Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Kids Books Go Up a Vine, Aong the Silk Road, Around the World by Boat, and Fall Off a Train.

This week we're looking at new kids' books. Our pal (hey, you drive 'em to schools once and you think you're on the holiday card list!) William Joyce returns with the help of Kenny Callicut in their retelling of the classic fairytale, A Bean, A Stalk, and A Boy Named Jack. So of course I start reading about the book and learn that there are a few twists here. The kingdom is in drought, and it's the king's decree that creates the magic bean that leads to the vine that brings Jack and Bean to the Giant.

Callicut works for Joyce's Moonbot studios, and you can see how their multimedia background has influenced the book's work. Kirkus Reviews calls this "a high-concept romp," "praising the engrossing illustrations and quirky humor." And Publishers Weekly notes: "Fast pacing and fresh visuals provide continuous laughs and entertainment as Joyce and Callicut drive home a lighthearted message that smallish kids (and beans) can bring about big change" and ponders further re-imagined fairytales.

Months ago, Boswellian Jannis Mindel raved to me about Marla Frazee's book, The Farmer and the Clown, and I was similarly taken. Here's her recommendation, now that the book is released: "As a farmer works in his field he watches a circus train going by. Just as the train hits a bump he sees someone fly off the back. When the farmer goes to investigate he finds a small child dressed as a clown sitting in the field. In this beautifully illustrated wordless picture book, Frazee tells the touching story of friendship and kindness as the farmer welcomes the boy into his home to feed and bathe him. All ends well as the boy rejoins his clown family, but not before someone else from the circus is left behind to follow the farmer home!"

For a second, equally enthusiastic opinion, read  Grace Lin's review in The New York Times Book Review. 

Speaking of The New York Times Book Review, a recent roundup included not just Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen's Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (you forget so quickly--we have signed copies) but also Mac Barnett's Telephone, which he wrote with illustrations from Jen Corace. Maria Russo called this a "raucous avian take on the old-school children’s game" and called the illustrations "delicate and lively." Our children's buyer Amie Mechler-Hickson calls it another hit for Barnett. I don't know if she'll hand-sell as many copies of this as she did President Taft is Stuck in a Bath, but I wouldn't put it past her.

For those who like tales set in historical places, here's one that travels to medieval Mongolia. Night Sky Dragons, from Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, with illustrations from Patrick Benson, is about a boy who loves making kites back in the days of the Silk Road with his grandfather, but his father, is not impressed. But when bandits invade the han (the trade stop that Father controls), Yazul and his grandfather use kites to save the day. Kirkus Reviews starred write-up  proclaims: "This dazzling, heartwarming story excites, soars and redefines 'go fly a kite.'”

Our buyer Amie placed a bet on Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud's Under the Ocean, the story of the boat Oceano as it travels from busy port to icy Arctic, through stormy seas and into the sunset, to paraphrased the publisher's rather romantic copywriter. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review too, noting that "Gracefully engineered pop-ups lift vertically to reveal the majesty and depth (in more ways than one) of the undersea world—a pop-up demonstrating just how much of an iceberg exists underwater is downright revelatory. All the while, a running narrative hints at the ocean’s biodiversity, as well as human-created hazards. A thought-provoking and gorgeously executed nautical journey." If you love this one, you might want to go back and get Wake Up, Sloth! too. 

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