Sea This and Sea That by Jeremy Billups: Plenty of Goodness for the Picture Book Reader to Sea

Sea This and Sea That

Sea This and Sea That

by Jeremy Billups

Hardcover, 44 pg.
2017

Read: September 12, 2019


Off the top of my head, there are essentially three types of Picture Books:

  1. ABCs/123s
  2. Stories told simply (usually with pictures helping the text tell that story)
  3. Odd little collections of interesting/goofy pictures with some text to tie them together.

Myself, I prefer the stories—I’m always on the side of a narrative. But from my observation of my kids, niece, and other children, the third seems to be the most popular. They don’t need a grown-up around to “read” the book on their own, they can just pick it up and flip through the pictures, and the text (usually rhyming) sounds entertaining enough, even if they don’t really get what’s being said. I really know that’s true for my kids, they’d request demand them far more frequently—I can still probably rattle off Boynton’s But Not the Hippopotamus with only a prompt or two, despite not having picked up the book for 12-13 years.

It’s also the kind of book that Billups provides here—it’s set in a “crowded, hectic and gruff” city under the sea, with one quiet spot—The Sea This and Sea That Below the Seashore. Missus Bluffington gives a couple of kids (and the reader) a through her very unusual place, full of all sorts of sea creatures, sea plants, fish, and an octopus that shows up in some unusual places.

The rhyming text is fun, and I can imagine a good parent/adult/caregiver can get a good rhythm going while reading it to entertain their audience, but the star of the show is Billups’ illustrations. They’re just great—there’s plenty of color, while still feeling like you’re looking through blue-green water. The octopus’ tentacle alone is great to keep an eye out for, and I love Missus Bluffington’s glasses. But there’s plenty for a child’s eyes to take in while listening to the text being read to/at them.

I can’t forget to mention that it also includes some great back cover book blurbs that’ll amuse the parent/reader, as well as a couple of visual jokes.

This is a fun little book that’ll appeal to kids who love the look of Finding Nemo/Dory and aren’t quite ready for that other city under the sea, Bikini Bottom. I had fun with it, and I bet adult readers for those kids will, too.


3.5 Stars

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Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator): An Updated Look into the Empath’s Past

Teen Titans: RavenTeen Titans: Raven

by Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator)
Series: Teen Titans, #1
Paperback, 168 pg.
DC Ink, 2019

Read: August 2, 2019

I’ve talked here before about my love of The New Teen Titans, the 1980-96 series created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. They were my real first (and probably deepest) comic love. It informed and shaped my tastes in ways I probably can’t realize and definitely can’t articulate. It’s practically sacrosanct to me. So the idea of DC Comics hiring Kami Garcia (as much as I might like Garcia) to write modern takes on the origins of Raven (and, apparently, others)—whether or not Wolfman signed off on the idea—both repelled and attracted me. At least it had to be better than that Teen Titans Go! monstrosity.

You know what? I liked it.

Here’s the official blurb, in the interest of time (saving my time that is):


When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom–and Raven’s memory–she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school.
Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before.

But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past…and the darkness building inside her.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia and first-time graphic novel artist Gabriel Picolo comes this riveting tale of finding the strength to face who you are and learning to trust others–and yourself.

This retains enough of Raven’s original origin story (I have no idea what her post-New 52 origin is) to satisfy me, but tailored for a contemporary (and YA) audience. It feels fresh, as if Garcia had created Raven herself. Of course, Daddy (un)Dearest is waiting in the wings for a reunion with his daughter, providing the lingering threat that leads to the assembling of the Titans (or, bringing the Titans Together! as one might say). This is, of course, assuming that Garcia is heading in a Wolfman-esque trajectory, it seems that way.

Slade Wilson’s also around in a vaguely menacing way, but we’re going to have to read further installments in this series to get a strong handle on why. It’s gotta be nefarious, because it’s Wilson.

Picolo’s art is nice and dynamic. It pretty much screams motion and youth. Don’t ask me to elucidate that, when it comes to visuals, all I can do is give vague impressions. But I dug it. Picolo’s not Pérez, but who is? I’m glad he didn’t try.

The fact that I didn’t throw this across the room in disgust says a lot for me, that I enjoyed it and am looking forward to Beast Boy says much more. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool fan or even just someone who likes non-Avengers/Justice League superheroes, you should give it a shot.

—–

3 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Screamcatcher: Web World by Christy J. Breedlove: Get Caught Up in this YA Fantasy’s Web

Screamcatcher: Web WorldScreamcatcher: Web World

by Christy J. Breedlove
Series: Screamcatcher, #1


Kindle Edition, 218 pg.
Melange Books – Fire and Ice YA, 2019

Read: July 31, 2019

I don’t have a lot to say about this one, my views are pretty straightforward and most of the analysis I’d give would be spoiler-heavy, but I do want to try to say enough to entice someone (preferably a few someones) to read this satisfying YA Fantasy.

I really prefer to come up with my own synopses, but I’ve failed to think of a succinct way to give one for this book (well, I had one that was too succinct and was really unsatisfactory), so I’m just going to appropriate the official blurb:

           When seventeen-year-old Jory Pike cannot shake the hellish nightmares of her parent’s deaths, she turns to an old family heirloom, a dream catcher. Even though she’s half blood Chippewa, Jory thinks old Indian lore is so yesterday, but she’s willing to give it a try. However, the dream catcher has had its fill of nightmares from an ancient and violent past. After a sleepover party, and during one of Jory’s most horrific dream episodes, the dream catcher implodes, sucking Jory and her three friends into its own world of trapped nightmares. They’re in an alternate universe-locked inside of an insane web world. How can they find the center of the web, where all good things are allowed to pass?

I don’t pretend to have an extensive, much less exhaustive, familiarity with uses of Native American symbology, imagery, spirituality, or anything. But I’ve come across my share over the years, and I don’t remember anyone using the dreamcatcher in any significant way before. And I don’t know why — this is an awesome idea.

The first few pages (maybe the first chapter or so) were a little rough, and my expectations lowered a little bit. But once Breedlove had established the world and things started happening, the book became a lot more enjoyable and I got sucked right into it. Breedlove does a great job of balancing the fantastic elements of this dream world (I guess nightmare world would be closer to the truth) and reality to make it easy to understand, but still following a nightmare logic ad full of the stuff that dreams are made of (just without the statuary from Malta).

There was a love story that was established early on, and I really had no interest in it, but it eventually won me over and I started pulling for it. Making it on two fronts that Breedlove got me to invest in both the story and the characters when I wasn’t in any frame of mind to do so. I can’t tell you what ineffable quality there is to her writing that accomplishes that, but call it what you will, I like it when someone can do that.

There was a little suspense concerning the fate of some of Jory’s friends/companions, but by and large, you get the feeling early on just how things will turn out for almost all involved, the pleasure (for the reader, not the characters) is in the journey. There’s some self-discovery and personal growth to go with the monster fighting (fighting and/or avoiding).

It is written for a YA audience and certainly will appeal to that sensibility, but it can easily be entertaining for those of us with gray in our beards or on our heads (assuming there’s anything to gray). I’d like a little more depth to the primary characters, but that wasn’t in the cards, and it’s not like they’re not three-dimensional, I just think those dimensions could be a little deeper.

I did expect a lot more Native American imagery and myth (something akin to Riordan maybe, at least like Craig Johnson). I don’t think what we got was incompatible with it by any means, but it certainly wasn’t steeped in it. I’m not complaining, I don’t think the story needed it, but it might have made things a bit richer.

I don’t see how this leads to a sequel, in fact, I’d have thought it precluded one. But the end of the book tells me it’ll be available this year. Color me curious.

Imaginative and compelling with an unusual focus/motivating hook. For a fast, fun YA fantasy, Screamcatcher: Web World will satisfy.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for this post, but I read it because I wanted to and the opinions expressed are my own and not influenced by the receipt of the novel.

—–

3.5 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family

Today I’m pleased to welcome the Book Spotlight Tour for Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family. It looks like a cute, fun read. Before you leave, be sure you scroll down to the bottom of the post for the givewway — or just go buy it. Either way…

Book Details:

Book Title: Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family
Publisher: JPV Press
Category: Children’s book
Release date: June 1, 2019
Format: Ebook/Hardcover
Length: 48 pages
Content Rating: G

Book Blurb:

Cowboy Joel and Blackbeard find themselves face to face with El Maton, the most feared desperado in theCowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West West. When El Maton mocks him for the way he looks, Joel must confront his biggest fear; a tongue-slingin’ with the outlaw. Can Blackbeard convince Joel to do it? Will Joel find the courage? Note to Mom and Dad: Cowboy Joel will teach your child that it’s not always about punching the bully. It’s about being confident in who God made them to be, and using those truths to fight the battle in their mind.

Book Trailer:

Purchase Links for Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West:

Amazon ~ Add to Goodreads

About The Gagnon Family:

The Gagnon Family

The Gagnon family is an atypical, hodgepodge mix of humanity. The entire family enjoyed writing this book, with each one contributing their own input. Every child in the family has their own special story, and every one faces their own unique challenges. Stacey, the mom of this bunch, also has a blog called Ransom for Israel. She presents an honest assessment of the orphan crisis and the desperate need for families willing to adopt. After the adoption of their youngest daughter, the Gagnons started a non-profit called Lost Sparrows. Lost Sparrows is dedicated to improving the lives of orphans and those with special needs through education, proper medical care, and adoption. Their current focus is in areas of Eastern Europe and Bulgaria.

Connect with the authors:

Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

GIVEAWAY:

Win 1 hardback copy of Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West (USA only) (one winner)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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(if the Rafflecopter script isn’t working, just click here — it’s not as pretty, but it works)

My thanks to iREAD Book Tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

The World’s Greatest Mousetrap by B.C.R. Fegan, Fanny Liem: A Cute Little Story about a Bookshop under Siege

The World's Greatest MousetrapThe World’s Greatest Mousetrap

by B.C.R. Fegan, Fanny Liem (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 44 pg.
TaleBlade, 2019
Read: June 4, 2019


I can’t believe I did this, but I noticed a couple of months ago that there was a new B.C.R. Fegan book out and since TaleBlade didn’t offer one to me, I ponied up a little cash for it. Clearly, TaleBlade’s following a tried and true business model, get someone hooked on some free samples and they’ll pay for more (and I’ll happily do it again).

This is the story of Reginald, a pleasant-seeming bookstore owner who loves to read in quiet when not selling books. One day he hears a mouse in his shop and goes about setting a series of traps, each more complicated than the last, to catch it. He can’t have a little animal ruining his peaceful reading time. The mouse is cleverer than any outside of animation or children’s literature so it evades the traps — up to and including a Rube Goldberg-esque device—leading to calamities for Reginald and his customers. Whatever will Reginald do? How will he enjoy a book?

Maybe it’s just me, but the text seems a bit denser than is typical for a Fegan book. Not dense as in complicated, don’t worry, this is still picture book territory. But there seems to be more of it—a more involved story than usual. That’s not good or bad—just an observation. I didn’t find it as full of whimsy as usual, but it’s an okay story.

Liem’s illustrations are beautiful, incredibly detailed, and will likely keep young readers captivated. I’m not sure if it’s different in the hard copy or not, but it seems to me that they don’t always sync properly with the text—sometimes depicting events the text hasn’t gotten to for a couple of pages. That bothered me a bit, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

A charming little tale, but didn’t seem to have the typical Fegan magic. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad book, just not a great one. Not every hit has to be a home-run or triple, a good on-base single gets the job done, and that’s what we have here (and probably a month’s worth of sports analogies for me). A cute little book that will be a favorite of some kids, I have no doubt, but that didn’t have the magic some of Fegan’s others do. I recommend it, but I know he’s done better, so get those, too.

—–

3 Stars

GUEST POST: 16 Bedtime Stories to Inspire Young Girls

I’m very happy to have this guest post today — I don’t talk about kids’ books nearly as often as I could, but I do know some of these titles — most of them look pretty good. It’s good content and a spiffy looking picture, what more could you ask for?

16 Bedtime Stories to Inspire Young GirlsFor parents who struggle to get their kids to sleep at night, there isn’t anything quite like a good bedtime story. That relaxing time together is a great way to transition into sleep, while instilling in your child a lifelong love of reading. Many bedtimes stories teach great lessons and values, as well. Kindness, bravery, and perseverance are all often on display in children’s books. However for many little girls, there are a few important lessons missing from the classics. While the modern woman knows that women don’t have to be princesses, and the damsel can save herself, the lessons in children’s literature are still catching up.

That’s why Sleep Advisor created this visual round-up of children’s books to inspire the young girl in your life. With lessons from real life female heroes, to fairytales with a modern kick, each one of their selections is designed to empower young girls.

For the princess-lover, there’s stories of princesses taking their own destiny in their hands. To instill positive self-esteem and acceptance for others, there are children’s tales that help them learn to love and appreciate their own and others’ differences.

Pick one up today, or check a few out from your local library to empower your daughter or niece to live up to her fullest potential!

P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever by Raj Haldar, Chris Carpenter, Maria Beddia: Twisted, Fun and even Educational

P Is for PterodactylP Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever

by Raj Haldar, Chris Carpenter, Maria Beddia (Illustrator)


Hardcover, 40 pg.
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018
Read: December 20, 2018

One of the first books printed in the American colonies was The New England Primer, filled with catchy lines like “In Adam’s Fall / We Sinned All.”

Since that time, many alphabet-type books have been published in the same — or similar — vein. One of the latest is P Is for Pterodactyl, which carries the subtitle, The Worst Alphabet Book Ever which doesn’t seem that complimentary, but when it includes lines like:

” is for Jai Alai.

or

” is for Ewe.”

or even

U is not for You.

and maybe you start to think there’s a little truth in advertising.

It’s actually an amusing book with some examples of the oddities and vagaries of English spelling/pronunciation that will stick with you. I’m not crazy about some of the selections (V’s a good example), but by and large, I really liked each “for” that the authors selected.

The artwork is great — it compliments the text well and will help keep shorter attention spans focused.

For everyone who enjoyed BNL’s “Crazy ABC’s”, this Picture Book entertains as well as educates. I’m not sure how well it’d work for the 7-and-under crowd, but for older elementary kids — and adults who just want a chuckle, this book will be just the ticket. I had a fun time reading it — as did my whole family. Unlike most of the picture books I post about here, you’ll note tat this one doesn’t carry any kind of disclaimer — I bought this one after seeing a couple of pieces about it online, and am glad I did. I imagine you will be, too.

—–

4 Stars