animals, book list, folktales, humor, illustration

Book List: Magical Creatures

Vlad the Rad (Random House Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

For ages: 4-8
All Vlad wants to do is skateboard and think about skateboarding. That doesn’t sound so terrible, but he has no friends who are into the sport and his teacher, Miss Fussbucket, gets upset that he’s ignoring his scaring lessons. The poor little vampire is buried under an avalanche of threats and detention. Life doesn’t feel so great for Vlad. But then, a fateful field trip to the natural history museum happens. Vlad spies a dinosaur skeleton with a perfect curve on its spine and tail. Could this be the moment he shines? This fun book about loving something no one else seems to is illustrated in a wonderfully spooky style. Lots of blacks, greens, and purples highlight Vlad’s cool tricks.

Remarkables (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
Written by Lisa Mantchev
Illustrated by David Litchfield

For ages: 4-8
The text is sparse, but the themes are rich and nuanced. A boy goes diving and meets a green-eyed mermaid. They explore her world together, and she shows him a photograph of a family she once had. The boy is from a circus and convinces the mermaid to join their traveling show so she can find a new family. She delights in swimming in her tank and receiving applause. The other circus performers love her, but she yearns to return to her home; however, she would hate losing her new friends. The words speak to big ideas and never directly address what is happening on the page, but the two certainly go together. This book will likely linger with young readers and leave them thinking about things they might not have ever contemplated.

Dragon Night (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by JR Krause

For ages: 4-8
Georgie has many fears, one of the worst being the night. One evening, the dragon from one of his favorite books crawls out of the pages and shares that he’s afraid of “the knight.” This shared anxiety bonds the two, and they go on an adventure to help each other overcome these terrors. Georgie rides on the dragon’s back, and they see how beautiful nighttime can be (the stars, the sounds of animals, people at a fair). Georgie thanks his new friend but pens a new book where the knight is much friendlier to the dragon, providing a new home for the creature. Krause’s illustrations are gorgeous, with thick lines & dark hues, where shadows start as imposing but soften as we go along. 

The Tooth Fairy vs. Santa (Penguin Workshop)
Written by Jamie L.B. Deenihan
Illustrated by Erin Hunting

For ages: 4-8
What happens when you lose a tooth on Christmas Eve? Will the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus bump into each other? What happens, then? These are the ideas that propel this fun, boldly illustrated book forward. Santa is pretty territorial about his one particular night and tells rookie Blue to buzz off. Unfortunately, this newly initiated tooth fairy won’t have it, so the heated competition begins. Little Veda is the tooth-loser and tries to appease the two beings, but it will take Santa & Blue calming down before any peace can be reached. The candy-colored illustrations are full of cartoonish life, certainly a style that will draw the eye of young readers.

Ginny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster For a Pet (Clarion Books)
Written by David Goodner
Illustrated by Louis Thomas

For ages: 4-8
Ginny is one aggressively persistent goblin, but she means well. We learn early on that she loves animals and wants a pet goat. However, her unseen caretaker doesn’t like how destructive the animals can be. So Ginny sets off on a journey to find a new pet and decides to look at the monster subgenus. She uses all means at her disposal to obtain one (bear traps, military tank, rocket ship). She picks things like a Kraken, a basilisk, and even a monstrous alien. There is some clever wordplay here that will keep little ones entertained. The illustration style is reminiscent of Wiliam Stieg’s wiry & kinetic drawings. This book will prove an excellent read for a child who desperately wants their own pet.

Super Happy Magic Forest (Scholastic Press)
Written & Illustrated by Matty Long

For ages: 4-8
This was one of the most beloved books in my classrooms for multiple years. Matty Long has created a world in the same vein as Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, fantasy mixed with plenty of silly comedy. Every page is crammed with sight gags, toilet humor, puns, and more. Then, of course, we have a plot where a MacGuffin is stolen and sends a party of adventurers in pursuit. They journey through a diverse landscape of mythical creatures and beings, sometimes making new friends and other times barely avoiding disaster. This is a “baby’s first irony” book, presenting young readers with slightly more complex themes and humor. If you have a child who revels in comedy and wit, this book will make them extremely happy.

If I Had a Gryphon (Tundra Books)
Written by Vicki VanSickle
Illustrated by Cale Atkinson

For ages: 4-8
A little girl dreams of making a pet out of a host of supernatural creatures. Sam got a hamster she loves, but she wants even more pets. What about a unicorn? Diving deeper into the bestiary, she imagines what it would be like to own a hippogriff, a jackalope, a chupacabra, and more. Each imagined pet is accompanied by vivid & expressive illustrations, but also the consequences. Sam contemplates what problems she might have trying to incorporate such unconventional creatures into her home. The more she thinks, the more she realizes they would be much more trouble than her sweet little hamster. Told in bouncy verse, this picture book will introduce young readers to a host of mythical beasties they likely have not heard of before and spur on their imaginations.

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