Archive | February 2015

Ava’s Adventure by Laura Pedersen

Ava's Adventure

I really loved how every page of Ava’s Adventure feels like a comic strip. The whole story takes place in in its dialogue, which is written into “speech bubbles” that are drawn right into the book’s realistic drawings. This makes the story feel more natural, almost like it’s occurring spontaneously in real time. Any narration just slips in, in a little box at the page’s top-left corner, like the details for a panel in a comic book. “Friday afternoon… Lucas calls Ava,” begins one page — and our story begins…

“Please Mom, please Dad, please can I go snowboarding with Lucas?”

Penny Weber draws Ava hopping up and down — with her pig tails flapping behind her — so you can really feel the story without a lot of extra words. Ava argues with her parents, and there’s a wonderful two-page spread that shows all her emotions with just drawings and sound effects. Ava’s running upstairs to her room — “Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!” — and kicking her toy car. (“Crash!”) Then the car falls to pieces, and Ava hangs her head into her hands….

There’s colorful backgrounds for some of the drawings, while others appear over a nice abstract expanse of white. This book has a clean simplicity that may be especially appealing to children and beginning readers. There’s three drawings that show Ava lying in funny positions in her room — and then, smiling, she seems to have gotten an idea. There’s four more wordless pages that follow Ava through her weekend, all the way through Sunday.

But finally, from the bottom of the staircase, Ava’s mother announces “You have a visitor.” Ava’s friend Lucas has come home early from his snowboarding weekend. And he discovers that Ava’s built an elaborate model of a ski resort out of things from around her house. The book ends with this proud testimonial to the joys of imagination.

And its quiet, realistic drawings just make the story that much more effective.

Mr. Munchlee’s Magic Tophat by Corrie R. Rice

Mr Munchlees Magical Top Hat

“Mr. Munchlee comes to a town that has forgotten how to smile,” explains the back cover of Mr. Munchlee’s Magic Top Hat. “With a little help from his friends, a world of imagination begins to save the day!” But the experience of the book is something far more elaborate, since its text is written entirely in rhyme — and within a few pages the book is virtually exploding with colorful and imaginative illustrations!

Even when the book first shows Mr. Munchlee — a tall man with a mysterious moustache and a top hat — there’s a wall of bright yellow in the background. He strolls into town whistling, with fireflies under his hat, each one twinkling at the thought of sharing their good will. Soon he’s given a magic map to a girl named Luzianne, and then abruptly vanishes from the book. But the map shows her a way to dream — to laugh and be happy whenever she wants — and it awakens her own happy spirit.

“Imagining one thought made a jungle come alive…” the book explains, as the color suddenly begin splashing across the pages. There were animals doing “troopa-loopa” tricks who invited Luzianne to eat bubbles and share bananas splits. The book’s cover illustration captures this moment with an iconic picture of the girl dancing on the rim of Mr. Munchlee’s hat. All around her are butterflies, musical notes, and even a bird with a flower in its mouth.

Some of the more fanciful drawings reminded me of Dr. Seuss. The little girl swings impossibly high on a yellow streamer that’s held by a smiling jack-in-the-box. As a background there’s the silhouette of pink and purple hills. And on top of those hills are more jack-in-the-boxes, and birds with impossibly large tails…

The smiling girl marches behind blue monkeys banging cymbals in a parade through a yellow field. But she learns a valuable lesson — “I can be whatever I choose!” And that sharing a smile makes smiles spread even further, and can make happiness grow. Luzianne’s love was “like a butterfly garden,” and there’s actually a lot of lessons. Maybe one too many? The book seemed to have a little extra text…

But maybe I just couldn’t find the right rhythm for reading the rhymes…especially since I was feeling impatient about getting to those pretty pictures! Tulia Lulu drew the book’s illustrations — and it’s obvious that a lot of care went into this project. My copy even came with a black-and-white coloring book, presumably created for an appearance at the Miami Beach Regional Library. It asks a very thoughtful question — “What makes other people smile?” — and then also asks its young readers, what makes you happy?

And then it invited those young readers to fill Mr. Munchlee’s hats with their own happy thoughts…