Posts tagged ‘Unpaged’

Space Boy and His Dog

This week, in honor of World Space Week, we’ve got reviews featuring space, in all it’s many forms. Today, I’m reviewing a picture where a boy visits the moon in search of a lost pet.

Space Boy and His DogTitle: Space Boy and His Dog
Author: Dian Curtis Regan
Illustrator: Robert Neubecker
ISBN: 9781590789551
Pages: unpaged
Publication/Date: Boyds Mill Press, an Imprint of Highlights, c2015.

Niko and his copilot search for their next mission.

“I’ll bet that cat is lost on the moon,” Niko says.
“Start the engines, Radar. We will find it!”(unpaged)

Niko, his dog Tag, and his copilot Radar pilot their spaceship, which is usually and understandably parked in his parent’s backyard, to the moon to look for a lost cat. When they arrive, Niko realizes his sister Posh, who is “not in this story”, has stowed away. When Posh finds the cat and claims it as her own, Niko retaliates by leaving her behind. Will Posh have to find her own ride home, or will Niko realize the error in his ways and rescue his sister?

Neubecker’s illustrations ground the story as pure fantasy, starting and finishing things off on Planet Home (Earth). We see the reality of the space craft before they even enter orbit, but we are just as easily transported into space along with Nico and his crew, with visually contrasting effects such as the moon’s white surface against the starry black sky, and Posh’s red hair and spacesuit distinctly set apart from Nico’s blue hair and spacesuit. Regan also has playful asides alluding to the imaginary nature of this journey, especially when “Tag refuses to stay in the copilot seat with Radar” and we see the dog jumping out of the window mid-flight. They both invoke the fickle friendship that can be found when siblings play together, even when they don’t necessarily want to, and siblings will relate best to this story.

UPDATE: I just read this for a story time for older kids (4-8 years old) and while the parents got it, I’m not so sure about the younger kids. I prefaced the space journey with pointing out the pretend elements, because I thought it might go over some kids heads. I think I was right in that assumption and that this might be better suited for a one on one where the kids can really focus on the pictures and explore the imaginary aspects of the pictures and properly ponder how Posh “gets back” to Earth. That being said, it’s still a cute story.


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.

WallTitle: Wall
Author/Illustrator: Tom Clohosy Cole
ISBN: 9780763675608
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press, c2014.

A little boy’s family is separated by the Berlin Wall, but he is determined to reunite with his father. The text is sparse, with the evocative artwork supplying most of the details. There is one striking black and white illustration in the middle of the story that I keep returning to again and again, thinking it would better serve a book about the war rather than the aftermath of one. Minus that exception, the illustrations are limited to dark blues and blacks for East Berlin, or reds, pinks, and oranges when portraying either West Berlin or the hope that West Berlin inspired. There is a short explanatory text on the back jacket, which I wish had been better placed as I think most readers will miss it. An interesting topic choice for an idealized picture book, but it could be used by families with personal connections to those events.



Title: Gronk: A Monster Story Vol. 1
Author/Illustrator: Katie Cook
ISBN: 9781632290885
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Action Lab, c2010…

Gronk is a monster who runs away from the rest of the monsters in the woods and meets up with Dale. Dale brings Gronk home to live with her cat Kitty and her large dog Harli. That’s the entire plot of this very slim, episodic comic derived from a weekly online comic. Even the author jokes on the back cover it “will look great hanging from a magazine rack in your bathroom or as a nice, glossy coaster for your favorite frosty beverage.” That’s basically all it’s good for. Yes the drawings are adorable, and there are some sly geek references, but the jokes fall flat and there is no plot or character development. Almost 25% of the book is guest strips from other artists, making me wonder if Cook should have waited until she had more material to put out a published version of her work. As we used to tell my un-trainable terrier, “You’re lucky you’re cute, because that’s all you’ve got going for you.” It’s the same with this book.

Drum City

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.

Drum CityTitle: Drum City
Author: Thea Guidone
Illustrator: Vanessa Newton
ISBN: 9781582463483
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Tricycle Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., c2010.

Boy in the yard
drumming so hard,
calling all kids
to come drum in the yard.
Drum on some kettles and cans!
Here they come!
They run to the beat of the drum. (unpaged)

The rhyme and rhythm are like nothing I’ve ever encountered. It reminds me of rap or spoken word, and it could be read as part of a drum circle “keep the beat” activity. Just practice a few times first. Starting with one boy in his yard, he’s quickly joined by a diverse group of children (although no disabilities are visibly represented, there is a female sewer worker), they all march downtown in a percussion parade. Rather than silenced or stopped, the adults join in, eventually encircling the globe. The book ends by inviting readers to “Let’s drum” with a curly-haired kid raising a beckoning arm as if you could jump in and follow like the rest of the characters did. Bright and bold Photoshoped graphics seem to incorporate collaged bits in places. You can easily identify the definition of “Inspire” on one page, and I hope it does just that.

Lailah’s Lunchbox

Lailah's LunchboxTitle: Lailah’s Lunchbox
Author: Reem Faruqi
Illustrator: Lea Lyon
ISBN: 9780884484318
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Tilbury House Publishers, c2015.

”Lailah, did you forget your lunch?” asked Mrs. Penworth.
Lailah opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out.
Samantha volunteered, “I’ll share my lunch with Lailah!” (unpaged)

Last year, when she lived in Abu Dhabi, Lailah watched jealously when her friends were allowed to fast for Ramadan. A year later she’s living in Georgia with her family, and her mother is finally letting her participate. But a note to her teacher makes her realize she’ll be the only one, and is afraid of looking weird. How is she supposed to avoid eating and explain her fast to her classmates and teacher?

This is a very simplistic way of explaining fasting to a child. I wish there was slightly more explanation behind the meaning of Ramadan, the reason they fast, and/or the religious significance of the holiday, but that also would have made the book much more didactic. The beauty of this book is its simplicity. It’s also important that the book explicitly shows that Lailah is doing this with the supervision and support of her family, which distinguishes it for children who might be tempted to try it themselves. Notable for its focus on Ramadan, as non-religious stories are few and far between, but not something I would find myself recommending if it didn’t include that diversity element.

Rocket Girl

Rocket GirlTitle: Rocket Girl Volume One: Times Squared
Author: Brandon Montclare
Illustrator: Amy Reeder
ISBN: 9781632150554
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Image Comics, Inc., c2014.

In 1986 a bunch of scientists at Quintum Mechanics made history. Their discovery would change everything, forever. But they didn’t know what they were doing. It was never meant to be. So someone had to go back in time to stop it. I volunteered.

Detective Dayoung Johansson is a fifteen-year-old NYPD Detective in 2013, and expects people to respond to her position and experience with the force. Except she’s no longer in 2013 but has been sent back to 1986 to prevent a corporation from seizing control. But as the company responsible for the technology that enables time travel in the first place, Dayoung may just be playing into their plan. Is she really saving the past, or creating the future?

This story almost completely ignores the time travel element, except for a few obligatory references, like “Your past is my future” and a run in between past and future selves for two secondary characters. The detailed illustrations shine, with dirt on Dayoung’s uniform and graffiti on the brick walls, although the broken glass of the police station window should have fallen out the window if it was broken from the inside. It’s the fight sequences that are all flash, bang, whizz, described in the extra materials in the back of the book as “Marvel Style”. I wish there had been more movement in these sequences, instead of poses and posturing more then actual propulsion. NPR agrees with me (since when did NPR review graphic novels?!), stating “The one area where Reeder’s got real problems, oddly enough, is in capturing motion. That’s quite a weakness when your protagonist spends most of her time airborne. Reeder does OK with the effortless aspects of flight — gliding, spinning, tumbling. When DaYoung soars, so does the book. But when she hauls off and hits somebody, we hit the ground.” It’s an interesting premise and I’d be willing to follow it for a little while longer, but the characters and plot need more development before I’ll fully understand exactly how the past/future is impacting the future/present… see why I’m confused!

H.O.R.S.E. A Great Game of Basketball and Imagination

H.O.R.S.E.Title: H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination
Author/Illustrator: Christopher Myers
Narrators: Dion Graham and Christopher Myers
Music: Mario Rodriguez
ISBN: 9781606842188 (w/ CD)
Pages: unpaged
Publisher: Live Oak Media, c2014 (audio) Egmont USA, c2012 (hardcover)
Awards: Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor Book (2013), Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production Winner (2015),

One day at the basketball court…
Hey, want to play a game of horse?

With those few words, a game that’s as much imagination as it is trash talking and skill, two boys start a game of H.O.R.S.E. The objective is to make a basket using a basketball in the most creative way you can that will prevent your opponent from making the same shot. With flights of fancy involving hands, feet, tongues, skyscrapers and space shuttles, the big question is, who’s the winner?

Although it’s questionable that a single shot is thrown, that’s not the point. The point is this book is pure smack talk. The most quotable line exchange: “Didn’t know I could go left, did you?” “You’re probably a specialist in left … left back, left behind, left out.” The sound effects — such as bouncing balls, scraping chalk on a blackboard, or traversing the stars — are well-connected with the dialogue, and a sound track gives an upbeat, city vibe to the whole production. I’m so glad that there are two narrators, leading an authenticity to the listening experience that starts from the title and continues through the author’s note read by the author. The two narrators even argue over what the page turn signal is going to be! The illustrations keep the focus on the game and the boys, with minimal background details interfering. The dialogue is printed in two different colors, making it easy to distinguish between the speakers. It reminds me of Andy Griffiths “My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad” short story from Guys Write for Guys Read, the original Guys Reads book edited by Jon Scieszka, and you could probably pair the two for a smack talk themed read-aloud session.


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