Friday, September 27, 2013

293-295: TOON BOOK'S 3 Latest Books (2013) Reviewed

293. Patrick Eats His Peas and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes
Toon Books, Level 2

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug 6, 2013, Toon Books, 32 pgs

Age: 6+

"Equal parts adorable and bratty, this sweet bear transforms daily routine into fun adventures. As he keeps his parents on their toes from breakfast to bedtime, Patrick will also keep young readers coming back for more. Geoffrey Hayes, a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winner and the uncontested master of children's comics, gives us four classic Patrick stories."

Received a pdf from the publisher.

Three new Toon Books have been published this fall and Patrick Eats His Peas is my favourite one!  I'm a bit behind on my Toon Book reading and have not read the first Patrick book so didn't know what a wonderful read I was in for.  A collection of four stories that are unrelated yet give a sense of chronology as Patrick Eats, Helps Out, Takes a Bath then finally Goes to Bed.  The stories are hilarious, from Patrick's point of view, but with a mom who is wise to his ways.  Kids will easily relate to Patrick's situations, such as not wanting to eat his vegetables and the art is cute and matches the story.  I love Patrick!




294. Otto's Backwards Day by Frank Cammuso & Jay Lynch
Toon Books, Level 3

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug 6, 2013, Toon Books, 32 pgs

Age: 7+

"Someone stole Otto’s birthday! When Otto and his robot sidekick, Toot, follow the crook, they discover a topsy-turvy world where rats chase cats and people wear underpants over their clothes. To get his presents back, Otto needs to solve a slew of backwards puzzles — but his greatest challenge comes at the journey’s very end. On this special day, will Otto discover something even better than cake or gifts?"

Received a pdf from the publisher.

Otto learns about palindromes by having a backwards day in Backwards World.  He's on the chase looking for his stolen birthday presents and while he learns something educational he also learns that there is something more important on birthdays than the gifts.  A fun story, and just what readers of Otto's Orange Day would expect.




295. The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers
Toon Books, Level 2

Rating: (3.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sep 10, 2013, Toon Books, 32 pgs

Age: 6+

"When her little sister, Clemmie, refuses to go out in the rain, Matilda sets out to teach her all the delights of a wet Saturday. But after her enthusiasm leads her to make a big mistake, it’s Matilda who will end up learning an unforgettable lesson. The world-renowned cartoonist Liniers gives us a funny and sweet portrait of his daughters that is sure to become every beginning reader’s favorite story. "

Received a pdf from the publisher.



I was really looking forward to this Toon Book by a new contributor, a famous Argentinian cartoonist, because of the whimsical cover art that reminded me of an E.H. Shepard Winnie-the-Pooh sketch.  I did love the watercolour painted drawings of Matilda and her baby sister Clemmie.  They are delightful and match the mood of a rainy day spectacularly.  I have to say the story was a bit of a disappointment though; I just expected more.  This is a soft, quiet story and while I liked it, I think it is better suited to a bedtime story than an easy reader.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

291. The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug 27, 2013, Scholastic/Graphix, 160 pgs

Age: 8+

"Some mysteries are too dangerous to leave alone...Nate's not happy about his family moving to a new house in a new town. After all, nobody asked him if he wanted to move in the first place. But when he discovers a tape recorder and note addressed to him under the floorboards of his bedroom, Nate is thrust into a dark mystery about a boy who went missing many, many years ago. Now, as strange happenings and weird creatures begin to track Nate, he must partner with Tabitha, a local girl, to find out what they want with him. But time is running out, for a powerful force is gathering strength in the woods at the edge of town, and before long Nate and Tabitha will be forced to confront a terrifying foe, and uncover the truth about the Lost Boy."

Received a review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

Fantastic!  The author's name seemed familiar to me, but turns out I was thinking of someone else.  I absolutely loved this.  Starting out with the familiar plot of a family moving into an old house and one of the kid's finding an old journal that leads to supernatural events from the past.  The difference here is Nate is an only child and the journal he finds is on old reel-to-reel tapes from a boy who disappeared forty years ago.  With the story flashing back and forth from Nate's present and Walt's past Greg Ruth offers up a wonderfully, eerie, dark novel.  The art is tremendous, intricately detailed and manages to show just enough of the oddities to keep them mysterious but real; a major feat for the medium in not showing too much, but just enough.  Very creepy!  Nothing inappropriate for the recommended age group, but the story is dark and intense so the reader's sensitivity should be taken into consideration.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

289. The Silver Six by AJ Lieberman

The Silver Six by AJ Lieberman. Illustrations by Darren Rawlings

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

June 25, 2013, Graphix/Scholastic, 189 pgs

Age: 8+

"When a group of orphans discover they have a common connection, plucky heroine Phoebe leads them in a daring escape from their orphanage to an uninhabited moon. But their idyllic paradise is shattered when the powerful corporate boss who caused the deaths of their parents sends a relentless henchman to track them down. Now, with nowhere left to turn and tired of being on the run, these resourceful kids decide there's only one thing left to do: Fight back!"

Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

I have to admit the title and cover made me think this was just going to be another comic about a group of kids who form a team and become superheroes or agents.  I was wrong; it is much more than the average team-up.  The plot is the main focus here and it is an exciting, intricate tale of murder, intrigue and corporate power.  The bad guys have no special powers and are completely believable in a real world as is the entire plot, even though set in the future.  The kids are a diverse collection of personalities with different strengths and weaknesses that make them likable and work well together as a team.  They even have a fun robot sidekick who is used sparingly rather than heavily relied upon, as usually happens with the funny alien/animal/robot sidekick.  The book ends with a complete finite ending and yet it leaves us with the possibility that The Silver Six may work again to save the world. A cut above the rest! 

Friday, September 20, 2013

288. Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel

Rating: (5/5)

 (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2004; May 28, 2013, Graphix/Scholastic, 139 pgs

Age: 10+

"When Ely's beloved dog, Tommy, is hit by a car, he goes to his grandpa's house for the summer to get his mind off things. While exploring a nearby cave one day he discovers a full-grown but friendly Tyrannosaurus Rex. As the news of the dinosaur grows around town, so does the friendship between Ely and his Jurassic pet. But Randy, the mean kid down the street, decides he's going to make life miserable for Ely and his dinosaur — to devastating effect."

Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

A wonderful heartwarming story that at the core of it all is the story of a boy and his dog ... well, a boy and his pet, even if the "dog" is represented by a Tyranasaurus Rex.  A smaller but equally potent side-theme is the redemption of a bully.  Not dark, like TenNapel's other work I've read to date, but sad and bittersweet.  Tender-hearted children will not be able to handle the Old Yeller type ending (and beginning).  I simply adored this story and found it perfectly suited to the middle-grade age range as opposed to Cardboard which I found better suited to an older age.  However, of interest, which is not to be found on the copyright page at all is that this book was originally written in 2004 and the edition presented here has been colourized and the text slightly edited to make it suitable for children.  The original edition's text may be considered more "adult" or at the least YA appropriate.  Certainly, one of my favourites by the author (Gear being my fav.).  A bit different from his other works: not father/son focused, not as dark (or creepy!), and more touching.  The best of the author's books to start kid's off with though.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

284. The Ticking by Renee French.

The Ticking by Renee French.

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2005, Top Shelf Productions, 216 pgs

Age: 15+

"The Ticking is the story of Edison Steelhead, a boy who at birth takes his mother’s life and his father’s deformed face. Secreted away by his father to be raised in a remote island lighthouse, Edison relates to his surroundings in the only way he knows how--by capturing them in his sketchbook. Able to find beauty in even the most grotesque of things, Edison embraces his own unsettling appearance and sets out to confront the rest of the world. Waiting for him on its alien shores are the sights and experiences that will give shape to both his future and his past. Written and illustrated by acclaimed artist RenĂ©e French, The Ticking is a compelling work of graphic literature, a reminder that before we can appreciate the beauty around us, we must first find it within ourselves"

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

The children's Toon Book "Barry's Best Buddy" was my first introduction to French.  There was something just slightly unsettling about her illustration that touched my sense for the odd and made me want to investigate her further.  I was entirely enticed by her backlist and chose to start with "The Ticking".  This is a wonderful story about accepting and loving oneself for who you are.  It is slightly disturbing and highly engaging; I was glued to the pages.  The text is very sparse and there are many wordless panels and yet it tells a deeply moving story.  The bittersweet ending left me satisfied and this is a book I would come back to often.  French's black and white art is emotionally charged and enticingly macabre.

Monday, September 16, 2013

282. Kafka by Steven T. Seagel

Kafka by Steven T. Seagel.  Art by Stefano Gaudiano.

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1990; July 30 2013, Image Comics, 176 pgs

Age: 18+

"A MAN WITH NO PAST HAS SIX DAYS TO RECOVER HIS FUTURE.Dan Hutton lost everything. Adrift in the witness relocation program, Dan is told his new identity has been compromised - by two different groups each claiming to be US agents. Not knowing who to trust, Dan runs - back to the world that took everything he loved."

Received a review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

This new edition of the Eisner nominated noir thriller has been partially colourized, using the colour as an effect to enhance the storytelling without losing the atmosphere of the original black and white.  This is one of my favourite genres to read in graphic format and here we have a spy/espionage/double agent type of combo going on.  The story is a little out there and removed from reality but then I find a lot of good spy stories to be that way.  Dan Hutton gets screwed around royally and while you knew something was always going to come up to spoil everything again the twists are good ones and I enjoyed the ending.  I especially enjoyed the atmospheric and moody artwork.  Rumour has it that Kenneth Branagh is bringing this to television and I'd definitely be there to watch!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Two Incredibly Awful Kids' GN's You Should Give a Pass

278. Jurassic Strike Force 5 by Neo Edmund. Art by J. L. Giles-Rivera

Rating: (1/5)

Sept. 10 2013, Zenoscope, 172 pgs

Age: 8+

"Backed by his army of evil, mutated Dino-soldiers, there's nothing that can stop him... .nothing but Jurassic Strike Force!"

Received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

This is so bad it was actually painful to read.  Totally mindless, no story beyond good guys fighting bad guys and no character development.  Halfway through my mind turned to mush and I forced myself to finish the thing.  It read like an adaptation of a bad cartoon episode.





279. Horrendo's Curse: The Graphic Novel by Alison Kooistra. Art by Remy Simard. Based on the book by Anna Fienberg

Rating: (2/5)

Jul. 11 2013, Annick Press, 104 pgs

Age: 8+

"There never lived a boy more polite than Horrendo. Cursed at birth, he can speak only kind words while everyone else in his village spews revolting insults. But as his twelfth birthday arrives, Horrendo's very good manners are about to get him into a heap of trouble.
Each year, pirates come to the village and abduct all the twelve-year-old boys as their slaves. Despite training in Herculean Headlocks, Rude Remarks, and Oar Throwing, Horrendo and his friends are worked to the bone aboard the ship. Horrendo endures with typical good grace, winning over the pirates' stomachs with his delectable cooking -- but enraging the heartless Captain.
When Horrendo hatches a cunning escape plan, a hazardous journey to a deserted island ensues. In the end, teamwork prevails, and the boys return home, forever changed, with their new pirate friends."

Received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

A mixed-up, uneven tale with a lot of action and silly, gross-out humour that doesn't fulfill its potential.  I've never heard of the book, the graphic novel is based upon, so can't compare.  The beginning is confusing, what is happening is simple enough but I wanted to know why.  A variety of events happen one after the other sometimes leaving plot points to fizzle out. Things seem to jump around as there is little or no segue between scenes. The characters were oddballs but evoked no compassion or emotion from the reader.  Finally a cliched and predictable plot left me bored: town gets raided by pirates every year, pirates come to raid and loot and take all 12yo boys, boys become slaves on vile Captain's ship, they mount a mutiny and all ends well.  Had the potential to have been good but does not pan out at all.  Blah!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

237. The Book of Revelation. Illustrations by Chris Koelle.

The Book of Revelation adaptation by Matt Dorff. Translation by Fr. Mark Arey & Fr. Philemon Sevastiades.  Illustrations by Chris Koelle.

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Nov. 6, 2012, Zondervan, 187 pgs

Age: 18+ (YA crossover)

"The entire text of Revelation is presented as a visual narrative experience. See the vision given to John illuminated in this softcover graphic novel as an eye-popping, cinematic adventure. All of Revelation’s most mysterious, iconic characters and epic events are vividly depicted. Stand in John’s sandals and watch the New Testament’s climactic war between good and evil unfold in dramatic and dazzling imagery."

Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

I find Revelation to be the hardest book of the bible to read but also to be quite thrilling with all its symbolism and meaning.  The thought of reading a graphic novel version appealed to me.  This book is not written for kids.  It contains all 404 verses from a translation done by two Greek Orthodox priests. The book is not illustrated with cartoons but with stunning art.  The artist's interpretation of this symbolic and visionary text of the Apocalypse is the core reason for my purchasing and reading this wonderful version of Revelation.  Now whether his images match your ideas is irrelevant as they make you pause and think.  Taking the text slowly and visually like this was an entirely new and rewarding way for me to read the Scripture and made me think about what I was reading from a different perspective.  What a joy it would be to have each book of the Bible professionally represented in graphic format like this!  One of the most amazing things about the art is that the artist has depicted the scenes including St. John and his reactions to what he is seeing.  This is truly brilliant and a fresh take to think about St. John's reactions when reading the Book of Revelation.  There is no interpretation presented which I think is wonderful of the adapter & artist.  They have presented the art literally from the text, allowing the reader to process their own known understanding of, or just to ponder, the symbolism.