Explorer: The Lost Islands edited by Kazu Kibuishi
This second book in the Explorer series again takes a single theme and has short illustrated stories that center on that. The book is a collection of different illustrators and authors, so one story to the next is very different both in the story itself and in the style of the art. It makes for a very compelling book to read. I had several favorite stories in the book, including The Mask Dance by Chrystin Garland where the setting is dark and looming and people are disguised by masks. The reveal of the truth is great fun while still being dark and eerie. Another favorite was Desert Island Playlist by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier. Readers of Smile and Drama will enjoy seeing another piece of work by Telgemeier. This story too has a mystery at its heart all set on a desert island. This is another strong graphic novel that young readers are sure to enjoy.
This second book loses some of the darkness and wonder of the first which was a masterpiece. At the same time, it is a book worth getting because it displays such a wide range of art styles and story types. Both books in the series are like unwrapping presents when you turn to a new story, you are sure to be surprised.
Amulet fans, graphic novel readers and students interested in art should all find something to love in this new collection. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, illustrated by John Rocco
Did you know that trains make great pets? Well this is the book all about how to best keep a train as a pet and have it well trained too. First, you have to decide what sort of train you want: freight, monorail or steam. Then you need to catch one. There are lots of ways to do this, but the best way is to catch their attention with smoke signals and then bribe them with coal. You then have to name your train and try to set it at ease. Spend time together and get to know one another. Eventually if you have built enough trust, your train will let you ride him. But it takes time to ride off into the sunset together.
Eaton sets the perfect tone in his writing. The framework of a how-to book adds a level of structure that Eaton plays with throughout. Reading along the way, Eaton invites you into his world of sentient trains where each reader is offered the opportunity to consider what type of train they would want as a pet and how they would care for it. It’s a delightful world and one that lingers after shutting the cover.
Rocco’s illustrations are a large part of building that delight. He has created trains that read as purely machine and yet have faces that smile directly at you. He also maintains the scale of the trains, allowing them to be huge puppy-like beasts that have a great wildness as well.
This cheery book will delight train fans but also reaches far beyond them with its humor and world building. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.