Showing posts from November, 2013

Explorer: The Lost Islands, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, 128 pp, RL 3

In 2012 we were treated to Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, author of the amazing Amulet graphic novel series (waiting anxiously for Book 6...) and illustrator of the cover art for the 15th anniversary editions of the Harry Potter books (scroll to the bottom for images and a link to even MORE images). Once again, an amazing group of graphic novelists convenes to create Explorer: The Lost Islands. Greats like Jake Parker(Missile Mouse), Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama) and her husband Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), Michel Gagné (ZED: A Cosmic Tale), Katie Shanahan and her brother, Steven, (Shrub Monkeys) Jason Caffoe, a contributor to Flight 7 and Chrystin Garland, freelance animator and digital artist, lend their talents to this volume. Each of the seven stories in Explorer: The Lost Islands takes place on or ends up on an island and is as individual as the artists who created it.

Explorer: The Lost Islands kicks off with Jake Parker's story, Rabbit Island, is …

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff, 167 pp, RL: Middle Grade

My apologies to Tony Cliff for my reductionist comparison but his creation is the closest we may come to a credible female Indiana Jones.Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant begins in Constantinople in 1807 with a delicious cup of tea. After this initial quiet moment, the action takes off pretty quickly. We next see the thoughtful tea drinker in line to receive his pay, which comes not as a bag of coins or a stack of bills handed over, but as a pile of gold in the center of a great hall where the officers of the Janissary Corps are about to show their skill and ability by fighting each other for the biggest take. As you might expect, our gentle tea connoisseur, Lieutenant Erdemoglu Selim, walks away empty handed. Things go from bad to worse for him when he is charged with taking tea (and biscuits) to a prisoner - Delilah Dirk. A prison break, a double fisted sword fight and the getaway on a flying sail boat and, of course, Delilah Dirk, change Selim's life forever.

How did Deli…

Adventures in Cartooning : Characters in Action! by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost, 61pp, RL 1.5

In 2009 Adventures in Cartooning hit the shelves. Adventures in Cartooning : Characters in Action is the third book in this hugely popular series, all of which are presented by the The Center for Cartoon Studies. At first I thought that The Center for Cartoon Studies was something like the ACME company in Warner Brothers cartoons, but, as I began researching this series to write my review, I discovered that it is REAL! The CSS offers a two year program exploring the art of creating visual stories with over 100 students enrolled. And, author James Strum, besides being the author of award winning comics and graphic novels, is on the faculty of The Center for Cartoon Studies and Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost are alumni of the school! Now the title really makes sense, right?

Before I say anything else, I need to alert you to the wonderful fact that this graphic-novel/how-to-draw series is also PERFECT for emerging readers! Like the TOON series of graphic novels (which are specif…

Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

Jennifer L. Holm, is the winner of three Newbery Honor Medals for Our Only May Amelia in 2000, Penny from Heaven in 2007 and Turtle in Paradise in 2011. She and her brother, Matthew Holm, are also the creators of the HUGELY popular graphic novel series, Babymouse! and the spin off series, Squish (reviews of books #1 and #5 here). The series debuted in 2005 with Babymouse: Queen of the World. The 18th book in the series, Happy Birthday, Babymouse, is due out in April of 2014. As a bookseller, I watched this series fly off the shelves. As a volunteer reading tutor in a second grade class, I watched struggling students, mostly girls but also boys, embrace Babymouse! and feel excited to read, often for the first time. As a mother, I was ecstatic when my youngest stepped up from beginning to read books to the Squish series. I even caught him reading as he was walking home from school one day!

So what is so great about Babymouse! and Squish? In Babymouse, the Holms have created a character w…

The Super Book for Superheroes by Jason Ford

The Super Book for Superheroes by Jason Ford is SUPER AWESOME!! Ford begins his book (after the "This Book Belongs To" page that lets kids enter their secret identity and their superhero name) with this fantastic message, "OK! SO you want to draw superheroes doing things like flying and fighting supervillains. All you need are some pencils and pens and your very own superpower . . . YOUR IMAGINATION!" In the pages that follow, Ford gives kids everything they need to inspire imagination and explore creatively. The Super Book for Superheroes has the perfect balance of structure and freedom, encouraging and suggesting with instruction and ideas then letting kids run wild with blank pages. There are pages that show, step by step, how to draw a superhero, how to draw a costume and how to draw a superhero running followed by prompt pages that give kids the space to practice what they have learned. 

More prompt pages really get imaginations going. X-ray vision lets artists…

The Whatnot: The Sequel to THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann, 421pp, RL 4

Stefan Bachmann's debut novel, The Peculiar, came out in the fall of 2012 when he was nineteen and could be considered accomplished for a writer with twice his age and experience. Although reading past the first in a series is rare for me, I just had to know what became of Bartholomew Kettle, Arthur Jelliby and, most of all, Barty's branch-haired little sister, Hettie in the sequel, The Whatnot. When we last saw Hettie, she was covered in spells written on her skin and, through magic employed by Mr. John Wednesday Lickerish, Lord Chancellor and first ever faery to serve in Parliament, Hettie herself had become a door between the human and faery worlds - a door that will also destroy London in the same way that Bath was destroyed decades earlier. However, as The Whatnot begins with a prologue, we quickly learn that London was spared and Arthur Jelliby has risen in rank and esteem. Then, we hear nothing from Mr. Jelliby or the determined Bartholomew until half way through the no…

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachman, 376 pp, RL 4

The Peculiar is now in paperback!!  And the sequel,The Whatnothas just been released! 

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann is a rich and sumptuous book with some of the best world building I have read in a long, long time. This is special in and of itself, but there is something else worth noting about Bachmann and his accomplished novel that I will share at the end of my review.
The prologue to The Peculiar tells the story of the night of September 23rd when there was a "tremendous noise like wings and voices, creaking branches and howling winds, and then, in the blink of an eye, Bath was gone, and all that remained were ruins, quiet and desolate under the stars." That's right, in the first page of The Peculiar the whole city of Bath, circa Victorian era England, is obliterated and the "Small Folk, the Hidden People, the Sidhe had passed from their place into ours. The faeries had come to England." Intentionally? That's to be determined. However, one cold, hard f…