Tetris: The Games People Play

Tetris The Games People Play.jpgTitle: Tetris: The Games People Play
Author/Illustrator: Box Brown
ISBN: 9781626723153
Pages: 253 pages
Publisher/Date: First Second, c2016

Alexey believed that games were the perfect confluence of humanity and technology. Games model the human experience, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Puzzles are metaphors for thoughts. Games aren’t just an escape. Puzzles reflect society. Games reflect patterns of thinking. Emotions. Games can model consciousness. Games are facets of humanity working together. There is a challenge. A reward, discovery, frustration, closure. (67-69)

An unscheduled surge of interest seems to have arisen regarding the game Tetris, as this book and The Tetris Effect: The Game That Hypnotized the World by Dan Ackerman have been published in the last year detailing the history of the game. It’s not a major anniversary year for the game, first released back in 1984, which seems to place this fluke as purely coincidence. With neon yellow, black, and white illustrations, Brown begins with game creator Alexey Pajitnov, teleports readers back in time to the cave man to cover a very brief evolution of the game, then focuses in on the history of Nintendo before finally returning to the main story. It takes the first hundred pages to cover the creation of the game, and readers are fleetingly introduced to a number of key players. By the time readers realize this though, they have already forgotten most of the names and identities as rights to the game are sold and transferred by multiple companies, some owned by the same people. It’s a shell game of international proportions, involving bidding wars and Soviet subterfuge. It would have been extremely helpful to have a graphic at some point in the book that related the people involved to each other and that could be referred to throughout the reading. There are few details in terms of how much money was involved, the specifics of the contracts, or the timeline, which leaves the whole account reminiscent of a person watching an unfamiliar sport: all the characters are there, but you wonder just who you are supposed to be hoping to win.

Too convoluted in its telling with very few details make this an unmemorable read. Unless you have a high interest or familiarity with the business workings of video games in the 1980s, most readers will be unable to sufficiently summarize what they read or what went down. I don’t feel I came away with any additional knowledge of the creation of the game Tetris after reading this book then I had prior to starting the book.

Snow White: A Graphic Novel

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Snow White Graphic Novel.jpgTitle: Snow White: A Graphic Novel

Author/Illustrator: Matt Phelan
ISBN: 9780763672331
Pages: unpaged (216 pages)
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, c2016.

Mostly monochromatic watercolors with selected highlights of red and blue and sparsely phrased supplemental text retells the story of Snow White set during the Great Depression. Samantha White’s father suddenly passes and bequeaths his fortune to her. On the run from a murder attempt by her jealous stepmother, she encounters a gang of seven children, who come to her aid. I see allusions to West Side Story in the gang’s movements and Wizard of Oz when the happy ending finally opens into technicolor drawings. It’s a nit-picky point to wish the text had been hand lettered instead of jarringly added in obviously computerized font, especially when period details were so seamlessly incorporated into the plot. This winter themed adaption is a solid addition to graphic novel collections.

Flora and the Peacocks

Flora and the Peacocks.jpgTitle: Flora and the Peacocks
Author/Illustrator: Molly Idle
ISBN: 9781452138169
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Chronicles Books LLC, c2016.

I’ve mentioned this in a previous review, but Molly Idle’s background as a Dreamworks artist is evident in this wordless illustrated picture book following the further adventures of Flora, originally seen in the Caldecott Honor book Flora and the Flamingo and its sequel Flora and the Penguin. Continuing the use of a restricted color palette, Flora in this one is dressed in a blue outfit, with a wide band of green and a fan and flowers all a complementary yellow. Encountering a pair of peacocks, Flora makes friends with first one and then the other, but neither wants to share the friendship. Flora’s fan mimics the movements of the peacocks’ plumage, and their body language and facial features are so expressive (with the peacocks relying only on their eyes and several tufts of feathers on their heads) that no words are needed to decipher their intentions. It seems there are fewer fold outs than I remember in past titles in the series, but all except the massive one at the end mimic the fan shape. As this story shows, feathered friends can add to their flock, as long as everyone can share.

Nobody Likes a Goblin

nobody-likes-a-goblinTitle: Nobody Likes a Goblin
Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatke
ISBN: 9781626720817
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: First Second, c2016.

The adventurers took everything.
They took the gold. They took the maps, the books, the gems, and the scrolls.
And they took Skeleton.
So Goblin put on his crown and walked out into the wide world to find his friend. (unpaged)

Ben Hatke’s bright and colorful illustrations are beautiful, but unfortunately the story isn’t as fully realized as the drawings that accompany it. Readers are left with little rationale behind the adventurers’ actions, why nobody likes a goblin, or the goblin’s automatic approval of an unknown becoming their king. I sense influences from other stories (a long-bearded wizard leads a multi-race raiding party and a stolen goose is recovered) but none of the characters are given details that could confirm or deny these allusions. I appreciate the inclusion of a female adventurer and that the damsel in distress wields a sword during her rescue. I loved meeting Hatke at an event this past summer, and bought some of his artwork. This book feels like a collection of loosely related pictures that could have received more support through the narration. Several of my coworkers completely disagree and thoroughly enjoyed the book, so you may find more enjoyment in it than I did.

Monday is Wash Day

Monday is Wash Day.jpgTitle: Monday is Wash Day
Author: MaryAnn Sundby
Illustrator: Tessa Blackham
ISBN: 9780991386666
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Ripple Grove Press, c2016.

Rain or shine, Monday is wash day.

A quiet story of a family’s efforts to keep up with the wash, fans of Little House on the Prairie would greatly enjoy this slice of life story taking place during simpler times. It would also work well as an inter-generational read-aloud, where great-grandparents can discuss with their grandchildren what life was like for them when they were young. The unnamed narrator and her sister Annie (possibly twins) aid their mother and baby brother in washing, rinsing, and hanging to dry the clothes, all without the use of appliances.

The illustrations are stunning show stoppers! With hand-painted, cut paper collages, debut illustrator Blackham brings debut author Sundby’s story to life. Look closely enough and you’ll swear you see shadows being cast by the dog and cat as they scamper across the pages after the girls. The clothes flutter on the line, the rug is rumpled, and it certainly appears that the slats on the house are individual pieces! This was most certainly a labor of love. Tiny little clothes pins are photographed on a suspended line, adding dimension to the endpapers. Your own wash can wait, slow down and savor this story.

Quit Calling Me a Monster!

Quit Calling Me a Monster.jpgTitle: Quit Calling Me A Monster
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Bob Shea
ISBN: 9780385389907
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, c2016.

Quit calling me a monster!

In this tongue-and-cheek criticism, purple furred Floyd Peterson (who looks like a cousin It with limbs, facial features, and a bad dye job) insists that people refrain from calling him a monster. He’s frustrated that just because he hides under beds, makes noises when sleeping in your closet, and admits “technically” IS a monster, doesn’t mean you can’t call him by his name. Several lessons could be covertly gleaned from the book, including name calling is not nice, words can have different meanings, and confronting/naming your fear can make things less scary. Floyd’s bright purple fur means he pops regardless of what solid colored background illustrator Bob Shea places him on. The choice to give Floyd a snazzy bowler and matching bow-tie certainly makes him less scary than other monsters we could meet, and the roaring and snoring necessary for an enjoyable monster story is included.

Warning Do Not Open This Book

Warning Do Not Open This Book.jpgTitle: Warning: Do Not Open This Book
Author: Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrator: Matthew Forsythe
ISBN: 9781442435827
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2013.

Maybe you should put this book back.
You don’t want to let the monkeys out.

Meta-fiction featuring monkeys!? As readers progress through the story, not only do they let out the monkeys (who paint their own scenery to swing from) but also troublesome toucans and a very rampaging alligator. There’s only one thing left to do: set a trap and hope they end up back inside the book. With a satisfying direction on the back endpapers, children will love slamming the book shut, only to release the creatures again with the inevitable reread. The color scheme reminds me of Jon Klassen’s hat series, with rustic reds, muddy greens and mustard yellows, and very little background except for what the monkeys create. In fact, there is one monkey in possession of a hat that is reminiscent of Klassen’s, and gets stolen by a toucan. The beginning endpapers set the mood as Lemony Snicket meets Mo Willems fashion, cautioning danger ahead which children will enthusiastically ignore. Add this one to your next monkey themed event.

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