August 4 – International Owl Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

International Owl Awareness Day raises awareness of these feathered beauties that can be found all over the world in nearly every ecosystem. The day also encourages people to learn more about the owls in their area as well as to consider ways they can make their yards or the surrounding landscape more welcoming and beneficial to owls. To learn more about owls and how you can help these beautiful birds, visit American Eagle Foundation website and the Half-Earth Project.

Knight Owl

By Christopher Denise

 

“Since the day he was hatched, Owl had one wish. To be a knight.” Armored in his mother’s pot and cookie sheet, he played knight at home, and he watched the awe-inspiring parade of knights and their horses as they passed through the forest. One mighty knight even raised his gauntleted hand in response to Owl’s small wave of his wing. Before falling asleep each morning, he dreamed of being a real knight—brave, clever, and with lots of friends.

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Copyright Christopher Denise, 2022, courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books.

Owl thought it was just wishful thinking until knights began disappearing, and a call went out recruiting new ones. Knighthood was being fast-tracked, the advertisement proclaimed, and trainees could begin living “a life of honor and adventure” in just two weeks. Owl applied… and was accepted. “Owl was an excellent student,” even tutoring the older knights. But the sword, shield, and daytime hours posed challenges. Despite these, Owl “graduated with honor, as all knights do.”

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Copyright Christopher Denise, 2022, courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books.

Much to his delight, Owl “was assigned to Knight Night Watch.” While the other knights dozed during the long, dark hours, Owl remained vigilant at his parapet. One night, he heard a loud “Whoosh!!! It sounded like a huge bird flapping its wings. ‘Whoooo,’ Owl called.” Suddenly, an enormous dragon landed behind Owl. Despite his fear at learning that the dragon was hungry, Owl “puffed out his feathers and said, ‘I am Owl, and I am a knight of the Night Watch.'”

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Copyright Christopher Denise, 2022, courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books.

The dragon was ready to gobble him up as a midnight snack, when Owl cleverly convinced him to try something “tastier and more filling.” The dragon was game, and as they sat together eating their (much better) dinner, they talked about hatching from eggs, how much they loved nighttime, and the wonder of flying. It turned out they “had a lot in common.” From that night on, no knights disappeared, and Owl continued to guard the walls. He liked his knightly duties because “he was brave, he was clever…. And he had many friends.”

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Copyright Christopher Denise, 2022, courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books.

Christoper Denise’s Knight Owl glows with the magical kind of storytelling that makes kids believe they can do and be anything. While Owl dreams of being a knight, readers will find the qualities of this calling—bravery, cleverness, and having many friend—applies equally to whatever pursuit they dream of. The story is sprinkled with humor, gentle suspense, and Owl’s palpable pride in being a knight—all elements that will keep kids riveted to the pages that are each stunning works of art that play with perspective and lighting and hold details that will charm readers of all ages.

Denise’s absolutely adorable Owl will tug at your heart as he sits devouring a book of knightly tales while surrounded by wooden medieval toy figures; armors up with cookware and kitchen utensils while his father reads a newspaper touting missing knights and his mother readies a pan for the oven; and keeps Knight Night Watch, his eyes barely peeking over the wall (the page turn reveals that Owl is standing on a ladder to reach this height—another detail that will resonate with kids). The size and armor of the knights are nothing short of astounding. You can almost hear the creak and clash of metal as they ride their horses through the forest and mill about at Knight School. Owl’s dream, rendered as a tapestry, is another showstopper. The dragon Denise has conjured is everything a child wants a dragon to be while also amenable to a delicious snack, good conversation, and companionship.

Gifting children with a tiny hero who has big dreams and a bigger heart, Knight Owl is simply a must for all home bookshelves as well as for classroom, school, and public library collections. The book would also make a much-loved gift for the holidays, other special occasions, or “just because.” 

Ages 2 – 8

Christy Ottaviano Books, 2022

Discover more about Christopher Denise, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Owl Appreciation Day Activity

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Whooo’s There? Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the nineteen types of owls that call the United States home in this printable puzzle?

Whooo’s There? Word Search Puzzle | Whooo’s There? Word Search Solution

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You can find Knight Owl at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 2 – World Read Aloud Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating its thirteenth year and sponsored by global non-profit LitWorld and Scholastic Publishing World Read Aloud Day encourages adults to read aloud to children not only today but every day. Reading aloud to children from birth is one of the best ways to promote language development, improve literacy, and enjoy bonding time together. Millions of people celebrate today’s holiday all across the United States and in more than one hundred countries around the world. Special events are held in schools, libraries, bookstores, homes, and communities, and authors and illustrators hold readings and visit classrooms. To learn more about World Read Aloud Day, visit LitWorld and check out their Activity Hub to find live events, virtual read alouds, downloadable bookmarks, posters, games, and more!

The Book Dragon

Written by Kell Andrews | Illustrated by Éva Chatelain

 

In Lesser Scrump, reading was a chore. To teach the alphabet, the schoolmaster, Mr. Percival, drew on tree trunks with bits of charcoal, scratched on slate with a rock, or drew in the dirt of the schoolyard. One day, Rosehilda said that “‘reading would be more fun if the letters and words were written as stories.’” She even suggested writing them with ink on papers that could be put together. The students were shocked and “Mr. Percival sent Rosehilda home with a stern note scratched onto a leaf.”

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When Rosehilda got home and asked her grandfather what all the fuss was about, he told her about the Book Dragon, who instead of hoarding gold, collected books. Rosehilda had never heard of a book, and her grandfather explained that it was “letters and words written on papers that are attached together.” He pointed out the window to Scrump Mountain and told Rosehilda that the Book Dragon lived deep inside and stole any book brought into the village.  

The next day at school, Rosehilda declared that the school needed books and that she was not afraid of the Book Dragon. Mr. Percival explained that after the dragon snatched a book, she would terrorized the villagers the next night. He sent her home again with another note etched into a candle stub. On the way home, Rosehilda met a peddler who had a book in her pile of wares. Rosehilda traded her candle stub for the book.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

That night Rosehilda read a story about a brave knight who defeated a dragon and won its hoard of gold. “For the first time, reading wasn’t tiresome. It was amazing!” In the morning, the book was gone. Rosehilda’s grandfather told her that they and all the villagers would have to lock their windows that night because the dragon would surely come to frighten them. Rosehilda felt guilty, and “she vowed to challenge the dragon and win her book back.”

She went to the top of Scrump Mountain and peered into the dragon’s cave. The Book Dragon was lying atop an immense pile of books. She looked surprised to see Rosehilda standing there. Rosehilda summoned her courage and demanded that the dragon return her book. The Book Dragon apologized and explained that because she was too big to live in the village, books were the only friends she had.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Rosehilda scolded the dragon for stealing so many books. The dragon said she only meant to borrow them, but when she tried to return them the next night, the windows were locked and people screamed when she knocked. The dragon agreed to give Rosehilda her book back, but Rosehilda had a hard time finding it among so many books.

While searching for it, Rosehilda and the Book Dragon began stacking the books “by subject and author.” At the end of the day, they had plenty of piles and many more books to sort, and Rosehilda still hadn’t found her book. The Book Dragon suggested that she borrow a different one. Rosehilda read late into the night, and the next day she went back to the dragon’s cave to help sort more books. She left with another book. This went on all week.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Finally, all the books were sorted and Rosehilda finally found her book. She was excited that she wouldn’t have to come back, but the Book Dragon looked sad and suggested that she “borrow another book…and come back tomorrow.” That gave Rosehilda an idea. The next day at school, Mr. Percival and the other students were horrified to see the dragon outside their window, but Rosehilda explained that she was just returning their books. Now the Book Dragon oversees the “Official Village Library of Lesser Scrump,” and everyone reads as much as they want!

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kell Andrew’s clever story will delight book lovers of all scales with its mix of fantasy, mystery, courage, and friendship. Fearless Rosehilda is a plucky role model for all kids, and the Book Dragon’s desire for company will melt readers’ hearts faster than a breath of fire. Andrew’s storytelling reflects the best of fairy tale lore for a modern audience, with touches of humor, mistaken motives, and a creative resolution.

Éva Chatelain bridges the medieval and the familiar in her bright illustrations that draw on the rich yellows, reds, and greens of leather-bound books, piles of gold, fiery emotions, and woodland villages. Chatelain introduces brave Rosehilda as she challenges her teacher and buys a book,  but she also reveals the trepidation Rosehilda overcomes to confront the Book Dragon, showing readers that even the most courageous people can feel fear too. As Rosehilda reads her treasured book, kids’ suspense will quicken to see the silhouette of the dragon outside her window. The stacks of books that Rosehilda and the Book Dragon build are cunning references to library stacks, and the final images of a happy town and a happy (dragon) librarian will charm readers.

An enchanting story for book buffs, dragon devotees, and fairy tale fans, The Book Dragon would be a favorite addition to story times and home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454926856

Discover more about Kell Andrews and her books on her website.

To learn more about Éva Chatelain, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Read Aloud Day Activity

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World Read Aloud Day Bookmarks

 

Print and color these bookmarks available on the LitWorld website! You’ll find more bookmarks, instructions on how to make a read-aloud crown, story games, book lists, and more activities to download there too!

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

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You can find The Book Dragon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 29 – Middle Grade Monday

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Review by Jakki Licare

Dragon Legend

By Katie & Kevin Tsang

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Dragon Legend continues the exciting saga begun in the first book of the series, Dragon Mountain, in which San Franciscan Billy Chan, attending a summer camp in China to improve his Mandarin language skills and learn more about his Chinese heritage, discovers that he and his friends, Charlotte, Ling-Fei, and Dylan, are destined to bond with dragons who are guarding a portal that leads to the Dragon Realm. Once they’re bonded, the dragons gain strength in ability as well as in size. Through the dragons’ mystical pearls, the kids also gain super powers. Charlotte receives super strength, Ling-Fei can sense nature, Dylan has the power of persuasion, and Billy gains super agility.

These dragons tried to keep an evil dragon, known as the Dragon of Death, out of the Human Realm, but they were unable to defeat her so they sent her through a time portal to the past. Now in the Dragon Realm, evil dragons are trying to open up a time portal and bring back the Dragon of Death. Billy and his friends are able to stop the evil dragons and close the time portal. But not before Old Gold, the owner of the summer camp, kidnaps Billy’s best friend, Dylan, and jumps through the time portal before it closes. (for a full synopsis and my review check it out here: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/tag/dragon-mountain-book-review/)

As Dragon Legend opens, Billy, Charlotte, Ling-Fei, and their dragons must create a portal to go back in time to save their friend Dylan who was kidnapped by Old Gold, the owner of the summer camp the children have been attending. The group agrees that JJ, Old Gold’s grandson, can come too so he can find his grandfather. While they all believe that JJ will be helpful in locating Dylan in the Dragon Realm, they don’t trust him and tend to exclude JJ from the group.  Billy’s dragon, Spark, swallows a star to create a portal and they are transported back in time to the Dragon Realm.

With the help of some dragon parents and a cute flying pig, Billy and his friends find Dylan entrapped in a tree by dark magic. JJ is able to open the tree because his grandfather created the spell. Billy and his friends are thrilled to have Dylan back, but JJ, who has felt like an outcast among the group, lets the tree ensnare him. He wants to wait for his grandfather.

Billy feels conflicted over JJ’s decision but ultimately decides that there isn’t anything he can do about it. Dylan tells the group that Old Gold has bonded with the Dragon of Death and together they are searching for the remaining mystical pearls. In all there are 8 pearls, inspired by the  Chinese symbols of the Eight Great Treasures. The group is determined to find the rest of the pearls before the Dragon of Death does. As they travel, Spark confesses to Billy that since she swallowed the star she craves the power that comes from dark magic and now she hungers for more. She promises BIlly that she will fight it, and Billy vows to help her.

To find the Ice pearl Billy and his friends have to travel to the Frozen Wasteland on their own. The dragons can’t cross a magical barrier that separates the dragons from their mortal enemy, the worms. While the kids negotiate with a giant hungry fish for passage and fend off giant scorpions, they discover that their powers are enhancing. Dylan can create illusions, Ling-Fei can open up the earth, and BIlly is even faster than before and can create electric shields. After Charlotte defeats the Wasteland Worm and captures the Ice pearl, the group discovers that Charlotte has been lethally bitten by the giant worm. Using their new powers and working together they are able to locate a flower to heal her. Once Charlotte is healed, they create a portal using the magic from their pearls to get back to their dragons.

As soon as they reunite with their dragons, they all head off to the human realm to find the Diamond pearl. They travel into ancient China and steal the Diamond pearl from the emperor’s headdress. The Dragon of Death appears with JJ and Old Gold. JJ has bonded with Dimitrius, a noxwing they fought in Dragon Mountain. Billy tries to convince JJ to come to their side, but JJ refuses.

Dylan and his dragon, Buttons, protect the humans from the Dragon of Death’s poisonous breath. Ling-Fei and her dragon attack the Dragon of Death while Charlotte and her dragon attack the noxwings. Billy and Spark go after JJ and his pearl. Billy grabs the pearl just as JJ’s dragon tries to blast him with fire. Spark reacts just in time and blasts Dimitrius and JJ with an electrical net. Billy is stunned by the look of pain on JJ’s face, but before he can ask Spark about it, he has to help Charlotte who falls off her dragon’s back. Billy catches Charlotte and together they fight the noxwings. Spark entraps the noxwings with an electrical net and BIlly is surprised when Spark starts sucking away the noxwings’s life force. Spark then ensnares the Dragon of Death with an electrical net and starts to feed off of her life force too.

The dragons decide that the Dragon of Death must be turned into a star. Spark releases JJ and Old Gold, and they are all shocked that Spark has injured them. Spark gathers the pearls from everyone so she can turn the Dragon of Death into a star, but then she releases the Dragon of Death. Spark acknowledges that the Dragon of Death is too powerful to fight and gives her the pearls. Everyone is stunned by Spark’s betrayal, and Billy feels guilty for hiding Spark’s struggle with dark magic. The Dragon of Death uses the pearls to call forth a turtle named Destiny Bringer. Destiny Bringer shows the Dragon of Death eight different destinies and the Dragon of Death chooses one.

Billy wakes up back in the human realm, but the entire human race is enslaved by the Dragon of Death. He’s thankful that he is still with his friends and explains to them all that he has a plan. Together they will defeat the Dragon of Death.

Review

 

Dragon lovers rejoice! The second book in the Dragon Realm series is here and it’s ready to sweep you back into Dragon Realm. Like the first book, Dragon Legend is a fast-paced adventure that will keep your middle grader on the edge of their seat. Be prepared to join Billy Chan, his friends and their dragons as they face off with the Dragon of Death. Katie and Kevin Tsang’s imagination soars to new levels in Dragon Legend. The fantasy world is filled with memorable locales like the Forgotten Sea, a body of water that can only be seen by those who remember it.

The children also must cross the daunting blood strait, a river of blood that separates the dragons from the worms. Additionally, they must also traverse the Frozen Wasteland that looks like a frozen “thrashing ocean” while the ground is covered in bones. While the majority of the story takes place in the dragon realm, my favorite part was when the kids travel into the human realm. Here we get to fly over the great wall of China on a dragon’s back, protect the imperial palace and its inhabitants from the noxwings’ fiery breath, and steal the Diamond pearl from the emperor’s headdress.

One of my son’s favorite things about Dragon Mountain was when the kids discover their magic. So he was thrilled when, in Dragon Legend, the kids’ magical powers begin to evolve. Kevin and Katie cleverly string these evolutions throughout the story, adding an extra element of surprise to many of the fight scenes. For example, Dylan’s power of persuasion evolves into the power to create illusions just as the drifters, hungry soaring jellyfish-like creatures, are about to descend upon them. Dylan is able to distract the drifters from eating them with an illusion of their group in a different location. Then, when they are trying to steal the Diamond pearl from the emperor’s headdress, Dylan’s powers evolve again, allowing him to camouflage people in invisibility.

Like the first book, a major theme of Dragon Legend is the power of working together, but this time we see the negative effects of not working together in JJ’s storyline. Kevin and Katie explore the feelings of exclusion and distrust when JJ joins the group. JJ’s close relationship with his grandfather makes the kids distrust him, when the reality is that JJ is just as confused by his grandfather’s actions as they are. 

In the beginning when Dylan is missing, JJ feels as if he can’t live up to Dylan’s image and believes that everyone is disappointed that they have him instead of Dylan. The kids could have befriended JJ and potentially gained another ally, but their distrustful nature create their own enemy. To add fuel to the flames, Katie and Kevin add in  Spark’s mistreatment of JJ at the end, leaving a wonderful plot thread for us to explore through the rest of the series. I won’t lie, my middle grade-loving heart is hoping for a reconciliation.

Spark’s struggle and her craving for dark magic took this series to a whole new level. The entire first book built up BIlly’s bond with Spark, so Billy’s debate of whether to keep Spark’s struggle a secret or to tell the others about it had my son and me on the edge of our seats. Every time Spark’s eyes flickered black my son and I groaned out loud. Like Billy, we too, are rooting for Spark to overcome her craving for dark magic. I’m very interested in seeing how Billy’s and Spark’s relationship plays out in the next book.

If your child enjoyed The Land of Roar or How to Train Your Dragon, then this fast-paced, immersive adventure is a perfect fit.

Parental Considerations: this book does contain fantasy fighting; the most extreme moment included an innocent bystander being burned alive.

Ages 9+

Sterling Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1471193095

You can learn more about Katie & Kevin Tsang, their Dragon Realm series, and their Sam Wu Is Not Afraid series on their website.

Thanks go to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of Dragon Legend for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

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You can find Dragon Legend at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 1 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

The beginning of a new school year is a terrific time to celebrate Read a New Book Month. Whether the books are recently published or just new to you, there are stories and nonfiction books to fit any subject, to inspire learning, to laugh or cry with, and to share with friends. This month visit your local bookstore and library and stock up on books for everyone in the family! 

Dylan’s Dragon

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse

 

When Dylan was little, he liked to while away his days “playing, doodling, drawing, daydreaming.” He drew spaceships and race cars, dragons and robots. But as he got older, Dylan found there were many more things to do, like karate, baseball, gymnastics, and swimming. And of course there was lots of homework. There wasn’t a moment when Dylan wasn’t doing something. Then one day Dragon showed up at his door wanting to play. But Dylan was just on his way to school. All day long Dylan thought about Dragon. He seemed vaguely familiar, but Dylan couldn’t remember. Dylan planned on playing with Dragon after school, and when he got home they did fly a few circles around the yard, but then it was time for his piano lesson. 

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, after he gave Dylan a ride to the kitchen, Dylan asked if Dragon would like to play after school. “Dragon stuck out his tongue and slurped oatmeal off Dylan’s cheek, which felt kind of slimy but seemed like a yes.” But they only had a few short minutes before Dylan had to study and then go to science club. Dylan thought Dragon might be able to help with his homework, but Dragon’s flames singed his test review papers.

On the rest of the days that week, Dylan tried to include Dragon, but it just didn’t work out. Finally, the weekend came and Dylan thought they would be able to play then. Dragon “swatted Dylan with his tail, which felt cold and scaly but had to mean yes.” Saturday morning, Dylan jumped out of bed ready to play with Dragon, but his parents reminded him of his baseball game, piano recital, and Aunt Edith’s 90th birthday party. But “when do I get to play?” Dylan asked.

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When Sunday morning rolled around, Dylan woke up and asked his mom, “‘What do we have to do now?'” Surprisingly, Dylan had nothing planned. “‘Just go out and play,'” his mom told him. Dylan cheered and called for Dragon, but he didn’t come. In fact, he was nowhere to be found. “It seemed like Dragon was draGONE.” Dylan looked everywhere, but no dragon. Dylan began to cry. 

When his mom asked him what was wrong, Dylan told her about Dragon and wanting to play and never having enough time. “‘Sounds like we need to cut back,'” his mom said. Then she told him she’d help look for Dragon. As Dylan was drawing a picture of Dragon to show his mom, when he remembered where he’d seen Dragon before – in his old drawings from when he was little.

As he carried his drawing downstairs to show his mom, it began to steam. “It smoked… then POOF popped Dragon, right into the living room. This time when Dylan asked if he wanted to play, Dragon wrapped a wing around him in a hug that “was most definitely a yes!”

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Annie Silvestro’s creative storytelling is both whimsical and realistic as she reminds readers about the importance of balance between activities, school, and free time in children’s schedules. When the dragon, a favorite drawing from Dylan’s preschool or kindergarten days, appears to rescue him and his harried family, many kids (and adults) may identify with Dylan’s desire for a more relaxed lifestyle. Silvestro’s dialogue rings true as Dylan’s parents call him from snatched moments of play and Dylan pleads for just ten more minutes. Dylan’s mom’s recognition of the need to cut back on some of her son’s activities sets a good example, and Silvestro’s message that imagination and creativity make beneficial playmates is reassuring.

Ben Whitehouse’s vivid illustrations cleverly depict the dichotomy between Dylan’s desire for playtime and his over-scheduled routine as images of Dylan riding and playing with his Dragon are juxtaposed with his mom and dad indicating that it’s time to go to one activity after another. Well-marked calendars, a tablet, watches and clocks, lots of sticky note reminders, and equipment for various extracurricular activities at the ready crowd the family’s home – fitting images for the dizzying swirl of appointments that must also crowd Dylan and his parents’ minds. While Dylan’s room is decorated with his many interests, Whitehouse shows that it is his long-lost love of drawing and imagination that truly makes him happy.

A clever and engaging story about recapturing the simple pleasures of free time and playtime, Dylan’s Dragon can also spark conversations between adults and kids about how much is too much and finding that happy medium. A perfect book to share at home, especially as the new school year begins, Dylan’s Dragon would be an excellent addition to home bookshelves as well as school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807517420

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ben Whitehouse, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

 

In this group of darling dragons, each dragon has a twin. Can you help them find each other in this printable puzzle?

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dylan's-dragon-cover

You can find Dylan’s Dragon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 7 – Celebrating Our First Middle Grade Monday

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to welcome back Jakki Licare, who took time away from the blog to help her boys with virtual schooling. Jakki and I are also excited to tell you that on the first Monday of every month, Celebrate Picture Books will become Celebrate Middle Grade Books, with Jakki’s reviews of fantastic books for older kids. What does she have up first? A book that has it all – dragons, suspense, magic, and a new team of smart, brave, kind, and funny friends for readers to take adventures with. 

Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of Dragon Mountain for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Review by Jakki Licare

Dragon Mountain 

By Katie and Kevin Tsang 

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Billy Chan is dreading summer because his parents have shipped him off from his home in San Francisco to attend a summer camp in China so he can brush up on his Mandarin and “‘learn more about his Chinese heritage.'” But when he is paired with Dylan O’Donnell, Charlotte Bell, and Liu Ling-Fei for a scavenger hunt things start to look up. Determined to win, the kids take a shortcut – which they instantly regret when a tiger chases them. Unable to get away, the kids link hands and face off against the tiger together in front of a mountain. Incredibly, the tiger backs away and vanishes into thin air.

When they return back to camp, Ling-Fei realizes that she’s lost the necklace her grandmother gave her. The next morning the kids go back to search for Ling-Fei’s missing necklace. As they search the area, Billy realizes that they’ve lost something else – Ling-Fei! One by one the kids go missing, until Billy is all alone. Billy is convinced that something is pulling them into the mountain and he marches in to find his friends.

Deep within the mountain, he finds his friends trapped by a group of dragons. The dragons are glad that the children came because they’ve been waiting for the prophesized four to open it. The dragons explain that the mountain contains a special portal that connects the human and dragon realms together. These dragons are the portal guardians. An evil dragon, known as the Dragon of Death, tried to come through the portal thousands of years ago to maximize its powers by bonding with a human. The guardians fought to keep the Dragon of Death out, but they were unable to defeat the Dragon of Death so they sent her through a time portal. As they sent her back, she cast a spell that sealed the guardians in the mountain until they met their human matches. 

One of the dragons has the ability to see into the future, and she has seen the Dragon of Death coming back and enslaving the human realm. The kids want to protect their world and agree to bond with the dragons. The kids bond with their dragons by naming them. Once they’re bonded, the dragons are stronger in ability as well as size. Three of the dragons have magical pearls that will give the kids super powers: Charlotte receives super strength, Ling-Fei can sense nature, and Dylan has the power of persuasion. Billy’s dragon doesn’t have a pearl, but they know the fourth pearl is close. Billy realizes he has seen it at the summer camp. 

The kids head back to camp and break into the owner’s office that night. Billy finds the pearl on top of a bookshelf. When he grabs it, he loses his balance and does a perfect backwards flip. Billy now has agility superpowers. Now that they have the pearls and are bonded, the children are ready for the dragon realm. But the dragons find the entrance is still barred to them by the curse. The kids have to go through on their own to open the entrance for the dragons. The tiger that chased them earlier is waiting for them and is the keeper of the curse. The tiger attacks them with electric bolts and Billy distracts it. Using her powers, Ling-Fei learns that they must destroy the tiger’s heart. Charlotte uses her super strength and rips the tiger’s heart out.  

Now they can enter the Dragon Realm with their dragons, but they find that the entire dragon Realm is poisoned. The dragons then have to fight off the the Dragon of Death’s helpers, Noxwings, and soon the dragons are captured. With the help of Billy’s dragon, though, the kids are able to get away. The kids travel through the dragon realm on their own and have many adventures in which they must use their powers and wit to help them survive this dangerous land.

They finally reach the Nowxing’s camp and find hundreds of cages filled with captured dragons. The Noxwings are opening a portal to bring back the Dragon of Death by draining the dragons of their energy. The kids learn that if they destroy the floating flames that surround the portal, the cages will open and the portal will close. The kids work together and destroy the flames, but Billy is attacked. He’s about to be killed when his dragon swoops in and saves him.

They’re winning the battle and the portal is almost closed when the summer camp’s owner appears out of the forest. He grabs Dylan and heads toward the portal. He created the whole summer camp just to find the children he needed to open the dragon realm. The owner is determined to bring back the Dragon of Death. He jumps through, pulling Dylan with him. The kids are determined to get their friend back and all the freed dragons swear to help them. The kids and their dragons will travel through time to save Dylan and defeat the Dragon of Death.

Review

 

This fast-paced book will be sure to keep your middle grader’s attention. The writing is very immersive and you’re soon off on one adventure after another. Perfect for 8-12 year olds who love dragons and are looking for fun characters that you can’t help rooting for. Katie and Kevin Tsang’s dragons were inspired by both Chinese and European folklore and they even blended two of the dragons to create hybrids of both cultures. They also drew inspiration from the Chinese symbols of the Eight Great Treasures to create the eight pearls in Dragon Mountain which give the kids their superpowers. 

My favorite part of this book was how the characters work through their problems together. All of the characters are incredibly different and often their personalities clash, but they’re able to talk through their troubles together. After the children are separated from their dragons in the Dragon Realm, Charlotte is angry with Billy for running away. The group falls apart as they can’t agree on what to do. But after talking it through they’re able to come up with the beginnings of a plan that they can all agree with. This is one example of how the Tsangs do an amazing job of focusing on the intricacies of team work and thread it through the plot of the story. 

Billy Chan, the main character, is a surfing champ who is also good at keeping his head in stressful situations. Dylan O’Donnell is friendly, funny, and very cautious. Charlotte Bell is competitive, motivated, and smart. And Liu Ling-Fei is sweet, quiet, and generous. When the dragons are introduced, we learn that each child is destined to bond with a dragon. My kids and I loved guessing who was going to be matched with who. Some of the bonds were surprising.

My seven year old especially loved the dragons in this book. They start off as menacing and scary but, just like Billy and his friends, we soon learn to trust them. Each dragon’s personality is as unique as those of the kids, and they each carry their own powers that we learn about along the way.  I’m looking forward to the second book so we can spend more time with the dragons!

There are two distinct story worlds. The first part of the story takes place in a Chinese mountain. We get a very brief introduction to the summer camp before we are swept into the mountain. The other half of the book is spent in the dragon realm which is full of floating islands and has three moons and a mysterious red dome. The dragon realm’s barren world accurately reflects the danger the kids are in and increases the reader’s anxiety. As the kids try to maneuver through this foreign terrain, they come across many new and unexpected dangers. My son’s favorite part is when the kids have to bargain with a rock troll.

Dragon Mountain is a fast-paced, immersive adventure book that’s perfect for dragon lovers of all ages especially fans of How to Train Your Dragon and will make a great addition to class libraries as well personal libraries.

Parental Considerations: This book does contain fantasy fighting.

Ages 8 – 12

Grade Level 3 – 7 | AR Level: 4.8

Sterling Children’s Books 2020 | ISBN 978-1454935964

You can learn more about Katie & Kevin Tsang, their Dragon Realm series, and their Sam Wu Is Not Afraid series on their website.

Adventure into the Dragon Realm with this book trailer!

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You can find Dragon Mountain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 23 – World Book Day and World Book Night

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About the Holidays

Sponsored by UNESCO, World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day and International Day of the Book, encourages families and individuals to rediscover the joys of reading and promotes the availability of a wide range of books to all and in all languages. April 23 was chosen to celebrate books in honor of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who all died on this date. The holiday offers an opportunity to highlight the power of books and to promote the United Nations’ vision of societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, and open and participatory for all citizens. Each year publishers, booksellers, and libraries choose a World Book Capitol for a one-year period to acknowledge the city’s commitment to promoting books and fostering reading. The World Book Capitol for 2021 is Tbilisi, Georgia. This year’s theme is “Share a Story.” For more information on World Book Day and to find a communication toolkit as well as other resources, visit the UNESCO website and The World Book Day website.

First established in the United Kingdom and Ireland but now a global event, World Book Night is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. While World Book Day focuses on promoting reading for and with children, World Book Night encourages adults to set aside time to read for pleasure as well. Reading for pleasure can have a enormous impact on one’s life, from learning new information to feeling more connected to the world to just relaxing and taking a healthy break from daily responsibilities. World Book Night was also conceived as a way to get more books into more hands, and as such is actively involved in giving away designated books to care homes, youth centers, colleges, prisons, public libraries, mental health groups and other charity partners who match books with new readers to reach those who may not have access to or the resources to buy books. To learn more about this initiative, visit the World Book Night website.

You can get involved too! Why not start today? With so many amazing books to discover, reading daily is a luxury worth indulging. For kids, there may be no cozier routine than snuggling up next to mom or dad or cuddling under the covers and getting lost in a wonderful story before falling asleep. And adults? You never really lose that comforting feeling of ending the day with a good book.

Thanks go to Lerner Books for sharing a copy of Where is the Dragon? for review consideration, all opinions on the book are my own.

Where is the Dragon?

By Leo Timmers

 

The king was having nightmares about a dragon he was sure was on the prowl, so he sent “his knights: One, Two and Three. ‘Save the realm! But mainly me,'” he ordered. The knights bravely went out into the dark forest armed only with…well…their armor and a candle, but they had a problem. It turned out that none of them had every seen a dragon before. But they each had assurances from the king as to how a dragon behaved and what it looked like. Knight Two knew (from the king) that forest animals ran away from a dragon. 

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Just as they came upon a suspicious-looking shape cloaked in the darkness, “Knight One [said], ‘Well, the king confided / their spikes are thick and double-sided.'” The mound in front of them appeared to have a head, a well-spiked body, and a pointy tale. Without trepidation, however, the smallest knight approached and held up his candle to find… a wagon overflowing with carrots and long-eared rabbits taking a snooze.

The three moved on, out of the forest and into an area of lush undergrowth. As they came to a truly frightening silhouette that looked ready to gobble them up, Knight Two alerted his friends that the king had warned him about a dragon’s teeth. While Knight One and Knight Two were fumbling in the dark on their way to slay this dragon, Knight Three stepped forward. “‘Ha ha, ho ho,'” he laughed. Their “dragon” wasn’t scary at all. 

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

In a moment, the knights had gotten themselves into an awful fix when they began crossing a fallen tree that led right to a dragon’s nest. How did they know this was a real dragon? Knight One told them, “‘Well, the king declared / their necks are long, their nostrils flared.'” And, indeed, in front of them awaited the shadow of just such a beast. But as Knight Two took another bumbling trip, the intrepid Knight Three discovered in his dwindling candle’s light a rather peaceful, sleepy scene.

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Farther on another scare in the deep, dark night turned out to be just another snore. By this time the candle was burning low when they happened upon a rocky mound. There were no spikes, no sharp teeth, no neck or even head, and there was absolutely none of that “‘… scalding sizzling smelly breath'” the king had told them about. Knight Two had had enough. “‘Dragons? No such thing,'” he said. “‘Let’s all go home and tell the king.'” But just to make sure, Knight Three held up his sputtering candle. There was nothing there to frighten him, and he decided “‘the dragon’s just in the king’s head.'” But did he really get a good look?

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Leo Timmers puts a medieval spin on “things that go bump in the night” with his laugh-out-loud tale of three knights on a mission to rid the kingdom of a dragon that’s vexing the king. As they set out on a dark, but starry night, the knights have only the descriptions the king has provided to guide them. Accompanying each two-page spread in which the knights encounter ominous silhouettes are Timmers’ short and cunning rhyming couplets that lead the knights – and readers – to conclude that indeed a dragon lies ahead. 

But in the glow of the candle (just as when the bedroom light flips on) the dragon disappears, and in its place is a harmless – and hilarious – bedtime scene. Meanwhile, as Knight Three is uncovering the sleepers of the realm on the righthand page, on the left page bumbling Knight Two is engaged in slapstick trips, falls, and mishaps all to the detriment of Knight One. These increasingly  will keep kids laughing and waiting to see what happens next. Timmons’ pitch-perfect ending will enchant kids and anyone just looking for a good night’s sleep. 

Part Monty Python, part bedtime story, and entirely ingenious, Where is the Dragon? will become a quick favorite for fun, madcap and imagination-filled daytime or nighttime story times at home, in the classroom, and for public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Gecko Press / Lerner Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1776573110

To learn more about Leo Timmers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

World Book Day and World Book Night Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

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You can find Where is the Dragon? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | Indiebound

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Appreciate a Dragon Day

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About the Holiday

Appreciate a Dragon Day was established in 2004 by author Danita K. Paul to celebrate the publication of her novel DragonSpell, the first book in her Dragon Keepers Chronicles series. The holiday now encourages all readers to get involved with reading through fun activities—dragon-themed, of course! Teachers, librarians, and all those who love reading can find lots of suggestions for creative ideas that encompass art, crafts, displays, drama, and many other mediums on Danita K. Paul’s website. So, round up your favorite dragon books and breathe some fire into your reading today!

The Book Dragon

Written by Kell Andrews | Illustrated by Éva Chatelain

 

In Lesser Scrump, reading was a chore. To teach the alphabet, the schoolmaster, Mr. Percival, drew on tree trunks with bits of charcoal, scratched on slate with a rock, or drew in the dirt of the schoolyard. One day, Rosehilda said that “‘reading would be more fun if the letters and words were written as stories.’” She even suggested writing them with ink on papers that could be put together. The students were shocked and “Mr. Percival sent Rosehilda home with a stern note scratched onto a leaf.”

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When Rosehilda got home she asked her grandfather what all the fuss was about. He told her about the Book Dragon, who instead of hoarding gold, collected books. Rosehilda had never heard of a book, and her grandfather explained that it was “letters and words written on papers that are attached together.” He pointed out the window to Scrump Mountain and told Rosehilda that the Book Dragon lived deep inside and stole any book brought into the village.  

The next day at school, Rosehilda declared that the school needed books and that she was not afraid of the Book Dragon. Mr. Percival explained that after the dragon snatched a book, she terrorized the villagers the next night, and he sent her home again with another note etched into a candle stub. On the way home, Rosehilda met a peddler who had a book in her pile of wares. She gave it to Rosehilda in exchange for the candle stub.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

That night Rosehilda read a story about a brave knight who defeated a dragon and won its hoard of gold. “For the first time, reading wasn’t tiresome. It was amazing!” In the morning, the book was gone. Rosehilda’s grandfather told her that they and all the villagers would have to lock their windows that night. Rosehilda felt guilty. “She vowed to challenge the dragon and win her book back.”

She went to the top of Scrump Mountain and peered into the dragon’s cave. The Book Dragon was lying atop an immense pile of books. She looked surprised to see Rosehilda standing there. Rosehilda summoned her courage and demanded that the dragon return her book. The Book Dragon apologized and explained that because she was too big to live in the village, books were the only friends she had.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Rosehilda scolded the dragon for stealing so many books. The dragon said she only meant to borrow them, but when she tried to return them, the windows were locked and people screamed when she knocked. The dragon agreed to give Rosehilda her book back, but Rosehilda had a hard time finding it among so many books.

While searching for it, Rosehilda and the Book Dragon began stacking the books “by subject and author.” At the end of the day, they had plenty of piles and more books to sort, and Rosehilda hadn’t found her book. The Book Dragon suggested she borrow a different one. She read late into the night, and the next day she went back to the dragon’s cave to help sort books. She left with another book. This went on all week.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Finally, all the books were sorted and Rosehilda found her book. She was excited that she wouldn’t have to come back, but the Book Dragon looked sad and suggested that she “borrow another book…and come back tomorrow.” That gave Rosehilda an idea. The next day at school, Mr. Percival and the other students were horrified to see the dragon outside their window, but Rosehilda explained that she was just returning their books. Now the Book Dragon oversees the “Official Village Library of Lesser Scrump,” and everyone reads as much as they want!

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kell Andrew’s clever story will delight book lovers of all scales with its mix of fantasy, mystery, courage, and friendship. Fearless Rosehilda is a plucky role model for all kids, and the Book Dragon’s desire for company will melt readers’ hearts faster than a breath of fire. Andrew’s storytelling reflects the best of fairy tale lore for a modern audience, with touches of humor, mistaken motives, and a creative resolution.

Éva Chatelain bridges the medieval and the familiar in her bright illustrations that draw on the rich yellows, reds, and greens of leather-bound books, piles of gold, fiery emotions, and woodland villages. Chatelain introduces brave Rosehilda as she challenges her teacher and buys a book,  but she also reveals the trepidation Rosehilda overcomes to confront the Book Dragon, showing readers that even the most courageous people can feel fear too. As Rosehilda reads her treasured book, kids’ suspense will quicken to see the silhouette of the dragon outside her window. The stacks of books that Rosehilda and the Book Dragon build are cunning references to library stacks, and the final images of a happy town and a happy (dragon) librarian will charm readers.

An enchanting story for book buffs, dragon devotees, and fairy tale fans, The Book Dragon would be a favorite addition to story times and home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454926856

Discover more about Kell Andrews and her books on her website.

To learn more about Éva Chatelain, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Appreciate a Dragon Day Activity

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Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

 

In this group of darling dragons, each dragon has a twin. Can you help them find each other in this printable puzzle?

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

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You can find The Book Dragon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review