Tag: art

Frankencrayon by Michael Hall

Frankencrayon by Michael Hall

Frankencrayon by Michael Hall (InfoSoup)

This picture book has been cancelled. The crayons in the story are saddened that the picture book won’t be happening. After all, they have costumes and were going to tell an amazing story. But now that someone is actually reading the cancelled story, they may as well tell the reader exactly why the picture book has ended. It is all because of the horrible scribble that suddenly interrupted the story. They tried to clean the page, but the scribble just got larger and larger. It was out of control and everyone was so disturbed by it that they forgot to tell Frankencrayon that something was wrong. So when the crayons playing him entered on Page 22, they ran right into the scribble. It would take some quick thinking and fast action to save the story.

Hall has such a playful approach to picture books that one never quite knows what sort of story they are heading into. This book is great fun from the set up of the “cancellation” to the crayons in costumes. It is clever and humorous with exactly the sort of humor that preschoolers adore. Children will not be scared by anything here thanks to the use of crayons and the horror being a scribble on the page. This one reads aloud beautifully, filled with voices of the pencil, the crayons, and even one evil scribbler.

The cut paper collage pops on each page, the crayons bright with their colors and delightful in their different sizes after clearly having been merrily colored with for some time. The pointy pencil too somehow has its own personality. The solution that Frankencrayon comes up with is exactly what children would think of and adds to the visual appeal of the book.

This funny picture book is perfect to share aloud with a group of preschoolers who may love to do their own transformations of scribbles into something more friendly. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather & Other Short Stories by Sara Varon (InfoSoup)

Enter the artistic process of graphic-novel author Sara Varon. Here you will see short comic stories, some done as exercises, essays and journal entries. Varon introduces each piece, sharing that she is always at least one of the characters in each of her stories. Each story has the charm and wit that one expects from a book by Varon, here is bite-sized pieces that allow readers to meet even more adorable animal characters. There are cats who long to fly, stories based on alphabet exercises, bee keeping information, swimming pools, and much much more. This is a world worth visiting multiple times!

Varon’s art is almost wordless, the characters showing much  more than telling all that they do. Varon plays with the cells of the graphic novel, breaking the walls between them by handing cups across the lines in one story and in another showing both above and below the water at the same time. She is consistently gently funny and smart in all of these stories. There is a beautiful familiarity to her work, it is at once quirky and cozy and creates worlds where one wants to exist.

Readers will find a lot to love here, whether they are reading it as future artists and authors themselves or because they love Varon’s work. Varon shows the growth of her own work as the book progresses, and also shows how from the very start she was true to her own style and vision. The collection is empowering and fresh.

The author of Robot Dreams and Odd Duck shows a back-stage view of her work, inviting young readers into her creative process. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

Review: Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakava

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (InfoSoup)

Peppi has just started a new school when she manages to trip over her own feet in the crowded hallway. When a boy tries to help her, she panics and pushes him away when kids start to say she’s his “nerder girlfriend.” Peppi feels awful about this and buries herself in her new group of friends in the art club. Though she tries to avoid him, Jaime is everywhere. He’s assigned as her science tutor and is part of the science club, the art club’s arch rivals. Soon the two clubs are at war with one another, but Peppi is starting to be friends with Jaime. How can a budding middle school friendship survive the club apocalypse?

The story is over the top in a good way. It captures the story of Peppi, a nice artistic girl who just cannot bring herself to apologize to Jaime, even if she knows that what she did was wrong. So often protagonists are either completely socially inept or entirely extroverted, Peppi is a clear introvert but one with lots of friends and a clear social circle.

Chmakova has a style that will appeal to manga readers and anime viewers. She uses several tropes from those genres to great effect from the streaming tears on people’s faces in reaction to great dismay to the isolated images of angry leaders where they are backlit and scary. Chmakova also manages to keep her graphic novel very diverse, not only is Peppi herself diverse, but other characters who populate the story are diverse as well with a variety of racial, ethnic and abilities. It is subtly done and makes the entire book feel like a real school.

A dynamic graphic novel, this book will appeal to those in middle school and those headed there, artists and scientists alike. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang

When Sophies Feelings Are Really Really Hurt by Molly Bang

When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang

Released September 29, 2015.

Sophie and her class at school are given an assignment to paint a tree from real life. Sophie has a favorite tree, the big beech tree where she goes when she is feeling sad. When she visits it, she sees how it glows in the sun, how its branches are formed. But when she tries to paint it, she realizes that its gray trunk actually looks sad in the painting, it’s the opposite of how she feels about the tree. So she changes the bark color to a vivid blue, the sky is orange and the leaves are chartreuse and ringed in yellow to make them glow. Sophie is very happy with her painting until the other children start to tease her about it not being realistic at all. Sophie’s feelings get very hurt until her teacher comes over and they talk about what Sophie was showing in her painting of the tree. Sophie also gets the chance to see the trees that everyone in the class painted and to see how they conveyed what they were feeling too.

This second book about Sophie follows the very popular When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry, which received a Caldecott Honor. This book focuses on feelings and emotions once again and wisely takes on emotions through the lens of art. Bang makes sure to explain exactly how Sophie is feeling throughout the book, focusing on the emotions from how the tree makes her feel to the way that the teasing at school feels down to her physical reactions as well. These clear looks at emotions will allow a discussion of feelings that is manageable and one that can embrace art as well.

Bang’s illustrations are exceptional. They glow with a light from within. The beech tree is fabulous and one can immediately see the connection between Bang’s art and Sophie’s. Both are playful, colorful and show deep emotion. I particularly love the image when Sophie is upset that looks at her gazing down at her feet, so that the reader is almost seeing things from Sophie’s perspective. It captures the feeling of self-doubt and even shame that teasing can create. The entire book has moments like this.

Another winning title from Molly Bang, this second Sophie book deserves to be in every library right alongside the first. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from The Blue Sky Press.

Review: The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall (InfoSoup)

Arthur can’t stand that the junk man is wearing his father’s hat, so he throws a brick at the old man and injures him. Sent to juvenile detention, Arthur has to appear in court where the junk man steps up and offers him a choice. He can either be sentenced to detention or he can do community service working with the junk man. Arthur agrees to work for the man. When he starts, all he gets is a list of items to find in the garbage. Soon Arthur is digging through the garbage himself. At first he does it with no interest at all, not fulfilling the list he has been given at all. Soon though, he is spotting treasures and keeping things like foil from his friend’s lunch. As he works on the items on the list, they grow in significance to him on a personal level and in his life. When he discovers what the man has been using the items for, Arthur is captivated and begins to work alongside him.

Pearsall has created a book that speaks to the power of one person to make a difference in someone’s life. First there is the brick being thrown, then the man saving Arthur from detention and then the story progresses and Arthur matures and he begins to save the man in return. It’s a beautiful cycle, one of caring and concern and humanity. The humility of garbage collecting is also a huge factor in the book, one that works not only to break down barriers but also to lift up the person to a different level along with the items they collect.

Pearsall also uses language impressively. She describes characters clearly and does not pontificate about the lessons to be seen in the book. Instead the story stands on its own merits and the conclusions you draw are your own. It makes it an ideal book to use with a class and will inspire discussions about right and wrong, and responsibility.

A vibrant piece of historical fiction based on a true story, this novel will be welcomed by teachers and youth alike. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Review: Snap! by Hazel Hutchins

Snap by Hazel Hutchins

Snap! by Hazel Hutchins, illustrated by Dušan Petričić

Released September 22, 2015.

Evan had a new set of crayons that were perfect until he accidentally broke the brown crayon. He tried to fix it by pressing it together and taping it, but nothing worked. Then Evan realized that one broken crayon is actually two crayons! As Evan continued to color, more crayons snapped. When he stepped on one, he found that he could create different things with the crushed color and with others without wrappers. Evan’s only green crayon disappeared under the stairs and then he didn’t have any green at all, until he discovered that yellow and blue combined to make green. Soon Evan was mixing all sorts of colors. Finally he is left with only three colors: red, blue and green and no space to color any more. But Evan has starting thinking in new ways and finds a way to make new discoveries and art.

Hutchins has taken a universal moment in childhood, when the first crayon breaks and made it into a celebration of creativity and thinking in new ways. The discoveries outweigh the loss of a whole crayon, creating new opportunities and new ways to color and draw. The part where he steps on a crayon is so well done, allowing youngsters to see situations like that as a chance for discovery. Throughout the tone is jolly and inviting, just the antidote to perfectionism we need.

Petričić’s art is very appealing. Evan is a boy who is colored the same bright colors as his crayons, allowing him to pop on the page even as it fills with art. At the same time, he is rendered partially as an uncolored person, which makes for a very modern and intriguing look. The scribbles and child art are done well, always filled with experimentation and ideas. 

Combine this with a crayon craft and you will have a great program, just be ready for some of the children to snap your crayons on purpose! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Annick Press and NetGalley.

Review: Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers

Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers

Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers

Released September 29, 2015.

A new book from the author of The Big Wet Balloon, this graphic novel for young readers encourages creating your own books. Henrietta has a new box of colored pencils and sets out to create her own book with help from her cat, Fellini. It becomes a tale of a brave girl named Henrietta who discovers a three-headed monster in her wardrobe. The wardrobe turns out to be a magic one, leading to a labyrinth filled with clothes. They search for a hat for the one head of the monster that doesn’t have one to wear. But when they find a hat they also discover another monster, this one has one head and three hats. How will they escape?

Liniers is a well-known Argentinian cartoonist. This book embraces the creative work of children, nicely capturing the simple story arc of a child as well as the colorful and loose art style. The creative process is also captured with asides from Henrietta to Fellini that show her having problems at times coming up with new ideas and at other times having problems with the continuation of the story line after something dramatic happens. It’s a clever way to demonstrate the hurdles of creativity and story writing without lecturing.

The art is wonderful. Linier uses two clearly different styles in the book, one for Henrietta’s real world and the other for her written story. The real world ones are quieter and more realistic while the story is zany. It is filled with scribbles, colors, and really looks as if a creative child could have done it. The result is a book where the real world pieces are clearly different than the story, avoiding any confusion at all.

A solid graphic novel for young readers, children with dreams of writing their own books will love this journey through creativity. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from TOON Books.