Imaginatively Adventurous: A Review of King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently and Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
One of my favorite books to read aloud to my kids, King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, takes you right into the imagination of young Jack and his friends. It reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sandek by delving into a child's imagination on a search for 'monsters' as well as the style of art used in the story. For anyone who loved Where the Wild Things Are this is a must have title for your bookshelf. When I was a little boy I was always exploring my yard looking for dinosaurs or other beasts; armed with toy weapons and equipment for the hunt. Most parents (especially dads) will connect with the fun tale and enjoy reading it while inspiring your own kids imaginations.
Brock: I reached out to author Peter Bently about his story King Jack and the Dragon and asked a few question. I hope you'll enjoy the Q&A. Peter, how did you come up with the idea for the King Jack and the Dragon?
Peter: It began with my son Theo (alias King Jack) building a den in our back garden one summer night when he was about seven. He planned to camp out all night, but once it got truly dark he was soon spooked
by all the unknown noises of the night – rustling branches, roosting birds, scuttling creatures and so on – and staying the night without mum and dad didn't seem such a good plan. But we commended him for
being brave enough to try!
Brock: Our kids often are the best inspiration for our writing. In fact I've got a book under review with a couple of publishers inspired by my oldest daughter. Did you pretend to fight monsters and dragons when you were a little boy?
Peter: I do remember imagining there were monsters under my bed and how I would scare them off if they woke up!
Brock: I doubt many children get through childhood without facing an imaginary monster or two, whether under their bed, in their closet, or as they imagine being a knight or princess. Can you tell us something about King Jack not in the story?
Peter: He likes to be the king but he is also fair to his playmates and happy to let his baby brother Caspar join in too. Jack likes to play at pirates too…you can read all about that when "Captain Jack and the Pirates" comes out later this year.
Brock: We will certainly look forward to that release. What is your favorite part of the story and why?
Peter: I like the part where he imagines the dragons and monsters he is fighting. It's partly to do with Helen Oxenbury's pictures, which portray the creatures so perfectly – not too scary. She told me the monsters were a tribute to the late Maurice Sendak.
Brock: On that last point, prior to doing the interview, that (the likeness to Maurice Sendak's Wild Things) is exactly what I wrote into my review. Good to know I wasn't off base. Thanks again Peter for answering these questions and giving us some insight into this great children's book. One I think all parents should read to their kids.
From the Publisher:
A lively playtime adventure that becomes a warm and cozy bedtime book—perfect for every little knight-in-training. From the illustrator of the award-winning We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
Night is falling and playtime is nearly over. But brave King Jack and his faithful knights Zak and Caspar are still protecting their castle fort from fierce dragons and terrible beasts. This captivating, joyful make-believe adventure is the perfect bedtime story for brave children everywhere. Fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Dinosaur Roar will especially enjoy this imaginative tale.An ALA Notable Book Bank Street Book Committee Best Children’s Books of the Year Kate Greenaway Award
“Sure to be read aloud again and again, this testament to imaginative play exudes warmth.”--Kirkus Reviews
Praise for King Jack and the Dragon:
“At once contemporary and classic.” — The New York Times
“Though the characters are wholly modern, there is a timelessness to the cycle of excitement, apprehension and parental comfort that should give this lovely book a long stay on the nursery shelf.” — The Wall Street Journal*
“It’s an enchanting tribute to both full-throttle pretend play and the reassurance of a parent’s embrace.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review*
“A tale of make-believe that children will delight in hearing again and again.” — School Library Journal, starred review
“The rhyming verse, large trim size, and detailed illustrations…make this a suitable story for group sharing, while the sweet, intimate tone will make it a family favorite.” — Booklist
“From this simple premise of imaginative play, Bently and Oxenbury create a classically sweet picture book.” — Horn Book
“This one is sure to become a full-on family favorite at bedtime.” — The Washington Post
“Altogether, ‘King Jack’ is just about perfect.” — The Sacramento Bee
Meet me at the Moon by Gianna Marino is full of beautiful and captivating illustrations. The scenes of the animals on the African savvanah will steal your child's imagination and get them dreaming of traveling there one day. My girls enjoyed reading this book and looking at the colorful illustrations of animals. There might be a few moments where your children are concerned for Little One while his MaMa is gone, but be assured that they are reunited under the moon as promised. Wrap your own arm (like an elephant's trunk) around your child in an elephant hug as MaMa and Little One reunite.
From the Publisher:
A heartwarming love story between mother and child. When Mama Elephant must leave Little One to ask the skies for rain, the young elephant is worried. Who will care for Little One? Who will sing Mama’s special songs? When will she return? Mama is very reassuring – Little One will hear her song on the wind and feel her love in the warmth of the sun, and, after the rains come, they will meet where the moon sets. Exquisitely illustrated and supremely comforting, Meet Me at the Moon is a mother and child love story to be enjoyed again and again.
PRAISE FOR MEET ME AT THE MOON:
“Marino’s breathtaking panoramas make an already powerful story sing.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The textured mixed-media art paired with the flowing text elevates this title above most missing-mama fare … Radiating warmth and comfort, this distinguished title strikes home.” --Kirkus, starred review
“Heartfelt and sincere, yet never cloying, this will work well one on one or in story hours.” --Booklist
Frog and Fly by Jeff Mack is a silly book that will have your kids ROTFL (Rolling on the floor laughing) or at the very least make them LOL (if you don't know that one then...) Frog and Fly's. A set of simple comics between Fly and Frog that end with Fly getting slurped, however kids will not be sad for fly because he returns in each story. I especially enjoyed Story 3 of the book.
An Interview with Jeff Mack:
Brock: Jeff thanks again for joining us for an interview about your books. How many Frog and Fly comics are there?
Jeff: There are six stories. I originally wrote them as two books with three comics in each. Then I combined them to make a single hardcover book with six chapters. Later, when Frog and Fly was re-published as a shorter board book, two of the stories had to be edited out.
Brock: Is the Fly the same fly each time?
Jeff: Yes. Frog and Fly live in a parallel cartoon universe where animals speak and instantly recover from any nasty injuries. It's like the old Road Runner cartoons where the coyote falls off a cliff over and over again. It's totally impossible. I guess that's one of the reasons I find those cartoons so funny.
Brock: That's what I was imagining. What is your favorite Frog and Fly story?
Jeff: My personal favorite is the one where Frog and Fly have a contest to see who is faster. Frog keeps losing and crashing into stuff. Then he tricks Fly into saying that he's yummier. Fly wins again. And, at the same time, he loses. It has a nice logic to it, but it's still totally absurd.
I also like the final story in the hardcover version. It features a bear, and it has a very twisted ending.
Brock: What advice would you give to a kid who wants to create short comics?
Jeff: While you're writing the comics, don't worry about making them short. Just write what you love. Make the story as long as you want. Then put it away in a drawer, and do something else for a few days. Later, when you read it again, you'll have an easier time identifying which parts make the comic fun and interesting and which parts just make it long. Then you can cut out the less interesting parts and make it shorter.
Also, with comics, it helps to figure out if you are someone who naturally thinks about the words first or someone who thinks about the pictures. When I write a story, I usually have ideas for the pictures before I know what the words will be. So I start my comics by sketching the characters in different scenes. Then I go back and write the dialogue afterward. For other people, their ideas may take the form of words, so they write lines of speech first. Then they draw pictures to illustrate the dialogue. There are many ways to make comics. My advice is to experiment and discover which way works most naturally for you.
Brock: Thanks Jeff for taking the time to gives us more insight into Frog and Fly.
From the Publisher:
Silly comic-strip style stories and two comical combatants make for one laugh-out-loud board book!
Frog and Fly are constant companions. There is only one problem . . . Frog thinks Fly is delicious! This leads to a never-ending battle of wits with laugh-out- loud consequences. Told in short comic-strip style chapters, Frog and Fly will delight kids and leave them begging for yet another slurpy story.
Praise for Frog and Fly:
“Mack’s winning combination of simple text, uncluttered multimedia art, and comic-book-style panels make for a great beginning-reader format as well as a good choice for. . . read-alouds. Many children are going to find this hilarious; it’s reminiscent of both joke books and old Saturday-morning cartoons, when coyotes fell off cliffs and bounced right back, and it never, ever got old.” --Booklist
“This expressive and personable duo provides a spot-on brand of joke book-style humor that children will find plenty entertaining.” --Publishers Weekly
One of the most wonderfully illustrated books I've read to my kids. Three Bears in a Boat is a fantastic story with a great message set amid the gorgeous backdrop of the sea. The story and images will capture your kids' attention and imaginations as you read to them. They'll want to explore the island and rise along the boat with Dash, Theo, and Charlie. When the three bears break their mom's favorite blue sea shell they try to cover their tracks, but at the end of their journey, though they find a shell, the bears decide to tell their mama the truth. The forgiveness of their mama brings the story to a wonderful ending, but adds the simplest of consequences when the three bears get no desert. This consequence though is one many children will understand.
From the publisher:
From the co-creator of the New York Times bestselling Ladybug Girl series comes a high seas adventure inspired by the classic picture books Little Bear and Where the Wild Things Are. Three bear siblings break their mother’s favorite blue seashell, and rather than tell her, they decide to set out in their sailboat to find her a new one. On their quest they encounter salty sailors, strange new islands, huge whales, and vast seas but no blue seashells. When a treacherous storm suddenly blows in, the three bears find themselves tossed about in their little boat, far from Mama. What will become of their search, and what will it take to bring them safely home?This read aloud shares its best qualities with classic picture books: breath-taking illustrations, epic adventure, and a subtle message about taking responsibility for your actions.
Praise for Three Bears in a Boat:* “Gorgeous . . . A first purchase for all.”--School Library Journal (starred review)* “Humorous and intelligent—and with watercolor seascapes so luminous that readers will want to jump in—this is a book to be treasured for years to come.”--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)* “Breathtaking . . . Beautiful . . . Gentle”--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A beautiful journey you’ll want to return to repeatedly. . . . If you’re looking for a gift book, a bedtime book, or just something uniquely attractive to the eye, seek ye just three little bears. Charm incarnate.”—Elizabeth Bird, A Fuse 8 Production, School Library Journal
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2014
A Kirkus Best Book of 2014
You can make a huge different in spreading the word about my books by simply requesting that your local library purchase any of my books. Using the tax dollars your family is already paying, your school or public library, will be happy to stock great new middle grade and young adult fiction as well as picture books. Simply print out the book list below (downloadable) and take it into your library to request they purchase and shelve these titles. Send me an email and let me know when the libraries have stocked the book or books and I'll send you something awesome!
Brock Eastman's Book List.
Quest for Truth
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