Friday, June 21, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema

Title:  Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears

Author:  Verna Aardema

Artist:  Leo and Diane Dillon

Genre: Animal / Drama / Fantasy / Folktale

Year Published: 1975

Year Read: 1994

Publisher: Puffin

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Death of a Child)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

“Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears” is a Caldecott Award winning folktale from Africa about the consequences of lying to other people and how they affect others.  Verna Aardema’s playful narrative and Leo and Diane Dillon’s colorful and vibrant illustrations make this book an instant treat for children and adults alike.

Verna Aardema’s magnificent retelling of an ancient West African folktale is both funny and dramatic.  The story of how a mosquito’s lie eventually causes chaos in the forest and the unfortunate death of one of Mother Owl’s owlets is an extremely dramatic moment in this book and it teaches children how lying can affect other people in a negative way, whether it involves the person having a bad reputation because of the lie or it results in someone getting seriously hurt in a physical or a mental way.  Leo and Diane Dillon’s vibrant illustrations are colorful and creative as they display the animals in a flat style and design the other animals to be larger than the mosquito (even though in reality, the mosquito is smaller than the other animals) which might suggest that the mosquito is more like a small pest while the other animals were trying to go about their business in the forest.

Parents should know that this story involves the death of a child and that would upset many sensitive children and adults.  Many parents would feel sympathy for Mother Owl as one of her owlets gets killed and how distraught she was when she finds out about this incident as many parents who lost their children before would relate deeply to this situation.  Also, small children might be frighten about he subject matter of death and parents need to reassure them about how they will always be there for their child and how death is apart of life (how you would explain to them about death is up to you).

“Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears” is a wonderful and cautious book about the consequences of telling people lies and many children would surely enjoy this classic book for many generations.  Of course, I would recommend this book for children ages five and older since it does deal with the death of a child.

* 1976 Caldecott Medal
* 1976 Reading Rainbow's 101 Best Children's Books

[BOOK REVIEW] The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka

Title:  The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!

Author:  Jon Scieszka

Artist:  Lane Smith

Genre: Fantasy/ Humor / Animal / Fairy Tale

Year Published: 1989

Year Read: 1997

Publisher: Puffin 

Source:  Library

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

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

“The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” became one of the most popular books in 1989, earning awards, including the New York Times Best Illustrated book. Also, this story is notably popular for its wit and humor as Alexander T. Wolf (Al for short) tries to explain to the reader his side of the story on what happened when he met the three little pigs.

There are so many positive aspects in this story that I would enjoy discussing, but the main positive aspects in this story are the writing and the illustrations. Jon Scieszka’s master storytelling is comical and creative as he describes the wolf’s side of the story in great detail, even giving him a name to go by. Scieszka does a great job in relating the wolf’s predicament to the viewers, so that when you read the story, you probably are feeling sorrier for the wolf then for the little pigs. Lane Smith’s illustrations are dark, yet humorous to an extent. Probably the highlights of Smith’s drawings in this book are the scenes of a giant animal hamburger presented in the beginning of the book and the somewhat menacing image of the third little pig inside his brick house as he is drawn with dark circles around his eyes and his eyes are yellow.

Parents should know that the scenes where the first and second little pig gets eaten by the wolf may be a bit disturbing to young children. Even though the scenes take place off-screen and Al reassuringly tries to tell the reader that it’s natural for wolves to eat pigs, parents may want to make sure that their children can understand the natural order of the food chain and handle the eating scenes. 

“The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” is a pure classic among both adults and children and features humor that is brilliantly sarcastic and sometimes dark. Also, you rarely hear a supposed villain’s side of the story, even though in this version, Al seems like a nice guy just trying to get sugar for his sick grandmother and following wolfish instincts. I would highly recommend this book for everybody, but parents should discuss the eating scenes with their children before they read them this book.

[BOOK REVIEW] Poems of A. Nonny Mouse by Jack Prelutsky

Title:  Poems of A. Nonny Mouse

Author:  Jack Prelutsky

Artist:  Henrik Drescher

Genre: Poetry / Animal / Humor / Fantasy

Year Published: 1989

Year Read: 2002

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./ Dragonfly Books

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Some Bizarre Imagery)

Buy or Add on:  Amazon  //  Goodreads 

After reading various poem books that were illustrated by Henrik Drescher like “No Plain Pets” and “Runaway Opposites,” I have stumbled upon this surreal classic called “Poems of A. Nonny Mouse!” Now, I have read a couple of Jack Prelutsky’s children’s poems, but his collaboration with Henrik Drescher has definitely made this book one of the most creative works done by Jack Prelutsky’s!

This book basically consists of several poems; four of them which were written by Jack Prelutsky himself and you have to find out which poems belong to him in this book!  Some of my favorite poems in this book are:

“Jack Hall,
He is so small,
A mouse could eat him,
Hat and all.”

“Algy met a bear,
A bear met Algy.
The bear was bulgy,
The bulge was Algy.”

“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would chuck
If a wood chuck could chuck wood.”

I had been reading Jack Prelutsky’s children’s poems for many years, so imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that he written a children’s poems book with illustrations by Henrik Drescher!  Jack Prelutsky’s poems are as usual extremely wacky and hilarious to read as each poem details the crazy activities that the characters in each poem get involved in, such as one poem having a young boy named Ben swallow his wrist watch and then coughing up the time and date and another poem where a character’s head rolls off his head and that character puts his head back on.  Henrik Drescher’s illustrations are as usual wacky and bizarre and they greatly complement the zany nature of the poems.  Some of my favorite illustrations by Henrik Drescher are the ones where there are half-human and half-bird like creatures littering all over the pages, giving the book a frenetic feel.  I also loved the way that Henrik Drescher drew Nonny Mouse into each page as she witnesses the surreal activities of the characters.  

For children who do not like bizarre illustrations, this book is filled with surreal drawings such as images of half-bird, half-human creatures and characters that have small pointed teeth.  These types of images might scare children who are not used to seeing such illustrations and parents might want to read this book before showing it to their children.

Overall, “Poems of A. Nonny Mouse” is a truly fantastic book for children who enjoy reading wacky and surreal poetry books from the great mind of Jack Prelutsky!  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since some of the surreal imagery might scare smaller children.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Chew: Major League Chew Volume 5 by John Layman

Title:  Chew: Major League Chew Volume 5

Author: John Layman

Artist: Rob Guillory

Genre: Crime / Humor

Year Published: 2011

Year Read: 2013

Series: Chew #5

Publisher: Image Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Strong Language, Gory Violence and Gross Humor)


Just when I thought that this series could not get any better, it just continues to amaze me!  With its wacky sense of humor and going into the dark and gritty nature of crime sprees, John Layman’s fantastic “Chew” series just continues to impress me!  In the fifth volume of “Chew” called “Major League Chew,” Tony Chu is definitely up for some more crazy adventures as the mysteries of the fourth volume continues to unfold!

What is this story about?

In this volume, Tony Chu is immediately fired from the FDA and is forced to work at the municipal traffic division (which it turns out that he starts enjoying that job)!  Unfortunately, things start going downhill for him when he is kidnapped by Amelia’s ex-boyfriend and they force him to eat the dead bodies of the baseball players to discover…new things.  Meanwhile, Tony’s daughter, Olive Chu, is also kidnapped by none other than Mason Savoy and she will soon discover the secret mission that Mason is on that could change her life forever!

What I loved about this story:

John Layman’s writing: Once again, John Layman has proven that humor and gritty crime noir can be written on the same page together!  As usual, I loved the way that John Layman made the story both hilarious and intense as the mystery surrounding Mason Savoy’s secret mission and the alien language in the sky continues to intensify in each volume.  I also loved the humor being put into this volume as it was hilarious seeing both Tony and John Colby struggle with their new jobs and how their new bosses (well, not Tony’s anyway) continues to torture them for no reason!  I also loved the fact that we get to see more of Olive Chu as she seem suspicious to me in the previous volumes and it would be interesting to see where Mason takes her character next in his mission.

Rob Guillory’s artwork:  Rob Guillory’s artwork is as always hilarious and creative to look at as the characters look truly exaggerated, which makes the story even more humorous in tone.  I was also impressed with how Rob Guillory made some of the illustrations disgusting to look at, especially the murder scenes, but it was that aspect of the artwork that really made this comic stand out to me since I rarely read comics where the gross out humor is actually used to tell an effective story.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

For anyone who does not like gross out humor or bloody violence OR strong language, this volume does contain a lot of bloody violence that might be uncomfortable for the squeamish.  Also, the gross humor, that often involves toilet humor, might be a turn off for anyone who does not like toilet humor in general.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Chew: Major League Chew” is a fantastic volume that is really starting to set things up for all the characters involved and who knows what Tony Chu and his friends and family will get into next!  Now, on to the sixth volume!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve Volume 2 by Brian Michael Bendis

Title:  Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve Volume 2

Author:  Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Mark Bagley

Genre: Superhero / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2001

Year Read: 2013

Series: Ultimate Spider-Man #2

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating: Ages 13+ (Some Language and Violence)

Buy or Add on:  Amazon  //  Goodreads


After reading the first volume of “Ultimate Spider-Man,” I was thrilled to get my hands on the second volume of this series!  “Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve” is the second volume of Brian Michael Bendis’ “Ultimate Spider-Man” series and this time, Peter Parker is going to take on a villain bigger than the last time…KINGPIN!

What is this story about?

In this volume, Peter Parker is still going around town, saving innocent people from various criminals that pop up in the city.  Unfortunately, Peter will soon discover that being Spider-Man may not be all that it is cracked up to be as some of the media make him look like a menace rather than a hero and his social life seems to be dwindling.  Also, Peter has to deal with the city’s big-time crime lord, KINGPIN!

What I loved about this story:

Brian Michael Bendis’ writing: Like the first volume, Brian Michael Bendis’ writing is interesting and hilarious at the same time!  I really liked the way that Brian Michael Bendis writes Peter Parker as Peter is shown as being an energetic and humorous teenager. I loved the way that Peter fires various jokes towards his enemies, which is a quality that has often made him famous with the comic fans.  I also loved seeing Peter’s growing relationship with Mary Jane as we get to see how being a superhero does affect Peter’s social life and how he is trying to decide whether or not he should tell his family and friends about who he really is.  I also loved the portrayal of Kingpin here as he is truly ruthless and even scary at times, which made him into a truly worthy foe for Spider-Man.

Mark Bagley’s artwork:  Mark Bagley’s artwork is extremely colorful and detailed, especially with the character’s faces as they show moments of being shocked or angry.  I also loved the images of the buildings in New York as it looks truly realistic and I can actually imagine myself being in New York whenever I looked at the images.  The only problem I have with Mark Bagley’s artwork is that the characters are constantly smiling, even during moments whenever the characters are in an intense situation.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

For anyone who does not like violence or language in a comic book, there is some language and violence in this volume, although it is not as strong as say something that comes out of “Sandman” or “Saga.”

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve” is a fantastic volume in Brian Michael Bendis’ “Ultimate Spider-Man” series and I would highly recommend this volume to any fan of “Ultimate Spider-Man!”