Swim the ALA Stream

I was going to attend ALA Midwinter, but it didn’t work out after all.  The biggest draw was going to be attending the Newbery and Caldecott announcements live!  But since I won’t be there, I hope to be able to attend the live webcast that ALA will be offering on January 14th.  Last year I missed it, logging in too close to the time it started to get a seat on the stream.  I will try again this year!  And happily type as quickly as possible to get the titles posted as they are announced.  Hopefully!

The Three Snow Bears

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett.

Brett has taken The Three Bears and moved it to the Arctic where Goldilocks is a little Inuit girl named Aloo-ki who has managed to get separated from her sled dogs.  The three polar bears are out for a walk waiting for their porridge to cool when they discover the dogs trapped on an ice floe.  Aloo-ki discovers the bears’ igloo where she is drawn in by the smell of porridge, she tastes them all, then moves into the igloo further to try on three different sizes of boots and finally to fall asleep on the perfect sleeping bench.  Meanwhile the bears save the dogs and return home to discover Aloo-ki asleep.

Brett has refreshed this traditional tale by not only moving its location but infusing it with regional details.  I really enjoyed Brett’s attention to the smallest details in her illustrations.  The story is carried forward not only by the main illustrations on each page, but also the side panels where the other branch of the story is happening.  The side panels also have whimsical arctic animals dressed for the wintry weather. 

A perfect winter book, this is a good book to share with a few children at a time so that the details of the illustrations can be enjoyed.  Highly recommended for ages 4-7.

Dragon Slippers

Dragon Slippers
by Jessica Day George.

Creel’s aunt decides that the best way to secure Creel’s fortune is to send her to a dragon’s cave to be taken prisoner.  That way a knight will arrive to rescue her and be bound to marry her despite her lack of a dowry.  But of course it doesn’t work out quite as planned.  First, Creel really doesn’t want to marry a pompous knight.  Then, the dragon isn’t interested in taking Creel prisoner.  And finally, the dragon doesn’t horde gold, but instead collects shoes.  So Creel makes a deal with the dragon.  He will be spared the need to fight and she will get to choose any pair of shoes she wishes from his collection.  Creel heads out to the large city to find work as a seamstress, wearing her new blue shoes.  Creel is not done dealing with dragons though, far from it!

This story is wonderfully written with warmth and humor.  Creel is a heroine worth journeying with as she uses her intelligence and skill to overcome obstacles.  She is a welcome change from many female characters as she is a true individual and doesn’t shy away from hard work or confrontations.  Yet she is human, has weaknesses, and is not proud.  She is a true treat of a character.

Readers will also appreciate the range of personalities seen in the dragons themselves as well as the secondary characters in the story.  The author has really built a credible world with a sense of history, tradition and currency.

Highly recommended for young fantasy readers, this book will most appeal to young girls, though boys may be willing to try it due to the dragons and the battles.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.