What do you wish? Granted… should it be that simple?

Reading Granted by John David Anderson is an absolute joy. I started wondering about magic in our world.  What is magic?  What is my responsibility for keeping it alive?  Is it real?  Should I worry about it, or just let it go?  To begin answering my questions I looked up the definition.  Magic is:  1) a power that allows people to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions;  2) a special power, influence or skill; 3) a wonderful, exciting or attractive quality.

When I stop to think about it, I’ve been the beneficiary of all three types of magic described by the definition.   An unexpected, totally sincere compliment, is magic.  Sharing a smile or a spontaneous hug, offering help where and when it is needed, is magic.  Noticing a cardinal in a bare tree save a few golden apples against a clear blue sky, is magic.  It seems that magic is all around us if we only slow down enough to notice and see.

At the start of Granted, before the story begins, readers are reminded that every wish made on stars or candles blown or coins tossed (as long as it remains unspoken) is heard.  The book is the story of what happens to grant one wish.  The story is that of Ophelia Delphinium Fidget, ~ a Granter.  She is one of a few select fairies whose job it is to venture out into the world to grant the wish of unsuspecting humans.  The fairies who are Granters do this every day.  It is the work of the Granters, that generate the magic allowing  the fairies to do what they do and to stay undetected in the human world.  As Ophelia’s mission begins, magic levels across the world are at an all-time low.  Care must be taken.

Ophelia Delphinium Fidget is excited when she receives the mission -her first.  She is aware that navigating the human world will be full of danger, but she has prepared carefully.  She is ready! 

But NOTHING goes as planned.  There are jets, aggressive geese, a broom, a hawk, windshield wipers, a truck and more…  In addition, there is a difficult choice.  Because of the waning magic available to the fairies, only some wishes can be granted.  Years ago the fairies decided that an impartial lottery would be most fair.  But is it?  Are all wishes equal?  Is a boy’s longing for his father’s return from deployment in Iraq more important than a girl’s wish for a purple bike to replace her stolen one?

Read Granted to find out how Ophelia Delphinium Fidget decides and who is there to support her in her decision.

The common expression, “Be careful what you wish for” takes on a whole new meaning.  

If you’re new to the writing of John David Anderson, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted  are among my 4th/5ht/6th grade favorite reads.  Check them out too.

Happy Reading!📚

Amber and Clay

Another magically crafted book from Laura Amy Schlitz, Amber and Clay takes us to Ancient Greece.  Several characters take turns narrating the chapters.  Some speak in poetry.  Some speak in prose.  Through each narrator’s unique voice readers gain a rich understanding of the social structures that define daily life across the classes.  At the center of the story are Rhaskos, an enslaved boy ~ as common as clay, and Melisto, daughter of a wealthy Atheneum citizen ~ as precious as amber.  Their story begins to take shape around their fifth year.

After his mother was sold, Rhaskos collects dung in his enslaver’s yard.  He is befriended by the younger son of his owner and inadvertently sees the mural of a horse in the men’s room of the house.  From then on he dreams of drawing horses.  Later after the death of this friend, Rhaskos becomes the personal servant of the older son.  Here he meets with near daily physical and emotional abuse.  It is incredibly cruel, but as a slave, what rights does he have?  Eventually he is sold to a potter and there he is able to learn the trade and further develop his artistic abilities.  It is better ~ but he is not free.

Melisto has been born into a family of means.  She beloved by her father, but finds it difficult to meet her mother’s expectations and to accept the confines given her because she is a girl. Melisto and her mother grate on one another. Thratta, Rhaskos mother, is purchased to step between them.  She helps Melisto fulfill her role as daughter and female in society, while also honoring her curious and active nature  Miraculously Melisto is selected to serve Artemis at her sanctuary in Brauron.  Melisto finds her home there. She is at peace there – free to be herself and live a life that honors the goddess.  It is better ~ but sacrifices are required.

After Melisto is killed in a lightning accident her body is returned to Athens for burial.  Thratta prepares the body when Melisto’s mother will not and that when the two children connection becomes apparent.  Thratta binds Melisto’s soul to the earth until she is able to find a way to lead Rhaskos to freedom.

Through their stories, readers discover more about life in these times.   They present is a clear picture of the ever-present slavery and warfare of the time.   Art, dance and ceremony are also shared.  Sokrates (the Greek spelling) befriends Rhaskos at one point in the story, and before his death, encourages him to be “his own master.”  Hermes and Hephaistos narrate some of the chapters adding a godly twist.  The writing is expressively descriptive, surprisingly contemporary, and laced with references to mythology and the epic stories.  The narrative creates a world for readers to live in where they can uncover the past, and at the same time come to a greater understanding of their own present.

What an amazing book!

Happy Reading!📚


Books by Antinuke

Finding books that connect young readers from rural New Hampshire to life across the country and the world is challenging.  Atinuke takes on that challenge.

She is the author of three series for 7-to 9-year old readers.  Each one brings readers to the country of her birth, Nigeria and helps them discover a bit of what it is like to live there.  Some of Atinuke’s characters live in city and others live in rural settings – all of them reflect her own young life. 

Atinuke is a storyteller.  Her voice bursts from the pages of her books.  Each is a joy to read.  The language sings in your mind or as you read it aloud.   The stories bring both the setting and characters to life.  I appreciate the repeated refrain at the start of each chapter connecting readers to the story and reminding them of what they already know.  

Too Small Tola is the first book in her newly launched series.  Tola lives with her Grandmommy, her sister and her brother in a rundown apartment house in the megacity of Lagos.  Tola and her sister really like school, her brother, not so much.  Moji, who is very clever, works hard at her studies.  She is hoping to be a doctor one day.  Dapo, who is very fast, hopes to be a futbol player – or a car mechanic.  Tola, who is small, is determined and strong.  Together with Grandmommy (who is very bossy,) they are a family.  They make best of what they have.

Readers will have the chance to consider the gifts of running water, electricity and schooling for all. They will be reminded of what it means to be small, youngest and seemingly unnoticed.  When readers look closer, they’ll find the joys each of those circumstances brings.    

The No.1 Car Spotter series shares the challenges and opportunities to be found when living in rural Nigeria.  I love sharing the tales of Oluwalase Babatunde Benson – the No. 1 Car Spotter in his village… in the world with my third graders and they loved him.

Anna Hibiscus is the main character of Atinuke’s third series.  She lives in a compound with her family.  They are separated from the city and the variety that surrounds them.


What authors have you found who share understanding of different cultures and places with your readers?  What books do you share to help children learn more about our world?

Happy Reading!📚

Anya and the Dragon

Anya and the Dragon by Sofia Pasternak is a fantasy adventure set in tenth century town of Zmeyreka.  The tale deftly combines Slavic folklore and Jewish traditions to introduce readers to domovoi, rusalkas, and many other magical creatures.  Magic has been banned in the Zmeyreka for ten years, but here and there it still thrives, and  surrounds Anya.  Her grandmother, Babula, has plant magic.  She makes medicines that help the community.  Dyedka, her grandfather, has animal magic that helps to keep the farm animals safe and thriving.   In fact many creatures, extinct in other parts of Russian are found in Anya’s village.  It is rumored to be the home to the last dragon.  The Tsar has sent a family of Fools – who are capable of, and allowed to perform Fools’ Magic- to capture and kill it if they find it. 

The Fools have seven sons – all named Ivan.  The first six Ivans are found in three sets of fair-haired twins who take after their father.  The seventh Ivan is a dark-haired like his mother.  He feels alone in his chaotic family.  He is eleven, as is Anya.  She is an only child of the only Jewish family.  She feels alone and apart in her village. Both are tolerated, but not fully accepted or included because they are seen as different.  Because of this, they are drawn to each other.  As the story unfolds, Anya and Ivan make some important choices – power or friendship, money or integrity, comfort or compassion.

I thoroughly enjoyed Anya – dedicated to her family, curious about others and trying to find her own place in the world.  Ivan is a one-of-a-kind friend from a unique family and also searching for his way in the world.  Both are firmly connected to their families, but both know there is more to life if they are open and able to be true to themselves.  

I also recommend Anya and the Nightingale, the sequel.  I like it as much, if not more.  Prejudice and stereotyping, tolerance, disabilities and diversity are entwined with the magic and adventure.  I am hoping there will be more books about these friends.

If you enjoy this time period and Eastern European folklore you will also enjoy reading the adult novels from The Winterlight Trilogy by Katherine Arden:  The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch.  I thought they were wonderful!

Do you have a favorite fantasy to recommend?   What culture’s mythology have you enjoyed exploring?  Please share your books and ideas in the comments.

Happy Reading!📚

Celebrate “Difference”

Reading about Unbound in early spring, I knew it was a story I needed to read.  I wanted to see how this gut-wrenching, true-life story would be shown.  What a book!  Written by Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, it tells the story of Joyce and her twin sister, Judith.  They are two peas in a pod.  They do everything together until kindergarten.  Joyce goes to school.  Judy stays home.  Judy, readers discover, has what will later be called Down Syndrome and the school that Joyce goes to cannot meet her needs.

Around the time of the twin’s seventh birthday, Joyce wakes up to find Judy missing.  Their dad had taken her to the state school to live and learn.  On that day, Joyce reports, the colors leave leave her world.

After thirty-five years, Joyce is able to become Judy’s legal guardian.  Judy is able to leave the institution behind and live with Joyce’s family.   Joyce takes her to the Creative Growth Center and enrolls her in classes.  This center is devoted to serving artist with disabilities of all kinds.  It takes time, but eventually Judy finds her medium.  She becomes a world renowned fiber artist.  For thirty years she creates and shares her joy and resilience with the world.

In the author’s note Joyce writes:  ” Wherever we live, we find many people who are a bit “different” in one way of another.  These individuals, because of their differences, are often thought of as being less than those of us who consider ourselves “normal.”  They are often kept at a distance, not included in the everydayness of our lives – sharing laughter, and meals, bus rides and work, cozy couch time and a welcome night’s sleep.  Because they are not valued, their unseen strengths and gifts often go unrecognized, unexplored and undiscovered.”

These words are true for Myron Uhiberg’s story too.  Reading The Sound of Silence ~ Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents by Myron Uhlberg filled me with respect and wonder for him, and guilt and disappointment for me and the society I am a part of.  There is such incredible strength shared within these pages of this book.  Myron’s story of growing up in the 30’s and 40’s is sometimes funny and other times heartbreaking.  His first language was American Sign Language.  It was how he spoke at home.  No one outside the deaf community communicated with his parents, so Myron found himself in the middle, between the deaf world and the hearing world.  He was the translator during Teacher/Parent conferences.  He was the one who got help when his brother has a seizure.  He was also the one who heard how cruelly and disrespectfully his father is treated at his job. It is a burden to carry and yet he does it. 

These two books – true stories – shine a light on the changes that have been made for the disabled community in our country.  I don’t feel satisfied and I can’t help but wonder what more I can and should be doing so that even more voices can sing and all of our lives can be enriched by hearing those songs.

Here are some other books you might enjoy that connect to the theme of celebrating “difference.”





Research has shown that reading literary fiction helps develop empathy.  Readers walk beside the characters of tightly written stories growing our capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.  Reading helps you dream of possible futures.  These books can help us  grow our understanding so that, as Maya Angelou reminds us, we can “do the best we can until we know better.  Then when we know better, we can do better.” 

Let’s all be better.  If you have another title to add to this collection, please leave your suggestion in a comment,  Thanks.

Happy Reading! 📚

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Born as perfect as a snowflake with gorgeous blue eyes and dainty pearl pink toes, Princess Cora would one day become queen.  Her parents, The King and The Queen are determined that she be fully prepared.  Anxiety takes over and they develop a strict and unwavering schedule:  hours of boring lessons with ghastly dull readings, hours of exercise and laps in the converted dungeon, and three baths a day – being clean is important!  There are no days off.   There is no time for fun, and Princess Cora is absolutely sick of it.  In desperation she writes to her Fairy Godmother.

“Dear Godmother,

Nobody listens to me.  My mother and father won’t let me have a pet and Nanny says I don’t even want one.  But I do.  And I’m sick and tired of everything.  

Please help me.


  Princess Cora

Then she tore the letter into scraps and dropped them out the window.  But because it was a letter to her fairy godmother, every scrap turned into a white butterfly and flew away.”

Princess Cora wakes up to find a box at the foot of her bed with holes punched in it so something could breathe.  Opening the box, Princess Cora finds a scaly and green … crocodile.  They plan to switch places.  Princess Cora will have the day off for adventuring, and the crocodile, willing to fill in for CREAM PUFFS, will spend the day following the royal routine.

The Princess has a perfectly wonderful day.   Crocodile, Nanny, The Queen and The King do not!  Lessons are ultimately learned all the way around.  While it remains important for a future Queen to be clean, informed and strong, it is also important that the future queen have time to play, relax and enjoy the love of her very own fluffy, golden dog.

Laura Amy Schlitz’ writing, as always, is superb.That writing here is beautifully complimented by the illustrations of Brian Floca.  They go together perfectly.  What a fun book to read-aloud (or read on your own.)  I imagine even fourth and fifth graders will appreciate the havoc and humor the crocodile brings to the castle during a classroom read-aloud. The story will provide lots of opportunity to examine over scheduled lives and create plans to address them.

A prefect joy!  (I confess to being quite a fan of Laura Amy Schlitz  – reading her books is a joy.  I’ve loved them all! Here are some I think you might enjoy too. Her books are remarkably diverse.)



Happy Reading!📚