The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

She did it again! She did it again! She did it again!

The new book to grab is The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.(I know titles should be underlined but I can’t remember how to underline on this blog so bold will have to do) This one smells like…my Kindle case. Leathery. (sorry purists! Take off your judging pants!)


Catherynne M.Valente has written another book in her series about a girl named September and her trips to Fairyland. I have blogged in the past about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I loved that book because it was a fantasy story that made me feel like fantasies are actually possible and that fantastic stories can hold lessons for everyday life. This book is more of the same AWESOMESAUCE.


Valente has a way with words that I haven’t seen in a very long time. There were moments when I had to stop reading and just let some of her words ‘sink’ into my brain. I kept shaking my head and thinking that this was way to ‘deep’ for a children’s book. Then I remembered that C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”  Why shouldn’t a fairy story be full of amazing writing that adults can appreciate?

In this story September returns to find her beloved Fairyland in serious trouble. The culprit? September’s own shadow who now goes by the name of Halloween. Halloween is stealing all the shadows of Fairyland and pulling them to Fairyland below, the place she rules as the Hollow Queen. With each shadow lost, Fairyland above loses more magic. September is determined to save the world she loves and goes on another amazing adventure with interesting new friends and old favorites making appearances.September is older now and the lessons she learns in this book touch on the difficulties of adolescence and life changes in graceful detail. On her journey September finds that her own life back in Omaha is far more intertwined with Fairyland than anyone could have imagined. The end of the book left me with some questions and I am  eagerly (note:obsessively) waiting on the next book! (I believe the whole series will be five books.)


Ana Juan, who illustrated The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, is back again much to my glee! The illustrations are amazing- interesting, lovely, and ever so slightly reminiscent of the whimsy of Lewis Carroll (without the creepiness!).


Here is are some  of my favorite quotes:

Hearts are such difficult creatures, which is why children are spared the trouble of them…Hearts set about finding other hearts the moment they are born, and between them, they weave nest so frightfully strong and tight that you end up bound forever in hopeless knots, even to the shadow of a beast you knew and loved long ago.

Coffee is a kind of magic you can drink. It’s a drink that’s a little bit alive- that’s how it makes you feel so alive and awake.

She did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts,cunning, or powerful or even marvelous,beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of the world and being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery or boldness.

I could continue to bludgeon you with my love of this book- or you could just go read it. Doesn’t the second one sound less painful? Please find a friend to read this with you-it is a book to love and discuss. (Or at least I thought so and now I am selfishly attempting to get more of you to read it so I can FINALLY chat with someone about it.)


The One And Only Ivan

Me: Look how cute this cover is! I am so excited to read this book.

LS: Oh, that is adorable.

Me: I see two cute animals there is no way I am getting through this one with dry eyes, huh?

LS: (appraises cover) No way…hysterical crying may be involved.

The above is the excerpt from my conversation with a coworker about The One and Only Ivan . We were both correct- tears were definitely involved. Patricia Castelao’s black and white  illustrations give faces to a lovable cast of characters. I make very unattractive snorking noises when I cry so to those of you who may read this in public or to a class and are also easy criers- be warned.

My copy of this books smells like freshly painted office spaces.

Katherine Applegate’s  The One and Only Ivan is a fresh release (2012) and a deeply moving story.    

It is based loosely on the real life of a gorilla who lived alone in a shopping mall exhibit for the first twenty seven years of it’s life without ever seeing another member of it’s species. The real Ivan is now a beloved member of the Zoo Atlanta family after the pubic protested Ivan’s conditions at the shopping mall.

The book is narrated from Ivan’s perspective and through his eyes we meet: Stella the aging elephant, George the janitor and his artistic daughter Julia, Bob the stray dog, Mack the mall and circus owner, and Ruby the baby elephant. Ivan is a simple and straight forward narrator whose objective observations of humans switch between painful and heartwarming. 

The animals have background stories that will leave you aching.  Applegate deftly weaves each one into the present tense of the story.  Ivan is the son of a great silverback gorilla and in the beginning of the story Ivan seems to feel disconnected from this genetic legacy. He is reluctant to remember the time before he was at the mall exhibit.

This story is Ivan’s coming into his own and discovering his true purpose and ability to guard and care for those around him.  He is the one and only Ivan, silverback, protector of his family.

For Ivan the day  baby Ruby arrives is the day his journey to self realization begins. Ruby is still crying for her mother when she is brought to the mall to share Stella’s cage. Stella cares for Ruby the best she can, but the day comes when circumstances force her to ask Ivan for help:

“”Ivan ,I want you to promise me something,’ Stella says.

‘Anything,’ I say.

‘I’ve never asked a promise before, because promises are forever, and forever is an unusually long time. Especially when you’re in  a cage.’

When I say the words, they surprise me. ‘You want me to take care of Ruby.’

Stella nods, a small gesture that makes her wince. ‘If she could have a life that’s….different from mine. She needs a safe place, Ivan. Not-‘

‘Not here,’ I say

It would be easier to promise to stop eating, to stop breathing, to stop being a gorilla.

“I promise,Stella, ‘I say.”I promise on my word as a silverback.'”

Ivan finds  purpose in this promise.It is an opportunity to hone and use his unusual talents.This book would make a great, albeit emotional class read aloud. Also a treat for yourself or animal lovers you know. Follow Ivan on his journey to save his loved ones and to  find his destiny. It will not be a journey you regret taking.

The Man in The Moon

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce is the debut book in his series: The Guardians of Childhood. Joyce has several other children’s books (Santa Calls and George Shrinks) in print. He also worked on the Toy Story films.

I was so thrilled when I saw the scholastic box arrive in the office this afternoon I think I scared the UPS man. It took all I had not to tear the box from his hands. I have been eagerly awaiting Joyce’s book for a week and half- the smell and the story did not disappoint.

My copy of the book smells like a chain bookstore-clean, freshly inked pages.

The Man in the Moon is a thrilling story that tells the tale of the, you guessed it, Man in the Moon. MiM (Man in Moon), as he is nicknamed by his childhood guardian Nightlight, is a happy baby when the story begins. He sails through galaxies with his parents on a ship called the Moon Clipper. The Moon Clipper is designed to transform into a moon each evening and Joyce’s illustrations of the transformation are a delight.

Nightlight never sleeps and watches over MiM each evening. Nightlight sprinkles Dreamsand over MiM so he never has  nightmares. When Pitch, the King of Nightmares, hears about this he sets out on a planet and star destroying mission to find MiM,capture him, and make him a prince of nightmares. MiM’s family flees for a small green and blue planet (sound familiar?) in a far galaxy. The planet has no moon and so it seems like the perfect place for the Moon Clipper to transform and hide.

When Pitch and his ship, The Nightmare Galleon, catches up with MiM’s family an epic battle ensues. Children and adults alike will be swept up in the valiant efforts made by the good characters aboard the Moon Clipper.

When the dust settles MiM is alone except for a few surviving Moonbots, Moonmice,and Glowworms. Though his parents and Nightlight are gone his childhood on the moon is a fantasy brought to life by Joyce’s sweet,quick prose and decadent illustrations. ( You will fall in LOVE with his Glowworms and Lunar Moths)

When MiM grows into a man he finds way to help the children of earth. He assembles a familiar cast of beloved characters from the far corners of earth to become the guardians of childhood. I won’t give away more but I will say that the end of the book is lovely and simply magical.

I am EAGERLY awaiting more books from the series. A wonderful gift for a friend with a child who is young enough to still believe in magic all around.


Wonder Struck

Written and Illustrated by Brian Selznick. (GENIUS) Brian Selznick is a renowned illustrator and author. His book The Invention of Hugo Cabret,  won the Caldecott honor medal and  was turned into a film that was released in November 2011.

My copy of the  book smells of new, heavy, high quality paper. The ink smell is strong  because most of the pages of the book are detailed black and white illustrations.

I am not saying anything revolutionary by giving my opinion that Selznick has created another magical literary work in his newest work Wonderstruck.The story is brilliantly and movingly illustrated.

The illustrations tell a separate story than the words for the first part of the book. The illustrations detail a past series of events involving a character named Rose. The words tell the present tense  story of the life of a boy named Ben. Ben and Rose have one thing in common. They are both searching for a place where they belong.The two narratives are separated by 50 years but the lives of Ben and Rose meld together surprisingly and flawlessly throughout the course of the story. The melding of those two lives will astound you.

The story is full of surprises, and, as the title alludes to, wonder.  I feel strongly that it is an asset to any school or home library. The story will best be appreciated by people over the age of ten. The  beauty of the complications of love and loss might be missed by anyone younger. Still, the illustrations and overall design of the book fill the reader with the sense that they are holding something magical in their hands and this  can be appreciated by younger children. That feeling is one that builds life long readers.

Selznick is a rare talent with a gift for telling stories with settings of  great breadth  and scope that  do not overshadow the detailed and complicated lives of the characters living within them. The settings themselves act as characters in the story, illuminating the lives of the living characters that move around, in, and between them.

I read this book in one sitting and finished it moments ago. I was so desperate to read it this weekend that I ‘bought’ it off of a student who had checked it out of the school library before I could. I bribed him with our school’s good behavior currency- Tiger Paws. You read that correctly. I bribed a child so I could take their book. Judge me if you will, but this story was well worth it. I hope you find your own copy by less illicit means. Also note- I read the entire novel with a throbbing sinus headache that would usually have had me laying in the dark with my eyes closed. I found the story  that moving and enthralling.

In this tale Selznick gives  me the feeling that all of us are caught up in our own magnificent narrative.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

My copy of the book smells like the thrift shop it came from. Musty, but in a nice way. It calls to mind images of warm and rainy summer days, stolen away with a good book in a quiet corner of an attic room.

You will soon learn that I am a crier, happy tears, sad tears, and all the sorts of tears in between and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane gets me every time. I have to warn my second graders that I am going to cry at certain parts I read and that this is ‘ok’ and it means the writer does an excellent job of making me care about the characters. One of the  little darlings almost always quietly stands up and grabs me a tissue so I don’t have to stop reading. Although the end of the story is triumphant in its message of redemption I will never forget one of my students reactions after I finished the final page. Tears filmed his large brown eyes as he looked up and me and sighed, “That story was heart breaking… but it was SO good” This is a book that imparts the magic of reading and it is therefore invaluable in a teacher’s arsenal of read alouds.

Popular author Kate DiCamillo created something truly magical in this tale of a hard hearted, egotistical toy rabbit whose life takes an unexpected turn that leads him on a beautiful,scary, and painful  journey of self discovery.  In the beginning of the story Edward Tulane is not capable of caring for anyone other than himself and he does not have an understanding that there is any other way of looking at the world.Although the main character is a toy, Edward’s personal realizations throughout the course of the story  ring true. Adults and children alike can sympathize with Edward’s heartaches and his loss of faith in humanity as his journeys intersect his life with both truly good and realistically wicked characters.  So to can the readers share in Edward’s joy at discovering the value of loving.

This is not just a children’s book but it should be read to children as often as possible. I also recommend it to any adult who asks what they should read next.

The characters and their trials ad triumphs are beautifully imagined and interconnected. The book seeks to impart the importance of love, even when love hurts.

If you don’t believe my personal review or it  seems to syrupy sweet- check it out of the library first. Just promise to let me know if you fall in love as I did and decide to purchase your own copy to read and reread again and again.

I have included some images of the beautifully painted and sketched  illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline below.


The Search for WondLa

The first thing that attracted me  to The Search for WondLa was the beautifully and imaginatively illustrated cover. My initial impression was that it looked like a modern take on The Wizard of Oz.  I was closer than I realized as the description on the back of the book explains that this book is popular author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi’s nod to folk and fairytale masters such as the Brothers Grimm and Frank L. Baum.

The back of the book jacket describes The Search for WondLa as a ‘new fairytale for the twenty first century’ and it does not disappoint. The story follows Eva Nine, a girl living in a futuristic time and place. Eva Nine has lived her entire life underground with a robot care giver known as Muthr. Eva has never seen another human being.

Eva’s sheltered life changes dramatically when her underground home is attacked by a hunstman.Her home is left in ruins and Eva barely escapes with her life to the surface of the planet. Eva has to flee the wreckage of her home with just a few tools for her survival and a mysterious photograph that depicts a ‘girl, an adult, a robot, and the word WondLa.’

Though Muthr spent Eva’s entire life preparing her to survive on ‘the surface’ Eva finds with each passing day that  things are not what they were expected to be.  Eva makes several interesting friends along the way who help her navigate the strange world and help her evade the huntsman on more than one occasion.

Eva is a brave, bright, intelligent , and a wonderfully modern heroine. The characters she meets along the way are all creatively imagined, new and familiar at the same time. The parts for a great story are all here: friendship, loyalty, adventure,mystery, danger, and a wicked cast of villans.

I can’t say more for fear of ruining the fun of unraveling the mystery of this book, the first in a trilogy. In my opinion DiTerlizzi has written and illustrated a new classic and an asset to any adventure loving child’s bookshelf. I would also recommend this as a smashing read aloud for classrooms and living rooms alike!

The quote on the page opposite the title page of the book says it quite well:

“If you want your children to be intelligent, READ THEM FAIRYTALES. If you want your children to be more intelligent, READ THEM MORE FAIRYTALES.”- Albert Einstein