Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie, illustrated by Ellen Rooney (9781624148712)
Head outside into the early summer evening in this picture book. Play in the trees and see who can climb highest. Enjoy leapfrogging, kick the can, and running while playing tag. Take the time though to feel the bark, watch the leaves, discover worms, and hunt for frogs. Find a quiet curb to share some secrets before a game of hide and seek. As night continues to fall, the fireflies emerge. Soon parents are calling for children to head home and the neighborhood gets quiet until the children emerge again into the darkness as the moon rises.
Leslie cleverly shows the joys of being outside as darkness comes by weaving together plenty of games and activities with quieter moments of discovery. The resulting laughter combines with feeling safe and able to be on your own in the dark. Many of the games and activities are unique to just this time of day like the firefly catching and kick the can while others can be enjoyed at any time of day.
The illustrations by Rooney are done in vibrant mixed media with paint, collage and digital elements. They are filled with diverse children, all playing with one another. They also capture the changing light and colors of the sky beautifully as dusk and evening emerge.
Just right for summer afternoons so that children can experience their own dusk that night. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
When Lalek and Sanja meet at the marketplace, their lives could not be more different. Lalek is a traveling witch while Sanja works at her family’s market stall. Lalek also sells fake items, which lands her in some trouble. It’s during one of those incidents that the two girls meet, with Lalek taking Sanja hostage and forcing her to teach Lalek how to fight. Soon the two reach an understanding where Lalek won’t use her magic to force Sanja to comply, Lalek will stop cheating people, and Sanja will teach her to fight. The two also come up with a plan on how to make money by challenging the witches in each village to a duel. As the two journey on, Lalek’s tragic story is revealed along with the loss of her real magic. The two bond with one another from the beginning, steadily forming a romantic connection with each other.
Set in a diverse medieval fantasy universe, this graphic novel demands that people of all races and abilities be seen and accepted. The various witches are a marvel of different ages, magic types and races. There are bigots and evil in the world too, some close to home. The book is full of action from the witches’ battles as well as journeys through fascinating lands with interesting features. The development of the two main characters is well done and their romance feels organic and fills the pages with joy.
The art is fresh with nods to manga. It takes time to offer special glances between the two characters before the true romance begins as well as dramatic frames that are quiet yet profound. Zabarsky successfully plays with light and dark in the illustrations, illuminating space with Lalek’s candle.
Perfect for fans of Nimona, this book beautifully shows LGBTQ romance in a magical fantasy world. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Graphic.