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Princess Madeline and the Dragon Blog Tour

25 Jan

Princess Madeline and the Dragon - Tour Button - 3 Kirstin Pulioff

About the Book

Title: Princess Madeline and the Dragon (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #3)

Author: Kirstin Pulioff

Publication Date: November 26, 2013

Publisher: Caliburn Books

Number of pages: 135

Recommended age: 10+

Summary

After a season of battle and rebuilding, the Kingdom of Soron is exhausted. With the return of the exiled wizards, the Spring Faire, and her upcoming wedding, Princess Madeline is looking forward to a peaceful season of celebration. When the mysterious green dragon reappears, threatening the kingdom and the king, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden won’t rest for long. Faced with this incredible new danger, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden must find a way to lead their kingdom and secure their future. Can they find the answers hidden within their mother’s cryptic messages from the past, or will the dragon destroy everything they hold dear? Follow Princess Madeline as she embarks on a dangerous new adventure to save her kingdom and her family.

My Review

To be frank, after I read the second book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish the series. I felt like that book would have been more aptly titled “Prince Paulsen’s Epic Temper Tantrum.” The story fell flat for me. Fortunately, Princess Madeline and the Dragon wasn’t just better–it’s the strongest book in the series.

The writing was far tighter than the previous two books–in terms of both plotting and editing. It was nice to see all of these clues that had been dropped through the previous books all finally come together. There was less purple prose, more character development, and wider scope. In short, Pulioff really hit her writing stride.

It was nice to see some character development in some of the secondary characters. Braden finally had a chance to shine–and the audience got to see him grow from an uncertain prince to a strong leader. Elias was given an even more prominent role, which I enjoyed. Princess Madeline is alright, but I was always most intrigued by the wizards. Even Sophia was given more agency; instead of just being Braden’s kissing partner and Madeline’s maidservant, she had the opportunity to make decisions for herself.

Which connects to why this was my favorite book of the series: it wasn’t all about Princess Madeline this time. She was still the protagonist, of course. But there was so much more going on–history, decoding prophecy, transitions, dragons. There was more at stake than who Princess Madeline would have to marry. And that made me feel more invested in the outcome.

I’ve decided to give the final book 4 stars. It has an engaging story, good world-building, and dynamic characters. Even though I’m not personally a big fan of romance, I think that it’s written in a way that will appeal to middle grade girls. I also appreciate that Daniel is never rude or condescending or otherwise engaging in misogynistic behavior–it’s a refreshing change from heroines falling for the arrogant show-off or the “misunderstood bad boy.” If there’s got to be romance in the story, I’m thankful that it’s modeling a healthy relationship to girls.

And Now For a Guest Post from the Author

Princess Perfect

When you think about fairy tales, what stands out most? The charming story-line, the medieval settings, the magical elements and enchantments? For me, the beauty of the fairy tale revolves around the princess. Pretty, perfect, sweet and demure, the princesses of traditional fairy tales have problems that need to be solved. Maybe it’s something with their sweet nature, or the simple desire for good to triumph, but I am easily swept up in the journey to find that happily ever after.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite princesses and what makes them so memorable.

Snow White is considered the perfect princess. She is unassuming in her demeanor, sweet, calm, and naïve. Her dreams of love are inspiring, and her gestures of kindness make everyone love her and protect her in return. This is a story about love conquering all.

Cinderella is another classic tale. This is the perfect rags to riches story, as a normal girl finds her Prince. Growing up neglected and abused, it is amazing that she remained as sweet natured as she was. She’s proof that friendship is everywhere around you, even in the animals, and that dreams can come true.

Ariel is one of my favorites. I loved The Little Mermaid for many reasons, but especially for its turn away from the “perfect princess.” This story is an example of teenage rebellion at its finest. Ariel still stands out as beautiful, talented, and royal… but she is also spoiled, disobedient, and headstrong. She shows you how following your heart comes with risks but also the greatest rewards.

Princess Madeline is a modern take on the traditional fairy tale. While she certainly has some traits similar to the other princesses, beauty, charm, and strength, she also has a bit of rebellion and stubbornness thrown in. Balancing a blend of hard and soft qualities, Princess Madeline finds a way to show both strength and vulnerability as she learns lessons about growing up, the dynamics of relationships (family, friend, and love), and finds her inner strength.

So, if you like Disney princesses (and who doesn’t)*, and are looking for a new book, then Princess Madeline series may be a good choice for you.

(* A comment from Destiny: LOL. *raises hand*)

Purchase

Princess Madeline and the Dragon by Kirstin Pulioff

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About the Author: Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff is a storyteller at heart. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to follow her dreams and graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Forest Management. Happily married and a mother of two, she lives in Oregon, and enjoys being a stay at home mom. When she’s not writing, she is busy with her kids and church.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

* $25 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon 25 gift card

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: January 13th to January 31st, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Kirstin Pulioff and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

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Princess Madeline and the Dragon Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

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Dragon Defender

8 Jan

Today’s book review is part of a blog tour. I received a free electronic copy of the book from the publisher, through NetGalley, prior to signing up for the blog tour.

About the Book

Dragon Defender by J.A. BlackburnTitle: Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League, Book #1)

Author: J.A. Blackburn

Publication Date: October 19, 2013

Publisher: Pip & Grey

Number of pages: 242

Recommended age: 10+

 

Summary (Amazon):

For over a thousand years dragons have existed in secret . . .

Peter Clark can build a robot from scratch and pick a lock in two minutes or less. But he can’t figure out why his mother left or why his grandma refuses to talk about her. When Uncle Dominick shows up on Peter’s twelfth birthday with a letter that hints at answers and an incredible story about dragons, Peter follows him, determined to find out the truth about his mother’s disappearance.

What he finds is a reality far different from what he ever could have imagined – where dragons live in hiding, hunted by poachers for their magical parts, and a small group of men and women work tirelessly to protect them. These are the Dragon Defenders. Peter’s uncle is one. So was his mother. Now it’s Peter’s turn.

* Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 Literary Contest *

My Review

Middle grade fiction is best when you start reading and before you know it a couple of hours have gone by and you’re surprised that the book is already over. And that’s basically what happened to me while I was reading this book. It starts off with a pretty cool concept: dragons are real and 12-year old Peter Clark is part of a long line of dragon defenders. This melding of a high fantasy concept with an otherwise realistic present-day world made for fun reading. Rather than spend a lot of time engaged in world building, the author is able to thrust her readers into the action pretty quickly.

The biggest sticking point for me happened pretty early in the book. The issue was that I was a bit skeptical as to how Peter’s non-custodial uncle was able to get him through the border crossing, with seemingly no passport or other documentation. It is mentioned that uncle Dominick has some sort of paperwork–but I don’t see how he could have had anything for Peter. After all, Peter’s legal guardian, his grandmother, didn’t even know he’d left at that point. All of that said, I was able to move past it to enjoy the story.

I would have liked a little more character development in the story. Peter has a fairly well fleshed-out personality, complete with specific talents, interests, and flaws. However, all of the other characters seem pretty one-dimensional. Uncle Dominick is the mysterious, cool grown-up. Xana is the over-enthusiastic girl who acts without thinking. Mario is the poor Mexican orphan who acts as a guide. Even though we spend a lot of time with the latter two as companions to Peter on his adventure, they never get fleshed out much. And they don’t really grow or change during the story.

The dragons living among us hook was a good one, though. I thought that the author did a nice job of building the dragon lore. And I am incredibly interested in the Dragon Defense League–its formation, history, work, other members. These things were only touched on a little–but there were hints that we would learn more in future books. Excellent work, Blackburn. When you’re writing a series, you’ve got to give your readers a reason to come back.

I’m giving this book 3 stars. It was an enjoyable bit of escapism. I think that kids who enjoy fantasy and adventure will like this book quite a lot. Despite my criticisms, I see a lot of potential in this series. First books can be challenging to write–especially if you’ve already started to map out the future for the series. How much is too much to reveal and how much is not enough? This book didn’t hit that perfect balance–but it still hooked me in.

Purchase

Amazon (Print) | Amazon (Kindle)

About the Author: J.A. Blackburn

J.A. Blackburn, Author

J.A. Blackburn

J. A. Blackburn lives in Seattle, Washington in a small white house overlooking the sea with her husband, Jason, her son, Camden, and their dog, Bella. Dragon Defender is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

* $50 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon $50 Gift Card

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: January 6th to January 31, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, J.A. Blackburn and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

Click this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dragon Defender - Blog Tour Button  J.A. Blackburn

Dragon Defender Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

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Don’t Push the Button

26 Oct

Today’s book review is for Don’t Push the Button, by Bill Cotter, published by Sourcebooks. It is scheduled for release on Friday, November 1, 2013. I received an electronic advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I am also pleased to announce that I was invited to participate in the blog tour for this book. So, keep reading after the review for a special guest post from Bill Cotter!

Don't Push the Button book cover

Don’t Push the Button is an interactive picture book for pre-school to kindergarten aged children. It features an adorable monster named Larry who has only one rule–do not push the button. Of course, the audience is tempted into pushing the button, and fun ensues.

The thing that struck me immediately about this book is how it encourages kids to interact with the book on a physical level. They are asked to touch and shake and move the book–not because there are flashy gimmicks, pull tabs, or textures to engage with, but because books themselves are objects that can be moved and manipulated. It’s a great way to draw in young children and keep them interested.

The writing is great. It can be hard to follow along with complicated clauses in a read-aloud situation and Cotter understands this. He uses simple sentences, which are perfect for his target audience. His word choices are natural and relaxed. They sound like the sort of language that pre-schoolers might use themselves.

I also enjoyed the illustrations. They’re fairly simple–but that doesn’t mean dull. They’ve got a lot of spunk, with fun colors and patterns. He leaves a lot of white space on the page, which gives the whole book a clean, professional feel. Too much detail can overwhelm younger children–they get distracted easily. So, once again, Cotter demonstrates an understanding of his target audience.

It’s a great book and sure to please kids. I’m giving it 5 out of 5 stars for being visually appealing, fun to read, and wonderfully targeted. It’s nice to see a new author-illustrator who really “gets” his audience.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.


I asked Bill Cotter if he could share about how his experiences with teaching and working with young children influenced his writing. The following is a guest post he wrote in response

GUEST POST

by Bill Cotter Bill Cotter Headshot

How I came into teaching was somewhat by chance. I graduated from art school, and with no prospects and barely any money, I moved from Baltimore up to New York City. Upon arrival the stock market IMMEDIATELY crashed. Let’s just say it was a frank introduction to the real world. I couldn’t even get a job at Target! Most of the time my roommates and I were cold and broke, but I know I’ll remember those years as being some of my happiest. I was on an excellent adventure with two of my best friends.

I had managed to land an internship in the art department of Rolling Stone, but it was unpaid so I still didn’t have any income. That’s when I came to know that there are a few recession-proof professions, and one of those is babysitting. Yes, it doesn’t matter how bad the economy got, people would always pay top dollar to get away from their kids for a night.

I’ll admit that babysitting had its pride-swallowing moments, but I really tried to look at it as a situation where I could learn about my target audience. At the time I knew a lot about how to make art, but I knew nothing about the people I intended to make it for. Besides for the fact that most of the job is getting paid to watch tv, I also got a glimpse into the lives of the New York elite; the decorating choices of a famous graphic designer, the book collection of a MoMA artist. And getting paid in cold hard cash wasn’t too bad either.

While I was making money as a “manny”, my roommate was working in the office of a school in Tribeca called the Church Street School of Music & Art. He let me know that an art teacher position was opening up, and with a combination of an art background and child-care experience I was offered the job. I was ecstatic to have a job where I could still get to know my audience while working in a super-creative environment.

This place isn’t your normal school. Church Street School is a local institution. For over 20 years, it has served as lower Manhattan’s non-profit arts center that offers a wide array of classes. The school hosts anything from mommy and toddler fingerpainting classes in the morning to figure drawing at night. They’re known for an amazing Pre-K class, a huge afterschool program as well as Carnegie Hall level performers teaching piano lessons to celebrities’ kids somewhere in between. It is truly an amazing place and was my second home from most of my time in New York.

The class I liked to be a part of most was Pre-K. Depending on the day, the class consisted of 2-3 year olds or 3-4 year olds. I think this age is so much fun to be around. All the students are just coming into their personalities, learning to talk, learning to socialize. They are so young that we teachers could always see an amazing amount of growth in just one semester.

My favorite part about teaching this class was that at any free moment we were reading a picture book to them. If we needed something for them to concentrate on during snack time, when they were waiting for others to finish washing hands after art, if a parent or sitter was late picking them up. I found myself reading several books on a daily basis. It was extremely beneficial to be able to sit down with kids and observe first hand how they reacted to different kinds of stories, characters, colors, textures, you name it. “Don’t Push the Button” came from me taking in this information and trying to come up with a book that I thought would be the most fun to read with my students.

The interactive part of the book was very much inspired by the way they teach kids at the school. Being physically engaged with the activity is crucial for a child that young. Every song that they learn has accompanying hand gestures. The gestures help them learn the words and vice versa. In art class we are constantly making the student verbalize the different materials and textures they encounter. I feel like the experience is better solidified in the child’s mind if multiple senses are being engaged.

I definitely considered all these things when making the book. “Don’t Push the Button” is a combination of a few elements that I knew would engage a young kid: bright colors, a catch phrase, a character talking directly at them, and a way to physically interact with the story.

I feel like the best proof that this works is this video: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuzamora/9459614238/


Thanks to the author and publisher for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour and Giveaway

25 Oct

Today’s book review is for the Shadow of Atlantis, from the Shadows of the Past series by Wendy Leighton-Porter, published by Mauve Square Publishing. I received an electronic copy of the book from Renee at Mother Daughter Book Reviews, so I could participate in the blog tour. Keep reading after the review for more information about the tour–and to enter the giveaway!

Shadow of Atlantis Cover

The Shadow of Atlantis is a fantasy adventure story for middle grade readers. The parents of 10-year old twins Jemima and Joe disappeared under mysterious circumstances. When the twins decide to check out their parents’ treasured book one rainy afternoon, they discover something amazing–the book is able to transport them through time and space. Joe, Jemima, their friend Charlie, and their cat Max end up traveling to Atlantis. They befriend a girl and her family, and soon decide that they must warn the Atlanteans that their island home is doomed to fall into the sea. Then, while trying to help organize an exodus, the twins discover that their parents had been to Atlantis as well–and that not all residents of the island are friendly to guests. Can they save their new friends and escape back to their own world in time?

Leighton-Porter has crafted a creative tale with this book. I enjoyed the way that it melded elements of pure fantasy with historical research. The magical book, key, and translation charms were all clever plot devices–although I do hope that we’ll learn more about what they are and where they came from in future books. But I was willing to overlook their convenience, because of window they offered on history. Even though there has never been any evidence that Atlantis was a real place, Leighton-Porter draws on real artifacts and history from the region and period to give children insight into what life would have been like in Ancient Greek civilization. From lack of indoor plumbing to animal sacrifice, she brings the past to life for her readers.

One of the biggest flaws with the book is that it gets off to a weak start. The writing in the opening is plodding and clunky. The sentences have too many clauses. There are too many modifiers. It’s hard to adjust to the constantly shifting point of view–because while I’m used to reading third person narration, I’m less used to being able to read the internal monologue of every character in a story. Worst of all, the first chapter has no real story or plot. The whole thing is exposition! And most of that exposition is comprehensive introductions to all of the major characters.

If you can make it past the first chapter, though, things get better. That’s when the story really begins–and it’s a fun one. It’s got adventure and fantasy and history and mystery all wrapped up together, in a way that I think will engage young readers. I liked that the protagonists were brother and sister, because it provides an “in” to both boys and girls. The more I read, the more I wanted to know what was going to happen. There were plenty of questions to keep me turning the pages.

Ultimately, I give the book 3 out of 5 stars. I liked it. But I would have liked it more if it had pulled me in from the beginning and if the main characters were a little more fleshed out. I recognize it’s fairly typical for genre fiction to focus on plot and sometimes neglect character development–but there are writers who manage to do both. Still, I think that kids will enjoy the magic and adventure. They’ll probably like the talking cat, too.


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The Weird! Series

22 Oct

Today’s book review is for all three books in the Weird! series: Weird!, Dare!, and Tough!, written by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy, published by Free Spirit Publishing. I received electronic copies of these books from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I am also pleased to announce that I was invited to participate in the blog tour for this series, which was scheduled to coincide with Bullying Prevention Month. So, keep reading after the review for a special guest post from author Erin Frankel!

Weird! book coverDare! book coverTough! book cover

The Weird! series tells the story of bullying from three different perspectives: Luisa, the victim, narrates Weird!, Jayla, the bystander, in Dare!, and Sam, the bully, in Tough!. Each of the third grade girls struggles to understand her identity and how to express it. However, when they find a supportive and encouraging adult to help them, each girl is able to overcome her problems and grow into a better person.

Bullying has long been a problem in schools, which means it has also inspired a multitude of books on the subject. In that sea of literature, Frankel’s voice is a breath of fresh air. She is able to get inside the heads of each girl and narrates in voices that feel fresh, honest, and real. At the same time, she doesn’t sacrifice literary style–the language is thoughtful and has a natural, easy flow. I was also impressed that each of her main characters are cool and likable in their own way–there are no pathetic outcast whiners or giant ignorant oafs in these books, just three girls with vibrant personalities. And it was great to see that the girls were guided through their issues by competent adults. Too many books leave children to figure out problems on their own, but Frankel recognizes that bullying can be complicated, and sometimes kids need help solving big problems.

To make things even better, the series has gorgeous illustration. There’s no bland, generic stock illustration here. Instead, Heaphy’s pictures are graphic and hip. She has an excellent eye for design. She uses repeating patterns and motifs throughout each book to create a sense of mood and identity. I also loved the way that she applies color sparingly–being unafraid to leave most of the page in black and white. Her images bring the books to life and provide a sense of unity between the three stories.

At the end of each book there are a series of discussion points and activities to use with children in the classroom, or at home. They provide great opportunities for extension projects and are a great resource for busy teachers. For me, these final touches also reveal just how much thought went into crafting these books. While they are engaging stories on their own, they are also great teaching tools. For everything from design to thoughtful story telling, these books earn 5 out of 5 stars.

You can find more information about these books, including other reviews, at Goodreads.


GUEST POST

Helping Kids Stop Bullying
Tips for Using the Weird Series in the Classroom

By Erin Frankel

When I wrote the Weird series, I knew it was important to bring the role of the caring adult into the spotlight. It is a role too often left out of picture books on bullying in which child characters are left to find solutions on their own. The reality is that most children will need help when it comes to putting an end to bullying, and they will turn to the adults in their lives to help guide and support them.

Each of the three books in the Weird series, Weird!, Dare!, and Tough!, shows main characters as well as peripheral characters interacting with adults who support and help them in finding solutions to bullying. Placing adults in the books was a leap of faith. I had to believe that if a child reading these books had the courage to reach out to adults about bullying, those adults would respond with compassion and commitment.

When it comes to bullying, teachers, parents, and other caregivers need to be willing and prepared to help. It is my hope that the additional discussion questions, activities, and suggestions outlined in our free leader’s guide (available online here) will help foster a caring community of learners in your classroom, school, and community.

The three books in the Weird series can be read in any order. You may choose to start with Weird!, told from the target’s perspective; Dare!, told from the bystander’s perspective; or Tough!, told from the perspective of the child initiating the bullying. Each book is packed with opportunities for discussion and reflection. I like to begin with Weird!, told from the target’s perspective, because it sets the stage for a powerful question: How did Luisa get back to being herself? No matter which book you choose to start with, I suggest taking your time with each, rather than trying to race through all three books in one reading. There are many ways to integrate the Weird series into your classroom schedule and curriculum. Some ideas include using the series:

  • at the beginning of the school year when working with students to define what will make your classroom a caring community.
  • as a lead-in to National Bullying Prevention Month, No Name-Calling Week, or other national or local anti-bullying initiatives.
  • during character education units on courage, compassion, empathy, kindness, truthfulness, fairness, confidence, self-respect, or tolerance (just to mention a few).
  • when specific instances of bullying have occurred in your classroom or school. Note: Take care not to name participants or single out students.
  • as a reminder throughout the year to choose kindness.

However you use the books, consider revisiting the characters and their challenges throughout the school year to discuss the choices they made. If students have forgotten details, it is often nice to go back and read the books again.

For further ideas about how to use the Weird series in your classroom or community, follow us online at www.theweirdseries.com.

Erin Frankel is the author of Weird!, Dare!, and Tough!, an acclaimed picture book series on bullying from Free Spirit Publishing.

Adapted from A Leader’s Guide to the Weird Series by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy, copyright © 2013. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.


Many thanks to the author and publisher for allowing me to participate in this blog tour. Also, apologies for the late post–technical difficulties and an injury conspired against me, but I persevered.

The Snatchabook Blog Tour

14 Oct

Today’s review is for The Snatchabook, written by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Thomas Docherty, published by Sourcebooks. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I am also pleased to announce that I was invited to participate in the blog tour for this book. So, keep reading after the review for a special guest post from Helen and Thomas Docherty!

The Snatchabook book cover

The Snatchabook is a whimsical new picture book by husband and wife duo, Helen and Thomas Docherty. Burrow Down is a peaceful forest neighborhood where children are tucked in to bed at night with stories. That is, until someone starts stealing all the books! One little girl, Eliza Brown, decides to get to the bottom of the mystery and discovers the Snatchabook. But by setting firm boundaries and practicing compassion, Eliza comes up with a solution where everyone wins.

This story, told in rhyming verse is a joy to read aloud. It could certainly become a bedtime favorite in many households. The language is playful–and the rhymes flow smoothly. Helen Docherty even manages to make the rhymes feel natural, avoiding the shoe-horned-in feeling so common in rhyming stories. Heroine Eliza Brown is a great character. I love her cleverness and persistence, her desire to solve the mystery, and her creative problem-solving. She’s a great role model for kids.

Thomas Docherty’s illustrations are lovely. They’re cute, but they are also lively. There is a luminous quality to many of them, and his technique creates the feeling that light sources in the images are actually glowing. His cutaway views of the burrows in Burrow Down are some of my favorite elements of the book–I love how they really create a sense of place and setting.

The Snatchabook is a beautifully designed and executed book. Pages are thoughtfully laid out to provide pacing to the text–two page spreads to make you linger, several smaller illustrations on a page to give a sense of frenzied activity. I also appreciate that there’s never too much text on any page. As always, I appreciate the attention paid to such details.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars for being an engaging new bedtime tale. The Docherty’s have done an excellent job of adding to the realm of fairy tale creatures with their invention of the Snatchabook. Children and their caregivers are sure to love the story and the message that sometimes the bad guy isn’t such a bad guy.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviws, at Goodreads.


Guest Post From Helen and Thomas Docherty
I invited Helen and Thomas to discuss how they came up with the idea for the Snatchabook as a creature. Where did he come from? What could they share about his background? The following is their response.

Helen: I have always been drawn to characters that transgress in some way – characters that are flawed, but not beyond redemption. Dr Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas has always been one of my favorite children’s books, and was definitely an influence in the creation of the Snatchabook (although they are, of course, very different characters). I am also interested in outsiders, and how their arrival impacts on a community (a theme also explored in our next book, Abracazebra).

The idea of a book thief who steals children’s bedtime stories popped into my head at the end of a long day of trying (and failing) to think up interesting storylines. A book cruncher? A book snatcher? No, a Snatchabook! Almost immediately, I saw the potential to develop the story as a mystery with plenty of suspense, a brave heroine and a twist in the tale – namely, that the Snatchabook is just a pitiful little creature, whose motivation for stealing all the books is simply that is he is desperate to be read to; to be included in the cozy bedtime world of Burrow Down. So really, the Snatchabook represents any child who has missed out on that experience, for whatever reason. And in a way, all the animals in the community of Burrow Down become his ‘parents’ when they include him in their story times at the end. (As to where he came from originally…that remains a mystery!)

Tom and I had a lot of fun developing the character of the Snatchabook visually. I had an image in my head of a sort of bush baby with long, delicate wings and a long tail, and Tom set to work drawing sketches. He interpreted it so brilliantly that it looked like a creature that already existed.

Here are his earliest sketches:

Several early sketches of the Snatchabook

(click the image to view full size)


Many thanks to the author and publisher for giving me the opportunity to participate in this tour.
You can learn more about Helen at her website: http://www.helendocherty.com/
and Thomas at his website: http://www.thomasdocherty.co.uk/