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review 2017-11-17 16:58
Fathers and sons in America: A Matt Phelan Masterpost
Bluffton - Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

I had said in last week's post that today I'd be writing a Matt Phelan 'masterpost'. Typically this means that I cover 3+ books by a single author (or multiple authors writing together in a series). However, today I'm just going to talk about 2 books because honestly that's all I could get my hands on and so that's all I managed to read. :-) I picked up Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton and The Storm in the Barn with fairly high expectations based on the work I had seen by Phelan in the Comics Squad compilation I read and reviewed not too long ago. On the one hand, I was not at all disappointed. The illustration style is most definitely up my street. He is excellent at drawing evocative expressions on people's faces. I think where I was let down was on the overall reading experience. Let me take each of the books separately so that I can (hopefully) explain what I mean.

 

I read Bluffton first because it featured a circus and I am all about that circus lifestyle. Firstly, when I grabbed this book I somehow missed the subtitle and therefore was shocked to discover that one of the main characters in this book is that famous star of vaudeville, Buster Keaton. Secondly, I went into this book expecting a rollicking good time and instead got a somewhat borderline depressing narrative of what the childhood of Buster would have entailed since he was a performer from infancy. It's about the expectations that a parent has for their child and how those might be vastly different from the aspirations that the child holds for themselves. It's also about the nature of friendship and jealousy (especially when one of the friends is an itinerant performer). It's a coming of age tale that paints a rather grim picture of child stardom and how the experiences of our youth shape us into the adults that we will one day become.

 

Then there was The Storm in the Barn which I can only categorize as a Debbie Downer type of book. I'm not sure that this falls under any one genre. It's most certainly historical fiction as it depicts a little boy, his family, and his community as they struggle during the time of the Dust Bowl in Kansas circa 1937. However, it also contains fantasy elements of which I can't really go into without spoiling the plot... It's certainly rooted in reality because Phelan does not shy away from the harsh conditions that these characters face (don't even get me started on the rabbits). He covers bullying from both peers and parents. The protagonist is forced to watch a beloved sister struggle with a possibly fatal illness. The entire plot is fraught with tension and a dark cloud seems to hover over every page. What I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for a light read to send your tots to sleep at night then you should probably keep looking. BUT if you wanted to teach your kids about an era of history that's not usually dwelt upon in the classroom then this might indeed be the right selection for you.

 

I'd rate both books about the same. In terms of imagery and writing, they're both 10/10. The issue is that I held expectations about these books (as readers do from time to time) and I finished both of these feeling somewhat let down. I understand that not all books are going to be rosy, sweet, and fun. I know that not every book has a happy ending. And yet when these two books delivered hardship, sadness, and loss I was ill prepared and disgruntled. I can't honestly flaw these books and say that from a reviewer's standpoint they were faulty...but I still find it difficult to give them full marks just the same. Does this make sense? I guess my point is that a book can tick off all the boxes and still fall short based on the assumptions of the reader and/or their relative mood when they picked up the book. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

 

Now let's take a look at Buster from Bluffton followed by a page from The Storm in the Barn:

 

Source: YouTube

 

 

Source: books4school

 

What's Up Next: Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers by David Stabler

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-11-12 01:42
Impatient to read the next one
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth - Judd Winick
Hilo Book 2: Saving the Whole Wide World - Judd Winick
Hilo Book 3: The Great Big Boom - Judd Winick

In an effort to expand my repertoire of graphic novels and maybe be more helpful when recommending books to my library patrons I took a trip to the shelves. I came upon a set of 3 books in a series written by Judd Winick and their covers were so eye-catching that I decided to grab all of them to binge. I'm grateful that I did because I breezed right through them and it's left me impatient for book 4 which comes out at the beginning of next year. The series centers around a character called HiLo (arguments could be made that it's written Hilo or HILO) who crash lands onto earth (and into our hearts) with The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. The title pretty much says it, right? HiLo looks like your typical kid except that he's super strong and extremely weird. He doesn't get why clothes are mandatory or that not everyone has superpowers like he does. Luckily, he makes friends with D.J. who is more than happy to show him the ropes and to absolutely have his back...even if that means fighting robots from another dimension. By the second book, Saving the Whole Wide World, their duo has expanded to include Gina who used to be D.J.'s best friend before she moved away. She's struggling with her own identity so it's challenging to try and sort out just what kind of a creature HiLo actually is...and if he's a hero or a villain. The stakes are higher and the danger is 100% real but it doesn't seem like there's anything that HiLo can't defeat...which brings us to the third book titled The Great Big Boom. There are magical warrior cats in this book. I don't think I need to say anything else because MAGICAL WARRIOR CATS. HiLo and his friends are going up against the ultimate baddie and it's only going to get worse which is why I'm practically vibrating with excitement over Waking the Monsters which is set for release on 1/16/18.

 

These books are full of heart and what it means to be a loyal friend no matter what (even if there are killer robots). The illustrations are 99% of the reason why I love these books. The colors, characters, and layouts are perfectly married to the hilarious, heartwarming prose. This is a solid 10/10 for me and I have been recommending it so much that now we only have book 2 sitting lonely on our shelves (they're going like hotcakes is what I'm saying). So catch up so that like me you can sit in anticipation for the 4th book to hit the shelves!

 

What's Up Next: Matt Phelan Masterpost

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly & Zach Weinersmith & I'm rereading Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie because I just saw the film :-D

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-11-03 14:53
What makes us "real"?
The Imaginary - A.F. Harrold,Emily Gravett

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold recalls to mind the memory of childhood and the power (danger?) of imagination. The story revolves around Amanda and her best friend named Rudger. They're typical friends that have lots of imaginary play, get into mischief, and share all of their secrets with one another. The only difference is that no one else can see Rudger because he's Amanda's imaginary friend. This book walks a tightrope between fantasy and reality which at times is quite blurred. This is not a fantasy full of giggles and silliness but one fraught with darkness and fear. There is a threat not only to Amanda and Rudger's friendship but to their very lives...and it's getting closer. This is a book about the true meaning of friendship and to what lengths you will go to preserve it. Also, cats. (I genuinely made a note after reading this book that was simply CATS so clearly that's an important aspect of this book.) I must also point out that the narrative was elevated even further by the fantastic illustrations of Emily Gravett. (I liked her work so much that I sought out her picture books.) I've been recommending this to reluctant readers because I think it's a great way to dip your toe into fantasy and the scary element definitely sells it as well. 9/10

 

 

 

Source: books4yourkids.com

 

 

What's Up Next: HiLo series books 1-3 by Jeff Winick

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatues by Aaron Mahnke & Haunted Nights: A Horror Writers Association anthology

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-10-27 16:00
A palate cleanser
Comics Squad #3: Detention! - Victoria Jamieson,Matthew Holm,Jarrett J. Krosoczka,Ben Hatke,Jennifer L. Holm

As I've mentioned before, I sometimes just pull random books off of the shelf if the cover tickles my fancy. That's precisely how I ended up reading Comics Squad #3: Detention by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Matt Phelan, Victoria Jamieson, Ben Hatke, Rafael Rosario & Jorge Aguirre, and George O'Connor. (Please excuse me while I take a nap after copying down all of those authors.) As you might have guessed, this is a collection of comics by different authors all centering on the theme of detention. I'm obviously not the right audience for this because 1. I'm too old to get detention and 2. Even when I was old enough for it I never got detention. So while I didn't feel as overwhelmingly into this collection as a typical middle grader I still enjoyed it overall. That being said, there were some that stood out more than others and when I looked back through them I realized they were all by the same artist: Matt Phelan. I immediately added his works to my TRL (look out for that post in the near future). If you're interested in trying out a wide variety of illustrative styles and author's voices then this is a really great way to do that. It's definitely a mixed bag so you'll come away with hopefully at least one author/illustrator that you'll want to check out further. It was a light, fast read that served as somewhat of a palate cleanser after some of the denser books that I read previously. It's a 6/10 for me but I wouldn't say no to more books in this series (which do indeed exist if you didn't guess by #3 in the title).

 

What's Up Next: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold with illustrations by Emily Gravett

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-09-09 01:24
Looking for a scary book this Halloween?
The Cabinet of Curiosities: 40 Tales Brief & Sinister - Emma Trevayne,Katherine Catmull,Stefan Bachmann,Claire Legrand

If you enjoy creepy short story collections then I think I might have found the perfect book for you. (Maybe this could be your Halloween read!) What makes this collection even more interesting is that it was compiled by 4 different children's authors. Claire Legrand, Emma Trevayne, Katherine Catmull, and Stefan Bachmann banded together to write The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister (the Internet has 36 and 40 which is thoroughly confusing even though I've read the book). This book has a little bit of everything and with the added benefit of different author's voices it is certainly never boring. There's magic, mystery, and straight up horror (just to name a few). The black and white illustrations that accompany each story are absolutely perfect (Great job, Alexander Jansson!) and were honestly one of the reasons why I picked up this book in the first place. They've laid out the narrative in a very unique way as they've styled the chapters like the different drawers and cubbies of a traditional cabinet of curiosities. The authors are the 'curators' of this unique cabinet and the stories are the background for each of the 'items' they've collected for the separate compartments. This helps to connect all of the disparate stories into one cohesive collection and keeps the pace moving. All in all, a solid collection that I might find myself drifting back to for the spooky season. 10/10 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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