Friday, April 20, 2012
Rip Squeak is a mouse fascinated with adventure—finding it, experiencing it, and writing about it. Just as Rip starts writing about his adventures, he hears a rustle and a brand new set of adventures begin. Rip meets Abby, who is a little kitty left behind when the family moved out of the cottage. With her family gone, Abby is scared, sad, and lonely, so Rip introduces her to his sister, Jesse. Rip and Jesse try to cheer Abby up by distracting her with games and adventures. An outdoor adventure in the rain nearly becomes deadly when a tomcat corners Jesse. Fortunately, a green creature, complete with a big hat and sword, comes to Jesse's rescue. Euripides, a frog fond of theatre, music, costume, play, and, most of all, imagination, enters the lives of Rip Squeak, Jess and Abby. The story closes with a thankful Abby sharing her favorite room, the toy-room, with her friends. Rip, Abby, Jesse, and Euripides play to the point of exhaustion until they curl up in Abby's soft fur to dream about tomorrow's next big adventures.
Not only is the storyline of Rip Squeak and His Friends engaging, but the illustrations by Leonard Filgate enliven Rip Squeak's world. One of the most charming scenes is Jesse in a bright yellow raincoat and boots, swinging a blue cocktail-size umbrella, and splashing in the rain. The visual of the dashing Euripides—hat in hand—introducing himself to the trio is equally enjoyable. The closing scene of four friends—two little mice, a kitten, and a frog—dreaming of adventures to come leaves the reader wanting more of Rip Squeak and his adventures.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
In this digital age, it is not terribly surprising that “plain old” picture books are being tossed aside for interactive ebooks in which, letters glow, pictures move, and characters come to life. However, for those naysayers out there who claim that printed books are not nearly as entertaining or interactive as their technological brethren, I recommend Press Here.
Hervè Tullet’s imaginative and engaging picture book, originally published in French, is practically flying out of bookstores everywhere. Tullet greets his eager readers with a single yellow dot in a sea of white, and one word, “Ready?”
Seriously, what child wouldn’t be?
After turning the page you see the same yellow dot, and a simple request, “Press here and turn the page.” When you turn the page you see that the single yellow dot has turned into two yellow dots, and you’re asked to press the same dot again. So you do as you’re told, and you turn the page to find that there are now three yellow dots. Tullet congratulates you on your work so far, and urges you on, ”Perfect. Rub the dot on the left… gently.” You rub the dot on the left, turn the page, and see that the yellow dot on the left is now red.
On and on, Tullet has his readers pressing here, tapping there, shaking the book up and down, tilting it to and fro, blowing on the pages to move the dots this way and that, and clapping to make the dots grow.
Kids LOVE this book, because they feel as though they are in charge of something magical! Little do they know that they are actually learning their left from their right, as well as practicing how to follow directions.
Tullet’s dots are colorful and imperfect, which gives the reader the feeling that each page has been freshly finger-painted just for them. And to make the book even more kid-friendly, it is published with a hard cardboard cover, which provides the sturdy casing needed to meet the demands of all that pressing, poking, and shaking.
A lot of adults do not understand this book. In fact, a number of big-name publishers actually rejected Tullet’s ingenious proposal. Thankfully, the fabulous and über creative Chronicle Books, located in San Francisco, saw Press Here for what it was–a silly but brilliant text that children could not only learn from but actually interact with.
While Press Here may have some adults scratching their heads, it is an automatic favorite with little ones everywhere!
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Eaton III, Maxwell. The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Fishy Business. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-375-96448-3. $6.99 US/$7.99 CAN.
Eaton III, Maxwell. The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-375-86447-6. $6.99 US/$7.99 CAN.
“Nothing weird EVER happens on Beaver Island! But one day…”
Bub & Ace, the flying beaver brothers, spend their days relaxing on Beaver Island, but adventure just seems to find them! In “Fishy Business,” the pair crash land into a tree-eating machine, only to realize that the machine in destroying the forests of their island to make “Fish Stix,” a new “eco-friendly” toy that looks surprisingly like a wooden stick! In “The Evil Penguin Plan,” the penguins of the South Pole have relocated to Beaver Island and plan to use a giant underwater refrigerator to freeze the whole island, turning it into a penguin paradise—“Like home never melted.”
The plots are simple but clever, and Eaton has a cheesy, somewhat dry sense of humor that frequently (and pleasantly) caused me to put my head in my hand and groan. The stories are definitely written with an adventurous child in mind: the beavers get to their house via a zip line and a trampoline. How cool is that? I want a system like that to get into my apartment; I can only imagine the reaction of a nine-year-old boy!
The otherwise black & white graphic art uses only one accent color, which coordinates with some plot element for each book. For example, Fish Stixs markets themselves as producers of “green toys,” and all of the pages are colored with green. In “Fishy Business,” the color of choice is blue, evoking a polar chill as the penguins attempt to freeze out the beavers.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Patrick McDonnell’s Hug Time is now available as a board book. This oh-so-delightful rhyming picture book follows a little kitten named Jules (as seen in McDonnell’s MUTTS comic strip) on a trek around the globe. What is driving this furry feline’s adventure? Why, only his desire to give the whole world a hug, of course!
McDonnell’s writing is simple and sweet. His soft rhymes have a natural flow to them, which make the book perfect for reading out loud. And the story’s soothing message of peace and love is ideal for a cozy bedtime setting. McDonnell introduces his readers to the most endearing and empathetic little kitten. And Jules’ genuine care for this world is almost as inspiring as it is heartwarming.
Of course, McDonnell’s illustrations are what really make this story a smash. With so few words, each page of colorful drawings carries the reader along Jules’ journey. McDonnell’s strokes may seem simple, but they create an abundance of life and personality. Every animal that Jules encounters seems to be more animated than the last, due to their detailed and differing facial expressions. The animals have very distinctive demeanors, and yet they are all adorable. With just a few lines, McDonnell can create an exceedingly life-like expression of calm, delight, surprise, or indifference (as with the giraffe, who seems entirely unfazed by the little kitten clutching his nose in a hug). Each animal is beautifully depicted, and each page presents something lovely for young eyes to devour.
While Hug Time is still available in hardcover, this new sturdy board book format makes it the perfect gift to give to any newborn you may know.
Monday, April 16, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-85853-6. $16.99 US
Hush, Little Horsie is a rhyming story about different foals and their mothers, who watch over them everywhere they go. Throughout the book, the refrain "And when you are tired/ She'll watch as you sleep" frames each scene of the foal and mare's experiences. A piebald mare watches her foal as it sleeps, runs, and leaps on the farm. A strawberry roan mare with a blaze down her face shades her foal from sunshine and rain on the plain. A little palomino guards her foal by the sea so its dreams can run free, and it can frolic and leap. The light bay on the moor stays close as its foal sleeps, plays, and jumps. And the blue roan watches her foal prance, then sleep in the stall. At the end of the book, however, there is a change and the final pages show a mommy reading a bedtime story to a little girl. The little girl cuddles her horsie and falls asleep to dreams of horsies while her mommy faithfully watches her sleep.
Sweet as the rhyming lines are, if it weren't for Ruth Sanderson's illustrations Hush, Little Horsie might not stand out from the traditional bed-time storybook. As it is, however, Sanderson's exquisitely detailed drawings made me check and double-check to assure myself what I was looking at weren't photos. Whether it is the other animals and scenery of the farm, or the detailed grass and wheat of the plain against the backdrop of blue mountains, I wanted to touch the places I was seeing. The palomino mare and foal frolicking in the sea weren't quite as life-like, but the view still made me smile. This is a lovely book, and the soothing words and pictures invite the listener to fall asleep--just like the little girl who clutches her pony at the end of the book.