The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

narniaThe Magician’s Nephew is the story of best friends Diggory and Alice, and Diggory’s uncle. His Uncle Andrew dabbles in magic and has devised a way to travel between worlds. He tricks Polly into going into another world and taunts Diggory until Diggory follows Polly into a world he’s never seen.

This is technically a prequel to The Narnia books, but on the spine of the version I checked out, this was listed as the first book though it certainly doesn’t have to be read first to understand the world. For those interested in the back story of The White Witch, this book is a must. I know very little about the world of Narnia; this was the first book I’ve read in the series, but I do remember her character. This book also has very strong religious themes and tones.

In the book, we see the world of Narnia spoken into being by Aslan after we’ve visited Charn, accidentally awoken the White Witch, and accidentally brought her bought to our word. The our world is London in an undetermined time though that time is probably in the 1800’s, possible early 1900’s, as it never mentioned cars being driven and the clothes in the illustrations are not at all modern.

The language and style of Lewis’s writing is not modern either. The story is told by a narrator who is writing down all the stories of the world of Narnia. Some phrases that the children use repeatedly became a little tiring, but overall Diggory and Polly are charming and children should love them. However, I’m not sure this is the best book to introduce the series to children. I’ve had several people tell me to start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Though this is a fantasy book, it is likely to appeal to science-fiction fans as well as the children explore multiple parallel worlds, a theme science-fiction fans will be familiar with.

The world building is outstanding. The Woods is a place I immediately wanted to visit. Charn was alarming, but children will likely want to visit it also. Lewis’s descriptions make the reader feel as if they are there with Diggory and Polly, walking the otherworldly streets along with them.

The book is suited for a wide range of ages from second-graders (with some adult help probably) to high school students and adults. Harry Potter fans have devoured Narnia and vice versa and this is a great fantasy book to keep in mind for patrons who may have dismissed it in the past. It can also be a great series to recommend to patrons looking for religious fiction. While not overtly religious, the Narnia series has long been considered allegorical for the story of Creation and Christ and the parallels that can be drawn are obvious in this book. Young children may or may not see this, but it could alleviate concerns a parent might have about what their child is reading. All that, of course, is assuming your patron is Christian, as many of mine are. Even if they are not Christian, it is an important aspect to note whatever the patron’s religious affiliation may be, but regardless of the religious overtones, this is an excellent fantasy book.

Bibliographic Information:
Lewis, C. S. The Magician’s Nephew: The Chronicles of Narnia (Book One). Thorndike, ME: Thorndike, 1983. Print.

The rest of the Narnia series
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle


Abby the Librarian

Abby the Librarian is an amazing resource for librarians in Youth Services and those who are considering attending library school or are already attending school. As a relatively new librarian (she completed her degree in 2006), she remembers what it is like to attend library school and the challenges and rewards that poses. Her section “So You Want To Be A Librarian?” is good not only for students, but is a great resource for anyone to learn more about librarians and what it takes to become a professional librarian. It is a good resource to mention to patrons, family members, whoever, so they can learn more about the profession and better appreciate what librarians do every day.

Abby’s blog has a dedicated storytime section that is full of ideas to borrow and adapt to best suit your library. They can offer inspiration about new and different ways to consider storytimes or even just to take one aspect of her storytime to make it your own. Abby also talks about all the other program she helps to facilitate like her monthly homeschool program and the innovative programming she’s doing there. Recently, she did an easter egg poetry hunt ( She also reviews books and talks about staff training and development along with reader’s advisory and how to better serve their patrons.

She also features a collection of audio book reviews from around the web, neatly organized in once space. She also discusses her staffs Reading Wildely, which is where she requires staff members to read one book in a particular genre, fill out a form (that she has posted for free on her blog), and then they booktalk them once a month. She also includes articles for her staff to supplement the reading to spark discussion, and she generally shares the sources for this articles on her blog also.

The only downside to her blog is that she doesn’t appear to use tags for award books, which would nice to access. Everything else is accessible using a tag associated with a particular post on the left side of her blog.

Abby the Librarian blog is one Youth Services/Children’s Librarian professionals should take a look at. Abby has guest bloggers and is a monthly contributor on ALSC (which we all probably know about), but it is good to know about blogs like Abby’s that are for children’s libraries and librarians outside of ALA sponsored blogs or website. Those are incredibly useful also, but as emerging librarians like my classmates and I, and practicing librarians, not only do we need to be open to change in our libraries, we need to be to finding information in new ways. Also, she has a visual resume. It’s amazing. I have never seen one of these, but I like it much better than a typed one (

Abby’s blog is definitely one I will be telling my coworkers about and checking regularly, not only for storytime ideas, but for program ideas to adapt and for information on library school as I finish my degree.


Fortunately, The Milk

Fortunately-the-MilkFortunately, The Milk is a zany, action filled science fiction adventure that will appeal to anyone who loves a humorous, fun-filled adventure. Before I address the narration of the audio book, I wanted to highlight a few great plot points that will help identify who best to recommend this book too. Obviously, if you have a patron or student who is already a Gaiman fan, this is an excellent choice for them.

Mom is away, and despite all her instructions and warning, disaster strikes at breakfast: they are out of milk. Not only can the children not eat their breakfast cereal, Dad cannot have his tea. Dad leaves to walk to the corner market to get milk, but on his way the most bizarre things happens to him. Not only does he met a stegosaurus who travels around in a hot air balloon that can drive through space and time, but he also confronts a volcano god, aliens, wumpires, and pirates all while keeping a hold of the milk.

This book is really for anyone, but if you have any young Whovians (people who like BBC’s Doctor Who) this is the perfect book for them. If they don’t have already know this, mention that Neil Gaiman wrote two Doctor Who episodes, and they’re sure to be hooked (those two episodes are The Doctor’s Wife and A Nightmare in Silver). They are likely to recognize many themes from the television show and will have no trouble following along with the space and time travel plot.

If all that wasn’t enough to entice them to pick up the book, hand them the audio book. Gaimain narrates the book and does a splendid job. The book is told the way adults imagine they tell stories to their children or children at story time. Gaiman uses different tones for each different character so it feels like there is an entire cast narrating the book instead of a single man. The pauses that would be evident in the text when reading are handled beautifully in the audio. Gaiman pauses when there needs to be pauses, his raises his voice when a character is shouting, his speaks faster and faster when the action increases, and the listeners know how each character says something before the “he said” that is necessary in a print form. Gaiman narrates so flawlessly that the “he said” and “she said” are almost never needed to distinguish between which characters are speaking.

What is even better are the sound effects used. I don’t know that Gaiman managed all the effects on his own (I doubt it, but if he did, he deserves every award possible). The green, slimy, booger like aliens (they are compared multiple times to boogers and snot bubbles, which makes them hilarious instead of scary), speak in a voice with a mechanical buzz to them. The pirates are accented and the stegosaurus, who is a professor, speaks as you would imagine a professor would: refined, dignified, and with authority. The audiobook is without a note a dramatic representation of the book, as it should be. The pauses for dramatic effect will leave listeners breathless and Gaiman’s heightened pitch, tone, and rapid speed will make listeners hearts beat rapidly. Plus, at just under an hour, this is an excellent audiobook to keep in mind for more reluctant listeners and readers.

The only drawback to the audio is that you don’t get to see the illustrations that are in the print book. However, that could also be a plus because it allows listeners to imagine what everything in the bizarre worlds looks like, instead of creating it around an illustration.

The book and audiobook is recommended for grades 2-4.

Bibliographic Information:
Gaiman, Neil. Fortunately, the Milk. 2013. Narr. Neil Gaiman. Audio recording. Harper Collins, 2013. 13 April, 2014. Digital File.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Doll Bones by Holly Black

The Real Vikings: Craftsmen, Traders, and Fearsome Raiders by Melvin Berger and Gilda Berger

vikingsThe Real Vikings provides insights into the way Vikings lived beyond their plundering and pillaging. The book aims to create a more whole vision of the Viking people to show their every-day life, customs, traditions, religious beliefs, history, and how they helped to shape the world as it is known today.

The book is less than sixty pages and is best suited for someone wanting an introduction to Viking culture. Even for someone who is already familiar with Viking culture, the book could be used as a supplement. Though it is short, it is packed with useful and interesting information. Beyond the text of the book, there are abundant and appropriate pictures and maps to enrich the text. For every point made, there is a corresponding illustration. Children don’t have to imagine what Vikings swords or jewelry looked like—they can see for themselves with the pictures provided in the book.

The book is scholarly and informative, but the language is spot on for younger readers and older readers who may not be reading on grade level. It is not a narrative form, so that will lose some readers, but the information is engaging enough to keep the attention of even reluctant readers. The book traces the history of Vikings from their first emergence to what is considered the end of the Viking age. It provides enough detail to give children an understanding of Viking culture, including dispelling popular myths. Do you know that the horns on helmets of Vikings is not accurate? There is no piece of archeological evidence to support the popular myth that Viking wore horns on their helmets. The book mentions items like that and other archeological finds that do support popular beliefs about Vikings.

The book is a great choice for an informational text to support Common Core standards in a school library or for a patron in a public library needing one for school. It is also good to remember this book and other Viking books as the release of How To Train Dragon 2 comes closer and closer. The movie is obviously about dragons, but the characters in it are Vikings. What better way to get a kid to read than to compare it to actual historical events? Plus, it is based off an excellent book series of the same title that could pair nicely with this also.

The book is recommended for grades 4-6.

Bibliographic Information:
Berger, Melvin, and Gilda Berger. The Real Vikings: Craftsmen, Traders, and Fearsome Raiders. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2003. Print.

Vikings (DK Witness Books) by Susan Margeson
The Medieval World by Philip Steele
D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

brave girlBrave Girl is the true story of Clara Lemlich and her quest to improve working conditions of girls in the garment industry in the early 1900’s. Clara was a pioneer and advocate for workers’ rights. She fought for better wages, better working conditions, better hours, and was jailed seventeen times for her efforts. When no one else would step forward, Clara took charge and organized the largest strike of women workers in United States history. If you, or your children, don’t know about Clara, now is the time to learn.

What makes Clara even more astounding was her youth. She immigrated to America with her family when she was a teen and quickly started working in the factory. Instead of carrying her books to school, Clara carried a sewing machine to work. Three hundred girls worked in the factory with only one toilet, one sink, and three towels for all of them. If a worker was only a few minutes late, half of their pay was docked. It was long hours for little pay. Clara was determined. Though she was tired, she went to the library after work to educate herself.

Clara’s story is not only informative, it is inspiring. Boys and girls should learn about Clara and her passionate spirit. This book is the story of standing up for what you know is right, for what you know you deserve, no matter what anyone else may do or say to you. Clara was a teenager when she staged the protests and brought attention and change to working conditions in the garment industry.

The book can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used as a role model for young girls and to highlight women’s history. It can be also be used as a discussion on workers’ rights (for older readers) and as part of a unit on child labor laws throughout history. Even for upper elementary and young middle school students (who might consider themselves too old for picture books), it can provide a look at an individual during an important time for workers’ right in the United States. Though not the focus of the book, it does present the issue and history of immigration to the United States from Eastern Europe.

There is a much needed author’s note at the end with more about Clara’s life and the world she lived in. There is also a selected bibliography with primary and secondary sources, which offers a good chance to introduce this concept to children in a classroom or library setting along with providing sources for further reading. The book is recommended for ages 5-9.

Bibliographic Information:
Markel, Michelle, and Melissa Sweet. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. New York: Balzer Bray, 2013. Print.

A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne
Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Miss Moore Though Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debby Atweel

Dreamland: World Lullabies & Soothing Songs

Singing is an important way for children to learn and grow. It engages so many different parts of their mind and is an excellent early literacy tool. Even if the children don’t know the meaning of the words they are singing, it creates pattern and sound recognition, which aids in word recognition and speech skills. Incorporating songs from other cultures in children’s non-native language can introduce different cultures at a young age. Putomayo’s Dreamland: World Lullabies & Soothing Songs presents thirteen different songs from all over the world sung in many different languages.

As the title suggests, all the songs are lullabies or meant to be sang or played at bedtime. A variety of instruments are used from the guitar to wind chimes to symbols and a traditional stringed instrument called sanshin from Okinawa. There are undoubtedly even more native instruments that I don’t know the name of, so for an older child interested in musical instruments, this provides a great opportunity for research and learning. The songs would be appropriate for all children, from infants to help soothe at night, to middle school students who want to experience music from outside of their culture.

Even if children cannot understand the words being said, the CD is sure to delight. The words create a nice cadence in the songs and all the different instruments are sure to delight children and adults. However, the fact that the songs aren’t in English will mean this has a limited audience and could be off-putting for some listeners, but ultimately this a great CD to get children hearing other languages and instruments.

Bibliographic Information:
Various. Dreamland: World Lullabies & Soothing Songs. Putomayo, 2003. CD.

Science World

Science World is a monthly magazine for children that feature different topics from a wide range of scientific fields. The magazine does not talk down to children, but does put the science news in terms they will understand. The magazine could also be useful for the parents or caregivers of the children. Though it is intended for children, the magazine could be useful for anyone wanting to know more about science, but may not know enough about a particular topic to dive into a scholarly book. Science World also presents enough topics that anyone should be able to find an article of interest to them.

The magazine covers topics like x-raying household objects to see inside them, photographing DNA, the technology of 3D printers, and a story of one teenager who survived the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Even with a human interest story, there is plenty of science packed into the article. Science World achieves what librarians are hoping to achieve this summer—make science fun, interesting, and get the kids to learn without them even realizing they’re learning. With Fizz, Boom, Read just around the corner, Science World is a magazine to keep in mind to help supplement the books the children will be reading, or it can be used for adults to brush on some science topics you may have forgotten over the years.

It also provides ideas that could be a springboard for both adults and children to think about science in new ways. Most kids will have heard of 3D printers, but do they know the printers are being used to help make prosthetics? Do they know that a life sized version of Thomas Jefferson was printed is now on display?

Science World presents a variety of topics that are engaging and fun. Even for children not typically interested in science, this magazine is a good recommendation. It provides short articles, which could help children find a topic they are interested in enough to do further reading on and discover new ideas and concepts.

Bibliographic Information:
Janes, Patricia. Science World. Vol. 69, No. 9., 2014. Print.



Magazines can a excellent source for children, but magazines are often get overlooked. While they are shorter and do not have the same gravitas as books, the information in a quality children’s magazine can delight, thrill, and educate as well as any book. Magazine could be a great resource to utilize for reluctant readers. The stories will be short enough that their attention shouldn’t wander too far away and by presenting stories in a shorter format, it will help the child to associate reading with positive aspects.

One great children’s magazine is Cricket, which has both fiction and non-fiction stories. Some of the stories are standalone, but others are broken into parts, serialized within the volumes. The fiction and non-fiction are balanced nicely and the non-fiction stories are written in a narrative form. If not for author’s note and aspects the children can easily research, it would be easily to confuse the too. However, this is a strength of the magazine because it makes the non-fiction stories comes to life and create characters the readers can love and a conflict then will want resolved while providing opportunities for further research and learning,

The readers of Cricket are called bugs and they can write it with comments and questions. The letters, and sometimes answers, are at the beginning of each issue. There are also poems featured along with the winners of a poetry contest at the back of this issue. Peppered throughout are bright, bold illustrations in various mediums that are sure to grab the attention of the readers. They do not detract from any of the print, but enhance the words on the page.

Cricket is an excellent choice for both avid and reluctant readers. It is good to try and entice reluctant readers into reading and would be good for avid readers who might not favor non-fiction or want to try reading a format other than novels. Cricket is best for upper elementary readers.

Bibliographic Information:
Letvin, Alice. Cricket. Vol. 41, No. 6., 2014. Print.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

Some of the first stories many children grow up with are fairy tales or fables. Though many may be introduced to fairy tales first by their film versions instead of print, fairy tales doesn’t appear to going anywhere. Disney has capitalized on taking classic fairy tales and spinning them into animated feature films. Their newest creation, Frozen, seems to be on everyone lips (for good or worse), and we can’t seem to let go of “Let It Go.” Adults are probably aware that Disney’s “inspiration” for the film was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. For children and adults who watched the film, recommending The Snow Queen is a great way to introduce Andersen’s fairy tales.

snowqueenThe Snow Queen is the story of two best friends, Kai and Gerda, who are as fond of each other as if they were brother and sister. But after Kai gets a piece of broken glass stuck in his eye and his heart (he doesn’t know they’re there), he turns means and sullen. When a beautiful Snow Queen appears and offers him a chance to leave town, he ties his sleigh to her carriage and rides away with her into the sky. Now, the bit about the broken glass? That was the work of villainous trolls who wanted to take a magnificent mirror they made to the heavens. The mirror made things who looked hideous look lovely and things that look lovely look hideous as it reveals a person’s true nature. But on their way to the heavens, the mirror breaks into a million billion pieces and the pieces fall to earth. The pieces of the mirror, some no bigger than a grain of sand, make the person see only the bad in the world. If a sliver of the mirror pierces a person’s heart, their heart would turn to a lump of ice. Kai’s heart is rapidly turning to ice with no help in sight, but even worse? His family believes him to be dead.

Months go by, but Gerda doesn’t believe him dead. Gerda sets out on a perilous journey to save her best friend. She talks to the river, to trees, to flowers, to an old woman who works magic to keep Gerda at her house, to a Lapland woman, to a Finn woman, and to a reindeer before reaching the palace of the Snow Queen. Kai is bone cold, almost dead, and it is only Gerda’s love for her him, her warm tears and tender kisses that thaw the ice inside him.

This fairy tale is much more accessible for children than some of the classic Grimm or Perrault tales. For adults concerned about violence and sex, there is none in The Snow Queen. This isn’t to say that there aren’t complicated themes and motifs here because there certainly are, but there aren’t witches who have to dance to death in red-hot shoes or stepsisters who have their eyes pecked out by crows. It’s a bit of an atypical fairy tale because there isn’t one true villain to hate. The trolls are the most likely candidates as they created the mirror. The Snow Queen doesn’t even die; she wasn’t even keeping Kai hostage, not really. He simply had to figure out a riddle to leave. She wasn’t fattening him up for supper, cursing him to prick his finger on a spindle at age sixteen, or handing him a poison apple. Ultimately, the story is about friendship and the power of love—all kinds of love, not just romantic love.

In a world where more and more conversations are being had about gender roles and stereotypes in literature (especially children’s literature), The Snow Queen abounds with female characters. Kai is only male character. Not only are there multiple female characters, they are vastly different. There is no one form of femininity expressed or favored above the others. The typical gender roles that children would recognize from growing up on princess movies are reversed here. Kai is the damsel in distress, locked away in a palace, waiting to be rescue. Gerda is the knight in the shining armor, but unlike many of princes in stories and movies, she needs nothing extra special about herself to save Kai. She already possesses the power she needs to save her friend.

The only weakness in the story is the part where Gerda is asking all the different flowers if they have seen Kai. They all tell her their stories, but none of them relate to Kai. While there is undoubtedly much meaning to be read into those flowers’ stories, it slows the story down. Some readers may become impatient and just want her to get on with it and go rescue her best friend.

Frozen-movie-posterI won’t discuss the similarities and differences between The Snow Queen and Frozen because that would be a series of blog posts, and I need to only do one. But this could serve as a great conversation at a children’s book club in a library or a lesson plan in a classroom or school library. Most of the children will be very familiar with Frozen, if not able to quote most of it and sing the songs at the appropriate times. It presents something they are already enthusiastic about in a new form and challenges them to compare and contrast the two. It could also serve as an introduction to classic fairy tales or even a series where the children compare Disney (or other) movies to fairy tales or myths. If they’re not into Frozen, almost any Disney movie could do. The boys may like Hercules more (or it may have more appeal across both genders), which would still work for a compare and contrast unit on the myth of Hercules and what the Disney movie depicts.

Bibliographic Information:
Andersen, H. C. Fairy Tales. Trans. Tiina Nunnally. Ed. Jackie Wullschläger. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

Readalikes (all non-Disney or movie franchise versions):
The legend of Mulan
Beauty and the Beast
The Little Mermaid
(older elementary/early middle school (depending on the kid)—it’s not as pleasant as the movie)
Anything else by Hans Christian Andersen
Aesop’s Fables
Sleeping Beauty
The Princess Bride

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Elliot Hill

ghostknightCornelia Funke’s Ghost Knight tells the story of eleven-year-old Jon Whitcroft, who has been sent away to a boarding school he is sure he will hate. But he never expected to be chased by angry spirits or to makes friend with quirky Ella who has a taste for adventure. After summoning the spirit of Longspee to fight out off the angry spirits, there is only one question left: Can Longspee be trusted?

The audio book starts out strong, but fizzles out near the end. It is not for a lack of action. There’s a scene early on in the book that I thought was the climax of the entire novel! It felt resolved and over. Not having the physical copy, and not paying attention to how many more hours the audio had, it was surprising to see how much longer the audio lasted.

Perhaps this was also because this particular scene had more than just the narrator’s voice. There were the sound of horse’s hooves, clashing swords, and an increased space of the narrator’s voice. The rest of the action scenes (and there are many) are lacking in this regard. The narrator is far from monotone and his accent is charming, but there are multiple occasions where the text finishes with the character “said tensely” or “tersely” or something to that effect, but the narrator’s voice gave no indication of this. It requires readers to reimagine how the sentence was said.

Despite some of the lacking in the narration, the story is engaging enough to draw readers in and keep their attention. This is good audio for children who are already listening to and might prefer audios, but is probably not the best choice for someone who is new to audiobooks.

Bibliographic Information:
Funke, Cornelia. Ghost Knight. 2012. Narr. Elliot Hill. Audio recording. Listening Library, 2012. 23 March. 2014. Digital File.

2013 Odyssey Honor

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman