7.22.2016

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raúl the Third, 128 pp, RL 3



In 2014 I reviewed the stand out graphic novel Lowriders in Space written by author, artist and librarian Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raúl the Third. I didn't think it was possible, but I love the follow up, Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, even more than the first book! While the ingenuity of the characters, the cars, and of course, space travel were big draws in the first book, the second book manages to pack in even more fantastic features that I know the students in my school will love. Camper ups the usage of Spanish vocabulary in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, including a coyote who puns in Spanish, and weaves characters and themes from Atzec mythology and Mexican folklore into this fast paced, action packed graphic novel with even more of the intensely detailed, superb illustrations by Raúl the Third.


Lowriders to the Center of the Earth starts with Lupe, a master mechanic and "an impala extraordinaire," Flappy, an octopus  who wears a deer stalker and often travels in a jumbo popcorn bucket, and Elirio, painter of cars who has a "beak that was as steady as a surgeon's hand, his skill in detailing cars unparalleled, heading out to find Genie, their beloved missing cat. Footprints lead them out of town and into a giant cornfield where their odyssey beings.



It seems that Mictlantecuhtli, which I know is pronounced mick-lan-te-COOT-lee, thanks to the "What Does it Mean / ¿Que Significa?" back matter which also includes definitions of the geological terms used in the text, (but do know that these translations also appear in the story itself, at the bottom of the page) has taken Genie to his raucous underworld lair, which can be reached by way of a volcano. Straightaway, they hear a crying, wailing sound and discover a beautiful, blue weeping cat woman looking for her babies. La Lllorona takes a liking to Flappy and, while her crying can be a bit much, she does prove good to have along for the ride. 


The gang have to face Mic's skeleton crew, the Wind of Knives, the challenge of transporting a bucket of water to the center of the earth and back and a wrestling match with lots of wrestling terms and a surprise from little Genie (spoiler!! their pet is really Tepeyollotl, the Aztec jaguar god who is Lord of the Animals) before they can reclaim their pet and return to the surface of the earth. There are so many more details in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth that I haven't even mentioned. I'll leave you with my favorite cameo appearance in the underworld comes when the gang pulls up to a torta shop where they see a familiar face. Perched behind the wheel of a monster truck with massive wheels, looking like a roadie for Mötley Crüe, his arm around a doe-eyed goat and a bottle of sangre de cabra in his hand is . . . the Chupacabra!

Source: Review Copy

7.21.2016

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree byDaniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel



In 2014 I enthusiastically reviewed Some Bugs, a wonderfully rhyming book written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by newcomer Brendan Wenzel. Wenzel's  playful, colorful style reminded me of Eric Carle and it is a treat to see him at play again in Daniel Bernstrom's magnificently mellifluous One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree.




Bernstrom takes a traditional theme in children's stories - being trapped in the belly of a beast (and getting spit out) and crafts it into an onomatopoetic, adjective packed story that is especially fun to read out loud. The clever little boy (with the toy, a cool little pinwheel) figures out that if he can prod the snake to keep eating and eating he will eventually over eat...



Wenzel's illustrations frolic across the pages of One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, distracting the reader from the fact that cool kids and cute creatures are being eaten by a huge reptile. As the snake is wiggle-waggling and gobbling up a bird, a cat, a bee hive and even a adorable green "sloth covered in fuzzy-wuzzy moss," the art is as colorful as the words Bernstrom uses to tell his story.  When the clever boy eggs the snake on to eat one final small piece of "plummy-chummy fruit," the teeny-tiny fly perched on the fruit proves to be the tipping point. "Gurgle-gurgle came a blurble from that belly deep and full" and, well, you know how it ends one day in the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree.


Coming soon! 
Wenzel's debut as author & illustrator 
and a follow up to Some Bugs!



Source: Review Copy


7.20.2016

Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story by Sachiko Umoto, 128 pp, RL 3


Years ago I bought Illustration School: Let's Draw Cute Animals by Sachiko Umoto and loved everything about it, from the simplicity and clarity of the instructions (this is definitely a book kids can use without an adult's help, even if they can't read) to the, well, the cuteness of the animals. My kids have outgrown this book, so I put it on the shelf in my library at school and it is very popular. I am SO excited to be reviewing Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story!

But, before I delve into the very cool format for this book, I want to share some a passage from the letter to readers at the start of the book. Umoto encourages readers to "put your heart and soul into it, and just draw," telling readers that even if they copy the drawings or trace the designs, "each version will be different - it will never be the same story twice!" I LOVE that advice. Kids (and even adults) hassle each other about tracing and copying drawings, but this is in fact one of the best ways to learn how to draw. Tracing and copying are like training wheels and eventually artists will take off on their own. Umoto ends with words I especially like, telling readers that by "drawing your own world, it becomes part of reality and connects it to the world that we all share. . . You can make connections with lots of people by sharing the joy of creating something with your own hands."

Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story begins by getting artists set up, even noting the best way to erase something from the page. Then she covers the basics, with tips like draw larger shapes first, apply different pressure to the tip of your pen and let the colors inspire you. The rest of the book is comprised of a story about a princess who escapes from her story to get help from twins Pen and Rayon and their dogs, Book and Marble. The princess, who is to be named by the artist, begs Pen and Rayon to return order to her world, where the Eraserheads have erased everyone on her island home.



There are 29 scenes in the book, and each one has a similar format. The story unfolds while at the same time artists/readers are invited to engage with the story by adding text and replacing lost illustrations. Artists can trace over existing illustrations, but there is also room for them to add their own artwork to the story. 



Umoto's illustrations are in color when she is in storytelling mode and grey and light grey when engaging with readers. Incorporated into the story are spreads where Umoto gives step-by-step instructions on how to draw everything from animals to food to weather to facial expression, all with the clarity and simplicity of her previous books. The story itself travels through many scenes, giving artists experience drawing an array of things, from a desert to a castle to a monster island and a robot island as well as inviting them to decorate a room, draw a meal and draw a costume contest. Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story is the perfect book for any creative kid in your life, but it is ideal for travel, snow days and sick days. 

Source: Review Copy