Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer





Genre: Family / Crime

Year Published: 1963
 

Year Read:  1993

Publisher:  Roberts Rinehart Publishers

“The Three Robbers" is a children’s book written by Tomi Ungerer and it relates the story of how three ferocious robbers became foster parents when they rescued an orphaned girl from going to her cruel aunt’s house.  This book will surely be a delight for young children to read for many years to come.

Tomi Ungerer did an excellent job at writing the story of the three robbers in a comforting tone.  Tomi Ungerer made the robbers reform their evil ways by putting a child in the picture when the robbers spot an orphaned girl in one of the carriages they were about to rob and therefore, they became foster fathers to all the orphaned children in town when they grew a heart to care for the orphaned girl, Tiffany.  Also, Tomi Ungerer’s illustrations are highly creative as the robbers are mainly displayed as blue faced men dressed in black capes and tall black hats indicating that they are sneaky beings that you usually find in those cartoon spy shows like “Secret Squirrel.”  Also, the backgrounds are colored in mainly blue, white and black and the children in the story are the only characters that are colorful since these images of the children indicate that they are the turning points in the three robbers’ life of crime. 

Parents should know that while the robbers do reform themselves at the very end of the book, their appearances might scare small children and even more, their ways in robbing people might also scare small children.  The robbers look a bit menacing as they sneak around towns scaring off people and then they rob unsuspecting people along the way.  Also, the ways that they scare off the passengers are somewhat more intense then a regular robber just stealing your items and running away with them.  These robbers use an axe to chop down the wheels, then they use pepper-blower to spray in the horses’ eyes temporary blinding them, and then they threaten the passengers with a blunderbuss to get their jewels, which may frighten small children.  Also, the idea of someone sneaking into your home at night might be implanted into a small child’s head and he or she might worry about a robber coming to take them away.  But, parents should assure their children that they will always be there to protect them and that the robbers in the book did not hurt any children as they took them in as their own children and that should send a sigh of relief from the child.
 
“The Three Robbers” is a magnificent masterpiece from the creative mind of Tomi Ungerer and its story of three fierce robbers reforming themselves into foster parents is truly a delight to hear.  This story is surely to be a great classic for children for many years to come and is suitable for children ages five and up due to some menacing content about the robbers robbing the people.



I, Crocodile by Fred Marcellino






Genre: Animals / Fantasy / Travel / Food

Year Published: 1999
 
Year Read:  2008

Publisher: HarperCollins

I have read many books where a story is usually told from an animal’s point of view such as Aesop’s Fables. But I have never read a book where the main animal character talks with dignity when narrating his side of the story. “I, Crocodile” is such a tale by Fred Marcellino who masterfully tells the story of a crocodile’s attempts to fit in the society who had forcefully taken him away from his home.

Fred Marcellino’s story and illustrations are brilliant as he describes the crocodile’s predicament from being taken away from his home in the Nile River to nearly becoming dinner for the French. The true highlight of this story is the crocodile himself as he is displayed as a civilized creature that had high opinions of the humans who had taken care of his ancestors but then sees the dark side of humans when they tried to eat him. Marcellino’s illustrations humorously illustrates the crocodile as a pudgy yet cute creature.

Parents should know that many young viewers may be disturbed by the ending of this book. I am not going to spoil the ending for you, but someone does get eaten at the end and that concept may disturb children. Parents may wish to discuss to their children about the crocodile’s predicament and how he resolves this towards the end of the story.

“I, Crocodile” is truly a classic book about the importance of respecting one’s privacy and feelings and the book clearly defines a cautionary tale of what happens when someone tries to forcefully take someone out of their natural home and put them in a society that they are not accustomed to. This is a great book for everyone to read, but parents should warn their children about the ending and why the book was concluded in that manner. 




My New Book Banner!!!

Here's my new book banner that you will see appear on my reviews on other sites!

The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka



Genre: Animals / Retelling / Fairy Tale / Family / Black Comedy

Year Published: 1991
 
Year Read:  1993

Publisher: Puffin

“The Frog Prince Continued” is another addition to Jon Scieska’s fractured fairy tales collection and is a hilarious story about marriage problems. Jon Scieska’s witty writing delightfully expresses the Frog Prince’s dilemma about being a human and changing back into a frog and Steve Johnson’s dark illustrations makes this story a classic dark comedy.

“The Frog Prince Continued” is full of dark humor and lively characters as they depict the Frog Prince’s attempts at turning back into a frog after a heated argument with his wife, the Princess. The characters that the Prince meets up with are the same characters that have came out of popular children’s books such as, “Hansel and Gretel,” “Cinderella,” and “Snow White.” The witches from each famous fairy tale play a significant role in this story as they at first seem to be the Frog Prince’s only hope in changing back to his normal life as a frog, but later on become a threat to the Frog Prince as they secretly tried to put an end to him because he is a prince. Also, the story is highly creative and funny as the Frog Prince goes through several mishaps to become a frog again but finds out that what he really wanted was to just be with the Princess forever.

Parents should know that this book contains dark illustrations and may be too sophisticated for younger children to understand. Steve Johnson’s illustrations, while they are humorous, are also dark and sometimes scary especially of the images where the Frog Prince goes through a dark forest and since the forest contains creepy-looking trees that have dark shadows around them, it looks like a nightmarish place. The image that will probably scare some young children the most would be the image of the Frog Prince transforming into a frog-like carriage since the carriage has the Prince’s eyes all large and yellow and the Prince’s tongue takes shaped of a seat inside the carriage. The humor of this story may also be aimed at the adults since it displays the theme of a potential divorce between the Frog Prince and the Princess and many young children might not understand about the issues of many couples breaking up because of intense arguments or other difficult situations that couples sometimes do not resolve. Also, the scene where the Frog Prince worries that he will never change back into a prince may upset some young children who may also have fears about losing their parents if they get lost in a place they do not know.

“The Frog Prince Continued” is truly a classic dark comedy about how sometimes marriages do not turn out the way that we want it at first, but we eventually begin to love our loved ones more whenever the thought of losing them tortures us. Jon Scieszka’s and Steve Johnson’s collaborations have made this story an instant hit from Jon Scieszka’s fractured fairy tales collection. Of course, parents may want to read this book first before they read it to their children who are eight years old or younger due to the theme of a potential divorce and the somewhat dark illustrations.



Monday, November 25, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman











Genre: Fantasy / Horror

Year Published: 2013

Number of Pages: 181 pages

Date Read:  11/24/2013

Publisher: William Morrow Books 



Now, I have been reading Neil Gaiman’s works for many years now and I have been enjoying most of his works (my personal favorites being “Coraline,” the “Sandman” series, “Neverwhere,” and “The Graveyard Book”).  So, imagine my amazement and delight when I realized that Neil Gaiman had a new book coming out called “The Ocean at the End of the Lane!” And before I knew it, I immediately ran to the bookstore to buy this book and I started reading it right away!  I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised with the results of this book!

The story starts off in Sussex, England, where a middle aged man goes back to his childhood home after attending a funeral.  It was there that the man starts to remember his childhood memories at his old home and also about meeting up with a strange and amazing little girl named Lettie Hempstock.  It turns out that Lettie Hempstock was the one who helped the boy get through the most frightening event that happened during his childhood, which was caused after a South African opal miner committed suicide in the boy’s father’s car that he stole.  This series of events will cause the boy to think about whether or not magic really exists in the world he lives in and also help him understand the true meaning of friendship.

Neil Gaiman has struck a nerve in my ever lasting book loving heart with his stellar storytelling in stories that deal with fantasy and horror elements!  I loved the way that Neil Gaiman wrote this story in a poetic way as it gives the story a more imaginative and beautiful tone and I actually felt myself experience the adventures along with the boy in the story.  One of my most favorite quotes in this book deals with the boy’s fascination with books as stated here:

“I was sad that nobody had come to my party, but happy that I had a Batman figure, and there was a birthday present waiting to be read, a boxed set of the Narnia books, which I took upstairs. I lay on the bed and lost myself in the stories.  I liked that.

Books were safer than other people anyway.”

This pretty much explains so much about the narrator’s timid nature as he enjoys reading books, but he was always afraid to make friends with the other kids.  But, probably my most favorite character in this story was none other than Lettie Hempstock, who was indeed a strange and unusual little girl who befriended the boy. I loved the way that Lettie Hempstock was willing to put her life on the line to save the boy from the disturbing occurrences that happens at his home, like meeting up with various monsters that seem to come from another world.  It really shows what a strong and loyal heroine Lettie really is and I loved the fact that she shows the boy the true meaning of friendship!  I loved the way that Neil Gaiman handled the mystery surrounding the “ocean” at the end of the lane, which actually looks like a pond from another person’s point of view as I keep wondering throughout the story about why Lettie was so obsessed with the “ocean” at the end of the lane. When I finally found out what the secret about the “ocean” really is, I was truly mesmerized and surprised at the reveal!

For anyone who does not like frightening moments in any novel, there were some genuinely frightening moments in this book, especially concerning the little boy who was only seven years old!

*SPOILER ALERT!*

Probably the moment that really scared me and even upset me in this book was the scene where the boy’s father nearly drowns the little boy in the bathtub after the boy was trying to warn his father about their new nanny, Ursula Monkton.  The reason for this is because the new nanny, who was actually a monster who was made out of old cloth, started controlling the father to the point that the father would hurt the little boy if he was disrespectful towards Ursula. This scene was quite unnerving because I easily get uncomfortable whenever the subject of child abuse rises up and even though I knew that the boy’s father was being controlled, it was still disturbing to see the boy nearly drown in the bathtub by his own father.

*SPOILER OVER!*

Overall, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is truly one of the greatest fantasy novels I had ever read in this decade! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s works and love reading novels full of fantasy and horror!



Friday, November 15, 2013

Garfield Pulls his Weight (Garfield Classics #26) by Jim Davis



Genre: Animal / Humor 
Year Published: 1994 
Year Read: 2013 
Series: Garfield Classics #26

Publisher: PAWS Inc.


Introduction:

Now, I have been a hug fan of the “Garfield” comics for many years now as I used to read them all the time in the Sunday newspapers when I was younger.  Now, I finally have the pleasure of being reintroduced into the “Garfield” comics through paper trade backs and I have been enjoying reading these classics again! Well, the twenty-sixth volume of the “Garfield” classics, which is called “Garfield Pulls His Weight,” certainly did not disappoint me with its off-the-wall humor involving everyone’s favorite fat and orange cat!

What is this story about?

Basically, this volume details more of Garfield’s hilarious adventures with both his unlucky owner, Jon Arbuckle and his not so bright dog companion, Odie; as Garfield continues to make jokes at the expense of Jon and Odie while eating and sleeping all the way!

What I loved about this story:

Jim Davis’ writing: Jim Davis’ writing continues to be hilarious and witty as Garfield continues to eat and sleep his way through life while making deadpan jokes at the expense of his owner Jon and his dog companion Odie.  I loved the fact that even though these comic strips were made during the 1990s, the humor continues to be fresh and I am pretty sure current generations will enjoy this graphic novel as much as I did!  There were many comic strips in this graphic novel that I really enjoyed such as this one comic strip being about Garfield and Jon camping out and the exchange goes like this:

Jon: I love camping. The fresh air…the mountains…the flowers…

(Garfield is suddenly dragged off-screen)

Jon: The trees…

Garfield: (stuck in a large spider web) the big spiders.

As usual, the humor is extremely witty and I always loved the sarcastic comments that Garfield makes towards Jon and Odie as he is easily one of the funniest characters in this entire comic strip!

Jim Davis’ artwork:  Jim Davis’ artwork is as usual hilarious to look at, especially the image of Garfield himself as he is shown to be a fat, orange and black cat with large, rounded eyes.  I also loved the artwork of the slapstick hijinks that Garfield, Jon and Odie go on as it makes me laugh every time I see them either get hit in the face with food or occasionally picking on each other!

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Garfield Pulls His Weight” is another fantastic read for “Garfield” fans that love everyone’s favorite orange fat cat and are looking forward to loads of laughter from this series!



The Yellow Umbrella by Henrik Drescher




Genre: Animals / Traveling / Family

Year Published: 1987
 
Year Read:  2008

Publisher: Marcel Dekker


I have been reading Henrik Drescher’s works for awhile now and I always loved the bizarre nature of his illustrations!  But in “The Yellow Umbrella,” the illustrations take on a more tranquil approach as we are treated to the adventures of a mother monkey, her baby and a yellow umbrella!

The story starts off with a father and his daughter going to the zoo to see the monkeys when suddenly, the father dropped his yellow umbrella into the monkey cage and the two monkeys ended up grabbing the yellow umbrella.  The two monkeys then go up towards the top of the hill in their cage and were admiring the yellow umbrella when all of a sudden; a strong wind picks up and blows the two monkeys, who were holding onto the yellow umbrella, away from the zoo!

Wow! This book was simply amazing!  I always loved Henrik Drescher’s works on his children’s books because of the surreal illustrations he brings to the stories being woven. But in this book, Henrik Drescher brought something entirely different to the illustrations as they were truly cute and expressive!  I loved the fact that this story was told mainly through illustrations, marking this as another wordless picture book that I had enjoyed since David Wiesner’s “Flotsam!” I loved the way that Henrik Drescher’s illustrations really told this story as we go through a journey with the mother monkey and her baby as they travel across the world with the yellow umbrella guiding them to their destination.  I also loved the images of the mother monkey and her baby going through different parts of the world such as flying over the ocean and then flying over the jungle as it gives the story a truly beautiful feeling of exploring the wonders of the world. I also loved the fact that Henrik Drescher’s illustrations are mainly done in yellow, white and black colorings. The fact that the title of this book is called “The Yellow Umbrella” and that the only other color that is prominent in this story besides black and white is yellow, really made the illustrations truly stand out in this story as they emphasize the significance of the color yellow as the yellow umbrella symbolizes freedom for the two monkeys as they fly away from the zoo and explore the dangers and wonders of the world that they could not explore in the zoo.

Overall, “The Yellow Umbrella” is a truly fantastic story about the importance of freedom and exploring the wonders of the world that many children will enjoy for many years!  I would recommend this book to children ages three and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book and the storytelling is easy enough for smaller children to understand.




Green Wilma by Tedd Arnold






Genre: Animals / School / Adventure

Year Published: 1993
 
Year Read: 2009

Series: Green Wilma #1

Publisher:  Puffin

“Green Wilma” is a hysterical children’s book created by Tedd Arnold, well-known author of the “Parts” series. Chaos ensures when a female frog causes mischief at her school when she tries to catch a delicious looking fly that was flying all over the school. "Green Wilma" is certainly a book that will have children rolling around laughing for many years to come.

Tedd Arnold has done an excellent job with both illustrating and writing this hilarious story. Tedd Arnold writes the story in a rhyming poetic text, which makes this story seem similar to Dr. Seuss’ popular children’s books and this truly brings out the creativity of this story about a female frog who wanted nothing more than to catch a tasty fly that keeps escaping her throughout the book. Tedd Arnold’s illustrations are truly something to be remembered as all the characters have bug-out eyes and small bodies, especially of the image of Wilma herself as she has orange curly hair and a yellow and red polka-dotted dress and a body of a frog. I also love the way that Tedd Arnold makes the background seem three-dimensional, especially of the image of the quilt that Wilma sleeps in at the beginning of the book as it has many different colors and shapes for its design. 

Parents should know that the ending of this book might likely confuse many small children.  I will not give away the ending of this book, but it does involve some kind of a dream sequence with one of the characters in this book.  Parents might want to explain to their children about the difference between dreams and reality so that they might not be confuse about what happens at the end of the book. 

“Green Wilma” is the perfect children’s story for children who love frogs and good humor and children will find themselves reading this book over and over again. I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since smaller children might be confuse about the ending.  





Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix Volume 1 by Shiro Amano




Genre: Comedy / Adventure / Sci Fi / Video Game


Year Published: 2013


Year Read: 2013


Series: Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix #1


Publisher: Yen Press





I just want to say that I am a huge fan of the “Kingdom Hearts” games, as I played all of them (at least, the ones that came out on Playstation) and I enjoyed the game play and the storylines involved.  So, imagine my surprise when I found out that they were making a manga series about the famous “Kingdom Hearts” games and I just had to pick this series up to see if it is just as good as the games were!

In this volume, Sora is separated from his friends Riku and Kairi when a terrible storm hits his home island and he is thrown into another world.  In that world, Sora meets up with Donald and Goofy, who were travelling to other worlds to find King Mickey, who had suddenly gone missing.  It was then that Sora, Donald and Goofy decided to work together to find both King Mickey and Riku and Kairi while Sora defends the world from the monstrous Heartless, using his newfound Keyblade.

Shiro Amano had done a fantastic job at adapting Tetsuya Nomura’s concept for the “Kingdom Hearts” video game series into manga format.  I loved the fact that Shiro Amano made the manga faithful to the original games, with a few changes here and there, and it was great seeing my favorite characters from the “Kingdom Hearts” games come to life in manga format.  I also loved the strong friendship built between Sora, Donald and Goofy as it was a hilarious yet heartwarming type of friendship as they were bonded when they were all trying to find people that they care about and I loved how this story emphasized the importance of friendship, even during rough times.  But, what always intrigued me about the “Kingdom Hearts” series was the fact that we are able to see our favorite Disney characters intertwine with the characters from “Final Fantasy” and such.  Even though Sora was a made up character for the “Kingdom Hearts” games, it was great seeing him mingle with other Disney characters such as “Hercules,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Aladdin.”  It was also interesting that Shiro Amano made the manga version of “Kingdom Hearts” much funnier than the original games as Sora seems to act more childish in this version than in the games and I really enjoyed the hilarious bantering between Sora, Donald and Goofy.  The artwork for this volume was extremely well done as the characters look both realistic and slightly exaggerated, which gives this volume a dramatic yet comedic feel.

Overall, “Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix Volume One” is a fantastic volume for anyone who is a huge fan of the “Kingdom Hearts” games and I will definitely be checking out the second volume to this series!  I would recommend this volume to children ages five and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this volume.