Book review: Zog and the Flying Doctors, by Julia Donaldson, illustrations by Axel Scheffler

Donaldson, Julia. Zog and the Flying Doctors. Illustrations by Axel Scheffler. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-338-13417-9. 32 pgs. Ages 3-9. P9 Q9

A beautifully written and illustrated book from the creators of A Gold Star for Zog, and Superworm, Zog and the Flying Doctors is another sure to be hit. The story follows a young princess who is a doctor, a knight who is a surgeon, and a dragon who is wonderful at flying (but hasn’t yet perfected landing) on their adventures. Unfortunately when they stop to say hello to her Uncle, the King, he informs her that Princesses aren’t meant to be Doctors and locks her in the tower. Not content to spend her days sewing and wearing “frilly dresses” she sets out to prove to the King that Princesses can be anything!

Verdict: This book does a great job delivering a message in a fun way. The rhyming text and fun illustrations make it a quick and enjoyable read. It would be a wonderful read-aloud. I gave it a 9 for Popularity because it will engage readers for different reasons. Any child interested in knights, dragons, and princesses will enjoy it. Also, this would be a great book for a child who feels they aren’t accepted for who they are. The rhyming makes it an easy read and the humor is a plus as well. I found myself smiling as I read it more than once because it is such an engaging book. The rating of 9 for quality is due to the detailed illustrations as well as the placement of the text. Though the text was around the pictures I never felt as though I was searching for the words or missing any of them. I am excited to buy this book to add to my kids’ collection as well as reading it in the library during story time.

November 2017 review by Michelle Cottrell

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Book review: I Want a Friend, by Tony Ross

Ross, Tony. I Want a Friend. (My Little Princess series) Andersen Press, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781512405552. 32 pages. Ages 4-9 years. P7 Q6

This book was first published in Great Britain in 2005 and is in the My Little Princess series. A princess is hoping to find friends at school, but a few children will not play with her. As she looks around, she realizes that many children do not have friends and she befriends them. The shading on the illustrations is distracting and makes the characters look unkempt. Tony Ross’s book series, Amber Brown and the My Little Princess, have been translated into more than 50 languages.

Verdict:  This book lends to a discussion about what to do when others exclude you. Children will relate to wanting a friend and to having others exclude them, opening up the discussion about how they can respond when they are excluded. I recommend this book for children’s libraries. I read this book to a child who did not have a friend and she started reaching out to others and now she has friends.

October 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book reviews: Take the Key and Lock Her Up, by Ally Carter

Carter, Ally. Take the Key and Lock Her Up. (Embassy Row series, #3) Scholastic, 2017. $17.99. 327p. ISBN 978-0-545-65495-1. Ages 13-16. P5Q5

In the third—and final—volume of this series, the heroine, Grace, has found that she is the target of assassins because she will inherit the kingdom of Adria. With her own life in danger, she feels responsible for saving the lives of her brother and the young man she loves. The plot of the book surrounds her attempts to survive.

Verdict: Earlier Carter series were much stronger. This one almost seemed as though the author was either bored with the writing or didn’t like protagonist. Although Carter specializes in lack of realism, this book lacked believability, for example the characters’ escape from a secret Russian mental institution and the way that they can jet around the world without any parental interference. Grace’s behavior was overly dramatic and the romance forced. Editing might have helped. For example, the following sentence: “I don’t know what the drug is, but my body can feel it long before the syringe touches my skin.” The book is recommended for libraries with the first two volumes.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Who Wants to Be a Princess?: What It Was Really Like to Be a Medieval Princess, by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Migy

Heos, Bridget. Who Wants to be a Princess? What It Was Really Like to Be Medieval Princess. Illustrated by Migy. Henry Holt and Company, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780805097696. Unpaged.  Includes Author’s Note and Bibliography. Ages 5-10. P6 Q8.

It compares and contrasts a fairy tale princess with what real medieval princess’ life would be like in Great Britain. The detailed illustrations and text provide a fun and engaging realization of the difference between the two.  It is helpful for readers to have some background knowledge of the Disney princesses of Cinderella, Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty to understand the comparisons.

Verdict:  The book will be enjoyed by girls who have dreamed about being a princess and have watched some of the movies.

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Frogkisser!, by Garth Nix

Nix, Garth.  Frogkisser! Audible Audio Edition. Listening Library, 2017. $19.25. 11 hrs 6 min. Ages 10-13. P8Q8

Although my favorite Garth Nix books are the darker YA Abhorson series, I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous fairy tale. Spunky Anya is the younger princess of the kingdom of Trallonia. Her evil stepstepfather is a tyrant sorcerer who “transmogrifies” anyone who bothers him- that is, he turns them into frogs or other animals. Anya prefers to read in the library, but to help her sister and to escape from her stepstepfather, she reluctantly sets out on a quest to gather the ingredients for a magical lip balm that will allow her to kiss a frog (one of her sister’s suitors) and restore him to his human form. She is accompanied by one of the royal talking dogs and a want-to-be thief boy who has been turned into a newt. She finds diverse help along the way (though she says she won’t need help, because she’s not that kind of a princess), and learns some good lessons. I liked that while this was a light children’s story, there were some serious themes like how sometimes we don’t want to do something, but we must help when we can, that people have rights and responsibilities, and that being a leader means thinking about what is good for the people before doing what you want for yourself.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Once Upon a Frog, by Sarah Mlynowski

Mlynowski, Sarah.  Once Upon A Frog. (Whatever After series, #8) Scholastic Press, 2016. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-545-74660-1. 159 p. Gr. 3-7. P8Q8

mlynowski-once-upon-a-frogSiblings, Abby and Jonah, have discovered a magical mirror in their basement.  Despite promising their parents that they won’t use it, they do and it transports them into a fairy tale world.  They’re expected to help complete the fairy tale with the occasional help of a fairy godmother (absent in this volume).  This adventure is a retelling of the Frog Prince.

Verdict: This is a fast paced novel.  With more development and references to the original fairy tale, this could be a much longer tome, but Mlynowski keeps the pace moving and gives a satisfying, abbreviated version of the original.  Abby and Jonah have to solve their own problems and prove characters that are relatable.

October 2016 review by Shelly Jones.

Book review: The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, by Shannon & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Hale, Shannon & Hale, Dean. The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Candlewick Press, 2015. $14.99. ISBN 9780763665111. 87 pgs. Ages 5-8. P8Q8

Hale Perfect Princess PartyPrincess Magnolia is having a birthday party, and has invited all her princess friends. She wants everything to be perfect, but every time she gets ready to open presents, her monster alarm goes off. So, she makes an excuse, slips away, changes into her Princess in Black outfit, deals with the monster and returns to her party. It is hilarious to watch her get progressively more irritated and bedraggled- her hair is messier and messier, and she ends up with her party dress on and backwards toward the end. The illustrations are funny and help the reader follow the story, and the text is fast paced and entertaining. I like these books. It’s interesting to see a character that has two very different personas, the girly-girl and the un-squeamish super hero.

May 2016 review by Carol Schramm.