Review: Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

 

Title: Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen

Publisher: Candlewick

ISBN: 978-0763645045

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

To Mr. & Mrs. Watson, Mercy is not just a pig–she’s a porcine wonder. And to the portly and good-natured Mercy, the Watson’s are an excellent source of buttered toast, no to mention that buttery-toast feeling she gets when she snuggles in to bed with them. This is not, however so good for the Watsons’ bed. BOOM! CRACK! Welcome to the wry and endearing world of Mercy Watson.

Review:

Mercy Watson to the Rescue is a cute, and very silly story about a pig who loves buttered toast, and the people in her life.  When Mr. and Mrs. Watson get into a life or death situation, all of their hopes for rescue are pinned on their beloved pet pig, Mercy.  Mercy, being a pig, doesn’t realize the gravity (sorry for the pun!) of their perilous situation, and instead goes off searching for some buttered toast.  Through a comedy of errors, her people are rescued, but they need to thank their lucky stars more than Mercy.

This book is for readers aged 4 – 8.  There is a ton of action as Mercy trots off in search of her favorite snack, and the events occur rapidly, guaranteeing that wandering attention spans will be kept to a minimum.  The colorful illustrations are playful and eye-pleasing, and the book wouldn’t be half as fun without them.  There is so much personality packed onto every page that readers young and old alike will have a hard time putting the book down.

Grade: B

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Gabby & Gator by James Burks

 

Title: Gabby & Gator

Author: James Burks

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759531451

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I saw a sample for Gabby & Gator online, and after seeing just a few panels, I desperately wanted to get my hands on the book.  Imagine my delight when I saw it at the library!  I immediately checked it out and counted the minutes until I could read it.

Gator is having a bad day. In fact, he is having 10 bad years of bad days after he gets flushed down the toilet at the insistence of his owner’s mother.  Alligators are dangerous!  Alligators don’t belong in the house!  Alligators will EAT you!  So bye-bye, two-dollar-and-fifty-cent gator hatchling, you are no longer welcome here!  Suffering from a harrowing journey through the sewer system, Gator then must resort to gobbling up dogs, cats, and squirrels to feed his never ending hunger.

Gabby isn’t having a wonderful life, either.  Her mom is always working, and her enthusiasm for social causes has earned her the contempt of her peers. They think that she is weird, and enjoy making fun of her.  Secure in the knowledge of who she is, Gabby isn’t ready to change herself for the sake of such judgmental people.  She just wishes she had a friend or two.  Along comes Gator, and theirs seems like a match made in heaven.  Well, except for Gator’s uncontrollable urge to eat.  Will he be able to resist snacking on his new friend?

Gabby and Gator is such a cute book!  I love both characters, and found Gabby especially easy to relate to.  She is intelligent and is driven by her sense of responsibility.  She’s very unique, and that leaves her open to teasing and bullying.  I loved when she finally stood up for herself.  That took guts because she acted outside of her comfort zone.  

This graphic novel is presented in hardback, with glossy, full-color pages. The illustrations match the tone of the book; they are adorable and full of personality.  If you are new to graphic novels, this is a good one to start exploring the world of comics with.  Gabby & Gator is a fun story about two misfits who are meant to be together.

Grade: A

Review copy obtained from my local library

Picture Book Roundup – The Mud Fairy & Some Dog!

Title: The Mud Fairy by Amy Young

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Emmalina is a fairy, and from the first page, you can see that her life is anything but flowers and sparkly dust.  She is working hard to earn her wings, but because she doesn’t think she has any talent, she’s getting frustrated that all of her friends have earned their wings, but she hasn’t.  The only thing that she seems to be good at is playing in the swamp with the frogs, but that’s not going to get her a pretty set of wings!

I liked Emmalina right away because she stays so true to herself.  Fairies are supposed to be delicate and dainty, but she loves playing leapfrog in the mud and running around in the swamp.  It’s so hard for her to fit in, and she despairs at ever earning her wings.  The harder she tries, the more spectacularly she fails, until the fairy queen tells her that maybe she is trying too hard.  Patience will reveal her talent, but Emmalina is fearful that she’s not good at anything.  This is a fun read because her talent just needed to be understood by the rest of the fairies, and when it is, it shows how important it is to be you.

The colorful art is eye-catching, but it’s the expressive characters that charmed me.  Emmalina’s feelings are very clear to see, and the frogs are super cute, too.

Title: Some Dog! by Mary Casanova and Ard Hoty

Publisher: Melanie Kroupa Books(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

One look at the pouty basset hound on the cover of Some Dog! and I had to take it home.  This despite my resolve to NOT check out any other books from the library.  Those librarians are very, very clever – they display the picture books on top of the bookcases, and before you know it, you have an armful that you want to read.  Stop it!!

George is a happy basset hound who is living the good life with his people.  They pat his head and tell him that he’s “Some dog!”  Then a tiny interloper shows up one day, throwing George’s well ordered life into chaos.  Zippity never shuts up, he never stops running around, and he hogs George’s comfy bed at night.  Now George’s people are even patting him on the head and telling Zippity that he’s “Some dog!”

This is a wonderful book about a faithful old dog who feels threatened when a younger dog moves in.  Dog lovers will eat this one up!  George may be slow and laid back, but he is the most dependable dog on the planet!  When Zippity runs off during a scary thunderstorm, who do you think is asked to go find him?  Yup, poor, put-upon George, who wishes the annoying Zippity would just stay gone!

The illustrations are just as charming, and have just as much personality as the characters in the book.  The dogs are rendered with exaggerated details that make them memorable and demand rereads.  Moods in the story are effortlessly relayed to the reader, and the page layouts during the scary storm build up a very real sense of suspense. 

Grade: B+

Picture Book Review: Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki & Stephane Jorisch

 

 

Title: Suki’s Kimono

Author: Chieri Uegaki

Illustrator: Stephane Jorisch

Publisher: Kids Can Press

ISBN: 978-1553377528

 

 

From Amazon:

I loved this gentle, beautifully illustrated picture book so much that it deserves a post all by itself!

It’s the first day of school after summer break, and Suki is eager to go back to class.  Her older sisters, however, are appalled at her wardrobe choice. Suki is going to wear the pretty, floaty kimono that her grandmother gave to her when she visited them during the summer.  Her sisters think that Suki simply can not go to school looking so…weird! 

What an awesome book!  Suki is adamant that she is going to wear her kimono to school, because she loves it and she loves that her grandmother gave it to her.  Wearing it makes her feel happy and special, and it helps her remember the wonderful time she spent with her grandmother.  Despite the stares and snickers from classmates, she holds her head high and proudly shows off her beloved kimono.  By the end of the day, she’s even made her peers see her, and a part of her culture, differently.

I loved this book, because even when the other children at school were making fun of her, Suki refused to allow them to change how she feels about herself.  She even makes them open their eyes so they can look at her in a new way.  The watercolors that accompany the story are like Suki: pretty and bold and demanding of a second glance. 

Grade: A

Review copy obtained from the library

Chi’s Sweet Home Vol 1 & 2 by Konami Kanata Manga Review

Title: Chi’s Sweet Home Vols 1 & 2

Author: Konami Kanata

Publisher: Vertical

May Contain Spoilers

Kyaa! What a cute series!  Chi is a playful little kitten who gets lost one day when she’s out and about with her mother and her siblings.  She’s fortunate to be found by Yohei Yamada and his mother, who feel sorry for her and take her home with them.  Only problem; their apartment doesn’t allow pets, and the super is a super busybody.  The Yamadas agree to keep Chi long enough to find her a good home, even though it means breaking one of the rules of their lease.  Silly people! Did they really think they would be able to part with Chi once she moved in and claimed their territory for her own?

This is a simple title that is told through short, episodic chapters.  The magic isn’t necessarily in the story, which is uber-cute, but in the art.  Konami Kanata’s illustrations are more cartoon-like, but the characters are so expressive and charming.  There is never a doubt about what Chi is thinking, even when a panel has just her head.  There is a depth of emotion conveyed from just her eyes or the shape of her mouth.  You instantly know that she’s scared of dogs, hates the vet, and loves tuna.  There’s not much dialog, but there doesn’t need to be – the story follows Chi as she explores her surroundings and discovers the world around her.

Short on dialog but big on emotion, Chi’s Sweet Home will appeal to the animal lover in everyone.  Even if you don’t like cats, you won’t be able to resist Chi.  I dare you to not smile when she is distracted by a bright, shiny object, or playing with a plastic bag!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai Picture Book Review

 

Title: The Snow Day

Author: Komako Sakai

Publisher:  Scholastic

ISBN: 9780545013215

May Contain Spoilers

A snow storm brings a day at home for a little rabbit.  What the rabbit really wants to do is run outside and play in the snow, but the rabbit’s mother won’t let it.  Not until the snow stops falling.  As the day progresses, the snow continues to fall, and father’s flight home is canceled.  Will the snow ever stop falling, and will little rabbit ever get to enjoy some time romping in the cold, white drifts of snow?

I admit that I am not qualified to determine whether or not this book and it’s subdued illustrations will appeal to the target audience of children 4 – 8.  I will therefore make a few observations, and then turn the floor over to my littlest niece, Elly-Bean, who is in that age bracket.  Elly loves her books, and she is carefully being groomed to pick up the slack here at Manga Maniac Cafe.  Only a couple more years, and she can start pulling her own weight and helping me out with con coverage and review chores.  I wonder what kinds of stories she will take a hankering to…

The Snow Day chronicles one of my favorite days, following a young rabbit as it learns that there won’t be any school that day, and that there’s no need to rush out of bed.  But wait!  It’s snowing, so the excited bunny isn’t going to waste time snoozing when there is all of that snow to play in.  Mom is pretty strict, putting a damper on plans to romp through the freshly fallen snow. 

The book is very simple and offers up the excitement and magic of a day a home, waiting and watching as the snow continues to fall unabated.  The illustrations effectively capture the quiet solitude of a snow storm, of the feeling of isolation as the snow piles up ever higher.   The colors are soft and muted, echoing the snow outside, with occasional flashes of red or blue or yellow.  The sense of solitude is enhanced when the rabbit and its mother venture outside, and only they are scampering through the drifts, making snow balls and snow dumplings. Their world is muted, seeming to contain only them and the mounds of pure white snow.

Now it’s time for Elly-Bean to take the floor:

1.  Did you like The Snow Day?

Yeah.

2.  Why did you like the book?

Cause I liked it snowing and she was making snow dumplings.

3.  What did you think of the little rabbit? 

The little rabbit was cute.

4.  Did you like the pictures?

Yeah.

5.  Why?

Because they look like home.

6.  Do you think other people should read The Snow Day?

Yeah.

7.  Do you like snow days?

Yeah.

Well, there you have it.  It’s a winner for the Bean, a soon to be 4 year old.

Review copy provided by Scholastic

Babymouse: Dragonslayer #11 by Jennifer L Holm & Matthew Holm Graphic Novel Review

Title: Babymouse: Dragonslayer #11

Authors:  Jennifer L Holm & Matthew Holm

Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 9780375857126

May Contain Spoilers

Oh, no! Babymouse is horrible at math, and her teacher is making her join the mathletes to improve her computational skills. What is a confused mouse to do?  When she learns about the Golden Slide Rule, the trophy that the dastardly Owlgorithms snatched away, she’s determined to get it back.  Does it matter that she doesn’t even know what a slide rule is??

I have never heard of Babymouse before, but that didn’t hinder enjoyment of this eleventh installment.  This was a great introduction for me, because I hate math!  I really felt for Babymouse; she would have much rather been sitting in a corner curled up with a good book.  Instead, she is forced to compete in the math olympics so that her teacher will overlook her hideous test score.  An F-?  Ouch!  Maybe Babymouse does need to get her head out of the clouds and concentrate a little more on her studies!

With its scribbly illustrations and splashes of pink, the book is unique and visually interesting.  The characters are all animals, and though not cuddly, their faces are very expressive.  Babymouse is given to flights of fancy, especially when she is challenged by incomprehensible math problems.  There are amusing references to several popular fantasy franchises, and I thought that the way the authors worked a quest component into the math contest was clever.  It is clear that Babymouse and I have the same taste in reading material.

The story is fun and fast paced, and even though Babymouse is hopeless at math, she soon gets fired up to get that Golden Slide Rule back.  The theme of never giving up, even in the face of daunting odds, is universally appealing, and in Babymouse’s case, it takes a lot of courage to stand up to those scary owls.  Not only are they math wizs, they eat mice for breakfast.   Even though the book is intended for kids, I enjoyed it, and wished that my young niece wasn’t an hour away, because it would have been fun to read this to her and something that she would have enjoyed as well. 

Rating: All Ages

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Random House