Review: The Numberlys by William Joyce

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The Numberlys by William Joyce, illustrated by Christina Ellis

In a world where there are only numbers, everything is very orderly and neat.  But it’s also very gray, even the food.  Then five friends started to wonder if there was something more than numbers, something different!  So they started inventing and they slowly came up with letters.  And when they reached the final letter Z, things started to change.  Color entered their dreary lives as the letters fell into place.  Once the letters formed words, real changes started and the entire world was flooded with color and yummy foods and possibilities. 

Based on the app, this is a second picture book from the creators of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which also started as an app.  Joyce creates a numeric and order-filled world reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 in the first pages of the book.  The text here is very simple, allowing most of the storytelling to be done by the illustrations.  Joyce keeps a light hand here and uses humor to show how dark the world is.  Who could imagine a world without jellybeans?

It is Ellis’ art that brings this world to life.  Her orderly world has the feel of wooden toy soldiers and the five friends are wonderfully different and unique even before they invent the alphabet.  The gray tones of the early part of the book give way to jellybean colors that jump on the page. 

This celebration of words and books also examines the importance of independent thought and creativity.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Hermelin by Mini Grey

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Hermelin: The Detective Mouse by Mini Grey

Released August 5, 2014.

Hermelin is a mouse who lives in the attic of Number 33 Offley Street.  His attic is filled with books and boxes and a typewriter that Hermelin uses to write with.  When Hermelin notices that the Offley Street Notices board is filled with people missing things, he knows just what he has to do.  So he starts working as a mouse detective and solving the mysteries of Offley Street.  He does this by noticing things and then leaving typed notes for the people to help them find their missing items.  Then when tragedy almost strikes the youngest person on Offley Street, Hermelin is the one to save the day!  Soon everyone wants to know exactly who this Hermelin person is, so they invite him to a thank you party in his honor.  He just isn’t quite what they were expecting…

A new Mini Grey book is always a treat and this one is perfectly lovely.  Hermelin is a winning character with plenty of pluck as he goes about solving mysteries.  Happily, the mysteries are just as small as Hermelin himself, making the book all the more jaunty and fun.  Grey spends some time showing Hermelin’s attic and how he lives.  The small details here add a rich warmth to the book and it is also the details that create such a vibrant world on Offley Street with the humans as well.

Done in her signature style, the illustrations are filled with details.  One can read the cereal box, the milk carton, and the titles on the books as well as giggling at the flavors of cat food on the shelf.  Hermelin himself is a lovely white mouse with inquisitive eyes and a face that shows emotions clearly.  The entire book is a pleasure to immerse yourself into and simply enjoy.

Clever and filled with adventure, the vast appeal of this detective story is no mystery at all.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.