The King of Kazoo

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  • The King of Kazoo
  • written and illustrated by Norm Feuti
  • published by Graphix/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

I’ll admit it: I was unfamiliar with Norm Feuti before The King of Kazoo arrived at my door. But fewer than 10 pages in and I was a fan. With this book, Feuti has created something that is both familiar and fresh.

King Cornelius (the titular king of the land of Kazoo) is a bit of an idiot. He came into his position and inherited a country at peace, and he hasn’t yet had a chance to earn an epithet (like those that came before him, such as Founder of the City, Defender of the Realm, or Simplifier of the Taxes).

Cornelius spends his days “thinking kingly thoughts” and suggesting inane solutions to non-problems. In short, he’s pretty much a joke.

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Questions from a Kid: Raina Telgemeier

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions from a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with best-selling graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier.

Raina burst onto the scene with 2010’s Smile and then followed that up with Sisters, Drama, and this year’s Ghosts. All four books have dominated the best-seller lists and have won nearly every award for which they’re eligible. And in the process, Raina has become a superstar talent in the industry.

Just how big has she become? At this year’s National Book Festival, she was one of six presenters to take the main stage. The others? Stephen King, Bob Woodward, Shonda Rhimes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Salman Rushdie. Not too shabby.

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Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts

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  • Ghosts
  • written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
  • published by Graphix/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Raina Telgemeier is back with her fourth original graphic novel, and we’re all the richer for it. This week marks the release of Ghosts, and in it she explores the nature of family and friendship against a backdrop of self-discovery and the Mexican Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday.

It’s easy to forget that Raina’s first original book, Smile, came out as recently as 2010. That’s because the effect she’s had makes it hard to remember what graphic novels were like beforehand. Really, it’s hard to recall what the publishing industry in general was like.

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Duck on a Tractor

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  • Duck on a Tractor
  • written and illustrated by David Shannon
  • published by Blue Sky Press/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike has long been a favorite in this house. It’s absurd, it’s fun, and it’s beautifully illustrated. It’s no surprise that a sequel has come out. The only surprise is how long it’s taken. The original came out way back in the Stone Age of 2002. That’s 14 years ago – at least two lifetimes in the publishing industry.

But thankfully, Duck on a Tractor has arrived to carry on the ridiculous barnyard fun. And it’s like revisiting an old friend.

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The Happiest Book Ever!

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  • The Happiest Book Ever!
  • written and illustrated by Bob Shea
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

The Happiest Book Ever is a book that promises a lot in just the title. But can it deliver? Well, right there on the cover is a dancing cake and a giraffe with two ice cream cones…and one of them is for me!

So yeah, we’re off to a good start.

But, you see, there’s this frog…

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Henry & Leo

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  • Henry & Leo
  • written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

“I guess we can never really know what makes one particular toy more special than another.”

Henry & Leo is a beautiful ode to the love we all have for our stuffed friends and what happens when they accidentally take a wrong turn and get lost. (We read another recent book on this same topic, which is admittedly near and dear to our hearts.)

This is the story of Henry and his favorite toy in the whole world – a stuffed lion named Leo.  Henry and Leo go everywhere together and are inseparable…until the day they are separated during a walk in the woods.

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Cleonardo: The Little Inventor

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If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books, then you know (and probably adore) Mary GrandPré’s art. She provided the cover and interior art for all of the original U.S. editions. And if we’re being honest, her cover art is a really big reason for why the first book became so popular.

But she’s so much more than her Harry Potter art. She’s written and illustrated several children’s books and received a Caldecott Honor in 2015 for The Noisy Paint Box, which is about Kandinsky’s synesthesia (a condition that has long fascinated me).

Her newest book, Cleonardo: The Little Inventor, is nothing short of gorgeous – both the art and the message. As the father of a young daughter who loves to tinker and experiment, this book resonated with me in a huge way.

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Sam and Jump

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  • Sam and Jump
  • written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
  • published by Candlewick (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

When you find a book with a character who shares a name with one of your children, it’s kind of mandatory to have in the house. And as common a name as Sam is, it’s kind of surprising that there aren’t more books about Sams.

But Sam and Jump is here to fill that void. The book is a simple story about a young boy (Sam) with a favorite stuffed animal (Jump). They go everywhere together. They do everything together. They’re best friends. Sound familiar?

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When the World Is Dreaming

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  • When the World Is Dreaming
  • written by Rita Gray
  • illustrated by Kenard Pak
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Reading this book to my kids at bedtime the other night, my daughter was immediately smitten by the protagonist. And it’s easy to see why. With her unkempt hair flying free in every direction and playing home to a stray leaf, my daughter proclaimed, “That’s me! A little outdoorsy tomboy!”

Be still my heart.

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Let Me Finish!

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  • Let Me Finish!
  • written by Minh Lê
  • illustrated by Isabel Roxas
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Is this the first children’s book about spoilers? It might be. And if it is, why has it taken until 2016 to have a book about the perils of unwanted spoilers? Children need to know when to keep their little traps shut and not ruin stories for other people. I’m only slightly kidding.

When The Force Awakens premiered last year, I had to sit my kids down and talk to them about spoilers. Just because YOU’VE seen the movie and know what happens doesn’t mean that EVERYONE has. Don’t ruin any surprises for them by talking about it school. No one ruined it for you.

Alas, I wish every parent had this discussion. But with the help of Minh Lê’s new book, Let Me Finish!, they can!

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What Is It?

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  • What Is It?
  • written by Nicole Hoang
  • illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
  • published by Boom! Studios/KaBOOM! (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

(This post originally appeared on GeekDad.)

There is – admittedly – sometimes a fine line between what constitutes a picture book and a graphic novel. They often have a lot in common, and it’s not surprising to find that many illustrators straddle that line and work in both media.

Traditional publishers long ago embraced the graphic novel format, and companies such as Scholastic (through their Graphix imprint) led the way. Comic publishers have been a bit slower to move in the opposite direction and put out picture books or novels. It’s not unheard of, though. First Second Books recently published their first children’s picture book (Ben Hatke’s Julia’s House for Lost Creatures) to near universal acclaim.

Now BOOM! Studios is following suit. Their all-ages imprint KaBOOM!, which has been home to some absolutely amazing monthly titles, is leading the charge with Nicole Hoang and Dustin Nguyen’s What Is It?

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Thank You, Paul Dini – You’re an Inspiration and We’re Lucky to Have You

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad.)

This year at San Diego Comic-Con, I was fortunate enough to have several amazing opportunities and experiences. A few (such as having drinks with Neil deGrasse Tyson and sitting front row center for the Star Trek press conference with William Shatner, Scott Bakula, Bryan Fuller, and so many more) stand out above the rest. But if pressed to name a highlight, my answer might be surprising: shaking Paul Dini’s hand and telling him, personally, what an inspiration he’s been.

Though I don’t write creatively for film and television, I do make a living (out in the real world and – to a much lesser extent – here online) wrangling words together, so most of my creative idols are writers. And Paul Dini is pretty darn near the top of that list.

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Dream Jumper #1: Nightmare Escape

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  • Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape
  • written by Greg Grunberg & Lucas Turnbloom
  • illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom
  • colored by Guy Major
  • published by Scholastic/Graphix (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Scholastic’s Graphix imprint has long been home to some of the best “all-ages” graphic novels put out by a traditional book publisher. Graphix actually hit the ground running and got its start with the color editions of Jeff Smith’s groundbreaking Bone series, and they haven’t looked back.

They’ve since become a wellspring of fantastic, kid-friendly graphic novels, publishing books such as Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space series, all of Raina Telgemeier’s books, and so many more. Seriously, I challenge you to find a Graphix book that isn’t stunning.

Dream Jumper is one of their newest titles, and it’s definitely off to a promising start with the first book in the planned series, Nightmare Escape.

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Finding Dory: Three Little Words

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  • Three Little Words
  • written by Amy Novesky
  • illustrated by Grace Lee
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Timed to coincide with this month’s theatrical release of Finding Dory, Three Little Words is a gorgeous picture book that really drives home the simple message that lies at the heart of Dory’s character: Just Keep Swimming.

This isn’t an adaptation of the film, per se, but it visually follows all of the major plot developments (including, apparently, the ending), so if you’re looking to remain spoiler-free until you’ve seen Finding Dory, then you may want to hold off on this for a few more weeks.

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Playing from the Heart

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  • Playing from the Heart
  • written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds
  • published by Candlewick Press (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I might as well get this out of the way right now: we’re big Peter Reynolds fans around these parts. You’d be hard pressed to find better books celebrating art, imagination, and creativity than his books The Dot and Ish.

And they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Reynolds has an entire library of beautiful books in which kids are allowed the freedom to express themselves and not suppress the art they have inside of them.

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Blog Tour: Children’s Book Week with Raina Telgemeier

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We’re thrilled to help First Second Books once again celebrate Children’s Book Week (which ran from May 2-8 this year), with a blog tour celebrating both their amazing books and the effort to get more books into more kids’ hands.

This year, we celebrate how amazing books for kids and teenagers are! We’re delighted to be celebrating the awesomeness of kids comics this week by taking part in a blog tour that features a star-studded line-up of graphic novelists, including friends of the Roarbots Gene Luen Yang, Faith Erin Hicks, Mike Maihack, and Maris Wicks (see below for schedule and links).

In these interviews, they’re talking about the creative process, their inspiration, and the books they love. We’re thrilled to host John Patrick Green (author of Hippopotamister) chatting with the incomparable Raina Telgemeier.

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The Pirate Jamboree

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  • The Pirate Jamboree
  • written and illustrated by Mark Teague
  • published by Orchard Books/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

If you have kids, then Mark Teague’s art is likely very familiar to you. In addition to his own wonderful books, he’s also the artist behind the How Do Dinosaurs…? books with author Jane Yolen.

We’re in love with his style and big fans of his work. His newest book, The Pirate Jamboree, is told in verse and concerns the fearsome neighborhood pirates: the Johnson brothers (Blackbeard, Bluebeard, and Beigebeard), Sharktooth Jane, Eye Patch Sue, Cap’n Gunderboom, and Peg Leg Jones.

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GBBP 59: Roger Langridge

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The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, Episode 59: Roger Langridge

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This week, we’re thrilled to have Roger Langridge – the all-ages comics genius – on the show. Yes, he’s awesome. And yes, I just made up that “all-ages comics genius” moniker…but it’s totally appropriate.

Roger rose to prominence in the comics industry for his work on Judge Dredd, the Fin Fang Four (of all things), and his own creation Fred the Clown. He then worked (as both writer and illustrator) on Boom! Studios’ relaunched The Muppet Show series, and that’s where his style truly had a chance to shine.

From there, all bets were off. He worked on a series of Muppets book for Boom!, John Carter of Mars (Marvel), Snarked! (Boom!), Popeye (IDW), and The Rocketeer (IDW). And then, in my opinion, came the great stuff: his adaptation of Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow and the marvelous Abigail and the Snowman, both for Boom! Studios.

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Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants!

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Ballet Cat is a relatively new character series that took us by surprise. We picked up last year’s The Totally Secret Secret, which was the first book, and loved it. In the first book, the overenthusiastic Ballet Cat works through a difficulty with Sparkles the Pony, who doesn’t exactly share Ballet Cat’s love of ballet.

In this newest book, she works through a somewhat similar difficulty with Butter Bear, who is slightly embarrassed and doesn’t want to do super-high leaps. She’s also incredibly resourceful when it comes to stalling tactics. Butter Bear does everything in her power to delay the inevitable.

But Ballet Cat is very insistent, which seems to be her dominant character trait. She loves ballet, and she is very insistent that everyone else loves ballet just as much as she does.

This doesn’t always go as planned.

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Bug Zoo

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  • Bug Zoo
  • written and illustrated by Andy Harkness
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

The Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase books are a new discovery for me, and I wonder how I missed them until now. They’re conceived as a series of original picture books that put the spotlight on individual artists working for Walt Disney Animation Studios, and there’s apparently also at least one title in the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase series. (Which went immediately onto my wishlist.)

Bug Zoo features artist Andy Harkness, who worked as an in-betweener and layout artist on Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear. Andy currently works as an art director for Walt Disney Animation, and this is his first children’s book.

I think it’s safe to say he’s set a high bar for himself, straight out of the gate. This book is eye-poppingly gorgeous.
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