The World’s Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops

When I started reading a book about a child culinary prodigy who wanted to open a restaurant, I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know that I was about to receive life lessons for my own workaholic life!Chocolate Covered Pork ChopsRyan K. Sager’s The World’s Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops tells the tale of Zoey Kate, child chef extraordinaire. Twelve year-old Zoey Kate creates culinary masterpieces that you can’t get anywhere else, such as Lobster Eggs Benedict, Cinnamon Bacon Octopus Pho, and, of course, Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops.

Zoey’s greatest wish is to share her cooking with all seven billion people in the world. But she’ll settle for opening the greatest restaurant in San Francisco—for now.

Opening a restaurant is harder than Zoey expected. She has to convince a bank to loan her start-up money, find the perfect location, navigate the world of business ownership, and get her parents’ permission! To make matters even more challenging, Zoey is first threatened, then sabotaged, by one of the great chefs in the city.

Fortunately, Zoey has great friends who she can lean on, including Dallin Caraway. Dallin is the biggest kid on his football team, but his coach doesn’t let him play during games.

And here is where the life lessons come in. As Zoey builds Zoeylicious, her fabulous restaurant on wheels, she has to make choices between her friends and her career. Boy, that really hit home for me! I didn’t expect to learn anything from Zoey Kate (except maybe how to make some interesting food), but I recognized those difficult family/friends versus work conflicts in my own life. Just like Zoey, I wonder if I’ve always made the right choice . . .

The World’s Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops goes on sale tomorrow, so you can pick up a copy to see if anyone goes to Zoey’s trolley-restaurant, if the sabotage succeeds, and if Zoey chooses friendship over fame. I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Learn more about Ryan K. Sager at his website: www.ryanksager.com.

Mr. Sager admits on his website that he is not a good cook, and that he finds cooking overwhelming and scary. But he has included a recipe for Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops in the back of his book. Should you try it? Yes! A chef from New York City created the recipe just for this book! How cool is that???

Have you read any great books lately?

The Frog Princess Returns

For some of us, the thought of kissing a frog holds no appeal whatsoever. But in both the Brothers Grimm tale and Princess Emma’s story in E.D. Baker’s Tales of the Frog Princess series, a frog somehow manages to convince a princess to kiss him. Astonishing!

Unlike in the original tale, when E.D. Baker tells the story, Princess Emma turns into a frog instead of breaking the spell for the Frog Prince. (Sound familiar? Disney optioned the first book in the series for an animated movie, and eventually released The Princess and the Frog! You can read a little about this process in the F.A.Q. section of Ms. Baker’s website.)

The Frog Princess Returns is Book 9 of Ms. Baker’s series and was published yesterday – approximately fifteen years after Book 1 was released. We have never read any of the other books in the series, but we have read and enjoyed some of Ms. Baker’s other books, such as the Magic Animal Rescue Series.Frog PrincessJumping into the series at Book 9 was no problem. The book worked very well as a stand-alone story, and we did not ever feel lost or wish we had read the other books first. When Ms. Baker felt background was needed to explain (or remind readers) how Princess Emma met certain characters, she gave it in just a few sentences.

In The Frog Princess Returns, Princess Emma and the Frog Prince, Prince Eadric, are human again. They are engaged to be married and are very happy. Then one day, a princess from another land arrives in Prince Eadric’s family’s carriage. She claims to be Princess Emma’s long-lost cousin, but soon, she won’t leave Prince Eadric’s side.

Princess Emma hardly has time to react to this strange arrival when fairies begin appearing and asking for her help. Did I mention that Princess Emma is also a witch who cares for the humans and fairies of her land? She has a big responsibility!

With a little investigation, Princess Emma discovers that the Fairy Queen has disappeared. The fairies believe she has “faded away” (the fairy version of died), so three new fairies are competing to take her place. After listening to the campaign speeches of the three politician-fairies, Princess Emma realizes that none of the three would be a good choice to lead the fairies.

So Princess Emma, Prince Eadric, the “long-lost cousin,” and a handful of fairies, set off on a search for the Fairy Queen. While she is interviewing dragons, flying a magic carpet, and outsmarting fairy magic to find the Fairy Queen, Princess Emma must still figure out what the “long-lost cousin” is really up to. It’s a busy couple of days. The book flew by (no pun intended) and was engaging and enjoyable from start to finish.

I received an advance reader copy of The Frog Princess Returns in exchange for my unbiased review of the book.

E.D. Baker’s website is www.talesofedbaker.com. She has information about all of her series and individual books, as well as many writing tips for aspiring writers. Ms. Baker is also active on Facebook @edbakerauthor.

Have you read any great books lately?

Foiled

There are few things more exciting to a ten year-old boy than aliens, so a story about Roswell in 1947 was a big hit in our house! Combine that with non-stop pursuit, and you have a sure winner!foiledIn Foiled, by Carey Fessler, good friends Kate and Billy live on a U.S. Army Base near Roswell, New Mexico. One afternoon, Billy shows Kate his “big secret” – pieces of foil that his dad collected at an alien crash site.

Agents from the CIA show up at Billy’s house that same evening, demanding that Billy’s dad turn over the souvenirs, and informing Billy’s family that they are being transferred to Germany immediately. Billy’s dad signals to Billy not to give all of the foil to the agent, and Billy asks Kate for help. The two friends escape through a window with one of the pieces of foil. They find themselves on the run from Military Police and the CIA!

Kate and Billy leave the base and begin a journey to Kate’s grandfather’s house more than 200 miles away, searching for a safe place to hide. As they continue their trek, they discover that the foil might have special powers. Their journey places them in situations they had never been in before, from stealing rides in the back of pickup trucks, to hitchhiking, to blackmailing a State Trooper so they can keep away from the CIA agent who is chasing them. When it seems like things can’t get any worse, trouble finds them again!

Foiled is a compelling read for middle graders. It combines historical facts about life on a military base and the crash in Roswell with a dramatic adventure by two eleven year-olds trying to outwit the CIA. The chase is thrilling and action-packed, perfect for the middle-grade reader.

Mr. Fessler has a fascinating website full of interesting facts: www.careyfessler.com. He fills in some details about Foiled (Kate’s father was a pilot in the 509th Bomber group, who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in August 1945). He also shares much information in his media kit. His official “short bio” is:

The author was a ‘military brat,’ growing up on Air Force bases. He planted roots in Albuquerque, New Mexico before dropping out of college to travel the world. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy’s ‘silent service’—submarine duty and finally unpacked his sea bag in the ‘Land Down Under’—Sydney, Australia.

Mr. Fessler is the author of two other adventure books, one of which was just released and the other will be released next year. Shanghaied: Escape from the Blackwolf and Shipwrecked: Dragon Island both feature twelve year-olds Emma and Scott who are forced to join the crew of a submarine and have to find a way to escape. My son can’t wait to read them!

I received an advanced reader copy of this book so that I could provide an unbiased review of Foiled. Many thanks to the publisher and to Cary Fessler for the opportunity to read this book!

Have you read any great books lately?

Matylda, Bright & Tender

Wow! If I could give a book more than five stars out of five, this would be the one. It’s rare that a book can make me laugh out loud, wipe away tears, and stay up most of the night so I can finish it in one day. But Matylda, Bright & Tender by Holly M. McGhee made me do all of these.matyldaMatylda, Bright & Tender is the story of two best friends, Sussy and Guy, who have been together since they built the never-ending potato in the Mr. Potato Head corner in kindergarten. They walk to and from school together, they play together—although not all the time—and spend time at each other’s homes after school.

One afternoon, their lives change. They convince Sussy’s dad that they need to have a pet that they can own together. Sussy’s dad takes them to Total Pets, where they pick out a leopard gecko. Sussy and Guy name her Matylda, and she lives in a vivarium on the dresser in Sussy’s bedroom.

Sussy and Guy love Matylda. They figure out how to trap crickets for her to eat. They get her to walk up Guy’s arm and sit on the back of his neck (she doesn’t want to walk on Sussy’s hand). And, most important of all, they create her origin story, giving her an identity beyond simply having lived in a pet store before they adopted her.

Matylda becomes the focus of their days, until something of even greater significance and impact happens in their lives.

In Sussy and Guy, Matylda, Bright & Tender introduces us to two characters that readers will quickly fall in love with. They are genuine, honest, and realistic. Their friendship is strong and pure, and they are truly devoted to one another.

The book is narrated in first person from Sussy’s perspective. Her love for Guy is evident in all of her descriptions of him. We watch Sussy grow and overcome challenges as the book progresses, and I, for one, was actively rooting for her by the end.

Matylda, Bright & Tender was written by Holly M. McGhee. Ms. McGhee is both author and literary agent, founder of the agency Pippin Properties. As an author, Ms. McGhee previously wrote under the pen name Hallie Durand. While writing as Hallie Durand, Ms. McGhee published a chapter book series (Dessert First) and multiple picture books. Matylda, Bright & Tender is the first book Ms. McGhee has published under her own name. She has a picture book, Come With Me, coming out in the fall.

Ms. McGhee can be found online at www.hollymcghee.com. The heading on her website is “holly m. mcghee (who sometimes goes by the name Hallie Durand).” Very clever! Ms. McGhee has a blog on her website.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book so that I could provide an unbiased review. Without a doubt, this will be one of my top books of 2017!

Have you read any great books lately?

The First Last Day

As I look forward to our family’s Spring Break trip at the beach, I already find myself wishing that it would last forever. In The First Last Day, Dorian Cirrone illustrates why I should hope that my wish is never granted.The First Last DayHaleigh Adams is mourning the end of her summer vacation on the last day of summer. She and her family have been staying by the beach all summer. She has developed a close friendship with neighbor Kevin Damico, but fears that the friendship will end when they return to their respective homes.

On the morning of the last day of summer, Haleigh meets up with Kevin. They spend the entire day together, including a trip to Atlantic City.

At the end of the day, Haleigh finds a set of “Magic Paints” in her backpack. She doesn’t know who put them in there, but she is intrigued by their instructions: “Paint your heart’s desire.” She thinks back over the day and remembers a scene from the beach. She paints the scene, takes a deep breath, and wishes “for a mulligan of [her] last day of summer.”

Haleigh wakes up the next morning to discover that her wish has come true—it is not the next morning at all, but a do-over of the last day of summer. People say the same thing to her throughout the day, the same events happen over the day, and the day ends the same way (although without her painting the picture).

Day after day, Haleigh wakes up to this same “last day of summer.” She tries changing certain parts of the day, and although she can make little changes, she can’t change the biggest things that happen during the day. I loved this passage:

By the time Kevin wanted me to play Scrabble, my mind was as mixed up as the tiles Kevin poured out onto the table. Still, I picked the same ones I did every night. I’d memorized everyone’s letters as well as the words they’d put down. And I’d secretly researched tons of words on the Internet so I could figure out how to get the most points. I knew it was cheating. But it was just a game. It wasn’t hurting anyone. Right?

So when Kevin put the letters M, R, O, N next to the letter O that was already on the board, I was ready. I scrunched up my face as if I were concentrating really hard, and then placed my O, X, and Y before the word “MORON.” “Yes! Forty-two points!” I shouted.

“Oxymoron?” Kevin said. “How did you know how to spell that?”

“I looked it up.”

“What?” he said. “When? You’ve been sitting here the whole time.”

“Uh, I mean I looked it up once in school—when we studied poetry. It’s when you put two words together that contradict each other.”

“She’s right, son,” Mr. Damico said. “She’s gotten us good.”

Haleigh eventually realizes that the never-ending summer has to come to an end. She enlists Kevin to help her—which means she has to figure out how to tell him (again and again) that the last day of summer keeps repeating.

Ms. Cirrone has created an engaging story with a believable main character. It is written in the first-person from Haleigh’s perspective, and Haleigh’s friend Kevin is a fabulous sidekick. Not only does the book have a great concept, but it is rewarding to watch Haleigh grow through her experience with the time-loop.

Ms. Cirrone’s website is www.doriancirrone.com. At her website, she has a link to her blog, which includes a post that shows “some of the many incarnations” of the first page of The First Last Day. It is amazing to see how different each of these versions are! Sometimes it is easy to forget how hard writers work to find the perfect way to tell a story—Ms. Cirrone’s blog post gives just a little taste of that for us.

Have you read any great books lately?

The Pandora Device

From the moment I read the description of Stella’s treasure hunts in her hoarder Grandma’s home in the opening pages of Joyce McPherson’s The Pandora Device, I was hooked. As I read about Stella and her Grandma, I realized that I could not recall ever reading a book in which the main character lived with a hoarder.The Pandora DeviceReading the following passage, my mind flashed to some old trade magazines that I’ve been holding onto because “surely someday I’ll read them.” I had to stop myself from putting down the book and going right away to clean out all those years of saved magazines.

“Let’s show Grandma,” I said.

We dashed down the hall to her library and squeezed through the stacks of newspapers that filled the room like yellowed skyscrapers.

She sat in her recliner in the midst of them, and I had a quick image of those towers slowly tilting until they whooshed across the floor and through the front door. That was my biggest nightmare—that the whole neighborhood would find out about Grandma’s collections.

Much as I would have loved to explore Stella’s life at Grandma’s house, Stella has other adventures to keep her busy in The Pandora Device. During one of these treasure hunts, Stella and her friend Lindsey find a box containing some keepsakes, including a photograph of Stella’s parents as teenagers at camp.

Stella wants to learn more about her long-deceased parents, so she decides to attend the camp in the photo—Camp Hawthorne. Before she leaves for camp, however, she receives an anonymous warning not to search for information about her parents.

Stella, her friends Lindsey and Jayden, and school bully Ellen, travel to Camp Hawthorne. There, they discover that Camp Hawthorne is not like any camp they have ever attended before, and that the camp counselors and staff will help each camper find and develop gifts they never knew they had.

The kids in The Pandora Device keep the fun and excitement moving as they explore their gifts at Camp Hawthorne, sometimes with funny results. They are guided by a host of counselors and staff, all of whom have their own quirks (as well as gifts). Stella’s dilemma of whether to try to find out more about her parents despite the threats and warnings draws the reader closer to her. Overall, Ms. McPherson has created a group of memorable characters that kept me up far too late at night rooting for them!

I was fortunate to receive an advance reader copy of The Pandora Device in exchange for my unbiased review of the book. I am so glad that I did, because I now look forward to reading the next books in the Camp Hawthorne series!

In addition to the three books that she has already written in the Camp Hawthorne series, Joyce McPherson is the author of a number of biographies and abridged Shakespeare plays for children. You can find Ms. McPherson online at http://joyce-mcpherson.blogspot.com. Ms. McPherson’s blog has information about her books, experiments, and even a link to her tools for creating a Shakespeare camp for children (https://sites.google.com/site/shakespearetools/).

Have you read any great books lately?

Paper Wishes

When Alex finished Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban and told me that I “HAD to read it,” he also mentioned that he had stayed up half the night just to finish reading it. We are usually pretty strict about bedtime, but since it was the long weekend and he didn’t have school, I let that comment slide. Besides, he was talking so enthusiastically about the book that I didn’t want to interrupt him!Paper WishesPaper Wishes tells the story of a young girl named Manami living in the United States during the 1940s. Manami is happily living on the shores of Bainbridge Island, Washington, when she and her family are forced to move to a Japanese-American prison camp.

When she learns that her family is planning to leave her dog Yujiin behind, Manami tries to bring him with her. She hides Yujiin under her coat, and sneaks him onto the ferry taking them off the island. When they arrive at the mainland, however, an American soldier discovers Yujiin and makes Manami leave him behind.

After traveling for two days by train, they arrive at the camp. The soldiers have told them that it will be “a village,” but Manami’s mother recognizes it for what it is: “‘It is a prison,’ she says.”

It is desolate. It is ugly. There are no trees, no water, nothing green. It is a desert.

I soon discover that if I crouch down low with my eyes next to the ground, I can pretend that the dirt looks like sand here.

If I stand tall with my feet bare, I can pretend the dirt feels like sand here.

But when I open my mouth to speak, the dirt no longer feels like sand. It sticks to my lips and tongue like red mud. It coats my throat so that I cannot speak.

I think this is what has happened to me.

I wish the dirt would cloud my eyes, too, so that I would not see this place that is and is not my home without Yujiin.

Manami withdraws from interacting with others, unable to speak for months. Through a series of events, Manami gets the idea that she can deliver messages by sending them on the wind. She decides to send messages (her “paper wishes”) to Yujiin every day until he joins her at the camp. Paper Wishes tracks Manami’s journey of healing, as well as her family’s adjustment to life in the prison camp and life without Yujiin.

Ms. Sepahban’s decision to write Paper Wishes in first person narrative makes it particularly powerful—I’m sure even more so for middle-school-aged kids like Alex. Instead of reading about a prison camp, we lived in the prison camp through Manami. We tasted the red mud coating her lips and tongue, and felt her fear every time an adult or the Warden called upon her to speak.

This compelling book introduced Alex to aspects of war that he and I had not yet had an opportunity to discuss—in particular, the prison camps, and the idea that people might be vilified simply because of where they or their ancestors were born. We had an insightful discussion about racism and why America should never let such a thing as the prison camps happen again. America is better than that.

I am grateful to Ms. Sepahban not only for the wonderful story, but also for this natural opening for the mini-history lesson and mini-humanity lesson with Alex.

Have you read any great books lately?

Ghosts

Alex jumped at the chance to read Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier when he received it over the Christmas holidays. When his dad (half-jokingly) pointed out that he was on a restriction from comic books, Alex gleefully informed him that Ghosts is a graphic novel and not included in the comic book restriction. Alex then settled in to enjoy the book.ghostsAfter he finished, Alex quickly passed Ghosts along for me to read, and asked if we could find him everything else Ms. Telgemeier has written. I think he’s made it through all of her books already—he just doesn’t want to put them down!

In the opening pages of Ghosts, we meet Catrina (Cat) and her family. We learn that Cat’s younger sister, Maya, has cystic fibrosis, and that the family is moving to a new town that is supposed to be better for Maya’s health. Like every good preteen, Cat is miserable with the family’s decision, dislikes the new town, and spends much of the first few days with a frown (or similar unhappy expression) on her face.

Cat’s antipathy toward the new town (Bahia de la Luna) continues to grow as she begins to meet people and feels like everyone in town talks about ghosts as though they are real. In fact, all of the town’s residents celebrate Dia de los Muertos by having a big party “with the ghosts.”

Cat and Maya go on a “Ghost Tour” led by their neighbor’s son and discover the town’s secret—there really are ghosts in Bahia de la Luna. The Ghost Tour ends abruptly when a medical emergency hits.

Cat must then face her worries over Maya’s deteriorating health while adjusting to life in Bahia de la Luna on her own. As she makes friends and builds friendships in her new hometown, she also learns more about her own Mexican heritage, so that she begins to get excited about Dia de los Muertos as the day approaches. She needs one final push to help her decide whether to join the celebrations.

Ms. Telgemeier’s illustrations are phenomenal—showing Cat with a range of emotions on her face that could rival any preteen, and including tiny details in the background of panels that you only see the second or third time you look at the page. My favorite illustrations are her overhead shots and distance views. There are just a few of them scattered throughout the novel, but in each one, Ms. Telgemeier gives us so much to look at, and the difference in perspective from the typical close-up panels makes a lasting impression.

Ms. Telgemeier has a great website at goraina.com. She includes regular blog posts, information about her books (along with a number of reading guides), and a great FAQ page for fans.

Ms. Telgemeier has written a number of graphic novels and short stories. The most well-known of these are probably the #1 New York Times bestsellers Smile and Sisters, both graphic novels based on her childhood.

Have you read any great books lately?

Garvey’s Choice

This must be the week of music—although music’s impact on the main character’s life in Garvey’s Choice is shown to us in a very different way than we saw in Passing the Music Down. In Garvey’s Choice, we see how music can empower people and help them when they are struggling.Garvey's ChoiceNikki Grimes tells the story of Garvey, a young boy who is trying to connect with the father who wants Garvey to be the athlete he has no interest in being. Garvey’s interests are books (particularly science fiction), astronomy, and music. And food. He eats to comfort himself after he has disappointed his father and also simply because he likes what he is eating.

Which leads to Garvey’s other challenge: he is very overweight, and that leads to him being bullied at school. At first, he arrives at school “armed with earphones” so he can’t hear the name-calling, but the principal soon tells him that earphones are not allowed at school. So he is forced to listen to all of the painful taunting as he walks through the halls between his classes.

At home, his sister calls him names too:

My tongue does a dance / when Mom’s spicy lasagna / is passed round to me. / “Leave us some, little piggy,” / says Angela with a grin.

Not every cut bleeds, / so maybe Sis doesn’t know / how deep the wound goes. / A second heaping serving’s / not enough to heal my hurt.

In between big bites, / I hum to the jazz playing / on the radio, / the melody soothing me, / wherever words left splinters.

Not long after the school year starts, Garvey’s best (only) friend Joe encourages him to join chorus. Garvey is reluctant—afraid of what his dad and other kids will say. But when the school switches Joe to a different lunch period and Garvey is left all alone, he decides to give chorus a shot.

In chorus, Garvey makes a new friend who helps him to accept himself for who he is. Garvey learns to speak up for himself, letting his sister know how being bullied about his weight makes him feel:

Sis falls through the door, / juggles backpack and groceries. / “Hey there, Chocolate Chunk. / “How ’bout giving me a hand?” / Call me that one more time and …

The terrible sound / of teeth grinding fills my ears. / Tears aren’t far behind. / I bite my lip and whisper, / “My name is Garvey. Got it?”

Angela withers. / “I’m sorry, Garvey,” she says. / “I was just teasing.” / “Yeah? So why am I bleeding?” / Pow! Maybe she gets it now.

Not only does he learn to stand up for himself, Garvey finds his own voice and pride in his abilities. Just as importantly, music finally gives him a way to connect with his father.

Ms. Grimes wrote Garvey’s Choice entirely in the ancient Japanese poetry form of tanka. Tanka means “short poem” in Japanese. Each tanka is five lines long; however, the line-by-line syllable count can vary (and some American poets do not follow syllable counts at all).  Ms. Grimes followed a strict syllabic count of five-seven-five-seven-seven for the five lines in each tanka. She wrote between one and three of these five-line tankas for each poem. The tanka poem structure was a very effective way to tell Garvey’s story.

Ms. Grimes has a website and blog at www.nikkigrimes.com. According to the biography on her website, she prefers the title Poet over Storyteller. She has written many novels and books of poetry for children and young adults.

Have you read any great books lately?

Tales from the Arabian Nights

Children of all ages will love Donna Jo Napoli’s Tales from the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love, and Betrayal, published last year by National Geographic. The title truly says it all. It has everything necessary to keep any reader entertained.

Tales from the Arabian Nights

Tales from the Arabian Nights is a collection of stories excerpted from the classic One Thousand and One Nights. Since I have never read One Thousand and One Nights, I was just as enthralled as my kids were as we read this book.

The book opens with two tales that introduce us to Shah Rayar, Scheherazade, and Dinarzad, the three characters whose story is woven throughout the entire book.

In the first tale, Shah Rayar learned that his wife was unfaithful to him. As a result, he condemned his wife to death. Shah Rayar decided that all wives betray their husbands, but he believed he needed a wife. So Shah Rayar made “a terrible vow: From thence forward, Shah Rayar would marry daily, and the next morning he would have his bride slain.”

The second tale introduces the reader to the two daughters of the vizier: Scheherazade and Dinarzad. Scheherazade saw the suffering in the kingdom and the grief of all of the parents, and her heart broke. One day, she said to the vizier: “Father, I will marry Shah Rayar and I will save the people or die trying.” The vizier tried unsuccessfully to change Scheherazade’s mind.

And so, Scheherazade married Shah Rayar. Before she left home, she told Dinarzad that she would send for her that night, and that Dinarzad must find the right moment to ask her to tell a tale.

This is how One Thousand and One Nights began. . .

On the first night (Night 1), Scheherazade’s loyal sister Dinarzad (who was sleeping under the marital bed) woke at midnight and asked Scheherazade to tell one of her wonderful tales “to while away the time” until daybreak. The king decided to “indulge his bride in the last hours of her life,” and Scheherazade began “The Tale of the Merchant & the Jinni.” (The book uses the Arabic words jinni, jinniya, and jinn—before reading this, I was only familiar with the English spelling of genie.)

Cleverly, Scheherazade managed to time the climax of the tale right as dawn began to enter the bedroom window. She stopped telling the story. Dinarzad remarked that she had told a marvelous tale, and Scheherazade responded: “It’s nothing compared with what I shall tell tomorrow, if the king spares me one more night.” Shah Rayar wanted to know what happened to the characters in the tale, so he told Scheherazade: “Yes, you can continue another night.”

Each night, Scheherazade continued from the prior stopping point and timed the tale so that dawn was breaking just as the tale reached another exciting place. Sometimes she would quickly conclude one story and then begin an entirely new one in the same night, again ending in the middle of the story at dawn. In this way, she convinced Shah Rayar each morning to allow her to live one more day.

The stories in this collection include some that I was familiar with (in very broad strokes only, not most of the details). Tales from the Arabian Nights includes “Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves.” We eagerly read about Sinbad the Sailor and the stories of his seven voyages. And Aladdin makes an appearance and finds his magic lamp in this collection.

There are also tales that I had not heard of before reading this book. We loved the tale of “Qamar Al-Zaman.” We couldn’t wait to read the end of the story of “The Ebony Horse.” The troubles of “Maaruf the Cobbler” had us on the edge of our seats.

Ms. Napoli has created an excellent introduction into the world of Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights. I highly recommend it.

I began this post by saying that children “of all ages” would love the book. This is true; however, I will caution parents that there are some scary moments in the book (e.g., giant birds attacking and sinking a boat; giants eating people) and mature concepts (e.g., references to a “wife’s escapades with another man”; attempts by men or jinn to kill others). So it may not be appropriate for the youngest readers. Ms. Napoli lists it among her Middle Grade books on her website, and I agree with this characterization.

Ms. Napoli is a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College. She has also written Treasury of Egyptian Mythology, Treasury of Greek Mythology, Treasury of Norse Mythology, along with many other books ranging from picture books to young adult novels. Her website is www.donnajonapoli.com.

Christina Balit’s illustrations in Tales from the Arabian Nights are exquisite. They are rich in color and design. They include 70 paintings in watercolor, gouache, and gold ink. Even on the pages that don’t include a full illustration, there are designs in the corners and along the sides of the pages, keeping the vibrant colors ever-present. Ms. Balit has illustrated a number of children’s books using mixed media. Her website is www.christinabalit.com—I encourage everyone to go online and check out her other work. It is all just as phenomenal as what you find in Tales from the Arabian Nights.

Have you read any great books lately?