Tag: adventures

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long (9781338054354, Amazon)

This is the second picture book in the Super Happy Magic Forest series. This book has the same tongue-in-cheek humor as the first as it once again laughs at fantasy tropes. In this second book, our heroes (the same ones as in the first book: a unicorn, gnome, centaur, fairy and mushroom) must face a new danger. Zorgoth, an evil slug who has been trapped under a rock (and accidentally released by one of our heroes), heads out to destroy the forest by drinking the Potion of Power. Our heroes must journey through different fantasy landscapes and eventually defeat Zorgoth, who is munching his way across them leaving a trail of slime. How can our hapless heroes succeed?

Long’s writing is over the top and great fun. He frames the book with a Prophecy at the beginning that predicts Zorgoth’s emergence and ends it with what has become the Legend of the heroes, which doesn’t quite match what the reader just saw happen. Throughout the book, there is humor sprinkled everywhere. Speech bubbles and labels add to the fun, mixing modern-day with fantasy world in a gloriously haphazard way.

The illustrations are bright and colorful. Entire worlds of fantasy are depicted in double-page spreads that contrast with one another. There is a dragon world of fire (filled with fire puns), underground chambers of jewels where readers can try to find the missing rainbow jewel, and ogres doing yoga and trying to eat our heroes too.

This is another wild and very successful romp through fantasy in a picture book. Share it with individual kids or very small groups so that the pictures can be searched for small details. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzoli (9780670016532, Amazon)

The author of Tricky Vic returns with another rip-roaring nonfiction picture book. It is the true story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who searched for an ancient city hidden in the Amazon rainforest. Fawcett had dreamed his entire life of being an explorer and as an adult took many treks into South America to map the region. They faced many dangers, such as huge snakes and natives with weapons. Many of the men he traveled with perished on the adventures but Fawcett survived. Others thought that the Amazon city was a myth while Fawcett insisted that it existed. If he found it, it would make him one of the most famous explorers of all time and one of the wealthiest too. This book tells his tale as he searched for the lost city.

Pizzoli has a knack for selecting real life stories that most people, adults and children, will not have heard of. This one is a fascinating story of belief and bravery, about a man who left family and country behind in his quest to discover the unknown. Pizzoli tells the story with lots of action and a sense of adventure in his prose. There are moments where Pizzoli allows the action to slow, the wonder of the moment to grow, and the dangers to almost overwhelm. It’s written with skill and knowledge, building to a conclusion that suits the life of Fawcett to a Z.

The book design and illustrations add so much to this nonfiction read. Done in a simple and clever style, just like Pizzoli’s picture books, the images add necessary humor to the book. The design of the book also allows additional information to be added on sidebars. Pizzoli uses his illustrations to also create moments of tension and drama, pausing the action for effect.

Smart, stylish and successful, this nonfiction picture book will take readers on quite an adventure. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Chirri & Chirra in the Tall Grass by Kaya Doi

Chirri & Chirra in the Tall Grass by Kaya Doi

Chirri & Chirra in the Tall Grass by Kaya Doi (9781592702251, Amazon)

This is the second book in this series that has come to the United States from Japan. In this adventure, sisters Chirri and Chirra ride their bikes into a tall stand of grass. Once inside, they follow a bee to its home where they get to taste honey sponge cake. From there, they follow some flower chafers to their home where the chafers share some leaf juice with them. When a lizard passes by, the girls follow him to his home and they make candies together. As darkness falls, the girls return back home.

Doi’s books are completely unique. The two characters react to nature and the foods offered them with wonder and curiosity. There is no fear here, just adventure and joy. The books celebrate nature and investigation. There is a strong element of fantasy as well as the creatures talk and cook, but that whimsical part just strengthens the honesty of the natural pieces.

The illustrations are filled with small details that make these books better for one-on-one sharing. These are books to pore over and enjoy together, discussing the details. The illustrations show close ups of the food and drink, small touches making them all the more appealing.

Look forward to book three this fall, this is a delicious Japanese import. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

 

Escargot by Dashka Slater

Escargot by Dashka Slater

Escargot by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Sydney Hanson (9780374302818, Amazon)

Escargot is a small snail who has one big plan. He has to get to the salad at the end of the book. Along the way, Escargot tries to convince the young reader that snails should be their favorite animal. They will have to ignore the trails of slime on the page and focus on how very brave snails are and maybe how fast? The reader helps Escargot along the way, testing out ferocious faces, given him a little push, and offering kisses too. By the time Escargot reaches the salad, he will have won their hearts, just in time to try a new vegetable together.

Slater cleverly combines several themes in this picture book and melds them in such a way that they work seamlessly with one another. There is the interactive piece of the book that ask the child to participate and impact the story. There is the favorite animal part that is engaging and funny, filled with enough action and interaction to keep even restless children busy. The final aspect is the bravery piece, trying something new and being a friend.

Hanson’s illustrations add to the appeal of the book. Escargot wears a jaunty striped shirt, red scarf tied at his neck and a beret. He oozes French appeal and confidence even as he is willing to ask for help. He is expressive with his wide eyes and tilting antennae that he uses to gesture.

A stellar if slimy little hero that will wend his way onto your favorite animal list in no time, this picture book will work best with a small group or one-on-one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.

Take Your Time by Eva Furrow

Take Your Time by Eva Furrow

Take Your Time: A Tale of Harriet, the Galapagos Tortoise by Eva Furrow and Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Laurel Molk (9780805095210, Amazon)

Harriet lives on the Galapagos Islands. She spends her day slowing going about her routine of eating and sleeping. The other animals on the island want her to start moving faster and explain that she should head out to see the world. Harriet gets curious and decides to set off, she heads off to see the penguin parade on a neighboring island, swimming slowly and steadily. She makes it in time to see the penguins, then takes some iguanas for a ride on her shell, and builds a pool for the sea lions. All of this takes a lot of time, since she does it so slowly. She heads back home finally, slowly swimming in the sea until she meets some dolphins who show her how to go fast. But Harriet is much happier moving at her own pace and getting to see everything she wants.

Based on a Galapagos Tortoise who lived in an Australian zoo, this picture book celebrates both the endangered tortoises themselves and the idea of going slow through life. Children will love the depictions of the various animals and the extreme slowness of Harriet herself. The pacing of the book does not drag, instead showing all of the details that Harriet sees and that others miss. It is about the journey and savoring it all.

Molk’s illustrations show the beauty of Harriet’s world. Done in block prints with watercolor and then enhanced digitally, the illustrations have a timeless feel that works well with the subject matter. They have a great organic quality to them with the deep black lines and the swirls of watercolor for the skies and seas.

A celebration of slow, this picture book is a dynamic look taking your time. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman

The Adventures of John Blake Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman, illustrated by Fred Fordham (9781910989296, Amazon)

This is Philip Pullman’s first graphic novel and what a way to start! It is the story of the Mary Alice, a ship that is caught traveling through time. Her crew is from all over the world and from all parts of time. But they are in danger as one of the most powerful men in the modern day is searching for them because the boy on board the Mary Alice, John Blake, knows his secret and could ruin him. When an Australian girl falls off of her family’s boat, she is rescued by John and taken aboard the Mary Alice. Now she has a chance to save them in return, if she can.

Pullman’s graphic novel reads like a film script. It is full of guns, explosions, and fights that make it a wild read. Then there is the historical piece to it, something that slows the intense momentum and makes the book warmer and more vital. Add in the touch of ghostly science fiction that moves the ship through time and you have a rich mix of genres that is impossible to stop reading.

Fordham’s art is done in full color, rich and vibrant on the page. His art is clear and precise, offering children reading this book a real feel of adult graphic novels. There is no cuteness here, just a realistic science fiction ghost story that is exactly what will lead young readers to search for more graphic novels and comics to read.

Get this into the hands of children who love super hero comics and they will fall hard for John Blake and the Mary Alice. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

 

The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks (9781626721593, Amazon)

The second book in The Nameless City, this book continues the story of Kaidu and Rat as the political situation grows even tenser in the city. The Dao nation is exploring new paths to solidify peace, but factions within are seeing their personal plans for power evaporating. Soon violence becomes the solution within the Dao factions and someone new is in power. Meanwhile, Kaidu and Rat are discovering that the monks that raised Rat may have the key to the power that the original founders of the City used to create it. But that power could be used as a weapon by the Dao nation, so there is danger in even trying to find it.

Hicks has taken on an incredible challenge in this graphic novel series. The story is complicated and fascinating. Hicks creates real danger and drama in the tale, never taking it too far but allowing the political pieces to push the story forward. Kaidu and Rat are marvelous characters, their friendship growing stronger. They offer a critical humorous interlude amongst the politics even as they play an important role in the heart of the story.

As this is a graphic novel, the art is just as important as the writing. Hicks has created a truly diverse city filled with various races and religions. She fills the pages with small details, allowing readers to feel the press of the city, the danger it poses and the security it offers.

This second novel hints at the adventures to come. Readers will look forward to the third and final book even more after finishing this one. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.