The Wild Piano: A Philemon Adventure by Fred, 39 pp, RL

Last year, TOON Graphics brought us Cast Away on the Letter A, the first  Philemon Adventure by Fred, published in 1972 in France. Philemon and his adventures are unlike almost anything that we have seen on these shores. Fred's illustrations are intricate and filled with action, humor and imagination. I am often reminded of the interstitial animated flights of fancy (and weirdness) that Terry Gilliam created for Monty Python's Flying Circus. In his first adventure, Philemon, a teen living in the country and helping his father on the farm, falls down a well along with his mule, Anatole. After a strange, arduous journey in a new world, Philemon meets Bartholomew, legendary well digger who disappeared 40 years ago. Bartholomew reveals that they are actually on the letter "A" that spells "Atlantic" on the globe. Philemon makes his way home, but without Bartholomew, who is stuck in a labyrinth on the Letter A.

In The Wild Piano, Phil is back home and frustrated by his father, who refuses to listen to his stories. However, his Uncle Felix is more than interested. He gives Philemon a way to return to the Letter A and rescue Bartholomew. Of course, things don't go quite as planned.

In a story that has echoes of Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Gulliver's Travels, all of which are noted in the fantastic end notes that are part of ever TOON Graphic, Philemon wanders through an alien world. After meeting a man who can walk (and camp) on water, Phil lands - with a bounce - on the Letter N, just one letter away from his intended destination. He is quickly put on trial for bouncing on the lawn and sentenced to a brief time in a zebra jail (the stripes are the bars) before having to confront the Wild Piano. Dressed in a tux and alone in a bull ring, Phil takes on the charging baby grand and manages to eke out a chord, winning him his freedom.

But, that's not the end of the story! Phil finds himself in a curious hallway that just might be the labyrinth of the Letter A!

More strange adventures coming October 6, 2015 with The Suspended Castle!


Orpheus in the Underworld by Yvan Pommaux, 56 pp

Yvan Pommaux, beloved, multiple award-winning author and illustrator in France, has a detailed research and illustration style that we were treated too on this side of the Atlantic when TOON Graphics published  Theseus and the Minotaur last year. Pommaux's books are a very welcome addition to the shelves of graphic novels and Greek mythology. George O'Connor's graphic novel series The Olympians is hugely popular in my library while Rick Riordan's books are not. More graphic novels featuring Greek myths, especially those not quite as well know, are fantastic. With Theseus and the Minotaur Pommaux presented a story rich with characters, plot and aspects of the myth that I never knew. Orpheus in the Underworld is yet another myth that I knew a little about and learned so much more after reading this book.

One thing I love about TOON Graphics are the extras that come with each book. Besides the phonetic pronunciations on each page, the cast of characters is presented, baseball card style, with pertinent information. There is a two page index that adds more depth to the story along with suggestions for further reading and resources, including websites. 

Orpheus in the Underworld follows Orpheus from his birth to his death. The son of the Muse of epic poetry and the king of Thrace, Orpheus's musical gifts lift him to the peak of adoration and the the Three Fates bring that crashing down. Orpheus's visit to the Underworld to find Eurydice is compelling and will draw in young readers and make them want to know more about peripheral characters in the story like Hades, Charon, Cerberus and the Fates. 

Hopefully there are more books like these from Pommaux because my students and I are dying to read them! Pun intended...

Source: Review Copy