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Fantasy

Prehistoric Pups

Formerly a Wall Street investor, currently a teacher and storyteller, Mystery Mike McHale has created a new illustrated book for kids, Dino Dogz, with the help of artist Mike Goldstein. “The DinoDogz (half Dogz/half Dinosaurs) are on a Mission to rescue five StegoPup eggs that have been stolen by the evil Dr. D. Stroy (their creator) before the doctor uses them to create an army of DinoDogz to take over the world!!!! Along the way, the Dogz must face off against enemies controlled by the doctor to collect their DinoDNA to transform into their true DinoDogz selves.” The official web site includes the on-line Dino Dogz game. Mystery Mike says there’s a mascot costume on the way too!

image c. 2022 Mystery Mike’s Funhouse

The Bard and the Barnyard

The things we find. Ham-Let: A Shakespearean Mash-Up is a new full-color graphic novel for young readers, brought to us in hardcover by Dark Horse Press. “The eponymous Pig Prince himself returns home from college to find that his uncle Claude betrayed and murdered his father to seize the throne! But this familiar fable veers into the zany and adventurous when Ham-let calls upon his best friend Horatio and a troupe of rowdy, self-centered actors to aid him in halting his uncle’s evil plans.” Ham-Let is written by Jim Burnstein, Garrett Schiff, and Andrew Cosby, with illustrations by Elisa Ferrari. Go check out the preview pages over at the Dark Horse web site.

image c. 2022 Dark Horse Press

They Leap Right Off the Page!

[Back from Biggest Little Fur Con, and there’s still more to catch up with…] At the L.A. Times Festival of Books this year we discovered Creative Creature Catcher — an “augmented reality children’s book”, to use the publisher’s phrase for it. “Welcome to the Society of Creative Creature Catchers! Your mission is simple: Find and learn about a variety of fantastical animals who have ended up lost in our world and then it’s your job to send them home to their families! Some hide in the curtains. Others hide under the bed. Don’t worry. They won’t hurt you. They’re scared, and their parents are worried about them.” Sounds like an interesting story, but then it goes further… “But this is just half the story. Creative Creature Catcher isn’t just about reading. It’s about doing. Anyone can read about these unfortunate animals, but Malcolm will teach you how to get personally involved. Grab your Apple or Android device (phone or tablet), and even stubborn readers will want to know more about the shifty Grumbaloo or the quick-footed Eeking Sfifter as 3D characters leap to life with Augmented Reality.” Visit their official web site to see more of what they’re talking about.

image c. 2022 Anomaly Productions

Bear With Her

Sorry. The Girl Who Speaks Bear is a recent novel for young readers written by Sophie Anderson. “Discovered in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka dreams of knowing who she really is. Although Yanka is happy at home with her loving foster mother, she feels out of place in the village where the other children mock her for her unusual size and strength. So when Yanka wakes up one morning to find that her legs have become bear legs, she knows she has no choice but to leave her village. She has to find somewhere she truly belongs, so she ventures into the Snow Forest with her pet weasel, Mousetrap, in search of the truth about her past. But deep in the forest there are many dangers, and Yanka discovers that even the most fantastic stories she grew up hearing are true. And just as she draws close to discovering who she really is, something terrifying happens that could trap her in the forest…forever.” Published by Scholastic, it’s available now in hardcover. [And with that, we’ll see you all again after a trip to Biggest Little Fur Con! — ye ed-otter]

Bears On The Wing

Seems like every time we turn around we’re reviewing something new by Katherine Applegate — author of Crenshaw, The One and Only Ivan, and the Animorphs series, among many others. This time it’s Willodeen, and it’s very hard to explain… We’ll let the publisher try: “Eleven-year-old Willodeen adores creatures of all kinds, but her favorites are the most unlovable beasts in the land: strange beasts known as “screechers.” The villagers of Perchance call them pests, even monsters, but Willodeen believes the animals serve a vital role in the complicated web of nature. Lately, though, nature has seemed angry indeed. Perchance has been cursed with fires and mudslides, droughts and fevers, and even the annual migration of hummingbears, a source of local pride and income, has dwindled. For as long as anyone can remember, the tiny animals have overwintered in shimmering bubble nests perched atop blue willow trees, drawing tourists from far and wide. This year, however, not a single hummingbear has returned to Perchance, and no one knows why. When a handmade birthday gift brings unexpected magic to Willodeen and her new friend, Connor, she’s determined to speak up for the animals she loves, and perhaps even uncover the answer to the mystery of the missing hummingbears.” Find the book in hardcover at MacMillan Publishers and it should all make more sense.

image c. 2022 MacMillan Publishers

High-Flying Adventure

The Sheep, The Rooster, and The Duck is the oh-so-innocent sounding title of a very unusual novel for young readers written and illustrated by Matt Phelan. “The very first passengers to ride in a hot-air balloon were a sheep, a rooster, and a duck in 1783. And while hot-air balloons are indeed wondrous, ten-year-old Emile is too busy being the fastidious caretaker of ambassador Benjamin Franklin’s château in Paris to think much about them. But soon, young Emile finds himself right in the middle of a sinister plot. And right in the middle of the secret headquarters for France’s undercover guardians — the very same sheep, rooster, and duck that piloted the first hot-air balloon. If Emile can muster his courage and be bold, he may be the key to helping the heroes save both Benjamin Franklin and the world.” Find out more in hardcover from Harper Collins.

image c. 2022 Harper Collins

Musty and Mustier

We stumbled across another illustrated book for young readers, from a couple of years ago. It’s simply titled Skunk and Badger. Easy to remember! “Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen. No one wants a skunk. They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it. When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?” Find out when you look for it in hardcover from Algonquin.

image c. 2022 Algonquin Books

Little Mouse, Big Heart

Disney is always doing so much; it probably makes sense that some of it would slip by us. Include in that category Delphine and the Silver Needle, a fantasy novel for young readers written by Alyssa Moon. It came out last year in hardcover. “When Delphine, a young orphaned dressmaker mouse living in the walls of Cinderella’s château, stumbles upon an enormous secret, it upends everything she thought she knew: The magical tailor mice of legend really existed. Racing to stay ahead of King Midnight, the fearsome leader of the rats who is bent on harnessing age-old magic, Delphine embarks on an epic quest to uncover the truth about the past. Joined by Alexander, the most pompous noblemouse in the royal court, she travels a perilous route, encountering strange enemies and unlikely allies along the way.” Silver Needle is available now, and the sequel book Delphine and the Dark Thread comes our way this August.

image c. 2022 Disney Press

The Wonderful Critters of Oz

More interesting discoveries for young readers. Kirkus Reviews described The Hedgehog of Oz by Cory Leonardo as “The Wizard of Oz meets The Wind in the Willows“. The publisher describes it like this: “Marcel the hedgehog used to live with his beloved owner Dorothy, but since getting hopelessly lost, he’s tried to forget the happy home he left behind. Now, Marcel lives a quiet life in the abandoned balcony of The Emerald City Theater where he subsists on dropped popcorn and the Saturday showings of The Wizard of Oz. But when he’s discovered, Marcel is taken far away from everything he knows and ends up lost once more. His quest to return to The Emerald City Theater leads him to Mousekinland, where he meets Scamp, a tiny mouse armed with enormous spirit (and a trusty sling-shooter). Before long, they’re joined by an old gray squirrel, Ingot, who suffers from bad memories and a broken heart, and Tuffy, a baby raccoon lost and afraid in the forest. And the travelers attract the attention of an owl named Wickedwing, who stalks them as they search for the old theater. From field to forest, glittering theater to the gutter, the animals’ road home is a dark and winding journey. But sometimes you need to get a little lost before you can be found.” The book is available now in hardcover from Simon & Schuster.

image c. 2022 Simon & Schuster