Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Nya’s Long Walk

Written by: Linda Sue Park

Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney

For ages: 4-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Global Community, Africa, African Culture, Sudan, Sudanese Life, Water, Medicine, Family, Siblings, Love, Lived Experiences, POC-Centric Narratives. 

Summary: 

Nya and her sister Akeer live in Sudan and must walk a long way to get water.  One day when making the journey, Akeer falls ill and Nya must carry both her sister and the water back to their house.  When she gets back to the village, Nya’s mother realizes that Akeer is sick from drinking dirty water, and they must take her to the doctor.  Tired but strong, Nya comes along carrying all of the supplies they’ll need for the long and arduous walk to the doctor.

This book is a fictionalized tale, but it tells a familiar story for a lot of girls who live in Sudan.  Sickness from dirty water is common, but there are organizations that work to drill wells in the villages that have the longest walks to water.  When these wells are dug, it also gives back valuable time typically spent walking to be allocated to education.  This book talks about an organization started by Salva Dut, a refugee from South Sudan that now digs wells in remote villages.

What we really like about this book is that it highlights an individual from the area making a difference, not a white savior organization.  Dut’s organization is called Water for South Sudan and was started in 2003.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lsp_72dpi_rgb_200px_2015Linda Sue Park was born in Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1960, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read.

This is the first thing she ever published—a haiku in a children’s magazine when she was nine years old:

In the green forest
A sparkling, bright blue pond hides.
And animals drink.

For this poem she was paid one whole dollar. She gave the check to her dad for Christmas. About a year later the company wrote to her asking her to cash the check! Linda Sue wrote back explaining that it was now framed and hung above her dad’s desk and was it okay if he kept it? The magazine said it was fine, and her dad still has that check.

During elementary school and high school, Linda Sue had several more poems published in magazines for children and young people. She went to Stanford University, competed for the gymnastics team, and graduated with a degree in English. Then she took a job as a public-relations writer for a major oil company. This was not exactly the kind of writing she wanted to do, but it did teach her to present her work professionally and that an interested writer can make any subject fascinating (well, almost any subject …).

In 1983, after two years with the oil company, Linda Sue left her job and moved to Dublin when a handsome Irishman swept her off her feet. She studied literature, moved to London, worked for an advertising agency, married that Irishman, had a baby, taught English as a second language to college students, worked as a food journalist, and had another baby. It was a busy time, and she never even thought about writing children’s books.

In 1990, she and her family moved back to the U.S. because of her husband’s job. Linda Sue continued teaching English to foreign students. It took her quite a while, but she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was to write books for children. In 1997, she started writing her first book, Seesaw Girl. It was accepted that same year and published in 1999.

Since then, Linda Sue has published many other books for young people, including A Single Shard, which was awarded the 2002 Newbery Medal.

She now lives in western New York with the same Irishman; their son lives nearby, and their daughter lives in Brooklyn. Besides reading and writing, Linda Sue likes to cook, travel, watch movies, and do the New York Times crossword puzzle. She also loves dogs, watching sports on television and playing board and video games. When she grows up, she would like to be an elephant scientist.

BrianPinkneyHeadShotAcclaimed artist Brian Pinkney is the illustrator of several highly-praised picture books including The Faithful Friend, In the Time of the Drums, and Duke Ellington . He is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and holds a master’s degree in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Andrea, with whom he often collaborates, and his two children.

Brian has won numerous awards including two Caldecott Honors, four Coretta Scott King Honors and a Coretta Scott King Award, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award. He has been exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, The Detroit Institute of Art, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The School of Visual Arts, and The Society of Illustrators.

He has been published by Greenwillow Books, Hyperion Books for Young Readers, Little, Brown and Company, Feiwel & Friends, Harcourt Children’s Books, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. His work has also appeared in New York Times Magazine, Women’s Day, Business Tokyo, Ebony Man, and Instructor.

Lilah Tov Good Night

Written by: Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G)

Illustrated by: Noar Lee Naggan

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English and some Hebrew

Topics Covered: Refugee, Growing Up, Lullaby, Family, Nature, Love, Social-Emotional Learning, 

Summary: 

This is a very sweet book that delicately explains the refugee experience of a family in a lullaby style.  A young girl happily plays outside and then eats dinner with her family, a shiny menorah on their windowsill.  When night falls, the foursome set off walking into the forest.  The young girl says goodnight, “Lilah Tov” to the animals she sees on their walk, bundled up in the snowy weather.  She is shown happy and smiling for the entire book, optimistic and reverent of the natural world surrounding her.

While this is one refugee experience represented, it is not so detailed that it couldn’t be used to generally explain the big picture concept of the refugee experience to young readers.  The book itself is beautiful, and the main character is thrilled to wish all things, creatures and non, a good night.  The majority of the family’s travel takes place at night, including a long boat ride underneath a large starry sky.  This would be a great story for people looking to introduce these lived experiences to younger audiences, or before reading other books that have more violent aspects for fleeing. Four Feet, Two Sandals; My Name is Sangoel, and The Banana Leaf Ball are all books that would fall under this second category. All in all, we enjoyed this book very much and would be happy to have it on any bookshelf we encountered.

This book was generously sent by the author, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Ben7833-800-x-534It’s hard to say which has been more of a driving force for Ben Gundersheimer: music or storytelling. Throughout his career the two crafts have intertwined, propelling him as a performer and author. By age nine he was writing his own original songs, and as the son of children’s book author/illustrator Karen Gundersheimer, composing stories was a constant activity as well.

Ben went on to receive a scholarship from Berklee College of Music, travel the world as a singer/songwriter, and earn a Masters of Education. During his student teaching days he engaged his fourth graders through music, and it was this experience that transformed him into MISTER G, inspiring him to relaunch his career to focus on performing for children and families.

A decade later, the Latin GRAMMY Award-winning musician, activist, author and educator, is still fusing music and storytelling. The latest permutation of these two interwoven passions is as a picture book author, with two new books based on his original, multilingual songs. Señorita Mariposa chronicles the extraordinary migration of the monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico, while Lilah Tov Good Night is a lyrical lullaby celebrating the beauty of the natural world and the spirit of resilience in a refugee family.

From illustrator Noar Lee Naggan’s website: “Hi! I’m an illustrator living in New York, chiefly interested in children’s books. I also have a great passion to tell stories, and do it through my illustrations. I aspire to one day write my own books and illustrate them.

I was born in Israel and graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. I previously worked mostly in animation and graphic design with major companies in Israel, but several years ago I found my calling in illustration and I never looked back.”

At the Mountain’s Base

Written by: Traci Sorell

Illustrated by: Weshoyot Alvitre 

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Military, Women Pilots, Family, Grief, Culture & Traditions, Historical Fiction, Global Community, Own Voices.

Summary: This is one of the most beautiful and emotional books that I’ve read in a long time.  The story is told in simple, lyrical poetry and encompasses the emotions that thread through a family waiting for a family member to return from war.  They are waiting for a pilot, and she is waiting for peace, wanting to return to her family in the cabin at the base of the mountain.

This story brings to light the beauty of the Indigenous family waiting for their beloved pilot to return, and also of the history of Indigenous women in the armed forces.  Something particularly beautiful about the illustrations is the way that strings are both literally and figuratively woven through the story, tying together the pilot’s experience and the family waiting at home for her to return.  In the back is an author’s note talking about the history of Indigenous women fighting; they have fought during intertribal conflicts, against the European colonizers, and in the American armed forces as well.  Sorell also specifically names one woman-Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, the only female native pilot in WWII to serve as a WASP.  In 2009 she was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor, and a building was named in her honor at the Ellsworth Air Force Base after her death in 2017.

This beautiful book is the first of it’s kind for me, I’ve never read an Indigenous story about women in the military.  I am so honored to be able to read Traci Sorell’s words, and look forward to reading more from her.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Traci+Sorell+Home+PhotoTraci Sorell lives with her family in the Cherokee Nation, out in the country like she did as a child. Back then, she had geese, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. Her mother’s Cherokee family has been in the area since the removal of most Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in 1838. Traci grew up hearing stories about her ancestors and looking at their photographs with her elisi (eh-lee-see), grandma. Now her son does that with his elisi in addition to fishing in the nearby lake and learning about Cherokee culture.

As a child, Traci spent a lot of time reading as well as singing and acting in musical theater productions. She also loved playing cars and school with her younger sister and brother. They spent hours driving little toy cars all over the towns they drew on large pieces of cardboard. They quizzed each other on state capitals and used old textbooks to teach each other new lessons. Away from home, they spent lots of time visiting family across the Cherokee Nation, elsewhere in Oklahoma and places farther west. Traci still loves to read, play, learn, and travel.

When Traci was a teenager, her family moved to Southern California. She did less acting and more writing, both in class and on the high school yearbook staff. She was the first in her family to graduate from college. Later, her mom, sister and brother got their degrees too.

Before she began writing for children, Traci’s work focused on helping Native American tribes and their citizens. She wrote legal codes, testimony for Congressional hearings, federal budget requests, grants and reports. She continues that work by writing stories for young people and encouraging other Native writers and illustrators to share theirs. When Traci was a child, she never read culturally accurate books about the Cherokee or any other Indigenous people. The stories and poems she writes now reflect her mission to add to the canon of literature showing that Native Nations and their citizens still exist and thrive today.

portrait-2Weshoyot Alvitre is Tongva (Los Angeles Basin) and is well established within the indigenous art community as an illustrator. She was born in the San Gabriel Mountains on the property of Satwiwa, a cultural center started by her father Art Alvitre. She grew up close to the land and raised with traditional knowledge that inspires the work she does today.

Weshoyot has been working in the comics medium since graduating from high school. The culmination of having a Native presence was fueled by meeting and being interviewed by the author of “Native Americans in Comics”, Michael Sheyashe (Caddo). It helped to open her eyes to having a representation in the comics medium and connect with other Native professionals in comics.

Alvitre has since contributed to numerous Eisner award-winning books, including the “Umbrella Academy” (Darkhorse Comics) and “Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream” (Locust Moon Press). She has earned accolades for her work that visualize historical material, including “Graphic Classics: Native American Classics” (Eureka Productions) The Cattle Thief[wa1]  and most recently, the first volume of highly acclaimed “Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers” published by Native Realities Press.

Alvitre has also illustrated numerous pieces of political illustrations in support of the NODAPL movement for Standing Rock, amongst other Native issues. One such illustration, in collaboration with installation artist Andrea Bowers, was auctioned live this past summer at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Auction in San Tropez.

Most relevant to this proposal, Alvitre has partnered with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on Native Knowledge 360°, a national educational initiative to inspire and support teaching about Native Americans using the comics medium as a support. She illustrated 12 pages of sequential comic art, each page interpreting a key historical event. The art has been used on their site and as a tool for teachers nationwide. Alvitre is also working currently with seasoned award-winning video game designer, Elizabeth Lapensee Ph. D. (Michigan State University) on an educational game to be used within the Native curriculum nationwide.

Alvitre has made a conscious choice to work primarily within Native-owned publications and educational avenues, to further support a self funded narrative on past, present and future native issues. It is through this voice, and through her artwork, she feels she is able to communicate her unique viewpoint and continue a strong dialogue on issues that are important to her as a Native woman

Journey Under the Arctic

Written by: James O. Fraoili

Illustrated by: Joe St. Pierre

For ages: 8-12 years

Language: English, gives a small Inuit phrase guide as well. 

Topics Covered: Historical Figure, Environmental Activism, Nature, Adventure, Global Warming, Graphic Novel, STEM.

Summary: 

This comic book adventure is the second in the Fabien Cousteau Expeditions series, designed for upper elementary readers.  The story follows an arctic exploration crew of Fabien (grandson of Jacques Cousteau!), Gloria Perez marine biologist, and exploration supervisor Matt Chan along with two junior expeditions named Rocco and Olivia.  Unfortunately, we haven’t read the first book in the series yet, so we’re not sure if this is the same crew as the first book!

We will say, the book is very good.  Although in one scene of the comic, the group goes to visit a group of Inuit people, and the reader is informed that they may also know the Inuit as Esk*mos (which is considered a slur by some, find more information here).  This would have been a fabulous point of the book to slip in a line about this, but we are provided with a few Inuit phrases.  This would be the only suggestion we have, overall we enjoyed it very much and there’s tons of interesting facts about the Arctic and global warming as well.

Did you know that ice worms liquefy in temperatures greater than 41F?  We didn’t until we read this awesome comic!  When reading, we also learn a lot of interesting facts about how much carbon can be offset by taking simple steps like raising a home thermostat 2 degrees in the summer.  We follow the crew from walking over the frozen tundra to diving 1000 feet below the surface to escape a thrashing bow whale, learning about the creatures that live and thrive at each level of the ocean while searching for the elusive dumbo octopus.  If you like aquatic adventures and learning about how to live more environmentally friendly, this is the book for you! It’s being released…today!

This book was generously sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own.

About the Authors & the Illustrator:

81+gMRPnjDL._US230_James O. Fraioli is an award-winning food author and photographer. His work has appeared on the Food Network and in Forbes Traveler and the New York Times. He is the creator and producer of the documentary television series: NTSB: ALASKA for Smithsonian Channel (airs March 2016), INSIDE DEATH ROW for National Geographic Channel, which received a coveted award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, ALASKA WINGMEN also for National Geographic, HAWAII AIR RESCUE for Weather Channel, and SHARK WEEK episodes for Discovery Channel, among others. Prior to documentary television, Fraioli spent 17 years working in various feature film capacities for Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, and Warner Bros.

Joe-StPierreJoe St.Pierre began his comic book career at Valiant Comics, as penciler of RAI, and co-creator of SECRET WEAPONS. He has sold over 2 million comic books, as a writer and artist for Marvel, DC (Aquaman, Green Lantern), Image (Megahurtz), IDW (Transformers), Boom (Power Rangers) and Dynamite.

Joe has the distinction of penciling the most #1 issues featuring SPIDER-MAN and/or the Spider-Man family.

Joe also works in the fields of commercial illustration, intellectual property design and storyboards for Animation and Video Games. Clients have included MTV, Capstone, Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Sony, PBS, The Amazing Kreskin and Activision. He is the co-creator and illustrator of the FABIEN COUSTEAU EXPEDITIONS, a new graphic novel series published by Simon & Schuster.

Joe’s publishing company, Astronaut Ink, highlights his own creator-owned properties BOLD BLOOD, MEGAHURTZ® and most recently NEW ZODIAX. The NEW ZODIAX Graphic Novel first printing sold out, and thanks to two successful Kickstarter campaigns, the second printing is now available thru comic shops and the Astronaut Ink website.

Cousteau-FabienAs the first grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Fabien spent his early years aboard his famous grandfather’s ships, Calypso and Alcyone; and learning how to scuba dive on his fourth birthday.

He is well known for his study of sharks and from 2000-2002, Fabien was an Explorer At-Large for National Geographic and collaborated on a TV special that aimed to change public conceptions about sharks called, “Attack of the Mystery Shark”.

In 2003-2006, he produced the documentary, “Mind of a Demon,” that aired on CBS. With the help of a large crew, Fabien created a 14-foot, 1,200-pound, lifelike shark submarine called “Troy” that enabled him to immerse himself inside the shark world, providing viewers with a rare view of the mysterious and often misunderstood creatures.

For the next four years (2006-2010), Fabien was part of a multi-hour series for PBS called, “Ocean Adventures” with his father, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and sister, Céline. Inspired by his grandfather’s famous 1978 PBS series, “The Cousteau Odyssey”. In the following years, and as a member of multiple cause-driven and charitable boards Fabien has been working with local communities and children worldwide to help restore local water ecosystems.

In June 2014, Fabien and his team of aquanauts embarked on Mission 31, the longest science expedition to take place at Aquarius, the world’s only underwater marine laboratory located in Florida. Fabien’s Mission 31 broke new ground in ocean exploration and honored the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s original underwater living experiment (Conshelf Two) by going deeper, longer and further, while broadcasting each moment live on multiple channels exposing the world to the adventure, drama and mystique of what lies beneath. After 31 days of underwater research, Fabien managed to break his grandfather’s Red Sea record and collect 3 years’ worth of data in his short time underwater. The expedition reached over 100,000 children on all six continents; and more than 30 billion media impressions. Coming off this great success, Fabien created the OLC with the hope to continue Mission 31’s goal of preserving our ocean.

Recently Fabien has spent time on various oceanic projects, and been featured on numerous television specials. In 2018, Fabien and the Aquatica Submarine team submeberged into the great Belize Blue Hole and mapped the entirety of the sink hole; discovering areas that were once above water, underwater wildlife, and human debris. The entire special was broadcasted live on The Discovery Channel!

The Degenerates [released 3/17]

Written by: J. Albert Mann

Cover Art by: Design: Rebecca Syracuse; Illustration: Sarah Maxwell-Folio Art

For ages: YA (14 years and up)

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Fiction, LGBTQ, Growing Up, Mental Health, Disability, Own Voices, Interracial Love, Family, Friendship, Institutionalized Lives, Courage, Bravery, Love. 

Summary: 

This book is incredible.  I truly hope this book review does it justice, I couldn’t put it down.  We were given the opportunity to read the book before it’s released on 3/17 and I am so appreciative!  Four young girls (Rose, Alice Maxine, and London) are all institutionalized at the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, also known as the Fernald School.  Set in 1928, readers get a look inside the dismal and regimented existence that these girls as well as the rest of the inmates are subjected to.  The book is told in the four voices of the girls mentioned above, and the reader learns the schedule of the “school” and why they were abandoned there.  Using the language of the day, you can anticipate outdated terms for Down syndrome as well as learn about the eugenics movement that drove the incessant testing and measuring of intelligence leading to categories that we no longer use (but that many still use as ableist insults today).

I don’t want to give away too much, but The Degenerates is a slow burn, and made my little gay heart go pitter patter all the way until the last pages.  It’s a fantastic historically accurate book, and I’ve already told several people how much they need to read it!

In an extensive note in the back, we learn more about the author and how she developed the book from actual records found from the Fernald School, which was finally closed in 2014.  We coincidentally live very near the Fernald, so this book was of particular interest to us!  Everything in the book that a doctor or nurse says to a character was pulled from hospital records, as well as the characters names and their conditions.  The author herself is disabled, giving a personal voice to the probability that she herself would have been committed to an institution such as this one should she have been born last century.  Honestly, we probably would have been committed too, due to the criminalization of queer people in addition to the other disabled and marginalized citizens.  This adds another layer to reading the book and the heinous “care” that these individuals committed for life were given.

The Degenerates will be released on March 17th! This book was sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own. This is a YA book everyone should devote a few hours to reading!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

Jennifer+Mann_Author+Photo_2016+(1)J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children, with S&S Atheneum Books for Young Readers set to publish her next work of historical fiction about the Eugenics Movement and the rise of institutionalism in the United States. She is also the author of short stories and poems for children featured in Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights Fiction Award, as well as the Highlights Editors’ Choice Award. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and is the Director of the WNDB Internship Grant Committee.

selfieSarah Maxwell is an American illustrator based in London. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas, only to then travel to Paris for studies. Having lived there for over 5 years, she has made the move to travel across the pond to the UK to start a new chapter of her life.

Her work ranges from fashion illustration to animated GIFs and comics. The best way to describe her work is summed up in 4 key words: nostalgia, tenderness, femininity, and 80’s electronic music.

0-3Rebecca Syracuse is a graphic designer and illustrator, highly experienced in children’s publishing and product design.

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Written by: Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed

Illustrated by: Doug Chayka

For ages: 7-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Refugees, Friendship, Empathy, Immigration, Global Community. 

Summary: This is a very sweet and emotional story of two friends that meet in a refugee camp when each gets only one sandal from a supply truck.  Lina and Feroza become friends and begin to share the sandals, alternating days wearing them.  The girls spend almost all of their time together, talking about their dreams of leaving the camp and completing chores.  When Lina’s family is put on a list to leave the camp, who will end up with the 2 shoes when there are 4 feet?

This book was inspired by a camp that author Khadra Mohammed worked at in Peshawar, Pakistan.  Despite being published in 2007, it is even more prescient today given the current crises today regarding immigration and loss of homes, resulting in forced migration of various peoples across the globe. The accompanying illustrations by Doug Chayka are beautiful, looking painted rather than drawn.  These stories are important for children to learn, and to learn about the privilege that we live with in many parts of the United States.  If able, this book can be used as a jumping off point for more education about global refugees, activism, or lived experiences.

About the Authors & the Illustrator:

klw2Karen Lynn Williams (right) was born in Connecticut, and received her Master’s degree in deaf education. She has lived in Africa and in Haiti. Karen had an early dream to be one of the youngest published authors, starting a writing club at ten. However, Karen’s published works came later in life, after extensive travels and family experience. Karen’s ability to draw from personal experience and adapt into writing forms for all ages and interests expresses her true gift.

The Pittsburgh Refugee Center‘s Executive Director, Khadra Mohammed (left) is a native of Somalia and has over twenty years of experience in working with refugee populations, both in the US and in refugee camps in Pakistan and Kenya. In Pittsburgh, for the past eight years, she has advocated on behalf of local refugees and brought awareness of refugee issues to the attention of the greater Pittsburgh community. Ms. Mohammed is also a published author of several children’s books. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction in 2005, and was honored with PUMP and Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2005 40 under 40 Award.

638133_102_120_LTE2MDQzNzE2NDMtOTAxMDgyNjExDoug Chayka is a “freelance illustrator based in New Jersey and also travels frequently to Berlin, Germany, where he works for part of the year. His clients include The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, NBC News, Politico, Pentagram, Wired, and many others. Doug has also taught illustration full-time at Ringling College of Design (2009-10) and Savannah College of Art and Design (2010-12), and on an adjunct basis at Pratt Institute, City College of New York, Rochester Institute of Technology, and The Illustration Academy.

Doug grew up in Weedsport, New York and attended Rochester Institute of Technology to study illustration and graphic design. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Kansas City to study further under one of my illustration heroes, Mark English, his first big influence and an early mentor. Doug began freelancing there in the late ’90’s and landed my first editorial assignments at the Kansas City Star while also working on his first picture book projects. A few years later Doug began to travel extensively in Europe and eventually stayed in Berlin, where he studied painting and printmaking as a Fulbright scholar at The Berlin University of the Arts from 2000-2002. Many different people and places have helped shape Doug’s point of view as an artist. Doug believes that it’s a process that is ongoing and grows with every new client and each unique challenge.”

Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx

Written & Illustrated by: Joe Todd-Stanton

For ages: 5-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Adventure, Girls Outdoors, Family, Strength, Fear, Social-Emotional Growth.  

Summary: This is the tale of Marcy, daughter of Arthur from the first Brownstone’s book. Marcy is very afraid of the dark, and also very skeptical that her father ever had a wild life of adventure (after all, he’s so old now!).

Arthur decides to go and try to obtain a book of secrets in hopes of curing Marcy’s fear.  Unfortunately, he is taken captive by a large snake inside a pyramid during his quest.  Marcy must go on an adventure to help save her father, and hope that her fears are conquered in the process.  This book is great in showing that girls can be problem-solvers and outdoor adventurers!  Marcy must decide for herself who to believe when she meets various Egyptian gods and goddesses, and how best to free her father.  The story is helpful in that it discusses what the gods and goddesses rule over, making it an educational adventure that Marcy goes on.  The characters are not incredibly diverse, but the only human characters are Marcy and her parents.  Arthur and Marcy do end up leaving the book he was searching for in the pyramid, which honestly made us feel better given the colonial history of pillaging Egyptian artifacts.

Of the Brownstone’s books, I really like how the heroines are strong and independent!  They face their fears in order to help others, being a role model for social-emotional development and growth.  I am also such a fan of the illustrations, they’re adorable and reminiscent of comic books (something I really like).  There are lots of little humorous details to discover on the pages, an aspect that makes Joe Todd-Stanton’s style unique.

This book was generously sent to us by Flying Eye Books for review. All opinions are our own! The hardcover version was originally published in 2017, but the softcover edition will be available in early March of 2020.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Headshot_BW_croppedJoe Todd-Stanton grew up in Brighton and studied at UWE Bristol, receiving a first class degree in Illustration. Joe has been commissioned to work for clients such as Oxford University Press, Usborne Publishing and Aquila magazine.

To find out a little more about his work, Flying Eye asked Joe the following questions:

What inspires your work?
I normally find inspiration through reading or conversations. It’s rare that I get a fully-formed image in my mind but I will read about something strange that interests me and I will research it to see if anything grabs my attention. Normally by the time I have finished the work it has complete changed from the thing that influenced it but I think that is what makes it interesting.

Tell us a bit about your process…

I try and keep plenty of sketch books and fill them up with weird characters and life drawings so when it comes to making an actual piece of work or commission I already should have a few relevant drawings and I’m not just starting from scratch. Once I have a finished drawing I use Photoshop to colour and tweak things around.