature of the Pines, by Adam Gidwitz: a new fun, short, engaging mystery series (ages 7-10)

Unicorns are pretty awesome! So are Sasquatch, the Minotaur and all sorts of other mythical creatures--magical, powerful and hard to find. I know kids love reading fantasy series, yet when it comes to recommending books for developing readers there just aren't many fantastic fantasy series out there.

Adam Gidwitz's new series Unicorn Rescue Society is perfectly aimed at readers transitioning from short chapter books and moving up toward longer stories. Hand this to kids who have read all the Magic Tree House and Secrets of Droon books but aren't quite ready for Percy Jackson or Harry Potter.
Creature of the Pines, Unicorn Rescue Society #1
by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Dutton / Penguin, 2018
Amazon / your local library / preview chapters 1-3
ages 7-10
*best new book*
Elliot's first day at a new school turns out to be full of adventure. Chapter One opens as Elliot stares down the long aisle of the school bus. It's his first day of school, and his class is taking a field trip. Gidwitz brings the reader right into this uncomfortable situation, as Elliot struggles to make a new friend. While I totally relate to Elliot, I love Uchenna -- the Nigerian American girl who befriends Elliot. Uchenna looks "like the lead singer in a punk rock band." She's got style, confidence and a sense of adventure.

Before we even find out where Elliot and Uchenna's class is going on their field trip, we meet their teacher Miss Vole and their special guest, the intimidating and mysterious Professor Fauna. He informs the class that they will be going to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where many dangerous things haunt the forrest.
Professor Fauna, Elliot, Uchenna and Jersey
When they get to the Pine Barrens, Uchenna wanders off the path to investigate a noise she hears. Elliot follows, and they discover a blue-furred magical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon.” This creature, the mythical Jersey Devil, takes an immediate liking to the pair, following them back to the school bus. A hide-and-seek chase ensues as Elliot and Uchenna try to protect the Jersey Devil.

The book closes as Professor Fauna invites Uchenna and Elliot to join his secret organization that is committed to protecting mythical creatures. You'll have fun showing this video to kids, as Elliot and Uchenna explain what the Unicorn Rescue Society does.

Gidwitz has hit a great balance between short, engaging chapters and a mystery that makes you want to learn more. Hatem Aly's illustrations keep readers grounded, helping them create the movie in their heads. The fantasy and humor elements are engaging, but never overwhelm the straight-forward storyline. Hand this new series to 2nd & 3rd graders who have moved beyond Magic Treehouse, but still want a story that moves quickly.

I'm particularly excited to see how this series unfolds. Elliot and Uchenna will rescue mythical animals from different cultures and places, bringing young readers traveling the globe with them. Gidwitz is partnering with authors from different cultures, so that they bring their experiences and cultural knowledge to the series. Gidwitz describes upcoming installments in his Nerdy Book Club post:
"Joseph Bruchac and I are writing about the Native American legend of Sasquatch. Emma Otheguy and I will travel to Cuba to rescue the madre de aguas. David Bowles and I will scour both banks of the Rio Grande to find, and protect, the chupacabras. And Hena Khan and I will write about the mythical creatures of Pakistan. These are the first members of The Unicorn Rescue Society."
I love how intentionally inclusive Adam Gidwitz is with his storytelling. When I was at the launch for this book at the Brooklyn Public Library, a young Black girl asked Adam where he got the inspiration for creating the character of Uchenna. He explained that Uchenna and Eliot are based on students from his teaching days in Brooklyn. Uchenna was one of his students, and is now in college (I think). This representation matters to young people.

It's no secret that I have loved Adam's writing since I first read A Tale Dark & Grimm, and my book club Skyped with him. Those kids are now in high school, and they still talk about how awesome that experience was.

I want to end with Adam's mission statement, as it were, that he shared in the Nerdy Book Club post.
"I’ve always believed that kids books should be ambitious. They should challenge children. Stretch their vocabularies. Or their courage. Stretch them emotionally and psychologically. Or stretch their imaginations. Maybe stretch their moral imaginations. But I have also always believed that ambition in kids books (in any book) is useless unless kids are actually reading the book. You can have the genius of James Joyce, but if you write like James Joyce, the kids will never get to experience your genius. The first priority is to get kids turning the pages. All the pages. All the way to the end. The second priority is to make it worth turning the pages.

"The Unicorn Rescue Society is pretty darn fun. When I write it, I generally find myself cackling like an idiot.

"But The Unicorn Rescue Society is also, I hope, worthwhile.

"Oh, and we rescue unicorns."
My job as a librarian isn't to share books I love, but to help kids discover books they like -- books that get them excited to read. Like Adam, I also believe that books have the potential to challenge, stretch and connect with kids. But I also know very clearly that this will never happen unless kids get hooked on a story, that they want to read the book in front of them.

Illustration copyright ©2017 Hatem Aly and the Mixtape Club founders Jesse Casey and Chris Lenox Smith. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Dutton Books for Young Readers / Penguin Publishing Group. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wrinkle in Time: the movie, the novel & the graphic novel (ages 9-14)

In her Newbery medal-winning classic, A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle created Meg Murray, an angsty, angry, passionate, heroic young girl on a quest to save her father and vanquish evil from the universe.

Does Ava DuVernay's film adaptation capture the story and L'Engle's characters? Most certainly yes. I can also certainly say that the movie is best seen alongside reading both the original novel and the recent graphic novel adaptation. Yes, see this movie AND read the book.

A Wrinkle in Time is a visual splendor. DuVernay catapults us into the fantastical otherworlds of Uriel, Ixchel and Camazotz. Even more than that, she gives us a Meg we can easily identify with, a young teen struggling with bullying at school, a missing father and a world that doesn't seem to recognize her gifts. As A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times,
"It is the first $100 million movie directed by an African-American woman, and the diversity of its cast is both a welcome innovation and the declaration of a new norm."
I especially appreciate the way Meg is an introverted, brainy heroine who struggles to control her emotions. I am grateful for the additional layers that DuVernay added with Meg's biracial identity. She is a young teen many girls today can relate to.
Storm Reid as Meg Murray, in A Wrinkle in Time
Meg is called on a classic hero's quest, and through her journey she battles her insecurities, claims her purpose and discovers hope for the world. Storm Reid plays her with a perfect balance of straightforward every-girl and brainy teenage heroine. She is rightfully frustrated at the injustices around her, and she discovers that the answers lay in both her heart and her critical problem-solving.

The Mrs. W's were imaginatively realized in the movie. Although they were not what I had imagined when I first read this story, they came alive on the screen as fully realized characters. I must say that Oprah's Mrs. What captured the inner voice of wisdom and guidance much more than the original text or even the audiobook, in which her language came across as hissing or stuttering.

While the movie captures the emotional development and visual tone of the story, its rushed ending left me thinking back to the book. I missed Aunt Beast's careful tending to Meg, helping her discover the light and hope in the world. I wondered how Calvin reunited with Meg.

I hope those questions will lead children back to reading or rereading the books, both Madeline L'Engle's original A Wrinkle in Time and Hope Larson's graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.
  
In the end, I so appreciate the way Ava DuVernay embraced and captured this imaginative, passionate heroine. Meg wrestles with the existence of good and evil, she embraces love and hope, she claims her identity as a geeky girl who can figure out how to solve problems much bigger than herself. As Madeline L'Engle said in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech in 1963,
"We have the vocation of keeping alive Mr. Melcher's (the founder of the Newbery award) excitement in leading young people into an expanding imagination. Because of the very nature of the world as it is today our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure, that they must be guided into creativity."
Yes, that is just it. Books help young readers discover expanding worlds. Stories lead to stories, ideas create more ideas. I can't wait to hear what others think of this movie and whether it will bring them back to reading the stories.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Wonderling, by Mira Bartók -- building a fantasy world, a guest post (ages 8-12)

Mira Bartók's new children's book The Wonderling completely enraptured me, drawing me into this fantasy adventure with its classic Hero's Journey. Arthur is a true hero, one who grows and changes, discovering as much about himself as he does about the world around him. I am excited to share this with readers across Berkeley as part of our Mock Newbery Book Clubs.
The Wonderling
by Mira Bartók
Candlewick, 2017
Google Books preview
Amazon / audiobook / public library
ages 8-12
*best new book*
Lonely, shy, scared. The orphaned groundling Number 13 doesn’t have a name until he finds a friend in Trinket, a small wingless bird with a big heart. Full of stories, Trinket decides that Arthur is the perfect name for his friend--brave King Arthur. Can they escape evil Miss Carbunkle’s orphanage? Will they find their families? This delightful fantasy would be wonderful to read aloud as a family, or escape into its adventure by yourself.

Today, Mira Bartók is visiting Great Kid Books to tell us a little about building her fantasy world. As I read The Wonderling, I was especially intrigued by Arthur's world and his journey. I wondered how Mira created Arthur's world, especially if she used a map to help lay out his journey.

Mira Bartók: Creating the World of The Wonderling

When I began building the world of The Wonderling, my first task was to create the terrible orphanage where Arthur/Number 13 finds himself at the opening of the book. I knew it had to be surrounded by a great wall, and that it was impossible to see over that wall into the world beyond. But I wasn’t quite sure what the building looked like. I looked at dozens of old photographs of 19th century orphanages, but none of them seemed quite right. Then one day, while searching online, I found a wonderful old engraving of a building in the shape of a giant cross, surrounded by a wall. It looked to me like a monastery and I knew when I saw it that it was perfect. I imagined Miss Carbunkle’s Home to have been many things over time—poorhouse, asylum, and ultimately a home for unclaimed creatures—but its origins were holy.
the engraving that inspired Miss Carbunkle's Home
I borrowed elements of the engraving and roughly sketched out a map of Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures so I could understand how the characters moved through the space.
a detail from one very, very rough sketch of Miss Carbunkle's Home
As the story progressed, and it was clear that Arthur and Trinket needed to venture out into the world, I had to envision a larger universe. I took several large pieces of paper, taped them together, and mapped out Arthur and Trinket’s journey after they escape the Home. After that, I waited until I was completely finished with the book in order to fully understand how to physically map out my fantasy world. As I was racing toward the finish line, and made my final map for The Wonderling, I spent hours searching for beautiful maps to inspire me. I poured over giant map books in rare book rooms in libraries. I visited archives, like the magical Map Room at the Boston Public Library where I got to see the original maps for The Hobbit and other famous fantasy books, and I spent lots of time studying maps in antiquarian shops in London and New York. I also looked at piles of classic children’s books to see how those worlds were portrayed, books like Wind in the Willows and the Chronicles of Narnia, and more.

It was hard to decide which part of my fantasy world I wanted to depict in one map—the vertical layers of the world, depicting Lumentown with Gloomintown below? Or map out the city of Lumentown, and show Arthur’s journey within the city? In the end, I chose to simply map out a landscape—the Home, Pinecone’s house, the Wild Wood, Lumentown, and the surrounded environs—so that readers could follow Arthur’s journey from start to finish.
final map for The Wonderling
There are more journeys in store for Arthur and Trinket, so as long as they continue to venture out into the world, I’ll be here to draw wherever they choose to go!
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Thank you so very much, Mira, for sharing a little bit about your journey as Arthur's story came to life for you. I am so happy to hear that there are more adventures in store for Arthur and Trinket! I am excited to share this with students throughout Berkeley as part of our Mock Newbery Book Clubs, and I can't wait to hear some of their thoughts reading this story.

THE WONDERLING. Copyright © 2017 by Mira Bartok. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Candlewick. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books