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Robot Reviews: Kids’ comics roundup

littlemouse_sample_02

Little Mouse Gets Ready
by Jeff Smith
Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95.

Children’s comics don’t get more basic than this. Little Mouse wants to go play in the barn with his brothers and sisters, but first he has to get dressed. He does so step by step showing readers important things like how to button your shirt (and illustrating a narrative sequence of events). Then there’s a punchline and rimshot, the end.

Smith’s art is lush and spry here. I especially liked Little Mouse’s Warner Brothers-style reaction at the end. There’s no denying it’s a cute book, made by an extremely talented guy. But this is really a book for preschoolers and those just learning to read. If you know someone like that, then Little Mouse will make a great gift. But older Bone fan, even those still in elementary school, aren’t going to get too much out of this, beyond a chuckle or two at the end.

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Thin wallets, fat bookshelves: HarperCollins fall catalog

History of the Modern World Part II

History of the Modern World Part II

One of the joys of doing this semi-regular feature, scouring through catalogs, is every so often you come across a real jewel, or at least something that makes you sit up and take notice. For example, looking through HarperCollins’s fall/winter line-up I discovered some rather interesting titles and one real notable graphic novel amidst the plethora of manga spin-offs. To wit:

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Straight for the art | Nilsen’s Prosper

Nilsen's 'Prosper the Turtle'

Nilsen's 'Prosper the Turtle'

Over on his blog, Anders Nilsen talks about a children’s book he attempted to make for his younger sister, titled Prosper the Turtle, and how it led him to decide to pursue a life in comics.

Straight for the Art: Terrible Yellow Eyes

Ben Hatke's Sendak tribute

Ben Hatke's Sendak tribute

Terrible Yellow Eyes is a new art blog that asks a variety of talented illustrators and cartoonists to pay homage to the Maurice Sendak classic, Where the Wild Things Are. That’s Ben Hatke’s contribution above, one of several great pieces found at the site.


Thin Wallets, Fat Bookshelves: Candlewick Press’ fall/winter catalog

Sticky Burr

Sticky Burr

The children’s book publisher Candlewick Press has released their fall/winter catalog and it appears they’re stepping up their entry into the land of graphic novels with a slew of interesting titles. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Vermonia: Quest for the Silver Tiger by YoYo. 208 pages, $9.99 paperback. No, it’s not the late 80s-era rapper (though how cool would that be?) but a Japanese manga studio spinning a yarn about a group of friends who find themselves adrift in an alternate magical dimension. Hmmm, where have I heard that scenario before? Continue Reading »

Robot reviews: Two from Toon Books

From 'Luke on the Loose'

From 'Luke on the Loose'

Luke on the Loose
by Harry Bliss
Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95.

This is my favorite title in the Toon Books line so far. Bliss, best known for his contribution to the New Yorker as well as children’s books like Diary of a Worm, delivers a great manic energy to this story of a boy who wanders away from his dad and ends up chasing pigeons all across New York City. I liked how the backgrounds where filled with Mad Magazine-like nonsense bits like having Tintin and Olive Oyl as aghast onlookers or the dog walker who was keeps getting pulled around the park. I liked Luke’s father’s nonchalance at losing his son and how his dialogue was frequently summed up as “boring dad talk.” I liked how Bliss uses long, horizontal panels to denote both setting and motion, as in an amusing sequence where Luke runs roughshod through an outdoor restaurant, interrupting a proposal in the process. Basically it’s speedy pace and refuse to take itself seriously or offer any sort of moral works in its favor and I think kids will get a few good belly laughs out of Luke’s adventures. I know I did.

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Thin wallets, fat bookshelves: Simon & Schuster’s kid books for fall

Which Puppy?

Which Puppy?

Children’s book publishers haven’t exactly rushed to lead the graphic novel parade, but neither have they ignored it entirely. Case in point: Simon & Schuster, who have a handful of comic and comic-related books coming out this fall, such as:

Burn by Camilla d’Errico. The artist on that Avril Lavigne manga that came out a few years ago tells his own story, about a young man who is merged with a sentient killer robot in a futuristic world. On sale Oct. 27, 124 pages, $9.99 paperback.

The Chronicles of Arthur: Sword of Fire and Ice by John Matthews and Mike Collins. A renowned Arthurian expert — it says so in the catalog — Matthews tells the story of Arthur’s teen years with DC and Marvel veteran Collins handling the art chores. On sale Sept. 15, 128 pages, $14.99 paperback, $21.99 hardcover.

Amelia Rules! A Very Ninja Christmas by Jimmy Gownley. Amelia is looking forward to the holidays until she realizes her friend Pajamaman hasn’t been getting any presents at all for the past three years. I’m not sure if this is all new material or collects stories from previous issues. On sale Oct. 6, 80 pages, $7.99 paperback.

Which Puppy? by Kate Feiffer. Illustrated by Jules Feiffer. I’m not sure why this is in the fall catalog, as it’s in stores now, but hey, new Feiffer! This one’s about how the Obama family got their dog, I think. On sale now, 32 pages, $16.99 hardcover.


Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book wins Newbery Medal

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, has won the prestigious Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature.

The award was announced this morning at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Denver.

Eleanor Davis’ Stinky, from Toon Books, received a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor for beginning-reader books.

Gaiman responded to the news on his blog and, more candidly, on Twitter: “About to drink second cup of tea without Marmalade this morning. Also, I just won the Newbury Medal for THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.”

He quickly followed that comment with this slighly less subdued one: “Newbery, not Newbury. Also FUCK!!!! I won the FUCKING NEWBERY THIS IS SO FUCKING AWESOME. I thank you.”

Released in September in the U.S. by HarperCollins, the young-adult fantasy centers on a boy who takes refuge in a cemetery after the murder of his parents. There, he’s adopted and befriended by ghosts.

Davis’ Stinky is about a monster who is terrified of people, and concocts crazy plans to scare a kid away from his swamp.

The five most criminally ignored books of 2008: No. 2, Rapunzel’s Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge

As a critic, I tend to distrust the recent slate of graphic novels from big book publishers made “for kids.” I have good reason to. Most of these titles seem to be made purely in the interest of catching onto a trend or slapping together a tie-in to an existing franchise. Very few of the books I come across seem to have any true regard for the art form, let alone the audience.

Not so with Rapunzel’s Revenge. This children’s comic, by the husband and wife team of Shannon and Dean Hale and artist Nathan Hale (no relation), is a smart, thrilling and extraordinarily well-executed book. Continue Reading »

Robot Reviews: Into the Volcano

Into the Volcano

Into the Volcano

Into the Volcano by Don Wood
Blue Sky Press/Scholastic
175 pages, $18.99.

The inside flap of this book says that Wood (author of such children’s books as The Napping House and King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub) spent five years working on this adventure story. That acknowledgment makes me feel even more guilty for what I’m about to write.

Into the Volcano just isn’t a very good book. Not by children’s book standards, and not by most graphic novel standards. There are a few striking moments, but some poor choices in plot and character nullify whatever charm those sequences provide rather quickly.

The book involves the adventures of Sumo Pugg and his (fraternal twin?) brother, Duffy. The pair are chucked out of school by their gruff dad and sent to spend some time with their mysterious and highly suspicious aunt and grown-up cousin who live on what I presume to be a fictional facsimile of Hawaii.

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Thin wallets, fat bookshelves: Hill and Wang, HarperCollins

Che

Che

Today at TWFB, we’ll take a look at two prose publishers who have recently been dipping their toes into graphic novel waters: Hill and Wang and HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Hill and Wang, a subdivision of Farrar Straus Giroux, has been doggedly publishing its series of nonfiction and biographical comics for awhile now, the most notable title being Ernie Colon and Sid Jacobson’s adaptation of the 9/11 Report.

I covered Hill and Wang’s plans for the first half of the year here. For the summer, they have two books coming out:

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Thin wallets, fat bookshelves: First Second’s spring catalog

The Color of Earth

The Color of Earth

Continuing our run-down of what’s coming out from various publishers this year, here’s a look at First Second’s spring catalog for 2009.

Before we get started, however, I should add that these round-ups that I’m putting together are based solely upon the book catalogs I’ve received in the mail. Designed mainly for the book market, they don’t include any pamphlets (or floppies, or comic books or whatever you call the blasted things), which is why thre’s no mention of, say the lastest issue of Thrizzle in my Fantagraphics post, or Big Questions in my D&Q post for that matter.

Also, remember that all shipping dates are completely subject to change.

All clear on that? Ok then, let’s proceed:

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