Have you ever felt green with envy? Been tickled pink? Even if you only read picture books once in a blue moon, you might like Out of the Blue, writte...moreHave you ever felt green with envy? Been tickled pink? Even if you only read picture books once in a blue moon, you might like Out of the Blue, written by Vanita Oelschlager, and illustrated by Robin Hegan.
Out of the Blue presents fifteen color-related idioms, each on a two-page spread with color illustrations. Upside-down, in the corner of the page, is an explanation of the meaning of the idiom, and an example sentence. The explanations are very clear ("If you show your true colors", the book explains, "you show what you are really like inside.") and the example sentences are helpful. Unfortunately, I didn't find to illustrations to be quite up to par.
The illustrations are colorful and nice-looking, but they don't always have any real relationship to the idiom being presented. For example, the illustration for show your true colors depicts five girls standing around wearing colorful socks. Of course, it's the nature of idioms that the plain meaning of the words isn't the same as the meaning of the expression, but some of the illustrations did much better: the illustration for born with a silver spoon in your mouth shows several babies wrapped in blankets, with pacifiers in their mouths, but with one baby wrapped in a blanket patterned with dollar signs, with a silver spoon it its mouth--thus illustrating a relationship between money and the silver spoon expression. Similarly, the illustration for green around the gills depicts a fish with a thermometer in its mouth with a green band around its gills.
Had the illustrations in general been more related to the meaning of the idioms, this could have been a really excellent book. As it stands, Out of the Blue is fun, but not spectacular.
Out of the Blue is published in both hardcover and paperback formats by Vanita Books. Net profits from the sale of Out of the Blue will be donated to charitable organizations.
This review is based on a free digital review copy of the book.
Four animals, dissatisfied with their lots in life, set out for the town of Big Creek to be musicians. Along the w...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
Four animals, dissatisfied with their lots in life, set out for the town of Big Creek to be musicians. Along the way, they encounter--and drive off--a band of rustlers and horse thieves.
Sound familiar? The Sagebrush Singers, written by Herb Kernecker and illustrated by James Watts, is a very close retelling of "The Bremen Town Musicians", as collected by the Brothers Grimm, set in the American southwest.
In place of the ass, hound, cat, and cock from the original tale, The Sagebrush Singers features a burro, a coyote, a skunk, and a raven. Rather than simply encountering robbers, the Sagebrush Singers encounter a group of rustlers and horse thieves.
That's where the differences end, though; the story and the manner in which it is told are both very close to the source. For example, when the ass and hound come upon the cat, in "The Bremen Town Musicians":
It was not long before they came to a cat sitting in the road, looking as dismal as three wet days.
"Now then, what is the matter with you, old shaver?" said the ass.
Compare it with the scene in which burro and coyote meet the skunk in The Sagebrush Singers:
While crossing a wide arroyo they found little Skunk, lost and squeaking sadly.
"What are you complaining about, old stinker?" Burro asked.
The similarity is striking, and it's representative of the story as a whole. That's not to say that it's bad, but it is far from being original. The story is enjoyable enough, but that's because the original story was so.
Where The Sagebrush Singers does deviate from the original is in the motivation of the animals. In "The Bremen Town Musicians", the reasons the animals have fled their homes are an important part of the tone of the story: the ass has grown to old to carry the loads he once could; the dog has grown weak with age and is no longer any use in the hunt; the cat cannot run about after mice, as it did in its younger days; and the cock, though still useful, is to be killed and made into soup for company.
The animals in The Sagebrush Singers have slightly different motivations: the burro has been replaced by a truck, and feels lonely (and hungry) in his corral; the coyote is frustrated by people encroaching on his territory, always out to get him; the skunk has been chased away for become "a little too interested in the chicken coop"; and the raven is unhappy because of pollution.
I feel like the story of "The Bremen Town Musicians" is much stronger for the animals' motivations, and by contrast The Sagebrush Singers is weaker. It's no worse than many children's stories, but I think it's appropriate to compare a retelling to the original, and The Sagebrush Singers doesn't measure up.
I'm not the biggest fan of the art. It illustrates the scenes well enough, but it doesn't really add to the book. It's just decoration. The style is the sort of simplified and exaggerated line art that is generally used for comedic effect, with uninspiring colors. Looking at some of the artist's other paintings, it seems he favors understated coloration, but his choices here don't suit either the story or the line art very well. It's a shame, because I think a different choice of palette might have provided a lot of atmosphere for the desert setting.
I love folk tales, and I always enjoy seeing retellings of the classics. The Sagebrush Singers is a competent retelling, but it doesn't exceed the original in any way. Those interested in the Brothers Grimm particularly will probably want to take a look at it, but for everyone else, I wouldn't recommend going out of your way for this one.
The Sagebrush Singers goes on sale March 31, 2014. It is recommended for children age 5 and up. It has a website which will feature an audio recording of "The Sagebrush Singers Song", and other supplementary material.
Disclosure: this review is based on an advance copy received free for review.(less)
Sugar, spice, and everything nice: these were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girl. But Profes...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
Sugar, spice, and everything nice: these were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girl. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction--CHEMICAL X.
Did you read that in the narrator's voice? On November 18, 1998, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup began their weekly crusade against crime, and for the next six years, their adventures graced our TVs. The Powerpuff Girls was a hit, and it spawned at least ten video games, an anime spin-off (2006-2007), and a comic book series by DC (2000-2006). It's been quieter, since, but there was a tenth anniversary special in 2008 and another CGI special in January of this year. It's a series with staying power, and it clearly has a special place in the hearts of its fans.
In September 2013, IDW Publishing added another entry in the continuing saga of Powerpuff Girls media: a new comic series, written and drawn by Troy Little, an Eisner nominated writer and artist, and creator of Chiaroscuro and Angora Napkin. The Powerpuff Girls Volume 1 collects the first six issues, forming a complete storyline.
The story opens with Mojo Jojo attacking the city in a giant metal exoskeleton, which he assures the girls is totally unstoppable! As usual, though, they make short work of Mojo's latest attempt, and he's back in prison before he can even finish lamenting his loss.
It seems that this latest failure was the straw that broke the camel's back for Mojo Jojo, and he decides to ask Professor Utonium to administer Antidote X, so he'll no longer be troubled by the memories of his failures. But even with Mojo back to being just Jojo, things aren't normal, since the other villainous residents of Townsville have suddenly and unexpectedly turned over a new leaf, as well. What's happening? Can the girls trust their old enemies, now seemingly allies? Does everyone really deserve a second chance?
This first storyline (as one might expect, for the launch issue) features an ensemble cast of the Powerpuff Girls' most popular adversaries, including Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, Princess Morbucks, The Ganggreen Gang, and more, with everyone getting a little time in the spotlight. For example, we get to see the Ganggreen Gang taking on an environmental mission (keep Townsville green!), Sedusa working at a hair salon, Fuzzy Lumpkins working as a real estate agent, and Princess Morbucks being positively generous.
The writing is spot-on. The characters' voices are true to their TV counterparts, and the story wouldn't be out of place on the show. It's sprinkled with pop-culture references, which add a bit of flavor to the scenes, and it's got plenty of continuity nods to the cartoon series, for fans. It's nice to see everyone again, after ten years, and this book picks up just as though the show had never ended.
The art, too, is expressive and well-matched with the series. There's a great post on Troy Little's tumblr showing the progress of a page from pencils to finished work. There are some other posts on there with in-progress and completed art, so definitely take a look!
Troy Little's work on this comic is sure to please fans of the series, and it's a solid comic in its own right. The book is available for pre-order now, but it's not going to be released until April 29. It costs about the same as buying the digital issues directly from IDW, though, so for my money, it's worth the wait for a nice collected edition on paper.
Disclosure: this review is based on an advance copy received free for review.(less)
A family of trolls, having a lie-in after a late-night rude noises contest, is awakened by a huge billy goat with...moreThis review also appears on my blog.
A family of trolls, having a lie-in after a late-night rude noises contest, is awakened by a huge billy goat with a bad case of Random Hostility Syndrome. It stomps across their bridge, shouting "Beware, beware, the Bully Goat Grim! Nobody better not mess with him!" However will they get back to their peaceful existence?
The Bully Goat Grim, written by Willy Claflin and illustrated by James Stimson, is a "Mother Moose Tale" loosely inspired by the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. In Claflin's version, it's the trolls living under the bridge who are the heroes, and the huge, mean goat who is the villain.
This goat, called Bully Goat Grim, is in the habit of finding unsuspecting woodland creatures, lowering his oversized head, and charging them. Soon enough, all the creatures around are in bandages and slings, hiding from Bully Goat Grim, so he takes out a map and heads for greener pastures.
On the way to said greener pastures is a bridge, under which lives a family of trolls: the mother with three heads, the father with two, and the daughter with only one. Bully Goat Grim makes a nuisance of himself, waking the family. The father gets into an argument with himself over how to deal with the situation, and ends up knocking himself out, and the mother discusses with herself until all three heads fall asleep, so it's up to the baby troll to solve their problem.
The baby troll realizes (being very clever for such a young troll) that "Nobody better not mess with him!" is a double negative, which means that she should mess with Bully Goat Grim. So she finds a pillow and constructs herself a parachute, then taunts the goat into charging her. When he does--poof!--the pillow absorbs the blow and the baby troll gets a free air ride.
Before long, all the animals in the forest have adopted the baby troll's idea.
Now there is nothing worse than having Random Hostility Syndrome and not being able to injure anybody. It was distremely depressing to the Bully Goat Grim, and so finally he just give up and slunk away. He slunk, and slunk, and slunk, until he was completely away.
The artwork in this book is very appealing. Not only are the illustrations funny, most are filled with interesting little details. When discussing what to do about the goat, for instance, the mother troll is eating Odin brand tyttebær syltetøy--Norwegian for lingonberry jam. Very appropriate, since the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff is originally Norwegian!
The writing is unusual, but funny. It's got a lot of fake words (like 'distremely', above) sprinkled in, which the book explains is from the original story, told in the Moose language--the book's conceit is that Claflin is merely translating the stories told to him by Maynard Moose--and the grammar is nonstandard. If the story is performed, rather than merely read, these will work well, but they're a little distracting, when reading.
Willy Claflin is not only an author, but a singer and storyteller as well. With the aid of a number of hand puppets, he has performed full-time since 1983. For a sample, you can see him perform at the UMSL St. Louis Storytelling Festival 2012. The book comes with an audio CD recording of the story, though my review copy did not include this.
This review also appears (with more sample images) on my blog.
The evil daughters of Zamora, intent on conquering the world, seek the Viridian Scepter,...moreThis review also appears (with more sample images) on my blog.
The evil daughters of Zamora, intent on conquering the world, seek the Viridian Scepter, a powerful magical artifact which was used to destroy their mother. It has been broken into three pieces, and its handle stolen, taken by a ghost wolf to another world, the nexus. There, it is found by a girl who can, mysteriously, wield it, although it should be possible only for the most powerful of Highborns.
Does this story sound familiar to you? Let me describe it again.
Young Dorothy Gale, who lives on a farm in Kansas, finds a wolf, which she names Toto, and determines to keep it as a pet. Soon after, her house is lifted by a tornado and Dorothy finds herself in the land of Oz, where the Wicked Witches of the East and West terrorize the land. Dorothy accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East using a rod that Toto carried, which is sure to cause the witch's sister to target her. So Dorothy sets out on a journey across Oz to complete the scepter, of which Toto's rod was a part, and use it to destroy the Wicked Witch of the West and return home.
That's probably more recognizable, isn't it?
Grimm Fairy Tales presents Oz is a hardcover collection of the six issue miniseries of the same name from Zenescope Entertainment. The series ran from July 2013 to February 2014, and was written by Joe Brusha, with pencils by Rolando di Sessa, inks by Glauber Matos, and colors by Ulises Grostieta.
The Grimm Fairy Tales series presents re-imaginings of fairy tales, set in a crossover-friendly universe consisting of Earth (called the nexus) and four other worlds: Myst, Neverland, Wonderland, and Oz. The miniseries in this book, as the title implies, is concerned only with the final of these. I've never read any other entries in the Grimm Fairly Tales series, so I can confidently say that this book works as a standalone story.
The story is, in broad stokes, the one we're all familiar with. Dorothy from Earth shows up in Oz, meets some traveling companions, and eventually defeats the wicked witches, freeing Oz from their tyranny. At last, Dorothy goes home. All of the details, though, have been changed.
Rather than setting out alone, Dorothy begins her quest in an RPG-approved cliche party consisting of a magic user (Glinda, the Good Witch of the North), a warrior (Thorne, a member of the lion-like Kavari tribe), and three short comic-relief types (Sparky, Crumb, and Crank, who are Boggers--don't call them munchkins!).
Unfortunately, cliche is rather the name of the game, for this story. Dorothy is mysteriously very powerful. Glinda, the knowledgeable, powerful, and very useful leader of the party (at the outset), ends up conveniently unconscious for the latter part of the story. The third chapter's opening is narrated by a positively painful letter home from Dorothy, in the venerable writing-that-everything-is-fine-while-actually-in-a-pitched-battle style. And the ending is rather spectacularly unsatisfying.
The adaptation isn't without its clever bits, and in particular it does a reasonably good job with the lion, scarecrow, and tin woodsman, but overall the writing is just not up to par.
The artwork is fairly good, but quite variable. Dorothy, in particular, never seems to have quite the same face from panel to panel.
The many faces of Dorothy, from the first two chapters.
I've seen some complaints about the sexualized outfits and poses of the female cast of this book, and I gather that it's something of a staple of the series. The characters certainly wear impractical clothing, and the artist is clearly not above taking advantage of this.
This is certainly not a problem that's limited to this book--it's a common (and valid) criticism of comics in general. That said, I don't think that it's the biggest problem the book has, nor a particularly egregious example of it. The worst of it is all in the alternate covers, but that's not an issue, here.
Grimm Fairy Tales presents Oz is not by any means an excellent comic, but it's not a terrible one, either. It's worth the 45 minutes or so it takes to read, if only that.