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

Chu's Day at the Beach

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

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

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

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)


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)

Blueberry Girlstarstarstarstar

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)

Curious Gardenstarstarstar

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.

“The Three Robbers” by Tomi Ungerer (Phaidon Press, 2009)

The Three Robbersstarstarstar

Tomi Ungerer, recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen award for illustration, and “one of the world’s most famous and best-loved children’s authors,” brings readers a fun tale that feels like something from the minds of the Brothers Grimm.  It begins dark and scary, but ends with joy and happiness.  The three robbers are feared throughout the land: “women fainted.  Brave men ran.  Dogs fled.”  With their pepper-blower (for blinding the horses), their large red ax (for chopping the wheels off the carriage), and their blunderbuss (used for threatening the passengers), they take their plunder to their secret lair.  Then on one night there is no plunder but a little girl, so they take her to their lair.  When she asks them what they do with all their plunder, they are speechless.  Deciding to do good, the three robbers buy a castle and adopt orphans and helpless children, giving them a better life.  Using a simple chalk art style with few sentences and lots of big pictures, kids will enjoy this colorful book.  The story feels like an original fairy tale with a clear message of needing to be caring to others (just make sure you ignore the fact that the money was ill-gotten).

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.


“The Swamps of Sleethe” by Jack Prelutsky and Jimmy Pickering (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009)

Swamps of Sleethestarstarstar

Jack Prelutsky has written ten anthologies of poetry and over forty “kid-friendly.” Long considered the “unofficial poet laureate of schoolkids”; in 2006 he was officially named the nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate.  In this collection, which Prelutsky attributes to his love of Star Trek, he takes you on a wild ride around an imaginary universe, showing you what the many different planets could be like.  While essentially all of them seem to have some creature or some attribute that will kill you – begging the question of why anyone would ever want to visit outer space – he nevertheless reveals to the young reader the wide variety of alien life that could be out there.  Richly and colorfully illustrated by Jimmy Pickering, it’s a great book to read to kids, with Prelutsky’s large vocabulary and heavy dose of multi-syllable words, which will have parents reaching for the dictionary to give exact definitions.  But with the bizarre and colorful aliens, kids will be thoroughly entertained, along with a game where some planet’s names are anagrams to be solved (answers are in the back of the book).  The Swamps of Sleethe is a fun book to teach kids lots of new words and perhaps to start them on the first step to an obsession with science fiction.

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

Originally written on April 5th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“The Dangerous Alphabet” by Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly (Harpercollins, 2008)

The Dangerous Alphabetstarstarstar

A is for the author and artist of this book, Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly. B is for the beautiful artwork on the pages that make you smile.  C is for the creative design of The Dangerous Alphabet, which is impressive and astonishing.  D is for the descriptive writing of Neil Gaiman, which keeps you turning every page.  E is for the exiting story about the two children and their gazelle.  F is for the funny things that happen in this book that make you laugh.  G is for Gris Grimly who has done artwork for thirteen books, including this one.  H is for the happy ending that almost wasn’t.  I is for the impressive ways the children keep getting away.  J is for the jumping cute gazelle who also gets away.  K is for the kiss that’s in the middle of this book.  L is for the big letters on each page that Gaiman uses to tell the story.  M is for the monsters, the scary monsters that are everywhere in The Dangerous AlphabetN is for the narrow escapes, as the children slip through the monsters’ fingers.  O is for ordinary, which this story is not by any means.  P is for the pretty gazelle again, because she’s so cute.  Q is for the quandary that the children find themselves in in this story.  R is for racing, as the children race across the pages, from beginning to end.  S is for the silly but fun way this story and review are told.  T is for the terrible things that the monsters do and almost do.  U is for the unbelievable way the children must go to make it to the end.  V is for the vim of the characters in this book; they are defiant and unstoppable.  W is for wary, which you must be when reading The Dangerous AlphabetX marks the spot near the end.  Y is for your yell of joy when the children and the gazelle get away.  Z is for the ZZZs everyone needs after this great adventure is finally over.

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

Originally written on May 28th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.