A Wizard in Love by Mireille Levert, Illustrated by Marie Lafrance

A Wizard in Love by Mireille Levert

This book is about a wizard named Hector who sleeps at least three times a day. One day he gets woken up by a lady who is singing and playing the piano. It’s his new neighbour. Hearing the wonderful music he wants to get rid of her– he doesn’t like wonderful. He bakes her an evil cake and picks her some flesh-eating flowers hoping to scare her away. But when he meets her he falls in love instead. He now likes wonderful and wants to marry her. They are still singing together today.

I don’t like this book because it’s too weird. The drawings are very strange, especially the way Isobel looks. I wish she was drawn differently. I think my mom should give the book away.

This book is for wizard and up.

Reviewed by Eagan, age 9

(review copy purchased).

***

I like when the wizard is strange and weird, but not when he falls in love and changes. My favourite part is when his cat, Poison, tastes the cake and turns into a cat-dragon. I also like the picture of the little bird-bat sweeping the floor.

I think people like my dad or my friend’s dad would like this story. And all my crazy friends would too. But my best friend and most of my girl friends would not like it. It would be too weird for them.

I don’t want my mom to give this book away. I like it a lot.

Reviewed by Jessa, age 5.

***

I have mixed feelings about A Wizard in Love. Like Jessa, I appreciate the odd antics of the wizard trying to get rid of his beautiful new neighbour and her wonderful singing voice. Overall, I love the vibrant colours and the illustrations of the animals on their hind legs playing stringed instruments. However, like Eagan, I just can’t get past how Isobel has been illustrated. On an aesthetic level, it overrides my sensibilities and I’m drawn away from the text. I feel repelled from entering into this otherwise interesting story. For me, Isobel’s illustrations alone take this quirky tale over the top. Funny how that works!

A Wizard in Love is not a keeper in my books, but for Jessa’s sake we’ll hang on to it a while longer.

If you’ve read this story, we’d love to hear your experience with it.

Reading in the Woods by Rebecca Bender ResizedReviewed by K.C. Darling

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Ollie’s Valentine by Olivier Dunrea

Ollie's Valentine by Olivier Dunrea

Dunrea’s adorable birds are back, just in time for Valentine’s Day! Ollie’s friends Gossie, Gertie, Peedie, and BooBoo have all given each other Valentines, but where is Ollie’s? Never fear, there’s a special one waiting for him at the end of the book! The problem I often have with holiday books is that they’re just too long and wordy. This is a simple little story with eye-catching details for tiny folks. Each heart is shiny and a different colour – the Imp enjoyed naming the colours and he tried to see his reflection in them. He also liked that the geese wear boots. (Are all toddlers obsessed with rubber boots, or just mine?) But the best part is the ending – Ollie’s special Valentine is a heart-shaped mirror, so his Valentine is YOU! The Imp still loves books with mirrors and he was intrigued that this one was a heart. I agree with the Children’s Literature reviewer who pointed out that it’s nice to see a Valentine’s Day book that isn’t all frilly and pink. And not too mushy-gushy, either! This is a great book to read with your smallest Valentine.

Library Fairy by Rebecca BenderReviewed by The Library Fairy

(review copy borrowed from the library).

Rainbow Magic Fairy Books by Daisy Meadows

Rainbow Magic Joy the Summer Vacation Fairy
The Rainbow Magic Series Online

Spoiler Alert! All the Rainbow Magic Fairy Books (there are over 150 of them!) by “Daisy Meadows” more or less follow a set formula, which I am now about to shamelessly reveal (although it is predictable enough you may well have figured it out already, with or without having seen the books.) You have been warned!

The Rainbow Magic books follow the adventures of two friends, Kirsty Tate and Rachel Walker, aged about 12 (old enough that they are often with their parents, but also allowed to do some things on their own.) The two girls meet while on vacation, and become best friends, spending every possible school break visiting each other at one home or the other. In the summer both families vacation together.

The girls share many adventures, and a tremendous secret. They can see and talk to fairies! And although they must always “let the magic come to them,” come it most certainly does!

Most of the books are in seven volume series (The Rainbow Fairies, The Jewel Ferries, The Sports Ferries, The Weather Fairies, The Pet Keeper Fairies, the Dance Fairies, The… well, you get the idea!) in which each day the girls meet and help a new fairy from the group overcome the trouble being created by evil Jack Frost and his wickedly inclined but utterly bumbling batch of goblin minions. Some adventures are set in fairy land… the girls have been given the ability to transform to fairies when needed, but at other times Jack Frost’s evil magic plays out in the human world, often with comic consequences.

Each book begins with a poem by Jack Frost, as dire in its threats as it is painful in its rhymes and scans. An entire component of fairy magic comes under siege, and the girls and fairies must work together to prevent utter disaster. I know this will come as a shock, but with quick thinking, the creative use of magic, and assisted by the frequent gaffes of the goblins, they always succeed!

We first encountered the series when my oldest two would have been about 3 and 5 years old. Someone plopped “Joy the Summer Vacation Fairy” into our library basket when I wasn’t looking, and home it came. I cringed the second I saw that the “author” was named Daisy Meadows, sure we were in for a taste of “McLit” of the worst sort.

I was right. And very wrong. To my surprise the book was absolute magic, and the series went on to become a tremendously fun and important part of our family reading history. I think this was because, at the time, the kids had a very low tolerance for suspense compared to others their age, to the point I was beginning to get concerned. I figured it was only a matter of time before they encountered something utterly traumatizing, like a Disney movie, at a friend’s house.

The fairy books became the perfect cure for this.

My kids were complete suckers for the drama, found Jack Frost sincerely but (mostly) manageably frightening, and were saved from complete tension overload by the comedic ineptitude and stupidity of the goblins. They would be wriggling in suspense, literally clinging to my arm in concern one minute, laughing uproariously the next. And with a seemingly endless supply of these books we could complete the process over and over and over, until they had finally repeated the pattern often enough to trust that a happy resolution really was coming. (I am proud to say all have gone on to more suspenseful things without the services of a child psychologist being required. Rainbow Magic Fairy books, cheaper than therapy!)

If you do decide to “let the magic come to you” I would suggest trying some of the earlier books in the series. It seems to me they had a bit more substance than the later books we read. (Keeping in mind “substance” is a strictly relative term in this case.)

Turtle by Rebecca BenderReviewed by Susan Jean

(Review copies borrowed from the library).

Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case by Donald J. Sobol

Encyclopedia Brown

This book was one of the best books I have ever read. I love the mysteries and being able to guess what happens next. If I could change one thing about the book it would be how they write Mr. Brown and Mrs. Brown all the time instead of their names. I would definitely look for more Encyclopedia Brown books, in fact I have already found one I am going to go read right now. Bye!

Elephant by Rebecca BenderReviewed by Erin

(review copy from personal library).

Boas by Doug Wechsler

Boas by Doug Wechsler
Boas by Doug Wechsler

This book tells you about the different types of boa snakes. There’s the rubber boa, tree boa, rosy boa, sand boa, boa constrictor, and the anaconda. I like the rubber boa so much that now I want one. I like that it is gentle around people and that it feels like rubber.

Some people are scared of snakes because of the movies that show boa constrictors or anacondas attacking people. I learned from this book that boas do not attack people. A boa will only bite a person to protect itself. But first it will hiss to warn the person to stay away. A wild boa will try to constrict you only if you grab it.

Boas do not lay eggs like other snakes. The eggs stay inside her body and they do not have shells. The baby snakes are born live. They come out of the mother in a clear sac. I wish the book showed a picture of baby snakes when they are born.

I did not like the picture on page 19 because the boa is constricting a mouse that is too cute. It should be constricting a rat instead.

I would recommend this book to snake lovers. I would not recommend it to people who do not like snakes. Well… maybe people who do not like snakes should read this book. It will help them to see how interesting snakes are and that they do not have to be afraid of them.

Eagle by Rebecca Bender ResizedReviewed by Eagan

(review copy borrowed from the library).

 

When You Were Small by Sara O’Leary, Illustrated by Julie Morstad

When You Were Small by Sara OLeary

Every night young Henry prompts his father: “Tell me about when I was small.” From there the magic and delight ensue. Henry hears of the pet ant he used to walk on a leash, bath times in the teapot, his shifting role as chessboard knight to king of the aquarium castle, and so much more. Each page is filled with fun and wonderment that opens the imagination to explore just how small is ‘small’.

I first came across When You Were Small in 2007 when I was doing a study on ‘truth-telling’ in children’s literature. I went into my local children’s bookstore and asked the bookseller if she could recommend anything that would add to my study. Right away she walked over to the shelf, picked up a copy of When You Were Small, and said: “This might interest you.”

At first glance I thought I was handed a ‘vintage’ title, something circa Pat the Bunny (1940). Yet the delightful classic-looking pen and ink sketches were done by Vancouver-based artist, Julie Morstad, and the book was relatively recent, released in January 2006. (Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad have since worked on a number of titles together).

The bookseller was right. When You Were Small was particularly relevant to my study. After hearing about when he was little, about how he used to sleep in a slipper and so on, Henry questions his father: “Dad, is all that true?” To which his father responds: “Well… don’t you remember?” Oooh! I just love it! I’m a sucker for stories that so effectively blend the realms of reality and imagination, and that so brilliantly incorporate (or call into question!) memory. That one closing question, and all the open-ended possibilities it provides, leaves the reader/listener in sheer wonder.

Far beyond my initial academic approach, this book has woven its way into my family. My children, now five and eight, appreciate it as much as I do and often ask for it. After each reading we are drawn into our own stories of “When you were small…” telling tales of both real-to-life  memories and fantastical fictions. We reminisce, we make-believe, and we laugh. So perfect!

I absolutely adore this picture book and I recommend it as a must-have.

Happy 10th birthday, When You Were Small!

Reading in the Woods by Rebecca Bender ResizedReviewed by K.C. Darling

(review copy personally purchased).

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler

Tail of Emily Windsnap
The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler

In this story Emily lives in a boat called the King of the Sea with her mom. She has never been in water before year seven in her school and when she first gets in the water her legs stick together like a tail. She gets scared and doesn’t want to swim again. Eventually she sneaks out at night and discovers that she is a semi-mer. Now she feels like she could swim forever and ever in the endless sea. She meets another mermaid and they become friends. Emily finds out that her dad is a mer-man in a prison really far away and Emily has to get there.

In the end Emily does find her dad, but I’m not going to tell you how. You will just have to read the book to find out! I love this story so much I Elephant by Rebecca Benderalmost have the book memorized word for word.

Reviewed by Erin

(review copy from the library).

***

I must confess, I’ve yet to read this book. I can, however, tell you that for the last few years the CD version has spent far more time here in our home than it has on the shelf of the library that supposedly owns it, and that on many occasions during that time I have gone into the room where it was playing to accomplish some task or other and found myself swept up in the story instead. (The narrator, Finty Williams, does an excellent job of transfusing the story with dramatic energy.) I can also tell you that Erin knows big chunks of it by heart and sometimes she and her sister have great fun quoting lines of dialogue back and forth. And probably none of this would have happened if I had taken the time to read the story description on the back of the CD case.

Rightly or wrongly I have come to have terribly low expectations of any book that features fairies, princesses, mermaids or glitter on the cover. It feels to me like such books tend to be high on glitz and low on substance. So The Tail of Emily Windsnap only came home with us that first time because the image on the CD case did not show a mermaid but a little girl in a sunhat standing on a beach. As I recall, I added it to our basket thinking it was going to be similar to “The Littles” (which we’d just been reading) only with a full size girl.

Thank goodness for my “mistake,” or we would have missed out on hours and hours and hours of enjoyment. And we would have missed out on a tale that is far richer and more nuanced than I ever would have dared imagine given the premise.

Turtle by Rebecca BenderReviewed by Susan Jean