Bad Island is Doug TenNapel's second graphic novel for kids, Ghostopolis being his first. TenNapel does a great job world building and creating an environment you get sucked into a few pages into his book. What I love about TenNapel's work is the way he subtly weaves themes of love and family into his action packed stories. With Bad Island we meet a family preparing for a vacation on board a boat and not everyone is happy about the trip. Teenager Reese spends his last free minutes trying to convince his parents to let him stay home alone. Mom, the botanist, is frantically trying to rig up a drip system to keep her rare orchid alive while she is gone and Janie is increasingly frantic as she tries to find her pet snake Pickles and furious as no one will help her. When the family finally makes it on board the boat they are quickly sucked up into an unanticipated storm that leaves them ship wrecked on an uncharted island. A bad island...
However, Bad Island actually begins with the words, "Another world, another time..." and shows us an alien race of giants who are trying to save a race of human-like creatures from enslavement. Despite their battle armor, the giants are no match for the enormous, viscous bug creatures that attack their homes. These creatures and their fate collide with Reese and his family thousands of years later on Bad Island. Just who is good and who is bad is the real question, though,
TenNapel uses flashbacks and moments of suspense to illustrate both the tension and the love between father and son in Bad Island in both story lines. When the family works together on Bad Island to make sense of the strange plant life, markings and creatures they encounter, they grow closer and the danger feels a bit less ever present. As noted in a review for School Library Journal, "There's a tenderness that the characters have endured and helps to round them out and make them more believeable. You actually can feel the love and strength that the family has built their foundation on since the birth of Reese." Best of all, though, is the comic relief from Janie and her stowaway pet snake Pickles, who does not survive the shipwreck.
TenNapel's creature creations are creepy and brilliant and echo some of the creations of filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, especially his films Nausica and Princess Mononoke. Like Ghostopolis, Bad Island is a book that demands multiple readings. First, read for the fast paced story. Second time, read for the detailed creatures. Third time, look for clues you might have missed in the first two readings. I can't wait to see what Mr TenNapel conjures up next!
When I first encountered Doug TenNapel's Ghostopolis last year it struck me as a creepy-kind-of-boy-book. However, I did take note of how well it was selling and one day while on break I began reading it and couldn't put it down. I was immediately drawn in to main character Garth Hale's story line as a kid with a terminal illness and his single mom, not your typical graphic novel hero. The plot of Ghostopolis can get a bit darker than most and is different from any other graphic novel I have read to date. Garth's storyline is quickly and almost inextricably linked with that of Frank Gallows, a once great now down on his luck investigator charged with sending wayward ghosts back to Ghostopolis, a kind of limbo/way station setting. When the skeletal ghost horse Frank is hunting down escapes through the wall of a neighboring house just as Frank is clapping the transporting ghost-cuffs on his fetlocks, the nightmare jumps over Garth in his bed, sending him back to Ghostopolis along with the horse.
The horse, named Skinny by Garth, does his best to lead Garth away from danger and toward the city when he runs into a kid named Cecil who turns out to be the ghost of his grandfather. While all this is going on, Frank heads to the desert to find his ghost ex-girlfriend and beg her to help him get into Ghostopolis and rescue Garth since he has been denied a place on the official team heading to the underworld.
In Ghostopolis the two groups meet up only to be chased down and split up by the various territorial lords meeting in the capitol to celebrate with Vaugner, their leader. The scenes in Ghostopolis are amazing, both colorful and dark and imposing, and the pages are rich with a multitude of creatures and creations populating the pages.
Ghostopolis is very fast paced and definitely calls for more than one reading to take in all the intricacies that abound in the artwork. TenNapel's characters and world building are what take this mostly standard story to the next level. Once in Ghostopolis, it becomes evident that Garth seems to possess some special powers that make it possible for him, along with a little help from Frank, to take on Vaugner for the final, very cool climactic battle scene. TenNapel brings a satisfyingly happy ending to his story as well as some nice closure for his mother and Cecil, her father.
Although less menacing in tone, readers who liked Ghostopolis might also enjoy:
Amulet series by Kazo Kibuishi
You may know that I am an NPR junkie and my life is nearly complete having been interviewed by Michele Norris on All Things Considered where I was honored to talk about kid's books. I am also a huge fan of comedy and never miss the radio show Wait Wait Don't Tell Me... So, I was especially excited when worlds collided and the 2012 Newbery Award Winner Jack Gantos appeared on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me... to play their game Not My Job (click to read transcript or listen) where he answered multiple choice questions about romance novels. Before that, though, Peter Sagal asked him to talk about spending eighteen months in prison for drug smuggling when he was a teenager looking for cash for college. Gantos wrote about this in his autobiography Hole in My Life. Gantos is a VERY funny story teller and also happens to be great at the "Not My Job" game and won Carl Kassel's voice on the answering machine of Eli Barnes of Madison, WI. Gantos, who has previously won a Newbery Honor and National Book Award Honor, has long been on my list of authors to read. After hearing him on Wait Wait, I am bumping him up to the top of the pile! Don't wait for me, though. Check out Besty Bird's review of Dead End in Norvelt from April of 2011 at fuse #8.
In other news of worlds colliding, my favorite fictional television character, Liz Lemon, recently headed off to the 18th Street Barnes & Noble (bathroom) to look for a best friend who will share all her interests. Wait, it gets better! After meeting doppelgänger Amy coming out of the bathroom, the two leave the bookstore to get dinner, complaining about books that get new covers when the movie version comes out. Liz can be heard saying, "Let me imagine what Peeta Mellark looks like and how his arms smell of bread!" Not only is my workplace featured on 30 Rock (promotional consideration provided) but my favorite YA post-apocalyptic trilogy gets a shout out on my favorite show! I'm pretty sure that Tina Fey has not read The Hunger Games and someone else wrote that line, but it was still a squeal-worthy moment for me. For those of you who missed it, click The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell for a link to the show.
Mac Barnett is a favorite of mine (which means I can't write about him without mentioning all his work...) especially when he teams up with Adam Rex. Happily, the duo have a new book, Chloe and the Lion, coming out in April. But after reading Barnett's newest picture book Extra Yarn I think there is room in this world for more than one favorite pairing. After all, I love chocolate and peanut butter together but I also enjoy chocolate and mint. Makes perfect sense, though. Barnett's newest partner Jon Klassen is the author and illustrator of the brilliant (and slightly subversive) picture book I Want My Hat Back so of course these two would make a great team. Oh, I just remembered. I also like chocolate and chiles (Chuau Chocolatier makes the best) and can't forget the superb pairing of Barnett (click his name for all my reviews of all his work) and the super-awesome Dan Santat. The two joined forces for the fantastic OH NO! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) and will be back this summer with OH NO NOT! AGAIN! (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History)(Or at Least My History Grade).
Now that I have almost exhausted my list of superlatives, I'll tell you about Extra Yarn. Barnett masterfully creates a story that has a fairy-tale-fable feel to it. Believe me, this is NOT easily (or satisfyingly) done by most picture book authors but Barnett does it. Extra Yarn begins, "One afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color." Klassen's illustrations are as bleak and stark as Barnett's writing. That is, until Annabelle begins to knit with that yarn. First, a sweater for herself and her dog Mars, which bring the ridicule of neighbor Nate. With her extra yarn, Annabelle knits sweaters for Nate and his dog. When her sweater causes a disturbance in school, she uses up some more of her extra yarn to knit sweaters for the whole class. The texture and colors of the sweaters that Klassen illustrates are perfect and the gradual spread of color over the drab little town is a delight to see.
Since there is always extra yarn, Annabelle is able to knit sweaters for everyone in town and eventually begins knitting sweaters for things that might not necessarily need them, like mailboxes and pick-up trucks and buildings and at times you can see the yarn connecting everyone and everything, as in the picture below. As Travis Jonker aptly notes in his review of the book at 100 Scope Notes, "This sort of absurdity fits with Barnett and Klassen's previous work," and indeed this kind of silliness is welcome.
Just as the town is transformed, happiness (and warmth) are threatened by a fanciful archduke who arrives from across the sea. When Annabelle refuses to sell him the box of extra yarn at any price, the archduke sends his minions to steal it in the dark of night. I think I will not give away the ending of the book but I can tell you that it is simple and sweet in a satisfying way and I guarantee that when you finish this book you (and the listeners you might be reading it to) will want you to go back to the beginning and read it all over again! As succinctly stated over at Pink Me (a fantastic resource for children's book reviews that is also run by a semi-raving Barnett and Rex fan) after making the scholarly note that yarn, as in story, and yarn, as in fiber, are both better when shared, "I think writing even these four sentences of analysis just sucked some of the happiness out of this book, so I'm going to stop." Me too. Extra Yarn is best enjoyed in it's original form and over and over.
For a really cool viewing of Extra Yarn, check out this series of pictures (by scrolling right) that Jon Klassen posted on his website with the great name, Burst of Beaden.
My husband, by way of his family, introduced me to the joys of The New Yorker magazine when we met some twenty-plus years ago. While I always felt good about myself for wanting to read those very long articles about interesting, intellectual, cultural things and those top-notch short stories that filled the pages, nine times out of ten I ended up poring over the magazine just to read the cartoons and maybe a movie review or two. While I always aspired to something more, I contented myself with the knowledge that plenty of cartoonists for The New Yorker (William Steig, Bob Staake, Peter de Sève, Roz Chast to name a very few) were also children's book illustrator/authors. Add to this list Bruce Eric Kaplan and his excellent new book, Monsters Eat Whiny Children, published in 2010.
I love this book for so many reasons, from the spare but expressive artwork to the humor that might be lost on children and, best of all, the timeless trop of children-eating monsters. While I love everything about Monsters Eat Whiny Children, what I love most is Kaplan's writing, especially the straightforward, generous narrator who recognizes that life is tough and we all have our struggles, even if we are whiny-children eating monsters. Also, Kaplan does not talk down to children in an effort to include them in the jokes or buffer the potential nightmare-inducing concept of the story. Monsters Eat Whiny Children begins, "Once there were two perfectly delightful children who were going through a TERRIBLE phase, which is to say they whined ALL day and night." Their father warns them, but they do not listen. A monster steals them and takes them to his "lair on the bad side of town."
The monster plops Henry and Eve into a lovely wooden bowl and begins to make a salad. The children begin to whine about the wooden bowl and sitting on lettuce. At this point, while the monsters are increasingly scary and capable, they also begin to reveal very human natures. When the monster's wife walks into the kitchen and tastes the salad dressing she screams, "I hate cilantro!" She insists her husband start over and add paprika to the dressing. When he complains that he does not like paprika, she replies with menace, "You LIKE paprika." The monster has to take the children outside, hose the old dressing off them and start all over.
Before he is done with the new dressing, a neighbor drops and berates the monsters for wasting whiny children on a SALAD. Why, he has been dreaming of whiny-child burgers all week! The wife grumbles but agrees with the change of plans, knowing it will mean she will have to clean off the grill, which is disgusting. This goes on and on as the monsters are unable to get the fire started, causing the neighbor's cousin to kick a hole in the fence. Then they consider making a cake of them but the monster's wife thinks her bottom is too big and she should not eat cake, plus she hates baking. A simple dish of rice and a nice "whiny-child vindaloo" gets them all thinking for a time but, as the narrator thoughtfully notes, "Sometimes it's hard to figure out if you are in the mood for Indian food."
Kaplan accomplishes the amazing feat of writing a story that is irresistible to children (monsters eating children) and infinitely entertaining to parents. I have read this book several times at story time in the last few weeks and had kids who thought they weren't interested slowly get closer and closer until they are sitting down and just as engrossed in the story as everyone else within hearing range. I have seen parents smile and remove the book from the place where I have prominently displayed it and read it to their kids. This is just a really great, funny subversive book that you won't get tired of reading. Kids love cautionary tales, they love seeing other kids in danger or getting punished in all the ways that they fear and they love to breath a sigh of relief at the end when everything turns out well, if not happily.
Kaplan ends his book with the monster's aunt, "angry at the world as she always was," who walks in and tells the group exactly what they should do with the whiny children. Actually, she yells it at them and spits a little as she does because of her "saliva problem." They all agree that whiny-child cucumber sandwiches sound ideal, the narrator telling us that it's "such a relief for finally figure out what the right thing to eat is." As they assemble the ingredients (a recipe for cucumber sandwiches is included in the book) and search for "fluffy white bread" instead of the "healthy twelve-grain bread" that is the only thing the monster has eaten in years, the children, who have been playing quietly with balls and cars the monster's wife has been slipping to them, notice an open window and casually take their leave, hand in hand. Don't worry, the monsters have almost as happy an ending. Although they no longer have whiny children, they all seem content to tuck into plain cucumber sandwiches in their absence.
Kaplan leaves us with the knowledge that Henry and Eve have learned a lesson and never whine again. Well, almost never.
I just love Jenkin's author's note in Love You When You Whine:
Like Bruce Eric Kaplan's Monsters Eat Whiny Children, Sylvianne Donnio and Dorothée de Monfried's I'd Really Like to Eat a Child is fueled by that classic Grimm childhood fear of being eaten. And, while both authors work to alleviate (at least a little bit) the fear and tension surrounding the subject of their books, Donnio's book is actually a bit more gripping because kids KNOW there are really crocodiles that eat people... However, the title of the book really has a much more threatening bite than the story itself, which is actually as cute as little Achilles the crocodile himself.
Achilles (great name, makes him seem a little less scary) is an adored little crocodile who makes his Mama proud every day by eating up all the bananas she brings him. She praises him lavishly, saying, "What a big boy you are getting to be, my son! And how handsome! And what beautiful teeth you have!" to which Achilles responds, "True." However, one day Achilles turns up his nose and says, "I'd really like to eat a child." His Mama is desperately worried by his stance, as any mother of a child who is refusing to eat would be. His father brings Achilles an enormous sausage which is met with rejection - unless it has been made out of child. To this his father scoffs, "Come now, Achilles. There's no such thing as a sausage made from children!" Next, his parents team up to make a delicious, gigantic chocolate cake which almost tempts Achilles until he realizes that what he really wants to eat is child.
Feeling a little "strange and weak all over" since he has not eaten his breakfast, Achilles heads down to the river for a swim. As he approaches the bank he spies - a child! Happy day! At this point, the visual joke of the story becomes obvious - Achilles is way too small to eat a child. But, he doesn't know that and he tries to sneak up on the little girl and bear his ridiculously small teeth and lets out a tiny "raah!" The little girl squeals - with glee - and grabs this cute little croc by the tail and tickles his tummy. When she's done with him, she throws him in the river. Undaunted by this seemingly humiliating experience, Achilles is instead exhilarated. He runs home shouting, "Daddy, Mommy! Quick, give me some bananas! I have to grow bigger . . . BIG enough to eat a child!"
Both author and illustrator are French and I'd Really Like to Eat a Child is translated by Leslie Martin. While I couldn't find very many images to share with your, de Monfried has a brisk, cartoon-like style that adds humor to the story but also keeps it focused on Achilles and his dilemma. Donnio's writing captures the sometimes helpless love parents feel for their children as well as the happy sense of accomplishment kids have when they figure things out on their own.
Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Newbery Honor Winners:
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Breaking Stalin's Nose By Eugene Yelchin
Caldecott Award Winner
A Ball for Daisy
Written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
Caldecott Honor Winners
Blackout written and illustrated by John Rocco
Grandpa Green written and illustrated by Lane Smith
Me . . . Jane written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
This award is given to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers.
Tales for Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider
I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
See Me Run by Paul Meisel
recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience.
Coretta Scott King Author Book Award Winner:
Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson
The Great Migration: Journey to the North by Eloise Greenfield
Never Forgotten by Patricia C McKissak
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book Award Winner:
by Shane Evans
In 1962 Bryan was first African American to write and illustrate a children's book.
for a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience with an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh
honors an author as well as a specific body or his/her work that has proven popular over a period of time. It recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society and the world.
2012 Winner: Susan Cooper
William C Morris Award
Where Things Come Back John Coery Whaley
Girl of Fire Thorns by Rae Carson
Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia Mccall
Between Shades of Gray by Rutya Sepetys
is given to a book that exemplifies literary excellence in Young Adult Literature.
Where Things Come Back John Coery Whaley
Why We We Broke Up by Daniel Handler with illustrations by Maira Kalman
The Returning by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Jones by Craig SIlvey
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefavter
recognizes originally published in a Language other than English.
written by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman,
translated by Laura Watkinson
The Lily Pond by Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schneck
Putting Makeup on a Fat Boy by Bill Wright
Stonewall Honor Books:
a + e 4ever by Ilike Merey
Money Boy by Paul Yee
Pink by Lili Wilkinson
with or without you by Brian Farrey
Rotters by Daniel Kraus
Narrated by Kirby Heyborn
Ghetto Cowboy by G Neri, narrated by JD Jackson
Okay for Now by Gary D Schmidt, narrated by Lincoln Hoppe
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefavter,
narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham
Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt, narrated by Wendy Carter