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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Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Jeffers, O. (2010). Up and down. New York: Philomel Books. ISBN: 9780399255458

Annotation: The boy and the penguin are best friends who do everything together, until the penguin decides he wants to learn to fly.

Reaction: I love these boy and penguin books. Once I found Lost and Found, I had to read all of Jeffers’ other books. The illustrations are simplistic and adorable, and the story is a sweet tale about two friends being best friends. I love the bright colors Jeffers uses in his illustrations and the big text. Jeffers doesn’t over complicate his illustrations or the text, which allows these books to work well for younger kids while still appealing to them as they get older.

Media Used: Watercolor on Arches cold-pressed paper

Author’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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Tell Me A Dragon by Jackie Morris

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Morris, J. (2009). Tell me a dragon. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. ISBN: 9781845075347

Annotation: In this beautiful book, people from all over the world describe their dragons.

Reaction: The art in this is breathtaking. The pictures are beautiful and remind me of Renaissance paintings, full of detail and light. Each dragon has distinct features, unique to the people and places where they belong. Each double page illustration is accompanied by a few lovely lines that tell the reader what kind of dragon they’re looking at and it’s special characteristics. The dragons are caring and playful and warm, and not a one pillages or eats people. These dragons are protectors and friends, and the final pages, with all the dragons grouped together, invites the reader to imagine his or her own dragon.

This book is a total must for fantasy lovers, and I think the final page of “Tell me about your dragon” could foster some really lively imaginative play for children.

Media Used: Watercolors

Author’s Website


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Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson

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Woodson, J., & Talbott, H. (ill.) (2005). Show way. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 9780399237492

Annotation: The making of quilts to “Show Way” to freedom is a tradition passed through the author’s family for over 150 years, tying each woman to all the women who came before.

Reaction: This book was really powerful, and I love the way Woodson told her personal family history. I love the way quilting was passed down in her family and symbolized hope and African-Americans’ fight for freedom.

The art is beautiful and textured. Talbott really captured the patchwork of quilting and the importance of family and personal history. The quilt pieces are bright spots of color in often otherwise dark illustrations.

I think this book would be great as part of a 5th or 6th grade history unit. Woodson’s family history could spark really great discussion about heritage and honoring one’s roots.

Media Used: Multimedia, including watercolors, chalk, muslin, workshirts and bermuda shorts on Arches cold-press watercolor paper.

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website


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The Library by Sarah Stewart

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Stewart, S., & Small, D. (ill.) (1995). The library. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. ISBN: 9780374343880

Annotation: Elizabeth Brown likes to read. And read. And read. And when her books take over her house, she makes a donation to her town of all the books she owns.

Reaction: The dedication to this book reads “to the memory of the real Mary Elizabeth Brown. Librarian, reader, friend. 1920-1991,” which makes this book a little bit more special to me. As a person who grew up spending more time at the library and reading books than doing anything else, I can totally relate to Elizabeth Brown lifestyle choices.

I love the frames Small uses around the color illustrations, which make the art look like old fashioned portraits, and the black and white ink illustrations in the empty white space adds a touch of humor and whimsy. All the art is fun and light and full of color.

The poem emphasizes her love of books and the way she does everything while reading, without making it a negative that she’s not interested in sports or boys or even grocery shopping.

I would read this to young children to give them an wonderful example of a bibliophile in action, and I may use it in one of my future storytimes.

ABBY Award Honor Book
American Booksellers Association, Pick of the Lists, 1995
The New York Times, Outstanding Book of the Year and Notable Children’s Book, 1995

Media Used: None listed, but appears to be watercolors.

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website


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Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Corey, S., & Gibbon, R. (ill.) (2003). Players in pigtails. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 9780439183055

Annotation: Katie Casey LOVES baseball, and when all the male players get drafted for WWII, she finally gets her chance to play for real, in front of huge crowds.

Reaction: I LOVE A League of Their Own (“There’s no CRYING in BASEBALL!”). I watched it so many times as a kid, and I still find myself quoting it in my daily life. It’s a great, funny movie, featuring strong women who kick butt and don’t let men tell them what to do.

I also loved Shana Corey’s other books that I’ve read, so I knew I wanted to check this out and finding out that she was inspired by A League of Their Own made me more excited about it. Corey includes the 1908 lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and surprisingly, the verses that no one knows are how much a girl loves baseball! Corey’s fictionalized account of Katie Casey who ends up playing for the girl’s baseball league during WWII is a fun introduction to this part of our US history.

Gibbon’s illustrations are a great accompaniment to the story. The art is cute, colors bright and eye-catching. Gibbon really captures the awesome, liberating feeling of all these girls getting a chance to live their dreams.

I would give this book to girls who love sports and need to see women involved in professional sports. It’s also a great book for to use in a classroom as part of a WWII unit to highlight women’s roles at home during the war, and it shows boys that girls can be just as talented in sports.

Media Used: Watercolor and colored pencil

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website: None