Review: Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan

Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan

Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan (9780062686237)

King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table love to tell tall tales of their adventures, but they are all lies. There just aren’t enough mythical beasts for them to battle. When Sir Erec brags that he’d slain forty dragons, he knew that he’d pushed the storytelling too far. It caught Merlin’s attention and Merlin suggested that Sir Erec, Sir Bors, Sir Hector and the Black Knight explore one particular cave. As they did so, along with Bors’ brave squire, they are transported back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Now there were more than enough “dragons” to battle! But they may just prove to be too much for our hearty knights. The question becomes who would win in a battle, a knight or a dinosaur?

Phelan clearly has had a ball writing this book. It is filled with jaunty references to King Arthur’s court and has a humor that children will love. The knights have distinct personalities from one another and beautifully grate on one-another’s nerves. The knights enter a world of real peril where Phelan creates moment after moment of battles, dangers and sword-swinging good times.

There are a couple of reveals here that invite young women to see themselves as knights too. In fact, the female knight completely rocks! The dinosaurs who battle one another with a joyous abandon add so much to the tale, something that dinosaur fans will love to see. The book has illustrations sprinkled throughout, breaking up the text for young readers.

A boisterous, battle-filled book that will appeal to young knights and young dinosaur experts and anyone looking for a good read. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.

Review: Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older

Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older

Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older (9781338268812)

Magdalys Roca lives at the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York during the year 1863. It is a different world than the one we know, with dinosaurs still roaming the earth. While on a field trip to see a theater performance, riots break out in New York City. Magdalys and her fellow orphans are caught in the situation. As she helps her fellow orphans survive, Magdalys discovers that she has a strange ability to communicate with the dinosaurs around her. Discovering that the orphanage has been destroyed in the riots, Magdalys and several other orphans are taken in by New York freedom fighters in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood where people of color have created a place of safety. Magdalys and her friends are soon involved in saving the other children from being taken into slavery.

Based loosely on real history, this novel has just enough historical reality to keep it grounded. Add in the dinosaurs and you have a wonderful novel of alternative history that will keep children enthralled. The pace is fast and becomes almost wild during fight and battle scenes. The children face real horrors of slavery, including a lynching, mobs of people intent of capturing or killing them, and a network of men working to send free people into bondage. The setting of a historical New York City is deftly woven into the story line as well.

It’s not often that you have children’s fantasy books that offer alternative takes on history. It is even more rare that those books have children of color as the main characters in the novel. Magdalys is a great heroine, full of bravery and a sense of purpose as she joins those trying to change the world. She is a natural leader though she views herself as a loner, something that others won’t allow her to be.

A rip-roaring read that will have children longing for a dactyl to ride. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Arthur A. Levine Books.

Review: The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara

The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara

The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (9780553511437)

In this new book in the Mr. Tiffin’s Classroom series, the class visits the natural history museum. Kimmy loves fossils and has been to the museum many times before. She can’t wait to share everything she knows about dinosaurs with the others. But when she starts to tell the others about dinosaurs, Jake tells her that girls can’t be scientists. As the children walk through the exhibits, Kimmy sees only men’s names on the displays. Kimmy stops talking about what she knows, even when Mr. Tiffin tries to get her to share. When they enter a new special exhibit, Mr. Tiffin points out that a female paleontologist was the one who discovered it. Inspired, Kimmy starts to talk about what she knows.

A book about the power of modeling to inspire young people, particularly girls to get involved with science, this picture book forgoes subtlety and takes the issue straight on. The strength of other children’s opinions is shown very clearly but so is the ability to suddenly shrug that off and be who you are without hesitation when you are inspired by another female scientist. Don’t miss Kimmy’s list of her favorite female paleontologists and their discoveries. Karas’s illustrations are done in his signature style. He shows Kimmy’s emotions very clearly as she moves from questioning herself into owning her knowledge.

A great book to share and inspire science exploration. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Random House.

Review: Am I Yours? by Alex Latimer

Am I Yours by Alex Latimer

Am I Yours? by Alex Latimer (9781682630440)

When an egg is blown out of its nest by the wind, different dinosaurs try to figure out who it belongs to. As each kind of dinosaur walks past, the egg asks if it belongs to them. The stegosaurus asks the egg if it has spikes under its shell, but it doesn’t. The brachiosaurus wonders about a long neck. Perhaps it has horns or a crest? Or maybe sharp teeth like the T Rex? But nothing matches what is hidden under the eggshell. When the sun sets though, the dinosaurs can see the silhouette of what sort of dinosaur is in the shell!

Latimer uses rhyme and a strong pattern structure to create a book that will be a winner with dinosaur fans. So many dinosaur books don’t read aloud well, but this one is a treat to share aloud. Latimer’s rhymes are skillfully done, creating just the right rhythm to move the story ahead at a brisk pace. Children who know their dinosaurs will love naming the different kinds and trying to guess what is inside the shell before it is revealed.

The illustrations are just as playful as the story with bright colored dinosaurs of red, green, blue and orange. Done in strong colors throughout, the book has a graphic appeal that will work well when shared with groups of children.

Add this to your next dinosaur-themed storytime. It is sure to please! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Review: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

We Don_t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (9781368003551)

Penelope Rex is starting school. As a dinosaur, she was very surprised when her classmates turned out to children! Delicious children! Immediately, Penelope ate all of the children. She did spit them out when her teacher told her to though, but it was not a good start to the school year. Penelope noticed that the other children were make friends with one another but not with her. Her father offered the advice that children and dinosaurs are just the same on the inside, but Penelope could still not control her eating. It wasn’t until Walter, the class goldfish, took a bite of Penelope that she realized what it was like to be someone’s snack. Penelope got a lot better after that, though barbecue sauce incidents were still far too tempting to pass up.

Higgins, the author of the Mother Bruce series, has brought his signature humor to new characters in this picture book. The text moves along briskly with splashes of humor, saliva and sauce adding to the zing. The illustrations will work well with a group. They show a class of human children who are very diverse too. Penelope is a dinosaur who is charming, if at times a little chompy. Readers will adore her and her attempts to fix what she has done and make new friends.

A great pick for a new school year. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney Hyperion.

3 Fun-Filled Picture Books

These three picture books are wild romps of fun:

I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett

I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (9780062354839)

This picture book celebrates all the different forms that love can take, beginning with being loved like a pig and moving to other unique ones as well. At first they may seem silly or unlikely, but the book shows what each one means through the illustrations. The text stays very simple, offering new ways of loving: I love you like a window, I’m smiling like a tuna, and You’re sweet like a banker. Then the illustrations shows how each analogy works and brings it all to life. Barnett comes up with far-fetched analogies that then are transformed into meaning. The selections are clever and will appeal specifically to children and their experiences. Pizzoli’s bright illustrations invite readers to explore the words and find the meaning too. An ingenious book about love and delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell (9780316502467)

When the little red cat heads outside, he discovers a world of surprises and dangers that follow the ABCs. Readers will have to puzzle out what matches each letter along the way (though there is a key in the back of the book to help if you get stuck.) With a merry chase throughout the book, it has the feel of a Gingerbread Boy gallop across the pages. The book is wordless, offering only the letters along the way, providing a visual treat as the cat is joined by an alligator, a bear, a chicken, a dragon and an egg on his adventure through the alphabet. Filled with moments of humor, like the stop at the rest room for R and the lovely use of N and O, this picture book is a delight of an alphabet book that is great fun to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Nibbles The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett.jpg

Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett (978-1-61067-643-4)

This is the second Nibbles book where the little yellow monster invades a book by munching his way right into the pages. Here a serious informational book about dinosaurs is what he enters and causes all sorts of mischief. The book names beloved dinosaurs and explains facts about them before being interrupted by the chaos created by Nibbles as he chews through the pages. Nibbles flees from Triceratops charging him. He has an eating contest with a family of Diplodocus. He is surrounded by Velociraptors and then runs right into a Tyrannosaurus Rex before escaping the book.

Yarlett has a real feel for what children love in picture books. She includes poop and fart jokes along the way, and offers lift the flap and die cut pages. Along the way, various side characters offer puns and jokes that will have readers giggling. Still, there is real information on the various dinosaurs offered as well, creating a book that combines silliness and seriousness into just the right mix.

Yarlett’s illustrations work to combine the serious and silliness. The pages on the dinosaurs are done in serious muted colors, sepia tones. But when Nibbles is around, those colors burst into fuller colors with oranges, greens and yellows. The die cuts are cleverly used to move through the book, some of them appearing through multiple pages for even more effect.

Another delicious Nibbles book that combines interactive elements and dinosaurs for what is sure to be a popular pick. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from copy provided by Kane Miller.)

Review: Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

Ally Saurus and the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey (InfoSoup)

Ally loves dinosaurs, so when she heads off to her first day of school she is hoping to find lots of other kids who love dinosaurs too. But Ally seems to be the only one who is chomping her snack like a dinosaur or answering questions with dinosaur answers. As she starts to talk with the other kids though, she discovers the things that they love too. But some of the kids are not very friendly, like the bossy threesome who loves princesses the best and who don’t let Ally sit at their table during lunch. So Ally sits by herself. She is joined quickly though by other children who want to sit with her and they love dinosaurs and dragons and lunchboxes and lions. Soon she has a group of kids to play with at recess, who are willing to run wild and roar along with her. Even the princesses who snubbed her end up playing along too.

Torrey captures the joy of imaginative play as a child where that subject is all the child thinks about and their major focus of their day. Ally faces her first day of school with positive feelings which is good to see. Torrey doesn’t overplay the negative encounter with other children in the class either, allowing it to unfold naturally and be remedied in the same way. Ally’s use of roaring and munching to make friends adds a silly element that is very welcome in the book, and it also shows the other children who seek her out what kind of girl she is.

Torrey’s art adds to the imaginative play piece of the story. With pastel and black and white illustrations, the imaginative piece looks as if a child drew it on with crayon. As Ally learns more about her classmates they too get their own crayon elements, so the boy interested in astronauts gets a helmet and the princesses get crowns. It’s a clever way to indicate that these are imaginary but still there

A positive and humorous look at the first day of school, this is perfect for sending your own imaginative little one off or for sharing during that first week of school. Appropriate for ages 4-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Sterling Children’s Books and Raab Associates.

Review: Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott

Mad Scientist Academy The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott

Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott (InfoSoup)

Released July 7, 2015.

In this graphic novel for elementary-aged children, facts about dinosaurs mingle with a great adventure. A new class of young monsters are enrolled at the Mad Scientist Academy. On their first day of school, they meet Dr. Cosmic, a teacher at the academy who has managed to lose the school pet, Oscar, a dinosaur. The children are sent to find Oscar and set off on an adventure through the various exhibits that Dr. Cosmic has been working on. The focus of the exhibits is dinosaurs and there are mechanical dinosaurs throughout who are set to be tame. Unfortunately, their setting is accidentally set to live mode and all of the dinosaurs start acting as if they are real. It is up to the students to figure out how to escape the rampaging T-Rex and find Oscar too.

McElligott has a great feel for pacing and humor in this graphic novel. There are small touches of humor throughout the book, from one students stinky lunch to the out-of-control exhibits that have too much lava and are a bit too effective in showing meteors. The book is thoughtfully designed too with each monster character having characteristics that come into play in the story line. The lizard boy uses his long tongue to reach something, the insect girl uses her wings to remove smoke from the room, and much  more. The insertion of the dinosaur information is done in a light way and includes plenty of illustrations to keep the information accessible and fun.

The art is very effective throughout the book. The characters are diverse enough to be recognizable even in images where they are smaller. Double-page spreads of the full exhibit show the largeness of both the exhibit and the dinosaurs too. Dramatic moments are nicely captured and the timing of funny events is done very effectively.

Get this into the hands of children growing out of Magic School Bus books. The mix of graphic novel, information and fantasy elements will find lots of young fans. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Crown Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Review: Oliver and His Egg by Paul Schmid

oliver and his egg

Oliver and His Egg by Paul Schmid

Oliver from Oliver and His Alligator returns in a second book.  While on the playground, Oliver finds an egg, really a large smooth rock, that he imagines will hatch into a big orange-polka-dotted dinosaur.  He would have a new friend and they would go on adventures together.   As Oliver dreams of their adventures, the other children find that he is sitting on the “egg” waiting for it to hatch.  So he tells them of his enormous dinosaur-sized dream and they all have to find eggs of their own.

Schmid’s picture book is simple and cheery.  Oliver is a creative little boy, inventing his own worlds.  The book also shows that all children can be creative and use their imaginations.  Just as in the first book, the text is minimal, offering less than a sentence on each page.  It suits a book that is about imagination to have so much left unsaid.

The illustrations are simple too.  Clearly drawn characters are done in simple lines with small touches of color.  They are combined with the rock “eggs” that are photographed stones, giving them a weight that the light illustrations don’t have.  It’s a dynamic combination on the page.

A cheerful follow-up picture book, this second outing for Oliver is great fun for toddlers.   Appropriate for ages 2-4.