“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.

“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.

“The Island” by Armin Greder (Allen & Unwin, 2008)

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Originally published in 2002 in German, and winner of multiple German and French book awards, Armin Greder’s The Island is now available in English. While this picture book might be disturbing for the very young, it is an allegory that can be appreciated by all ages (the publisher indicates 8-18). It only takes a few minutes to read, but leaves you contemplating its implications and greater meanings.

This is the story of an island where some big, angry, racist people live simple, everyday lives, loving the routine and normalcy of it. When a strange looking man arrives in a shoddy raft, the natives see that he is different from them and immediately despise him, trapping him in a goat pen, hiding him away and ignoring him, going back to their lives. Then one day he comes to them, asking for food, and they are shocked and horrified. They think about who should take care of him, but no one wants him, thinking that he will destroy whatever he touches. Eventually he is put back on his shoddy raft and sent out to sea. They build a giant wall around the island, protecting them from the outside world and people who aren’t the same, as well as killing any birds that come to the island, so that it will never be discovered by anyone else.

On the surface it is an unusual short story, but it would be little more to an alien who knows nothing of the history of humanity. For all of us who were born on this planet, this story of hate for anyone different is an all too familiar one that has had many horrific chapters in our history. It is also sadly a reality that continues in our world today. With hard, charcoal-colored, sharp-edged images that evoke Edvard Munch’s The Scream as well as the music video to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” The Island is a story that will be read and reread, as a commentary on humanity’s failings.

Originally written on April 25th, 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.