Archive for 2017

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

Written by Danna Smith
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

            Falconry has enjoyed a long history of legends and stories alike. This stunningly beautiful tale is told in verse from the viewpoint of a young girl hunting with father and their hawk. The story is told sequentially during the day, throughout a hunt and concludes with putting the hawk to bed in its mew at day’s end.

            The spectacular acrylic gouache illustrations bring alive medieval castle life amid authentic panoramas of European countryside. All views of the hawk, as well as of its prey are so realistic as to make the reader think it is a photograph. Upon reading the detailed illustrator’s note it all makes sense as, Ibatoulline, was raised by a falconer father and totally understands this topic. The hawk appears to be gliding right across the cover of the book.

            On each page a nonfiction text box clearly explains details of falconry using the proper terms. All nonfiction text is presented in italics, which helps young readers distinguish it from the fictional tale. Teachers, librarians and parents will commend the publisher for this important design feature.

      Curriculum standards can be met in the areas of literature, geography, history, animal life and the arts well into middle school.  While the book is also a beautiful read aloud for kindergarten or grade one. Teachers of grade two or grade three will use it in teaching about falconry as an ancient hunting sport, as an introduction to the study of medieval times or as a science book about falcons.  It is a story children and adults will want to read again and again. It is highly recommended for all school and public libraries.

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  • Title:  The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry
  • Author:  Danna Smith
  • Illustrator:  Bagram Ibatoulline
  • Publisher:  Candlewick, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-7992-7
  • Genre: Picture Book/Nonfiction Connection
  • Grade level:  PreK to 3
  • Extras: Index, Related Readings List, Related Internet sites, detailed illustrator note.

Great, Now We’ve Got Barbarians!

Written by Jason Carter Eaton
Illustrated by Mark Fearing

If you don’t clean your room, there’s a good chance you will get some kind of infestation but what if that infestation involves barbarians? Seems pretty extreme, huh?  And what do you have to do to get rid of them?

The main character in this raucously fun book is not bothered by the ants or flies or mice his sloppiness bring, but when Vlad the Barbarian shows up, it’s a different story. Vlad brings with him Törr and a bunch of other guys in horned helmets. And they eat all the cheese curls. They snore and belch and snarl, too. They use Mom’s makeup for war paint. The only answer is to take away their fun. Be careful not to cause any more havoc. Something else may show up.

The expressions of the rest of the family, including the cat, are priceless, as are the details of the mess the boy and his barbarians create.

Second graders may be able to read this independently, though much younger kids will get a kick out the humor.

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  • Title: The Tree: Great, Now We’ve Got Barbarians!
  • Author: Jason Carter Eaton
  • Illustrator: Mark Fearing
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6827-3

Prince Ribbit

Written by Jonathan Emmett
Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Full of twists and turns, this cute new fairy tale pulls in elements from the classic frog prince without copying. When two of three princesses embrace the original frog prince story as fact, the third princess tries to convince them that you can’t believe everything you read. Instead, they adopt a talking frog and try to kiss and pamper him into princehood. He lives a life of luxury but remains a frog. A surprise ending should delight any reader.

The illustrator deftly complements the text with a sassy curly-headed redhead, clever and expressive frog and dog, a lush backgrounds, and a cast of other characters.

Parents and teachers will want to read this aloud and talk about all the other ways this story and the original one could end. Kids could learn a lot about literature and about ways in which we gather facts. This book is sure to become a bedtime favorite.


Buy on Amazon

  • Title: Prince Ribbit
  • Author: Jonathan Emmett
  • Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Fantasy, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-761-8

Our Very Own Dog

Written by Amanda McCardie
Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

This semi-instructional picture book follows the story of a lively addition to a loving family. Sophie, the Jack Russell terrier, was adopted from a shelter by the narrator’s family. She made friends with some family members and readily accepted her new toys and collar. It took a little longer for her to warm to Dad, but food was a powerful incentive. She learned several commands and made some doggie friends. She enjoyed playing and also getting into trouble. Sophie was a dog to be proud of.

Rubbino’s detailed illustrations show exactly how to treat and train your dog. They are often humorous, with everyone getting a belly rub or Sophie trying to figure out why the daughter is in the bathtub.

Along with the heartwarming story, numerous sidebars give tips on caring for a new dog. That makes this the perfect read aloud so kids and adults can discuss the reasons for advice such as “Most dogs like to be petted by their owners, but many don’t like to be touched by strangers. Always ask the owner before you touch a dog.” Kids may want to keep referring back to the text as their own dog settles in.

Order on Amazon

  • Title: Our Very Own Dog       
  • Author: Amanda McCardie
  • Illustrator: Salvatore Rubbino
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book, Animals, Adoption
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8948-3
  • Extras: A Few Useful Books About Dogs