Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.


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The Princess in Black by Shannon & Dean Hale & LeUyen Pham

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Hale, S., Hale, D., & Pham, L. (ill.) (2014). The Princess in Black. Candlewick Press: Massachusetts. ISBN: 9780763665104

Annotation: When the monster alarm rings, Princess Magnolia jumps into action and transforms into her monster fighting alter ego, the Princess in Black!

Reaction: In this short beginning chapter book, the Hales introduce readers to the wonderful character of Princess Magnolia, who is a perfect, pink-wearing princess, until it’s time to kick some monster tush. Then it’s time for Princess Magnolia to don practical shorts, boots and a cape in black.

One of the best things about this book is the way Princess Magnolia embraces both sides of herself: the girly, super feminine princess and the strong, capable, monster-tush-kicking superheroine. I recently came across a great article about how it does a disservice to children and women to treat girliness as being less good than tomboyishness, and I think, in light of that, the Hales have done something remarkable here. This is a book that tells children that being feminine and wearing pink is great! And so is going out and saving the kingdom from monsters! The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and that’s a great lesson.

On top of that, the story is engaging and funny, and though this story is pretty brief, the Hales have managed to create fully realized characters and a world around them. The illustrations are bright and colorful and add a lot of whimsy and humor to the text.

I really, really hope there are going to be more adventures of Princess Magnolia/the Princess in Black. The Hales have only begun to scratch the surface in this one.

Media used: watercolor and ink

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website


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One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Buzzeo, T., & Small, D. (ill.) (2012). One cool friend. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780803734135

Annotation: Elliot is a proper young man, who discovers the perfect pet on a trip to the aquarium.

Reaction: This book is so adorable and funny. I love seeing Elliot’s efforts to take care of his new pet, and I love the little surprise Buzzeo and Small give readers at the end.

As always, David Small’s artwork is fantastic, with just the perfect amount of whimsy and his facial expressions are completely delightful. The palette is primarily black and white, but the small splashes of color he adds keeps it feeling fresh and vibrant.

I think is a little long to use during a storytime, but it would work for kids in smaller groups, and my husband thought it was HILARIOUS.

2013 Caldecott Honor Book
2013 Notable Children’s Book

Media Used: Pen and ink, ink wash, watercolor and colored pencil

Author’s Website (she’s a librarian!!)

Illustrator’s Website


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Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Nyeu, T. (2012). Squid and Octopus: Friends for always. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780803735651

Annotation: Squid and Octopus are best friends, as shown in the four mini stories collected in this book.

Reaction: Oh my good gosh, this book is so cute. Plus it’s got knitting AND cephalopods?! WIN. Squid and Octopus have a great friendship and would be a wonderful example for little kids. Even though they don’t always get along or agree with each other, Squid and Octopus are always there for each other. Each story is self contained and ends with a reaffirmation of their strong friendship.

The art in this is adorable. Nyeu uses a fairly simple color palette, using mostly greens, blues, yellows and oranges, making the art feel welcoming and soothing, while also being reminiscent of actually being under the ocean. Her animals are all friendly and totally adorable, even her toothy sharks.

I love this book and would love to read it with some small children.

Media Used: Silkscreened using water-based ink and a colored pencil

Author’s Website


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I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Klassen, J. (2011). I want my hat back. Somerville, Ma: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 9780763655983

Annotation: A bear is on a quest to find his beloved missing hat.

Reaction: I LOVE this book. I saw it read during a preschool storytime I was observing, and it is so funny. The story is simple enough, the art is delightful, and the humor is subtle. When I read it at my own storytime this past week, the kids “helped” Bear on his search for his hat, and though they may not have gotten the joke about what happens to the hat thief at the end of the story, they did enjoy the book. When I first saw it read and when my husband read it, we laughed out loud at the illustrations and the simple story. Klassen is a delightful storyteller, and his seemingly simply illustrations convey a lot.

Klassen also just published a companion story called This Is Not My Hat about a fishy hat thief, which just won the Caldecott Medal for illustration. That one is also great, but my preschoolers DEFINITELY didn’t get the joke.

This is on my Top Ten Favorites (and my Amazon wishlist).

New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books (2011)
Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (2012)
Selezionato Mostra Internazionale d’illustrazione per l’infanzia di Sarmede (2011)

Media Used: Illustrations created digitally and in Chinese ink

Author’s Website


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Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Telgemeier, R. (2012). Drama. New York: Graphiz. ISBN: 9780545326995

Annotation: As Callie tries to design and build the BEST SET EVER! for the school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she’s also got to deal crushes both old and new.

Reaction: I read Telgemeier’s Smile, her autobiographical account of undergoing massive dental work in middle school, for my Graphic Novels class in Spring 2012, and one of the things that I really about both that book and this one is that Telgemeier does a great job portraying what it’s like to be a 12 year old girl. Smily is great as it deals with friendships, good and bad, and trying to fit in despite looking different from everyone else.

Drama is wonderful because of the depictions of middle school theater. she really captures the camaraderie and drama and FUN of being in a theater program. I could totally relate, despite having my theater experiences in high school rather than middle school.

I love that Callie herself has no major drama in her life. She likes her family, she’s got good friends, and maybe she has some trouble with boys, but what 7th grade girl doesn’t?! The main conflict in the story is Callie and the rest of the theater group overcoming hurdles and trying to put on the best show they possibly can. Also, Callie likes some boys who may or may not like her back.

I love that Telgemeier prominently features a character who is gay, and that all his friends are accepting and loving toward him. Drama has a pretty diverse cast of well developed characters who are wonderful and fun.

If you’ve ever read The Baby Sitter’s Club graphic novels, than you’ll recognize the art in Drama, as Telgmeier illustrated both. I love her style. She has great cartoony characters and bright colors. The art is engaging and the panels flow really smoothly.

* A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012
* A Washington Post Best Book of 2012
* New York Times Editors’ Choice
* Booklist Editors’ Choice
* NPR: Graphic Novels that Flew Under the Radar
* New York Public Library’s 100 Titles For Reading and Sharing
* School Library Journal Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2012

Media Used: From the author’s FAQ: “I sketch out all my pages on plain 8.5 x 11 paper, and then create a full-sized version of those sketches on Bristol board, using a Col-erase light blue colored pencil. Over that, I pencil each panel pretty tightly with an F graphite pencil. Panel borders (and sometimes lettering, if I’m doing it by hand) are inked with a Faber Castell F pen. Finally, I ink over the penciled drawings with Dr. Martin’s waterproof India ink and a no. 2 Windsor & Newton sable brush, and erase the pencil lines with a Staedtler Mars plastic eraser.”

Author’s Website


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Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen

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Petersen, D. (2008). Mouse Guard: Fall 1152. New York: Villard. ISBN: 9781932386578

Annotation: The communities of mice rely on the Mouse Guard to protect their homes and ensure their survival. In the Fall of 1152, the Guard uncovers a treasonous plot to set up one mouse as dictator over all mice citizens, and only the Guard can keep this from happening.

Reaction: This book is a really quick read and a great story. The blurb on the front cover says it “reads like a mix of Lord of the Rings and Stuart Little, which is a pretty good description of it, though none of the mice get into the kind of hijinks that Stuart does, and it’s not as fantastic as LOTR. This book could be an actual historical account of these events if the characters were people instead of mice, and I really like that Petersen didn’t add a bunch of extra stuff like magic and other fantasy elements. A Goodreads review likened Mouse Guard to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, which is an ideal comparison, as they both have similar tones and deal with small critters struggling to survive in a harsh world.

I also really like how serious it is. Petersen might have included one or two jokes in the book, though I can’t remember them, and I think that was really well done. It would have been really easy for him to make this story silly and goofy, but he gives it gravity and weight. The mice of the Guard all take their duties seriously and are committed to protecting the mouse way of life.

I loved the way Petersen sets up his mouse society and creates such a well thought out world. His art is richly detailed, and I enjoyed how fierce and brave his characters are. He is able to convey a lot of expression through really small changes of the faces. The predators the mice face are almost photo realistic, which sets them a little apart from the mice whose anthropomorphization slides them farther away from reality.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy talking animal stories, such as the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and Mrs. Frisby, but it would also be good for kids who enjoy stories about war, fighting and protecting one’s home.

Media Used: Ink and digital color

Author’s Website


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Art & Max by David Wiesner

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Wiesner, D. (2010). Art & Max. Boston: Clarion Books. ISBN: 9780618756636

Annotation: Art is an experienced painter, and Max decides he’s can paint too! Unfortunately, his enthusiasm outweighs his skill, and he makes a huge mess. Things only get worse when he tries to clean it up.

Reaction: I think young kids would love this book. Watching Max try to clean Art up after painting him only makes the situation worse and more ridiculous, and I could imagine little kids cracking up at how the situation deteriorates. The text is pretty minimal and is a conversation between Max and Art, with each characters words in a different font and color. I was expecting this to be a wordless book, as that’s what Wiesner usually does, so I was a little surprised by having text.

Wiesner’s depictions of desert lizards are wonderful. He’s able to make them expressive, detailed and unique, and I love that Art is a horny toad. I also really enjoy the desert landscape, for which y’all know I have a soft spot.

Media Used: Acrylic, pastel, watercolor and India ink

Author’s Website