Sunday, June 14, 2015

Princesses and Ponies

I have two young daughters that LOVE their princesses, their ponies and most of all, their dress-up boxes. They spend their days in the world of pretend, acting out scenes from books (and Disney movies--anyone ever hear of this one called Frozen?). They dive into their wild imaginations to embellish the stories. When I watch how much they imitate what they see, I am reminded of the importance of filling them with a world of strong female role models. Their doctors and dentist are females, and at the age of three when they had to see a male pediatrician, the older twin's jaw dropped as she asked,"What?! Boys can be doctors?"

When I sit down to read with them, I want them to be surrounded by books they love, as well as books that have powerful female characters. The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale is one of my favorites because it appeals to their love of princesses, but Princess Magnolia is no ordinary princess. She is a monster-fighting badass. Princess Magnolia wears frilly pink dresses and has a castle filled with pink furniture and accessories, but as soon as her monster alarm goes off, you better believe her secret identity as a tiara tripping, sparkle slamming  superhero that dresses in black comes to life.

Be sure to check out the second book in the series, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party available on October 13, 2015. As much as my family loved the first book, if it's possible, we enjoyed this one even more. What young reader doesn't love a book with a good birthday celebration? The call to fight monsters may be interfering with her party, but Princess Magnolia always has a plan up her sleeve when it comes to keeping her identity hidden. Non-stop action, a delightful new character, and an ending that is, as Princess Sneezewort would say, "absolutely perfect" make this a book you'll want to pre-order.  If your boys and girls are anything like my students, this sequel can't arrive on bookshelves soon enough!  My daughters are already asking for Book #3.

For slightly older kids, the Pack-n-Go Girls chapter book series offers stories of friendship, mystery and world travel. This indie pub series appealed to me when I read the creators' mission is to inspire young girls to be adventurous and to explore the world beyond themselves. During the first global trek, Brooke visits Austria where she meets a young girl named Eva. Brooke and Eva are girls that love ballerinas and horses. These two characters will appeal to readers that share those same interests, but throughout the story the appearance of a mysterious ghost will keep readers turning the pages. Author Janelle Diller weaves details and explanations of Austrian language and culture into the text without interrupting the flow of the story. She skillfully explains to readers that while certain foods and clothing are traditional to Austria, it is also common to see food and clothing similar to what is found in the U.S., helping readers understand that countries and cultures around the world influence each other. When I traveled around Austria, I was stunned by the enormity of the Alps, the beauty of the baroque churches, the history in some of the small towns and the familiarity of a TGI Fridays. Diller captures all of that into her story while her characters learn about friendship and uncover clues. By the end of the story, like Eva, many readers will have solved the mystery, learned new words and discovered interesting facts about Austria.

Teachers interested in using this series in their classroom will want to sign up for free teaching resources. These books are ideal for students reading at an end-of-year second grade/early third grade level. In the back of the books there is extra nonfiction information that could be utilized in the classroom. In the Austrian book, I found: quick facts about the country, a description of its location and climate, a recipe for Kaiserschmarrn, a traditional dessert and a list of common German words with their pronunciations and English translations.

The Pack-n-Go series features mysteries in the following countries:

To help fund the cost of publishing the next country in their series, they have launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $5,000 for illustration and design expenses.

Whether boys or girls, if you know a child that loves adventure, be sure to check out these two series!
Happy reading.

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