Elem. – The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Barnett, Mac. The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Orchard Books, and Imprint of Scholastic, 2022. 978-1-338-67384-5. $18.99. 48 p. Grades K-3.

This is a beautiful and amusing retelling of the traditional Norwegian trickster tale, brilliantly illustrated by Jon Klassen. A hungry troll lives beneath a bridge that connects the farmland to a grassy hill. Barnett’s classic droll humor makes this troll particularly amusing – he is so desperate he even eats his own ear wax and belly button lint. When a small goat crosses the bridge the troll dances and chants in rhyming verse, explaining all the ways he enjoys eating goat. The small goat convinces the troll to let him go, claiming that his big brother will follow him over the bridge. The big brother has a lot more meat on his bones and will make a much tastier meal for the troll. The troll lets the little goat go and praises himself for tricking the small goat into telling him about a better opportunity. Next, of course, comes the big brother goat. Again, the troll launches into a hilarious, rhyming litany of all the ways he will prepare the big brother goat for dinner. The big brother goat explains he is not the biggest of the goat brothers and would spoil the troll’s appetite. The greedy troll lets this second goat pass over the bridge without harm. As the troll waits in anticipation of his large meal he considers the words he will choose for his next rhyming recipe. The words “strudel” and “escargot” have him particularly perplexed. Along comes the biggest goat. This third goat is so big that we only can see his hairy legs on the full-bleed-spread. This goat is much larger than the troll bargained for; he is so shocked he cannot even form a rhyme. The biggest goat firmly tells the troll he will not eat him, and then proceeds to head-butt the troll off of the bridge. The troll splashes into the water below and falls down a big waterfall, which leads to an even bigger waterfall, which leads to an absolutely enormous waterfall. The three goat brothers are reunited on the grassy ridge, where they live happily ever after.

THOUGHTS: Barnett and Klassen are fabulous as always in this classic fairy tale with a twist. The book works exceedingly well as a read aloud. Children will be delighted in the rhyming antics of the troll, and the reveal of the third goat is absolutely brilliant. An embedded lesson in superlative adjectives is a delightful added bonus.

Picture Book          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD
Fairy Tale

Elem. – No Nibbling!

Ferry, Beth. No Nibbling! Roaring Brook Press, 2022. 978-1-250-76241-2. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

Soon after Derwood the goat plants a garden, he finds a tiny bunny hanging around his vegetables. As his plants begin to grow, the bunny (Tabitha) keeps coming back and making comments filled with vegetable wordplay (for instance, saying “lettuce” instead of “let us,” “butternut” instead of “better not,” and “I yam” instead of “I am”). Derwood is incredibly protective of his plants; therefore, he is very grumpy at first and insists that Tabitha does not nibble his plants. However, he soon comes to appreciate Tabitha’s company and even allows her to weed the garden for him. Ultimately, he grants Tabitha’s wish and allows her to nibble on their bountiful harvest. 

THOUGHTS: This is an adorable, humorous tale of friendship. Children will find the characters endearing, and they will delight in all of the silly vegetable puns throughout the story. Use this to spark discussions about gardening and/or tending to friendships, which need to be cultivated much like a garden.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem./MG – The Beatryce Prophecy

DiCamillo, Kate. The Beatryce Prophecy.Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Candlewick Press, 2021. 978-1-536-21361-4. $19.99. 247 p. Grades 3-8.

“There will one day come a girl child who will unseat a king and bring about a great change,” reads the fearsome prophecy which the reader soon discovers is The Beatryce Prophecy. This magical story involves a bald, brave girl in monk’s robes; a gentle monk named Brother Edik who hands out maple candies; a slip of a boy, Jack Dory, orphaned by thieves and nurtured by an old woman—now deceased—Granny Bibspeak; a laughing, runaway king, Cannoc; and a wayward, stubborn but loyal goat, Answelica. Brother Edik comes upon a sickly Beatryce with her goat companion and nurses the girl back to health. He well knows the prophecy and when he discovers Beatryce can read and write, thanks to the foresight of her parents, he protects her by shaving her locks and disguising her as a monk. Twelve-year-old Jack Dory gets dispensed to the Brothers of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing to fetch a monk who can record the last words of a dying soldier and returns with Beatryce and Answelica with the strong directive from the monastery’s abbot not to return. Beatryce, though, cannot stomach the soldier’s confession and abandons the task. She and Jack Dory find themselves in the dangerous dark forest where they meet the jovial Cannoc who eventually tells them he once walked away from the gruesome responsibility of being the king. They seek safety from the king who threatens Beatryce’s life in Cannoc’s cozy tree- trunk home and are soon joined by Brother Edik. When Beatryce is abducted, the remaining four (the goat is included) vow to rescue her. A proverb comes to mind, Pride goes before a fall. The foolish king and his sinister counselor choose murder and lies to soothe their fragile pride: They cannot accept that a girl can read and write at a time when, as Brother Edik tell her, “Only men of God can read, and the king. And tutors and counselors. The people do not know their letters” (140). At its root, The Beatryce Prophecy is a simple good vs. evil story. But simply written it is not. Can any other author repeat a phrase or line with more meaning than Kate DiCamillo? DiCamillo illuminates this unenlightened world with characters who radiate kindness, goodness, and joy. They also turn out to be the strong ones. Perhaps The Beatryce Prophecy is a feminist story, but it is also a story of courage and friendship. In the capable hands of this author, the reader is ever more convinced that what makes the difference in people’s lives is love. . .and stories.

THOUGHTS: As a vehicle for teaching language and imagery, an example of characterization and plot development, The Beatryce Prophecy is a key tool. The story sweeps you up and the words envelope you. A good read aloud.

Historical Fiction          Bernadette Cooke  SD Philadelphia

Elem. – Habitat Hunter (Series NF)

Potts, Nikki. Habitat Hunter. Ill. Maarten Lenoir, Picture Window Books, 2020. 31 p. $132.24 set of 6. $21.99 ea. Grades PreK-2.

Frog Moves out of the Rain Forest. 978-1-977-11423-5. 
Goat Moves out of the Barnyard.
Meerkat Moves out of the Desert
. 978-1-977-11419-8.
Owl Moves out of the Forest. 978-1-977-11424-2.
Penguin Moves out of the Antarctic. 978-1-977-11422-8.
Shark Moves out of the Ocean.

“Meerkats, meerkats everywhere!” (1), and Meerkat is not happy about it.  She wants a new home she does not have to share, so she sets out to find her new home. Meerkat tries the mountains, but they’re too quiet. She tries a cave, but it’s too cold and has too many bats.  Next she tries a playground; it seems like a great home with all of the tunnels, but the slide is too hot, and the monkey bars are too high. After trying a garden, Meerkat decides her own home is the best home and returns to it.

THOUGHTSMeerkat Moves out of the Desert is a fun way for young readers to learn about meerkats. Combining both pictures and illustrations, readers learn about various homes for Meerkat while also learning why the new habitat isn’t quite right. In the end, Meerkat’s realization that her habitat is the best not only solidifies basic understanding of a meerkat, but it also teaches readers to appreciate their home and family and that something different is not always best.  This title, as with the other titles in this series, also includes a page about the highlighted animal (meerkats) and an “Animal Passport.” This title is also useful for teaching comparing and contrasting because of the various homes Meerkat considers.




Animals        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD