Saturday, June 30, 2012

Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam




Genre: Horror / Poetry /  Halloween


Year Published: 1987


Year Read: 2009

Publisher:  Aladdin Paperbacks



“Halloween ABC” is an ABC book by Eve Merriam along with illustrations by Lane Smith and this book is about various symbols and creatures of Halloween being described through the letters of the alphabet.  “Halloween ABC” may be extremely controversial for its macabre content, but it is still a truly worthy book to read around Halloween time!

There are a total of twenty-six poems in this book, but since I will be here all day if I post all twenty-six poems, I will just recite two of my favorite poems in this book:

“Pet
A pet to pat, a pal of a pet,
A pet the family won’t forget,
A pet that pants and drools and yaps
And leaves a little spot in laps,
A pet that’s not the least bit vicious,
Yet finds the neighbors quite nutritious.”

“Viper
Viper, Viper,
Spiteful sniper,
Snake in the grass, lowdown, base,
Smiling, smiling to your face,
Virulent villain, venomous, vile,
Darting poison with a snaky smile.”


If you think that you have read a Halloween ABC book that is filled with creepy creatures, then you will definitely be shocked and surprised at what this book has in store for you!  Eve Merriam has definitely made this book one of the most intense and creepiest Halloween ABC books ever created as it is full of poems that is not only about skeletons and jack o-lanterns, but also has poems about demons, murderous icicles, crawlers and fiends!  Now you know you have definitely stumbled upon a Halloween ABC book that is like no other!  Eve Merriam’s poetic writing is truly effective and haunting at the same time as each letter of the alphabet describes a certain creature representing Halloween in an extremely creepy way.  Lane Smith’s illustrations are truly more haunting in this book than in his other books as there are many images of monsters looking at the audience in a way that makes you just tingle with fright.  One of the scariest images in this book is an image of a boy wearing a huge yellow scary looking mask underneath the “mask” poem where the mask seems to have devil horns on its head and is huge and intimidating.

Now let me tell you about why this book is one of the most banned books in the history of children’s history.  There are many reasons why this book was being continually banned in many schools and one of the reasons why this book was banned was because of one poem called “Icicle,” which I will now recite:

“Icicle
An icy stabbing so swiftly done,
The victim scarcely felt it.
The police are baffled:
“Where’s the weapon?”
The sun shines down to melt it.”


In other words, this poem is implying that an icicle can be used as a murder weapon.  Pretty intense for a children’s book, right?  Another reason why this book was banned was because of the fact that this book mentions devils; Satan and Lucifer in the poem “Demon” and that might offend some of the religious audience.

Overall, “Halloween ABC” is a terrific book about exploring Halloween, but it all depends if you enjoy Halloween or not.

If you do not like Halloween, mark A) for not worth reading or,
If you do like Halloween and you love reading about banned books, then mark B) for worth reading!


I would recommend this book to children ages seven and up since there are many mature themes in this book that younger children might not understand.       
 

 

REASON FOR BEING BANNED:  For containing frightening subject matter and being unsuitable to the age group.


 






                                  

Pat the Beastie by Henrik Drescher




Genre: Horror / Humor / Monsters


Year Published: 1993


Year Read: 2010


Series: Pat the Beastie #1

Publisher: Orion Children's Books



“Pat the Beastie” is a hilarious and revolting story from the creative mind of Henrik Drescher about the consequences of mistreating pets.  “Pat the Beastie” may be a bit too gross and disturbing for smaller children, but older children will definitely be delighted with this book.

Henrik Drescher’s parody of Dorothy Kunhardt’s popular book “Pat the Bunny” is incredibly hilarious and disgusting for many children.  Henrik Drescher goes into great detail about how the kids torture their pet beastie, Pat such as jiggling at Pat’s eyes and pull Pat’s fur.  Henrik Drescher’s illustrations are highly creative and creepy at the same time, especially of the illustrations of Pat the Beastie as Pat is illustrated as a very hairy and wrinkled green dragon and the expressions on Pat’s face are priceless as the readers can see the pain that Pat goes through as Paul and Judy torture Pat relentlessly.

Parents should know that smaller kids might not handle the gross humor and the disturbing ending.  I will not tell you what happened at the end of the book since I do not want to spoil the book for you, but the ending will definitely creep out kids who are scared of monsters.  Also, kids might want to watch out for the gross humor displayed in this book such as the kids jiggling Pat the Beastie’s eyes and pulling at Pat’s worm boogers.  Parents might want to read this book first and decide if their children love gross humor and can handle disturbing endings.

“Pat the Beastie” is probably Henrik Drescher’s grossest yet most creative book since it is Henrik Drescher’s first pop up book.  This book is definitely a great treat for children who love pop up books and gross humor.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up even though the book suggests that the age group be ages three and up.  Yet, there is gross humor and a disturbing ending that might not be appropriate for young children.





Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows Volume 3 by Joe Hill






Genre: Supernatural / Horror / Adventure

Year Published: 2010

Year Read: 2012

Series: Locke and Key #3

Publisher: IDW Comics
 



Oh my goodness!  This series just keeps getting better and better every time I pick up a new volume on Joe Hill’s fantastic “Locke and Key” series!  In the third volume “Crown of Shadows,” we are introduced to the more mysterious and haunting adventures of the Locke kids and how well they are trying to get on after the death of their father.  “Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows” is definitely a brilliant follow up to the second volume “Head Games” that fans of the “Locke and Key” series will love!

Now that Kinsey has ridden herself of all her fears and pain in “Head Games,” she is now a new person as she takes dangerous dares without fear and no longer mourns over the death of her father.  Also, it seems that Zack Wells has found the Shadow Key and is planning on using the key to find the legendary key to the well house while dealing with the Locke kids.

I have to say that I enjoyed this volume even more than the first and second volumes (although I still loved the first two volumes just as much).  After reading “Head Games,” I wanted to see what Kinsey would be like once she removed the fear and the pain aspects of her nature from her head.  What I got was a truly unbelievable and a bit unnerving experience from seeing the change in Kinsey’s character.  When Kinsey was first introduced in “Welcome to Lovecraft,” she was a wreck after the death of her father and it was sad seeing her be all moody and upset at everything life threw at her.  Joe Hill however has done an excellent job at portraying Kinsey’s new personality as Kinsey is now a confident and brave girl, which was a huge change from her moody personality early on.  I also loved the way that Joe Hill crafted the mystery surrounding Zack Wells and his ambition in finding the key to the well house that could possibly put his plan to fruition.  Since we still do not know what Zack’s true plans are regarding the keys, it was interesting seeing Zack collecting most of the keys in the Lovecraft house and discovering what each key does and in this volume, we are introduced to the shadow key which brings people’s shadows to life and boy, was it truly a terrifying experience in seeing the powers of the shadow key!  Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork is truly effective in this volume as the colorings on the artwork are bleak, which is a perfect mood for a story that is based on horror elements.  Probably my most favorite images in this volume were the images of the shadow creatures as they look frightening and they have sleek dark skins that make them look beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

For anyone who does not like strong language and disturbing content, this volume has extremely strong language and it might be best to skip over the dialogues that have strong language if it is troubling to read through.  Also, there is some disturbing content in this volume regarding the scenes where the shadows start overtaking the Locke kids’ house and that might be a bit disturbing to some readers.

Overall, “Locke and Key: Crown is Shadows” is a truly awesome volume that brilliantly develops the characters even further and would keep any reader in suspense throughout the whole volume!  Now, I am off to read the fourth volume, “Keys to the Kingdom!”


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fables: Animal Farm Volume 2 by Bill Willingham




Genre: Fantasy / Adventure

Year Published: 2003

Year Read: 2012

Series: Fables #2

Publisher: Vertigo Comics



Animal Farm…

In comic form!

Brief Introduction:

After reading the first volume in Bill Willingham’s popular “Fables” series, I was a bit interested in reading the second volume of this series, hoping to find out more about the Adversary who took the Fables’ land from them.  But in “Fables: Animal Farm,” we are actually introduced to a revolution on the Animal Farm where Fable characters who are not human or cannot maintain a human form reside.  “Fables: Animal Farm” is a great follow up to the first volume that will have you wanting to find out what happens next!

What is the story?

Ever since the Fables were forced out of their homeland by an evil being called the Adversary, the Fables who were non-humans were forced to live on the Farm so that way they would not be under the suspicious eyes of the mundane world.  Unfortunately, a revolution seems to take place on the farm as the non-human fables decided to take back their land from the Adversary and then try to rule both Fabletown in New York and the Farm itself and it is up to Snow White to stop this crazy revolution before it is too late!

What I loved about this comic:

Bill Willingham’s writing!:  If you have seen the title of this volume entitled “Fables: Animal Farm,” then you will definitely know that this story is pretty much similar to George Orwell’s classic novel, “Animal Farm.”  To be honest, I never would have thought that Bill Willingham would include a novel that is a satire on the Russian Revolution into his “Fables” series which mainly includes fairy tale and folktale characters, but I will admit that I was really impressed with the direction he took this story!  I loved the way that Bill Willingham included famous animal characters from fairy tales and folktales such as Shere Khan from “The Jungle Book,” Brer Rabbit, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the Three Little Pigs and wove them into a sort of satirical tale that is based on the animals of the farm forming a revolution against the people who rule over the Fables.  It was also interesting seeing how Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs were leading the revolution, which put an insane spin on our favorite fairy tale characters.  Bill Willingham did a great job at portraying the relationship between Rose Red and Snow White and it was quite shocking seeing how Rose Red treated Snow White although Snow White tried to make amends on their relationship and once it is revealed about why Rose Red hated Snow White so much, you cannot help but feel a little sorry for her throughout the two volumes of the “Fables” series.

The artwork:  Mark Buckingham’s artwork is truly brilliant to look at as the characters look truly realistic and I love the facial expressions on the characters, especially whenever Snow White is upset, you can actually see the tears and the frightened expressions on her face which made me truly feel for her throughout this book.  I also loved Daniel Vozzo’s coloring on the artwork as the artwork has dark coloring that truly reflects the dark atmosphere of this story.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

Now, I did have a couple of issues with this volume that mainly revolves around the plot of this volume.  Now, I understand that this story is about the animals and the non-human characters having a revolution on the Farm because they felt they were being treated unfairly compared to the fables who live in the city, but I felt that this story just came out of nowhere since it was never mentioned in the first volume about there being problems on the Farm.  Also, I felt that there was not enough focus on Snow White and Rose Red’s relationship since the bulk of the volume was focused on the non-human fables fighting against the fables from the city and I wanted to see more from Snow White and Rose Red’s relationship throughout this ordeal.  Also, the ending felt like it lost some steam after the first half of the volume was pretty exciting with the revolution going on and then suddenly, the story starts to slow down towards the end. 

~A bit of a warning~

This volume is definitely more violent than the first volume as there is a lot of gore and violence regarding the revolution.  Anyone who is not a fan of violence in graphic novels might want to skim over the violent scenes in this volume.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, despite my gripes with this volume and the fact that this volume and the volume before it has not answered my question (WHO IS THE ADVERSARY?), “Fables: Animal Farm” was a great read and I am still excited to see what will become of the fables after the ordeal in this volume.






Locke and Key: Head Games Volume 2 by Joe Hill





Genre: Supernatural / Horror / Fantasy

Year Published: 2009

Year Read: 2012

Series: Locke and Key #2

Publisher: IDW Comics


After reading the first volume of Joe Hill’s fantastic “Locke and Key” series, “Welcome to Lovecraft,” I wanted to see more adventures from the Locke siblings, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode!  But after reading the second volume of the “Locke and Key” series, “Head Games,” I got even more than I bargained for as I not only saw more adventures starring the Locke kids, but we also got more background information on the mysterious “lady in the well” or is known as Zack in this volume!  “Locke and Key: Head Games” is definitely one fantastic follow up to the first volume that fans will easily get into!

The story starts off with an old man named Joe Ridgeway who happens to be one of the teachers at the Locke kids’ school and how he relates to the audience about how he lost his true love to cancer years ago.  However, the story starts to pick up when Joe Ridgeway soon discovers the dark secret of Zack Wells, a new student who had mysteriously transferred from another school and how he does not seem like a normal student. We also start to learn more about Zack Wells and how he is mysteriously tied to a man named Lucas Don Caravaggio who knew the Locke kids’ father.  Also, the Locke kids find another key that can open another door to your head!

Alright, so now that I have pretty much summarized this volume without spoiling too much from the story, here are some things I liked about this volume!  For one thing, I really enjoyed the way that Joe Hill explained the background history of Lucas Don Caravaggio, a young man who seems to have known the Locke kids’ father in this volume.  It was really interesting learning about how Lucas Don Caravaggio is connected to the mysterious Zack Wells since that seems to be essential to the plot of this series so far and I loved the way that Joe Hill is trying to alert the readers about Zack’s secret plans for the Locke kids without really spoiling too much of his plans.  It is true that I wanted more adventures with the three kids Tyler, Kinsey and Bode and we did get more adventures starring these three kids, especially when they found the head key, but Joe Hill also continues their story on how they are still coping with their father’s death and yet are becoming close friends with Zack Wells (despite not knowing his true intentions for being with them, which brings so much tension to the story). Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork is as always gorgeous to look at and I loved the colorings that he puts on the artwork as they are a bit dark and dreary which fits the mood of the story and I also loved the facial expressions on the characters as you can see the frightened expressions whenever they are terrified of a certain situation (and believe me, it happens quite often in this volume!).  Also, I loved how Gabriel Rodriguez actually has some surreal imagery in this volume, especially when we take a peak inside the character’s heads and see how they view their lives!

For anyone who does not like strong language or violence in graphic novels aka comics, then be forewarned that this volume contains a bunch of language and some gory violence.  Although this volume was not as violent as the first volume, there are still some scenes where people are murdered and there is a lot of blood being shown during these murder scenes.  Also, some readers might be a bit disturbed at the idea about characters being able to open up their heads even though it does not hurt the characters when they do this.

Overall, “Locke and Key: Head Games” is a brilliant follow up to the first volume and has done an excellent job at explaining not only the Locke kids’ current situation, but it also reveals the back story on Lucas Don Caravaggio that proves to be a huge focus on the “Locke and Key” stories in the future.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the third volume in the “Locke and Key” series, “Crown of Shadows!”




The Sandman: The Wake Volume 10 by Neil Gaiman



Genre: Supernatural / Horror / Fantasy

Year Published: 1996

Year Read: 2012

Series: The Sandman #10

Publisher: Vertigo Comics
 



Who would have ever thought that one volume from a fantastic graphic novel series would be one of the most memorable and tear jerking stories ever written?  That is what the tenth volume in Neil Gaiman’s brilliant “Sandman” series “The Wake” is all about!  Long time fans of the fantastic “Sandman” series will mourn along with the main characters over the death of Dream while experiencing the different emotions running through the characters along the way.

After Morpheus (Dream) ended up sacrificing his own life to save the Dreamworld from collapsing in “The Kindly Ones,” a ceremony that takes place in the Wake is held to honor his memory and all the characters including Dream’s siblings, all ended up coming to his ceremony.  Also, the story goes on about how Daniel, Hippolyta Hall’s son, ends up taking over Dream’s former position as Lord of the Dreamworld and how the other characters, mainly Matthew the Raven react to the new lord.

After reading this heartfelt volume about the characters agonizing over the death of Dream, I found myself feeling sad too, for not only Morpheus’ death, but also because of the fact that this might be the last time we see more adventures from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series.  Neil Gaiman has brilliantly wrote a touching and heartfelt volume that provides as a sort of conclusion of the “Sandman” series and seeing all the characters we have known over the years such as Rose Walker and Dream’s siblings mourning over the death of Dream was a truly memorable experience for me.  I loved the way that Neil Gaiman detailed the reactions from all of the characters when they found out that Dream died, especially with Matthew the Raven who refused to accept the new Dream, who is Daniel, and blamed himself for the death of Dream, which showed us how close Matthew was to Dream.  I also loved seeing the sad reactions from Dream’s siblings (Death, Despair, Delirium, Destiny and Desire) and how they were forced to move on and greet the new Dream lord, even though they miss their brother dearly. The acknowledgement that Neil Gaiman presented at the end of the volume was truly heartwarming as he expresses about how the “Sandman” series strongly relates to himself and how much he really enjoyed working on the series. The artwork done by the combined forces of Michael Zulli, Jon J. Muth and Charles Vess greatly brought out the beauty in this volume, especially Michael Zulli’s artwork in the story arc “The Wake,” which the characters look much more realistic and the artwork seems to have a classic Renaissance feel to them as the characters look like they were paintings that came from the Renaissance era.  Jon J. Muth’s artwork in the short story “Exiles” was brilliantly done as the artwork seems to come out of an abstract artwork that you would find in an art museum as most of the coloring are in black and white while there are some coloring that emphasizes a certain scenario that the characters face.  Charles Vess’ artwork in the final story “The Tempest” was beautifully done as the artwork has a sophisticated and old fashioned feel that greatly complements the characters including William Shakespeare.

Probably the only problem with this volume is that there is some strong language including dropping the “s” bomb a dozen times and some readers might be offended by the strong language.  Surprisingly though, this is the least violent volume I have ever read from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series since it is basically detailing the characters’ reactions to the death of Dream, so readers will not have a problem with any gory scenes that just pops out of nowhere.


Overall, “The Sandman: The Wake” is everything I ever hoped for in a volume that sort of concludes the series (and I say sort of because there is an eleventh volume called “Endless Nights” that comes after this volume, which I will be reading!) All the characters’ story arcs are wrapped up nicely and I love the idea about a new lord of the Dreams coming to take over the Dreamworld.  “The Sandman: The Wake” is definitely a brilliant end to the “Sandman” series and I would highly recommend this volume to anyone who is a fan of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series!