ADELE IN SAND LAND
Written and illustrated by Claude Ponti
(Toon Books; $12.95, Ages 3 and up)
Adele in Sand Land by Claude Ponti is an ideal read for summer, especially for children eager to read on their own. Toon Books excels at its mission to provide easy-to-read comics in hardcover format with highly accessible content for children starting with Level 1 (First Comics for Brand New Readers) all the way through to Level 3 (Chapter-Book Comics For Advanced Beginners). This particular book, rated Level 1, will appeal to children as young as age 3 while geared for a reading level of K-1.
Originally published in French in 1988, this delightful story with its Alice in Wonderland-like fantastical plot line features a buoyant main character named Adele and her stuffed doll, Stuffy. Adele in Sand Land takes youngsters on an imaginative adventure spanning 48 colorful pages along with Adele and her charismatic cohorts Stuffy, Sandy and Masked Chicken. The action begins at her neighborhood sandbox, then inside a Sand Dragon, up to the top of the world, onto a dessert island (yes, that’s not a typo) with many other wondrous stops in-between, all before returning to the sandbox where Adele’s imagination first took flight.
Ponti wastes no time in introducing readers to a bevy of whimsical characters in the frames of the comics as the sandbox and everything around it begins to magically transform into a zany parallel universe where trees morph into birds, sand toys are caged inside a dragon and a rescued furball creature helps save the day. If you think that sounds inventive, there’s more! Ponti’s entertaining illustrations invite youngsters to explore every single image in every panel on every page because he’s managed to put such fun into every picture. Whether looking at people with “books and pots and pans to cover their heads,” a hot-dog tree or an enormous nosed Snack Man, readers won’t want to skip over a millimeter of artwork because you simply don’t know what unexpected treats you’ll find.
Prepare for numerous re-readings of this creative tale to experience the joyous journey that is Adele in Sand Land.
Hilary Taber tells us about Neil Gaiman’s newest book, Fortunately, the Milk with illustrations by Skottie Young, (Harper Collins Children’s Books, $14.99, Ages 8-12). Click here for Mouse Circus, the official Neil Gaiman Website for Young Readers.
A Tall Tale Well Told
“We have come to your planet from a world very far away,” said the people in the disc.
I call them people, but they were a bit green and rather globby and they looked very grumpy indeed.
“Now, as a representative of your species, we demand that you give us ownership of the whole planet. We want to remodel it.”
“I jolly well won’t,” I said.
One day two children are left alone with their father for the weekend. Their mother is gone on a business trip. The last thing their Mum told their Dad was, “Oh, and we’re almost out of milk. You’ll need to pick some up.” Time passes and suddenly the brother and sister duo inform their Dad that there is no milk for their “Toastios”. After waiting for Dad to come back with the milk, “For ages…” he finally returns with the milk and a tale to tell. This is a tale of high adventure involving aliens, pirates, a Professor Stegosaurus who pilots a floating balloon/time machine, and all of these combined together make for the perfect blend of humor, imagination, and two skeptical children who wonder if Dad is just making it all up. Maybe he is, and maybe he isn’t. You will have to read this wonderful book yourself to find out!
I found this book just cheered me up so much. Jumping from adventure to adventure was great fun, and Skottie Young’s illustrations make a wonderful second voice to all the incredible situations that could befall one father trying to get milk for
his “breakfastless” children. This book is sure to please younger readers, and their fathers (especially those fathers who like to tell a tall tale or two). You could not have picked a better book for an amusing read aloud that would please anyone in your family. In fact, I ended up reading it aloud to my family! Gaiman’s signature style shines through with a sly, humorous, but well intended wink to the reader, plenty of jokes, and plot twists galore. You can also purchase this as an audio book, and your family may sit together to listen to Neil Gaiman tell you his story himself. He even does the voices well, so you know you are in good hands. Fortunately, the Milk is an ideal audio book to take on a road trip for it will be sure to amuse everyone. Highly recommended reading! This book left me wondering if a bottle of milk, used correctly of course in all situations by a highly intelligent Dad, could actually save the world? Well, as Professor Stegosaurs says, “Where there is milk there is hope.”
Click here for Neil Gaiman’s blog.
MIDDLE GRADE MAGIC FROM HOLIDAY HOUSE
This middle grade novel is ideal for fantasy fans interested in the power of enchantment and love.
The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog, (Holiday House Inc., $16.95, ages 8-12) by Frances Sackett, is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
For children who are interested in reading books about magic but who aren’t ready for the intensity and length of the Harry Potter series, The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog by Frances Sackett might provide a good introduction. At 178 pages and presented in easy-to-understand language, Misadventures is about Peter, a 12-year-old who adopts a magical, talking dog. The Dog, as he is known, is on a quest to rescue his previous owner, a magician who has succumbed to the dark allure of magic, and he needs Peter’s help. Peter, however, has his own agenda in helping The Dog. He will help rescue the magician because he needs the magician’s help to bring his father home from his third tour of duty.
While Peter nibbled on his toast and scrambled eggs, his thoughts went something like this:
1. He understood how to do magic and could do it if he wanted.
2. He had promised Izzy [his younger sister] he wouldn’t do magic.
3. Doing magic might make him angry.
4. If he did magic, maybe he could bring his father home.
Four was the sticking point… But his father—how could Peter not use magic to get his father back?
Misadventures is about more than just a magical quest. It includes elements of family dynamics—Peter’s relationship with his parents and sisters—as well as issues of self-esteem. Peter is an “army brat,” moving from city to city and school to school. He has a hard time making friends and fitting in, and he is not even close to brimming with confidence. He feels the burden of the being the “man of the house” while his father is away, and has a rocky relationship with one of his sisters, Celia. Misadventures ties these very real, everyday issues and the emotional brunt they bear to Peter’s ability to help The Dog, and, ultimately, his own family and himself.
An entertaining and discussion-provoking read, The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog is a solid step into the fantasy genre.
Seraphina ($17.99, Random House Book for Young Readers, ages 12 and up) is reviewed today by Jason Carpenter.
When George Lucas conceived of his Star Wars galaxy, he saw beyond the here and now of giving the people a rousing good yarn. He envisioned a mythology, a world logical and responsible only unto itself, with fantastical creatures that nonetheless felt of flesh and blood. And like Tolkien before him and Rowling after, the devil- or the grip of imagination- is in the details.
Rachel Hartman infuses her expansive new novel Seraphina– the saga of an uneasy alliance between mistrustful species (sound familiar?) and the young royal court’s musician who may end up being the key to ultimate harmony or lynchpin to inevitable war- with an eye for Joseph Campbell-like character and plot machinations and an adherence to a painstakingly created medieval alternaverse.
The oppositional species are, in this case, humans and dragons, and as Seraphina begins, a murder of a member of the royal court bearing the trademark savagery of a dragon attack threatens to derail the anniversary celebration of a historical, but tenuous, peace treaty between the two sides. In the midst of this pomp, Hartman also fully realizes the emergence of a young girl’s identity, the fiercely astute Seraphina, torturous as it may be to discover that her mother was a dragon. In a genre dominated by young empowered male principals, it’s a wonderfully acute choice.
Seraphina’s intended demographic, the young and young-at-heart, has proven they can handle the layered storylines, philosophical yearnings, and literal hundreds of major and minor characters that populate the modern fantasy epic. Indeed, Harry Potter’s enduring legacy may just be that it made digging intellectual sword and sorcery lit cool for a fresh generation of make-believers. This novel follows that template elegantly, and at over 450 pages with accompanying glossary, it’s weighty, as well. The payoff- and it’s not the metaphoric allusions to our own world’s penchant for xenophobia- is in the small quirks of some strongly drawn supporting characters, particularly the reluctantly compassionate dragon mentor Orma, who cares for Seraphina in a way that his dragon demeanor would be loathe to reveal.
Seraphina does rise to rousing good yarn status, but its greatest triumph is in depicting grotesqueries that are anything but and a world that often doesn’t feel that far, far away after all.
Want Your Kids to Read? Be a Reader–a message from Catherine Linka
If we want our children to eat their peas, we get there by eating our own peas with enthusiasm. We model the behavior we want so they will follow our example.
So if you value reading, you need to model it. And that means, making time to read in front of your child. Turn off the TV, the computer, your phone and sit down and read where they can see you–not just in bed after the kids are down for the night.
Andrew Smith, teacher and author, insists that it is especially important for fathers to model for their sons that reading is masculine. He says that boys “ look at what their father does, and what their older brother does and what their best friends do.”
Be a reader to raise a reader.
Books for Fantasy Lovers Who’ve Read Everything
THE UNWANTEDS ($16.99, Aladdin) by Lisa McCann – My pick for kid-pleasing. At 13, kids are tested and sorted into Wanted and Unwanted and the Unwanteds are taken off to be executed. But it turns out that what looks like a prison is really a sanctuary that takes creative, artistic, musical kids and turns their talents into strengths when the Wanteds invade. Gentler than HUNGER GAMES, but with lots of action. (ages 8+)
EMERALD ATLAS ($7.99, Yearling) by John Stephens – Our community read One Summer-One Book for kids. A little like NARNIA, a little like A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, a little like LORD OF THE RINGS. The first in a trilogy. The second is due this fall. For the strong reader 9+. It has three brave kids, an evil countess, a magical book, terrifying Screechers and donut-loving dwarves. Funny and scary. (now in paper, ages 9+)
NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT ($6.99, Puffin) by Gennifer Choldenko -Now in paperback. Unlike Choldenko’s other realistic fiction, this story follows three children who tumble into a fantastical world where their every desire if fulfilled–except their desire to leave. Appealing to both guys and girls. (ages 10+)
GHOST KNIGHT ($16.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) by Cornelia Funke -Set in a present day English boarding school, a boy calls upon the ghost of a famous knight to fend off the other ghosts who are threatening him. Funke’s setting is real and many of the ghost knights she introduces were real people whose brief bios she includes at the end. (ages 10+)
THE FALSE PRINCE ($17.99, Scholastic Press) by Jennifer Nielsen -A conniving noble trains four street urchins to impersonate a missing prince. Only one will survive the training as the noble attempts to take over the throne. Twists and turns and double-crosses. Lots of action. So well-written an adult would love to read it aloud. (ages 13+)