Archive for Fantasy

Monster Goose

  • Author / Illustrator: Judy Sierra/ Jack E. davis
  • Nursery Rhymes
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: young reader (4-8 yrs.)

Summary: Old Monster Goose has taken some of Mother Goose’s famous nursery rhymes and given them a ghoulish twist. These 25 poems are filled with spiders, monsters, zombies, trolls, rodents and humor.

Themes: nursery rhyme life lessons (with a twist)


  1. Which nursery rhyme was the easiest for you to recognize? Why?
  2. Why do you think the author rewrote the Mother Goose nursery rhymes this way?

Extension Activities:

  1. Compare original Mother Goose with Monster Goose rhyme.
  2. Make a monster, ghoul mobile or collage with characters from the rhymes.

Comment: I loved this rewrite. I might not read all the rhymes to the youngest preschoolers, because some are pushing it (drinking gasoline). Some of the illustrations are also a little intense, but on the whole totally fun and kids should really enjoy.

First pull of this would seem to be for Halloween, but I can see it being used all the time.

Library / PB/JF

Suggested reading:

traditional Mother goose nursery rhymes

Published in: Fantasy, Fiction, Nursery Rhymes, Poetry on August 16, 2011 at7:42 pm Comments (0)
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Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale

  • Author / Illustrator: John Steptoe
  • Folktale
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: young reader reader (4-8 yrs.)

Summary: Mufaro has two daughters who are both physically beautiful and whom he thinks are beautiful persons as well. Others know that one is selfish and one kind. One day a messenger comes from the city with word that a great king wants a wife. He is invites the most worthy and beautiful daughters in the land to appear before him. From these he will chose one to become queen.
Mufaro feels it would be a great honor for one of his daughters to be chosen, so he calls friends together to make a wedding party for the journey to the city. They plan to leave at sunrise the next day.
Manyara tries to get her father to just let her go, but he feels both must go. Manyara feels she should be queen, so she sneaks off for the city during the night. She meets travelers on the road and ignores them and their advise. In the morning finding Manyara gone, Mufaro, Nyasha and the wedding party leave for the city together. Along the way they also meet the travelers to whom Nyasha is kind and generous.
Upon reaching the city Nyasha finds Manyara running from the palace talking of a monster for a king. Nyasha goes to the king to find not a monster, but one she has befriended over time.
They are married and Mufaro is so happy for he has been blessed with two worthy and beautiful daughters – one a queen and another a servant in the queen’s household.

Themes: good vs bad/ selfish vs kindness, good or kindness always wins


  1. Why did the king change his shape throughout the tale?
  2. Why wasn’t Mufaro able to see the differences in his daughters?

Extension Activities:

  1. Read the traditional tale of Cinderella.
  2. Study the area of Africa this tale originated in.

Comment: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is an African Tale in the Cinderella style. Diversity, not an Anglo-European folktale. For use with older students with a unit on Africa or comparing folktales writing unit.

Library / PB

Published in: Fantasy, Folktale, Picture Book on July 18, 2011 at9:34 am Comments (0)


  • Author / Illustrator: Paul Fleischman/ Kevin Hawkes
  • Fantasy
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: middle reader (7-12 yrs.)

Parents’ Choice  Silver Honor Award
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Summary: Most of Wesley’s peers would call him geeky. He doesn’t like anything that is normal for his community and is friendless. Over the summer school break he decides to create his own civilization in his backyard. As part of this he plans on raising his own staple crop. Magic seeds arrive by wind and grow into strange plants. Wesley is able to totally use these plants in allowing his civilization to be self-sustaining. Come September and the start of school Wesley is no longer friendless.

Themes: innovation and success, follow own path, self-sufficiency


  1. Wesley had no friends, however he designed games for more than 1 player. Why?
  2. Why do you need a staple food for a sustainable civilization?
  3. Why do you think by the story’s end Wesley was happy?

Extension Activities:

  1. Development a game for multiple players.
  2. Take a common fruit or vegetable and use for something other than food.

Comment: Kevin Hawkes is local. Strong illustrations. Basically a simple story with a lot of expansion possibilities, especially for the older student.

Personal / PB/ JF

Published in: Fantasy, Fiction, Picture Book on July 16, 2011 at7:28 pm Comments (0)
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The Snowman

  • Author / Illustrator: Raymond Briggs
  • Fantasy/ Wordless
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: young reader (2-6 yrs.)

1982 Francis Williams Award for Illustration
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

Summary: A young boy wakes up to snow and heads outside to build a snowman. He cannot sleep and goes to check on the snowman, to find it come alive. The snowman comes into the house and happily explores various parts of it. After a meal together the snowman takes the boy flying across the world to see the sun rise. They fly back. The boy goes to sleep and upon finds the snowman melted.

Themes: imagination


  1. Why do you think the snowman and boy flew off to see the sun rise?
  2. Why did the snowman climb into the freezer?

Extension Activities:

  1. Make a snowman in collage like this from **Crafting with Country Fun, or watercolors, or pastels
  2. Do a science experiment on melting – physical change of ice. This idea is from The Artful Parent.

Comment: Softness of illustrations are a nice change, provide the sense of snow and quiet. There is a short video of the book, but there are changes.

Past Project for this book ~ We had read The Snowman and decided we needed to paint a snowstorm and then make a more 2-d or collage style snowman. To get a snow storm effect we used homemade sponge stamps. Cut up old sponges and place a clip clothespin on them. The sponge provides a great texture and the clothespins are very easy for little hands to handle. A little white paint, light blue construction paper  and they’re off.

DSC04619 To clean the sponge stamp you just rinse out the sponge pieces. The finished background was hung up to dry, so we’d be able to use it tomorrow for our snowmen. DSC04621 We don’t always finish a project in one day. I think it’s good for young children to learn patience and multi-day art projects are great for this.                                         ………next day…………..
Our backgrounds are dry, now it’s time to pull apart some quilt batting, ball it up a little and glue it down to form a circle. The children did this 3 times for a large, medium and small circle. DSC04626 The snowman’s body was done. DSC04624 At this time I pulled out the treasure scrap box and let the children have fun decorating their snowman, however they wanted.DSC04627 I helped with cutting fabric DSC04628 shapes as requested. These unique snowmen totally represent the individual children that made them.
DSC04630 Great finish to our snowmen this year.  DSC04631

Personal / PB

Suggested reading:

Published in: Fantasy, Fiction, Picture Book, Wordless on at6:37 pm Comments (0)
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  • Author / Illustrator: David Wiesner
  • Fantasy/ Wordless
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: young reader (5-12 yrs.)

2007 Caldecott Medal Book
2007  ALA Notable Children’s Book
2007  Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Yr
2007  Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award
2007  CCBC Choices
School Library Journal Best Book of 2006
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2006
2006  Horn Book Fanfare Selection
2006  Child Magazine Best Book of the Year
Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Book of 2006
2006  Parents’ Choice Gold Award
2006  National Parenting Publications Book Award
2006  New York Times Best Illustrated Children Book
2006  Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year

Summary: Without using words, this book tells the story of a boy who likes to collect and examine things he finds. While at the beach with his family he finds an old underwater camera that has washed ashore. The boy develops the film inside the camera and discovers a incredible array of underwater pictures, along with a mystery. There are pictures of children nested within pictures of other children. At the end all the pieces fit together and mystery solved.

Themes: magical possibilities, imagination, exploration


  1. What would you have done if you found the camera?
  2. Why do you think the author titled this story Flotsam?
  3. How were you able to understand that this boy enjoyed examining things?

Extension Activities:

  1. draw a picture that might have been on the film
  2. write out the story

Comment: This book hooked me with the cover. Then found out it was wordless and for a slightly older child. Found read best with children that had some independent reading skills, possibly because they understand how a story flows.

Library Loan / PB /JF

Published in: Fantasy, Fiction, Picture Book, Wordless on July 12, 2011 at8:53 pm Comments (0)
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Charlotte’s Web

  • Author / Illustrator: E.B. White/ Garth Williams
  • Fantasy
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: middle reader (7-12 yrs.)

Newbery Honors book for 1953
Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (1984)
Horn Book Fanfare
A Harper Blue Ribbon Book

Summary: Wilbur, a runt pig is saved from death, by a young girl named Fern. As he grows Fern has to give him up and she gets her Uncle to buy him. Wilbur continues to flourish at the Zuckerman farm where Fern visits him daily, but something is wrong. Wilbur finds out that like most farm pigs he is due to become a meal for the holidays. The gray spider Charlotte, Wilbur’s friend, promises to save him. But how can a spider carry out such a promise? Charlotte figures she can trick the humans by writing special words about Wilbur in her web. Wilbur becomes a miracle pig and avoids the butcher block, because of Charlotte’s ability to spin words into her web.

Themes: friendship, loyalty, truth, life and death


  1. Although Wilbur and Charlotte were so different they had a strong connection. Why do you think this happened?
  2. This story is written around Wilbur, so why is the title Charlotte’s Web?

Extension Activities:

  1. Develop a classroom web that holds words that might describe Wilbur.
  2. Great idea to adapt – In 2005, a school teacher in California had her class send out hundreds of drawings of spiders with accompanying letters. They received responses that showed the drawings ended up visiting  parks, monuments and museums, and drew responses from famous people such as John Travolta and First Lady Laura Bush.

Comment:  Easy reading, especially for aloud with a group. Love how words have definitions provided as part of the story. Great connection points  for young children from the farm, to animals, to spiders. I personally love how spider is shown in a bloodthirsty, but tender way, not scary. Story setting is Maine.

Personal / JF

Suggested reading:

  • Stuart Little by E.B. White
Published in: Fantasy, Fiction on July 10, 2011 at8:35 pm Comments (0)
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A Garden of Whales

  • Author / Illustrator: Maggie Steincrohm Davis /Jennifer Barrett o’Connell
  • Fantasy/ Poetry
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: middle reader (8-12 yrs.)

Vermont Publishers Association Special Merit Award

Summary: A young boy dreams about the magnificent whales of the sea. He is worried about their future. He developes a plans to save the whales by planting a whale garden with help from children from all over the world. The garden grows and the seas are full again of whales.

Themes: unity of the human and animal world, love for natural world


  1. What would you do to save the whales?
  2. How can you tell the boy is dreaming thorough out this story?

Extension Activities:

  1. Look up other endangered animals and what is being done to support them.
  2. Project on types of whales and their survival needs.
  3. Find animals that have been removed from the endangered species list.

Comment:  Great read aloud for younger readers due to the rhythmic text. A portion of the author’s proceeds even go to the Earth Island Institute.

Personal signed book/ JF/ PB

The Mouse and The Motorcycle

  • Author / Illustrator: Beverly Cleary
  • Fantasy
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: middle reader (8-12 yrs.)

Nene Award (Hawaii)
William Allen White Children’s Book Award (Kansas)
ALA Notable Children’s Book
Great Stone Face Book Award (New Hampshire)
Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award
a selection of the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club – Intermediate Division

Summary: Ralph is a mouse who lives in the run-down resort hotel in the mountains of California. Ralph longs for adventure, wishing to get away from his family, who worry about being discovered. One day Keith and his family visit the hotel on their way through California. Keith leaves a toy motorcycle on his bedside table, which Ralph attempts to ride. However, he cannot figure out how to start it. Startled when the telephone rings, Ralph and the motorcycle fall into a metal wastebasket. Ralph and the motorcycle are rescued when Keith returns to his room. A friendship develops as Keith shows Ralph how to ride the bike and Ralph heads off for his first adventures.

Themes: friendship, adventure, humor, responsibility

Questions: prediction while reading -

  1. What would you have done finding a mouse in a wastebasket?
  2. How does the author let us know life has been hard for Ralph and his family?

Extension Activities:

  2. PDF file –…/TheMouseandtheMotorcycle.pdf
  3. research motorcycles – development of, parts, compare to bicycles

Comment: great book for boys

Personal/ JF

Suggested readings:

  • additional books by Cleary featuring Ralph: Runaway Ralph, Ralph S. Mouse
Published in: Fantasy, Fiction on at11:58 am Comments (0)
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How I Became a Pirate

  • Author / Illustrator: Melinda Long / David Shannon
  • Fantasy
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: young readers (3-9 yrs.)

2004 ALA Notable Children’s Books, Younger Readers

Summary: Jeremy Jacobs experiences the pirate lifestyle first hand when he joins Braid Beard and his crew for a day as the digger. As the day wears on, Jeremy begins to miss the comforts of home.
Spending a day at the beach with his family, Jeremy Jacob was building a sand castle when he saw a pirate ship sailing towards the beach. His parents were busy, so Jeremy greeted the pirates all by himself. They needed digger to help them to bury their treasure and asked Jeremy to go along and help them. As fun as it is being a pirate, Jeremy misses home. He figures out a way to help the pirates and get home.

Themes: adventures, humor, imagination


  1. Read the title and look at the picture on the cover. Who do you think is going to tell this story?
  2. Why did the pirates have Jeremy join them?

Extension Activities:

  1. lesson in stranger danger
  2. following a treasure map
  3. make a pirate hat (simple pattern at –, learn a pirate song (I’m a pirate! That I be! I sail me ship upon the sea! I stay up late – till half past three! And that’s a peg below me knee!),
  4. Pretend that you are a crew of pirates. The pirate captain bellows a word and the crew must bellow a word that rhymes. Let crew members take turns providing rhyming words, and be sure to pepper the game with lots of Aye!s, Arr-Be-Garrs, and Ahoy-Matey!s.
  5. Go through the story text looking for letter P. Have your child place pennies in a ‘treasure chest’ every time they find one.

Comment: Pirates are fun for preschoolers. This book shows them in a fun, light manner. Larger size book. Colorful illustrations.

Library Loan/PB

Published in: Fantasy, Fiction, Picture Book on July 9, 2011 at9:23 pm Comments (0)
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Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

  • Author / Illustrator: Mo Willems
  • Fantasy
  • Grade Range/Level Recommendation: young readers (2 – 6 yrs.)

2004 Caldecott Honor Book
2004 ALA Notable Children’s Books, Younger Readers
2009 Indies Choice Picture Book Hall of Fame Title
Blue Ribbon Book (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
School Library Journal Best Book
Nick Jr. Magazine Best Book
National Council for Teachers of English Notable Book
Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended
Child Magazine Best Book
Bank Street College of Education Best Book
Children’s Literature Assembly Notable Book

Summary: When the bus driver has to leave the bus for a minute he asks one thing, “Don’t let the Pigeon drive the bus? Pigeon whines and pleads trying to get us to let him drive the bus. However, we did what the bus driver asked. Pigeon didn’t drive the bus.

Themes: childhood, silliness


  1. Why couldn’t a real pigeon drive a bus?
  2. What does the bus driver warn us about on the title page?
  3. What are some of the things you do to get your way when you really want to do something?

Extension Activity:

  1. Cut a yellow rectangle to be a bus; then cut holes for the windows. Cut out a circle for the pigeon’s head, a neck, and a beak; glue them together, and then glue them in one of the bus windows.
  2. Play a circle game with one child in the center. The child in the center goes up to another child and tries to beg to be allowed to drive the bus, making a face or doing something silly. The child being asked has to say with a straight face, “No, you can’t drive the bus.” If the child smiles, then he/she is in the circle next. (Try to give each child a turn in the center.)
  3. Toilet Tube Pigeon directions 
  4. Draw the pigeon with directions from Mo Willems
  5. First Grader…at Last Loves! Mo Willems and has multiple posts on activities - here’s a start

Book and Author Literature Study Guide –

Comment: Cartoon style illustrations of black crayon and dull colors. Large text in speech bubbles. Book need to read the title page on. Involve the children immediately. Have them answer each question posed to them (interactive / participatory reading)

Library Loan/ PB

Suggested Reading:

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems – try charting everyone’s favorite style of hot dogs