Tag: children’s literature

A Middle Grade Delight: The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd

by Júlia Sardà, Natalie Lloyd
Published by Katherine Tegen Books Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade

What I Loved:

So much to say about The Problim Children! After reading and adoring Natalie Lloyd’s first two books, A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary, I can say she never fails to awe and astound me with her delightful prose and meaningful narratives.

The Problim Children is a fantastic story! I was immediately enamored with the seven Problim children from the very first pages of the novel, and each character carries a unique and vibrant personality, infusing the story with color and delight.

“thea believe in signs. wendell believed in wonders. He’s always felt sorry for people who didn’t believe in miracles. How could anybody live in such a weirdly wonderful world and not see magic tangled inside it?”

Transition arrives with a boom for the seven children when their home in the Swampy Woods is no longer fit for habitation. While the children’s parents are on an archaeological expedition, the seven head out of their familiar territory to claim their grandfather’s mysterious mansion in Lost Cove.

“I know your grandpa was a good man, though. He was a dreamer. He was a wild adventurer. He believed in living all the days of his life. And if tha’ts what folks claim is mad, well–then I think madness is a fine way to be remembered, don’t you?”

Upon arrival they face a fierce foe in the form of Desdemona D’Opinion, a woman who has her eye on discovering a treasure she thinks is hidden within the grand house. She possesses evil plans to farm the children out to various places so she can perform her dastardly deed and claim a treasure that rightfully belongs to the Problims.

However, the Problim Children and their faithful pig, Ichabod, have other plans! They set out to connect with the community around the house and to investigate their grandfather’s abode for clues and insight. At first it seems the surrounding families are slightly scared of the children and their unique ways. But the children persist in sharing themselves, of their joys and giftings, and humorous antics prevail!

Illuminations of Spirituality:

Like Natalie’s other two novels, which feature rich and multi-layered spiritual geographies, this one is no exception. One of the relationships often mentioned in terms of children’s spirituality is that of the very deep and transformative connections we can have with other people. That aspect of spirituality emerges in this text, specifically through the relationships among the children. Their connections with one another drive the narrative, and also serve as a catalyst for multiple events within the story.

“Look at someone heart-first,” mama problim always said. “there’s never an excuse to be cruel. when you meet someone new, think first about all the good and the sad and wonder and worry that’s probably blooming in their heart. just like yours.”

Another spiritual aspect is what I would call “profound courage”—the manifestation of courage in a character who must overcome some huge, almost insurmountable challenge. Perhaps this courage arrives through the character’s relationship with another character or through the emergency of some tremendous inner strength. That notion of “profound courage” is certainly present in the problim children, and I appreciated following the inner journeys of multiple characters in the story. i don’t want to give too much away so will leave you to uncover which characters I’m talking about.

Who Should Read This Book:

Young readers will love this book! Older readers will adore it! I recommend snatching up the beginning of what is certain to be a delightful series to most everyone.

Now I just have to settle down and wait for the next installment!

What Katie Read

#TopTenTuesday: Top Ten Foodie Passages

Genres: Middle Grade

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a blog post but what a better opportunity than a Tuesday when the theme is Food in Books! As you may know, I adore all things culinary, and as a child, I even dreamed of being a culinary queen one day. No, I don’t have my own restaurant or bakery yet, but I cook and bake as often as I can, and my dreams of one day opening a coffee shop and bakery/bookstore combo continue to be stirred…

But first, here are some titles whose passages featuring food are deliciously enjoyable!

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and Bookish—check out their blog and join in any week you like.

Here’s what they have to say about Top Ten Tuesday: “Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly link-up in the community where we provide a prompt and other lovers of listmaking join in on it with their own top ten list. Feel free to have less than 10 or more if you need to at times and put a spin on the topic if you need to! Just please link back to us if you are participating :)”

ALL FOUR STARS

And there was the moment when the desserts began to arrive, carried by a procession of servers in black and yellow. Creamy-looking custards were followed by beautifully decorated slices of cake. Crisp-shelled pastries were set down next to gooey-centered pies. Dainty little goblets featuring ice cream and sorbet came out on a silver tray, and a pungent aroma rose off a long wooden board that was dotted with more kinds of cheese than Gladys had ever seen, even in Mr. Eng’s special fridge.

A TANGLE OF KNOTS

“Your perfect cake,” she said by way of an explanation.

“Usually I can tell as soon as I meet someone. Like, Amy’s mom there is a pineapple upside down cake, and her dad is a sour cream coffee cake with a crumbly blueberry center.”

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

“Everything is ready, Diana, except my cake which I’m to make in the morning, and the baking-powder biscuits which Marilla will make just before teatime. I assure you, Diana, that Marilla and I have had a busy two days of it. It’s such a responsibility having a minister’s family to tea. I never went through such an experience before. You should just see our pantry. It’s a sight to behold. We’re going to have jellied chicken and cold tongue. We’re to have two kinds of jelly, red and yellow, and whipped cream and lemon pie, and cherry pie, and three kinds of cookies, and fruit cake, and Marilla’s famous yellow plum preserves that she keeps especially for ministers, and pound cake and layer cake, and biscuits as aforesaid; and new bread and old both, in case the minister is dyspeptic and can’t eat new.”

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

“What’s inside it?” asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity. “There’s cold chicken inside it,” replied the Rat briefly; ‘coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater—”

THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE

You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mr Beaver said, “Now we’re nearly ready.” Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back in the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs Beaver to dish up the trout, so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three-legged stools in the Beavers’ house except for Mrs Beaver’s own special rocking chair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes, and all the children thought – and I agree with them – that there’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they had finished the fish Mrs Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle on to the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.

FARMER BOY

There was oatmeal with plenty of thick cream and maple sugar. There were fried potatoes, and the golden buckwheat cakes, as many as Almanzo wanted to eat, with sausages and gravy or with butter and maple syrup. There were preserves and jams and jellies and doughnuts. But best of all Almanzo liked the spicy apple pie, with its thick, rich juice and its crumbly crust. He ate two big wedges of the pie.

FARMER BOY (X2)

The big blue platter on the stove’s hearth was full of plump sausage cakes; Eliza Jane was cutting apple pies and Alice was dishing up the oatmeal, as usual. But the little blue platter stood hot on the back of the stove, and ten stacks of pancakes rose in tall towers on it. Ten pancakes cooked on the smoking griddle, and as fast as they were done Mother added another cake to each stack and buttered it lavishly and covered it with maple sugar. Butter and sugar melted together and soaked the fluffy pancakes and dripped all down their crisp edges. That was stacked pancakes. Almanzo liked them better than any other kind of pancakes.

BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES

“I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup,” she said. “And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with.’

That’s a good lunch,” said Albert.

PADDINGTON

“A wise bear always keeps a marmalade sandwich in his hat in case of emergency.”

A SNICKER OF MAGIC

I saw an old couple with matching sun visors. They were eating ice-cream cones full of rainbow-colored scoops. I watched a girl with red hair hold a novel in one hand and a waffle cone in the other. She was mumbling the words of her story, so happy to be reading that she didn’t notice the pink dollop of ice cream on her chin.

I don’t know about you, but these passages are making me hungry! There are probably many other children’s books featuring delightful food-filled passages, but these are the ten I chose for today. What foodie books did you choose? Children’s? Young Adult? Adult? Cookbooks? I would love to read your posts so do share your links here!

What Katie Read

Picturebook Trio: A Night Gardener, a Gryphon, and a Whisper

Genres: Picturebooks

There are picturebooks…and then there are Picturebooks. I bring Three special titles to you today.

THE NIGHT GARDENER

This picturebook might be my favorite picturebook of 2016. THE NIGHT GARDENER is absolutely gorgeous in its design, word/image interaction, and limited but rich textual narrative. It is a gift waiting for the reader to open, and I would not be surprised to hear that others have had profound experiences with this story.

First, I noticed that the way the book opened was unique. Whereas in other stories there might be a buildup to a grand event, this narrative stepped into its beginning rather quickly—in fact, on the second page. At the same time, the build up begins with the extra-textual materials of the book, which I loved. The copyright page itself features an important double page spread.

In other words, the book designers don’t waste any space in advancing and illuminating the meaning of the narrative.

And there are multiple meanings one might take away from this gem of a book by the Fan Brothers.

For example, the Night Gardener is bringing a kind of reformation and revival of beauty to the small town in the book. But two characters are affected in the story—our protagonist, William, and then the town as a whole. First, William is awed by the work of the Night Gardener and eventually pursues and finds him, deciding to help him in his work. Then, William plays a role in continuing the important work of the Night Gardener within the town. The magic and beauty and wonder that the Night Gardener brings through his “transformations” and “works of art” begin to change everyone—in a lasting way. There is a lot more to say about this simple and yet profound story, but I’ll stop there.

IF I HAD A GRYPHON

This book is actually written by a friend of mine, Vikki Vansickle, whom I met in Toronto when she was a bookseller! What we both shared in common is that we had both completed an MA in Children’s Literature and we always had wonderful bookish chats when we met. I’m absolutely thrilled to say that If I Had a Gryphon is lovely, charming, and whimsically wonderful!

The rhyme and rhythm of the narrative pairs perfectly with the pictures, and there is much to see in these illustrations! Whimsical, bright, and vivid—these illustrations pop off the page and pull you into the dreamlife of our protagonist. The fact that the story is told in verse adds another enjoyable aspect to the book.

Read the words out loud and you’ll be captivated by their rhythm, humor, and ability to bring these mythical creatures to life on the page. Poetry for young people can sometimes be daunting and hard to understand, but the rhymes of this book remove any stress related to poetry and provide a fantastic experience with verse. Sometimes a poetry book might have stellar illustrations but mediocre text, or wonderful text, but pictures that are not as strong as they might be. If I Had a Gryphon receives gold stars on both fronts!

THE WHISPER

The Whisper is a new addition to my school library and it is gorgeous! Whimsical, imaginative, and full of wonder, this gem of a picturebook tells a story that invites endless interpretations and curiosity. Its cover boasts a girl in a red hood, holding an open book with a crown on its cover, a crown floating above the girl’s head and also a fox at her side. A bunch of grapes hover over the fox’s head, slipping in an intertextual reference to Aesop’s fables (a preview of something that will happen later in the story).

Everything about the book promises a luxurious experience—pictures filled with detail that will keep you reading for a long while, and if you are looking for an opportunity to create your own stories, you will look no further. The endpapers alone kick off the story and provide a puzzle for the reader to unlock. My favorite part in the story is the double page spread at the beginning when the girl is rushing home with the special book on loan to her from her teacher. The fox balances on a wheel as he “scoops” up the words of the story in his net.

Each picture in the book invites its own narrative…or all the stories connected? No matter—your imagination is the key to unlock it all, and it becomes a marvelous experience the more you read.

Why is it called The Whisper? Well, you’ll just have to find out.

Have you read any of these picturebooks from 2016? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please tell me what you thought of these beautiful titles!

What Katie Read
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