Archive for Fantasy

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.


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  • 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


Written and Illustrated by Aaron Becker

As in his fantastic Caldecott Honor Journey and sequel, Quest, Becker has no problem telling a beautiful story with no words. His rich and detailed illustrations really need no words.

Most of the characters carry a single crayon and add to the color of the world with that single crayon. Whatever they draw becomes a reality and can take them to castles in faraway lands. This book begins with the girl drawing a red door and entering. Her father finds her missing and follows her into the other realm. There they find the boy from the other books, a king, a huge castle, and also some danger. The boy draws purple birds and other creatures. As the father and daughter continue to explore, they discover cave drawings that look suspiciously like the story being told in the book. With the father’s help, the girl overcomes an evil man capturing all the different colors.

As an innovative picture book, Return encourages the reader to use imagination and observation to learn about the world and make inferences, very important to solving problems. Of course, the reader should also give this book a try if only for the pure enjoyment of the reading. With or without a teacher or parent, kids will love this book.

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  • ReturnTitle: Return
  • Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7730-5


Cinderella’s Secret Slipper

Written by Alinka Rutkowska
Illustrated by Konrad Checinski

Written tongue-in-cheek, this lively speculation on Cinderella’s life after marriage necessarily dwells on the what-if factor. What if Cinderella and the Prince had a princelet? What if that child is quickly growing up and using his parents’ possessions for who-knows-what? What if he breaks one of the famous glass slippers shortly before a formal event to which Cinderella wants to where the glass slippers? Can the slipper be repaired? Should it be repaired? Is it replaceable? Can the shoe store help? What about a glass store? Maybe the fairy godmother is the answer. Maybe someone else has a firy godmother.

Checinski’s colorful illustrations follow the story well and show all the action and emotion.

This is a great lesson in problem-solving and provides a good starting point for discussion of the appropriateness the use of various substances, such as glass for footware. As a read-aloud, this book would provide a starting point for such discussions. As independent reading for second grade and above, it provides good practice for literacy skills.

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  • CinderellaTitle: Cinderella’s Secret Slipper
  • Author: Alinka Rutkowska
  • Illustrator: Konrad Checinski
  • Publisher: Capraro Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: E-book, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: Pre-school to 4
  • Genre: Fiction, humor, family, folk tale
  • ISBN: 978-0983154754

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Big Birthday Bash

Written and illustrated by Frank Cammuso

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In this delightful graphic novel, young witch Salem Hyde and her cat companion Whammy prepare for their friend Edgar’s birthday party. Meanwhile, they are also battling their archenemy, Shelly. First, the reader gets to know Salem and her magic a little bit. She makes herself bigger and then runs out of magic before she can shrink back. Next, Salem has to get past Shelly and the fact that she’s hidden Salem’s invitation to the party. On an excursion to buy Edgar’s present, their misadventures continue with major brain freeze from slushees and Shelly confronting them at the toy store. Plus, they have no money. When they finally get to the party, Salem does her best to make it a great day for Edgar. Of course, her spells backfire and she has to correct for some of them. She tries to make the party big but ends up shrinking the attendees instead. Whammy is almost served up as dinner to some baby birds.

The lively and exciting panels pull the reader in and should hold their attention. They also provide a great backdrop to increase comprehension for second graders and up. Friendship and getting along are strong and subtle themes of this work. The author’s website,, provides information on author visits and about all his books.

  • Big Birthday BashTitle: The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Big Birthday Bash
  • Author/Illustrator: Frank Cammuso
  • Publisher: Amulet/Abrams, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 94 pages
  • Genre: Graphic novel, fiction, fantasy, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1025-4

They’re Coming!

Written & Illustrated by Timothy Young

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They’re Coming! They’re Coming! They’re Coming! Who’s coming? When are they coming? How are they coming? Where are they coming? To find the answers, follow the “monster” type characters that shamble across the countryside on each double-page:  a zombie, a werewolf, a witch and a bat, a mummy, and even the headless horseman. A luminous moon provides just sufficient light to silhouette each “monster.”  Yellow green eyes stare from the monsters helping create a creepy mood. . The illustrations are digitally created and printed on heavy high gloss paper.

A rich selection of eerie adjectives describes each ghoul followed by the phrase, “They’re coming!’ That phrase will quickly be repeated by the children in a story hour setting.

The book is similar to the old story joke “The Viper is Coming,” in which the viper turns out to be the “vindow vasher.” Here the surprise ending involves a party.

Kids and adults like to be scared just a little bit; we also like a bit of tension in a story. They’re Coming meets both requirements. Currently the entertainment media’s interest and promotion of monsters, paranormal, spooky, walking dead, etc. have touched even preschool and primary age children. This title fulfills that interest and need.

This book is appropriate for inclusion in a Halloween story hour even though Halloween is not mentioned. However, once the secret about who is coming and where they’re going, is out, the book may not be as effective in a story hour. The title is also appropriate for schools that don’t celebrate Halloween, but the kids still enjoy a spooky story.  Share the old rhyme “I’m Not Scared of Monsters” (I’m not scared of monsters, No monsters ever scared me, For I know that all monsters are only make believe) in that story hour.

Author/illustrator Timothy Young has had a long career in a variety of artistic endeavors from animation to sculpting, from toy design to book illustration and design.


  • Theyre ComingTitle: They’re Coming
  • Author and Illustrator: Timothy Young
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2012
  • Reviewer: Marion Mueller
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 9780764342257
  • Genre: Fantasy picture book
  • Lexile: 370L

The Pets You Get!


Written by Thomas Taylor

Illustrated by  Adrian Reynolds

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A guinea pig may be soft and cuddly but nowhere near as exciting as a dog.  Dogs can do so many fun things.  Too bad big sisters think they are not as clean or quiet as guinea pigs.  But then there are bears.  Who wouldn’t want a bear as a pet?  They would be great company when watching the sunset.  But big sister thinks they are too big to snuggle up with at night.  Why would you ever want a boring pet that sleeps most of the time when you can have a dragon?  A dragon that breathes fire from his nose?  Totally awesome!  That sister!  She says dragons are make-believe and then she, gasp, kisses her guinea pig!  YUCK!  Why would you settle for a boring guinea pig when there are so many exciting pet possibilities?  You could choose a panther, rhino, dinosaur or a snake.  But no, sister still thinks guinea pigs are the best pets and she puts her pet guinea pig on brother’s knee.  Hey!  This guinea pig is not quite as boring as he thought.  It jumps and runs.  It plays chase, well more like catch although it is not so easy to catch.  That guinea pig is really, really good at hide and seek.  What a great sister!  She is sharing her guinea pig with brother….although he still thinks a dragon would be a great pet.

The wonderful illustrations in this fun book would make decoding easy for any second grade child as picture cues are very clear (CCSS 2.RL.7).  As a read aloud, this book would be fun for both the reader and the listener.  The changes from boring pet guinea pig to wildly exciting, fire breathing dragon make expressive reading almost as easy as breathing.

Although Thomas Taylor authored The Pet’s You Get, he is also an illustrator.  You may have seen his first commissioned work, the cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. That tidbit alone makes it worth picking up this book to see what other sorts of creativity are rolling around in this imaginative mind.

  • Pets You GetTitle:  The Pets You Get!
  • Author:  Thomas Taylor
  • Illustrator:  Adrian Reynolds
  • Publisher: Andersen Press USA
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Hardcover:  unpaged
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-1143-2
  • Genre:  fantasy

The Little Prince: The Planet of the Night Globes

Adapted by Guillaume Dorison

Artistic Direction by Didier Poli

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Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s beloved masterpiece gets updated. The Little Prince ( is one of the most loved books on the planet. Five years ago the author’s estate decided to revive the story with a series of new adventures presented in a graphic novel format.

What is a graphic novel? Will Eisner describes it as “sequential art, ….a series of illustrations which, when viewed in order, tell a story.” A graphic novel is story and art tied together. Educators, parents,and  librarians are realizing the readability factor that a graphic novel has. Readers as young as first and second graders are drawn to the wonderfully drawn illustrations and stay to read the words.

The format has changed, but the characters stay true to the original. There the Little Prince was responsible only for his tiny planet — Asteroid B612. Now he feels himself responsible for other stars and planets too. In The Planet of the Night Globes the Little Prince comes up against the Globes — strange creatures who seek food in the dark of the night. When Laudion, the lamp maker, lights up the city night and day, the Globes cannot get to their food. The townspeople perceive the Globes as a threat.

The Little Prince and Fox get to the bottom of that mystery. Laudion is shown for what he is, and also shown what he can be. “You’re not my enemy, Laudion. My real enemy is the snake, who took advantage of the fear that was eating at you and making you so miserable.” Laudion performs the last heroic deed that saves the planet.

“We’re always afraid of what we don’t understand. Courage doesn’t mean getting rid of our fear, but finding a way to rise above it.” The philosophy of the original continues in the new graphic stories. A worthwhile addition to all reading lists.


Additional Resources:


The Little Prince turns 70:

  • Little Prince Planet of Night GlobesTitle: The Little Prince: The Planet of the Night Globes
  • Adapted by: Guillaume Dorison
  • Artistic Director: Didier Poli
  • Publisher: Graphic Universe a Division of Lerner Publishing
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback:  56 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-0738-1
  • Genre: Fantasy