The Christmas Pig by J. K. Rowling

The  Christmas Pig

J.K. Rowling, Author

Jim Field, Illustrator

Scholastic Inc., Fiction, Oct. 12, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8 and up

Themes: Boy, Stuffed toy, Family relationships, Magic, Adventure, Christmas

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig. DP has always been there for him, through good and bad. Until one Christmas Eve, something terrible happens — DP is lost.

But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life…even toys.

So Jack and the Christmas (DP’s irritating replacement) embark on a breathtaking journey through the magical Land of the Lost. With the help of a talking lunch box, a brave compass, and a winged thing called Hope, the set out to rescue the best friend Jack has ever known from the terrifying, toy-crunching Loser…

From one of the world’s greatest storytellers comes this heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child’s love for his most treasured thing, and how far he will go to find it. With dazzling illustrations from renowned artist Jim Field, The Christmas Pig is destined to become a beloved classic for the whole family.

Why I like this book:

Another thrilling and magical adventure from J.K. Rowling about a six-year-old boy and his love for his  stuffed pig. The story is meant for middle grade readers, but it feels like a family story that can be read a few chapters at bedtime. Younger children will identify with the beloved stuffed pig and older readers will enjoy the magical journey into the Land of the Lost, where both good and bad is present. Jim Field’s full-page illustrations are lively and expressive and give readers a sense of the various lands Jack and the Christmas Pig travel through to search for DP.    

The story features a family with real life issues. Jack’s parents are splitting up and Jack and his mother are moving into a new home closer to his grandparents. He has to leave behind his friends and start a new school. His mother meets someone new, Brenden and his teenaged daughter Holly. When they become a blended family, tension erupts and that’s how DP is lost. 

There is a sweet relationship between Jack and DP. DP is a well-worn pig with a long history with Jack.  DP is no longer pink and puffy, but kind of limp and gray, with bent ears and buttons that replace his eyes. He’s been dropped in puddles, buried in sand on the beach, and lost all over the house. Due to all of his adventures, DP has a smell about him that Jack likes. And he’s always been there for Jack when he needs his tears wiped or is scared.  DP always seems to know exactly how Jack is feeling.

A master storyteller, Rowling’s world building is amazing and imaginative. Her plot is enchanting, dangerous, and humorous. It will keep readers fully engaged. There is a large cast of unusual, lovable, quirky and unforgettable characters. The ending is a heartwarming surprise. There are 58 chapters in the book, but they are short. Jim Field’s full-page illustrations are lively and expressive and give readers a sense of the various lands Jack and the Christmas Pig travel through to search for DP.

J.K. Rowling is the author of the seven Harry Potter books, which have sold over 500 million copies, been translated into over 80 languages, and made into eight blockbuster films. She has also written three short companion volumes for charity, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which later became the inspiration for a new series of films, also written by J. K. Rowling. She then continued Harry’s story as a grown-up in a stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which she wrote with playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany. In 2020, she returned to publishing for children with the fairy tale The Ickabog.  She’s received many awards and honors for her writing. She also supports a number of causes through her charitable trust, Volant, and is the founder of the children’s charity Lumos. She lives in Scotland with her family.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

 

 

My Story Friend by Kalli Dakos

My Story Friend

Kalli Dakos, Author

Dream Chen, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, May 2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Boy, Compassion, Listening, Self-acceptance

Opening: “There is the person who tells the story. This is the story teller. / And there is the person who listens to the story. This is the story friend.”

Publisher’s Synopsis

When a child treks across the land in search of someone to tell his sad story to, he meets a gruff mountain man who can’t stand unhappy stories and a too busy to be bothered farmer.  Finally he meets an old woman, who tells stories herself and is willing to  listen. She becomes his story friend. The act of telling the story leads the child to look at the other side and make what was dark lighter and full of hope and positivity.

The true potency of needing to express one’s unhappiness and the power of having someone else listen and help is a strong message for young readers. Like a favorite teacher or mentor, they may not be around forever, just for a short but meaningful time.

What I like about this story:

My Story Friend is beautifully written in free verse by poet Kalli Dakos. Her gentle and compelling storytelling will capture the hearts of readers of all ages. Kids will cheer for the boy when he finds the old woman who will let him unload his burden. When the old woman patiently listens, the boy gains some of his own insights about himself. Dream Chen’s textured illustrations are colorful and emotive and perfectly suit the boy’s journey.

Everyone has a story to tell, whether it is sad, joyful, or humorous. Everyone needs to have someone to listen. Dakos’s story encourages  children to listen with empathy and compassion when their friends and siblings need to talk. And it also encourages readers to seek out a trusting friend or tteacher if they want to share something that is troubling them. 

Favorite quote: “We talked all afternoon, and I learned that when we tell our stories over and over again to someone who listens with a big heart, then our stories become softer like butter melting in the sun, and if we are really lucky, the story tells us what to do.”

Resources: This is a perfect classroom book. Encourage children to write about their own lives. Sharing is up to them. But, pairing kids with a buddy might work well. It is also an excellent book for parents to use if they think their child is being bullied or is troubled about something. The book will guide discussions.

Kalli Dakos is a children’s poet and educator. She visits schools across the United States and Canada to encourage children and teacher to write about their own lives. She has written many collections of school poems that include six ILA?CBC Children’s Choice selections, such as If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand, and They Only See the Outside. She lives in Ottawa Canada, and has an office in Ogedensburg, NY.  Visit her Dakos at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.

Louis by Tom Lichtenheld and Julie Rowan-Zoch

Louis

Tom Lichtenheld, Author

Julie Rowan-Zoch, Illustrator

HMH Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Oct. 6, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-7

Themes: Boy, Teddy Bear, Underappreciated, Humor, Love

Opening: “From day one…things have gone downhill. I’ve been a pillow… a hankie…”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Louis the bear has had enough. He feels overlooked and underappreciated.  If he’s not being used as a hankie, he’s being hung out to dry — literally. This teddy can BEAR it no longer, so he’s sneaking away just as soon as he can!

Then again, there’s no use running off in the rain. Or during show-and-tell. Or when there are delicious snacks to be had. Maybe Louis has something to lose, after all…

New York Times best-selling creator Tom Lichtenheld and newcomer Julie Rowan-Zoch’s hilarious peek into a teddy’s secret life is salty and sweet, grumpy and tender, and a heartfelt tribute to those we cherish.

Why I like this book:

Tom Lichtenheld’s Louis is packed with kid appeal! His text is spare, but delivers bear’s grumpy comments with humor and fun wordplay. Most children have a beloved Teddy Bear or favorite comfort animal they drag around and love to death. How clever to tell the story from the bear’s perspective. Children will giggle at his comments.  But they just may think about how they treat their own favorite bear. Golly, aren’t bears and comfort animals meant to be loved and squeezed to death — literally?  Louis is a fun read aloud at bedtime or in the classroom. Will bear ever have a change of heart?

Julie Rowan-Zoch’s colorful and expressive illustrations are a nod to children that this bear is upset and had enough! Bear’s body language is priceless — the look of utter disgust at having his paw used as a hankie, tightly closed eyes as he’s poked with needles, the dismay at being left on the school bus, and the frowns and forehead wrinkles.  Rowan-Zoch’s creative use of white space make each adorable illustration pop. Make sure you check out the end papers.

Resources: Draw a picture of your own bear or favorite stuffed animal. Name three things you love most about your bear. What are three things you like to do with your bear?  Do you think your bear get’s lonely?

Tom Lichtenheld might seem a little old to have a teddy bear, but he’s a kid at heart and I like hanging out in his studio. To pay him back for many years of free crayons, a warm bed, and chocolate-strawberry cupcakes, I decided to let him write a book about me. You can learn about his other  — less interesting — books by checking out his website.

Julie Rowan-Zoch grew up collecting freckles and chasing hermit crabs in New York, and spent years slicing rich breads in Germany before waking up to 300 days of blue Colorado skies. If she doesn’t answer the door, look in the garden! Visit Julie online at her website or on Instagram @jrzoch. She has authored and illustrated a debut picture book, I’m a Hare, So There!

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.