Saturday, June 28, 2014

Zita the Spacegirl

Zita the Spacegirl

by Ben Hatke

Zita is an unremarkable girl, playing with her friend Joseph in the fields around her house, until the path of adventure confronts her. She and Joseph discover a small box at the bottom of a fresh crater that opens a portal to another world. When Joseph is pulled through by some tentacled thing, Zita discovers the hero within and chases after.

On a strange new world, full of myriad bizarre aliens (giant snails! creatures with lots of eyes and lots of limbs! hairy things, clutching their handbags!), Zita feels small and lost, until she befriends a giant alien named Strong Strong. Through her grit, deep compassion, and ability to inspire others to greatness, she brings together robots, aliens, and other people to help her save Joseph. In the end, she saves Joseph, discovers the selfless hero at her core, and (like Dorothy in Oz) helps her friends reveal their own better selves.

Author and illustrator Ben Hatke has put together a delightfully heartwarming book. His exquisitely detailed drawings and delightful tale of adventure and heroism are sure to inspire the little person in your life (and you too!).  Hatke deftly weaves a story of self-discovery and empowerment for young people, that is also rewarding for young adult and adult readers alike.

As an added bonus, this is a great read out loud book. By their posture, word choice, and the typography in the speech bubbles, each character has a unique voice - they clearly tell you how they should sound.

With his gorgeous art, quick story telling, and inspiring story, this is an excellent introduction to the genre of comics/graphic novels. I highly recommend Zita the Spacegirl!

Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Teeth, Tails, and Tentacles

Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles - An Animal Counting Book

by Christopher Wormell

1 rhinoceros horn, 2 camel humps, 3 chameleon colors, 4 giraffe legs, 5 starfish arms, 6 frog eyes, 7 black spots on a ladybug... Christopher Wormell's gorgeously detailed Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles - An Animal Counting Book helps the reader count from one through twenty - each page featuring a different animal part (including 16 catfish whiskers and 19 crocodile teeth).

Each image is a gorgeously rendered wood print with a pleasing mix of Warhol's pop art style and incredible attention to detail. Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles concludes with a brief discussion of the natural history of each of the animals in the book.

This is an excellent book to help a young person learn their numbers, appreciate excellent art, and develop an interest in the animals that fill the natural world.

Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles - An Animal Counting Book, by Christopher Wormell

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Steam Train, Dream Train

Steam Train, Dream Train

by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

A steam train races across the prairie at night. Stopping at Night Falls station, the all-animal crew quickly loads each car with toys, paints, racecars, and frozen sweets. Once loaded, the animals tuck themselves into their beds and go to sleep.

There are many books that depict a train driving through the night, only to finish up with a parting image of a child, reposed in sleep, while the train graces the floor of their bedroom. Steam Train, Dream Train is my absolute favorite of them.

In Steam Train, Dream Train, Sherri Duskey Rinker's beautifully flowing rhymes are complemented by Tom Lichtenheld's richly lustrous pastel drawings. I adore the highly realistic, beautifully shaded pastel work, highlighted by the deep texture of the paper the Tom Lichtenheld was working with. Not only are these drawings jaunty and playful (my son adores the camel loading a boxcar), they're truly fine art. As a final benefit, for those of us who don't know a hopper from a reefer, the name of each train car is rendered in subtly bold text.

Steam Train, Dream Train
by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chu's Day

Chu's Day
by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex

Chu is a young panda with a fantastic aviator's cap and goggles who lives in a world surrounded by a wide variety of other anthropomorphic animals. He goes about his day visiting the library with his mum and having lunch in a diner with his papa, always on the verge of sneezing. That evening at the circus when his mighty sneeze finally comes, it ravages his town, leaving chaos and mayhem in its wake.

We all know Neil Gaiman from his multiple genre titles, graphic novels, and YA books. He's also a fantastic children's author, telling a simple yet imaginative story in Chu's DayGaiman's text is leavened by hilariously realistic, absurdist images of whale short order cooks, porcine clowns, and leonine lion tamers. My son has had this book for over a year and he still falls out of my lap laughing, every time we read it.

Chu's Day, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas

by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca

Long distance, open water swimmer Lynne Cox visited New Zealand in 1983. While walking along the Avon river in Christchurch, a boy named Michael and his sister Maggie asked her if she was looking for Elizabeth. Lynne spent the rest of the day talking with them about the famous elephant seal (sea elephant as the kiwis call them) that lived in the river and had been named in honor of the Queen of England

It turns out that having a 2,000 pound mammal residing in your city can be a bit of a challenge to public safety, especially when they like to lie in the middle of nice warm roads. The New Zealand wildlife managers decided to relocate her to a nearby elephant seal colony.

To everyone's amazement, she returned to the banks of the Avon again and again. The people of Christchurch became so attached to Elizabeth that the city decided that it was better to adjust the behavior of people to Elizabeth's presence than to try to make her change her behavior.

Lynne Cox' new book Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas tells the lovely story of Elizabeth and Michael's ongoing friendship (sadly, Maggie is left out of the story). Each time Elizabeth is taken away, Michael longs to see her again and every time she returns, they are delighted to be reunited. Brian Floca's lovingly realistic illustrations bring the story to life. My son particularly delighted in the image of Elizabeth tossing huge clumps of mud onto her back.

On the final page of Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas, there is a brief discussion of the natural history of elephant seals, describing their eating habits, life cycle, habitat, etc. This sweet story is a definite keeper for anyone interested in fostering a love of the natural world and encouraging people to find a way to live in harmony with the world around us.

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas, by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Little Dump Truck

The Little Dump Truck

by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Does your little one obsess over trucks and construction equipment? Have I got a book for you!

Margery Cuyler's The Little Dump Truck recounts a day in the life of a dump truck and her driver, Hard Hat Pete. They drive through the city, visit a construction site (visiting bulldozers, excavators, forklifts, and lots of other trucks) and then dump their load, all with a good pace and a nice rhyming scheme. Bob Kolar's vibrant illustrations blend nicely with the text. From the sullen garbage truck to the blissful microbus, all of the vehicles (particularly the very determined looking limousine) have very expressive faces and unique personalities.

This is a fun book for the newborn through 4 year old crowd. I highly recommend this book for the aspiring construction worker in your life!

The Little Dump Truck, by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Rosie Revere, Engineer

by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Rosie Revere, with her hair tucked into a red polka dot kerchief, has a secret. In her spare time, she's constantly on the look out for discarded trash that she can use in her latest invention. She builds delightful things like snake repelling hats and helium pants (my personal favorite), but she mistakes delighted laughter for contempt.

When her great-great-aunt Rose (also in a polka dot kerchief) comes to visit, Rosie is inspired by their common love machines and adventures (hint: great-great-Aunt Rose used to be a riveter, during the war). With the following Seussian words from great-great-Aunt Rose, Rosie learns that every apparent failure is just an opportunity to learn something new and try a different approach.

Life might have its failures, but this was not it.
The only true failure can come if you quit.
By the end of Rosie Revere, Engineer, Rosie's entire class has become a community of makers, working and learning together, building great gizmos, gadgets, and doohickeys.

Andrea Beaty's lyrical poetry is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss and is an absolute delight to read. David Roberts fantastically expressive illustrations make this a very visually pleasing book, with plenty of laughs. Enjoy!

Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Monday, June 2, 2014

If You Hopped Like A Frog

If You Hopped Like A Frog

by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by James Warhola

Your child is probably always asking what, why, and how. Want to wow your kid with amazing animal facts?

David M. Schwartz was just that kind of inquisitive kid - and it turns out that he grew up to be an inquisitive adult and a children's author. In his excellent If You Hopped Like A Frog, hilariously illustrated by Mad Magazine alum (and nephew of Andy Warhol) James Warhola, you will find out just how tiny your brain would be, if it were scaled to the relative size of a brachiosaurus, just how much you could shove in your mouth if you ate like a snake, and just how high you could jump if you had the legs of a flea.

This book is sure to fill your child with absurd anecdotes and a healthy sense of wonder at the world. I highly recommend it.

If You Hopped Like A Frog, by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by James Warhola