September 6 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month on Middle Grade Monday

celebrate-picture-books-middle-grade-book-review-the-hatmakers-cover

About the Holiday

For young readers there may be nothing more exciting than discovering a new series to fall in love with. Add in magic, danger, laugh-out-loud humor, and unique characters kids can really care about and the potion is complete. Today’s book is just such a wonder – enchanting for reading on one’s own or for exciting family story times.

Review by Jakki Licare

The Hatmakers

By Tamzin Merchant | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Synopsis

 

On a stormy night, Cordelia Hatmaker is woken up to learn that the family boat, the Jolly Bonnet, has sunk and none of the crew – not even her hearty father, Captain Prospero Hatmaker– has survived. Knowing her father has survived worse at sea, Cordelia doesn’t believe her father is really gone and is determined to find him. Despite the family’s tragedy, the Hatmakers must present the Concentration Hat to King George to help him focus on signing France’s peace treaty. When they arrive at the palace, they find King George standing on the throne baaing like a sheep. A doctor dismisses the Concentration Hat and declares the king unwell. King George is sent away to the seaside to recover. Cordelia asks the Princess if she’d spare a ship to search for her father, but Lord Witloof, the royal family’s advisor, claims they can’t spare any ships since France threatens to go to war. The Princess commissions the Hatmakers to Make a Peace Hat and it must be ready in three days for her meeting with the King of France.

After learning that the Jolly Bonnet’s cabin boy has been found alive, Cordelia sneaks out to meet him. He hands her her father’s telescope before passing out. Rolled up inside the telescope, Cordelia finds a piece of paper that has had its ink washed away.

Cordelia’s family is summoned to the Guildhall, a place where all the Makers used to Make and create outfits together. All the Makers have had their Peace Clothes stolen except for the Watchmakers. The Makers accuse each other of stealing, even Cordelia’s best friend, Goose Bootmaker, accuses her of stealing their Peace Boots since he found Cordelia’s handkerchief in his family’s workshop.

Cordelia is determined to clear her name. She stakes out the Watchmaker’s house and discovers her neighborhood’s friendly newspaper boy sneaking in. She catches up with him and he confesses that he has been blackmailed by a mysterious man. The newspaper boy hides Cordelia when the mysterious man arrives. Cordelia notices that the blackmailer has WW embellishments on his shoes. The mysterious man takes the Peace Watch from the newspaper boy and then locks him in a trunk. After the blackmailer leaves, Cordelia frees the newspaper boy and they sneak out together.

When Cordelia gets home, she finds her whole family being arrested. Cordelia reunites and makes up with Goose and together with her family’s cook and the newspaper boy, they Make a Peace Hat. But when Cordelia presents the Peace Hat to the Princess, Lord Witloof accuses Cordelia of making an attempt to assassinate the Princess. That’s when Cordelia notices Lord Witloof’s shoes also have WW on them. Cordelia convinces the Princess that Lord Witloof is a traitor, but Lord Witloof puts a Hideous Crown on the Princess’s head which stops the Princess in her tracks. 

Cordelia is able to escape and the newspaper boy makes Cordelia exchange clothes with him. When he gives Cordelia his hat, all of “his” long hair comes spilling out of it. The newspaper girl then pretends to be Cordelia and allows herself to get captured by the police while Cordelia hides.

Cordelia, Goose, and some other friends sneak into the Peace talks. Lord Witloof puts Rage Clothes on the Princess, and she starts insulting the King of France. After a struggle, Cordelia pulls off all the Rage Clothes from the Princess and the Princess apologizes to the French King. He accepts and they both decide to sign the peace treaty. Lord Witloof tries to fire a cannon at the King of France because he wants to start a war so he can sell cannons, but Cordelia knocks him overboard.

The Princess declares all the Makers who were imprisoned free and King George, who Lord Witloof had imprisoned, is set free as well. Cordelia realizes that the King is wearing dangerous magical shoes that make him act crazy and she pulls them off. The King is relieved to be back to normal and throws a party for the Makers at the Guildhall. After receiving a medal, Cordelia announces that she thinks The Makers should all work together. That night Cordelia discovers her father drew her a map in magical ink that can only be seen in starlight. Her father may still be alive after all….

celebrate-picture-books-middle-grade-book-review-the-hatmakers-workshop

Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2021, text copyright Tamzin Merchant, 2021. Courtesy of W. W. Norton.

Review

 

Tamzin Merchant’s fantastical London showcases her whimsical and elegant storytelling style. Steeped in adventure, humor, and friendship The Hatmakers is a magical read for all lovers of fantasy. This story follows some real historical events, including King George III and his issues with France, but also weaves in fantastical plot points, such as King George III “going mad” from wearing addleskin snake boots. 

Merchant’s characters really pop off the page with their variety of personalities. Cordelia’s tenacity and feistiness carry through the narration and bring home the fact that she will follow her heart no matter what. Even though her family hates the Bootmaker family, Cordelia never allows their prejudice to ruin her friendship with Goose Bootmaker. And even when no one believes her father is alive, Cordelia never stops searching for him. Merchant’s side characters are just as delightful as her main character from anxious-but-loyal Goose Bootmaker to charismatic Sir Gushforth to stalwart Great Aunt Petronella. Each character adds to the tension of the story while sprinkling humor along their way. 

The magic system is woven through the plot and setting so seamlessly that, like Cordelia, you’ll be begging to go into the Hatmaker workshop too. The Hatmakers Make each hat magical by adding special ingredients. To Make the Peace Hat they use lullwool felt, pax pearl shells, cordial blossoms, and sage ribbons. They then stitch on a rune symbol for peace. But another important aspect of the magic is that it must be balanced. If there is one magical item that is too powerful, it can overwhelm someone and harm them. Cordelia learns this lesson when she Makes a hat for Sir Hugo Gushforth to help him with his stage fright and embellishes his hat with a tail of an upstart crow and a Loquacious Lily. The unbalanced hat causes the actor to jump into scenes he doesn’t belong in and shout monologues to unsuspecting pedestrians.

Middle grade readers will love traipsing around Merchant’s whimsical London from the secret palace passages to the abandoned guildhall filled with its dusty mannequins and stone Maker with a crumbling hat. The Hatmakers workshop alone is a world onto itself with ticklish floorboards, invisible cabinets, and grouchy, toe-tripping hearthrug. The workshop is filled with fascinating ingredients like Dwam Threads, Moonwing Feathers, and Sooth Crystals. And let’s not forget the alchemy parlor where great-aunt Petronella reigns over multicolored fires, crystal lights, and telescopes propped out the windows. I can definitely sympathize with Cordelia who can’t wait for her lessons to end so she can spend the rest of her day in the workshop.        

Parental Considerations: This story contains mild violence. Cordelia also recounts the death of her mother. Additionally, child homelessness is touched upon in this book.

The Hatmakers is a fast-paced, playful read that will make a great addition to your fantasy collection.  If your kids enjoy Jessica Towsend’s Nevermoor and Natalie Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic then The Hatmakers is a must read. 

To Learn more about The Hatmakers and its sequel The Mapmakers click here.

Ages 9 – 12

Norton Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-1324016038

You can connect with Tamzin Merchant on Twitter.

You can connect with Paola Escobar on Instagram and Twitter.

celebrate-picture-books-middle-grade-book-review-the-hatmakers-cover

You can find The Hatmakers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 31 – National Magic Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-cover

About the Holiday

Today, of course, is Halloween but October 31 is also National Magic Day! This holiday got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31 – the date of his death in 1926 – as National Magic Day. No matter how you celebrate Halloween or National Magic Day today, the shivery thrills of surprise and imagination are always a joy.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of The Magician’s Secret for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-attic

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-twilight

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-in-bed

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

National Magic Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-magic-maze

It’s Magic! Maze

 

Help the spell flow to the top hat to make the magic work in this printable maze!

It’s Magic! Maze | It’s Magic! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-cover

You can find The Magician’s Secret at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

October 31 – National Magic Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-magical-dragon-cover

About the Holiday

Little ones know all about magic. Not only the rabbit-out-of-a-hat kind, but the wonder-of-the-world kind. Where do they get that wide-eyed awe at the amazing things the world has to offer? Some of it’s inborn, while the rest comes from you and books that make them laugh, think, and become part of a community. Reading books—like today’s—right from the start opens kids’ eyes to the magic around them—even what comes after “Abracadabra!” National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31—the date of his death in 1926—as National Magic Day.

My Magical Dragon

Illustrated by Yujin Shin

A prince and princess in a magical kingdom are lucky to have “a dragon who was kind and strong” watch over them. One day the dragon soars through the air with the princess and prince on her back. They fly over mountains and ponds, homes and mushrooms and are delighted to see all the wondrous creatures—like flying horses, baby dragons, little monsters, fairies, and even a unicorn—who lived in their land.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-magical-dragon-castle-closed

Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

They glided through the sky until they spied a very special place. “At Grandma’s castle they stopped for tea, which Dragon helped make magically.” As Grandma brought out scrumptious ice cream, sparkly cupcakes, and a colorful salad, the dragon used her fire-breathing talents to heat the logs and make the teapot boil and sing.

After they’d feasted and had fun with their friends, the princess and prince took a nighttime flight on their protective dragon. While the kingdom grew quiet and all the creatures slept in their cozy homes or under the stars, the prince and princess snuggled into their beds and the dragon “took a long snooze underground.”

The short and sweet rhyming story of a prince and princess’s trip to Grandma’s is the frame for Yujin Shin’s adorable, show-stopping illustrations and interactive elements that will have little readers enthralled with each page of this joyful board book. The fun begins on the cover with a wheel to turn that adds a rainbow of glittery highlights to the dragon’s wings, body, and fire through shaped cutouts. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-magical-dragon-castle

Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Opening the book, readers enter the kingdom at the front gate of the violet castle. On the lawn a winged pony meets a butterfly, a pink and a purple unicorn splash in a fountain, and cute-as-a-bug bugs peek out of colorful flowers. A mermaid in the moat even swims by to say hello. The highlight of the spread is the silver gate, which lifts up with a gentle push to reveal the prince and princess in the tower, a knight, a fairy, and a smiling monster. Down below, behind the gate, an orange and spotted dragon rouses from a nap.

Turn the page, and the trio are on their way to Grandmas. Little ones will want to linger over this two-page spread as happy and welcoming magical creatures appear from their fantastical homes, in clouds, and from behind mountains. Another easy-to-maneuver interactive element lets kids set the dragon’s wings flapping up and down. The prince and princess look as excited and amazed as readers will be.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-magical-dragon-nighttime-lair-closed

Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At Grandma’s, little ones will spy a few friends who have made the journey with the princess and prince. Tiny fingers can easily move the wheel to help the dragon blow her fiery breath to heat up the teapot. In a clever use of the wheel, it takes a bit of turning for the pot to steam—timing that mirrors a real teapot on the stove.

The tranquil nighttime scene will put little ones in mind of sleep as they see now-familiar friends happily snoozing as the princess, prince, and dragon arrive back at the castle. A cut-away view of the hill under the castle shows the dragon’s lair, and how the baby’s play while Mom’s away. With the pull of a tab—the mother dragon settles in for a long slumber. The tab also reveals another room in the dragon’s vast den and the silhouette of a dragon flying across the full, golden moon.

On the back cover, a cute mushroom challenges readers to find her in the book. Locating this character on each page will charm little ones.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-magical-dragon-nighttime-lair

Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

An enchanting, interactive story adults will enjoy sharing with their kids over and over, My Magical Dragon makes a wonderful gift for little ones, babies, and baby showers. The book will also be a favorite on your own home bookshelf and is a great choice for preschool and public library collections.

Ages Baby – 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419737312

National Magic Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cute-dragon-coloring-page

Cute Dragon Coloring Page

 

This cute dragon is no ordinary dragon, she’s a magical dragon! Print and grab the crayons—and don’t forget the glue stick and glitter!

Cute Dragon Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-magical-dragon-cover

You can find My Magical Dragon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 15 – International Tea Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-cover

About the Holiday

International Tea Day was created in 2005 in New Deli, India to raise awareness within the governments of tea-growing countries of tea workers, their conditions, and their economic contributions. Today, the holiday is commemorated widely in tea-growing nations. Some issues include wages, medical care, and education for women tea workers. Of course, winter is a perfect time to enjoy steaming cups of tea – maybe with a cookie or two!

The Tea Party in the Woods

By Akiko Miyakoshi

 

Because snow had fallen overnight Kikko’s father was off to her grandmother’s house to shovel the walk. After he left, Kikko noticed that he had forgotten to take the pie her mother had made for Grandma. “‘I can still catch up to him,’” said Kikko. Carefully, carrying the boxed pie, Kikko followed “her father’s tracks in the fresh snow. The woods were very still. And so quiet. Kikko’s footsteps were the only sound.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-kikko-peers-in-window

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Spying a coated figure in the distance, Kikko began to run, but she fell in the deep snow, crushing the pie. Still, she picked up the box and hurried on. She watched as her father entered a strange house. “Has it always been here? Kikko wondered. She couldn’t remember having seen it before.” Kikko crept to the window and peered inside, just as her father took off his hat and coat. But—he wasn’t her father at all!” He was a bear!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-lamb-meets-kikko

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

A little lamb approaching the house found Kikko looking through the window and asked if she were there for the tea party. Taking Kikko’s hand, the lamb led her into the house. When Kikko saw all of the animals gathered there, she couldn’t believe it. The animals cheered and welcomed Kikko enthusiastically. “‘We’re about to serve the tea,’ said the rabbit. ‘You’re just in time.’” After the animals seated themselves around a long table, a doe stood, thanked everyone for coming, and asked Kikko to introduce herself.

She told then her name and why she was in the forest. The animals thought she was very brave, and Kikko began to feel braver herself. When the animals learned that Kikko’s pie had been ruined, they all contributed a piece of their own pie from the party. “Slice by slice they assembled a new pie on a pretty plate. Each piece had a different filling of seeds and nuts and fruit and other delicious things gathered from the woods.” They found a new box, placed the plate inside, and tied it with a red ribbon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-animals-meet-kikko

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Kikko was so excited to bring her Grandma this gift that she wanted to leave right away. The animals said they would come too. The woods rang with music, talking, laughing, and singing as the group “paraded to Grandma’s house.” When they reached Grandma’s house, the animals encouraged Kikko to go to the door. Grandma and Kikko’s father were surprised to see her. “‘My dear, did you come all this way on your own?’ asked Grandma, stepping inside.” Kikko could not see the animals anywhere. “‘You’re never alone in the woods,’” Kikko answered, smiling. She was sure her new friends were listening.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-parade-in-the-woods

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Akiko Miyakoshi’s reassuring story about a little girl venturing out into strange territory on her own for the first time is a delight. The straightforward narrative offers just the right amount of familiarity for young readers to allow them to be fully charmed by the magical elements that provide surprise and suspense. Little ones will be entranced by the warm welcome Kikko receives at the splendid and well-attended tea party. They will also find comfort in realizing that even when travels become hard, they can still discover wondrous things and that friends and help are always available – sometimes where they least expect it.  

Miyakoshi’s stunning black-and-white drawings, done in charcoal and pencil, are gorgeous in their portrayal of the woodland animals and their tea party. The long table they crowd around is laden with pies, bowls of fruit, vases of flowers, and of course teapots and teacups. At first Kikko offers the only color on the pages with her red cap and skirt and yellow hair. Later, however, when the animals suggest sharing their pie, the plate dazzles with mouthwatering brilliance, and hints of red and yellow brighten the next page. As the parade marches through the woods, the animals’ red and yellow clothes and musical instruments make a festive party. But as Kikko goes on to her Grandma’s house alone, the color fades from the animals, highlighting her achievement.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-177138107

Discover more about Akiko Miyakoshi and a portfolio of her work on her website!

International Tea Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ceramic-mug-craft

Decorate Your Own Mug

 

It’s fun to drink tea (or hot chocolate—shhh!) from a mug you’ve designed yourself. Personalized mugs also make fantastic presents for friends and family.

Supplies

  • Plain ceramic mug
  • Bakeable markers or paint

Directions

  1. Design and color your mug
  2. Follow directions on the markers or paint to properly bake on your decoration and make it permanent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-cover

You can find The Tea Party in the Woods at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 31 – National Magic Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-cover

About the Holiday

While there’s lots of magic going on today as little witches and wizards roam neighborhoods across the country casting spells and charming people to give them candy as part of Halloween, National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31 – the date of his death in 1926 – as National Magic Day.

Tundra Books sent me a copy of The Magician’s Secret to check out. All opinions are my own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-attic

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-twilight

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-in-bed

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

National Magic Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-magic-maze

It’s Magic! Maze

 

Help the spell flow to the top hat to make the magic work in this printable maze!

It’s Magic! Maze | It’s Magic! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-cover

You can find The Magician’s Secret at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

March 29 – It’s International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. Sometimes seemingly conjured up out of thin air and sometimes the “Eureka!” result of long, hard work, ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. So today, write down those ideas you have while driving or commuting to work, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

Tundra Books sent me a copy of The Magician’s Secret to check out. All opinions are my own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

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Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

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Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

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Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

International Ideas Month Activity

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Share Your Bright Idea! Page

 

Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!

Picture Book Review

September 10 – Swap Ideas Day

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About the Holiday

Today is a perfect day to get together with people you love, trust, and respect—and even some who challenge your thinking—to discuss matters large and small. Not only might you gain a different perspective on your pals, but you all may come up with the next Great Idea!

The King and the Magician

Written by Jorge Bucay | Illustrated by Gusti

 

In a faraway land there once lived a King who was very powerful. Not only did he love power, he commanded that everyone in his kingdom obey and admire him. Tremblingly, his subjects reassure him every day that he is the most powerful man in the kingdom. One day, however, the King hears a rumor that down in the village lives a Magician who can predict the future. The King fears that this man will become more powerful than he, and he sends his spies to learn more. The spies return and reveal that not only can the Magician tell the future, he is loved and admired by everyone.

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Image copyright Gusti, courtesy of Abbeville Press

The King becomes terribly jealous and plots to do away with his most hated enemy. He devises a plot to trick the Magician. He will host a party, and at the end he will ask the Magician if he can truly predict the future. If the Magician says “No,” he will be exposed as a fraud, and the king will kill him. If the Magician answers “Yes,” the King will ask him to predict the date of the Magician’s death and would then kill him. The King is pleased with his scheme because either way, he will be rid of his rival.

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Image copyright Gusti, courtesy of Abbeville Press

On the night of the party, the King summons the Magician and asks him the fatal question. The Magician is more than just a seer or a sorcerer—he is wise. He looks at the King and states, “the Magician of this kingdom will die the exact same day as his King.”

Now the King is in a terrible quandary. He does not want to risk the possibility that this old man’s prediction is true. He must now protect the Magician in order to save his own life. He quickly concocts a ruse and asks the Magician to stay the night in the castle, saying he wants to consult with him about some royal matters. In fact, he just wants to keep an eye on him.

The Magician agrees. The next morning the King goes to the Magician and asks his advice on some kingly decisions. The Magician offers good suggestions, and the king accepts them. As the months go by, the King continues to rely on the Magician for guidance, and slowly the King learns to be fair and wise. He becomes the respected and admired ruler he always wanted to be.

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The King realizes that not only is the Magician a trusted advisor, he is a loyal and beloved friend. One day, wracked with guilt over his one-time plot to kill the Magician, the King reveals the story. The Magician listens to the King’s secret, and shares one of his own.

On the night of the party, the Magician says, I saw you reach for the hilt of your sword when you questioned me, and I knew your intentions. He then divulges that he made up the prediction of their shared death date to teach the King a lesson—one the King has learned. He says, “It is our lives that have become entwined, not our deaths.”

For many more years the King and the Magician live as friends and confidants. The kingdom grows stronger and the King kinder and more loved by his people. One day the Magician dies. The King is sad, and realizes he is no longer afraid of his own death. The King has learned the Magician’s lesson well, and even though his advisor is gone, he continues to make wise and beneficial decisions.

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Image copyright Gusti, text copyright Jorge Gusti, courtesy of Abbeville Press

Ten years later the King writes a letter to his son and heir. In his letter, the King cautions his son that at sometime in his life he may come across someone or something that “will arouse fear and jealousy in your soul.” He will want to destroy this person or thing to alleviate his fear, his father tells him. Instead, says his father, “open your heart or your home” because “what you thought was your most feared enemy, is really your most powerful friend.”

Jorge Bucay has written a classic tale of wisdom verses power wrapped around a clever trick. The story, full of intrigue and twists, initiates the kind of thought that leads to true enlightenment. The straightforward storytelling, beautifully paced over a lifetime of growth and change, builds suspense while lyrical descriptions create a beautiful flow that depicts both the quandary of the King and the kindness of the Magician.

Gusti’s lavish illustrations, reminiscent of hieroglyphics and Medieval tapestries, are rendered in dark, rich brown, rust, black, olive and blue hues that gorgeously depict the splendor of the King and his castle, but also signal the somber weight in his soul. The regal tone even extends to the gilded text. The King is drawn as an imposing figure, towering over everyone else in his kingdom, but his feet and hands are tiny, lending him a bit of a comical yet vulnerable air. The King’s eyes narrow with cunning as he plots his evil deed but widen in doubt and dispair as the Magician works his special brand of magic.

This lovely book—in both message and art—would be a wonderful addition to any child’s or fable-lover’s library.

Ages 4 – 8

Abbeville Kids, 2014 | ISBN 978-0789212047

While I take some personal days over the next couple of weeks, I am re-blogging some earlier posts with updated interior art, activities, and links, when available.

Swap Ideas Day Activity

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A World of Ideas Word Search

 

Creative ideas are a little like magic – sometimes seeming to come out of thin air – and can make the world a better place! Find the 21 words in this printable A World of Ideas Word Search about what swapping ideas can conjure up! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review