Dragon Song by Nan Sweet. Book Review.

This is an 8 x 10 picture book about a dragon who loves to sing. But, “Nobody liked it when Glenna, the Dragon, sang. People were upset.” Not only do people dislike the sound but her voice knocks down trees and breaks things. A village girl finally helps Glenna to learn to sing softly and sweetly. Glenna improves so much she wins second place in the talent show. The story ends “Glenna would like to sing with you. Shall we sing together?” At this point I was expecting a song to be included so that the child could actually sing with the Dragon.

I think the message is that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams but when they are harming others you may have to reconsider how you are using them. It also encourages discussion about how our habits affect those around us. It could also be a lot of fun to make up a dragon song with your child.

The illustrations appear to be drawn on computer with a soft brush. While this can be an effective tool, I think it is over used in this book giving it a blurred appearance. Some of the pictures are very well done such as the abbey and the bird who lost her feathers. Others need work, such as Glenna’s mother and the friends hiding in the tree.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Kindness Comes Back: Pegasus, A Dragon’s Tale by Gina LoBiondo. Illustrated by Stephanie Zuppo. Book Review.

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A dragon’s egg is found by two royal bears who hatch it and raise the baby dragon until he is old enough to leave on his own. Years later, when the kingdom is under attack and the two bears have been taken prisoner, the dragon, now fully grown, appears. At first he doesn’t recognize the little bears, but they prod his memory until he frees them. He scatters the enemy and carries the bears home. He remains in the kingdom as their guardian against future threats.

Although the plot is fairly common, the book has lovely messages such as kindness comes back to us in unexpected ways. United friends can stand against the strongest bullies. Wild animals should be released into the wild to choose their own way.

When initially releasing the dragon, the King says, “We don’t know how big he’ll get and besides, he’ll be better off in his own. Perhaps he will find another of his own kind and have a family.” I was expecting him to return with the family but there is no indication as to what happened to him in his absent years. It felt a little sad to have him spending the rest of his days as the only dragon in the kingdom.

The formatting is inconsistent. Some paragraphs are indented in some are not. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for the choices.

The illustrations by Stephanie Zuppo appeared to be computer graphics which can be beautiful but, in this instance, seem blurred and even muddy at times. The characters of the three Bears and the dragon are drawn well. The same facial image of Princess Kameela and Prince Dayshawn are used on several pages. On page 11, for example, the bears are frowning with their eyes closed similarly to the picture on pages 8, 9 and 13. Several other pages have identical expressions of an O shaped mouth. Readers need more facial detail and expression in a children’s picture book. There is also a problem with proportion as the dragon’s size seems to change on different pages.

This story is 25 pages long with about 40 to 50 words per page. It would suit a child whose reading level is between picture books and beginning chapter books.

The author, Gian LoBiondo, will be interviewed on this blog on April 5, 2017.

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A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

If You See a Dragon – New Release

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If you saw a dragon, what would you do? Would you catch it and keep it as a pet? Would you sell it to the circus? There’s lots of exciting ideas to choose but which one would the dragon want? – A book that helps children develop empathy and kindness to animals. Half the profits go to animal rescue funds.

SAMPLE PAGES

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http://a.co/gWw1iRU

Who Wants to Live Forever? – Walking Through Walls by Karen Cioffi. Illustrated by Willow Raven. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Walking Through Walls

This is a book for young people who like to read chapter books that aren’t too long and have the occasional illustration. The story takes place in ancient China. A 12-year-old boy, Wang, does not want to spend his life working in the fields like his father. He leaves his family in order to find the legendary Eternals, learn magic, and become rich and powerful. When he tells his father this, his father responds, “Wang, we do not believe in the legend of the Internals. You are giving into foolish longings. A man is valued for his worth, not for his wealth.” This is the theme of the story and it is delivered well.

Wang is a lazy and greedy boy at the beginning of the story. He spends a year in Zen-like training but it is not until he returns home that he understands who he truly needs to be. This is a coming-of-age story with an important message.

Cioffi creates a believable setting without focusing too much on Chinese culture. This is not an historical novel, but a fantasy/fable and it is true to its genre. The style of speech gives one a sensation of listening to a Chinese person speak without being overdone. Although the focus is on Wang, the supporting characters are believable and important to the overall significance of the plot and Wang’s inward and outward journey.

Willow Raven does an exemplary job of illustrating with black and white drawings. The pictures are simple with little to no background, focusing on Wang’s emotions. The cover, a red, white, and black dragon, is attractive and intriguing. It may be a little misleading, however, as the dragon only appears in Wang’s dream.

Readers aged 10 and up will enjoy this short novel.

A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Karen Cioffi was interviewed on this blog on September 28, 2016.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

My Dragon

After a much too long period of time not writing, I’ve stopped wallowing in self-pity (for the moment anyway) about how challenging my Parkinson’s disease makes everything and got back on the horse. I’m trying various methods of illustration that can be done by a person with tremors. This is my first attempt.

I also decided to have a bit of fun and use some representational art (the people, the dragon). I hope adult readers will get it.

These are the first three pages of my new picture book for students in grade 5/6 to use in class with their teacher or for parents to share with their age 5 and up children. It is not a story. It is a book to stimulate discussion.

I would like your feedback on the first three pages. If you opened my book and saw this, would you continue looking through it? Please comment in the comment section.

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Author Suzanne Cordatos – Three Random Questions Interview

Suzanne Cordatos grew up in northeast Ohio with three siblings, including her twin sister who also writes books for children. She has a degree in English Literature and a master’s degree in International Studies from universities in Ohio, but most of her adult life has been spent in Connecticut, where she currently lives, on a pond with her husband and two daughters. She is am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she works with international students at Sacred Heart University.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Suzanne. Your book, The Lost Crown of Apollo“, was inspired by a trip to barren “mini Pompeii” island of Delos. What was the most memorable thing about this trip and did you use it in the middle-grade novel?

Suzanne Cordatos: The seed for this novel was planted one memorable day when I arrived on Delos by boat – just like two thousand years ago it is still the only way to get there. The tourist boat was departing which meant my family and I could roam the island virtually by ourselves. It was very easy to imagine the place as it used to be in its heyday when statues still had their heads and the famous lions kept watch over the Sacred Lake. I remember being startled when I saw another person wandering among the ruined columns and temples, because I had not noticed any other boats. That feeling of being watched worked its way into the book when my characters encounter an old archaeologist who seems to be watching every move they make.

Ferrante: How much time did you spend researching the myth of Apollo and Greece? How do you organize your research?

Cordatos: When I started out, the story was based on the actions of the brother and sister characters. Enriching the story to novel length did take a lot of research. I visited the island settings twice over a two year period and organized a binder of information, photos, notes from the visits as well as Internet research on topics like Apollo, his twin Artemis and symbolism of the pelican, for example, which I stumbled upon. The small museum of Delos and its staff was helpful answering questions, and I depended heavily on a brochure and book from the island with artistic renderings of what the city may have looked like and identifying the clusters of ruins that you can see today.

Ferrante: Why are there backwards letters on the cover?

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Click here to buy The Lost Crown of Apollo

Cordatos: The publisher decided to use a mirror image of “The Lost” to give a fun hint to kids. The story involves “reflection” or “a look back” multiple levels. Main character Elias Tantalos has moments of flashback to his horrible year in 5th grade, and he explores Delos which is in a way stuck in the past two thousand years ago. On the first page, his teacher asks them to write an essay for their self-reflection, and in a sense the entire book is about Elias taking a harder look at himself to gain self-confidence.

Ferrante: Do you like to travel? Has it given you any other writing ideas?

Cordatos: Yes! For my work I recruit international students for a university, so I have visited almost twenty countries. Everywhere I go, I like meeting people, trying local food, learning a little of the language. I definitely have a few ideas for a novel set in Tokyo, Japan.

Ferrante: Your second book, Willard the Dragon: Sneeze-Fire, is a picture book. Why did you switch from novel writing to creating a picture book?

Cordatos: It actually happened the other way around. Sneeze-Fire was written and sold to a publisher a few years before the novel. You may be surprised to learn that The Lost Crown of Apollo began as a picture book story, but an editor asked if I would consider re-writing the story as a novel. She liked the setting and characters and said she could imagine a mystery happening there. I liked the idea and plunged in!

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Click here to buy Willard the Dragon: Sneeze-Fire

Ferrante: You have a sequel in the works, Camp Dragon-fire. Do you intend to continue this series? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a character in more than one book?

Cordatos: Camp Dragon-Fire is a chance to play more in this fantasy world with this funny, sweet group of dragon friends. It would be difficult to do a picture book series unless the first book hints that there is more to the story. Sneeze-Fire gives Willard unique friends in a setting that mentions a field, woods, hill, river and lake, where many more events can take place. A few additional Willard stories have been sketched out, so be on the lookout for more dragon fun.

Camp Dragon-Fire is dear to my heart because I used to be a camp counselor at Camp Mission Meadows in western NY state. The dragon friends get to do many things I loved about camp: games, archery, arts and crafts, meeting around a flagpole and campfire, and eating in the dining hall. Something and exciting always happens at camp!

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Ferrante: Suppose for a moment that you are truly colorblind: all you can see his black and white. Then one day you wake up to find can now see one color which color would you want to be?

Cordatos: Definitely blue. I have never been more mesmerized with a color than swimming in the blue Aegean Sea of Greece. It is truly like swimming in a vat of Windex, which my characters in The Lost Crown of Apollo like, too.

Ferrante: If you could have any book instantly memorized cover to cover, which book would you choose?

Cordatos: There are many children’s books that I love, but I would say The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien. There’s charm, action, adventure, sense of history and language, sweeping setting, elves and a very cool dragon!

Ferrante: What is the most exciting event you have ever witnessed?

Cordatos: One of the coolest events I have participated in was the midnight release of the last Harry Potter book in Hudson, Ohio. Hosted by a wonderful independent bookstore, The Learned Owl, 15,000 people descended on the charming town dressed as Hagrids, Harrys, Hermiones (and Muggles in T-shirts that read “Weasley is Our King”).  My ginger-haired daughter dressed up as Ginny Weasley, my blondie dressed up as a Beauxbaton and I went for the look of writer, Rita Skeeter.  Hudson, Ohio, did a great job standing in for Hogsmeade, and my daughters and I spent the rest of the night curled up together reading the book.  The Learned Owl hosted a book launch party last summer for me with The Lost Crown of Apollo, too!

Ferrante: Thank you, Suzanne, for participating in this interview. We will watch for the release of Camp Dragon-Fire.

The Lost Crown of Apollo will be reviewed on this blog on October 17, 2016.

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Author Kathrine LaFleur – Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann. Illustrated by Ben Mantle. Book Review.

This book is based on the song There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. The dragon swallows a knight, steed, squire, cook, lady, castle, and a moat. At the end, he burps out everything except the knight. (It could have been worse.)

Oddly, the last picture shows him picking his teeth with the knight’s sword while the knight sits in a chair, a blanket over his lap, twirling his mustache.

The illustrations are cute, silly, and bright. The castle is pink!

This might be a fun edition to a child’s collection of medieval books. The rhyme is good, the vocabulary is enriching, and both the text and illustrations show humor.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 
BUY IT HERE: There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Book Review.

This has become a classic and for good reason. Munsch has written some awful books and some that will live long after he is gone. This is one of the latter.

Elizabeth is going to marry prince named Ronald but a dragon carries him off and leaves her with nothing to wear but a paper bag. She tracks down the dragon and, appealing to his vanity, tricks him into burning down forests and flying around the world until he is exhausted. Once he is sound asleep, Elizabeth rescues Ronald. The ungrateful Prince Ronald says, “Elizabeth, you are a mess! You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.” Elizabeth responds, “Your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.” They don’t get married after all.

I love the character Elizabeth. I love the way she tells it like it is. I love how she doesn’t make excuses for the prince. (His job is really stressful. His father, the king is always on his case.) I love the way she dances into the sunrise at the end, totally happy to be without a prince. Shouldn’t every girl feel that confident and independent?

The only exception I take this book is that, in order to exhaust the dragon, Elizabeth manipulates him into burning up fifty forests and then one hundred more.

Every child who loves princesses or dragons should own a copy of this book.

BUY The Paper Bag Princess (Munsch for Kids)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

James Mayhew. Who Wants a Dragon? Illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner. Book Review.

This is a rhyming toddler book. The question, “Who wants a Dragon?” Is repeated several times in the book. The rhyming scheme holds throughout and it reads well aloud.

The witch doesn’t want him. Neither does the knight, Princess, King or Queen, or fairy. The sad, rejected Dragon is finally loved by his mommy.

The illustrations are bright, cute, and expressive. However, the Dragon was a red, roly-poly, polkadotted little charmer with a big grin. It made no sense for everyone to be afraid of him. I’m also not sure if giving the child/Dragon the message that the only person who will “love him just right” is his mother. No matter how friendly or sweet or gentle the Dragon is, no one else wants him. This is not a concept I would want to teach a child.

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