30 July 2012

30 July 2012–Hereville Vol. 2 How Mirka Met a Metorite



Image Courtesy Amulet Books

Written and Illustrated by Barry Deutsch

Amulet Books, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-41970-398-0 (HC)

$16.95, Ages 8+


Mirka is back! Having successfully defeated the troll and winning her sword, Mirka is now grounded and bored. Finding a way to get out of her punishment, she seeks out the troll in order to practice with her sword. However, when she angers the troll, he calls down a meteorite on the witches house that sent Mirka his way in the first place. In a mad dash effort to prevent the meteorite from destroying the witch (and everyone she knows and loves), she manages to complicate things even more when the witch changes the meteorite into a carbon copy of Mirka! Now, Mirka has to deal with this imposter who is better at everything. When Mirka shoots her mouth off, one of the two Mirkas will stay, while the other has to leave… forever!


Deutsch has really kept up the power and intensity of his Hereville series. Mirka is instantly recognizable as an everygirl type of protagonist, and while she’s an orthodox Jew, it doesn’t make her seem strange or weird. In fact, it makes her even more sympathetic as a character. While not based off of any recognizable Jewish folklore, the stories have the feel of beloved tales passed down from generation to generation. The artwork is inviting without being overly saccharine and the story itself is involved and nuanced.

Final Thoughts

Deutsch has crafted a heroine that is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but is easy to relate to. What I thought was a great touch was that Mirka even realizes that she’s not perfect, and embraces her shortcomings in a way that is non-judgmental or denigrating. His artwork is lovingly rendered and emotive without getting too ‘cutesy’ or comical. All in all, this is a fantastic book that really speaks to that difficult age where kids are starting to figure out who they want to be. The book is not due out until November, but it is available for pre-order now (so I suggest you get your orders in!)

26 July 2012

26 July 2012–Toon Books Contest!


I’ve always been a big fan of contests, and I’ve always been kind of a messy eater. So when Toon Books contacted me about their new contest, I was super excited to pass the information along.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself “what is he going on about?” Well, you remember last week’s reviews? One of the books I reviewed was Maya Makes a Mess by Eisner Award winner Rutu Modan. It is a wonderfully funny book, and the artwork is just amazing. Anyways, the great folks over at Toon Books seem to feel the same way – so much so, they’re holding a contest in the spirit of the book.

(Here’s an excerpt of the email they sent me today)

We are excited to announce that TOON Books will be hosting a GIVEAWAY for the upcoming release of our newest Easy-To-Read comic Maya Makes a Mess by Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Rutu Modan. We would like to make you a part of it!

Maya, a young girl with particularly messy manners, receives an unexpected invitation to dine with the Queen. Suddenly her manners are put to the ultimate test and she begins to improvise her very own set of rules, with uproarious results.

To celebrate the joy of sticky hands and sloppy faces we pose this challenge: how messy can it get? To be entered into our giveaway, simply email a picture/video of messy manners to mail@toon-books.com

A free copy of Maya Makes a Mess will be sent to our favorite messy eaters. Winners and runners-up will also be featured in a hall of fame gallery.

This is going to be a great contest, and super easy to boot! All you have to do is upload a picture of you being a messy eater to mail@toon-books.com. Seriously – how difficult is that? If they love your pic, you get a free copy of Maya Makes a Mess!

It’s not even limited to the kids either! Take a look at this:

TOON staff members Julianna and Stela hard at work!

Image courtesy Toon Books

These two look like they were having a lot of fun, and you can too! Just take a pic of you eating messily (or at least the aftermath) and email it to  mail@toon-books.com.

Trust me, this is a book your kids are going to love for many years to come, and for those emergent readers who are looking for something that is a fun read, but not too difficult, look no further.

For more information and video suggestions, please check out Toon Books Maya Makes a Mess page. http://toon-books.com/mayamakesamess/messy-eater/

Good luck to all those messy eaters out there, and  please remember these three guidelines:

1) Get your parent’s permission first

2) Have fun, be creative!

3) Be sure to clean up afterwards!

24 July 2012

24 July 2012– Tripping the Light Scholastic

I know this is a day late, but due recent incidents, I‘ve been a little distracted. I apologize for the delay. I’ll be addressing the whole Batman Theater issue on my other blog, but please be aware that it was a raw, ugly, incident, and my take on it may be just as raw and ugly. However, you didn’t come here to hear me rant and rave; here, we’re going to talk about cool, awesome things. Things like two new offerings from Scholastic (which is a cool and awesome publishing company in its own right). On a side note, I had to beg, borrow and stop just short of stealing to get these books – apparently, I somehow fell off their mailing list.




Image Courtesy Scholastic

Written and Illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Scholastic, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-54532-699-5 (PB)

$10.99, Ages: 13+


Callie loves theater, but she can’t carry a tune to save her life. So when her school decides to put on Moon Over Mississippi, she’s super excited to be the set designer for the play, and she’s planning on making Broadway on a middle school budget. In addition to wanting Broadway, without having the experience of Broadway, Callie and the crew have to deal with poor ticket sales, a distinct lack of experience with carpentry, and clashing egos (both in front of the curtain and behind). When two cute brothers join the cast and crew, it’s all Callie can do to keep things from falling apart without losing her mind.


Telgemeier once again takes us on an amazing journey through what seems to be a mundane everyday occurrence, and makes it magic. Having done some theater in high school, I was taken back to those awkward, embarrassing, occasionally hostile, and ultimately gratifying times that they entailed. Callie is a fascinating and nuanced protagonist, and her dreams and efforts are presented with such clarity that it’s impossible to not root for her. Her fight with the cannon is especially poignant, and the emotional impact has to be experienced to be understood.

Final Thoughts

I have been a fan of Raina’s since she first debuted, and she has only gotten better with time. Her characters are fully living, breathing beings that command the attention of the reader.  On the heels of her Eisner Award winning Smile, Telgemeier has crafted a tale that is slightly bittersweet, humorous, and memorable. On a side note, just so parents can’t claim “ambush” I do have to present a spoiler in the fact that one of the characters is gay, which I thought was wonderful, but I know not everyone shares my views. My only complaint is that I had to continually remind myself that this is set in middle school. But when set against everything else, it is an incredibly small complaint. I’d be willing to bet Drama is going to be on many critics “best of” lists this year, and it’s no wonder why. Pre-order this book now – you won’t be disappointed. Libraries would be wise to have at least two physical copies ready to go.


Amulet, Vol. 5: Prince of the Elves


Image Courtesy Scholastic

Written and Illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi

Scholastic, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-54520-889-5 (PB)

$12.99, Ages 8+


Things are not looking good for Emily, her family and friends, or the legendary city of Cielis. The traitor Max Griffin has presented the Elf King with the mother stone. With the King’s power now growing exponentially, dangerous journeys must be undertaken, but at what cost?


Kibuishi is famous for both his storytelling and his artwork, and as usual, he doesn’t disappoint. The story moves at a breakneck pace this time around, and the action comes fast and furious, but the artwork still forces you to slow down and drink in the sheer mastery of the medium. The attention to detail is absolutely phenomenal, and the revelations prepare the reader for the inevitable war looming on the horizon.

Final Thoughts

Kibuishi knocks this one out of the park. It’s crazy fast, intense, and just oh, so, gorgeous. If you’re new to the series, you’re definitely going to want to read the first four books, because book 5 doesn’t wait for you to catch your breath – it’s off like a shot the moment you read the first panel. Scholastic has yet another winner on their hands. What I don’t understand is why Kibuishi has not won an Eisner for his work yet. This is amazing stuff, and it must be seen to be believed.

16 July 2012

16 July 2012, Toon-A-Palooza


No, not this! (special thanks to flickr user Mauralyn for the pic)

Nor This (no idea of what the site really is, toon fan service maybe?)

What I’m talking about is a big review this week of not one, not two, not three, but four – count ‘em, Four! new books from the wonderful folks at Toon Books.


First up, we have A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse by Frank VIva.


Image Courtesy Toon Books

Written and Illustrated by Frank Viva

Toon Books, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-93517-919-1 (HB)

$12.95, Ages: 4 +

Summary: A young explorer and his friend Mouse, take a trip to the bottom of the world. On the way, mouse makes observations on such things as tasks that are difficult to execute while the boat is going up and down on the waves, what to wear in the cold temperatures, different types of penguins, what whales might do, and different types of creatures that live in the sea.

Analysis: As with other books in the level 1 group, this is a simple book for the youngest readers. I really hate to use the term simple, because it implies that this is not an engaging book – far from it. Viva’s artwork is simplistic, but the characters still convey emotions and actions so clear and succinctly that any child reading it can tell at a glance what the characters are feeling. Mouse is readily willing and eager to list items that fall into each category presented, and I was mildly surprised to discover that even at the bottom of the world, it is possible to swim in the ocean in certain areas.

Final Thoughts: This is a fun book. my littlest one really enjoys the different penguins, and this is currently on his list of nightly reads. The artwork is very inviting and the story, while a quick read, is one that kids will demand to read again and again.


Next we have the latest installment of the super popular Toon Books series, Benny and Penny.


Image Courtesy Toon Books

Written and Illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes

Toon Books, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-93517-920-7 (HB)

$12.95, Ages: 6 +

Summary: Benny and Penny, sibling mice, are having another grand adventure, this time, when the two are getting ready for bed, they tell each other stories, with Benny doing everything in his power to be a nuisance to his little sister, be it with a flashlight, dinosaur book, or drinks. However, when Benny realizes he forgot something important out in the play house, will he be brave enough to go get it, or will he need help from Penny?

Analysis: Benny and Penny has proven to be a huge success with kids and parents, and it’s very easy to see why. Hayes artwork is clean, yet rich and vibrant. Benny and Penny feel like living, breathing characters, and they act exactly like kids their age would act.

Final Thoughts: While their adventures may not be as harrowing as those of Jeff Smith’s Fone Bone, Benny and Penny are just as charismatic and endearing. Hayes knows how to write stories that are fun, while subtly driving home the point that even though siblings can be a royal pain, they’re usually the first ones to have your back when you need it the most.


Now appearing on Stage Three of Toon-A-Palooza, Maya Makes a Mess, the first children’s title by Eisner Award Winning Rutu Modan (Author and Illustrator of Exit Wounds).


Image Courtesy Toon Books

Written and Illustrated by Rutu Modan

Toon Books, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-93517-917-7 (HC)

$12.95, Ages: 6+

Summary: One night, while Maya is eating dinner with her folks, she is summoned to dinner with the Queen. Not having time to change, she jumps on the plane. Being constantly being reminded to mind her manners, Maya ends up attending something similar to a state dinner. As the meal progresses, Maya introduces an interesting new way of eating a meal to the upper crust of society.

Analysis: When I first started reading this book, I was worried that it was going to be rather dull and boring. I am so glad I was dead wrong. Modan has crafted a story that builds slowly at first, reaching a crescendo of childhood impropriety that is a laugh riot. Her artwork is clean and beautiful, evoking suggestions of Art Deco and Hergé’s Tin Tin.

Final Thoughts: Out of all the books reviewed this week, this one was probably the biggest and most enjoyable surprise. Enjoyable, funny, and deeply satisfying, Maya Makes a Mess is awesomely entertaining, and a must read. I have a feeling that this is going to be on many “Best of…” lists.


Our final review tonight is The Secret of the Stone Frog, by David Nytra. A bit bigger than standard offerings, it is still an amazing and entertaining book.

stone frog

Written and Illustrated by David Nytra

Toon Books, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-93517-918-4 (HB)

$14.95, Ages: 8 +

Summary: Siblings Alan and Leah wake up one day and discover themselves in an enchanted forest. Trying to figure out how to get home, they have to rely on their wits and the advice of a stone frog in order to get home.

Analysis: Everything about this book is a blast. From the art and the story to the rough cut edges of the pages and name plate on the inside cover, this is one of those books that may not appeal to all kids, but the ones it does, they’re going to treasure this book for life. It’s one of those that will become a family treasure, passed down from parent to child. The art seems to be heavily influenced equally by Windsor McCay and John Tenniel, with a hint of L. Frank Baum thrown in for good measure.

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. The artwork has a timelessness to it that I’ve always found fascinating, and there’s just enough strangeness to really make the story imbed itself deep within your psyche. It may not be a fast mover on the library shelves, but those that take the leap will definitely appreciate it for years to come.

09 July 2012

9 July 2012 - Non-traditional subjects

Well, the majority of Colorado is now out, and the fire bans have been lifted, so we’re going to make it another year. yay!

Right now, Folks all over the world are travelling to San Diego for the world famous San Diego Comic Con. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I suppose that’s alright, seeing as how it’s expensive to drive from Colorado to San Diego (not to mention hotels and food and all those awesome souvenirs). If you are going, be sure to swing by the Capstone booth at the con. Because of the super positive reviews they received in the aftermath of Free Comic Book Day, they’re increasing their presence at the Con. Swing by their booth, tell them Nathan sent ya.

On a side note, A while back I told you about a Bloop the web comic about a green space monkey. Here’s a link if you missed it the first time (it’s at the bottom). Apparently, Steve has been so successful with the web comic, he’s getting ready to start a kickstarter to fund a limited edition first issue. In Steve’s own words:

The first 24-page chapter will be printed in a GIANT 10x15, full-color, hardcover, deluxe format (case-bound with foil stamp and a full-color dust jacket AND 100# satin paper interior) and be out this September.

I’ve seen a preview of the dust jacket cover, and it is beautiful. Believe me, as it progresses, I’ll be posting updates.

Anyways, doing a two-fer review this week. Neither title is brand new, but they are both interesting and really kind of non-traditional stories.


Discovery Channel: Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators


Image Courtesy Zenoscope

Written and Illustrated by Various

Silver Dragon Books, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-98275-074-2 (TPB)

$9.99, Suggested 9+



Adventure back in time to see prehistoric creatures and learn about them in gruesome detail. From the powerful Triceratops to the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex. Backed by the Discovery Channel’s extensive library of information, This is an exhaustive examination of some of the most famous dinosaur species ever discovered.


This book is not one of those that shies away from the more… natural aspects of how dinosaurs spent their days. Incredibly informative, they don’t skimp on the information. The artwork is detailed and beautifully rendered, and it’s obvious that everyone involved with this book was invested heart and soul in it’s production.

Final Thoughts

As I said previously, this is a beautiful book, and that’s where my reservations stem from. For younger (and/or sensitive) readers, this book has pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel in it. Certain scenes, especially the ends of the carnivore entries often have the dinosaur facing the reader, jaws wide open, like it’s ready to chow down on the audience. Other points of possible concern to parents are when the carnivores are eating – there’s very few strategically placed plants or rocks to hide the carnage. Regardless, this is an impressively researched and presented book. Definitely one worth checking out, but before recommending it, know your audience!



The Duckling Gets A Cookie!?

Duckling Gets A Cookie

Image Courtesy Hyperion Book CH

Written and Illustrated by Mo Willems

Hyperion Book CH, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-42315-128-9 (HC)

$9.99, Ages 2+



If you’re familiar with the Pigeon, this book really needs no introduction. Created by Emmy Award Winner Mo Willems, the Pigeon has become a staple of early childhood literature. Originally appearing in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, the temperamental fowl has made several attempts to get his way through passive-aggressive ways. In this latest installment, the Pigeon has encountered his new ‘nemesis’ an extremely cute and polite duckling who asks for a cookie, and gets it. This of course sets the pigeon off on a book length rant about how he never gets what he wants.


Willems has had a long and successful career – first on Sesame Street and then with his different book series. The Pigeon is one of those characters that kids can instantly identify with, and love to read of his exploits time and again. The images are simple, with solid easy to understand colors and storylines that even the youngest readers will quickly identify and enjoy. While many people classify the Pigeon books and Willem’s other series Elephant and Piggie to be children’s books (which they are), they’re also perfect introductions to graphic novels at their simplest level. Panels are rendered to one a page, word balloons show discussion as well as who is speaking, action lines show movement – these are the basics of comics and graphic novels.

Final Thoughts

Buy this book. That’s all there is to it. While you’re at it, get the rest of the Pigeon books as well. No matter how old you are, you’re going to love these books.

03 July 2012

3 July 2012–Usagi Yojimbo: Bridge of Tears

Bridge of Tears

Image courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Written and Illustrated by Stan Sakai

Dark Horse Comics, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59582-298-7 (TPB)

$17.95, Ages 10 +



The Rabbit Ronin, Miyamoto Usagi is back in another adventure (book 23). The life of a Ronin (lordless samurai) is often lonely, partially due to the rigors of the job, the need to stay mobile, and the fact that any distractions could lead to an untimely death. Usagi is no stranger to solitude, but after saving a young woman (who convinces him to take her along), is romance in Usagi’s future? How can he be sure to keep her safe and himself alive when the assassin’s guild is hot on his trail? This collection also showcases the 100th issue of Usagi Yojimbo with a comic roast of Sakai and his ronin rabbit, with special guest artists Frank Miller, Jeff Smith, and Sergio Aragonés, among others.


Usagi Yojimbo has been around since I was a kid (almost 30 years ago), and the entire time the series has been around, it has been haled by parental groups as a fantastic series. While the series concerns itself with an incredibly violent time period (medieval Japan), the violence is surprisingly tame. When a character is killed, there is never any blood spurting out or severed limbs flopping around. Instead, the deceased falls to the ground with a small skull and crossbones issuing forth (apparently signaling a death rattle). Moral ambiguity is rather rare in this series as well – Usagi is a straight arrow, while the villains are sleazy from the get-go. Occasionally, you’ll get a character that is much more devious than originally portrayed, but the surprise doesn’t feel forced. Usagi is a definite character of the “Do the right thing” school of thought, even if he gains no benefit from his actions, and he has stood (and continues to stand) as a very positive role-model for young audiences.

Final Thoughts

While Bridge of Tears was released over three years ago, I felt it was a title that needed to be examined again. Too often, Sakai’s work is overlooked because it’s published by Dark Horse. Now, Dark Horse is not a sketchy publishing company, but the majority of it’s titles are aimed at older audiences, and many teachers, parents and librarians tend to dismiss them out of hand when it comes to younger audiences. I have always enjoyed Usagi Yojimbo, and while it’s not a title I would have my 6 year old reading, I’ll be hanging on to them until he’s 9 or 10, and then introducing him to the amazing world of Stan Sakai. That being said, this series is great for Japanese studies, and would make a good parallel to the Naruto series. While the ending of the story arc is a little rough, I still recommend this to grades 5 and up.