Welcome to Cover Wars, where we judge books by their covers! Up this week are a few picturebooks selected not entirely at random (there is no unifying theme, though, just whatever caught my eye).
Steph: I quite like the simplicity of this one! I like the title and the font, I like the girl and how grubby she looks reaching down to pick up a word. The little creature is probably adorable (though…
Where do children go when they close their eyes to sleep?
They step onto their dreamboats and sail toward adventure.
From Marco in the Andes floating through the constellations, to Kaia paddling along the shores of Haida Gwaii with Eagle, Orca and Grizzly Bear, to Ivan sailing into St. Petersburg, then sneaking between the bony legs of Baba Yaga, stories and memories lead them on.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Quirk Books
Synopsis: You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their…
There are so many picturebooks which retell, or, to be more accurate, re-illustrate (the text varies comparatively little in rather a lot of versions) the story of “Beauty and the Beast.” I couldn’t resist looking at a few more, Cover Wars style, just for the fun of seeing how the different covers frame the tale, imagine beauty, and portray beast.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Delacorte Press
The Here and Now comes with a fantastic premise and from an author with a solid reputation for storytelling. I expected to like it a lot. I expected to tear into it and not let go until I was done reading the last page at least five times. I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Brashares won me over with…
During this month, you saw Yash’s review of Lately Lily and Janet’s review of Busy Bunny Days. Both of these titles are part of Chronicle’s spring selection/releases and we were given the chance to review these books for you by Raincoast Books. I have two books to review today and I believe Stephie will be doing the last title sometime soon. That disclaimer of sorts of made, let’s move on to the…
The first book I thought of when I found out about this month’s picture book theme was Princess Smartypants (1986) by Babette Cole. I like this book because it’s about a princess who does things on her own terms. I was pretty excited to write about it and rushed over to Kidsbooks to pick up a copy. But of course one can never leave Kidsbooks with just onebook (am I right children’s lit lovin’…
Hardcover, 120 pages
Published October 2012 by Longacre Press
Dear Readers, meet my favourite book of 2014 so far. This non-assuming book that gives no indication that it contains such a magnificent story took me completely by surprise. In a good way. I expected something good, something funny and witty, something that would make me happy but nothing that would linger with me,…
If you don’t know him yet, or his wonderful, creative and very child-minded picturebooks (and other works) then let me introduce you to – Oliver Jeffers!
Some colleagues and I had the chance to see Oliver Jeffers speak at a Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable event last spring, and there we got to see this video where Oliver talks about his inspiration and why picturebooks appeal to him so much. In this and other videos he talks about how interesting it is to tell stories with a combination of pictures and words, and how words can change pictures and pictures can change words. When we heard him speak he said that every story comes to him differently, but mostly they all begin with doodles, with the image that a story sort of appears around.
I wonder a little at the revolution that picturebooks are seeing, the way that they are being used like never before to convey stories that, beforenow, were unknown to the picturebook genre. I think that the way that Oliver Jeffers talks about writing and creating picturebooks is a testament to the power that picturebooks can have. They are stories like any other, with the potential to affect any number of people. They are powerful stories told through mixed media. They can be simple, funny, and sweet, or high concept, deep and difficult – unbearably sad even. Picturebooks are wonderful things.
Don’t forget the picturebook. In fact – if you haven’t lately, go to your local bookstore or library and just take a look through the picturebook section. One in five picturebooks will make you smile or perhaps make you sad, the rest will cause a reaction in you – an opinion “That was bad”, “The art didn’t work”, “The story was bland” – how interesting that we can be so critical of a book that is only 32 pages long. Wonder at that.
Anyway – back to Oliver Jeffers. His picturebook art is generally mixed media, pencil drawings with a whole lot of fancy design – paintings upon old borrowed paintings. The art, if you really look at it and consider the design, layout and format of the book – well it’s complex.
While, I have to admit, I’m not in love with all of his books, but I do love most of them.
(Have no fear, NOT MANY SPOILERS!)
There are a set that centre on a particular boy: How to Catch a Star (2004), Lost and Found (2005), and Way Back Home (2007). A penguin is introduced in the second text. These are just delightfully simple tales that light up imaginations as they unfold.
How to Catch a Star features the protagonist little boy as he wishes he had a star and imagines all the things he could do if he did have a star as a friend. Then, of course, he goes off and catches one. It’s sweet and it’s simple – and it’s about the power of determination and imagination and really, what it is to seek a friend. Lost and Found has a penguin show up on the doorstep of our protagonists house and the adventure that ensues as the boy helps the penguin get home – and then of course, the realization that they are at home when they are together. The Way Back Home sees the protagonist help and alien return to space – it’s cute. The character of the little boy is just so enjoyable! These three stories don’t have to be read together at all, they just seem to centre on the same character and focus on very similar themes that are explored throughout them – the power of being alone, but also loneliness. Imagination and the simple way that the world is just accepted as it is, is wonderful and allows for so much creativity and wondering.
Next we come to my all time favourite The Incredible Book Eating Boy (2006)! I love this book because it really would have been something even as an older child I would have loved because.. people kept telling me that I devoured books! I just gobbled them up. And that’s – literally – what this boy does. So it’s still funny for me to read today (my own signed copy that sits on the shelf, hahaha!) but I think it’s just a great play with words. And taking things literally, well, it’s always great fun!
This one is great fun and I think this also sets up a sort of theme for many of Oliver Jeffers’ works. He gets to play with the literal minds of children, with the way that the world can be perceived and it’s just hilarious.
The Great Paper Caper (2008), Stuck (2011) and This Moose Belongs to Me (2012) have the same sort of feel to them. They are very funny, very direct – and, well, very literal translations for the world. Making them funny for all ages – and so easy to relate to. It’s easy to step into these worlds because they automatically appeal, we get where the protagonist is coming from and the art helps to do the explaining. ALSO – If you haven’t figure it out yet, the titles give away what the story is going to be about – but don’t fear, there is always a twist or two, and the art does a lot to create intrigue (and side-plots) in the tales.
Not all of Jeffers’ work is hilarious and cute and charming.
There is also the wonderfully heart-wrenching Heart in a Bottle (2010) – which focuses on a girl protagonist going through depression. There is an app for this picturebook which has won a ton of awards and is just a wonderful adaptation of the picturebook with it’s incorporation of sound, animation and interaction. If you have the chance – check this out. This book is appropriate for anyone who knows anyone with depression, who suffers from it – or even who has gone through loss, or will go through loss, or as a way to explain how it feels to lose someone close. It remains in Oliver’s simple style, with few words, a very profound picturebook (and app). Most certainly worth checking out. For books written, not necessarily just for young people, but with young people in mind, that help to explain the emotions that surround loss, death and the scary things in life (and death) – I would call it a draw between this book and A Monster Calls (by Patrick Ness). They are the best texts I can think of to give when you want to figure out how to express sympathy. In fact, just give both books. Books are wonderful.
Finally, we get to The Hueys in the New Jumper (2012) and The Huey’s in “It Wasn’t Me” (2013). These are the “not so favourites” that I was mentioning earlier. HOWEVER! They are still worth mentioning here for a couple of reasons – I feel that, though they are of course still simple, I think they are interesting concepts to present in picturebooks.
In each of these texts we get The Hueys. All the Hueys are the same – only they aren’t. In the first book, one Huey gets a new jumper – some chaos and fun ensues but then, everyone else has a jumper too – so they are, once again, The Hueys. I’m not a big fan of this, but I think I still enjoy the social commentary here. The way that people think, they way that they want to fit in but simultaneously want to be different – I didn’t like the consumerism aspect of it – but perhaps there is a little commentary in the text on that as well.
Then we come to the second Huey’s book – which is really about arguments and being argumentative and how human emotion gets so wrapped up the debate that – well, we forget why we got so upset at the beginning. It is also a very interesting study on human and child behaviour – but again I wasn’t the biggest fan of the resolution (we never get the reason for the argument). While I like the psychology and the idea that this kind of human concept can be explored in the picturebook format – there needed to be a little bit more truth to it. The Hueys seem to represent children, and children have such a literal and strict sense of justice and I think that this story could have worked just wonderfully had there been a cause for the argument, there is always a cause. This books helps give an outsider perspective to the absurdity of arguments and arguing at all – but perhaps just a nudge further would have done it for me. Haha, perhaps I just don’t like The Hueys (apologies Mr. Jeffers, please keep making books and trying new things!!).
Janet: The trailing red cloth, like trailing long hair, just irks me. I like the marsh reeds and grass, but the title font not so much. The author endorsement ensures that I would read the back, however.
Yash:I was drawn in by the red and the thorny font but the title made me go, “Oh no. Snow White. Again.” However, I like what the little blurb tells us. I am intrigued by fairy tale inspired…
“Composer” is a word which here means “a person who sits in a room, muttering and humming and figuring out what notes the orchestra is going to play.” This is called composing. But last night, the Composer was not muttering. He was not humming. He was not moving, or even breathing.
One of the best-known fairy tales, “Beauty and the Beast” has been reproduced hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times in various media: oral narratives, written form, in plays, musicals, films, photographs, visual art, full-length novels, poems, and, of course, picturebooks.
I though I’d take the opportunity to revisit a few picturebook versions of “Beauty and the Beast” and look at what makes or…
This is going to be one of those long horrid blog posts that no one wants to read but is present because the author feels this overwhelming need to pontificate. Sort of. No honestly, I think we can do with some variety in the posts and I haven’t done a discussion post in a long while so really, you, my darling Reader, cannot complain about this post. Not too much anyway.
Hello everyone! Each month as you may have noticed we have a theme and I was wondering if there were any themes that we haven’t done and you, our awesome readers, would wish we did. This is just for curiousity’s sake so if you have anything you’d like us to cover, now is your chance. Tell us and we may!
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. The book is written, illustrated, and hand-written (not typed). The closest thing to a protagonist (there isn’t really one) is an old man who sets out to find a kitten for his wife – neither a child nor a child-substitute. Charming and quirky.
A Friend is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund.
I Like Youby Sandol Stoddard Warburg (illustrated by…
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Chronicle Books
In the early 1980s Ada and Stefan are young, would-be lovers living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall–Ada lives with her mother and grandmother and paints graffiti on the Wall, and Stefan lives with his grandmother in the East and dreams of escaping to the West.
There are a relatively large number of picture books available nowadays about refugees. Of course, a great deal focus on refugees from the Holocaust, but there are also more recent conflicts explored in picture books as well. Representing the refugee experience for young children (an experience that often includes war, genocide, political turmoil, and violence) can be a difficult balance…
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Synopsis: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath…
This copy of Lately Lily by Micah Player was passed along to us for review. I guess, we’re all trying to get through the pile of books we need to review, so we can get to the books we’d like to review. Only, by some happy accident, I think we’ve all been surprised by how quickly the books from the first pile made their way into the second pile. I, for one, quite enjoyed reading Lately Lily.
Britta Teckentrup’s Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, On the Farm, and At the Port is an adorable homage to Richard Scarry’s Busytown books.
Each Bunny Day begins with a page on which every named character in the story is shown as they appear in that particular story, and labeled with their name. Some of these characters, such as the titular Bunny Family (Grandma, Dr. and Mrs. and their leverets,…
Hardcover, 416 pages
Expected publication: April 8th 2014 by HarperTeen
Source: Net Galley
They hear the spirits.They must obey.
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Kids Can Press
The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell tells the story of Minnow, one of Neptune’s fifty daughter. Having that many siblings is not easy to begin with but when each and every one of those siblings is remarkable in one way or another, things get tense pretty fast. I found that that though this little picturebook is lighthearted in tone and execution, it deals with some very important things where growing up is concerned. Minnow’s journey to find for herself something that she is remarkable at, something that simultaneously sets her apart and lets her fit in is is fun to read out loud. The language used is simple enough that even younger children will be able to understand it without explanation.
I love that the picturebook places such importance on curiousity and adventuring. Too often, children’s books that deal with journeys tend to be cautionary in nature. In this case of this book, however, Minnow’s quest to satisfy her curiousity ends on a positive note and one that can be used to segue into a decision about a child’s own perception of his/her worth. This book will be invaluable to parents with more than one children of similar ages who compete for attention and who, while not explicitly stating so, may be insecure of their own worth in the family. For older readers, the book is a reaffirmation of the old adage: everyone is special. The primary narrative is simple, sweet and will hold up to multiple rereadings.
The art is beautiful. Campbell weaves the art and the text together so skillfully that I cannot imagine one without the other. The palette of colours used is soft and gentle and the art goes extremely well with the story being told. Minnow’s facial expressions and her her determination to find out what the shoe is are fully expressed as is her conflict with one of her sisters who is chosen as the antagonist of the piece.
I must also mention that I love the fact that Campbell chose a female to be the human in the picturebook. It would have been not just easy but expected that the human the mermaid meets be male (an unintended (or intended) allusion to “The Little Mermaid”) but the fact that Campbell had a little girl in the book made me like The Mermaid and the Shoe so much more.
I recommend this to everyone who likes excellent literature. Buy it for the child in your life or buy it for yourself. The book will make you feel happy. I can guarantee that!
Why oh why do I love picturebooks?
Is it for their magic?
For their illusions of movement?
For their familiar and strange worlds? For their mysteries and surprises?
For their ever evolving shapes?
For their stories, words and pictures?
For their joys and despairs, their answers and questions,
their fears and worries, their dreams and hopes?
Is it for their turning pages? Their fold-outs and flaps?
Their holes and embossings,
their colour and line, their textures and scents?
Is it for the unexpected?
For the anticipation of delight?
Kathryn E. Shoemaker, PhD Illustrator, Author, Teacher
Kathy, being the genius that she is, basically summed up what I intended to say in my introductory post for this month’s theme.
Picturebooks are portable bits of magic that by some unspoken rule demand to be shared. You can always read a novel and go forever without reading a passage aloud to yourself or to someone else, but no, not a picturebook. You must delight over the illustrations while leaning around your friend’s shoulder, read animatedly to loved ones, and marvel at the brilliance of the structure and story … on our blog! Haha!
I mentioned in last month’s introduction post that comics tend to stay in the periphery of what most people would consider literature, but picturebooks are, if possible, even more underrated in my opinion. You see, people have this terrible misconception that one could be “too old” for picturebooks. To them I say, “HA! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” All this month, we at The Book Wars will no longer be stuck in our usual favourite YA novel genres of fantasy, dystopia, science fiction, etc. Picturebooks will set us free! And we will be recommending and critiquing and wondering about all kinds of awesome (and maybe some not-so-awesome) picturebooks all over your inbox and newsfeeds!
Look forward to it!
Love Letter to the Picturebook Why oh why do I love picturebooks? Is it for their magic?
(so your list could be a mix of a books that got you into reading, an author that got you into reading a genre you never thought you’d read, a book that brought you BACK into reading)
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: I never gave contemporary, mainstream, children’s literature a chance until this series. Yup. I was the worst kind of hipster pre-teen ever. Just. The. Worst.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: I am not sure when but some time between The Hungers Games trilogy and my MA, I began avoiding books that were part of a series. But thanks to some nudging on Nafiza’s part, and some spectacular writing on Steifvater’s part, my faith has been restored. Except now I am reading a lot of series all at once and I WANT THE NEXT BOOKS ALREADY!
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: I am about to confess something huge here- I was never really won over by dragons. They tend to be large and difficult to park and untrained dragons can either burn you or leave a mountainous pile of crap by your bed … it just didn’t seem like a good idea. But recently, I got around to reading this book that everyone around me was simply raving about and yeah, I’m really into dragons now. And Seraphina is just such a great character …
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Possibly the only classic piece of literature I have ever re-read of my own volition. It’s also fun to read this and then read The Diviners and note how freaking perfect Libba Bray’s writing is- not just in terms of research, but also in providing some really lovely, diverse characters who negotiate for power within the highly restrictive Jazz Age. Sorry. That was an unnecessary tangent. But I so love both these books and for such different reasons …
The Redwall Saga by Brian Jacques. No surprise here! I loved reading before this series but these books catapulted me to new depths of absorption in books and a fictional world.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling and Holes by Louis Sachar. Both novels that my elementary school classmates loved, even the ones who didn’t read, and which eventually won me over. Popular opinion is not, in fact, always wrong. (Who knew?)
Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition by Farah Mendlesohn. Up until I discovered this book quite by accident (okay, not entirely by accident, but entirely by surprise… when I was bored waiting for class during my undergrad I sometimes entered the name of favoured authors, historical people, or topics of interest, in my university’s library search engine. I found so many excellent books this way that I would have needed an entire extra year just to read them all), I had no idea that studying children’s literature (beyond, say, Peter Rabbit) and taking it seriously as an academic was allowed. Suddenly I found that I wasn’t the only person to realize that there was more in these books than was visible on the surface, even if (at the time) I had very little idea of the depths – suddenly, the worlds that I sensed were not only truly there, but someone had begun mapping them.
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki. I had to read Skim for class, which was a bit of a culture shock, and shortly after ran into this at the library. Well. So it turns out that not all graphic novels are either cring-inducingly cheesy or incredibly depressing: there is a middle ground! I wouldn’t say that Emiko Superstar is a particular favourite, but it convinced me to give GNs a chance.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Just brilliant.
This is kind of difficult for me because I have been reading voraciously all my life and I have been reading everything I can get my hands on so while there are books that I love a whole lot there are very few books that got me into a particular genre because I never needed that push. But I’ll try to come up with something interesting.
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. I remember clearly the day I first came across the Harry Potter series in person. We had heard about it on TV in the news about books that were making children read. My mom had called me over to tell me about this wondrous phenomenon. I was in Grade 11 in Fiji and a prefect and I remember going to monitor these freshmen because the teachers were having a staff meeting. One of the kids in the class I was monitoring had either the third or the second book in the series. I remember the weight of it in my hands and the desire to read it that bubbled up inside of me. Unfortunately, we could not afford the book (books in Fiji are insanely expensive) and it would be 1.5 years later that I would come to Canada and finally get a chance to read the series and experience the amazingness for myself. It was worth the weight.
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn – Alison Goodman. This book introduced me to dragons. I was always kind of in love with the mythical beasts but this book brought the love centerfold (is that how you say it?) and just made me realize that dragons are pretty darned cool. I’m going to be talking more about this series in June which is our Fantasy month. Yay!
Happy Hustle High – Rie Takada. Okay, so I’m a bit embarrassed by this confession. There are loads of better and less problematic manga out there but I was 17 and browsing in Chapters when I came across a volume of this. I bought it, I took it home and I read it. Then I came back and bought the other four volumes which made me really poor but so happy. It’s been a long time and I still have the manga. This was truly my gateway to reading manga. This is not really good series but for the teen in me, it was pretty darned amazing.
Constructing Adolescence in Fantastic Realism – Alison Waller. This is a fairly recent read and mention-worthy because it taught me that theory is actually fun. I know, I know you guys. I’m giving away my nerdiness but this volume is written with such verisimilitude and it is so accessible to the layman that reading it was not just educational but a pleasure. If you have any interest in children’s literature beyond the books, I recommend this.
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami. Yes, so this isn’t exactly children’s literature but he is a gateway author for me because after I read him, that was it. I started to get more interested in Japanese literature and I’ve never looked back!
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkein. These books really kickstarted my reading. I’d read all the middle grade serials I could get my hands on (and on a rural army base, that’s not many!) and I just didn’t know what to read next – so my Dad said, why don’t you give The Hobbit a try? And I did. I have been reading big dense literature whenever I can get my hands on it ever since.
Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice. The realm of adult fantasy is broad and after LOTR I delved into it, but I settled on the series by Anne Rice for some time. It was the first real delve into the mind of a creature that isn’t human – well Louis is the most human of the vampires, but that’s what makes him to intriguing! From here I really went wild into the adult fiction rich with exposition and interesting characters.
Hamlet - Shakespeare. Grade 12 English, I loved it. I took up Shakespeare in my secondary studies as well. When I was deciding what I would do my master’s in I was truly torn between Renaissance literature and drama and Children’s Literature. I just love Shakespeare – I know this isn’t the case with everyone who is forced to read him, but these plays are so rich for humour, human flaw and character, and what clever plots to drive all these characters to their peaks and then.. well, get married or die. Love it!
The Giver – Lois Lowry. Dystopia! This is where it started, I love this book. Perhaps you know that already? From here I read all the dystopia that I could, Lord of the Flies was just a delight! Then I went back and I read Orwell and Huxley, and then I began to see elements of utopia and dystopia in many fiction texts that I was reading and, well, I’m hooked.
There are so many that deserve this spot – Bleakhouse by Charles Dickens gave me an appreciation for all of his works, I just loved this book. Persuasion by Jane Austen of course! My favourite of the bunch and the reason I will go and read more of Austen’s works. Of course Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban held my attention for a long while and really got me back into reading children’s literature when I was just starting high school. Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights is truly wonderful and, read in the university setting, gave me the opportunity to read children’s literature critically. Then of course The Hunger Games came out and the whole world started paying attention to dystopia! So – there we have it.
So I didn’t think I had read all that much in March but a look at my stats shows otherwise. It’s pleasant! Finding out that I read more than I thought is always awesome. Here are the books I manage to consume with a lot of glee during the month of March:
I still remember the first anime I ever saw. I was nine years old and had just turned on the television to watch some cartoons before school. While channel surfing that morning, I came across a cartoon that was unlike any I had ever seen before. It featured a young teenage girl named Serena (or as she is called in Japan, Usagi) who with the power of a makeup compact, the moon and…
Janet: She’s anorexic. I’m not impressed. Unless that’s what the story’s about. In which case it is acceptable.
Yash:This looks interesting. Despite the real person being pictured on the cover, I actually am intrigued. If I were in the mood for depressing real life stuff (rather than depressing fantasy stuff, you know), I would probably pick this one and read it. I bet it has to do with gossip…
Hardcover, 373 pages Expected publication: April 8th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Source: Net Galley
Plus One is Elizabeth Fama’s sophomore YA novel and one I liked a whole lot better than her debut. The novel focalizes on Soleil Le Coeur who calls herself a Smudge, which is a derogatory term for those who have the supposed misfortune to be allowed out on during the night. Desiring to…
“Ancient moon priestesses were called virgins. ‘Virgin’ meant not married, not belonging to a man - a woman who was ‘one-in-herself’. The very word derives from a Latin root meaning strength, force, skill; and was later applied to men: virile. Ishtar, Diana, Astarte, Isis were all called virgin, which did not refer to sexual chastity, but sexual independence. And all great culture heroes of the past, mythic or historic, were said to be born of virgin mothers: Marduk, Gilgamesh, Buddha, Osiris, Dionysus, Genghis Khan, Jesus - they were all affirmed as sons of the Great Mother, of the Original One, their worldly power deriving from her. When the Hebrews used the word, and in the original Aramaic, it meant ‘maiden’ or ‘young woman’, with no connotations to sexual chastity. But later Christian translators could not conceive of the ‘Virgin Mary’ as a woman of independent sexuality, needless to say; they distorted the meaning into sexually pure, chaste, never touched.”—
Monica Sjoo, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (via anya-eye)
Let’s make virginity a more awesome social construct.
It is rare that any book reduces me to incoherent fangirl-ishness, but Rachel Hartman’s Amy Unbounded: Belondweg Blossoming does, most thoroughly, and I had to get that out of my system before proceeding.
Amy Unbounded: Belondweg Blossoming is the collected issues (7-12) of Amy Unbounded
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Roc Trade
It is not often that I come across a fantasy novel set in a country that is not England or a derivative of it therefore I was quite excited when I realized that The Golden City is set in an alternate Portugal where the princes are crazy (as they are wont to be) and magical sea beings walk amidst the common folk. The…
So last week Stephie regaled you with short reviews of the graphic novels she has read and I thought that I would do the same thing today. Short reviews that hopefully manage to express the flavour of the graphic novel in a concise, helpful manner (snerk). Anyway. On to the books read!
Edited by Chris Duffy, this volume presents, in glorious colour, the rhymes that will be familiar to you if you have grown up in North America or even England. Heck, I know most of them and I spent my formative years on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The artists include names such as Craig Thompson, Vera Bosgol and Dave Roman. The rhymes are pretty loyal to the “original” version textually but the artists subvert them with their art, exploiting the more ambiguous portions or adding something more that questions the logic of the rhyme. This gave the volumes a lot more substance and made them a delight to read as deciphering the message (or anti-message) became a pleasure.
Zombillenium, apart from being a wonderful word to say, is just one of the best graphic novels I have read. The art is brilliant (and this should totally have its own review but I’ll wait until Yash has read this and loves it enough to review it) and the story is funny. Set in a theme park called Zombillenium, the novel follows the life of a man who gets hit by a car, dies, turned into a werewolf and then a vampire and then gives signs of going berserk. Only he is saved from being put down by a witch who may or may not have been sired by the devil (that’s her on the cover). The novel won me over for the wit and the funny (the humans think the zombies/witches/mummy are other humans in disguise and well…they’re not) and the charm. de Pins made me care about the characters and want to read more. Not convinced? Here’s a video.
Courtney Crumrin by Ted Naifeh is easily one of my favourite graphic novel series. It focalizes on Courtney who moves to a new town where her strange uncle lives and finds out that there is more to this world than what she had been led to believe. Courtney is a fun character and I enjoy watching her grow as she most surely does. The way the parents are treated is very interesting to me. There is a certain contempt in the way the novel portrays them and it makes me think. Courtney’s adventures with the arcane makes for some heartfelt stories and the art work is sheer brilliance.
The duology is about many things – art, friendship and staying true to yourself despite external pressures. Jane, a city kid, is involved in a terrorist attack and her parents pack her up and take her to a town they deem safe. There she meets three other girls named Janes and together they start an art club that often skates the periphery of legality. The novels deals with many things in bite sizes and while they are not my favourite, they are great ways to begin discussions about important things like terrorism, parental depression, art and other things. I would recommend this duology for tweens because though it deals with a number of heavy themes, it does so rather breezily which may be what is necessary.
The novel is rather whimsical in tone and is an interesting at how a girl who barely speaks to anyone in school, finds herself in the backseat of kids she goes to school with but hasn’t ever exchanged words with. This requires more than one reading to grasp and fully enjoy (at least for me) but it has a certain charm to it that makes it linger with you longer after the book has been returned to the library. I cannot really articulate the experience but urge you to try the novel out. You may be surprised.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: March 25th 2014 by Candlewick Press
Source: Publisher (Random House Canada)
Synopsis: Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in…
I am pleased to present Kazu Kibuishi! The first works by Kazu that I read were the Amulet series recommended to me by a librarian friend of mine.
I have to say, the premise (thus far) is a standard fantasy portal quest. Family goes through a door and enters another world (and I expect them to return as well). Girl is “special” and must save the world in order to save the ones she loves. Nothing super new there, however, it is the art and the compassionate storytelling that keep me going as the series progresses. You’ll find below a quick review of each of the books that are out right now, and then a little spotlight on some other works by Kazu Kibuishi.
Book One: The Stonekeeper (2008)
The story begins with a blast from the past, uncovering the tragedy that has shaped the Hayes family. Emily and her family (little brother Navin, and mother Karen) move into a distant relative’s house in a remote town, where Emily discovers the amulet. The amulet, which, throughout the book begins to reveal it’s true powers.
The power goes out on the first night in the new house and Karen (the mom), goes to investigate a strange noise coming from the basement. She gets abducted by a strange creature (with tentacles!) and dragged into the world below the house. Emily, wearing the amulet, and Navin venture after her determined to rescue her and return home. Upon descending into Alledia their fantasy adventure begins. The amulet holds within it great power, but it is not clear yet whether it is going to help or hinder Emily – and besides, other things are on their mind as they race to free their mother, and evade whatever, or whoever, is following them.
They arrive at their great grandfather Silas’ house. The house, built by Silas is robotic, as are it’s inhabitants: Miskit, Cogsley, Morrie, and others who help the Hayes as they adventure through Alledia.
This is very much a set-up novel, we get the history of the characters, a good grounding in each of the character’s strengths, weaknesses, cutenesses. There are strong family elements throughout Amulet, which helps to keep Emily and Navin on track throughout the books. The art is stunning, such brilliant colour and play with light and dark.
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Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse (2009)
(CAUTION: Spoilers from Book One!)
The adventure continues, as when Karen is rescued it is discovered that she has been poisoned by the creature who abducted her. In Silas’ house they adventure to the City of Kalanis in the search for a cute. Once there, however, the plot thickens. They are befriended by members of a resistance group who are trying to stop the Elf King from taking over all of Alledia. There is something darker at work, however, when Redbead (the leader of the resistance) tells Emily that they have been waiting for her… Emily is already under pressure from the amulet as she tries to gain control over it (and herself) and discover a cure for her mom, but now that she is “the one!” the people of Alledia are counting on her. Emily has some big decisions to make.
Meanwhile, the Elf King’s son, Trellis (I know, what a sissy name for a “bad guy”), has been stalking Emily and Navin. He is joined by the Elf King’s ruthless second in command, Luger. Trellis, it is clear is not as evil as Luger or the Elf King for that matter, and he is therefore a conflicted hero/anti-hero character throughout the series.
This book continues the adventure with more world building and plot thickening. Politics come into play – and no one is really sure who is on who’s side. The amulet’s powers make themselves more known and now that Emily is “the one” we know exactly what kind of fantasy story we are in. She will have to decide between running home and saving the world – don’t worry, the books are still being released, so I don’t even know what happens in the end. Being “the one” is not an easy, but being her little brother isn’t easy either. The contrast between the heavy decisions that Emily must make and her little brother’s adventure into teenage-hood is interesting and delightful. Navin really grows and becomes his own character from this book on into the rest of the series – as he steadily become smore independent, Emily steadily gets more and more sucked in to… her destiny.
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Book Three: The Cloud Searchers (2010)
(CAUTION: Spoilers… from the other two books)
Now that Karen is cured the adventure can continue as the Hayes decide to join the resistance. With some new friends Enzo and Rico, they search for the lost city of Cielis, where they hope to find a way to stop the Elf King. Cielis, which is rumoured to be a floating island hidden in the clouds, is also the home of the powerful Stonekeepers who make up the Guardian Council, who Redbeard hopes will help the resistance. Trellis and Luger begin this book as tenuous allies to Emily and the resistance – this adds some much needed complexity but also plot motivation and conversation around “destiny,” “good,” and “evil.”
New friends and new foes crop up in this book, some obvious and some not so – adding some interesting elements. The book is full of action and might have spent a little more time developing it’s characters and exploring some issues a little more. Still, the fighting is fun to read through and there are some harrowing moments! Many new and fantastically realized locations are explored, including the sky! I love it when Kibuishi illustrates flight and aerial creatures and worlds, it’s just gorgeous.
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Book Four: The Last Council (2011)
(CAUTION: Spoilers from the other three books)
The Hayes family and friends arrive in Cielis after a harrowing adventure, they are definitely bedraggled and need of allies. The Guardian Council initially welcomes them, but of course, they are not exactly what our heroes had hoped. Emily is taken and forced to compete for a spot on the Council, it is a very Huger Games like scenario that I wasn’t a big fan of. In the arena Emily learns more about the history of the Stones and the Stonekeepers and realizes that the kingdom of Alledia has more to fear than just the Elf King.
In the meantime, Emily’s resistance friends are also learning firsthand how wrong everything is in Cielis. Trellis and Luger are imprisoned and Leon, Enzo and Rico are in the streets where they soon discover the populace is living in fear of the Council. Miskit and Cogsley have been missing since the previous book, but they are rescued by a new ally, an ally with an interesting past and who gives the resistance a new hope – well, that is if they can make their back to Cielis to rescue Emily.
The series still continues and it is still captivating, it’s getting more complex as more characters and subplots are added – but the overall intrigue and suspense (and honestly, the cool history and world building) keep me reading. The book ends on a sad note, but there is also hope now that Emily and her friends might be able to save Alledia.
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Book Five: The Prince of Elves (2012)
(CAUTION: Spoilers from the other books)
The revelations continue in this installment of the series. Finally, Emily begins to truly uncover the dangers of her alliance with the amulet, finally we get Trellis’ past and hurrah! We get more Navin as important character, and even Karen, the mother comes back as an important character – as mother and otherwise.
The story continues to complicate his plotline, though I must contend that it stays on the track of a secondary world fantasy. It continues to question good and evil and how these absolutes are ludicrous – history again becomes an important element as each character has motivations behind what they have become are often redemptive. In this installment the characters are chasing Max Griffin a stonekeeper who has stolen the master stone, and in uncovering his past – well, it’s an awful lot like Emily’s.
The series continues to build in scope and stakes, the pacing is fast (and at times this is an issue) but it is a gripping and easy (though at times interesting) read. In combination with the fabulous art, Kazu Kibuishi has truly created a remarkable series with Amulet.
Looking forward to Book Six: Escape from Lucien which should be released in August 2014!
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Flight – Is a beautiful series by professional and non-professional artists and storytellers all dealing with the theme of flight. It’s in short story style and it’s just gorgeous! There are 8 books in the series, and I have read the first. It’s lovely and intriguing.
Explorer -This is another set of stories by a 7 graphic novel creators. It is also lovely, having flipped through it, it is on my “to sit down and read list”.
Copper - A series for younger readers about a boy and his dog in a magical, mysterious world. Each book is a self-contained, imaginative adventure.
Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett (Birthday gift)
Flora & Ulysses – Kate DiCamillo (Birthday gift)
The Strange Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton (review copy from Random House Canada) Savage Girl – Jean Zimmerman (ARC from…
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