Showing posts from July, 2015

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 b…

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, baseb…

Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio García Sánchez, RL: 2

Something that I adore and deeply appreciate about TOON Books is the attention to detail that goes into each book. Of course the writing and illustrations are exemplary. The packaging is superb, from the trim size to the recognizable TOON wallpaper pattern that appears on the spine to the way that the books look so wonderful lined up on the shelf. TOON Books are so visually appealing and engaging that I often forget the rigorous and thorough educational attention that goes into these books. There is a lengthy section of Educator Tools on the website with a wealth of connections between the texts and Common Core State Standards. After taking a course for Instructional Media and Resource Assistants (librarians have so many different names these days! I am known as a "school library technician" in my district, which I think is a fancy way to get around compensating me for all that I do . . . ) I have a basic understanding of CCSS, what is expected and ways to teach it. I apprec…

Benjamin Bear in Brain Storms! by Philippe Coudray

Hopefully by the publication of Benjamin Bear in Brain Storms!, you know Philippe Coudray's creatively thinking bear and his forest full of friends. Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, came out in 2011 and is now in paperback and Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas! in 2013. If you have never had the pleasure of meeting Benjamin Bear on the page, quotes from these reviews create a perfect picture. Of Benjamin Bear, School Library Journal wrote, "Think Far Side for the elementary set." The Horn Book Magazine said, "It is original [and] deep-down funny . . . most important, the adventures are steeped in the rare quality of imaginative kindness." And Kirkus Reviews aptly noted that Coudray's books are a "visually formatted joke book to inspire thinking as well as laughs."
While I love all those very accurate quotes, I want to emphasize the quality of "imaginative kindness" and the way in which reading the very visual Benjamin Bear in Brain Storms!B…

We Dig Worms! by Kevin McCloskey, RL 1.5

There are SO MANY super cool things about this new TOON BookWe Dig Worms! by Kevin McCloskey I don't know where to start. How about the beginning? We Dig Worms!came about when McCloskey, who teaches illustration at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, was asked for a "fun worm book" by his wife, a librarian. What McCloskey created is a fantastic non-fiction book that is filled with great facts (I never knew why we see more worms after a rain, although I always wondered) and excellent illustrations and  is written in an engaging writing style that reads like a narrative. To top it off, McCloskey who believes in recycling, "just like worms," painted all the illustrations on recycled grocery bags!
McCloskey begins We Dig Worms!by introducing readers to the many different kinds of worms, including, with a well placed page turn, gummy worms, then narrows his focus to earth worms. The "friendly" Bluebird flies onto the scene with a greeting for the little wo…

TOON Books! TOON Books! TOON Books!

It has been a struggle to keep up with book reviews and related blog duties during this, my first full year as an elementary school librarian. Every day, I would come home from work, staying much later (and off the clock) than I intended and look, both longingly and sadly, at the stacks of amazing books on my desk waiting to be read and reviewed. One especially sad moment was realizing that I had missed reviewing the new Spring titles from my ABSOLUTE favorite publisher,TOON Books. July was my month to read, read, read, and review, review, review before heading back to the library at the start of August and it took a little longer than I expected to work my way through the stacks. However, one day near the end of the month I spent an entire, glorious morning reading the new TOON Books for Spring AND Fall 2015 and have reviews to share with you this week and in the fall, as titles are released. Hopefully, you love TOON Books as much as I do and are already enjoying these marvelous book…

The Trap by Steve Arntson, 245 pp, RL 4

I am so excited to read and review The Trap, Steve Arntson's third book! I loved his debut, the creepily marvelous post-apocalyptic tale, The Wikkeling, with amazing illustrations by the superb Daniela J. Terrazzini. His second book, The Wrap-Up List, is a stunning YA novel in which a sixteen-year-old chooses the things she wants to do in the week before her scheduled "departure" from a world where 1% of the population is chosen to knowingly meet their end. In his three books, Arntson has exhibited a phenomenal ability to write books with wildly different settings and fantastical aspects while always creating memorable characters you want to know more about.
The Trap intrigued me immediately because it recalled a book I read as a kid that involved astral projection as part of the plot and left a deep impression on me. It was probably Stranger with My Face by Lois Duncan, although none of the past covers match my spotty memory. Regardless, I was fascinated by the supernat…

There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klosterman, illustrated by Ben Mantle

There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight is the debut picture book by Penny Parker Klostermann with fantastic illustrations by Ben Mantle. It may seem that there is no room to improve upon or add to (especially with Lucille Colandro's many variations on the cumulative rhyme) but Klostermann and Mantle had added a fantastic new twist to this old tale with There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight.

What Penny Klostermann brings to the story of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, besides the great concept to begin with, is a text that is rich with vocabulary perfectly suited for a medieval tale. There is a steed, a squire, a lady and a moat.The dragon swallows a "savory cook and his recipe book" along with a castle that gets swallowed "down to the last golden tassel."  

By the end of the book the dragon, who has  started to bloat, wonders if he has been "a tad impolite. Perchance I should only have swallowed the knight." Klostermann&…

Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green

Seen and Not Heard is the debut picture book from Katie May Green. On the jacket flap, Green writes that she was inspired to create this book after looking at a 16th century portrait of three children and wondering what it might "feel like to be trapped in a painting for four hundred years?" The answer is a playfully rhyming, marvelously magical, midnight romp with the occasional dash of eeriness.
A black cat and three white mice lead readers on a journey through Silverhawk House, the "big old house" with "creaky stairs." In the nursery we find "children in pictures on the wall - seen and not heard." Each child's name appears on the painting and the text details traits that are anything but spooky. Lily Pinksweet is a "dainty delight." The Plumseys are grown-up and very polite. Billy Fitzbillian is the cleverest boy and Percy is always happy to share a toy. However, the DeVillechild girls are . . . Well, those DeVillechild girls can …