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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Animals as Characters, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 37
1. Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! by Gary Northfield, 288 pp, RL 4






I absolutely love the concept for Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! by the genius Gary Northfield! If I had to nutshell it, I'd say, think Terry Deary's Horrible Histories meets 13 Story Tree House. Julius is a hilarious character living in a time period that makes for some crazy adventures. Northfield layers in the history, from using Roman numerals for the page numbers to giving characters Roman names, as well as the names of famous Romans, and using Latin and the historically accurate names for the fights, fighters, arenas and more that appear in this book. There is even a tutorial on how to read Roman numerals and a glossary at the back of the book!

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! begins in African plains at a watering hole, called the Lake of Doom by Julius, that he does not want to be at. Actually, the book begins with Julius schooling readers about what zebras are really like, burps and all. It stinks (an illustration shows a yak pooping in the lake) is "sooo boring!" and presents the constant danger of being eaten. Wandering off from the Lake of Doom and trying to outrun a lion, Julius and helpful but annoying warthog named Cornelius and . . . a lion.





Never fear, it's not as bad as it seems! The naive Julius hears talk of a circus and caravans, of juggling monkeys and bears dancing with ostriches and he gets pretty excited. Unfortunately, the circus he is going to is the Circus Maximus (well, actually the Colosseum) and he is going to be performing in it, not watching it. This is such a fantastic conceit and I really hope that kids take to this kind of mash-up of history and humor so that Julius Zebra spawns imitators the way Diary of a Wimpy Kid has.

Instead of losing his life to gladiators in the ring, in an effort to keep himself from becoming "someone's fancy carpet," Julius grabs a sword and saves his tail, winning over the crowd and the Emperor, Hadrian. Julius earns himself a spot in the gladiatorial championship in 30 days that will celebrate Hadrian's birthday. As the new "People's Champion," he will get to fight for his freedom, and fame and wealth. Julius, Cornelius and a gang of animals, including Lucia, a vegetarian crocodile, Pliny the mouse, Milus the lion, Rufus a giraffe and Felix, a gazelle, begin training for the battle and also for escape. I don't want to give away the ending, but there is a second book in this series...





Source: Review Copy

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2. Brambleheart: A Story About Finding Treasure and the Unexpected Magic of Friendship, written and illustrated by Henry Cole, 255 pp, RL 4



Henry Cole is the author and illustrator of many picture books and the superb, generously illustrated novel  A Nest for Celeste that features a young John Audubon as a character. Now, three years later, Cole is back with another illustrated novel, Brambleheart: A Story About Finding Treasure and the Unexpected Magic of Friendship.

The trim size of Brambleheart, small and almost square, is perfectly suited for the story inside, and there is an illustration on almost every page. And it is completely engaging - I read it in one sitting. Brambleheart feels a little familiar at the start, but it takes an unexpected and exciting turn almost a quarter of the way in. Twig lives on the Hill, a jumble of detritus that provides homes for the rodents and small animals who live there as well as parts for their creations. Young Twig attends classes where his skill (or lack thereof) will determine his future career, a career that will be bestowed on him at the Naming Ceremony. Unfortunately, it seems that every class is a challenge for Twig. In the Weaving Burrow, Professor Fern, a beaver, teaches knot tying. The Snape-like Professor Burdock teaches Metal Craft, where his nephew, Basil, is the star pupil, despite Twig's best friend, Lily, who seems to excel at everything she touches. Things take a very big turn for the worse when Twig almost burns down Professor Dunlin's welding class. Just when it looks like he is doomed to the lowliest position of Errand Runner, Twig decides to run away and this is where the story takes off.

************SPOILER ALERT************

Twig heads past the boundaries of the Hill and into the surrounding forest where he finds something that changes his life - an egg. The contents of this egg, seen in the illustration below, created all kinds of problems and opportunities for Twig. He discovers, with the help of the baby dragon, that his is a gifted welder and metal worker. But, it's hard to keep a baby dragon hidden - and fed - for long and soon questions are being asked. And, it seems, that Char, short for Charcoal, a name given to the dragon by Lily, is growing sicker by the day. The two decide that Char needs to return to the place where Twig found the egg and the adventure - and the next book - begin!






Source: Review Copy






A Nest for Celeste




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3. Boris Sees the Light by Andrew Joyner, 72 pp, RL 1.5

In May of 2013, Boris on the Move, the first book in Andrew Joyner's fantastic new series was published, followed by three other titles before the year was out. Boris is part of a new line of books (seven series and counting) from Scholastic called Branches. I've been a children's bookseller for almost 20 years now and, about 10 years ago when my oldest son started reading, I began to

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4. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, 170 pp, RL 3

With the new live action movie coming out at the end of this year, there is a renewed interest in Paddington, the wayward bear from Darkest Peru. The Paddington Treasury, a collection of six picture book stories about Paddington and the Browns, the family that finds him at Paddington Station in London and takes him in, is a new, lovely collection with illustrations by American R.W. Alley,

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5. Dodsworth in Tokyo by Tim Egan, 48 pp, RL 1.5

There are a handful of early readers that have a special place in my heart - Frog & Toad , Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant (a multiple Newbery winner) and Mark Teague, Dav Pilkey's Dragon series, Elephant & Piggie,  of course, and James Marshall's fabulous George and Martha books. And, as of 2011, Tim Egan's Dodsworth books (my review here) have edged their way into this small space. A good

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6. Ratscalibur written by Josh Lieb and illustrated by Tom Lintern, 171 pp. RL 4

Josh Lieb has a very impressive page on IMDB with some solid comedy credit, including several Emmys. His first book for kids, I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to Be Your Class President, had hilarious blurbs from Judd Apatow and Jon Stewart, who likened to the book to the baby of War and Peace and The Breakfast Club that had been left to be raised by wolves. Writing funny kid's

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7. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, adapted and illustrated by Inga Moore, 181 pp, RL 4

Part One: In Which I Reminisce About What The Wind in the Willows Means to Me (Scroll down for my review of Inga Moore's adaptation of this classic) (Scroll to the very bottom for a peek at Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly, author of   The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate!) The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, published in 1908. I have wanted to review this book since I

2 Comments on The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, adapted and illustrated by Inga Moore, 181 pp, RL 4, last added: 2/18/2013
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8. Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas!, by Philippe Coudray, RL 1.5

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - BENJAMIN BEAR IN BRIGHT IDEAS -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> When Philippe Courdray's Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking was released in August of 2011, it was a big hit in my home, one of the first books my

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9. Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, written and illustrated by Philippe Coudray, 31 pp, RL 1.5

BENJAMIN BEAR in Fuzzy Thinking  is NOW IN PAPERBACK!!! TOON BOOKS hits another home run with their latest offering, Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking by Philippe Coudray. This book had me and my son in stitches when read it together. If you can imagine a little bit of the zaniness of Elephant & Piggie rubbing off on the bear from I Want My Hat Back who has chosen to befriend rabbits, not

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10. Odd Duck by Cecil Castelucci and Sara Varon, 96pp, RL 2

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - ODD DUCK -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Odd Duck is the newest book from my favorite of favorites,  Sara Varon. Varon has teamed up with YA author Cecil Castelucci for yet another slightly off center,

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11. Dragon's Fat Cat, story and pictures by Dav Pilkey 48pp RL1

I first posted this review in September of 2008, when my blog was barely a month old and I was racing to write reviews of all my favorite (and my children's) books. A new comment on these books reminded me how wonderful and rare they are and I decided to repost this review and hopefully introduce a whole new generation of emerging readers to these superb books! If you already know the DRAGON

13 Comments on Dragon's Fat Cat, story and pictures by Dav Pilkey 48pp RL1, last added: 6/27/2013
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12. Catwings by Ursula Le Guin, illustrated by S D Schindler, 48pp RL2

This review first ran 8/5/09. I discovered Catwings in a bookstore in Portland, OR when I was in college and was immediately enchanted - both by Le Guin's straightforward story about these amazing creatures and by Schindler's realistically detailed illustrations. These were the first chapter books my daughter and niece read, but they make for fantastic read-out-louds as well. Also, it's really

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13. Daisy Dawson is on Her Way! by Steve Voake, illustrations by Jessica Meserve, 98pp RL 2

First reviewed on 3/9/09, Daisy Dawson remains perfect in every way. She is a thoughtful, brave, kind person who can talk to animals and the books about her are the ideal refuge for readers (and parents) who are tired of sassy girl characters and oafish boy characters. And the illustrations are as charming as the title character. Daisy Dawson is on Her Way! by Steve Voake, perfectly

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14. Invisible Inkling: The Whoopie Pie War, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Harry Bliss, 151 pp, RL 3

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - INVISIBLE INKLING WHOOPIE PIE WAR -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Last year I reviewed Dangerous Pumpkins, the second book in Emily Jenkins' Invisible Inkling series, illustrated by the marvelous Harry Bliss.

2 Comments on Invisible Inkling: The Whoopie Pie War, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Harry Bliss, 151 pp, RL 3, last added: 8/27/2013
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15. The One and Only Ivan, written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao, 300 pages, RL 3

Since I started writing book reviews I have become the kind of person who reads the quotes of praise on the back of the book, the dedications and always, always the author notes and acknowledgements. Katherine Applegate's newest book, The One and Only Ivan, comes with some very high praise from award winning authors Patricia MacLachlan ("Beautifully written, intelligent, and brave, this story is

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16. Mr and Mrs Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny, translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, 248 pp, RL 3

The Author One of the first books I reviewed when I started my blog in 2008 was Polly Horvath's Newbery Honor winner, Everything on a Waffle, the story of Primrose Squarp of Coal Harbor, British Columbia, who loses both her parents (and a few digits over the course of the story) in a storm but never gives up believing that they are alive and will return home. The story follows her from neighbor

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17. A Nest for Celeste, written and illustrated by Henry Cole, 336 pp, RL 4

There aren't too many books with animals as characters written at a fourth grade reading level or higher, and of those, even fewer are set in a real world (where animals behave like animals and are not anthropomorphized) and not a fantasy one. Rabbit Hill, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, Exiled: Memoirs of a Camel, A Dog's Life and The One and Only Ivan are the first that come to my mind when I

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18. Magical Mix-Ups #1: Hamster Magic, written by Lynne Jonell and illustrated by Brandon Dorman, 103 pp, RL 2

I know that I am a broken record when I start talking about the lack of creative, interesting stories being told in the chapter book format, but it really is a quantity versus quality situation when you scan the shelves. However, this has been a bountiful and exciting spring! First, the awesome Mega Mash-Ups, a DIY chapter book series from Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson debuted, then

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19. Neversink by Barry Wolverton with illustrations by Sam Nielson, 285 pp, RL 5

The cover art and superb interior illustrations from Sam Nielson are what drew me to Neversink by Barry Wolverton. As a reader, books populated with societies of anthropomorphized animals are not my favorite. Of this type of book I thought, very wrongly, I see now, "Why not just tell the story with humans?" Wolverton, who has written for National Geographic and Discovery Networks and long

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20. Mrs Noodlekugel, written by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Adam Stower 72pp, RL 1.5

Despite intentions otherwise, the Reading Level 1.5 label at books4yourkids.com represent a wide range of books. My intention with this  distinction is to recommend books that can serve as a bridge between the large format, leveled beginning to read books and the smaller chapter books like Magic Tree House, Junie B Jones, Ivy + Bean and the like, which are a solid second grade reading level,

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21. Lulu and the Brontosaurus, written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Lane Smith, 113 pp, RL 1.5

Lulu and the Brontosaurus is by Judith Viorst of the Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day trilogy fame and Lane Smith of  Grandpa Green, It's a Book and The Stinky Cheese Man fame. If you know anything about either of these giants of kid's books, then you know that Lulu and the Brontosaurus is a book worth reading. Everything about Lulu and the Brontosaurus, from the

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22. Rabbit Hill story and illustration by Robert Lawson 128p RL3p RL

Before there was Erin Hunter and the Warriors cat clans, before there was Brian Jacques and the rodents of Redwall Abbey, even before Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, there was the hill and those who inhabited it. Reading Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson again, I am moved by the sense of community and companionship that he creates amongst the various woodland animals as well as forging a

2 Comments on Rabbit Hill story and illustration by Robert Lawson 128p RL3p RL, last added: 7/17/2012
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23. The Six Crowns by Allan Jones and Gary Chalk, 151 pp,

I have so many reasons to recommend The Six Crowns series by Gary Chalk and Allan Frewin Jones I'm not sure where to start. The Six Crowns is a highly readable, fantastically illustrated fantasy series that can easily take its place next to standards like Brian Jaques' Redwall series and Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart's Edge Chronicles. In fact, The Six Crowns is a perfect blending of these

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24. A Dog's Life by Ann M Martin, 182pp RL 4

I first reviewed A Dog's Life in 2008. While stories about animals are hard for me to read because they always involve some kind of injury or cruelty, I read A Dog's Life because I noticed so many kids looking for a good dog story to read. Squirrel's story still lingers in my memory four years after reading and A Dog's Life continues to be a bestselling book at the store where I work, and all

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25. The Fog Mound, Book 1: Travels of Thelonious, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller, 214 pp RL 3

The Fog Mound trilogy by Susan Schade and Jon Buller, bills itself as part graphic novel part heroic fantasy, and an adventure like no other! And it is all true! I LOVE this book! A week of reading books with squirrels as main characters - realistic squirrels, cartoonish squirrels, villainous quasi-medieval squirrels - has lead me here to Travels of Thelonious (published in

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