I started out the new year reading some great new books--I hope you will enjoy these, too!
OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY, by Karen Foxlee is a lovely adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Snow Queen. This MG rendition tells how Ophelia Worthington-Whittard, with the help of the imprisoned Marvelous Boy, foils the evil Snow Queen before she ensnares Olivia's father, sucks the soul out of Olivia's sister, and destroys the world.
For an engaging fantasy with a touch of geometry, read THE RITHMATIST, by Brandon Sanderson. Magicians in Sanderson's United Isles use strategically drawn circles and lines of power to engage in battles with "chalklings," chalk-drawn creatures who attack to kill. More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist, one of the chosen few who can access the magic needed to protect the Isles, but instead he makes do with learning all he can of Rhithmatic strategy and history. When Rhithmatic students begin to disappear, Joel teams up to investigate with disgraced professor Filtch, and Melody, a Rithmatic student who needs lots of tutoring. This is being called YA, but I had it pegged as MG.
A CORNER OF WHITE, Book One in The Colors of Madeleine, by Jaclyn Moriarty, is a highly original YA fantasy. Madeline lives in poverty with her mother in Cambridge, England, having run away from Madeline's father and their former privileged lifestyle. Elliot Baranski lives in the Kingdom of Cello, where Colors take on physical properties and a dangerous third-level Purple may have killed Elliot's father. When Madeleine discovers a letter from the Kingdom of Cello (which, being a pragmatic modern teenager, she doesn't believe in) she and Elliot begin exchanging letters through this crack between the worlds. I'm having a lot of trouble waiting for Book Two.
SANTIAGO STAYS, by Angela Dominguez, is a terrific example of a picture book with very few words delivering a strong and clear storyline. A boy tries everything he can think of to get his dog to come for a walk, but the dog won't budge. Why not? Spoiler alert: He's watching over the boy's baby sister, and they both end up watching her together. Expressive illustrations help make this work.
COME BACK. BEN, by Ann Hassett and John Hassett, is one of those beautiful easy readers that Holiday House is putting out--full-color, gorgeous art, with a picture book trim size. This would work equally well for a read-aloud. Ben's balloon goes up, and so does Ben. Up to the moon, where Ben puts moon rocks in his pockets. Then Ben goes down. Come Back, Ben has a perfect ending that makes me smile every time.
NO FITS, NILSON! by Zachariah OHora, once again has great, expressive art to showcase its story. A gorilla, Nilson, keeps verging on having terrible tantrums, so Amelia tries really hard to calm him down. In a nice twist at the end, it's Nilson who calms down Amelia when the banana ice cream is all gone.
I think all three of these picture books are stellar examples of strong stories paired with high quality art.