Review: King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently

king jack and the dragon

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Open this book and you are immersed in a wonderful world of make-believe that you will not want to leave.  There is a timelessness to not only the story here, but the way it is told. 

Jack, Zack and Caspar were making a fort for King Jack out of a large box, a sheet, a blanket, some sticks, broken bricks, some trash bags, and other odds and ends.  Then they spent the entire day fighting dragons and beasts until they returned back to their fort for a celebratory feast.  Unfortunately, after that a giant came and took Sir Zack home.  Then another giant came and took Caspar off to bed.  That left King Jack alone on his throne in his fort.  As darkness fell, he tried to not feel frightened of the noises of wind and the scurrying of animals.  He wasn’t really truly scared until he heard the four footed beast approaching in the dark. 

Beautifully told by Bently, this book reads aloud with zest and style.  The story moves from the building of the fort to the playing of pretend through to the end of the day when reality comes calling for each of the children.  It is a story that speaks to the power of imagination, the ability of children to create worlds that they fall into, and the love of play.  The entire text captures that sense of play, merrily creating tension towards the end of the book without any real fear.

Oxenbury’s illustrations help to strengthen the timelessness of the story.  The sweetness of her illustrations is tempered by the ferocity of the dragons and beasts she depicts.  Yet there is no real danger here, and her illustrations help underline that to the youngest of readers.

Have large boxes and plenty of “swords” ready after you share this book.  It is sure to create some new knights out of any children who listen to it.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

page by paige

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Paige has just moved with her family to New York City.  She is having trouble relating to her mother and had to leave her best friend behind.  Now she has to find people in the big city who can understand her.  But before she can do that, she has to start to understand herself.  Is she the quiet girl or can she become an extroverted artist?  As Paige struggles to find herself and to find her voice as an artist, readers are treated to an extraordinary look at the process of art combined with the process of finding friends and love.

Gulledge has created a graphic novel where the visuals are powerful and speak volumes.  She turns the comic format into one that is strongly artistic and very visual.  Here we see the emotions of Paige brought to visual life from her self-doubts to her most self-aware.  Paige is a character that readers with artistic interests will relate to easily.  Her yearning to create combined with her doubts and worries make for a book with plenty to inspire other young artists to take the risk of creation.

Get this in the hands of tween and teen artists and step back.  A truly inspiring read.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Check out the trailer that gives a sense of the great art: