Showing posts from November, 2014

Theseus and the Minotaur by Yvan Pommaux, 49 pp, RL: 3

Theseus and the Minotaur is a new book by beloved French author Yvan Pommaux, known for his detailed research and illustration style, who has won many prestigious awards and had three schools named after him! Theseus and the Minotaur is also a new title fromTOON Graphics, a new line of graphic novels for kids reading at 3rd grade level and above created by the amazing François Mouly and the fantastic people at TOON Books who are dedicated to giving emergent, and now developing, readers quality, high interest books.
Pommaux's story is packed with characters and plot, action and oddities, as Greek myths are. And, the story of Theseus and the Minotaur has roots in history. The story begins with a modern ship at sea in the dark of night where a grandfatherly type says he is going to give his audience, a boy and a girl, the story they asked for. After births, bulls, battles and betrayals, Theseus defeats the Minotaur and returns home to more sadness. The story returns to the ship at sea…

Cast Away on the Letter A : A Philemon Adventure by Fred, translated by Richard Kutner, RL: 3

Cast Away on the Letter A by Fred, the pseudonym of Frédéric Aristidès, creator of one of the most famous graphic novel series in France (did you know that the French have long been huge graphic novel fans?) was originally published in 1972. This is the first time it has been translated in English, thanks to the amazing François Mouly and the fantastic people at TOON Books who are dedicated to giving emergent readers quality, high interest books. Last year,  TOON Graphics, a line of graphic novels for kids reading at 3rd grade level and above, was launched and Cast Away on the Letter Ais one of the featured titles!
When we meet Philemon on the first pages of Cast Away on the Letter A, we learn that he is an imaginative teenager who lived on a farm in France back in the 1960s along with Anatole, Phil's trusty friend who is also a donkey, and his grouchy father, Hector. One thing that I LOVE about TOON Books is the love and appreciation that Mouly and her staff have for the graphic n…

Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel & Gretel, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattiotti is the newest release fromTOON Graphics, a line of graphic novels for kids reading at 3rd grade level and above, launched by the superb François Mouly and the fantastic people atTOON Books. What Gaiman and Mattotti do with a very familiar fairy tale in their rendition is amazing, both for the spare starkness of the text and illustrations and the powerful darkness that enfolds the story. Mattiotti's illustrations are all two page spreads and were inspired by the Metropolitan Opera's production of Humperdink's Hansel and Gretel. The thick, darkly dense images, which are actually done with an ink that contains five different colors, are full of movement and foreboding and perfectly suited to Gaiman's text. and  Gaiman begins this story with the words that show why he is a master story teller, gifted at establishing suspense and anticipation with a matter of sentences, "This all happened …

Explorer: The Hidden Doors, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, 128 pp, RL: 3

The Explorer series, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, just keeps getting better. Mystery boxes then lost islands provided the themes of the graphic shorts in he first two books. Now, with hidden doors setting the theme for the third book in the series, imaginations soar even higher, if possible. As always, Kibuishi kicks off the book with a short of his own. "Asteria Crane" will remind you of his superb Amulet series of graphic novels - the long awaited sixth book came out this summer - but it is so much more. 
Jason Caffoe, contributor to Explorer: The Mystery Boxes and Explorer: The Lost Islands, delivers an excellent story reminiscent of a Miyazaki movie with "The Giant's Kitchen" in which Briar, a young magician unsure of her abilities stumbles through a hidden door and into a hectic kitchen where she comes into her own.

Another favorite of mine, Jen Wang, tells a very sweet story with "Luis 2.0." Feeling like an outsider, Luis discovers a mysterious door i…

Benny and Penny in Lost and Found! by Geoffrey Hayes, RL: 1.5

Benny and Penny in LOST and FOUND! is the fifth book in this wonderful series of leveled reader graphic novels from Geoffrey Hayes and the amazing people at TOON Books. Hayes's soft, colored pencil illustrations and his big-eyed bickering siblings charmed me from the start. There is something richly old-fashioned and even, if I may say, Beatrix-Potter-esque about the flora and fauna Hayes brings to life. And, while Hayes's illustrations are enough to keep me coming back again and again, the accurate and gentle portrayals of pre-schooler aged characters and their quickly changing, powerful emotions is precise enough to make this series one that should be in every child's home for decades to come.
In Benny and Penny in LOST and FOUND!, the day is off to an early - and bad - start for Benny, who is fuming over the loss of his favorite thing - his pirate hat. Mommy has sent him outside until his good mood returns and, when Penny finds him there, she offers to help Benny find hi…

Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh My! by Artie Bennett, illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis

Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh My! by Artie Bennett and illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis is a fantastic way to get kids interested in science and biology and nonfiction in general. Both the subject matter and the illustrations in Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh My!are funny and fun, with Bennett's rhyming couplets adding to this seriously silly look at something we all do everyday.

The first section of the book covering belches and burps moves by pretty quickly, although I was fascinated to learn that you cannot burp while on your back and that farts decrease when burps increase. But I do wonder if that works in reverse. . .

Farts, interestingly, are something that all living creatures, save those pictured above, produce. Another fascinating fact I learned in Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh My!- one of the smallest creatures (I won't say which) out farts cows! Also, snakes fart to ward of prey and fish communicate with their bubble producing farts!

The fun fart facts continue t…

Through the Woods: Stories by Emily Carroll, 208pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE

Sadly, I am reviewing Through the Woods, stories by Emily Carroll a month too late. I bought this book back in July and Adam Gidwitz'sreview in the New York Times (in which he reminds us that children like to be scared) should have been another nudge to me. But, creepy ghost stories, especially the graphic novel kind, are good all year round and not just in October, right? With my students clamoring for scary stories, I spent most of October trying to find something good to read to them and failed. The kids and I agreed (despite repeated check outs of these books) that Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy - the first of which I read as a kid - just isn't that scary, although Stephen Gammell's illustrations are timelessly chilling. I ended up playing some audio short stories (Neil Gaiman's Click-Clack the Rattlebag and R.L. Stine's Can You Keep a Secret) that were mostly satisfying. However, I have no doubt that Carroll's Through the Wo…

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raúl the Third, RL: 3

Lowriders is Space is the first installment in what I hope will be a long graphic novel series written by Cathy Camper, author, artist and librarian and illustrated by Raúl the Third. Like no graphic novel I have seen before and arriving with a raft of celebrity blurbs from the likes of Jon Scieszcka, Megan McDonald and Amy Sedaris, Lowriders is Space is about three talented friends and their dream of owning their own garage. And, to make things even more interesting, these friends are an octopus named El Chavo Flapjack with a talent for car washing, a mosquito named Elirio Malaria, a gifted detail artist who, despite his name, does not carry the disease ("Don't be scared eses! Only lady mosquitos bite vatos for food!" he yells at potential - fleeing - friends) and Lupe Impala. Lupe is the leader of the pack, crack mechanic and I'm pretty sure she is also an actual impala.

When they decide to enter the Universal Car Competition where the "Most Mechanically Invent…