Roundhouse Kick Retelling: A Review of Little Red Riding Hood and the Dragon

Little Red Riding Hood and the Dragon
Ying Chang Compestine
Illustrated by Joy Ang
Abrams Books for Young Readers
November 1st, 2022
Ages 4 to 8

Little Red Riding Hood and the Dragon depicts a refreshing Chinese twist on the age-old folk tale of Little Red Riding Hood, as told by the wolf from the original. But this Little Red knows kung fu and carries a sword, which is why her mother feels safe sending her to grandmother, or Nainai’s house, when she’s sick. Making her way to Nainai’s house, Little Red is tricked by a dragon and uses her quick wit and traditional Chinese instruments to save Nainai and herself, making her the hero of her own story.

Although Little Red Riding Hood knows how to defend herself, she doesn’t use much force when trying to escape the dragon’s belly, just cleverness. This provides deeper character depth than the original tale. More in line with the original tale, many other characters in this picture book aren’t focused on besides Little Red Riding Hood. As the big bad wolf is looked at as an antagonist in other folktales, his perspective as narrator is a unique element that refocuses the story now on a Chinese dragon as the antagonist. The digital art and vivid colors in Ang’s illustrations lend a modern sensibility to the ancient setting and traditional tale, and add a further twist to the retelling. Detailed backmatter contains Compestine’s author note on her inspiration for this twisted tale, her motivation to include certain Chinese elements, and a deeper look into Chinese culture and heritage. Young readers will enjoy this “real” version of the story, and grown up readers will get a chuckle out of the wolf’s audience in the final spread. Messages of empowerment, problem-solving, and not waiting for a huntsman savior are the real beauty of this twisted tale.

Butler Bookshelf

Beginning is a poetic picture book where a father and child see all the wonders and connections in nature and life as they go about their day. A child and father observe the cycles of nature and come to see that as each journey ends, new adventures begin.

Check it out, along with the other picture book titles we are featuring below!

Beginning
Written by Shelley Moore Thomas and Illustrated by Melissa Castrillon
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available today!

Case of the Zaps
Written by Alex Boniello & April Lavalle and Illustrated by James Kwan
Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Dragon Noodle Party: A Story of Chinese Zodiac Animals
Written by Ying Chang Compestine and Illustrated by Paula Pang
Published by Holiday House
Available December 6th!

Our Story Starts in Africa
Written by Patrice Lawrence and Illustrated by Jeanetta Gonzales
Published by Magic Cat Publishing
Available now!

Spells for Lost Things
Written by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available today!

Vegetables in Pajamas
Written and Illustrated by Jared Chapman
Published by Abrams Appleseed
Available January 10th!

The Circle of Life: A Review of This Is the Sun

This Is the Sun

This Is the Sun
Elizabeth Everett
Illustrated by Evelline Andrya
Science Naturally
October 2022
Ages 4-7

A vibrant geometric sun shines its rays on the undulating earth below. Thus begins this brilliant and bouncy circle of life story told as a cumulative tale to the rhythm of “The House That Jack Built.” Moving from the sun, to the tree, to the flower, and so on Everett walks readers though the tale with simple text, easily digestible by preschool story times or early independent readers. Lush, full-color, digital collage illustrations complement the spare text. With text to the left of the spread and full-page illustrations to the right, Andrya layers in each new element of the story and introduces a seek-and-find component. Can you find the bug, on the leaf, on the tree? The text and art are both reminiscent of Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar. This familiar format, combined with the cadence of a well-known nursery rhyme, lends the nonfiction text to story time in a way most NF does not. Adding to its utility, the book will be available in both English and Spanish, with teacher resources available on the publisher’s website after publication.

This deceptively simple story elegantly introduces the complex topic of our interdependent ecosystem and helps young readers see their place in it.

Butler Bookshelf

Leopold the goat has the gift of being able to match readers with their perfect book at his bookstore. But when a goat comes in and begins to eat the books, Leopold must find the book this hungry goat would rather read before the whole collection is gone!

Check it out, along with the other picture book titles we are featuring below!

Books Aren’t for Eating
Written by Carlie Sorosiak and Illustrated by Manu Montoya
Published by Walker Books
Available today!

The Circles in the Sky
Written and Illustrated by Karl James Mountford
Published by Candlewick Studio
Available September 27th!

Granny and Bean
Written by Karen Hesse and Illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Published by Candlewick Press
Available September 27th!

I’m a Unicorn
Written and Illustrated by Helen Yoon
Published by Candlewick Press
Available today!

The Lodge that Beaver Built
Written by Randi Sonenshine and Illustrated by Anne Hunter
Published by Candlewick Press
Available September 27th!

What are Words Really? 
Written by Alexi Lubomirski and Illustrated by Carlos Aponte
Published by Candlewick Press
Available September 27th!

Dance Like No One’s Watching: A Review of Freestyle

Freestyle
Gale Galligan
Scholastic Inc. / Graphix
October 18th, 2022
Ages 8 – 12

Cory Tan wants to do things his way. As a member of his freestyle dance crew, 8-bit, he improvises when he should follow the choreography. In science class, his experiment creates a baking soda and vinegar bomb, ruining a backpack, and angering his smart but isolated new hijabi lab partner, Sunna. But this brashness is coming back to bite him. His arguments with the 8-bit’s leader are causing stress among all its members, and Cory’s grades are slipping, causing Cory’s mom to hire a tutor. That tutor, Sunna, is still upset with his unthinking action in class. When Cory finds that Sunna does something as unexpected and cool as competitive yo-yo, his perception of her changes from annoying, aloof, and overbearing to someone more complete. This change is presented to the reader through a splash panel of Sunna doing yo-yo tricks in an unrestrainedly detailed flower garden. The splash panels are packed with detail, and the scenes of dancing and yo-yo are chaotic but still readable; the characters feel like they are dancing. The creative composition of panels draws the eyes, making it easy to follow, even if the pattern changes from time to time. The exaggerated punch-in on successive panels as Cory’s mom pinch zooms on his grade report elevates the moment from a necessary story beat to one of the best jokes in the graphic novel. Sunna bribes Cory to study by teaching him yo-yo tricks. Even when Cory’s grades improve, his shortsighted selfishness and poor communication with his friends cause the plates he’s been trying to keep spinning all school year to crash around him during the Halloween dance, focusing on the moment’s drama and highlighting the range of Galligan. The expressiveness of the characters is a standout element of the book, with each character’s emotion always on their sleeve. The exaggerated cartoon style allows for fun bugging eyes of surprise or silly excited faces and the distraught expressions of friendships breaking up. The pages in the more dramatic section are dark for the night setting and the sad events to come. This is contrasted with the sunset introductory dance scene with 8-bit. The colorist, K Czap, uses the environmental elements to enhance the feelings already clear from character design and dialog, building tension in some spaces and bringing out the happy fun in others.

Freestyle is a bright, beautifully illustrated story about a young man learning to be a good friend.

Butler Bookshelf

Designed to motivate girls to learn more about the field of botany and see how one person’s creativity and determination can change the world, Science Wide Open: Women in Botany, written by Mary Wissinger and illustrated by Danielle Pioli, has been peer-reviewed by an extensive team of scientists, science educators, and parents. The highlighted women hail from all over the world, span from the 16th Century to the present day, and include Waheenee, Ynés Mexía, Dr. Janaki Ammal, Elizabeth Coleman White, Loredana Marcello, and Wangari Maathai.

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Curve & Flow: The Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams
Written by Andrea J. Loney and Illustrated by Keith Mallett
Published by Alfred A. Knopfs
Available this September 27th!

Dinosaur Atlas: A Journey Through Time to the Prehistoric World,
Written by Tom Jackson and Illustrated by Maggie Li
Published by QEB Publishing
Available now!

Illumibugs
Written by Carnovsky and Illustrated by Barbara Taylor
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available today!

Memories and Life Lessons from the Magic Tree House
Written by Osborne, Mary Pope
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Science Wide Open: Women in Botany
Written by Mary Wissinger and Illustrated by Danielle Pioli
Published by Science Naturally
Available this September!

This is the Sun
Written by Elizabeth Everett and Illustrated by Evelline Andrya
Published by Science Naturally
Available this October!

Just the Start of Spooky Season: A Review of The Whispering Dark

The Whispering Dark
Kelly Andrew
Scholastic Press
October 18, 2022
Ages 14 and up

Being Deaf, Delaney Meyers-Petrov has always been seen as fragile, but when she gets accepted into the mysterious Godbole School, with its history of teaching students how to roam between worlds, she jumps on the chance to prove herself. Meeting Colton Price again at the school was not part of the plan. Colton Price’s life has orbited around one person ever since he woke up from death at her feet – Delaney’s. Forced together on campus, but forbidden from interacting, Colton struggles to keep away from her. They form an uneasy alliance to discover why students are dying gruesome deaths and brace themselves for an age-old enemy that has risen from the shadows of the school’s dark history.

Described by the publisher as a romantic fantasy, it reads more as a mystery thriller, with its strange murders and supernatural entities, with only subtle themes of romance. Andrew skillfully builds tension that makes readers need to find out the cause of the deaths and the secrets of the school to be appeased. The story could have been more effectively told in the first-person, by the alternating narrators, to provide in-depth understanding of each character. Its third-person narration waters down the emotion and hinders evolving character arcs. Delaney sees herself as fragile in the beginning and doesn’t tell friends or professors that she’s Deaf, which hurts her relationships and grades. Even in the end, she doesn’t tell people around her. Elements like the frequently changing narrators and elaborate language are disorienting and add to the mystery. The puzzling secrets of the school that only Colton seems to know but are hidden outside the grasp of the reader until the rushed resolution are an additional element of suspense. This perplexing story will make young adult/new adult readers ponder what they would come back to life as after a deathly experience: a better version of themselves or something possessed by evil.

Butler Bookshelf

When the king of Norway gifts a bear to the king of England, it starts poorly. Little feels like home to the bear, trapped in a cage far away from where it grew up. But when King Henry III requires the bear to be brought to the Thames River to swim and fish, giving the bear a bit of freedom and joy, the bear can feel a bit more at home in their new strange land.

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

A Bear Far From Home
Written by Susan Fletcher and Illustrated by Rebecca Green
Published by Anne Schwartz Books
Available September 27th!

Even Robot Can Be Thankful!
Written and Illustrated by Jan Thomas
Published by Beach Lane Books
Available today!

Friends
Written and Illustrated by Daniela Sosa
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available today!

It’s Diwali!
Written by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal and Illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan
Published by Beach Lane Books
Available today!

Little Red and the Bid Bad Editor
Written by Rebecca Kraft Rector and Illustrated by Shanda McCloskey
Published by Aladdin
Available today!

Three Little Vikings
Written and Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin
Published by Peachtree Publishing
Available now!

More Than “Goode” Enough: A Review of The Glass Witch

The Glass Witch cover art

The Glass Witch
Lindsay Puckett
Scholastic Press
October 18, 2022
Age 8-12

Adelaide Goode is the youngest in a family of cursed and complicated witches, doomed to feel she is not magic enough, thin enough, or “Goode enough.” About to be left with her grandma for the summer, Addie clings to her mother in a snap decision that unleashes the curse, turns her bones to glass, and makes her the target of a witch-hunting spirit. Only by accepting herself and connecting with her family’s magic, or kindred, can she save herself, her family, and her town from shattering.

Challenged by low self-esteem and fear of abandonment, Addie uses tween snark and extraordinary baking skills as a shield against her fears. Puckett weaves heavy themes of body image, bullying, and family tension with more whimsical notes of a Halloween Pageant, delicious food imagery, and brave rescue rabbits to keep the tone light and the pace lively. And the addition of a fearless and monster-obsessed new friend, Fatima, makes for the perfect foil for Addie and her ideal companion in a magical crisis. Secondary adult characters begin in a less-defined manner but shine in a conclusion that sees Addie find her self-worth while learning about her family and her place in it.

Friendship, family, and magic combine in this lighthearted story of self-discovery and acceptance.

Butler Bookshelf

Action! by Meghan McCarthy tells the story of the invention and innovation of film from the silent black and white films leading to today in McCarthy’s signature easy-to-follow narrative voice.

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Action! How Movies Began
Written and Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
Published by Simon and Schuster 
Available Now!

Aphrodite the Beauty
Written by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Published by Aladdin
Available Now!

Creepy Crayon!
Written by Aaron Reynolds and Illustrated by Peter Brown
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available Now!

Four for the Road
Written by K.J. Reilly
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Available Now!

Maisy at Work
Written and Illustrated by Lucy Cousins
Published by Candlewick Press
Available September 6th!

Those Summer Nights
Written by Laura Silverman
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Available Now!