Monday, July 30, 2012
The Shark King, one of Toon's graphic novels, retells a Hawaiian legend, adapting it for beginning readers. The story is simple, yet powerful. Nanaue's father leaves the night before his son is born, and the boy grows up yearning for him. That doesn't stop Nanaue from enjoying his prowess in the water. A fast swimmer, he boasts, "No fish in the sea can outswim me!"
Nanaue also has a bottomless pit for a stomach and devours fish. (He is half shark, after all.) His appetite gets him into trouble when he sabotages the local fishermen's catches. Pursued by them, he leaps into the ocean and finds his way to his father. His mother? She's left behind, but she's obviously not the clingy sort. She's content to savor the tasty sea snails they drop off for her.
What I like best about this book is the bold, vivid artwork. R. Kikuo Johnson does an excellent job of conveying action and pacing his story. Kids will be completely absorbed as they flip the pages, wondering what will happen to Nanaue next.
The Shark King
by R. Kikuo Johnson
Toon Books, 40 pages
Published: April 2012
Monday, July 23, 2012
If I were a children's book author of a certain age, I'd be quaking in my boots. So many VIPs have died in 2012 and the year is only little more than half over. To the list of Maurice Sendak, Jean Craighead George, Else Minarik, and Donald Sobol, we must now add Margaret Mahy, a New Zealander author and winner of the prestigious Hans Christian Anderson medal.
Mahy was a special favorite of mine. She wrote wonderful supernatural novels--I especially like The Haunting and The Changeover--but I'm also a big fan of her picture books. The Man Whose Mother is a Pirate is classic Mahy, as is The Three-Legged Cat. Both books feature characters who trade in their constricted lives to roam the world.
And what a marvelous stylist she was.
“The little man could only stare. He hadn’t dreamed of the BIGNESS of the sea. He hadn’t dreamed of the blueness of it. He hadn’t thought it would roll like kettledrums, and swish itself on to the beach. He opened his mouth and the drift and the dream of it, the weave and the wave of it, the fume and foam of it never left him again. At his feet the sea stroked the sand with soft little paws. Farther out, the great, graceful breakers moved like kings into court, trailing the peacock-patterned sea behind them.”
--From The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate
RIP Margaret Mahy.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The second story offers a surprise. When Squids dreams he has X-ray vision, readers get to lift the flap to see what's going on inside a giant submarine cruise ship. Story number three, "The Hat," is the strongest of the bunch. Octopus finds a cowboy boot and decides it's a hat. His confidence in his choice wilts as other sea creatures see the boot as a vase, flowerpot, and doorstop. Luckily Squid shares his friend's vision. In the final story, the pair imagine what the fortune in their cookie holds for them.
Nyeu creates a whimsical world for the friends to inhabit. Her silkscreen illustrations, in subdued pastel hues, are intricate and full of surprises. Beginning readers will pour over the witty details and asides, such as a pair of lobsters gossiping over bowls of soup. ("So I heard Lucy molted the other day." "You don't say!")
Squid and Octopus is a charming addition in the long tradition of fictional duos.
Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always
by Tao Nyeu
Dial, 40 pages
Published: June 2012
Monday, July 16, 2012
Read the New York Times obit here.
Friday, July 13, 2012
While not all the stories deliver, enough do to make this a worthwhile collection. Fans of The Twilight Zone will find much to enjoy between its pages. Lubar wraps up his book by revealing how he got the idea for each story, a nice touch.
Beware the Ninja Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales
by David Lubar
Starscape/Tom Doherty, 192 pages
Published: June 2012
Thursday, July 5, 2012
It turns out the woman is the ghost of her great grandmother, who died suddenly of the flu in 1928. She's returned to guide her daughter, Emer, who's dying, from this world to the next. To do that she needs Mary and her mother Scarlett's help. The four generations of women embark on a journey one night, traveling to revisit the farm where the great grandmother and grandmother once lived.
As in his adult books, Doyle is especially strong on dialog and the three women and one-woman-in-waiting banter in distinctive, colloquial voices. Doyle explores mother-daughter relationships from different viewpoints and astute readers will enjoy seeing how Scarlett's struggles for independence are later echoed by Mary. And while the novel pingpongs from present to past, because the characters are so clearly drawn, the reader is never confused. If you like your ghost stories light on scary and full of heartfelt emotion, A Greyhound of a Girl is for you.
A Greyhound of a Girl
by Roddy Doyle
Amulet, 208 pages
Publication: May 2012