“Chu’s Day at the Beach” by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex (Harpercollins, 2015)

Chu's Day at the Beach
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The cute little giant panda Chu jumped on the scene in Chu’s Day to the delight of parents and children alike in a fun board book as a circus suffered the deleterious effects of Chu’s sneezing. Now the duo – Gaiman and Rex – are back with the followup, Chu’s Day at the Beach, this time in full picture book format. Now, some parents might be thinking their kids won’t enjoy it as much since it’s not a board book, but when they see the finished product they will realize their kids are going to love this sequel just as much as its predecessor.

As the title says, Chu joins his parents in a trip to the beach. As Chu is enjoying his ice-cream, he takes off his sunglasses and looks up at the sun, making his nose twitch, and then lets out a big squeeze that causes an even bigger problem than blowing away the circus and this time it will take some other characters to help him put everything back together again.

The beauty of the picture book is in the larger artwork from Adam Rex which is vibrant and colorful and simply fascinating to study with the vast menagerie hanging out at the beach in their strange and entertaining anthropomorphic ways. The story’s fun; the artwork is astonishing; all around a great book.

Originally written on January 30, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Chu’s Day at the Beach from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Wreck of the Zephyr” by Chris Van Allsburg (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013)

The Wreck of the Zephyr
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In 1983, acclaimed picture book writer and artist, Chris Van Allsburg, known for such unforgettable books as The Polar Express and Jumanji, shocked and awed readers with The Wreck of the Zephyr. Thirty years later, with this anniversary edition, he continues to amaze and interest new readers to his books.

This is the unforgettable tale of a lone wrecked sailboat, whose origin story might be that it got washed up by some big waves, but it is too far from the sea for this to be likely. Another tale is one of a boy looking to be the greatest sailor of all time, which leads him to a place where boats don’t simply sail in the water, but also sail off into the sky.

It is a wonderful story about a boy driven to impress everyone to the point where he causes his own downfall, much like Icarus. But it is also a story of magic and far off places that might or might not exist and sometimes only a select few get to know. Told with breathtaking artwork that speaks volumes, The Wreck of the Zephyr is a picture book to delight parents as well as children.

Originally written on November 5, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Wreck of the Zephyr from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Old Bear” by Jane Hissey (Tundra Books, 2013)

Old Bear
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First published in 1986, Old Bear has been made available for children for a number of years, and has now been released in a beautiful limited collector’s edition.

Bramwell Brown, a cuddly little bear, has lots of fun hanging out with his friends: Duck, Rabbit and Little Bear, but like his friends, he does miss Old Bear. Old Bear is no longer with them, because he was being handled too roughly by the children and so has been put up in the attic, away from those harmful hands. But the fluffy toys want their friend back, so they need to devise a plan to get up into the attic and rescue Old Bear and bring him back to them. It won’t be easy, but if they work together, they know they can do it.

A wonderful story that teaches important lessons about working together, and how even if you fail and fail again, it’s important not to give up, but to keep on trying, and eventually you’ll succeed. Done with beautiful artwork that brings the cuddly characters to life on the page, Old Bear is a story you won’t soon forget.

Originally written on November 5, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Old Bear from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

 

“Nursery Rhyme Comics” edited by Chris Duffy (First Second, 2011)

Nursery Rhyme Comics
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Everyone knows what a nursery rhyme is; many of us can still remember a number of them, or at least what they were about; and still a few more of us can recall certain nursery rhymes word for word; but ask any of us what they mean or how they got made up, and you’ll be greeted with a look of dumbfoundedness.  What exactly is the deal with an egg falling off the wall, or two kids falling down a hill, or even a cow jumping over a moon?

In Nursery Rhyme Comics, the artists explore these familiar nursery rhymes with detailed illustrations, exploring the nuances and possible meanings behind various nursery rhymes.  The book features great original and entertaining illustrations from many known comics’ artists and cartoonists, including Craig Thompson, Scott Campbell, Mike Mignola, Kate Beaton and many, many more.  50 well-known nursery rhymes are explored and elucidated upon by the skillful hands of 50 cartoonists, revealing these strange short stories to be the bizarre, confusing, and yet entertaining and unforgettable tales that they are.

You may not find all the answers in Nursery Rhyme Comics, or the reasoning behind each of these nursery rhymes, but you will certainly be laughing out loud and enjoying yourself as you read them, and perhaps showing them to your kids, if you have any!

Originally written on November 20, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Nursery Rhyme Comics from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Binky the Space Cat” by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press, 2009)

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In the first of what will hopefully be a long and successful series, written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, comes Binky the Space Cat, a wonderful original cat story that combines both the realistic and hilarious antics of a cat (cat owners will be able to laugh along and sympathize), as well as an entertaining storyline.  Binky is your ordinary, unusual looking cat that knows the world is under threat from aliens.  His human masters call the aliens bugs, but through a process of elimination, he has worked out that bugs and aliens are one and the same.  He protects the humans from the aliens constantly; it’s his job in return for foods and pettings.  Then one day he finds a membership form and kit for becoming a space cat in his giant bag of food.  How much will it take to become a true space cat?  How will he build his spaceship?  And what will happen to his humans?  All will be revealed in Binky the Space Cat!

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on July 18th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“Blueberry Girl” by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (Harpercollins, 2009)

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Writer Neil Gaiman and illustrator Charles Vess have collaborated on some incredible works in the past with Sandman and Stardust.  In Blueberry Girl, the story began as a beautiful and positive wish for a friend of Gaiman’s, a mother to be.  Now with the carefully chosen words of Gaiman, and the lush, fresh, and moving art and color of Charles Vess, everyone can enjoy this tale.

It is the story of a young girl, a baby at first, who must grow to adulthood and is wished on every step of the way to be treated well, to experience life to its fullest, to follow her dreams, to have good times and bad, highs and lows.  There is some classic Gaiman mythology with the opening page: “Ladies of light and ladies of darkness and ladies of never-you-mind, this is a prayer for a blueberry girl,” a clear reference to the fates; there’s even a quaint fairytale reference: “Keep her from spindles and sleeps at sixteen.”

Blueberry Girl is a book to be cherished and kept for generations, passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter.  It is a story to inspire the best in a young girl and give parents the utmost hope and respect for her.  It is a fable that will only get better each time you read it or tell it to a young one.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 16th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, 2009)

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Liam is a young boy who lives in a gray, dreary city, which is filled with lots of tall, ugly buildings, and black asphalt roads.  Then one day he discovers in an abandoned railway station a touch of color: some wildflowers and plants.  Wanting to create more color in the gray city, he tends to the tiny garden, pruning, watering, and even singing to it.  At first he prunes and waters a little too much, but learns how to be a good gardener.  The tiny garden grows and grows until it begins taking over the station and moving up and down the railway line, adding more and more color and life to the unattractive city.  Then fall and winter comes and the flowers wither, losing their color.  Liam returns in the spring and begins working again on his growing garden, except now many other people are helping, making the garden grow and grow.  Eventually the city is a colorful, bountiful place and the complete opposite of what it used to be.  The Curious Garden is a wonderful tale about what you can do if you don’t give up and really put your mind to it.  It’s also an important message about how we should be “greening” and adding color to our cities to make them better places to live in.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 7th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.