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August 22, 2013 Edition
Illustrated by Jorge Aguirre
While her best friend, Marie, dreams of becoming a princess someday, and her little brother Gaston is working hard on becoming a pastry chef, Claudette is all about direct action, so when she discovers there’s a giant in her territory, she’s ready to do battle. The problem is that her ex-dragon fighting father is adamantly against it and keeps his maps and weapons locked up in his secret trunk. The solution? Bribe Gaston and Marie to provide a distraction, pick the lock, and get outfitted for adventure. But to get to the giant, they’ve got to make it through the Forest of Death, across the Mad River, and up Giant’s Peak – and will their adventure end there? Meant for elementary readers, large-scale full-color illustrations make the action and humor easy to follow.
Author and illustrator Nathan Hale shares his name with the famed, doomed Continental soldier who uttered the patriotic words “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country” before being hung as a spy during the American Revolution. Hard to believe, but these silly books are well-researched and historically accurate (except, perhaps, for the goofy hangman and the giant Hale-eating history book). Here, Hale does not get hung (the soldier can’t find the paperwork) and instead spends the first book telling his guard and the hangman the story of his part in the fight for American independence. The book ends with Hale hinting at more stories to come: thanks to being eaten by a giant history book and then spit back out, he’s seen all of America’s future history and is willing to spill the beans. In the second installation, Hale tells the story of a crazy idea from the Civil War: if you weigh a boat down with iron plating carefully enough, you can make it impervious to cannon fire and still keep it afloat. It’s the story of the Merrimack, first a Union frigate, then a Confederate Ironclad, then, finally, a rusting hulk at the bottom of the sea. Both books are written for older elementary and middle school readers, and end with historical notes and biographical information and a short bibliography for further reading.
This first volume in the Cat’s Cradle series is off to an energetic start. Little Suri (a play on the French for “mouse”) has been nursing her dream of becoming a monster tamer for just about as long as she’s been following the merchant caravan around Galatea. It’s not an unreasonable dream: every so often, monsters come through the gap in the mountains called The Monster’s Cradle and wreak havoc on the land until a monster tamer gets rid of them. Suri, though, is so busy keeping clear of the caravan master that she doesn’t recognize her first real monster on the loose when she sees him. And when she comes across something that belongs to the caitsith and his family, Suri’s forced to go on the run. Lovely, nuanced illustrations show Suri’s wooded world and her bright, fierce self in this delightfully original story for older elementary and middle school readers that gives a nod to classic fairytales.
Intrepid and apparently indestructible, Leo Geo, stick-figure scientist extraordinaire, is off on a journey to the center of the Earth. Waving goodbye to his sister, and aided by his trusty science, he drops down a hole in the Earth’s crust and climbs, slithers, and sweats his way down, down, down. This clever book is long and thin and meant to be read spine-up, guiding readers’ eyes along Leo’s descent along with him. Science-minded kids will soak up the scientific names that Leo uses to explain the sights he sees (pictograms help make meanings clear when necessary) but everyone will enjoy his adventures as he encounters hitherto unnamed beasts of the depths, finds a magic weapon, and then works his way out the other side of the Earth to get back to the surface, aided by a switch in how the book is held. Though the text mixes science and imagination, the endnote clarifies which is which.