The Cow That Laid an Egg by Andy Cutbill illustrated by Russell Ayto

This book is hilarious. I just have to say it. Marjorie is a cow who can’t seem to measure up to the amazing cows she sees all around her. Those cows can do handstands and ride bikes. Crazy cows! So, the chickens- mother hens that they are, hatch a plan to boost Marjorie’s self esteem. It’s so funny to see the other cows get jealous of how cool Marjorie is that she could actually have laid an egg. But the real test comes when it’s time for that egg to hatch. What will come out of that egg? It can’t possibly be a cow, can it? You’ll have to read to find out the funny twist at the end. My kids gave this book raving reviews and we all read it over and over. I think you’ll love it too.


The Prince’s New Pet by Brian Anderson

I love graphic novels. I love picture books. This is not a graphic novel, but it appears to be a magical creative blend of graphic/comic/picture book. It reminds me of a comic in picture book form. Fitting, since the author and brilliant illustrator, Brian Anderson is also the comic artist for Dog Eat Doug. My third grader just finished reading two of the Lemony Snicket books and this brings to mind a similar dark feel- everything in Prince Viridian’s life is so dim and dull. Since his mother died and King Cerulean became depressed- the color has just gone out of life.  The color catcher is an evil being that nightmares are made out of, and he’s done his job so well, that there is no color at all. Until the prince gets a special present.

I think this book has a myriad of applications to life. It may have a place in child psychology as an opener to discussions about feelings of sadness and depression. It can be the basis for in-depth discussions with your own children- whether at home or in a classroom. It’s interesting how much literature gets picked apart to discover hidden meanings, an author’s agenda, or that sort of thing. I wonder if Anderson had anything particular in mind or not? Sometimes the story just comes and you go with it and think about hidden meanings later.

I highly recommend The Prince’s New Pet. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever felt like the color has gone out of life? How do you get the color back in if it’s left? It’s an interesting question to pose to children and adults alike.

1-2-3 Draw Knights, Castles, and Dragons by Freddie Levin

We’ve all seen these step by step guides to drawing. I thought it would be a fun project with my kids for spring break to see how many characters we could master drawing. We’ll see if they go along with my plans. We have some dragon lovers in this household, so hopefully at least that part should be a success. Actually now that I think about it maybe I won’t talk about mastering drawing anything. That whole perfectionism thing can be so inhibiting to creativity. Levin’s instructions are basic and thorough, so artists of all young ages should feel successful, no matter the results!

Twilight Child by Sally Warner


I’m posting a review of the book Twilight Child, by Sally Warner In keeping with a faerie theme- since it’s March, the month of St. Patrick’s Day- the land of the faeries and all that. The closest this book comes to Ireland is Scotland, but as I well know from experience, most Americans celebrate them as one and the same. How do I know this? Well, if you must know, I grew up Irish Step Dancing with my sister, Cari. You can read more about it in our 2011 St. Patrick’s Day post on Eoin Colfer’s Half Moon Investigations– scroll all the way to the bottom if you don’t want to read the whole double scoop, but I recommend reading the whole thing of course!

One lesser known fact is that we actually performed Irish reels and jigs in our local Irish Pub called Quinn’s– it was always one of the top fund-producing endeavors for our small school. But that’s a story for another day. Back to my point. We spent most of the St. Patrick’s holiday dancing around town- almost inevitably just before or after the Scottish Highland Bagpipers, either that or the local cloggers. It really didn’t make a lot of sense, but I guess once you’ve tipped a few too many, they’re all one and the same, apparently. It used to irritate us to no end in our child-like views of fairness, truth and justice. Now I just think it’s rather funny. The Scottish don’t have their own holiday here (that I know of, I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong), so I guess us Irish people will just have to be nice enough to share. In that same spirit of sharing, I thought I’d give a book that has Scottish themes a place of honor in our March holiday celebrations. I know, I’m a really nice Irish person, aren’t I?

Twilight Child, in summary, is about a girl named Eleni who is born on the longest day of the year, just at the magical hour of Twilight- making her able to see and communicate with all sorts of creatures from the magical world of faeries and spirits. The story begins in Finland during an occupation by Sweden- a country at war with Russia. Eleni’s country is torn by conflict- not only that between countries themselves, but that between wealthy ruling class, and servant/peasants, which is the category Eleni finds herself in.   But, her life is destined for many shocks and challenges as she is spirited away on a ship. She faces many dangers of the sea, and works hard to find her true home. 

Sally Warner obviously knows a lot of folklore and history of these great places. Although the book does have many elements of fantasy which Warner weaves throughout her story due to the rich tales inherent to Finland and Scotland and the sea, it actually qualifies as historical fiction. That is so cool!

Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler


For those of you who like to celebrate holidays with a good book- here’s a great one for St. Patrick’s Day! We all know that Irish folklore is filled with tales of faeries and supernatural beings. So, although the specific country is not spelled out in Princess of the Wild Swans, it seems an ideal fit for the setting to be in an Irish country. Especially with the fact that the villagers in the book dance Ceili dances together. Cari and I grew up with Ceili dancing as part of our family’s involvement in Irish step dancing. There’s a great site with a thorough history on this form of dance that you can check out at Ceili Dancing. However, there is no mention of kilts in the book, so if you imagination takes you to another land of faeries, kudos for you.

I enjoyed Diane Zahler’s third princess book- although A True Princess is still my favorite out of her three. Many of us avid readers know the basic story of the Princess and the Swans, but for those who need a refresher, here’s a summary: Like so many classic fairytales, this one begins with a princess who’s mother has died, and her father remarries a wicked woman who is a witch. She is determined to get rid of the king’s 11 sons and 1 daughter. Zahler’s book only has 5 sons and the faerie’s in her story are evil, rather than good, but it’s a great re-telling. Zahler clearly knows her folklore and fairytales well. You can check out wikipedia for fuller details if you care to compare the similarities and differences between the two.

Now, here’s a quick review of some of the highlights and things that I loved. The stepmother was one of my favorite characters. Why? Because she was so evil. You can’t have a really good fairytale without some opposition between good and evil. It was interesting to see just how persuasive she could be with her enchantments and silver tongue. My other favorite, of course, was Princess Meriel. It was especially gratifying to see how much she changed from being a spoiled little brat who thought she was entitled to everything, to a much more self-sufficient, thoughtful person. I think this part was so gratifying to me because I work with girls of this age on a regular basis in our religious community and Meriel’s character was spot-on to things I see consistently among this age group. Often my girls can’t see the point of learning a certain skill. Let’s say, for example’s sake, sewing. And so they pout, and roll their eyes, and sigh and sometimes sit there regally refusing to learn. They can’t imagine ever having a need to use such an archaic skill. Heaven forbid they should ever need it. Luckily for them they do not live in the land of faeries and witches and spells! Otherwise, they might find themselves in dire need of this basic skill like Meriel. Hopefully someday, they’ll be grateful for all those things I torture them with- just like Meriel becomes friends with her governess, who was another of my favorite characters.

If you’ve read the book, who is your favorite character? How about your favorite of the three princess books, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!