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Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse

In Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse, it seems not all little girls are waiting for their prince to come, says reviewer MaryAnne Locher.

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Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Randy Cecil, © 2012 Candlewick Press.

The princess in the castle in the picture book, Lovabye Dragon, written by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Randy Cecil (Candlewick Press $15.99, Ages 3-8) dreams of having a dragon for a friend.

Cecil’s choice of soothing blue, purple, and green oil paint colors and brush-stroke technique are the perfect match for Joosse’s book, reminiscent of Mem Fox’s lyrical prose and poetry blend. Silver tears of loneliness make their way through the castle, across the moat, around the glen and at last reach a bug-eyed sleeping dragon in his cave who has been dreaming of a girl for a friend. The dragon follows the trail of tears, back around the glen, across the moat, and through the castle to at last find his girl.

An unlikely, forever friendship ensues as the dragon chases away the monsters and giants from the little girl’s life and she in turn sings him beautiful lullabies to help him sleep. They know that although they are very different on the outside, they are “exactly the same size in the middle” where it counts. It is refreshing to find a book with an atypical princess (she’s not your usual beauty) flying off on an unusual dragon (he’s protective, not scary).

Now I can’t wait to read this perfect little book to two perfect little girls in my life.

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Interior spread from Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Randy Cecil, © 2012 Candlewick Press.

NOTE: Though not a new picture book to review (this one’s from 2012), Lovabye Dragon was one that stood out as an exception.

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Journey by Aaron Becker

Cover image of Journey by Aaron Becker
Journey by Aaron Becker, Candlewick Press, 2013.

Pure imagination is Journey, a wordless picture book by Aaron Becker (Candlewick, $15.99, Ages 4-8). Today’s review is by Hilary Taber.

Journeying through the world of this stunning picture book, the audience follows the adventure of a little girl who uses a red marker to literally draw herself from one world into another. Lonely and bored in her own home, the little girl retreats to her room where she uses a red marker to draw a secret, red door. This new world beyond the red door is filled with breathtaking landscapes.

First, blue lanterns in green trees filled with lights lead to moats. The moats in turn lead our heroine to a complex, gray castle. Here she sails through Venetian canals, past golden domes that point to a vast sky. When one mode of transportation doesn’t work any longer, the girl simply uses the magical red marker to draw one that will. She travels by red boat, balloon, and finally a flying carpet. Journey upon journey seems possible. Then comes the moment that the girl sees an elegant purple bird in danger of being kidnapped and caged for life. Suddenly, this imaginative exploration turns into a daring adventure to help a new friend. Every page makes you want to turn to the next to know what happens. Can the little girl save her new friend?  Where will this journey take her next? Will she ever get home again? Page after gorgeously illustrated page beckons the reader on.

This wordless picture book has stolen my heart with its detailed watercolor world, and has captured my full attention with all its adventure. Wordless picture books have a magical quality about them in as much as they are able to unite those who cannot read with those who can. Here is an equal playing field where an adult and child can talk their way through the pictures, discussing each page as they go along. Aaron Becker leads us on an imaginative trip well worth taking, exploring the powerful results of creativity united with inspiration and friendship. Of course, the famous Harold and the Purple Crayon comes to mind when reading Journey, but all you really have to do is open the book to look at the fantastic illustrations to see that Becker has made Journey into something entirely his own. Journey has been given starred reviews by Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist! Will this be a Caldecott winner? I certainly hope so!

We hope that the book trailer below for Journey will help you to discover this imaginative picture book for yourself:

 

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Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

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.

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil GaimanA 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.

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The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog by Frances Sackett

MIDDLE GRADE MAGIC FROM HOLIDAY HOUSE

This middle grade novel is ideal for fantasy fans interested in the power of  enchantment and love.
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.

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