Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Little Old Woman and the Hungry Cat by Nancy Polette





Genre: Animal / Food / Greed / Manners


Year Published: 1989


Year Read: 2011

Publisher:  Greenwillow Books




I have read many versions of “The Greedy Cat” which was a Scandinavian adaptation that came out in 1909 and one of my favorite versions of this tale was Margaret Read MacDonald’s adaptation called “Fat Cat.”  Now, I had picked up another version of the classic folktale called “The Little Old Woman and the Hungry Cat” which was written by Nancy Polette along with illustrations by Frank Modell and in this tale, a greedy cat ends up eating everything in its path until it swallowed the old woman and mayhem ensures!  The Little Old Woman and the Hungry Cat” is a fantastic adaptation of the old folktale that fans of the “The Greedy Cat” will enjoy!

When an old woman leaves the house and tells her cat to not eat the sixteen cupcakes that she baked, the cat ended up eating the cupcakes anyway and goes out of the house.  While the cat is out of the house, he meets up with a man and his pig and a wedding procession and he ends up eating them up.  When the cat finally comes back home and the old woman realizes what the cat has done, she tells the cat to get out of the house.  But, then the cat decides that the old woman looks tasty and then eats her up!

Can the old woman and everyone that the cat ate get out of the cat’s belly?
  
I have always loved the folktale “The Greedy Cat,” so seeing so many different variations of this tale was a treat for my reading soul!  Nancy Polette has done an excellent job at retelling this ancient folktale as the story is much more simplistic than its earlier interpretation.  I loved that in this interpretation we have an old woman who stands up to the cat while in the other version of this folktale “Fat Cat,” there was a mouse who lived with the cat and I enjoyed seeing the different roommates that the cat lives with in each adaptation.  Also, the idea about a cat eating up everyone he meets up with was quite outrageous and interesting at the same time and it is that surreal aspect that I find in many folktales that makes me really enjoy reading various folktales, including this one!  Frank Modell’s illustrations slightly resemble James Stevenson’s illustrations as they are simplistic yet humorous at the same time.  I loved the illustrations of the cat itself as it is gray and large and the scene where the cat starts eating everyone and grows bigger was done extremely well in detail.

Parents should know that the scenes of the cat eating people who get in his way might be a bit disturbing for smaller children.  However, in this version, the illustrations are shown in a less menacing way, so small children might be able to get through this book.  But parents should still read this book before they read it to their children.

Overall, “The Little Old Woman and the Hungry Cat” is a fantastic retelling of the ancient folktale that many fans of folklore will enjoy for many years!  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the scenes of the cat eating the people might scare smaller children.



Max's Christmas by Rosemary Wells




Genre: Christmas / Family / Humor


Year Published: 1986


Year Read: 1993

Publisher:  Dial Books
 

I actually first saw “Max’s Christmas” on a video from Weston Woods and from then on, I was so intrigued by this story!  “Max’s Christmas” is a cute children’s book by Rosemary Wells and it is about how Max tries to see Santa Claus for the first time!  “Max’s Christmas” is a truly wonderful story that children can easily read for Christmas!


When Max’s sister Ruby tells Max that Santa Claus is coming to their house, Max keeps asking Ruby about who Santa Claus is and can he see him, although Ruby tells Max that he cannot see Santa Claus since no one has.  But, Max still wanted to see Santa Claus despite his sister’s warnings and he decides to go downstairs and wait for Santa Claus to come.

Will Max be able to see Santa Claus?

Oh my goodness! There is just so much about this book that I really enjoyed!  For one thing, Rosemary Wells’ writing is extremely simplistic and cute and even though there are only a few words on each page, it really brought out the innocence of children being excited for Santa Claus’ arrival.  I loved the way that Rosemary Wells had Max ask Ruby questions about who Santa Claus is and what he does by stating “What, who, when, where, how, and why?” It was just so cute seeing Max being curious about Santa Claus and how Ruby tries to answer Max’s questions the best she can.  The book is extremely easy for children to read through since there are only a few words on each page and I think that many children can relate to Max’s situation as he wants to see if Santa Claus is real or not.  I remember when I was small; I wanted to try to sneak out into the middle of the night on Christmas Eve just to see if Santa Claus was coming to our house!  Rosemary Wells’ illustrations are just truly cute as the main characters in this book are small white rabbits that have pudgy bodies and small eyes. My favorite images were of Max jumping up and down on his bed in his red pajamas as he looks extremely cute since he has a smile on his face and his round body is leaping off the bed.  I also loved the images of the Christmas tree that Max and Ruby have as it is small, but the way that the lights glow off the Christmas tree just made the image look truly beautiful.



Overall, “Max’s Christmas” is a truly wonderful book by Rosemary Wells for children who want to read about characters experiencing their joys of meeting Santa Claus and they will easily enjoy this book for many years! I would recommend this book to children ages three and up since the writing is extremely simple for small children to get a grasp on the story.



Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume 1 by Robert Kirkman




Genre: Superhero / Action / Adventure
Year Published: 2005
Year Read: 2012
Series: Invincible #1
Publisher: Image Comics
 



Brief Introduction:

For a long time now, I had always believed that the only comic book companies that created superhero comics were Marvel and DC and it is true that they have been creating superhero comics for many years now.  However, when I found Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker’s latest creation and Eisner Award nominated series “Invincible” from Image comics; I was actually shocked that an independent comic book company would produce a superhero comic!  “Invincible” is a superhero comic book to be sure, but it was one superhero comic that had many plot twists that you would not normally see in any other superhero comic book and those plot twists really made this graphic novel truly unique and exciting to read!

What is the story?

Mark Grayson was a normal teenage boy who goes to high school, has crush on girls and has a dull after school job like everyone else. However, what makes Mark different from everyone else is that his father, Omni-Man is the world’s most powerful superhero and Mark seems to have inherited his powers!  After Mark discovers his powers, he finds the life of being a superhero fun; but then once a dark secret is exposed, Mark’s life will soon change forever!

What I loved about this comic:

Robert Kirkman’s writing!:  Now, I am not too familiar with Robert Kirkman’s work since “Invincible” is the first comic I have read by him,  but now that I had just finished reading this graphic novel, I am totally hooked on Robert Kirkman’s writing style!  Robert Kirkman has done a brilliant job at developing the characters to the point where we can really sympathize and care about their situations.  I loved the character portrayal of Mark Grayson as he is portrayed as being a free spirited character that enjoys having superpowers while trying to balance his life at school and I loved seeing that side of Mark as he knows he has responsibilities, but he still wants to enjoy life.  I also loved the way that Robert Kirkman would make parodies of superheroes in this comic such as the superhero team “Guardians of the Globe” being a slight parody of the Justice League and yet, these superhero teams are not like carbon copies of the superheroes we see in Marvel and DC as they seem to have qualities that separates them from the other superheroes.  Robert Kirkman also did a fantastic job at providing humor in this story as I found myself laughing at the statements being made by the characters, especially by Mark Grayson when he made comments about finding out about his powers for the first time and he just casually told his parents about his powers like it is no big deal.  What I really loved about Robert Kirkman’s writing is his ability to provide plot twists to the story and the plot twists were done extremely well as I was literally shocked at the various secrets that were exposed about the characters. 

Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley’s artwork:  Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley’s artwork is a bit unique as it has a simplistic look and yet during the action scenes, is drawn in an effective way.  I loved the artwork of the characters’ expressions whenever they are confused about something as their eyes are drawn as little black dots instead of having their normal eye shapes which really brings out the humor in the situations.  I also loved the coloring done by Bill Crabtree as the artwork looks extremely colorful and I loved the shadowing on the characters’ faces whenever they are in dark places such as being outside during the nighttime.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

This graphic novel is surprisingly gory as there are many scenes of characters being torn apart and you can see blood squirt out everywhere and their innards being pulled from their bodies.  Anyone who does not like seeing gore in any graphic novel might want to skim over these scenes.

Final Thoughts:

“Invincible” is not your average superhero comic as it contains more humor and a lighter tone than what I usually see in superhero comics, but this is definitely one of the most unique and interesting superhero comics I have ever read and I am sure that many fans of superhero comics will definitely enjoy this graphic novel!





 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems




Genre: Toys / Friendship / Humor


Year Published: 2007


Year Read: 2009


Series: Knuffle Bunny #2

Publisher:  Hyperion Book CH
 

“Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity” is a great sequel to Mo Willems’ popular book “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale.” In this adventure, Trixie enjoys her first day of school and showing off her Knuffle Bunny to everyone in her class until she comes home and realizes that something is wrong. “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity” is a brilliant sequel about true friendship that children will enjoy as much as they enjoyed the first “Knuffle Bunny” book.

Mo Willems has done it again in this sequel as he ingeniously makes both the illustrations and the story extremely clever. Mo Willems goes into so much detail about Trixie’s first day of school and how excited she felt to be at school. Children can easily relate to Trixie about how she wanted to show off something that no one else has and yet the child soon realizes that someone else has another one of a kind possession that the child loves. Mo Willems’ illustrations are extremely creative as he once again places silly looking characters against real life photos of the city of Brooklyn. Also, I loved the outfit that Trixie wore throughout the book as she has a green shirt with a red with purple polka dotted shirt underneath and a brown and red flowered skirt. Trixie’s outfit, as surreal as it looks, brings out the true creativity to the character of Trixie herself.


“Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity” is one of the greatest sequels ever created as it defines what true friendship is all about. I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate about the book.


* 2008 Caldecott Honor
* 2008 Book Sense of the Year Award for Children's Illustrated
* 2008 Wanda Gag Read Aloud Honor Book




Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems




Genre: Toys / Family / Humor


Year Published: 2004



Year Read: 2009


Series: Knuffle Bunny #1

Publisher:  Walker Books Ltd


“Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” is a Caldecott Honor book from Mo Willems, creator of Cartoon Network’s “Sheep in the Big City.” This book is about how a toddler named Trixie loses her Knuffle Bunny at the Laundromat and has a hard time trying to tell her dad that they lost Knuffle Bunny. “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” is truly one of the most brilliant children’s books ever written that children will love for many years!

Mo Willems has truly done a brilliant job at writing and illustrating this book about listening to your child when he or she is trying to tell you something important. What made this book truly memorable was the fact that this book was based off a real incident that Mo Willems had with his daughter and the audience can really relate to the story as every parent at some point had an incident with their child that they could not understand what their child is trying to tell them and they try hard to listen, but the words that come out of a child’s mouth at such a young age can be incomprehensible to the adult that they cannot really understand their child’s needs and wants. Mo Willems’ illustrations are extremely creative since the characters are silly looking and yet are pasted on photos of a real neighborhood in Brooklyn, making the illustrations look somewhat three dimensional.


“Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” is a brilliant book for children who also experience a time when they tried to tell their parents something important, but their speech was not clear enough for the parents to really understand them. I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate about this book, unless you count Trixie’s whining when she left her Knuffle Bunny.



* 2004 Borders Original Voices Award for Picture Books
* 2005 Caldecott Honor
* 2005 Charlotte Zolotow Award Nominee for Honor Book
* 2005 Wanda Gag Read Aloud Honor Book
* 2006 Kentucky Bluegrass Award for K-2
* 2006 Vermont's Picture Book Awards: Red Clover



Y: The Last Man Book One by Brian K. Vaughan






Genre: Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Year Published: 2008

Year Read: 2012

Series: Y: The Last Man Book 1

Publisher: Vertigo Comics
 




Introduction:

What would happen if you became the last gender (whether you are a male or female) on the face of the planet?  Well, that is what we are discovering in Brian K. Vaughan’s Eisner Award winning classic graphic novel, “Y: The Last Man: Book One!”  After hearing so many glowing reviews about this graphic novel, I decided to give this book a shot and man, was I blown away by the creative concept of this graphic novel!  “Y: The Last Man: Book One” is definitely one of the most dramatic and creative graphic novels ever created!

What is this story about?

Yorick Brown was a twenty-two year old young man who had a job as an amateur escape artist.  He was planning on proposing to his girlfriend Beth when all of a sudden, all the men and the male animals around the world started dying off when a mysterious plague hits the world and only the males with the Y chromosome are affected.  Fortunately, only Yorick and his pet male monkey Ampersand survived the plague and now Yorick must find out more about the plague and try to save mankind while trying to find his girlfriend Beth who is on the other side of the world!

What I loved about this story:

The premise and Brian K. Vaughan’s writing: When I first heard about this book, I was thinking to myself about how would you write a book about being the last man standing on Earth?  Brian K. Vaughan has done an impressive job at bringing out that aspect as it was done in an extremely creative and intense way!  After reading so many books that deal with a post-apocalyptic setting, whether it dealt with oppressive governments (The Hunger Games) or crime ruling the city (Fray), “Y: The Last Man” was a truly unique case of a post-apocalyptic setting as it has it set up where all the men (including the male animals) of the world are wiped out, leaving only the women to occupy the world, which gives us a “what if” moment about what would happen if one gender is wiped out by an unknown force?  I loved the way that Brian K. Vaughan really delved into the set up of this world as not only do we readers try to find out what caused the plague that caused the death of many men around the world, but we also see how the women of the world try to deal with the politics and the technology that were once occupied by the men.  I also loved the main character Yorick Brown as he is extremely funny and optimistic, despite being the last man on Earth and I enjoyed seeing him trying to help the women who are trying to save mankind accomplish their goals and I loved the witty dialogue that Brian K. Vaughan wrote for all the characters in this book.

Pia Guerra’s artwork:  Pia Guerra’s artwork along with coloring by Pamela Rambo and inking by Jose Marzan Jr., really brought out a dramatic feel to this story as the characters look realistic and the colorings really brought out bright yet intense feel to the story.  Probably some of my favorite artwork in this graphic novel was of Yorick himself as he has brown wavy hair and also has a laid back look on his face that really made me feel for the character.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

Probably the only problems with this graphic novel are that there is some strong language in this book like the “f” word and the “s” word and some disturbing content.  The idea about a plague killing off the men in the world is a disturbing thought and could scare some readers who are uncomfortable about the subject of diseases spreading around the world.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Y: The Last Man” is easily one of the most CREATIVE, INVENTIVE and INTENSE graphic novels I have ever read and I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to anyone who is a huge fan of Brian K. Vaughan’s works and love reading about post-apocalyptic worlds!

  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas






Genre: Contemporary Romance
Year Published: 2009
Number of Pages: 372 pages
Date Read: 9/21/2012
Series: Travises #3
Publisher: St. Martin's Press



Okay!  Now, I am officially a huge fan of Lisa Kleypas’ contemporary romance series!  I have always read Lisa Kleypas’ historical romance series mainly the “Wallflower” series, but her “Travises” series has really climbed its way to my top contemporary romance list and the third book (Jack Travis’ book) “Smooth Talking Stranger” has really made me fall in love with the contemporary romance genre!  With nothing but sensual sensations, drama and discovering true love in the plot, “Smooth Talking Stranger” is definitely one romance novel you cannot miss!

When Ella Varner discovers that her sister Tara left behind a baby named Luke on her doorsteps, Ella tries to find out who the father of Tara’s baby is and the first person she suspects is none other than Jack Travis!  But when Jack Travis claims that the baby is not his, Ella will soon discover a sexual attraction to this rich man that she had never felt with any other man before!

Wow…just wow!  Everything about this book was just so fantastic and heartwarming at the same time!  Lisa Kleypas had really made me feel emotion for every character in this book (well, maybe except for Ella’s mother and Tara a little bit since they made Ella’s life miserable) and I just loved the way that Lisa Kleypas handled each character’s story in this book!  My favorite characters in this entire book were Ella Varner and Jack Travis as they were a truly cute couple and they truly supported each other throughout this entire book.  Ella Varner was a truly remarkable heroine in this story, as she had to contend with so many traumas in her life such as being forced to take care of her sister’s baby, Luke, when Tara was incapable of taking care of him herself and dealing with her mother’s constant insults at her.  However, I loved the fact that Ella still tried to do the best she can in her life and how she still remains optimistic about her life.  The only thing that slightly annoyed me about Ella’s character is that she kept distancing herself from Jack at the beginning.  I understand that it was because she was in a relationship with Dane at first and she had trauma in her childhood that caused her to fear love, but sometimes throughout the book, I was urging Ella to just accept Jack since it was obvious that Jack truly cared about her.  Now, onto the best character in this entire book Jack Travis!  I just loved Jack Travis to death as he is shown to be an extremely sympathetic character who tries to help Ella Varner out any way he can and I also loved the way that he truly cared about Luke, despite the fact that Luke is not really his baby.  The only problem I have with Jack’s character in this book is that we do not really get his viewpoint on the situation and I would have really loved to hear what Jack thinks about Ella’s situation on a personal level.  I really enjoyed seeing the rest of the Travis family again, especially Haven and Hardy, as their book “Blue-Eyed Devil” was a massive hit with me and it was great seeing how they are doing!  I also loved the fact that Jack Travis is one muscular, large and sexy guy (a fact that Ella has alerted the audience many times) and I just melted every time I envisioned his strong body!

For anyone who does not like strong language in a book, this book has many crude words such as dropping the “f” bomb a couple of times and it would be best to skim over these worlds if they are upsetting.  Also, there are many sex scenes in this novel between the two lead characters, so those are also some scenes you could skim over if they are uncomfortable to read through.

Overall, “Smooth Talking Stranger” is easily the most poignant and sensual story out of the entire “Travises” series that every Lisa Kleypas fan just have to check out right away!




Monday, September 17, 2012

Looking For Santa Claus by Henrik Drescher



Genre: Christmas / Animal / Traveling / Magic


Year Published: 1984


Year Read: 2005

Publisher:  Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books




Now, as you have noticed, I am a huge fan of Henrik Drescher’s works as his works are truly creative and surreal at the same time! Well, I have just dug up this treasure called “Looking for Santa Claus” and it is probably Henrik Drescher’s most heartwarming and soothing picture book that was ever created!

There once was a little girl named Maggie who had three aunts who were selfish and mean and they also hated Christmas.  One night, Maggie’s three aunts sent her out in the cold to dig Blossom the cow out of the snow and Blossom the cow offered Maggie a chance to find Santa Claus.  So, both Maggie and Blossom flew away from the aunts’ house to find Santa Claus.

Let me just explain my feelings on this book in just THREE WORDS: HEARTWARMING, GORGEOUS and CREATIVE!  Henrik Drescher has certainly done a fantastic job on both writing and illustrating this book as it was an extremely creative experience!  Henrik Drescher’s is short and simple as there are mostly about one sentence on each page, however the story itself is truly heartwarming as Maggie wants to bring in Santa Claus to show her mean aunts the true meaning of Christmas and I loved the scenes where Maggie comes across several different characters who looked like Santa Claus, but were not really Santa Claus (such as a lonesome Cossack named Igor who is from Russia and a shepherd named Frits who is from Switzerland). It was also interesting that Blossom the Cow somehow has the ability to fly around the world, even though it was never mentioned in the book about how she is able to fly, but in the subtext of this book, this is an issue that is best left out!  Henrik Drescher’s illustrations are even more gorgeous in this book as the characters look a bit more realistic than what we usually see of his work (but this book was one of his earlier projects during the 80s along with “Simon’s Book” and “The Strange Appearance of Howard Cranebill”). I loved the way that Henrik Drescher made the illustrations give off glowing colors such as the characters being reflected underneath the moonlight as it really made the illustrations look truly beautiful.  I also loved the scenes of Blossom the Cow and Maggie flying off in the night as they looked mesmerizing in the night sky.

 
Overall, “Looking for Santa Claus” is easily one of Henrik Drescher’s most beautiful books and is a fantastic book for children who enjoy Christmas!  For other Henrik Drescher titles, I would recommend:

Pat the Beastie
Love the Beastie
The Strange Appearance of Howard Cranebill
Simon’s Book
Look-Alikes

Books illustrated by Henrik Drescher:

The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters
The Fool and the Flying Ship
Runaway Opposites
No Plain Pets