Binky Takes Charge by Ashley Spires
Binky has now been promoted to lieutenant in first against the aliens. It means that he is now in charge of training new recruits. But his first recruit is definitely not what he had been expecting. To start with, he isn’t a cat! He’s a dog! Binky sets out to train the new cadet anyway, trying to ignore the fact that he pees on the floor, won’t use the litter box, doesn’t respect the idea of a cat nap, and is unable to pounce a fake alien on a string. Soon Binky is questioning more than his cadet’s skills, perhaps he’s really a spy for the aliens! Now Binky sets out to prove what he suspects, but he’s in for a few surprises along the way.
The Binky series is one of my favorite graphic novel series for children. It is a treat to see our alien-fighting (actually insect fighting) hero reach new ranks here. The addition of a dog into the series is brilliant, especially one who may be a spy for the flies. Add in the farting and the physical humor, and you have a series that is bound to appeal to reluctant readers as well as eager readers.
Spires’ art is done in a limited color palette. Her black and white cat lives in a sepia-toned world that has bursts of color. This palette could read as vintage, but here the modern lines and modern story keep it up-to-date and great fun.
This is another strong book in a great series. It’s a must-have for all children’s graphic novel collections. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.
The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing
The story of the Three Little Pigs heads to outer space in this fractured fairy tale. Here there are three little aliens, who must find a new planet to live on. Their mother advises them to stick together, but two of the little aliens don’t listen. When Bork sees the space rover on the red planet, she just can’t resist living there. Gork is drawn in by the satellite circling around a planet surrounded by rings. Nklxwcyz went deep into space until he found a planet that he thought was perfect. It was blue with nice breezes. When the Big Bad Robot arrived in the galaxy, there is no where for Bork and Gork to hide, because they had been too busy playing with their new toys to build homes. So both of them fled to Nlkxwcyz’s house deep in space. And you will just have to read the book to see how the Big Bad Robot is defeated.
While this is a light-hearted fiction book, it is also one that has some science mixed in. The planets that the three aliens travel to are the planets in our galaxy. They start out at home at Mercury. Bork settles on Mars, Gork on Saturn and Nlkxwcyz on Neptune. This adds a nice dimension to the book.
McNamara’s prose is a pleasure to read aloud. The noises of the Big Bad Robot add much to the book’s fun and build the tension up. The illustrations by Fearing are quirky and fun. The backdrop of stars and the familiar planets make for a winning setting for the pictures.
A fun, fractured fairy tale, this book will be popular with children who enjoy space and robots. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.
Also reviewed by:
Earth to Clunk by Pam Smallcomb, pictures by Joe Berger
What do you do when you get assigned a pen pal named Clunk who is from the planet Quazar? Well, first you make sure to send him something you won’t miss at all, like your big sister. Of course, he’ll send something back too, a Zoid that won’t stop following you. Then send him socks, dirty ones. That’ll teach him. You’ll get back Forps in return, they look kind of like striped socks and smell like dog food. You could try to confuse it by sending all sorts of odd things together, but beware of the confusion he will send back. Unfortunately, he may not like having your sister there and may send her back. Happily, the gob of goo he sent back with her will taste like ice cream. Perhaps it’s time to invite him for a sleepover?
Smallcomb uses just the right tone here to add to the humor. Her flat tone plays up the silly nature of the entire story, treating the alien piece of the story as if it were just a neighboring state that the boy is exchanging items with. The strange items he receives are also treated the same way.
Because of the flat nature of the writing, Berger’s illustrations have to pop and carry the true nature of what is happening. They definitely are successful in depicting the strange things that are going on. I particularly enjoyed that the Zoid and Forps continue to hang around in the book, watch out for the striped burp from the Zoid! Berger’s art has a classic feel that also adds to the humor of this space-age story.
A great science fiction picture book that will have children longing for their own pen pal from Quazar. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.
Also reviewed by You Know, For Kids.