Tag Archives: fantasy

Mousequerade Ball, A Counting Tale

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Mousequerade Ball, A Counting Tale

by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Bloomsbury, 2016

With perfect rhyme woven into a complete story, this book teaches counting skills under a dashing cloak of fun!  Award-winning Lori Mortensen and Betsy Lewin have another winner.

We follow the crowd to the Mousequerade Ball and meet the entire cast of tidy mice who clean the rooms, black-tied mice who strum their lutes, baker mice who prepare fluff puff crumbs and silly jesters that do amazing tricks.  UNTIL…a cat arrives.  Then we count down as splendid ladies scatter across the floor, buccaneers scramble out the door and mice dash into sacks and cracks.  UNTIL…they learn the cat came to dance!  A fun story set in an elegant castle, perfect for young princes and princesses.

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The Circus

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The Circus
by Sarah Kaufman
Greenleaf Book Group, 2015

Artist Sarah Kaufman brings together 36 of her dreamlike and surreal oil paintings to create a beautiful book of fantasy for children.  Entitled The Circus, she uses simple, clear words inviting readers into her fantasy.  She encourages them to use their imaginations to interpret the illustrations through their own experience and wonder.  Each painting a surprise and splashes of brilliant colors bring a feeling of magic to each scene.

To attend the show, animals and people travel in imaginative ways, arriving on flying houseboats and walking machines.  The show begins, bringing in animals about to perform, then features several acts that sing to the reader’s imagination, including a pig who flies and a lion who trains a mouse to jump through a golden ring.  She includes the usual circus acts of juggling and riding/standing on horseback, as well as unusual acts that feature rhinos and camels.  In the final page, she reassures readers that the circus will return next year.

To create her paintings, Kaufman first lays down plaster on canvas and builds it up to create a texture.  She then seals that with many layers of translucent acrylic colors before she begins painting with oils.

Her book is so beautiful, many display it on the coffee table for all to enjoy.

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The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend

The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend
Dan Santat
Little, Brown and Company, 2014
Caldecott Medal Winner

He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created.  Here, they lived and played, each eagerly waiting to be imagined by a real child.”  How creative!  These opening lines of Beekle open wide a child’s imagination of what could be.

But alas, after waiting and waiting, no one imagines Beekle.  Beekle, ready to find his child, does the unimaginable—he journeys to the real world!  Things are indeed strange in the real world, but he soon finds a place where other imaginary friends visit and feels comfortable.  But still, no one takes him as an imaginary friend.  He sits at the top of an autumn tree, until a little girl calls out to him; the wind blew her drawing into the tree.  Beekle returns the picture to the little girl—and there in her picture was Beekle!  Very shy at first, they get to know each other, until one day they do the unimaginable….

Extraordinarily wonderful!  I love how this books opens one’s imagination.  Beautifully rendered in pencil, crayon, watercolor, ink and Adobe Photoshop, with hand-lettered text.

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Possum Magic

Possum Magic
By Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas
Harcourt, 1983

Possum Magic is a best seller in Australia, written by their beloved children’s writer Mem Fox.

Hush and Grandma Poss live in a tree.  Grandma Poss knows magic to turn wombats blue and kookaburras pink.  But best of all, she turns Hush invisible, to protect her from the dangers of the bush, like hungry snakes!  One day, Hush wonders what she looks like, for she cannot see herself in the pond.  Grandma Poss searches her books for the removal spell, but cannot find it.  She remembers it has something to do with food, human food.  So they ride a bicycle to Australia’s major cities, trying out Anzac biscuits, monray and Minties.  Nothing works, so they head off to cities in the far north.  Find out what Australian foods she eats to regain her visibility.

Possum Magic’s whimsical illustrations are endearing to readers.  The story is a great way to introduce young readers to Australia, the animals and foods different than those in the states.  It includes a glossary explaining Australian terms, and a map showing the cities and foods.

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A Book

A Book
By Mordical Gerstein
Roaring Brook Press, 2009
Amelia Bloomer Award

The story begins with wondering what it would be like to live in a book; a fascinating concept for a young child.

Over breakfast, we meet the family members who live in the book and discover their story; but the youngest, a little girl, does not have a story.  Mother Goose appears and points out that everything the little girl says is seen by “the reader”.  Spotting the “huge…blobby thing” looking at her, embarrasses the little girl and she hides behind the goose.  The goose takes her through her land of folk and fairy tales, where the reader can enjoy identifying each story.  Her dog, with a detective, tries to help; her fish, who has joined a band of pirates, tries to help; and her brother, now an astronaut, makes suggestions, but these stories are not the little girl’s story.  At dinner she knows what her story is and announces it to her family.  They all cheer for her.  After dinner, she writes her story. The book ends with the little girl lying in bed asking the reader to please close the book so she can sleep.

Imagining what it would be like to live in a book woven together with the young child searching for her story makes this a compelling story for young readers.

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Child of Faerie Child of Earth

Child of Faerie Child of Earth
Written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jane Dyer
Little Brown and Company, 1997

On Hallow night’s eve, a faerie and earth child meet, and though they are from differing lands, they are attracted to each other and soon become friends.  He leads her to a dance and they dance and play all night.  He asks her to stay and become a child of night, but, though she is tempted, she knows she cannot survive on faerie food.  She invites him to her world and shows him her farm.  At day’s end, she asks him to stay, but he knows he cannot stay and work, when his life is play.  They exchange an egg and feather to remind them of each other and stay in contact all their lives.

While this summarizes the plot, the beauty of this story is that it is set in the beauty of old English rhyme.  This is a true faerie tale.  It features a boy faerie, unusual, but perfect for young boys as well as girls.  While the hardback version is out of print, it is still available.  For many children, this has been one of their favorites, read over and over.  It’s magical, reassuring, nurturing, and holds a beauty and fascination for adults as well as children.  The art, done by Jane Dyer, is exquisite.  We experience playfulness, the faerie land, and the richness of a relationship.  It teems with beauty.

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King Aurthur’s Very Great Grandson

King Aurthur’s Very Great Grandson
by Kenneth Kraegel
Candlewick Press, 2012

A whimsical story of a brave, six-year-old Henry who heads out into the world for adventure.  He comes upon a dragon and challenges it with, “BEHOLD, VILE WORM! I, HENRY ALFRED GRUMMORSON, A KNIGHT OF KING AUTHUR’S BLOOD, DO HEREBY CHALLENGE YOU TO A FIGHT TO THE UTTERMOST!”  But when the dragon only blow smoke rings, Henry says, “I have no time for smoke rings!  I want to fight, strength against strength, might against might!”  And he heads off for another monster who will match his challenge.  After facing four fearsome foes, he finds what he was looking for all along…friendship.  Cleverly written, fearsomeness builds upon fearsomeness, and bravery reaches its peak.  A fun adventure that will ignite a child’s dreams and fantasies.

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