Tag Archive: adventures


adventures of beekle

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Join Beekle, an imaginary friend, who is so special that no child seems to be able to even imagine him.  He waits and waits along with the other imaginary creatures, but he is never dreamed of by a child.  So Beekle does what no other imaginary friend has ever done, he heads out to find his child in the real world.  He finds himself in a big city, filled with grey people and lots of adults.  Luckily, he spots a bright familiar color and shape and follows it to a playground where he thinks he can find his special friend.  But they don’t come.  Beekle climbs a tree to see if he can spot his friend, but still no one comes.  Beekle climbs down, then a small girls gestures for him to get her paper out of the tree.  And on that page…  Well, you will just have to imagine it for yourself or get this charmer of a book to read and find out what happens next.

Santat has created a book that reads like a modern classic.  He has combined so many wonderful moments and positive feelings here that it’s like drinking a cup of cocoa for the spirit.  Beekle himself is perfection, a round and friendly little soul whose crown is made of construction paper and tape and who is unwilling to sit lonely when he could do something about his situation.  His positive reaction to a dismal situation is a great model for children. 

At the same time, this is a testament to imagination.  Both a warm embrace of imaginary friends and their positive role in children’s lives.  But also a celebration of Santat’s own imagination.  The world he creates is filled with the grey of adulthood, but childhood and imagination make that world shine in new colors. 

A delight of a picture book, this is one to share cuddled up in bed and to cheer aloud with the story.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

captain cat

Captain Cat by Inga Moore

Captain Cat is a trader, but he’s not very good at making profitable deals.  You see, instead of trading for riches, he trades for cats.  So his ship is full of them.  All of the other traders make fun of him for this, but Captain Cat is very happy surrounded by the furry creatures.  He decides to head off and see new places, far from the trade routes he usually travels.  On the way, he is caught in a violent storm that blows him off course, right off the map!  There he discovers a small rocky island led by a young queen.  She and the population are very friendly, and have never seen cats before.  When the cats take care of the island’s rat problem, the queen begs Captain Cat to leave them behind.  What is a cat-loving caption to do?

This is a very engaging book.  It was different right off of the bat with a sailor surrounded by cats who hate water.  Throughout the story, it continues to surprise and delight.  It never heads where you expect it to, yet ends up being completely delightful both along the way and in the end.  Unlike many picture books, Moore tells a full story here.  It not only has the structure of a full story, but also has a depth that can be missing in picture books.

The illustrations are finely done with lots of details.  Done in mixed media, they have fine lines and soft colors.  Thanks to their detail, this book would best be used with small groups or individual children.

Take a feline-filled journey with this clever picture book.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

fortunately the milk

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young

When Mum left to give a presentation on lizards, she made sure that Dad knew just what he had to do.  One item on the list was getting milk, but that didn’t happen.  So when the family woke to dry cereal and no milk for tea, Dad headed out to get the milk.  He didn’t return for a long, long time.  But when he came back he had quite a story about why he was late.  It involved time travel, a brilliant dinosaur, pirates who don’t have a plank to walk, wumpires with long teeth, and lots and lots of silliness.

Gaiman is a chameleon of an author, keeping us guessing what his next book will be like because one never knows what style he will try next.  Here he is in pure farce mode, something that will enchant young readers even as they can’t read because they are giggling too much.  The humor here is nonstop, one maniac moment after another until you can’t quite tell which way is up.  It’s a grand adventure filled with outright one-liners and puns.

Young’s illustrations are such a part of this book, it is like Gaiman illustrated it himself.  The results are wacky and purely funny.  The father character seems to me to be a marvelous mix of several Dr. Who characters with his dangling striped scarf, wild hair and rather dapper approach to things. 

Hilarious, wacky and wonderful, get this into the hands of elementary aged kids now.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

delilah dirk

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

Released August 27, 2013.

Enter a new heroine who is funny, adept and can kick your butt.  Delilah Dirk comes crashing into the life of Selim, the Turkish Lieutenant and merrily takes over his world.  Delilah has adventured all around the world and is now looking to steal some valuable ancient scrolls from a Sultan in Constantinople.  With her flying boat, she saves Selim from certain death.  Then it is on to more adventures, including evading pirates, jumping off a disintegrating aqueduct, and fighting everyone who is after her, and everyone is.  Delilah loves the freedom and action of her life on the road, but Selim craves quiet times with friends.  Readers on the other hand will love Delilah and Selim both as well as the humor and adventure that make this one rollicking read.

Cliff has created a wonderful heroine.  She manages to be feminine and dashing at the same time.  Her outfit is skirted and flowing but not confining.  It reveals her beauty, but not her endowments.  She is great fun and the role reversal of the man who is the reluctant adventurer and the woman who adores it turns stereotypes on their heads.  The story both honors tradition with its setting in Turkey, but also adds a lot of new flavors like the flying boat.  It makes for a book that is filled with surprises.

A great pick for graphic novel fans and those just discovering the genre.  Delilah is a heroine who will take you on an amazing adventure.  Let’s hope there are many more to come!  Appropriate for ages 10-14.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

doll bones

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Zach, Poppy and Alice have played with their action figures for years together, creating elaborate adventures, personalities and histories.   At school, they pass notes with questions to one another to round out their world even more.  Then Zach’s father throws out his action figures, saying that Zach is too old to play with them any more.  Zach is broken-hearted not only at losing the characters he has created but also about losing this connection with his best friends.  He is so hurt that he cannot explain to Poppy and Alice what has happened, pushing them away and refusing to play with them at all.  Then one night, Zach is awoken by Poppy and Alice who explain that the china doll they have always called The Queen is haunting Poppy’s dreams.  The doll wants them to go on a real quest, to avenge a murder.  Filled with creepy moments, lots of adventure, and true friendship, this book has remarkable depth.

Black has created a book that says horror on the cover with its creepy doll and certainly has moments in the book that will get you feeling chills.  Yet at its core, this is a book about growing up and expectations for what you will need to give up.  Black clearly does not agree that to be older, means that you must stop pretending.  Rather, she tells a story that shows just how important creativity, open mindedness and wonder are for adolescents too. 

Another aspect of the book worthy of note is that this is a story of a quest that is entirely modern, think highways and modern stores, but also the timelessness of a river, sailboat, and library.  Part of what makes this book exceptional is the way that it shows how very uncomfortable such a quest would be.  Throughout, we get to see the three main characters at their best and their worst, these are true friends who are willing to fight in order to have their way, argue to save friendships, and give up so they won’t have to face the pain of loss.

Friendship, a creepy doll, and adventures, what more could one want in a book!  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.

miss sally ann

Miss Sally Ann and the Panther retold by Bobbi Miller, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Miss Sally Ann has had many great adventures, but one of the tallest tales about her is the story of when she met Fireeyes.  Fireeyes was a panther, huge and black.  When the two of them saw each other in the deep forest, they both wanted each other’s fur.  Miss Sally Ann thought that Fireeyes’ hide would keep her toes nice and warm.  Fireeyes wanted the bear-fur coat that she was wearing to keep his shoulders warm.  After gazing eye-to-eye, the two of them began to fight.  It was an epic battle, and I won’t spoil the ending or the middle of the book for you.  Just know that this is one wild tale about a tremendous woman and a blazing panther.

Miller’s writing here is, as she would put it, “ripsnorting fine.”  She peppers and spices her prose with words that can only be read with a twang and a great deal of swagger.  Just try saying “thunderferous” or “terrifiacious” without a big grin leaping to the your lips.  It all makes this book not only a great tall tale about an amazing woman, but also a “thunderific” book to share aloud.  The pacing is wild and wonderful, the battle is beyond epic, and the result is pure comfort too.

Lloyd’s illustrations really bring the larger-than-life characters full to realization.  From the huge size of Fireeyes to the great joy and fun that Miss Sally Ann has about life, the two of them shine on these pages.  Their battle is captured, full of motion and stunning action.

This is one great read to share with children learning about tall tales.  Not only does it feature a woman, but it’s also a treat to read aloud.  I’d also sneak it into any story time about cats just to get some big energy in there.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Holiday House.

hit the road jack

Hit the Road, Jack by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Ross MacDonald

Opening this book, I was surprised that it was not based on the song at all.  Instead, this is a tribute to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  Jack in this picture book is a jackrabbit who longs to travel America.  So he leaves New York and rides his bicycle to Boston and then Buffalo.  Pennsylvania and Cleveland are next with Detroit too.  Jack spends some time in Chicago before heading back into the countryside and hopping a train.  A car carries him to the Great Plains and Mount Rushmore.  He sees the Rockies and the desert mesas before arriving at the Golden Gate.  Jack has reached his west coast destination, but the road still calls. 

Burleigh takes the picture book done in verse to another level here.  Never forced, always brimming with honesty and joy, this verse rhymes but does so in a sophisticated way.  It has all of the rhythm of the beat poets inside of it too, paying double homage to Kerouac both in subject and style.  Young readers will explore the United States in this book, but even better, they will get a feel for what makes America great. 

MacDonald’s illustrations have a playfulness and joy that matches the text well.  Done with a vintage feel, Jack has huge ears but is more human than rabbit most of the time.  Shown in his leather jacket and rolled-up jeans, Jack is the ideal companion on the road.

This is a special book where subject matter and form combine to create something all the more amazing.  It may be difficult to get this into the hands of the right kids, but it is worth the challenge for a book this good.  It will also make a great book to share with elementary classes studying the United States.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.

other normals

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

Perry Eckert loves to play Creatures & Caverns in all of his spare time.  He doesn’t have any friends to play the game with, so he just creates characters.  When someone inspires him to create a character based on himself, he does.  Of course the character differs in some ways, like his red skin, yellow hair and tail, but he is also not that strong, not that fast, but full of honor.  Perry’s parents are worried about him being a social outcast, so they send him to summer camp.  There, Perry is swept into a world where Creatures & Caverns is real!  Even better, they need Perry to help them save their world.  All it will take is Perry kissing the most popular girl at camp.  No pressure.

Vizzini is a master of misfit characters.  He takes Perry and throughout the book reveals much more about him than just his geeky exterior.  Instead, we all discover that Perry is a true hero, filled with honor, who is intelligent and very brave.  Vizzini throws in realizations that Perry has about modern American life, about thinking too much and acting too little, that will resonate with readers. 

Vizzini does not shy away from swear words in critical places.  There is also some nudity (on the part of Perry) but I won’t ruin those parts for you.  Vizzini brings lots of humor to the story, enough to bring out big guffaws of laughter at times.  There is also plenty of adventure, some death, enormous monsters, and everything that D&D players would want in a book. 

Get this into the hands of kids you know who game.  They will enjoy not only the game brought to life idea, but also the winning hero at the heart of a great adventure.  Appropriate for ages 15-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from HarperCollins.

best bike ride ever

The Best Bike Ride Ever by James Proimos and Johanna Wright

All Bonnie has said for seven days is “I want a bike” so when she finally gets a bike on the eighth day, she just can’t wait to try it out.  She can’t even wait to be shown how to use a bike, instead she just hops aboard and pedals off.  There’s only one problem – she doesn’t know how to stop.  She rode her bike over bridges and on top of elephants, between giraffe legs, to the top of the Statue of Liberty and the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Unfortunately though, she did stop in the end, by falling over.  Happily, her parents were there not to scold her but to show her how to use her bike.  In fact, Bonnie had the adventure of a lifetime right in her own backyard as sharp eyed children will figure out.

This book is entirely playful from the over-the-top begging for a bike to the wild ride through the entire world to the final twist at the end.  Readers will experience their own adventurous ride as they read this book, never knowing quite where Bonnie and the book are heading next.  It’s a lot of fun to read! 

The illustrations are quirky and bright.  Filled with details but never fussy, they have a life to them that adds to the spunk of the book.  They are also filled with motion and movement, which makes them all the more enjoyable.

Great fun, this wild ride of a book will have children wishing for their own bike.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

secret of the stone frog

The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra

Released September 11, 2012.

Upon opening this graphic novel, I was surprised.  Fine-lined black and white images that invite readers into an equally surprising story.  Leah and Alan wake up in an enchanted forest, not knowing how they got there or where they are.  Luckily, there is a stone frog to tell them which way to head and not to leave the path.  When they spot a house off of the path though, they just have to see if the people who live there will give them some food.  At the house, they discover huge bees in the garden and a woman with an enormous head who does invite them in for some cookies.  But the bees are not normal bees, and they start to collect the words that Alan is saying, leaving him unable to speak.  Leah manages to save his voice, but they are forced to flee.  Of course, they leave the path again, this time to discover lions who speak and rabbits as mounts.  There are more stone frogs, dark caves, unusual subways, and a strange city to explore.  This graphic novel is a tribute to traditional fairy tales but has its own magic to work too.

I am very taken with this book.  It is a modern version of an Alice in Wonderland story, complete with strange adult characters, an entire society that is warped and unusual, and discoveries around every corner.  Nytra seems to delight in the peculiar in his book, which also delighted me.  There are no explanations to this dreamy tale that sometimes verges closely to nightmare territory.

The art is unusual for a graphic novel, hearkening back more closely with old-fashioned tales than with a modern graphic novel.  While Nytra does use panels throughout, the art itself is fine-lined, detailed and worthy of reader exploration too.  It has a welcome surreal quality as well that suits the book well.

There is nothing better than a book that will surprise and delight you.  That’s guaranteed in this graphic novel.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Toon Books.

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