Kid Lit Book Review – A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring by E.K. Bowhall

In the words of the author, A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring “is a story that tells how important family is, and how different we all are. To be royal not by blood, but in our hearts, is a beauty that can go beyond what we can see in each other and ourselves. How one so true can break any spell and overcome any obstacle in one’s life.”

Overview

One of my goals when I review books is to simply connect readers with books.  That means matching the right books with the right readers.  The last book I reviewed, I May Fly was a book geared for very young readers.  A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring is almost exactly the opposite.  It is geared for an middle to older elementary age, say 2nd-4th grade.  Whereas I May Fly was a very short book both in title and in word count, A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring is a much longer book both in title and in word count.  I didn’t take the time to count them, but I estimate it to be roughly 2,000-2,500 words.  It is told as a classic fairy tale with the plot occurring over several years and involving quests, enchantments, sorceresses, true love, and magical creatures.  There are many motifs of the classic fairy tale incorporated into both the plot and the illustrations, done by Valeria Leonova.

Outstanding Points

With a book as long as this one, it can be difficult to keep the overall tone of the wording and dialogue consistent.  However, I would say that Bowhall definitely keeps a consistent voice throughout the entire book.  I also truly enjoyed that overall the book is stylistically consistent.  Leonova did an excellent job with the fairy tale motif.  The pages are all ornately decorated with hand drawn roses as borders and the pages themselves are made to look as if they are aged and yellowed/browned paper.  The illustrations are vibrant and full with a “Legend of Zelda” feel.  Even the font of the writing is consistent with the fairy tale motif.

The plot itself is compelling if it is a little slow developing.  There are several plot twists toward the end of the story that, although are probably a predictable for adults reading it, are fun and exciting for children. I found as I read it to my children that they stayed relatively engaged in the story.  The younger two probably more so for the illustrations but the older one with the story itself.

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Discussion and Teaching Points

One great discussion point that I saw is with the topic/theme of love.  I think that this topic is very important for children, especially in the later elementary years as they are about to get those hormones and start pursuing relationships.  I really liked that in this fairy tale, it wasn’t love at first sight, or the damsel in distress running off with her rescuer that she just met. (As a matter of fact, Alexandra rescues the prince the first time they meet).  Prince Thomas and Alexandra develop their friendship and relationship over a long time before they realize that they are in love.  I also really like that her family is involved in their friendship from the very beginning.  I think that discussing how important it is to build true friendships and not just jump into romantic relationships is important for older children about to proceed into adolescence.  Call me crazy if you want.

Another important discussion is about the values that both of them see in each other and what the King valued in the Queen.  In neither relationship is physical beauty seen as the most important factor.  Throughout the story, character qualities such as kindness, honesty, and goodness are portrayed as much more important than appearance.

As far as teaching goes, obviously this book fits into any unit on fairy tales.  A great lesson idea would be comparing this modern fairy tale with one writing a long time ago.  What themes are consistent?  What are different?  Use Venn diagrams, etc.

Elizabeth was kind enough with her time to do an author interview with me.  This is one of my favorite parts of the whole book review process as I get to hear from different authors.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

ES – So, let’s start with your book.  Say you’re in a conversation with someone and you mention that you’re a published children’s book author and she replies, “Oh wow! What is your book about?”  How would you answer her?

EB – I try to tell them as much as I can without giving the story away. It’s about a young prince whose father, the king, sets out on a quest. While his father is away, the prince meets a giant peacock who talks and wears this gold ring. As years goes by, he becomes good friends with the giant peacock but his father, the king, does not return. I tell them this is a fairy tale with a little mystery.

ES – Is” A Prince, A Giant Peacock, and Gold Ring your first children’s book?

EB – Yes, but I have another in the works.

ES – I find that every author has a different story behind the inspiration for his or her story.  What is the inspiration behind yours? When and how did you think of it?

EB – My inspiration came from when I was telling stories while trying to put a few kids to sleep for nap time at the daycare where I work. I asked the two kids to help me start the story. Once upon a time there was a prince, and he lived in a…. jokingly, I said, “cave” and the two laughed and said, “a castle.” I remember their faces. It was funny. Then as I added on I said, “One day the prince meet a fish?” as another joke and the one child laughed and said, “no a bird.” So I asked her what type of a bird and she said, “a Big Peacock.”  And well, the rest just came to me. When they fell asleep, I knew I had something. So I took notes, made a few changes, and when I got home, I wrote the story down. The two kids became characters in my story. 

ES – Your illustrator, Valeria Leonova, is Ukrainian.  How did you find her? What has it been like working with someone halfway across the world?  Where there any specific challenges associated with that? If so, how did you overcome them?

EB – I found Valeria on Facebook. It’s been great working with Valeria, a lot like having a pen pal. We have become great friends. With the help of Facebook and video chat we were able to work through any challenges.

ES – Your book reads as a classic fairy tale with magic, sorceresses, enchanted rings, etc.  Many times, there is a lot of symbolism with fairy tales. Is there any symbolism in your book?  What is it?

EB – Roses. The young girl Alexandra loves roses as did the queen. Alexandra is a big key to the story.

ES – What is life like as an author?  Have you done any book readings, book fairs, etc.?

EB – It’s exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. You get this feeling of “Wow I did it”, and at the same time “Is it good enough? Will people like it?”  

I had my book launch at Old Chatham Child Care, where I have worked for 7 years now. I have a few more book signings coming up later this summer.

ES – Do you have anything else in the works?  What’s coming next from the mind of Elizabeth Bowhall?

EB – Yes, I am working on another children’s story, a short chapter book, and a novel that I have been working on for a few years now. At first I had a case of writer’s block but writing my first children’s book has helped me unblock.

 

 

Again, thanks so much to Elizabeth for taking the time to do this.  She actually sent me a book in person and autographed it for my kids.  It was so kind of her.  If this book seems to be your cup of tea you can purchase it off of Amazon HERE

As always, thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoyed it.  If you would like to follow the blog and get email updates whenever I post a new book review, poem, or recipe, please click on the link in the lower right corner of the page.  Thanks again and happy reading.

Kid Lit Book Review – I May Fly by Brandon Baxter

My latest book review is a story called I May Fly by Brandon Baxter.  In the words of the author, it is a story about “teaching children the importance of being patient while you grow, letting life and its lessons take their due course.” Brandon was kind enough to do an author interview with me to share along with my review of his book, so keep reading after the review to hear what he has to say about the inspiration behind the story and some of the process of taking an idea and turning it into a published work.

Overview

This story is by far the shortest story that I’ve featured on the blog as of yet.  However, that does not diminish it at all, it’s simply written for a very young audience. I really enjoyed reading it and loved the illustrations.  The story is about a mayfly named May Fly who is very young and, as of yet, unable to fly.  As the book goes on, May Fly talks about having confidence in who she is and where she is in life right now and accepting that.  The story is based on a sort of play on words that is very clever.  The main character says, “I’m a fly” then “I May Fly.” So as you read it, the two sentences sound exactly the same.  The entire book is somewhat a clever play on words as it is a rhyming book.  As I read it, I pictured reading it to my own young children right before naps or bedtime.  It has a lullaby feel to it and the illustrations reinforce that aura.

Outstanding Points

The first thing that stuck out to me in this book is how consistent it is genre wise and thematically.  As I said, the book feels like a lullaby to read to a very young child as they go to sleep.  It is rhyming and whimsical.  Shannon Lloyd, the illustrator, did an outstanding job of keeping the illustrations consistent with the overall feel of the book.  They are done in a kind of hazy pastel style that is somewhat fantastical and dreamlike.  The colors are soft and soothing to create an entire ambience that is warm and relaxing.  I also really did enjoy the whole play on words that creates the book.  As a parent who is constantly forced to read the same 100-700 word books over and over and over again, it caught my interest and engaged me in the book right away.  I also like that the book was only 110 words.  I feel like it is the perfect length for what it is.  It’s not a huge story with a lot of plot twists.  It is a simple story for young children.  I think if the author had made it any longer, it would have been too much of the same thing in an effort to simply extend it.  However, as I said, I feel that the length of the book is perfect.

Discussion and Teaching Points for Parents/Guardians and Teachers

The themes in this book are great for discussion points with young children, especially those with siblings.  One of the things that May Fly says is, “I may fly tomorrow, or today.”  I think it’s probably a great thing to discuss with children that some things may come more quickly to some kind than to others.  Just because you can do something or do it better than another child doesn’t mean that you are better and just because another child can do something or do it better doesn’t mean that you are worse.  Talking about how everyone has innate and inherent value simply based on being a living creature and not based on any kind of merit is a very important discussion.

May Fly also says “Some believe I won’t fly at all.  Perhaps it’s because they think I’m too small.”  This too is a very important discussion point for children.  I believe that many times, children don’t reach their full potential because of the limits that they allow other people to place on them.  Talking to them about overcoming obstacles in life despite what others may say is critical.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book.  It was also great to be able to work with an author from my own home town of Medina, Oh.  If this book piques your interest, click on this link to check it out on Amazon.  Now on to the author interview.

ES – Is I May Fly your first book?

BB – I May Fly is indeed my first book. I’ve had previous writing experience in the past, mainly writing news copy as a sports producer and contributing as a sports writer for a couple of blogs. But, writing a children’s book has been my first foray into actual published literature.

ES – What would you say the message or theme of the book is?

BB – Patience and perseverance. It’s geared toward teaching children the importance of being patient while you grow, letting life and its lessons take their due course.

ES – How long ago did you get the idea and how long from there to actually publishing your book?

BB – The idea came to me in June of 2018, shortly after uprooting and moving to a new city. As I left for work one morning, a wall of mayflies covered the door of my apartment building. After brushing them off of me and sliding into my car, the word mayfly began running through my mind. My entire drive into work that day was in complete silence as I played around with words in my head. It would be another month before finally putting pen to paper, then another three months before meeting my illustrator (Shannon Lloyd). The first publishing didn’t occur until late January 2019, when I decided to self-publish using Kindle.

ES – How/where did you find your illustrator? Was it a process finding someone whose style fit that of your manuscript?

BB – Honestly, I give credit to connections I‘ve made. I met Shannon through a former co-worker, someone who I was simply talking with about my book. This co-worker, Rebecca, mentioned to me that a friend of hers had illustrated a children’s book before. I asked if she’d be willing to introduce us. After having my initial conversation with Shannon, I asked her to look over my manuscript and create a character that children would find to be cute and endearing. To this day I still feel Shannon nailed it on the first try!

ES – What does it feel like to have an actual published book and to officially be an author?

BB – It’s kind of surreal, it’s something I never would have thought about or expected out of myself. Had you asked 30 year-old Brandon, it would have never crossed my mind. But age and life experiences can change a person, and sometimes you have to pay close attention to those changes and what information they bring. I can guarantee you that if certain instances had not occurred in my life, I would not be a published author at this specific point in time.

ES – Would you like to have a career exclusively as an author?

BB – I would love that! I feel I might possess quite a few unique stories to share with and tell the world.

ES – Do you have any more books/writing in the works?

BB – I haven’t yet begun writing in earnest, not another story at least. I do have some ideas of continuing May Fly tales, so we’ll see where her next adventure takes us.

ES – How and where can people get ahold of your book and/or follow you on Twitter and/or Instagram?

BB – “I May Fly” can currently be purchased as paperback on Amazon and digitally on Kindle. I encourage readers to like and share my Facebook page for all kind of information about my writings, it’s called Stories by: Brandon Baxter. You can also find me on Twitter, my handle is @bbaxter8

 

Thanks everyone for reading and following the blog.  If you don’t follow and would like to, please click on the link in the lower right hand corner of your screen and enter your email.  I’d really appreciate it.  Thanks and happy reading.

He Spoke My Name

On Good Friday, I had the honor of participating in our church’s service by performing a poem that I wrote.  It was really an awesome experience so I thought that I would share the poem with you.  It’s based on the Biblical text from The Gospel of Luke chapter 22.  I could write pages and pages explaining it, but I think I would rather just let the poem speak for itself.  If you have any questions about the poem and what it means, please feel free to contact me.  I would love to talk to you about it and what it has meant in my life.

 

He Spoke My Name

I’ve searched through the books but I simply can’t find
A king who would put his own kingship behind
A god who’d leave Heaven and life so divine
A lord who would give up his own life for mine.
A champion who’d willingly forfeit the game
A star who would simply walk away from the fame.
But Jesus surrendered renown and acclaim
And decided to carry my guilt and my shame
My sins were forgiven and my debt fully paid
In the moment the angel just whispered my name.

As Jesus sought God down upon bended knee
Praying there in the Garden of Gethsemene.
He lifted his voice and he raised up his plea.
Said,”Dear father please take off this burden from me.”

His sweat turned to blood as anxiety consumed him.
For this was the reason that he became human.
And now for the first time he questioned his mission.
Could he endure dying by cruel crucifiction?
It would have to be his choice, be of his own volition.
To accept this brutality had to be his decision.

He did not want to do it and that much is clear.
With his sweat pouring down his face mingling with tears.
Then an angel descended and spoke in his ear.
Said exactly the words Jesus needed to hear.

What did he say that could change Jesus’ mind?
From “please take this cup” to “not my will but thine.”
What could the angel have possibly voiced
To make Jesus determined and resolved in his choice?
I don’t think it was much, no huge speech to proclaim
I think that the angel merely whispered my name.

Now here is the part that I haven’t got figured
Is how it was my name the angel had whispered.
But he also spoke your name and your name and yours
And the name of all others who’ve come on before us.
And this is the beauty that’s found in the mystery
And so it’s been pondered throughout human history.
How He died for the world and all humanity
But he also died only for you and for me.
And how God saved the world when He sent us His son
But He still would have sent Him to save only one.

I’ve searched through the books but I simply can’t find
A king who would put his own kingship behind
A god who’d leave Heaven and life so divine
A lord who would give up his own life for mine.
A champion who’d willingly forfeit the game
A star who would simply walk away from the fame.
But Jesus surrendered renown and acclaim
And decided to carry my guilt and my shame
My sins were forgiven and my debt fully paid
In the moment the angel just whispered my name.

  Again, if the poem doesn’t make sense to you please contact me to ask me about it.  I would love to explain it.  If you enjoyed the poem and would like email updates whenever I post something new, please follow the blog by clicking on the link it the right hand corner of your screen.  Thanks.

Baking on Saturday – Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Well, happy Saturday.  Today, I tried combining one of my favorite snacks into one bread.  Peanut butter banana bread.  It turned out really well.  It’s super moist and hearty with good flavor and texture.

Ingredients

2-3 bananas mashed

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup melted peanut butter

2 eggs

1 cup warm milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Step One

Preheat oven to 325*F.  Spray the inside of two  bread pans and set aside.

Step Two

Whisk together the first six ingredients (banana, sugar, peanut butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla) in a medium sized mixing bowl to make the wet mix.  Make sure that it is smooth with all the banana chunks gone.  (Tip, use either the “melt” or the “defrost” setting on the microwave when melting the peanut butter.)

Step Three

In a large mixing bowl, combine the last three ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda).  Stir them evenly together.

Step Four

Combine the wet and dry mix to make the batter.  Stir only until the two are combined and there is no dry mix left.  Try to avoid over-stirring.

Step Five

Distribute the batter evenly between the two bread pans.  Bake in the oven at 325*F for 60-65 minutes are until you can stick a fork or toothpick into the center of the loaf and it comes out clean.

 

 

This is a pretty straightforward recipe.  It turend out very good like I said and went perfectly with a glass of milk for the kids and a cup of coffee for me.  As always, thank you for reading.  If you are a visitor on the blog for the first time and would like to receive an email notification every time I post something new, click in the link in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Thanks again.

Kid Lit Book Review and Author Interview – Berkley: A Nose Tail by David Hillman

“It’s ok to be different, and to be able to take what some might see as a disadvantage, and turn it into an asset.”

In the words of David Hillman, author of Berkley: A Nose Tail, that is the message of his first book.  David was kind enough to conduct an author interview with me along with allowing me to review his book on the blog.  Enjoy.

In reading your mini author bio in Berkley, it seems that you were an artist first and then wrote a children’s book. Is that pretty accurate? What are some things you’ve done artistically before Berkley?

Yes. I’ve been a commercial illustrator for some time, and became a writer out of necessity. I have a lot of stories inside me that I want to tell through my illustrations, but in order to do that I knew I had to learn how to write as well.

Do you enjoy writing in general aside from children’s books? Could you ever picture yourself writing a novel?

As I continue to write I’m starting to enjoy the process more than I used to. While I don’t think I have a novel in me, I do have an idea for an ongoing series of chapter books for middle grade readers, but that’s still far down the road.

Can you take us through your journey a little bit on your way to becoming an author/illustrator? What were some important steps and moments throughout that process?

Illustrating children’s books has been something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I’ve spent the better part of my career drawing comic books and storyboards, as well as general illustration and I’ve enjoyed doing that. Now I’ve reached a point in my career where I want to leave behind something, something that readers will enjoy for years to come.

The most important step in the process is asking myself if the idea I have is a fun one, will it make me smile? If it’s fun and funny then I’m on the right track.

Berkley is your first book. Do you have any more in the works right now?

I’m currently working on the next Berkley story and I also have a few ideas for other stories. I’m also working on offering my skills to illustrate books for other authors.

Who/what was the inspiration for Berkley?

Berkley has been sniffing around in my head for some years. Just the image of a dog with a HUGE nose seemed pretty funny to me. It’s been only recently I started to wrap a story around him.

Has everyone in your family always supported you being an artist/author as a vocation?

Absolutely! My entire family has been very supportive throughout my career, but most especially my wife. She’s been incredibly supportive, and tolerant of my insanity, how she’s been able to put up with it is beyond me.

Who in your life has been your biggest mentor?

I’d have to say it’s been my father, a writer of children’s books himself, He used to give me some of his yellow writing pads for me to draw on, and I’ve been doodling ever since.

Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but when I’m having a problem with a story I’m working on I look at his picture and think to myself, “What would dad do?”

If you could summarize the message of Berkley into one statement for children, what is it?

That it’s ok to be different, and to be able to take what some might see as a disadvantage, and turn it into an asset.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring children’s book author like me?

Practice your craft because you love it, not because someone tells you should do it. Also, do the kind of work you feel inspired to, be true to your own style. Early in my career I had someone suggest that I should create illustrations of a certain type, and it just didn’t work for me. The work was stiff, flat, and I got bored with it very soon. Find what you really are interested in, and practice it every chance you get. Make the next story, or the next project better than the last, and the next, and the next…

My thanks to David for taking the time to do the interview with me and for allowing me to review his book, which I loved.

Overview

Berkley: A Nose Tail is a story about a dog who is born with a HUGE nose.  His nose is constantly getting him into trouble as he loves to stick it in places where it doesn’t necessarily belong.  However, when his owner’s friend is unable to find her cat, Berkley’s nose is the only thing that is able to help.

Outstanding Points

As I’ve done more and more book reviews, the diversity of illustrations and the obvious talent behind all of them irregardless of style is amazing.  The Illustrations in Berkley are fantastic.  The detail and intricacy of them are truly remarkable.  As you can see even from the front cover, just very excellent overall.  Mr Hillman, as you can read in the interview, began his career in visual arts and illustrating, and that fact is very apparent.

I love the message behind the book.  I enjoy books with messages but also enjoy that this one isn’t blatantly stated either.  I also love this particular message as it deals with an actual physical characteristic.  In the social media driven society that over-analyzes and scrutinizes every photo, a message of self-acceptance and self-appreciation is very appropriate and relevant.

There is another message, although much more subtle, that I also love.  Warning, I’m about to preach a bit.  One of the main characters is an African-American girl.  In the book, her father is a police officer.  I love that, although it is subtly ingrained, a person of color is painted (literally) in such a positive light.

The story itself is compelling and engaging.  I enjoyed reading it.  Although for an adult, the outcome is predictable, a child would definitely be locked in waiting to see how it will turn out.

From start to finish, the story and setup of the book is consistent.  There are about the same amount of words on each page appropriate to the age level the book targets.  The storyline is coherent and complete.

Discussion Points and Teaching Ideas

Becky, one of the characters in the story, automatically assumes the worst in the story.  I think it would be good a discussion about negative self-talk and imagining the worst possible scenario.  Talk about how many times we think the worst possible thing has happened when really it wasn’t anything like that at all.  Allow students to share stories from their lives.

Jeremy, Berkley’s owner, knew about how amazing Berkley’s nose was, even when most other people viewed it as a detriment.  So, when Becky needed his help, Jeremy jumped at the chance for Berkley to prove himself.  How can we be that way as friends, classmates, or siblings?

Is it easier to see the potential in others or in ourselves?  How do you think that this should affect how we treat each other?

Allow students to create an animal that has something crazy like Berkley’s huge nose?  Have them brainstorm how that animal might use whatever it has.

What should Berkley’s next story be?  How else might he be able to use his nose to help people?

Well, that’s all.  Overall, I really liked this book and was really impressed with the art in it.  You can find Berkley: A Nose Tail in several places.

You can go to Amazon at this link Here

It is also available from Barnes and Noble Here

Or you can go to the official Berkley web page Here

You can also follow David Hillman on Instagram at @dnahillman

I really do hope you will go check it out for yourself.  You will certainly  not be disappointed.  As always, thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoyed it.  If you want to follow the blog to receive email updated whenever I post something new, simply click on the link in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Thanks again.

Baking on a Saturday – No Sugar Added Apple Butter Banana Bread

One thing that annoys me with many food/recipe blogs is that there is usually at least a 5,000 word story to scroll through before you get to the actual recipe you were looking for in the first place.  That being said, the idea for this recipe kind of does have a story behind it but I’ll keep it quick.

Through a series of events, we came into possession of about a hundred apples and only used about thirty-five of them.  Never the one to throw extra food away, I decided to try my hand at home made apple butter.  The apple butter actually turned out really really good.  However, after about two weeks, we still had a good bit left and I was sick of seeing it in our fridge.  It was also a Saturday when I was home alone with the kids.  I love passing on my passion for cooking and baking to my kids, so we went into the lab together and created apple butter banana bread.

If you’ve read my recipe blogs before, you know that I am a huge fan of not loading foods, especially ones with fruits (i.e. sugar) already in them.  It’s not necessarily that I’m an insanely healthy eater.  I’m not.  I just don’t like that some recipes have as much sugar as flour.  In essence, I would rather my banana bread taste more like bananas than sugar.  So you’ll notice that this recipe has absolutely no extra sugar added.  When I made the original apple butter, I added about a quarter cup of brown sugar but this recipe only uses a small amount of the total apple butter.  So all in all, there is probably about a tablespoon of brown sugar from the apple butter actually in the bread.

So, after complaining about blogs that take forever to get to the actual recipe, I used three hundred to introduce this one.  I apologize. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

2 ripe bananas

1 cup apple butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs (if you want a vegan recipe, substitute 1/4 cup applesauce)

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

Step One

Preheat the oven to 350*

Step Two

Mash the bananas in a medium bowl.  I find that it is easiest to just use a fork for this.  Then add the apple butter, vegetable oil, vanilla, and eggs/applesauce.  Mix it all together until it is relatively smooth.  Set the wet mix aside. 20190112_085846.jpg

Step Three

In a separate bowl, add the dry ingredients; the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Mix them together until they are well blended.20190112_085357.jpg

Step Four

Add the wet mix into the dry mix.  Mix it together until the entire mixture is relatively smooth.  Use a rubber spatula to make sure that all the dry mix is off the edges of the bowl or when you go to pour the batter, you’ll all of a sudden have a spot of dry flour in your bread that never got mixed in.20190112_124550.jpg

Step Five

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and pour/spoon the batter into the pan.  Bake for 50 minutes or until you can insert a fork into the middle of the loaf and it comes out clean.  Try your best to eat it while it is still warm out the oven.  If not, this bread should hold pretty well for a couple of days.  It pairs really well with coffee but what doesn’t? Am I right?  Also, don’t judge me that the kids are all still in their pajamas, it’s a Saturday ok.

 

Well, as always, thanks for taking time to read the blog.  I hope you enjoyed it and that you try this recipe and love it too.  Our family liked it a lot even though it’s not super sweet.  If you want to follow the blog to receive email updates whenever I post something new, please click on the link in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Thanks again.

 

Kidlit Book Review – Folkland Fables: Scottish Fairy Creatures by Jenni Gudgeon

“Hidden deep in the heart of Folkland Wood there lies a doorway into Faerie. It
only opens when the moon grins mischievously in the sky, and even then, it’s not
open long.”

“Fairy-sighted humans view two worlds at once…”

Welcome back to the blog everyone and thank you for reading.  I took somewhat of a hiatus from writing over the holiday season but have a lot of book reviews pending and one author interview on tap as well.

This week, I had the pleasure of reading  Folkland Fables: Scottish Fairy Creatures, the book from which the opening quotes to this post comes.  I must say, that it is by far the most interesting of all the books that I’ve reviewed up until now.

Overview

The book is written by Scottish author Jenni Gudgeons as a sort of traveler’s guide to the fairy creatures that live in the woods by her house in Scotland.  So, it’s different in that there is not really any sort of plot to follow.  Just descriptions, backgrounds, and behavioral patterns of the creatures.  However, not having a plot does not mean that it is not engaging.  I found it to be very much so and truly enjoyed it.  It is longer than most of the books that I review and much more suited for upper elementary level students and the illustrations belie that.  I will describe them more in detail later as they are definitely noteworthy.

Excellent Points

  • Illustrations for sure.  I fell in love with them.  They are done on two page spreads.  The bases for the illustrations are actual pictures of the woods and things in them such as trees, flowers, moss, etc.  However, superimposed over the photographs, are fanciful illustrations of the creatures described.  They are done in classical fairy tale style in which realistic portrayal is thrown to the wind and creature merges with vegetation and vegetation merges with geography.  It’s really hard to describe.  Think Where the Wild Things Are mixed with original portrayals of the Billy Goats Gruff only more fanciful and whimsical.  The colors of the creatures are all done in black, white, yellow/gold and orange, which gives it even more a rare aura.  Again.  It’s hard to describe without actually seeing them.
  • The descriptive language in the book is very good as well.  Gudgeon uses many very precise adjectives to create word pictures to accompany her illustrations.  The backgrounds and behaviors of the creatures are all very precise and developed as well.  It’s almost Tolkien-esque.
  • The book is very unique in its portrayal of several common creatures such as unicorns.  While in most books and stories, unicorns are revered and sacred, Gudgeon describes them as more vain, arrogant, petty, and annoying.
  • The book includes several creatures not common in fairy stories such as a washerwoman, wood brownies, will-o’-the-wisps, and more.  As a traveler’s guide, Folkland Fables not only describes them but also gives advice on how to best interact with them.  It’s really very neat.

Teaching and Discussion Points

  • Folkland Fables would be a great book to read and compare with similar stories involving fairy creatures such as unicorns, trolls, pucks, etc.  Use Venn diagrams to show similarities and differences in both appearance and behavior.
  • Although some of the creatures are portrayed with negative characteristics, Gudgeon doesn’t vilify them.  She simply describes them honestly and tells how to interact with them in the best way.  Discuss how this is how we can approach some people too.  Everyone brings something different to a classroom environment and everyone has a different set of life experiences that causes them to be who they are.  This is important to realize and take into account as humans and as fairy creatures.

Teaching Ideas

  • It’s almost a good thing that there is no plot from a teaching perspective as this leaves room for students to create their own stories based on the creatures’ characteristics.  Creative writing is such an important skill for development.  This is a great opportunity for it.
  • Another great creative opportunity is for students to create their own fairy creatures.  Don’t put any caveats or limitations on it.  Allow them to be as wild and fanciful as the students can dream.  This is a great time when their creativity does not need to be reined in at all.  Now play a game to test the students’ descriptive writing.  Have the students exchange papers and illustrate their partner’s creature based on the description.  Assess how well each person was able to do it and have them add more description as necessary.
  • Summarizing is also an essential skill.  Have the students break into groups of four or five and compile a bullet-point style traveler’s guide to the forest with each creature being an entry.  Have each entry include a physical description category, a behavioral characteristics category, and a traveler’s advice category.  Have them research similar guides for other areas like the Sahara, rainforest, or arctic tundra.

 

 

All in all, Folkland Fables was a very interesting read.  I don’t think that I would recommend it for younger children.  However, if you are looking for an engaging and fanciful read with fantastic illustrations, this is a good place to find it.  You can find Folkland Fables on Amazon at this link.  It costs 25.99 for a hardback and 13.99 for paperback.  The Kindle version is only 6.99.

As always, thank you for reading.  Special thanks to Jenni Gudgeon for allowing me to review her book.  I really hope that there are more to come with actual stories involving the creatures of Folkland Woods.  To follow the blog and receive and email update when I post something new, please click on the link in the lower right hand corner of the screen.  Happy New Year everyone.