„A Tangle of Brungles“ by Shobha Viswanath

…and just like that, it’s October… When other people start stocking up Halloween candy, it’s our time to read season-inspired stories. Over the years, “Room on the broom” has become our favorite. Besides from a story about a skeleton here and a book about pumpkins there, no Halloween book was funny enough, lyrical enough and scary enough to live up to Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s classic. Until now…

In “A Tangle of Brungles”, a coven of mighty scary looking witches decides to summon the Brungle for one of them to marry. To conjure the dark, wicked and grotesque creature, they first must brew a special brew. The ingredients: A quiver of cobras, a lounge of lizard, a mischief of mice, a mess of iguanas and a knot of toads are just a few examples of the twisted ingredients the witches have to collect. Soon, the brew is bubbling, a bevy of swans and a banner of knights appear – but where is the Brungle?

Children will love discovering the different ingredients of the witch’s brew and learn some new collective nouns on the go. This definitely was a learning experience for me as a non-native-speaker, too!

The story by author Shobha Viswanath was published by Karadi Tales, an independent children’s publishing house based in Chennai, India. The autumnal illustrations by Culpeo Fox are a perfect mix of scary, autumnal and inspired by Indian culture. The character faces of the witches and the almost human appearance of different animals support the comical direction of the story. According to the publishing house, “A Tangle of Brungles” is perfect for children age 7-9. Depending on the child, I would recommend it for age 4 and up.

A Tangle of Brungles” is a fun Halloween story, that also familiarizes children with new collective nouns and can be a starting point for a discussion about India. This exciting book will definitely find a permanent place in our book shelf!

More information:
„A Tangle of Brungles“
Written by Shobha Viswanath
Illustrated by Culpeo Fox
Publisher: Karadi Tales Picturebooks
ISBN-13: 978-8181903600

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„Acadia Files, Book Two, Autumn Science“ by Katie Coppens

I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t write a single book review since the beginning of summer. 2018 presented itself as an unexpected, chaotic and nevertheless extremely positive year. The summer was turbulent, but as of now Finja and I are settling into the new, typical routine of a single-parent-family. The beginning of fall always marks the time of cuddly blankets, evenings spend on the couch and reading not only one, but two or three (or four 🙂 ) books at bedtime. We are excited for fall crafts, Halloween décor, pumpkin spice everything, baking and, sure, reading.

Acadia Files, Book Two, Autumn Science“ by Katie Coppens arrived just at the official beginning of fall. Myrick Marketing and Tilsbury House Publishers put together a thoughtful box with some craft supplies and leaf identification cards for us. This didn’t just make my day, but also made the beginning of fall more special for us. Why? Just keep reading… 🙂

“The Acadia Files, Autumn Science” is the second book in the Acadia Files series by author and teacher Katie Coppens. Our heroine, Acadia, is a curious and clever middle-schooler. She wants answers to everything she discovers around her. Do frogs have lungs? Why do leaves change colors in fall? How do plants produce oxygen, which role does sunlight have? What are time zones? Is water dinosaur pee? And, more practically, why do people litter?

Acadia doesn’t just ask questions. She conducts science to answer them. In her notebook, she writes down “new science words” she is learning, glues down her favorite leaves and the appropriate tree names, draws and writes down questions she couldn’t answer yet.

“The Acadia Files” presents five stories of fall, followed by pages of Acadia’s notebook. The book will engage elementary and middle school aged children from morning to evening:
They will enjoy the story of Acadia and her friends during bedtime and be engaged to conduct experiments with Acadia during the day. Children are motivated to ask questions, to discover and to find creative ways of thinking. The book series by Katie Coppens is a wonderful introduction into practical science! Acadia makes hypotheses, designs experiments, analyzes data, and draws conclusions. Acadia does science.

Finja was amazed by Acadia and immediately caught by Acadia’s quick wit and her curiosity. As a five year old she is a little younger than the target audience for the Acadia files, but she enjoyed the stories and followed the scientific explanations nonetheless. Author Katie Coppens is a middle school English and Science teacher and definitely knows how to make science interesting for children! We can’t wait to discover the other books of the Acadia series.

More information:
„Acadia Files, Book Two, Autumn Science“
Written by Katie Coppens
Illustrated by Holly Hatam
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Series: Acadia Files (Book 2)
Hardcover: 88 pages
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers (September 18, 2018)
ISBN-13: 978-0884486046

„The truly brave princesses“, by Dolores Brown and Sonja Wimmer

„The truly brave princesses“ is a book that celebrates diversity and teaches little girls that princesses don’t just belong into fairytales.

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Author Dolores Brown shows that very few women resemble the perfect picture of a princess tales and movies represent. Eeal-life-princesses come in all shape and sizes, colors and sexual orientations: The girl in a wheelchair, the child with down syndrome, the elderly widow, the working mother and the lawyer helping to make the world a better place are just a few example of every day princesses around us. Some of them even don’t want to be called a princess – like astronaut Zoe, who retired her princess some time ago and now travels through distant space.

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The artwork by German illustrator Sonja Wimmer is truly amazing. She gives every princess a unique personality by using colorful watercolor images on a slightly structured background. I am not one for ripping pages out of a book, but I almost thought about framing her images!

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„The truly brave princesses“ was published by NubeOcho, a Spanish publishing house. The Egalité series of NubeOcho promotes equality with stories, “in which gender, race, sexual orientation or being different in anyway is part of the richness of our societies.” Almost all NubeOcho books were published in Spanish and English.

We really enjoyed reading a story of everyday princesses! After a few family tragedies and a long downtime from reviewing, “The truly brave princesses” was a great motivation to start writing reviews again. Also, we discovered that a soon-to-be-Kindergartener and a newly single mom are princesses in their own way!

“The truly brave princesses”
by Dolores Brown and Sonja Wimmer
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: NubeOcho
Series: Egalité
Hardcover: 44 pages
ISBN-10: 8417123385

„Beauregard in a box“ by Jessica Lee Hutchings

Beauregard is a curious kid. His biggest dream: Travelling the world! Reading, drawing, writing and thinking about his big aspiration even keeps him up at night. Beauregard would be a great adventurer. Unfortunately, there is one problem: Beauregard is afraid of flying or taking big ships to make his dreams come true…

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Until he has an awesome idea! Beauregard sneaks into the post office, crawls into a huge box full of mittens – and arrives in Finland! After exploring the cold country with his new friend Aleksi Beauregard is sure: He want to continue with his world travels. A box full of Sarongs brings him to Bali, from there on he travels in a box full of swimsuits and find himself in Australia. His new friend Jack is as adventurous as Beauregard – until he sees the Box our little traveler plans to crawl in next: “It’s dark, it’s noisy, and the ride can’t be that great!” Beauregard realizes that he already flew an airplane and boarded a ship, just hidden in his box. After all the cool things he did he will now be brave enough to fly on a plane…

Jessica Lee Hutching wrote a cute picture book with a main character children and adults can instantly relate to. We all have dreams, but often fears or worries hold us back… Beauregard’s story shows that we are often braver than we think. Beauregard travels in a box to avoid airplanes and ships. After reaching his final destination it takes him some time to realize that postboxes are transported by air or sea as well. He already did what he feared the most, he’s braver than he ever thought he could be! The descriptions of Finland, Bali and Australia are relatively short, but capture the most important values and have exactly the right length to hold a young reader’s attention. After all, this is not a book about foreign countries, but about a boy discovering his own strength!

The illustrations by Srimalie Bassani are colorful and charming. I especially loved Beauregard’s facial expressions – he seemed so confused at times, then utterly happy and (finally) proud of himself.

Beauregard in a box” is a fun picture book for preschool and elementary aged adventurer. A book will be available on April 17 – just in time for summer vacation!

Author Jessica Lee Hutchings is a world traveler herself. The trained chef with a degree from Johnson & Wales University was born and raised in Alabama but now lives in California. She enjoys traveling to new places; revisiting old favorites, like Spain, Australia, and Hawaii; and eating doughnuts. “Beauregard in a box” is her debut children’s book.

Illustrator Srimalie Bassani lives and works in Mantova, Italy. According to her own words she always tries to diversify her style based on every story she illustrates.

More information:
„Beauregard in a box“
Written by Jessica Lee Hutchings
Illustrated by Srimalie Bassani
Publisher: Flowerpot Press (17. April 2018)
ISBN: 978-1486713844

“DIY ABC” by Eleonora Marton

Finja will start Kindergarten in September. She is a really active child, who loves to discover, but is not a fun of “boring” stuff – and I am dreading that she has to start tracing letters and numbers soon to get ready for school!

I purchased a few Alphabet activity books in the last months. They maybe get five minutes of attention and soon collect dust in the room corner or on the living room table… Because: Tracing…

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“DIY ABC” by Eleonora Marton is an interactive activity book that goes along with “my” kind of learning: Every page features one letter of the alphabet with an accompanying word. Fun activities give children the opportunity to discover the alphabet and the sound of every letter without any memorizing or tracing.

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No page is like the other, activities range from drawing to cutting over writing a recipe for your favorite cake. Flaps and stickers give sensory impulses. Sturdy pages make “DIY ABC” perfect for on the go or keeping the little ones busy during longer car rides!

We loved this book so much that we did our first video review – see for yourself! 🙂

Cicada Books is a independent, small publishing house based in London. The publisher specializes in in highly illustrated books for adults and children “with a focus on emerging talent, beautiful packaging and fresh content”.

More information:

“DIY ABC” by Eleonora Marton
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Paperback: 56 pages
Publisher: Cicada Books
ISBN-13: 978-1908714374

„Every girl is a princess“ by Mylo Freeman

Every girl dreams of being a princess at least once. But how does a princess look like? Which color does her hair have, is she small or big? And what does she like? Does she love unicorns, cats or maybe alligators?

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„Every girl is a princess“ by Mylo Freeman confirms that every girl is a princess in her own way! The book delights with colorful illustrations. Flaps on each page and simple questions engage young readers and support logical thinking: “Princess Naomi loves turtles. On her crown is a rainbow. Could this be her crown?” The delightful illustrations show girls of every part of the worlds: Princess Ushi, Princess Adinda, Princess Rosalina, Princess Isabel and her friends introduce little girls to a colorful “princess world” and show, that every princess has her own way to shine.

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Each princess is wearing her own crown. But who does the last golden tiara belong to? A mirror on the last page reveals that every girl is a princess – and every boy is a prince. “Look and see for yourself if you don’t believe it!”

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Mylo Freeman’s book is clearly a typical “girl” book – little readers will love the pink title and background, the friendly princesses with their vibrant dresses and the sparkling crowns on every page. The book is a great way to introduce kids to a more diverse world! While recommended for age 3 up, simple questions and easy to lift flaps make this book a great title to enjoy with toddlers or even read to younger infants. Just be careful: This is not a board book; the exciting pages might not respond well to chewing… 🙂

„Every girl is a princess“ was published by Cassava Republic, a small publisher based in Abuja, Nigeria. Cassava Republic would like to promote writers from all over Africa: “Our mission is to change the way we all think about African writing.  We think that contemporary African prose should be rooted in African experience in all its diversity.”

Author and illustrator Mylo Freeman grew up in The Hague and lives in Amsterdam. She has been a full-time writer-illustrator since 1993 and has published over 50 picture books.

More information:

„Every girl is a princess“

written and illustrated by Mylo Freeman

Hardcover: 28 pages

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

ISBN-13: 978-1911115380

“BUGS!” by Nick Forshaw and William Exley

Our daughter loves nature. And she’s extremely curious and rarely satisfied with quick explanations. Last week we discussed why snails are slimy for about one hour, only to switch topics, debating why hummingbirds only eat nectar and can’t digest seeds. Her interest in everything is one of the reasons why preschool-age is so much fun! I finally got to share all the cool non-fiction books and have an excuse to expand our book collection further. 🙂

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But: Explaining science to children and adults without scientific background sometimes actually is rocket science. I should know – I had to edit my articles for a popularly science magazine a zillion time until our editor-in-chief was convinced they didn’t contain “too much science as not to confuse anyone”. What was really tough, when genetics was your passion, but you didn’t want to make the topic to bothersome. 🙂 What might sound silly is actually true. You don’t want to make science too confusing, boring and annoying – but at the same time you want to keep to the facts, too, and not leave too many details out. There are lots of great nonfiction books for children out there, that hit the mark – and others that we didn’t like as much.

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“BUGS!” is one of the scientific books for children that is head-on. The book was published in cooperation with the Natural History Museum in London, so it packs a lot of information into a little over 30 pages. Readers accompany “Agent Eagle”, the senior librarian of the “Eagle-Eyed Explorer Club”, on his latest mission: Filing a report on the history of bugs. Agent Eagle goes back millions of years in time! His journal contains detailed information about bugs, their history and their life. The report doesn’t leave lots of questions – thorough explanations will satisfy even the most curious mind. The illustrations are not too colorful, they could have been from a museum collection – but maybe this is what Agent Eagle had in mind? And the expandable 6-feet timeline, prominent feature of the “What on Earth”-books, makes definitely up for it! A little quiz on the last pages helps young readers to check their knowledge.

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“BUGS!” makes a complex topic attractive. The Indiana Jones lookalike Agent Eagle and his exploration keeps young readers involved. And this is the key, when it comes to complex topics that could become overwhelming. Taxonomy of bug ancestry, fossils, sacred bugs and past bug scientists: These matters might not sound too interesting, but middle school and high school aged readers with an interest in biology will learn a lot about bugs and their history.

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When it comes to science books for children, the target age range defines into how much details you can go. That being said, the complex topic makes “BUGS!” more appropriate for middle school age and was a great read for me as adult with science background. Our five-year-old daughter loved to look at the pictures and had lots of questions. The text was a little bit complex for her, but this was not surprising as this book is written for a different age range.

Publishing house “What on earth” brought another great non-fiction book into our house. “Bugs!” is a keepsake book that will hold the interest of a wide age range from Kindergarten to High School! The book is part of four titles exploring the world of dinosaurs, bugs, plants and mammals with super-sleuth Agent Eagle as guide.

More information:
“BUGS!” Explorer
by Nick Forshaw and William Exley
Age Range: 7 – 11 years
Publisher: What on Earth Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-0995577060

“Esme’s Wish” by Elizabeth Foster

Are you excited about spring? I am. At least I’m looking forward to doing some planting – Finja and I already selected some veggies and fruits and will start our raised garden beds and edible garden within the next weeks. Luckily, our five-year-old is an avid gardener. With a new job and a new book project coming up I somehow find myself behind the computer more than I planned on… But please, don’t get too excited. I would love to write some great fiction, but after writing textbooks and working in public relations, my writing-stamina seems to have suffered. As a teenager I would spend days on my computer, lost in the pages of my writing program, dreaming up new worlds and imagining new characters. Years of non-fiction-writing made it harder to use my imagination – but maybe growing up is part of this, too…

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Luckily Elizabeth Foster, author of “Esme’s wish”, overcame the same condition – and her book is proof of that! According to her own words, Elizabeth sees daydreaming as central part of her life. She used to enjoy writing as a child, but then grew up and was sadly waylaid by more serious pursuits. “Reading to my own kids reminded me of how much I missed getting lost in other worlds, and once I started writing again, I couldn’t stop.”

The book cover of “Esme’s wish” promises a coming-of-age-story with fantastic elements. Dragons flying over the Mediterranean Sea, a magical island and flying book pages – does it take more to make you curious?

Years after her mother’s disappearance, Esme’s family seemed to have moved on. Her father is getting married. Everybody is keeping silent about the tragedy that happened seven years ago. Each day is a reminder that Esme is utterly alone with her wish to find out what really happened to her mother. The world around her isn’t as it should be. By accident, Esme find an old letter by her great-grandmother – a clue, which leads her to a gateway into the world of Aeolia. Here, Esme will find out what really happened to her mother…

Esme’s story is aimed towards teenagers, but will be loved by adult readers, too – especially those who love mythology, strong characters and female role models. While younger readers will identify themselves with the curious, strong willed and sometimes too trusting Esme, I couldn’t stop reflecting about the mother-daughter-relationship.

Elizabeth Foster describes a vibrant world full of magic, a world that will not let go of you when you turn the last page… A book for everyone that loves foreign worlds and would love to start dreaming again!

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Curious about an author’s life? Follow Elizabeth Foster on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

More information:
“Esme’s Wish”
Written by Elizabeth Foster
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Odyssey Books
ISBN-13: 978-1925652246

“Malala’s pencil” by Malala Yousafzai

As you know, our family absolutely adores books. And so sometimes, when I only plan on buying some groceries, I can’t resist the urge to purchase another one… Usually I don’t by books at Target, but today, “Malala’s magic pencil” miraculously landed in my shopping cart. And I still am not sure if I purchased the book for our daughter or for me :).

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You probably already heard about human rights advocate and the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai. I had her picture book on my wish list for quite some time, but I didn’t borrow or purchase it – until today.

I read the book in the car before arriving home and then again during bedtime. I knew that this would be a unique book and a difficult topic, so I wasn’t sure how our 5-year-old would like it. And I sure wasn’t prepared for “Malala’s pencil” to be THAT extraordinary while age-appropriate for young kids at the same time!

As young girl, Malala wished for a magic pencil to draw a lock on her door or give her one more hour of sleep each night. But growing up her dreams become bigger – she hopes for a world in which boys and girls are equal and children can go to school instead of having to work to be able to feed their families. When the Taliban take over Malala’s hometown in Pakistan, Malala speaks up for what is right – even when the powerful men try to silence her…

We read a lot of multicultural books and Finja loves to read about strong girls. But “Malala’s pencil” was something different. The gentle written text is a joy to read, and it illustrates everyday life as a child in Pakistan. The artwork in pastel and gold perfectly goes with Malala’s story, including the black page saying “”My voice became so powerful that the dangerous men tried to silence me. But they failed.”

The main difference: “Malala’s pencil” gave me goosebumps. The combination of impressive artwork, a wonderfully written text and a strong topic is something you don’t find every day… And it seems our five-year-old felt the same way. She wouldn’t stop asking why anyone could think a girl should not learn and grow up to be strong… No better time for strong female role models!

More information:

Written by Malala Yousafzai

Illustrated by Kerascoet Kerascoet

Age Range: 5 – 8 years

Hardcover: 48 pages

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

ISBN-13: 978-0316319577

 

 

“Most people” by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris

Do recent political events sometimes make you feel hopeless? Has reading the newspaper become a „damage report”, rather than enjoyment? Did you stop believing in the good of people?

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But: No matter how it seems, not everyone is a bad person! On the contrary, most people are good… This is the topic of the picture book “Most people” by Michael Leannah. Young readers accompany various diverse family and persons during their day, see them interact, assist each other and ask for help. The author shows that there are bad things happening in the world, some people might behave badly – but most people love to smile and laugh. They like to see other people smile and make them happy. The world isn’t just glitter and sunshine, but there are multiple ways to do good and make the world a better place! A person who is frowning or mean can change as soon as you show them a little bit of kindness.

“Most people” is easy to understand for preschoolers and kindergarteners and a wonderful conversation starter for families and classrooms. We can tell our children about intolerance and biases, but challenging our own tolerance demonstrates is a big part of truly getting to the bottom of it. That’s why I especially loved one of the first pages of the book, showing all the important book characters in overview: A mother going for a walk with her two children, an elderly lady trying to cross the street, a service dog with his human, a homeless lady, pushing her belongings in a shopping cart, the baker, a child hurting herself when crashing her bike and several more. Finja’s first assessment after a few minutes of contemplating: “The big man looks like a pirate, pirates are bad.” Luckily exactly this big tattooed guy helps an elderly lady into the bus on the next page… Impressions can be misleading and there is no better way to teach your child about prejudice!

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“Most people” doesn’t tell young readers how to behave or how to be good. It’s not a map to Santa’s nice list. But it gives examples of how to do good: Letting an elderly lady going first on the bus, sharing food with a homeless person. Laughing when you see a young child on the sidewalk instead of complaining about the noise. And what about the boy stealing an apple from a market cart? What might be his motivation? Is he right or wrong? We especially loved the diverse characters in this book. “Most people” includes people of every age, color and lifestyle, from the tourist asking a policeman for help over a street musician, the housewife, a punk to a bus driver lady. Every one of these people is able to do good, no matter their appearance.  When talking about “good” and “bad” it’s hard not to fall into a stereotypical mentality. Michael Leanna does a good job, he shows that people sometimes make bad decisions, but in general most people are friendly and helpful – no matter where they come from or how they look like.

The illustrations by Jennifer E. Morris are rich in detail and expression and go perfectly with the tender told story. Morris works out individual characters and family situations, young reader will find something to discover on every page.

Sometimes people surprise you when you just see the good in them!

“Most people” offers a positive perspective on the world and is a wonderful read for children and adults alike. While not everyone is good and children surely need to be careful of strangers, most people are worth a second chance. A wonderful book for preschool and kindergarten aged children!

More information:

“Most people”
written by Michael Leannah
illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
ISBN-13: 978-0884485544