Monday, March 24, 2008

The Clouds Above: A Comic Review....Or Not

Article by Scott Tingley - March 24, 2008

This is not a comic. Comics don’t belong on this site, so that must mean that this book, The Clouds Above is not a comic book. Comic books belong on my other site…This is not a comic book. It has one illustration per page, meaning there are no panels, meaning this is not a comic.

So there.

…..Except, that in the Clouds Above, by Jordan Crane, the words that tell the story are encased by white bubbles that point at the speakers….Wait a minute! Those are word balloons! This is a comic book. There is no text along the bottom or top of the beautifully, Maurice Sendak-like illustrations, only word balloons. Tricked!! This is a comic.


Blast it!

Bear with me reader(s ??? is there anyone out there?), I’ve had this wonderful little hardcover on my shelf for well over a year, and every month or so I flip through it or maybe read it again, all the while wondering if I am ever going to find a hook that would allow me to write this piece. I knew when I started this kid’s book review site that I was one step closer to being able to do something with this book.

Clouds is an edgy little (its dimensions, not its page count. It is actually 208 pages long) book featuring Simon and his boy-sized pet cat, Jack. Think: Calvin and Hobbes meets Where the Wild Things Are.

On the way to school, Simon and his cat Jack take shortcuts that lead them through the kind of fantastic world that lurks just around the corner from reality and that only children believe exists. From

There is a fairly evil teacher, an odd bunch of classmates, a magic staircase, evil storm clouds, and a scene right out of The Birds. This book is kind of weird and kid-friendly, and dark. Kids like a bit of darkness in their literature. Everyone knows the thing about all of the big Disney movies featuring the loss of a main character’s parent, but even writers like Robert Munsch have a bit of an edge to them, if you look for it (Come on! Dad almost freezes to death in 50 Below Zero, and don’t even get me started on A Promise is a Promise.)

This is a surreal book with images and conversations that will intrigue and engage readers young and old; reluctant or eager. How can you pass up a kid’s book that contains the lines: “Do we still exist?” “I’m starting to wonder.” I want that on a t-shirt!

I just bought a copy for my grade three class, and I will pass on what the reaction to it is.

It has been available in hard cover for a while ($18.95), and it is available now in soft cover ($16.99).

Oh, and it’s a comic.

Author: Jordan Crane, Pages: 208 Dimensions: 6.25" x 6.75" Colors: full-color Publisher Fantagraphics ISBN-10: 1-56097-627-6

Be sure to visit us at for all-ages comic reviews, news and interviews.

If you would like to submit your book for review, please contact us at

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Article by Scott Tingley - March 15, 2008

“Jack likes the Ducks.”

“Jack likes the Ducks,” she says. That is the sole contribution by the other senior staff member of this blog. I’m not sure if the Mom is pulling her weight on this one, but she speaks the truth.

My son is 14 moths old. He has been walking since 9 ½ months, running since 10 ½ months and climbing EVERYTHING since 12 months. I went to the bedroom for 15 seconds last Saturday and I come back to find him standing in the middle of the kitchen table. Not a chair in sight! I have no idea how he does it. My older daughter didn’t even start to walk until about 14 months, but she was chattering away at 9 months. They are sort of opposites that way. My boy, Jack is really picking up steam with the talking though. In just the last couple of weeks he has begun to say the usual beginner stuff, but his favorite word is DUCK. Most things are “duck”. His toy motor bike is “beek”. Trucks (his favourite thing – how do boys know this? I couldn’t care less about trucks. He has lots around, but where does the obsession come from) are “ucks”. But everything else is a duck. Actual ducks, however, are “DUCK!!!”

With that in mind, when a book comes along called, What’s Up, Duck? I have to show it to the junior member of the staff to see if it passes muster.

He said, “DUCK!”


Really though, Tad Hills’ follow-up to his bestselling Duck and Goose and Duck, Duck, Goose (neither of which I have read though) is brilliant. The previous two are storybooks, while this newest is a board book for very young children, which I think is a very good move for publishers. I know my daughter loved the David Shannon David board books, which paved the way for her to fall in love with the regular series. Hills’ art style is perfect for young readers. The vibrant colors and adorable birds should make this a favorite for anyone that comes across it.

What’s up Duck? is a book of opposites (with a near-far page that should make fellow Grover fans smile) and while I know there are plenty of those around, this one set itself apart by sheer adorableness. Duck reminds me a bit of the graphic novel series, Owly by Andy Runton. Hills, like Runton, has a strong ability to convey the emotion of his characters through a few simple lines. It is a skill not every illustrator has, but it seems so simple to Hills and Runton, which is important since there is no dialogue in Owly and no words to help with emotions in Duck.

I see from Hills’ page at Random that he has another board book coming out in August. I say give this newest one a try if you have appropriate aged kids in your life, and you may just find that you want to pre-order the next one.

Written/ Illustrated by Tad Hills; Board book, 22 pages; Price: $6.99; ISBN: 978-0-375-84738-7 (0-375-84738-3)

Be sure to visit us at for all-ages comic reviews, news and interviews.

If you would like to submit your book for review, please contact us at

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum

Article by Scott Tingley - March 02, 2008

The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum is one of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books I have seen in an awfully long time.

I usually don’t cut to the chase like this, but sometimes I don’t need to get cute with a book. In this instance I will put the goofiness aside and say that in a million years I would not be able to tell you how artist Nicoletta Ceccoli created these amazing pictures. They look like photographs of porcelain dolls (really pretty ones, not the really creepy ones) specially manufactured just for this one book. I could also say that Ceccoli found a portal to another world inhabited by beautiful, living porcelain dolls, but that would be too comic-booky for my kid’s book blog and it would let in too much goofiness, and I said there would be no goofiness. Ceccoli has illustrated a magnificent world with a magical castle filled with living toys and one lonely girl. Magnificent.

So I like the pictures. So what? Any elementary teacher that has been around for a while knows that you can get really well written books with sub-par pictures and beautifully illustrated books written with grinding dullness. No fancy pictures can make up for a boring story. So, has The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum writer Kate Bernheimer created a tale worthy of its pictures or not? Sort of, yes. It is hard to compete with the pictures, but I like the story a lot, and so does my little girl. It is nearly as haunting as its pictures. It is an imaginative new fairy tale that uses a couple of clever tricks to engage its young readers (for instance, here is the picture my three year old daughter drew of herself to put in the frame in the book. It was a nice touch that she enjoyed). The whole thing is a little disturbing in an Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz sort of way. I think when I share this with my grade three class that will actually be one of the main draws. Kids like a bit of edge, a bit of darkness every now and then in their literature and movies. It helps them make sense of the world around them and they will be able to relate to the loneliness of the girl.

Wild, creepy, good stuff. It looks like a book only girls would like, and they may be the target audience, but this thing is so odd that I think boys would be drawn in as well. A sure hit with girls, and maybe a bit more of a hard-sell with the guys.

· Price: $19.99

· ISBN: 978-0-375-93606-7 (0-375-93606-8)

Be sure to visit us at for all-ages comic reviews, news and interviews.