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Young Adult Fantasy Book Review – Stalking Shadows

 

STALKING SHADOWS

Written by Cyla Panin

(Abrams; $18.99, Ages 12 and up)

 

 

Stalking Shadows cover

 

 

 

If you’re drawn to imperfect main characters in complicated situations, seventeen-year-old Marie in Cyla Panin’s YA fantasy, Stalking Shadows, certainly has stuff to deal with. Set in a small eighteenth-century French town, Marie mixes and sells perfumes at the market to earn a little money and, hopefully, survive another winter. However, some of her concoctions are used to mark victims for her sister, Ama (who slays them when the moon changes her into a beast). Marie doesn’t want to do this, but choosing who dies dispels the suspicions a bit. Sometimes, to spare the townsfolk, she chains Ama up for the night, feeding her rabbit.

As it becomes more difficult for Marie to control the beast, she sets out to discover what happened to Ama. It happened when their drunkard father sold her into servitude at Lord Sebastian LaClaire’s mansion. Ama left as a girl and returned home a monster.

Beyond the fascinating story, the slashed cover art pulled me in with a girl peering out from beneath an intriguing-looking animal that seems to be a lion mix. Just as Ama is many things, this story is too: a fantastical fairy tale with hints of historical fiction. While it’s hard to avoid comparisons to Beauty and the Beast, Panin’s book has more depth. In addition to the expected possible romance, you’ll find fierce sisterhood and fractured families. Layers of secrets and intrigue make this a page-turner that will keep you guessing until the end. The paperback will be available this August and can be pre-ordered here now.

 

 

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Sweet, Sweet Dreams

sweetdreams-gfReviewer Debbie Glade shares her opinion of a cuddle up and get cozy bedtime book.

In a sea of picture books, the cover of Sweet Dreams ($16.95, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Ages 3 and up), written by Rose A. Lewis and illustrated by Jen Corace really caught my eye, beckoning me to open it to see what’s inside.

With simple rhyming verse from mother to child, the pages are filled with descriptions about the animals living nearby and what they do at night. The book is meant to be read slowly, and the beautiful watercolor pictures are meant to inspire.  While children learn a bit about animals, they are lured ever so gently to sleep.

“And the very teeny, tiny mouse

Soaking wet from a big puddle,

Curled up under the moonflowers’ vines,

Just waiting for a cuddle.”

Simply put, Sweet Dreams is a charming bedtime story with outstanding illustrations and that calming quality all parents of young readers need to rely on from time to time to get their active kids to sleep.

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Food, Fabulous Food!

The work of food landscape photographer, Carl Warner, is so remarkable that reviewer, Debbie Glade, remembers being unable to tear herself away from a documentary about his work on TV some years ago.

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be anything new in the world of ultra creative children’s books, along comes Carl Warner and A World of Food: Discover Magical Lands Made of Things You Can Eat ($17.95, Abrams Books, ages 4 and up). Trust me, you’ve never seen anything like this before, and every member of your family, young or old, will be mesmerized by the photos in this book.

Mr. Warner works with food stylists to painstakingly arrange food into ridiculously spectacular landscapes, categorized by color. He uses a triangular table-top in his studio to photograph his scenes in layers, from the front to the back and then puts it all together into one cohesive unit in post-production. One of his greatest challenges is working faster than the rate at which the food wilts.  It can take several days to get just one of these landscapes set up and photographed.

Inside this book, you’ll find a green forest, red mountains, a pink candy land, a yellow desert and much more. Every single object in each picture is made from edibles, and you will love studying the pictures to identify every food in each picture – from mushrooms, bacon bits and pasta to broccoli, chocolate and lobsters. If you find yourselves stumped, you can look in the back of the book at a key, revealing all the details. Carl’s expertise with lighting and photography really make his images extraordinary.

You and your children will be thoroughly entertained and inspired by the sheer creativity of this most imaginative book. Be warned, you will find yourself getting hungry as you read the book. And just in case you are wondering, yes, some of the food is unavoidably wasted due to spoiling, and the rest is happily eaten by those involved in the landscape process.

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A Board Book That Teaches Opposites in a Big Way

Hippopposites ($14.95, Abrams/Appleseed, ages 2 and up) written and illustrated by Janik Coat is reviewed by Ingrid Vanessa Olivas.

Hippopposites is a bright and sturdy board book that my 3-year-old daughter, Penelope, immediately gravitated to. If you are looking for a way to introduce or explain what opposites are to your toddler, then Janik Coat does a great job of explaining this concept. The cover alone has an eye catching red hippo that she uses throughout the book.  Her illustrations are simple but effective. Each opposite word has its own page so there is no room for confusion. The word small would be on one side and large on the other and, as an added bonus, I even changed my voice to add more drama. A squeaky voice for small and a deep booming voice for large. My daughter just LOVED this!

Author Coat even adds texture to depict soft and rough so that you may feel this pair of opposites. Great touch, no pun intended. And everyone knows when you add something you can feel kids love it, just like mine did! I especially enjoyed her choice of opposites: invisible, visible, positive, negative, free, caged, alone and together. My daughter wanted me to read this book over and over again. Of course I did not mind, but what brought chills to me was when she started actually using the words. As parents and educators, there’s nothing that gives us more satisfaction, than when our children start using words in the correct context. Overall Janik Coat did a terrific job of getting the ball rolling with opposites so much so that you automatically want to think of more. Less. Good-bye. Hello.  Keep the clever conversation going with this great new book for youngsters.

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