Friday, November 24, 2017

Review: The Dotty Series by @EmmaWarnerReed

The Dotty Series by Emma Warner Reed is a multiple-award winning grade school fantasy series following a girl who discovers ancient magic in her uncle's house. Teleport through chimneys, discover ambivalent faeries, and run from malicious birds along with Dotty in this suspenseful-yet-innocent adventure fantasy. Dotty is like the Secret Garden meets Hogwarts meets Narnia -- Perfect for voracious young readers as well as adults! The Dotty Series would make a great Christmas gift for an 8-year-old.

Book One:
Dotty and the Calendar House Key by Emma Warner Reed

Book Two: 
Dotty and the Chimney Thief by Emma Warner Read


Book Three:
Dotty and the Dream Catchers by Emma Warner-Reed

Book Four:
Dotty and the Very Lucky Day by Emma Warner-Reed

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Charlie Cat Takes a Break on Thanksgiving

Boy, has Charlie Cat been busy this year! Charlie and his friend Susie Dog have several appearances this year celebrating their new book, Charlie Cat Takes a Break on Thanksgiving. Books, puppets, songs, games, and crafts--we're having a blast! 

Charlie Cat will be at these public events:

11am Oct 27th at PlayDays & More in Apex

11am Thur Nov 16 at PlayDays & More in Apex

PlayDays & More is an indoor play place and the story time is free with admission.

If you would like Charlie Cat to appear at your school, preschool, or group, email michelleristuccia (at) pendragonvariety (dot) com

Join our Readers Club for Charlie Cat extras and more for young readers, their parents, and educators.

If you can't make it to one of our fun events, you can still get the new book in time for Thanksgiving! Contact us for signed copies, or order from Amazon:


Charlie cat loves Thanksgiving, but when noisy guests arrive, Charlie needs a quiet room. Find out how Momma Cat helps Charlie enjoy Thanksgiving.

Charlie Cat is a series of rhyming picture books for ages 0-8.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Halloween Books for Sensitive Children

Over the years we have searched far and wide for sweet Halloween and fall books. Although we found many great books (listed below), we still felt there was something missing, and so Charlie Cat was born:

Charlie Cat does not like scary monsters and ghosts. Charlie's friend Susie Dog loves to dress up for Halloween. When Susie Dog scares Charlie Cat, Charlie uses his strong voice to tell her STOP. Find out how these two friends get along on Halloween.

Charlie Cat is a rhyming picture book for ages 0-6
Pages: 27

Buy the paperback on [Amazon] or the ebook.

If you are local to me, contact me about getting a signed copy!

Charlie Cat also has his own facebook page. Like the page now because we have a giveaway and more planned soon!

And now, for more great Halloween and fall books! Add other books and educational materials by posting a comment.

This book was perfect for our needs because mouse and mole take turns frightening each other and then overcome their fears together.

Halloween Is... by Gail Gibbons.
This book talks about the origins of Halloween.

This one talks about how pumpkins are grown and about their historical and cultural use. It also mentions Halloween briefly. It goes best with the Halloween Is... book above by the same author.

(Get this one in Spanish!)
This one also talks about how pumpkins grow, but for younger children.

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin

Eek! It's Halloween

Who doesn't love a good (or really bad...) joke? Humor helped our kids with Halloween.

I love this parody of Goodnight, Moon.

No Halloween children's book list would be complete without...

AlphaOops Halloween by Alethea Kontis, one of our favorite authors!

Here's hoping your children enjoy a safe Halloween!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Folktales from Around the World: Compilations

For our Co-op last semester, we were learning about the seven continents and the students are giving presentations of their own choosing. My son decided to focus on folktales from each continent and explore story telling. Here are some of the compilations we found that covered several continents and/or story telling in general.


Tuck-me-in tales: bedtime stories from around the world by MacDonald, Margaret Read. A cute collection of tales great for little children.

When the world was young : creation and pourquois tales / retold by Margaret Mayo ; illustrated by Louise Brierley. A Polynesian tale featuring Maui, and an Australian tale help make this collection unique.

Check out this series of books delving into the origin of folktales: Origin of Folktales from Around the World. For example, Cinderella - and Other Girls Who Lost Their Slippers.

Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen brings balance to the world of folktales by highlighting female protagonists. Each tale is a few pages long. Does Jane Yolen ever stop? I guess not! She's the author of several of our favorite picture books--too many to list--but you may be most familiar with How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight.

Twenty Tellable Tales: Audience Participation Tales for the Beginning Story Teller by Margaret Read MacDonald is designed for telling to elementary-aged students. Most of the stories are from North America and each is accompanied by tips for telling and great notes on where these stories come from.

How & Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read & Tell by Martha Hamilton & Mitch Weiss collects stories from all over the world. Each story is told in a couple of pages, illustrated, and clearly tells what culture it is from, non-fiction facts related to the story, and tips for telling the story. A map near the beginning of the book shows the origin of all the stories. Perfect for elementary students.

Stories in my Pocket: Tales Kids Can Tell by Martha Hamilton & Mitch Weiss. I just realized this is the same author team as the one above. Ha! No wonder it's a good book. This one is more advanced, with many more detailed notes about how to give the stories life, including hand gestures, use of voice, and emphasis on certain words. I love how it is laid out in two columns, with a line from the story on the left side of the page and tips for how to tell it on the right. The stories are arranged from easiest to most challenging and then followed up by back matter that goes even further into the art of storytelling and how to foster it.

Free Scripts Based on Children's Books

Tell it Together: Foulproof Scripts for Story Theatre by Barnara McBride-Smith provides funny scripts of folktales and myths at an upper-elementary to middle school level. Greek myths, Irish, Norwegian, and even Twelfth Night.

Frantic Frogs and other Fractured Folktales for Readers Theatre by Anthony D. Fredericks is exactly as funny as it sounds. I'd say this is more for middle school students, due to the type of humor and the lengthy paragraphs of text each actor reads.

This is the final Folktale post (sad!). Join my Reader's Club to keep up with posts like these.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Folktales from Around the World: Asia

For our Co-op last semester, we were learning about the seven continents and the students are giving presentations of their own choosing. My son decided to focus on folktales from each continent and explore story telling. For Asia he chose Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India. For our class we enjoyed a tale featuring tiny samurai from Tuck-me-in tales: bedtime stories from around the world.

Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India by Gerald McDermott
The monkey and the crocodile : a Jataka tale from India by Paul Galdone. Tells the same tale as Gerald McDermott; both are good renditions with the McDermott book being slightly shorter.

Japanese Fairy-Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki is available online for free from Project Gutenberg.

Omusumi Kororin: Follow this link for a script of a traditional Japanese tale about a man who finds his way into the world of mice, where he is rewarded for being kind. This tale parallels the structure of the European fairytale "Diamonds and Toads" where a good person is rewarded and then a bad person attempts to get the reward but fails. Watch it on youtube here.

No Dinner! : The Story of the Old Woman and the Pumpkin by Jessica Souhami. An Indian/Asian folktale of an old woman who tricks wolf, bear, and tiger out of eating her.

The dragon's tale: and other animal fables of the Chinese zodiac by Demi. Each tale is a paragraph or two on its own page, told in a straight-forward manner.

Tikki Tikki Tembo / retold by Arlene Mosel. Illustrated by Blair Lent. A funny Chinese legend tells why children have short names; when two boys fall down the well, the boy with the longer name must wait longer to be rescued. The children laughed each time I had to read the silly long name in the book.

Tanuki's gift : a Japanese tale  by Tim Myers ; pictures by R.G. Roth. An adorable tale where a priest befriends a badger, then asks the badger for money to pay his way into heaven -- instead, the priest learns that it is the badger's friendship that actually matters to him the most.

The hunter : a Chinese folktale retold by Mary Casanova ; illustrations by Ed Young. A hunter earns the ability to understand animals, under threat that he can never give away the secret. In order to save his village from a flood, he chooses to give away the secret and allow himself to be turned to stone. The villagers are saved but regret making him explain himself.

The great race: an Indonesian trickster tale by Author: Scott, Nathan Kumar, is a little bit like the tortoise and the hare, with a trickster twist at the end.

 The gift of the Crocodile: a Cinderella story by Judy Sierra  (Author), Reynold Ruffins (Illustrator). A Cinderella tale from the spice islands (Columbus' original destination). This tale also shares aspects of the "Diamonds and Toads" motif where the good sister is rewarded (with a nice clothes) and the bad sister is punished when she tries to copy her (with leech-filled clothing). This was a favorite of all my kids and led us to learn about mangrove forests.

I hope you like Cinderella, because there are a few dozen more:
The Golden Sandal: a Middle East Cinderella
The Korean Cinderella
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story From China

Filipino Popular Tales 1921, available from project gutenberg. Short and simply told tales with character.

Indian Fairytales by Joseph Jacob, 1892, available online from project gutenberg. The language is a bit stilted or "classic" and assumes a bit of knowledge of Buddism, but the stories are otherwise short and straightforward.

Note that The Jungle Book is set is the Indian jungle.

The original Arabian Nights Entertainment by Andrew Lang can be found online on the gutenberg project.

Stay tuned for World Compilations! Join my Reader's Club to keep up with posts like these and other content.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Folktales from Around the World: South America

For our Co-op last semester, we were learning about the seven continents and the students are giving presentations of their own choosing. My son decided to focus on folktales from each continent and explore story telling. For South America he chose Jabuti: A Trickster Tale of The Amazon by Gerald McDermott.

One of the problems I had searching for South American folktales is that my searches popped up results from north american-mexican heritage. A lot of tales from South America have versions that have evolved in Mexico and the USA.

Cendrillon: A Carribean Cinderella. The Carribean borders the North and South American continent. It's considered part of North America, but I like to include this one here as a bridge between the continents.

Jabuti: A Trickster Tale of The Amazon by Gerald McDermott
Papagayo: The Mischief Maker by Gerald McDermott
Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains by Barbara Knutson

Moon Rope : a Peruvian folktale (Un lazo a la luna : una leyenda peruana) by Lois Ehlert ; translated into Spanish by Amy Prince. While the illustrations are not my favorite because they are a bit abstract, I love that the book has the Spanish translation on the same page as the English. A story about a fox who climbs a rope to the moon. This was my five-year-old's favorite story.

Uncle Nacho's hat: a folktale from Nicaragua = El sombrero de Tio Nacho : un cuento de Nicaragua by Harriet Rohmer (Adapter), Mira Reisberg (Illustrator). Uncle Nacho cannot seem to get rid of his old hat. It keeps coming back to him until he learns to think about his new hat instead. An author's note explains that the hat represents Uncle Nacho's old habits.

Stay tuned for North America! Join my Reader's Club to keep up with posts like these and other content.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Folktales from Around the World: North America

For our Co-op last semester, we were learning about the seven continents and the students are giving presentations of their own choosing. My son decided to focus on folktales from each continent and explore story telling. For North America he chose Jack Outwits the Giants.

It's no surprise that we found so many great books on North America and some on NC specifically--that's where we're from! Our library was stocked, and local authors were able to help us identify what to look for. Have you ever heard of the Jack Tales? Now you have!

Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott
Coyote: A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest by Gerald McDermott
Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale by Gerald McDermott
Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai'i by Gerald McDermott

The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote: A Zapotec Tale by Tony Johnston. A coyote and rabbit face off; the coyote wants to eat the rabbit, but the rabbit makes it to the moon instead.

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush told by Tomie de Paola. There are several in this series; The Legend of the Bluebonnet, and The Legend of the Poinsettia.

The story of Jumping Mouse: a native American legend by John Steptoe, tells the legend of a mouse who wishes to travel far to a new land. Along the way a magic frog gives him jumping legs, and the mouse in turn gives up bits of his magic to help others, until the frog returns and turns him into an eagle as a reward. This folktale is from the plains area. The book's lengthier text makes a great read for upper elementary.

Plays from Hispanic tales: one-act, royalty-free dramatizations for young people, from Hispanic stories and folktales by Barabara Winther. Each play has a forward explaining where the tale comes from and their variation. Great for actors who can memorize a few lines of script and understand the plot of longer folktales.

A Spoon for Every Bite by Joe Hayes ; illustrated by Rebecca Leer. A folktale of roughly Mexican origin in which a poor couple tells a rich man about a man so rich he uses a different spoon for every bite. After the rich man has spent his fortune on spoons, he learns that the 'spoon' in this case is a tortilla.

Little Gold Star: a Cinderella cuento = Estrellita de oro by Joe Hayes. This variation of Cinderella also shares aspects of the European fairytale "Diamonds and Toads" where the good sister gets rewarded (with a star on her forehead) and the bad sisters try to copy her but get punished (with ugly things on their foreheads).

Juan Bobo: Four Folktales from Puerto Rico, retold by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. An I Can Read book featuring the mishaps of silly Juan Bobo.

Rabbit's snow dance : a traditional Iroquois story as told by James & Joseph Bruchac ; illustrated by Jeff Newman. A cute illustrated story where rabbit makes it snow and loses his long tail.

The Pleiades and the Pine Tree: A Cherokee Myth. A concise, online version of the Cherokee Myth original published in The Three Princes of Persia collection. We find this one fascinating because many cultures have myths surrounding the Pleiades constellation. The website has several other Cherokee myths you can find on the right sidebar.

Cut from the same cloth : American women of myth, legend, and tall tale collected and told by Robert D. San Souci ; illustrated by Brian Pinkney ; introduction by Jane Yolen.

Yonder Mountain : a Cherokee legend / as told by Robert H. Bushyhead ; written by Kay Thorpe Bannon ; foreword by Joseph Bruchac ; illustrated by Kristina Rodanas. Great illustrations and a gentle, important message. Three young men climb a mountain and bring back what they find. All do well, but its the one who gets to the top and sees another tribe's cry for help that is crowned as the next chief. Look for it in your library.

Itse selu : Cherokee harvest festival / by Daniel Pennington ; illustrated by Don Stewart. Pennington shows the Cherokee Harvest Festival as a slice-of-life story, including a page-length fable about a tricky rabbit and grumpy wildcat, similar to Brer Rabbit. Also shows several Cherokee words and how to pronounce them, as well as illustrations of traditional crafts, etc.

The first strawberries : a Cherokee story / retold by Joseph Bruchac ; pictures by Anna Vojtech. The legend of the first strawberries is a sweet one, told here with great illustrations.

The story of the Milky Way : a Cherokee tale / by Joseph Bruchac and Gayle Ross ; paintings by Virginia A. Stroud.

Native American Stories, told by Joseph Bruchac.

The Origin of the Milky Way and other living stories of the Cherokee by Barbara R. Duncan.

Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story by Geri Keams

Myths, legends, and folktales of America by David Leeming and Jake Page. This one's not a picture book, but an anthology for adults that I ran across in my search. I'm including it because it has an impressively thorough overview of legends, from native American, to African-American, to Anglo-american (like Uncle Sam), and Mexican-American. Provides a good jumping-off point to research these legends.

The talking eggs : a folktale from the American South, retold by Robert D. San Souci ; pictures by Jerry Pinkney. This tale follows the classic pattern of "Diamonds and Toads," where a good person is rewarded and then a bad person attempts to get the reward but fails. Aarne-Thompson Folktale Type 480: The Kind and the Unkind Girls. These basic structures and themes appear throughout Indo-European tales, which were carried over to the Americas, and also in other cultures where they developed independently from Europe. More types listed here.

How animals saved the people : animal tales from the South, retold by J.J. Reneaux ; illustrated by James Ransome. A well-written and illustrated collection of tales with a good mix of indigenous, African-American (a Br'er Rabbit tale!), and other tales that may be lesser known and not found in other children's books. This book includes an Appalachian tale (see the Jack Tales below), though it is not my favorite because it repeatedly talks about the antagonist being a rich guy. Two other tales have illustrations of nude people, FYI, but the illustration are not too detailed, and I still found the stories appropriate for my young children. Includes two ghost stories and a story about having faith in God (in which a character dies).

Stockings of buttermilk : American folktales / edited by Neil Philip ; illustrated by Jacqueline Mair. An entertaining mix of tales.

Her Stories: African American Folktales.

Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood.
The Legend of Papa Noel: A Cajun Christmas Story.
Three Little Cajun Pigs.

Cajun Folktales. This includes ghost stories.

The tale of Tricky Fox : a New England trickster tale / retold by Jim Aylesworth ; illustrated by Barbara McClintock. This has a modern twist on it where a teacher outwits the fox at the end, which makes it great for a classroom. The fox character is a classic trickster character tracing back to European origins (see Reynard the fox, but maybe don't show the kids). The original version of this tale can be found in What They Say in New England and other American Folklore. Nickel Creek does a great version of The Fox folk song, which dates back to a poem from the 15th century and is appropriate for children.

Kumak's fish : a tall tale from the far north by Michael Bania. This adorable, funny tale isn't a traditional folktale, but I included it because of the great illustrations showing Inupiat (Eskimo) people and their life, from an author who's been there. There's another one: Kumak's House by Michael Bania.

The Runaway Tortilla by Eric A. Kimmel ; illustrated by Randy Cecil. A modern re-telling of the gingerbread man set in the desert of Southwestern USA. The book features quite a bit of Spanish, actual desert animals from that region, and the classic ending where the gingerbread man is eaten by a wolf--or in this case, a tortilla eaten by a coyote.

The 'Jack Tales' come from the Appalachian Mountains, evolved from the European Jack and the Bean Stalk. You'll see the similarities, but many also have a distinctly NC flavor to them:

Fearless Jack, adapted and illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson and Jack Outwits the Giants, adapted and illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson. These were our favorite Jack Tales picture books. They are longer than the Gerald McDermott books and Eric A. Kimmel's Anansi books, so they are great for upper elementary while still sporting big illustrations. Another thing I like about these versions is that some versions emphasize Jack being stupid or slow, but not this one. Paul Brett Johnson really captures the dialect and the hilariously over-the-top story-telling methods of these mountain tales. Read Fearless Jack first, then Jack Outwits the Giants for an extra giggle. In Fearless Jack, Jack keeps accidentally besting the strange beasts plaguing a local town. In Jack Outwits the Giants, the Giants want to eat Jack, so Jack tricks them into believing that he could beat them in a fight. Also check out Bearhide and Crow, another Appalachian tale by Paul Brett Johnson, where Sam and Amos outwit each other into unfair barter trades.

Jack the giant chaser : an Appalachian tale / by Kenn and Joanne Compton ; illustrated by Kenn Compton.

The Jack Tales : Folk Tales from the Southern Appalachians Collected and Retold by Richard Chase collects 18 tales in 180+ pages, with a glossary in the back in case you don't know what a piggin is. These are the authentic versions of the tales in the picture books listed above, along with others: proceed with caution, as there are plenty of chopped off heads, and even a witch hunt. Many tales have obvious parallels to European folktales, with Jack as the main character.

The tale of Willie Monroe / retold by Alan Schroeder ; illustrated by Andrew Glass. Like Jack plus Paul Bunyan. Willie Monroe thinks he's the strongest man around until he meets a ridiculously strong girl and her granny, who then agree to train him up to win a local contest.

Stay tuned for Asia! Join my Reader's Club to keep up with posts like these and other content.