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 HergĂ©’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.

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