Saturday, March 29, 2014

[BOOK REVIEW] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics: The Works Volume 1 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird








Title:  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics: The Works Volume 1

Authors:  Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

Genre:  Action / Ninjas / Animals / Superheroes

Year Published: 2013

Year Read:  3/29/2014

Publisher: IDW Comics

Series: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics: The Works #1

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 15+ (Violence and Some Language)



Introduction:

Now, I have been a huge “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” fan ever since the 1980s animated series came out and I just had to check out every reincarnation of my favorite four turtles on television no matter what!  So, when I heard about Mirage Comics’ original dark and gritty version of the turtles, I was a little skeptical about it since the 1980s animated series had pretty much cemented my opinion on what the turtles should be like (well, at least until the 2003 animated version came out, which was actually closer to the original Mirage Comics).  So, imagine my surprise when I found out that IDW comics was putting out the original Mirage Comics version of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” into a hardback collection and I was lucky enough to pick it up!

What is this story about?

This collection contains the first seven issues including the one shot “Raphael Micro-Series,” of the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series written and illustrated by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.  In this collection, we find out the back story about how the four turtles (Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello) got mutated and what caused their mutation, see them go face to face with the threatening Shredder, meet up with April O’Neil and Casey Jones and end up facing the Triceratons!

What I loved about this story:

Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s writing: Wow! This graphic novel was just so ASTONISHING to read!  Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s writing was just fantastic in this graphic novel as all the characters were interesting and intense to read!  I loved the way that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird really developed each character, especially Raphael as they explore Raphael’s massive problems with his temper and how he tries to control his temper, especially in his one shot story where he meets up with Casey Jones.  I also loved the fact that we actually learn about both the turtles and Master Splinter’s background histories as I really wanted to know how the turtles and Splinter were mutated in the first place and how Master Splinter was able to learn the ways of the ninja through his former owner, Hamato Yoshi.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by the fact that I loved the dark and gritty tone of this graphic novel since I grew up with the 1980s animated series, which was much lighter and softer in tone.  Since I have always loved seeing different interpretations of my favorite stories (as long as they are written well), I did not have a problem with the dark and gritty tone of this graphic novel and I just loved the complex storytelling that was going on in this collection.

The artwork:  Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s artwork was beyond fantastic and vibrant as all the characters really stood out in this collection.  I especially loved the fact that IDW comics decided to give out the colorized version of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original work on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” as they were originally in black and white colorings.  It made the artwork stand out even more and the action scenes, such as various explosions and the turtles slicing their foes with their weapons, even more intense!  I was actually quite surprised to see that the turtles had the same colored bandanas (all of them are red in this case) in this collection since I was so used to seeing them having different colored bandanas that would help us tell them apart (such as Michelangelo having an orange bandana, Leonardo having a blue bandana, Donatello having a purple bandana and Raphael having a red bandana)  and I will admit that I got a little confused about which turtle was which and I had to go by the weapons that they are using to tell them apart from each other.  I also loved how dark and gritty the artwork was as they usually show the turtles looking so menacing whenever they fight the bad guys and I really loved that edgy feeling I get from the artwork!

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

For anyone who had grown up watching the original 1980s animated series, you might be a bit put off by how dark and gritty this series is.  To be honest, I was not really shocked at how dark and gritty this collection was since I was already told by other “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” fans that there were comic books made about the turtles before the 1980s animated series came out and they were much darker and edgier than what we saw in the 1980s animated series.  To add to that, this collections contains some blood, especially with the Ninja turtles cutting through their enemies with their weapons and some language, such as uttering the “d” word and the “a” word a couple of times.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, if you are trying to find Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original work on the fantastic “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise, then you just hit the jackpot with this collection called “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics: The Works Volume One!”  Fans of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” can rejoice at finding the original work in all its former glory in this collection!
 



[BOOK REVIEW] Hey, Al by Arthur Yorinks








Title:  Hey, Al

Author:  Arthur Yorinks

Artist:  Richard Egielski

Genre: Birds / Better Life / Friends

Year Published: 1986

Year Read:  2014

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (One Intense Scene)





After reading many Caldecott Medal award winning books, I stumbled upon this rare gem called “Hey, Al” which won a Caldecott Medal and was written by Arthur Yorinks along with illustrations by Richard Egielski. Get prepared for one surreal yet adventurous journey!


Meet Al, the janitor and his faithful dog, Eddie. They live in a single room on the West Side and they do everything together.  So, every thing is fine, right?

WRONG!

Al and Eddie’s life is miserable as they live in a small and cramped apartment and they are barely making it in life.  One day, however, a large bird comes to their apartment and tells them about a place where things are so much better than the life they are currently living in. Al and Eddie then decided to let the large bird take them to this mysterious place and it turns out to be a beautiful island located up in the sky.  Everything was going great for Al and Eddie as they were living the perfect paradise that they dreamed of, but it turns out that their “paradise” comes with a price…


Wow! I cannot believe that I had never read this book before!  I had heard so many good things about this book and how popular it was, but I never had the chance to read about it until now!  Arthur Yorinks had done an excellent job at writing this story as this story is extremely imaginative and surreal at the same time!  I loved the fact that Arthur Yorinks approached the theme of “the grass is greener on the other side” and gave it a more fantasy spin on it as it has both Al and Eddie traveling to a magical island to gain a better life from the one they have, only to realize that it does come with a price.  Richard Egielski’s illustrations are what truly sold this book to me.  I loved how gorgeous Richard Egielski’s illustrations are, especially of the scenes of Al and Eddie going to the island in the sky as there are many images of luscious trees and different types of birds inhabiting the island.  I also loved how realistic and colorful the illustrations are as they bring a sense of tranquility and beauty to the story.


****SPOILER ALERT!!!****

Parents should know that the scene where Al and Eddie start turning into birds might be scary for smaller children.  Parents might want to reassure their children that the story is purely fantasy and that it would not happen in real life.  The story was merely trying to show readers about how the theme of “the grass is greener on the other side” can come with consequences in a more fantastical way.

****SPOILER ENDED****


Overall, “Hey, Al” is a fantastic book that teaches children about how sometimes the “grass is not always greener on the other side” and that being satisfied with what you have is important.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the scenes of Al and Eddie transforming might frighten some children.




* 1987 Caldecott Medal
* 1988 Kentucky Bluegrass Award for K-3
* 1988 Little Archer Award


 


      

Friday, March 21, 2014

[BOOK REVIEW] Lon Po Po by Ed Young





Title:  Lon Po Po

Author:  Ed Young

Genre: Horror / Folktale / Fairy Tale / China

Year Published: 1989

Year Read:  2010

Publisher: Philomel Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 6+ (Some Scary Imagery and Scary Moments)


“Lon Po Po” is a Caldecott Medal winning book by Ed Young that is a remake of Brothers Grimm’s classic “Red Riding Hood,” only this time, there are three sisters who outwit a cunning wolf in this tale.  “Lon Po Po” may be a bit too scary for smaller children because of the images, but older children will easily love this story that is full of mystery and suspense.

Ed Young has done a great job at writing and illustrating this old Chinese folktale about how three sisters outwit a cunning and frightening wolf. The writing is brief, as there is only one paragraph on each page, but it is dramatic and creepy enough to scare small children as the writing gets intense whenever the wolf seems to get closer to eating the girls after he stealthily disguises himself as the grandmother to get at the girls.  Ed Young’s illustrations are brilliantly beautiful and haunting at the same time as he illustrates the wolf being terrifying and mysterious as the wolf seems to appear as some kind of mist on every page to imply that he is some sort of evil spirit.

Parents should know that there are some scary images in this book, mainly the images of the wolf himself as he is presented as some kind of mist mainly during the scenes where he enters the girls’ house and he is always in the shadows, where the audience cannot clearly see him.  Parents might want to reassure their children about the dangers of letting in strangers in one’s house and they may want to read this book before they read it to their child to see if their child can handle the scary images presented in this book.

“Lon Po Po” is a great story for children who love Chinese folktales and love listening to stories that has a horror theme.  I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since the images of the wolf looking mysterious and menacing might scare smaller children.




* 1990 Caldecott Medal




[BOOK REVIEW] Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport





Title:  Martin's Big Words:  The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Author: Doreen Rappaport

Artist: Bryan Collier

Genre: Racism / Biography / African-American

Year Published: 2001

Year Read:  2010

Publisher: Jump At The Sun

Source:  Library

Content Rating: Ages 5+  (Themes of Racism)


 When I was a child, I always wanted to learn more about the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while at the same time, I wanted to see a picture book for children that details Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s life in an uplifting way.  Well, I just found such a picture book detailing Martin Luther King Junior’s life and it is called “Martin’s Big Words.”  “Martin’s Big Words” is written by Doreen Rappaport along with illustrations by Bryan Collier and has won many awards including the Caldecott Honor book award, the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book and the Coretta Scott King Honor book award.  This book details the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a picture book format and is easily one of the most inspirational pictures books ever created!

When I saw that this book won two honors and a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, I was so intrigued because I had not seen a book win so many awards since Audrey Wood’s “The Napping House” and I think that this book richly deserves the awards it had won.  Doreen Rappaport has done an excellent job at detailing the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and has indeed done her research on his life as there is a list of events that happened during Martin Luther King Junior’s life at the end of the book that I think will definitely help children know about the various events that happened during Martin Luther King Junior’s life.  Doreen Rappaport makes this book extremely effective by using large and bold texts to describe various phrases that Martin Luther King Jr. used during his life such as he was a child, he uses the phrase “When I grow up, I’m going to get big words too” and the phrase is in blue, large and bold letters, which I think is effective in describing the various phrases that Martin used during his life to inspire the effects he had on America.  Bryan Collier’s illustrations are extremely beautiful and effective, especially of the images of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking inside the church as you can see the stained glass windows at the background and they look extremely realistic and colorful.  Also, Bryan Collier has done an excellent job at creating a dramatic atmosphere to the characters, especially of the image of Martin Luther King Jr. preaching in church and you can see the white light glow on him, which might indicate that he is angel sent to Earth as the light glow on him in an extremely effective way.

“Martin’s Big Words” is a true masterpiece on describing the life of Martin Luther King Jr. through the eyes of children and many children will definitely enjoy the book immensely.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since smaller children might be a bit upset at the racism themes displayed in this book, even though this book is telling the audience about the trials that Martin faces during his life.




* 2002 Caldecott Honor
* 2002 Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator Honor



 

[BOOK REVIEW] Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton





Title:  Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

Author:  Virginia Lee Burton

Genre: Children / Trucks / New Era

Year Published: 1939

Year Read:  2009

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 4+ (Nothing Objectionable)

 

When I first heard about this book, I was wondering to myself what was so special about a book being about a man and his steam shovel.  Well, when I read this book I was amazed at how this book turned out!  “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel” is a memorable children’s book by Virginia Lee Burton and it is about how a man named Mike Mulligan tries to prove to everyone that his steam shovel, Mary Anne, can dig up a huge cellar for the new town hall in one day.  “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel” is a great book for children who love reading about steam shovels and learning about the power of friendship!


Wow!  This was such an amazing book!  Virginia Lee Burton has done an excellent job at both illustrating and writing this terrific book about the importance of true friendship.  Virginia Lee Burton’s writing is simple yet cute at the same time as she effectively tells Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne’s story.  What I really loved about this book was how close Mike Mulligan was to his steam shovel, Mary Anne.  I thought that it was really cute about how Mike Mulligan gave his steam shovel a beautiful name, since it truly shows how Mike treated his steam shovel like an actual friend rather than a regular machine and I also loved the way that Mike is always praising Mary Anne’s hard work as he truly appreciates Mary Anne’s hard work.  I loved how Virginia Lee Burton made Mike into such a caring and confident character, even after he was put out of the job because Mary Anne was too old to compete with the newer steam shovels since he stayed with Mary Anne throughout his career.  Virginia Lee Burton’s illustrations are just simply beautiful and colorful and I really loved the image of Mary Anne herself as she looks like an old, fashioned steam shovel and yet has a somewhat human expression as you see her smiling on every page.  Another image I loved was the image of Mike Mulligan himself as he looks so small on every page compared to Mary Anne and he wears blue overalls with a red shirt and he also looks really built for doing his job.  Another thing I loved about the illustrations were some images where Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne were shown to look like characters that came out of a superhero comic strip as there are some flashing colors around them to indicate that.


This is not really a big deal to me, but the only slight con of this book is that the story and the illustrations might seem a bit outdated for the current generation of children, since this book was made during the 1930s and smaller children might be confused about what steam shovels are and parents or grandparents who were born during the 1930s might be able to explain to their children what times were like during the 1930s involving steam shovels.


Overall, “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel” is a truly heartwarming story about the true importance of friendship that will remain in many children’s hearts for many generations to come.  I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book.



     

Friday, March 14, 2014

[BOOK REVIEW] A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein





Title:  A Light in the Attic

Author:  Shel Silverstein

Genre: Poetry / Comedy / Children

Year Published: 1981

Year Read:  2009

Publisher: Harpercollins Childrens Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 6+ (Some Suggestive Themes and Death)



 “A Light in the Attic” is one of Shel Silverstein’s best yet most controversial books of poems ever written.  This book is full of poems about clowns, pirates, monsters and all manner of strange people and animals doing crazy things.  “A Light in the Attic” may be too suggestive and morbid for smaller children, but older children will easily delight themselves with the silly shenanigans of the characters.


Shel Silverstein’s writing is as witty as it is funny as he writes each character’s stories in a poetic prose.  One of the funniest poems I have read was “Squishy Touch” when the main character turns everything into Jell-O.  Shel Silverstein’s illustrations are highly creative as the images make the characters look scratchy and also I love the images being presented in black and white colors, a technique that is usually used for long books.  The image that probably stood out the most was the image of the Gink as it has a large mouth with sharp teeth and the image of the kids coming out of the Gink on the next page.


Parents should know that there are some suggestive and morbid content in this book that young children might not understand.  One poem that might be too suggestive for children would be the poem “How not to have to dry the dishes” as it entices children to break the dishes in order not to dry them.  Another poem that might be too morbid for children would be “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony” as it deals with the death of a child and parents might want to explain to their children about the concept of death before they read this poem.


“A Light in the Attic” is an excellent book about silly poems about silly people who do crazy stunts and it will surely be an instant for many children young and old.  I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since smaller children might be a bit disturbed by the suggestive and morbid content displayed in this book.



* 1984 George C. Stone Center for Children's Books Recognition of Merit Award
* 1985 Vlag en Wimpel (van de Griffeljury)
* 1988 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee
* School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
* Garden State Children's Book Awards

* American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book
* William Allen White Award (Kansas)




REASON FOR BEING BANNED: The poem "How Not to Have To Dry the Dishes" was criticized for encouraging kids to be messy and disobedient, while the poem "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony" was criticized for describing the death of a girl after her parents refused to buy her a pony. Also for discussing supernatural themes such as demons, devils and ghosts.





 

[BOOK REVIEW] The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton





Title:  The Little House

Author:  Virginia Lee Burton

Genre: Buildings / Time / Children's

Year Published: 1942

Year Read: 1994

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 4+ (Nothing Objectionable)



I have been going through some books from my childhood and I have stumbled upon this great gem called “The Little House.”  “The Little House” is a Caldecott Medal award winning book by Virginia Lee Burton and it is about how a small house learns the true meaning of “There’s no place like home” when a growing civilization is built around it over the years.  “The Little House” is definitely a gem that you cannot afford to miss!


When I first read this book when I was little, I thought it was a bit boring about reading about a little house just sitting there while everything around her was changing, but after reading it now, I started to see how amazing and beautiful this book really is!  Virginia Lee Burton, author of “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel,” has done a terrific job at both illustrating and writing this book as it details a little house’s experience to life in the city.  I loved the way that Virginia Lee Burton made the little house seem more like a human being than an object since the little house has to deal with the changes that happened around her and this book strongly related to me and also many children who had a similar experience since where I lived, more houses are built around my neighborhood whereas the first time we came to our neighborhood years ago, there were barely any houses in sight and dealing with this kind of experience sometimes gave me anxiety, but I eventually got used to it.  I also loved the message of the book about just having a simple life can make you happy since the book teaches children that you do not have to have a rich apartment complex or a huge house to be happy, you can just have a small house or a comfortable house that suits your needs to be happy with your life.  Virginia Lee Burton’s illustrations are just beautiful and outstanding as ever as the little house is shown to be pink and is always smiling in every image except for the images of where the little house is in the city and is miserable.  My favorite images in this book were of the scenes where the little house is shown in several different seasons like winter, fall, spring, and summer and you can see the atmosphere around the little house change as each season comes by such as in the summer, everything is green and in winter, everything is white.  I also loved the way that Virginia Lee Burton contrasted the country as a peaceful looking place by having light colors around the environment while the city is shown to be a dark and dreary looking place.


All in all, “The Little House” is a beautiful book about various changes going on in your surroundings that many children will definitely enjoy for many years!  I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book for smaller children. 




* 1943 Caldecott Medal