Children’s Book Review: The Squickerwonkers by Evangeline Lilly, illustrated by Johnny Fraser-Allen

When I saw that Evangeline Lilly was writing a book, I got pretty excited. I loved her in Lost (my favorite TV show) and The Hobbit movies. The summary of The Squickerwonkers was full of delicious made up words, mischief, and marionettes. What’s not to like? I ordered it for my library, and then checked it out before anyone else could. Whoops.

The Squickerwonkers, Volume 1Selma of the Rin-Run Royals is a clever, but very spoiled little girl who finds herself at a marionette show – The Squickerwonker show – full of interesting characters, including Greer the Greedy (a kleptomaniac who hides her treasure in her hair), Andy the Arrogant (a gorgeous man who’s dumb as a brick), and Gillis the Gluttonous (with “a body of doughnuts and pie.” Haha!). Selma throws a tantrum when one of the Squickerwonkers pops her balloon, and what follows is definitely not what Selma bargained for.

This is not a book for a very young child, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful. I’d recommend this to somewhat older children (maybe 6 and up or so), who’ll be able to understand what a horrible little girl Selma is. Younger children might get scared at the illustrations. It’s a book perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman. Personally, I love that the story is creepy and dark and I think kids will appreciate it too.

I enjoyed the story, but the illustrations were what sold me. They are imaginative, colorful (but colored in dark hues, like browns, reds, greens, and purples), detailed, and strange painted illustrations. Fraser-Allen has worked on Stephen Spielberg’s Tintin and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy, which goes to show how talented he is. The book is imaginative and wonderfully illustrated; it is certainly different from a lot of picture books these days, but in the best way. I’ll be looking forward to the sequel.

Publication info:

The Squickerwonkers
Written by Evangeline Lilly; illustrated by Johnny Fraser-Allen
Published by Titan Books; November 18, 2014
32 pages (hardcover)

Audiobook Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

I am reading several books for the Magnolia Book Awards. When I saw that Doll Bones was on the list, I volunteered to read it for my library as it’s been on my TBR for a while. I checked out the audiobook to listen to, and I am glad I did.Doll Bones

Author: Holly Black

Narrators: Nick Podehl

Audiobook length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

Genre: Middle grade, fantasy, adventure

Publisher: Listening Library (audiobook), Margaret K. McElderry Books (physical book)

When I’ve reviewed audiobooks in the past, I’ve kind of just done a general review, mixing both the story and the review of the narration into one review. I think I want to start breaking them down into Story and Audiobook as a way to better clarify my reviews and make them easier to read. How’s that sound to you guys?

STORY

Zach, Poppy, and Alice are best friends who’ve been playing a continuous game of adventure – with mermaids, pirates, and thieves – for a long time. Ruling over their land of make-believe is the Great Queen, a special, bone-china doll locked up in a cabinet and trapped there. When Zach’s there-again father pushed Zach to give up make-believe, Zach quits the game. But Poppy begins having dreams of a ghost girl who won’t rest until the Great Queen is laid to rest, the threesome must go off on an adventure to bury her. Is there really a ghost? Will she curse them if their quest isn’t completed? Bum. Bum. Bum.

This is a perfect coming-of-age story full of fun, adventure, spookiness, and a sense of is-this-real-or-not? Holly Black wonderfully captures that age just before adolescence that us adults tend to forget. Growing up tends to mean putting away our toys and entering a new and scary world of adulthood, and Holly Black is able to weave a story that brings you back to that age of first crushes, awkwardness, and confusion.

There’s also a ghost story here. I think it was just creepy enough, but not too creepy to scare young children into nightmares. The best part is that Black leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not the story is real.

NARRATION

I’d heard Nick Podehl’s narration once before in the audiobook for Wonder. I enjoyed him then, but I really liked him in Doll Bones. He was able to use his obvious talent for creating voices and narrated the entire book himself. He perfectly captures the voices of Poppy, a somewhat sassy, confident young girl, Zach, a sad, strong, intelligent young boy, and Alice, a shy, reserved girl, as well as the variety of other cast members – including a creepy old man on a bus and a firm but kind librarian. Nick Podehl is very, very good, and I will look up some of his other narrated books to try.

OVERALL, I quite liked the audiobook for Doll Bones, and I will definitely be checking out some of Holly Black’s other books to read. Recommended for those who have middle-school aged children or for those who just enjoy a good ghost story.

Children’s Book Review: Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt

Scaredy SquirrelThis book was recommended to me on Goodreads in the little sidebar based on something else that I had read (I can’t remember what at the moment), and I thought it looked pretty cute. I requested it at the library where I work and decided to take it home to read instead of reading it at work like I usually do (it’s only 40 pages so it took about five seconds).

It’s really cute! Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his tree; it’s safe, has a great view, and has plenty of nuts for him to eat. The rest of the world is unknown and that it way too scary for Scaredy Squirrel. There might be germs or aliens or poison ivy out there, and he’s not going to risk it. But one day something forces him out of the comfort of his tree into the great unknown and Scaredy Squirrel discovers that it might not be so scary after all.

I quite enjoyed the adorable illustrations and diagrams of Scaredy Squirrel’s home, his escape plan in case of dangerous things, the advantages/disadvantages of never leaving his nut tree, and more! Such a cute way to keep kids engaged. I think the little foldout page might’ve been a waste and unnecessary, but kids love that kind of stuff, so it’s a great kids’ book. I’ll be recommending this one for our preschool story time at the library.

As a lover of travel and experiencing new things, I loved this book. You never know what you’re going to find out in the great unknown if you are too scared to leave where you are most comfortable. You might find new places to call home or new friends to cherish or a great multitude of other, wonderful things out there. Go forth and find them!

If Scaredy Squirrel can do it, you can too.

Publication info:
Scaredy Squirrel
Written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
Published by Kids Can Press; February 2006
40 pages (hardcover)

Children’s Book Review: The Hueys in the New Sweater by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve recently become kind of obsessed (okay, super obsessed) with Oliver Jeffers’ books. I love them. They are adorable and genius and simple and wonderful. Did I mention that I love his books? Haha. I’ve already reviewed The Day the Crayons QuitThe Incredible Book-Eating Boy and The Way Back Home. Anyway, I’ve pretty much read all of his books that are currently in my library’s system, so this week, I’m going to do six mini reviews of his books. So far this week, I’ve reviewed Lost and Found, Up and DownThe Great Paper CaperStuckand This Moose Belongs to Me.

The Hueys in the New Sweater

The Hueys are all the same: egg-shaped little dudes that all think the same way, do the same things, and look exactly the same. Until one day when Rupert knits himself a cool little orange sweater. Gasp! Rupert is different, and he is ostracized. That is until Gillespie (can I just take a moment to say how freaking awesome the names Rupert and Gillespie are for children’s book characters??) notices and thinks that being different is interesting. So what does he do? Why, he knits himself his own cool little orange sweater! Soon everyone is doing it and Rupert must find a new way to be different.

At first it seemed that Jeffers was commenting on the fact that it is almost impossible to be different in our society – where everyone will do the same thing if it is cool and everyone else is doing it. Everyone was being different but they were all doing it in exactly the same way. But then you reach the end and you flip the last page, and all of the Hueys are there in bright, vivid colors – all different! I think this one teaches kids how to be different by thinking outside of the box. Yes, there are trends and people like to fit in and do what others are doing, but you should be like Rupert. Be yourself, set trends, think outside the box. I still think Jeffers’ is commenting on society’s need to be different by being exactly the same, but I like the other theme too!

Children’s Book Reviews: This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve recently become kind of obsessed (okay, super obsessed) with Oliver Jeffers’ books. I love them. They are adorable and genius and simple and wonderful. Did I mention that I love his books? Haha. I’ve already reviewed The Day the Crayons QuitThe Incredible Book-Eating Boy and The Way Back Home. Anyway, I’ve pretty much read all of his books that are currently in my library’s system, so this week, I’m going to do six mini reviews of his books. So far this week, I’ve reviewed Lost and Found, Up and DownThe Great Paper Caperand Stuck.

This Moose Belongs to Me

Wilfred has a pet that most people don’t – a moose. He hasn’t always had a pet moose though. One day the moose came to him and he knew that it was meant to be his, so he decided to keep and and call him Marcel. Marcel is usually a very good pet, but one day Marcel leads Wilfred on a journey into the woods where someone else lays claim to the moose.

One of my favorite in terms of Jeffers’ illustrations. They’re different from some of his others in that they are a little more layered, much like The Great Paper Caper or The Incredible Book-Eating Boy. Some of the illustrations are simple, with just Wilfred and his moose, but others have a detailed background of beautiful woods or water that were awesome. They were full of nature, pure and lovely.

Moose are wild animals and they will do whatever it is they want to do. I loved that Jeffers let Marcel or Rodrigo or Dominic or whatever be who he was, if that makes sense. I think this is a good one for teaching about animals and nature. I think it also shows how to adapt to new situations and learn from experience. This book is about compromise, knowing your limits, and being able to change plans and ideas when needed. Wilfred has a lot of rules for Marcel who doesn’t fit any of them really. Wilfred must adapt and change to become more open-minded. The illustrations match this juxtaposition of what Wilfred expects and what actually happens: the backgrounds are beautiful, sweeping landscapes with Wilfred and Marcel being simple and unassuming illustrations on top of those.

Children’s Book Reviews: Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve recently become kind of obsessed (okay, super obsessed) with Oliver Jeffers’ books. I love them. They are adorable and genius and simple and wonderful. Did I mention that I love his books? Haha. I’ve already reviewed The Day the Crayons QuitThe Incredible Book-Eating Boy and The Way Back Home. Anyway, I’ve pretty much read all of his books that are currently in my library’s system, so this week, I’m going to do six mini reviews of his books. So far this week, I’ve reviewed Lost and Found, Up and Down, and The Great Paper Caper.

Stuck

Floyd’s kite gets stuck in a tree, so he decides to try to get it down by throwing his shoe at it. But that gets stuck too, so he throws his other shoe. And on and on it goes until it seems everything that he could possibly throw at it is stuck in the tree as well, including his front door and a boat and an orangutan.

Another one of Jeffers’ books that is chock full of humor. You just keep wondering what else Floyd could possibly get stuck in that tree. The story is kind of absurd and surreal and strange, and those are all reasons to love this book.

I will say that the boy is quite selfish which might not be something that you want to read to your kids, though I think they’d be quite amused with the story and how he is just being a kid. It’s not logical, it’s not realistic, and it’s not what Floyd should do, but that’s the whole point! It’s fun and silly and ridiculous. A completely enjoyable read. Yet again. 🙂

Children’s Book Reviews: The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve recently become kind of obsessed (okay, super obsessed) with Oliver Jeffers’ books. I love them. They are adorable and genius and simple and wonderful. Did I mention that I love his books? Haha. I’ve already reviewed The Day the Crayons QuitThe Incredible Book-Eating Boy and The Way Back Home. Anyway, I’ve pretty much read all of his books that are currently in my library’s system, so this week, I’m going to do six mini reviews of his books. So far this week, I’ve reviewed Lost and Found and Up and Down.

The Great Paper Caper cover

This one might be favorite Oliver Jeffers book so far. The forest animals’ homes are disappearing. All the trees are being cut down! Oh no! What is happening? The animals meet up to try to figure out the mystery; there must be clues, right? Maybe like the bear with the ax in the background or the flyers for the paper airplane contest?

The humor in The Great Paper Caper is so genuinely funny and charming. This is definitely one of those ones that will delight not only children but adults as well – maybe even more so for adults who will understand the humor of the clues laid out in the background for the reader.

Also, I can’t even handle how ridiculously adorable the illustrations are. The stick legs! Oh my goodness. I just love them. The beaver and the bear and the pig. So freaking adorable. I think some people might easily blow off Jeffers’ illustrations as overly simple or plain, but this book is indicative of why Jeffers is just so talented: all of the little details in the background that you might not notice at first are perfect.

So this one doesn’t quite have the same emotional range as, say, Lost and Found, but it is the definition of an enjoyable book from start to finish. I definitely think kids would enjoy trying to figure out who the paper caper is as much as you will.

The Great Paper Caper

Children’s Book Review: Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve recently become kind of obsessed (okay, super obsessed) with Oliver Jeffers’ books. I love them. They are adorable and genius and simple and wonderful. Did I mention that I love his books? Haha. I’ve already reviewed The Day the Crayons QuitThe Incredible Book-Eating Boy and The Way Back Home. Anyway, I’ve pretty much read all of his books that are currently in my library’s system, so this week, I’m going to do six mini reviews of his books. So far this week, I’ve reviewed Lost and Found.

Up and Down

Another book in “The Boy” series, same as The Way Back Home and Lost and Found. I seriously adore this little boy and that dang penguin. Oh my goodness.

The boy and the penguin do everything together. Until the penguin decides he needs to learn how to fly…alone. The boy helps his friend as much as he can by researching ways to fly and trying to find flying experts to teach his friend how to fly. But the penguin finds his own way and when he heads off to do it, he becomes lost and the boy cannot find him. The boy figures out where he is, but will he be able to save him in time?

Just like his other books, this book is written and illustrated in Jeffers’ charming simplicity. His books make me smile the entire time. They aren’t just about a sweet friendship though. They are full of adventure and fun and suspense. Just wonderful. The friendship between the boy and the penguin is so genuinely caring – they will do anything to help and support the other.

Children’s Book Review: Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve recently become kind of obsessed (okay, super obsessed) with Oliver Jeffers’ books. I love them. They are adorable and genius and simple and wonderful. Did I mention that I love his books? Haha. I’ve already reviewed The Day the Crayons Quit and The Incredible Book-Eating Boy and The Way Back Home. Anyway, I’ve pretty much read all of his books that are currently in my library’s system, so this week, I’m going to do six mini reviews of his books. You ready?

Lost and Found

Lost and Found is in the same series as The Way Back Home which I already talked about (in case you were wondering, I loved it). One day, a penguin shows up at a boy’s door and he assumes it is lost. So he figures out where the penguin came from through research and sets out to return it home. The trip to the South Pole is long and to pass the time, he tells the penguin stories. When they reach their destination, he realizes that the penguin wasn’t lost.

Much like Jeffers’ other books, this is a sweet story of friendship. Instead of being about the words on the page, this book is much more about what isn’t said. The words are sparse but obviously chosen with care to invoke feelings of love, loyalty, kindness, and friendship. Jeffers’ is obviously quite talented: you can tell this by the fact that it is possible to see how the penguin is feeling with just his simple illustrations.

Loneliness is something that is really difficult to talk to a child about. I think this book would be a really wonderful way to start that conversation should it ever come up. It is also a beautiful story of friendship and finding it in places you might not expect.

Come back tomorrow when I’ll be reviewing Up and Down.

Children’s Book Review: The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

If you read my review of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, then you probably know how much I love the pair of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. I adore Neil Gaiman’s writing, and Dave McKean’s illustrations are phenomenal (I’m a little bit obsessed with his illustrations).

The Wolves in the Walls cover

This book was the same for the most part. I LOVED McKean’s illustrations – even though they were quite creepy throughout the book. This is definitely not a book for really young kids. At times, it even reminded me a little of Arkham Asylum because of how crazy and creepy the illustrations were.

If the wolves come out of the walls, then it’s all over.

The Wolves in the Walls 1

The point of the book, I believe, was to emphasize just how silly fear can be sometimes. In essence, the book is about a young girl named Lucy who hears some scratching and noises in the walls in her house and believes that it is wolves. Her family thinks she’s crazy for thinking so, but then one day what happens? The wolves come out of the walls. Lucy’s family retreats out into the woods for fear of being eaten and the wolves take up residence in the house. Until they begin to hear noises in the walls as well.

The Wolves in the Walls 2

Fear is a silly thing and most of the time the noises you hear are really nothing more than a branch on your window or the wind pushing up against an old house. The biggest monsters are usually the easiest to be rid of.

Awesome illustrations, interesting story, wonderful book.

Publication info:

The Wolves in the Walls

Written by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Dave McKean

Published by HarperCollins; July 2005

56 pages (hardcover)