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

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!

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!

Bedtime for Creatures Great and Small: A Review of Sleep

Sleep cover art

Barbara Herkert
Illustrated by Daniel Long
Albert Whitman & Co.
October 1, 2022
Ages 4-8

Humans require less sleep as they grow older. Grey whales float on the water’s surface to breathe while they sleep. Most mammals and birds exhibit signs of REM sleep, which means they may dream like humans. All living things with a nervous system need sleep, from dogs to insects to sharks to us; sleep specifics just depend on the type of animal and its habitat. Sleep, written by Barbara Herkert and illustrated by Daniel Long, dives deep into the world of slumber with detailed facts about sleep patterns, cycles, and the differences between sleep needs and experiences in humans and animals.

Filled with a lush color scheme and vivid images, the book resonates calm, perfect for this topic of sleep and making it a relaxing bedtime read. Each image is digitally illustrated, in a similar style to mixed media collages, but shaded to bring out depth and textures, which brings each animal to life. Long’s images are vibrant, but simply detailed, keeping them from distracting from the information provided on each page. Sedate pacing prevents the fact-heavy text from overwhelming readers. With a background in biology and fine arts, Barbara Herkert provides facts in a tone filled with admiration for the natural world that complements the extraordinary details she provides. The author also includes a glossary and additional resources as backmatter for those who would like to continue researching the world of sleep. Working through interesting information on humans and animals, the book takes young readers on a mind-opening adventure into the world of sleep and the extraordinary world we live in.

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In The Tower of Life by Chana Stiefel and illustrated by Susan Gal, after Yaffa Eliach has to escape the Nazis during WW2, her hometown is destroyed. President Jimmy Carter reaches out to Yaffa and asks her to help build a holocaust memorial. She decides to make the memorial out of found photographs instead of bricks; it becomes what will be called the Tower of Life.

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

Catalina Incognito: Off-Key
Written by Jennifer Torres and Illustrated by Gladys Jose
Published by Aladdin
Available Today!

Written by Illustrated by Gale Galligan
Published by Graphix
Available October 18th!

I am Ruby Bridges
Written by Ruby Bridges and Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
Published by Orchard books
Available September 6th!

Monsters Play… Counting!
Written and Illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago
Published by Orchard books
Available Now!

This is Our Place
Written by Vitor Martins
Published by Push
Available November 1st!

The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs
Written by Chana Stiefel and Illustrated by Susan Gal
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 4th!

Down to Earth: A Review of Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story

Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story
Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten. Illustrated by Gaary Meeches Sr.
August 2nd, 2022
Ages 3 – 7

Keepunumuk is an embedded narrative about the harvest feasts that became known as the first Thanksgiving, composed in the style of Wampanoag oral storytelling tradition. When Maple and Quill ask their grandmother to tell them a story about the three sisters, the personifications of Corn, Beans, and Squash, she tells them about Keepunumuk, the first Thanksgiving. Weeâchumun (Corn), the eldest of the three sisters, is told of the arrival of newcomers to Turtle Island (North American continent). When Fox asks if they should trust the newcomers, Weeâchumun cautions them to watch them over the winter. These newcomers, the pilgrims, are seen struggling until spring. Weeâchumun and her two sisters decide, along with Fox and the other animals, to help these new people and send the First People, the Wampanoag, to teach them how to live with the land. With the help of the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims are saved and can survive the year. With the harvest that saved their lives, they had the first Thanksgiving. Meeches’ art, based on the Plains art style, excels at the depictions of Weeâchumun and her two sisters. Her form flowing out of corn stalks reinforces this connection between the personification and the crop she represents. The choice of detailing Weeâchumun and Fox more than the various humans in the narrative also supports the idea that the flora and fauna of Turtle Island are of primary importance in this story. Compared to the simple depictions of the pilgrims, they are important to the story only as beings to be cared for and the first people as willing helpers to the other residents of the land. The front and back of the book include additional materials for the readers about the Wampanoag, the first people of Massachusetts. The backmatter contains sections on Wampanoag storytelling tradition, traditions of giving thanks, a brief historical overview of the land and its inhabitants before the Pilgrim arrival, the basics of the aftermath of that arrival, a glossary of Wampanoag language (Wôpanâak) terms, as well as a recipe for Nasamp, a cornmeal-based dish.

A reimagined indigenous folktale about giving thanks to the world that provides for us.

Butler Bookshelf

Written by Kristen Bell & Benjamin Hart and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman, The World Needs More Purple Schools is the sequel to The World Needs More Purple People, teaching kids how to celebrate their individuality while also being part of a group! Follow Penny and her friends as they take the lessons they learned in the original and move them to the classroom!

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

The Clackity
Written by Lora Senf
Published by Athenium
Available Now!

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
Written by Kallie George and Illustrated by Birgitta Sif
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 12th!

The Little Bear
Written and Illustrated by Nicola Killen
Published by Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers
Available Now!

Mum, Me, and the Mulberry Tree
Written by Tanya Rosie and Illustrated by Chuck Groenink
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 19th!

One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World
Written by Micheal Frank and Illustrated by Maira Kalman
Published by Avid Reader Press
Available September 6th!

The World Needs More Purple Schools
Written by Kristen Bell & Benjamin Hart and Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
Published by Random House Children’s Books 
Available Now!

Butler Bookshelf

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too. Our Story. Our Way. by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin is the shared memoir of two great creators and best friends who happen to have the same name. Follow their story of meeting in New York and becoming the artists they are today.

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

Bad Things Happen Here
Written by Rebecca Barrow
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Brooks
Available Today!

Jigsaw: Mystery in the Mail
Written and Illustrated by Bob Graham
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 12th!

Leila: The Perfect Witch
Written and Illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 12th!

McTavish on the Move
Written by Meg Rosoff
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 12th!

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too. Our Story. Our Way.
Written by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin
Published by Atheneum Books For Young Readers
Available Today!

The Other Side of the River
Written by Alda P. Dobbs
Published by Sourcebooks Young Readers
Available September 6th!

Butler Bookshelf

Hope Is an Arrow by Cory McCarthy and Illustrated by Ekua Holmes is a biography of poet Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese refugee who escaped religious conflict, made it to Boston, and became the 3rd best-selling poet of all time.

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

The Fog Catcher’s Daughter
Written by Marianne McShane and Illustrated by Alan Marks
Published by Candlewick Press
Available June 28th!

Frog Vs. Toad
Written and Illustrated by Ben Mantle
Published by Candlewick Press
Available Now!

Hope Is an Arrow: The Story of Lebanese American Poet Kahlil Gibran
Written by Cory McCarthy and Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Published by Candlewick Press
Available Now!

Impossible Moon
Written by Breanna McDaniel and Illustrated by Tonya Engel
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available Today!

Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules!
Written by e.E. Charlton-Truillo & PatZietlow Miller and Illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Published by Candlewick Press
Available June 28th!

Nervous Nigel
Written and Illustrated by Bethany Christou
Published by Templar Books
Available Now!

Mindfulness in Nature: A Review of Tisha and the Blossoms

Tisha and the Blossoms
Wendy Meddour
Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus
Candlewick Press
May 17, 2022
Ages 2-5

Tisha spends her day feeling rushed, as she is constantly being told to “hurry up” by those around her. She must hurry to catch the bus in the morning, hurry through her project at school, and is even told to hurry during recess so that she does not miss lunch. When Mommy comes to pick her up from school, Tisha asks if they could slow down, frustrated by the amount of hurrying she has been doing all day. Mommy agrees, and the two walk home rather than taking the bus. On their leisurely walk, Tisha and Mommy talk, connecting to each other and the nature around them, even stopping to spend some time on a bench in the park. Once they arrive home, Mommy suggests to Daddy that they have a picnic as a family rather than a typical dinner at home. This allows the whole family to slow down and genuinely enjoy each other and everything around them. 

In keeping with the story’s theme of celebrating what is around us rather than hurrying through life, the illustrations feature elaborate backgrounds with less focus on the characters themselves. Several full-page spreads highlight details that can only be appreciated through slowing down. The art style is abstract and displays a variety of visual perspectives. The text is presented in an abstract way as well, with the layout changing on each page and certain words emphasized through the use of a larger font. While the central focus is on Tisha and her parents, diversity is apparent in the background characters. The story itself, and the way it is presented alongside abstract mixed media images, truly embodies the importance of mindfulness, and of sharing small moments which become even better when surrounded by loved ones. 

Queen Quest: A Review of The Queen in the Cave

Queen in the Cave
Júlia Sardá
Candlewick Studio
May 24, 2022
Ages 5 to 9

Franca dreams of a queen in a cave. Feeling a strange need to abandon all she once enjoyed, Franca recruits her younger sisters, Carmela and Tomasina, to journey with her on her quest through the dark forest to find the queen. Although her sisters become afraid of the forest and the creatures they meet, Franca motivates them with her own blooming confidence to continue. When Franca, Carmela, and Tomasina finally reach the cave, they are given the most unexpected surprise in discovering the identity of the queen.

This imaginative picture book explores themes of overcoming one’s fears, being curious about the unknown, and being brave enough to keep going through life. Although Franca recruits her sisters in the beginning of the quest to travel with her, she learns that it’s okay to drift apart from the people and activities she once enjoyed, indicating the transition from childhood to adulthood. The illustrations and tone of the story also exhibit the shift, starting with a lighthearted tone and clean portrayal of the sisters and moving to a heavier tone and a darker color scheme focused on Franca. The fantastical illustration of the forest and the creatures fill each page with hidden objects that catch the attention of any reader and make them want to look again to see new objects that one might have missed. The fairytale-like tone of this picture book for older children, emphasizes the reality of growing up and learning to embrace your individuality, couched within a whimsical adventure.